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Here’s my answer to this week’s challenge:
“Faith” is used to translate the word “pistis.” One of the meanings of “pistis” is “that which give cofidence” (that is, not just the confidence itself). In classical (Greek) rhetoric the term is used for whatever “persuader” the arguer employs, whether is is a logical syllogism, an example, a witness, a record, etc.
Alan said he often has trouble with the word faith as people employ it, so he likes the word “trust.” Good. I would suggest he could also used the word “persuasion.” I am persuaded to believe that… means I have faith.
A brother in Christ seeded a great example of this in me a few weeks ago. When you take employment, you generally expect to be paid for it. Every week you do the work that is expected of you and then, AFTER the work is done, you get paid, which is what you would expect of your employer. If you had no expectation of getting paid, would you work? Probably not. If your employer expected you to work and you didn’t, should you expect to be paid at the end of the week? Nope. Both sides have expectations that must be met, and both sides have a risk that the other side will not meet the expectations. So, faith is a relationship involving expectations and active trust. The employee trusts the employer that he will be paid, the employee actually does do the work, and the employer pays the employee when the work is done. Of course, with a perfect, good, and infallible God being on the employer end of the faith we’re discussing, Christian faith becomes amazingly similar to obedience (if not the same), as God is incapable of failing to keep his promises. I see conviction and assurance to be coming from different ends of that relationship. In other words: I am convicted (aka convinced); God gives assurance.
By this example, I can see how an atheist would have difficulty explaining faith, as they see it as a relationship with no one on the other end. Also, it seems that a lot of non-theist objections tend to focus on the idea that God is not worthy of trust and will not meet the expectations of His end of the relationship.
Now, I could be completely wrong or perhaps have bits and pieces wrong. Feel free to add correction or comment. I wondered if the example would work if turned on its head: suppose a situation where the employee gets paid BEFORE the work is done, but this requires faith on the part of the employer rather than the employee. So, either way this relationship of expectations and active trust remains…it’s just that the perspective/direction has changed. Also, one might object that the employee expects to get paid this week because he was paid last week and the week before. But that initial “leap of faith” had to be made to begin this cycle, so it’s a weak objection. Also, after rereading it, it comes off as very sociological, but most of the parables seem to be that way. We tend understand worldly relationships and those relationships translate (albeit uniquely) to relationship with God.
epic beard. I encourage you to keep it. 🙂