What is Faith?

January 3, 2010
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What's Faith? Many world religions have their own definitions of faith. The standard definition of faith today, seems to be “belief without evidence”. Many people even cite Mark Twain in this regard, when he said “Faith is believing what you know ain't so.” But, what do Christians mean when they use the word “Faith”? Yes, many religions have their own definition of faith, as do many people. However, the subject here today, is what is the biblical definition of Faith, and how are Christians supposed to use it?

Let me first clarify that I am making no attempt to argue for Existence of God, the Resurrection, or the validity of Christianity. I am merely trying to correct the common misconception of what biblical “faith” is, regardless of whether or not that particular Faith is true.

First, let us first understand what a basic, and general definition of “faith” is. First of all, faith is “trust” in something or someone, whether it be in religious manners, or otherwise. For example, a man could have faith the horse he bet on, to win the race: he trusts the horse to win. Allow me to reiterate, Faith is trust in something or someone. Now, how this “faith” is warranted is a different question. Some people have “blind faith”, where the person puts his trust in something without evidence, which would be akin to the man trusting the horse to win, even though he knows nothing of the horse's stats, abilities, etc. The opposite, would be a man trusting the horse to win, after he has seen all the stats on it, and seen how the horse has demonstrated it's reliability, thereby warranting his trust that it would most likely win . So, what is the biblical definition of Faith?

In the New Testament, the word used for faith, is the Greek word “pistis”, which was actually a term sometimes used for “forensic evidence”, which is used in the works of Aristotle, for example. In the NT, do we see the apostles saying to the unbelievers “Follow us! Believe! Just have Faith!”?. Nope, instead, let us see what we do find, a clear example being Acts 2:22-36. If one reads it, we can see that Peter's appeals for the validity of the Christian Faith were (1) the evidence of the miracles done by Jesus, (2) the empty tomb, and (3) the fulfillment of prophecy. He appealed to evidence for his claims of Christianity.

What we can see here, is that Peter clearly grounded his trust (faith) in Christianity, in evidence. It is not my intention here to argue that these things actually happened or that the evidences presented are valid, but rather, to show that the Bible used, and teaches faith to be “trust, warranted by evidence.

Again, my point here wasn't to argue for the validity of Christianity, but rather to show what the Bible actually teaches on subject of faith. Biblically, Faith is supposed to be substantiated in evidence. There is not enough space here to answer all the points, but I hope some may understand that a Christian's “faith” is not supposed to be “blind”.

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JRaye This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 29, 2015 at 8:13 pm
So deep, so powerful - terrific job!
matt7 said...
Jul. 12, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Very interesting...

For intrest sake, are you Christian?

I don't really disagree with you. However, the Bible does say that "faith is the evidence of things not seen." There are two ways you could see this

1) Every pressuposition has another pressuposition and so on, correct? And this shows us that there must be an ultimate pressuposition; or the pressuposition in the "chain." This last ultimate pressuposition (or assumption) i... (more »)

M.W.M. replied...
Aug. 28, 2010 at 10:06 am

the "irrational" faiht you're speaking about is what philosphers call a Properly Basic Belief. These are things that we must believe in without evidence, and it includes things like the existence of the external objective world, the eixstence of the past, and the existence and validity of logic and rationality itself. One philosopher in particular, Alvin Platinga, has argued that the existence of God is also a properly basic belief. I haven't studied the issue in depth, but he may very well b... (more »)

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