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Faith And Rationality: Reason and Belief in God 1st Edition

4.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0268009656
ISBN-10: 0268009651
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“This is an important book by members of what can be loosely called the school of contemporary Calvinist philosophers of religion. It is worthy of study by everyone concerned with the epistemology of religion.” 
(The Journal of Religion)

“This compilation of perceptive and in-depth essays . . . examines the epistemological topic of the rationality of Christian belief. These particular essays take a problematic approach in their criticism of contemporary analytic objections of theistic belief, and in the process make a contribution to general epistemology.” 
(Faith and Reason)

"Faith and Rationality is an impressive and original contribution to the epistemology of religious belief and to general epistemology. [T]hese essays revolve around several common themes: first and perhaps foremost, there is the rejection of classical foundationalism ...  a second and closely related theme concerns the evidentialist challenge to religious belief ... and thirdly, we find a position Plantinga and Wolterstorff dub Calvinist epistemology or Reformed epistemology."
 
(Nous)

“This volume, which represents the best philosophical theology being done today, is a fascinating step in a largely unrecognized dialogue between Reformed and Roman Catholic philosophers.” 
 
(New Oxford Review)

About the Author

Alvin Plantinga is John A. O’Brien Professor of Philosophy and former director of the Center for Philosophy of Religion at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of several books, including Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism.
Nicholas Wolterstorff is Noah Porter Emeritus Professor of Philosophical Theology in the Divinity School at Yale University. He is the author of several books, including Justice: Rights and Wrongs and Justice in Love.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: University of Notre Dame Press; 1 edition (February 28, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0268009651
  • ISBN-13: 978-0268009656
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #524,357 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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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).
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"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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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.

Plantinga:
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.
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