THE GROUND OF CERTAINTY, by Donald Bloesch; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970; 212 pp., $3.25 (paper). (Reviewed by J. Huisken)
Dr. Donald Bloesch is currently professor of theology at the Dubuque Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. The cover of the book calls attention to other works of Bloesch, but this is my first contact with any of his writings.
Every book has a purpose, a moving force or urgency for its being written, and this book is no exception. Itsraison d’etre is stated by Bloesch in the “Foreword”:
In this book we sharply diverge from much traditional thinking on the relation between theology and philosophy and suggest an alternative that is solidly anchored in biblical faith. Instead of seeing this relation in terms of synthesis or correlation or even simple subordination, we call for the conversion and transformation of philosophical meanings in the light of the biblical revelation.
In light of the current trends in philosophy of religion and the continued emphasis upon natural theology, Bloesch’s purpose is a worthy one. And, I must agree, Bloesch does attempt to do exactly as he says. He distinguishes between philosophy and theology on the basis of one’s beginnings—either in reason of faith—and he strongly holds that reason is the obedient servant of faith. He strongly condemns the current trends in philosophy of religion and looks askance at natural theology. Truth for him is revealed, and only in this revelation is truth to be found. In this respect, the book certainly met its objective.
The book, however, has basic disappointments. While Bloesch calls for the separation of philosophy and theology, in the course of the book he eventually joins them, on the basis of common grace. His purpose is not straightforwardly to condemn the erroneous position of the philosopher, but his purpose is to understand and transform (p. 104). Theologians and philosophers have a commonness in sin, but they also have a commonness in their yearning for the truth that redeems. This yearning is, of course, the result of the general operation of the Holy Spirit upon mankind, the work of common grace. And, says Bloesch, this doctrine of common grace is essential to his theology (p. 23).
Furthermore, just as disappointing is Bloesch’s failure to articulate clearly his theological stance and his theological concepts. Particularly disturbing is his failure, to delineate his concept of Scripture. Biblical revelation, he says, is the ground of certainty; but he does little more than tell us that this revelation has an objective and a subjective pole. Because of this lack of articulation, I found myself substituting my own concepts and then, of course, the book and the thought is no longer Bloesch’s, but my own, which ought not to be.
Generally, I found myself at the apex of agreement or at the nadir of disappointment when reading this book. Certainly his basic approach is right, but I take issue with his theology.
I would certainly recommend this book to anyone interested in the age-old debate concerning the relationship between philosophy and theology, with a par titular recommendation to teachers, ministers, seminary and college students. This book would certainly lend itself to much discussion and could serve as a basis for a seminar on this topic. Bloesch’s analysis of the encounter between faith and reason throughout history is reason enough to read the book, but I would urge further discussion of this subject particularly amongst those in education.