Knowledge and Christian Belief (Plantinga)

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Puritanboard Amanuensis
Plantinga, Alvin. Knowledge and Christian Belief. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2015.

This is a summary of Plantinga’s Warranted Christian Belief. While there are a few updates, is the lay version of WCB. In fact, some paragraphs are identical (e.g., his legendary definition of “fundamentalist”). As such, this serves as a nice introduction to Plantinga’s project. It is accessible to the educated lay reader. It doesn’t have the intimidating Bayesian formulae, for example. On the other hand, if you have read WCB or his other warrant books, there is nothing in this volume that you haven’t seen.

Plantinga makes a distinction between two different types of objection to religious belief: de jure and de facto. De jure objections mean the adherent is irrational in holding to religious belief. De facto objections suggest that the belief is erroneous.

On the contrary, by exploring these objections, Plantinga argues that the Christian is justified or warranted in holding to theism. A few words on epistemic justification. I am justified in believing something (on the old Lockean view) if I have fulfilled my epistemic duty: in other words, I am believing something on the basis of good evidence.

Plantinga suggests that the old classical view of justification isn’t necessary and the theist is within his epistemic rights if he holds to a position when a) the belief is produced by his mind in a b) proper functioning environment. Minor premise (which all Protestants must accept though no theologian will): the Holy Spirit produces the belief in me via the internal witness of the Holy Spirit. Conclusion: therefore, I am warranted.

Does this mean that announcing the Christian position makes it so? No, and this is where many critics of Plantinga miss the argument. The Christian position is open to undercutting and rebutting defeaters. Plantinga explores three types: biblical criticism, pluralism, and the problem of evil. The important thing about defeaters is that if someone faces a defeater, he has to face that defeater within the larger context of his hierarchy of beliefs.


This is a good summary of Plantinga’s epistemology and a good intro to his work.
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