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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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3 The Distinctiveness of Henry’s Epistemological Model



The Distinctiveness of Henry’s Epistemological Model

Having presented Henry’s criticism of the earlier models, which failed to relate metaphysics and epistemology, I now turn to Henry’s epistemological model. By accurately presenting Henry’s epistemological model, I will show what, in his perspective, is proper epistemology. Specifically, this chapter will, on the basis of the data gleaned from Henry’s corpus, accentuate the distinctiveness of Henry’s epistemology, which grounds the latter’s confidence in the success of his alternative model in recovering the healthy relationship between metaphysics and epistemology. I will put particular emphasis on Henry’s theological voluntarism, his presuppositional apologetics, his modified coherence theory of truth, as well as his view of the centrality of the divine Logos to human reason and language.

An Introduction to Henry’s Voluntaristic Metaphysics

Contrary to the popular mischaracterization of Henry as a rationalist, my reading of Henry yields the conclusion that Henry is anything but a rationalist.1 Henry is a theological voluntarist.2 Perhaps no statement captures Henry’s voluntarism more clearly than the following:←85 | 86→

Over against this modern tendency to trap aspects of divine nature in the space-time continuum, evangelical theology affirms God’s aseity; that is, it declares that the universe is not necessary either to divine being or to divine perfection. God stands free of such dependence; he alone, moreover, stands completely and intrinsically independent of the created order…. Creation is not an absolute necessity for God, nor does the universe exhaustively reveal him....

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