Toward A Definition of Faith

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Marc Chagall: Le Grand Cirque (1956)

One of the greatest parts of being a man is the drive to learn, simply for learning’s sake. The manosphere has been an interesting place for me to burn spare time, simply because there are so many talented people in residence who know all sorts of shit I don’t. Here I can talk to attorneys, plumbers, physicians, carpenters, social scientists, diesel mechanics, and engineers. Ya boy Boxer knows nothing about these sorts of things, and he appreciates all of you for expanding his horizons.

Like everyone else, Boxer has his own areas of competence. Arcane arguments in linguistics and philosophy of language are one. Epistemology is another. Aside from its primary focus, as a survival guide for younger guys, this blog functions as a way for me to give back some free knowledge to the community that has been so generous with me.

Down below, Gunner takes issue with Pascal’s work. In doing so, he’s joined some truly great minds (like Descartes). He also makes some problematic generalizations. We should parse one in detail.

Pascal’s wager fails on two counts with respect to Christianity. (1) Works don’t achieve salvation, belief does. Keeping the various rules isn’t sufficient.

For the sake of argument, let’s grant that the New Testament is a series of true propositions. With this as background, Gunner is correct that good works alone is not a sufficient condition for salvation. Gunner is incorrect in arguing that belief as a sufficient condition for salvation. From the New Testament:

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One must note that the word ‘belief’ does not appear as a part of the argument. Moreover, Gunner’s exegesis seems to deprecate the importance of works. Works are described here as the outward manifestation of faith.

Now, it might be that Gunner is apostatizing from Christianity, and attempting to re-write the text, and start his own religious movement. I don’t believe this to be the case, but I want to cover the possibility. A charitable reading of his argument suggests a more likely scenario. Gunner is conflating the notion of ‘belief’ with that of ‘faith’. This is not at all uncommon, because ‘faith’ is one of those English words with a tremendous lexical range, and people commonly use it to describe a variety of dissimilar states-of-affairs. Let’s go through a few examples…

  • Faith as a feeling of surety or confidence,
  • Faith as an adherence to certain precepts,
  • Faith as trust in some modal claim, and,
  • Faith as a practical commitment to some set of ontological or ethical claims, with no evidence of their material existence.

None of these things rise to the epistemological level of ‘belief’ per se. Moreover, most people who use the word ‘faith’ to describe their own internal psychology will not posit the whole range of definitions.

Example: Suppose Person X describes his own faith as a commitment to follow the rules laid down by St. Paul in the New Testament. He’s probably not going to also posit that he trusts the possibility that those rules exist someplace in the universe. ‘Faith’ in Person X’ parlance, in this context, is ‘faith in’ the utility of an abstract system, rather than ‘faith in’ the existence of God. It’s entirely possible for Person X to have both types of faith, but given that they take different types of subjects, the meaning of the word is different in each claim.

What St. Paul is promoting in James, above, seems to correspond to our second example. If you have faith, in this context, you will follow the positive duties, and those will manifest in a distinctly material fashion. The bible talks about charity, and your faith will entail donations, or works of service, or at least going out of your way to be kind to people. The works are not faith, and neither the works, nor the faith, are beliefs, but the works follow from faith, when we read it in this context.

Belief is qualitatively different from faith, in that if I believe some proposition p, then p features in a network of associated beliefs which form the backdrop of my existence.

Example: I believe that the most expedient route to my car is out my window. This belief is justified by my proficiency in mathematics; but, I don’t need to consciously re-write Pythagoras to justify it. The “straight line” proposition just features in my epistemology. I also believe that I can’t take the most expedient route to my car, because that would entail a) breaking the window, and b), jumping three stories to the pavement. I don’t need a primer on employee rules, nor do I need to dredge up Newton and discuss gravitational acceleration, to come to this belief. The details are less important than my belief. I’ll be able to keep making money and stay out of the hospital if I take a less direct route, and so I do.

There are certain things that, by definition, we can not believe. For example, we can’t claim to believe in a proposition if it has never occurred to us. There are almost certainly new subatomic particles that we haven’t yet investigated. There are probably novel astronomical objects that we haven’t yet discovered. If nobody has ever posited such stuff, then it stands to reason that nobody can ‘believe’ in these things, whether or not they exist.

God, for better and for worse, has some similarities with these examples. It may be plausible to posit that “something created me,” but describing this something becomes very difficult. The best that most people are able to do is to posit a “first cause” or an Anselmian sort of “greatest” being.

So, faith and belief are different words for a reason. They describe different things. St. Paul was careful not to require his adherents to believe in too much. For the most part, Christians are called to have faith, and observers are cautioned to test the faith of the adherents by the material manifestations of the same.

Read More

Robert Audi: Faith, Belief and Rationality

Daniel Howard-Snyder: Does Faith Entail Belief?

Visit:

Gunner Q’s Blog

 

Author: Boxer

Sinister All-Male Dancer. Secret King of all Gamma Males. Member of Frankfurt School. Your Fave Contrarian!

37 thoughts on “Toward A Definition of Faith”

  1. Boxer: “One must note that the word ‘belief’ does not appear as a part of the argument. “

    This is not correct. It does appear as part of the argument. See below.

    The English word faith has great lexical scope. This cannot be denied. However, the Greek is much less ambiguous. James 2:18-19 highlights this:

    “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.”

    The words used for faith and belief here are the same root word. It means “trust” or “confidence”. There is no meaningful linguistic difference between faith and belief when speaking about the Bible. Now let’s go to Romans 10:9:

    “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

    Here it is. Salvation comes from inner belief/faith/trust in Jesus. Works are the outward manifestation of the inner state. They are not, of themselves, of any benefit for achieving salvation, they only indicate salvation. It is basic causation. Belief is sufficient, but not all beliefs are equivalent. Mere knowledge is not going to result in good works, for example.

  2. The Book of James was one of the books on Luther’s chopping block because of that verse.

    Luther made an attempt to remove the books of Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation from the canon (notably, he perceived them to go against certain Protestant doctrines such as sola gratia and sola fide) but this was not generally accepted among his followers. However, these books are ordered last in the German-language Luther Bible to this day.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luther%27s_canon

    The combo of faith and works is the means to it. If it is faith alone and you get to act however you please…that explains why many non-Christians are turned off by that faith when they see Christians acting basically the same sinful ways they are.

  3. “If it is faith alone and you get to act however you please”

    This shows that you do not understand the Protestant understanding. Your argument is this:

    1) If salvation is by faith alone, then you can be saved no matter how you act.
    2) You cannot be saved if you don’t have good works (James 2)
    3) Therefore, salvation is not by faith alone.

    But this is unsound because premise #1 is false. Not to belabor the point, but there are different kinds of faith and not all faith is equal. This is made abundantly clear in James 2:18-19. What you might snarkily call “True Faith™” will necessarily result in good works, but it is causation. The faith produces both the works and the salvation.

    If you have faith/salvation, then you will perform good works.
    The converse is not true: if you perform good works, you must have faith/salvation.
    The inverse is not true: if you don’t have faith/salvation, you won’t perform good works.
    The contrapositive is true: if you don’t perform good works, you do not have faith/salvation.

    It is also does not follow that if you perform bad works that you must not have faith/salvation.

    If you always act however you please (i.e. your intention; your belief), how can it be said that you have faith in God? It can’t. The two are mutually exclusive. You can’t always do both whatever you please and also do whatever God tells you to do. Regardless, if you just did whatever you please, it wouldn’t prove that salvation isn’t by faith alone, only that you didn’t have faith.

  4. “Pascal gives us a practical reason to take the leap of faith”

    Pascal’s Wager is a cost/benefit analysis, not a proof. It is an acknowledgment of our limited intellectual capabilities. You can’t perform a cost/benefit analysis without knowledge. Therefore, it must only come into play after evidence for God is considered. The wager is rational and sensible risk-management. It is a “leap of faith” only because it is a belief that cannot be proven.

    “It stands to reason that God doesn’t expect us to have any sort of belief in Him. Even so, He wants us to take the leap of faith, and promises us a reward for doing so.”

    It does not logically follow that because we cannot prove that God exists (“leap of faith”) that we are not expected to have any sort of belief in God. Salvation depends on this belief. This is not the belief of choice, it is the belief of persuasion. As I stated in my comment to Earl, merely performing good works (the converse) is not good enough for salvation. This is why Gunner made his objection to the Wager and he’s right.

    “Belief is qualitatively different from faith”

    This is true under certain definitions of these terms, but irrelevant with respect to the verses you quoted and Gunner’s quote. This makes it an unintentional strawman.

    Angels and demons share the same belief in God. They are both utterly persuaded that he exists and the truth of his ways. Yet one serves God and one does not. How can this be? Because their actions are different. Daniel Howard-Snyder denies faith=belief because he thinks that being in favor of a thing is an attribute of faith, but this is wrong. Actions show your favor of a thing, not faith.

  5. Dear Derek:

    Thanks for shouting out. Please see below…

    The words used for faith and belief here are the same root word.

    No, they don’t. Faith stems from a Latin root, and belief a Germanic one.

    I realize you want to get into a debate about Greek. It’s non seqvitvr. The King James Bible is what our society was founded upon, not old Greek texts. The King James Bible was written in English. The English word used was “faith,” and not “belief.” If those words were similar, then the author of the King James Bible would have used them interchangeably.

    Here it is. Salvation comes from inner belief/faith/trust in Jesus.

    That proposition is meaningless as written. Those three words are not interchangeable.

    Pascal’s Wager is a cost/benefit analysis, not a proof.

    Just call it an argument.

    It is an acknowledgment of our limited intellectual capabilities. You can’t perform a cost/benefit analysis without knowledge. Therefore, it must only come into play after evidence for God is considered. The wager is rational and sensible risk-management. It is a “leap of faith” only because it is a belief that cannot be proven.

    The “leap of faith” is Kierkegaard. Both Kierkegaard and Pascal agreed with their enlightened neighbors that there was zero evidence for God’s existence. They each showed (in different ways) how zero evidence is not, in itself, sufficient reason for people to refuse a life of faith. Faith has practical, material dividends, regardless of the existence of God.

    There’s a contemporary book you might like, by Quentin Meillassoux, entitled After Finitude. M. argues that whether or not a God exists now, there is nothing which prevents a God from popping into existence at some point in the future, and as such, it is best to consider a life of faith even if you’re a hardened atheist.

    As an aside, M. is a student of Badiou (a French communist philosopher) and is best friends with Nick Land (hero of the racist “alt-right” intellectuals.) It’s quite a strange place he comes from, but it gives him a unique perspective on stuff.

    Not to belabor the point, but there are different kinds of faith and not all faith is equal. This is made abundantly clear in James 2:18-19. What you might snarkily call “True Faith™” will necessarily result in good works, but it is causation. The faith produces both the works and the salvation.

    This is an excellent little exegesis, which directly contradicts your earlier claims. If there are different kinds of faith, and they are dissimilar (as I pointed out in the original article) then how can all of these disequivalent concepts be equivalent to both ‘belief’ and ‘trust’?

    Best,

    Boxer

  6. Boxer,

    I tried getting through Daniel Howard-Snyder’s “Does Faith Entail Belief?”. It’s only 20 pages, but I couldn’t do it. He commits too many apparent fallacies and errors for me to take it seriously. It reminds me of the reaction I had to Simon Sheppard’s “All About Women”. Would you be interested in another critical review as a guest post ?

  7. Are you trolling me? Sometimes your comments befuddle me.

    “If those words were similar, then the author of the King James Bible would have used them interchangeably.”

    Verbs and nouns are not interchangeable.

    “Those three words are not interchangeable.”

    Says who? I’m arguing that faith and trust are equivalent and have a particular meaning in this context. This is not an original argument. Daniel Howard-Snyder explicitly argues against it, as do you in this very post. Are you forbidding me from disagreeing with you? If this is just your way of stating that the English words have lexical range, I agree, but it’s irrelevant to the point I’m making.

    “They each showed (in different ways) how zero evidence is not, in itself, sufficient reason for people to refuse a life of faith. Faith has practical, material dividends, regardless of the existence of God.”

    What you mean by “faith” and “life of faith” is quite vague and needs definition. The bible does not refer to faith as belief in God in the absence of evidence. Even the most basic exegesis makes this plain (e.g. Hebrews 11:1). In light of this, Gunner’s comment makes perfect sense. Your insistence otherwise is… perplexing.

    “This is an excellent little exegesis, which directly contradicts your earlier claims. If there are different kinds of faith, and they are dissimilar (as I pointed out in the original article) then how can all of these disequivalent concepts be equivalent to both ‘belief’ and ‘trust’?”

    Alas, I made an imprecision between my “True Faith™” and “Angels and demons” arguments, resulting in an apparent contradiction. I realized my mistake after I posted it. As it is too late at night to craft a proper clarification, I shall do so in detail later.

    “There’s a contemporary book you might like, by Quentin Meillassoux, entitled After Finitude. “

    Thanks. I put it on my book list.

  8. I am not up to speed on the historical/philosophical arguments presented above, but I can offer a few real world examples of faith that might supplement the arguments.
    1. A man goes to work everyday, but he doesn’t get paid for that work until the end of the month. Yet he continues to go to work each day. He does so in the faith that he will be paid, but also with the belief that his labor has a value to his employer that is at least equivalent to what he’s being paid.
    2. Parents pour vast amounts of time, love, and money into raising a child, but it is unknown what the child will become as an adult. Will he be a criminal or a hero? The parents continual investment in raising the child is done of faith. If they do so believing that the child will become someone worthy, there is a much greater likelihood that he will turn out that way. OTOH, if the parent’s faith abuses the child with negative beliefs about his personhood, he will likely become a dysfunctional adult.
    3. The above two examples are merely narrative arguments, but I trust the reader will at once grasp the underlying concepts expressed therein. The reader’s choice to believe that these concepts are true is also an expression of faith.

  9. Dear Derek:

    Are you trolling me? Sometimes your comments befuddle me.

    I enjoy arguing with people who can carry an argument. If you’re defining ‘trolling’ as indulging you, then sure. If you think I have some sort of personal gripe against you, then you’re mistaken. I’m glad you spend time here. If I seem more sharp with you than with someone else, it’s because I a) hold you to a higher standard, and b) know you don’t need kid gloves.

    Verbs and nouns are not interchangeable.

    non seqvitvr

    What you mean by “faith” and “life of faith” is quite vague

    It’s not vague. It’s ambiguous. There is an important distinction.

    That was my original thesis, remember. The term ‘faith’ is ambiguous, and I gave dissimilar examples as an illustration.

    and needs definition.

    I gave four definitions illustrating one dimension of the range of ‘faith’. If that wasn’t enough for you, then I don’t really know what else to post.

    The bible does not refer to faith as belief in God in the absence of evidence.

    The bible does not refer to faith as belief of any sort, because ‘faith’ and ‘belief’ carry completely dissimilar definitions. You could win this argument with a single verse from the KJV, but you haven’t provided a citation, because no such citation exists.

    Even the most basic exegesis makes this plain (e.g. Hebrews 11:1). In light of this, Gunner’s comment makes perfect sense. Your insistence otherwise is… perplexing.

    Gunner claimed that salvation came through ‘belief’. If you’re seconding that, then I need a verse in the text to suggest as much. I use the KJV, and I’m still waiting.

    Best,

    Boxer

  10. Dear Wayne:

    The above two examples are merely narrative arguments, but I trust the reader will at once grasp the underlying concepts expressed therein. The reader’s choice to believe that these concepts are true is also an expression of faith.

    I think I get what you’re saying; but, the epistemic standard for ‘faith’ is considerably lower than for ‘belief’.

    I can have ‘faith’ that my old friend Steve isn’t stealing cars, because I know I’d like to view him as charitably as possible. The thing is, Steve has been jailed for joyriding on a couple of different occasions, and my belief is that a) those who are picked up for auto theft have probably stolen a number of times before being caught, and that b) people who have a pattern of specific misbehavior tend to be resistant to rehabilitation.

    “Steve is not presently stealing cars” is a proposition. I’ll have faith that the proposition holds, but this is very different from a belief that the proposition is true. I can’t choose to believe in the truth of this proposition (as you suggest), even if I want to. I have no such belief. All I know is that the dope isn’t presently locked up, and I’d like to imagine Steve at his best, despite the loathsome nature of his past choices. If someone asked me to bet a dollar on Steve going straight, I wouldn’t do it. Even so, I have faith.

    Best,

    Boxer

  11. Boxer, faith is more dynamic than merely accepting that a proposition is true or not. In your example, faith is expressed through your choice not to trust Steve, based on what you believe about his character. Your estimation of his character is founded on a long history of his bad behavior.

  12. “It’s not vague. It’s ambiguous. There is an important distinction.”

    I see that the pedantry is coming out in full force. Very well, I’ll bite.

    I said what I meant. Vague means “not clearly or explicitly stated or expressed”. You did not explicitly state which definition of “faith” you were expressing in that paragraph.

    Amusingly, the video claims that vague has ‘grey’ connotations and ambiguous ‘black/white’ connotations. Yet half of the definitions of ambiguous emphasize indistinctness, a decidedly ‘grey’ connotation. Indeed, of all the definitions for both words, the one I used is the best choice for what I was expressing.

    I take issue with your vague (lacking in clarity) use of ambiguous language (multiple possible meanings).

    “The bible does not refer to faith as belief of any sort, because ‘faith’ and ‘belief’ carry completely dissimilar definitions. You could win this argument with a single verse from the KJV, but you haven’t provided a citation, because no such citation exists.”

    James 2 in the KJV uses “faith” as a noun and “believest / believed / believe” as a verb. They are not completely dissimilar, they are as similar as a word can be when expressed as merely a different part of speech. This is seen on multiple levels: (1) it is the same word, but different part of speech, in the original Greek; (2) A Greek lexicon easily disproves your claim. Romans 3:25 uses “faith” and Romans 3:26 uses “believeth”, despite being the exact same Greek word and part of speech; (3) it is contextually clear that they are used the same; (4) Hebrews 11:1 defines faith explicitly; (5) from a linguistic analysis of the etymology of both words. The English meanings have changed since 1611.

    If you want to ignore the trivial Greek analysis, that’s intellectually lazy, but whatever. It’s not really required. A basic exegetical analysis of James 2:18-19 is sufficient. Of course that’s a citation of two verses, not a single one.

    “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.”

    To show that faith without works is insufficient for salvation, the writer shows that any old belief alone is not good enough. Two things are contrasted, (a) faith and good works and (b) faith and no good works, along with examples. The example of (a) given is the writer himself: his faith is inferred from his good works. The example of (b) is a person who believes that there is one God but does not have God works. Their faith must be the belief that they believest, or else the example would be a non sequitur.

    It is incorrect to say that ‘faith’ is the specific belief “that there is one God”. The devils are obviously not saved, nor is the believer who does not have good works. We know that belief leads to salvation (Romans 10:9), so there must be a qualitative difference between the belief of the person doing good works and the person who does not do good works. Therefore, the faith spoken of cannot be that specific belief. If the faith spoken of is not a specific belief, then it must be in the class of beliefs, or else the example would be incoherent. Only those faiths that result in good works are potentially included in the set of beliefs that lead to salvation.

    If faith ≠ belief, then you have a contradiction. Paul says that belief is required for salvation (Romans 10:9), James says that faith is required (James 2:24). It would be quite the theological innovation to require faith, belief, and works for salvation (as you’ve defined those terms).

    And as Wayne pointed out, 1 John 5:3-5 is pretty clear too.

  13. Dear Wayne:

    What do you make of this passage?

    I know it’s annoying, but I operate in the KJV. I do so because I’m concerned about saving our civilization, not some long dead one which spoke some other language, nor some postmodern feminist dump that uses floating signifiers.

    Here’s what the KJV says:

    3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

    4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.

    5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

    A couple of quick points.

    1. The author was addressing contemporaries of Jesus, who had (we can assume) seen him in his historical form. We do not have the blessing of this level of credence today.

    2. I don’t find this form of “belief” troubling. I can say that I “believe” two and two is four, for example, without any implicit assertion of an ontological commitment to the number two. Two doesn’t exist, ya know. Even the most hardened atheist can be won over to this. Just tell him Jesus is ficta, like the number two.

    Best,

    Boxer

  14. Boxer, it seems that you believe Jesus no longer lives, and that He is an abstraction, like a mathematical quantity.

  15. Boxer, it seems that you believe Jesus no longer lives, and that He is an abstraction, like a mathematical quantity.

    You’d be wise not to assume something so general. You could indict Kierkegaard that way too, and you’d be wrong.

  16. Not an assumption, I only wish that you would clearly state your own testimony of faith (or lack thereof), and what you believe. Doing so would provide a basis for us to understand the purpose of your arguments and the keypoint you wish to make.

  17. “This is an excellent little exegesis, which directly contradicts your earlier claims. If there are different kinds of faith, and they are dissimilar (as I pointed out in the original article) then how can all of these disequivalent concepts be equivalent to both ‘belief’ and ‘trust’?”

    There are many different faiths. Some faiths are the kind of beliefs that lead to good works. Some faiths are not. The dissimilarity is not in the conceptual definition of faith, but the specifics of faith itself. When faith means trust in something, it is the something that makes it dissimilar, not the trust. This is not a contradiction.

    Faith and belief are not English equivalents in all contexts, but we’re restricting it to the biblical context. There is no verb form of faith, so when one is required in the KJV some form of ‘believe’ is used ~200 times. When a noun is required, ‘faith’ is used (The ratio of faith to belief is 247:1). While they differ as various parts of speech and meanings for the same word potentially differ, the dubious claim that they are fundamentally different is plainly countered by the arguments I have laid out now in multiple comments.

    What is the meaning of faith? It is confidence and trust in a thing; being persuaded of something. Trust, therefore, is a separate concept that is the shorthand definition of biblical faith.

    Rounding this back to Gunner’s comment (“Works don’t achieve salvation, belief does. Keeping the various rules isn’t sufficient.”), to achieve salvation one must trust in and be persuaded by something specific. Works alone are meaningless. Pascal’s Wager is useless if it does not accompany sincere trust in God. Pascal was persuaded that God was real. He just didn’t believe there was natural evidence to prove it.

    If you are not persuaded that Jesus is Lord and trust in him, there is no meaningful life of faith. You can’t have a life of trust in Jesus if you are not persuaded that Jesus is Lord. It’s basic logic. You can, of course, have faith in any particular set of precepts, but that isn’t Christianity.

    “St. Paul was careful not to require his adherents to believe in too much.”

    What you need to believe isn’t a quantitatively large number of beliefs. But qualitatively? It is too much for some people to trust and be convinced that Jesus is Lord. Something so basic is so very hard.

    “For the most part, Christians are called to have faith”

    I assume by faith you mean “belief with little or no evidence”, but this does not logically follow from being called to trust and be convinced. While there is no requirement to logically prove your faith, that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t have a convincing evidence-based faith. The Bible actively promotes evidence-based faith, not the sham that is faith without evidence.

  18. “Gunner claimed that salvation came through ‘belief’. If you’re seconding that, then I need a verse in the text to suggest as much. I use the KJV, and I’m still waiting.”

    I’m a fan of what’s called the “Romans Road” introduction to Christianity. Quotations from KJV:

    1. Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”

    2. Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

    3. Romans 5:8 “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

    4. Romans 10:9 “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

    5. Romans 5:1 “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”

    There’s a few variations but those are the bones of it. #4 is what you’re asking for. The problem we face is not that God wants something we can offer Him; it’s that God considers us enemies and offers a truce on His terms.

  19. I only wish that you would clearly state your own testimony of faith (or lack thereof), and what you believe. Doing so would provide a basis for us to understand the purpose of your arguments and the keypoint you wish to make.

    Why would my opinions on theology add value to an epistemology article? We can define ‘faith’ without bearing our testimony, no?

  20. Faith is a very important, but difficult subject to address in an epistemological analysis. It is difficult because real faith lies just below conscious awareness. Having more experience in the change or growth of one’s faith, would naturally make him more aware of what constitutes faith. Therefore, he would have a stronger voice of authority in speaking about the knowledge of the matter.

  21. Faith is a very important, but difficult subject to address in an epistemological analysis. It is difficult because real faith lies just below conscious awareness.

    Most of our thoughts (including objects of faith and belief) lie in the background — what Husserl and his phenomenological descendants would call “equipment” which is “embedded into the horizon of the lifeworld.” The fact that we don’t consciously hold such thoughts in our awareness doesn’t mean we can’t pick them up, metaphorically, and scrutinize them.

    Having more experience in the change or growth of one’s faith, would naturally make him more aware of what constitutes faith. Therefore, he would have a stronger voice of authority in speaking about the knowledge of the matter.

    I have an advanced degree in this subject, which qualifies me to teach and write about it on my own authority, without any further training. You can be like Derek, and scoff at that, calling me (and everyone else — up to my friend Robert Audi, lol) an idiot. I enjoy that, because it’s funny; but, he’s not doing a good job convincing anyone of anything.

    Why is it that I don’t care that Derek (or anyone else) mocks Kierkegaard’s faith, Audi’s articles, or the general epistemology of disagreement? Ultimately it’s because I don’t care whether my younger readers join me at mass. Derek (and you) are trying to make a theological argument against a discussion of normal human cognitive processes. This argument simply doesn’t follow, and I have “faith” (sorry) in most people who read here to be wise to that sleight-of-hand.

    My own religious experience belongs to me, and it is not for export. Every man needs to work out his relationship to God on his own.

    What I care about is preparing younger guys to argue more effectively for their civilization. They can do this as Christians, Muslims, Scientologists or Satanists. What they really need are the skills to read and analyze texts, and disseminate ideas. Whether you know it or not, that’s the point here.

  22. Dear Gunner:

    One of the things I enjoy most about the “King James” version of the New Testament is how carefully it was written. Both St. Paul and the committees which translated it into English were very precise in articulating the demands of the system to the reader.

    There’s a few variations but those are the bones of it. #4 is what you’re asking for.

    Romans 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

    Right. I guess the question boils down to what “believe in [one’s] heart” entails. This must be different from general belief, because of the qualifier.

    Part of the genius of St. Paul (and of those who translated his commands into English) is illustrated here. The reader is basically being told that there’s a guy who lived long before historical records could validate him, and that he died, and subsequently came back to life, three days after kacking it. It’s impossible for a sensible person to “believe” such a thing, but “belief in one’s heart” is probably doable. This is only one example suggesting that the Christian texts want the way of the Christian to be easy, and not to be hard.

    Note: Gunner Q has written an expanded article here:
    https://gunnerq.com/2018/06/15/sola-fide/

  23. “You can be like Derek, and scoff at that, calling me (and everyone else — up to my friend Robert Audi, lol) an idiot.”

    I don’t think you are an idiot, but you already know that. I mainly only comment on blogs of intelligent and educated people that I disagree with. However, you do make simple errors (see the next paragraph) and use questionable logic (which I hope is just intentional mockery).

    Just to be clear, I didn’t drop the $10 to read what Robert Audi wrote, so I don’t have an opinion one way or another on his work. I did read the one by Daniel Howard-Snyder (as far as I could) and it was surprisingly disappointing considering the source.

    “Derek mocks Kierkegaard’s faith, Audi’s articles, or the general epistemology of disagreement?”

    I didn’t do any of those things and you know it.

    “Derek (and you) are trying to make a theological argument against a discussion of normal human cognitive processes. This argument simply doesn’t follow, and I have “faith” (sorry) in most people who read here to be wise to that sleight-of-hand.”

    Again, you are (obviously) not being straight. Take these quotes of yours:

    “For the sake of argument, let’s grant that the New Testament is a series of true propositions…Gunner is incorrect in arguing that belief as a sufficient condition for salvation…One must note that the word ‘belief’ does not appear as a part of the argument…Gunner is conflating the notion of ‘belief’ with that of ‘faith’.

    This is a theological argument that is flawed because, among other things, the third sentence is either demonstrably false or a cherry-picked straw-man.

    By the time we get to that fourth sentence, you’re engaging in the sleight-of-hand for which I called you out. Gunner did not do what you accuse him of doing. You were the one that artificially differentiated the “faith” mentioned in James from the “belief” mentioned in his comment and applied non-biblical, anachronistic linguistic and philosophical analysis in an attempt to frame it as if the two terms were meaningfully different in that context. You took both Gunner and James 2 out of context and hoped we wouldn’t notice. (My argument is primarily not theological, it is linguistic. I made it theological because you rejected my non-theological argument out-of-hand.)

  24. Once we introduce the Bible as grounds for the debate, then the debate becomes a theological one, unless the purpose is to analyze the legitimacy of the Bible as a source of truth. But everyone who has commented so far, including Boxer, has at least admitted the KJV Bible as a point of fact (if not truth).
    Amid all the comments so far, I have become confused about whether this is a theological debate, an epistemological debate, or just an exercise in debate for the sake of sharpening up and comparing notes. There is no clear focus or goal. We should clarify the framework of the debate before continuing on. Boxer, since this is your post, it’s your place to define the rules and goals of the debate accordingly.
    Respectfully grateful!Thanks!

  25. Dear Fellas:

    Wayne writes…

    There is no clear focus or goal. We should clarify the framework of the debate before continuing on. Boxer, since this is your post, it’s your place to define the rules and goals of the debate accordingly.

    The focus is stated in the title: Toward a definition of faith. This has theological overtones, inasmuch as it was kicked off by Gunner, and I used his text (the NT) as a counterexample; but it’s a much more general topic, if we take the title at face value, no?

    When we communicate, we ought to say what we mean, and mean what we say. We do that by choosing the words we use carefully.

    Gunner didn’t do anything terrible, but I think the point was important. He did something I see lots of young people doing. If the text says x then we should take it to mean x, and not y.

    Then Derek writes…

    By the time we get to that fourth sentence, you’re engaging in the sleight-of-hand for which I called you out. Gunner did not do what you accuse him of doing. You were the one that artificially differentiated the “faith” mentioned in James from the “belief” mentioned in his comment and applied non-biblical, anachronistic linguistic and philosophical analysis in an attempt to frame it as if the two terms were meaningfully different in that context. You took both Gunner and James 2 out of context and hoped we wouldn’t notice. (My argument is primarily not theological, it is linguistic. I made it theological because you rejected my non-theological argument out-of-hand.)

    For the umpteenth time, if you can point me to the verse that reads:

    For by grace are ye saved through belief; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God

    I’ll concede the argument. You can’t, because for all your walls of text, there is no such verse in the KJV. Here’s what the NT actually says.

    For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God

    (Ephesians 2:8)

    The word is faith, and not belief, and there’s a reason for that. I don’t have time to repeat myself ad infinitum, so we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

    Best,

    Boxer

  26. I guess the question boils down to what “believe in [one’s] heart” entails. This must be different from general belief, because of the qualifier.

    A qualified belief in something is still a belief. And if this belief, however qualified, leads to salvation, then your request for a verse that shows salvation through belief has been satisfied.

  27. A qualified belief in something is still a belief.

    Not only are you wrong, but the opposite is true. I believe it’s raining when it is, in fact, raining. I “believe in my heart” that Jesus is my savior when there is no possibility of establishing justification for such a thing. “Belief in my heart” is close to being interchangeable with holding an opinion, rather than a claim to deflationary truth.

    And if this belief, however qualified, leads to salvation, then your request for a verse that shows salvation through belief has been satisfied.

    Now you’re disagreeing with St. Paul, who wrote Ephesians 2:8.

    I hope this has been helpful.

    Boxer

  28. “I believe it’s raining when it is, in fact, raining. I “believe in my heart” that Jesus is my savior when there is no possibility of establishing justification for such a thing. “Belief in my heart” is close to being interchangeable with holding an opinion, rather than a claim to deflationary truth.”

    This is demonstrably false. Even if it were, for sake of argument, an opinion, it would still be a belief. Saying that you can believe without having a belief is absurd.

    The phrase “in my heart” is an idiomatic figure of speech which does not, as you claim, mean belief without evidence. To believe in ones heart is to believe wholeheartedly, that is, with the entire being (mind, emotions, and will). Wholehearted belief requires a high personal investment in that belief. If I believe wholeheartedly that it is raining, it is a rather silly, over-the-top belief. If I believe wholeheartedly in Jesus, it is a belief that is taken quite seriously. The qualification “in my heart” is completely appropriate given the importance of the belief itself.

    “Now you’re disagreeing with St. Paul, who wrote Ephesians 2:8.”

    No, you are engaging in circular reasoning. You are assuming the claim under debate (that biblical faith is belief) is false. If that claim is true, as I’ve shown, then there is no disagreement.

  29. I’m confused. What is the difference between belief and opinion, in your view? Also, how does this relate to knowledge? Thank you.

  30. Dear Boxer,
    this is very interesting discussion, great read in these comments for a non-believer here, thank you.
    When it comes to your asking for a verse to be pointed out to you with “For by grace are ye saved through belief etc” instead of “..faith..” , please see the following link ( the timing of the meaning-and usage switch compared to the time of KJV translation) : https://www.etymonline.com/word/belief

  31. “The focus is stated in the title: Toward a definition of faith.”

    A few Biblically based definitions of faith have been offered here, but these, of course, must be accepted on faith itself. After that, the arguments devolved into a comparison of ‘faith’ and ‘belief’, and we kicked that around for a while without much to show for it. Moreover, we never arrived at the prescribed goal, a definition of faith, and as a result, everyone grew tired of the argument.
    The bottom line is: A definition of faith cannot be addressed through epistemological methods. See the link below for a cursory explanation.
    http://www.travisdickinson.com/faith-not-epistemology/
    I believe Boxer is throwing us a red herring argument, I will assume, as a very sophisticated practical joke. Ha ha!

  32. Dear Wayne:

    A few Biblically based definitions of faith have been offered here, but these, of course, must be accepted on faith itself. After that, the arguments devolved into a comparison of ‘faith’ and ‘belief’, and we kicked that around for a while without much to show for it. Moreover, we never arrived at the prescribed goal, a definition of faith, and as a result, everyone grew tired of the argument.

    Philosophers and linguists have spilled plenty of ink trying to differentiate doxa and pistis, and that debate was an old one long before anyone dreamt up Christianity. Aristotle’s lectures on it are recorded in de anima. Classics buffs will remind us that there are hints of the question in Homer’s Odyssey.

    The bottom line is: A definition of faith cannot be addressed through epistemological methods. See the link below for a cursory explanation.

    A couple of points:

    1. Anyone who puts Ph.D. in front of their name, on the internet, is a goon with a vastly inflated self-regard. I have standing to say that, because I have such a degree, and it means absolutely nothing outside the academy.

    2. It’s pretty common for philosophers to declare that they’ve solved all philosophical problems, and we can go home now. Heidegger did this, and so did Marx, and so did Kant, and so did Hegel, and so did Wittgenstein… and my list could go on for quite a while. I’ve never heard of Dr. Travis Dickinson Ph.D., so I find it funny that he’s telling Robert Audi (who orders his students to call him Bob) that he’s full o’ beans, that his work is worthless, and that he’s a charlatan. Everyone I work with knows who Bob is, because we’ve read his work. No one knows who the sweeping generalist is, so I suppose he’s free to wave his diploma from the cheap seats at his theological seminary, and tell the rest of us to go to Hell.

    To his credit, Dr. Dickinson, Ph.D. wrote the following disclaimer:
    For my epistemologist readers, I’m glossing over a lot of issues in epistemology for simplicity’s sake.

    OK

    I believe Boxer is throwing us a red herring argument, I will assume, as a very sophisticated practical joke. Ha ha!

    I’m sorry that I’m such a poor communicator. One of the really great gifts of Jordan Peterson (who tells his students to just call him Jordan) is an ability to break complex, technical stuff down so that everyman can understand it. This blog is helping me become a better teacher, though I’m sure I lost more than just you.

    Regards,

    Boxer (just Boxer)

  33. Welcome Brother,

    I’m confused.

    If it’s any consolation, the rest of us are, also. We seem to think that we know things, but it’s very difficult for us to parse exactly what knowledge is. Human beings have made this an ongoing project since classical antiquity, and the problems have yet to be solved.

    What is the difference between belief and opinion, in your view?

    This is a good question.

    Generally, contemporary thinkers will equate belief with a mental state that varies by degree, but which can be justified. When I say I believe x, what I usually mean is that I believe x to be true. So now I have to define truth. Our old friend Frege will point out that truth is not some sort of quality of x. It merely entails that x corresponds with some concrete token we can appreciate in the world. If I said that I believed that it was raining outside, we could go look out the window and judge whether my belief was justified.

    There is another sort of belief (the oft-maligned “belief in ones heart” that Christians, strangely enough, seem to deprecate, despite the fact that it is used to prove points in the book they pretend to admire.) Example: I could say I believe that tacos are better than lasagne. I actually do believe this, but there’s no consistent system that allows me to justify it. Wayne might tell me I’m crazy and deluded. He might point out that he believes tacos are awful, and lasagne is a much better meal. His belief is just as difficult to justify. Here we are getting out of belief, and into opinion.

    The problem philosophers have always had is how to draw a line between the two. Most of us believe lots of things (abstract mathematical operations, for example) that don’t have concrete tokens to instantiate their types. All we know is that those things seem to be truth-preserving… we can solve problems with them, despite the lack of correspondence. Can we believe in them? I don’t know.

    Also, how does this relate to knowledge? Thank you.

    Well, we can only know things that we believe; so, belief is one ingredient in knowledge. We need to have justification and truth in there, and a guy named Gettier wrote a pretty convincing paper in the 2oth century that argues that we need one or more other factors, too… but it’s been pretty difficult to figure out exactly what those other ingredients are.

    Back to the beginning, when I say that I have faith that it will be a sunny day tomorrow, and that I have faith that I’ll win the next coin toss, and that I have faith that my friend Steve is not stealing cars, I’m expressing something distinct from a claim that I believe it will be sunny tomorrow, and that I believe I’ll win the bet, and that I believe my friend will go straight. This seems intuitive, but many people on this blog want to argue the point. What do you think?

    Best,

    Boxer

  34. Dear Ofelas:

    When it comes to your asking for a verse to be pointed out to you with “For by grace are ye saved through belief etc” instead of “..faith..” , please see the following link ( the timing of the meaning-and usage switch compared to the time of KJV translation) : https://www.etymonline.com/word/belief

    This is very interesting.

    I only skimmed it, because I have to write a father’s day article (it seems like the one article a blog like this is absolutely required to put out, during the year.) I’ll come back later.

    Thanks for reading!

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