Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Faith

One of the confusions to which we Christians are prone is that between Faith and Belief. We have so identified faith with belief that we use them as synonyms: we speak of believer's baptism when we talk of the sacrament which marks someones start on the journey of faith and ask "what do you believe in" when really we mean "what do you have faith in?"

My supervisor, Paul, was very helpful today when I talked with him about the reaction of some people to the last few posts I had written on here. I thought I had been talking about my progress on the path of faith but found that I had caused some angst in others over matters of belief; and when people tried to engage me on matters of belief, of course the inevitable happened: we talked past each other to the mystification of both, because we were entirely missing the point. Or at least, I was.

Faith is a verb. You don't have it, you do it. It  has more to do with trust than it does with belief, although it is related to belief. It is a way of seeing the world, or more completely, a way of being in the world. An image Paul gave me was of faith as a set of spectacles. I am converted. I put on faith and see the world through a different set of lenses than the ones I was using before, and everything is different. Of course as I look at the world through the new lenses, I form ideas and beliefs about what I see, and these are largely defined by the lenses through which I am looking. Faith is never still; the New Testament sometimes calls the Christian life The Way, hinting at the fact that the life of faith is a continual journey through bigger and newer landscapes. As the years go by, I undergo a series of conversions, each time slightly changing the lenses (and sometimes greatly changing them) and each time I do so, the set of ideas and beliefs I hold are changed accordingly, to fit in with the new perspective I hold. I look at the same things I saw before, but now they are sharper, the colours slightly different, the perspectives deeper. So when I discuss matters of belief, arguments and misunderstandings are almost inevitable. I and the one with whom I am talking are looking at the same things, but because we have different perspectives, both arising from the faith position through which we view the world, we cannot quite match up our beliefs.

Discussions of belief are seldom fruitful. Giving a reason for the hope which is in you can be enriching and life giving for both the one who speaks and the one who hears.

14 comments:

Elaine Dent said...

For awhile I always heard "believe" as a mental assent to some fact or truth. But it is my understanding that what is often translated from Greek as "believe" in the gospels could just as legitimately be translated "trust." For example, Jesus: "Whoever comes to me will never be hungry and whoever [trusts] in me will never be thirsty." Realizing the Gospel of John (which is chock full of "believes") is about trusting response and not just a mental assent has made scripture come alive. (As in, Jesus, you mean I don't just have to agree with you; you're inviting me actually to trust you in this situation I'm facing?) Believe is truly a faith/trust way of life, and that makes all the difference. Thanks for the post.

Alden Smith said...

Life for me has been a slow train of unfolding epiphanies and I had another one this week as I finished reading Christopher Hitchens -

"God is not Great - How Religion Poisons Everything"

There is nothing new in Hitchens book that most reasonably informed people don't already know but it is helpful to have the facts compiled for reference in a coherent form.
In terms of the faith and belief that are being discussed here I find my faith paradoxically strengthened. Faith in my terms is a compass that helps me continually discard "belief" as that belief no longer fits the evidence. In this axial age faith supports us to continually redefine our belief as we get ever closer to the truth that an unfolding universe reveals to us.
Great Prophets such as Hitchens, Geering, Spong, Armstrong et al have much to teach those that have the eyes to see and the ears to hear.

Elaine Dent said...

I don't have your email so feel free as you moderate comments not to post this comment, especially since it doesn't pertain in anyway to the post. I was listening to Carrie Newcomber's 2010 cd "Before and After" and was intrigued by the lyrics to "Stones in the River" that can be found at http://www.metrolyrics.com/stones-in-the-river-lyrics-carrie-newcomer.html . Among many things, I was struck by her reference to "available light" and by the concept of throwing stones into the river...which is what your blog does. I doubt your blog's title has anything to do with her lyrics, but it could. Check it out in your spare time (which I am sure you have precious little of).

Kelvin Wright said...

Thanks Elaine. I'd never heard of her before, and it's always good to discover another songwriter who handles words well.

Available Light is, of course a photographic term. It means at its most basic, turning off the strobe. But it is also a sort of photographic philosophy. It's about using whatever the world presents to you and not trying to manipulate it to much. Its about the discipline of working with whatever is there. And when picking a blog name I thought it had wider resonances.
I like the image of casting stones in the water . It's a day off today after a ridiculous week, and I'm taking my camera out for a walk. It's a still day. I might look for some water and a pile of stones...

Kelvin Wright said...

My email is on my facebook page, btw. Also, I think, on my the webpage of the Diocese of Dunedin. I'm reluctant to post it on here

Elaine Dent said...

Ah, now I see! (available light, that is) Thanks and good walking.

Merv said...

'Available Light' - also the name of Dave Dobbyn's (IMHO) best album ever!

Anonymous said...

One book which I, an ex physics teacher, have found helpful in my faith journey is The Language of God, by Francis Collins. Its sub-title is A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.
The apparent conflict between Genesis 1-3 and Evolution reminds me of the wave-particle duality of light and matter, in which they can show both particle properties, located in space, AND wave properties, spreading to infinity. Collins gives good arguments for both of God's Books.
John Gregory

Deryck said...

Hi Bishop Kelvin

Just to say I have recently begun to read your words and have found them most inspiring. Especially your story of conversion. I have returned to church after a long absence. I was invited to join the local parish choir! My journey of faith has begun and I believe it will be a wonderful ongoing experience.

Deryck Marshall Saint Peters Queenstown.

bgivens said...

From choir to pulpit - a vocation in the making. A candidate tests the waters and works the ropes.

bgivens said...

Kevin - what is your view on being "born again". Are you willing to consider other views? Such as:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXFwihH5pU0

Janice Stephenson said...

Really like your blog.

Regards Janice Stephenson

Steve Finnell said...

WHAT IS FAITH?

What is faith? Faith is believing in something you cannot prove.

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (New International Version-1984)
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of thing hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (New American Standard Bible)
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (King James Version)

I have faith that Jesus is the Son of God. I have faith that He performed miracles. I have faith that Jesus was resurrected from the grave by God the Father. I believe this because I have faith that the historical record of the Bible is accurate, yet I cannot prove it. There are no living eyewitness to confirm that Jesus was who He said He was or that He was resurrected from the dead, I accept it by faith, I believe it, however, I cannot prove it.

Atheists do not believe the fact that Jesus was the Son of God or that there even is a God, they cannot prove their unbelief, they accept it by faith.

Romans 8:24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope, for who hopes for what he already sees?(NASB)

We have hope we have been saved, but we hope because of faith. We cannot prove we have been saved. We believe that we have been save because we believe, by faith, that the Bible is accurate and trustworthy.

John 20:27-31 Then He said to Thomas, "Reach here with you finger, see My hands and put them into my side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing." 28 Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!'29 Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed." ...... (NASB)

Thomas had proof that Jesus was resurrected from the grave. Men today cannot prove the resurrection of Jesus from the grave, they accept it by faith.

There were more than five hundred brethren, including the apostles, who saw Jesus alive after He faced death on the cross. They were eyewitnesses, they had proof of the resurrection of Jesus. (1 Corinthians 15:3-7)

Those of us alive today have to have FAITH that the Biblical accounts of Jesus and His resurrection are true. We cannot prove they are true. NO ONE IS ALIVE TODAY WHO WAS AN EYEWITNESS TO THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS.


FAITH IS BELIEVING SOMETHING YOU CANNOT PROVE!

NOTE: Atheists believe, by faith, that God does not exists, but they cannot prove it.

YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY CHRISTIAN BLOG. http://steve-finnell.blogspot.com

Kelvin Wright said...

Ἔστιν δὲ πίστις ἐλπιζομένων ὑπόστασις, πραγμάτων ἔλεγχος οὐ βλεπομένων. (Heb. 1:1)

You are placing a huge loading on your translations of both πίστις and ὑπόστασις, and you are innacurate.