OK, so what exactly is this fideism thing and is Kent correct?
Fideism is derived from the Latin, fides, meaning “faith.” Hence, a true translation of fideism is “faith-ism.”
I would readily confess I, as a Christian, am a fideist of sorts as Kent claims, however, we need to clarify our terms.
You see, fideism as a philosophy has some negative connotations connected to it. Christian philosopher, Alvin Plantinga provides a formal definition of fideism as meaning an
exclusive or basic reliance upon faith alone, accompanied by a consequent disparagement of reason and utilized especially in the pursuit of philosophical or religious truth.
So, in other words, a person who is fideistic pits faith against reason as if the two are antithetical to each other. Generally, the description of a fideist is a person who is exercising a faith when all reasonable evidence tells the person his faith is ill informed.
Skeptics and anti-theists believe all religious faith is fideistic; that Christianity irrationally holds to its beliefs despite reason. Hence, according to the skeptical anti-theist, Christians will blindly place their faith in what the Bible teaches, for example, even though such “faith” is clearly contradicted by rational, reasonable evidence. At least in the skeptical anti-theist’s mind.
The skeptical anti-theists, however, are severely mistaken when they describe Christianity as being entirely fideistic. The Bible never calls people to believe its truth claims with blind faith. The Bible is a divine record revealed in history by a God who has interacted with humanity. Thus, our faith as Christians is objective. It lays hold of an affirmed, historical revelation, the Bible, which was revealed by God who has undeniably demonstrated His person in space and time.
Of course there are some things I take entirely upon faith, such as God being one God revealed in three distinct persons. Obviously, I couldn’t prove such a thing with reason alone or any evidence whatsoever. However, my faith is not blind, or truly fideistic, because it is confidently placed upon the divine revelation that has its source in the God who has demonstrated His person in space and time and who has told us this bit of information concerning Himself.
Now, where I apply the charge of fideism against Kent is with his view of textual preservation.
I too believe God has promised to preserve His revelation, and I believe a high view of preservation is a necessary corollary to a high view of infallibility and inerrancy. Both I affirm by faith and both I believe are affirmed by the textual evidence.
On the contrary, Kent’s view of preservation involves the preservation of one particular text type, what he erroneously refers to as the Received Text, that was settled upon by a nebulous church body over the course of Church History and can be traced all the way back to the time shortly after the apostolic age.
Kent’s faith is blind because nothing he sets forth in support of his view of preservation ever happened. Much to Kent’s chagrin, God was pleased to allow His people to utilize Greek texts in Egypt, in Antioch, in Rome, in Ephesus and all across the ancient Roman world containing textual variants, warts and all. This also includes all of the multitudes of translations, most importantly the Latin Vulgate that held sway for nearly a 1,000 years as the one, dominant biblical text utilized by nearly all Christians.
There wasn’t one text type, Kent’s misnames “Received Text,” that Christians readily received as genuinely reflecting God’s preserved word as opposed to a set of texts that had been “corrupted by heretics” or were impure or laid aside from lack of use only to be recovered by anti-god rationalists 1800 years after they were written and are now published in the critical Greek texts of the NA28 and the UBS. This belief in a TR/KJV view of preservation opposite the critical text is shear fideism.
Yet Kent and his ilk still insist their view of textual preservation is true biblical faith against fideism. Moreover, Kent insists all of his opponents, including me, adhere to the same fideism we accuse him of unwittingly advocating. He asks a gottcha style question he believes bolsters his case:
Folks, no verse says there will be 66 books of the Bible. No verse says there will be 39 OT books and 27 NT books. None. So how do you come up with your books?
Kent is absolutely correct about that. There are no verses anywhere telling us specifically that Peter’s first and second epistle is canon, while the gospel of Judas is not. However, what we do see in scripture is God raising up special, anointed individuals who were his spokesmen and he communicating through them to write down what He tells them. In the OT it was the prophetic office and in the NT the apostolic office. This doesn’t mean that every thing these individuals spoke or wrote was inspired scripture, but when they spoke in the place of God by speaking forth a “thus saith the LORD,” they were proclaiming the revelation of the LORD.
God’s people, under the providential leading of the Spirit, recognized the uniqueness of these prophetic ministries. Generally the prophet was authenticated by signs and wonders, especially the foretelling of future events that came to pass within the prophet’s lifetime to the very detail. God’s people recognized the prophet’s ministry and the divine messages they spoke and wrote were preserved and canonized. A similar thing happened for the NT books.
So with in the lifetime of the person writing God’s Word, those writings were affirmed as authoritative and canon. This view is not fideistic in that I am blindly believing it based upon the “settled” conjecture of some Church counsel 300 years after the fact. I believe it because this view of canonization is affirmed by the historically revealed whole of scripture.
But more importantly, Kent’s comparison between his view of preservation and how the books of scripture were canonized is a non sequitur. The historical revelation supporting the biblical view of canonization I laid out above is clear. Kent’s view of preservation in which God preserves every single word through the transmission of one text type from the close of the apostolic ministries, until the translation of the KJV, and down to this day, is neither affirmed by the historic revelation of scripture, nor the tangible textual evidence. Thus, once again, Kent holds to a blind faith. I could never be a member of his club.