Religious Epistemology: a Beginner’s Guide

The following is a sample of the literature on some topics in religious epistemology. Where possible, we have included a link to a recent Philosophy Compass or Religion Compass article, which give overviews of the topic and its literature. A more extensive literature review is here.

Influential early work (book-length/essay collections)

Alvin Plantinga, God and Other Minds. Cornell University Press, 1967. (Pbk edition, 1990.)

Richard Swinburne, Faith and Reason. Oxford University Press, 1981. (2nd edn, 2005.)

Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff, eds. Faith and Rationality: Reason and Belief in God. University of Notre Dame Press, 1983. (Especially essays by Alston, Plantinga, and Wolterstorff.)

William P. Alston, Perceiving God: The Epistemology of Religious Experience. Cornell University Press, 1991.

Alvin Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief. Oxford University Press, 2000.

Nicholas Wolterstorff, Practices of Belief: Selected Essays, vol. 2. Terence Cuneo, ed. Cambridge University Press, 2010. (Especially essays 6–13, which reprint several essays from 1983-1999.)


Selected recent work, including some subtopics:


Religious Epistemology (general/traditional issues)

Kelly James Clark and Raymond J. VanArragon, eds. Evidence and Religious Belief. Oxford University Press, 2011.

Jake Chandler and Victoria S. Harrison, eds. Probability in the Philosophy of Religion. Oxford University Press, 2012.

Jonathan Kvanvig, ed. Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion. 4 vols. Oxford University Press. 2008-2012.

Billy Dunaway and John Hawthorne. forthcoming. "Scepticism." In The Oxford Handbook of the Epistemology of Theology, edited by William J. Abraham and Frederick D. Aquino.

Faith, Belief, Evidence

Robert M. Adams. 1984. “The Virtue of Faith.” Repr. in Adams’ The Virtue of Faith. Oxford University Press, 1987.

Katherin A. Rogers. 2008. “Evidence for God from Certainty.” Faith and Philosophy 25: 31-46.

Lara Buchak. 2012. “Can it Be Rational to Have Faith?” In Chandler and Harrison, eds. Probability in the Philosophy of Religion. Oxford University Press.

Lara Buchak. 2014. "Rational Faith and Justified Belief." In Laura Frances Callahan and Timothy O'Connor, eds. Religious Faith and Intellectual Virtue. Oxford University Press.

Daniel Howard-Snyder. 2013. “Propositional Faith: What it is and What it is Not.” American Philosophical Quarterly 50: 357-372.


Epistemology and Skeptical Theism

Skeptical theism holds that we should not expect to be able to discern what reasons God might have for allowing much of the suffering we find in the world; this view developed as a response to Rowe’s so-called ‘evidential’ problem of evil. Because the debate takes up distinctively epistemic issues, we include it here.

John Hick. 1966 (reissued 2007/2010). Evil and the God of Love. London: Macmillan/Palgrave.

William Rowe. 1979. “The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism,” American Philosophical Quarterly 16: 335-341.

Stephen Wykstra. 1984. “The Humean Obstacle to Evidential Arguments from Suffering: On Avoiding the Evils of ‘Appearance’.” International Journal of Philosophy of Religion 16: 73-93.

William P. Alston. 1991. “The Inductive Argument from Evil and the Human Cognitive Condition.” Philosophical Perspectives 5: 29-67.

Justin P. McBrayer. 2010. “Skeptical Theism.” Philosophy Compass 5: 611-623.

Matthew A. Benton, John Hawthorne, and Yoaav Isaacs. Forthcoming. "Evil and Evidence." Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion


Divine Hiddenness

The problem of divine hiddenness concerns why, if there is a God, there is not more evidence that there is a God. This idea figures in recent arguments for atheism, raising epistemic issues about evidence and entitlement, as well as theological issues about how to think about God.

J.L. Schellenberg. 1993. Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason. Cornell University Press.

Daniel Howard-Snyder. 1996. “The Argument from Divine Hiddenness.” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 26: 433-453.

Daniel Howard-Snyder & Paul K. Moser, eds. 2002. Divine Hiddenness: New Essays. Cambridge University Press.

Stephen Maitzen. 2006. “Divine Hiddenness and the Demographics of Theism.” Religious Studies 42: 177-191.

Michael C. Rea. 2009. “Narrative, Liturgy, and the Hiddenness of God.” In Kevin Timpe, ed. Metaphysics and God. Routledge.

Andrew Cullison. 2010. “Two Solutions to the Problem of Divine Hiddenness.” American Philosophical Quarterly 47: 119-134.

J.L. Schellenberg. Forthcoming. The Hiddenness Argument: Philosophy's New Challenge to Belief in God. Oxford University Press. 


Religious Pluralism and Disagreement

Religious pluralism concerns the epistemological difficulties posed by the existence of many competing religions which disagree over central claims about God, revelation, salvation, etc.

Thomas D. Senor, ed. The Rationality of Belief and the Plurality of Faith. Cornell University Press, 1994. (See essays by Alvin Plantinga, Peter van Inwagen, Joseph Runzo, and George Mavrodes.)

Feldman, Richard. 2007. “Reasonable Religious Disagreements,” in L. Antony (ed.), Philosophers without God: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life , Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Nathan L. King. 2008. “Religious Diversity and its Challenges to Religious Belief," Philosophy Compass 3: 830-853.

Michael Thune. 2010. “Religious Belief and the Epistemology of Disagreement.” Philosophy Compass 5: 712-724.

Linda Zagzebski. 2011. “Epistemic Self-Trust and the Consensus Gentium Argument.” In Evidence and Religious Belief, Clark and VanArragon, eds. Oxford University Press.


Evolutionary Challenges to Religious Belief

Evolutionary accounts of the origins of religious beliefs which have been put forward by several scientists have been used by some to formulate a new challenge to the epistemic status of religious beliefs. This literature has a counterpart in the evolutionary challenge to moral belief, e.g. Sharon Street (2006) “A Darwinian Dilemma for Realist Theories of Value,” Philosophical Studies 127: 109-166.

Scott Atran. 2005. In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion. New York: Oxford University Press.

Daniel C. Dennett. 2006. Breaking the Spell. New York: Viking.

Justin L. Barrett. 2007. “Cognitive Science of Religion: What is it and why is it?” Religion Compass 1: 768-786.

Jeff P. Schloss & Michael Murray, eds. 2009. The Believing Primate: Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Perspectives on the Origin of Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Robert N. McCauley. 2012. Why Religion is Natural and Science is Not. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Joshua C. Thurow. 2013. “Does Cognitive Science Show Belief in God to be Irrational? The Epistemic Consequences of the Cognitive Science of Religion.” International Journal for the Philosophy of Religion. 74: 77-98.


Hume, Miracles, and Testimony


The question of whether it is ever rational for one to believe that a miracle has occurred on the basis of testimonial evidence was discussed by Hume, and there is a large literature responding to his essay, found in Hume's Enquiries, Section 10. The text by Earman (listed below) is a useful resource; in addition to Hume's essay, it includes several replies to Hume written by Hume's contemporaries.


John Earman. 2000. Hume's Abject Failure. Oxford University Press.


Robert J. Fogelin. 2003. A Defense of Hume on Miracles. Princeton University Press.


Alan Hajek. 2008. “Are Miracles Chimerical?” Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion. Vol. 1. Ed. by Jon Kvanvig.












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