A few weeks ago following a worship service, I had an opportunity to speak with a potential member for our Ratio Christi club at the University of Mary Washington. The conversation moved from discussing Ratio Christ toward a discussion concerning her spiritual beliefs and convictions. Talk about a divine appointment. She was at church for the first time in a long time, and considered herself a seeker; but not really a Christian in the biblical sense. This particular morning, she had come to church as a way of her investigating the Christianity of her father. After a conversation and sharing with her about her need for Christ, her father listening in, thanked me and told me that he had been talking to her about her spiritual condition for some time. We both agreed that our conversation was truly a divine appointment being the first day back in a church and her openness to the subject matter of her spiritual condition.
The conversation between this gal’s Dad and myself carried out into the open area coffee bar, where I had the chance to introduce Dad and daughter to Ratio Christi at the University of Mary Washington. As my conversation continued with the Dad, we started talking about how 75-88% of the kids coming out of Christian homes are walking away from their faith during the first or second years of university and that we were on the campus to show how Christianity has great reasons for believing it to be true. So I can get into the crux of this essay I was surprised to hear “Dad” tell me that we don’t need any reasons, “I just believe Christianity is true.”
Here is a Dad, with his daughter, who is investigating Christianity, the faith of her father. And here is a college student, who is finding it difficult to navigate her biology core, and needing help with some answers to why she should believe that Christianity is true. The dilemma here is a father who is concerned about his daughter, and does not believe that Christianity needs reasons for believing why his daughter should believe it to be true. Well, I respectfully disagreed with him and asked him some “what if” questions, like:
“What if you were confronted by one embracing Islam and you told them ‘I just believe’ how do you think that would go?” Or “what if you were confronted by one of the groupies of the new atheism and told them that, what do you think would happen?” And lastly, “what if they had convincing ‘evidence’ to embrace their ideology, and they were to rattle your belief, how would that hold up, ‘I just believe?’” His response was disturbing, “I don’t know, I just believe.”
Believe what? Why do you believe what you do if you do not have a reasons to believe it? Folks this is what is being called by many of my colleagues and mentors in apologetics as the new fideism in the church. Really it is not new, as it has been around for a long time.
What is fideism you ask? Digging back into some of my resources, one being an outline I put together years ago on fideism from Norman Geisler’s Christian Apologetics book, I am convinced that this view which says, “I just believe” is seemingly the extreme opposite of the empiricism which led to skepticism in Hume. To support this, I find Dr. Geisler posing the following question,
Does truth in religion then rest solely on faith and not on a reasoning process ? Those who hold to this kind of blind leap of faith answer this question with a resounding “Yes.
Since the philosophy of rationalism failed to demonstrate its first principles, this kind of fideism becomes a more viable (so called) option for their religious epistemology. Therefore the crux of fideism proper tells us that truth rests solely on faith and not a reasoning process. Just simply believe in spite of the evidence. This is the key to this anti intellectual response, “I just believe.”
Exposing the Reality of Blind Faith
Fideists confuse epistemology (the branch of philosophy concerned with questions about knowledge and belief and related to the issues such as justifying how and what we know and truth ) and ontology. (Ontology deals with being and the equivalent of metaphysics ). They think that since I have faith, that is all I need to know and what I need to know. But faith must also have a starting point, when it comes to knowing how I know what I know, so that I might place my faith in what is ontologically real.
Fideists fail to clearly distinguish “belief in” versus “belief that” there is a God. I believe in God. But that is not the same as I believe that there is a God. The former deals with my direct belief in a being who is uncreated, infinite, transcendent and yet imminent, infinite in all His attributes, uncaused, and the first Cause of all we see in the general revelation, vis-à-vis creation. The latter is just a general statement, like “Sure I believe that there is a God.” There is no object of my belief in that statement. In other words, there is no clear differentiation between the basis of belief in God (the location or object of that belief) and the support or warrant for the object or direction that belief.
If you can’t know with certainty, how can you know what to have faith in? One cannot have a biblical faith if they don’t know in whom or what they are placing their faith.
Ripping Away the Blindfold.
By way of reflecting on conversations with fellow apologists at the recent National Christian Apologetics Conference, one thing is for certain. This “I just believe” ideology This “I just believe” kind of faith is a real form of cognate dissonance. Cognate dissonance is about believing something without examining it to be true. To give you an example, let’s say I were to ask someone, “Do you own a house?” They respond with “Yes, I do.” I then ask another question, “What is the address?” Their response is, “I am not sure.” Does this make sense?
Me: Can you give a reason why you believe why Christianity is true?”Sir/Ma’am: ”I don’t know, I just believe it’s true.Me (cutting to the chase): Can you prove where you live if I were the bank asking you for proof in order to approve your car loan? Can you prove to me where you live?
Let me say, that this is one of the biggest roadblocks for apologetics in the church and apologetics in the milieu of discipleship. Perhaps we should just turn the fideistic believing folks over to the skeptics to see them “get crushed.” As frustrating as it is, I can’t allow myself to be silent on this issue. I will try the aforementioned analogy to see how it goes. For those of you reading this article, let me encourage you to use it or some other similar analogy that might speak the person you are dialoguing with in your setting.
Anti-intellectualism abounds, and we as apologists need to keep our boots on the ground and “stay alert, alive and oriented” to the wiles of the enemy in the church. That’s right, I believe that this “I just believe” response is being used by the enemy of the church to draw and dumb down the saints for the coming delusion.
Let us lovingly stand vigilant and continue in this warfare, not walking in the flesh but with the gospel in focus, and ready to tear down the speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” our Lord and Redeemer.
This was originally posted here