Thursday, February 28, 2013


What is faith?

I have been avoiding this word in the thesis because it is too often used as a bit of a catch-all phrase. It could mean a set of believes or doctrinal affirmations, it could mean some sort of commitment to God or to the Church, it would mean some quality of spirituality that is not readily measurable, it could mean a combination of these things and more.

Sometimes we like to talk about "the faith" as being this monolithic ideal that we can simply appeal to without qualification. Such as when we talk about someone being a "hero of the faith". It could mean that they were a hero within the Christian religion, but more likely we name them a hero because they seem to embody something of our ideologies and desires. The term faith seems simply too loose to use in academic writing.

Yet, I find myself writing down this word all the time when I do my initial drafts. Mostly I just figure out what use I mean in that instance and pick a different word. But why is it such a go to word? Why can't I shake it? I do think that the term itself is useful.

I've spent some time in the past defining faith in particular ways. Appealing to the Bible and making a case for a particular understanding. I think this tactic would work except that every time I read the word in other contexts I realize that there is a whole package of meaning behind it just as particular as the one I want to imply. I'm not sure I'll give up the practice, but it is a good reminder that words are funny creatures.

So as a thought experiment I put the question to you: what is faith?

Maybe we'll spark a lively debate, but I think the real insight will be how varied and yet specific our ideas a faith are.


Michael Snow said...

Charles Spurgeon had some pretty clear ideas on what faith looked like.

One of Freedom said...

But what are your ideas Michael? How does Spurgeon inspire your understanding of faith. Is it more than pacifism?

Michel Snow said...

By Spurgeon's example, I did not intend to define 'faith' by any 'ism.' What his words so clearly show is a trust in Christ from which obedience to Christ flows--actual obedience to what Christ told us to do. Now that is trust.

[Sorry for late reply. Just had made a comment but not intended as a 'hit and run.' I tend to avoid 'blogger' as commenting is more complicated and often I have no idea whether the comment went through to moderation]

One of Freedom said...

Ah but here is where I think qualification becomes crucial. It is not always self-evident what Christ has told us to do. This is always an interpretive act? Sure we can trust our interpretation. We can even trust the the Spirit is in some way leading us in that interpretive process. But I'm still looking for that person who gets it right every time. I know it certainly isn't me and I probably have a bit more training than most.

The question remains, but let me rephrase it: faith is faith in what?

I'm all for obedience, I think we would agree that it is a critical part of the Christian life. But I'm not sure that obedience is defacto faith. It can just as easily be legalism or even wishful thinking.

And I think we end up at the same place - I truly believe that the fruit of faith is obedient participation in the works of God. But it is the piece before this that I'm after. What is faith?

thanks for continuing the conversation Michel.