The word “faith,” from the Latin fides, from the root fidere, “to trust,” has a range of meanings.
Objectively, faith can denote what I believe, e.g., the Christian faith or the faith of the Christian church.
Subjectively, faith can refer to the act of my believing, which, at the least, has two connotations.
One, I believe or have faith that a proposition or statement is true.
Someone tells me, “Paul, water is wet.” The fact or truth of this is demonstrable to me by my own firsthand experience.
Another tells me, “Paul, the universe has one hundred billion galaxies.” The fact or truth of this is not demonstrable to me by my own firsthand experience, but I can (meaning that I could choose not to) accept this intuitively based on my conviction or confidence in the probable accuracy of astronomical investigation and discovery.
This kind of believing or having faith involves my intellectual assent.
Moreover, intellectual assent alone does not necessarily imply that I have any personal relationship or particular interest in the matter that I believe to be factual or true. I can believe and have faith that water is buoyant based upon the testimony of countless swimmers, yet never take to the water myself.
Two, I believe or have faith in a person.
I have confidence, through my examination of my historical experience of that person, of her/his truthfulness and reliability in word and deed.
This kind of believing or having faith involves my first-and-ongoing decision of commitment to be in relationship with that person.
Theologically, faith denotes my belief in God.
This form of believing or having faith is subjective in both senses of the word.
It involves my intellectual assent. For I cannot trust or have confidence in God unless I believe that God is real and present to be trusted and in whom I can have confidence. To put this another way, with this kind of faith I do not have confidence in a proposition or statement about God, say, that God exists, but rather in the reality of the person of God who exists.(1)
It embraces my whole self; not only my intellect, but also my emotions, what I feel, and my will, my power to choose to commit myself to God.
On Reason and Faith
Reason and faith are not opposed.(2) For by “faith,” I mean my belief in the existence of God and, in believing God to be a reality, my response to God in desiring to be in relationship with God.
Therefore, reason, as I wrote in a previous blog post,(3) that human capacity of make sense of things, is a necessary aspect of faith, particularly in my efforts to seek to know God (an endless, indeed, eternal task, for God is beyond the fullest human comprehension) and to communicate with others, however imperfectly, my understanding of God.
(1) That is, God is real and no mere product of my imagination or projection of my inner need for an overarching power and authority to which or to whom I can appeal for resolutions to life’s imponderable questions and for relief from life’s vexatious tribulations.
(2) Reason and faith are not opposed, unless by “faith,” I mean my belief or confidence that something is true contrary to observable and confirmable proofs, e.g., my faith that the earth is flat despite conflicting scientific evidence or my faith in the honesty of a person who repeatedly lies to me and betrays my trust.
(3) Less Randomly Ordered Opinions, February 7, 2019
Detail, the hands of Adam (left) and God (right) from the fresco, The Creation of Adam (1511-1512), Michelangelo (1475-1564), Sistine Chapel, Vatican City