Difference between revisions of "Faith"
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'''Faith''' is a confidence or trust in the achievement of [[God]]'s will, even though unseen and unexpected by non-believers.
'''Faith''' is a confidence or trust in the achievement of [[God]]'s will, even though unseen and unexpected by non-believers.
Revision as of 11:37, 18 July 2009
Faith is a confidence or trust in the achievement of God's will, even though unseen and unexpected by non-believers.
Faith embodies more than belief. 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 or in overcoming a personal fear. Faith also implies advancement or accomplishment rather than wrongdoing, while belief implies neither.
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."
Lack of faith can lead to fear, anxiety, depression and lack of confidence. 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.
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). 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."
Life itself may be the manifestation of God's faith. Decay and death may be the manifestation of a lack or denial of faith.
Perhaps the greatest description of faith is Hebrews 11. It states: "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."
Paul indicated that faith itself is 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 progessive 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 belief what Noah was, Noah not required what Abraham was, Abraham not required what Moses was. Moses not required and his generation what Isaiah was, until the time of Jesus. Neither were they allowed less, each one, 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 consiousness, 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 involvment 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 deliverences 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 adultress 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
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.
Uniqueness to 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
Alternatively, faith often refers to a "firm belief in something for which there is no proof" or evidence.
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.
- For example, the Biblical Peter's walking on water based on his faith.
- Mt 8:25-26 (NIV)
- Mark 2:4
- John 14:12 (NIV).
- Hebrews 11:1 (NIV).