Question about Religious Epistemology

Randy, I have a question about Reformed Epistemology. In this Question of the Week, Dr. Craig essentially says that Plantinga’s model for warranted Christian belief boils down to this conditional:

(1) If Christianity is true, then there are no successful de jure objections to Christian belief.

He then says that we know that the antecedent of this conditional is true because we do experience the witness of the Holy Spirit. But, there seems to be a problem here. In order to say that our experience of the Spirit’s witness (non-inferentially) warrants our belief that Christianity is true, we have to assume that the consequent of that conditional is true, right?
It might not be fair to say that Reformed Epistemology is question-begging, but this certainly seems to be an unusual consequence of the theory. What are your thoughts on the matter? Do you think that it is question-begging?

This is an awesome question, and certainly worthy of more exploration. I think William Alston’s work in Perceiving God lends a lot of help to this issue. I do not think it is question-begging, for the heart of the issue is not how we convince someone else God exists and Christianity is true, but how we ourselves know our experience of God and Christianity is veridical (and hence that Christianity is true and God exists).

The idea is that this experience of God, which would include the Spirit confirming in us these things are true (Rom. 8:16), is an immediate experience, in the literal sense of the term. That is, there is nothing that comes between the experience itself and our perception of that experience. If it is the case that the experience is immediate, then one does not need to first examine all (or even any) de jure objections to Christianity. This is because there is no mediate between the experience and veridical perception. Only if one has a defeater for the experience itself would one be in trouble. But, as with most (if not all) truly immediate perception, it’s really impossible to “get outside of” the perception. This works both ways: proving it and proving it false both fail.

The idea is that if Christianity were true, then in order to come up with de jure objections one must hold them in light of the fact the Spirit is working, which surely doesn’t work. But if one holds this immediate experience, he can’t very well know that he is not having such an experience! In any case, while it won’t work to convince anyone, I do find it interesting as a sort of weak justification for the Christian to himself; it is a way of knowing. As a result, this immediate experience and knowledge of the Holy Spirit literally will never be defeated.

Randy Everist blogs at Possible Worlds

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