Ever since the foundation of the first universities in Europe, its staples have been philosophy and theology, for religious universities, and philosophy alone, for secular universities. However, some students think these disciplines are not useful, for they have no connection with their careers. In spite of this, these two disciplines are still very important because they teach us many lessons. Here’s some of them.
It is Important to Keep an Open Mind
In Philosophy, there are many schools of thought, like Aristotelianism, Platonism, and even Analytic Philosophy. On the other hand, since theology is based on a religious faith, it may seem to be more dogmatic, but in reality, centralized religions, like Catholicism, have many schools of thought. For example, in Ateneo’s Theology Department, some professors can be conservative, while others are more liberal with regards to interpreting Church teachings. So, it is very important to keep an open mind, since Philosophy and Theology are very open-ended disciplines. Also, you cannot fully critique a school of thought without understanding what it is.
Understanding Should Happen First Before Criticism
A beauty of taking Theology and Philosophy of Religion at the same time is that it shows us how to understand different points of view, before deciding which one to believe in. For example, when I was in college, I took Philosophy of Religion under Fr. Louis Catalan, where I learned how philosophers like Anselm and Aquinas defended their faith in God, and I also learned how atheistic philosophers like Daniel Dennett came up with their views on religion. My theology classes, on the other hand, showed me that the Catholic faith is much more than just a set of beliefs, but a way of life. Thus, my Faith was affirmed, since due to understanding it through different lenses, I freely chose it, rather than simply being born into it.
Ideas Evolve Over Time
Another thing I learned from Philosophy and Theology is that ideas evolve over time. For example, when I learned about ethics, I realized that Utilitarianism started with simply being the greatest good for the greatest number, but by the time Mill published his work, he argued that Utilitarianism required nobility of character, which is the ability to sacrifice one’s own happiness for the happiness of the greatest number. Thus, schools of thought evolve to address concerns and loopholes.
Also, I learned in my Theology classes that Jesus of Nazareth was a man who cared for the poor and clashed with the elite, which led to his death. However, Church leaders agreed that he was divine as well to explain questions that arose from his death, especially with regards to his relationship with God. As a result, it can be seen that religious belief and philosophical ideas change over time.
You Get to See Why Others Think the Way They Do
Finally, it is very important that we study other religions and ways of thinking to see why other people think a certain way. For example, non-Catholics can understand why Catholics dislike divorce by studying Catholic doctrines and how they evolved. In the case of divorce, Jesus taught against it because in his time, a divorced woman had no other options or protection. As a result, Catholic theology can be useful to non-Catholics, since they get to learn why Catholics think the way they do.
Theology and Philosophy are Beautiful Because They Open the Mind
In the end, the beauty of Philosophy and Theology is that they both open up the mind to new ideas. After all, having an open mind is important because change is the only constant in this life.