What is faith? (Please don’t be ignorant on purpose)

Yesterday, one ex-Christian blogger wrote a post attacking what he calls “faith.”  As a person of faith myself, I actually agree with most of what he says.  But I think he (like many Christians and anti-Christians) completely misunderstands the meaning of faith.  Below is my response.

 

You define faith as “an exercise of the Will to Believe something to be true without sufficient evidence…”  I think that’s a really shallow definition of faith.  That version of “faith” doesn’t come from the Bible.  It’s actually the relatively recent product of two cataclysmic events in Western Europe:

  1. The Reformation and the bloody conflicts it inspired – Protestants and Catholics slaughtered each other for decade after decade, each side claiming that its beliefs were right and the other side’s beliefs were wrong.  For everyone involved, Christianity became all about beliefs.
  2. The Enlightenment –  This great intellectual movement was obsessed with supposedly objective, rationally-derived facts.  The West has never been the same since.

Naturally, when post-Reformation, post-Enlightenment Western Europeans (and their kids in North America) tried to understand faith, they assumed that faith is all about believing a set of supposed facts.  Unfortunately, their (understandable) mistake has survived in this region of the world for centuries, down to the present one.

But why must we follow their lead?  Why would we let such a tiny minority of Christians define “faith” once and for all?!  According to historians who study the Bible, the modern Western definition of faith (which you echo) would’ve been totally foreign to the Bible’s authors.  To most Eastern Christians and those born before the Reformation, your definition of faith would seem totally bizarre.

I hope you succeed in convincing Western Christians to stop being willfully ignorant, to stop arrogantly supposing that facts don’t apply to them.  (It would also be great if you could get your message to the White House while you’re at it.)  No one should be ignorant on purposeBut let’s not kid ourselves; “belief without evidence” is not, and never was, the only available meaning of faith.

4 thoughts on “What is faith? (Please don’t be ignorant on purpose)

  1. Hi there brother tyler. Thx again for the bump, but I don’t see in your comment or your post your biblical definition of Faith. Could you help a brother out?

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    1. I just now replied to your question on your blog, and I’m posting the same thing here for anyone who comes along later:

      I’m not a biblical scholar myself, but I will take a stab at it! Of course, the Bible is very diverse and includes multiple different perspectives on faith, but the dominant definition of faith is probably best summed up as “faithfulness.” Just like faithfulness in marriage, biblical faith is not about *beliefs* or *facts*, but instead about *relationship* and *journey* *together*.

      In the New Testament, the word often translated “faith” is the Greek “pistis”. It often occurs as a verb, like “Jesus faith-ed God,” which obviously is hard to translate into English since we don’t really have a verb form of faith. There’s also a translation issue when, for example in Romans, Paul says that we are justified by “pistis Christou,” which could be translated either as “faith in Christ” (meaning that we are justified by *our* faith Christ) OR “the faithfulness of Christ” (meaning that we are justified by *Christ’s* faithfulness to God). Think about Christ’s faith in God: it wasn’t about *believing* or *facts*, it was about *selfless love*.

      Hopefully that gives you at least a hint of what is meant by “faith” in the Bible. Here’s one last angle: Try thinking of *faith* in the context of *covenant*. In the “Old Testament,” God makes a deal with Israel, and that deal outlined how each party should act. In that context (and beyond), to have *faith* is to be *faithful* to your end of that covenant. In that sense, it is again very similar to *faithfulness* in marriage; *faithfulness* in both contexts is about doing what you agreed to do, which means staying true to your lover. To have *faith* is to act faithfully and to trust your partner. Now imagine how weird it would be if someone defined “faithfulness in marriage” as “belief without evidence.”

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      1. Brother tyler, I’ve responded on my post. I made a couple of comments in response so you may need to read them from the Post itself. Sorry, i won’t be copy/pasting them here. Too much confusion for me with only 1 cup of coffee. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

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