Review Essay Epistemology And Christian Belief -- By: K. Scott Oliphint

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 63:1 (Spring 2001)
Article: Review Essay Epistemology And Christian Belief
Author: K. Scott Oliphint

Review Essay
Epistemology And Christian Belief

K. Scott Oliphinta

The long-awaited third volume of Alvin Plantinga’s warrant series has arrived, and those who have looked forward to its publication will not be disappointed.1 Coming some seven years after the first two books in the series, this volume, being sufficiently different in its intent and subject matter, lives up to its already established reputation. It is vintage Plantinga— lucid, cogent, humorous, technical, enlightening, challenging, and entertaining—a combination rarely found in books of philosophy.

Given constraints of space, the review section of this article will not give the book the attention and credit that it deserves. I will focus my discussion on the central thesis of the book in chapters six through nine and will, regrettably skip over much of the rest. Part II will include the substance of my own comments and questions. First, then, a review of the material, then some questions, comments, and concerns.

Plantinga sets out to answer the question, “Is Christian belief intellectually acceptable?” In attempting to answer that question, he provides a crucial distinction with regard to objections to Christian belief, a distinction between de facto and de jure objections. De facto objections are objections to the truth of Christian belief. Even more prevalent, however, have been de jure objections. “These are arguments or claims to the effect that Christian belief, whether or not true, is at any rate unjustifiable, or rationally unjustified, or irrational, or not intellectually respectable, or contrary to sound morality, or without sufficient evidence, or in some other way rationally unacceptable, not up to snuff from an intellectual point of view” (ix). While de facto objections deal with the truth or falsity of Christian belief, and thus can be fairly straightforward, de jure objections are less

clear, diffuse, and often opaque, claiming that there is something other than falsity that is wrong with Christian belief. Christian belief is in some way deficient such that one’s holding such belief entails that one inherits its deficiency So, the topic of the book, by and large, is to respond to the de jure objection.

He then goes on to propose that there aren’t any de jure objections to Christian belief that are independent of de facto objections• More specifically, Plantinga wants to argue that

…the attitude expressed in “Well, I don’t know whether Christian belief is <...

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