Let’s not dispense with logic.
In the Middle Ages philosophy and theology were happily wedded and seemed destined to a long and happy life together. With the dawn of the modern era, however, the marriage appeared to be in trouble. Philosophers began to see theologians as muddle-headed and superstitious. Theologians viewed philosophers as increasingly secular and short-sighted. The strained relationship managed to hold together through the seventeenth century, but in the eighteenth, philosopher David Hume’s suggestion that most theological writing should be thrown in the fire signaled the inevitable divorce. The two disciplines have gone their own ways since then. They speak to each other only on rare official occasions when it is awkward not to do so.
My purpose here is not so ambitious as to attempt a reconciliation. As a Christian philosopher, I wish to consider one small part of the broken relationship by examining the way in which some theologians have expressed a particular doctrine, that of the transcendence of God. Philosophy has always emphasized clarity of thought, and modern analytic philosophy especially is committed to the avoidance of linguistic ambiguity and confusion. Some theologians, especially those with an “existential” outlook, cause philosophers to stumble not over the doctrine of transcendence itself but over the language in which it is conveyed.
The doctrine of the transcendence of God is at the heart of Christianity. No one can deny it and be a Christian in any traditional sense. The God whom Christians worship transcends man and his world. He is, as the Apostles’ Creed proclaims, the maker of heaven and earth. So although the world may be viewed as his handiwork, he is always distinct from the world. ...1
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