Philosopher William Alston died peacefully in his home in Jamestown New York on 13 September 2009 aged 87; he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just a week earlier.
Many of my readers will not know but Alston was one of the leading contemporary Christian Philosophers of the last fifty years. I discovered his writings while studying philosophy at the University of Waikato and have always found his discussions to be perceptive and insightful. Alongside others such as Plantinga and Wolterstorff, Alston was one of my early Philosophical heroes and continues to be so.
He wrote several excellent works in the area of epistemology and later turned his talents to contributing to the emergence of the Reformed Epistemology movement, which argues that belief in God can, in certain contexts, be properly basic: justified in the absence of any inference or argument for theism’s truth. Alston developed these insights in his ground breaking work Percieving God where he defended the rational status of mystic and religious experience, arguably one of the most significant discussions of the epistemology of religious experience since William James.
Alston published several important essays on religious language; critiques of the problem of evil, an excellent defence of the concept of divine action in the world, an interesting discussion on divine command theories of ethics and an inspiring spiritual auto-biography on his conversion to Christianity is published in God and the Philosophers: The Reconciliation of Faith and Reason.
Alston’s work has influenced the current generation of Philosophers of Religion including, William Row, Alvin Plantinga, Robert Audi, George Mavrodes, William Wainwright, Daniel Howard-Snyder (who has on-line both a biography of Prof. Alston and a bibliography of his writings) and a number of others.
Alston will be sorely missed. May he rest in peace. May the grace and peace of God be with his family and friends.
Hat tip: Christian Theist