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15. What do we mean by faith?
Faith is primarily imitation of the Faithful One, Jesus Christ, so by faith we mean obedience, loyalty, belief, trust and sharing in God’s self-knowledge.
While faith refers to all these characteristics and is always more than mere belief, it also means we take a particular belief to be true. If someone held a belief ‘on faith’ but showed complete indifference to any evidence for or against that belief, we would not think that person had faith just as the opposite is true too. If someone of faith is completely preoccupied with reasons for or against their belief, then it’s not clear that person of faith really has faith.
Of course faith is more than judging a proposition to be true, but it is at least thinking it true.
Christian faith is at least belief that there is no conclusive argument to disprove Christian belief. Faith in the resurrection, for example, includes the belief that no evidence can be proffered to disprove the ressurection.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for; the conviction of things not seen.”
– Hebrews 11.1
16. Must we have faith to be a Christian?
Not necessarily because faith is a kind of litmus test distinguishing Christian from pagan but because faith isn’t simply the means by which we accept the Christian story.
Faith is itself a key element of the Christian story.
Faith is necessary to be a Christian because one of the beliefs Christians take ‘on faith’ is faith itself, the ability of faith to move mountains and bring about things which do not exist: the faith of Abraham to journey towards an unknown land, the faith of Israel to abide in the wilderness, the faith of Mary to bear shame and messiah, the faithfulness of Jesus unto the Cross.
“As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed–the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.” – Romans 4.7
17. Is belief wishful thinking?
Then, most of our opinions, to one degree or another, are wishful thinking.
Christian belief, like most beliefs, is wishful thinking not in the sense that we force ourselves- delude ourselves- to think a certain way but in that we decide to think according to Christian belief.
A Christian who believes the creed to be true decides to live as if it’s true while someone who doesn’t believe the creed is true wills to live according to a different creed.
Christian belief is wishful thinking just as my love for my spouse is wishful thinking; that is, I will to love my wife. The only difference is that with my wife I seldom need to think too hard about willing my love while with God I often need to will such love.
One could say that Christian belief is wishful thinking because the Christian life is learning to love God such that willing love is no longer conscious or necessary.
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” – Romans 7.15