Sunday, January 04, 2004

Rationality and Belief in God...

The Evangelical Outpost has a post on Is Belief in God Rational? :Reformed Epistemology and Properly Basic Beliefs and Walloworld follows up as well with Rational Beliefs. They're good reads and its worth noting here as well that belief in God does not have to be justified with evidence. In his book Faith & Reason, Ron Nash tells of how Alvin Plantinga stunned the philosophical world in an exchange with an atheist in which the atheist basically demanded that Plantinga present his evidence for a rational belief in God. Plantinga responds by saying that "I don't have to give any proof for a rational belief in God." The atheist says, "Yes you do," to which Plantinga says, "No I don't," to which the atheist says, "Yes you do," to which Plantinga says "No I don't," and so forth and so on. Here is where Nash describes Plantinga's rejection of evidentialism. Evidentialism rests on this pattern: 1) It is irrational to accept theistic belief in the absence of sufficient evidence, 2) There is sufficient evidence to support belief in God, 3) Therefore, belief in God is rational. Plantinga accepts # 3 and # 2, but even though he believes there may be reasons to support belief in God, he believes those reasons are not necessary to make such a belief rational. Therefore, he rejects # 1. Nash then explains evidentialism's two fatal flaws: 1) If true, evidentialism would undercut all epistemic activity. There are a number of things we believe without proof - We believe in the existence of minds, we believe that the world continues to exist even while we aren't perceiving it. 2) The thesis states it is immoral to believe anything without sufficient proof - but where is the proof for such a claim? Finally, Plantinga's approach is important because it prevents the atheist from cornering the Christian into the unfair position of justifying something that needs no justification. Why start off in defensive mode when it isn't necessary?

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