What is Faith?

Allegory of the Catholic Faith (ca.1670–1672) by Johannes Vermeer. Original from The MET Museum. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel.

There’s a gulf between “believing” something and “knowing” something.

A 6th grader may believe in Algebra, Geometry, Calculus, or Biology, but they don’t have knowledge of any of them, they have no formal training. So if a 6th can make the jump to believing that a particular equation or fact is truthful in Calculus or Biology, it is likely because they trust that someone is sincere, not because they have acquired the knowledge to test such a thing.

Is Believing in God Faith?

If by “believing in God,” we are asserting that we believe God exists, then it depends upon your definition of faith. For there is a secular definition, and a proper definition.

The world has coopted “faith” and constructed its definition. So much so, that when discussed even by Christians, faith continues to carry its nebulous and ephemeral qualities.

If, on the other hand, by “believe in God,” we mean “put our faith in God,” then that’s only possible for us after we “believe His Word,” which is only possible after we “believe He is.” So it’s a stairstep process: one step leads to another.

An Example of Faith

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for the one who comes to God must believe that He exists, and that He proves to be One who rewards those who seek Him

Hebrews 11:6

For example, my neighbor Joe says he will mow my lawn, and I believe he can: he has all the equipment and the time to do the job. But I don’t trust that he will. He has made promises in the past but has never followed through and done the job. So then, what’s the difference between belief and faith? Belief understands and knows that something is possible. But trust assesses the quality of a claim on various factors, such as experience.

Belief + Trust = Faith

Thus, faith is a combination of belief and trust. Therefore, we can say that I believe my neighbor can mow the lawn, but I do not trust him to perform the job: consequently, I have no *FAITH* in that my neighbor will mow my lawn.

Faith is a combination of belief and trust, but it is always applied to an actor. In other words, faith appreciates the qualities of confidence and trust as applied to a person, process, or thing. If any of those factors fail, then faith is not present.

If we say “I have faith,” but we fail to have a person or thing to place it, and we don’t have tangible experience in which belief and trust are based, then what we have is empty faith: we have nothing but a one-legged stool. That is what I call “empty faith” or perhaps, “empty hope.”

Hope + Business != Progress

Never speak to your Director or CEO and use the word “hope” regarding a project or deliverable. You’ll quickly learn to delete that word from your vocabulary – so, you should do that now (you’re welcome).

Hope, in the business world, means there is no basis to make a qualified judgment: there is no contract in place, there are no commitments established. Hope, in that context, suggests there is only a wishful expectation that the desired opportunity will arise. Hope, to a business, has no foundation; it is based on barren wishes and ignorant beliefs.

Scripturally speaking – and might I suggest from a Kingdom perspective – hope is opposed to something empty and without form or function. If you investigate the Kingdom definition and application of hope, you’ll find it is directly tied to the proper definition and usage of faith.

Faith and Science

... God has allotted to each a measure of faith ... 

Romans 12:3

We all have the ability to form beliefs and trust. When we combine those two things and correctly apply them, we create and use faith.

When a scientist makes an observation, the next thing that might arise is the postulation of a theory or hypothesis. In either case, what should shortly follow thereafter is a series of tests to prove or disprove the idea. In other words, scientists form a belief system regarding a matter and then test the idea in order to form trust in the belief system. We call that “proving” the hypothesis.

Whether or not the test confirms or denies the idea doesn’t matter. In either case, the test either builds or reduces trust in the belief system. The stronger the trust becomes, the more the belief system is confirmed.

Belief + Trust ⟺ Science

But let’s step back a bit. Where is the belief formed? In the mind of the scientist. Where is the trust placed? In at least three things: (1) the quality of execution of the test, and (2) the ability of the observer to (a) interpret the qualities of the belief, and (b) to correctly interpret the results of the tests.

While the qualities of a test can be questioned and changed, the scientist should ensure that the equipment and the procedure employed in the test were designed and implemented correctly. However, trusting in these qualities is simply another way of asserting that the scientist believes in the abilities of the tester and the fabricator and trusts the motives of both, that they were pure and unbiased. As an analogy, I believe that Joe wants to mow my lawn, has the ability to mow my lawn, and will mow my lawn.

Whether we want to believe it, good science is merely a well-designed system to methodically construct well-formed and placed faith. When someone asserts, while watching a rocket lift its payload to space, “that’s science,” or “they’re doing science,” nothing could be further from the truth. Merely observing a rocket or a running, internal combustion engine is not science. Asserting that the engine requires gasoline and not diesel, testing that assertion, and observing the results is science. Everything else is the result of appropriately applying engineering techniques.

While there is nary a scientist who would dare to make such an intellectual ascent, there is no doubt that science is comprised entirely of the activities to formulate well-designed belief systems supported by well-executed proofs. When those things are properly combined, a faith is formed.

The Secular Definition

The secular problem with faith is that the kingdom of unrighteousness has redefined faith to its liking. In other words, the world has constructed its definition of faith and declared that there is no other. In certain circumstances.

This is not a new phenomenon. The term fascism was once clearly associated with Marxism, but when the need arose, it was redefined and repurposed to be rooted in right-wing ideologies. Thus, when certain segments of society needed an Ad Hominen crutch, they repurposed and redefined fascism to accuse others of what they themselves were doing. A similar thing happened in the pharmaceutical industry. When opponents to certain vaccine policies appeared, the industry created the term “anti-vaccine,” defining it as a belief system devoid of truth and reasonableness. It was quickly spun into an Ad Hominem attack, which is precisely how the term is used today.

All of that to say, the proper definition of any term can be corrupted. To the world, hope is less than wishful thinking; and faith barely conjures anything more.

But faith, to the world, is different. If one is referring to a person or business as being faithful, then we all know what that means, and completely accept it as fully qualified in and of itself. Such behavior of changing the definition of a word to meet one’s objective is intellectually dishonest. It is no less than a socially acceptable expression of cognitive dissonance.

Faith is not what the world tells you it is. If we’re going to use a word to describe something, then define it from the context in which it was originally derived.

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