Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Plantinga’s Warranted Christian Belief can be properly appreciated against the Enlightenment criticism that faith involves belief without evidence or with deficient evidence. He attempts to overturn the underlying Enlightenment assumption that rational religious beliefs must be based on evidence. However, what is distinctive about his position is the conditional character of his argumentation. That is, Plantinga does not claim to be able to demonstrate that beliefs about the sensus divinitatis and the instigation of the Holy Spirit are true, but, rather, if they are true, then it is likely that some individuals are reasonable to believe them. Such a position is intellectually inadequate for many thinkers—whether religious or not—whose desire is to establish what is true on the basis of some neutral epistemological position that provides a basis for probing the propriety of such claims.

Plantinga is effectively arguing that such an epistemological stance may be beyond our human capacities. What we can know depends on the truth about our world and our capacities, and what we believe we can know may depend on our beliefs about the world and our capacities. There may be no neutral epistemological stance, because what we think we can know may depend on what we believe about our relation to the world we are trying to know, and that in itself is subject to variation.