By Elias Ayala (MDiv & M.A.T.)
Fideism within a religious context, is the position that argues that issues of faith and religion are not themselves based on reason. Indeed, on this position, religion is an issue of faith independent of reason. On fideism, one does not rationally argue for the truth of religion, rather, the person simply believes and that is it. Christians who understand religion in this fashion will often point to Hebrews 11:6 to support this claim: “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6). Of course, this position does not bode well for those who wish to engage in apologetics, since apologetics utilizes reason and argumentation to support belief in the truths of the Bible. Unfortunately, there are many Christians who think of religion in general and Christianity in particular in this fashion.
However, does the Bible really teach this idea of Fideism; this sort of blind faith commitment? It most definitely does not. First, we are encouraged within the Bible to use our reason and indeed the use of our reason is explicitly supported in scripture: “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord…” (Isaiah 1:18). The apostle Paul “reasoned” with the Jews of his day: “And Paul went in as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead…” (Acts 17:2-3). Notice that that Paul’s reasoning with them involved not only the use of reason, but explaining and proving from the scriptures why his position regarding Christ’s suffering and resurrection were true. The text also indicates that this was not a rare use of his time, indeed, it says “as was his custom”.
We also have multiple cases of Jesus himself arguing and debating with the Pharisees over the truth of some understanding of the scriptures. Often times Jesus argumentation was so powerful that it often left his opponents with nothing else to say. Because his disciples sought to follow in the footsteps of their teacher, the ministries of the apostles were filled with instances of using reason and argumentation to demonstrate some truth. Of course, we get the classic apologetics texts of 1 Peter 3:15 and Jude 1:3. In 1 Peter 3:15 believers are commanded to “always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us…” and to “contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 1:3). All of these biblical examples involved the use of reason and argumentation.
Examples could be multiplied but I think it is clear that the Bible does not support the idea of fideism. Rather, the Christian is commanded to rationally defend the truth of the Gospel and to “love the Lord your God with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). We honor God when we rationally defend his truth, and we dishonor God when we fail to obey this biblical mandate.