Classical Theism and Theistic Personalism

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.

Part Three: Omnipotence of God

Part Four: Omniscience of God

Part Five: God’s Goodness and Justice

Part Six: Evil and Good

Part Seven: Atheistic Arguments from Evil

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.

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 39 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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24 Responses to Classical Theism and Theistic Personalism

  1. KIA says:

    Great. Another shell game.
    Are these the reasons you accepted and still hold to Christ today?

  2. KIA says:

    I’ve done a post where I explain my questions and why you refuse to answer.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Ah…excuse me. You’re the one who’s being puerile and fractious here. If you have something to say, say it. Don’t play these games with me and then try to turn the accusation for refusing to answer question on me. Now you sound like Zande. Is this some weird strategy you guys cooked up?

      Coming on someone’s site and making vague accusations and then running off and writing a post on your own site instead of just explaining yourself like a normal human being having a conversation is a very strange (and annoyingly infantile, to be honest). But have fun over there. I’m not interested in playing your games.

  3. I’ve read through a lot of strange comment threads but, that Kia exchange was definitely one of the creepiest… I question a persons sanity that communicates like that. I did hop over to see what he was eerily alluding to. Basically, just a lot of assumptions about what brought you to Christ. Which blows my mind how someone could be arrogant enough to think they know more about someone’s personal beliefs on faith than the person themselves. Anyway thanks for all the fun learning, Mel

  4. Thanks, Mel! Well said.

    I enjoy parts of Classical Theism and parts of Theistic Personalism, but absurdity is really my favorite. Tertullian once said, “I believe because it is absurd.” You find elements of absurdity in polemics sometimes.

    I enjoy Alice in Wonderland, and Lewis Carroll was all about the absurdity. He was actually a fan of logic, but he created parodies to make a point, by inverting logical methods. That’s my favorite love language. Our Lord also inverted logical methods, not that He was illogical, but the sermon on the mount was an inversion of what we would normally accept as “truth.” By our own logic, “might makes right,” but He says, “blessed be the meek.”

    • Mel Wild says:

      I enjoy parts of Classical Theism and parts of Theistic Personalism, but absurdity is really my favorite.

      LOL! Well, welcome to wonderland, Alice. 🙂

      Our Lord also inverted logical methods, not that He was illogical, but the sermon on the mount was an inversion of what we would normally accept as “truth.” By our own logic, “might makes right,” but He says, “blessed be the meek.”

      Very true. It says in Acts that the followers of Christ were turning the world upside-down, but that’s only because it got upside-down to begin with. Jesus came to turn the world right side up again. So, maybe, the Lord’s absurdity is actually the most rational and sane thing we can do.

  5. Interesting will check it out gotta run thanks Mel!

  6. Another interesting post, Mel. Thanks for sharing. As far as philosophical terminology goes, I didn’t find the videos too mind-boggling! God bless and keep up the great blogging.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Yes, philosophical terminology can get like that!

      The main things to come away with are that Theistic Personalism makes God out to be a maximally great being among beings, whereas Classical Theism says that God is altogether different than His creation, although we can describe Him analogously. He is not a person like we are a person, composite and contingent (but He is personal.) Also, His creative power and interactions are the result of His being fully actualized (Pure Act), holding all things together, not because He tinkers with things the way we do. There’s a lot more when we get into differences of definition of terms like omnipotence, omniscience, love, etc., but it gets more mind-boggling. 🙂

      Thanks for your comments, Steven.

  7. Pingback: Dogmatism and the human delete key | In My Father's House

  8. Pingback: Why does God create? | In My Father's House

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