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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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2 Carl Henry and Anti-Metaphysical and Heterodox Metaphysics-Oriented Epistemologies

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Carl Henry and Anti-Metaphysical and Heterodox Metaphysics-Oriented Epistemologies

This chapter purports to present Henry’s criticism of earlier epistemological systems which, according to him, had failed to relate epistemology and metaphysics. I dedicate this chapter to the exposition of Henry’s view of inauthentic epistemology. It is the chapter on what, from Henry’s perspective, credible epistemology is not. The four mentioned epistemological systems—viz., Kant’s Modernism, Barth’s Neo-orthodoxy, Ayer’s Logical Positivism, and Whitehead’s Process Thought, are paradigmatic of the various unorthodox epistemological systems that Henry has exposed as invalid. A credible exposition of these epistemological systems can, in my estimation, admit at least three approaches. The first one would be chronological—viz., the listing of the heterodox epistemological models in their successive order in which the Kantian would be followed by the Whiteheadian, then the Barthian, and lastly the Ayerian. The second approach would be to classify the above-referred schools in regional philosophical taxonomy in which Process Thought and Logical Positivism would fall under Humean British empirical trajectory while Kant’s Modernism and Barth’s Neo-orthodoxy would fall under Kantian Continental dialectic trajectory. The third option would be to categorize the epistemological systems into those which are openly anti-metaphysical, like Kantian Modernism, Ayerian Logical Positivism, and Barthian Neo-orthodoxy, on the one hand, and heterodox metaphysics-oriented epistemological systems, as←21 | 22→ represented by Whiteheadian Process Thought, on the other hand. For the purpose of this book, I shall go by the last of the three classifications.

Henry on...

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