Before we leave Plantinga and his model for understanding “warranted Christian belief,” one more illustration of the sensus divinitatis bears retelling. This is based on one of Plantinga’s illustrations, but I paraphrase here:
You are in your home, and the police show up. They identify you, and promptly arrest you. You are wanted for murder.
When you get to the police station, you pull together the evidence they have, and it’s compelling – the victim was a friend of yours, with whom you had a major falling out. Two people say they saw you headed to the victim’s home just before the time of the murder. An officer comes in with one of your shoes, and it matches the footprints found at the scene of the crime.
You mentally scramble to remember where you were at that time, and you realize that, while you did have an argument, you left well before the time of the victim’s death. Importantly, you remember with as much certainty as possible that you did not kill him.
But you just went for a walk in a new part of town, where no one would recognize you. You did not stop to speak with anyone, and you did not do anything out of the ordinary. No one can support your alibi.
Plantinga’s question is this: In the face of such evidence, is it rational for you to give up your innocence? Or are you still warranted in believing you are innocent? Even if the evidence piles up further, and you are ever more helpless to defend yourself – still, isn’t the assurance of your memory belief strong enough for you, at least, to maintain your innocence?
This, of course, he applies to many situations, but it could apply here: The “evidence” wrought by the problem of evil can be very powerful, indeed. You might argue for God’s existence anyway, and face some incredulous stares. Still, your experience of God’s existence may be more powerful yet, and Plantinga suggests this can be enough to qualify as a warranted belief.
Plantinga, even in his official work, addresses the Christian life. I would say he presents it as would an inside observer – he’s not selling it, per se, not proselytizing, but he is no stranger, either.
This is something like that, but more personal.
I have been chatting with my fellow Catholic Guy, one Adam Fischer, and marveling at an idea like this. As I consider the arguments for God’s existence, and the fact that a great many believers seem not to seek a logical foundation for their beliefs (which might serve to correct some of their erroneous beliefs), I have sometimes wondered whether all of this could really be just.
That is, a great many believers, the majority perhaps, seem uninterested (and maybe uncomfortable? Untrained?) in considering the logical arguments for God’s existence (and those opposed, too). Failing that, for one reason or another, is their faith somehow ephemeral? If irrational, then insubstantial?
What Plantinga’s model does is account for and substantiate them all: A person of the meanest intelligence might, through the sensus divinitatis, come to know God. The crazy aunt or uncle might have some crazy ideas; even so, their apprehension of God’s existence may be considered authentic. No advanced studies are required.
Adam then noted that the astounding thing about Catholicism, which gave momentum to his conversion, is that the Sacraments are accessible in a similar, universal way.
Anyone may be baptized – no credentials are required, only a sincere want (and even this want can be vouched for). Adam particularly noted lands where Christianity had not reached – whatever you might try to teach them about the Incarnation or the Trinity, everyone understands eating, and so they can receive communion. That most fundamental of human experiences was sanctified by Christ, and by it we have a means of reaching everyone with His message.
(I warned you – it was a pious note).