Featured Reviews, VOLUME 8

Kevin Diller – Theology’s Epistemological Dilemma [Review]

[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”160″ identifier=”0830839062″ locale=”US” src=”https://englewoodreview.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/516BS0DBORL.SL160.jpg” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”107″]Page 2: Kevin Diller – Theology’s Epistemological Dilemma

But I want to ruminate more on that phrase: “a knowledge of God wholly without weapons.” The careful reader will notice that Barth and Plantinga are unified indeed in their refusal to show via arguments for the truth of revelation. Instead, they argue as Christians for the supremacy of God in guiding everyone to the truth. But heck! What does this make of having a rational conversation with someone we disagree with, whether the person is within the church or without? Doesn’t this proposal leave us with a rarefied, ivory-tower fundamentalism? “We have the truth – and you’ll never understand unless God reveals it to you!” What good is “truth” if there’s no way for it to ever find a home?

“At the heart of my thesis,” writes Diller, “lies the conviction that self-certainty and triumphalism have no place in the Christian faith, and yet a properly fallibilist view of human knowing is consistent with confident assurance” (298). What Theology’s Epistemological Dilemma offers is a thoughtful way back to a humility before God in Christ, the humility that recognizes “You did not choose me, but I have chosen you.” I think, upon reflection, those of us who are called by the name of “Christian” will recognize that we did not reason our way into faith and community. As Plantinga describes the formation of our specific beliefs, so often goes the formation of faith itself: looking back, it seems both mysterious and “inevitable.” We find ourselves in the story of Jesus, a story we did not write or plan. And that should give us humility in articulating that story, recognizing that we do not draw people into the story. In Christ, Paul tells us in 2 Cor. 5:19, God is “reconciling the world to himself,” and God may be taking the narrative in turns we can’t anticipate. Our knowledge of God is “wholly without weapons” – it is not a blunt instrument with which we go on offense or defense.

But doesn’t mean we don’t tell (and live) the story thus far! I think Barth, Plantinga, and Diller would all be quick to say that humility is not silent. We ought to be proclaiming and pondering over Scripture. We ought to take our traditions seriously and think about them critically. We ought to articulate and practice the way of Jesus in the world. We ought to be ready to articulate when we as a community have failed in practice. We ought to remember the words of Jeremiah 29:13: “You will seek me and you will find me when you seek me with all your heart.” But we cannot forget the fact of grace – without which we would not be part of the story of knowing God at all.

Fittingly, Theology’s Epistemological Dilemma ends with words of Luke 18:27: what is impossible for human knowers is indeed “possible with God.” I thank Kevin Diller for writing a fine exploration of that hope, and I commend that hope, and this book, to the readers of The Englewood Review.

Joe Krall was an ERB intern this past summer, and is a senior at The University of Indianapolis.


C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com

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