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Reformed Epistemology

Edited by Anthony Bolos (Institute for Advanced Studies at Shalem College (Jerusalem))
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Reformed Epistemology is a thesis about the nature of religious knowledge. The general claim made by the reformed epistemologist is that belief in God can be rational without any appeal to evidence or argument. It is argued that humans are endowed with a cognitive faculty, the sensus divinitatis (SD), that gives rise to belief in God when occasioned by some event or experience. The working of this faculty might be triggered by any number of circumstances, such as beauty, grandeur, or guilt. Often, a comparison is made between the (SD) and our perceptual faculties. In the same way that agents seem to find themselves with certain perceptual beliefs, theists also seem to find themselves with belief in God. Thus, the (SD) gives rise to belief in God in an immediate and non-inferential fashion when occasioned by some event or experience. In this way, then, belief in God is said to properly basic and can be warranted without inference from any evidence or argument.

Key works Two of the most important works in reformed epistemology are Plantinga & Wolterstorff 1983 and Plantinga 2000. For a number of essays critical of reformed epistemology see Zagzebski 1993.
Introductions Good introductory articles include Greco 2001van Woudenberg 2008, and Plantinga 2010. Beilby 2006 provides a thorough overview of Plantinga's reformed epistemology. 
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  1. William J. Abraham (1990). The Epistemological Significance of the Inner Witness of the Holy Spirit. Faith and Philosophy 7 (4):434-450.
    This paper seeks to explore the significance of a specific kind of religious experience for the rationality of religious belief. The context for this is a gap between what is often allowed as rational and what is embraced as certain in the life of faith. The claim to certainty at issue is related to the work and experience of the Holy Spirit; this experience has a structure which is explored phenomenologically. Thereafter various ways of cashing in the epistemic value of (...)
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  2. William P. Alston (2004). Mysticism and Perceptual Awareness of God. In William Mann (ed.), The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Religion. Blackwell Pub..
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  3. William P. Alston (1999). The Distinctiveness of the Epistemology of Religious Belief. In. In G. Bruntrup & R. K. Tacelli (eds.), The Rationality of Theism. Kluwer. 237--254.
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  4. William P. Alston (1986). Perceiving God. Journal of Philosophy 83 (11):655-665.
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  5. William P. Alston (1986). Religious Experience as a Ground of Religious Belief. In Joseph Runzo & Craig K. Ihara (eds.), Religious Experience and Religious Belief. University Press of America.
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  6. William P. Alston (1985). Plantinga's Epistemology of Religious Belief. In James Tomberlin & Peter van Inwagen (eds.), Alvin Plantinga (Profiles, Vol. 5). D. Reidel Publishing Company. 289-311.
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  7. William P. Alston (1982). Religious Experience and Religious Belief. Noûs 16 (1):3-12.
    Can beliefs to the effect that god is manifesting himself in a certain way to the believer ("m-beliefs") be justified by its seeming to the believer that he experiences god doing that? the issue is discussed in the context of several concepts of justification. on a "normative" concept of justification the answer will depend on what one's intellectual obligations are vis-a-vis practices of belief formation. on a rigorous view of such obligations one is justified in forming a m-belief on the (...)
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  8. Peter C. Appleby (1988). Reformed Epistemology, Rationality and Belief in God. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 24 (3):129 - 141.
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  9. Robert Audi (1995). Perceptual Experience, Doxastic Practice, and the Rationality of Religious Commitment. Journal of Philosophical Research 20:1-18.
    This paper is a constructive critical study of William P. Alston’s Perceiving God. It explores his account of perception of God, his doxastic practice epistemology, and his overall integration of faith and reason. In dealing with the first, it distinguishes some possible cases of theistic perception that have not generally been sorted out in the literature. In examining doxastic practices, it explores both the sense in which it is rational to engage in them and the epistemic status of beliefs formed (...)
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  10. Yuval Avnur (forthcoming). In Defense of Secular Belief. Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion.
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  11. Guy Axtell (2006). Blind Man's Bluff: The Basic Belief Apologetic as Anti-Skeptical Stratagem. Philosophical Studies 130 (1):131--152.
    Today we find philosophical naturalists and Christian theists both expressing an interest in virtue epistemology, while starting out from vastly different assumptions. What can be done to increase fruitful dialogue among these divergent groups of virtue-theoretic thinkers? The primary aim of this paper is to uncover more substantial common ground for dialogue by wielding a double-edged critique of certain assumptions shared by `scientific' and `theistic' externalisms, assumptions that undermine proper attention to epistemic agency and responsibility. I employ a responsibilist virtue (...)
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  12. Guy Axtell, Religious Pluralism and its Discontents Guy Axtell.
    Unpublished draft. Let me know if you're interested to see it. See also my "Possibility and Permission? Intellectual Character, Inquiry, and the Ethics of Belief," forthcoming in H. Rydenfelt and S. Pihlstrom (eds.) William James on Religion (Palgrave McMillan “Philosophers in Depth” Series, 2012/2013).
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  13. Deane-Peter Baker (2005). Plantinga's Reformed Epistemology: What's the Question? [REVIEW] International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 57 (2):77 - 103.
    Alvin Plantingas Warranted Christian Belief is without questionone of the central texts of the Reformed epistemology movement. Critiques of Plantingas defence have been both multiple and varied. As varied as these responses are, however, it is my contention that many of them amount to the same thing. It is the purpose of this paper to offer an overview of the main lines of attack that have been directed as Plantingas project, and thereafter to show how many, if not most, of (...)
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  14. Erik Baldwin (2006). Could the Extended Aquinas/Calvin Model Defeat Basic Christian Belief? Philosophia Christi 8 (2):383-399.
  15. Justin L. Barrett (2010). Reformed Epistemology and the Cognitive Science of Religion. Faith and Philosophy 27 (2):174-189.
    Reformed epistemology and cognitive science have remarkably converged on belief in God. Reformed epistemology holds that belief in God is basic—that is, belief in God is a natural, non-inferential belief that is immediately produced by a cognitive faculty. Cognitive science of religion also holds that belief in gods is (often) non-reflectively and instinctively produced—that is, non-inferentially and automatically produced by a cognitive faculty or system. But there are differences. In this paper, we will show some remarkable points of convergence, and (...)
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  16. David Basinger (1988). Hick's Religious Pluralism and “Reformed Epistemology”. Faith and Philosophy 5 (4):421-432.
    The purpose of this discussion is to analyze comparatively the influential argument for religious pluralism offered by John Hick and the argument for religious exclusivism (sectarianism) which can be generated by proponents of what has come to be labeled ‘Reformed Epistemology.’ I argue that while Hick and the Reformed exclusivist appear to be giving us incompatible responses to the same question about the true nature of ‘religious’ reality, they are actually responding to related, but distinct questions, each of which must (...)
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  17. John Beaudoin (1998). Evil, the Human Cognitive Condition, and Natural Theology. Religious Studies 34 (4):403-418.
    Recent responses to evidential formulations of the argument from evil have emphasized the possible limitations on human cognitive access to the goods and evils that might be connected with various wordly states of affairs. This emphasis, I argue, is a twin-edged sword, as it imperils a popular form of natural theology. I conclude by arguing that the popularity enjoyed by Reformed Epistemology does not detract from the significance of this result, since Reformed Epistemology is not inimical to natural theology, and (...)
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  18. James Beilby (2010). Tayloring Reformed Epistemology. Faith and Philosophy 27 (4):470-474.
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  19. James Beilby (2007). Plantinga's Model of Warranted Christian Belief. In Deane-Peter Baker (ed.), Alvin Plantinga. Cambridge University Press.
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  20. James K. Beilby (2006). Epistemology As Theology: An Evaluation of Alvin Plantinga's Religious Epistemology. Ashgate.
    Why does he eschew the necessity of natural theology, something that is from a historical perspective the most common approach to defending the epistemic status of Christianity? Answering this question is critical to understanding Plantinga's ...
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  21. Anthony Bolos (forthcoming). A Robust Reformed Epistemology. In Andrew Moore (ed.), God, Mind, and Knowledge. Ashgate.
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  22. Peter Byrne (2011). Reidianism in Contemporary English-Speaking Religious Epistemology. European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 3 (2):267 - 284.
    This paper explores the main contours of recent work in English-speaking philosophy of religion on the justification of religious belief. It sets out the main characteristics of the religious epistemologies of such writers as Alston, Plantinga, and Swinburne. It poses and seeks to answer the question of how far any or all of these epistemologies are indebted or similar to the epistemology of the Scottish Enlightenment thinker Thomas Reid. It concludes that while there are some links to Reid in recent (...)
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  23. Hugh S. Chandler, Plantinga' Christian Epistemology.
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  24. Hugh S. Chandler, Plantinga's Christian Epistemology.
    Plantinga claims that, at least for some people, the belief that God exists is ‘properly basic,’ or rather that they have properly basic beliefs that entail the existence of God. I think the underlying idea here is that we all have a properly working sensus divinitatus. This guarantees the existence of God. But, of course, if God does not exist, then our sensus divinitatus is not working properly, i.e. is not, really a sensus divinitatus. The issue as to whether there (...)
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  25. Kelly James Clark, Religious Epistemology. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  26. Kelly James Clark & Raymond J. VanArragon (eds.) (2011). Evidence and Religious Belief. Oxford University Press.
    Evidence and Religious Belief contains eleven chapters by prominent philosophers which push the discussion in new directions. The volume has three parts.
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  27. Stewart Clem (2008). Warrant and Epistemic Virtues: Toward and Agent Reliabilist Account of Plantinga's Theory of Knowledge. Dissertation, Oklahoma State University
    Alvin Plantinga’s theory of knowledge, as developed in his Warrant trilogy, has shaped the debates surrounding many areas in epistemology in profound ways. Plantinga has received his share of criticism, however, particularly in his treatment of belief in God as being “properly basic”. There has also been much confusion surrounding his notions of warrant and proper function, to which Plantinga has responded numerous times. Many critics remain unsatisfied, while others have developed alternative understandings of warrant in order to rescue Plantinga’s (...)
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  28. Amir Dastmalchian (2013). The Epistemology of Religious Diversity in Contemporary Philosophy of Religion. Philosophy Compass 8 (3):298-308.
    Religious diversity is a key topic in contemporary philosophy of religion. One way religious diversity has been of interest to philosophers is in the epistemological questions it gives rise to. In other words, religious diversity has been seen to pose a challenge for religious belief. In this study four approaches to dealing with this challenge are discussed. These approaches correspond to four well-known philosophers of religion, namely, Richard Swinburne, Alvin Plantinga, William Alston, and John Hick. The study is concluded by (...)
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  29. Helen De Cruz & Johan De Smedt (2013). Reformed and Evolutionary Epistemology and the Noetic Effects of Sin. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 74 (1):49-66.
    Despite their divergent metaphysical assumptions, Reformed and evolutionary epistemologists have converged on the notion of proper basicality. Where Reformed epistemologists appeal to God, who has designed the mind in such a way that it successfully aims at the truth, evolutionary epistemologists appeal to natural selection as a mechanism that favors truth-preserving cognitive capacities. This paper investigates whether Reformed and evolutionary epistemological accounts of theistic belief are compatible. We will argue that their chief incompatibility lies in the noetic effects of sin (...)
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  30. Jeroen de Ridder (2011). Religious Exclusivism Unlimited. Religious Studies 47 (4):449-463.
    Like David Silver before them, Erik Baldwin and Michael Thune argue that the facts of religious pluralism present an insurmountable challenge to the rationality of basic exclusive religious belief as construed by Reformed Epistemology. I will show that their argument is unsuccessful. First, their claim that the facts of religious pluralism make it necessary for the religious exclusivist to support his exclusive beliefs with significant reasons is one that the reformed epistemologist has the resources to reject. Secondly, they fail to (...)
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  31. C. F. Delaney (ed.) (1979). Rationality and Religious Belief. University of Notre Dame Press.
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  32. Keith DeRose, Are Christian Beliefs Properly Basic?
    This is the text for a presentation I gave at the Eastern Division Meetings of the American Philosophical Association in Washington, D.C. on December 28, 1998. It was written very quickly, and I haven't had time to go back and fix it up, but I probably won't have time to fix it up any time soon, and several people have requested copies, so I don't see any harm in making it available. Please remember that it is a draft, and don't (...)
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  33. Margherita di Stasio (2006). On Plantinga's Idea of Warrant in Epistemology and in Philosophy of Religion. Croatian Journal of Philosophy 6 (2):307-325.
    The paper reconstructs Plantinga’s understanding of knowledge as an alternative to the standard conception of knowledge. In the first phase, Plantinga’s work about warrant was taken as a contribution to the discussion about the possibility of a priori knowledge. With his conception of knowledge as warranted belief he wanted to show that also a posteriori belief can have a degree of warrant, and may be considered to be knowledge. The paper concludes that Plantinga points at an alternative to the standard (...)
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  34. A. Dole (2009). Believing by Faith: An Essay in the Epistemology and Ethics of Religious Belief. Philosophical Review 118 (2):250-253.
    Preface ix Acknowledgements xi 1 Introduction: towards an acceptable fideism 1 The metaquestion: what is the issue about the ‘justifiability’ of religious belief? 4 Faith-beliefs 6 Overview of the argument 8 Glossary of special terms 18 2 The ‘justifiability’ of faith-beliefs: an ultimately moral issue 26 A standard view: the concern is for epistemic justifiability 26 The problem of doxastic control 28 The impossibility of believing at will 29 Indirect control over beliefs 30 ‘Holding true’ and ‘taking to be true’ (...)
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  35. Chris Eberle (1997). God's Nature and the Rationality of Religious Belief. Faith and Philosophy 14 (2):152-169.
    If something like Reformed Epistemology is correct, an agent is innocent in regarding certain ways of forming beliefs to be reliable until those ways have been proven guilty. An important species of argument purporting to show guilt (1) identifies the ways of forming beliefs at the core of our cognitive activity, (2) isolates the features of our core practices which account for their reliability, and (3) determines whether or not peripheral practices which ought to have those features enjoy at least (...)
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  36. David Efird (2008). Believing by Faith: An Essay in the Epistemology and Ethics of Religious Belief - by John Bishop. Philosophical Books 49 (3):283-285.
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  37. Jean Bethke Elshtain (2011). Tayloring Reformed Epistemology: Charles Taylor, Alvin Plantinga and the De Jure Challenge to Christian Belief , by Deane-Peter Baker. Philosophical Papers 38 (1):129-131.
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  38. Evan Fales (2003). Alvin Plantinga's Warranted Christian Belief. Noûs 37 (2):353–370.
    This critical study of the third book of Plantinga's trilogy on proper-function epistemology begins by denying that classical foundationalism proposes a deontic conception of justification. Nor is it subject to Gettier counterexamples, as, I show, Plantinga's fallibilism is and must be. Plantinga's central thesis is that there's no way of attacking the rationality of central Christian beliefs without attacking their truth. That, I argue, is not so on several grounds, e.g., because one can demand independent evidence for the existence of (...)
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  39. Evan Fales (2001). Reformed Epistemology and Biblical Hermeneutics. Philo 4 (2):169-184.
    Literal-minded Christians are enjoying resurgent respectability in intellectual circles. Darwin isn’t the only target: also under attack is the application of modern historiography to Scripture According to Reformed epistemologists, ordinary Christians can directly know that, e.g., Jesus rose from the dead, and evidential concerns can be dismissed. This reversion to a sixteenth century hermeneutic deserves response.
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  40. Peter Forrest, The Epistemology of Religion. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Contemporary epistemology of religion may conveniently be treated as adebate over whether evidentialism applies to thebelief-component of religious faith, or whether we should insteadadopt a more permissive epistemology. Here evidentialism is theinitially plausible position that a belief is justified only if``it is proportioned to the evidence''. For example, supposea local weather forecaster has noticed that over the two hundred yearssince records began a wetter than average Winter is followed in 85% ofcases by a hotter than average Summer. Then, assuming for (...)
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  41. R. Douglas Geivett & Brendan Sweetman (eds.) (1992). Contemporary Perspectives on Religious Epistemology. Oxford University Press.
    This unique textbook--the first to offer balanced, comprehensive coverage of all major perspectives on the rational justification of religious belief--includes twenty-four key papers by some of the world's leading philosophers of religion. Arranged in six sections, each representing a major approach to religious epistemology, the book begins with papers by noted atheists, setting the stage for the main theistic responses--Wittgensteinian Fideism, Reformed epistemology, natural theology, prudential accounts of religious beliefs, and rational belief based in religious experience--in each case offering a (...)
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  42. John Greco (2001). Warranted Christian Belief. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 75 (3):461-466.
  43. John Greco (1997). Catholics Vs. Calvinists on Religious Knowledge. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 71 (1):13-34.
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  44. Stephen R. Grimm (2001). Cardinal Newman, Reformed Epistemologist? American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 75 (4):497-522.
    Despite the recent claims of some prominent Catholic philosophers, I argue that Cardinal Newman's writings are in fact largely compatible with the contemporary movement in the philosophy of religion known as Reformed Epistemology, and in particular with the work of Alvin Plantinga. I first show how the thought of both Newman and Plantinga was molded in response to the "evidentialist" claims of John Locke. I then examine the details of Newman's response, especially as seen in his Essay in Aid of (...)
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  45. William Hasker (1998). The Foundations of Theism. Faith and Philosophy 15 (1):52-67.
    In the extensive literature that has accumulated around Reformed epistemology, some of the most interesting material is found in the debate on the foundations of theism between Philip Quinn and Alvin Plantinga. This essay assesses that debate and draws some tentative conclusions.
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  46. Donald Hatcher (1989). Some Problems with Plantinga's Reformed Epistemology. American Journal of Theology and Philosophy 10 (1):21 - 31.
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  47. Donald Hatcher (1986). Plantinga and Reformed Epistemology. Philosophy and Theology 1 (1):84-95.
    After summarizing Plantinga’s critique of “classical foundationalism” and his substitute, Reformed epistemology, the paper argues that Reformed epistemology has so many problems that it is not an adequate substitute for classical foundationalism. Given Plantinga’s reformed epistemology, believers of any religion could have “knowledge of their God.” This is because Plantinga has not set forth the justifying conditions necessary to distinguish between “properly basic beliefs” as opposed to improperly basic beliefs. Given such problems, it is more reasonable to stick with classical (...)
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  48. John Hawthorne & Daniel Howard-Snyder (1996). Are Beliefs About God Theoretical Beliefs? Reflections on Aquinas and Kant. Religious Studies 32 (2):233 - 258.
    The need to address our question arises from two sources, one in Kant and the other in a certain type of response to so-called Reformed epistemology. The first source consists in a tendency to distinguish theoretical beliefs from practical beliefs (commitments to the world's being a certain way versus commitments to certain pictures to live by), and to treat theistic belief as mere practical belief. We trace this tendency in Kant's corpus, and compare and contrast it with Aquinas's view and (...)
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  49. Paul Helm (2004). John Calvin's Ideas. OUP Oxford.
    This is a major study of the theological thought of John Calvin, which examines his central theological ideas through a philosophical lens, looking at issues in Metaphysics, Epistemology, and Ethics. The study, the first of its kind, is concerned with how Calvin actually uses philosophical ideas in his work as a theologian and biblical commentator. The book also includes a careful examination of those ideas of Calvin to which the Reformed Epistemologists appeal, to find grounds and precedent for their development (...)
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  50. Paul Helm (2001). Warranted Christian Belief. Alvin Plantinga. Mind 110 (440):1110-1115.
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