An evaluation of Alvin Plantinga's religious epistemology: Does it function properly?

James Kenton Beilby, Marquette University


In this dissertation I consider Alvin Plantinga's religious epistemology. Throughout his academic career Plantinga has contested what has been called the "evidentialist objection to belief in God"--the claim that belief in God must be based on propositional evidence or valid argumentation to be rational, justified, or warranted. In his early forays into the field of religious epistemology, Plantinga's developed his argument in terms of the epistemic properties of rationality and justification, both of which were construed deontologically. Plantinga's mature religious epistemology, on the other hand, focuses on the epistemic property of warrant--that which distinguishes knowledge from merely true belief. While Plantinga's epistemological convictions have evolved, what unites his early and mature religious epistemologies is a common set of theological convictions. In my evaluation of Plantinga's religious epistemology I undertake two tasks. First, I seek to locate Plantinga's thought in the context of his theological assumptions, his previous work on religious epistemology, and in the context of the current debate over how knowledge and warrant should be characterized. Secondly, I analyze and evaluate fundamental aspects of his religious epistemology: his account of epistemic warrant, his construal of the task of religious epistemology, and the success of his claims regarding the epistemic status of belief in God. I conclude with a two-pronged evaluation of Plantinga's religious epistemology in which I consider the following questions: (1) Do beliefs about the Christian God formed as described by Plantinga in fact possess warrant? and (2) Does his description of the formation of warranted beliefs about the Christian God reflect the way such beliefs are actually formed? I offered reasons to think that a negative answer should be given to both of these questions.

Recommended Citation

Beilby, James Kenton, "An evaluation of Alvin Plantinga's religious epistemology: Does it function properly?" (2002). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI3059368.