Skip to main content

Reforming reformed epistemology: a new take on the sensus divinitatis


Alvin Plantinga theorizes the existence of a sensus divinitatis – a special cognitive faulty or mechanism dedicated to the production and non-inferential justification of theistic belief. Following Chris Tucker, we offer an evidentialist-friendly model of the sensus divinitatis whereon it produces theistic seemings that non-inferentially justify theistic belief. We suggest that the sensus divinitatis produces these seemings by tacitly grasping support relations between the content of ordinary experiences (in conjunction with our background evidence) and propositions about God. Our model offers advantages such as eliminating the need for a sui generis religious faculty, harmonizing the sensus divinitatis with prominent theories in the cognitive science of religion, and providing a superior account of natural revelation.

Corresponding author
Hide All
Barrett, Justin L (2004) Why Would Anyone Believe in God? (Lanham MD: AltaMira Press).
Barrett, Justin L., & Church, Ian M. (2013) ‘Should CSR give atheists epistemic assurance? On beer-goggles, BFFs, and skepticism regarding religious beliefs’, The Monist 96, 311324.
Bergmann, Michael (2006) Justification without Awareness: A Defense of Epistemic Externalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Bergmann, Michael (2013) ‘Externalist justification and the role of seemings’, Philosophical Studies, 166, 163184.
Bergmann, Michael (2014) ‘Rational religious belief without arguments’, in Pojman, Louis & Rea, Michael (eds) Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology, 7th edn (Belmont CA: Wadsworth), 609624.
Calvin, Jean (1960) Institutes of the Christian Religion, I, McNeill, John T. (ed.), Battles, Ford Lewis (tr.), The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville KY: Westminster Press).
Chisholm, Roderick M. (1966) Theory of Knowledge, 1st edn (Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice-Hall).
Chisholm, Roderick M. (1977) Theory of Knowledge, 2nd edn (New York NY: Prentice-Hall).
Chudnoff, Elijah (2011) ‘What intuitions are like’, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 82, 625654.
Conee, Earl, & Feldman, Richard (2004) Evidentialism (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Cullison, Andrew (2010) ‘What are seemings?’, Ratio, 23, 260274.
De Cruz, Helen (2014) ‘The enduring appeal of natural theological arguments’, Philosophy Compass 9, 145153.
Dougherty, Trent (2011) ‘Further epistemological considerations concerning skeptical theism’, Faith and Philosophy, 28, 332340.
Dougherty, Trent, & Tweedt, Chris (2015) ‘Religious epistemology’, Philosophy Compass, 10, 547559.
Evans, C. Stephen (2010) Natural Signs and Knowledge of God: A New Look at Theistic Arguments (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Fumerton, Richard (1995) Metaepistemology and Skepticism (Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield).
Gellman, Jerome I. (1992) ‘A new look at the problem of evil’, Faith and Philosophy 9, 210216.
Guthrie, Stewart Elliot (1993) Faces in the Clouds: A New Theory of Religion (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Huemer, Michael (2001) Skepticism and the Veil of Perception (Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield).
Huemer, Michael (2006) ‘Phenomenal conservatism and the internalist intuition’, American Philosophical Quarterly, 43, 147158.
Huemer, Michael (2007) ‘Compassionate phenomenal conservatism’, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 74, 3055.
Lycan, William G. (1988) Judgement and Justification (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
McAllister, Blake (2017) ‘Seemings as sui generis’, Synthese. <>
McCain, Kevin (2012) ‘Against Hanna on phenomenal conservatism’, Acta Analytica, 27, 4554.
Moon, Andrew (2016) ‘Recent work in reformed epistemology’, Philosophy Compass, 11, 879891.
Moretti, Luca (2015) ‘Phenomenal conservatism’, Analysis, 75, 296309.
Plantinga, Alvin (1993) Warrant and Proper Function (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Plantinga, Alvin (2000) Warranted Christian Belief (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Poston, Ted (2014) Reason and Explanation: A Defense of Explanatory Coherentism (New York: Palgrave Macmillan).
Pryor, James (2000) ‘The skeptic and the dogmatist’, Noûs, 34, 517549.
Swinburne, Richard (2004) The Existence of God, 2nd edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Tolhurst, William E. (1998) ‘Seemings’, American Philosophical Quarterly, 35, 293302.
Tucker, Chris (2010) ‘Why open-minded people should endorse dogmatism’, Philosophical Perspectives, 24, 529545.
Tucker, Chris (2011) ‘Phenomenal conservatism and evidentialism in religious epistemology’, in Clark, Kelly James & VanArragon, Raymond J. (eds) Evidence and Religious Belief (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 5273.
Tucker, Chris (2013a) ‘Seemings and justification: an introduction’, in Tucker, Chris (ed.) Seemings and Justification: New Essays on Dogmatism and Phenomenal Conservatism (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 129.
Tucker, Chris (ed.) (2013b) Seemings and Justification: New Essays on Dogmatism and Phenomenal Conservatism (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Walls, Jerry L., & Dougherty, Trent (eds) (forthcoming) Two Dozen (or So) Arguments for God: The Plantinga Project (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Religious Studies
  • ISSN: 0034-4125
  • EISSN: 1469-901X
  • URL: /core/journals/religious-studies
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed