Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Religious Sciences


John C. Robertson, Jr


Cathleen M. Going


This essay explores the implications of Michael Polanyi's theory of tacit knowing for foundational theology. Foundational theology, which begins with a recognition of the problematic status of religious knowledge, seeks to resolve that problem by providing theology with a method and criteria of meaning and truth firmly grounded in cognitional theory. Central to the task of articulating a method for theology is the necessity of accounting for the relationship of faith and reason. Polanyi's cognitional theory recognizes coherence of faith and reason to be an indispensable condition of knowledge, and, therefore, his thought is deemed especially relevant to the foundational task of christian theology. This work, then, attempts to bring Polanyi's theory of knowledge to bear on the problem of method in theology.

The dissertation is divided into two major sections. The first section focuses on the theological problem of accounting for the discovery and justification of religious knowledge, that is, the problem of method in theology. The faith-reason relationship in theology is examined in terms of the historical development of theology's self-understanding. This investigation leads to a consideration of the contemporary concern for the foundational questions of meaning and truth in theology. The task of foundational theology is discussed as the attempt to transform the hermeneutic circle of faith and reason, and to establish the significance and validity of the theological enterprise.

The second section of the dissertation focuses on a resolution of the theological problematic. Polanyi's postcritical conception of personal knowledge is examined in order to provide a background for a detailed analysis of his theory of tacit knowing. It is argued that Polanyi's cognitional theory--his account of the structure and act of tacit integration--provides a foundation for an objectification of method in theology and for a differentiation of theological specializations.

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