About faith

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

But I don’t think that you are less “faithful” than me just because I say that I am a Christian.

“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!)

The faith of a human is the individual set of his or her beliefs and convictions. It is a more or less stable and immutable part of their personality, but it can evolve, grow or eventually experience fundamental changes. Faith is the result of a life-long learning process that changes our unconscious brain structures. It is part of our identity. Every human has a faith.

Of course we try to give them names in order to classify them.

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 and A1 are more close to each other than C1 and C2.

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 characteristic of a group of humans.

faith

The individual set of beliefs and convictions of a human.

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 is spiritual. It is stored in our brain.

Our faith is influenced by our body and our temperament.

Faith is never finished. It continues to grow and change as long as we live. But it becomes more and more fixed with age. That’s why children can learn a language more easily than adults. This process of fixation is natural and unavoidable.

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 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.

What is the relation between faith culture and world view?

All faiths are similar in that they are an integral part of our identity. We tend to believe very strongly in what our faith tells us to believe.

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).

Faith is more than the inner voice. Your inner voice might be wrong because you are not perfect.1.

inner voice

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

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.3

The word faith can be used to designate the Christian faith, the faith in the Gospel. Also other religions use the word “faith” in that specific meaning of belief in their specific teachings. 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: for Christians, a faithful is a human who “understood” the Good News and “decided” to believe in it.2

Footnotes

1

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.

2

“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)

3

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