On Fideism

Fideism is an apologetic method that seeks to protect faith by means of intellectual insulation and isolation. Douglas Groothuis in his book of Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith asserts that fideism consists in various forms but essentially tries to “make belief a self-certifying and self-enclosed reality that needs no intellectual fortification from the classical arsenal of apologetics.” Fideists believe that because faith is a divine gift that serves as channel or means through which one approaches and understands God, human reasoning cannot establish the validity of any religion. Some fideists also believe that sin is so entrenched within the human mind that any rational attempt is retarded by sin’s effect. Fideism seems to still linger within the Church today. Anytime someone says, “Well, you just gotta have faith and believe it. You don’t need evidence or reason. Just have faith.” in response to real, meaningful questions, fideism is rearing its ugly head.

Fideism obviously disagrees with classical apologetics on the role of reason. Though sin has affected every part of humanity, the image of God still persists (Gen. 9:5-6; Psa. 8; 1 Cor. 11:7) and serves as the foundation for using reasoning within apologetic discourse. Scripture also repeatedly asserts that God has revealed himself within the natural world around humanity (Psa. 19:1-6; Acts 14:15-17). Humanity is judged for their rejection of revelation within nature (Rom. 1:18-23). The passage itself uses words of cognition which assumes that one can correctly interpret things about the nature of God from creation. Classical apologetics also disagrees on the role that arguments can serve in bringing people to Christ. Though faith is a gift of God (Eph. 2:8), believers are still commanded to answer questions about their faith (1 Pet. 3:15). Apologetic reasoning could be used by God as the means to bestow the gracious gift of faith to the potential believer. Classical apologetics seems to build a case from the ground up whereas fideism excuses itself from building anything that resembles a coherent defense of belief.

Fideists may defend their view by providing ample biblical support for the idea that sin has tainted every part of humanity’s existence. The system however is self-defeating. One simply cannot support the statement “you can’t think about stuff like this because of your sinful mind” because it seems to use reason itself. “You can’t think about stuff like this because of your sinful mind” with a completely sinful mind that is devoid of reason! Can one read Scripture and understand truth or does that require a God-granted gift of understanding? I suppose that fideists could also appeal to their own intellectual experience of coming to Christ and the limited role that arguments contributed in that process. There are hundreds though who could supply their own testimonies and describe how apologetics was a meaningful way they understood the truths of Christ more thoroughly. Some fideists may think it dishonors God’s revelation in Christ by appealing to natural theology. Doug Groothuis criticizes fideism by pointing out the vital and necessary role of logic, discussing the issues of reason and general revelation, and mentioning the value arguments have had in others’ lives.

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