[This post is a work in progress as part of the CAA Catechism.]
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Summary in 400 words or less:
Reformed Epistemology (RE, hereafter) answers the question, “How do you know what you know is true about God?” with the claim that belief in God can be warranted by experience of the divine, apart from arguments or evidence accessible to others. [“Reformed” denotes Protestant Reformation. “Epistemology” (episteme=knowledge,logos=reason/study) asks, “How do you know what you know is true?”] The RE view is held by some Protestant Christian philosophers like Thomas Reid, John Calvin, and Alvin Plantinga.
The RE view is that belief about God is properly basic,or self-evident, just like the belief that the person standing in front of us actually exists. No pinching or tests are necessary—we just know. When we sense the divine, we sense another person, and so our belief about God’s existence is properly basic.
According to RE, though arguments and evidence are a sort of “dual warrant” (Plantinga) that are helpful to “show” Christianity’s rational acceptability, we do not need them in order to “know” Christ via the sensus divinitatis (a debated special sense that perceives the divine), or via the witness of the Holy Spirit. So even if those arguments and evidence fail, properly basic belief in God is still warranted.
Scripture for YouVersion: 1 Peter 3:15
Three questions (1 fill-in-the-blank, 1 multiple choice, and one discussion question):
1. What is Reformed Epistemology?
References for further reading:
RE’s historical beginnings stretch farther back than merely John Calvin (1509-1564) and Thomas Reid (1710-1796). Plato in dialogues such as the Meno, Theaetetus, and the Republic offer an account of knowledge and belief which runs influentially through St. Augustine (354-430), John Calvin and more contemporaneously Alvin Plantinga (b. 1932) and Nicholas Wolterstorff (b. 1932) as seen in their first comprehensive and preliminary account of RE in ‘Faith and Rationality’ (University of Notre Dame Press, 1991).
Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff, “Faith and Rationality: Reason and Belief in God” (University of Notre Dame Press, 1991)
Deane-Peter Baker, “Alvin Plantinga” (Cambridge University Press, 2007), chs. 4-6.
James E. Tomberlin and Peter Van Inwagen, “Alvin Plantinga” (D. Reidel Publishing Company, 1985)
John Hick, “Faith and Knowledge: A Modern Introduction to the Problem of Religious Knowledge” (Cornell University Press, 1957), chs. 1-2
Kenneth Kantzer, “John Calvin’s Theory of the Knowledge of God and the Word of God” (PhD diss., Harvard University Press, 1950).
Nicholas Wolterstorff, “Reason within the Bounds of Religion” (Wm. B. Eerdmanns, 1988).
Dewey J. Hoitenga, Jr., “Faith and Reason From Plato to Plantinga: An Introduction to Reformed Epistemology” (State University of New York Press, 1991).
Collaborators: Frederick Choo, Steven Dunn, Maryann Spikes, Shandon Guthrie, Samuel Inbaraja, David Haines, Z.E. Kendall
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