WHAT IS FAITH?
By Emily Smith
What is faith? Faith is something different to everyone. If you asked a hundred different people, it is possible that you would get many diverse answers. Religious faith and non-religious faith are two very distinct terms. Faith holds an extremely complex meaning when discussing it in the context of religion. Faith is a belief. That holds true to every religious and non-religious person. Every faith involves a decision. It is not about what we claim to believe, but what we actually do believe, that is true faith. Throughout this paper, I am going to discuss Christian faith, how it pertains to daily life and Christianity as a whole. I also intend to delve into George W. Forell’s discussion of Christian faith and analyze and interpret his statements and conclusions.
Since the beginning of my childhood, I have learned much about faith and its essence in everyday human life and also in religion. For me, it is simple really. I have always believed that faith is your belief in God, and as Jesus Christ as the savior of the world. My strong Methodist beliefs and background have somewhat tainted my academic viewpoint of the term “faith”. The Harper Collins Dictionary of Religion defines faith as “the act or virtue or spiritual disposition by which people accept the reality, promises, and love of God.” 355
However, all religions are based on some form of faith, a belief in something. You can not have religion without faith. George W. Forell states that “faith is universal,” (Forell 1). By this Forell is saying that everyone has some sort of belief, they believe in something or somebody. Forell is not limiting this belief to God, or gods for that matter, he simply means that all humans believe in something- money, or education, or the general goodness of mankind. Forell goes on to also describe Christian faith; “Classical Protestantism asserts that God wants fellowship with man and that if we trust completely in Jesus Christ and his work we will have communion with God. This complete and utter trust in Jesus Christ is faith,” (Forell 19). I tend to side with George W. Forell and his explanation of Christian faith.
Christian faith has an implication of love. It is strictly a personal act. The “agape” that exists between the lord and all of his creations is manifested into each religion’s faith. This agape is the respect, connection, and intellectual virtue that exist between men and women and their belief in God. Faith can also be thought of as a perception. It is not a conclusion or a proof; “it is not an explanation of the world, an argument from causality, an apologetic of creation,” (Chenu 2). Faith is neither black or white, but somewhere in the gray area in-between. Religious faith has been challenged theoretically for thousands of years due to this lack of physical proof or evidence to support or even contradict the Christian doctrines and dogmas. Science continues to be the opposition to Christian faith and distorts the scripture as “myth”. Science is a form of knowledge based on, and governed by evidence. It debates faith as there is no scientific proof of God’s existence today in the world.
“Christian faith is clearly more than the assent of the intellect to the truth of certain propositions. It is a relation of the whole man to God, a commitment which we tend to attribute to the heart and will,” (Bendall 11).
There are distinctly two aspects of faith. On one side of the coin, the act of the believer terminates not in a dogmatic proposition but in the divine reality itself that it expresses in a human manner. This realism of faith is the basis of its mystical value. It is not “a concept of reality, but reality itself,” (Chenu 18). On the other side of the coin, because faith is human knowledge it must be structured by the categories of the human mind. “If man truly knows and believes in God, he knows him humanly,” ( Chenu 19).