Monday, January 25, 2010

Suffah Study Circle 5

Muhammad Saifulakhir

In the fifth meeting of Suffah, we discussed the issue of Christianity failing to Christianize Greek philosophy properly, allowing the process of secularization. Western Christianity is actually ‘patched up’ by different elements; it came under the sway of Roman influences, and gradually embraced Aristotelian philosophy and Worldview. One of the salient features of this worldview is the disenchantment of nature, making objects of nature into a mere “thing” of no sacred or symbolic meaning. This means that the study of nature is only restricted to natural laws and mechanisms.

We also grappled with the issue of a revealed religion. The revealed religion as we have understood it, is a religion that is revealed though His appointed messengers. Hence, other revealed religions according to the Western criterion, with exceptional of Islam, are not really revealed religion. It is because they have undergone certain fundamental changes in the hands of irresponsible men who try to “develop” or “evolve” the religion to suit the times.

Islam is a complete and perfect religion in its adequacy for mankind from the very beginning. It does not need to further “develop” or “evolve”. Islam, is always relevant, adequate, “modern or “new” and is always ahead of time because it transcends history.

Islam has already been made complete and perfect during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), who interpreted it in life and whose sacred law he patterned in his teaching, his thought and saying and model actions. His companion, questioned him urgently on every conceivable and actual problem of daily life and right conduct, thought and action and guidance that summarize the needs of mankind. His teachings are answers would suffice for mankind of all ages and generation to come.

Furthermore, when the Islamic world met Greek Philosophy, Islam was able to Islamize those ideas through the intellectual efforts of the Sufis and the Mutakallimun. Through deep research and contemplation, they were able to isolate elements in Greek Philosophy that were not in line with the Islamic Creed and accept those that were seen as beneficial to the faith. This development formed a new science known as Kalam or Speculative Theology.

There is no need to make every value in Islam subjective and open to interpretation to suit the spirit of the times; the religion of Islam has its own absolute vision of God, of the Universe, of Reality, of Man and etc.

In conclusion, Islam is different from Christianity. It does not have to go through the process of development. Islam, being the final revelation is complete and perfect; it does not come under the sway of any foreign influence and is always relevant from the very beginning and for the future.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Suffah Study Circle 4

Hasanul Arifin

Of Eurocentrism
As mentioned by Ibn Khaldun in his Mukaddimah, a civilization which considers itself superior with respect to another would dictate the ways in which man is supposed to think, believe, judge and act. This is often followed by the inferior civilization, whether consciously or unconsciously. Edward Said also wrote good responses towards Eurocentrism and Orientalism in his books. As mentioned by Prof Al-Attas, Western man is always inclined to regard his culture as man's cultural vanguard. Considering itself as the most 'advanced' it has appointed itself as the representative of the human race, telling others that they too would realize the experiences that they have gone through.

There is this story of a parrot in a pet shop, whose head was accidentely shaved bald due to the negligence of its owner. Because of this experience, every time a bald person passes by the shop, it would say "Your owner accidentely shaved you bald too, didn't he?"

This parrot is the Western man and its experiences with Christianity and its misapplication of Greek metaphysics. As Muslims, we reject the Western man's claim to truths and maintain that secularization is only unique to their experiences and we are not in need of it.

The Authorities of Christian Theology
Contemporary Christian theology and thought is largely based on the views of people who did not practise the religious life, who were skeptics, agnostics, atheists and doubters. These people are mainly secular philosophers, metaphysicians, scientists, paleontologists, anthropologists, sociologists, psychoanalysts, mathematicians and linguists.

An example would be the application of existentialism, which was originally formulated by agnostic Heidegger and subsequently the atheistic Sartre, which is then re-casted into the theistic Trinitarian mould by Kierkegaard, Jaspers, Marcel and Barth. A more extreme form of Christian theology is that which is propagated by Cupitt based on the atheistic Nietzsche. Because "God is Dead", it is thus necessary for Christians to reformulate their theology based on a more 'scientific' interpretation and even throw away the concept of God altogether. Metaphysics in religion to them is not important and what's most important is the moral teachings, hence the creation of a humanistic version of Christianity. Unfortunately, this seems to be echoed by some Muslims these days.

The Authorities of Islamic Theology
In Islam, knowledge about religion and religious experience is not obtained by purely rational speculation and reflection alone. Islamic metaphysics is firmly based on knowledge gained from practical and sincere devotion to Islam; true submission to the Being according to the Revealed Law. This is Tasawwuf or Sufism, where God reveals His Secrets to those whom He Trusts.

In Islam, we acknowledge 2 types of knowledge. The first is analagous to studying a person from the outside; observing from afar how he acts and behaves. The second is analagous to knowing the person personally, and he reveals to us his concerns and secrets as a friend or lover. Therefore knowledge on Islamic metaphysics is known not only through reason and reflection, but to sincere devotion and friendship with Allah. The masters of this knowledge are the Awliya' or Friends of Allah.

As mentioned by Al-Ghazali, the metaphysics of Islam is made known by the rational speculations of the Mutakallimun grounded in Revelation, as well as the spiritual visions of the People of Reality or the Sufis.

Religion according to the West
When the secular West speaks of religion, they usually define it as a part of culture and traditions; a system of beliefs, practices and values that are products out of history and confrontation of man and nature. Religion are products of historical evolutions and processes of development.

The Revealed Religion is Al-Islam
As Muslims, we believe that Christianity is originally based on religion, but is not a revealed religion in the sense that Islam is. Both the Qur'an and sources arising within Christianity itself cast doubt on the reliability and authenticity of the reporting, interpretation and conceptualization of the Gospel.

We believe that the Prophet Jesus was sent by God and given the Al-Injil to correct the deviations of the Children of Israel and to convey Glad Tidings of the coming of the Universal Religion (Islam) that would be established by the Great Teacher whose name is given as Ahmad (Muhammad).

Prophet Jesus was not charged with establishing a new religion called Christianity as claimed by other disciples and apostles such as Paul.

Even the name "Christianity" was given to them by their Roman enemies. Therefore it cannot be called a revealed religion because it does not even have an identity to begin with; its identity was developed historically (unlike Islam).

The fact that it had to assimilate Roman Laws (because it had no Revealed Law) and that it had to borrow from Graeco-Roman thought to formulate its own metaphysics demonstrates that it was created by man who" gradually developed its system of rituals by assimilation from other cultures and traditions as well as originating its own fabrications."

Our discussions on their festivals (Christmas, Easter etc.), their icons (Santa Claus, Easter Bunny) demonstrate this as well.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Suffah Study Circle 3

Hasanul Arifin

Secularization has no roots in Christianity (and Islam)
Contrary to popular understanding that secularization is inherent in biblical faith, secularization is in fact has no roots in Christianity. This attempt to justify secularization comes not from the bible but from the Western man's interpretation of the bible, due to their long history of philosophical and metaphysical conflict between dogma and reason.

In fact, there is evidence in history to demonstrate that the early Christians consistently opposed secularization. Contrary to secularization, Christianity has always preached a closed metaphysical world view. Christianity consistently assimilated certain idols and icons (e.g the cross as the symbol of the religion, saint worship etc.) and did not deconsecrate values the way secularization does.

The separation between religion and the state as observed in the history of the West occurred not because Christianity 'realized' the secular message in the bible, but because it was an attempt to slow down the tides of secularization.

This claim that secularization has its roots in the Christian religion can thus be regarded as fanciful and a clever yet subtle attempt to "extricate Christianity from its own self-orginated dilemmas."

Unfortunately, some Muslims are also arguing the same way; attempting to justify secularization by arguing that it has roots in the Islamic faith. They freely quote the verse:

“Behold! Allah changes not the condition of a people until they change that which is within them. [13:11]”

They interpret 'change' here in the secularistic sense; change implied as a deconsecration of values. This is a clear deviation from the intended meaning of the verse as understood by the early authoritative scholars, because 'change' here refers to 'negative change' or in other words a 'corruption'.

The verse that follows from the verse above supports our view:

"If Allah wills misfortune for a people, there is none that can repel it, nor have they any defender other than Him [13:11]”

Therefore there is no other way to view secularization except in a negative light; that it is an anti-religion philosophical process and that it only "brings misfortune for a people" as mentioned in the verse above. Any attempts to justify secularization in religion should be properly rejected.

Refuting secularization
Firstly, if we are to accept the validity of the secularists' assertions that the early Christians "had made a grave fundamental mistake, and had misled Christians in the course of their spiritual and intellectual history" by not realizing the secular message of the bible, this also means that the whole of Christian doctrines should be rejected too because the early Christians can also make mistakes in those things. How can they be sure that the early Christians only made the mistake of not realizing the secular message of the bible and not other mistakes too?

The same applies to the religion of Islam. If Muslims start to doubt the reporting, formulation and conceptualization of Islam by the early authoritative scholars the same way that secularized Christians are doing, it undermines the whole of Islam altogether.

Secondly, if we are to accept the validity of the secularists' assertions that the early Christians had wrongly interpreted the bible, this also means that "God sent His revelation or revealed Himself to man when man was in his 'infantile' stage of 'evolution'."

This again is very problematic, because it also means that the early Christians were too immature to understand the bible correctly. If such is the case then this would mean that in all other matters they would have made mistakes as well. This casts doubt over the reliability of reporting the revelation properly. This applies to Islam as well; there can be no room for doubting the reliability of the early Muslim scholars, because when there is doubt, the whole idea of religion collapses altogether.

At the same time, why would God reveal himself to infantile man? As the Creator, He should know when Man is ready to receive and understand His Revelation?

In response to this, the secularist may say that God sent His Revelation to "initiate the process of maturing in him" so that when he has reached maturity he would be able to know its true meaning and purpose.

But if that's the case, who decides when Man is matured enough to understand? Is Man matured in this modern, secular age? If he is matured now, then why is he still inadequately informed about God and still groping for the meaning in God?

Two Christianities
Christians are unable to be certain about their own religion because there exists various reports of the bible that are contradicting. The gospel of St Barnabas and other reports that of Ante-Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers contradict the 'official' version.

Which is why in the Muslim perspective, there actually are two Christianities; the original monotheistic and true one and the Western version of Christianity.

It is the followers of the true and original Christianity that the Qur'an categorize as Ahl al-Kitab, who believed in the original and true teachings of the Prophet Jesus and would join the ranks of Islam with the coming of Rasulullah S.A.W. These are the people that were referred to in the Qur'an as nearest in love to the Muslims.

The Ahl al-Kitab hence does not refer to the Trinitarian Westernized Christianity that is propagated today, who, due to their misapplication of Greek philosophy, ushered them into an era of doubt and skepticism. This subsequently opened doors to agnoticism and atheism, and then utilitarianism, dialectical materialism, evolutionism and historicism prevalent in the mind of Western man.

As such, with regards to the "Allah" issue in Malaysia, the Trinitarian Western version of Christianity has no right to use "Allah" because they attach different, improper meanings to Him. It is the monotheistic Christians who have the right to use "Allah" because they understand "Allah" the same way as Muslims do.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Suffah Study Circle 2

Suffah Study Circle 2

Dated on the 27.12.2009

Studying text pg 5 to 12, Islam and Secularism,

Prof Naquib Al-Attas

Prepared by Samir Syirazi Bin Mustafa Kamal

Brief Summary

During our 2nd Suffah study meeting, we have discussed how the Christians are pushing for a de-Hellenization of Christianity. This basically means that they are pushing for Christianity to stop adopting Greek ideas or customs, and in this case, to stop believing in Aristotelian thought. They believe that Hellenization has resulted in problems such as conceiving God as a suprarational Person, which means that God cannot be comprehended by reason alone, and the Trinity. They are also pushing for the demythologization of Christian scriptures, which means they are planning to remove the mythical aspects of it (i.e miracles, Revelations)

so that they can relay the message again, but this time in more rational (i.e logical, scientific) terms.

The Christians also have a problem dubbed the “problem of God”, as they have made a distinction between essence and existence. Since God’s Being is identical with His Existence, and His Essence cannot be proven, that also means that His existence cannot be proven as well, which throws His Existence in doubt. Therefore, a person has to have faith in order to believe that God exists, and because of this problematic nature of their concept of God, they are

comtemplating discarding the name “God” altogether and coining a new name (i.e Nature, Intelligent Being).

Christianity also allows for future change(s) in line with historical “development” demands and needs, as long as the change(s) fit into the doctrine of the Trinity.

Aristotelian thought and Parmenidean thought

Aristotelian thought basically regards God’s existence as necessary, while everything else (i.e creatures) is contingent (i.e up to the Will of God whether He wants them

to exist or not), both in mind and reality.

The uncomfortable fusion of Parmenidean and Aristotelian thought basically regards God’s existence as necessary, and while it regards creatures contingent as to their being, their existence is necessary in thought. This means that whether anything exists outside of the mind, are up to the Will of God, but everything always exist in the mind.

The Christians adopted Aristotelian thought and also continued to adopt the Parmenidean thought at the same time, therefore the resulting conclusion is that the essence of the creature in thought is necessary, but is contingent when it is outside of thought. A simple example

discussed during our Suffah study meeting to explain this conclusion would be a pink unicorn. We can describe the pink unicorn as “pink in colour”, “who has a horn on its head” etc. These are its essence(s), and we can visualize it in our minds (i.e thought). Whether the pink unicorn exists outside of thought (i.e in the real world) however, is a different thing altogether.

Concept of Trinity

The concept of Trinity in Christianity basically teaches the unity of the Father (God), the Son (Jesus Christ) and the Holy Ghost (Spirit) as three persons in one Godhead. However, the term “person” here does not match the same understanding of the meaning of “person” in the modern English Language, where it means “an individual, self-actualized center of free will and conscious activity.”

The Council of Nicaea declared that the Son and the Father is “of the same substance”. This was further developed into the formula “three persons, one same substance” with the addition of the Holy Ghost. Whenever the question “What is God?” was posed to them, the concept of one-ness (one substance) was given as the answer, and whenever the question “Who is God?” was posed, the concept of three persons (Father, Son and Holy Ghost) simultaneously existing in one essence was given as the answer. In this way, the Council of Nicaea managed to keep the doctrine of Trinity without any accusations of worshipping pagan gods (since there are more than one god that the Christians are worshipping i.e the Father AND the Son AND the Holy Ghost) due to the one essence in nature, which to the Christians, means One True God.

List of Western scholars mentioned in Chapter 1


Adolf von Harnack (7 May 1851–10 June 1930), was a German theologian and prominent church historian. He produced many religious publications from 1873-1912. Harnack traced the influence of Hellenistic philosophy on early Christian writing and called on Christians to question the authenticity of doctrines that arose in the early Christian church. He rejected the gospel of John in favor of the synoptic gospels, criticized the Apostles' Creed, and promoted the social gospel.

Harnack denied the possibility of miracles but argued that Jesus may well have performed acts of healing that seemed miraculous: "That the earth in its course stood still; that a she-ass spoke; that a storm was quieted by a word, we do not believe, and we shall never again believe; but that the lame walked, the blind saw, and the deaf heard will not be so summarily dismissed as an illusion."

Arend van Leeuwen – unfortunately I can’t find any basic profile on this man but you guys can check out these links: (critique of Earth) (critique of heaven)

Both are interesting lecture series based on his thoughts, some of which include human self-consciousness as the highest divinity, a new heaven and a new earth and the transition from Platonism to Christianity.

Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) was a Greek philosopher, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theatre, music, logic, rhetoric, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology. Together with Plato and Socrates (Plato's teacher), Aristotle is one of the most important founding figures in Western philosophy. Aristotle's writings constitute a first at creating a comprehensive system of Western philosophy, encompassing morality and aesthetics, logic and science, politics and metaphysics.

Aristotle is referred to as "The Philosopher" by Scholastic thinkers such as Thomas Aquinas. These thinkers blended Aristotelian philosophy with Christianity, bringing the thought of Ancient Greece into the Middle Ages. It required a repudiation of some Aristotelian principles for the sciences and the arts to free themselves for the discovery of modern scientific laws and empirical methods. The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche has been said to have taken nearly all of his political philosophy from Aristotle.

Auguste Comte (17 January 1798 – 5 September 1857) was a French philosopher, the founder of sociology and positivism. He may be regarded as the first philosopher of science in the modern sense of the term.[1]

One universal law that Comte saw at work in all sciences he called the "law of three phases”, namely: Theological, Metaphysical, and Scientific (Also known as positivism).

The Theological phase was seen from the perspective of 19th century France as preceding the Enlightenment, in which man's place in society and society's restrictions upon man were referenced to God. Man blindly believed in whatever he was taught by his ancestors. He believed in a supernatural power. In the "Metaphysical" phase, the idea was rooted in the problems of French society subsequent to the revolution of 1789 and involved the justification of universal rights as being on a higher plane than the authority of any human ruler to countermand, although said rights were not referenced to the sacred beyond mere metaphor. People started reasoning and questioning although no solid evidence was laid. The stage of investigation was the beginning of a world that questioned authority and religion. In the Scientific phase, which came into being after the failure of the revolution and of Napoleon, people could find solutions to social problems and bring them into force despite the proclamations of human rights or prophecy of the will of God. Science started to answer questions in full stretch. For its time, this idea of a Scientific phase was considered up-to-date, although from a later standpoint it is too derivative of classical physics and academic history.


Dietrich Bonhoeffer (February 4, 1906 – April 9, 1945) was a German Lutheran pastor and theologian.

Central to his theology is Christ, in whom God and the world are reconciled. Bonhoeffer's God is a suffering God, whose manifestation is found in this-worldliness. He insisted that the church, like the Christians, "had to share in the sufferings of God at the hands of a godless world" if it were to be a true church of Christ.

He raised tantalizing questions about the role of Christianity and the church in a "world come of age", where human beings no longer need a metaphysical God as a stop-gap to human limitations, and mused about the emergence of a "religionless Christianity", where God would be unclouded from metaphysical constructions of the last 1900 years. He had a critical view of the phenomenon of religion and asserted that revelation abolished religion.


Edmund Gustav Albrecht Husserl ( April 8, 1859, Prostějov,Moravia, Austrian Empire – April 26, 1938, Freiburg, Germany) was a philosopher who is deemed the founder of phenomenology( the systematic reflection on and analysis of the structures ofconsciousness, and the phenomena which appear in acts of consciousness ).

Étienne Gilson (13 June 1884 - 19 September 1978) was a French Thomistic philosopher and historian of philosophy.

Gilson undertook to analyze Thomism from a historical perspective. To Gilson, Thomism is certainly not identical with Scholasticism in the pejorative sense, but indeed rather a revolt against it. Gilson considered the philosophy of his own era to be deteriorating into a science which would signal man's abdication of the right to judge and rule nature, man made a mere part of nature, which in turn would give the green light for the most reckless of social adventures to play havoc with human lives and institutions. Against "systems" of philosophy, Gilson was convinced that it was the revival of the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas that opens the way out of that danger zone.


Friedrich Gogarten (January 13, 1887 – October 16, 1967) was a Lutheran theologian, co-founder of dialectical theology in Germany in the early 20th Century.

Gogarten's general theme is "Man between God and the world," "The Church in the world" and the secularization as a result of the Christian revelation. He analyzed that the world ceases to be revered as the divine cosmos and it no longer encompasses man. He also stated that among the influences leading to secularization, he viewed Christian faith as the most important.

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (October 15, 1844 – August 25, 1900) was a 19th-century German philosopher and classical philologist. He wrote critical texts on religion, morality, contemporary culture, philosophy and science, using a distinctive German-language style and displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony and aphorism.

The statement "God is dead," occurring in several of Nietzsche's works (notably in The Gay Science), has become one of his best-known remarks. In Nietzsche's view, recent developments in modern science and the increasing secularization of European society had effectively 'killed' the Christian God, who had served as the basis for meaning and value in the West for more than a thousand years.

Nietzsche claimed the death of God would eventually lead to the loss of any universal perspective on things, and along with it any coherent sense of objective truth. Instead we would retain only our own multiple, diverse, and fluid perspectives. This view has acquired the name "perspectivism".


Gerhard von Rad (October 21, 1901 – October 31, 1971) was a German Lutheran pastor, University professor and an Old Testament scholar. He applied and developed the "tradition history" approach (which means to analyze biblical literature in terms of the process by which biblical traditions passed from stage to stage into their final form, especially how they passed from oral tradition to written form) to the Old Testament that has dominated the study of the Bible for nearly 40 years.


Harvey Gallagher Cox, Jr. ( Harvey Cox ) (born May 19, 1929 in Malvern, Pennsylvania) is one of the pre-eminent theologians in the United States and served as Hollis Research Professor of Divinity at the Harvard Divinity School, until his retirement in October 2009. Cox's research and teaching focus on theological developments in world Christianity, including liberation theology and the role of Christianity in Latin America.

Cox developed the thesis that the church is primarily a people of faith and action, rather than an institution. He argued that "God is just as present in the secular as the religious realms of life". Far from being a protective religious community, the church should be in the forefront of change in society, celebrating the new ways religiosity is finding expression in the world.

Cox retired in September 2009 in a well publicised ceremony and celebration. His new book, "The Future of Faith" was released to coincide with his retirement. The book explores three important trends in Christianity’s 2,000 years. He views the religion’s first three centuries as the Age of Faith, when followers simply embraced the teachings of Jesus. Then came the Age of Belief, in which church leaders increasingly took control and set acceptable limits on doctrine and orthodoxy. But the last 50 years, Cox contends, welcome in the Age of the Spirit, in which Christians have begun to ignore dogma and embrace spirituality, while finding common threads with other religions.


Immanuel Kant (22 April 172412 February 1804) was an 18th-century German philosopher from the Prussian city of Königsberg.

Kant stated the practical necessity for a belief in God in his Critique of Practical Reason. As an idea of pure reason, "we do not have the slightest ground to assume in an absolute manner… the object of this idea…" but adds that the idea of God cannot be separated from the relation of happiness with morality as the "ideal of the supreme good." The foundation of this connection is an intelligible moral world, and "is necessary from the practical point of view"; "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him." He also wrote that "One cannot provide objective reality for any theoretical idea, or prove it, except for the idea of freedom, because this is the condition of the moral law, whose reality is an axiom. The reality of the idea of God can only be proved by means of this idea, and hence only with a practical purpose, i.e., to act as though there is a God, and hence only for this purpose".

Along with this idea over reason and God, Kant places thought over religion and nature, i.e. the idea of religion being natural or naturalistic. Kant saw reason as natural, and as some part of Christianity is based on reason and morality, as Kant points out this is major in the scriptures, it is inevitable that Christianity is 'natural'. However, it is not 'naturalistic' in the sense that the religion does include supernatural or transcendent belief. Aside from this, a key point is that Kant saw that the Bible should be seen as a source of natural morality no matter whether there is/was any truth behind the supernatural factor. Meaning that it is not necessary to know whether the supernatural part of Christianity has any truth to abide by and use the core Christian moral code.


Jacques Maritain (18 November 188228 April 1973) was a French Catholic philosopher. Raised as a Protestant, he converted to Catholicism in 1906. An author of more than 60 books, he helped to revive St. Thomas Aquinas for modern times and is a prominent drafter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Pope Paul VI presented his "Message to Men of Thought and of Science" at the close of Vatican II to Maritain, his long-time friend and mentor. Maritan's interest and works spanned many aspects of philosophy, including aesthetics, political theory, the philosophy of science, metaphysics, education, liturgy and ecclesiology.

Joseph Maréchal (1 July 1878 in Charleroi, Belgium - 11 December 1944 in Leuven, Belgium) was a Belgian Jesuit priest, philosopher and psychologist at the Higher Institute of Philosophy of the University of Leuven who founded a school of thought called Transcendental Thomism, which attempted to merge the theological and philosophical thought of St. Thomas Aquinas with that of Immanuel Kant.

He started studying in depth the works of St Thomas Aquinas in order to understand the inner coherence of his system, along with the works of other scholastic thinkers, modern philosophers and scientists of the day. From this (and in particular from influences from Kant’s transcendental idealism) emerged a new and more dynamic Thomism, recapturing the union of ‘act and power’ of the original thinker.


Karl Barth (May 10, 1886(1886-05-10) – December 10, 1968) (pronounced "Bart") was a Swiss Reformed theologian whom critics hold to be among the most important Christian thinkers of the 20th century.

In his commentary The Epistle to the Romans, Barth argued that the God who is revealed in the cross of Jesus challenges and overthrows any attempt to ally God with human cultures, achievements, or possessions. His argument follows from the idea that God is the object of God’s own self-knowledge, and revelation in the Bible means the self-unveiling to humanity of the God who cannot be discovered by humanity simply through its own intuition.

One of the most influential and controversial features of Barth's Dogmatics (by dogmatics we mean a set of beliefs or principles) was his doctrine( which means a particular principle) of election. God chose some humans for salvation through Christ and others for damnation. God chose each person to either be saved or damned based on purposes of the Divine will, and it was impossible to know why God chose some and not others.


Leslie Dewart is a Roman Catholic philosopher who was born in Spain and now teaches at St. Michael's College of the University of Toronto.

Dewart says that what Christianity needs is to "de-Hellenize" its thinking, abandoning concepts of God derived from Greek and Medieval philosophy that are out of accord with the contemporary experience of man.

Dewart thinks that atheists such as Freud have a point in viewing religion as something that in the past has hindered rather than helped man's self-development. The church, he says, should concede that many of its teachings about God - who mechanistically rewards good and punishes evil in the afterlife, for example, - are immature and unthinkable to the modern mind. One key concept that Dewart regards as disposable is the Christian conviction, derived from Hellenic philosophy, that God is to be understood in terms of being. Christian belief is not an intellectual acquiescence in the idea of God as Supreme Being, but involves "a leap of faith" - an act of total self-commitment to God as a transcendent reality who is at once absent and present to man. In the future, Dewart argues, Christianity might not conceive God as a being - which means, literally, that God does not exist, since existence is a property of beings only.


Martin Heidegger, ( 26 September 1889 – 26 May 1976 ), was an influential German philosopher.

He wrote his first academic book entitled “Being and Time” and it investigates the question of being by asking about the being for whom being is in question. Heidegger was influenced at an early age by Aristotle, mediated through Catholic theology, Medieval philosophy, and Franz Brentano. Aristotle's ethical, logical, and metaphysical works were crucial to the development of his thought in the crucial period of the 1920s. Although he later worked less on Aristotle, Heidegger recommended postponing reading Nietzsche, and to "first study Aristotle for ten to fifteen years."


Parmenides of Elea (c. 520-c. 450 BCE) was an ancient Greek philosopher born in Elea, a Greek city on the southern coast of Italy.

Parmenides claimed that the truth cannot be known through sensory perception. Only pure reason (Logos) will result in the understanding of the truth of the world. This is because the perception of things or appearances (the doxa) is deceptive. We may see, for example, tables being made from wood and destroyed, and speak of birth and demise; this belongs to the superficial world of movement and change. But this genesis-and-destruction, as Parmenides emphasizes, is illusory, because the underlying material of which the table is made will still exist after its destruction. What exists must always exist. And we arrive at the knowledge of this underlying, static, and eternal reality (aletheia) through reasoning, not through sense-perception.

Paul Johannes Tillich (August 20, 1886 – October 22, 1965) was a German-American theologian and Christian existentialist philosopher and one of the 20th century’s most influential Protestant theologians.

Tillich's criticism against the traditional theistic God is that:

“He deprives me of my subjectivity because he is all-powerful and all-knowing. I revolt and make him into an object, but the revolt fails and becomes desperate. God appears as the invincible tyrant, the being in contrast with whom all other beings are without freedom and subjectivity. He is equated with recent tyrants with the help of terror try to transform everything into a mere object, a thing among things, a cog in a machine they control. He becomes the model of everything against which Existentialism revolted. This is the God Nietzsche said had to be killed because nobody can tolerate being made into a mere object of absolute knowledge and absolute control. This is the deepest root of atheism. It is an atheism which is justified as the reaction against theological theism and its disturbing implications.”

Tillich criticized traditional theism because epistemologically, God cannot be made into an object, since God is simply beyond the grasp of the human mind. If God were made into the subject (The Ultimate Subject), then it is quite obvious that the rest of the existing entities are now subjected to the absolute knowledge and scrutiny of God. It deprives the person of his subjectivity, his own creativity to create meaning existentially. He says that the modern man could no longer tolerate the idea of being an "object" completely subjected to the absolute knowledge of God. Third, Paul Tillich has argued that the philosophical argument of theism is simply "bad theology".

Paul Matthews van Buren (1924-1998) was a Christian theologian and author. An ordained Episcopalian priest he was a Professor of religion at Temple University, Philadelphia for 22 years. He was Director of the Centre of Ethics and Religious Pluralism at the Shalom Institute in Jerusalem. He received a PhD in theology in 1957, from the University of Basel in Switzerland studying under Karl Barth.

He pondered whether the Christian message can make sense in the world today. Trained in the philosophical method of linguistic analysis, van Buren said it was problematic to speak meaningfully about a God for whom no sensory verification is possible. In the absence of such meaningful language about transcendence, van Buren argued that theology must turn to ethical behaviour based on the historical Jesus.

In his noted 1963 book The Secular Meaning of the Gospel: Based on an Analysis of Its Language, which established his reputation as a non-traditional theologian, van Buren argued that he was "trying to find an utterly non-transcendent way of interpreting the gospel" so "sense could be made of it." Some theologians critical of van Buren's methodology and thinking countered that if faith is stripped of transcendence, there is little left of religion.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (May 1, 1881 - April 10, 1955) was a French philosopher and Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and geologist.

He states that "evolution is an ascent toward consciousness", and therefore, signifies a continuous upsurge toward the Omega Point, which for all intents and purposes, is God.

Teilhard studied what he called the rise of spirit, or evolution of consciousness, in the universe. He believed it to be observable and verifiable in a simple law he called the Law of Complexity/Consciousness. This law simply states that there is an inherent compulsion in matter to arrange itself in more complex groupings, exhibiting higher levels of consciousness. The more complex the matter, the more conscious it is.


René Descartes (31 March 1596 – 11 February 1650), also known as Renatus Cartesius (Latinized form), was a French philosopher, mathematician,physicist, and writer. He has been dubbed the "Father of Modern Philosophy".

Descartes is often regarded as the first modern thinker to provide a philosophical framework for the natural sciences as these began to develop. He rejects any ideas that can be doubted, and then re-establishes them in order to acquire a firm foundation for genuine knowledge. Descartes concludes that he can be certain that he exists because he thinks. He perceives his body through the use of the senses; however, these have previously been unreliable.

To further demonstrate the limitations of the senses, Descartes proceeds with what is known as the Wax Argument. He considers a piece of wax; his senses inform him that it has certain characteristics, such as shape, texture, size, color, smell, and so forth. When he brings the wax towards a flame, these characteristics change completely. However, it seems that it is still the same thing: it is still a piece of wax, even though the data of the senses inform him that all of its characteristics are different. Therefore, in order to properly grasp the nature of the wax, he cannot use the senses. He must use his mind. Descartes concludes:

“And so something which I thought I was seeing with my eyes is in fact grasped solely by the faculty of judgment which is in my mind.”

In this manner, Descartes proceeds to construct a system of knowledge, discarding perception as unreliable and instead admitting only deduction as a method.

Because God is benevolent, he can have some faith in the account of reality his senses provide him, for God has provided him with a working mind and sensory system and does not desire to deceive him. From this supposition, however, he finally establishes the possibility of acquiring knowledge about the world based on deduction and perception. In terms of epistemology therefore, he can be said to have contributed such ideas as a rigorous conception of foundationalism and the possibility that reason is the only reliable method of attaining knowledge.

Rudolf Karl Bultmann (August 20, 1884 – July 30, 1976) was a German theologian of Lutheran background, who was for three decades professor of New Testament studies at the University of Marburg. He defined an almost complete split between history and faith, writing that only the bare fact of Christ crucified was necessary for Christian faith.

In 1941, his lecture New Testament and Mythology: The Problem of Demythologizing the New Testament Message called on interpreters to replace traditional supernaturalism with the temporal and existential categories of Bultmann's colleague, Martin Heidegger. Bultmann believed this endeavor would make accessible to modern audiences the reality of Jesus' teachings. Bultmann thus understood the project of "demythologizing the New Testament proclamation" by stripping it of elements of the first-century "mythical world picture" that had potential to alienate modern people from Christian faith.

He carried form-criticism so far as to call the historical value of the gospels into serious question. Some scholars criticized Bultmann and other critics for excessive skepticism regarding the historical reliability of the gospel narratives.


Sigmund Freud born Sigismund Schlomo Freud (May 6, 1856 – September 23, 1939), was an Austrian neurologist who founded the psychoanalytic school of psychology.[1] Freud is best known for his theories of the unconscious mind and the defense mechanism of repression and for creating the clinical practice of psychoanalysis for treating psychopathology through dialogue between a patient and a psychoanalyst. Freud is also renowned for his redefinition of sexual desire as the primary motivational energy of human life, as well as his therapeutic techniques, including the use of free association, his theory of transference in the therapeutic relationship, and the interpretation of dreams as sources of insight into unconscious desires. He was also an early neurological researcher into cerebral palsy.

In his book The Future of an Illusion, he suggests that many defences have sprung up to attempt to prove a god watching over us, but they all lack substance. Some examples are: Ancestors believed in a God; and questioning faith is against religious doctrine. Wishes create illusions, and although wish-fulfilment as a means for creation doesn’t disprove the possibility of truth, it certainly doesn’t prove it, either. The fact that so many illogical defences of religion exist must mean that many people’s beliefs are rather insecure.

Freud believes bright children would remain as inquisitive and intelligent as adults instead of becoming average if they are taught civic love and scientific reason instead of religion. While Freud may be proposing a new illusion to be indoctrinated and perpetuated, he is certain it will lead to a state in which science can prevail.

Søren Aabye Kierkegaard (5 May 1813 – 11 November 1855) was a Danish philosopher, theologian, and psychologist. His theological work focuses on Christian ethics and the institution of the Church. His psychological works explore the emotions and feelings of individuals when faced with life choices.

He criticized several aspects of church formalities and politics. According to Kierkegaard, the idea of congregations keeps individuals as children since Christians are disinclined from taking the initiative to take responsibility for their own relation to God. He stresses that "Christianity is the individual, here, the single individual. When individuals are faithful, congregational life is a natural and meaningful existence. Furthermore, since the Church was controlled by the State, Kierkegaard believed the State's bureaucratic mission was to increase membership and oversee the welfare of its members. More members would mean more power for the clergymen: a corrupt ideal. This mission would seem at odds with Christianity's true doctrine, which, to Kierkegaard, is to stress the importance of the individual, not the whole. Thus, the state-church political structure is offensive and detrimental to individuals, since anyone can become "Christian" without knowing what it means to be Christian. It is also detrimental to the religion itself since it reduces Christianity to a mere fashionable tradition adhered to by unbelieving "believers", a "herd mentality" of the population, so to speak.

Attacking what he considered the incompetence and corruption of the Christian churches, Kierkegaard seemed to have anticipated philosophers like Friedrich Nietzsche who would go on to criticize the Christian religion itself.


Thomas Aquinas, (also Thomas of Aquin or Aquino; born ca. 1225; died 7 March 1274) was an Italian priest of the Roman Catholic Church in the Dominican Order, and an immensely influential philosopher and theologian in the tradition of scholasticism, known as Doctor Angelicus and Doctor Communis.

Aquinas believed "that for the knowledge of any truth whatsoever man needs divine help, that the intellect may be moved by God to its act. However, he believed that human beings have the natural capacity to know many things without special divine revelation, even though such revelation occurs from time to time, "especially in regard to [topics of] faith." Aquinas was also an Aristotelian and an empiricist. He substantially influenced these two streams of Western thought.

Though one may deduce the existence of God and his Attributes (One, Truth, Good, Power, Knowledge) through reason, certain specifics may be known only through special revelation (such as the Trinity). In Aquinas' view, special revelation is equivalent to the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. The major theological components of Christianity, such as the Trinity and the Incarnation, are revealed in the teachings of the Church and the Scriptures and may not otherwise be deduced.

Supernatural revelation (faith) and natural revelation (reason) are complementary rather than contradictory in nature, for they pertain to the same unity which is truth.


William of Ockham (c. 1288 - c. 1348) was an English Franciscan friar and scholastic philosopher, from Ockham, a small village in Surrey, near East Horsley, England.

He argued that only individuals exist, rather than supra-individual universals, essences, or forms, and that universals are the products of abstraction from individuals by the human mind and have no extra-mental existence. He denied the real existence of metaphysical universals and advocated the reduction ontology. Ockham is sometimes considered an advocate of conceptualism rather than nominalism, for whereas nominalists held that universals were merely names, i.e. words rather than existing realities, conceptualists held that they were mental concepts, i.e. the names were names of concepts, which do exist, although only in the mind. Therefore, the universal concept has for its object, not a reality existing in the world outside us, but an internal representation which is a product of the understanding itself and which "supposes" in the mind the things to which the mind attributes it; that is, it holds, for the time being, the place of the things which it represents.

Over the course of his life, Ockham changed his view of what universal concepts are. To begin with, he believed that universals have no “real” existence at all in the Aristotelian categories, but instead are purely “intentional objects” more or less in the sense of modern phenomenology; they have only a kind of “thought”-reality. Such “fictive” objects were metaphysically universal; they just weren't real. Eventually, however, Ockham came to think this intentional realm of “fictive” entities was not needed, and by the time of his works Summa logicae and the Quodlibets, he adopted instead a so-called intellectio-theory, according to which a universal concept is just the act of thinking about several objects at once; metaphysically it is quite singular, and is “universal” only in the sense of being predicable of many.