Reasoning from Faith: Fundamental Theology in Merold Westphal's Philosophy of Religion

Reasoning from Faith: Fundamental Theology in Merold Westphal's Philosophy of Religion

Reasoning from Faith: Fundamental Theology in Merold Westphal's Philosophy of Religion

Reasoning from Faith: Fundamental Theology in Merold Westphal's Philosophy of Religion

Synopsis

Merold Westphal is considered to be one of the preeminent Continental philosophers of religion. His articulation of faith as the task of a lifetime has become a touchstone in contemporary debates concerning faith's relationship to reason. As Justin Sands explores his philosophy, he illuminates how Westphal's concept of faith reveals the pastoral, theological intent behind his thinking. Sands sees Westphal's philosophy as a powerful articulation of Protestant theology, but one that is in ecumenical dialogue with questions concerning apologetics and faith's relationship to ethics and responsibility, a more Catholic point of view. By bringing out these features in Westphal's philosophy, Sands intends to find core philosophical methodologies as well as a passable bridge for philosophers to cross over into theological discourses.

Excerpt

Situating westphal

Merold Westphal stands as one of the preeminent thinkers in North America concerning Continental philosophy of religion. Moreover, together with John Caputo and Richard Kearney, Westphal can be thought of as one of the main philosophers who popularized postmodern thought on religion in North America. the present work reviews Westphal’s contributions to philosophy, what possible offerings those may have for theology, and how his work might best be understood within these discourses.

Although Westphal often fashions himself as a Christian philosopher— and hence it may seem simple to situate him between philosophy and theology—this is not so easily the case. What I will show is that his Christian philosophy, while being thoroughly Christian and heavily founded in philosophical thinking, is better understood as a theology proper. This is because Westphal’s thought functions less as a philosophical reflection on the Christian faith and more as an active engagement of philosophy that begins from within the Christian faith. At first, this may sound as if I am splitting hairs concerning what a philosophy (or theology, for that matter) can and cannot do, yet this distinction is essential for best understanding the faith that Westphal wishes to pronounce and the ways in which that faith is enacted. Westphal, these chapters will show, does not seek a rational or apologetical justification of faith. Rather, he begins from a faith solely initiated by an acceptance of God’s revelation, which thereby resists any rational foundation. From this anti-apologetical faith, Westphal then proceeds to rationally develop its implications. Faith is always the first act of the believing soul, Westphal argues; it begins as unreasonable, and reason only aids in one’s understanding of faith. Finally, Westphal finds that this . . .

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