The latter belief, inspired by Wittgenstein, holds that language itself only has meaning in specific practical contexts, and thus that religious language was not aiming to express truths about the world which could be subjected to objective philosophical scrutiny.A third reason is that a great many academic theologians also became skeptical of our ability to think and speak meaningfully about God; but, rather than simply abandon traditional doctrines of Christianity, many of them turned away from more “metaphysical” and quasi-scientific ways of doing theology, embracing instead a variety of alternative construals and developments of these doctrines—including, but not limited to, metaphorical, existentialist, and postmodern construals.
We take these three as our focus because, unlike (for example) doctrines about providence or the attributes of God, these are distinctive to Christian theology and, unlike (for example) the doctrine of original sin or the Real Presence of Christ in the eucharist, these have been the subject of a great deal of discussion over the past couple of decades.
In the history of Christian theology, philosophy has sometimes been seen as a natural complement to theological reflection, whereas at other times practitioners of the two disciplines have regarded each other as mortal enemies.
Many of the doctrines central to Christianity have important philosophical implications or presuppositions.
In this article, we begin with a brief general discussion of the relationship between philosophy and Christian dogma, and then we turn our attention to three of the most philosophically challenging Christian doctrines: the trinity, the incarnation, and the atonement.
The first reason is that atheism was the predominant opinion among English language philosophers throughout much of that century.
A second, quite related reason is that philosophers in the twentieth century regarded theological language as either meaningless, or, at best, subject to scrutiny only insofar as that language had a bearing on religious practice.
Since this way of thinking about philosophy and theology sharply demarcates the disciplines, it is possible in principle that the conclusions reached by one might be contradicted by the other.
According to advocates of this model, however, any such conflict must be merely apparent.
Since God both created the world which is accessible to philosophy and revealed the texts accessible to theologians, the claims yielded by one cannot conflict with the claims yielded by another unless the philosopher or theologian has made some prior error.
Since the deliverances of the two disciplines must then coincide, philosophy can be put to the service of theology (and perhaps vice-versa). First, philosophical reasoning might persuade some who do not accept the authority of purported divine revelation of the claims contained in religious texts.