Faith

Although this topic is prompted by a reference to my yes, probably too often mentioned!! - 100% faith belief, I have no intention or wish here to be controversial, or to have any kind of conclusion at the end of it, but I thought it would be interesting to hear about and discuss the ideas and opinions, and the variations thereof of the word faith, here. There are two main definitions:
1. Complete trust or confidence in someone or something
1. 2. strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof.
2. The word faith does not crop up very often, or at all, in my daily life outside this forum, and I think I’d be more likely to use the word trust. I wonder, too, if the word has changed its meaning much over the centuries, or whether ancient peoples had an equivalent.
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Comments

  • Sorry about the numbering: this computer has a mind of its own when it comes to numbering!
  • Afaik the word used in the New Testament is the same in Greek, whether translated as faith or trust. For me, it's the same thing. I trust in God. I have faith.
  • Raptor Eye wrote: »
    Afaik the word used in the New Testament is the same in Greek, whether translated as faith or trust. For me, it's the same thing. I trust in God. I have faith.
    Thank you. May I ask if there are other beliefs or situations in your life where you would say that there is a similar'equality' of trust and faith?

  • MoyessaMoyessa Shipmate
    I have strong experience of faith in my coming to believe in the living Christ. I spent 2 years of my life surrounded by evangelical pretty fundamentalist Christians (Seventh Day Adventists).
    Having been raised Catholic with 12 years of Catholic school behind me, their beliefs seemed to me quaint, but not objectionable, since they did not proselytize me at all.

    They were, however, remarkably kind & helpful to me at a time when I needed it very much. The nuns in school had never liked me much (for good reason, I'm sure) & kindness was not something I ever experienced from them, although I have since learned that others in my same grade did form strong & loving attachments.

    Anyway, I liked the SDAs, & they seemed pragmatic & kind. I used to take my daughter to their "farm church" every Saturday for a year, since I am a farm girl at heart, and the smell of animals is balm to my soul.

    Long story short, they were kind, attractive, fun & healthy-minded. I wanted to be like them, but I had no "faith" whatsoever. I was agnostic about religion.

    So, I prayed for faith from those days, and 20 years later my prayers were answered, actually in an instant although I had been been making some moves in that direction.
    But, those moves were not religious moves, they were motivated by music, community & joy.
  • SusanDoris wrote: »
    Raptor Eye wrote: »
    Afaik the word used in the New Testament is the same in Greek, whether translated as faith or trust. For me, it's the same thing. I trust in God. I have faith.
    Thank you. May I ask if there are other beliefs or situations in your life where you would say that there is a similar'equality' of trust and faith?

    That my wife won't leave me for someone else.
  • CameronCameron Shipmate
    edited October 5
    @SusanDoris I would like to take a different tack by exploring what kind of thing faith is, and look at other examples of that kind of thing.

    Here is my attempt.

    Faith is an instance of subjective belief.

    Subjective belief is either:
    - a matter of taste or affection, where different individuals truly find different things (e.g. tap-dancing) or people (e.g. partners) to be meaningful and/or trustworthy for them;
    - or philosophically justified (by providing an internally consistent argument) for certain kinds of knowledge that cannot be confirmed by objective proof (i.e. by demonstration through repeatable, experimentally controlled measurements).

    Examples of philosophically justified subjective beliefs:
    1. The belief in the Many Worlds Interpretation (MWI) of quantum mechanics. This provides an elegant solution, which is one of a number that are compatible with physicists’ observations (but not derivable from them), and is appealing since it removes the subjectivity of wavefunction collapse (crudely put, the observer effect), which otherwise leaves consciousness active in the universe in a way many physicists find troubling. Although further and more elegant and persuasive arguments may be constructed in favour of the theory in the future, it can never be proved* because of the nature of its claims.
    2. The belief in a deity involved in some way in the operation of the universe, consistent with our experience of subjectivity. This provides an elegant solution which is consistent with (inter alia) religious adherents’ observations of free will, and is appealing since it removes the lack of room for meaningful consciousness in the universe that religious adherents otherwise find troubling. But although further and more elegant and persuasive arguments may be constructed in favour of the theory in the future, it can never be proved* because of the nature of its claims.

    These are examples that (other things being equal) may affect how the person believing in them goes on with their life, so they would wish to consider them carefully. However, it would be a category error to call a person with either belief objectively wrong; and yes, they are both subjective beliefs in the same way.

    * If you want to be a Proper Scientist you may prefer the word ‘falsified’ at this point.

    [Some relevant background at: MWI wiki page. Sorry for the long post.]


  • Timo PaxTimo Pax Shipmate
    To @Cameron’s interesting and lucid summary, I’d add another kind of belief usually classified as ‘subjective’, which is common-sense assertions of first-person experience in the face of philosophical objections to their verifiability. I feel certain the socks I’m wearing are black, that I am currently in my house, that it is late evening, and that I am not in fact the victim of a deceiving Cartesian demon, trapped inside a computer simulation, or a butterfly dreaming I am a man. I can’t prove any of these things are objectively true, but it’s very hard to escape the sense that they are, and on a pragmatic level they’re inescapable.
  • W HyattW Hyatt Shipmate
    A shipmate on the previous incarnation of this site used to regularly make the case that the New Testament was more about faithfulness than about faith. I'd be interested in anyone's take on how well that fits with the Greek.
  • RossweisseRossweisse Shipmate, Hell Host
    edited October 6
    You have a faith, @SusanDoris. It's materialism.
  • Moyessa
    Thank you for relating your experiences which led to your realisation of faith. During those twenty years of prayer, did you ‘direct’ those prayers at god, and, if so, do you think your faith was actually present all the time without your realising it/?

    Mousethief
    Yes, I can see that that can apply.

    Cameron
    Thank you- very interesting, and a comprehensive description of the subjectivity of it all. I went to the MWI page. I have read and heard quite a bit about this sort of idea and it seems clear that the more scientists work out and try to test these ideas, the more knowledge will be gained along with an understanding of what remains an idea only.
    I think I count myself lucky that I do not have to try to hold things like the meaning of wave function in my head, although I think I understand why the word wave is used.

    Timo Pax
    I think the example you give is not really subjective since the material objects are there which could be seen and verified if necessary! With faith and belief which lack anything falsifiable, it is a different matter.

    W Hyatt
    Yes - I wonder how faithfulness differs from faith.

    Rossweisse
    You assert that I have a faith that is materialism. Can you suggest how this is only a faith and not a belief in which I can have a faith firmly based on the functions of whatever material is being referred to?

    Do you think materialism excludes any or all aesthetic aspects of life?
    I think a good example here is the one where understanding the science of a rainbow can increase enjoyment of its beauty, not detract from it.

  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host
    I think ‘faith’, ‘trust’ and ‘belief’ have extensive overlaps in meaning. E.g. “He had 100% faith in anti-malarial drugs and didn’t bother with mosquito netting” or “He trusted 100% in anti-malarial drugs and didn’t bother with mosquito netting” or again “He believed 100% in anti-malarial drugs and didn’t bother with mosquito netting.”

    None of those usages seems unusual to me, nor do they seem different to each other.
  • Timo Pax wrote: »
    To @Cameron’s interesting and lucid summary, I’d add another kind of belief usually classified as ‘subjective’, which is common-sense assertions of first-person experience in the face of philosophical objections to their verifiability. I feel certain the socks I’m wearing are black, that I am currently in my house, that it is late evening, and that I am not in fact the victim of a deceiving Cartesian demon, trapped inside a computer simulation, or a butterfly dreaming I am a man. I can’t prove any of these things are objectively true, but it’s very hard to escape the sense that they are, and on a pragmatic level they’re inescapable.

    Yes. Further, many or most of these beliefs are in fact justifiable. I am justified in thinking my feet feel cold. I am justified in thinking I am looking at a computer screen. I am justified in thinking I am thirsty. I am justified in thinking the guy who insulted me on Facebook is an asshole. But many or most of these beliefs are not objectively verifiable.

    Which I think gives the lie to @SusanDoris's favorite appellation of "100% faith." Which as I have opined before is 100% bullshit. My thirst is not "100% faith." But neither is it scientifically verifiable. It exists in a nowhere-land that @SusanDoris's faith cannot countenance.

    If I remember previous such discussions, SusanDoris's response may be to say that someday scientists will be able to objectively scan my brainwaves and show that I am thirsty. This of course is a science-of-the-gaps, akin to a god-of-the-gaps, which is using "god did it" to fill holes in scientific theories. In science-of-the-gaps, you say "well someday science will be able to do this, therefore we can treat it as read that it can now." Except we don't know science will be able to do this. Believing so is 100% faith, so to speak.
  • W Hyatt wrote: »
    A shipmate on the previous incarnation of this site used to regularly make the case that the New Testament was more about faithfulness than about faith. I'd be interested in anyone's take on how well that fits with the Greek.

    A single NT Greek word is sometimes translated into English as 'faith', and sometimes as 'faithfulness'. The implications of that might best be explored in Kerygmania.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    edited October 6
    @Eutychus is that word also translated "belief" or is that another one? Is it episteo?
  • EutychusEutychus Admin
    edited October 6
    A quick search here reveals only one instance of the word "belief" in the NKJV and that is indeed the same word as that usually translated "faith". The Greek does distinguish between "have faith" and "believe", albeit with related words.

    The more frequent word translated "unbelief" is, I think, the word translated "faith"/"faithfulness" with an a of negation in front of it.

    The essential question to my mind is what range of meaning the original words had, rather than which options translators plump for.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    I remember as a kid being told a story to illustrate the difference between trust and faith. This may not apply to how everyone uses and understands the terms, and both terms do have several meanings/usages anyway, but this distinction does make sense to me, at least with regard to how the terms are used in religion.

    I don’t remember all the details of the story (I was eleven when I heard it) so this will be a poor retelling, but it is about a tight rope walker who is greatly skilled at walking along the tight rope. One of his fans tells him how amazing he is. The tight rope walker asks him if he believes he can walk across the rope pushing a wheelbarrow. The guy says yes, absolutely, he completely trusts that he can do this. And the tight rope walker does it, with ease. He then asks the fan if he believes he could push the wheelbarrow across the tightrope with a person in it. The guy says yes, he absolutely believes this. The tight rope walker asks if he believes he could push him, the fan, across the tight rope in the wheelbarrow. The fan says yes, he totally trusts the tight rope walker can do this. The tight rope walker invites him to get into the wheelbarrow. The fan hesitates, and says that while he fully trusts that the tight rope walker can do this, he’d rather not get into the wheelbarrow.

    The getting into the wheelbarrow is faith - acting on what you trust. Trust is more what you believe. Of course the terms are used more fluidly, but interestingly the OED makes such a distinction in the first usages of these words. Faith is fulfilling one’s trust, while trust is the belief.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    There's an interesting reflection on the faith of pilgrims in the charming series of Mystery Worshipper reports along the Camino. I particularly liked it that the reporter could not understand the sermons, but it didn't really affect their experience of worship.
  • fineline wrote: »
    I don’t remember all the details of the story (I was eleven when I heard it) so this will be a poor retelling, but it is about a tight rope walker who is greatly skilled at walking along the tight rope.

    Charles Blondin. I don't know if the actual story is true, but that's who it's traditionally told about. (From my research I also discover Blondin died in Ealing, of all places).
  • caroline444caroline444 Shipmate
    edited October 6
    @fineline

    I found that incredibly helpful.

    I'm currently reading a book about a nun whose commitment to becoming a nun was sudden and dramatic - very much the emotional equivalent to being asked to get into a wheelbarrow and being asked to traverse a high wire in God's hands. I find what you wrote unnerving...and I find the nun's description unnerving too....but your piece above has helped me more appreciate her actions.
  • Fineline

    I listened to a book about Houdini some years ago and I think I remember correctly that he did in fact once have someone in a wheelbarrow to wheel across something … … probably the Niagara Falls.

    I think the basic survival instinct would very much need to be quelled in such circumstances!
  • Mousethief

    However much trust anyone has in the ability of sciences to find objective evidence for something, there will of course always be that proviso that a better solution might arrive one day.
    However, in this thread I am already learning more about views and definitions of faith, which is always of interest.
  • Too late to edit - many apologies for saying Houdini instead of Blondin. It was of course Blondin that I read about.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    SusanDoris wrote: »
    Fineline

    I listened to a book about Houdini some years ago and I think I remember correctly that he did in fact once have someone in a wheelbarrow to wheel across something … … probably the Niagara Falls.

    I think the basic survival instinct would very much need to be quelled in such circumstances!

    It may well have been based on a true story - as I say, I was eleven and have forgotten most of the details!

    And yes, survival instinct and the desire to be in control can and do make faith very difficult - many aspire to have such faith, but in reality, it's incredibly hard to live it, even if in theory we totally trust God.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    @fineline

    I found that incredibly helpful.

    I'm currently reading a book about a nun whose commitment to becoming a nun was sudden and dramatic - very much the emotional equivalent to being asked to get into a wheelbarrow and being asked to traverse a high wire in God's hands. I find what you wrote unnerving...and I find the nun's description unnerving too....but your piece above has helped me more appreciate her actions.


    Glad it was helpful. I'm curious what the book is - I like to read such books.
  • caroline444caroline444 Shipmate
    edited October 6
    @fineline

    I just happened to bump into it at the library. I've only read the first couple of pages, so can't vouch for it in any way. Here it is on Goodreads...

    https://tinyurl.com/yxqkm5l7

  • Timo PaxTimo Pax Shipmate
    edited October 6
    SusanDoris wrote: »
    Timo Pax
    I think the example you give is not really subjective since the material objects are there which could be seen and verified if necessary! With faith and belief which lack anything falsifiable, it is a different matter

    Sorry, I perhaps didn't convey the scope of the claim. I was referring to a fairly frequently-encountered form of philosophical scepticism about the possibility of knowledge - that one might be deceived not just about particular empirical realities I sense (I think the oar in water is bent, when it is in fact straight), but completely and totally about everything, including the basic reality of the physical world I sense around me (perhaps there is no oar and no water, or even any such thing as oars or water). There are a few variants on this. The best known is Descartes' so-called Demon Hypothesis: if a malignant supernatural power had possessed and was controlling my senses, how would I know? Chuang-tzu has a gentler formulation: 'I do not know if I am a man who dreamt I was a butterfly, or a butterfly now dreaming I am a man'. More recently, films like The Matrix and Donovan's Brain have played with such notions, as well as pretty much any movie inspired by Philip K. Dick: how do I know all my memories are not the result of a surgical device implanted in my brain five minutes ago?

    With all of these, the notion of bringing in external observers to verify matters misses the point: maybe they're illusions, too. Hence why I scare-quoted 'subjective', above: the scepticism is so thorough-going, it makes a bit of a nonsense of a distinction between subjective and objective understandings.
  • Timo Pax

    Ah - I was not aware of the 'scare quotes'. Thank you for the explanation.
  • Timo PaxTimo Pax Shipmate
    Yep. If there's no 'objective' reality, it's a bit hard to say what the 'subject' in 'subjective' experience is ...
  • MoyessaMoyessa Shipmate
    SusanDoris wrote: »
    Moyessa
    Thank you for relating your experiences which led to your realisation of faith.
    1. During those twenty years of prayer, did you ‘direct’ those prayers at god
    2. , and, if so, do you think your faith was actually present all the time without your realising it/?...

    1. Yes, when I pray it is only because I do believe in God.
    2. I had faith in God, but did not have faith that Jesus is my savior. The leap was accepting that happy fact (for me - & of course millions of others).

  • Eutychus wrote: »
    The essential question to my mind is what range of meaning the original words had, rather than which options translators plump for.

    Absolutely. But it helps knowing whether we're looking at one word in the original Greek or two.
  • Moyessa wrote: »
    SusanDoris wrote: »
    Moyessa
    Thank you for relating your experiences which led to your realisation of faith.
    1. During those twenty years of prayer, did you ‘direct’ those prayers at god
    2. , and, if so, do you think your faith was actually present all the time without your realising it/?...

    1. Yes, when I pray it is only because I do believe in God.
    2. I had faith in God, but did not have faith that Jesus is my savior. The leap was accepting that happy fact (for me - & of course millions of others).
    Thank you for explaining.

  • Timo PaxTimo Pax Shipmate
    Just remembered another philosophical chestnut: David Hume's denial that causation is ever provable. We witness a sequence of events whereby B always follows A; the more frequently this happens, the more psychologically assured we are that B will follow A the next time A occurs. But on a strictly empirical basis, we never witness 'causation' - it's something we metaphysically add to the mix. It's always a subjective rather than an objective thing .....
  • Timo Pax

    Yes, that is something I did not think about much when young, but later I read more about correlation does not equal causation etc and found it most interesting. It took a bit of thinking, though, to change from 'there must be ..' to 'we don't know' and that stands for as long as is necessary.
  • Would 'never' be an acceptable timescale?
  • Jengie JonJengie Jon Shipmate
    edited October 7
    SusanDoris wrote: »
    Timo Pax

    Yes, that is something I did not think about much when young, but later I read more about correlation does not equal causation etc and found it most interesting. It took a bit of thinking, though, to change from 'there must be ..' to 'we don't know' and that stands for as long as is necessary.

    It may just be me. The process that Timo Pax is talking about is Inductive Reasoning. It is one proposed basis for science. There are at least three (Falsificationism and Kuhn's Paradigms) and I seem to recall more but cannot remember what they are.

    This is not the same argument as correlation does not imply causation. That is one by statisticians, which points out that correlation can be produced by a number of different causal routes. Causality is always a property of the theory not of the data.
  • Jengie Jon

    Thank you - I'm afraid I do not quite understand the term 'inductive reasoning', so I avoid using it! I'll have to look it up and see if I can fix its definition in my mind.
  • Jengie JonJengie Jon Shipmate
    edited October 7
    You can have some fun with the Inductive Reasoning examples at Dictionary.Com. Some would seem eminently sensible and some just do not stand a moments thought but all are inductive.
  • Hume also described the problem of induction, in crude terms that it's illogical to predict one thing from another. The classic example is predicting the future from the past. The traditional example is the hen who is fed every day, comes to expect it, but is finally surprised to have its throat cut.

    However, this tends to extreme skepticism, and somehow we do expect the sun to rise, and that I will wake up tomorrow. One solution is that we don't use logic but imagination. It is a very old problem in philosophy.
  • Jengie Jon wrote: »
    You can have some fun with the Inductive Reasoning examples at Dictionary.Com. Some would seem eminently sensible and some just do not stand a moments thought but all are inductive.
    Thank you for the link - clicked on and read!

  • In relation to induction above, I forgot the obvious point, that we often guess. And guessing is perfectly respectable, if you can back it up. Thus, if I know that you like pole-dancers, I could guess that your next liaison will be with one, but I could be wrong. In fact, guessing is used in science, see the famous film by Feynman.
  • Timo PaxTimo Pax Shipmate
    Thanks @Jengie Jon and @quetzalcoatl, for so skilfully unpacking what I evidently expressed inadequately.
  • Timo Pax wrote: »
    Thanks @Jengie Jon and @quetzalcoatl, for so skilfully unpacking what I evidently expressed inadequately.

    No, I don't think so. It's just that the problem of induction is quite interesting, and touches on skepticism, and ultra-skepticism, Phyrronism, as it was traditionally known. I wonder if Hume relished pointing out these things. But he had a nice joke, that he could exit a room by the window, but the door was convenient.
  • DafydDafyd Shipmate
    Hume's example IIRC is a pan of water placed on a hob. We believe the heat causes the pan of water to come to the boil, but we do not perceive causation. As Hume believes all genuine knowledge is derived from either perception or from logical deduction, and causation is neither perceived nor logically deduced, it follows he thinks that it can't be genuine knowledge.
  • Pyrrho is supposed to have said that nothing can be known, but is that certain? One thing I found on meditation retreats is that some people enter into an intense state of not knowing. Thus, "I don't know who I am". I think this is frightening, but it can become exhilarating as it clears away large amounts of debris, technically known as mind-fucking.
  • Dafyd wrote: »
    Hume's example IIRC is a pan of water placed on a hob. We believe the heat causes the pan of water to come to the boil, but we do not perceive causation. As Hume believes all genuine knowledge is derived from either perception or from logical deduction, and causation is neither perceived nor logically deduced, it follows he thinks that it can't be genuine knowledge.

    If logical deduction is not a valid source of genuine knowledge then we don't know anything mathematical; it's all deduction from first principles (which are taken on faith).
  • 'taken on faith' is an interesting phrase and, when I come to think of it is one I haven't heard for a while. True, my TV viewing is nil and my radio listening is more or less confined to two BBC stations, but I'm going to try to pay more attention and listen for it. Am I right in thinking that people nowadays are more likely to say 'taken for granted'?
    The older I get, the more I realise how rapidly the world around me is changing in so many ways and that I am way behind it all!
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    I hear 'take on trust' more than 'take on faith.' Or 'take in good faith.' That's specifically in terms of relationship, being aware that you're putting your trust/faith in a person's goodwill.

    Take for granted is used more abstractly, I find, when discussing ideas, to define assumptions what you're going to take as given. Unless you are talking about taking a person for granted, in which case it's used negatively, to suggest you are not appreciative of them, or aware that their presence/kindness isn't simply a given that you're entitled to.
  • LeRocLeRoc Shipmate
    It's just that the problem of induction is quite interesting, and touches on skepticism, and ultra-skepticism, Phyrronism, as it was traditionally known.
    I thought it was more or less solved by Popper?
  • LeRoc wrote: »
    It's just that the problem of induction is quite interesting, and touches on skepticism, and ultra-skepticism, Phyrronism, as it was traditionally known.
    I thought it was more or less solved by Popper?

    He certainly did something brilliant, by removing truth as a criterion, and arguing that science doesn't use induction, and employs falsification of claims. This has also been used with religious claims, it's not that they're not true, but can't be falsified. I'm not sure if he discussed guessing, which Feynman rates..

    But I think the interest in induction and skepticism remains. For example, it just dawned on me that Hume said it wasn't achieved by imagination, nor by reason, but by custom and belief. I can't get my head round that.

    Also, many philosophers have been fiercely critical of Popper, maybe because he removed the problem.
  • There's also pattern recognition, I suppose. Taking Dafyd's example, after seeing a few pans of water boil, don't I mentally adopt a pattern, or generalisation, that heat causes boiling, even though I can't see the causation? I don't know whether this is true knowledge, it depends how you define knowledge.
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