The Apostle Paul’s Contribution to the Philosophy of Religion -- By: G. H. Trever
BSac 72:286 (April 1915) p. 177
The Apostle Paul’s Contribution to the Philosophy of Religion
That the apostle Paul did not consciously construct what is known to-day as a Philosophy of Religion need not be stated. This study, which turns a critical and reflective eye upon the facts of man’s religious life, to discover, if possible, its essential nature, its laws, its normal or abnormal developments, its justification — this study had not then been so much as dreamed of. Nevertheless, Paul did contribute great fundamental ideas which any philosophy of religion worthy of the name must incorporate into itself.
Any philosophy of religion must include a philosophy of the subject of religion. This, amongst terrestrial beings, with whom alone we have to do, is man. James Freeman Clarke may try to prove that his cur has conscience; Charles Darwin may think that the growlings of his dog at the motions of a parasol stirred by the breeze, show something of the tendency which appears in savage man to imagine that natural objects are animated by spiritual powers; but, for us, religion is a function of man, and of man only. Then religion is related to some object or objects. It is not a mere reflex action of the man upon himself. Nor is religion a relation of the
BSac 72:286 (April 1915) p. 178
subject to some inanimate thing. It assumes the existence of one or more personal beings who are related to man and can be influenced by his feelings and actions. Moreover, the object of religion is distinguished by its superhuman quality. Religion is thus, in short, man’s bearing towards what he calls his God or gods, as distinguished from his bearing towards other beings. A complete philosophy of religion, therefore, would include a philosophy of the religious nature of the subject of religion, a philosophy of the object of religion, and a philosophy of the relations between the two. As far as the cosmos conditions and mediates, yea, in large measure, practically shapes, those mutual bearings of the divine and human, it must also have some place in such a discussion.
In considering St. Paul’s contribution to the philosophy of religion, we shall draw upon his speeches in the book of Acts and upon all the Epistles that bear his name. We cannot of course take space here to justify all our exegesis. We begin with the object of religion. Modern theistic philosophy begins with the finite and concludes from it to the infinite. It deals much with the various so-called proofs for the existence of God. From these it concludes to one, infinite, personal Being, both immanent and transcendent, the one sufficient Cause, intelligent Designer, Preserver, and moral Governor of the finite. Paul knows that there is such a Deity. Idols are nothing in t...
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