Possibly the single most discussed development in philosophy of religion in the eighties has been the coming to prominence, through its advocacy by several fairly wellknown American writers, of what is usually termed ‘Reformed Epistemology’. Some have described it as an important new approach to the philosophy of religion but in fact, although in the hands of these writers it has acquired a particular form, it is by no means a completely novel approach and the writers in question associate themselves with a tradition that goes back through several influential philosophers and theologians of the past century or so to John Calvin and other leaders of the sixteenth century Reformation.
With a distinctive view of the nature of faith and knowledge there has been associated a particular kind of approach to education. This is well represented in the United States and Canada in movements to set up Reformed Christian schools and a number of the new independent Christian schools coming into existence in increasing numbers in Britain are also Reformed in their basic outlook.
This study is an attempt to develop three main themes of Reformed epistemology in order to see whether they constitute an adequate foundation for a coherent account of knowledge and faith and to examine their significance for educational theory. The study begins with a brief look into the writings of some philosophers who have advocated forms of Reformed epistemology and in whose work these themes can be identified. This is followed by more detailed study of each of the three themes in turn. The first of them is that belief in God may be properly basic in a rational structure of knowledge and belief. This is the theme that has received most attention in recent discussions, so much so that it has almost become synonymous for Reformed epistemology, and it will therefore receive fairly extended treatment in this study. However, the other themes, although neglected in recent discussions, would seem no less important and they too will be examined in their turn. They are that divine revelation can be selfauthenticating and that sin has noetic effects. Discussion of the second of these will focus upon what is often taken to be a particularly significant aspect of the effects of sin in the area of knowledge that of rational autonomy.
The study of educational issues will commence with an examination of the relationship between a Reformed Christian worldview and educational (or other) theory construction. This issue is related to a further theme of Reformed epistemology that of what has been termed ‘the pluralism of the academy’ whereby it is held that a person’s worldview shapes the products of his scholarship. Following this, some implications of the Reformed critique of autonomy for educational aims and methods and for discussions of the issue of indoctrination will be examined. This will lead into the final area for discussion: that of the issue of whether or not it is right or necessary to set up separate schools of Reformed Christian and other outlooks in our contemporary pluralist society.