The Requirements of True Faith

Polycarp -

But the existance of your wife can be proven by many means. Herself in person. Your marriage certificate. Her birth certificate. All of them can of course be forged but she, herself, as a person is tangiable and self evident.

Can we possibly ask for god’s birth certificate? Is he tangeable or does it require faith in order to make him so?

I have faith in the fact that an apple which drops from a tree will hit the ground. More precisely, I have scientific proof that it will due to the force of gravity which, though not exactly tangeable, is demonstreable. Is god demonstreable?

OOOPS… not quite done yet…

Thus your faith in you faith, may be well founded because she has earned it through her friendship and devotion to you. She has taken an active and present role in your life and has tangeably carried out her promises to you. You have a friendship, a partnership and a history. You have a trust built over time.

Your faith in your wife is distictly different sort of thing than faith in a deity. At least I feel it should be.

And I don’t know about the child-like faith thing either. I’ve had believers eyes literally gloss over, spittle forms at the corner of their mouths and they basically say “I refuse to understand what Jesus taught, as that would be using my brain; children do not have brains, therefore, to have a childlike faith, I must not use mine.”

On another thread I started, we’re discussing this very question… is God falsifiable? What objective evidence is there for his existence?

But I’m not too worried about the consequences. God is a Person – three of them, to be exact. I have more subjective proof of his existence than I do of yours. To each of us, the other is a bunch of posts on a message board. There is no adequate evidence that you are not an undiscovered sock puppet of another poster, or apparently sensible words generated by a Turing machine programmed to take the topic of a thread, find comments made by people, and string them together into the semblance of a human thought. Not, I hasten to say, that I seriously believe you are any of these things – that would be a truly rude thing for me to post without any evidence! – but I post it by way of demonstration how fallible human assumptions can be.

I met Him. He has been a force in my life, and I see Him at work in the world about us, shaping things to foster His plan in His traditional “mysterious ways.” And it’s my job, not to “prove” His existence to people – a futile task!! – but to show Him as He works in the life of a moderately intelligent, somewhat verbose 51-year-old childless married man of somewhat liberal views and a fondness of wordplay. And by doing so, to “get past the dragons” (in C.S. Lewis’ phrase) that scare people away from the Divine Weasel, the Angry God of Jonathan Edwards as brought forward into the 21st Century by people who ought to know better, and show the love of God as it works through me.

A coworker told me a story of a Jaycees project he worked on, where they identified low-income households without smoke alarms, bought and installed the smoke alarms. One woman was firmly convinced that they were out to sell her something, or had some other scheme to benefit themselves at her expense. She allowed the installation with some trepidation, and when they went to leave, she said, “That’s it? You’re not trying to sell me anything?” He said, “Yes, that’s it,” and she burst into tears. My experience with Christians of my ilk has been that having God in their lives has been an enrichening, strengthening experience that I would like to share. I don’t much care whether you get “proof” – as and when He is ready to plant the seed of faith in you, you will see what I mean by all that. My job is simply to turn the furrows and ensure the soil is not caked over with the half-baked concepts of the past.

And this implies that I have something you don’t – kind of a supercilious attitude that I have no desire to show, but cannot quite phrase this to avoid. For which you have my apologies, because that is the farthest thing from my mind.

Originally posted by QuickSilver, with some slight editing by me.

Thus your faith in God, may be well founded because God has earned it through God’s friendship and devotion to you. God has taken an active and present role in your life and has tangeably carried out God’s promises to you. You have a friendship, a partnership and a history. You have a trust built over time.

In the end, the relationship that a Christian has with God is personal. At the end of the day it is just God and I. I have no need for a priest to stand in the gap, no Holy of Holies I must avoid with reverence, it’s just my Father and I. Abba. Daddy.

So Polycarp is right to make the distinction between belief and faith. I believe God exists, my faith is how I live out that belief.

As a Jew, I have a somewhat different take on the idea of faith from the various Christian positions, but as a convert from Christianity to Judaism (and one who considered the Methodist ministry as a high schooler), I think I understand the various Christian approaches to faith fairly well.

For me, the power of faith fundamentally derives from the commitment one makes to one’s articles of faith, and one’s determination to act in accordance with them. For Jews, this means accepting as binding, positive obligations all of the mitzvot and striving to live in accordance with them. You need not agree with all of them; indeed, questioning them in an attempt to understand them is of the essence of Judaism, but when all’s said and done you are expected to follow them. What you believe or purport to believe is ultimately of little consequence; what matters is what you do. You make a commitment to live your life as if what you profess is true, without insisting on proof that it is. Behaving in a “faithful” manner, so defined, is what Judaism is all about, and you may believe pretty much whatever you like about it.

This gets at something that many people who claim to be “spiritual but not religious” or “religious in my own way” miss, IMO, namely the very real way in which behaving as if something is true leads to a state of being indistinguishable from the state that would exist if it were objectively true. The effect on the world of Mother Teresa’s work (to pick a random example) is the same, whether she secretly loathed every poor wretch who came to her or actually cherished them. One suspects, however, that even if the former were at one time the case, a lifetime of living as though she loved the poor might well have brought such a state about.

This of course points to another difference between Judaism and Christianity: the emphasis on personal salvation in Christianity versus the emphasis on collective redemption through “repairing the world” (tikkun olam) in Judaism. In Christianity, one’s inward belief is paramount, since one’s individual salvation is at issue and you are ultimately a “good” or “bad” person as a result of your beliefs, whether you act on them or not. In Judaism, your actions are the only real measure of your worth; you either obey the Torah, or you don’t. By doing so, you help bring about a more just, more merciful world in accordance with the direction of God, thereby making a contribution not merely to your own redemption but that of all people.

We almost had a simulpost here, as I was just thinking about this. My own personal salvation is lost, and I will probably never get it back – choked by the cares of this world as I am. Trapped by momentum. It is very easy. I wake up, go to work, get paid. Get drunk on weekends. Get laid once in a while. Pay the rent on the apartment to hold all the crap I shouldn’t even have. Insurance and car repairs. Make money. Good money. I love money. I was at a point in my life, once, a brief moment where, despite my friend’s fear for my sanity, I made that leap of faith. Best six months of my life. Somehow I burned out. The devil, hammered on me. Life is so comfortable you almost don’t have to feel anything these days, come back Caesar, he’ll treat you right. Oh, and the soup-nazis. OK, Calvanists I should call them, but I like the slang. Wasn’t worth the food. Telling you that you don’t care about your fellow man. If you did, you’d get a job etc. Telling you that you are poor because God hates you and this is his punishment – but let’s all pray together that you can get “back on your feet.” And just falling off the path, step by step, until you wake up one day and decide Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, is a demon. And he is. And you kick him out of your heart, and get seven more back and you are a dead man.
But still, I know what must be done – what God asks of me to do to repair this world. I don’t think it is fair to say all xtians are not aware of this – the truly faithful must be, otherwise, why love your neighbor unless it is for their sake, not, in the end your own? Our Messiah has already come – and if only people would have faith in him… they’d be saved, the Church would grow, and eventually Christ will have a nice throne prepared for him.
Poly talked of being an example of Christ’s love so they might come to know him. But, the majority of people just come to hate you – you bottomfeeder. Non-team player. Worthless drifter. Hitchhiking through the desert.
But I just can’t describe the good side. I know for those in the comfortable predictable boring life it must seem like a horror to live the faithful life. But it is wonderous. Truly wonderous. God.
I guess I’m really thinking about going back. But that not withstanding, why do I bother now trying to tell the faith to others when I do not live it myself? Perhaps, unconsciously, I want people to know they are failing God. They will not know eternal life. I want them to wake up and realize and make them miserable – misery loves company. But maybe, just maybe, True Faith will come to someone here and they will be saved. I sing the praises of my spiritual guides that saved me however brief (it did feel like an eternity of bliss) my salvation was.

Again, I have to disagree. Many false Christians think this is so. I know people who came at it from the wrong way – bass ackwards. People who professed belief in Satan but lived a much holier life than most ever will.

My friend Ace – well, that was his “Christian” name, he was a Kiss fan you see – I saw him once sitting, well, he has almost always at that place. Near a university and on the corner was a baptist church (they didn’t like us sitting on “their” steps mind you. Although, some did litter and there could be occasional graffitti though many of us counciled the others against these things) sitting it the dirt between the road and the sidewalk. And some preppy was crossing with the light coming towards us. And Ace said in a polite but firm voice, “Excuse me, sir, would you like to buy this pebble?” At which point the man, without even looking at us, sped up. Ace continued completely unfazed, “Jesus touched it once!” No reaction, and as the man half-jogged away from us, Ace yelled after him, “It bounced off His head!!” He had more faith than me – he was there for years and years. He had the big C and I suspect it finally got him and I think he is with God now, but he may yet walk the earth.

It is of course easy to obey an inferior teaching – and the false Christians just throw out the parts of what Jesus taught they do not like. But if the Jews have always been thus, it is no wonder Christ came to them – he must have thought more people would keep his teachings in the same manner Jews kept the Torah.

I do appreciate that every loyal and faithful servant of god believes that his/her relationship is tangeable and real. Now I don’t mean to cast dispursions on religious people but people who hear voices in their heads or see things that are not there also believe that these things are real.

The litmus test in my example (that you cleverly rephrased :slight_smile: ) is that I can take you by the hand and show you physical and tangeable evidence of my wife’s existance. Can you do the same with god? I mean, I really really want to see and meet this god. I want to see incontravertable proof that he/she exists. I want it proven to me in a way that does not require a leap of faith or ancient doctrine which promises to make me see him in my mind’s eye. I want to see proof so self evident that I cannot continue to doubt its existance. If you can do that I would be forever greatful to you. Until then, I’ll simply continue to believing in my wife, and kids, and the rest of my tangeable and all too real family and friends.


But that’s ridiculous. They are two different metaphysics.

A better “litmus test” is whether you can take Mr. Flatlander by “the hand” and show him a sphere. Or, put another way, how, using your litmus test, will you convince Marshall Ball that your wife exists? Or again, how will you convince Helen Keller that sound exists? Your litmus test proves only that a brain (in some cases) can perceive its own senses. It doesn’t prove that anything exists.

Existence, in any metaphysic, must be accepted on faith.

… as a human being I must rely on my 5 senses to experience the world. Given less than 5 senses, as in the case of Helen Keller, my experience of the world around me may in fact be quite different. But a majority of the people do have the 5 senses and to a fairly high degree they are consistant across the population of the planet.

The variance comes in not in how we ultimately interpret the signals in our brains (because I think we interpret them very similarly) but to what we attribute the existance and purpose of these things we sense.

So if are suggesting to me that these 5 senses are limited in many ways I would completely agree with you. I cannot see the full light spectrum (x-ray, UV, etc…). I cannot hear subsonic sound waves. Our senses leave a lot to be desired in helping us examine the physical world, but we do have instruments to help us get a clearer picture.

Prudence would suggest that there is no sense assuming that something does not exist just because it has yet to be proven to exist. However! Must one put faith in it, thereby giving it attributes without knowing if it really does exist?

Additionally, if you are suggesting that we exist not only in the physical but some kind of spiritual plane as well, then I’m afraid we’ve already parted company and I am affraid that I may have to borrow pldennison’s carrot with which to poke you in the eye. :wink:

Faith is God’s blessing, and a joy. Faith is a task, and a stern guide. Faith is simple, and it does not change. Faith changes everything, and we grow or fade in faith as we choose. Faith is the essence of us, whether it is given, or withheld. Fools have faith, and so do wise men. Children must learn to withhold their faith, and the world waits eagerly with heartbreaks to teach them.

Faith is not an answer to your questions, and it is not a rulebook for your neighbors. Life ends in mystery and nothing but hope extends beyond it. Faith is the bridge to cross that void, to the love that endures beyond it. You cannot give faith to someone, yet you can be faithful to them. You cannot demand faith of anyone, yet it is offered to you every day. Faith comes of trust, and it is the proof of trust. Faith is an enigma, and with faith, the enigma is moot.

Logic is a poor tool for examining faith. Yes, the two-value pattern of defining truth yields the tautology that faith is irrelevant to Truth. To external inspection, faith and delusion are identical. The proof of faith in God requires a miracle. But miracles are events that create faith. Once you have a miracle, you don’t need the proof, and if you get proof, you will abandon faith, for belief. It is a poor substitute. You can know it all, and measure it all, and in the end you are still within the limits of the world. If that is enough, you have no need of faith. You can probably prove that it is all that ever can be.

You will die right.

I will die wrong, by your analysis.

But I will die with the love God gave me still warm in my heart. I will have served the cause of sewing that love through the world because it was what God wanted. And I shall have done what I could to make the love of God real in the world. Even if you are right, and I am wrong, I am content.

I have faith that I am more than content. I have faith that I shall be filled with joy and rapture beyond human limits forever. But I have no proof, only faith.

Make of your heart a dwelling place fit for the Gift of God to Man. Seek the Lord in the scripture, as others have done but seek Him also in your heart. Have faith, He does have faith in you, whatever you might think of Him.


Actually, this is extremely close to the discussions I’ve had with a Catholic coworker. He was reared Catholic, left the Church, investigated other religions, and came up with his own philosopy. At some point he decided to consider a return to Catholicism. He went to a local church and discussed his desires with the priest. He explained some of his philosophy and beliefs, which do not exactly accord with Church teachings.

The priest told him that he was free to believe whatever he wanted, as long as he behaved according to Church dictates. The priest told him to live his life and choose his actions as if the Church’s teachings were absolutely true and that would be sufficient. (My coworker used almost exactly the same phrasing that you did when he explained this to me.) If I’m remembering all of the details correctly, the priest’s point was that, if you live as if you believe, eventually you may realize that you do believe. I think the theory is, if that move to ‘true faith’ never happens, you’re still technically ‘legal’ because you’ve faithfully followed Church doctrine and can be forgiven your disbelief. (Could be wrong about that last point, though.)

This is very similar to previous discussions I’ve had with Catholics. The Catholic Church seems to handle doubt and lack of faith in much the same way Judaism does: doubt or disbelief is expected (at least at some point in any individual’s life) and is perfectly acceptable as long as your behavior remains in accordance with the Church’s teachings.

I suspect that this is a residual of Judaism that the Protestant churches have lost. Of course, I also think that it’s partly because the RCC just has so much more practice than the Protestants at being a religion and dealing with these sorts of problems. But for whatever reason, IM(very limited)E the Catholic Church has a much different attitude towards doubt, disbelief and lack of faith than the Protestant sects seem to.

Any Catholics out there with some better info?

Like I said of the faux satanists in the Free Spirit Church, sister Church also has it right. Because, you need to follow the teachings in order to have True Faith. Now, these churches quibble over a few minor points – and I think a lot of priests know the Truth. By following Jesus’s teachings you express Love – and love must come first.

Protestants (and even some Catholic circles, of course) in general try to but the cart before the horse. They redefine faith as belief and then say this is sufficient, either throwing Love out the window, or redefining that requirement as merely “being nice” or being a “good person” – a have a nice day happy face on the crucifix).

But as a priest once told me – “you know Joel, we just buy the communion wafers at the store.” He knew.

Aww, that’s easy. I can’t persuade you by reason that you should be reasonable, that would be circular reasoning.

But look at the contrary position. “You shouldn’t use reason and logic, and here’s why:” If you say I shouldn’t use reason, there is no way that you can persuade me, since you can only give reasons why to reject reason. If I reject reason, then I reject the reasons you give to reject reason.

Now, Libertarian, you should know the law of non-contradiction. A statement cannot be both all-true and all-false. How do we know this is true?

Suppose we say: A statement can be both true and false. But if we say that, then we are saying that the statement is true. But if it is true, then it is also false. Therefore, no statment can be both true and false.

You don’t have to accept reason. But if you don’t, then there is no reason to talk to you or reason with you. Even if you say you reject reason as a means for knowing things about the world, you still must eat, distinguish tame dogs from wild dogs, decide when to cross the street, etc. If you don’t use reason you will die. That’s not a reason to use reason, since there is no a priori preference for life over death, just an observation.

Only reasonable humans are left in the world. The unreasonable ones are already dead, or institutionalized. That doesn’t make it right, but it’s all we have to go with.

Yes, Lemur. That seemed quite easy after all.

QuickSilver… if I could prove God’s existence to you, I would in a heartbeat. The only proof I can offer is my own life and my own transformation as I have struggled to move from rote memorization and recitation to owning my beliefs and acting accordingly. Most people will tell you that I am not very nice, “bitch” and “raptor” are words commonly hurled in my direction. But they do not know what I was before. What’s the saying? “Without my God I would be a monster.” The transformation is not of my own doing. This I know as surely as I know my own name.

jmullaney… you are right. There is one verse where Jesus states “if you love me you will obey my commandments”. That pretty much says that belief alone ain’t gonna cut it.

Thanks Amulet. Any chance you can help me with where the last guy left off here? Unless you agree with me then too, in which case it will have been nice to meet a fellow traveler.

Waiter, I’ll have what that man is having.

Waiter, make that a double for me! I want to see how these guys get to where they are and I’m starting to believe it’s in their drinks… :wink:

Drinks for the house!!

You know, this is beginning to sound like a shaggy dog story:

And once again, Triskadecamus nails the truth, and leaves me feeling humbled. Would you forgive me, Tris, for being envious of the way you can do that?

Joel and others, my understanding of what Paul and James were saying (and were in agreement on, no matter how much the rest of us want to extract proof-texts that show them at odds) is this:

We are saved, brought from our petty mundane dreams and concerns into the brightness of His Elysian Fields, solely by the grace of God, and not anything we ourselves do. We accept this grace by faith – the which is being defined here and elsewhere on this board in more detail than should be repeated here. And the result of this process is a life focused on the living out of Jesus’ summary of the law, on which I’ve nagged sufficiently for the moment, and therefore on good works, not to “earn one’s salvation” – you can’t – but as the necessary and proper action, given what you’ve committed yourself to. Joel, is this sufficiently on target for your sensibilities?