What are principles of Christian theology? For Aristotle, principles were the true, primary, immediate, and indemonstrable starting points of knowledge that are better known than, and explanatory of, conclusions. Throughout history, theologians who knew Aristotle (or knew a tradition that knew Aristotle) have taken different positions in which, for instance, the speaking God, the articles of faith, Holy Scripture, human reason plus revelation, and justification plus Scripture have been regarded as principles of theology. Why could the principles of Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics have seemed useful to Christian theologians? This lecture suggests, as a tentative answer, that Aristotle’s theory combined elements that could be considered relevant: principles were a common feature of all sciences; the criteria of immediacy and priority mandated a turn ad fontes; the indemonstrability of principles relieved them from the exclusive control of reason; the explanatory significance of the principle suggested that theological propositions needed to be accurately based upon it. Moreover, the indemonstrability of believed principles might be interpreted as opening up to the program of what Anselm famously described as “faith seeking understanding”: fides quaerens intellectum – which is also the motto of the ETF Leuven. The present lecture suggests that this motto finds support not only in Augustine and Anselm but also in the Christian reception history of Aristotle’s principles. (42 pag., ISBN 9789463961080)
Goudriaan, Aza. Beyond Demonstration: Historical Observations on Principles of Theology. Leuven: Evangelische Theologische Faculteit, 2020.