Faith

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Faith[1] extends beyond belief to include confidence about something unseen, such as the achievement of God's will. Faith goes beyond materialism to include a realization of the underlying reality, for the goal of achieving good.

The entire Chapter 11 of the His Epistle to the Hebrews, possibly written by Jesus, is devoted to explaining faith, which is unique to Christianity.

Faith embodies more than belief, requiring more than mere thought or emotion. Faith elevates one's being, while belief is limited to a mental state or emotion. Faith implies a causal role by the believer in an outcome[2] or in overcoming a personal fear. Faith also implies advancement or accomplishment rather than wrongdoing, while belief implies neither.

Contents

Faith in God vs. secular psychology for solving addictions and other personal problems

See also: Ineffectivness of counseling psychology

The Christian group Teen Challenge reported:

Teen Challenge claims of a 70% cure rate for the drug addicts graduating from their program attracted the attention of the U.S. Federal Government in 1973. Most secular drug rehabilitation programs only experienced a cure rate of 1-15% of their graduates. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, funded the first year of this study to evaluate the long term results of the Teen Challenge program.[3]

Teen Challenge has a number of studies that indicate the high effectiveness of their drug treatment program compared to other programs.[4] Studies indicate that consumers of secular counseling psychology for alcoholism receive hardly any benefit at all.[5][6] The Apostle Paul in a letter to the church of Corinth indicated that Christians were able to overcome being drunkards through the power of Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 6:9-11).

The Conversion of St Paul by Nicolas-Bernard Lepicie, 1767.

The Apostle Paul wrote:

Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." - I Corinthians 6:9-11 (NIV)

The website The Berean Call has a number of articles on various false claims and unbiblical notions that many practitioners of counseling psychology promote.[7]

Faith plays a central role in overcoming addiction. Virtually everyone is plagued by one or more addictions, and faith enables overcoming those weaknesses. Similar to this is faith's key role in overcoming recidivism. This role is unique to Christian faith and has not been shown with regard to other religions' belief systems or to secular humanist ideologies.

Faith is also helpful in overcoming fear, such as fear of public speaking, appearing on television, or standing up to a bully or unpleasant situations. Jesus reprimanded the Apostles for their faithless fear: "The disciples went and woke him, saying, 'Lord, save us! We're going to drown!' He replied, 'You of little faith, why are you so afraid?' Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm."[8]

Lack of faith can lead to fear, anxiety, depression, lack of confidence and sometimes death. A lack of faith can be very harmful, leading to self-destructive behavior. Faith can be described as the power to ignore the devil and all his antics.

Often faith inspires extra initiative or effort, adding confidence that it will yield the desired good result. "Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on," and Jesus cured him.[9]

Frequency

Financial Times (FT)/Harris Poll among adults in 5 countries in 2006

Expression

A classic statement of faith in the Bible was by the Roman centurion of Matthew 8:5-10, who expressed his confidence that Jesus could cure his beloved servant from a distance without even seeing him. Jesus repeatedly emphasized the importance and value of faith to his disciples.

Faith is expressed in Greek using the term pistis, and in Latin using the term fides. Faith is mentioned in 229 verses in the New Testament (KJV), but only twice in the much larger Old Testament (KJV).[10] In attempt to convert Jews to Christianity, Paul described Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac to God as an act of faith, though the Old Testament did not describe it with that term.

Faith is strengthened by prayer (Jude 20). For those who strengthen their faith, Jesus promised "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father."[11]

Life itself may be the manifestation of God's faith. Decay and death may be the manifestation of a lack or denial of faith.

Biblical examples

Perhaps the greatest description of faith is Hebrews 11:1. It states: "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."[12]

The painting by Giovanni Ricco (1817-1873) shows Paulus before that "high priest and the advice of the oldest" in Jerusalem where he defends its theology for the moors.

The King James Version expresses this passage as: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." The Greek word translated as "substance" is `hupostasis', meaning setting under (support). The Greek word for "evidence"`elegchos' meaning proof.,[13] The Bible thus distinguishes clearly between the leap of faith of Kirkegaard and a faith based on acknowledgement of the evidence presented by God within our own experiences in this world. Paul, in Romans 1:17-20 explains that faith has its basis in the observed expression of God's existence in this universe: "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen...."

Paul indicated that exceptional faith may be a gift of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:8-9 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit

As discussed above, a potential reference to faith is Genesis 22 where God tested Abraham by commanding him to sacrifice his only son Isaac. As Abraham prepared to do what God commanded -he was stopped. Genesis 22:12 "Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son."

Martin Luther on Faith

Luther in his Table Talk papers writes this thought provoking and rather difficult passage on faith:

"This is the acme of faith, to believe that God, who saves so few and condemns so many, is merciful; that he is just who, at his own pleasure, has made us necessarily doomed to damnation, so that he seems to delight in the torture of the wretched and is more deserving of hate than of love. If by any effort of reason I could conceive how God, who shows so much anger and harshness, could be merciful and just, there would be no need of faith."

The Moral Basis of Biblical Faith

The biblical expression of faith is belief in what God reveals to man to be so. Since New Testament times, that means belief in what God reveals to be so concerning Jesus Christ. There is a steady progression through time of what God reveals and so belief also finds expression in progressive content and emphasis. What God reveals to Adam, to Noah, to Moses (and through them), to the prophets, to the Ninevites, to Simeon and Anna, Mary, to the Apostles, differ in content and in emphasis, but the culmination of the content of faith is the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

The moral basis of faith is the positive response of belief, and the obedience of one's life to the requirement implied by the revelation. That is why Adam (and his generation) was not required to believe what Noah was required to believe, why Noah was not required to believe what Abraham was required to believe, and why Abraham was not required to believe what Moses was required to believe. Moses, and his generation, was not required to believe what Isaiah was required to believe, until the time of Jesus. Nor were they each allowed to believe less than what was required of them to believe, as if they were of a previous generation and a previous revelation.

The moral basis of Faith continues on in effect, content and emphasis, since the time of the Son of God on earth. That is why the "good man" is required to believe in the Son of God preached to him, as He, the Son of God, is the source of his goodness, and the forgiver of his badness, through His sacrifice on the cross; the "bad man" required to believe in Him who bore his sin, through His sacrifice on the cross; the "gentile", wherever found, of whatever stage, required to live up to what is given him by his conscience and whatever good has come to him through his culture, and believe in the light God is actually giving him, and in the Jesus being preached to him, but not required to believe in and practice the Law of Moses; the Jew required to keep the Law given him, and then to despair at not having fulfilled it, and believe in the Son of God being revealed to him; the infant respond, as infants can, and not as adolescents and adults are required, each in his own order, until the greater revelation comes, and separation from the dominance and protection of the elders; and why an embryo aborted is required to respond as only an embryo can, which God alone knows, and not be required to be at the level of response he would have been moments and days and months and years later, if he would have been let live - saved - though the embryo would never have known how - by the Cross of the sin bearing Savior, who knew him well and loved him. "to him whom much has been given, of him much will be required."

The natural and the supernatural aspects of Faith

Faith is a gift from God that may be viewed two ways. One is clearly an intrusion or at least and introjection into our ordinary lives. Under this aspect, we see it as pure grace. "For by grace are you saved through faith, and this is not as a result of your deeds, It is God's gift and not something from ourselves". Our response, is from the extremity of our situation and as a clear product of something outside ourselves - the new word of God, the message concerning Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Even the ability to hear and understand is given to us from above, "Faith comes by hearing, and "hearing" itself, comes by the Word of God". And thus we call out, from the depth and from consciousness, for salvation. " Whoever shall call on the name of the Lord, will be saved/"

The other aspect of Faith is not by intrusion or introjection, but by infusion and irradiation. This too is of the grace of God. Whereas the first aspect had come to us at our extremity from without, this aspect comes to us from within and around, pervading the so-called natural structures that we experience every day, that are so supportive of stability, confidence, trust and hope. Good parenting, solidity of home and provision, loving faithfulness among friends as we grow, continual exposure to the truth of the Word of God (and truth is always therapeutic), strengthens our faith, and our expectation for the continuing faithfulness and involvement of a loving and good God. Faith seems so natural, so in accord, with our experience, that we could even be surprised that it could have been otherwise. Here we experience, most often, not a crisis of faith, but the need to give ourselves more fully to Him in whom we are believing. Under this aspect, God is to be appreciated and acknowledged for being our good and heavenly Father. The Old Testament presents us with the reality of this aspect of faith. Amidst even the miraculous events as the parting of the "Red" Sea, and the many deliverances Israel experience so beyond their natural ability to effect, little is said, is acknowledged consciously, of the quality of faith itself. It is air that a fish is most conscious of, not his home in the water.

Faith: the Access to Reality

Christianity demands Faith and insists that Faith be turned into sight. "Do you believe, Thomas, because you have seen. Blessed are those who do not see and yet believe." Throughout the New Testament, this theme occurs, belief in Jesus, belief in the Heavenly Father, belief in the readiness of God to still waves, cause you too to walk on water, to return a dead girl back to her grieving, believing mother, to see small insignificant things as a seed grow, as if miraculously of itself, into a startling display of fruit to eat and protection for birds, all of this, with only the sky to limit, comes into our lives, according to Jesus, if we have Faith. Reality is gained by the exercise of Faith, a reality unattainable by the ordinary means frequented by men.

But this reality attained, so extraordinary in this sordid and marred sin-infested world, is seen to be the "normal" reality of the Kingdom of Heaven, just waiting to enter in. Entirely right in the presence of the Kingdom of God and the King Himself for the dead boy to get up from his bier to run to his mother, entirely right that that adulteress be pardoned, strengthened, challenged, and hold her head up high once again, entirely right the demons come out of the tormented boy to be commanded to go to the place that God has prepared for them, all entirely right at the entrance of this new reality of the Kingdom of Heaven among us, and the King Himself, Jesus. The overwhelming of reality, by Reality.

As God is palpable in Jesus, so the Reality of the Kingdom of God is palpable, and can be seen, on this earth. The entrance to the Garden was by faith, but the reality of the garden is as tangible as was Jesus eating fish with his disciples after he got up from the dead. As much as the New Testament presents Faith as the entrance to the Kingdom, so does it insist that Faith, perhaps not fully in this world, shall turn to sight in the end... and on the way. "It is not apparent what we who are called the children of God shall yet be, but we know that we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He really is."

Faith as a virtue

The 'walking on water' episode, which both showed and tested St Peter's faith (painting by Konrad Witz).

St Paul identified faith, hope and love (or charity) as the three greatest virtues that are central to Christianity, and this idea is repeated and elaborated upon throughout Christian tradition. Faith is put first because it provides the foundation upon which the other two are built: a faithful heart and mind cause one to have hope, and hope causes one to have love for God and one's fellow man.

In Dante's Divine Comedy, St Peter is most identified with faith. This is appropriate, since he was the 'rock' on which the Church was built, just as a Christian life must be rooted in faith. Peter's great faith is shown in Matthew 14:28-31, when he is briefly able to walk on water until doubt enters his mind.

Christian philosopher Robert Merrihew Adams wrote a book, The Virtue of Faith, to defend the idea of faith as virtuous. Consider the case of a loved one accused of some wrongdoing, but who protests their innocence - our relationship with them creates a special ethical obligation to believe what they say, which does not apply to the protestations of innocence of strangers; at the same time, that obligation is not absolute, but can be overturned by the evidence. Adams uses this example to argue that some beliefs we are ethically obliged to hold, and argues that the existence of God could be such a belief for the believer.

Contrary to Adams' view is that favored by many atheists, classically expressed by William Kingdon Clifford, in his 1877 essay The Ethics of Belief, which states "it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence." However, while Clifford can point to individual cases where believing things without evidence is unethical, those cases fail to demonstrate that his principle is true in every case, and he ignores valid cases such as those which Adams cites which lead to the opposite conclusion.

Unique Role Within Christianity

Christianity is unique among religions in that its followers are defined by faith rather than by adherence to a prescribed code. St Paul makes this distinction clear in Galatians 3:24-25:

The law was a kind of tutor in charge of us until Christ should come, when we should be justified through faith; and now that faith has come, the tutor's charge is at an end.

That is to say, whereas Judaism required (and still requires) its followers to obey the law, Christianity begins with faith, and any moral or ethical decisions must follow from that. In this regard, Islam has much more in common with Judaism than it does with Christianity: the word 'Islam' itself means 'submission to God'.

Other Definitions and Religions

Outside of Christianity, faith is misused as a synonym for "belief". The Merriam-Webster dictionary, for example, includes this definition of faith: "a system of religious beliefs."[14]

Alternatively, faith often refers to a "firm belief in something for which there is no proof" or evidence.

In the Koran, the concept of submission to Allah is mentioned 11 times, while the concept of faith in Allah is mentioned only once.

Etymologically, the word 'faith' is closely linked to the concept of "fidelity," which emphasizes commitment to something or someone, specifically Christ. Thus, faith is often understood to mean 'loyalty' to a particular view of divinity. Yet, faith can also be envisioned more broadly as a trust in providence, as it entails an active role for the believer himself for advancing good.

The literary critic Harold Bloom distinguishes Christianity from the other two dominant monotheistic religions in his book Agon by contrasting them with Gnosticism:

"Gnosticism polemically is decidedly not a faith, whether in the Christian sense, pisits, a believing that something was, is, and will be so; or in the Hebraic sense, emunah, a trusting in the Covenant. If religion is a binding, then Gnosticism is an unbinding, but not for the sake of things or persons merely as they are. Gnostic freedom is a freedom for knowledge, knowledge of what in the self, not in the psyche or soul, is Godlike, and knowledge of God beyond the cosmos. But also it is a freedom to be known, to be known by God, by what is alien to everything created, by what is alien to and beyond the stars and the cosmic system and our earth."

Faith is emphasized in Christianity but is unrecognized by the worldview of philosophical skepticism.

See also

References

  1. 1200–50; Middle English feith < Anglo-French fed, Old French feid, feit < Latin fidem, accusative of fidēs trust, akin to fīdere to trust.
  2. For example, the Biblical Peter's walking on water based on his faith.
  3. http://teenchallengeusa.com/studies2.php
  4. http://teenchallengeusa.com/studies.php
  5. http://www.spring.org.uk/2005/07/psychological-treatments-for-alcoholism.php
  6. http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/5/75/abstract
  7. http://www.thebereancall.org/topic/psychology
  8. Mt 8:25-26 (NIV)
  9. Mark 2:4
  10. http://www.crosswalk.com
  11. John 14:12 (NIV).
  12. Hebrews 11:1 (NIV).
  13. J. Strong, 1890, Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN.
  14. http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/faith

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