banner
 
The Epistolizer

  Home >> Blogs >> Lessons In Apologetics #2: Rationalism & Fideism

this user is offline now  epistolizer
Send message

Subscribe



Categories:
  Art & Photography
  Entertainment
  Religion & Philosophy
  News & Politics

Archive:
April 2020
March 2020
February 2020
January 2020
December 2019
November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002
January 2002

Who Gives Kudos:



 

   Friday, July 9, 2010

Lessons In Apologetics #2: Rationalism & Fideism

The next epistemological methodology is rationalism. Of rationalism, Geisler writes, "Rationalism is characterized by its stress on the innate a priori ability of human reason to know truth. Basically, rationalists hold that what is knowable or demonstrable by human reason is true (29)." To the rationalist, the mind takes precedence over experience and the information acquired through the senses as a foundation for truth and knowledge.

In a rationalist methodology, there exists in the mind a number of innate ideas or principles that allow the individual to arrive at an understanding of the universe. These include principles of logic such as the law of noncontradiction. It is from contemplation upon ideas generated through reflection upon such foundational principles that the thinker is able to postulate systems of truth in a manner reminiscent of mathematics and geometry.

For example, in his system, Descartes started from his "cogito, ergo, sum (I think, therefore I am)" as his ability to doubt was the one thing he could not doubt. From here, Descartes built a theistic proof.

Descartes begins this with the admission that, since he lacks knowledge, he is imperfect. However, to realize one is imperfect, one must have knowledge that perfection exists. Yet perfection cannot arise from within the imperfect. Therefore, there must be a perfect mind from which perfection originates and this is God (31).

An apologetic utilizing the rationalist approach possesses a number of strengths as well as drawbacks. As to its strengths, the rationalist method stresses a consistency of reality.

It follows that a rational God would create a universe that regularly operates in accord with verifiable laws that we as His creations would be able to arrive at through deliberative contemplation. As rationalists posit, the mind to an extent must possess some kind of mental architecture to process the jumble of sense experiences the individual is bombarded with almost constantly. Even Scripture indicates that part of man's knowledge regarding God and His character is innate as Romans says that even the Gentiles, who were not formally given the Law in the same direct manner as their Hebrew counterparts, still had many aspects of the Law written upon their hearts.

Despite the strengths of the rationalist approach to apologetics, the methodology is not without drawbacks. The foremost is the acknowledgement that it can be argued that the rationally consistent does not always translate into the realm of necessarily actual and does not provide the bedrock certainty its advocates claim. For example, regarding the ontological argument, Geisler notes, "But it is not logically necessary for a necessary Being to exist anymore than it is for a triangle to exist...But the point here is that there is no purely logical way to eliminate the 'if' (43)."

Of the next religious epistemology, fideism, Geisler writes, "In view of the fact that empiricism led to skepticism...and that rationalism cannot rationally demonstrate its first principles, fideism becomes a more reliable option in religious epistemology. Perhaps there is no rational or evidential way to establish Christianity (47)." Thus fideism holds that truth in religious matters rests on an accepting faith rather than a critical scrutiny.

As with the other methodologies, fideism comes in a variety shades. On its more moderate side, one finds Blaise Pascal. At the more extreme end of the spectrum, one would find the likes of Karl Barth.

As a fideist, one might find Pascal a bit subdued. Though one would assume reason had no place in fideism, Pascal did not dismiss rational appeals outright. He just did not build his foundation or case upon them. Of Pascal's position, Geisler writes, "A proof at best may be the instrument by which God places faith in one's heart (49)."

Thus, the real difference between Pascal and the rationalist was basically a differing estimation in what each thought reason could achieve. To the rationalist, the thinker is able to deduce their way to a logically irrefutable foundation for a belief in God. To Pascal, such proofs were not absolutely conclusive and the chasm separating doubt and certainty had to be crossed by a bridge of faith.

Since at best, in the mind of Pascal, the individual is left with a fifty/fifty chance regarding the existence of God, the matter did not come down to a dispassionate calculation but rather to a matter of personal existential destiny best summarized by his famous wager (49). According to this wager, if the odds as to whether or not God exists are about even, one is better off believing God exists and then be proven wrong since upon death you would merely pass out of existence than to say God does not exist and then be proven wrong upon death as then one would end up in Hell.

At the other end of fideism's spectrum stands the Neo-Orthodox such as Karl Barth. According to Barth, God is "wholly other" in that God can only be known through faith in revelation. Geisler summarizes Barth's position as such: "We do not know the Bible is God's Word by any objective evidence. It is a self-attesting truth (54)." Thus to the Barthian, the accounts contained in the Bible transpired on a plane beyond the parameters of objective, investigative history. One either accepts them by faith or one does not. Therefore, the believer does not have to answer and is immune from those such as the Higher Critics claiming to apply the rigors of scholarship to the scriptural texts in the hopes of either authenticating or discrediting these documents.

As with rationalism, fideism has both strengths and drawbacks. Fideists are to be commended for holding that the God of the Bible is much more than the God of mathematics. Though there is merit in the attempt to prove that belief in God does not violate reason and logic, there is a great danger in reducing God to the level of a distant first cause not all that interested in how human beings live their daily lives. Fidesits are also correct that ultimately, no matter how much evidence one might collect or how many syllogisms one might be able to deduce, one has to make a leap of faith over those gaps of doubt that remain no matter how small they might be.

Yet despite the strength of their methodology, it has shortcomings as well. Foremostly, fideism makes it very difficult to engage in a debate or discussion with someone holding to another worldview if one must accept a comprehensive system of faith solely by faith without evaluating between them with some agreed upon criteria. Geisler writes, "...either a fideist offers a justification for his belief or else he does not. If he does not, then as unjustified belief it has no rightful claim to knowledge (63)."

Source:

Geisler, Norman. "Christian Apologetics". Baker Academic, 1988.

by Frederick Meekins

Mood:
12:12 PM - 0 Comments - 0 Kudos - Add comment 

  Comments
 
|
|
|
|
|
 
Copyright © 2009 - 2012 True2ourselves. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission is prohibited.