A Short Review of Alvin Plantinga’s Warranted Christian Belief

By Adam Lloyd Johnson, Ph.D.

It seems to me that Plantinga’s argument in this book is correct but uninteresting. If I understand him right, his argument is that if Christianity is true, then it has warrant. This seems to be only helpful in interacting with those who claim that even if Christianity were true, people still wouldn’t be justified in believing it. I don’t imagine that many people claim such a thing, but I could be wrong. Maybe it’s the case that there are, or have been, some very influential thinkers who have made this argument, possibly even Marx and Freud. If so, and if they have influenced many people to think this way, then I suppose Plantinga’s argument is very helpful indeed. But I, for one, do not find very compelling the idea that belief in Christianity wouldn’t be warranted, even if it were true. Therefore, I personally don’t find Plantinga’s argument against this idea very interesting.

As a Christian who has struggled in the past with doubts about whether Christianity is true or not, I’m most interested in the following questions: Is Christianity objectively true? How can we know that Christianity is objectively true? Plantinga seems to agree; he concludes his book with this: “But is it [Christianity] true? This is the really important question. And here we pass beyond the competence of philosophy whose main competence, in this area, is to clear away certain objections, impedances, and obstacles to Christian belief. Speaking for myself and of course not in the name of philosophy, I can say only that it does, indeed, seem to me to be true, and to be the maximally important truth” (p. 499).

I’m startled a bit by his insistence on separating philosophy from the attempt to show that Christianity is objectively true. I don’t disagree that the internal, subjective factors in believing Christianity is true, such as our sensus divinitatis and the internal witness of the Holy Spirit, are very important. But it seems to me that Plantinga overemphasizes these subjective factors to the exclusion, and even dismissal, of objective evidences. When I say objective evidences, I mean, for example, the Bible’s historical reliability and the classical arguments for God’s existence. Check out these resources for my thoughts on the relationship between faith and reason, theology and philosophy, and subjective versus objective reasons to believe something is true.

Convincing Proof