Christianity and Contemporary Epistemology -- By: John M. Frame
WTJ 52:1 (Spring 1990) p. 131
Christianity and Contemporary Epistemology*
* John L Pollock, Contemporary Theories of Knowledge (Totowa, N J.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1986. 224. $29.95, paper $14.95).
Theologians have traditionally taken an interest in philosophical epistemology because of their concern with the knowledge of God. Sometimes they have sought to use secular epistemological theories to their advantage; sometimes they have sought to refute such theories. But the interaction has often been vigorous. This history suggests the value to theologians of keeping current in the field. We are still writing quite a bit about the classical epistemologies of Plato and Aristotle (against the background of Parmenides and the Sophists), about traditional rationalism and empiricism, Kant and Hegel. Some theologians have also developed interest in certain twentieth-century developments, particularly those associated with logical positivism, the later Wittgenstein and the existentialists, and especially the movement away from “objective” knowledge represented in different ways by Thomas Kuhn, Michael Polanyi, Norwood Hanson, Paul Feyerabend, Alasdair MacIntyre, D. Z. Phillips, and others.
Like most theological works, my own Doctrine of the Knowledge of God1 only goes this far.2 Of course, its purpose was not to survey secular theories but to set forth some biblical teachings about knowledge. But some comparison between biblical and secular notions was inevitable, and I regret now that I did not in that book refer at greater length to more current developments in the secular field.
John Pollock’s Contemporary Theories of Knowledge is an excellent recent survey of the present-day epistemologies of secular philosophy. Roderick Chisholm, perhaps the best-known contemporary epistemologist, calls the book “a thorough and accurate survey of the present state of the subject…[Pollock’s book] is also an original contribution of first importance. I know of no better introduction to contemporary theories of knowledge” (back cover). I agree with Chisholm’s estimate, and I think this book is a very useful tool for bringing theological readers up to date in this area and a good focal point for some Christian evaluations of the contemporary theories.
It is, for the most part, a highly technical book, difficult to read, a book which takes the reader more deeply into the details of its arguments than many of us would
WTJ 52:1 (Spring 1990) p. 132
prefer to go. At times, however, Pollock wakes us up with vivid illustrations and convenient summaries of his argument. In the former...
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