Thursday, August 16, 2007

If I'm a handmaid, does that make my husband a butler?

"Philosophy: the handmaid of theology"

Thus began another year of Catholic Doctrine for the high school seniors at Regina Caeli Academy.

I asked them what it meant to be a handmaid.

"You take orders from the mistress." Yes.

"You cook and clean." Ye-es.

"You take care of the mistress." Ah-ha! And the course instructor (me) went into metaphysical raptures. That was a fascinating--and personally gratifying--way to think about the relationship between philosophy and theology.

Yes, philosophy is the handmaid: reason and common sense prepare the way for "the queen," theology. Reason must submit (a la Pascal) to the truths of revelation. Theological truth enriches and opens the horizons of human reason.

But is there a sense in which theology can't do without philosophy? The mistress needs her handmaids to flourish and grow. The more disciplined and thorough the philosopher, the more rigorous his/her concepts and arguments... the more (insert adjective) theology.

I think it has in part to do with the persuasiveness of theology and the attraction it has for the "natural man." If theology can speak to reason and the human heart (using philosophical terms to which the natural man is open), it can persuade. And if theology is not winning hearts, it's lost its purpose.

Ah, but the musings are endless...

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