Faith in fifty words

by Joel on October 29, 2007

Have you ever gone to a dictionary to look up the meaning of a word, found a cental word used to describe the original word, looked the latter word up, only to be referred back to the original word? I feel that way about the definition of “faith.” If faith is a gift from God, it can’t be merely what we believe in good conscience about the dynamic divine. It can’t be effectively subjective and yet many of the ways it is described seem related to our state of mind or heart. (Wesley’s heart that was strangely warmed, e.g.) How do we talk about faith in ways that encompass God’s hope and God’s love implanted within us without making us seem robotic? Or where a “faith response” is beyond God responding to God? How can we apply “reason” to faith when faith is a gift? Is reason merely what we use to understand the gift?

Martin Luther said this (and much more) about faith:

Faith is a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it. Such confidence and knowledge of God’s grace makes you happy, joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures. (Project Wittenberg translation by Rev. Robert E. Smith.)

Given 50 words, how would you describe, define or expound on faith?

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }


dh 10.29.07 at 9:03 pm

Well, I guess I believe Grace is a “gift from God” but I don’t know (remember I say don’t know) that Faith is a gift from God. It seems to me in a broad term everything good is a “gift from God” it is a matter of what gifts are “eternal” and what gidts aren’t.

Martin Luther’s definition seems really good. I really agree with what it says. I also believe the definition doesn’t contradict my understanding of the Grace/Faith dichotomy. When I read the passage “For by Grace are you saved through Faith. It is a gift from God not of works lest anyone should boast.” I believe that Grace is the gift not the Faith. Grace is entered into by Faith but Grace is made available to all. Only if one enters into the Grace by Faith can Grace truly be received in an eternal standpoint. However, all things good are also gifts of God.

To me “Faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen.” To me Faith and Grace are seperate. the “things not seen” is the “Grace”. Faith is the “evidence” of the things not seen “Grace”. Wow, Faith is the substantiation of the Grace that one received or will receive. :)

Does what I say make sense? Does anyone need clarification?


Joel 10.29.07 at 9:42 pm


Somewhere, for my understanding, “faith” as gift intersects with “free will.” However, the power to respond to God’s grace cannot simply be within, for if we had such power, would we stand in need of grace? We have the God-given ability to decline God’s offer of pardon, but not the strength to thwart God’s purposes.

I understand where you are coming from, though. That is why I brought up the “robotic” aspect.

“Faith is being sure of what we hope for….” Whose hope? I “hope” for a lot of things that aren’t Godly My wishes and desires are married and validated only by the hope from above.


malc 10.29.07 at 10:25 pm

I once looked up ‘Sod’s Law’ in the dictionary and it said “see Murphey’s Law”. There was no ‘Murphey’s Law’ in the dictionary……


Kim 10.30.07 at 9:25 am

In CD/I (p. 237) Barth quotes “the very fine and pertinent saying” of the Lutheran scholar Paul Althaus: “I do not know whether I believe, but I know in whom I believe.” I like that. It’s enough for me.


ee 10.30.07 at 9:41 am

With dh, I love the Luther quote. Part of faith for me is that ‘risking death a thousand times trusting in it.’ If I had to define it, I’d say something like ‘trusting that God’s way is right in every action, especially when God’s way runs counter to the normal way.’ So faith is essentially living God’s way, because you trust that it’s right.

Another thought provoking post Joel - thanks!


dh 10.30.07 at 3:21 pm

Well, Joel I still believe that there IS the power to reject the Grace made available to all. Why else does Scripture say “If you deny Me I will deny you before My Father in heaven.”? What I see in Scripture is that God is all knowing and all powerful but that His Holiness is part of that. God can claim being all knowing and all powerful without being totally Holy. Holiness is therefore part of Omnipotence, Omniscience, etc. and part of God being God. If He wasn’t Holy He wouldn’t be Omnipotnent, Omniscient, etc. and if He wasn’t anyone of those things He wouldn’t be God.

I also believe the Faith part of the “Faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen.” It is our Faith hoping for what God said He would do. If we don’t have Faith to even hope for what God says He would do we have no Faith. So I agree in part but I believe you are taking the passage out of context.

I see what you are saying Joel. I believe that the offer to everybody is what draws those who choose to accept Him as Savior. “We love Him because He first loved us.” I still don’t believe Faith is a gift. I believe Grace is a gift but not Faith. If one chooses to place their Faith in anything other than Christ they have no Faith they may have faith but not Faith or “Saving Faith”. The passge on Faith that we are both referring to is focusing on “Saving Faith” and/or “Sanctifying Faith” after one accepts Christ.

Also, If a person says “I don’t know whether I believe” then to me I don’t know if that person has Faith. It makes sense to say that and then say “I know whom I believe.” To me if one “knows whom you believe” then one will “know that they believe”. It seems counter to the passage “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (for proper context Phillipians 1)

EE, I enjoyed what you said. I still believe that Faith is not a gift but that Grace is a gift entered into by Faith in Christ alone. Hense the term “through Faith”. They are not one. Grace and Faith are seperate. However, it is a combination in that “We love Him because He first loved us.” So to me Salvation is like a marriage proposal. He came to us at which point one has a choice to “accept” or “reject” by Faith.

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