Re: David Friedman “Duck Dynasty, Medieval Islam, and Moral Philosophy”

This article contains my response to David Friedman’s recent blog article, Duck Dynasty, Medieval Islam, and Moral Philosophy.

Update, Later the Same Day, 4/2/15:

I reached out to leading thinker and apologist Greg Koukl by Facebook. I was glad to hear a quick response. He agreed that the problem is that David’s question confuses issues of moral ontology and moral epistemology.

Screenshot of Greg’s comment:

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Original Article Below:


I believe the droids your are looking for are principally William Lane Craig, Alvin Plantiga, and perhaps Greg Koukl.

I particularly recommend Craig. Here are five related resources from him:

1) Article: “Keeping Moral Epistemology and Moral Ontology Distinct”

Read More:

Important quote 1: “The claim that moral values and duties are rooted in God is a Meta-Ethical claim about Moral Ontology, not about Moral Linguistics or Epistemology.”

Important quote 2: “The salient point is that God’s commands constitute our moral duties. That is a claim of moral ontology. How we come to know our moral duties is a matter of moral epistemology and is irrelevant to the argument.”

2) Transcripted Podcast: “Religious Epistemology”

Read or Listen Here:

Note: You should particularly enjoy this excerpt as it invokes economics vis a vis Pascal’s Wager.

Important quote 1: “A number of thinkers have argued that one can have pragmatic justification for holding a belief, wholly apart from that belief’s being epistemically justified, or knowledge, for the person holding it. Following Alvin Plantinga, let us refer to epistemic justification as warrant, that property which serves to transform mere true belief into knowledge. Proponents of pragmatic arguments aim to show that we are sometimes within our rights in holding beliefs for which we have no warrant. A pragmatic argument seeks to provide grounds for holding a particular belief because of the benefits to be had from holding that belief. Jeff Jordan has helpfully distinguished two types of pragmatic arguments: truth-dependent and truth-independent arguments. A truth-dependent argument recommends holding a belief because of the great benefits to be gained from holding that belief if it should turn out to be true. A truth-independent argument recommends holding a belief because of the great benefits to be gained from holding that belief whether or not it turns out to be true. The most celebrated and oft-discussed, truth-dependent, pragmatic argument is Pascal’s Wager, the brainchild of the French mathematical genius Blaise Pascal…”

Important quote 2: “One of the most significant developments in contemporary Religious Epistemology has been so-called Reformed Epistemology, spearheaded and developed by Alvin Plantinga, which directly assaults the evidentialist construal of rationality. Plantinga’s epistemology developed gradually over the course of three decades, but he has articulated it fully in a monumental three volume series, Warrant: The Current Debate (1993), Warrant and Proper Function (1993), and Warranted Christian Belief (2000). Here we can limn only the broad outlines of his theory. Plantinga distinguishes between what he calls de facto and de jure objections to Christian belief. A de facto objection is one aimed at the truth of the Christian faith; it attempts to show that Christian truth claims are false. By contrast a de jure objection attempts to undermine Christian belief even if Christianity is, in fact, true. Plantinga identifies three versions of the de jure objection: that Christian belief is unjustified, that it is irrational, and that it is unwarranted. Plantinga’s aim is to show that all such de jure objections to Christian belief are unsuccessful, or, in other words, that Christian belief can be shown to be unjustified, irrational, or unwarranted only if it is shown that Christian beliefs are false. There is thus no de jure objection to Christian belief independent of a de facto objection.”

3) Video Debate: “Is the Foundation of Morality Natural or Supernatural? William Lane Craig vs Sam Harris”

Watch Here:

4) Article: “Critique of Holy Spirit Epistemology”

Read More:

Important quote 1: “The question here is: could the witness of the Holy Spirit serve as an intrinsic defeater of the defeaters that Christian’s encounter on occasion?”

Important quote 2: “This is not an inherent part of reformed epistemology, this is an issue on which reformed epistemologists differ, and so if I am mistaken about this, well and good, that would merely mean that the model would have to be adjusted so that the witness of the Holy Spirit would not be an intrinsic defeater-defeater, but one would need, say, rational apologetics to defeat the alleged defeaters of Christian belief.”

5) Video: “Doctrine of Revelation Part 1: Introduction to General Revelation”

Watch Here:

Note: This doesn’t specifically address your question, but it thoroughly covers the general Christian Doctrine of Revelation. It is also a 10 part series, where the given video is only Part 1.

Other Remarks

Perhaps a bit remote from your particular example, we could also take a more pragmatic approach utilizing Bayesian Inference which would be something along the lines of, “No amount of additional evidence can convince me to believe that P(A)’ > P(A) simply because I have overwhelming prior evidence of P(A).”

I would point out that the Christian position on the Islam debate is that both sides are false because Islam is false, and likening Christian Doctrine of Revelation to any Islamic debate is inappropriate.

In the Christian view reason and revelation are not at all opposed and in fact they are not only strongly harmonized but also entirely interdependent. I think Craig would say that both reason and revelation are necessary for moral ontology and moral epistemology.

There has been some discussion in the peer reviewed academic literature, Craig is published and Plantiga is even further published, but this talk is more the purview of the public forum and non-peer reviewed literature including books and the web as a strong stance in favor of Christianity, particularly evangelical, orthodox, and literalist Christianity, is heavily discriminated against in journals of philosophy and religion, as well as academia, peer reviewed literature, and even culture in general.

I encourage you to look through YouTube where Craig has a number of interesting public debates with well known atheists such as Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, and many others.

Sam Harris in particular has debated Craig on issues of moral epistemology and ontology. One of their debates was the third recommended resource.

You also might want to explore presuppositional apologetics vis a vis Sye Ten Bruggencate.


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