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.
From: Lucy Masters [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
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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