Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Faith, a definition

Personal faith is not assent to evidence which is so strong as to be beyond reasonable doubt. It is assent to a discernment of God which is personally overwhelming but not objectively testable. This is not discernment of a historical God, timeless and unchanging. It is discernment of an active, loving God, making himself known in personal lives at specific points which become the matrix of a communal response to his will.
Keith Ward, Divine Action (London: Flame, 1990), 238.


David Barker said...

And implicit in that definition is that, wherever the discernment leads, the result will be masculine.

Enigman said...

Hi David... Although that's prima facie implicit, I don't think it really is. I'm pretty sure that Keith Ward said something about it being he or she at the beginning of that book, such writers normally do. Philosophers of religion tend to want an asexual personal pronoun, and lacking one they use the traditional 'he' rather than 'it' as the latter seems too impersonal. The Abrahamic tradition has a masculine God, and a definitely masculine Jesus calling God his Father, but I don't think Keith took that literally.

I used to like using 'they' and 'their' for sexually ambiguous singular pronouns generally, but people told me that was confusing. But it strikes me as the obvious solution for Trinitarians. I don't know why Trinitarians use 'he' and 'his'. I also went through a phase of using 's/he' and 'he/r' but they looked artificial, and distracted from whatever else I was saying. So now I just use 'he' too. I avoid capitalising that though. Incidentally, Jesus implied (Matthew 22:30) that even our souls are asexual. Even more incidentally, I'm curious about how you chanced upon my blog btw, since not many people comment here.

Ron Murphy said...

"It is assent to a discernment of God which is personally overwhelming but not objectively testable."

Alternatively it's the creation, in the mind believer, of an abstract concept, a story. It's not objectively testable because it's not real. However, it can be made apparently real and overwhelming to the believer by reinforcement - pretty much in the way a panic attack can take hold. Positive feedback.

How can you tell the difference between your definition and mine?

(this may have double posted. Apologies if it did.)

Enigman said...

Hi Ron,

It's the difference between two people falling in love, or just becoming good friends, or comrades, and one person being conditioned into submission to another, e.g. Winston Smith's love of Big Brother (who didn't have to be a real person) at the end of 1984. The historical God Keith mentions is more like Big Brother (and the God you have in mind). How you tell the difference is by using your own discretion, your wisdom. I think that you and I might hope to tell the difference.

Ron Murphy said...

"How you tell the difference is by using your own discretion, your wisdom." - i.e. you make it up; and you are able to hold on to what in another sphere of knowledge would be an unsupported belief by not criticising too thoroughly; i.e. blind-faith. That's certainly one's own discretion. Not sure we'd then agree on what wisdom is.