It’s been a while. I guess the weather has just been too nice or something. There’s nothing like learning a new word to give me something to write. My wife thinks these words make me sound arrogant, but I’ve read that most congresspersons have only a 10th grade vocabulary, so I’ll take the risk. Apparently our lack of vocabulary isn’t getting us anywhere!
The word “fideism” is only interesting to me because this past week I had a couple of conversations about the role of evidence as it pertains to Christianity. One was with a group of adults who had a lot to say over 1.5 hours about evidence and how it builds trust/faith. It was a fun conversation. The other was with a group of mostly Jr High kids, who seemed to meet the question with mostly blank stares. They’re the ones that concern me the most, since this is about the age of my own kids now. I’m concerned we’re letting our kids down, teaching them to be fideists, because that’s what we are.
The word fideism comes from the Greek word fides, which simply means “faith”. So fideism is simply faithism. In short, it is the idea that faith and reason are contrary to one another, and that faith is the better mechanism for arriving at real truths. I find this absurd. It seems clear to me that Christian faith and reason are complimentary. In fact, Christianity in general has a long tradition of appealing to both physical and spiritual evidence. Personally, I cringe when I hear Christians say that we just need “simple” faith. I don’t think classical Christianity has ever been a simple faith other than the fact that aligns itself nicely with the reality we observe around us. Doctrines of other religions (including anti-theism in my opinion) require you shut off your mind and ignore evidence in order to accept them. Somewhere along the way after the Enlightenment, Christians got the idea that reason was at war with faith, so it was best to “just have faith”. This certainly wasn’t true for the Jesus, the Apostles, or early church leaders. They spent vast amounts of time reasoning with people and defending the rationality of their faith. We should be no different.
I love evidence, and I love that Christianity, in my opinion, is reasonable and evidential. History, archaeology, theology, science, philosophy…it can all be leveraged to support the claims of the Biblical narrative God->Man->Fall->Jesus->Resurrection = Salvation. This gives me proper justification for my belief, rather than just having blind faith, or faith based primarily on certain feelings like LDS missionaries have encouraged me to put over external evidence rather than in combination with external evidence. On the contrary, I think belief without evidence is foolishness! If a person says they know something, but can’t say why they know it, I can’t see why I would believe them. I’d guess pretty much every worldview out there can present a membership who “feel” that they’re correct. I can no more accept that fideism is a proper epistemological theory than is the scientism professed by today’s new atheists. Both views are deficient. Faith needs evidence, and evidence, or rather the conclusions drawn from evidence, need faith. Any scientist that tells me this isn’t so, must prove to me scientifically that science works!
We all have faith in something, it’s merely a matter of whose faith is more rational. If you can’t explain to somebody why you’ve placed your faith in something, whether it is Jesus, Buddha, Allah, science, etc, then you can’t actually claim to know anything. We must get to know God, and teach our kids to know God . We need to renew our minds(Romans 12:2), not shut them off. We need to be prepared to give a reason for our hope (1 Peter 3:15)! Blind belief is just fideism. This is why kids are walking away from the Church in droves when friends and college professors present their arguments for why all religions are the same…simple fairytales to explain former gaps in science. We’ve got to train ourselves and our kids why it is we have good reason to believe Christianity is true. Fideism isn’t acceptable. If you think it is, don’t be surprised if you, your kids, or your grandkids end up buying ocean front property in Arizona (or some magic golden tablets in upstate New York). Fideism makes me barf.