Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
The question of what "faith" is just came up between James Schultz & me, & we agree on at least a couple things about it:
1) It doesn't mean the same thing as "belief",
2) Many people think it does.
I'm not sure how to start this off... Maybe an analogy: Many people think "imagination"= 'the act of thinking up things that don't make any sense, don't relate to the "real" world, etc.' And some people (Ursula LeGuin being a prime example) mean something more along the lines of: ~'seeing how actual things must behave, working from limited data, intuition, extrapolation from experience & better-known cases.'
What brought this up, for example, was James Schultz saying that humankind was meant to be guided by 'faith', not by what we sense.
"lacking a concept of truth is a result of over sophistication not a mark of less sophisticated cultures"
I like that; well put. There is a HUGE difference between believing that "gray areas" exist and believing that therefore black and white don't.
thanks, The rejection of truth by some elements of the political/academic left was originally motivated by a desire to undercut the claims by the established powers that sound arguments supported the status quo of war, discrimination, and especially the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few. You can either try the slow route of carefully examining all the facts and showing how this concentration of wealth and power is a bad thing or you can simply throw out the baby with the bathwater and start using slogans like "Whose Truth?"
The problem as we have seen is that the established powers can play that game just as well. See FOX "news". So this postmodern--"we are too sophisticated to believe in truth"--strategy has backfired.
It may simply be-- much as they weren't writing a treatise on astronomical/geological matters-- the Hebrews had specific words for the questions that concerned them, and lacked specific terms for things that mattered less. Probably you could have spoken with an ancient Hebrew and conveyed the idea of "a true proposition" and how that would affect other propositions via mathematical logic.
"Dependability" does logically imply that the 'dependable' person/thing/idea exists-- and that He/She/It will, in actual literal fact, come through for you in a pinch.
But the nature of that factuality doesn't seem to have been their primary interest.
I find the idea that the Hebrews had no concept of truth at all to be incredible. That would be to put their collective mental age at around 4. A true sentence describes things as they really are; a false sentence does not. Surely any adult Israelite understood that. Now just what it means to "describe things as they really are" probably was too abstract for them just as it is too abstract for the majority of people today.
I have to say I'm a bit disappointed in this discussion. Several of us are trying to communicate our thoughts about faith but there doesn't seem to be any real meeting of the minds. Why is it hard to discuss this with any depth?
Whoa, who sayeth "no concept of truth at all"?
The concept they were interested in, enough to have a specific word for that, was applied to deities and people, not primarily to statements. They had a somewhat restricted set of basic words; everything they couldn't say directly with those had to be built out of metaphors. And their basic word was about trustworthiness.
You couldn't forbid "false witness" if there was no way to say what true testimony would be. If one testified "truly" then the content would implicitly be factual... but if I understand this, their word referred most directly to the personal quality involved.
Why 'no meeting of the minds' on the meaning of "faith"?
There may be more than one desirable quality called "faith." Even if there turns out to be one basic meaning that the others are based on-- it could still be difficult to define precisely. We aren't all agreed, for example, that what Jesus meant by the word was what Paul meant by it.
How to clarify things that elude easy definition? Examples, I would think.
Okay, I went through the synoptics for an overview of what Jesus evidently meant by "faith." Not as many examples as I'd thought. "Your faith has healed you" is typical, but not the only example.
We don't have Jesus directly quoted about "unbelief", which seems to be the opposite here. But his followers have it that there were places where "He could do no mighty works [there] because of their unbelief."
He seems to hold, as a rule of thumb, that what you believe can happen can; while what you don't, can't. (Although once he says "May it be for you according to your belief." So if this is an accurate quote, a prayer to have something work out that way-- is appropriate none the less.) But "faith" is what makes it possible "to tell this mountain to move," and have it move.
Is this faith merely "belief that you can move the mountain"? Uh uh, it must be more like "a belief that God can move the mountain, and will if you're serious about this."
But not "belief in something untrue." Several would-be prophets, in the years after Jesus, led crowds to places where they evidently expected God to directly liberate Israel from Roman domination. Their sincerity is demonstrated by the fact that they risked their lives, and lost them. But it must not have been "faith" in the right sense.
"Belief based on true communication with God"? On "being attentive to God," on seeking until one finds, and increasingly knows?
Another consideration. Making factuality the primary quality is useful if you want to build a high-tech airplane that can go 1000 miles and kill a bystander.
If you think of honesty as the primary quality, maybe you don't do that.
Facts can be selected and arranged so as to deceive; but if you rightfully trust a person, you may get errors but you won't be stuck with making decisions based on lies.
I think I've read that quote a few times already... It's worth considering, but it's not direct from Jesus, who doesn't seem to have thought the word needed explaining.
If we plug Paul's one-liner into Jesus' we seem to arrive at: "If there's enough substance to the things you hope for, and enough evidence for things you don't see-- You can say to this mountain, 'Go!' -- and it'll be outa here."
So what Paul offers is not a literal definition. More a description of what it does, how it works.
And I don't get much meaning out of "like an atom or quark in the physical world." How about, "like energy in the physical world." With it, things happen. Without it, nothing!
It ought to be helpful to describe what "faith" looks like-- but I think we most need to understand what it means "to have faith"-- so we can do that better, more easily than we've managed so far (?)
I did a little digging and it turns out 1) lots of people like to treat Hebrew as it if were not a language but rather some mystical code. 2) when you finally weed all those people out and look at what real scholars say they explain that Hebrew, like lots of ancient languages, has a much smaller vocabulary than modern English so with fewer words each word had to cover a lot more uses. So Hebrew has a word that covers the truth of sentences and the faithfulness of a man in keeping his promises and a bunch of other cases where English uses distinct words. So, an ancient Israelite did have an understanding of truth in the sense of correspondance with reality. It's just that he also had to use that word for other situations too.
@Forrest. I'll go back to the synoptics and think about it. Good idea.
@ James. I really have no idea what it means to say that faith is like a quark. Can you explain?