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Christian Religion

The Epistemology of Religion

First published Wed Apr 23, 1997; substantive revision Mon Jul 10, 2006 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Contemporary epistemology of religion may conveniently be treated as a debate over whether evidentialism applies to the belief-component of religious faith, or whether we should instead adopt a more permissive epistemology. Here by ‘evidentialism’ I mean the initially plausible position that a belief is justified only if "it is proportioned to the evidence". Evidentialism implies that it is not justified to have a full religious belief unless there is conclusive evidence for it. It follows that if the known arguments for there being a God, including any arguments from religious experience, are at best probable ones, no one would be justified in having full belief that there is a God. And the same holds for other religious beliefs, such as the Christian belief that Jesus was God incarnate. Likewise, it would not be justified to believe even with less than full confidence if there is not a balance of evidence for belief.


How does the idea of evidentialism affect the ability of a Christian to have a full belief in a religion that holds Jesus as God incarnate? The philosophical proposition that belief requires evidence argues for a position of a non-required faith in religion itself. In Hebrews 11, faith is the evidence of things not yet seen and provides within itself the very substance of the Christian belief.

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