What is Faith?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

What is Christian Faith?

Perhaps the only attempt to provide a clear definition of Christian faith in the New Testament:

εστιν δε πιστις ελπιζομενων υποστασις πραγματων
But faith is of being hoped the sure basis of things

ελεγχος ου βλεπομενων
demonstration of things not seen.

proof of

evidence of

υποστασις is the counterpart of ελεγχος which refers to objective evidence sufficient to bring conviction in the conscience.

A translation could therefore be:

But faith is the sure basis for things we hope for, the proof of things we cannot see.

This is a totally different idea of faith from the popular conception of faith as "blind faith."

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Definitions of Terms

Blind faith – This could also be described as a “leap of faith” this is a decision to believe in a person or proposition with “absolute” faith. It is an act of will to choose a set of propositions as the basis of all thought and reality. It is a determination to insist that all of reality conforms to these propositions.

It is this kind of faith that Richard Dawkins ridicules. A faith that thrives on a lack of evidence and glories even in facts that contradict its claims. It can fly in the teeth of evidence and the more evidence it overcomes, the more facts it casts into the rubbish bin the greater and stronger it is.

I have called this kind of faith stupid folly. I do not believe it is Christian faith at all and I am convinced that “faith” is the wrong word for it.
(N.B. I do not regard Christian’s [the commenter] faith as stupid folly! He calls it blind faith but I don’t. I believe that he has real evidence for his beliefs. We are thinking of “blind faith” in very different ways.)

This view of faith has also been called fideism from the Latin fiducia "to trust". Søren Kierkegaard is the father figure of this type of thinking in Christianity.

Faith- It is not so much a rational decision, as it is a rejection of rationality in favour of something more uncanny, that is, faith.

Absolute faith- This is 100% conviction- absolute certainty –Complete confidence, complete absence of any doubts whatsoever. This is also called complete faith. Partial faith is faith that is mixed with a greater or lesser amount of doubt. It can be negative or positive. In other words some made be certain that a proposition is true others may be certain that it is false. These will have 100% faith positive and negative respectively. There will be a spectrum in between.

Saving faith – In Christianity faith in the Word of God is the means of salvation. Those who have saving faith are those who are forgiven and have access to heaven when they die. (I do not consider that saving faith is either blind faith OR necessarily absolute faith. There is lots of evidence from the bible of people who had saving faith but were subject to serious trouble with all kinds of doubts and problems.)

Well grounded faith - Situations where our convictions are based upon good and convincing evidence.