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:

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Plantinga's Warranted Christian Belief now available online

Christian Classics Ethereal Library has made Alvin Plantinga’s Warranted Christian Belief available online in full. Published in 2000, Warranted Christian Belief is Plantinga’s third entry in his series on epistemology and represents an important work in the debate about the rationality of theistic belief. Plantinga suggests that the many common arguments against Christianity can be divided into two categories: the claim that Christian belief is false (de facto objections) and the claim that Christian belief is irrational or intellectually unacceptable (de jure objections). In his book, Plantinga focuses on the de jure objection and defends the view that belief in God may not only be rational, but rational without supporting beliefs or arguments.

Expect an intellectual work out – the argumentation can be complicated at times, but it is worth the investment. Plantinga is one of the great philosopher’s alive today and his writing has had a massive effect on the way scholars have approached questions in metaphysics, epistemology and philosophy of religion. William Lane Craig has suggested that Plantinga’s 1967 book, God and Other Minds, was the turning point in the debate about the death of God.

Some endorsements for Warranted Christian Belief:

“Warranted Christian Belief is a tour de force … it will be a welcome summary of an important movement, and for anyone interested in debates about the rationality of religious belief, a reference book for many years to come.” – Books & Culture

“This is an impressive book … Every philosopher interested in epistemology should read it and every philosopher should be interested in epistemology.” – Australasian Journal of Philosophy

“The book is full of philosophical and theological interest and is an exciting book to read… Throughout the book the writing is clear and entertaining, parts of it written with a controlled passion and enthusiasm, and with hafts of sarcasm, self-deprecation and other assorted humour. Plantinga has command of a vast range of philosophical and theological material.” – Mind

James Anderson has written a helpful introduction and review of the book here.

(HT: Patrick Chan at Triablogue)