Faith is not just Belief

Something I’ve been thinking about for a few days and Peter Rollins goes and blogs about it before me!

He argues (and I agree) that ‘faith’ has come to be about thinking something is true. It’s used of things that we do not have enough empirical evidence to know for sure and yet we are convinced of.

…faith has come to mean a psychological claim to certainty about something that would, from a purely empirical point of view, be uncertain. In terms of religion faith has come to mean the confident assertion of dogmas (historical, biological, cosmological etc.) that evidence alone could not reasonably enable us to affirm.

As Rollins goes on to say, that misses the point of what the Apostles were trying to say. The way Paul describes faith is living in a new type of reality, the life of Christ. The other NT writers do the same thing.For example, in 1 Peter 1:6b-7 “… you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Trials don’t help us assess the validity of propositional statements. Suffering does not make us more or less able to create a systematic doctrinal system. Suffering demonstrates inwardly the new reality that life in Christ is creating.

This is what we find beautifully hinted at in the famous definition found in Hebrews. Here faith is described as a way of living that we cannot deny but that we cannot render into a thing. It is an invisible reality that we do not see, but that we fully live within. A reality that enables us to see.

Faith has much more to do with who we believe in that what. Of course faith in Christ will require us to have beliefs, but we will hold beliefs lightly compared to faith. Beliefs are subsidiary to faith, small and particular and often inarticulately expressed. Faith saves us, beliefs often seem to divide us.

Faith is totally different to law or even systematics. When we focus on the beliefs themselves, rather than God who we claim to have faith in, we create an idol of our beliefs and our religion becomes easy. Easy religion requires mental assent to a list of statements only; faith is a constant chasing after, a struggle, crucifixion with Christ. But faith is the thing that brings new life, ‘life of the age to come’, resurrection life.