The theology of revelation and the epistemology of Christian belief : the compatibility and complementarity of the theological epistemologies of Karl Barth and Alvin Plantinga
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This study brings Christian theology and Christian analytic philosophy into dialogue through an examination of the compatibility and complementarity of Karl Barth’s theology of revelation, and Alvin Plantinga’s epistemology of Christian belief. The first two chapters are aimed at elucidating the central features of Karl Barth’s theology of revelation and clarifying his attitude toward the place of philosophy in theology. We establish that, for Barth, human knowledge of God is objective, personal, cognitive knowing, enabled by the Spirit’s transforming gift of participation in revelation. We dispel the notion that Barth is hostile to philosophy per se and chart the boundaries he gives for its interface with theology. In chapters 3 and 4, we focus on Alvin Plantinga’s Christian epistemology of warranted belief, and its relationship to Barth’s theology of revelation. A general alignment emerges in their shared inductive approach and agreed rejection of the necessity and sufficiency of human arguments for warranted Christian belief. Their contributions are complementary, with Barth providing what Plantinga lacks in theological depth, and Plantinga providing what Barth lacks in philosophical clarity and defense. Despite their general compatibility, two areas of significant potential incompatibility are flagged for closer analysis in the final two chapters. In chapter 5, we consider their views on natural theology. We extend our thesis of complementarity with respect to negative apologetics, and argue for a harmonizing interpretation of their views with respect to a potential positive contribution from natural theology. The final chapter addresses the role of faith and the constitution of a genuine human knowledge of God. We conclude that Barth and Plantinga do not disagree about the personal and propositional character of revelation, but may disagree about the possibility of a generically theistic de re knowledge of God independent of the Spirit’s gift of faith.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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