New Book: Reformed Epistemology and the Problem of Religious Diversity

An individual confronted with the vast diversity of religious beliefs and practices in the world has four possible ways of making sense of this situation. The first is naturalism, the position that all religious beliefs are merely the product of human projection and therefore false. The second is pluralism, the idea that there is a single ultimate religious reality and all religious traditions are actually different ways of experiencing or interpreting this reality. The third option is inclusivism, the position that there is one religion that offers the most effective path to salvation, but others outside this religion can somehow be saved or liberated. The final option is exclusivism, the idea that one religion is exclusively true and the doctrines of other religions are false when they conflict with this religion.

For the Christian, believing anything less than exclusivism would seem to contradict the clear teaching of Christ. Yet, today, this position is not popular. To endorse one religion over others is considered arbitrary, irrational, unjustified, even oppressive and imperialistic.

In a new book released last month, Joseph Kim seeks to defend Christian exclusivism against these charges. Reformed Epistemology and the Problem of Religious Diversity interacts with Alvin Plantinga’s proper function account of warrant and shows why mutually exclusive religious beliefs do not serve as defeaters for Christian belief. Kim, a former lecturer in philosophy and business ethics at the University of California and Arizona State University, argues that the Christian exclusivist need not give up her Christian belief when faced with the problem of religious diversity even when she is unable to give an argument for the truth of Christian belief to those that disagree.

For those looking for a solid defense of Christian belief and a good introduction to the central issues that connect contemporary epistemology and the philosophy of religion, this looks like a book to seriously consider.

Below are the table of contents and some of the endorsements:

1. Introduction

-Identifying the Problem

-The Moral and Epistemic Objection

-Prospectus

2. Warrant, Proper Function, and Christian Belief

-Proper Function and Design Plan

-An Objection to Externalism: Bonjour

-An Objection to Externalism: Bonjour on Armstrong

-A Proper Function Response to Bonjour’s Counterexample

-Perception and Proper Function

-The Extended A/C Model and Proper Function

3. Epistemic Disagreement and the Equal Weight Theory

-Epistemic Disagreement: Kelly

-Two Additional Cases

-The Equal Weight Theory

-The Problem of Religious Diversity and the Equal Weight Theory

4. The Great Pumpkin Objection

-The Nature of Defeaters

-The Son of Great Pumpkin Objection: Martin and DeRose

-The Son of Great Pumpkin Objection: A Response

5. The Internalist Criterion and the Inadequacy Thesis

-Reformed Epistemology and the Internalist Criterion: Wallard

-Reformed Epistemology and the Internalist Criterion: A Response

-The Inadequacy Thesis: Baker

-The Inadequacy Thesis: Response

6. The Central Issue of Religious Exclusivism

-Hick on the Central Issue of Religious Exclusivism

-Retrospection

“Joseph Kim’s extremely careful, judicious, and accurate defense of Christian belief deserves a wide readership.”

Alvin Plantinga, John A. O’Brien Professor of Philosophy, University of Notre Dame

“Reformed Epistemology—one of the more important and controversial movements in recent epistemology of religion—has been criticized for failing to deal adequately with issues stemming from religious disagreement. In this helpful work, Joseph Kim carefully explains Alvin Plantinga’s version of Reformed Epistemology and defends it against criticisms based upon religious diversity and disagreement.”

Harold Netland, Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Intercultural Studies, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

“Joseph Kim’s Reformed Epistemology and the Problem of Religious Diversity is a careful, perceptive, and well informed study of one important family of objections to Alvin Plantinga’s version of Reformed Epistemology. It should be of interest not only to readers of Plantinga, but also those who are concerned about the rationality of exclusive religious belief and those who have been following recent debates about the epistemology of informed disagreement.”

Steven L. Reynolds, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Arizona State University

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