Reformed epistemology and Christian apologetics

Religious Studies 39 (3):299-321 (2003)
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Abstract

It is a widely held viewpoint in Christian apologetics that in addition to defending Christian theism against objections (negative apologetics), apologists should also present arguments in support of the truth of theism and Christianity (positive apologetics). In contemporary philosophy of religion, the Reformed epistemology movement has often been criticized on the grounds that it falls considerably short of satisfying the positive side of this two-tiered approach to Christian apologetics. Reformed epistemology is said to constitute or entail an inadequate apologetic methodology since it rejects positive apologetics or at least favours negative over positive apologetics. In this paper I argue that this common objection fails on two grounds. First, while the arguments of Reformed epistemology are relevant and useful to apologetics, neither Reformed epistemology nor its epistemological project should be identified with a distinct school or method of apologetics. Secondly, while certain claims of Reformed epistemology seem to imply a rejection of positive apologetics, or at least a preference for negative or positive apologetics, I argue that no such conclusion follows. In fact, although unimpressed by particular versions of natural theology and positive apologetics, Reformed epistemologists have provided criticisms of each that can constructively shape future approaches to the apologetic employment of natural theology and Christian evidences.

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Michael Sudduth
San Francisco State University

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