Definitions

faith

faith

[feyth]
faith: see creed.

Curing of an illness or disability by recourse to divine power, without the use of traditional medicine. A healer such as a clergy member or an inspired layperson may act as intermediary. Certain places, such as the grotto at Lourdes, France, are believed to effect cures among believers. In ancient Greece, temples honoring the god of medicine, Asclepius, were built near springs with healing waters. In Christianity, support for faith healing is based on the miraculous cures wrought by Jesus during his ministry. Christian Science is noted for faith healing, and it is also practiced in a more dramatic way in Pentecostalism through such customs as the laying on of hands.

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Officially authorized, usually brief statement of the essential articles of faith of a religious community, often used in public worship or initiation rites. Creeds are most numerous in Western traditions. In Islam the shahāda declares that only God is God and Muhammad is his prophet. In Judaism early creeds are preserved in Hebrew scripture, and later creeds include the Thirteen Principles of Faith. In Christianity the Nicene Creed was formulated in AD 381 to exclude Arianism, and the Apostles' Creed was drafted in the 8th century from earlier baptismal creeds. Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and modern movements of Hinduism also possess creeds; in other religions faith is confessed chiefly through liturgical expressions.

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Ecumenical Christian statement of faith accepted by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and major Protestant churches. Originally written in Greek, it was long thought to have been drafted at the Council of Nicaea (325), but is now believed to have been issued by the Council of Constantinople (381), based on a baptismal creed already in existence.

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Faith is a belief in the trustworthiness of an idea. Formal usage of the word "faith" is usually reserved for concepts of religion, as in theology, where it almost universally refers to a trusting belief in a transcendent reality, or else in a Supreme Being and said being's role in the order of transcendent, spiritual things.

Informal usage of the word "faith" can be quite broad, and may be used standardly in place of either as "trust," "belief," or "hope". For example, the word "faith" can refer to a religion itself or to religion in general. (For informal uses of the word "faith", see Faith (word)). As with "trust," faith involves a concept of future events or outcomes.

Epistemological validity of faith

There exists a wide spectrum of opinion with respect to the epistemological validity of faith. On one extreme is logical positivism, which denies the validity of any beliefs held by faith; on the other extreme is fideism, which holds that true belief can only arise from faith, because reason and evidence cannot lead to truth. Some foundationalists, such as St. Augustine of Hippo and Alvin Plantinga, hold that all of our beliefs rest ultimately on beliefs accepted by faith. Others, such as C. S. Lewis, hold that faith is merely the virtue by which we hold to our reasoned ideas, despite moods to the contrary.

Fideism and Pistisism

Fideism is not a synonym for “religious belief,” but describes a particular philosophical proposition in regard to the relationship between faith's appropriate jurisdiction at arriving at truths, contrasted against reasons. It states that faith is needed to determine some philosophical and religious truths, and it questions the ability of reason to arrive at all truth. The word and concept had its origin in the mid to late nineteenth century by way of Roman Catholic thought, in a movement called traditionalism. The Roman Catholic Magisterium has repeatedly condemned fideism though.

The word is also occasionally used to refer to the Protestant belief that Christians are saved by faith alone: for which see sola fide. This position is sometimes called solifidianism and sol Pistisism.

Many noted philosophers and theologians have espoused the idea that faith is the basis of knowledge. One example is St. Augustine of Hippo. Known as one of his contributions to philosophy, the idea of "faith seeking understanding" was set forth by St. Augustine in his statement "Crede, ut intelligas" ("Believe in order that you may understand").

One illustration of this concept is in the development of knowledge in children. A child typically holds parental teaching as credible, in spite of the child's lack of sufficient research to establish such credibility empirically. That parental teaching, however fallible, becomes a foundation upon which future knowledge is built. The child’s faith in his/her parents teaching is based on a belief in their credibility. Unless/until the child’s belief in their parents’ credibility is superseded by a stronger belief, the parental teaching will serve as a filter through which other teaching must be processed and/or evaluated. Following this line of reasoning, and assuming that children have finite or limited empirical knowledge at birth, it follows that faith is the fundamental basis of all knowledge one has. Even adults attribute the basis for some of their knowledge to so called "authorities" in a given field of study. This is true because one simply does not have the time or resources to evaluate all of his/her knowledge empirically and exhaustively. "Faith" is used instead. However, a child's parents are not infallible. Some of what the child learns from them will be wrong, and some will be rejected. It is rational (albeit at a perhaps instinctive level) for the child to trust the parents in the absence of other sources of information, but it is also irrational to cling rigidly to everything one was originally taught in the face of countervailing evidence. Parental instruction may be the historical foundation of future knowledge, but that does not necessarily make it a structural foundation.

It is sometimes argued that even scientific knowledge is dependent on 'faith' - for example, faith that the researcher responsible for an empirical conclusion is competent, and honest. Indeed, distinguished chemist and philosopher Michael Polanyi argued that scientific discovery begins with a scientist's faith that an unknown discovery is possible. Scientific discovery thus requires a passionate commitment to a result that is unknowable at the outset. Polanyi argued that the scientific method is not an objective method removed from man's passion. On the contrary, scientific progress depends primarily on the unique capability of free man to notice and investigate patterns and connections, and on the individual scientist's willingness to commit time and resources to such investigation, which usually must begin before the truth is known or the benefits of the discovery are imagined, let alone understood fully. It could then be argued that until one possesses all knowledge in totality, one will need faith in order to believe an understanding to be correct or incorrect in total affirmation.

Again, scientific faith is not dogmatic. While the scientist must make presuppositions in order to get the enterprise under way, almost everything (according to some thinkers, such as Quine, literally everything) is revisable and discardable.

Faith in world religions

Judaism

Although Judaism does recognize the positive value of Emunah (faith/belief) and the negative status of the Apikorus (heretic) the specific tenets that compose required belief and their application to the times have been heatedly disputed throughout Jewish history. Many, but not all, Orthodox Jews have accepted [[Maimonides]' Thirteen Principles of Belief].

A traditional example of faith as seen in the Jewish annals is found in the person of Abraham. A number of occasions, Abraham both accepts statements from God that seem impossible and offers obedient actions in response to direction from God to do things that seem implausible (see Genesis 12-15).

For a wide history of this dispute, see: Shapira, Marc: The Limits of Orthodox Theology: Maimonides' Thirteen Principles Reappraised (Littman Library of Jewish Civilization (Series).)

Christianity

Faith in Christianity is directed toward an object, or more particularly a person, Jesus Christ. In this way Christianity claims not to be distinguished by its faith, but by the object of its faith. Faith is essentially an act of trust, reliance or dependence on God. Rather than being passive, this leads to an active life of obedience to the one being trusted. Faith causes questions and seeks answers from God and transforms, it sees the mystery of God and his grace and seeks to know and become obedient to God. Faith is not static but causes one to learn more of God and grow, faith causes change as it seeks a greater understanding of God. Faith is not fideism, or simple obedience to a set of rules or statements. Before the Christian has faith, they must understand who and what they are having faith in. Without understanding, there cannot be true faith. Understanding is built on the foundation of the community of believers: the understanding of the scriptures and traditions of the community of believers and on personal experiences of the believer.

Islam

Faith in Islam is called iman. It is a complete submission to the will of Allah which includes belief, profession, and the body's performance of deeds consistent with the commission as vicegerent on Earth, all according to Allah's will.

Iman has two aspects

  • Recognizing and affirming that there is one Creator of the universe and only to this Creator is worship due. According to Islamic thought, this comes naturally because faith is an instinct of the human soul. This instinct is then trained via parents or guardians into specific religious or spiritual paths. Likewise, the instinct may not be guided at all.
  • Willingness and commitment to submitting that Allah exists, and to His prescriptions for living in accordance with vicegerency. The Quran (Koran) is the dictation of Allah's prescriptions through Prophet Muhammad and is believed to have updated and completed previous revelations Allah sent through earlier prophets.

In the Qur'an, God (Allah in Arabic), states (2:62): Surely, those who believe, those who are Jewish, the Christians, and the converts; anyone who (1) believes in GOD, and (2) believes in the Last Day, and (3) leads a righteous life, will receive their recompense from their Lord. They have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.

Hinduism

In Hinduism, Śraddhā is the word that is synonymous with faith. It means unshaken belief and purity of thought. Faith is recognized as a virtue throughout all schools of Hinduism, although there is a variety of interpretations of the role of faith in one's daily life, its foundation, and what rests upon it. Some schools more strongly emphasize reason and direct personal knowledge, while other schools of thought more strongly emphasize religious devotion. In chapter 17 of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna mentions the three gunas of faith: Faith rooted in sattva, faith rooted in rajas, and faith rooted in tamas. Those with sattvic faith are said to worship the devas, those with rajasic faith are said to worship demons, and those with tamasic faith are said to worship ghosts and spirits.

Buddhism

Faith (Pali: Saddhā, Sanskrit: Śraddhā) is an important constituent element of the teachings of the Buddha - both in the Theravada tradition as in the Mahayana. Faith in Buddhism derives from the pali word saddhā, which often refers to a sense of conviction. The saddhā is often described as:

  • A conviction that something is
  • A determination to accomplish one's goals
  • A sense of joy deriving from the other two

While faith in Buddhism does not imply "blind faith", Buddhist faith (as advocated by the Buddha in various scriptures, or sutras) nevertheless requires a degree of faith and belief primarily in the spiritual attainment of the Buddha. Faith in Buddhism centers on the understanding that the Buddha is an Awakened being, on his superior role as teacher, in the truth of his Dharma (spiritual Doctrine), and in his Sangha (community of spiritually developed followers). Faith in Buddhism is better classified or defined as a Confidence in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and is intended to lead to the goal of Awakening (bodhi) and Nirvana. Volitionally, faith implies a resolute and steadfast pursuit of Truth. It combines the steadfast resolution that one will do a thing with the self-confidence that one can do it.

As a counter to any form of "blind faith", the Buddha taught the Kalama Sutra, exhorting his disciples to investigate any teaching and to live by what is learnt and accepted, rather than believing something outright.

Bahá'í Faith

In the Bahá'í Faith a personal faith is viewed as a progressive understanding an individual goes through to learn the truth for oneself, towards the end that one may learn of God, of oneself, and also develop a praiseworthy character (not simply by knowing the truth, but by living honorably in relation to it.) Different ways of learning the truth for oneself are all respected and culminate in a spirit of faith or indwelling spirit by which the Holy Spirit informs one's belief without recourse to senses, intellect, intuition, scripture, or experience and research. However, such a state is not considered to be independent of the Revelation of God by which the great Prophets founded the religions, nor is it meant to act as a sure guide for others.

See the Role of faith in the Baha'i Faith

Criticisms of faith

A certain number of religious rationalists, as well as non-religious people, criticize implicit faith as being irrational, and see faith as ignorance of reality: a strong belief in something with no evidence. Bertrand Russell used to note that no one speaks of faith in the existence of such entities as gravity or electricity; rather, resorts to arguing faith occur only when evidence or logic fails. The issue is more than theoretical. People can agree on the reality of that which is evidential or reasonable, but what is based on faith is not usually communicable except by common inculcation, which makes faith a divider and thus a phenomenon commonly correlated to intolerance and warfare. In the rationalist view, belief should be restricted to what is directly supportable by logic or scientific evidence.

Defenders of faith say that belief in scientific evidence is itself based on faith — in positivism; yet they do not themselves defy reason by walking off cliffs out of faith in divine intervention. Others claim that faith is perfectly compatible with and does not necessarily contradict reason, "faith" meaning an assumed belief. Many Jews, Christians and Muslims claim that there is adequate historical evidence of their God's existence and interaction with human beings. As such, they may believe that there is no need for "faith" in God in the sense of belief against or despite evidence; rather, they hold that evidence is sufficient to demonstrate that their God probably exists or certainly exists.

Some religious believers – and many of their critics – often use the term "faith" as the affirmation of belief without an ongoing test of evidence. In this sense faith refers to belief beyond evidence or logical arguments, sometimes called "implicit faith." Another form of this kind of faith is fideism: one ought to believe that God exists, but one should not base that belief on any other beliefs; one should, instead, accept it without any reasons at all. "Faith" in this sense, belief for the sake of believing, is often associated with Søren Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling and some other existentialist religious thinkers.

Faith as Religious belief, has been advanced as being desirable, for example for emotional reasons or to regulate society, and this can be seen as ‘positive’ when it has 'benign’ effects. However, rationalists may become alarmed that faithful activists, perhaps with extreme beliefs, might not be amenable to argument or to negotiation over their behavior Robert Todd Carroll, an advocate of atheism, argues that the word "faith" is usually used to refer to belief in a proposition that is not supported by a perceived majority of evidence. Since many beliefs are in propositions that are supported by a perceived majority of evidence, the claim that all beliefs/knowledge are based on faith is a misconception "or perhaps it is an intentional attempt at disinformation and obscurantism" made by religious apologists:

"There seems to be something profoundly deceptive and misleading about lumping together as acts of faith such things as belief in the Virgin birth and belief in the existence of an external world or in the principle of contradiction. Such a view trivializes religious faith by putting all non-empirical claims in the same category as religious faith. In fact, religious faith should be put in the same category as belief in superstitions, fairy tales, and delusions of all varieties.
Michael Green includes the idea that faith is belief not based on evidence as one of the myths about Christianity. Faith is to commit oneself to act based on sufficient experience to warrant belief, but without absolute proof. To have faith involves an act of will. For example, many people saw Blondin walk across the gorge below Niagara Falls on a tightrope, and believed (on the basis of the evidence of their own eyes) that he was capable of carrying a man on his back safely across. But only his manager Harry Colcord had enough faith to allow himself to be carried.

Atheist Richard Dawkins contends that faith is merely belief without evidence. A practice which only degrades our understanding of the natural world by allowing anyone to make a claim about reality that is based solely off of their personal thoughts, and possibly distorted perceptions, that does not require testing against nature, has no ability to make reliable and consistent predictions, and is not subject to peer review.

See also

Notes

Further reading

  • Sam Harris, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, W. W. Norton (2004), hardcover, 336 pages, ISBN 0-393-03515-8
  • Hein, David. "Faith and Doubt in Rose Macaulay's The Towers of Trebizond." Anglican Theological Review Winter2006, Vol. 88 Issue 1, p47-68.
  • Zarlengo, Michael. Pray Like This: God's Secret to Answered Prayer. Dallas, Texas: Michael Zarlengo Publishing, 2005.
  • D. Mark Parks, "Faith/Faithfulness" Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Eds. Chad Brand, Charles Draper, Archie England. Nashville: Holman Publishers, 2003.
  • Poetry & Spirituality

Classic reflections on the nature of faith

The Reformation view of faith

Faith in Analysis

External links

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