Short audio post: fideism (too much reliance on faith)


This is an audio post version of some text last provided on my thekingpin68 blog in October 2008.

I will add some further comments within the audio.

Thanks. The short mps3 audio post is below and I provide some of the related text.



Blackburn writes that fideism takes a pessimistic view concerning the role of reason for achieving divine knowledge. The emphasis is instead on the merits of acts of faith. Blackburn (1996: 139).

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy


'The term itself derives from fides, the Latin word for faith, and can be rendered literally as faith-ism.'

'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 that reason is unnecessary and inappropriate for the exercise and justification of religious belief.'

According to R.K. Johnston, fideism is a term used by Protestant modernists in Paris in the late 19th century. It is often used as a pejorative term to attack various strands of Christianity as forms of irrationalism. Johnston (1999: 415).

Johnston explains that the concept of fideism has little value as most theologians would not deny the use of reason. The term fideism is useful when it describes an excessive emphasis upon the subjective aspects of Christianity. Johnston (1999: 415).

My propositions/premises:

Fideism can be religious and non-religious

It appears to me that many persons with both religious and non-religious worldviews at times concerning certain subjects are fideists. They operate with an over reliance on faith, as they rely heavily on the understanding of their own worldview and perspective at the expense of other views and evidence which may challenge their own ideas.

Fideism in an unorthodox fashion could be defined as faith over reason in the rejection of religious truth.

The my team is best (comfort as truth) approach is problematic

To use figurative language, just because someone is born onto the green team, or has had an intellectual and/or emotional experience with the green team and joined it, does not make the green team the team with the most truth in comparison to the blue, red, yellow, black, or white teams, etc.

Whether or not the green team is essentially correct in worldview is dependent on reason and evidence, and faith can be involved.

Faith has its place

I am not against faith. Christianity is dependent on reasonable faith, as God revealed himself historically through scribes, prophets, apostles and Christ himself. This took place over 1500 years and through various persons and in various regions. It was documented in Scripture and individual books were copied many times. There was also oral tradition. Christianity also relies on philosophy, as in, for example, the concept of first cause, and archaeology to verify that places described in the Bible actually existed as described.

There is not complete objectivity

I do not claim complete objectivity. In many ways we are made up of what we read, hear, and experience. But, in a sense all things are intellectually up for grabs, and up for intellectual challenge. We hold the primary doctrines of Christianity as essential and they can be defended well with Bible, theology and philosophy and at times other disciplines. We trust that God has revealed himself and is guiding his own through the Holy Spirit.

Lack of significant objectivity is intellectually deadly

In a fideistic approach human beings that insist something must be true will likely find an intellectual way for it to be true, no matter what the evidence. One should make as certain as possible that evidence is guiding one to conclusions concerning truth. Being guided by God in the process of finding truth is of course of primary importance.


I would therefore conclude that proper reasonable religious philosophy needs a heavy dose of rational thought that works with faith. In other words, it presents itself reasonably in order that more faith is warranted.

An example would be the documented Biblical, historical resurrection of Christ that is clearly presented in Scripture. It lends itself (1 Corinthians 15) to the theological concept that believers shall likewise one day too be resurrected within a reasonable faith.

BLACKBURN, SIMON (1996) Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

JOHNSTON, R.K.(1996) ‘Fideism’, in Walter A. Elwell (ed.) Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Grand Rapids, Baker Books.

Magic Island, Hawaii

Classic video revisited with more explanation

I saw this on the Tonight Show. Staged.


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