Faith Versus Belief

I’ve started re-reading the book Stages of Faith (Amazon link) by Fowler. It’s an important book, and I’m sure I’ll post some more on it as I work my way through it. For tonight, though, I want to touch on an opening idea: the difference between faith and belief.

Here’s the nut of it — up until about the Enlightenment, all major religions understood faith as having to do with heart, as in "On what do you set your heart?" Some would expand on this to "Around what do you organize your life?" Belief, on the other hand, was focused on the idea of fact and non-fact, or un-fact: "Do you believe the earth goes around the sun?"

At some point, the two became conflated: faith became agreement with a set of facts, a set of beliefs, rather than the core organizing principle of our lives, the way we both see everything and relate to everything. We changed the question from "Is your live focused on, oriented around, based on the Eternal One?" to "Do you believe the statement ‘Jesus is the Son of God’ to be true?"

As I think about my life at 55; as I try to be honest with myself about myself; as I try to make the most of the life remaining to me — I find this distinction tremendously important and insightful. It is an extremely challenging question: "What is the organizing principle of your life? What drives the way you relate to yourself, to others, to life, to time, to the universe? What is your faith?" Next to these questions, "what do you believe" is not only silly, it is also irrelevant.

I’m too much of a thinker, too much of a wonk to give up the Q&A of head work. It’s important, at times, and even fun, at times. But after reading this opening discussion in Fowler, I wonder if my goal should really be: Believe less, even while bringing more and more of life into faith. 

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