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Philosophy & the Christian Faith Paperback – April 1, 1969
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About the Author
Colin Brown is senior professor of Systematic Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. He served as editor of The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and is the author of several books, including Miracles and the Critical Mind, History and Faith, and Jesus in European Protestant Thought.
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"...no system of philosophy has ever turned out to be complete and perfect. In fact, it could be said that those systems which, like Absolute Idealism, have laid the greatest claims to comprehensiveness and completeness are precisely those which are the most defective. At almost regular intervals down the centuries someone will hit upon an idea which has some claim to truth. It is then blown up into a system which is thought to be capable of explaining everything. It is hailed as a key to unlock every door. But sooner or later its advocates find themselves obliged to deny the existence of anything that their key fails to unlock, or to admit that it was not quite what they thought it was...what often happens in philosophy is that someone stumbles across something that has been ignored or feels a need to account for some aspect of experience or relate it to 'modern' thought....In each case the thinkers concerned were so impressed with their particular insight that they built it into a more or less rigid system which virtually destroyed its original usefulness." - Colin Brown, Philosophy & The Christian Faith, pg 268-269
Moving to the 16th-18th centuries, Brown shows that this was the cradle for modern thought. Recovery here of world and man for their own sakes, and the Reformation turns away from natural theology to revealed theology. Thus, the development of the rationalists, empiricists, deists and to Kant, this is time of major turning in philosophy. Major directive to modern man's power of reason to understand his world.
Creatively taking tagents off of this is the 19th century world of Schleiermacher, Hegel and Kierkegaard, spurning on the prominent 20th world of Barth, Tillich, Bultmann, etc.
This is a great, general intro to philosophy and its relationship to Christianity. Brown warns against alignment with any particular philosophy too closely, but does see the need and value of the stimulus philosophy provides for Christian thinkers to rethink their position.
Bibliography leans toward British publishing. Great reference is the five-volume "A History of Western Philosophy" by W.T. Jones.
Dr. Brown starts by introducing his own reflective observations, on the tenuous liaison of philosophy and faith. Both theologians and philosophers had their respective doubts and frustrations. He pursues his goal by surveying the intellectual movements and their western thinkers during the second millennia.
He categorizes his work thus; "Histories of philosophy are not normally designed to be read through in bed, and the present one is not necessarily intended to be read through consecutively."
Views & Conclusions:
Colin Brown exposes an insightful brief survey of alternative philosophical bases of Christian doctrine, that influenced the faith of Christian Churches in the course of history. This is a systematic work of an uncommonly talented, and deeply commited theologian to present an analytical history of philosophy, with an emphasis on the different interpretations of the sustained encounters of the fads and fashions of philosophy with Christian faith. Colin Brown concludes in the postscript with lessons from the past criticizing the incompleteness of philosophical systems. Although he warns against dependence on a particular philosophy, he recognizes the necessity of the philosophy's invigorating inquiry that drives Christian theologians to reconsider their positions.
In contrast to his intentional fast tour of medieval philosophy, he already started to interpret Anselm by Barth and Hartshorne. The author gave the Twentieth Century a relative elaborate and critical evaluation of new trends in logical positivism, and religious language before he reviews existentialism in the example of Bultmann and Tillich. He then introduces New Radicalism in Bonhoeffer, before his thorough exposition of J.A.T. Robinson's, Honest to God. He would not refrain from analyzing the 'Death of God' movement, but gives his debut on Cornilius Van Till and Francis Schaeffer.
Colin Brown (D.D., U. of Nottingham; Ph.D., Bristol University) is professor of systematic theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena. He is an Episcopal minister, and has served as Associate Rector of his parish church for decades.