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The Rationality of Theism 2: Faith and Foundationalism


The author plays a little game in the 3rd to last section “A limited role for an evidentialist perspective.” He tries to argue that when we are trying to decide if God speaking directly with the Holy Spirit is plausible, this plausibility derives directly from the question of whether God exists or not.

If we assume God does not exist, it is not plausible. If we assume God does exist, it is plausible. I think this is a huge skipping over of what we currently take as plausible. Without deciding that God exists, I can see that many people believe contradictory things based on accepting this “inner voice.” Different religions can’t all be true. This erodes the prior plausibility of the inner witness. Moreover, there are ways to confirm my mom is alive, and this confirmation has occurred time and time again. I make predictions based on my mom’s existence that are more likely to come true if she exists than if she does not. My mom’s existence can be confirmed in ways that the Holy Spirit cannot. This lends more plausibility to my mom’s existing than the Holy Spirit. It erodes the plausibility of the inner witness, Other background considerations exist. There is much, much evidence for the existence of the natural world. We accept that. The best and strongest evidence confirms it. The best and strongest evidence is lacking when it comes to the inner witness of the Holy Spirit.

There is a very weak response to the assertion that reformed epistemology opens the “epistemic floodgates.” This is on page 51. The author basically says that not ever claim is true, therefore not every claim could count as knowledge. The author simply states that a belief could be knowledge, without being challenged at all. The whole point boils down to this:

If it is is true that God directly inspires beliefs in people, then those beliefs are warranted knowledge.

That’s it? That really is a huge “If.” I can say:

If it is true that the aliens directly psychically inspired my beliefs of the coming end of the spiritual world, then those beliefs are warranted knowledge.

That’s really not that interesting or helpful. The issue worth answering is whether or not God directly inspires beliefs in people in the first place, and this chapter doesn’t really help answer that.

The whole point of the chapter seems to be to show that it is not always warranted to demand evidence for beliefs. If God directly inspires beliefs in people, then we need not demand evidence before accepting it.

That’s fine, but again, that doesn’t really help. The more important question is, why should we think that God directly inspires beliefs in people? How do we distinguish people making that claim from those making other equally demonstrable claims?

Kindle Notes:

people of faith do say quite seriously that they believe something because they “take it by faith.” This common phrase, as used by Christian believers, means holding some belief even without specific evidence for that particular belief (1001).

Note: Author admits that some use “faith” with this definition.

A basic belief forms in a person when that person knows it directly without inferring or deducing it from other beliefs (1018).

if nothing in the belief-forming process goes haywire – then it is properly basic (1019).

I just know Simon is more than a body (1022).

In New Testament Greek, pisteo, “[to have] faith” or “to believe,” is a verb that denotes personally trusting in, faithfully relying upon, or committing oneself to, a person. Faith is most like the “I do” of the wedding ceremony. It is not primarily a process of thinking or knowing. It is more a promise of loyalty along with a life of faithfully fulfilling that promise (1032).

an instance of knowledge is an idea that has three features. First, it is true. Second, someone believes it. And third, some fact legitimates the belief in question for that person (1082).

Plantinga argued that if God exists, then knowledge of God’s existence can be properly basic (1175).

If a Christian believer says, “I know I’ve sinned because I sense the conviction of the Holy Spirit,” naturalists might respond, “But the Heaven’s Gate cult members followed that same procedure, and surely you don’t think they acquired genuine knowledge!” (1182).

if classical foundationalism’s standards are right, I cannot know that I drank coffee this morning (memory beliefs) or that my Mom really loves me (knowledge of other minds). But surely I do know these things (1206).

Note: Surely? That does not constitute an argument.

To say that I must provide evidence that my Mom really is talking to me before I know enough to start telling her about my week is at least odd (1227).

Note: Why not just say that the stakes are low enough that having knowledge is unnecessary? We can work off of probabilities, can’t we?

If God exists, knowledge of God is grounded in the experience of God (1410).

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