Randall Collins argues that intellectual life depends on competing networks who oppose one another across a common set of problems. The Western faiths -- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam -- tend to start (and restart, and restart) their intellectual arguments in the same configuration. All three faiths begin with a faith in one God, and an overlapping set of texts about God. Rituals develop, standard prayers get established, practices of daily life get a religious gloss, and everyday ethics grow up in the life of the community of believers. In other words, a viable life of faith can grow up without intellectual reflection on how, exactly, God's universe works. I expect that most of the believers in most faiths around the world and through the ages are happy to just do it, without a full intellectual account of how and why.
Some people, though, have the intellectual itch. They want to know how and why. They want to have an intellectually deeper and, to them, more satisfying faith. And they want to make a name and a living from arguing about it. So they begin to reason about the faith.
Collins details what happens next. It is hard to create the conditions for sustained intellectual life. If, though, conditions are ripe, intellectuals of one position get the attention of other intellectuals who take an opposing position, which in turn draws in at least one other network of thinkers arguing for yet another position. This argument also typically draws a reaction to the whole business of intellectualizing faith that says "a plague on all your houses." Thus, the opening configuration of intellectual life.
In The Sociology of Philosophies Collins goes on to name each of these four positions in the opening configuration of Western theology.
The rational faith position comes first. They argue that the rules of reason apply to God, too, so we can reason about what God and God's actions can be like based on reason, even if some particular points can only be supplied by revelation.
The rational faith position provokes the traditional scripturalists to offer a reasoned defense of why God is not limited by human reason.
The argument between the rationalists and the traditionalists creates a market for a third party to import classical philosophy -- in the case of all the Biblical faiths, Greek philosophy.
These three parties could be a stable configuration for an intellectual argument. Almost inevitably, though, mystics criticize the whole idea of reaching God through intellectual argument; ironically, by criticizing the intellectuals, the mystics are drawn into the intellectual argument willy-nilly.
The argument may branch out into many further positions from there, and the power of one group or another within the argument may wax or wane, depending on how well they argue. Moreover, it is difficult to sustain the right external conditions for a focused intellectual argument over generations, so the whole project may collapse for a time. Still, the opening configuration -- rationalists, provoking traditionalists, importers, provoking mystics -- is likely to be repeated at the start of each new round on intellectual creativity.