REL 152: Study Guide 16


See McGrath (Introduction) for Qs.


McGrath, Intro, ch. 8


How should theology be related to philosophy, if they are indeed to be related?


Consider the following excerpt from


The main defender of intellect and philosophy was the so-called Alexandrian school. In Alexandria, that center of learning, with its schools and institutes of learning eclipsing famous Athens, the Christian Church for the first time mastered school learning and took advantage of philosophy for the service of faith. Working here were philosophers who had turned to Christianity, among whom was Clement of Alexandria. Clement, in a definitive manner, solved the question of the relationship between Christianity and philosophy, faith and science, in terms of a full recognition of the participation of honorable intellect in matters of the faith. According to Clement, there is no knowledge without faith, and no faith without knowledge. He contended for the indispensability of a faith revealed by learning and supplied with possible proofs, and for an internal bond of faith and knowledge.


Knowledge obedient to faith, and faith strengthened by knowledge, both mutually accompanying each other, comprise a beneficial accord between themselves. Knowledge succeeds faith; it does not precede it. Clement of Alexandria, the first to attempt to prove Christian theology through knowledge and philosophy, can be called the ancestor of Apologetics as a science.


The same thoughts about the benefits of science and the participation of intellect in matters of faith were also spread by Origen, a pupil of Clement. The thesis of Origen, On First Principles, was the first attempt to create a theological system in which the dogmas of faith are linked, argued, and elucidated by general thought.


A sharp contrast to the Alexandrian school was presented by the North-African school. The most characteristic representative of it was a Carthaginian priest, Tertullian. He sharply denied all that Clement and Origen affirmed. Having accepted Christianity at a mature age, he gave himself to it with the passion of his ardent nature--to fanaticism. Tertullian completely denied the importance of the intellect in uncovering the dogmas of faith. In his opinion, "heresy is the daughter of philosophy." "Believing in Jesus Christ and the Gospel, we have no need to believe in anything else but that." "The lust of curiosity concerning objects of faith must be completely rejected; the passion towards science must be suppressed by a yearning for salvation." "I believe because it is an absurdity."


Neither Origen nor Tertullian were recognized by the Church as Fathers and unimpeachable Orthodox Church teachers. They were even subjected to censure and condemnation. But the influence of some of their works was considerable. The Holy Fathers and teachers of the Church, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and Gregory of Nyssa, were partly educated on Origen. St. Cyprian of Carthage was a pupil of Tertullian.


The influence of the Alexandrian school proved to be considerably stronger/ In the 4th century, the Christians of the East had neither a fear of intellect, an apprehension of science, nor an enmity towards pagan philosophers. St. John Chrysostom was a pupil of the pagan scholar Livanius, a teacher of eloquence. St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory the Theologian received their higher education in pagan Athens.


All Greek theology during the brilliant, lively and creative age of the Ecumenical Councils, to a certain extent, shows the mark of classic Greek philosophical methods. This period ends with "The Fountain of Knowledge," St. John of Damascus (7th century).


The extremely brusque, universal dogmatic formula of Tertullian, "Credo quia absurdum est" ("I believe because it is an absurdity"), finally was not accepted either in the East or in the West.


The intellect was acknowledged also as having been given to man by God, and for this reason harmony was reached between true scientific-philosophical knowledge and true religious faith, and the motto of Christian Apologetics became the affirmation: "I believe because it is NOT an absurdity."