Saturday, August 05, 2006

What is Faith?

I was going to use today's post to display some more of my "heretical leanings", but I won't - that can wait for another day. In a couple of places over the last day or so, I've been prompted to think about the question of what faith actually is.

I guess there are two common misconceptions going round today as to what faith is. One view says that "faith" just means "thinking that something is true". The other view says that "faith" is a kind of existential leap that some people take - that they just decided to "have faith" that aliens exist or something, done despite absence of evidence.

The word translated "faith" in the New Testament is πιστις (pistis), which can also mean "faithfulness". It's closely linked to words like "trust" and so on. The idea of "faith" is that it's trusting God. It's not just believing facts about God; it's not some kind of groundless leap in the dark. It is taking what we know about God and trusting him.

The analogy I tend to use when talking to people about this is that of a chair. I can look at a chair, I can shake it a bit, whatever. I can say that I think it will take my weight. But faith is sitting on it.

Faith in Jesus means trusting him with all our weight - with all the weight of our lives, our hopes, our fears. It's not necessarily a leap in the dark. It can be based on good evidence and investigation. But, like sitting on a chair, I don't think you can ever be completely confident until after you put your trust there.

[I've now got all distracted wondering what would happen if πιστις only means "faithfulness" in the NT... There's an interesting article on the translation of the word here.]

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