Defeaters and nonpropositional evidence

I think some lay followers of the Law debate think that it was an inappropriate move to appeal to non-propositional evidence in order to respond and overcome an undercutting defeater. Epistemologists do this all the time. In fact, this is exactly the move that Bergmann thinks is available to the naturalist as a response to Plantinga’s EAAN.

Bergmann states,

Even if a naturalist believed that P(R/N&E) is low or inscrutable, this needn’t give her a defeater for R. For she could have nonpropositional evidence for R that is sufficiently strong to make belief in R rational, reasonable, and warranted – even for someone whose total relevant propositional evidence, k, was such that P(R/k) is low or inscrutable.[1]

Now, granted, as a proper functionalist, I think that the cases of the widget and snake hallucination are cases that fail to meet Plantinga’s epistemic environment condition. As mentioned in the debate, I think intuitively, we think that one cannot have knowledge in such scenarios as we don’t think that under such conditions our faculties are designed to form such beliefs.

At the end of the day, if the non-propositional evidence leads us to firmly believe p, and p is the product of proper function conditions, then I think we would be warranted in believing that p. This is true, even in light of an attempted undercutting defeater as Bergmann points out.


[1] Bergmann, ‘Common Sense Naturalism,’ in Naturalism Defeated? Essays on Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism, op. cit., 68.


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Debate: Stephen Law

I had fun doing this with Stephen. He was indeed kind to me in all of our interactions. However, I do want to point out given that this is a debate, that he failed twice to engage my second response to his X-argument. The response was roughly that, it could have been the case that God gave us the SD to reliably produce belief in the supernatural or Divinity. If this is all the SD is intended for, then it is reliable! We could then fine tune the beliefs that are formed from the SD when we have defeaters for some of the beliefs that are formed (e.g. belief in a fairy). Instead, we ended up talking about a response that is more based on faith (which for the record, seems very right to me!). For those who are interested, I am currently writing a paper where I am reiterating Clark and Barrett’s response to Law. Will post when it is accepted for publication.


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Recap: Debate with Stephen Law

Here is something I wrote up on Facebook which I think roughly summarizes the debate. I’ll post the debate here when it releases.

Debate Recap:

I explained how belief in God can be properly basic in regard to both justification (via phenomenal conservatism) and warrant (via proper functionalism). Law for the most part accepted something close to my epistemology but argued against the religious application due to how the faculty responsible for religious belief is prone to make false beliefs about God, Gods, fairies, and the dead. He argued that upon reflection of this, one would have an undercutting defeater for our belief that our religious faculty is reliable. I responded by pointing out that those who don’t have this information from cognitive science about our tendency to predicate teleology when it isn’t there, could on his view, still have belief in God as a properly basic belief. I then gave him two different responses.

First, I used Clark and Barrett’s argument that if the point of the SD is just to make people aware of Divinity/Supernatural, then the faculty isn’t unreliable and we can then fine tune what we believe from that faculty upon gaining new information. Second, I said it might be that we have lost a power or cognitive capacity from sin and this has messed up this faculty in the way that it detects agency. I don’t recall him responding to the first response and he attacked the second response saying that it is ad hoc and he didn’t seem convinced that it could explain false beliefs about the detection of fairies and talking to the dead. I argued that it wasn’t ad hoc but something in long standing with the Christian tradition and I attempted to clarify on how it would account for falsely detecting ghosts and so on. I, again, reiterated the first response (Clark and Barrett).

He ended on challenging me on if a woman would be warranted in thinking that she had some crazy supernatural ability as long as it was the result of the pf conditions being met. I of course said that I have the intuition that should would. In the mix of all of this, I did talk about my work on arguing that all sorts of religions couldn’t use Plantinga’s epistemology to be warranted in the same way that Christian belief could be, and we did talk about the nature of evidence and defeaters.

Overall: I suspect the debate won’t convince people anyone on either side, but I think it will be pretty informative. I also think it is probably the case that if I were to have left the second response out and focused on the first response more, it would have appeased more agnostics (and thus in some sense appear stronger).


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God Loves Satan And I Do Too

‘[T]he originator of evil himself will be healed’ -Gregory of Nyssa (Catechetical Orations 26)


This seems like a pretty scandalous thing to say, at least coming from an evangelical. So why would I say it? Well, God is a perfect Being and as a perfect Being, God loves every person as much as it is possible. If God only loved some persons, say those that loved Him, there would be a moral defect in God. Moreover, say that love could be measured on a scale that was between 1-10. Even if God did love everyone but His love for people in category C1 could be measured as a 10 and His love for people in category C2 a 5, there would still be an imperfection in God’s love. But by definition, there are no imperfections in God! So if this is right, and Satan is a person, then wouldn’t it follow that God loves Satan as much as possible? Let’s look at it this way:

(1) God loves every person as much as possible.
(2) Satan is a person.
(3) God loves Satan as much as possible.

So God loves Satan. But should we? Well, God tells us to be perfect as He is perfect (Matt 5:48). In fact, the context of that commandment is in reference to loving our enemies. And can you think of a greater enemy than Satan? It seems to me that we should follow God’s command and love Satan. But practically speaking, how could we demonstrate this love? While I’m not fully aware of how we should go about loving Satan, it does seem that one way would be to pray that if it is feasible, ‘the originator of evil himself would be healed.’

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My Prosblogion Interview

For those who are interested:

Philosophers and their religious practices part 20: Using philosophy to help share the Gospel

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Love Me Like You Do: Islam and God’s Love

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Now, being a good Reformed epistemologist, my main reason for being a Christian and not a Muslim or an atheist, is just that I find myself believing that Christianity is true. It just seems true to me that the second person of the Trinity died for my sins and was raised for my justification. And upon reflection, it feels nearly impossible to believe that Jesus is still lying in a grave or tomb somewhere. The Gospel message just seems right to me.

Having said that, I do think there are certain arguments against naturalism or against Islam that can add to my warrant for believing that such views are false (and in some way, this adds to my warrant for thinking that theism or Christianity is true). Now, I have already published (with Erik Baldwin) on one concern that I think some Muslims should find troubling, but I’d like to briefly mention another concern (in fact, we briefly allude to this in our paper).  This argument is by no means original to us but nonetheless, I think it is still worth mentioning here. It goes something like this:

(1) If God exists, God is a perfect Being.
(2) A perfect Being loves unconditionally all persons as much as it is possible.
(3) If Allah exists, Allah would not love unconditionally all persons as much as it is possible.
(4) Given (3), if Allah exists, Allah would not be a perfect Being.                                                      ———-
(5) Therefore, if Allah exists, Allah is not God.

The most controversial premise here, I think, would be (3). The evidence for (3) would include the following:

1. Allah never affirms his love for the sinner.
2. Allah explicitly says numerous times that he ‘loves not’ the sinner.
3. Surah 3:31 states that ‘Say, [O Muhammad], ‘If you should love Allah, then follow me, [so] Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.

Notice 3. sets out particular conditions for God’s love and 1. and 2. demonstrate that God doesn’t love everyone, or at least, in the most charitable reading, God doesn’t love everyone in the same way.

How might a Muslim respond to this argument? It seems to me that the Muslim clearly has to grant (3), given the evidence that exists for it. I think the Muslim would have to argue that it would be impossible for God to love sinners and yet be just and/or send sinners to hell. Thus, the Muslim might argue that (3) isn’t a weakness just as God not being able to make 2+2=5 is not a weakness.

I think if the Muslim takes this position, the Christian then could respond by showing how God’s justice or how the existence of people in hell, doesn’t put a logical or metaphysical limit on God’s love. If this could be done, the Muslim would again have the burden of proof to demonstrate a way to make the character of God in the Qur’an consistent with perfect Being theology.

Using the biblical account, Jerry Walls defends a view of hell that includes God still loving those who are in hell. Walls describes hell as a place that is in close proximity to the Christ.[1] It is a place where God’s presence is still felt and known in some sense.[2] And it is a place where there is a lack of mutual love between God and those who are in hell (thus a sort of separation from God).[3] While Walls rejects the literal interpretation of hell being fire and outer darkness (two things which if taken literally, seem hard to reconcile), Walls is sympathetic to the Eastern Christian tradition which interprets the imagery of fire to be expressing the glory of God.[4] This glory can be expressed in God’s persistent love for the unrepentant sinner who continues to refuse grace and ultimate love. Walls describes how such ‘glory’ could be painful: ‘It is easy to see how this uneasy situation causes misery.  Imagine a son, alienated from his father who deeply loves him.  He hates his father and resents the fact that he is dependent upon him, so he will not return his love, but is forced by unhappy circumstances to live under the same roof with him. The misery in his case would be palpable.’[5] In this scenario, the love of the Father creates greater anguish and anger for the sinner as it creates an absolutely miserable environment for the sinner to be in. It seems logically and metaphysically possible that God could continue to offer grace to those in hell but it just might not be feasible that any of the individuals would ever accept such grace. Perhaps their anger and pride might form and shape their will to where they simply won’t ever accept it. And yet, God is just in that He continues to do what is right by loving the wicked and by giving them over to themselves (this echoes back to the kind of judgement we see in Romans 1) for all eternity.

Now, perhaps the Muslim might refuse to acknowledge that God is being just in this model. In order to be just, God needs to throw the sinner into hell and punish the wicked with fire and brimstone. My intuitions don’t track with this but nonetheless, couldn’t God send the sinner to hell and punish him with fire and yet still love him like a brokenhearted parent who sends their criminal child off to face capital punishment?

[1] Jerry Walls. ‘Hell As Separation from God? The Misery Paradox,’ (March 18, 2014),

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.



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Call for Papers

4th Glasgow Philosophy of Religion Seminar

26th-27th, May 2016


The biennial Glasgow Philosophy of Religion Seminar provides an international platform for discussion of work in progress in analytic philosophy of religion. The Seminar is organized by the Forum for Philosophy and Religion and will be held in the Philosophy Building, 69 Oakfield Avenue, University of Glasgow.




Presentations are invited on any topic within analytic philosophy of religion, broadly construed. Papers on Asian or comparative philosophy of religion are especially welcome. Please email abstracts of between 300 and 500 words to Tyler McNabb ( by 31st January 2016 (words files only). Your paper should have a reading time of approximately 40 minutes. Please state on your submission if you are a graduate student. You will be informed of the decision by 29th February.

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A Canonical Styled Homily on Ps 22

Here is a homily that I preached at Church of the Ascension (Anglican):

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How could one be both a Reformed epistemologist and a Catholic?

Maybe someone should ask Cardinal Newman?

newman meme

See Stephen Grimm’s paper on Newman being a Reformed epistemologist here:

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Upcoming Conference: British Society For Philosophy of Religion

Tyler Taber and I will be presenting our paper, ‘ ‘Is the Problem of Divine Hiddenness a Problem for the Reformed Epistemologist?,’ at this upcoming conference:

The BSPR’s Eleventh Conference: Divine Hiddenness

Oriel College, Oxford, Thursday 10th through Sunday 13th September  2015

Saturday 12th will focus on the legacy of Richard Swinburne in honour of him on his 80th birthday.

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