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Leighton

I think in most nontrivial cases, faith isn't just a set of principles or values; it also purports to provide an explanation for those values (or an explanation of why no explanation is possible, or something like this). In other words, it doesn't just say how people should live, it also says with why they should live that way. Meaning gets just as much emphasis as ethics, and in practice, the "why" is often affirmed with much more confidence than the "how"; for example, Christians usually have much more trouble agreeing what God has to say about poverty than they do agreeing that whatever it is that God might say about poverty would be deeply relevant.

Personally, I think the 'how's of progressive Christianity has a lot going for it, even though I don't for a second buy any of the 'why's.

cheek

A related question for me is what to make of the relationship between faith and hope. Of the three Christian virtues, love makes the most sense to me, but hope seems to make love easier; so I understand it a little too. I'm really not sure where faith comes in. I love because I think it makes my life and the world better. In moments when my immediate experience seems to contradict this prescription, I continue loving because I have hope that it is true. I'm not really sure how faith makes me a better person.

Law Bob Esq.

From the strict confessional perspective, faith a recursive thing. It is a belief of divine origin in a divine gift that provides rewards of a divine nature. It is not something you choose to have, though you can reject it if it is given to you. Faith is what justifies you before a perfect and just God.

The problem we seem to run into is when we confuse faith with values or works. To be sure, a person with faith will help the poor and love his neighbor, but it is not the works that make faith any more than it is the leaves that make a tree. Too often, well meaning Christians and the occasional snake oil salesman, will lift up the bible and try to use it as a guide to something other than salvation by faith. Sure it has commentary on how a good family operates. Sure it explains that one should be kind to his neighbor. These are not recorded however to be used as a set of instructions that we'll need to follow if we want to prove we have faith, or to earn faith. They are recorded either to show us our failings and illustrate why we need our faith, or to teach us about God. Perhaps the most serious example of this problem are those WWJD bracelets. 99% of the difficult decisions in my life were not encountered by Jesus in the Bible. This stuff is adiaphora.

Was Jesus sent as a sacrifice for our shortcommings, to rectify us once and for all before God? Or was he sent as a good example, something that we need to follow if we're going to earn our way to heaven? Knowing my own shortcommings, I choose the former.

Adam

Law Bob,
I'm not quite sure what you are getting at. You said that Faith is a divine gift, from a divine origin, etc. But then you say (infer) that the bible is a "guide" to salvation. If it is a gift, then why do we need a guide? Does the bible somehow operate as a users manual for our faith in the same way you would read instructions to a new toy or something? Does everyone know they have been given this gift? Does everyone get it and have a chance to reject it? What you said sounds good, but I'm having some difficulty making any sense out of it.

Law Bob Esq.

The confessional perspective, at least, is that divine gifts often come through physical means. Consider for example baptism or communion. Thus, there need be no distinction between a divine gift and a physical "thing." If faith or the word of god are divine gifts, they too can be conveyed by physical means such as sound, or a book. Christians are good at letting some "thing" be more than one "thing" at the same time. With a triune God its something of a necessity.

I cannot imagine a person having faith and not knowing it. Even the ability to question whether or not one believes something indicates at least a some faith.

The problem I mention is when these physical means, such as your Bible, are put to other uses, such as teaching economics or relationships. Praying for wisdom is one thing, but trying to figure out how Jesus would deal with your life's problems, from the Bible, is another. The New Testimant does not tell me how Jesus handled it when his oldest son threw eggs at the neighbors truck.

Harlan

I'm not sure that faith is the same as belief. Does the fact that I believe that God exists mean that I have faith? Perhaps we should try to distinguish Faith with faith...Let's say I believe in the tooth fairy. In this way, I guess I must have faith that this being exists, but this faith, though well-intentioned, does nothing for my eternal state or existance. I understand Faith to have substance, not just belief. Love, Faith, Hope...perhaps these are Divine gifts, or even take on spiritual diminsions that just simply can't be properly defined with a limited, human vocabulary.

I think I consider faith to be more of an action, not a thought. It is one thing to believe in God, it is something totally different to step out and act without really knowing what the outcome of the action will be. I just put a qoute up on my blog the other evening. It says, "Faith is walking to the edge of all you have, and then taking one more step."

Harlan

Even Satan believes in God, but I wouldn't say that Satan has faith.

Adam

Harlan,
I don't think we disagree. I was trying to get across that faith and belief are interchangeable within a certain context. People ask me alot, "Do you believe in the bible?" I guess what they mean is, "Do you believe the bible to be true". Which itself has problems but I don't think they are saying "Do you think the bible exists?" When I say I believe or have faith in Jesus I mean something more than that I think he exists.

By the way, how do you know what Satan believes?

Law Bob.
I'm not sure you understood what I was asking you. I think we are on pretty different pages.

Law Bob Esq.

Perhaps I misinterpreted the point of the original post in my anti-snake-oil zeal. As for what satan believes, I don't think it matters. Assuming Jesus "died for the sins of all mankind" like the christians say he did, I don't think that includes Satan.

As for belief and faith as terms of art, I think Adam is right, there is a critical distinction between believing in the bible as in knowing it exists, and having faith in the Word within.

I'm reminded of that famed scene from the Muppet Show. Do you belief in fondue? Well, I know it exists. I believe in fondue too. I know that if you look deep within your heart you will always find, melted cheese.

Harlan

You're right. At a certain point faith has to be a belief in something not seen or explained on human terms. Perhaps I was just interested in what faith is or what it turns into, or what it becomes, looks like, smells like, beyond the acknowledgment of this profession of belief.

I also don't proport to know Satan's thoughts. I was just working off of the idea of the conversations between Satan and God in the book of Job along with Satan's testing of Jesus in the desert. It seemed obvious to me that Satan believes in God, knows God, or what have you...but I didn't feel that his belief in God could be counted as faith in the same way. Is there a difference in the way we define belief? What is the "more" that is the silent object of belief or faith? Just some questions for conversation.

Leighton

Just a quick observation--"faith", as colloquially used, incorporates things like Buddhism, wherein the aim is not to properly orient the self to a transcendent other, but rather to reach a certain state of (non-)being. I think most of the comments about faith on this thread apply specifically to Christianity, or perhaps to monotheism; but they don't apply to faith in full generality.

Adam

Leighton,
Good observation. I tend to forget about the larger faith community from time to time. Mainly because I don't have any experience except for Christianity to talk about. Which makes me think that there needs to be a much larger conversation happening about faith.

Harlan,
I'm pretty sure that I understand what you are saying about Satan. I don't believe Satan exists but if it does then its belief in God is a belief in the metaphysical existence of God, not the sort of "believing in" that I was trying to get at. That is how I would differentiate how I've defined belief. Like I said in my post, they are interchangeable within a specific context and dealing with specific connatative meanings. If believing in God requires things of me beyond my believing in (trusting in, having faith in, hoping in) Jesus, then I'm not so sure it is even possible for me. But then again there are aspects of my faith as of recently that could definately fit into the larger context of faith that Leighton referred to. Parts that have to do with the human community, the over-arching goodness that shows up in all faiths. Partly because I think that God is not boxed into the Christian Faith but is able and willing to make Godself known to all people in ways I can't even imagine. But maybe that's just the heretical side of me coming out.

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