What is Fideism?
Question: “What is Fideism?”
Answer: Fideism is the idea that religious faith and reason are incompatible with each other. It is the view that religious faith is separate from reason and cannot be reconciled with it. According to fideism, faith involves a degree of absolute certainty and personal commitment that goes beyond what can be rationally justified. Therefore, one cannot and should not seek evidence for religious belief.
A Christian who embraces the philosophy of fideism would say that the rational and scientific arguments for God are irrelevant because the essence of true Christianity is that people are saved by faith alone. Man’s rational abilities have been corrupted by sin and are untrustworthy, and the truths taught in Scripture must be believed even if they cannot be supported through logic or reason. In the simplest terms, it is the belief that if one could prove the existence of God, then faith would not be necessary or relevant.
Many of the earlier writings on fideism came about as a response to the increasing reliance on human reasoning that was made popular by rationalism. One of the early advocates of fideism was the Danish philosopher Soren Aaby Kierkegaard (1813-1855). He believed that because faith is characterized by absolute certainty and passionate personal commitment, it can never be supported by reason.
To substantiate his view of the relationship of faith and reason, Kierkegaard put forth three arguments, the first of which is the Approximation Argument. According to Kierkegaard, arguments can never prove things with absolute certainty because it is always possible that the evidence to support the argument has been misinterpreted, or that an error in reasoning has occurred. He believed that since faith requires absolute certainty, which cannot be attained through rational argument, then faith must always go beyond the evidence, and, therefore, it cannot be supported by reason.
His second argument was the Postponement Argument. This argument is based on his belief that there is always the possibility of new data or evidence that will invalidate previous conclusions. Therefore if we were to base our faith on rational scientific investigation, we would have to wait forever until all the data is in. In order to have the certainty that faith demands, one must choose to believe what cannot be acquired from scientific investigation…
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