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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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4 A Critical Evaluation of Henry’s Epistemology

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4

A Critical Evaluation of Henry’s Epistemology

In the first chapter of this project I observed that, despite Henry’s tremendous contribution to the cause of Christian orthodoxy in general and evangelical thought in particular, the attitude of many scholars toward him has been apathetic at best, and dismissive at worst. A critical evaluation of Henry is now in order. To best evaluate Henry’s epistemology, I will begin by assessing, in addition to the earlier-referred criticism of Henry, other accusations leveled against him before passing my verdict on the matter. In so doing, I will attempt to respond to, inter alia, the following questions. How credible are the allegations that Henry is a rationalist or a fundamentalist? What can best explain the current evangelical theological apathy toward a man who has been recognized as the dean of the evangelical theologians?1 To what extent has Henry made credible these accusations?

The Critique of the Critics

Given the multifaceted and multidimensional nature of Henry’s criticism, I find it prudent to, for the sake of manageability, identify a few critics, who, in my judgment, are paradigmatic of their respective theological/philosophical schools of thought. In general, Henry’s criticism will fall into either of the following←137 | 138→ extremes: fundamentalism or rationalism. For those who reject the literality and historical factuality of biblical accounts, Henry is a fundamentalist. For those who are uncomfortable with his quasi-pursuit of the respectability of evangelical scholarship, he is a rationalist.

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