I’ve been talking about Classical Theism in the last series of posts. You might ask, what are the non-classical views? Well, there are basically only two categorical views in philosophy of religion: Classical Theism and what’s been dubbed Theistic Personalism by philosopher Brian Davies (An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion).
Before I get into that, I want to say that while I’m an evangelical protestant myself, I consider myself part of the Church Universal, first and foremost. And I think it’s advantageous for us as believers to benefit from the diversity of viewpoints of our brothers and sisters in Christ without being divisive.
I believe that various parts of the body of Christ have a better doctrinal understanding in particular areas of faith than others. For instance, I think the Eastern Orthodox have the best understanding of the atonement and the trinity, the Protestants and Evangelicals on grace and faith, the Pentecostals and Charismatics on the gifts of the Spirit and our identity in Christ, and the Catholics and Eastern Orthodox have the best argument for the existence of God, which is the classical view I’ve been showing here.
Classical Theism is called such because it was the theistic metaphysics of Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, much of Judaism and Islam, and all the early Christian church, including early church fathers like Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas. It’s also the philosophy of all Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches and some Protestants. The more modern Theistic Personalism was the philosophy of Ockham, Decartes, Newton, Paley, and more modern philosophers like Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swineburne, and apologist William Lane Craig, along with most of modern evangelicalism, although it’s unlikely many of the Protestant and Evangelical rank and file know the difference between them. I know I didn’t for many years.
It should be noted that most, if not all, skeptics and atheists are arguing against Theistic Personalism and not Classical Theism. I alluded to this in “God is not a god.” While both views are better arguments than the incoherent ontology of atheism, I personally believe that skeptics have a much stronger argument against Theistic Personalism than they do against Classical Theism.
I found some very simple and short videos that explain the differences and distinctions in terminology between these two views that I thought would be very helpful if you’re interested. These were put together by Elmar Kremer, Professor Emeritas of Philosophy at University of Toronto. He utilizes drawings and simple illustrations to help clarify the points. It’s all well done. This first video explains the distinctive differences between Classical Theism and Theistic Personalism:
This second video explains why Kremer believes that Classical Theism is the stronger argument than Theistic Personalism and he also answers some of the common objections to Classical Theism.
If you’re interested in learning more on some of the other differences in common terminology between these two viewpoints, here are the links to the other videos in the series. Some get a bit tedious but they do give easy-to-understand descriptions and make important distinctions with each subject.
You might ask, who cares? Well, if you already believe that God exists maybe it doesn’t matter at all. But if you want a strong case for the existence of God, I believe understanding these metaphysical viewpoints are important.