Volume 26, Issue 1, Spring 2021
James D. Capehart
Étienne Gilson: Three Stages and Two Modes of His Christian Philosophy
In this paper, I demarcate the three main stages of development of Étienne Gilson’s doctrine concerning Christian philosophy through an examination of some of his key works, treated in chronological order. Thus, I proceed to explicate how Gilson’s doctrine developed from its gestational stage in the 1920s, through the first Christian philosophy debate of the 1930s, into its second phase of birth and infancy from the 1930s through the early 1950s, ending with its third period, that of maturity, in the later 1950s and 1960s. Furthermore, I note that implicit throughout those three stages are conceptions of Christian philosophy as existing in two modes: one as the philosophical component present within theology, and the other as, properly speaking, outside of theology—though by no means outside of the influence of Christianity. Additionally, Gilson’s influence upon St. John Paul II’s treatment of Christian philosophy in Fides et Ratio is addressed. The paper culminates in a demonstration of how Gilson’s mature doctrine regarding Christian philosophy is relevant as a guide for the pursuit of Christian philosophy in this, our Third Christian Millennium.