Frank, a writer at Debunking Christianity, comments:
"I began reading things I never would have looked at before on the internet (this was 1998.) They would have caused doubt and doubt is something no man of god can allow himself to have or even consider. Doubt destroys faith. It brings guilt and condemnation. It ruins your fellowship with god. Doubt cannot be allowed."
But those comments come several paragraphs into Frank's article. The opening paragraph suggests something else:
"I used to delight in asking my Christian brothers and sisters why they believed the things they said they believed. The most common answer was simply, 'That's what I've always been told.' That always disturbed me. You could pull a wisdom tooth with a piece of string easier than you could get a straight answer out of most of these people. I decided it was my purpose, indeed my calling, in life to teach the foundations of Christianity to all these people who didn't seem to know why they were even believers in the first place."
Which is it? Was Frank as concerned about evidence as his opening paragraph suggests, or was he as fideistic as the later comments suggest?
As this blog demonstrates, not all Christians take the fideistic approach Frank has described. There are some Biblical passages that suggest that we should avoid some disputes, because of our own ignorance or because the issue under dispute isn't of much importance, for example (Psalm 131:1, 1 Timothy 1:4). And some professing Christians do sometimes act in the fideistic manner Frank has described. But does Christianity itself suggest that we should behave that way?
The book of Acts doesn't suggest that the earliest Christians lived the way Frank claims that he lived. Paul reasoned with non-Christians in the synagogue and in the Areopagus (Acts 17). Apollos is commended for "powerfully refuting the Jews in public" (Acts 18:28). The Old Testament frequently addresses fulfilled prophecy and other evidential concepts, and so does the New Testament, such as in its emphasis on the significance of eyewitness testimony. Some of the earliest Christian works of the patristic era interact with non-Christian belief systems (Aristides' Apology, Justin Martyr's Dialogue With Trypho, etc.). Irenaeus studied the teachings of the Gnostics in depth and interacted with them. Origen wrote a lengthy response to Celsus. Etc. The sort of fideism Frank suggests does exist among some professing Christians, as it does among adherents of other belief systems, but it isn't consistent with Christianity itself.
"Once it is recognized that what Galen says of the Christians could just as well be said of other schools, it must also be said that Christians had already developed a reputation among the Greeks and Romans for appealing to faith. Celsus, another critic of Christianity whom we will consider in the next chapter, complained that Christians sought out uneducated and gullible people because they were unable to give reasons or arguments for their beliefs. They asked people to accept what they said solely on faith (c. Cels. 1.9). What Galen and Celsus said about the Christian movement no doubt fitted the kind of Christianity that most people met with in the cities of the Roman Empire. Nevertheless, precisely at the time that Galen and Celsus were writing against Christian fideism a number of Christian thinkers had begun to revise and correct this view of Christianity. Among the defenders of the reasonableness of the Christian tradition were such early Christian apologists as Justin Martyr and Athenagoras...Though Celsus might make rhetorical points against Christian reliance on faith instead of reason, his more serious arguments assume that Christian thinkers wished to be judged by the same standards as others....The question of the mythological and legendary character of the Gospels did not first arise in modern times. The historical reliability of the accounts of Jesus' life was already an issue for Christian thinkers in the second century....What Porphyry wrote about Daniel [dating it to the second century B.C.] was so revolutionary, and so disturbing to Christian interpreters, that his critics sought to refute him in detail and at length....Pagan critics realized that the Christian claims about Jesus could not be based simply on the unexamined statements of Christians...The question of faith and history, so much a part of modern theological discourse since the Enlightenment, was also a significant part of the debate between pagans and Christians in the ancient world....Christians and pagans met each other on the same turf. No one can read Celsus's True Doctrine and Origen's Contra Celsum and come away with the impression that Celsus, a pagan philosopher, appealed to reason and argument, whereas Origen based his case on faith and authority....Pagan critics realized that the claims of the new movement [Christianity] rested upon a credible historical portrait of Jesus. Christian theologians in the early church, in contrast to medieval thinkers who began their investigations on the basis of what they received from authoritative tradition, were forced to defend the historical claims they made about the person of Jesus. What was said about Jesus could not be based solely on the memory of the Christian community or its own self-understanding....When one observes how much Christians shared with their critics, and how much they learned from them, it is tempting to say that Hellenism laid out the path for Christian thinkers. In fact, one might convincingly argue the reverse. Christianity set a new agenda for philosophers. The distinctive traits of the new religion and the tenacity of Christian apologists in defending their faith opened up new horizons for Greco-Roman culture and breathed new life into the spiritual and intellectual traditions of the ancient world." (Robert Wilken, The Christians As The Romans Saw Them [New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1984], pp. 77-78, 101, 112, 138, 147, 200-201, 203, 205)