|Meaning of faith
Understanding what faith is
When I was in grade school, I remember talking to a fellow student about what Jesus said about faith; “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Matthew 17:20). He went along with what I was saying as he pointed to a small hill. He noted how small it was in relation to a mountain, restating the claim that faith can move mountains. We were both marveling at the words of Jesus when he looked at me and said, “how much faith do you have?” I realized that I was caught in my own words. I said, “I have some faith”. He said, if faith can move mountains, then it shouldn’t take too much faith to move a little hill, let’s see you do it!” I realized that that little hill wasn’t going to move just by my thinking about it. Although I didn’t have an answer at the time, I had to think about what we had just discussed, what was Jesus’ words alluding to?
Faith as a grain of mustard seed – the seed is the smallest of all seeds and yet a great tree grows from it. But you don’t plant a mustard seed and then stand back and expect to see a great tree standing before you. There is a germination period, followed by a considerable growth period long before the tree comes to fruition. So how does the process work?
On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy made this statement; "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth”. If that isn’t a declaration of faith, I don’t know what is. The director at NASA looked at his comrades and said, “Can we do this?” At the time it was impossible, for the technology hadn’t yet been developed. There was a mountain of information that would have to be gathered, tested, and proved before the task could be accomplished. Despite the death of Kennedy in 1963, on July 20, 1969, the mountain had been moved, Neil Armstrong was standing on the moon. And four days later, the Apollo 11 crew was safely back on earth. Such is the power of faith (from a left-brain or scientific perspective).
For John Kennedy, it took a decade to move the mountain. But the scripture doesn’t say it would move all at once. It merely says that it would move if your faith was as great as a mustard seed. John Kennedy planted the seed. It took thousands of companies and tens of thousands of workers to make it grow into the Apollo moon project. It has stood as a mighty tree since.
The definition of "faith" has changed
According to Webster’s New World Dictionary 1970 edition, faith is “unquestioning belief that does not require proof or evidence". According to Noah Webster’s Dictionary 1904 edition, faith is “the assent of the mind or understanding to the truth of what God has revealed. Simple belief of the scriptures, of the being and perfections of God, and of the existence, character, and doctrines of Christ founded on the testimony of the sacred writers, is called historical or speculative faith". There is no comparison between these two definitions. The former definition rested on the development of mental awareness as the fruits of one's faith. The modern definition is blind faith, and Jesus had nothing good to say about it (Matthew 15:10-14, 23:13-38).
The Definition of "theology" has changed
The definition of theology in Noah Webster’s Dictionary (1904) contains the following: "Theology consists of two branches, natural and revealed. Natural theology is the knowledge we have of God from his works, by the light of nature and reason". (This reference would take into account the scientific method.) It further states, "Revealed theology is that which is to be learned only from revelation". (Revealed theology pertains to spiritual experience, not to be confused with the book of Revelation.) Webster’s New World Dictionary contains no such reference to nature and reason. And it doesn't have any specific reference to revealed theology. It all reverts back to church doctrine.
After its rebuke of Galileo, the Catholic Church issued a decree that no hypothesis could be presented that would in any way challenge the scriptures. In essence, it divorced itself from modern scientific inquiry. When it did so, it drove a wedge between the two that would cause science and religion to take separate paths. Fundamentalism has been challenging science ever since, forcing scientists to take a dim veiw of anything religious.
The Biblical version of faith
According the the Bible, faith is; "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). Although belief may be a part of faith, it is not the only criteria according to other scritures in the Bible;
- "Prove all things, hold fast that which is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
- "Faith without works is dead" (James 2:14-20).
- "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God" (Philippians 4:6).
- "...add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge..." (2 Peter 1:5-7).
If faith is never tested, it isn't faith, it is a belief without substance. Consider the scientist who conducts an experiment because of what he or she hopes to gain. It takes the faith of the scientist to yield results by their actions.
Religious faith is about discovering God, not just believing in God or in the promises that are presented in the scriptures. It originated in mystical experience by those who saw what others never see. They left a record so that others might see the mysteries of God through prayer and meditation. I know only because I have seen.
Those who kill in the name of their God are merely surviving at the expense of others. They violate everything that has meaning in religion. They claim their actions to be the will of God only because they see God as the highest authority. That God would have anything to do with it is firmly disputed in the scriptures.
The history of the world has shown that great and terrible things are possible. We search for God so that we might understand the difference, and in knowing, be able to help build a paradise, not merely believe that there might be such a place. It shoud be obvious that if God intervened in all matters, that much suffering would have been abated. But God works through people, not for them. The scriptures were written that we might discover a better way in life. That is the progress that history reveals, and that is how faith needs to be developed.
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