Stanley Fish Channels Van Til

Stanley Fish has a larger share of common grace than most people. For all his dark glasses, he sees many things clearly, and I always enjoy reading him. This must-read article made me feel truly sad—and not in a condescending way at all—for the hundreds of thousands of NY Times readers who continue to live so blindly in the faith that they have no faith. Reason is an idol of Enlightenment culture (as well as a gift of God).

Here are three quick excerpts that grabbed me from Fish’s piece:

There is no such thing as “common observation” or simply reporting the facts. To be sure, there is observation and observation can indeed serve to support or challenge hypotheses. But the act of observing can itself only take place within hypotheses (about the way the world is) that cannot be observation’s objects because it is within them that observation and reasoning occur.

Once the act of simply reporting or simply observing is exposed as a fiction—as something that just can’t be done—the facile opposition between faith-thinking and thinking grounded in independent evidence cannot be maintained.

So to sum up, the epistemological critique of religion—it is an inferior way of knowing—is the flip side of a naïve and untenable positivism. And the critique of religion’s content—it’s cotton-candy fluff—is the product of incredible ignorance.

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

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