At least from the Christian position, tracing the boundaries of philosophy and theology has proven to be quite difficult.Â This is due in part to the fact that classic theological loci have so much to say about philosophy’s subject matter.Â Cornelius Van Til once remarked that if one’s philosophy was Calvinistic, then it isn’t philosophy anymore – it is theology.Â Herein lies the difficulty.Â If the philosopher consciously presupposes the Triune God of the Bible in his system and presents Him as the foundation for epistemology, metaphysics and ethics, what distinguishes the philosophic discipline from the theological?
One approach would simply be to define Christian philosophy as the Christian approach to traditional philosophic categories (i.e. metaphysics, epistemology and ethics).Â But this doesn’t seem to make a real distinction at all.Â Philosophy would be no more different from theology than, say, ecclesiology would be.Â Furthermore, the great theologians dealt with these topics.Â Why do we prefer to call them theologians rather than philosophers?Â This approach does not satisfy.
Others have suggested that theology is distinguished from philosophy in that theology requires exegesis.Â This seems to be a better attempt at a distinction.Â But we still speak of “speculative theologians.”Â I think the title reveals how we intuitively think about this issue.Â We still leave room [often pejoratively] under the category of “theologian” for those who venture into theological spheres without being rooted in exegesis.
Webster defines philosophy as â€œa search for a general understanding of values and reality by chiefly speculative rather than observational means.â€Â This definition does not move us toward a distinction between philosophy and theology at all.Â Rather, it underscores the difficulty in making such a distinction.Â A Christian philosophy is neither â€œchiefly speculativeâ€ nor â€œobservational.â€Â Truly Christian philosophy is revelational. And since this is the case, what distinguishes it from theology?
Perhaps it would be wisest to think of Christian philosophy and Christian theology as highly overlapping disciplines that differ ever so slightly in subject matter.Â K. Scott Oliphint suggests we should be much more fluid in our understanding of the relationship between these two disciplines.Â Whenever engaging in philosophy, the Christian should never put aside his theological thinking.Â But there may also be differences in terms of method.Â This is an area for further research.Â How, specifically, does a presuppositionally consistent Christian engage in an explicitly philosophic endeavor?Â I’m not sure anyone has answered that question.