Yesterday I started reading Marcus Borg's The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith, which I picked up on my vacation. I'm ot quite half-way through it yet, but I'm already struck by how similar it is to what I've been teaching the last few years. When I get really excited about something I've read, I read it aloud to my wife (she is very patient with this sort of thing, thank God!). When I read her passages from this book, she says something like, "That sounds just like you... only better!" My thoughts exactly.
Anyway, on the subject of faith, I've often taught that while we often see faith as belief in, or intellectual assent to, statements which can either be true or false, usually concerning the nature of God. But I argue that this is not really faith. That faith is much richer than this. I then teach on faith as "trust," which is personal and relational rather than propositional.
I sometimes include a story about my aversion to flying. I say that I believe that flying in an airplane is safer than riding in a car. I've seen good studies which demonstrate this. If I look at the data, it is clear that flying in an airplane is safer than riding in a car. But, I say, you will have a hard time getting me to agree to get on a plane. Why? Because I have no faith in airplanes. I may believe they are safer, but that belief is merely intellectual assent which in so way impacts how I live my life, because I lack faith.
So I contrast propositional belief with personal faith, saying that faith involves my entire being, not just my intellect. Faith rests in the person of God, and my relationship to and with God, rather than in statements about God.
But as I've been reading Marcus Borg's take on faith, I realize that I've been over-simplifying again. Borg identifies four kinds of faith, three of which are personal, and only one of which is propositional. He gives both Latin and English names to these faiths, and even identifies their opposites as a way of giving a fuller depiction of these faiths. Since I don't have the time or the energy to give a proper treatment to his accounts of these faiths - or views of faith - and since I have no desire to just type out the chapter which deals with this subject, I'm just going to briefly list them in a sort of rough chart. Hopefully this will lead to some decent discussion.
1. Faith as Assensus - that is, faith as intellectual assent (the English version of the Latin assensus, or "belief." This is the only propositional faith. Its opposites are "doubt" (soft) and "disbelief" (hard).
2. Faith as Fiducia - that is, faith as "trust" in the person of God, rather than trust in beliefs about God, which would be just another form of assensus, anyway. Its opposite is "anxiety" or "worry."
3. Faith as Fideltias - that is, faith as fidelity, "faithfulness" to our relationship with God. It is a kind of commitment or allegiance. Its opposite is "infidelity," which is described by the Biblical metaphors of "adultery" and "idolatry."
4. Faith as Visio - that is, faith as vision, a way of "seeing." This kind of faith colors how we perceive everything around us, everything that is. It impacts our view of the whole. Borg goes into great detail about this, but I won't go there because I'd like to know what this kind of faith means to you. How does your faith impact your way of "seeing" that which is?
The opposite of this faith is, as Borg puts it, "seeing reality as hostile and threatening or as indifferent."
Significantly, while faith is often seen in our churches as primarily propositional, that is, as concerning statements which may or may not accurately describe reality and the nature of God, three out of these four approaches to faith are personal, grounded in a personal relationship with an experience of the person of God which transforms our persons.
How does this speak to you?
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