Friday, December 21, 2007

It's called "Fideism", Phil...

Phil Johnson is playing the part of an Orwell character over at TeamPyro. In this post, part of a series on the John MacArthur book "Truth War", Phil wonders how "vital" truth is, and has this to say:

Phil Johnson:
So give him a look like, "Huh?" and remind him that the position you are defending has historically been associated with a point of view that is known for its militant opposition to modernism. Then ask if he understands what "modernism" is.
The irony. What's that pre-modern position called Phil? What's the underlying epistemology you're espousing, here?

Phil goes on, and lets us know how clever he is by zooming right past modernity when talking to post-moderns, and scoffing at their assumptions about his "modern", foundational epistemology. Not so fast, pomos! Phil's not even reached a modern epistemology, something he's quite proud of, even as schedules his next flight on a modern jet, and posts on his modern laptop, relieved from his cold by modern medicine.

Phil Johnson:
He'll most likely respond with a condescending look and tell you in an exasperated tone that—while this all is probably far too complicated for you to understand—you have naively bought into foundationalist epistemology; your worldview has recently been totally discredited; and you need to acquire some epistemic humility.
I don't think there's any problem with complexity here, or mental horsepower. What's in play here is dishonesty and intransigence. Why not just be honest about your fideism, Phil? You eschew epistemology as a discipline. It isn't that you are epistemologically arrogant so much as that you think you are above the discussion of knowledge in the first place.

I'll skip down to the end -- it's just Phil, safe behind his administrative controls, dissembling about the problems of post-modern epistemology. Now post-modern epistemology is problematic; even post-moderns will tell you that. Modernism is fraught with tensions, too. But these are both advanced fighter jets compared to the trike Phil's peddling around, complaining about the comparative weakness of the others.

Here's his finish:
Phil Johnson:
I don't think there's a fancy name for the view of knowledge the Reformers and other biblically-oriented Protestants held, other than "basic Christianity." Call it "Calvinism" if you like. Or you can label it "the Proverbs 1:7 view" to be even more accurate.
"Fideism", Phil. Why not just call it what it is, epistemically?


Anonymous said...

uh, I don't think Calvinism is fideism, d00d. I don't know why you even bother to read those blogs, the way you post here (some of it here is good). Fideism to me means something like 'blind faith'. No reason to believe, just believe anyway.point Calvinism has the Bible to to, right? I haven't read that blog, but what do you think you are going to get for response from the posters there???

Actually, reading a few of the comments, maybe some of them are fideists.


Touchstone said...


Maybe fideism is overloaded as a term? "Fideism" means to me the primacy of faith or mystical revelation over reason. I think if you check around that's a pretty common take on the term.

I have a couple of Calvinist friends who have recommended MacArthur's "Truth War", so I read it and we discussed it. What a spectacle. They end up getting frustrated (as fideists, that's what happens), and one -- a fan of the PyroManiacs -- says I should take it up with Phil (with a wink, he knows I've been banned there).

But they talk in their echo chamber, congratulating themselves on how feeble the epistemic foundations of their theological enemies are, which is a spectacular case of the "glass house" hypocrisy. In just a few questions, you can turn them into presuppositionalists -- anti-epistemologists -- and the whole gig is up; they have nothing to appeal to but "I believe because I believe", or some supernatural variation thereof.

And these are the folks cluck-clucking about post-modernism?

Tell you what, tell me what the "reasoning" part of the Calvinist core epistemology is, and we can look at my use of "fideism". There *are* Calvinists who appeal to an evidentialist argument, and I'd agree, that is not a strictly fideist orientation. But these cats are not that. Pure fideists, at the core, just ask 'em.

Are you reading this, Jim?