I always wrestle with this, not so much the concept but the definition. I am preaching on June 8th and the readings are Hosea 5:15-6:6, Romans 4:13-25, and Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26.
So I ask, what do you all think of this ultra-simplistic definition of faith?
6 thoughts on “What is faith?”
With this definition, you still have to do defining of terms. What is believing? What is Action? I would say that believing is a multifaced thing: Believing without seeing, Believing and seeing, Believing without being sure, Believing and being sure, etc. As for action, that is many-splintered too: How we act/carry out actions mentally, emotionally, spiritually, theologically, ethically, etc. I’m not sure that it can be all explained in one sermon. Just as well, I’m not sure that the boiling down you’ve done will be all that helpful if you’ve got so much more explaining to do. You might do well to choose one aspect of faith and go with it. For example, you could talk about some elements of faith or some results of faith or some things that lead to faith, etc. From your equation, though, it seems to me like you want to emphasize the aspect of faith that results in a theologically and ethically shaped lifestyle. So, you could go that route but don’t limit your definitions is my opinion. You might also make the point, a few times, that you are simply acknowledging one aspect in the faith spectrum. Besides, faith isn’t all that simple and I don’t know if we should lead on like it is (not that you were going to). Just my opinion, from one preacher to another. Have fun! Blessings!
two quick thoughts – whatsoever is not of faith is sin (later in Romans somewhere) and I would have to figure this out more deeply – but how about faith is God’s work in you and in us.
Personally, after having completed a draft of the psalms, I like the idea of engagement in the covenant dialogue – if definition is required.
Dear rational mortal animals, receptive of intelligence and science, who are capable of laughter, have two legs, and lack feathers,
One point that concerns me is the market value of a definition of faith in the first place. First, what is the object of a definition, that is – what is a definition used for? Apprehension and instruction seems like a fair characterization. Ok, it goes without saying that if a woman does not know the object of a definition, she is clearly unable to define the object unknown to her. But, if she knows the object of a definition, and proceeds to define that object, then she has not apprehended the object by means of the definition, rather she created a definition based on what was apprehended without the definition. If we grant that faith can be apprehended without definition, then we declare that a definition is not necessary for apprehension. Since apprehension is a necessary prerequisite for instruction, (how could anything be instructive which has not already been apprehended?) it also follows that definition is not necessary for instruction.
Michael Halcomb’s comment is well taken (‘you still have some terms to define’), however I would like to point out the logical implications of that critique – namely, that any attempt to absolutely define all things leads to a regress ad infinitum (constantly defining what has been defined; also affirming one indicative sign by means of another indicative sign causes problems as well). So it seems like a complete definition of faith is not possible. Moreover, I see a problem of vagueness in attempting to determine what length of a definition is sufficient to ‘get the idea’ of what faith is (cf. Sorites ‘how many grains of sand constitute a heap?’). I understand (and appreciate) the point that oversimplification leads to trivialization, but I think you have to consider context. For example, the dictionary tells me that ‘being’ is defined as presence or existence; while at the same time volumes can (and have) been written on this word alone. While the dictionary definition may not be acceptable for a discourse in existential literature, perhaps and existential account of being could be left out of 4th grade grammar.
Finally, I disagree (though not strongly 🙂 ) with the idea that you can just define one aspect of faith. One aspect of faith is not faith (I think I can get away with omitting a discussion on the relationship between the parts and the whole), and is not a definition of faith, which defeats the purpose of providing a definition of faith in the first place.
You ask: what do you think of the ultra-simplistic definition of faith?
Me thinks: There is a time and place for it! I don’t think that any definition will be sufficient to grasp faith, which leads to a question of adequacy. Adequacy is relative to context. Some situations demand a definition of a higher degree of adequacy. In other situations, much can be said for keeping things short and sweet!
Pop, Lock, and drop it,
N.B. most of this is (appropriately?) appropriated from Sextus Empiricus – hope it was interesting!
you make some good points. in sorting through the philosophical/logical approach you offer, in the end, i still disagree that helping persons understand the whole by explaining parts is a legit and often helpful method. with the bible, we often explain its parts to understand its overall point/metanarrative, etc. so, if i were in your shoes, i would still speak about one aspect/element of faith. and i would speak it about it in more simplistic and less philosophical terms…though, that has its time and place too. blessings in your preaching.
Sorry for the late response – ech, lots going on right now. Thank you very much for taking the time to examine my post. Your response is well taken, and I’m very happy that the perspective I proposed was able to contribute to the discussion (even if I did completely miss the point 🙂 ).
All the best wishes,