Is it All a Trick of the Mind? (RJS)

Michael Shermer, formerly a Professor specializing in the history of science, skeptic, debunker, author of such books as How We Believe: Science, Skepticism, and the Search for God and The Science of Good and Evil: Why People Cheat, Gossip, Care, Share, and Follow the Golden Rule has a new book out The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies—How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths. I may try to pick up a copy of the book and go through it, but today I would like to link to a review by Ronald Bailey in the Wall Street Journal: A Trick of the Mind.

The premise of the book according to Bailey is an inborn evolutionary capacity of the brain to look for an find patterns, real and imaginary patterns.

Beliefs come first; reasons second. That’s the insightful message of “The Believing Brain,” by Michael Shermer, the founder of Skeptic magazine. In the book, he brilliantly lays out what modern cognitive research has to tell us about his subject—namely, that our brains are “belief engines” that naturally “look for and find patterns” and then infuse them with meaning. These meaningful patterns form beliefs that shape our understanding of reality. Our brains tend to seek out information that confirms our beliefs, ignoring information that contradicts them. Mr. Shermer calls this “belief-dependent reality.” The well-worn phrase “seeing is believing” has it backward: Our believing dictates what we’re seeing.

Finding a pattern results in the firing of a reward mechanism in the brain “Even for folks with normal chemical levels, there’s a neurological upside to pattern-finding: When we come across information that confirms what we already believe, we get a rewarding jolt of dopamine.

This is an interesting idea.

Do you think that pattern finding is an inborn human trait?

Does this explain away both superstition and religion? If not, why not?

Mr. Bailey concludes his review:

But it is science itself that Mr. Shermer most heartily embraces. “The Believing Brain” ends with an engaging history of astronomy that illustrates how the scientific method developed as the only reliable way for us to discover true patterns and true agents at work. Seeing through a telescope, it seems, is believing of the best kind.

Science and the scientific method is, at its very core, a search for patterns. No doubt about it. We are looking for patterns and putting things together. The cleaner the pattern, the more beautiful the result. There is a jolt of euphoria that comes with a new recognition of an important pattern, the beauty of physics, of biology, of chemistry. I spend my professional life looking for patterns and teaching the patterns. The facts are trivial. The facts and equations are available on Google or in the library – it is the underlying theme, the few fundamental postulates, the patterns that govern, … this is why I love science and this is what I want my students to learn.

So two questions, first to those who are skeptical of religion and find science to expose the only reliable patterns:

Why do do you assume that patterns observed from science are true, but those arising from other forms of interaction and knowing are not?

Second to Christians, especially those who struggle with science.

Why do you disregard the patterns observed in science as inadequate?

Scot has had a number of posts on Christian Smith’s book dealing with Biblicism. Here is my definition of Biblicism:

Biblicism is a conviction that the human ability to reason and find patterns, be it in science, or in relationship with God and with others is fundamentally flawed and unreliable. The only true foundation for all knowledge and understanding is the written, revealed word of God.

This is a postulate. It cannot be proven from scripture, without first assuming that it is true and that therefore it will be found in scripture.  It does not seem to me to be consistent with the text of scripture itself, the patterns that emerge from a reading of scripture. It certainly cannot be proven without scripture.

I think that scripture is the inspired word of God. It is a light and a lamp to guide our path. It is reliable and trustworthy. It is the outgrowth and record of God’s relationship with his people and of his work in the world. But it is not the foundation on which we stand. It does not override or supersede our gifts of reason and understanding – or of pattern recognition.

Scientism on the other hand is a conviction that only science is true – and everything can be reduced to scientific cause and effect, from the love of a mother for her child, a husband for his wife to the apparent beauty of a rainbow, a sunset over the sea, or a fundamental equation of physics. It must be assumed and cannot be proven. It seems inherently unsatisfactory – and we should trust our gifts of reason, understanding, and pattern recognition as we look beyond the merely reductionist and material.

What do you think?

If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]

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  • Ted M. Gossard

    A lot to chew on here. Really, if God made us a certain way, the way this author describes, it would help us make sense of the real world, find coherence somehow, or at least look for it. There really does seem to be a plot from our brains that things somehow at least ought to cohere, make sense. Even when we simply can’t put everything together. Of course the Christian Story does, without answering all the questions we might want it to.

  • DRT

    Totally agree with the people=pattern matching machines idea. One experiment is taking several groups of people and have one of the groups flip a coin a hundred times, and have the other groups pretend that they flipped it. Then compare the results.

    The result is generally that the actual flipping group will have a run of heads or tails that is longer than the fake random groups meaning that people grossly underestimate the streaks and other behavior in random events. So, when confronted with random events the people see those streaks and assume there is a pattern or other element going on.

    That is relevant to religious experience. I cannot tell you how many time I have heard others (and have said myself) the god must be at work in something that seemed coincidental.

    The truth is, people are so good at pattern matching that they view random events as having meaning. But does that explain away religion, well, no. I do not attribute the small consequences of coincidence to god without realizing that it is just a fantasy and hope that it was god. I will still attribute them, but realize it probably is just the way the world works.

    Having said that, I still do believe that there is an interconnected nature to the universe that goes beyond random, it is cause and effect, and I do attribute that fabric of reality to god and believe that it goes deeper and pervades existence in ways that we are only beginning to understand. So the coincidental may be deterministic, but not directly by god, only indirectly through the relationship that he has set up as the way we exist. Quite beautiful, it is in the relationship.

  • Mark Farmer

    Hardened patterns of thinking, such as biblicism and scientism, function to blind us to discovering truth beyond what we have already recognized. The way forward is neither science alone nor religion alone, but reasonable and critical (in the sense of discerning) curiosity, openness, and love for truth, wherever it may lead. This implies a willingness to subject our present beliefs, both scientific and religious, to further reasonable scrutiny. It means not believing something just because we have been told that it is true. Such a mindset must live in healthy tension with the need to believe, commit to something larger than oneself, and with one’s inability to rethink absolutely everything.

  • phil_style

    DERT, interesting experiment you mentioned. Incidentally, I wonder what the longest ever recorded same-outcome streak of a coin flip is?

  • phil_style

    Is the assumption/belief of randomness likely to result in the interpretation of data as being “random”? i.e. can our brains start developing a pattern of seeing/assuming randomness in data? Would we then be more inclined to argue against statistically significant conclusions in data when they didn’t conform to our assumption that the data ought to be random?

  • Andrew Wilson

    I find the big idea here fascinating, even compelling, but I’m not sure it’s wise to say that Scripture “is not the foundation on which we stand”. I’m not completely sure what that means, but it sounds like it conflicts with Matt 7:24ff – when put into practice, the words of Jesus are the foundation on which we stand, aren’t they?

    Good post, though!

  • Rick

    Andrew #6-

    I think the idea is that Jesus is our foundation, and Scripture is pointing to that foundation.

    In regards to patterns and reason, could this not be one reason God revealed Himself in real time and history, and therefore allowing us to reflect on that pattern? Scripture is, and discusses, and reflection on that “pattern”.

  • Rick


    #7 should say, Scripture is, and discusses, a reflection on that “pattern”.

  • Amos Paul

    I’ve never understood why so many critics attempt to call out morality, religion, or whatever as *merely* an evolutionary construct of the mind so as to then claim that its meaningless, not true, etc.

    Firstly, this doesn’t make logical sense. Just because you’ve given me a supposed origin story for a belief does not illustrate whether or not the belief is true. These are entirely separate issues. Indeed, if the Religious man’s or Natural Law theorist’s beliefs *are* true, then it would follow that the beliefs seem almost inborn…

    Moreover, you already aptly pointed out that reliance upon human logic and reasoning via scientific investigation is, itself, a reliance upon an inborn belief that the ‘scientific’ patterns we see and know are actual patterns in the universe and not merely imaginary chimeras.

    Indeed, Bas Van Frasen, a Catholic converted philosopher of mind, has called humans either miserably pitiful or stupendously fortunate. We are born into this world automatically looking for patterns and attempting to ‘connect the dots’ as it were, but with no *actual* guaruntee that there are any patterns to be discovered!

    Just look at science for example. It could easily be claimed that the only reason our scientific theories *seem* to be accurate is beacause we’ve worked ever so hard on manipulating and modifying them to the tiniest minutiae for millenia that they appear to us now to be true. Of course, every generation of scientists has thought that about a great many things that were then ‘disproven’ later. We could very well be fundamentally wrong about everything but caught up in this great delusion. As Descartes said, if we are accidental creations in an imperfect universe, how could we possibly presume to be perfect enough to actually know anything?

    Conversely, if Religious belief is accepted as a fundamental premise, then there is no epistemic dishonesty going on in science. Our outlook ought to be then that things are orderly and discoverable by our God-given intellects. Although this view is arrived at by intellect and pattern-finding, it at least has enough internal sense to justify itself and the fact that we’re reasoning about it from the get go.

  • T

    I think that Christians are skeptical of some of scientifically discovered “truths” for exactly the thesis the author gives: beliefs come first, reasons second. Our believing (even for scientists, if they remain human), dictates our seeing. Granted, I think scientific methods and reviews are designed, chiefly through verifiable results, to safeguard against this human tendency. So I think scientific findings, if widely held in a given field, deserve a great deal of credibility.

    The other, perhaps more important reason is that I think we tend to label people or communities as “trustworthy” or not, which then paints whatever they say with credibility or skepticism. For instance, the first exposure I had to John MacArthur was his book, “Charismatic Chaos” which is not only counter to my own experience, it made arguments that were completely and even obviously counter to scripture. Based on that book, it took me years to believe that he was actually a careful teacher in other areas. I just didn’t trust him.

    It’s like that with scientists and Christians. When I see a show on PBS called, “A Glorious Accident” I’m already distrustful of the community that has put it together. I don’t even know how much I can trust from that show at that point. So I think it’s not just a matter of our neurology, but also how we get most of our ideas and truths communally, and since scientific communities have made or allowed athiesm or agnosticism to become part of the face of their community, if not the actual heart of it, most Christians simply don’t trust that community and color much from them with skepticism, which is the same reason many scientists keep their membership in the Christian community under wraps–they don’t want their scientific community to view their work with heightened skepticism.

  • D. Foster

    If religious belief can be reduced to merely seeking patterns, real or imaginary, then so can science, which is an entire methodology of seeking patterns.

    If I believe that all of my rationality is merely a dopamine hunt, then I have no reason to believe that my rational faculties reveal to me accurate information about the world; which means I have no reason to believe science can give me insight into reality; which means I have no reason to believe what Michael Shermer is saying.

    Even if Shermer’s on to something (and I think he is), it’s a slippery slope.


  • Susan N.

    I find myself agreeing with Mark Farmer’s comments (#3).

    The first thought that occurred to me as I read this post is “cognitive dissonance.” I do think the human brain is wired to look for patterns in the natural world and to label/categorize input according to one’s frame of reference. Our thinking is boxed in by our accumulated knowledge and experiences. Approaching all of life from a scientific perspective — investigate, observe, discover — is a good thing.

    In matters of faith, I believe (without being able to prove) that a supernatural dimension exists and interacts with the natural world. Sometimes results defy predictable patterns… Plenty of stories like that in the Bible, including Jesus’ own life, death, and resurrection. Would systematic theology be a good example of trying to fit the information of the Bible into a pattern that makes sense according to one’s hypothesis about God and life and how to make sense of the world?

  • Jeff Doles

    God gave us both the Scriptures and reason. But reason needs a premise or else it is meaningless. If one’s premise is faulty then no matter how skilled one may be with reason, the conclusion will be faulty.

    Inasmuch as God gave us the Scriptures as well as reason, I do not think He intends for reason to operate apart from it. So I take Scripture as my foundation, my premise. It is an a priori position, a presupposition.

    Science is also based on certain presuppositions though many in science seem to forget it or be otherwise unaware of it.

  • Taylor

    This concept calls to minds the pictures that look like two ducks kissing or a Holy Grail, depending on your focus. Most people, despite their claims to the contrary, are predominantly biblicist or predominantly scientist. My take is that it all comes down to the presuppositions we hesitate to admit.

    For example, the presupposition I have that underlies all others is that Christianity at its core is scientifically impossible. God cannot scientifically become a man, die, and rise again. That shapes the patterns I see, the way I read my Bible, and the way I study science. It also makes me willing to consider that a pattern that undeniably appears to be a rabbit might actually be Abe Lincoln’s silhouette.

    Where am I going with this? Question the patterns you are most sure of. It’s easy for me to dismiss someone who doesn’t believe in a literal Adam as inconsistent in their accepting of the metaphysical. It’s just as easy for them to be snorting as the read this. I am after all going against some very sound scientific data (which, believe it or not, I have carefully studied and not disproved with ‘creation science’)

    It’s helpful to try and recognize the other pattern, even if only one can be true.

  • dopderbeck

    Derek (#11) made the point I also want to make. Why does Shermer think that his belief in the “scientific method” escapes the same “dopamine jolt”-net that he casts over religion and every other kind of “non-scientific” belief?

    If Shermer is really right, then human beings are incapable of knowing truth at all. We deceive ourselves about everything, and every truth claim is subject to the same reduction. And this, in fact, is the position that truly consistent materialists hold.

    I think it’s mostly bunk.

  • phil_style

    Dopderbek, “If Shermer is really right, then human beings are incapable of knowing truth at all.”

    Your point is strong, but I think overstated. The advantage the scientific method has is predictability. One does not need to “believe” in a pattern, if one can reproduce the event/ causal chain again and again without deviation.

    That’s the kind of “knowing” that science is designed to produce. But whether or not one can then project that same requirement for predictive analysis onto, say, the non-natural, or things outside of this universe (other universes??) is a whole other issue

  • Amos Paul

    @ 16 Phil_Stlye,

    You might want to glance at my comment #9 in the second half about specifically science.

    I would have to disagree with you that scientists aren’t still ‘believing’ in supposed patterns. Just because you have a massive set of observed of correlations does *not* mean you can generalize an abstract rule or law that exists. We cannot deduce causation. We can only suppose and hope that it’s there. That’s belief.

    C.S. Lewis said it best in ‘The Discarded Image’, an academic investigation of the Medieval worldview. He made the claim that your average lay person today (or in his day) trusts our scientific laws as proven and fundamental, but any honest expert in the field of those ‘laws’ will most likely see all the holes and problems in the theory that has arisen. Science is never airtight. Again, as Bas Van Frasen said, we’ve simply worked ever so hard at making certain our science appears to match up to the Universe. But does it?

    It’s a belief.

    If you think it’s a necessry basic belief for our minds to operate, that’s fine. But it’s still a belief and requires some sort of bedrock justification for anyone to honestly accept.

  • dopderbeck

    phil (#16) — “predictability” is nothing but a “pattern”. It is observing correlations — patterns — and making inferences from those patterns.

    Take what is probably the most basic pattern predicted by the scientific method: the uniformity and symmetry of physical laws. We observe cause-and-effect today, and we infer that the same kind of cause-and-effect obtained in the past and will obtain in the future, everywhere in the universe. Without this inference, the scientific method is impossible.

    If Shermer is right, we simply can’t trust this inference. What we believe is a pattern of universal and symmetric cause-and-effect may be but another example of wish fulfillment.

  • steve_sherwood

    Phil #16 Perhaps you’re already familiar with it, but Michael Polanyi’s classic “Personal Knowledge” pretty brilliantly highlights the subjective nature of even the most objective approach to the sciences. It doesn’t argue that there is no objective knowledge, just none that is “purely” so.

  • rjs

    Andrew (#6)

    Rick’s right about my meaning here. Scripture is inspired and from God, but our foundation is God, which includes his work in the incarnation and through Jesus’s words and deeds.

    I will suggest that we use our reason as we read the four gospels and the epistles to understand the work of God through Jesus. It doesn’t matter that things are told from different perspectives in the different gospels. This gives a fuller picture, better for us to see and understand the patterns and the intent. It doesn’t matter that the accounts are not completely consistent with each other.

  • Jeff Doles

    RJS #20,

    Yes, our foundation is God, but I think that would include His word. I was not planning on posting in this thread, but then in my prayer time this morning, praying through Psalm 138, I was reminded in v. 2, “For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.” How can we say that our foundation is in God if we do not take His word as foundational as His name? His word is as foundational as He is.

    Today we say that a man’s word is his bond, or that someone is as good as his word. How can we say any less about the word of God. So it makes no sense to take God as foundational but not His word.

  • Amos Paul


    I agree with you wholeheartedly that the WORD is our foundation! Although I think we might be conceiving of the Word somewhat differently.

    I take John 1 very seriously.

    Jhn 1:1-3, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

    I take by the Word you mean Scriptures. I think Scriptures are important. Clearly.

    2 Tim 3:16, All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…

    But the only reason Scripture is so *useful* to us is because Scripture *points us* to the Word, that is, Jesus.

    Jhn 5:39, You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.

    Scripture is not the Word. Scripture helps us see the Word–that is, God’s Word, the person of Jesus Christ. Without that promise (and truth), the Scriptures are a confusing mess.

  • Jeff Doles


    Yes, Jesus is certainly foundational. He is God and He is the Logos. And indeed the Scripture, which is the God-breathed written word, points us to Him, so it, then, is also foundational for the Church. It is in the written word that we learn His words and deeds. The prophetic word that is the Hebrew Scriptures of the OT foretells Him; the apostolic word that is NT proclaims Him. The Scriptures do not replace God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit, but it is nonetheless foundational, because it comes from God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

  • Matt

    This is a great post and I’m very glad that I read it; I think a big issue in Christianity is its clash with science. More specifically, for far too long people have employed a “god of the gaps” way of approaching God, much their err. I like that this addresses the issue in a non-biased way and gave science a chance to share its perspective. There are of course, two sides to every coin however.

  • DRT

    Jeff Doles (and others) given the current world situation I think we as Christians could certainly do well to rethink referring to our scriptures as the “word of god”. Our scriptures are quite a bit different than that, they are intermediated by people. The scriptures that are advertised as the word of god are those of Islam.

  • DRT

    After thinking about this topic a lot today I am believing that most people realize that they are very fallible. As such, people who have inherent views of themselves as fallible look for reassurance of their perspective. Valid substitutes for reassurance include authority, in group validation and methodological considerations. If I were to rank the degree of certainty that most people would put on each of those, then methodological considerations would be dead last by a long shot since it is inherently indirect, and that can give people nightmares. Therefore, science will always take a back seat until we make progress in the in group loyalty and authority camps with most Christians.

    That is why the work rjs is doing here is so vitally important.

  • rjs


    Yes, but …

    I agree with what you say, but not the way you, or at least the way many within evangelicalism, apply it. When we make scripture “foundational” we find it necessary to make excuses for the text we have, how to harmonize the genealogies, how to harmonize the tomb accounts or the life of Paul related in Acts and his letters, how to understand the NT use of the OT, the books of Chronicles and Kings, Genesis 1 and 2, and I could continue.

    I think we need to take the scripture we have as the revelation of God… It is “foundational” because it reveals and illuminates God, not because it is the kind of infallible foundation commonly described in evangelicalism. God alone is our foundation.

  • phil_style

    Thanks Amos, Dopderbek, Steve for pushing back against my comment at number 5. I personally don’t buy into pure “scientism”.. but it has always seemed to me that the predictability argument was the strongest.

    Steve, thanks for recommending that book, I’ve come accross ployani, but never really invested much time in his work, so I will most likely get myself a copy.

  • norm

    When looking at the primary observation, it seems apparent that what Baily says about Shermer’s “belief-dependent reality” is accurate: “Our believing dictates what we’re seeing.”

    Now whether that’s true in science I’m not qualified to speak to, however, it does seem true in faith/belief practices. I’m currently doing a series on the Trinity and at the most elementary level, it seems a desire to explain Christ’s position and role in light of one God and only one God made it necessary to find a way to explain the unusual relationship between God, Christ and the Holy Spirit. Forming a belief in the Trinity helped explain that and gave the Church Fathers the ability to come back to the text and see evidence for such a belief.

    “Security of the Believer” is another one of those constructs where we need to believe something first in order to explain something that appears contrary – for example the “if, then” statements of Jesus.

  • Jeff Doles

    RJS #27,

    The incarnation of Jesus, His words and deeds are foundational for me as they are for you. Also, His birth, death and resurrection. But how do we know about these things? It all traces back to the apostolic witness — the New Testament — which records the words and deeds of Jesus, tells us about His death and resurrection and about what all these things mean.

    But if the Scriptures are fallible, then how shall we know they are not simply mistaken on any or all of these things? We might say that those bits which are revelatory of God are trustworthy, but that seems to be rather arbitrary about which bits are true and trustworthy and which might be flawed. It ultimately comes down to our own preferences: “I like these bits; I don’t like those bits.” This is compounded because all the Scriptures are revelatory of God to some extent — what God does, what God says, what God is — and often purport themselves to be. So, the arbitrariness would boil down to, “I like this revelation of God, but not that one.”

    We should also note that Jesus, whose words and deeds are foundational for us and which we know about because of the NT Scriptures, refers often to the OT Scriptures, both the Law and the Prophets – IOW, the whole deal — but never in a way that even hints that He took them to be fallible. Quite the opposite, He presents them as authoritative and trustworthy.

    So I am driven once again to the Scriptures as foundational. I do not agree that we have to “make excuses” for any of the texts. But I think it is appropriate to consider the various genres and their characteristics. And if any seeming contradictions can be reasonably harmonized, then I think that is only appropriate to giving those matters a fair hearing. And giving matters a fair hearing is not “making excuses.”

  • DRT

    Jeff, clearly you chose to ignore my comment, but I have to ask, how do you chose which pieces of scripture to believe? You don’t kiss all brothers, right?

  • Jeff Doles


    I don’t read the Word of God with a flattened out literalism. But, though Paul’s comment was contextualized and not a commandment for everyone and always, I have on occasion greeted my pastor and other brothers at church with a kiss. On the head, or the cheek, or the top of the head. Otherwise it is most usually hugs. Handshakes keep people at a distance, but when I open my arms, people usually walk right in. Sometimes I come up behind and put my arm around them. I have learned there is a real ministry to all that.

    As to your earlier post, thanks for your suggestion, but I will continue to call the Scriptures the “Word of God,” because I respect it as such.

  • DRT

    Thanks Jeff, now I have to make the comment longer

  • AHH

    I second those who recommended Polanyi’s Personal Knowledge as a great little book on how, as we have learned that the modern foundationalist conception of indubitable perfectly known objective truth doesn’t work (in science and in theology), we can still “know” things in an adequate way (again, in both areas).

    I would also quibble with RJS’ definition of “biblicism” in the post, particularly the part about how it views human reason as unreliable. I think biblicism tends to take a high view of human reason — particularly as reason is applied to understanding the things of God from the bare words of Scripture. At least in that realm, the idea that human reason as used to interpret Scripture might be distorted by perspective, culture, etc. would, I think, be rejected by most biblicists. One could also look at how much modern biblicism owes to the “common sense realism” approach to knowledge.

  • Paul W

    “Do you think that pattern finding is an inborn human trait?”

    I find it relatively easy to believe that ‘pattern finding’ is an inborn trait. I would also suspect that such a trait contributes to the phenomena of ‘belief conservation'(i.e., the natural resistance we have toward substantial changes regarding established or important beliefs).

    I know it can be frustrating when someone else is unwilling or unable to see the ‘patterns’ we see. Nevertheless, I’m inclined to view our basic inclination toward ‘finding patterns’ and ‘belief conservation’ to be a fundamentally positive human experience. And if it is somehow an evolutionary capacity then I would think all the more that it confirms the beneficial nature of it. At least, that’s the pattern I see.

  • rjs


    A fair quibble – although the attitude that seems to come through is that mankind’s fallen nature renders human reason unreliable. Only the revealed Word of God found in scripture is reliable. The perspicuity of scripture is foundational, it is clear and easily understood. Thus any application of (extraordinary) reason to interpretation is unnecessary and a failure to submit oneself to the inerrant text.

    In creation for example, six days must mean six 24 hour days. Anything else complicates scripture beyond the surface meaning and removes the idea of a perspicuous text. If people will read and first assume six 24 hour days, this must be the intended meaning.

    Of course the application – when one actually looks at how scripture is preached – is not so simple. No one actually looks at scripture as a stand alone source of knowledge (whatever they may claim).

  • Fish

    The patterns I observe in the Bible lead me to believe it was written by imperfect men inspired by God, not dictated verbatim by God Himself.

  • AHH

    rjs @36,

    I think we are on approximately the same page. If I were defining biblicism I wouldn’t start with assumptions about human reason, I’d start with assumptions about the nature of Scripture, about it being “perfect” by modernist standards and as you mention perspicuity and means to perfectly objective knowledge.
    And then the logical consequence of such a view is that any knowledge and reason from outside the text must be wrong or at best highly suspect if it doesn’t line up perfectly with what Scripture appears to say to those with this hermeneutic.