The Metaphysics of Theism

Print ISBN 9780199246533, 2001 pp. [11]-[15]

So, as Plantinga sees it, it is precisely in their explicit, religious rejection of natural theology that the Reformers are supposed to have implicitly endorsed the philosophical thesis of Reformed epistemology. I'm interested primarily in the use Plantinga makes of the various objections that contribute to what he describes as the Reformed rejection of natural theology. And I'm indirectly interested in those objections themselves, despite the fact that they're not philosophical, because the way he presents them is designed to translate those religious objections to natural theology into a philosophical position: Reformed epistemology. That position itself might, conceivably, not be intended to imply any philosophical objection to natural theology. But it's hard to be certain about what, if any, philosophical attitude toward natural theology is implicit in Reformed epistemology as Plantinga develops it here.

His presentation begins by limiting the notion of natural theology to 'the attempt to prove or demonstrate the existence of God' (ibid. 63). This narrowing of the notion is drastic, and not only as regards its scope. But I suppose it can be allowed here, since every systematic natural theology includes, at or near its beginning, an attempt at least to argue for God's existence (if not to prove or demonstrate it). He mentions 'among its adherents many of the truly great thinkers of the Western world. One thinks, for example, of Anselm, Aquinas, Scotus, and Ockham, of Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz. . . . [B]ut for the most part the Reformed attitude [toward natural theology] has ranged from tepid endorsement, through indifference, to suspicion, hostility, and outright accusations of blasphemy. . . . What exactly, or even approximately, do these sons and daughters of the Reformation have against proving the existence of God? What could they have against it?' (ibid.).

Plantinga develops his answer to those questions by examining attacks on natural theology by three 'representative Reformed thinkers' (ibid. 64): Bavinck, Calvin, and Barth.

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