Two (Or More) Kinds of Scripture Scholarship

Alvin Plantinga

in Warranted Christian Belief

Published in print February 2000 | ISBN: 9780195131932
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199867486 | DOI:
Two (Or More) Kinds of Scripture Scholarship

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Continuing an examination of proposed defeaters for Christian belief, I turn in this chapter to some of the issues raised by contemporary historical biblical criticism, arguing that contemporary historical biblical criticism does not serve as a defeater for Christian belief. After a brief discussion of the divine inspiration of Scripture, I distinguish and examine two different kinds of Scripture scholarship: (1) traditional biblical commentary and (2) historical biblical criticism (also called “higher criticism,” “historical criticism,” “biblical criticism,” and “historical critical scholarship”). Historical biblical criticism (HBC) is an effort to look at and understand the biblical books from a standpoint that relies on reason alone (not faith), i.e., it is an effort to determine from the standpoint of reason alone what the scriptural teachings are and whether they are true. I discuss three different types of HBC and briefly point out some of the tensions between HBC and traditional Christianity: as Van Harvey remarks, “So far as the biblical historian is concerned. . .there is scarcely a popularly held traditional belief about Jesus that is not regarded with considerable skepticism.” I then argue that none of the varieties of HBC provides a defeater for Christian belief, either because (a) they begin with unsupported assumptions that are contrary to Christian belief, or because (b) they ignore sources of warranted belief that Christians believe they have (like faith and the interior instigation of the Holy Spirit) and fail to give good arguments that Christians do not have such sources of warranted belief.

Keywords: biblical commentary; biblical criticism; Christian belief; divine inspiration; faith; Van Harvey; higher criticism; historical criticism; Scripture; the Bible

Chapter.  23431 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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