Word arguments are tiresome and usually completely unnecessary. One of the most common word-fights between atheists and religious folks is over the word “faith”. The reason for these debates is that people don’t define terms or just simply do not understand the nature of words.
Words are created by humans to facilitate communication. Words depend on common concepts and associations. An important part of discussion is to have common definitions. Debate and dialogue happen best when each party agrees on their definitions.
Abstract words tend to evolve many different meanings over time. To avoid unnecessary word-fights, I suggest trying put adjectives in from of such words to clarify which nuance of the word we are using.
Below I have listed many uses of “faith” and put an adjective in front of them to keep the nuances clear. BTW, the Greek New Testament word for faith is πίστις “pistis”
1. ” trust-faith” or “reasonable-faith”
- to expect a positive outcome based on some degree of investment or evidence. faithful = to be trustworthy
- I have faith that my brother will help me if I am in trouble. (I trust my brother because, after all, and has always helped me in the past and is my brother and family is more reasonable to trust than strangers.)
- I have faith that you are not lying. (I trust aren’t lying because I can’t imagine why you would lie — you haven’t lied before.)
- 1 Corinthians 4:2 “moreover it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful.
2. ” hope-faith”
- an optimistic emotional expectation with some degree of insecurity. [note: hope hints at insecurity, trust hints at reasonableness but both are similar.]
- I have faith that stock market will bounce back so that my retirement funds are preserved. (“I hope the stock market bounces back”)
- I have faith in my husband’s fidelity. (“I hope my husband won’t cheat on me”)
- Hebrew 11:1: “Now faith is the substance of thing hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
3. “low-evidence-faith” , “no-evidence-faith” , “counter-evidence-faith”
- Belief that rests on minimal or no logical proof or evidence. Or beliefs held in spite of counter evidence
- I have faith that Jesus will come on March 13th 2021. (I have low-evidence for that date, but I believe his calculations)
- John 20:27-29: Then said He to Thomas, “Reach hither thy finger and behold My hands, and reach hither thy hand and thrust it into My side: and be not faithless, but believing.” And Thomas answered and said unto Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said unto him, “Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed. Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed.”
4. “my-dearly-held-beliefs-faith”, “my-religion-faith”
- The body of dogma of a religion.
- A system of religious beliefs. A set of principles, beliefs or religion
- My closest friends all share the same faith. (“My closest friends all share the same “religion“.)
- He lost his faith, but not his morality . (He lost his “belief in god“, but not his morality”)
- 1 Corinthians 16:13 “Watch ye; stand fast in the faith; acquit yourselves like me; be strong.
- 1 Timothy 6:20-21 “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science, falsely so called, which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen.
- a group which holds a common set of beliefs
- organized religion — a particular religious group
- Note: #4 & #5 are difficult to distinguish
- The two faiths were at war with each other. (“Two religions were at war with each other.”)
- A member of his own faith contradicted him. (“Members of his “religions” contradict him.”)
- Galatians 1:23: “but they had heard only that, “He who persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith wich once he destroyed.”
6. “obedience-faith”, “allegiance-faith”, “commitment-faith”, “loyalty-faith”
- the obligation of loyalty or fidelity to a person, promise, engagement
- Commitment, Allegiance, Dedication, Loyalty, Fidelity
- Keep the faith ! (“Keep the Fidelity !”, “Stay true”)
- They broke faith with the investors. (They broke their promise with the investors.”)
- 1 Thessalonians 1:3: “remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father,”
7. The word itself
- No definition. The word itself is just being discussed as a word.
- When speaking about ‘faith’ …. (“When we talk about the English word “f-a-i-t-h’ “)