RE: Faith Defined

From: Vandergraaf, Chuck (
Date: Wed Aug 15 2001 - 11:59:26 EDT

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    You've raised a very important point. I've used the term "abandoning one's
    faith" as "shorthand" for the situation where people who were raised in a
    religious environment (home. church. school) and who, at some time in their
    life, made a commitment ("confirmation," "confession of faith," "adult
    baptism,"), but then, years later, renounced their faith.

    One of the tenets of Calvinism (if I recall correctly) is "perseverance of
    the saints" that basically says that God won't let this happen. Sort of,
    "once you're in, you're in." I have an image of playing the board game
    "Sorry" where the pawn is invulnerable when it gets inside the little
    "house" at the end. So, if there is this "backsliding," either it's not
    really backsliding, or the faith was not genuine in the first place. I
    sense that your definition of faith is along those lines.

    So, genuine faith would survive concentration camps and loss of loved ones.
    It would also survive the conditions associated with wealth and "the easy

    I know of Pastors that lived through the horrors of concentration camps and
    "kept the faith." I know of parents like my father who "kept the faith"
    when his only daughter (my only sister) died in "far-away" Australia and
    left two young children behind. I also know of people who were taught that
    the Bible is literally true and who later "abandoned their faith" when
    evidence to the contrary stared them in the face.

    Trouble is, we don't usually start of with a "conditional faith." We don't
    (and I can only speak for myself) say "OK, God, I accept what you offer me,
    until I get evidence to the contrary." So, it is not up to me to judge the
    genuine-ness of one's faith and commitment. If we define faith as
    "unshakable," the best we can do, IMHO, is to say at somebody's deathbed
    that the dying person had faith.

    Hope this helps.


    -----Original Message-----
    From: Lucy Masters []
    Sent: Wednesday August 15, 2001 10:25 AM
    Subject: Faith Defined


    You have talked about people abandoning their faith in a couple of
    posts. This might be a good time to open up a discussion about the true
    meaning of faith. I suppose faith is another thing that can occur along
    a continuum, but it seems to me a person's faith is *extremely*
    conditional and weak if the interpretation of a story out of the Bible
    can actually cause him/her to stop believing in God. My definition of
    faith involves a belief system that CANNOT be broken by - well -
    literally anything. So if I lose a child, my faith in God cannot
    dwindle. If I am forced into a concentration camp during WWII, my faith
    in God cannot dwindle. If I study biology and change my mind about a
    previous belief in a Bible story, my previous belief in God cannot
    dwindle. There seems to me something wrong about equating belief in God
    with belief in the Bible. The Bible is not God. It is a book. God
    does not survive in that box. He survives, in fact, outside that box.


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