Customer Reviews: Faith and Rationality: Reason and Belief in God
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on April 27, 2004
In laying the groundwork for a reformed epistemology, this book defines the idea of "rational belief" and shows how this definition is superior to the one assumed by contemporary logical positivists (i.e., many atheists and agnostics coming from the scientific perspective).
Summary: It can be rational to believe something without "proof"; we all do it all the time.
In measuring whether belief in God qualifies as rational, this book shows compellingly that belief in God is properly basic; i.e., it needs no general justification.
I found Marsden's chapter ("The Collapse of American Evangelical Academia") also to be quite informative. Before I read this chapter, I had ideas about the current state of the Evangelical mind (I've read OS Guiness, Dorothy Sayers, etc.), but I didn't really understand how we got where we are.
I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the basics of justifying his/her Christianity either to him/herself, or to the world.
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on June 9, 2007
Faith and Rationality is split into 9 different sections, including the introduction. (The introduction includes the major themes of the book and how it is primary a work of Reformed scholarship.) There are two short stories by George Mavrodes which I found highly amusing, and which were a nice break from the difficult readings. The rest of the book--the majority of it--is composed of 6 essays.

The first essay is Plantinga's "Reason and Belief in God." This is one of Plantinga's earlier essays on "Reformed Epistemology" and is highly recommended. It's a great introduction to the thought he more fully develops later on (primarily in the "Warrant Series"). The first part of the essay moves through the evidentialist objection to theistic belief and its various forms. In the second part of the essay Plantinga charges Aquinas with holding the view, speaking roughly, that belief in God is irrational without evidence. In this part Plantinga also argues that Classical Foundationalism is self-referentially incoherent. Part three goes through reformed objections to Natural Theology. During the last part of his essay Plantinga argues that belief in God is properly basic.

The second essay is William Alston's "Christian Experience and Christian Belief." Alston argues that certain Christian experiences (the presence of God, the moving of the HS, etc.) contribute to the rationality of Christian belief. I am not familiar with Alston's work, but after reading this essay I intend to do some follow up reading on his views (which, I assume, are expanded in Perceiving God: The Epistemology of Religious Experience).

The third essay is Wolterstorff's "Can Belief in God Be Rational If It Has No Foundations?" Wolterstorff picks up where Plantinga leaves off. If Classical Foundationalism (and Natural Theology) are bankrupt, can belief in God still be rational? Wolterstorff's resounding answer is "Yes." Wolterstorff has a fascinating exposition of Locke and Reid in this essay. He eventually concludes, following Reid, that people have different "belief dispositions" which allow them to form rational beliefs, of which "reasoning" is only one disposition.

George Mavrodes' "Jerusalem and Athens Revisited" comes next. Relatively short, in comparison to the other essays, I found Mavrodes' essay very useful. He asked some probing questions, and made some very sharp distinctions which aided my understanding of the previous essays greatly. The book continues with George Marsden's essay entitled "The Collapse of American Evangelical Academia." I found this essay fascinating and loosely connected to the overall themes of the book. Finally, the book concludes with a essay by D. Holwerda called "Faith, Reason, and the Resurrection." This essay is a exposition and examination of Wolfhart Pannenberg's theology.

Most people who buy this book will buy it for Plantinga's and Wolterstorff's essays. Fair enough. But some of the other essays are very interesting (especially Marsden's) and informative. Overall, I would suggest this book as an introduction to Reformed Epistemology to be followed with Wolterstorff's Reason Within the Bounds of Religion (PBK) and Plantinga's "Warrant" series. Highly recommended.
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on July 29, 2001
"Faith and Rationality" is not a layperson's book (what did you expect!). This is the introduction to the whole notion of "reformed epistemology." The essays are composed by Alston, Mavrodes, Wolsterstorff, Plantinga, Marsden, and D. Holwerda. The theme of the book begins with the rejection of "classical foundationalism," which is later supplemented by an agument for God's existence (God's existence is properly basic). I was very surprised and intrigued by D. Holwerda's essay. His eerie essay critiques Wolfhart Pannenburg's theology and thought on the Resurrection of Christ. Good book before reading Alvin Plantinga's Warrant series.
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on October 22, 2014
The contributors in this volume argue that given the inadequacies in epistemic evidentialism and classic foundationalism, the believer is warranted and rational in believing that God exists apart from evidence. I will summarize the key arguments, point out tensions and weaknesses, and conclude with some comments.

Wolterstorff's essays:
NW argues that foundationalism and evidentialism (particularly in the stronger Cliffordian case) cannot present a challenge to theism because said evidentialism is self-referentially incoherent (it's claim fails to live up to its own standards). NW's longer essay surveys the various options. He sometimes gets lost (or the reader does) in the many nuances, but there are some gems from Thomas Reid.

AP gives his legendary essay on reason and belief in God. It's a fantastic essay, but in many ways the reader is urged to skip it and go to AP's larger trilogy (on the flip side, reading this essay serves as a nice intro to the larger trilogy). The essay's strength is in rebutting claims on how a Christian knows (or can't know) a certain thing. I am also glad he dealt with The Great Pumpkin Objection. I think his response gives the Reformed Epistemologian breathing room, but I am not sure it makes the objection go away.

Mavrodes, Alston, Holwerda

Mavrodes gave several short stories on religious belief. They were better than I expected. His essay "Turning," while fascinating as a story goes, is otherwise incoherent. Alston introduces what will be his later project on sense perception and religious belief. I will say no more. Holwerda responds to Wolfhart Pannenberg. I think he does a great job showing WP's criticism of dialectical theology, and gives some good problems to WP, but I would hesitate to recommend this essay because it came out before WP's publication of his systematic theology (which Holwerda himself acknowledges).


George Marsden gives an amazing essay on American Religious Epistemology in history. He shows how Thomas Reid was received by 19th century theologians. The theologians interpreted Reid along empirical and inductive lines (which may or may not be what Reid himself intended). This proved disastrous when it met Darwinism and probably paved the way for Old Evangelicalism's demise.


Most of these contributors have since fine-tuned their arguments. The book itself cannot serve as a template. Further, I think the authors do a good job in showing Christian belief is warranted, but not that it is correct. And while Plantinga is correct that creating worldviews on the spot is a difficult endeavor (ala the Great Pumpkin), he didn't say it was impossible.

Still, a classic work in its own right.
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on April 30, 2014
Alvin Plantinga's essay in this book is a classic, and it brilliantly demonstrates the inadequacy of Classical Foundationalism. That being said, it is somewhat primitive, as he had not yet fully developed his epistemology (i.e. Proper Functionalism. See "Warrant the Current Debate", "Warrant and Proper Function", "Warranted Christian Belief" and "Warrant in Contemporary Epistemology: Essays in Honor of Plantinga's Theory of Knowledge"). I found Wolterstorffs essay to be interesting, but quite primitive also. There is also a great essay on what led to the (now former) collapse of Christian scholarship.
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on November 5, 2014
Original and clearly written, these essays mark the beginning of the shift, in professional epistemology, from the old ways of thinking to the new, the ones more amiable towards belief in God. This book has been reprinted seven times for good reason.

This book is worth the cost simply because of Plantinga's essay "Reason and Belief in God" (just look up how many times it has been cited!). But the last few essays were not too interesting to me.
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on May 28, 2016
very good
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