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An argument against the existence of knowledge in humans capacity

Historical Beginnings of Theology and Philosophy The story of natural theology begins where theology begins. For the Greeks the term theology originally referred to inquiry into the lives and activities of the gods or divinities. In the Greek world, theology and mythology were the same concept.

The theologians were the poets whose task it was to present accounts of the gods in poetic form. In the same age when the gods dominated popular thinking, however, another movement was growing: The first philosophers, the pre-Socratics, undertook a quest to find the first principle of things.

Plato and Aristotle each recognized the distinction between the two ways of inquiring into ultimate truth: True education consists in being led from the bondage of sensory appearances into the light of knowledge afforded by an argument against the existence of knowledge in humans capacity form of the Good.

The form of the Good is the cause of all being and all knowledge the first principle. Knowledge of the form of the Good is arrived at through the struggle of dialectical argumentation. The dialectical arguments of philosophy do not prove the existence of the form of the Good, but contribute to inducing a non-inferential perception of it. Although Plato himself does not identify the form of the Good as God, later thinkers surely did. Aristotle 384 — 322 B. On the basis of his theory of motionchange, and causality presented in Physics, Aristotle proceeds to offer a demonstration that there exists a first mover of all other movers which is not itself moved in any respect.

The first, unmoved mover is a postulate intended to account for the perpetuity of motion and change around us. In the later books of Metaphysics, Aristotle goes further and identifies the unmoved mover as separated from matter and as nous or Mind.

It is thought thinking itself. Both Plato and Aristotle have one view in common. They hold that through a form of rational argumentation whether it be demonstrative or dialecticalone can — without appeal to the authority of sacred writings — arrive at some knowledge or awareness of a first principle that is separated from matter. Ancient Jewish and Early Christian Theology As philosophy was developing from the Pre-Socratics through to Plato and Aristotle, another development was taking place among the Israelites or the ancient Jews.

What was developing was their understanding of their corporate identity as the chosen people of God YHWH.

They conceived of themselves as a people established in a covenant with him, and bound to serve him according to the law and ritual prescriptions they had received from him. Texts received as sacred and as the word of God were an essential basis for their life, practice and thought. It was among Jews and as a Jew that Jesus of Nazareth was born, lived his life, and gathered his first adherents. As Christianity spread, so did its faith-based and text-based method for approaching an understanding of God.

As a minority practice within a predominantly Roman-Hellenistic culture, Christianity soon faced two new questions. The first question — do Christians have a theology? All Christians rejected the views of the mythological-poets the theologians. Under the new conditions, Christians found themselves more widely capable of saying that they had a theology. The second question — what should An argument against the existence of knowledge in humans capacity make of philosophy?

Some Christians considered philosophy essentially incompatible with Christianity; other Christians considered the possibility of a sort of intellectual alliance between philosophy and Christianity. On the other hand, some Christians who were roughly his contemporaries happily availed themselves of contemporary philosophical vocabulary, concepts, and reasoning to expound Christian teaching.

For example, Justin the Martyr 100-165a convert to Christianity from Platonism, developed an account of the activity of Christ in terms of a medley of Platonist and Stoic ideas. Clement of Alexandria developed an account of Christian knowledge gnosis based on a variety of ideas drawn from prevalent philosophies. Greek speaking eastern Christians more quickly than Latin speaking ones began a process of borrowing, altering, and then using prevalent philosophical categories to corroborate and clarify their faith-based views of God.

But is philosophical thought that has been used to clarify and corroborate faith-based and text-based beliefs still philosophical thought? Philosophy, after all, proceeds without appeal to the authority of sacred texts, and Christian theology proceeded by way of appeal to Christian sacred texts.

There was now need for a new degree of precision regarding the ways to arrive at knowledge of God. Distinction between Revealed Theology and Natural Theology The distinction between revealed theology and natural theology eventually grew out of the distinction between what is held by faith and what is held by understanding or reason. Augustinein describing how he was taught as a catechumen in the Church, writes: I thought it more modest and not in the least misleading to be told by the Church to believe what could not be demonstrated — whether that was because a demonstration existed but could not be understood by all or whether the matter was not one open to rational proof…You [God] persuaded me that the defect lay not with those who believed your books, which you have established with such great authority amongst almost all nations, but with those who did not believe them.

Chadwick, 1992 Here Augustine describes being asked to believe certain things, that is, take them on authority, even though they could not be demonstrated. These two ways of holding claims about God correspond roughly with things one accepts by faith and things that proceed from understanding or reason. Each of the two ways will produce a type of theology.

The distinction between holding something by faith and holding it by reason, as well as the distinction between the two types of theology that each way produces, can be traced through some major figures of the Middle Ages.

Although a Christian, Boethius brings together in his Consolation of Philosophy the best of various ancient philosophical currents about God. Without any appeal to the authority of Christian Scripture, Boethius elaborated his account of God as eternal, provident, good, and so forth. Second, Pseudo-Dionysius late 5th century also raised the distinction between knowing things from the authority of Scripture and knowing them from rational arguments: The one resorts to symbolism and involves initiation.

The other is philosophic and employs the method of demonstration. Augustine, Boethius, and Pseudo-Dionysius to name but a few thus make possible a more refined distinction between two types of aspects to theology. On the one hand, there is a program of inquiry that aims to understand what one accepts in faith as divine revelation from above. On the other hand, there is a program of inquiry that proceeds without appeal to revelation and aims to obtain some knowledge of God from below.

The eighth to the twelfth centuries are often considered the years of monastic theology. The speculative ambitions of earlier Christian theologians for example, Origen, Augustine, the Cappadocians, and so forth were succeeded by the tendency of the monks to meditate upon, but not to speculate beyond, the Scriptures and the theological tradition received from earlier Christians.

The monk aimed primarily at experiencing what the texts revealed about God rather than to understanding what the texts revealed about God in terms afforded by reason and philosophy see LeClerq, 1982. This began to change with Anselm of Canterbury 1033 - 1109.

Natural Theology

Anselm is best known in contemporary philosophical circles for his ontological argument for the existence of God. As the argument is commonly understood, Anselm aimed to show that God exists without making appeal to any sacred texts and also without basing his argument upon any empirical or observable truth.

The argument consists entirely of an analysis of the idea of God, and a tracing of the implications of that idea given the laws of logic, for example, the principle of non-contradiction.

Anselm, however, is known among medieval specialists for much more. Although a monk himself, he is known as the first to go beyond the purely meditative and experiential aims of monastic theology, and to pursue a serious speculative ambition. He wished to find the necessary reasons for why God acted as he has in history as revealed by the Bible. There arose a need for a an argument against the existence of knowledge in humans capacity degree of precision on the relationship between philosophy and theology, faith and understanding.

One classic account to provide that precision came from Thomas Aquinas who had at his disposal many centuries of preliminary reflection on the issues.

Thomas Aquinas In the work of Thomas Aquinas 1225 - 1276one finds two distinctions that serve to clarify the nature and status of natural theology.

Aquinas distinguishes between two sorts of truths and between two ways of knowing them. For Aquinas, there are two sorts of truths about God: Some truths about God exceed all the ability of human reason. Such is the truth that God is triune. But there are some truths which the natural reason also is able to reach. Such are the truth that God exists, that he is one, and the like.

In fact, such truths about God have been proved demonstratively by the philosophers, guided by the light of natural reason. Let us call the first sort truths beyond reason and the latter sort truths of natural reason. There are different ways of knowing or obtaining access to each sort of truth. The truths of natural reason are discovered or obtained by using the natural light of reason. The natural light of reason is the capacity for intelligent thought that all human beings have just by virtue of being human.

By exercising their native intelligence, human beings can discover, verify, and organize many truths of natural reason. Aquinas thinks that human beings have discovered many such truths and he expects human beings to discover many more.

Although there is progress amidst the human race in understanding truths of natural reason, Aquinas thinks there are truths that are totally beyond the intelligence of the entire human race. The truths beyond reason are outside the aptitude of the natural light of reason to discover or verify.

The cognitive power of all humanity combined, all humanity of the past, present, and future, does not suffice to discover or verify one of the truths beyond reason. How then does an individual or humanity arrive at such truths? Humanity does not arrive at them. Rather, the truths arrive at humanity from a higher intellect — God. They come by way of divine revelation, that is, by God testifying to them.

God testifies to them in a three-step process. First, God elevates the cognitive powers of certain human beings so that their cognitive powers operate at a level of aptitude beyond what they are capable of by nature.

Thanks to the divinely enhanced cognition, such people see more deeply into things than is possible for humans whose cognition has not been so enhanced.

The heightened cognition is compared to light, and is often said to be a higher light than the light of natural reason. It is called the light of prophecy or the light of revelation. The recipients of the light of prophecy see certain things that God sees but that the rest of humanity does not.

Having seen higher truths in a higher light, the recipients of the higher light are ready for the second step.

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Second, God sends those who see things in the higher light to bear witness and to testify to what they see in the higher light. By so testifying, the witnesses the prophets and Apostles of old served as instruments or a mouthpiece through which God made accessible to humanity some of those truths that God sees but that humanity does not see. The Bible makes for the third step. Third, in the present God uses the Bible as a current, active instrument for teaching the same truths to humanity.

By accepting in faith God speaking through the Bible, people today have a second-hand knowledge of certain truths that God alone sees first-hand. Just as God illuminated the prophets and apostles in the light of prophecy to see what God alone sees, God also illuminates people today to have faith in God speaking through the Bible.