The term “faith” is no stranger to religious discourse.

I must admit, I have never really understood nor identified with this term (even when I was a believer). In fact, I find it to be a very unsatisfying term. This is, in part, due to the level of ambiguity associated with its usage. What does this term really mean? For instance, sometimes “faith” refers to a religion. Other times it refers to a type of trust. Still other times it is used to indicate some strange and mysterious truth filter.

So, I would like to know, what is “faith” to you? How do you define it? Along with a definition, why is faith valuable? 

15 Comments

  1. Ernesto Tinajero

    I go with the etymology the word. It is based on the Old French word trust. Faith means trust and such it has to have an object. In this case most of have “faith” or trust in something, whether it is reason, science, Jesus, or even the current vogue “myself.” It does mean a religion if the person places trust in their religious practice. I have faith in Jesus and the Trinity. I do think that faith does not necessarily relate to truth. Those who had faith in the financial ability of Bernie Madoff were in for a deep betrayal of that faith.

  2. Ernesto –

    Can you be more specific by what you mean when you say that faith does not necessarily relate to truth?

    You gave the example of the financial ability of Bernie Madoff, but this seems to support the idea that faith IS related to truth. In this case, the faith was misplaced, which could be said to be based on some falsehood.

  3. Tracy Simmons

    Ryan, Weaam, one of our Facebook readers, said this:

    “Faith is belief in God and his ability (and His angels, His Books, His Messengers of God and the Last Day (This is the faith of Muslims)”

  4. Tracy –

    Thanks for posting this. Might you ask Weaam if he distinguishes between faith IN God and faith THAT God? The first assumes that such a being like God exists and one is placing faith or belief in that being in a similar manner to telling a friend “I have faith in you”. Existence here is not in question. The second has to do with believing the proposition *God exists*. Here, obviously, the existence of God is in question.

  5. Ernesto Tinajero

    Ryan,

    The word follows its use and we derive definition from its use. If Faith is trust and as a transitive it needs an object. Now, I would say that when someone has faith in something or someone, they believe in the truth of that trust. Those that believed in Madoff, did believe that he would make them money, only afterwards was it revealed as a unfounded faith. Those that truly believe in Spaghetti Monster have faith in it, though I believe that most that proclaim the Spaghetti Monster do so as a rhetorical reason and have no faith in it. You did a good job in you post answering Weaam.

  6. hi Rany,
    we do not find difference between ( faith IN God and faith THAT God)
    We do not see God, but we know that the universe is one of the walking
    God exists and we will see the Day of Resurrection he sees only his work was good
    when we need anything, we tell God and helps us
    We believe in all religions, and God said that the religion with Allah is Islam.
    God commanded us to obey Him and love people and help them
    ***Believe in the existence of God is the basis of our faith and believe in his ability
    Also has 99 names and attributes of the Prophet Muhammad also told us that God tells us***

    :لَيْسَ الْبِرَّ أَنْ تُوَلُّوا وُجُوهَكُمْ قِبَلَ الْمَشْرِقِ وَالْمَغْرِبِ وَلَكِنَّ الْبِرَّ مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَالْمَلائِكَةِ وَالْكِتَابِ وَالنَّبِيِّينَ وَآتَى الْمَالَ عَلَى حُبِّهِ ذَوِي الْقُرْبَى وَالْيَتَامَى وَالْمَسَاكِينَ وَابْنَ السَّبِيلِ وَالسَّائِلِينَ وَفِي الرِّقَابِ وَأَقَامَ الصَّلاةَ وَآتَى الزَّكَاةَ وَالْمُوفُونَ بِعَهْدِهِمْ إِذَا عَاهَدُوا وَالصَّابِرِينَ فِي الْبَأْسَاءِ وَالضَّرَّاءِ وَحِينَ الْبَأْسِ أُولَئِكَ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا وَأُولَئِكَ هُمُ الْمُتَّقُونَ [البقرة:177].ه
    I found the translation of this verse in a Web *Please,read it*

    It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces to the East and the West; but righteous is he who believeth in Allah and the Last Day and the angels and the Scripture and the prophets; and giveth wealth, for love of Him, to kinsfolk and to orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask, and to set slaves free; and observeth proper worship and payeth the poor-due. And those who keep their treaty when they make one, and the patient in tribulation and adversity and time of stress. Such are they who are sincere. Such are the God-fearing

    My language is not a good. I wish to be may helped you

    my Respect for you ^____^

  7. I’d like to think outside of its associations with religious beliefs that the practice of faith is meant to be ambiguous, well, maybe not meant to be but best understood in the context of ambiguity. I have a faith that ascribes to Christian tenets and I also have a faith that when I switch the lights on that the lights will actually come on. There is a tangible explanation for both. However, when it comes to a personal understanding of faith that relates to God or Supreme Being or the Spaghetti Monster, like yourself, I have a hard time. I appreciate Bill’s post pertaining to faith and scriptures. He posits a very small phrase that is very real to me. I “have faith in God – that God is real and present -” How I came to that conclusion is, well, ambiguous. Bill would claim that I was approached one way and Eric would propose a different method. My question is, does it matter? For some people, like Mother Teresa and St. John of the Cross, the experience or presence of God was devoid in their lives for decades but did that alter their faith. No. Can I explain it? No. Well, not yet anyways. I also think there’s a danger in defining personal faith, whatever that looks like.

  8. Bruce –

    I’m not sure I understand what you mean by “best understood in the context of ambiguity”. It seems to me very clear that ambiguity is inimical to understanding.

    Do you think that there is as much reason to believe in the tenets of Christianity as there is to believe that the lights will indeed come on upon flipping the switch?

  9. Hey Ryan,
    I read your bio again which helps me gauge my answers to your stated life experiences. Obviously with a biblical studies degree you would be aware of one of the plainer statements of what faith is in Hebrews 11:1 and following. I would call it a settled conviction that the Word of God is true, not just an intellectual ascent, but being willing to trust my life to it. Agreeing that the design of a parachute works is not the same as jumping out of the plane with it on.

  10. Hi Dennis,

    Yes, I am familiar with the Hebrews 11 passage, but hardly satisfied by it. It seems rather opaque as soon as you try to get at what it *really* means.

    You said, “I would call [faith] a settled conviction that the Word of God is true…”. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem like a useful definition, since it is something of a tautology. One really doesn’t need what we intuitively think of as “faith” to be convinced that the Word of God is true, since something which is the Word of God is true by definition (at least based on your view of God). To remedy this you might say that “faith” is the settled conviction that the Bible is the Word of God. But now the definition is too narrow. Are we to call the Muslim’s settled conviction concerning the Qu’ran something different?

    Perhaps, then, you might define “faith” as the settled conviction that some holy book is the Word of God. This still seems a bit narrow, but it seems to be at least somewhat useful.

    Here is my question to you, Dennis: where does this “settled conviction” come from? It seems that “faith” in a parachute is comparatively very easy, since there is a clear reason why it should work, based on the laws of physics. What is the reason one should have faith that some written book is the Word of God or that there is such a thing as God?

  11. I think that it is still very hard to jump out of that plane, even though, yes, it’s clear that they do work. One of the good reasons to believe that the Bible is the only true word from God is that He makes 100% accurate predictions, that always come to pass. Another is that Jesus Christ is the only living Savior who spoke His truths, and then backed them up by conquering death. Yet another is the nation of Israel. God chose Israel, not because of one good thing about them, but because He chose to show His plan and power, and bring that risen Savior through them. No nation apart from them has survived over the millenia. God has predicted that Israel would be regathered into the land that He gave them, and in 1948 it was official. Now they are the center of international termoil just as God predicted in His Word.

    Ephesians 2:8,9 says that we Christians (anyone who will truly believe the gospel) are saved by grace through faith, and that (faith) not of ourselves it is the gift of God, not of works that anyone should boast. Faith comes as a gift, not earned, but freely given to anyone who will come to Him with an open and sincere heart, desiring to be saved.

  12. Dennis –

    ["One of the good reasons to believe that the Bible is the only true word from God is that He makes 100% accurate predictions, that always come to pass."]

    You might have to be more careful here. First, “predictions” or prophecies in the bible are often quite vague and ambiguous. Finding something to satisfy them is often not difficult. Second, how do you know that later writers simply didn’t write their accounts so as to fulfill so called “predictions”? Third, it is questionable that predictions always came to pass. For instance, Ezekiel 26:7-14 predicts that Nebuchadrezzar will utterly lay waste to Tyre. But after a 13 year siege, he withdrew his forces. Tyre was not destroyed, but prospered for another 240 years until Alexander the Great.

    Consider also Ezekiel 29:8-12, where it is predicted that Egypt will be destroyed so that it is desolate and uninhabited for 40 years. This, however, has never happened. Ezekiel 30:10-11 even says that Nebuchadrezzar would destroy Egypt. However, he was defeated in his only attempt at taking Egypt. Ezekiel 30:12 goes on to say that the Nile would be dried up, but there is no evidence that this has ever happened. There are others, but you get the idea. How would you respond to these?

    ["Another is that Jesus Christ is the only living Savior who spoke His truths, and then backed them up by conquering death."]

    This would only be useful if we actually knew this to be true. Unfortunately, you seem to be begging the question here. One cannot simply assume this. Why should I accept that this happened?

    ["God has predicted that Israel would be regathered into the land that He gave them, and in 1948 it was official. Now they are the center of international termoil just as God predicted in His Word."]

    Again, this is one of those ambiguous “predictions”, which, to me, seems a bit stretched to fit the situation. They don’t even possess all the land that they were supposed to.

    ["Ephesians 2:8,9 says that we Christians (anyone who will truly believe the gospel) are saved by grace through faith, and that (faith) not of ourselves it is the gift of God, not of works that anyone should boast. Faith comes as a gift, not earned, but freely given to anyone who will come to Him with an open and sincere heart, desiring to be saved."]

    But this requires first being convinced!

  13. I think I will take the Tillichian stance and say that faith is the experience of being ultimately concerned.

    People need something to live for. Whether it’s sex, money, rock & roll, or even family. It all requires some assent that this is meaningful or significant. This is non-rational and existential. Faith in this sense is an act of courage to find meaning in a meaningless existence.

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