virus: Faith; a radical perspective on the matter.

Tim Rhodes (
Tue, 16 Mar 1999 21:21:26 -0800 (PST)

On Tue, 16 Mar 1999, Bill Roh wrote:

> I dont think that confidence and faith are interchangable. I do think that
> sometimes they are used as though they are though. I would not supplant the
> tire on my car with a brick, though both can hold the car up. No, the words
> are not next to each other in my thesuaras. I think I can be flexible as to
> how the word is used, but I also think you are taking it further than it was
> ever intended or needed, perhaps to make a point.

One of the great things about staying in someone else's home for a couple weeks (ostensibly to care for their pets while they're away) is that you suddenly have access to a whole new library of books and resources that you would never in a million years think to own yourself. Living in another's world (quite literally) can be quite enlightening.

So rather than continue to have atheists define what "faith" means to Christians (which is kinda like having a vegetarian tell you what steak tastes like to a meat-eater), I thought I'd do something really nuts, something completely over the top! And see what the Christians themselves have to say on the subject. The following is from _The Living Bible Encyclopedia_ a 16 volume, well, biblical encyclopedia. Here's what it says under the heading, FAITH:

(Another reminder, I'm quoting here! So if you've got a problem with the text track down the authors of the encyclopedia and give them a piece of your mind, don't waste your breath telling me about it!)

"FAITH (Heb. 'emun, Gr. pistis), has a twofold sense in the Bible, an active and a passive one; in the former meaning "fidelity," "trustworthiness"; in the latter, "trust," "reliance." And example of the first is found in Romans 3:3 where "the faith of God" means His fidelity to promise. In the overwhelming majority of cases it has the meaning of reliance and trust.

"In the OT (Old Testament) KJV the word "faith" occurs only twice (Deut 32:20; Hab 2:4), and even the verb form, "to believe," is far from common, appearing less than 30 times. What we find in the OT is not so much a doctrine of faith, but examples of it. It sets forth the life of the servants of God as a life of faith. That which differentiates their lives from others is their self-commitment to God, implicitly involving unwavering trust in and obedience to Him. The foundation of Israel's faith was the revelation that God made to the fathers and to Moses, the covenant He had made with them at Sinai, and the conviction that the covenants promises would some day be fulfilled. The observance of the Law and a life of faith were not for them incompatible. Faith lay behind the Law and its presuppositions. The Law was a mode of life incumbent upon those whose trust was in Jehovah. OT faith is never mere assent to a set of doctrines or outward acceptance of the Law, but utter confidence in the faithfulness of God and a consequent loving obedience to His will.

"NT (New Testament) writers, such as Paul and the author of Hebrews, show that the faith manifested by OT saints was not different in kind from that expected of Christians.

"In contrast with the extreme rarity with which the terms "faith" and "believe" are used in the OT, they occur with great frequency in the NT -- almost 500 times. A principal reason for this is that the NT makes the claim that the promised Messiah had finally come, and, to the bewilderment of many, the form of the fulfillment did not obviously correspond to the Messianic promise. It required a real act of faith to believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah It was not long before "to believe" meant to become a Christian. In the NT, faith therefore becomes supreme of all human acts and experiences.

"In His miracles and teaching Jesus aimed at creating in His disciples a complete trust in Himself as the Messiah and Savior of men. Everywhere He offered Himself as the object of faith, and made it plain that faith in Him is necessary for eternal life and that it is the certain outcome of faith in the OT scriptures that God requires it of men. His primary concern with His own disciples was to build up their faith in Him.

"The record of Acts shows that the first Christians called themselves "the believers" (Acts 2:44, etc.) and that they went everywhere persuading men and bringing them unto obedience to the faith that is in Jesus (Acts 6:7, etc.) Before long, as communities of believers arose in various parts of the Mediterranean world, the meaning and implications of the Christian faith had to be taught them in considerable fullness by the apostolic leaders, and so the NT books appeared.

"It is in Paul's Epistles that the meaning of faith is most clearly and fully set forth. Faith is trust in the person of Jesus, the truth of his teaching, and the redemptive work accomplished at Calvary. Faith in His person is faith in Him as the eternal Son of God, the God-man, the second man Adam, who died in man's stead. Faith is not to be confused with a mere intellectual assent to the doctrinal teachings of Christianity, though that is obviously necessary. It includes a radical and total commitment to Him as the Lord of one's life."

Sounds not unlike marriage to me.

-Prof. Tim,
who has to laugh every time he imagines his relatives' amazement if they knew which side of this debate it looked to others like he was on.