Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Meaning of Fideism, the Preservation of Scripture, and King James Only

When people don't believe in hell, why don't they believe in hell?  Scientific studies don't show hell exists.  There is no empirical evidence for hell.  You can't tunnel somewhere or take a ship somewhere to find it.  I don't know of any expeditions in the works or future digs to find hell.

Hell is eternal torment.  Even annihilation, the belief of some, is preferable.  I think most would say far preferable.  It's so horrible, hell, that the invention of a kind of holding tank for hell, purgatory, was invented as an alternative.  Except scripture doesn't teach annihilation or purgatory.  They might make sense to someone, but they aren't in the Bible.  We believe in hell, what it actually is, because of what the Bible says.  That's all we've got for it.  It's fideistic -- no empirical evidence, against human reasoning, just based on scripture alone.

The hardest things to believe require faith.  You can believe some easy things that don't seem like they are faith.  I believe sin is destructive.  That's not hard.  I can see it.  The Bible teaches it, but it's not hard to believe.  Some you just believe, even though it's hard, and that's how you know you're operating by faith.  I agree that scripture has to teach it, but you believe it anyway.  Someone can be weak in faith and believe all the easiest things to believe.  The hard things to believe are also usually where the faith is attacked the most.

God told Noah to build an ark.  He had never seen it rain.  Everyone in the world was against him.  He just built it and kept building it.  Evangelism is like that for me.  I just keep preaching the gospel.  People are not believing it.  I still talk about it like it's the greatest thing ever.  It's pretty great, maybe the greatest thing ever.  I'm basing it totally on the Bible, not my reasoning and not based upon empirical evidence.

Instead of preaching the gospel today, I see marketing, which is more empirical and makes more sense as a strategy.  It's what happens when someone moves outside of faith, fideism.  Offering small toys or a gift for coming takes almost no faith, but it's where evangelicalism and fundamentalism are at.  I can go to a local evangelical church, bring the ad, and get a free gift (not salvation)!  That's instead of evangelism.  This is what you get when people are not living by faith.  There's evidence that it works.

Everything I believe doesn't have to make sense to me.  I figure it will make more sense at some future date.  For instance, the Trinity doesn't make sense to Jehovah's Witnesses, so they reject it.  As a result, they're lost.  Sad, huh?  How hard is it to believe the Trinity?  It's something that you've got to believe with nothing to see.  Is that fideistic?  In other words, you believe it just because of God's revelation.  There isn't anything historical or archaeological to that.

I claim that the perfect preservation position is fideism.  Mike Harding said, "Fideism is not Faith."  Why not?  Fide is Latin for "faith."  In a way, I don't care if something is fideistic.  I care that it is biblical, because the Bible is the basis of faith, but I do think that reason messes people up on this one.  I'm saying that faith bypasses our lying eyes.  With God there is no shadow of turning.  It's something just dependent on scripture, and you just believe it without something in the nature of total back-up in history and observation.  I'm not saying there's nothing, because I believe there is something always in history, but it's a real test of faith.  Everyone.  Everyone who is truly a Christian practices this sort of faith to hold to a lot of what he believes.  A lot.

Here's what the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says about "fideism."  I'm not trying to make anything up.
“What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” (246) This question of the relation between reason—here represented by Athens—and faith—represented by Jerusalem—was posed by the church father Tertullian (c.160–230 CE), and it remains a central preoccupation among contemporary philosophers of religion. 
“Fideism” is the name given to that school of thought—to which Tertullian himself is frequently said to have subscribed—which answers that faith is in some sense independent of, if not outright adversarial toward, reason. In contrast to the more rationalistic tradition of natural theology, with its arguments for the existence of God, fideism holds—or at any rate appears to hold (more on this caveat shortly)—that reason is unnecessary and inappropriate for the exercise and justification of religious belief. The term itself derives from fides, the Latin word for faith, and can be rendered literally as faith-ism. “Fideism” is thus to be understood not as a synonym for “religious belief,” but as denoting a particular philosophical account of faith’s appropriate jurisdiction vis-a-vis that of reason.
If you look at a definition of rationalism.  It seems the opposite of fideism.  Is the right view actually some combination of rationalism and fideism?  I think of a couple of verses that make the point of this post relating to faith.  Romans 4:19-21 and John 20:29. 
19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara's womb: 20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; 21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. 
29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. 
Douglas Groothuis in Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith contends (p. 72),
I will neither presuppose Christianity is true apart from the need for positive evidence (fideism, presuppositionalism or Reformed epistemology) or suppose that by amassing legions of historical facts we can convince someone of Christian truth (evidentialism). Rather, I will offer a variety of arguments that verify or confirm the Christian worldview as superior to its rivals, thus showing that Christianity alone makes the most sense of the things that matter most.
Groothius says fideism is presuppositionalism and Reformed epistemology versus evididentialism.

C. Stephen Evans in Faith Beyond Reason (pp. 17-19) classifies famed presuppositionalist Cornelius Van Til as an irrational fideist.  Then Evans also classifies Alvin Plantinga as a responsible fideist (pp. 41-47).  In a Dictionary of Christian Theology (p. 129), Alan Richardson defined it as “a pejorative term."  Even though I think people should claim fideism in a legitimate way, and it shouldn't be considered poisonous as a label, it is very often weaponized to deligitimize a biblical belief and teaching.

Fideism rests on the self-authentication of scripture.  The Bible bears evidence within itself of its own divine origins.  I've talked a lot about this on this blog (here and here and here).

I'm not saying reason is not involved.  You believe the Bible.  The Bible itself is true.  What God says is true, so you just believe it.  This is the tripping point of the rationalist and those who mock fideism.

In order to discredit fideism, I've read people who have misdefined it or given it their definition for their own purpose, to make it seem like a bad thing.  They do this at great destructive detriment to faith and to the faith.  I read an example that said that the fideism of perfect preservationism is believing that the ark is still frozen on Mount Ararat.  One can believe that, but that doesn't mean it is biblical faith.  I agree with that example, but it isn't what fideism is.  Fideism is the simple idea that we get our faith from God's revelation.  He said it, so we believe it.  That leaves the Bible as final authority for what we believe, which is unlike the critical text crowd.  They do not start with scripture.  They don't even rely on scripture for their position at all.

In a comment at SharperIron, Tyler Robbins told the world that I believe that the very words of God are found in 1598 Beza.  You will not find my having said that in any place in the world.  I've never said that.  It's close to what I believe, but what I do believe is that God's words have been preserved and available for every generation of believers.  1598 Beza, I believe, is very close.  I say that it is essentially Beza, and that should be easy to understand if you look at Scrivener's  annotated Greek New Testament.  He has all the words of all the textus receptus there.

Every word of God was available to every generation of believers before the English King James translation.  They translated from something and all five Beza editions existed before that (1556, 1565, 1582, 1589, and 1598).  Robert Stephanus had four editions before the King James Version (1546, 1549, 1550, and 1551).  My position, like the Westminster divines of the 17th century, is that the original manuscripts of the Bible are not distinct from the copies in possession.  What is an error in one copy is corrected in another.  The words are available.  You don't believe in preservation if you believe there is no settled text and that the text is in ongoing need of restoration.  You don't believe what scripture says about preservation if you believe that.  Scripture is evidence.


Lance said...

Presuppositionalists (Reform Theologians) do not like your (and my) definition of Fideism, which is a dictionary definition of the word. They give Fideism a philosophical definition.

There has been an historic antagonism against the Word of God and against Fideism since the fall of Satan and the corruption of humanity. Fideism is the understanding that the only way to objectively know and understand eternity and spiritual realities is through faith. The only way Fideism can possibly be objective is through God’s inerrant and inspired Words preserved by Him down through the centuries. Apart from God’s preserved inspired Words, faith in anything spiritual is reduced to ambiguous guess work and pontificating postulations – Theory-ology!

Real faith (Fideism) is not a blind leap into the darkness. Real faith is a blind leap into the light!

Terry Basham, II said...


Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Lance.

Kent Brandenburg said...


I'm not sure what your beliefs are on this subject, but I'm guessing that you don't agree with Wallace on this issue. At least he's honest about what he believes though.

Bill Hardecker said...

Conservative evangelicals and historic fundamentalists have no problem standing on the Scriptures alone for their apologetic on the inspiration of the Holy Bible. They got the doctrine of inspiration down pat. Inspiration is recognized, received, yea even canonized. But where may we find their doctrine of preservation? It is virtually non-existent. Many (dare I say all) modern evangelical/fundamental Systematic Theology textbooks contain next to nothing. Differing from systematic theology but nonetheless systematic in their theology, The historic confessions recognizes the preservation of Scriptures.

The Westminster COF, 1646: "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;" [The online edition that I saw cited Matt. 5:18]

The Savoy Declaration, 1658: "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 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;"

The Second London Baptist COF, 1689: "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 authentic;" [the online edition that I saw cited 11 Bible verses as evidence for this paragraph].

the Bible itself in a pervasive manner discloses both of its inspiration and preservation.

What value is there of inspiration if it isn't kept pure in all ages?

I am guessing the influence of rationalism has taken hold of myriads of Biblical scholars (so much so as to see virtually nothing about preservation in many Systematic Theology textbooks). And the depravity of man has rendered his reasoning (apart from God's grace) incapable of sufficiently constructing his beliefs on anything objective.

When I first heard of fideism, I was a Roman Catholic high-school student trying to learn about apologetics. Fideism was described to me as "faith in faith" and I was taught that this view leads to futility. Of course, now, as a Christian, I realize that faith is all we have. I still bristle at the term so I prefer presuppositionalism or Scripturalism.

The canonicity of the Scriptures (also) is a matter of faith. The finest Biblical scholars have no problem ascribing to faith the matter of canonization (ex. F.F. Bruce, M. H. Franzmann, H.N. Ribberbos, Carson-Moo-Mooris "it was not so much that the church selected the canon as that the canon selected itself" (in their famous An Intro. to the N.T.); Richard Gaffin).

I see evangelicals and fundamentalists assert inspiration and canonization but not preservation. What good are inspiration and canonization without preservation? This is what makes TSKT valuable. It is a Biblical theology of the doctrine of preservation. The men of God explains what the Bible teaches about its own preservation. Folks need to read it, not because of what men say, but because it clearly delineates what the Bible says, and we should be interested in what the Bible says - more than what others say about it.

The Preacher said...

"Real faith (Fideism) is not a blind leap into the darkness. Real faith is a blind leap into the light!"

That is an EXCELLENT biblical insight. Well said.


The Preacher said...

"I see evangelicals and fundamentalists assert inspiration and canonization but not preservation."

You do not need preservation if you understand "all scripture is given by inspiration". I do not need to know what was, but what is. It is obviously implied and reasonable to understand that if the body of Christ believes today that the very words of God are found in the Holy King James Bible, then it is also true that throughout previous generations God preserved his words, for if it were not true then the Holy Ghost was not present in the body of Christ in the past. That would be shear nonsense and about as dumb as it gets!

The Holy King James Bible which is inspired did not fall down from heaven, but rather "holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" in the past is made apparent by the present (the biblical teaching of the inspiration of God). If you cannot know for sure today, you will never know looking in the past! That has proven itself over and over and over again by the fact that after 200+ translations, not one of them is believed to be inspired scripture! And who is the author of confusion?

Therefore, it is inspiration and not preservation that must be believed. It must be this way, "For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him".


Bill Hardecker said...

I don't think that a blind leap into the light is an excellent Biblical insight. Faith isn't blind. Faith isn't a blind leap, neither. Heb. 11:1 is excellent Biblical insight, and it doesn't define nor describe faith in those terms.

Preservation is a Bible doctrine. You need it. I need it. The Bible teaches it and that alone makes it essential. It must be believed. Preservation is a corollary to Inspiration.

Can you take a criticism? Your position on Inspiration and Preservation (which is also nill), isn't faith. It appears something more of a blind leap.

Lance said...

Autopisticism (Fideism) accepts the Bible as the inspired, preserved Words of God by faith without any other evidence to that reality. Therefore, faith initially begins with a blind leap in ignorance into the Word of God (into the Light). Faith increases and opens the eyes of the person who is blind and ignorant as he begins to read, study, understand, and know what he first simply accepts by faith as the Words of God (Romans 10:17).

Lance said...

Brother Brandenburg,

This is your blog, and I do not mean to interfere, but you may want to discuss the objectivity of normal Textual Criticism and the subjectivity of Eclectic Textual Criticism. In the comments on Sharper Iron, and other places, there is no distinctions being made between these methodologies.

The Preacher said...


"Preservation is a biblical doctrine"

It depends how you see preservation. The root word is "preserve" and every time it is used in the bible (29 times) it always in context to uphold, sustain, to keep, to save from decay (Genesis 19:32 / 45:5, Deuteronomy 6:24, Psalm 32:7, Proverbs 4:6 / 14:3, etc.).

The most direct implication to the scriptures is Psalm 12:7, "Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever."

The context is in v6, the words of the Lord, therefore by faith I believe those words are upheld, sustained and kept from decay in the Holy King James Bible.

That is not blind faith, but rather biblical faith. I believed, like so many that I know, that the King James Bible is given by inspiration (that is what the bible teaches) before I knew anything about its preservation.

If that is not true, then where are all the words of God found?