Theology Needs Philosophy

Theology Needs Philosophy

Fr. Matthew Lamb’s provocatively titled new edited collection of essays, Theology Needs Philosophy: Acting Against Reason is Contrary to the Nature of God (Catholic University of America Press, 2016), posits a dependency of the study of God on the study of reason. The leading theologians and philosophers who contributed essays to this volume, rather than arguing that philosophy needs theology, actively defend human reason. Citing one of Pope Benedict XVI’s central insights, Fr. Lamb explains: “Catholic faith is an assent of the mind moved by God’s grace.” Faith is not a blind submission, as the nominalists, reformers, and Muslims would have it, he continues. Rather, faith goes hand in hand with understanding.

This volume of essays is the fruit of a conference on faith and reason that Fr. Lamb organized at Ave Maria University in 2011. Dr. Ralph McInerny was invited to participate, but he passed away before the conference took place. “My introduction indicates that this book,” Fr. Lamb says, “is a tribute to the central concerns and contributions of Dr. Ralph McInerny for the renewal of Catholic intellectual, philosophical, and theological life.” In his honor, a number of McInerny’s colleagues and former students were invited to contribute to the volume. Other contributors to the volume include AMU professors Steven Long, Roger Nutt, and Michael Novak, as well as renowned scholars such as Romanus Cessario, OP (St. John’s Major Seminary, Boston), Brian E. Daley (University of Notre Dame), Gilles Emery, OP (University of Fribourg), Guy Mansini, OSB (Saint Meinrad School of Theology), and Kevin White (Catholic University of America)–to name a few.  

Theology Needs Philosophy is a unique contribution to the discussion of the balance between faith and reason. “No other book explores the role of reason in so many and diverse theological fields,” Lamb says. The essays are broken up into five sections, each covering an aspect in which philosophy has contributed to the study of theology:

  1. the inevitable presence and service of philosophy in theology;
  2. the metaphysics of creation, nature, and the natural knowledge of God;
  3. the history of reason as the Word or Logos in the Church fathers, in St. Thomas Aquinas, and Medieval Biblical commentaries;
  4. the role of reason in Trinitarian theology, Christology, and Mariology; and finally,
  5. reason in the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas. 

Readers across the board—from faculty, to graduate and undergraduate students, to seminarians, priests, and religious, to general readers interested in how faith heals and elevates reason—will find in Theology Needs Philosophy a wealth of wisdom and resources particularly relevant to our day and age. “An abandonment of Catholic faith, and its incorporation of the ancient discoveries of reason,” Lamb explains, “has led to a darkening of reason in secularist modernity, with its moral relativism that leads to a nihilism so evident in widespread violence, abortion and euthanasia.”

In order to move forward with a message of life and hope, it is vital that human reason be recovered and cultivated. This collection of essays, which takes its subtitle from an idea in Pope Benedict XVI’s Regensburg Lecture (namely, not to act according to reason is contrary to the nature of God), attempts to do just that.  As George Weigel wrote in review of Theology Needs Philosophy

“In an age beset by various kinds of irrationality, and a cultural moment in which ‘theology’ is too often a synonym for ‘mythology,’ Father Lamb and his colleagues explore with depth and breadth the many ways in which reason purified faith and philosophy helps theology probe the data of revelation for the building of the Church and the healing of the world.”

Fr. Matthew Lamb holds the Cardinal Maida Chair of Theology at Ave Maria University. He came to AMU in 2004 and helped to establish both the graduate programs in Theology and the Aquinas Center for Theological Renewal. Fr. Lamb previously taught at Boston College and Marquette University. Before receiving his S.T.L. in Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, he spent fifteen years in a contemplative monastery. Fr. Lamb holds a Dr.Theo. summa cum laude from Westfälsche Wilhelms University, Münster, Germany, and an honorary doctorate from Franciscan University of Steubenville. He has authored and edited several books and published over 160 articles in quarterlies, journals, and books.