Faith and Belief

It seems odd that the word “Faith” would be used in two so seemingly disparate ways in the English language. We speak of someone being faithful, a husband or wife or friend, or maybe even a pet beagle and by this we mean that we see them  as trustworthy – that they have not betrayed us nor could we imagine them doing so.

Then there is the other common use of the word “Faith” which causes most of us to think of a blind leap in the dark – of forcing ourselves to believe the unbelievable (or at very least – the unlikely).

Now with the first example – let’s say my dear faithful friend – isn’t the implication that *I* am the object of my friends faith – as he is faith”ful” but really when I say a friend is a faithful one, I mean he has demonstrated a trustworthy character and I believe I am safe trusting him – therefore I am the one possessing the faith and the faithful friend is the object of my faith. This is not a blind leap or forced belief in my friend against all evidence, it is really a kind of forecasting based on historical data.

If friend proved himself to be a thief and a cheat and a backstabber I would never once even consider using the adjective “faithful” to describe him. Or let’s say that I met this “friend” only a few brief moments ago… if I even used the term “friend” at all at this point – I certainly could not, with any sanity, say he was a dear faithful friend could I?

But! Start talking about religion, or religiously characterized “faith” and all the tables turn and the food goes flying! We assume that religion requires us to throw our brains away and just jump off willy-nilly!

Could it be that when the Bible calls us to have faith, what it calls us to is simply discovering just how “faithful” God has been.  It is not a blind leap but a careful investigation into Gods trustworthiness.

Just as “faith” seems commonly mis-defined, so does the word “belief”. I can say I believe in all kinds of crazy crap and no one seems to mind anymore because the word has been twisted in definition to utterly imply “all kinds of crazy crap”. In fact, if I were to tell someone – “I believe that if I add two dollars to the three dollars already in my pocket, I will have five dollars.” they would probably suspect that I failed the 1st grade. “Belief” seems to commonly be reserved for the absurd and removed entirely from the predictable and reasonable – and the inherently true.

The dictionary indicates the following of belief:

1.  The mental act, condition, or habit of placing trust or confidence in another: My belief in you is as strong as ever.

2. Mental acceptance of and conviction in the truth, actuality, or validity of something: His explanation of what happened defies belief.

3. Something believed or accepted as true, especially a particular tenet or a body of tenets accepted by a group of persons.


Take a special side note here – believing something does not make it true. I might believe that 2+3=7, but it will still and always =5.


You can see in the first definition above that faith and belief are closely tied together in meaning – placing trust or confidence in someone or something. The primary difference between the two words, I think, is action and response. If I believe the freeway bridge over the river will support the weight of my vehicle traveling at 70mph, faith is driving across the bridge and demonstrating my belief so to speak.


Now suppose the following scenario:

– I had never seen a bridge before and had never crossed over one myself.

– I had never seen anyone travel successfully from one side of the bridge to the other.

– I had never met the person who engineered the bridge, nor the workers who assembled it.

– In short, I had no reason to believe I would survive driving across the bridge.


If I went ahead and sped over the bridge given these facts, would this be “faith”? No – it would be recklessness with a second helping of insanity. As I said before, faith is a type of forecasting based upon prior knowledge and experience. I have travelled over the bridge before, I have seen others, in far heavier vehicles than my own, travel across it. Based on these facts, I can forecast or predict the reliability of the bridge and travel over it with some degree of confidence.


God is calling us to know Him. To see and understand what He has done and continues to do in time and space. To taste Him and discover whether He is nourishing or poisonous. To find Him faithful and then to respond with confident action.