The word itself evokes all kinds of responses in all manner of people. However for the religious and the non-religious alike, faith is most often understood as the basis of belief in a particular set of religious dogma. Most often the word faith is accompanied by the adjectival use of the word blind; intended to convey the idea that religious belief is “belief sans evidence”, belief in opposition to reason, belief based solely on emotionalism or existentialism and the primal psychological need to explain the unexplained which humans have not yet been able to evolve past – as though the opposite of faith is true freedom. Unfortunately, this conceptualization of faith as blindness has settled so firmly into American society that it is accepted by both those who mean it as a derision and by those who wear it as a badge of honor.
I would contend however that this conceptualization is in error in at least two important ways.
First, faith is not solely the property of religion. The word simply means to put trust in or reliance upon. By this definition, we all live by faith all the time. We place faith in ourselves, in our families, in our jobs, in our homes, in our cars, in our health. The United States government, of the people, by the people, for the people, is predicated on the faith that a constitution written on paper can establish limits on government. We place faith in medical personnel to take care of us and our families. We place faith in our teachers and administrators to educate our children. Place faith our neighbors to respect our privacy and pursuit of happiness. And we place faith in scientists to do more science then philosophizing.
Understood this way, faith as a natural part of life is one of the working premises out of which we make our decisions and is itself predicated on assumptions we have internalized because of the reality we have observed. For instance, we place faith in our car to start when we turn the key in the ignition, because experts and experience have told us we can expect this. We have no way of actually knowing if the car will start but our expectation is so complete that we order our entire life around that expectation and are quite troubled if we find that it doesn’t. This is of course the danger of not understanding what faith really is, because when we live in ignorance of our personal assumptions and premises we are completely unequipped to handle the inevitable challenges to those assumptions and premises. This is why we are shocked when education fails our children, when our jobs are downsized, when medicine gives us a cure worse than the disease, when religious leaders fall, when scientists pervert facts to prove their theories, when elected government acts more like an aristocracy than a democracy, etc, etc.
My second contention with regard to the previously stated conceptualization of faith is that blindness does not denote in anyway a lack of evidence. On the contrary, those who are blind employ a number of methods to obtain the knowledge that they need to live their lives. Sound, physical feeling, braille reading, seeing eye dogs, patterns, memory; these are all examples of ways that the blind apprehend the information they need to make decisions. Only a fool would assume that the blind act irrationally, in fact it could be argued that the blind must be more rational than those with sight because they must be to survive with one less sense.
So everyone has faith in something. So when the Judeo-Christian scripture calls people to faith, faith itself is not the point because we all walk in faith. The point is that Mankind is called to place their faith solely in YHWH. Furthermore, this faith is not intended to be without evidence, but rather is predicated on the assumption that the evidence for YHWH is strong enough to warrant said faith. Any one who claims to be an adherent of the Judeo-Christian Faith whose belief is grounded in nothing more than sentimentality or traditionalism will find eventually themselves in a collapsing structure, because a house built on sand has no stability.
Thus the scripture teaches in Romans 10:9, “For if you confess with your mouth that Yeshua is the LORD (YHWH), and if you believe in your heart that the Father raised Him from the dead (that all of God’s promises have or will come to pass), then you will be saved.”