The term faith has numerous connotations and is used in many different ways, often depending on context. Faith may be confidence or trust in a person or thing or a belief not based on proof. It may also refer to a particular system of religious belief.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Meaning of faith
- 3 Epistemological validity
- 4 Support
- 5 Criticism
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes and references
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
The English word faith is thought to date from 1200–50, from the Middle English feith, via Anglo-French fed, Old French feid, feit from Latin fidem, accusative of fidēs (trust), akin to fīdere (to trust).
Meaning of faith
In the Bahá'í Faith, faith is meant, first, conscious knowledge, and second, the practice of good deeds, ultimately the acceptance of the divine authority of the Manifestations of God. In the religion's view, faith and knowledge are both required for spiritual growth. Faith involves more than outward obedience to this authority, but also must be based on a deep personal understanding of religious teachings.
Faith (Pali: Saddhā, Sanskrit: Śraddhā) is an important constituent element of the teachings of Gautama Buddha— in both the Theravada and the Mahayana traditions. The teachings of Buddha were originally recorded in the language Pali and the word saddhā is generally translated as "faith". In the teachings, saddhā is often described as:
- a conviction that something is
- a determination to accomplish one's goals
- a sense of joy deriving from the other two
While faith in Buddhism does not imply "blind faith", Buddhist practice nevertheless requires a degree of trust, primarily in the spiritual attainment of Gautama Buddha. Faith in Buddhism centers on the understanding that the Buddha is an Awakened being, on his superior role as teacher, in the truth of his Dharma (spiritual teachings), and in his Sangha (community of spiritually developed followers). Faith in Buddhism can be summarised as faith in the Three Jewels: the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. It is intended to lead to the goal of enlightenment, or bodhi, and Nirvana. Volitionally, faith implies a resolute and courageous act of will. It combines the steadfast resolution that one will do a thing with the self-confidence that one can do it.
As a counter to any form of "blind faith", the Buddha's teachings included those included in the Kalama Sutra, exhorting his disciples to investigate any teaching and to live by what is learnt and accepted, rather than believing in something simply because it is taught.
The word translated as 'faith' in the New Testament is the Greek word 'πίστις' which can also be translated 'belief' or 'trust'.
There are various views in Christianity regarding the nature of faith. Some see faith as being persuaded or convinced that something is true. In this view, a person believes something when they are presented with adequate evidence that it is true.
A second common view is that faith includes doubt. In this view, since there is almost nothing we can be absolutely certain about, faith must include an element of doubt in order for us to believe anything.
Then there are numerous views regarding the results of faith. Some believe that true faith results in good works, while others believe that while faith in Jesus brings eternal life, it does not necessarily result in good works.
Regardless of which approach to faith a Christian takes, all agree that the Christian faith is aligned with the ideals and the example of the life of Jesus. The Christian sees the mystery of God and his grace and seeks to know and become obedient to God. To a Christian, faith is not static but causes one to learn more of God and to grow; Christian faith has its origin in God.
In Christianity, faith causes change as it seeks a greater understanding of God. Faith is not fideism or simple obedience to a set of rules or statements. Before Christians have faith, they must understand in whom and in what they have faith. Without understanding, there cannot be true faith, and that understanding is built on the foundation of the community of believers, the scriptures and traditions and on the personal experiences of the believer. In English translations of the New Testament, the word "faith" generally corresponds to the Greek noun πίστις (pistis) or to the Greek verb πιστεύω (pisteuo), meaning "to trust, to have confidence, faithfulness, to be reliable, to assure".
Christian apologetic views
In contrast to noted atheist Richard Dawkins' view of faith as "blind trust, in the absence of evidence, even in the teeth of evidence", Alister McGrath quotes the Oxford Anglican theologian W. H. Griffith-Thomas (1861-1924), who states that faith is "not blind, but intelligent" and that it "commences with the conviction of the mind based on adequate evidence...", which McGrath sees as "a good and reliable definition, synthesizing the core elements of the characteristic Christian understanding of faith".
American biblical scholar Archibald Thomas Robertson stated that the Greek word pistis used for faith in the New Testament (over two hundred forty times), and rendered "assurance" in Acts 17:31 (KJV), is "an old verb meaning "to furnish", used regularly by Demosthenes for bringing forward evidence." Tom Price (Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics) affirms that when the New Testament talks about faith positively it only uses words derived from the Greek root [pistis] which means "to be persuaded".
British Christian apologist John Lennox argues that "faith conceived as belief that lacks warrant is very different from faith conceived as belief that has warrant". He states that "the use of the adjective 'blind' to describe 'faith' indicates that faith is not necessarily, or always, or indeed normally, blind". "The validity, or warrant, of faith or belief depends on the strength of the evidence on which the belief is based." "We all know how to distinguish between blind faith and evidence-based faith. We are well aware that faith is only justified if there is evidence to back it up." "Evidence-based faith is the normal concept on which we base our everyday lives."
Peter S Williams holds that "the classic Christian tradition has always valued rationality, and does not hold that faith involves the complete abandonment of reason will believing in the teeth of evidence."[page needed] Quoting Moreland, faith is defined as "a trust in and commitment to what we have reason to believe is true."
Regarding "doubting Thomas" in John 20:24-31, Williams points out that "Thomas wasn't asked to believe without evidence". He was asked to believe on the basis of the other disciples' testimony. Thomas initially lacked the first-hand experience of the evidence that had convinced them... Moreover, the reason John gives for recounting these events is that what he saw is evidence... Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples...But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and that believing ye might have life in his name. John 20:30,31.
Kenneth Boa and Robert M. Bowman Jr. describe a classic understanding of faith that is referred to[by whom?]as evidentialism, and which is part of a larger epistemological tradition called classical foundationalism, which is accompanied by deontologism, which holds that humans have an obligation to regulate their beliefs in accordance with evidentialist structures.
They show how this can go too far, and Alvin Plantinga deals with it. While Plantinga upholds that faith may be the result of evidence testifying to the reliability of the source (of the truth claims), yet he sees having faith as being the result of hearing the truth of the gospel with the internal persuasion by the Holy Spirit moving and enabling him to believe. "Christian belief is produced in the believer by the internal instigation of the Holy Spirit, endorsing the teachings of Scripture, which is itself divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit. The result of the work of the Holy Spirit is faith."
Faith in Hinduism evokes the conscious awareness of humanity to realize its sacredness that we are all a form of God. We learn that it is the one universal breath that is uniting us all in our aspiring journey towards the quest of the eternal truth constantly. The Universe is one family that is sustained by the supreme consciousness which is compassionately seeking the goodwill, harmony and welfare of all living beings respectively. The true essence and soul of all religions is the love of God and the practice of righteousness in our thoughts, actions and expressions which is our primordial heritage. Ahimsa also referred to as non violence is the fundamental tenet of Hinduism which advocates harmonious and peaceful co existence and evolutionary growth in grace and wisdom for all humankind unconditionally.
Life's true values inspire us to realize that with the pure intent of our energy, we create and that with the pureness of creation, we are all energized. We further learn in our faithfulness in the oneness of evolution that God shines as the soul in different bodies and makes every form that God creates to shine forth with God’s divine illusion resplendently. The indomitable will power of evolution sacredly resonates that everything is pure in its essence and so are all of we which helps us to identify, discover, recognize, realize and experience our true nature, our true self and our divine essence infinitely.
In Hinduism, most of the Vedic prayers begins with the chants of Om. Om is the Sanskrit symbol that amazingly resonates the peacefulness ensconced within one's higher self. Om is considered to have a profound effect on the body and mind of the one who chants and also creates a calmness, serenity, healing, strength of its own to prevail within and also in the surrounding environment. When we chant Om, we merge with the pure expression of the energy within ourselves, we merge in the consciousness; the infinite self which is the eternal home of the spirit of life.
In Islam, faith (iman) is complete submission to the will of Allah, which includes belief, profession and the body's performance of deeds, consistent with the commission as vicegerent on Earth, all according to God's will.
Iman has two aspects: Recognizing and affirming that there is one Creator of the universe and only to this Creator is worship due. According to Islamic thought, this comes naturally because faith is an instinct of the human soul. This instinct is then trained via parents or guardians into specific religious or spiritual paths. Likewise, the instinct may not be guided at all.
Willingness and commitment to submitting that God exists, and to his prescriptions for living in accordance with vicegerency. The Qur'an is understood as the dictation of God's prescriptions through Muhammad and is believed to have updated and completed the previous revelations that God sent through earlier prophets.
In the Qur'an, it is stated that (2:62): "Indeed, those who believed and those who were Jews or Christians or Sabeans [before Prophet Muhammad] - those [among them] who believed in Allah and the Last Day and did righteousness - will have their reward with their Lord, and no fear will there be concerning them, nor will they grieve."
Another closely related concept is tawwakul.
Faith itself is not a religious concept in Judaism. The only one time faith in God is mentioned in the 24 books of the Jewish Bible, is in verse 10 of the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 43. In this verse, the commandment to know God is followed by the commandments to believe and to understand, thus denoting descending importance.
However, Judaism does recognize the positive value of Emunah (generally translated as faith, trust in God) and the negative status of the Apikorus (heretic), but faith is not as stressed or as central as it is in other religions, especially compared with Christianity and Islam. It could be a necessary means for being a practicing religious Jew, but the emphasis is placed on true knowledge, true prophecy and practice rather than on faith itself. Very rarely does it relate to any teaching that must be believed. Judaism does not require one to explicitly identify God (a key tenet of Christian faith, which is called Avodah Zarah in Judaism, a minor form of idol worship, a big sin and strictly forbidden to Jews). Rather, in Judaism, one is to honour a (personal) idea of God, supported by the many principles quoted in the Talmud to define Judaism, mostly by what it is not. Thus there is no established formulation of Jewish principles of faith which are mandatory for all (observant) Jews.
In the Jewish scriptures trust in God - Emunah - refers to how God acts toward his people and how they are to respond to him; it is rooted in the everlasting covenant established in the Torah, notably Deuteronomy 7:9:
Know, therefore, that the Lord, your God He is God, the faithful God, Who keeps the covenant and loving kindness with those who love Him and keep His commandments to a thousand generations.
The specific tenets that compose required belief and their application to the times have been disputed throughout Jewish history. Today many, but not all, Orthodox Jews have accepted Maimonides' Thirteen Principles of Belief.
A traditional example of Emunah as seen in the Jewish annals is found in the person of Abraham. On a number of occasions, Abraham both accepts statements from God that seem impossible and offers obedient actions in response to direction from God to do things that seem implausible (see Genesis 12-15).
"The Talmud describes how a thief also believes in G‑d: On the brink of his forced entry, as he is about to risk his life—and the life of his victim—he cries out with all sincerity, 'G‑d help me!' The thief has faith that there is a G‑d who hears his cries, yet it escapes him that this G‑d may be able to provide for him without requiring that he abrogate G‑d’s will by stealing from others. For emunah to affect him in this way he needs study and contemplation."
Faith itself is not a religious concept in Sikhism. However, the five Sikh symbols, known as Kakaars or Five Ks (in Punjabi known as pañj kakkē or pañj kakār), are sometimes referred to as the Five articles of Faith. The articles include kēs (uncut hair), kaṅghā (small wooden comb), kaṛā (circular steel or iron bracelet), kirpān (sword/dagger), and kacchera (special undergarment). Baptised Sikhs are bound to wear those five articles of faith, at all times, to save them from bad company and keep them close to God.
There is a wide spectrum of opinion with respect to the epistemological validity of faith. On one extreme is logical positivism, which denies the validity of any beliefs held by faith; on the other extreme is fideism, which holds that true belief can only arise from faith, because reason and physical evidence cannot lead to truth. Some foundationalists, such as St. Augustine of Hippo and Alvin Plantinga, hold that all of our beliefs rest ultimately on beliefs accepted by faith. Others, such as C.S. Lewis, hold that faith is merely the virtue by which we hold to our reasoned ideas, despite moods to the contrary.
William James believed that the varieties of religious experiences should be sought by psychologists, because they represent the closest thing to a microscope of the mind—that is, they show us in drastically enlarged form the normal processes of things. For a useful interpretation of human reality, to share faith experience he said that we must each make certain "over-beliefs" in things which, while they cannot be proven on the basis of experience, help us to live fuller and better lives.. James was a leading proponent of pragmatism which argues that beliefs are "true" if and only if they are useful to the believer, rather than corresponding to anything noumenal. While pragmatism has now found applications in modern statistics ("Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful.") its original formulation by James was strongly motivated by his desire to unify rationality and science with faith.
Fideism is an epistemological theory which maintains that faith is independent of reason, or that reason and faith are hostile to each other and faith is superior at arriving at particular truths (see natural theology).
Fideism is not a synonym for religious belief, but describes a particular philosophical proposition in regard to the relationship between faith's appropriate jurisdiction at arriving at truths, contrasted against reason. It states that faith is needed to determine some philosophical and religious truths, and it questions the ability of reason to arrive at all truth. The word and concept had its origin in the mid- to late-19th century by way of Catholic thought, in a movement called Traditionalism. The Roman Catholic Magisterium has, however, repeatedly condemned fideism.
Religious epistemologists have formulated and defended reasons for the rationality of accepting belief in God without the support of an argument. Some religious epistemologists hold that belief in God is more analogous to belief in a person than belief in a scientific hypothesis. Human relations demand trust and commitment. If belief in God is more like belief in other persons, then the trust that is appropriate to persons will be appropriate to God. American psychologist and philosopher William James offers a similar argument in his lecture The Will to Believe. Foundationalism is a view about the structure of justification or knowledge. Foundationalism holds that all knowledge and justified belief are ultimately based upon what are called properly basic beliefs. This position is intended to resolve the infinite regress problem in epistemology. According to foundationalism, a belief is epistemically justified only if it is justified by properly basic beliefs. One of the significant developments in foundationalism is the rise of reformed epistemology.
Reformed epistemology is a view about the epistemology of religious belief, which holds that belief in God can be properly basic. Analytic philosophers Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff develop this view. Plantinga holds that an individual may rationally believe in God even though the individual does not possess sufficient evidence to convince an agnostic. One difference between reformed epistemology and fideism is that the former requires defence against known objections, whereas the latter might dismiss such objections as irrelevant. Plantinga has developed reformed epistemology in Warranted Christian Belief as a form of externalism that holds that the justification conferring factors for a belief may include external factors. Some theistic philosophers have defended theism by granting evidentialism but supporting theism through deductive arguments whose premises are considered justifiable. Some of these arguments are probabilistic, either in the sense of having weight but being inconclusive, or in the sense of having a mathematical probability assigned to them. Notable in this regard are the cumulative arguments presented by British philosopher Basil Mitchell and analytic philosopher Richard Swinburne, whose arguments are based on Bayesian probability. In a notable exposition of his arguments, Swinburne appeals to an inference for the best explanation.
Professor of Mathematics and philosopher of science at University of Oxford John Lennox has stated, "Faith is not a leap in the dark; it’s the exact opposite. It’s a commitment based on evidence… It is irrational to reduce all faith to blind faith and then subject it to ridicule. That provides a very anti-intellectual and convenient way of avoiding intelligent discussion.”
Christians hold that their faith does good, but other faiths do harm. At any rate, they hold this about the communist faith. What I wish to maintain is that all faiths do harm. We may define “faith” as a firm belief in something for which there is no evidence. Where there is evidence, no one speaks of “faith.” We do not speak of faith that two and two are four or that the earth is round. We only speak of faith when we wish to substitute emotion for evidence. The substitution of emotion for evidence is apt to lead to strife, since different groups substitute different emotions. Christians have faith in the Resurrection; communists have faith in Marx’s Theory of Value. Neither faith can be defended rationally, and each therefore is defended by propaganda and, if necessary, by war.— Will Religious Faith Cure Our Troubles?
Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins criticizes all faith by generalizing from specific faith in propositions that conflict directly with scientific evidence. He describes faith as belief without evidence; a process of active non-thinking. He states that it is a practice that only degrades our understanding of the natural world by allowing anyone to make a claim about nature that is based solely on their personal thoughts, and possibly distorted perceptions, that does not require testing against nature, has no ability to make reliable and consistent predictions, and is not subject to peer review.
Peter Boghossian of Portland State University criticizes the current definitions of the word faith as not accurately reflecting its meaning. He argues that when people use the word faith, as in "I have faith in X", they do not mean that they have confidence in X, or that they hope X is true, they claim they know X is true. He also claims that faith is used only in the absence of good supporting evidence. If this is so, he further argues, then faith is a knowledge claim not justified by evidence. He therefore puts forward the following definition as the best description of the word faith as it is actually used - "Pretending to know something you don't know".
- Crisis of faith
- Faith and rationality
- Faith, Hope, and Charity
- Fowler's stages of faith development
- Lectures on Faith
- Life stance
- Major world religions
- Pascal's Wager
- Religious conversion
- Saint Faith
- Simple church
- Spectrum of theistic probability
- There are no atheists in foxholes
- World view
Notes and references
- faith. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/faith (accessed: December 01, 2011)
- Baha'i World Faith - Abdu'l-Baha Section, p. 383
- Smith, P. (1999). A Concise Encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford, UK: Oneworld Publications. p. 155. ISBN 1-85168-184-1.
- The Way of Wisdom The Five Spiritual Faculties by Edward Conze, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/conze/wheel065.html
- "Kalama Sutta, The Buddha's Charter of Free Inquiry" by Soma Thera
- Joseph cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) (2004). Introduction to Christianity. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. p. 203. ISBN 978-1-58617-029-5. Retrieved 21 April 2009.
- Wilkin, Robert N. (2012). The Ten Most Misunderstood Words in the Bible. Corinth, TX: GES. p. 221.
- Boyd, Gregory A. (2013). The Benefit of the Doubt. Grand Rapids: Baker. p. 272. ISBN 978-0801014925.
- "(PDF) Jeremy Myers, The Gospel Under Siege: 3 Views on the Relationship Between Faith and Good Works"
- Wuerl, By Donald W. (2004). The Teaching of Christ: A Catholic Catechism for Adults, Edition: 5, revised. Huntingdon, IN: Our Sunday Visitor Pub. Division. p. 238. ISBN 1-59276-094-5. Retrieved 21 April 2009.
- Migliore, Daniel L. 2004. Faith seeking understanding: an introduction to Christian theology. Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans. pp. 3-8.
- Inbody, Tyron. 2005. The faith of the Christian church: an introduction to theology. Grand Rapids, Mich: William B. Eerdmans Pub. pp. 1-10
- Thomas, Robert L.; Editor, General (1981). New American standard exhaustive concordance of the Bible:. Nashville, Tenn.: A.J. Holman. pp. 1674–75. ISBN 0-87981-197-8.
- Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene. 2nd edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989, 198.
- McGrath, Alister E. (2008). The Order of Things: Explorations in Scientific Theology. John Wiley & Sons. p. 33. ISBN 140512556X.
- Robertson, Archibald Thomas. WORD PICTURES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT. pp. Chapter 17.
- Price, Thomas. "Faith is about 'just trusting' God isn't It?". Retrieved 23 January 2014.
- Lennox, John (2011). Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists Are Missing the Target. United kingdom: Lion. p. 55. ISBN 0745953220.
- Williams, Peter S (2013). A Faithful Guide to Philosophy: A Christian Introduction to the Love of Wisdom. Authentic Media. pp. Chapter 1.4. ISBN 1842278118.
- Boa, Kenneth; Robert M.Bowman (March 1, 2006). Faith Has Its Reasons: Integrative Approaches to Defending the Christian Faith. USA: IVP Books. p. 253. ISBN 978-0830856480.
- Plantinga, Alvin (2000). Warranted Christian Belief. USA: Oxford University Press. pp. 250, 291. ISBN 0195131924.
- Mizrachi, Yosef. "Who God Is". Audios English 5min:40sec-9min:02sec. DivineInformation.com. Retrieved 22 August 2013.
- Brueggemann, Walter (2002). Reverberations of faith: a theological handbook of Old Testament themes. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press. pp. 76–78. ISBN 0-664-22231-5.
- (The Torah - A Modern Commentary; Union of American Hebrew Congregations, NY 1981 by W. G. Plaut)
- The 13 Principles and the Resurrection of the Dead from The Wolf Shall Lie With the Lamb, Rabbi Shmuel Boteach (Oxford University)
- For a wide history of this dispute see: Shapiro, Marc: The Limits of Orthodox Theology: Maimonides' Thirteen Principles Reappraised (Littman Library of Jewish Civilization (Series).)
- Five Articles of Faith
- Lewis, C.S. (2001). Mere Christianity: a revised and amplified edition, with a new introduction, of the three books, Broadcast talks, Christian behaviour, and Beyond personality. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco. ISBN 0-06-065292-6.
- Clark, Kelly James (2 October 2004). "Religious Epistemology". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
- James, William. "1896". New World 5: 327–347. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
- Poston, Ted (10 June 2010). "Foundationalism". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
- Plantinga, Alvin; Nicholas Wolterstorff (1983). Faith and Rationality: Reason and Belief in God. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press. ISBN 0-268-00964-3.
- Forrest, Peter (11 March 2009). "The Epistemology of Religion". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
- Plantinga, Alvin (2000). Warranted Christian Belief. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-513192-4.
- Basic, Mitchell. The Justification of Religious Belief. London: Macmillan.
- Swinburne, Richard. The Existence of God. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
- Forrest, Peter. God without the Supernatural. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
- Swinburne, Richard. Is there a God?. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Russell, Bertrand. "Will Religious Faith Cure Our Troubles?". Human Society in Ethics and Politics. Ch 7. Pt 2. Retrieved 16 August 2009.
- Dawkins, Richard (2006). The God Delusion. Bantam Books.
- Dawkins, Richard (January–February 1997). "Is Science a Religion?". American Humanist Association. Retrieved 15 March 2008.
- Boghossian, Peter (2013). A Manual for Creating Atheists. Pitchstone Llc. ISBN 1939578094.
- Sam Harris, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, W. W. Norton (2004), hardcover, 336 pages, ISBN 0-393-03515-8
- Stephen Palmquist, "Faith as Kant's Key to the Justification of Transcendental Reflection", The Heythrop Journal 25:4 (October 1984), pp. 442–455. Reprinted as Chapter V in Stephen Palmquist, Kant's System of Perspectives (Lanham: University Press of America, 1993).
- D. Mark Parks, "Faith/Faithfulness" Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Eds. Chad Brand, Charles Draper, Archie England. Nashville: Holman Publishers, 2003.
- Marbaniang, Domenic, Explorations of Faith. 2009.
- Poetry & Spirituality
- On Faith and Reason by Swami Tripurari
- Baba, Meher: Discourses, San Francisco: Sufism Reoriented, 1967.
Classic reflections on the nature of faith
The Reformation view of faith
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- Peter Forrest (Mar 11, 2009). "Epistemology of the religion, article from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy".
- Epistemics of Divine Reality, Studies in Rationalism, Empiricism, and Fideism
- Faith in Judaism chabad.org
- Pew Research Center Reports on Religion
- Faith News & Religion | Times Online Articles and comment about faith issues and religion from The Times