Monday, January 7, 2013

Vocabulary of Our Faith: "Faith"

This week we began a new Sunday school class on the vocabulary of our faith. I'm convinced that lots of Christians (especially preachers) use theological words or phrases as if they know what they mean when, in fact, they're only guessing. This class is designed to be a safe place for all of us to explore some of those 'vocabulary words' that we're supposed to know but aren't quite sure of.

Our first session was on "faith." What is faith? What isn't faith? I took away two key ideas from our class. First, the Hebrew word that is translated as "faith" is "emunah." I'm not a student of Hebrew, but I read that the word literally means "firmness." Faith, therefore, in the Old Testament context has more to do with resoluteness, steadfastness, and supportiveness than it does with belief. I usually think of "faith" and "belief" interchangeably. In fact, we call our religion "the Christian faith," and we "confess our faith" in the words of the Creed, which begins, "I/We believe..." But, in the Hebrew context, faith has a lot more to do with a firm foundation than axiomatic understanding. For help on this, see Exodus 17:12, which has the word for faith translated as "steady."

The second big take-away for me was the fact that faith is the bridge between what we can know about God rationally and what we have to choose to believe without proof. The video we watched drove that point home, and I've included it below. We can only know so much about God without exercising faith. At some point, we must give our hearts to the relationship where our heads reach their limits. That means that faith isn't simply blind assent. Faith never involves the sacrifice of reason or intellect. Instead, faith comes where reason cannot go.

The concluding "a-ha" moment was a discussion about faith as a foundation upon which to stand. As people of faith, we choose to stand firmly and resolutely on a platform that has no tangible, rational proof. We build our house on the rock of that which we cannot see or touch.

Here's the PowerPoint presentation in video form. Next week, we're planning to look at "sin."

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