December 8, 2008

Am I a Biblicist?

I mentioned the other day that I am reading Fides Et Ratio by John Paul II. I am enjoying it and agreeing with most of it. But one particular thought has hit me hard as being something I take issue with.

It is the characterization of biblicism, the making the reading and exegesis of scripture as the sole criterion for truth, as a widespread symptom of fideistic tendency. Fideism is defined as the failure to recognize the importance of rational knowledge and philosophical discourse for the understanding of one's faith. As a biblically based evangelical believer, this is a criticism of how I approach my faith.

John Paul II is not claiming Scripture is an inappropriate source of truth, far from it. His thesis is that Scripture alone is not the sole criterion, you need the doctrine and tradition of the Catholic Church as well. He makes many good points in his encyclical: the complementary not contradictory nature of faith and reason; the belief that hermeneutical method is grounded in philosophical reasoning.

I am all for faith and reasoning working together to increase one's knowledge and love of God. I agree that hermeneutics have philosophical underpinnings. I am not against doctrine and tradition of the Church or church if you would if it comports to Scriptures and the teachings of Christ. And for that you do need sound hermeneutics and philosophical reasoning to get down to the roots of.

But I believe Scripture is the bedrock all else is built on. Tradition, faith, hermeneutics can rest on Scripture but not alongside it with any intimation of equal importance or weighting. That is what I believe Jesus taught.

If that makes me a biblicist in the context of Fides Et Ratio, I am OK with biblicism.


Marcus Goodyear said...

I'm with John Paul on this one, sort of. I take the Bible as the truth by which I test other truths. But that doesn't mean the Pope's encyclicals (or other Christian books) aren't a valuable source of understanding for me.

Andy C said...

I take the bible as the truth to measure other truths. I do not take the bible as a truth on a par with other truths. My reading of the encyclical was that doctrine and Catholic Church tradition where on the same level as Scripture.

Kevin said...

I am with you on this one Andy! The Bible HAS to be the standard for measuring other truths. "Sola Scripura" I find that this is a major problem in our church world today. We want our experiences, traditions, etc to be the standard INSTEAD of God's Word.

Laurie M. said...

My original comment got lost in cyperspace I guess. It's too long to replicate so I'll just say - stick to your guns. It's good to be a biblicist. The Catholic church has pronounced an anethema (Trent, Sess. 7, cannon 8) on those who hold to salvation by faith alone apart from works of the Law, and only holds Scripture authoritative as interpreted by the Church, thereby placing the higher authority with the church.