For some centuries now it has been the practice of secular
philosophers and historians of philosophy to bracket the work
of believing philosophers, judging that it cannot count as
"real" philosophy, "real' philosophy being secular philosophy.
In this way, the Christian philosopher is excluded by stipulative
definition and often a thousand years of thinking is thus
marginalized. To be sure, such historians will sometimes search
the middle ages to see if they can find there an instance
or two of the "real" philosopher.
Believers have often reacted to this by taking a defensive
stance, accepting the terms of their exclusion, and begging
nonetheless to be included in the ranks of genuine philosophers.
Their faith, they insist, has really nothing to do with their
Another reaction is to marginalize "real" philosophers by
claiming that, apart from the aid of faith, the human mind
is incapable of attaining the truth, and that puts all non-believing
philosophers outside the pale.
The first reaction is effectively apostasy while on the job;
the second opens the way to fideism. The conception of Christian
Philosophy has been developed to provide a via media between
these reactions. Many many books have been written on this
subject; the French Thomist Society devoted a whole meeting
to it in the early 1930s. John Paul II, in Fides et Ratio,
has put the matter before us in an eloquent way.
It seems clear that the relation between faith and reason
cannot be settled once and for all, each of us has to think
it through for himself. John Paul II spoke of "separate" philosophy,
by which he meant, I take it, the first reaction mentioned
For the believer to blush for the faith would be craven ingratitude.
Perhaps it is in Josef Pieper's distinction between philosophy
and philosophizing that the best solution lies. Just as any
intellectual activity is encompassed by the moral, so for
the believer it is encompassed by the faith. Just as we pray
that our intellectual efforts may be successful so the faith
generally sustains and guides our pursuits. But the upshot,
the arguments, are assessible by criteria common to believers