Justification and the Classical Picture

Alvin Plantinga

in Warranted Christian Belief

Published in print February 2000 | ISBN: 9780195131932
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199867486 | DOI:
Justification and the Classical Picture

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Since the Enlightenment, most discussions of the rational justifiability of religious belief have assumed the truth of evidentialism, the view that religious belief is rationally justifiable or acceptable only if there is good evidence for it, where good evidence usually means good propositional evidence. But what is this rational justification, and why does it require propositional evidence, and why did everyone just take for granted this connection between justification and propositional evidence? In order to address these questions I turn first to the thought of John Locke, and then to an examination of the classical picture (or classical package) comprised of evidentialism, deontologism, and classical foundationalism – a picture of which Locke is a main source. After briefly indicating the great extent to which the classical picture is still with us in contemporary discussions of religious belief, I point out some of the crippling problems the classical picture faces, and then consider contemporary analogical extensions of the various elements of the classical picture to see whether any of them supports evidentialism. I conclude that in fact there is no reason at all to think that Christian belief requires argument or propositional evidence if it is to be justified; Christians can be justified even if they don’t hold their beliefs on the basis of arguments or evidence, even if they aren’t aware of any good arguments for their beliefs, and even if, indeed, there aren’t any such arguments.

Keywords: Christian belief; deontology; evidentialism; foundationalism; justification; Locke; propositional evidence; rational justification; religious belief

Chapter.  20316 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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