Fi, Fie, Foe, Fideism
“I’ve struggled with doubts about my faith for a while,” said the female college freshman sitting across from me, in the midst of tears. “I brought up my struggles to my parents and they told me to just believe.” There it is—the great wishful thinking faith. The "just bear down and will it to occur, and if possible add some pixie dust into the mix"-type easy believe-ism. It is that giant specter that has been with us for a while, which still rears its ugly head. The giant is known as fideism. Fideism is usually defined as having “faith in faith”. It is very popular in today’s religiously pluralistic climate. It is, I believe, the reason why atheism thinks that faith is blind.
If faith is boiled down to fideism then indeed it is blind. In popular spirituality fideism gets expressed as the importance of just having faith and that the content or object of that faith is irrelevant. In this expression faith saves, but it is the act of willful faith that saves, not the object of that faith. Here is why so many people can easily accept the “all paths lead to G/god/dess” philosophy.
As I heard this young woman speak it dawned on me that maybe it wasn’t a bad thing that she was skeptical. We talk about skepticism as an evil lurking phantom that preys upon the “weak” Christian. Yet, I believe, skepticism can be good, especially when it challenges a fideistic faith.
The reason being is that this type of faith is empty. It is like eating cotton candy. Sure when the guy at the fair swirls it around and around and gives you this big sticky mess on a stick, the initial thought (especially for those eating it the first time), might be that this is going to be filling. One bite then changes that thought as the sugary cotton dissolves instantly in your mouth.
Fideism in the fight against doubt gets KO’ed. There is nothing solid to stand on. This is why we as Christians need to pick up our stones and our slings and slay the giant of fideism. We need to combat this false faith when it seeks to rear its ugly head in our churches, especially with our youth.
How is this done? For starters, as mentioned above, a healthy dose of skepticism helps. The God-given gift of reason can be one of those stones that we hurl at this giant. When we encourage our young people to use their critical thinking skills we help them to ask good questions. Asking good questions can lead to discovering good answers. It helps us to see that the fideistic emperor truly has no clothes.
Secondly, we need to help them see that faith has a solid factual foundation. St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 that the Christian faith is built upon the historic resurrection of Jesus, which leads us to realize that our faith has an object outside of us. That it is a saving faith, because it is a faith that has as its object: the Savior Jesus Christ.
Focusing On The Object Of Our Faith
Which leads me to point number three which is we need to help our youth see that when doubts arise (and they will) that the gift of faith clings to the fact of the Savior. And in the midst of it all we can cry with the father in Mark 9:27, “I believe; help my unbelief!”, understanding that when we utter this prayerful cry that we speak it from a place of faith.
Finally, this can help us realize that while our faith might weakly be clinging to Jesus, in the end it is really Jesus who is strongly holding on to us.