The following is a debate/discussion that I had with several guests (including Stephen Law) over the EAAN:
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.
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.
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.
 Bergmann, ‘Common Sense Naturalism,’ in Naturalism Defeated? Essays on Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism, op. cit., 68.
The following is a debate with Stephen Law on the topic of Reformed epistemology:
‘[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.’
For those who are interested:
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. It is a place where God’s presence is still felt and known in some sense. 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). 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. 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.’ 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?
 Jerry Walls. ‘Hell As Separation from God? The Misery Paradox,’ (March 18, 2014), http://christianthought.hbu.edu/2014/03/18/hell-as-separation-from-god-the-misery-paradox.
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.
CALL FOR PAPERS
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.
Maybe someone should ask Cardinal Newman?
See Stephen Grimm’s paper on Newman being a Reformed epistemologist here: https://www.pdcnet.org/pdc/bvdb.nsf/purchase?openform&fp=acpq&id=acpq_2001_0075_0004_0497_0522
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.