Faith vs Faith

Aaron over at the Episcopal Church Group in Yahoo gives us something to think about:

I like discussing "faith," but most of those discussions eventually get hampered by multiple definitions of the word. It’s so easy to equivocate because it’s so easy to add, subtract, mix and match all the different shades of meaning that are associated with "faith." We can, without realizing it, use more than one meaning of the word in the course of a single sentence! I’d like to explore two of those meanings. These two definitions account for a large percentage of the communication problems that exist between atheists and theists.

Let’s start with an example. I take care of my car, so I have good reason to believe that the brakes are in working order. There are no guarantees, of course. Someone with a grudge might have cut my break lines. A wingnut might have wiggled loose. But I’m not talking about certainty. My belief is justified by any reasonable standard.

Now, in and of itself, my belief is little more than an intellectual curiosity. But this changes when I get into my car and start driving around. By driving the car, I demonstrate faith in my belief that the brakes work. (Some would say that I have faith in my *brakes*, but it seems more accurate to say that I have faith in my *belief* that my brakes work. Faith is one possible response to a belief.)

In this sense, faith is perfectly reasonable and rational, and we do it all the time. In fact, it’s hard to imagine how we could live without it. But let’s look at another example. For the sake of argument, let’s say I believe that I cannot be struck by lightening. You try to correct me. You educate me on the science of meteorology. You acquaint me with the laws of probability. "I understand all that!" I reply, "My belief is not based on evidence, but faith! I am impervious to lightening!"

For now, let’s assume that I have not acted on my belief, so this is not "faith" in the sense discussed above. This is "faith" in a more common sense: the tenacity of unjustified belief. (How many times have you heard someone say, "God hides evidence of his existence because he wants us to use faith.")

Now, let’s say I start playing golf in thunderstorms. I am now demonstrating "faith" in the drive-my-car sense of the word, too.

In short, driving my car is *not* the same as playing golf in the rain. The former is faith (trust) in a justified belief. The latter is faith (trust) in an belief that I accept on faith (tenacity of unjustified belief). If these two examples were used in a syllogism, great care would need to be taken to avoid an equivocation.

Anyone may join the discussion and, of course, anyone may  follow along.

It is a public board. But you must join Yahoo Groups, which is no big deal. See: episcopalchurch : Message: Faith vs Faith

Overview of the Group":

The purpose of the Episcopal Church Group is to provide a forum in which to share thoughts and experiences, questions and answers regarding our discipleship and growth as Episcopal Christians. Membership is not restricted to American Episcopalians. Other Anglicans are welcomed, and anyone of any faith who would like to discuss topics related to Christianity is also invited to join and participate. We ask of ourselves that we make every effort to speak the truth in love, and ad hominem arguments are to be avoided.

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