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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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5 Conclusion




At a time when evangelical heritage comes increasingly under attack from secular progressive scholarship, the scenes of evangelical scholars vying to outdo each other in the criticism of the movement are anything but encouraging. I concur that self-criticism may be a sign of one’s intellectual honesty. However, intellectual self-criticism taken too far has a propensity to degenerate into intellectual self-loathing, which would not augur well for evangelical orthodoxy. While Henry and Evangelicalism are not devoid of shortcomings, their stance on divine revelation as the metaphysical axiom of epistemology is, from an orthodox Christian perspective, an example of strength rather than weakness.

In this book, I have toiled to demonstrate Henry’s attempt to reestablish the metaphysical foundations of epistemology. As a means of establishing the relevance of, and need for this project, I began by mentioning in the first chapter, the current evangelical identity crisis accentuated by lack of consensus or consistency therein on metaphysical issues, on the one hand, and Henry’s conviction that metaphysics is theologically and philosophically indispensable, on the other hand.

In the second chapter, I presented Henry’s criticism of the earlier epistemological systems that had failed to relate metaphysics and epistemology. Three epistemological systems—viz., Kantian Phenomenology, Barthian Neo-orthodoxy, and Ayerian Logical Positivism—rejected metaphysics. A fourth epistemological←167 | 168→ system, Process Thought, tried to revive metaphysics but ended up with a heterodox metaphysical version.

Against Kantian Phenomenalism, which subjected reality into noumenal and phenomenal...

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