About faith

What is faith?

faith

The individual set of beliefs and convictions of a human.

The faith of a human is the individual set of his or her beliefs and convictions. Every human has a faith.

Faith is our connection to the invisible world. It lies at least partly beyond rational considerations and decisions.

Your faith is an integral part of your identity. You tend to believe very strongly in what your faith tells you to believe.

Your faith is influenced by your body, your temperament, your culture, your education, your personal history. It is stored in your brain. It is a rather stable and immutable part of your personality,

On the other hand every faith can evolve, grow or eventually experience revolutionary changes (“conversions”) as long as we live. Faith is never finished. Faith is the result of a life-long learning process.

Faith becomes more and more fixed with age. This effect is natural and unavoidable and similar to why children can learn a language more easily than adults.

Faith is our personal simplified picture of the world. Every faith –of course– reduces reality, because reality is more complex than any human brain can store. The faith of Albert Einstein was probably more “elaborate” than the faith of my neighbour here in our village, because Einstein’s education was more elaborate, but my neighbour’s faith might me more useful in many a situation of daily life.

faith culture

A culture based on a given set of answers to a set of faith questions. This can be a formal religion or a less formal culture.

faith question

A question for which there is no scientifically valid answer and which therefore can have controversial answers.

faith statement

A reproducible answer to a faith question. Where “reproducible” means that has been formulated in some way and is used for identification.

Faith does not mean that you blindly assume as true a series of answers to a series of faith questions that do not reflect your personal thinking, experience and conviction. Such a faith would be worse than useless, it would be harmful, because it would destroy your trust in God. Faith means to draw the right conclusions from certain experiences. You cannot prove these conclusions and you cannot get them from others. You must live them yourself.2

Faith is not limited to humans. Wild goats living in a mountain region where thunderstorms can be very violent, learn quickly that certain constellations of clouds, wind, smells and noises indicate a storm coming by. A wild goat, when it feels that a thunderstorm is arriving, will focus on finding a shelter. This knowledge about how to predict a thunderstorm is stored in their brain. It is faith. It is the same kind of knowledge as the belief that showing homosexuality in public is okay, or that you should never spend more money than you have, or that it is okay to use a cheat sheet in a school exam, or that Pope Francis is a good leader for Church.

Faith is what makes your inner voice talk.

inner voice

The “voice” within you that tells you intuitively how to decide in a given situation.

Your inner voice might be wrong because you are not perfect. That’s why in case of conflict between your inner voice and that of other people, your should rather “die” (give in) than hurt these other people. Of course that’s just theory; reality shows that we can fail to give in when we should, or that we hurt other people because we didn’t care enough.

What means “faithful”?

Some friends say about them that they are not “faithful”. They mean that they don’t follow any religion or denomination.

Christians can indeed use the word faith to designate the faith in the Gospel. Among Christians, a faithful is a human who “understood” the Good News and “decided” to believe in it.1 Also other religions use the word “faith” in that specific meaning of belief in their specific teachings.

But this usage becomes questionable in multicultural contexts because it assumes that there is one “right” religion. But when used among followers of a same religion it can make sense:

I prefer to say that they are non-religious. I don’t think that they are less “faithful” than people who follow to some religion.

Faith is not religion

Faith is not limited to “religious” beliefs and convictions. Steve Lohr describes the University of Chicago as “long the high church of free-market absolutism, whose ideology has guided antitrust court decisions for years” (in Paul Romer: Once tech’s favorite economist, now a thorn in its side)

Don’t mix up faith and religion. Faith is an individual characteristic of a human, while religion is a collective teaching cultivated by a group of humans.

I’d bet that it would be easy to find two humans C1 and C2 who call themselves “Christian” and two humans A1 and A2 who call themselves “atheist”, and then observe that the faith of C1 is more close to the faith of A1 than the faith of C2.

There are no two absolutely identical faith’s on Earth. No faith is absolutely “evil” (against God’s plan) or absolutely “good” (in harmony with God’s plan).

Four classes of “faithful”

As a naive Roman Catholic I classify humans into four classes:

Roman Catholic

Those who adhere to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Non-Catholic Christian

Those who use the Bible as their Holy Scripture but don’t adhere to the Catholic Church.

Non-Christian

Those who refuse to use the Bible as their Holy Scripture.

non-religious

Those who refuse to use any Holy Scripture for cultivating their faith.

“Those who don’t follow any religion can be more eager in worshipping their image of me than those who follow some religion.” (God in You and your bible!)

“I don’t believe in God, I live God” (Maurice Zundel)

Footnotes

1

“Faith is a decision, a judgment that is fully and deliberately taken in the light of a truth that cannot be proven–it is not merely the acceptance of a decision that has been made by somebody else.” Thomas Merton (1915-1968)

2

Adapted from Oliver Albrecht, Lebensthemen, Grundkurs biblische Theologie, 2013 Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, p. 224)