Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Any Fault in Fideism?

In the very last paragraph, next to last sentence, of our book Thou Shalt Keep Them, I write: "The only Scriptural approach to the doctrine of the preservation of Scripture is the fideistic approach." I like the sound of fideistic versus evidentialistic or rationalistic, don't you? And yet, that seems to be the big problem in the critiques of Thou Shalt Keep Them. Michael Sproul on p. 340 of his book, God's Word Preserved, uses the terminology, "fideistic existentialism" (terms when googled together appeared one time), and on p. 380, Keith Gephart writes, "Strouse's position is based upon pure 'fideism.'" Then recently I read an article on presuppositional apologetics (what I believe) on Sharper Iron, that says, "How do we go about doing apologetics, defending Christianity, without . . . leaping into irrational fideism?" I don't know if the author meant that all fideism is irrational or that this is a particular type of fideism that is irrational. Most say that varying degrees of fideism (and here and here) exist, meaning that fideism is sometimes rational, not a leap in the dark. Our brand of fideism, what we call, well, fideism, is not bereft of rationale or logic.

We have heaps of evidence, historical and tangible, for the preservation of Scripture, including thousands of old manuscripts. Comparably, we have very little evidence for the original canonicity of Scripture, and yet we believe we have sixty-six books of the Bible. We get our position on preservation from Scripture (i.e., presuppositional apologetics), like those who wrote the London Baptist Confession (1677) of faith---"The Old Testament in Hebrew, (which was the Native language of the people of God of old) and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the Nations) being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and Providence kept pure in all Ages, are therefore authentical."

Is fideism bad? American Heritage Dictionary says that fideism is "reliance on faith alone rather than scientific reasoning or philosophy in questions of religion." I like that. On the other hand, here is the definition of "strict rationalism": "a type of reasoning which holds that in order for a belief system to be properly and rationally accepted, it must be possible to prove that the belief system is true (*)." I don't like that. Scott Moore at Baylor, with nothing to gain by bashing fideism, says that "fideism affirms the priority of faith (fides) over reason." That sounds good. Vladmiir Lenin said, "Contemporary fideism does not at all reject science, all it rejects is the 'exaggerated claims' of science, to wit, its claim to objective truth. If objective truth exists (as the materialists think), if natural science, reflecting the outer world in human 'experience,' is alone capable of giving us objecfive truth, then all fideism is absolutely refuted" (Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, Vol. XIII, p. 102). He didn't like it. Norman Geisler writes in Christian Apologetics (p. 56), "Fideism is not limited to nonevangelicals. Cornelius Van Til speaks from a strong Reformed, Biblical perspective theologically and yet in an absolute revelational presuppositionalism apologetically. As we shall see, this position may be viewed as methodological fideism." J. P. Moreland writes, I believe rightly, "Some version of fideism is the correct way to view faith at least in the sense that scientific reason or evidence cannot support or count against properly formed theological propositions" (here).

The Roman Catholics opposed and oppose it. This is one of the peculiarities of the Sproul critique of Thou Shalt Keep Them. He repeatedly attacked the book as Roman Catholic and as fideistic. Pope John Paul II in his Fides Et Ratio warned against "a resurgence of fideism, which fails to recognize the importance of rational knowledge and philosophical discourse for the understanding of faith, indeed for the very possibility of belief in God." Our book would be the rare, actually entirely unique, fideistic book that Catholics could approve (if what Sproul says is true). Sproul and John Paul II come together in opposition to fideism. Not good company. And I'm just the reporter, brethren.

From my perspective, fideism is the way to go. Some fellows get frosted over finding fideism. Me personally, I froth. I find fideism fits the formula to fulfill my fancies. Maybe you're fideistic too. Or you could at least foment some for a few before you join the fraternity. I'm finished. Farewell.


Ruth said...

WEll Pastor B, it appears to me..sorta "idealisism" way there are some words here.."realisticallyism" that could have a double-ism meaning if one isn't careful about the use of them....."cautiouslistically speaking"..And if I might ask Isn't "rational knowledge' kinda sorta..."oxymoronism"? philisophical discourse? Perhaps we need to go back to the "isms"..I was just getting the hangism of that word. I am sure this is good..it's the rationalism that escapes me..
Blessings from the Hill,

Even So... said...

About time someone opened up this can 'o worms.

Throwback 13 said...

* Or, as the country pastor would say:
* "Christianity is based on Faith. A book not based on faith is either not Christian or not Bible."

Todd Mitchell said...

Well written post. I agree with you. That line you quoted from SI was one I thought about responding to, but I just didn't have time.

Todd Mitchell said...

One qualification -- I'm not sure where you are on the "preservation of Scripture." I see your link to David Cloud, and I imagine you might be KJV or TR only. If so we would disagree on that, but I agree with you regarding fideism vs. presuppositionalism.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Todd. The apologetic issue relates to many doctrines. I imagine that you differ on other issues with men who you would not offer a disclaimer. This indicates the success of what I think is a propaganda campaign against the historic doctrine of the preservation of Scripture.

Adam said...

If JC were here today, I think he would say something like KISS. Keep it simple silly. Isn't faith enough? Perhaps attacking the substance (bible) rather than the method (ism) would be more beneficial for all of us... and perhaps end up supporting everyone's view.

Todd Mitchell said...

Your use of "historic" in "historic doctrine" seems to imply that a doctrine is more credible for its longevity.

Is that consistent with fideism?

Anonymous said...

Might I reference Kurt Gödel, the German mathematician who proved one can find truth that cannot be proved axiomatically. I.e. truth exists outside of reason. Somebody had to put it there!