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In Pursuit of an Orthodox Christian Epistemology

A Conversation with Carl F. H. Henry

Jonathan Mutinda Waita

Everybody is confronted by three fundamental questions, which are of great interest to philosophy and theology: The metaphysical—"What is reality?", the epistemological—"How do we know what we think we know?", and the ethical—"How should we, therefore, live in light of what we know about reality?" Of these three, the epistemological question is of greatest importance, owing to its concern with the justification of knowledge, on the basis of which we can attempt to respond to the rest. This book is motivated by the realization that although everybody attempts to respond to these questions, not everybody provides a valid answer to the questions. In consultation with Carl F. H. Henry, who was a trailblazer for evangelical orthodoxy, this book attempts to provide valid and sound answers to these epistemological and metaphysical questions for millions of Christians, whose answers to these questions continue to be ridiculed by liberals and secularists. This book operates with a realization that since our surest Christian knowledge about the nature and works of God emanates from God’s self-disclosure rather than our human discovery, the Bible, as God’s special revelation occupies an important place in true Christian epistemology. A corollary to the centrality of the Bible to the Christian epistemology is the epistemic sufficiency of human language and reason. This book defines Christian epistemological orthodoxy against such heterodox systems as Kantian phenomenology, Barthian Neoorthodoxy, Ayerian Logical Positivism, and Whiteheadian Process Thought and their respective trajectories. The book is a must-read for philosophy, theology, and apologetic courses.

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1 Introduction

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1

Introduction

In this post-realist era, which is dominated by an aggressive anti-foundationalist mood, objective theological knowledge is progressively yielding ground to subjective knowledge, and absolute theological truth rendered relative to the individual truth seeker. In a version reminiscent of Schleiermacherian substitution of theological romanticism for theological realism as the only rendition that could appeal to the modern audience, post-realism has rendered obsolete the absoluteness of theological truth and the objectivity of theological knowledge. With the epistemic focus increasingly shifting from God to the individual human truth seeker, it is hardly an overstatement to say that theocentric theology is decreasing as anthropocentric theology is increasing in popularity.

Under these circumstances, academic projects that attempt to cast theological orthodoxy in a positive light are not only being rendered naïve and unscholarly but also retrogressive and out of touch with the current progressive mood. I find it disturbing that, while many, if not all, evangelical theologians are foundationalist in practice, an increasingly large number of them (in a manner likely to render questionable their intellectual integrity)1 are, in theory, gaining notoriety in their rejection of foundationalism.2 There seems to be no consensus within Evangelicalism on how to deal with this post-theological realist challenge. Evangelical responses have been diverse. While a few evangelical scholars continue to←1 | 2→ declare their biblical foundation, the reaction of the larger evangelical scholarship ranges from retreat into private adherence to orthodox theological realism, at best, to open criticism and...

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