Philosophy for Understanding Theology, 2nd Ed.

Diogenes Allen and Eric O. Springsted, Philosophy for Understanding Theology, 2nd Ed., (2007) Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.

There is no “pure” theology. At least this is what was confirmed for me as I read Diogenes Allen and Eric O. Springsted’s Philosophy for Understanding Theology. There should be no confusion: this book is not (a) an exhaustive history of philosophy or (b) an exhaustive exploration of various philosophical systems. Rather, this is a book that provides you with an introduction to the philosophical categories and language that was inevitably incorporated into various doctrinal discussions over the last two thousand years.

When we think of the Trinity what Platonic and Aristotelian categories do we need to acknowledge? When we read of Schleiermacher’s approach to hermeneutics and theology do we understand the Kantian categories?

Some students of theology may assume that the formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity was purely Christian with no language from the world or that the “historical-grammatical” approach to hermeneutics is how the church has always read Scripture or at least should have always read Scripture. This book will provide students with a fresh angle to reevaluate such assumptions.

The chapters are well-organized. For example, Aristotle is introduced as he becomes important for Christian theological development and not necessarily as he is important in the chronology of philosophical development. The structure is definitely Christian theology first with philosophy as the explanatory handmaiden. On the other side of the same coin one may come to realize that there is (at times) merely a semantic difference for Christians when it comes to theologizing and philosophizing. Both use the human mind, and both come with certain assumptions, which is exactly why this book is helpful: it reveals the assumptions. It reveals that Christian theology is usually philosophical and that is just something we should accept.