Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 57:1 (Spring 1995)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Book Reviews

Linda Zagzebski (ed.): Rational Faith: Catholic Responses to Reformed Epistemology. (Library of Religious Philosophy 10.) Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1993. 290. $32.95; paper, $14.95.

The debate over “Reformed Epistemology” continues, despite the fact that the term itself is all but obsolete. It was in the volume Faith and Rationality, published in 1983 and edited by Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff, that “Reformed Epistemology” became prominent both as a typology for epistemology in the analytic tradition and as an argument for the acceptability of theistic belief. Since that time, Plantinga (the primary proponent) has given up the term itself and has argued rather for warrant and warranted Christian belief. While most of the authors in this volume take account of that development, the notion of a Reformed epistemology is still, for them, very much in the forefront of the debate.

One of the common threads running through this volume is the defense of at least the helpfulness, if not the necessity, of natural theology for acceptable, or rational, theistic belief. While there are significant differences in detail, depending on the author, it is this thread that will most likely be of immediate interest to Reformed theology generally and Reformed apologetics more specifically.

The first article, by Philip L. Quinn, continues a debate that began with Quinn’s “In Search of the Foundations of Theism,” a general response to Plantinga. The latter then responded in “The Foundations of Theism: A Reply” and brought the discussion up again in Warrant and Proper Function. Without going into the details of Quinn’s entire rejoinder, it may be helpful to look at one aspect of it in order to catch something of the basis of his concerns. Quinn’s point seems to be that perceptual beliefs warranted at one time as basic can be warranted at another time as inferred beliefs, perhaps with a higher degree of warrant. It may be helpful to quote Quinn here in order to place his rejoinder within the context of Plantinga’s latest work on warrant.

There are conditions, let us suppose, in which theistic beliefs that self-evidently entail the existence of God have, when properly basic, enough warrant to make them knowledge. But there are also conditions in which such beliefs, when properly basic, do not have enough warrant to make them knowledge. If I were initially in conditions of the second sort and discovered a deductive argument for the existence of God whose premises were known to me and whose validity was self-evident to me, I could improve the epistemic status of my belief in God by basing it on the premises of that argument. If I did so base it, it would become knowledge, which it h...

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