Clifford McManis,  Faith

Faith is…

What is faith? It seems to be a simple concept, one simply believes in something. However, a Biblical definition is rich and multifaceted. Clifford McManis offers a survey of some of the ideas involved in a definition of faith:

Faith is being safe and secure (Psalm 4) and being in a refuge or shelter (Psalm 2). Faith is fidelity (Habakkuk 2:4 cf Rom 1:17) and trusting God with your whole life (Psalm 22:1-10). Faith is trusting in the word of God (Gen 15); it is belief that motivates you to action (James 2:14-17). Faith is also the content of belief that you defend (Jude 3). Faith produces growth when it is tested (James 1:2-4). It is given to you by God (Eph 2:8) and is hope in what you cannot see (Heb 1:1a). Importantly, faith is the only means to please God (Heb 11:1b).

It strikes me that many attempts to reconcile faith with reason use a thin definition. In analysis we seek conceptual clarity. This sometimes means stripping a concept down to the bones. While this is fitting in some contexts it is not always appropriate to strip Biblical concepts down to something more amenable to finite capacities. McManis points out that many people attempt to reduce the concept of faith to assent to propositions, trust in God or understanding the content of the Christian faith. The problem is that, although those definitions are working definitions, they leave so much out. A Biblical definition of faith is not that easily summarized.

Clifford McManis, Biblical Apologetics (Xlibris, 2012).

Assistant Professor of Philosophy and History of Ideas at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and The College at Southeastern.