Faith vs. Belief

Some of our unchurched friends think faith arises from an irrational will to believe. In truth, there is such a human tendency. It is the reason we have the law against idolatry, given by Jhwh at Sinai. The true God frustrates our will to believe by not showing himself, or showing only his backside moving away (Exodus 33:17–23). Any belief in the presence of this God is belief in him, not about him.

The difference between ‘in’ and ‘about’ is more than a rhetorical trick. It prevents us from domesticating God, grasping him to ourselves. The Phillips translation of the New Testament (1958) says “the kingdom of God is inside you,” a suffocating position for both man and God. Our beliefs about God are vain unless God has visited himself upon us first. Then we might have beliefs, and perhaps be able to speak of them; things we might never have thought were it not for our own private Jabbok.

Beliefs are not the substance of faith, but responses to the reality of it. They don’t rest on evidence in any ordinary meaning of that word. Faith is the evidence of things unseen; decidedly not made up or logically deduced, but given by God.

People sometimes prefer religious belief to faith, for religious belief does not require humility before God. It tempts one to live above others, on a plane from which to judge. To be sure, such belief can be found among Christians, Jews, and Muslims, to all our peril. But where faith lives, there is hope against such peril. If all we can see of God is his backside going away, then we will find ourselves consubstantial with our suffering neighbors, who need our succor more than our teaching, while we wait on God.

One thought on “Faith vs. Belief”

  1. Two comments. First, as you may remember Ken wanted on his gravestone “He Lives in Hope.” I think this shows his understanding of faith. Second, I used to think the term of God’s chosen people was a kind of arrogance, and it can be. But now I think it is our experience of God, or our choseness, that allows us to God and God’s creatures as a oneness of the universe. I wish we humans spent more time in developing our relationship with God.

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