Date Thesis Awarded

4-2019

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)

Department

Religious Studies

Advisor

Kevin Vose

Committee Members

Alexander Angelov

Jessica Stephens

Abstract

The Theological Thesis explores faith and theology within, and tangential to, knowledge throughout the course of Western epistemological history. Chapter I studies qualifications for truth and knowledge in the pre-Enlightenment epistemologies of Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430), Saint Thomas Aquinas (c. 1224-1274) and William of Ockham (c. 1285-1345) to uncover how the understanding of faith’s relationship with knowledge changed throughout the Middle Ages. Chapter II does the same for the epistemologies of Enlightenment contemporaries David Hume (1711-1776) and Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834), surveying epistemic modifications to the aforementioned relationship in the so-called Age of Reason. Chapter III looks at the foundation of the contemporary Western secular study of religion in Max Müller’s (1823-1900) comparative theology and proposes a modified understanding of theology to allow for concurrent secular study of the natural world and a religious reality, without resorting to the dogmatic theologies of historical religions.

This project seeks to bridge the epistemic divide between materialist attitudes in the academy and idealist worldviews typically associated with theology or metaphysics. With the increasing secularization of the Western academy, materialism, the conception of reality composed exclusively of observable objects and relationships between those objects, has emerged as its predominant epistemological stance. Idealism, the conception of reality composed both of observable and immaterial objects, fails to meet the evidential stipulations materialist epistemology requires of knowledge. If, as I argue, materialist knowledge holds no superior claim to absolute truth than does idealist knowledge, the prevailing attitude in secular academia must adjust to consider those objects it abandoned in dispensing with the construction of theology. Dogmatic theology’s general thesis affirming the real existence of immaterial reality may thus be incorporated into fashioning a new methodology for studying the immaterial, an epistemic system I term “secular theology”.

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