A friend of mine on Facebook, who is a Thomist, theologian, and recently PhDd in such areas, shared this quote from philosopher, Thomas Reid, on his wall a couple of days ago.
The vulgar are satisfied with knowing the fact, and give themselves no trouble about the cause of it: but a philosopher is impatient to know how this event is produced, to account for it, or assign its cause. The avidity to know the causes of things is the parent of all philosophy true and false. Men of speculation place a great part of their happiness in such knowledge.
There is some gusto to this, but for me, in the end, it misses the mark in regard to what a Christian theologian (or disciple) is about. I think what Reid is getting at is akin to something (as far as anecdotes go) like what Socrates noted, “ὁ ἀνεξέταστος βίος οὐ βιωτὸς ἀνθρώπῳ” (‘the unexamined life is not worth living’). As far as that goes, it’s okay; it’s a call for sentient human beings to live reflective lives that press down into the deeper realities of life. For a philosopher this dictum might be a beautiful life giving way, but it only gets so far; it only provides a horizontal vector towards examining what indeed is called life. And its primary mechanism, as the Reid quote illustrates, is speculation. It lives a life of empirical chutzpah, seeking to discover new things that might help us as humans understand what it means to in fact be human being; the emphasis being on being. It attempts to discursively reach to the stars, and far beyond the stars under the constraints of its own self-asserted and possessed powers, through which an examined life might find meaning; it might even find a Pure Being beyond itself that helps its immanently located human being to begin to find a source for transcendent being, vertical being.
This speculative way has characterized much of the history of Christian ideas and theology in its development; most notably what we find in scholastic theology, of the sort we see typified and indeed maybe even climaxed in the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas (the Angelic doctor). So on the one hand we have the philosophers, like Socrates and Aristotle, seeking to live the examined life by self-discovery and discursive reasoning about life and its source of meaning; and on the other hand we have Christian theologians like Thomas Aquinas et al. attempting to synthesize this kind of philosophical speculative way of examined living with Christian Trinitarian theology.
The better way is to elide such approaches, in my view, and instead ground the work of theology in the work of theology done in and through the theological life of God Self-revealed and exegeted in Jesus Christ. This way doesn’t apophatically speculate about God from some sort of via negativa or negation of who God is relative to who we aren’t; as human beings. Revealed theology is, by definition, vertical and horizontal; objective and subjective all at once in the singular personalis of Jesus Christ; the Divine and the human, the vertical and the horizontal all hypostatically united incognito in the God who freely chose to be mistaken as purely man for the sake of the world. Revealed theology does not attempt to discover God by discursive reasoning and reflection, but instead its willing to simply rely on the God who apocalyptically revealed himself in the grist and grim of this world coming to it in the wood of the manger and the cross; the blood of life and death in order to bring eternal life to all who will.
Here is a way (and I’ve shared this quote elsewhere before) that someone like Karl Barth could recognize the relative value of philosophy while at the same time putting it in its place in regard to revealed theology. He writes:
The man in this world knows only of the sighs of the creature and of his own sighs, (8:22–23), he can at least know (1:19–20) insofar as he does not evade the ‘emptiness’ of his existence (8:20), the dialectic of opposition, the relativity, and the homesickness of everything given, intuitable, and objective. Suffering sees to the salutary opening of our eyes, and, directly tied to the given boundaries of suffering, in its essence as the interpretation of this fact stands the philosophy worthy of its name. Thus in its not-knowing of God and his Kingdom, in its knowing the sighs of all created things, we agree with every truly profane, but not with any half-theological, consideration of nature and history. For precisely this not-knowing and this knowing are the blade and the flint from which, insofar as they together in spirit and truth, as the new and third thing, bursts forth the fire of the not-knowing knowing of God and of the knowing not-knowing of the emptiness of our existence, the fire of the love for God because he is God (5:5), while the theological, apparent knowledge of God and the apparent not-knowing of the emptiness of our existence neither meets in spirit and in truth, even less in fire, nor is able to ignite the fire of love for God.
For Barth there is a place for Reid’s type of philosophy, but it is only horizontal; it is inimically profane. That’s fine, as far as it goes, but left to itself it doesn’t go far enough; and more importantly shouldn’t be seen as a preamble to Christian theological reflection—which is non-speculative in regard to the God it encounters in Jesus Christ. All the frailties and contingencies that human reason is able to discover on its own, through the brokenness of this polluted world and reason, can really only stay there; ‘under the sun.’ The examined life in this sense only leads to despair and fear. What humanity really needs is an “examined life” that is life itself; the Triune life given freely to all humanity in the graciously elected human of Godself in Jesus Christ. There is no need to speculate in this relationship, because, indeed, it is a relationship grounded in trust and eternal and indestructible self-giving love.
 Thomas Reid, source unknown. By the way, ironically, Reid is known for his prominent role in Scottish Common Sense Realism, so it’s a bit of a riff, contextually, for me to use him as a springboard into discussing ‘being philosophers’; but what is a shared proclivity, one way or the other, is their intellectualist and discursive approach to epistemology and ontology. For me, more personally, it’s interesting to think about the role that Reid’s theology of reality has had upon my own evangelical background and upbringing. As the post develops you will see that I have expanded beyond Reid’s own approach, and tied him into a stream of classical philosophers who indeed get into ‘being’ and more metaphysically based philosophical reflection. Nonetheless, I see them all as either intellectualist or rationalist based in approach. I see them all, even Reid, even if he objects and his whole life and work militates against this, as grounding human reflection in the “I” rather than the “Thou.”
 Karl Barth cited in Kenneth Oakes, Karl Barth on Theology&Philosophy (Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 82-4.