History of Philosophy and Christian Thought - Lesson 34


Augustine was personally convinced of the importance of divine illumination.

Ronald Nash
History of Philosophy and Christian Thought
Lesson 34
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Augustinian Philosophy

Part 10

X. Theory of Divine Illumination

  • Thales and Anaximander were two philosophers in the sixth century BC that lived in Miletus.

  • Heraclitus and Pythagoras lived into the 5th century BC.

  • Any worldview addresses the subjects of God, ultimate reality, human knowledge, ethics and human persons.

  • Fundamental beliefs of a naturalistic worldview is that nothing exists outside the physical universe and that all things evolved.

  • Plato was a student of Socrates and lived into the fourth century BC. He opposed hedonism, empiricism, relativism, materialism, atheism and naturalism.

  • Plato described the universe as having three levels: the world of particulars, the world of forms, and the form of the good.

  • Plato's view of the universe was dualistic.

  • One of Plato's fundamental arguments is that the human soul is immortal.

  • Evaluation of Plato's arguments and comparison of Plato's philosophy with biblical theology.

  • Empiricism teaches that all human knowledge arises from sense experience. Rationalism teaches that some human knowledge does not arise from sense. experience

  • Aristotle was a student of Plato and lived in the fourth century BC.

  • Aristotle rejected Plato's doctrine of two worlds.

  • Discussion of Aristotelian philosophy as it relates to the incarnation.

  • Aristotle's philosophy as it relates to attributes of God and fundamental assumptions about psychology.

  • Aristotle made a distinction between passive intellect and active intellect.

  • Discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the law of non-contradiction.

  • Discussion of the nature and substance of matter.

  • Hellenistic philosophy was an approach that was popular from the fourth century BC to the fifth century AD.

  • Stoics were determinists who believed in living according to nature.

  • Hedonism emphasized pleasure as the greatest good. "Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we might be dead."

  • Philo's philosophy was based on a synthesis of Stoicism and Platonism.

  • Implicit "Logos" Christianity is an underlying theme in the book of Hebrews.

  • Plotinus lived in the third century AD and is considered the founder of Neoplatonism.

  • Augustine is a Latin church father, is considered by many to be one of the most important figures in the development of Western Christianity.

  • Augustine wrote Confessions as an autobiographical work to record his experience as a sinful youth and his experience becoming a follower of Christ.

  • Augustine wrote to refute some heresies of the day by focusing on the concepts of faith and reason.

  • Augustine writes about the problem of evil and describes evil as the absence of good.

  • Augustine writes to refute Pelagianism by focusing on the biblical teaching about sin.

  • Augustine writes to refute Donatism.

  • The fundamental idea of skepticism is that no one can know anything. Augustine this statement contradicts itself because the skeptic is claiming that you can know that you can't know anything.

  • When Augustine wrote "The City of God," he had a linear view of history.

  • In Augustine's theory of knowledge, he says that eternal reason and human reason are two different levels of reason.

  • Augustine was personally convinced of the importance of divine illumination.

  • The intellectual background of Thomas Aquinas was influenced by the discovery of ancient manuscripts, the rise of universities, the rise of religious brotherhoods and the rise of Muslim philosophy.

  • Aquinas describes faith as whatever a human can know through special revelation, and reason as whatever a human can know outside of special revelation.

  • Aquinas attempts to prove God's existence.

  • Aquinas describes four kinds of law as eternal, divine, natural and positive.

  • The rationalists and empiricists set the stage for Kant and other philosophers of the modern era.

  • Kant argued that moral requirements are based on a standard of rationality he dubbed the “Categorical Imperative."

  • Kants two worlds are the phenomenal world and the noumenal world.

  • Discussion of criticisms and questions about Kant's ideas.

  • Similarities between Kant's ideas and postmodernism.

  • The dialectic is a central idea in Hegel's philosophy.

  • Ideally, Marxism begins with class struggle, then revolution, dictatorship of the proletariat, withering away of the state, and a utopian classless society.

  • Discussion of four faces of Marxism.

  • Nietzsche proclaimed that, "God is dead." His cure was to live life knowing there is no ultimate meaning. Kierkegaard emphasized a worldview based on true faith.

In this class, you will explore the rich history of philosophy and its relationship with Christian thought. The course begins with an introduction to the definition and importance of philosophy in Christian theology. You will then delve into the evolution of philosophical thought from the Pre-Socratic era, through the Classical Greek philosophers, and into the Hellenistic period. As you progress, you will discover how early Christian thought emerged and developed during the Patristic period, with a special focus on Augustine. The class continues with an examination of medieval Christian thinkers, such as Anselm and Thomas Aquinas, and concludes with an analysis of modern philosophers like Descartes, Kant, and Kierkegaard, and their influence on contemporary Christian thought.

Dr. Ronald Nash
History of Philosophy and Christian Thought
Lesson Transcript


[00:00:02] The last thing I want to say about Agustin. He is very famous for, you know, the philosophy of history, his study of God. His book, The Confessions. But he is also very famous for his theory of divine illumination. In that theory, Augustine makes God an absolutely essential component in everything that human beings know. If it weren't for God, and if it weren't for the illuminating activity that God plays in every act of human knowledge, we would have, we would be unable to know any more than a dog or a cat. Maybe we'd be unable to know any more than a bird and an earthworm. The only reason human beings can know anything is because God created us in his image. However, the meaning of Augustine's theory of divine illumination has been a subject of controversy for centuries. And I believe that I've come and forgive the the personal pronoun here. All right. But some of you were going to write your term papers on this. And you can criticize me if I'm wrong. I believe I've come closer to explaining and understanding Augustine's theory of divine illumination than anybody else. And that explanation is the subject of this book, The Light of the Mind. St Augustine's Theory of Knowledge. What I do in that book is I explain the major interpretations of Augustine's theory of knowledge. When you look at those all alternative explanations, it they. They appear ludicrous. One of the major theories. We call it the total mystic interpretation, because it it owes a lot to Saint Thomas Aquinas. One of the major interpretations would, in effect, turn Augustine into an Aristotelian. That's ludicrous. They would turn Augustine into an empiricist who, in effect, approaches knowledge in the same way that we find the empiricists approaching knowledge in Plato's Feito.


[00:02:36] I mean, it's just unbelievable. Not even reputable Catholic scholars today give any credence or credibility to that Aristotelian ism, to that Aristotelian interpretation of Augustine. Another interpretation of the theory of divine illumination is that Augustine had no answer to the question how to human beings know what Plato called forms. How do human beings know these eternal ideas? On the face of it, that too, is absolutely incredible ludicrous. So I, I explore a number of different interpretations, and then I offer the truth, which is this Augustine's theory of divine illumination is equivalent to the Lagos doctrine. For those of you just tuning into the tapes, that's our theme song for this course. That's our theme song for the Lagos Doctrine. If you go back to your notes based upon Plato's Fito, God, God planted in every human mind, contemporaneous with our birth and innate and an implicit understanding of the eternal forms which exist as eternal ideas in the mind of God. When the Bible tells us that God created us in his own image, a major part of the image of God is cognitive. That is, it has to do with knowledge. The potential for knowledge, the capacity for knowledge and human knowledge is possible because our minds are created with cognitive structures that correspond to the cognitive structures of the God who created us. I am not at this moment going to say more about Augustine's theory because you will appreciate his theory even more after we talk about the theory of knowledge of a German thinker named Emmanuel Kopp. Now, let me give you a warning. I do not exalt Kant's theory of knowledge. It is an untenable position. It has been. It has been. It has been attacked from all sides. But nonetheless, one cannot deny that cart was on the right track with respect to something that had to be noted, something that had to be said.


[00:05:33] But the truth is, and this is a truth that you really can't find anywhere else, that there was a philosopher who lived more than a thousand years before COT. In fact, he lived 1400 years before Kant, who actually anticipated what Conte was trying to do but avoided the problems of conscious theory and. Provided a far more adequate theory of knowledge for anybody who is willing to plug Christian theism into his study of epistemology. So one of the reasons why on the final exam there will likely be at least two questions about conscious theory of knowledge is because it provides a kind of culmination to this entire course, and you'll see how that happens next week.