Saturday, February 26, 2011

How I Describe Faith, Especially in the Redemption of Jesus

A friend with whom I have been communicating online recently asked me to explain how I see faith - and especially faith in Jesus Christ.  The following is my answer to her - and it is my wrap-up for this month's New Year's Resolution:

I like Paul's definition of faith in Hebrews:

"Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

I also like that he talks in that chapter about it being the motivating force behind action - that he describes its EFFECT on people and what they DO as a result. He gives a list of people who had faith and to whom that faith was imputed for righteousness - and he does so by listing what they did as a result of their faith. In other words, "faith" can be described as a noun ("substance" and "evidence"), but, in full context, to be "effective" or "efficacious", it also must be described as being "exercised" or "planted and nurtured" or in combination with some other action verb.

In the LDS Church, the most commonly quoted verse on faith probably is in James 2, where it says:

"Faith without works is dead, being alone." 

I like that, but it's just a concise way to say what Paul said in Hebrews.

(Interestingly, Luther and some other early Protestant reformers didn't like The Epistle of James and thought it should not have been included in the Bible - specifically because it was so obviously opposed to their view of faith and works. The irony is that they didn't object to Paul and Hebrews, even though the message is exactly the same. Paul just wasn't as blunt as James.)

In "the Gospel", faith is in Jesus - as in, "We believe the first principle of the Gospel is faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ;" Frankly, I think faith gets devalued by too many Mormons - almost taken for granted in a real way in their quest for knowledge. After all, the Doctrine & Covenants says that some people are given the gift to know that Jesus is the Christ, while some people are given the gift to believe those who know.

I also don't like some of the common examples of faith that are used to teach children about it. Believing a light will go on when you flip the light switch is NOT faith, and it shouldn't be taught as such - even to very small children who can't understand the full concept yet. It's experiential knowledge of things actually seen - and that simply isn't faith.

So, to me, our "faith" is that for which we hope in Christ and the evidence we see for that hope - a belief, yes, but such a strong belief that it actually compels us to act on our hope. It is Christ-centered, and the examples we use ought to be Christ-centered, as well - like those Paul used in Hebrews. 

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