Jason D. Crowder

Current Doctoral Research Project

Christian theology, whether biblical, historical, or systematic, relies heavily on philosophy and its proper usage. Throughout the centuries, sundry debates and dialogues have focused on the proper relationship between philosophy and theology. Naturally, both philosophers and theologians have written works expressing this unique relationship. No matter the number of works produced, the relationship still intrigues individuals. The philosophy-theology relationship is at once broad and vague. Its breadth exists because much can be discussed in how the two fields of study intertwine with each other. By contrast, obscurity thrives at the same time because the scope of their relationship is vast. As a result, most scholars prefer narrowing the range, focusing on precise topics and aspects within their relationship. The present study participates in that latter tradition. Through the centuries, numerous perspectives have emerged on the immortality of the soul. Some philosophers have also developed claims against the doctrine. The task of this study is to examine the relationship between philosophy and theology in the dialogue on the soul’s immortality through a historical-thematic survey of four individuals who espoused the immortality of the soul. The study achieves its aim through explicit, straightforward steps. First, it will critically examine a representative sampling of the existing works that discuss the entwinement of philosophy and theology. A critical reading of those sources will establish the essential background required for understanding the main research question. Said critical reading will also enable an investigation of the type of dualism held by the four thinkers under consideration—property or substance, that is, either a human being is one material substance that contains both physical and mental properties or the individual has both a brain that is physical in nature with physical properties and a mind or soul that is a mental substance that has mental properties. Second, showing philosophy’s influence on Christendom will further establish a relationship between philosophy and Christian theology. Third, to grasp the depth in which Plato changed the doctrine of the soul and of its immortality, one needs to know from where Plato gathered his thoughts. Here the ancient Greek beliefs on the concept of the soul and its immortality before the fourth-century B.C.E. must be discussed. Fourth, analysis of Plato’s philosophical views on the immortality of the soul will be done since his views indirectly influence Augustine’s theological thoughts, which later affect Thomas Aquinas’ perspective. Fifth, Plotinus and his teachings on the topic need consideration because he has a greater influence on the two theologians than Plato does. Sixth, it is appropriate to consider the biblical evidence for the immortality of the soul found in the Old and New Testaments, since Augustine and Aquinas are Christian theologians. The biblical text will shape their theological outlook as well. Seventh, the writings of Augustine and scholarly commentaries on Augustine’s works will be reviewed to establish how much Plato’s and Plotinus’s philosophical teachings on the immortality of the soul influenced Augustine’s theological teachings. Eighth, Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica, as well as its commentary, need consideration to determine to what extent Plato and Plotinus influenced his position. To comprehend Augustine’s and Aquinas’s theological teachings properly, one must have a grasp of the philosophical arguments that each uses in their respective theological treatises. While theology relies on revelation, whether general or special, it requires the use and application of philosophy to convey its contents properly in a coherent, comprehensive, and cogent manner.