Faith and Reason from Plato to Plantinga

An Introduction to Reformed Epistemology

By Dewey J. Hoitenga Jr.

Subjects: Epistemology
Paperback : 9780791405918, 263 pages, July 1991
Hardcover : 9780791405901, 263 pages, July 1991

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Table of contents


1 Knowledge and Belief: Plato

Two Theories of Knowledge and Belief

The Republic Approach

The Theaetetus Approach


Aquaintance and Infallibility

Knowledge as Justified True Belief

The Vision of the Good

2 Faith: Abraham

Faith as Trust, Belief, and Obedience

Faith: Human and Divine

Human Testimony and the Existence of God

Divine Faith vs. Knowledge of God in the Bible

3 Faith Seeking Understanding: St. Augustine

The Problem of Interpreting Augustine

"Objects Always Believed and Never Understood"

The Logical Priority of Knowledge to Belief

"Objects Which, as Soon as They Are Believed, Are Understood"

"Objects That Are First Believed and Later on Understood"

4 Augustine: Vision or Proof?

Faith Seeking Understanding Considered as Proof

Knowledge as Proof for Existence

Faith Seeking Understanding Considered as Vision

5 Faith Seeking Understanding: Conclusion

The Vision of God

The Indispensability of Faith

The Natural Knowledge of God

The Paradox of Seeking

The Priority of Faith and Authority

Arguments for Faith in Religion

Arguments for the Authority of Scripture

Human Authority and Divine Authority

6 The Universal Awareness of God: John Calvin

Immediacy and Vitality

Faith as Knowledge

The Immediacy of Our Knowledge of God

The Vitality of Our Knowledge of God

The Effects of the Fall

The Effects of Grace

Faith Seeking Understanding

7 Properly Basic Beliefs: Alvin Plantinga

The Revival of Knowledge as Justified True Belief

Belief in God as Properly Basic

Knowledge vs. Belief

Noetic Faculties Working Properly

Reformed Anthropology

Reformed Metaphysics

8 Prepared to Make a Defense: The Apostle Peter


Controversies over Apologetics

Apologetics and the Justification of Belief

The Necessity of Apologetics

The Reformed Objection to Natural Theology

Two Reformed Theologians on Apologetics


Works Cited



This book traces the historical lineages of Alvin Plantinga's religious epistemology from Plato through Augustine and Calvin. It focuses upon this epistemology as a philosophical interpretation of what is generally taken to be a narrow theological doctrine. The author provides a textually based and closely reasoned introduction to the epistemological ideas of Plato, Augustine, Calvin, Plantinga, and several other writers and shows the continuity of a certain approach to the knowledge of God; it may be called the Platonic—Augustinian—Reformed (or Calvinist) approach.

Dewey J. Hoitenga, Jr. is Professor of Philosophy at Grand Valley State University, Allendale, Michigan.


"The author succeeds in showing the roots of Plantinga's 'Reformed Epistemology,' and in the process presents one of the clearest expositions available of this particular tradition's view of the relation of faith to reason. Particularly important is his discussion of this topic in Augustine.

"Hoitenga writes from within the tradition he writes about; hence he avoids many of the errors made by those who have written about Plantinga from outside the tradition. The strength of the book lies in his disclosing the historical antecedents of this current dominant theory in American philosophy of religion. This 'placing' of Plantinga and the Reformed tradition is a helpful and worthwhile contribution." — Bruce R. Reichenbach

"It's carefully considered scholarship, rooting Reformed epistemology in the history of philosophy and showing its relation to age-long philosophic disputes. It is not a survey, but an argument for a well-developed point of view akin to but not identical with those of others under discussion. It is at the cutting edge of contemporary epistemology and philosophy of religion." — Arthur F. Holmes, Wheaton College

"I know of no book which goes into the historical depth that Hoitenga's does." — Jay M. Van Hook, Northwestern College