faith(redirected from kept faith)
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[Lat. credo=I believe], summary of basic doctrines of faith. The following are historically important Christian creeds.
1 The Nicene Creed, beginning, "I believe in one God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and
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Faith(religion, spiritualism, and occult)
"Faith," said the young Sunday school scholar, "is believing somethin' you know ain't true." And more than a few members of the choir quietly said, "Amen."
It's a safe bet that a lot of people, probably without ever stopping to think about it, have the same thought about faith. They don't cross their fingers behind their back while reciting the Apostles' Creed or slip quietly out the door after the Rabbi assures them Balaam's donkey talked his master out of cursing the children of Israel (Numbers 22:28). They don't really believe Allah is going to "get" them if they forget their morning prayer. But they still feel uncomfortable because they really can't convince themselves they believe what other members of the congregation seem to accept without question. If pressed, their best response might begin, "Well, I guess I believe it because it's in the scriptures, but...."
And many others in their community probably think the same way, but they are equally afraid to admit it because "a good Christian," "a good Jew," "a good Muslim" believes what they are expected to believe.
The English word translated as "faith" in the scriptures of modern monotheistic religions is one of three words used to translate the Greek word pistis. The word means "faith," but it also means "trust" and "belief." The problem is rooted in the long, historical process that gradually changed Western religious thoughts from the right side of our brains over to the left—from intuitive acceptance of the way things are to thinking about the way things are. Westerners have been taught that believing dogma and doctrine, accepted as the body of religious facts received, equals faith. In other words, Western religion has become more a process of believing "about" God rather than believing "in" God.
Religion probably originally consisted of living within a tribal framework that described and defined life in terms of day-to-day activity experienced by everyone in the community. This was certainly the case in early Judaism and in many indigenous traditions. The oral myths and stories were meant to teach moral lessons and history. Most of all, they were meant to be fun. Like stories of Santa Claus or George Washington chopping down his father's cherry tree, they ceased to be enjoyable when you stopped playing the game and started questioning the details. It wasn't the content that was important. It was the lesson.
But Western thought gradually shifted to the analytical. Because we're so used to it, it's hard to imagine that the way we think about religion is a relatively new product of the scientific era. Systematic thought has always been with us. We could never have moved past stone-age technology without it. But, as Robert M. Pirsig pointed out in his intriguing book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a systematic approach didn't really consume philosophical thought until the time of the Greeks. And although the apostle Paul had a Greek education and employed its methodologies, systematic theology wasn't really practiced in the Western religious world until Thomas Aquinas rediscovered Aristotle's analytical method and introduced the world to Scholasticism (see Aquinas, Thomas). This resulted in a move from "thinking religiously" to "thinking about religion."
Monotheistic religions began to consist of "believing in" a series of systematic facts called doctrines. They were listed in statements of faith called creeds (see Creed). Those who accepted the creeds verbatim "had" faith. Those who did not accept them did not "have" faith. Peer pressure elevated those believers who embraced creeds most fervently, calling them people of "great faith." Sermons and homilies became talks aimed at convincing rather than converting. Indeed, conversion came to mean accepting at least enough truth to squeeze yourself into the kingdom of God. Faith became a matter of intellectual acceptance. Science, psychology, and philosophy, once a single package, separated from religion. People unable to accept their church's doctrines or creeds wholesale either faked it on Sunday morning or left their "community of faith" because they felt they were faithless. A "believer" became one who tried hard to accept something he or she knew wasn't true. An atheist was considered the honest one who wouldn't play the game.
Refreshingly, ever more religious scholars accept the scrutiny of doctrine and systematic theology, following truth wherever it may lead while still feeling very much at home in their lifelong community of faith. They are usually called "liberals" and must bear the slings and arrows of more conservative members of their congregations.
Such liberal believers assert that God is truth (not "knows" the truth or "speaks" the truth, but "is" the truth) and has big shoulders. So any honest search for truth, whether it takes place in the Bible or the test tube, is a search for God. And to the extent people discover truth, the liberals continue, they discover God. Indeed, it is the fact that they "have faith" that enables them to believe there is something to find.