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Ignominiously Defining (Faith), Redux

In Christianity & Atheism, Ignominiously Defining on June 24, 2010 by thesignalinthenoise Tagged: , ,

Atheist apologists seem always eager to assert that faith is belief without evidence, notwithstanding that no religion I’m aware of sees it that way (Christianity surely does not) and that dictionaries don’t define it that way. 

That this idea is wrong gets further support from Diana L. Eck, Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies at Harvard University and Director of The Pluralism Project:

Traditionally, “believe” means “belove.” It doesn’t mean, “I think so, but I’m not sure.” It doesn’t mean, “I accept this intellectually because I have the evidence.” No, believing is a matter of the heart. The Latin credo with which the great Christian creeds begin means: I give my heart to this.

The word “believe” has gradually changed its meaning from conveying certainty so deep that I commit my life to it, to conveying uncertainty so unstable that only the “credulous” would rely on it. But faith is simply not about propositions, but about commitment.

To say that Jesus Christ is the Son of God is to say “I love this Jesus Christ,” and I do. Jesus enables me to see something of God that I do not know in any other way: God truly grounded in the soil of human life and death, and hope beyond death. God who does not rescue us out of this world, but who accompanies us in this world, even in the darkest times. God who is as close to us as our neighbor, as close to us as the stranger. God who surprises us with divine presence as we walk along the road to a familiar place. God who comes not as a judge, but as a child.

To say, “I believe in Jesus Christ” is not to subscribe to a dogma or proposition, but to express a deep commitment to God among us, to God’s presence, justice, and love here on earth.

Amen to that.

Addendum:  The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has a new entry today on Faith.

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3 Responses to “Ignominiously Defining (Faith), Redux”

  1. Very powerful quote! There was a discussion over at my blog over the words “believe” and “faith” – wish I could have said something as eloquent as this.

    Thanks for sharing. You have a very interesting site – I’ll have to keep checking back!

    – Amanda

  2. Unfortunately this misunderstand the historical context. It used to be held that the site of the mind, of the spirit and other concepts that tried to explain the conciousness and self-perception of a person is the heart.

    The language of the heart originates from that mythology. We still speak of matters of the heart when we talk emotions and the heart indeed is linked to emotions. It pounds harder etc, also suggesting. We die when the heart dies, so it’s easy to see how folks who didn’t know a lot about the body thought of the heart as what mattered.

    As for love and emotional attachment, surely we can love and be emotionally attached to lots of things, from goodies, to our families, to deities to imaginary friends when we are young. To love something does not imply that it exists and it does not imply that following our heart is good decision-making.

    Deep commitment to a deity, that may not exist… how is a critique of that any different than “epistemological believe in a deity, that may not exist”.

    In fact one may argue it’s worse. People are emotionally attached to an ill founded concept. It’s OK for children to believe in imaginary constructs. But in the real world we have to solve problems as grown ups and come to decisions that will actually impact people’s lives.

    We should make this decisions with our hearts (that is care for each other) but also with our brains (that is consider evidence, the impact of the decision, the veracity of the foundations of the decision and so forth).

    • We should make this decisions with our hearts (that is care for each other) but also with our brains (that is consider evidence, the impact of the decision, the veracity of the foundations of the decision and so forth).

      I agree.

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