The Metaphysics of Theism

Print ISBN 9780199246533, 2001 pp. [ 16]-[20]

firmament showeth his handiwork'; Romans 1: 20: Tor the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead'; 1 Peter 3: 15: '[BJe ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.' And as for the rhetorical question with which claim 4 ends, most Christian practitioners of natural theology would have an answer for it: those premisses are starting-points that are better only for the purpose of argumentation, and what makes them better for that purpose is that the truth of those premisses is typically established by more widely shared kinds of human experience than those on the basis of which the

authority of Scripture is accepted.

23 But cf. Calvin's notion of a universally shared sensus divinitatis, discussed below. And so they have higher initial plausibility—a desirable quality in a premiss.

Claim 5: '[BJelief in God relevantly resembles belief in the existence of the self and of the external world—and, we might add, belief in other minds and the past. In none of these areas do we typically have proof or arguments, or

need proof or arguments'(Plantinga 1983: 65).

24 See n. 21 above. See further this remark in Plantinga 1983: 67-8: Trom Calvin's point of view, believing in the existence of God on the basis of rational argument is like believing in the existence of your spouse on the basis of the analogical argument for other minds—whimsical at best and unlikely to delight the person concerned.'

Belief in the existence of the self seems clearly not to resemble belief in God in relevant respects. If any belief does count as properly basic in virtue of the circumstances of the formation of the belief, rather than the nature of the believed proposition itself, it's the belief each of us has in 'I exist'. Belief in God, even if formed in circumstances of overwhelming mystical experience, can't claim proper basicality of that same highest degree, just because it's technically vulnerable to sceptical doubts as belief in one's own existence is not. And as for our beliefs in the external world, in other minds, and in the past, philosophers do have arguments supporting them—not proofs, of course, but dialectical, probable arguments of the sort that figure most prominently everywhere in philosophy. Belief in the external world, for instance, can be systematically contrasted with competing hypotheses, and grounds can be produced for rationally, pragmatically preferring realism to idealism, say. Something of that sort might end p.16


© Copyright Oxford University Press, 2006. All Rights Reserved well be constructed in support of theism, too. Outside philosophy we certainly don't need arguments supporting our belief in the external world, but that's because formidable sceptical arguments challenging that belief arise only within philosophy. Obviously the same can't be said regarding arguments that challenge theism.

As Plantinga interprets Bavinck's general religious objections, then, regardless of whether or not they can indeed be construed in the terms of Reformed epistemology's thesis, as he supposes they can, they do not constitute grounds for formidable philosophical objections to natural theology. And, in Plantinga's presentations of the three Reformers here, it is Bavinck's objections that provide the most promising material of that sort.

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