Is Faith a Path to Knowledge?

Evan Fales

Fales is Emeritus Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy, University of Iowa. His other works include “Truth, Tradition, and Rationality,” Philosophy of the Social Sciences 6, no. 2 (1976), “The Ontology of Social Roles,” Philosophy of the Social Sciences 7, no. 2 (1977), “Does Mystical Experience Justify Religious Belief? Do Mystics See God?,” in Contemporary Debates in the Philosophy of Religion, ed. Michael L. Peterson (Blackwell, 2003) and “Is a Science of the Supernatural Possible?,” in Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem, ed. Massimo Pigliucci and Maarten Boudry (Chicago, 2013). Works in progress: Reading Sacred Texts: Charity, Structure, Canon (GCRR Press).

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Article Information:

Author: Evan Fales

Title: "Is Faith a Path to Knowledge?"

Journal: Socio-Historical Examination of Religion and Ministry

Journal Issue: Volume 2, Number 1

Date: Spring 2020

Pages: 182-205



In this paper, I consider whether (religious) faith has any role to play in conferring positive epistemic status to (especially religious) beliefs. I outline several conceptions of faith that have been historically important within Western religious traditions. I then consider what role faith might be supposed to play, so understood, within the framework of internalist and externalist accounts of knowledge. My general conclusion is that, insofar as faith itself is a justified epistemic attitude, it requires justification and acquires that justification only through the regular faculties for contingent truths: sense perception and reason. I also argue, however, that the operations of our cognitive faculties in arriving at epistemic judgments on matters of substance are sufficiently complex, subtle, and often temporally prolonged, to make it exceptionally difficult to reconstruct the cognitive process and to judge whether it meets standards of rationality.


Keywords: Religious Faith, Epistemology, Knowledge, Justified Belief, Testimony, Prophecy, Mysticism, Miracles, Cognitive Faculties

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(footnote) Evan Fales, “Is Faith a Path to Knowledge?,” Socio-Historical Examination of Religion and Ministry 2, no. 1 (Spring 2020): 182‒205,

(bibliography) Fales, Evan. “Is Faith a Path to Knowledge?” Socio-Historical Examination of Religion and Ministry 2, no. 1 (Spring 2020): 182‒205.


Fales, Evan. “Is Faith a Path to Knowledge?” Socio-Historical Examination of Religion and Ministry, vol. 2, no. 1, Spring 2020,, pp. 182‒205.


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