Religious Epistemology

Nicholas Wolterstorff

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Religion

Published in print January 2005 | ISBN: 9780195138092
Published online April 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780199835348 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

 Religious Epistemology

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While acknowledging the importance of sophisticated reformulations of some of the traditional arguments for “natural and revealed” religion, the bulk of this chapter expounds and then compares and contrasts the other two main developments over the past half century in the epistemology of religious belief: Wittgensteinian philosophy of religion, and Reformed epistemology. What unites these two movements is that both insist that religious belief does not typically have its origin in the attempt to explain things, both insist that religious belief typically consists of a more or less comprehensive perspective on reality rather than consisting of beliefs about God simply added on to one’s other beliefs, and both insist that religious belief does not have to be rationally grounded in order to be acceptable. What especially differentiates the two movements is the difference of their polemical partners—Enlightenment evidentialism for the Reformed epistemologists versus logical positivism for Wittgenstein—and the fact that the Reformed epistemologists are resolutely realist concerning God whereas most of the Wittgensteinians are apparently not theistic realists. In closing, I point out important similarities between some remarks of early Heidegger and the shared positions of the Wittgensteinians and the Reformed epistemologists.

Keywords: Enlightenment; epistemology; evidentialism; Heidegger; logical positivism; Reformed epistemology; religious belief; Wittgenstein

Chapter.  12739 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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