Faith is a topic that has essential, dare I say Fundamental importance to the Christian and to the Jewish religion. In fact, Christianity and Judaism are most often referred to as faiths, as opposed to religion. The transformation of the verb faith into a noun in order to indicate these complimentary belief systems, is indicative of the “real” or substantive meaning of the word, as opposed to the late modern fad or fabulous meaning. Especially in Calvinist churches and among atheist or pagan opposers of the Church & the Jewish people, Faith has taken on a meaning that is not consistent with the English Language or the Biblical definitions. Faith has become a magic emanation resulting from unwavering and unfounded belief.
The natural meaning of the English word faith is trust. We prove good faith in a business deal by providing some gesture or advance on monies or products. This prior gesture shows that we intend to follow through and on the basis of this concrete proof the other party rewards us with faith in our intentions and character. When you have faith in an institution like your bank, you are showing trust that they will protect your savings and investments, and that they will conduct their own investments in a sound manner that returns a profit. Why would people choose to distort the meaning in the case of Christian Faith, so that it refers to an unreasoned belief that has no concrete evidence to support it.
Obviously the Atheist benefits from such distortion by using it for polemic. By redefining faith as a “FAITH” he can claim that reason and intellect have no place in religion and religions therefore have no place in general society. However, this paper tiger offense is only given legitimacy by the fact of inadequate learning on the part of the church and society in general.
This concept of Faith as an emanation is loosely derived from scripture. However, it is the result of a theology and an exegetical methodology that takes small portions and individual verses out of the surrounding context and the idiom of the author and attempts to base doctrine on the literal meaning of these passages as they have been commonly translated. Now translations vary in accuracy and as they age, the idiom used by translators can become as obscure as the original.
A case that comes to mind is the passage where David is hidden in a cave and Saul, who has been hunting him, comes to do something in the mouth of that cave while his soldiers are camped below. David creeps up and because Saul is busy “covering his feet” David is able to cut a piece of fabric from Saul’s clothing and leave again. David later feels ashamed and apologizes for having shamed Saul in such a crude fashion.
Now the question lost to history is what does “covering the feet” mean? It has been speculated to mean many things including sexual intercourse, defecation and simple sleep. No really knows for sure. Now when that passage is cited out of the greater context of the ongoing terrorist campaign that David was waging against the Israelis, it can be warped in many ways.
A typical application of the bad exegesis I’m referring to would be to take the passage “covering his feet” and then create as dogmatic rule that no-one who is “Christian” can wear shoes. The reason that would be cited is that Saul the evil dictator, was overcome by the righteous avenger because he was busy committing the sin of covering his feet. So this proves that you had better not cover your feet or you’ll be a demoniac like Saul and worse you’ll be tricked and overcome by the righteous avenger. Don’t let him catch you with your shoes on, instead tread barefoot on God’s holy ground like Abraham did before the burning bush.
Now this ridiculous distortion of God’s word is commonplace among those who have failed to study, to show themselves approved, workmen who need not to be ashamed. A similar real world distortion is the distortion of passages relating to faith. The verse “faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen” is one of the important passages regarding faith. Taken out of context however it is used to support the notion that faith is something other than trust. This substance of things hoped for is misused to prove the concept of faith as a magical emanation. The intimation that is made by interpreting the literal English is that hoping really hard gives the imaginations of the mind, substance. This is then coupled with other contextually orphaned passages such as life and death reside in the tongue. And a whole pagan magical system of thaumaturgy is imposed on Christianity to the detriment of souls.
These passages are idiomatic and in their proper context it is clear that they are used as hyperbole intended to drive home a very different point. For instance the substance passage is clearly part of a greater dialectic determined to convince people to have unwavering trust or faith in God and in his character and benevolence. Therefore trusting in him and asking him for things in a prayerful and respectful manner will give substance to those hopes as he provides those things like a doting parent. The Biblical author was trying to use a poetic form of expression to stress the importance of faith in achieving answers to prayer and also achieving confidence in the final disposition of our lives.
This point is even more poignantly made in the second clause of the self same quote. The evidence of things not seen refers to the concept of the evidentiary nature of faith. What it hints at is that the “things not seen” in question have an independent reality which is revealed in the faith of the supplicant rather than being dependent on that faith for existence. Simply exchanging the word faith, which is marginally archaic, with the more modern term belief will tend to dispel the superstitious distortions. The resultant translation reads something like: The substance of desired things and the proof of things not visible is belief. And contextually we find that the belief is belief in the character and competence of God. Belief in the character and competence of God results from hearing the word of God.
The other passage, “life and death reside in the tongue”, and it’s kin are similarly abused. Clearly they are intended to encourage people to be careful or mindful of the potential stupidity and effects of their speech. The extreme application is that of the power to speak non existent things into being. Claiming this power attributed to God, can be possessed by the believer is similar to the claim that Satan made in order to convince Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit. Ultimately it was the lust for power that lead to the fall. The counterfeit faith, as an impersonal power that makes the imaginations of the mind into reality, is nothing more than this same misguided quest for power and rebellion.
Real saving faith is the trust that God is and that he rewards those who diligently seek him. This is a question of character. It is nothing less or more than trust in the reliable character of Christ. God rewards this faith in two ways. One, he rewards the search itself. If you diligently seek God he will reward that diligence by making himself available to you. This availability is the essence of communion. By diligently seeking God you will come to recognize the presence of his spirit (the ruach elohim) and you will begin to receive instruction and guidance in the choices that you make.
The second form of reward is the answer to prayer. Elsewhere we have looked at the meaning of prayer. Prayer is the sort of petition one makes before a court, whether that is a court of law or a noble court; heartfelt pleas made in deference and humility hoping for the reward of a positive answer granting the substance of the request. As we draw nearer to God we find that he is willing to provide our requests and even the desires of our heart.
Faith is the least complicated and the least effort driven function of the believers life. The state of being a believer is all the faith that is. The state of trusting God’s character is only faith substance. Ward your mind against disparate voices who are spouting instruction in thaumaturgical rites in place of Biblical faith. Trust your loving heavenly father and allow him to command you. Beware those demonic spirits that would teach you, as Satan has so often tried, that a mere human creation can rise up and, on the strength of God’s word or his name (hashem), manipulate or command God. Such is the substance of things feared the evidence of damnation to come.
May God richly bless you as you seek his will and character.