Apologetics: October 2008 Archives

Blomberg on Plantinga

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Every once in a while I run into a theologian or biblical scholar discussing a philosopher, and I think it's nice the philosopher is getting the cross-disciplinary attention, but then I read what they have to say about the philosopher, and I wonder how they could possibly have gotten the philosopher so wrong. Alvin Plantinga seems to be on the receiving end of such treatment far too often. I've previously discussed D.A. Carson's criticisms of Plantinga that seem to attack a view nothing like Plantinga's. I've been reading through the second edition of Craig Blomberg's The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, and he seems to me to make some similar mistakes about Plantinga. I don't mean any of the following as a criticism of Blomberg's book in general. Most of the book so far is very good. But I don't think he has an even passable grasp of Plantinga's philosophical views.

Here is how he describes Plantinga's view:

Traditionally, believers have argued for God's existence by means of various philosophical 'proofs', but many today, theologians included, believe that all such arguments have been shown to be faulty. Some feel that to try to prove that God exists is to deny faith its proper place as the foundation of religion, though it is not obvious why someone should continue to believe a given doctrine if all the evidence contradicted it. (p.107)

After the words "foundation of religion", Blomberg gives the following footnote:

See esp. Plantinga, 'Is Belief in God "Properly Basic"?', pp.189-202. Plantinga believes that certain propositions about God are 'basic' (givens that cannot be demonstrated) but not 'groundless' (without warrant).

That last sentence is entirely true. Plantinga does indeed believe that certain propositions about God are not in need of a philosophical argument. We can know them without any such argument. However, it's simply false that Plantinga can count as an example of the view that trying to prove God's existence denies faith its proper place. It's also wrong to think of him as someone who thinks the traditional arguments for God are faulty. Consider what he says in his online lecture notes called Two Dozen (or So) Theistic Arguments:

I've been arguing that theistic belief does not (in general) need argument either for deontological justification, or for positive epistemic status, (or for Foley rationality or Alstonian justification)); belief in God is properly basic. But doesn't follow, of course that there aren't any good arguments. Are there some? At least a couple of dozen or so.

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