By Alvin Plantinga
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Additional resources for Faith and Rationality: Reason and Belief in God
The theist, accordingly, should not reply to the evidentialist objector by claiming that since our beliefs are not within our control, we cannot have a prima facie duty to refrain from believing certain propositions. But there is a second reason why this response to the evidentialist is inadequate. I have been using the terms "accept" and "believe" interchangeably, but in fact there is an important distinction they can nicely be used to mark. This distinction is extremely hard to make clear but nonetheless, I think, important.
One's own welfare and that of others sometimes depends on what one believes. If we are descending the Grand Teton REASON AND BELIEF IN G O D 31 and I am setting the anchor for the 120-foot rappel into the Upper Saddle, I have an obligation to form such beliefs as this anchor point is solid only after careful scrutiny and testing. One commissioned to gather intelligence — the spies Joshua sent into Canaan, for example —has an obligation to get it right. I have an obligation with respect to the belief that Justin Martyr was a Greek apologist —an obligation arising from the fact that I teach medieval philosophy, must make a declaration on this issue, and am obliged not to mislead my students here.
This 14-yearold theist, we may suppose, does not believe in God on the basis of evidence. He has never heard of the cosmological, teleological, or ontological arguments; in fact no one has ever presented him with any evidence at all. And although he has often been told about God, he does not take that testimony as evidence; he does not reason thus: everyone around here says God loves us and cares for us; most of what everyone around here says is true; so probably that is true. Instead, he simply believes what he is taught.
Faith and Rationality: Reason and Belief in God by Alvin Plantinga