The history of theological development shows the great importance of philosophical thinking (which is a reflection of current thinking and civilization in general) as the handmaiden of theology. There is hardly a theologian whose system is not in part influenced by the philosophy of the day.
Philosophy helps illuminate problems in theology: consider Athanasius and Arius on the homo (homoi) ousian controversy at Nicea; Aristotle’s multiform understanding of causa in the work of Aquinas and the Puritans (Wesley); the role of co-planar causality in elucidating problems with the doctrine of providence; and the use of affection in Jonathan Edwards. Philosophy provides a description of the world that the church engages in its mission. We cannot address the world, if we do not know how it thinks. We address the gospels to persons through communication. All theology occurs in a cultural context. Theology may become more philosophically acculturated than we may realize. We need philosophy to take us apart to a reflective stance by which we recognize theology’s acculturation. Consider Heidegger and Bultmann; Plato and Patristics. (Vincent Shepherd, “Why Should a Christian Study Philosophy?”)
Some might even say that philosophy and theology cannot be adequately understood or further developed except with reference to each other. We cannot understand our Western cultural legacy, unless we accept the interaction of the Hebraic and Hellenic traditions. Reasoning cannot be separated from faith and hope or conceptual reflection from revelation and vice versa. ( Conor Cunningham, the Center of Theology and Philosophy)
Rudolf Bultmann, Hans Gadamer and Paul Ricoeur have more deeply developed contemporary hermeneutical theory and its applications to Scripture. They were conscious of the cultural distance between the world of the first century and our day. It is not possible to have an exegesis of a biblical text without presuppositions which guide comprehension. “Pre-understanding” is founded upon the life-relationship of the interpreter to the reality of which the text speaks; above all the reality of the text must be preserved.
“Who or what comes after the God of onto-theology?” One answer certainly is the God of Scriptures. The Bible comes from a milieu innocent of metaphysics. Scripture, being older, is not faced with the problem of overcoming onto-theology. By Scriptures we mean writings from all the great religious traditions – Western and non-Western. Scripture calls forth philosophical thinking into areas that philosophy might not otherwise explore. Philosophy cannot be itself without exposure to what is not philosophy. “We invite everyone to join us who shares these views – everyone who wishes to think in dialogue with Scriptures, who wants to explore philosophical thinking to the advent of Scriptural imagination, who agrees that the Scriptures are abundantly thought-worthy, that they give us more than enough to think. Our wager is that both philosophical thinking and the reading of Scriptures will each be enriched.” ( John D. Caputo, “The Journal of Philosophy and Scripture: A Prologue.”)
Thus the theology student is required to master specific theological thinking set forth by the great theologians and appreciate, imitate without compromise or dilution, but at the same time is expected to engage in philosophical reflection on the theological material.
We believe the program brings forth a competent theologian who is open to nuances.
From a practical standpoint, we believe our graduates are competent to teach and conduct research in both theology and philosophy among others.