Defining “Faith”

With The Green V view of the world in mind (discussed in the last post), can we remember a definition for “faith,” “belief/believe,” and “trust”? Remember that all of these words mean the same thing and translate a single Greek word: pistis/pisteuo.  The translation of that word, “Honesty about dependence,” begins to make sense of what the Bible and universal human experience intend to teach us.

Just as the gospel has been confined to the idea of forgiveness in popular thinking, so also the terms associated with salvation have been confined to “faith.” There are some important points to consider here.

First, popular and religious opinions assume that “faith” is a matter of personal preference—the way any individual would like things to be, but with no necessary relationship with the truth. In fact, the word “faith” in the Bible means, “honesty about dependence.” Honesty is the appropriate relationship to truth and honesty is not something we invent or do; honesty is what we realize about the truth when we are at rest (when we are not thinking, speaking, or acting to the contrary).

Second, from honesty about dependence we think about the magnitude of God’s dependability. Honesty about dependence makes us mindful and conscious of all that God provides for us, more than we can imagine really. Take a moment and think about everything God created and sustains, from the farthest reaches of the universe, to our own sun, to the beauty of nature around you, to your senses that take it all in, to your heartbeat and respiration.  These are all constant, wonderful, ever-present witnesses to God’s will that you live. This is why the opposite of faith is not unbelief but works (Romans 4; Ephesians 2; 1 Corinthians 1:18ff; Matthew 18). Biblical Christianity reveals the unimaginable—that God provides all things to us in abundance and works all things for us so there is nothing left to get or do for ourselves. All that is left is for us to realize this truth by passing along to others what is divinely “too much” for us to keep to ourselves.

Third, the Bible describes salvation in conjunction with many words besides “faith.” For example, Luke 1:50 says that God’s mercy is upon those who fear Him. Psalm 34 says God’s salvation is with those who are poor, fearful, seeking Him, broken-hearted, and possessing a contrite spirit. Psalm 37 mentions those who seek refuge in God. Psalm 41 says the person who considers the poor is under God’s care. Proverbs 22:4 uses the terms “humility” and “fear of the Lord.” All terms of salvation have one thing in common: a person without means of denying the truth and thus are honest about dependence on God who is absolutely and always dependable.

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