Theological Rationalism, and de Facto & de Jure Objections.

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Alvin Plantinga, John O’Brien Professor of Philosophy Emeritus, University of Notre Dame.

1. Theological Rationalism.

Theological/Theistic Rationalism (also called evidentialism) is simply the  the view that faith, in order to be rational, must be based on argument and evidence. It essentially focuses on three elements: religion, Christianity and rationality. According to the theological rationalist it is rationalism that is the dominant element. The theological rationalist believes that reason, rationality, and religious belief are compatible. With that he would hold prayer to be efficacious (1). The Christian rationalist will also appeal to theistic arguments such as the Kalam Cosmological Argument, Jesus’ resurrection etc. to ground his belief in reason.

2. de Facto & de Jure Objections.

Prominent theistic philosopher Alvin Plantinga’s view on religious epistemology has him distinguishing between what he calls de facto and de jure objections to Christian belief. Planting explains:

“De facto objections are relatively straightforward and initially uncomplicated: the claim is that Christian belief must be false (or at any rate improbable), given something or other we are all alleged to know. De jure objections, by contrast… are much less straightforward. The conclusion of a [de jure] objection will be that there is something wrong with Christian belief – something other than falsehood – or else something wrong with the Christian believer: it or she is unjustified, or irrational, or rationally unacceptable, in some way” (2).

Thus the de facto objection is one that is aimed at the truth of the Christian faith through trying to demonstrate that Christian truth claims are false whereas a de jure objection attempts to undermine Christian belief even if Christianity is, in fact, true. Plantinga essentially 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.


1. Smith, G. 2006. “George Washington and Providential Agency” in Faith and the Presidency: From George Washington to George W. Bush. p. 25–26.

2. Alvin Plantinga quoted by Michael Vowell in Warranted Christian Belief. Available.



  1. I’d be interested to know if, considering Plantinga’s claim of warranted Christian belief, that all de jure objections can be ruled out a-priori?

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