Reflections on Biblical and
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Is Reformed Epistemology Reformed?  Some Notes

Only natural theology?  "There are at least two complications with this entire discussion that have yet to be addressed by Plantinga. First, there is the obvious interplay between a theological formulation and a philosophical problem. Plantinga wants to argue for the non-necessity of natural theology for theistic belief and then further for the possibility of theistic belief to be included in his own modified epistemological structure. In support for the non-necessity of natural theology he appeals to Calvin, Bavinck, and others, and in support of theistic belief as foundational he appeals (among other things) to Reid. One of the problems with this, however, is that there is no clear delineation of just how it is that that which is Reformed influences or is influenced by that which is Reidian. One suspects, because of this unclarity, that the New Reformed Epistemology might be better classified as the New (or Old) Reidian Epistemology."  (Scott Oliphant, Westminster Theological Journal, 57:2, [Fall 1995], page 430)

The first sentence of Calvin's Institutes.  "If what Plantinga wanted to develop was a Reformed epistemology, then some radical changes would have to be incorporated into his line of argument. Plantinga would have to see the ontological fact of God’s necessity as an epistemological fact as well. He would have to see, in other words, that just as God is himself the one and only necessary being, so also, given creation, is his existence necessary for the knowledge situation. Had God not created, there would be no epistemological question. Given his creative and sustaining work, however, it is both unbiblical and illogical, not to mention non-Reformed, that God would be removed or otherwise tangential to the problem of knowledge generally. All Plantinga had to read in this regard was the first sentence of Calvin’s Institutes.  Had he begun where Calvin does, he would have surmised that there can be no knowledge, no belief, except upon the sure foundation of our knowledge of God. Not placing knowledge and belief on such a foundation, however, places Plantinga’s epistemology on shaky ground."  (Ibid.)

Reformed epistemology: Scripture and regeneration. “The Reformers rejected the dualism of the Scholastics and aimed at a synthesis of God’s twofold revelation.  They did not believe in the ability of human reason to construct a scientific system of theology on the basis of natural revelation, pure and simple.  Their view of the matter may be represented as follows: As a result of the entrance of sin in to the world, the handwriting of God in nature is greatly obscured, and is in some of the most important matters rather dim and illegible.  Moreover, man is stricken with spiritual blindness, and is thus deprived of the ability to read aright what God had originally plainly written in the works of creation.  In order to remedy the matter and to prevent the frustration of His purpose, God did two things.  In His supernatural revelation (the Bible) He republished the truths of natural revelation, cleared them of misconception, interpreted them with a view to the present needs of man, and thus incorporated them in His supernatural revelation of redemption.  And in addition to that He provided a cure for the spiritual blindness of man in the work of regeneration and sanctification, including spiritual illumination, and thus enabled man once more to obtain true knowledge of God, the knowledge that carries with it the assurance of eternal life.”  (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, page 38.)

Theism or Christian Theism?  "Nicholas Wolterstorff writes: 'Central to Christianity, Judaism, and Islam alike is the conviction that we as human beings are called to believe in God—to trust in him, to rely on him, to place our confidence in him” (“Can Belief in God Be Rational If It Has No Foundations?' in Faith and Rationality: Reason and Belief in God [ed. Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff; Notre Dame: Notre Dame, 1983] 135). In his inaugural address as the John A. O’Brien Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, Alvin Plantinga told his audience that 'my aim, in this talk, is to give some advice to philosophers who are Christians. And although my advice is directed specifically to Christian philosophers, it is relevant to all philosophers who believe in God, whether Christian, Jewish or Moslem. I propose to give advice to the Christian or theistic philosophical community' ("Advice to Christian Philosophers,” in Faith and Philosophy: Journal of the Society of Christian Philosophers 1 [1984] 254).  In both cases, Wolterstorff and Plantinga demonstrate that they are interested in defending theism, not Christian theism  (William D. Dennison, "Analytic Philosophy and Van Til's Epistemology," Westminster Theological Journal, 57:1 [Spring 1995], fn69)

 

 

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