The Role of Sacred Texts in Philosophical Theology

By: Beau Branson  

Criticisms of certain doctrines in Philosophical Theology frequently rest on premises to the effect that the doctrine is in conflict with the sacred scriptures of its own religious tradition. I show that, to make sense of such arguments, we need some non-arbitrary criterion telling us, when two aspects of a religious tradition come into conflict, which aspect to prefer over the other, and why it makes sense to jettison one in favor of that other, rather than abandon the religion altogether. I take as a case study the doctrine of the Trinity and the Christian Bible and illustrate the problems for these kinds of arguments by showing that the sorts of criteria usually hinted at in the literature on the Trinity either fail to distinguish between the Bible and the doctrine of the Trinity at all, or would actually lead us prefer the doctrine of the Trinity over the Bible. I conclude that such scripture-based arguments will in many cases fail to non-question-beggingly support the conclusion they are intended to, and in some cases actually support the opposite conclusion from what they are intended to. Generalizing, I argue that we must approach religious traditions in a more wholistic way, rather than attempting to reduce a religious tradition to a mere text.

Sacred Texts, Philosophical Theology, Analytic Theology, Methodology, Trinity
Religious Foundations
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Beau Branson

Assistant Professor, Philosophy, Brescia University, United States
United States

My Ph.D. (2014) was completed at the Universtiy of Notre Dame, directed by Richard Cross, where I specialized in Philosophical Theology, Metaphysics, and Ancient and Hellenistic Philosophy. (My dissertation was on the Logical Problem of the Trinity). My research focuses on the philosophy o fthe early Church Fathers. By bringing the rigor of contemporary logic and analytic metaphysics to bear on deep historical questions in patristics scholarship, I hope to show how both analytic theology and historical theology can benefit from a ddeper engagement with one another.