Scepticism, Relativism and Religious Knowledge: A Kierkegaardian Perspective Informed by Wittgenstein’s Philosophy

By Michael G. Harvey

A nuanced response to the challenges to religious knowledge posed by modern scepticism and relativism, emphasising virtue epistemology.

ISBN: 9780227174258


Scepticism, Relativism, and Religious Knowledge shows where responses to scepticism and relativism by Karl Barth and Reformed Epistemology have led to impasses, and reconstructs their insights in a robust response that does not depend on making excessive claims about our epistemic capacities. This response is based on a nuanced conception of the relationship between trust, doubt, faith, and reason, and a Kierkegaardian perspective on religious knowledge that stresses the role of the will and the intellectual and theological virtues.

This book will appeal to those with an interest in the deep, and often difficult, questions of religion and philosophy, particularly regarding matters of truth, doubt and belief.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 216

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Michael G. Harvey holds a bachelor’s degree magna cum laude in physics and astronomy from the University of Pittsburgh, and master’s degrees from Yale University, Brown University, and Carnegie Mellon University. He has published in Religious Studies, The Journal of Religion, the Routledge Major Work, Religion and Science, and Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. He is also the author of “Wireless Next Generation Networks: A Virtue-Based Trust Model”, in SpringerBriefs in Electrical and Computer Engineering (New York: Springer, 2014).


Foreword by Stanley Hauerwas


Part One: The Exclusive Disjunction of Objectivism or Relativism
1. Religious Language, Reference, and Autonomy
2. Revelation, Imagination, and Arbitrariness

Part Two: A Hermeneutical Model of Rationality
3. Rationality, Relativism, and Scepticism
4. Tradition, Worldviews, and Conflict
5. Science, Rationality, and Theology

Part Three: A Kierkegaardian Perspective on Religious Knowledge
6. Faith, Knowledge, and Belief
7. Faith, Knowledge, and Truth
8. Faith, Knowledge, and Suffering


Name Index
Subject Index


Endorsements and Reviews

For Harvey … what makes Christians Christian is not that they ‘believe in God’. To be a Christian, which to be sure involves ‘believing’, entails an ongoing transformation of the emotions. … The truth of what Christians believe cannot be separated from who they must be. I think Harvey is quite right, moreover, to attribute this perspective to how Paul Holmer taught him to read Kierkegaard and Wittgenstein. … Harvey has written a book I feel sure Paul Holmer would have liked. I cannot imagine higher praise or a better reason to commend the book to anyone who seeks to better understand the status and character of what it means to be a Christian.
Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor Emeritus of Divinity and Law, Duke Divinity School

For Harvey, Kierkegaard is no irrationalist, and Wittgenstein is no champion of self-contained fideism. Both provide rather crucial resources for addressing objectivism, scepticism, relativism, and the rationality of religious knowledge. Drawing too upon Wilhelm Dilthey and Paul L. Holmer, Harvey expertly explores a hermeneutics and grammar of religious knowledge, one that by highlighting the place of passion, will, and suffering in faith prompts fascinating engagement with recent Reformed epistemology.
David J. Gouwens, Professor of Theology, Brite Divinity School, Texas

Michael G. Harvey has written a very readable, intelligent, and clearly argued book against the prevailing epistemological paradigm in contemporary philosophy of religion. Elaborating insights from Wittgenstein, Dilthey, and Kierkegaard, he criticizes the exclusive disjunction of objectivism and relativism and outlines a hermeneutical paradigm of rationality that points a way beyond the impasses of Reformed theology (Barth) and Reformed epistemology (Plantinga and Wolterstorff). Whereas our beliefs are rooted in our reactions and attitudes toward life and its problems, faith signifies a deep and strong unrest incompatible with the epistemological aim of feeling at home in the world. What is distinctive about Christians is not that they believe, but that they hope. Harvey helps us to make sense of this.
Ingolf U. Dalferth, Danforth Professor of Philosophy of Religion, Claremont Graduate University

Harvey leads his readers through the pitfalls of scepticism, relativism, fideism, foundationalism, and more, keeping before him the notion that our ability to make sense of discourse, whether in science or religion, is based on shared agreements in judgment, not themselves grounded, but nonetheless foundational.
Ronald Hustwit, Frank Halliday Ferris Professor of Philosophy, The College of Wooster, Ohio

[Harvey’s] interdisciplinary background is to the fore, especially in his treatment of the relation between religion and science. … The second part [of the book] goes deeper into how we need to get over the artificial conflict between religious and scientific accounts of truth and reality. … This leads Harvey towards a fascinating excursion into the philosophy of science which underlines how science is more like theology than most moderns are prepared to acknowledge. … It is gratifying to find someone of Harvey’s learning, wisdom and experience taking on the high priests of scientific rationalism and their theological fellow-travellers in such a thoroughgoing and painstaking project.
The Rt Revd Dr John Saxbee, in Modern Believing, Vol 57, No 2

Why do we believe what we believe about God? How did we come to believe it? And how do we know that how we came to believe it is right? These fundamental epistemological questions form the heart of this book, arguing for how religious knowledge can (and cannot) be known. … Following Luther and Kierkegaard on the cross, Harvey argues one cannot truly know Christian truth without suffering, which leads us from restless despair to joyful hope in God. … Harvey offers an excellent crystallisation of many perspectives, well-kneaded into an illuminating discussion, ultimately highlighting the inescapably Christian character of Christian faith.
Aaron Edwards, University of Aberdeen, Divinity and Religious Studies, Alumnus