Defining Faith

How often I have run into internet atheists trying to tell me that the definition of faith is “belief despite the evidence”. Now I’m not surprised that they would try and redefine a word that would make things easier for them, like the definition of atheism, but this one is perhaps the most laughable.

So how should a Christian define faith? Well they should go to the Bible, of course and what better passage to go to then Hebrews 11: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” it also goes on to say that “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” (NKJV) Now does that sound like the ridiculous caricature presented in the opening paragraph? No. It is the hope and trust that we put in the Lord God Almighty.

So what’s wrong with defining faith as mentioned in the opening paragraph? Well for starters it’s a clear cut case of the strawman fallacy. Not only that, but how many times in your life do you tell people that you have faith in them? If you mean “I believe you despite the evidence”, then I think you should tell them that, and watch their reaction.

The fact is, faith is trust and we Christians put their trust in God. Whether you think that is silly or not is of no consequence. Seeing as how it is us who have faith in God, it is up to us to tell you what we mean when we say it, and not your place to tell us what how we define faith.

 

Phil Lost 

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18 thoughts on “Defining Faith

  1. xatheistx

    Hang on. Now we’re redefining “faith”? It’s ok for you to constantly redefine atheism, but when it happens to you, it’s illegal?

    Oxford dictionary:

    noun
    [mass noun]
    1. complete trust or confidence in someone or something:
    this restores one’s faith in politicians

    2. strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof:
    bereaved people who have shown supreme faith
    [count noun] a particular religion:
    the Christian faith
    [count noun] a strongly held belief:
    men with strong political faiths

    Seems to me you are the one redefining words again to support your own beliefs. Words mean things.

    Reply
    1. phillost

      I didn’t write Hebrews 11:1, which is clearly inline with the Oxford dictionary’s definition of faith. We speak of faith in this sense and always have. It’s not my fault if the folks over at the Oxford dictionary have poor theology. (I posted this twice as I didn’t click on your reply)

      Reply
      1. X Atheist

        So you’re trusting a 2,500+ year old ancient text that’s been translated from multiple languages over the Oxford English Dictionary. Cool.

      2. phillost

        You mean 1900 years? This is Book of Hebrews, not from the Old Testament. And it’s been translated from one language. Greek.

        Are you trying to say that because it’s been translated from Greek to English therefore it’s wrong? If you are saying that, then you have to prove this. I happen to study my Bible, which means I reference the original Greek texts, partake in key word studies, as well as use multiple translations in comparison. I also reference the writings of others, commentaries and sermons. How did you come to the conclusion that Hebrews 11:1 in the original Greek does not say what I quoted? I would love to hear your eisegesis… I mean exegesis.

        In response to your rather mind boggling claim that the Oxford English Dictionary should be the authority on the Christian Doctrine of Faith, I am utterly astonished. Perhaps I should look at the Qur’an for an accurate representation of Jesus? Or should I look to Christian writings to understand Christian doctrine? Not to mention, the Biblical definition of faith is completely in line with the first ‘sense’ of the word, so I am having a real problem understanding your point.

      3. X Atheist

        Sorry, so you’re trusting a 1900+ year old ancient text over the Oxford English Dictionary. Doesn’t really help the credibility by granting you another 600 years.

        Being translated from Greek doesn’t make it wrong. Being wrong makes it wrong.

        Citing the Bible as a credible source is laughable at best.

        The definition of religious faith is clearly number 2 in the dictionary, not number 1. It’s called “faith” because it’s not “knowledge.” Plain and simple. You do not know god exists. You think/have faith that he/she/it does.

        I’m having a very difficult time communicating with you in a way that you will not willfully twist and then go on a tangent to prop up whatever point you’re attempting to make. So far you have argued that atheism is a belief requiring faith, which is utterly ridiculous, and now you are attempting to take words with double meanings and cherry pick whichever definition is more convenient to your argument.

        Faith — belief in the absence of evidence. If there were evidence, it would be called “knowledge.”

        Atheism — non-belief or lack of belief in god or gods.

        Anti-theism — belief there is no god; a position that is against the practice of religion or worship towards a deity.

        Could not be simpler.

    2. Elijiah

      XaX

      Look at definition 1.
      Complete trust or confidence in something.

      And then look at definition 2.
      “strong belief… based on spiritual conviction rather than proof”

      Don’t you see a contradiction between those two ideas? Can you have “complete trust or confidence” in something for which you have no evidence or proof?
      It seems like these two definitions are a perfect example of how we use “faith” in normal conversation (definition 1) and how our culture has defined “faith” in a religious context (definition 2).

      What I would love is for us to maintain a consistent definition of faith, in all contexts. And because we all use faith as (essentially) acting upon complete trust, I would say we should use that definition (definition 1, in this case).
      As Phil alluded to, when people say, “I have faith in my wife”, “I have faith in these jacks to keep my car up while I’m working” or “I have faith in this airplane to get me to Sydney, Australia” they mean “I have complete confidence in ___________”.
      Certainly not “I have absolutely no reason to believe ____________”

      Reply
      1. X Atheist

        They are two different concepts though, Elijah. It makes complete sense for there to be two meanings of the word.

        I can say “I have faith that these car jacks will hold my car up” and have utter confidence that they will because they have proven to do just that in the past, there are safety regulations that must adhere to, and frankly, I have insurance so I can feel comfortable knowing that IF on the off chance something goes wrong, I’m covered. That’s one type of faith and can be replaced with the word “confidence.” “I have confidence these car jacks will hold my car up.”

        In the spiritual sense it’s another matter entirely. There is no proof of god, there is no proof of an afterlife, there are only claims of people having “spiritual experiences.” When you say “I have faith god is real” you can’t possibly be using the word “faith” in the same context as what we were talking about with the car jacks, because you’ve never seen god, and for every “god has taken care of me in the past” claim, there is a starving child in Africa whom he has utterly ignored. Faith in this sense is the equivalent of crossing your fingers and hoping your favorite sports team scores the winning goal. Half the time your crossed fingers will work, half the time it won’t. And I promise you your crossed fingers had nothing to do with it, regardless of the outcome. But you can have “faith” that it helped.

      2. Elijiah

        X Atheist,

        So, what you’re saying is that when used in normal conversation, faith means “confidence”.
        But, when used in religious contexts, it means something entirely different, something not akin to “confidence” or “trust”… in a religious context, we redefine faith to be synonymous with “blind faith”?

      3. X Atheist

        We’re not redefining it, the definition is right there:

        2. strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof:
        bereaved people who have shown supreme faith
        [count noun] a particular religion:
        the Christian faith
        [count noun] a strongly held belief:
        men with strong political faiths

        In the religious context, it’s belief in the absense of proof. If there were proof we would have no use for the word “faith” as it would be called “knowledge.”

      4. Elijiah

        “In the religious context, it’s belief in the absense of proof. If there were proof we would have no use for the word “faith” as it would be called “knowledge.”

        Come on, man.
        What you’re essentially saying is, “In normal, everyday conversations, “faith” means “trust”. But in religious contexts, it means blind faith. All the time.”

        Don’t you see how silly that is?
        Of course you THINK it is blind faith because you don’t accept the overwhelming evidence for the truth of Christianity. But why the heck would you redefine a word to mean something *special* in only ONE context?

        That’s not how communication works.

        And in no case is the word “faith” synonymous with “knowledge”.
        Not in the case of airplanes, spouses, car-jacks or religion. Having “faith” in something is confident trust in something based on evidence, regardless of context.

        That’s what the word means.

      5. xatheistx

        Well, for the sake of moving this conversation forward, while I disagree with you I will grant you your definition of “faith” and request that you provide the evidence that yours is based on, though I suspect that’s where you’re headed anyhow.

      6. Elijiah

        As for the evidence:
        There are multiple lines of arguments that will logically lead someone to the conclusion that Christianity is true. Arguments for God’s existence, reasons to believe that scripture (as a whole) is reliable, historical evidence for the accuracy of the gospels; and in turn, historical approaches to the life, death and resurrection of Christ that lead to the conclusion that he really did resurrect. And in addition to those things, there is the explanatory power of the Christian worldview.

        However, for the sake of keeping this post on track (the definition of atheism), if you want to move on with the conversation, we can start another post dedicated to that particular topic.

        At this point, if you’re just going to disagree with me, I don’t know what else there is to say on the matter lol. But something concerns me.
        If you’re just going to define religious faith as “belief without evidence”, if there is evidence for a religious perspective, will this change your perspective on the word faith? Or will it change your perspective on what counts as religion?

      7. X Atheist

        To be honest, Elijah…I don’t know. For me, we can talk about “proper lines of logic” until we’re blue in the face, but philosophy is a very subjective…subject. To me, god is objective. There is no middle ground, he either exists or he doesn’t. Philosophy is never going to convince me of god, I need to see concrete evidence. I’m hoping your evidence does not come from the Bible because the Bible is the claim, not the evidence. I’m also very hopeful that this evidence has been verified by qualified, impartial professionals and differs from what I’ve read about the alleged “resurrection” in the past.

        This is the deepest I’ve gone into a debate with a theist in a long time, and it never usually gets this far because the logic is normally so flawed from the outset that there’s no need…so you’ve earned my respect regardless, but I really need to see concrete evidence that’s more convincing than say, the “historical truths” of Islam or the myriad of other religions claiming the same thing.

        At that point, I don’t really care how words are defined.

  2. phillost

    I didn’t write Hebrews 11:1, which is clearly inline with the Oxford dictionary’s definition of faith. We speak of faith in this sense and always have. It’s not my fault if the folks over at the Oxford dictionary have poor theology.

    Reply
  3. The Spiritual Pilgrim

    Faith is honesty with uncertainty. All else is lying to your self. Have fun getting there

    Reply
    1. Elijiah

      I have faith in these jacks to keep my car up.
      I have faith in my wife.
      I have faith in this airplane to take me from buffalo to los angeles.

      Does your definition of faith (honesty with uncertainty) fit into these uses of the word faith?

      Reply
      1. The Spiritual Pilgrim

        Yes, I think it does actually because all of those things you said you have faith in are uncertain. You don’t know for certain the plane will take you to Los Angeles.

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