In chapter 11 a simple definition of “faith” was given:
Faith: Belief in something that has not been directly observed.
Of course, like so many words, there are many other possible uses of the word “faith” which this definition doesn’t address well. But, for the discussion in this book, that definition is what I mean when I use the word “faith.”
Further, the phrase “to have faith” means to believe in something that has not been directly observed.
By this definition of “faith” a person can have faith regarding things both in the natural world and in the spiritual realm (as discussed some in chapter 11 “Faith or No Faith”). The key point about faith is that it involves believing in things that have not been directly observed, regardless of whether those things are natural or supernatural.
With this definition, faith is involved when I believe something that other people claim they have observed, but which I myself have not directly observed. If I don’t have first-hand knowledge or experience about a particular thing, then faith is involved if I believe in it. I think the same is true for you. For example: Do you believe that what is reported through a particular news outlet is true? If so, then you have some level of faith in the truthfulness of that news outlet and the news they report. After all, since you don’t observe most news first-hand, it is possible that some of the news you hear has been fabricated or twisted to suit the purposes of those presenting it. It takes some level of faith to believe in second-hand information. And, of course, just believing something is true doesn’t make it true. We may be deceived regarding things we place our faith in (more on this in chapters 21, 22 and 23).
Note that for a person who directly experiences an event, that event is not a matter of faith for that person, since they directly observed the event. However, for those who only hear about the event second-hand, then believing such an event happened is a matter of faith. The strength of one’s faith about such an event is dependent on the type and amount of evidence there is regarding the event. The stronger the evidence, the stronger one’s faith about it would normally be. The more faith one has in a particular source of information, the more readily one will accept what is said as being true.
There is a common misunderstanding we should be aware of. We often have so much faith in some sources of information that we don’t even consider faith to be involved in believing them. Indeed, most schools and teachers seem to operate with the assumption that students should simply accept whatever is taught without question. Too often students do simply accept what is stated by teachers as authoritative fact, with complete faith in whatever the teachers teach. I have been guilty of this myself, more often than I care to admit. I suggest that we all should be more careful about the things we accept by faith. We would do well to not be hasty in accepting second-hand information as final truth.
For Further Reflection:
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