Faith: A Definition

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It is sometimes quite fortunate that the Bible wasn’t written in English. The Greek of the New Testament was much more exact. Where we might use words like “love” or “faith”, ancient Greek had multiple words for each. There are big differences between the way you love your spouse, kids, BBQ steak, lollies, a TV show. You have to pay close attention to the context to glean the meaning.

Faith” as Christians define it is much more akin to our modern word “trust”. And as we all know, trust is usually earned before it is given. I often see people write about the difference between “faith” and “reason”, as if there is a logical dichotomy. More often than not it’s titled “Faith Vs Reason”, like it’s some sort of competition.

My faith (or trust, or belief) is based on evidence. It’s based on someone I find trust-worthy. My faith is reason-able. It’s just we all differ on what we call “evidence”. As stated in my first blog, faith is the first step in the reasoning process. You don’t have one without the other.

Our faith is based on who we trust, our life experience, true stories, answered prayer, a living dynamic relationship. When I have doubts, they are very specific. More to do with my future rather than whether God exists. I may as well be saying my mother doesn’t exist. We know each other and talk all the time.

I was almost going to write this week on the historicity of Jesus. He was an actual guy who lived in Judea a couple of thousand years ago. There are numerous non-biblical proofs of it. Although why people discount the first four books of the new testament as proof is beyond me. But the evidence is easy to find. No serious historian discounts that he existed. However every few years someone trots out the same tired old arguments as if they’ve discovered some shocking truth that he was made up. Wishful thinking perhaps?

We are left with a remarkably unchanged record of his life and teachings. And what he said and did, by all accounts, was amazing. Taken as a whole we are left with only three choices: he was crazy, a liar, or he’s God incarnate. What seems reasonable to you based on the evidence? You begin to see how your faith will inform your answer.

So… have you checked the evidence lately?

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10 thoughts on “Faith: A Definition

  1. Hey damo. Great blog. This content is well written, and you really are delivering something valuable to many people – it makes me stop and think, that’s for sure!

  2. I love the truth that everybody lives by faith whether it is faith in God or faith in science or anything else. Yet people still question the belief of faith.

  3. I read a book called The Reason for God by Timothy Keller and I have to admit I was thrown off at first by the title. I thought “God needs no Reason.” But as I got into the book, it was more like the case for God or the evidence for God, as in “come, let us reason.” Great book by the way. I highly recommend it. Enjoying your blogs Damien. I don’t always reply, but I read most of them. Keep up the good work.

  4. I must say, this post leaves me slightly perplexed. Mostly because I don’t know as much as I would like to on the subject matter, but also because it’s very thought provoking (props to you there ;0). I really liked the part about the the perhaps needless competition between faith and reason and that they are interconnected and therefore the -vs- part makes little sense. The part I don’t understand is the three choices at the bottom. Any chance you might be inclined to elaborate on that (if you have a moment, etc.). If so, I would love to hear more. In any case, good post, got me thinking and those are the best kind in my humble opinion ;0)

    • Thanks kyrielleadelshine! The old “Lord, Liar or Lunatic” argument is a pretty old one in Christian apologetics. At it’s essence it shows that, given the available evidence about Jesus’ life, there’s no basis for saying he’s just a good bloke with some profound moral advice. His claims about who he is is inextricably linked to everything he did. He claimed to be God made flesh. Either what he said was false and he knew it (liar), what he said was false but he didn’t know it (lunatic), or what he said was true. In that case, faith (or trust) in him is pretty reasonable.

      The whole point of the article was just to show that Christian faith is not “in spite of” evidence, but based on it.

      • Can I ask you a naive question, given my lack of knowledge on the subject? I do not in any way mean any disrespect to your thoughts in questioning, I just am interested in learning more.

        My question would be – is it not possible that there is a fourth option, that he believed it though he knew not whether is was or was not true? And then it thereafter turned out to be true? Do you know what I mean?

        I may be reiterating what you’ve already said, I apologize if so. But that’s kind of the whole idea of what faith means to me, to an extent anyways, short of unrealistic delusions and that sort of thing. But to me, having faith is believing something is possible even though you know if may or may not be, you just believe in it anyways to put that positive energy out into the cosmos in hopes that it comes back to you one day.

        I think I’m going in circles now! I was brought up Catholic but questioned it since the age I obtained the capability to question things (and that doesn’t just apply to religion…it’s more of an open-minded, I like to know “why” somewhat of a three-year old thing, on a more fundamental basis though ;0).

        If you have any thoughts on my round about thought process here, I’d love to hear more. Thanks for responding to my initial comment ;0)

  5. This blog was a lot more about that first step of a faith a brand new baby Christian makes. That initial “I’m going to trust you with my life Jesus” step. The day-to-day stuff of living life is a lot more juicy and I think a lot closer to what you’re talking about. I don’t think you have a lack of knowledge about this at all. You sound like a truth-seeker to me.

    No-one’s an expert on what Jesus’ thought processes were. I know there’s some scholarly discussion about whether he exercised faith at all. The whole “fully God, fully man” theology doesn’t lend itself to easy answers in this regard. Why do you need faith if you know it all, kind of thing.

    There doesn’t appear to be anything in the gospels where Jesus was unsure about anything at all. What kind of faith raises Lazarus from the dead and walks on water? what kind of faith says to those closest to him that “I give you the words the father gave me”. What kind of faith stands before the high priest of Israel and claims divinity, knowing they would do anything to have him killed after he said it? To me that doesn’t speak of a “hoping against hope” kind of faith.

    He also spoke of knowing and being with the Father before he was born. Is that the kind of faith that is unsure? How could someone even think to say that without actually having a memory of it?

    The ruling religious leaders of the time marvelled at the authority and wisdom in his voice as he taught, even when he was twelve. To them the way Jesus spoke seemed different from other teachers of the time.

    So it looks like to me that yes, he surely did believe what he said was the truth. And more than that, he seemed to know for sure, rather than merely hope for it. You see he didn’t just give advice on moral living. His central message was more about his identity, and ours. His claims about his identity was what made the religious leaders of the time condemn him and take him to the Roman governer to have him executed.

    Thanks for the comments and questions. Love thinking about this stuff.

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