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The relation of faith to human existence


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#1 David Dietrich

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 02:51 AM

I have often wondered about faith. Generally faith is considered to be a belief that is not inspired by fact. What I have difficulty grasping then is what "fact" is. I have faith in the things I see because I see them. But why is that proof and why are the things I see facts? I simply have in inexplicable, intrinsic "faith" in my senses. If senses are not proof, then what of intellection? Is it "faith" to believe in something we can logically prove? Can we logically "prove" anything? An argument can be made for anything, and opinion is based almost always on arbitrary experience. We do not instinctively follow that which is logical, rather, our logic follows our instinct. Feeling is the last hope I can think of for combating the unchecked reign of faith in our reality. Is it that what we feel to be true is? No, and I think I need not explain any more on this point.

Is it true, then, that our whole "existence" is based solely on faith? Does "proof" not exist? Is sensory perception an arbitrary, and therefore unviable, universal basis for "fact"? If it is true that we live entirely and in all ways by faith, then how and why do we acquire it? What makes us believe one thing and not another? Our senses? Why do we believe them? There is much more interesting speculation and questioning I could go in to, but this is just to get me started off. So if your interested, please post your thoughts!

#2 Antonios

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 03:36 AM

Dear David,

Thank you for initiating this interesting thread. What you bring up is very important in understanding what faith is. Faith can imply 2 different things from what I understand. Faith as in belief and faith as in trust. I think the second way is the more spiritually advanced way and acquiring such faith requires praktikos, which is the application, work, and obedience to the commandments of Christ. The ascetic and sacrificial life in Christ allows the Holy Spirit to come and abide in the individual, granting them the grace of God which forms a relationship of trust and love towards our Father. As the communion with God flourishes, the old man is shed and the new man is born. The senses of the body become primitive in comparison to the glory that is realized. Facts then are not merely in the rudimentary elemental aspects of creation, which can be confirmed through observation and measurement, but are confirmed in the very soul itself through the strengthening of the spirit. This is the wisdom of the saints, where facts go beyond the observational and into the realm of relational, of communion.

These are my understandings from the readings I have done and hope someone could correct me in my mistakes or elaborate areas which are lacking in order to better answer David's questions.

In Christ,
Antonios

#3 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 10:44 AM

Dear My Dietrich,

What you have described is a fairly good general definition of the school of philosophy called scepticism, as exemplified in people like Descartes. It is precisely this lack of belief or trust in the senses and perceptible data that led him to his famous dictum, 'I think, therefore I am', since the fact of thinking is one thing (and for Descartes, the only thing) that cannot be doubted in personal experience. (His famous dictum, by the way, is generally accepted as not working with Christian theology.)

I am more curious in your definition of 'faith':

I have often wondered about faith. Generally faith is considered to be a belief that is not inspired by fact.


I don't believe this is generally how faith is considered. It is normally described as belief in things not seen -- not in belief in things that are not grounded in fact. Set aside the word 'fact' for a moment: Christ's word to his disciple is that he is blessed for he has seen and believed, but blessed are those who have not seen, yet still believe. St Paul's comments are similar: faith is belief in things not seen, the assurance of things hoped for. In both, faith is described in terms of a genuine belief in that which is not seen in the normal way, but which is 'see-able' in the sense of its truth and reality.

Faith is life lived in the experience of that which is not seen, but which is truly known -- and known as true.

Sensory observation of things visible, which you call 'fact', is knowledge by 'sight' (i.e. by the senses, not simply vision). The insightful reality taught by the fathers is that the way around the ability of the senses to mislead / misunderstand, is to guide and purify the senses by a living faith.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#4 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 04:45 PM

Faith, though, can be strengthened by what we perceive with our senses, such as the fragrance of holy relics. A purified and faithful apprehension of God's Creation - even in its fallen and ravaged state - through our senses can both nourish and augment faith. The Psalmist surely tells us this, and why else did Met. Tryphon write his Akathist of Thanksgiving? Faith that what the heart is given to know is true extends to the faith that material creation is part of the truth, the material being a partner with the spiritual. 'I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things, visible and invisible'. The world is visible, the heavenly is invisible. Man is uniquely both 'visible and invisible', material and spiritual. As St Seraphim says, the body is the friend and helper of the soul. Faith can include things seen if our perception is spiritual as well as physical.

#5 David Dietrich

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 05:18 PM

Although there are lots of very interesting points coming out, I think, feel, or see (whichever you like ;) that we must agree upon a definition of faith. Otherwise we will end up in total confusion.

I am ready to accept the scriptural definition of faith as belief in things not seen, but I think this answer merely raises another question: what does it mean to "see." As I described above, in my "skepticist passage," I am starting from ground zero, so to speak, and therefore cannot assume anything, including my "sight" whatever that may be.

Does "to see" mean literally to sense the light from a material object which is translated into a meaningful form in the brain? If this is the case, not only must I have a "blind faith" in my eyes, but I must go even further and assume that my brain is correctly interpreting these light waves. If "to see" means "to sense" generally, then why should I trust my senses? Clearly I am born with an arbitrary faith in them, but this can be explained easily as a fluke of nature necessary for the young to function in a world of "lights" and "smells" and "textures."

In short, if faith is "to believe that which is not seen," then what does "seeing" mean, or can we even be sure that we can see at all?

#6 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 05:53 PM

I am ready to accept the scriptural definition of faith as belief in things not seen, but I think this answer merely raises another question: what does it mean to "see."


If you accept that 'faith' means belief in things not seen, why do you need to investigate the nature of seeing? Surely 'faith' means believing in God and trusting in His revelations to us. First of those revelations is faith itself because this a gift from God given to those who will accept it and enter into a relationship with Him. What I was getting at in my previous post was that Creation is part of God's revelation to us though here the senses of perception do play their part.

#7 Antonios

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 05:55 PM

Dear David,

Just to make things more 'colorful', below are the limits to our bodily eyes unaided. As you can see, 'reality' in terms of our visual perception is limited and often times can be very deceiving.

In Christ,
Antonios

Posted Image

#8 Paul Cowan

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 06:06 PM

I heard a study done (can't attest it was true) that a child was taught blue was green and red was blue. So as the child grew he knew the colors as he was taught not as they were called by others. He was not colored blind and could easily distinguish blue from red from green. But as he was taught the color names differently, he was inoccently always wrong.

Seems this could also apply to humans and their faiths. A child is taught one thing to be true and knows no differently especially since many of the other children are also taught the same thing. But as he/she grows begins to realize red is red and not blue anymore.

So how we "see" things is not necessarily wrong but how we are taught to see things may need to be "looked" at.


Paul

#9 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 10:21 PM

Just to make things more 'colorful', below are the limits to our bodily eyes unaided. As you can see, 'reality' in terms of our visual perception is limited and often times can be very deceiving.

In Christ,
Antonios


It might be limited but why is it deceiving?

#10 Antonios

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Posted 30 December 2007 - 01:05 AM

Dear Andreas,

Thank you for addressing this. I probably should have qualified that statement. I was thinking in terms of illusions, for example mirages in the desert, etc. Sometimes our eyes (really, our brains) play tricks with what we visually perceive.

In Christ,
Antonios

PS: Congratulations on your baptism! Glory to God for all things! (a phrase made popular by St. John Chrysostom)

#11 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 30 December 2007 - 01:10 AM

PS: Congratulations on your baptism! Glory to God for all things! (a phrase made popular by St. John Chrysostom)


Thank you, though it was 16years ago!

#12 Antonios

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Posted 30 December 2007 - 01:19 AM

LOL! I meant Adrian, but the sentiments are just as sincere now!

#13 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 30 December 2007 - 04:10 AM

You're very kind!

#14 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 05:26 PM

When I took a psychology class, one of the lessons concerned "How REAL is reality?" It looked at several studies. One experiment took two newborn kittens. One was raised in a box that only had black and white horizontal stripes. The other one was put in a box with only vertical stripes. At some point the kittens were taken out of their boxes into the "real" world. The kitten raised with horizontal stripes could not see vertical objects. It would walk right into chair legs or other narrow vertically oriented objects. The "vertical" kitten would walk right off the edge of a table, it could not perceive horizontal edges. In a related "laboratory" experience, I was able to be a volunteer working with a severely developmentally challenged infant. We placed the child on an inclined plane (the exercise took three people) and moved his arms and legs to simulate movement, to stimulate his muscle development. We also brushed his skin with a brisk brush to stimulate the nerve endings.

If you don't use something, you lose it. We talk about having five senses. These senses to a great extend define "reality" to us. But what about those who do not have one or more of those senses? I suspect they perceive a much different world.

I suspect that Adam had at least six senses. He was able to perceive God, but that sense has atrophied in his descendants. I think this is what Orthodoxy refers to as the nous, the "spiritual" sense. When you think about it, the Church is doing the very same thing for us that I did with that young child. It is trying to stimulate that atrophied "sixth" sense by means of the other five.

There are many things going on around us that we are entirely oblivious to. Does that mean they do not exist? Hardly. Our five senses are extremely limited. Even the most "rational" person knows that there are things that exist outside of those senses. The saints are those people who have "touched" the REAL reality of Christ, who have gotten beyond the limitations of their five senses.

What is Faith? It is trust, plain and simple. I trust the testimony of the saints, and the Church. I trust in a just and loving God who gave His Son on my behalf. I trust my own very limited glimpses at a greater Divine reality that God has gifted to me, such as they are.

Perhaps faith in one sense is simply accepting the fact that the world is a bigger place than it appears to be? Just a simple thought.

#15 Owen Jones

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Posted 01 January 2008 - 11:57 PM

The one definition of faith in Scripture that I know of right off hand is found in Hebrews 11:1 -- Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence (proof) of things unseen. So for a pure logician, this is an obvious example of circular reasoning. When we hope for something, we have faith in it, yet it is the faith that is the thing that we get back. And when we look for something, we do so through the eyes of faith, and what we get back is faith. In other words, the only proof of God's "existence" is the fact of faith, and what it does to people. Consequently, faith is an action verb. It is a virtue. It is a way of seeing things differently, and of doing things differently. You and I can look at the same person, and my response would be -- look at that person! Look how he is living! Look how he is ruining his life! Look how he is misbehaving or causing problems! And you look at him and see something and someone quite different. You see Christ who is thirsty and needs a drink of water.

#16 David Dietrich

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Posted 04 January 2008 - 01:36 AM

I would like to apply Mr. Jones' remarks to the entire discussion by taking them a step further. The scriptural definition of faith is circular in that it states that faith is both the substance and evidence of things hoped for.

What I am basically doing is applying this to the rest of our "senses." We have an arbitrary assumption that what we sense is both substantial and "empirical" (for lack of the appropriate term).

If we reject this circular state of affairs, as I am theorizing, then perception and existence itself become either entirely or not at all experienced by faith.

#17 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 04 January 2008 - 09:45 AM

Quote "The relation of faith to human existence
I have often wondered about faith. Generally faith is considered to be a belief that is not inspired by fact. What I have difficulty grasping then is what "fact" is. I have faith in the things I see because I see them. But why is that proof and why are the things I see facts? I simply have in inexplicable, intrinsic "faith" in my senses. " Unquote (first post).



Everyone has faith, whether they are Christians or not.

Something I read years ago demonstrates this I think. You get on an airplane. Do you ask to see the pilot's license and a copy of his years of experience, even a letter of recommendation from the airline company saying that he is a good employee who doesn't get drunk too often while on duty?

Of course not.

We also see the results of lots of things in our daily lives, without seeing the actual things themselves. Radiowaves, electricity, etc. etc. etc. What about gravity? Can it be seen? Is there a physical connection between our world and our moon? Can we actually see this connection. We only see the result of it.

Can anyone seriously doubt that there is an unseen physical world.
Or how about an unseen spiritual world. What is love? Can it be seen, can it be held in our hands? What is hate? We see the physical results of these feelings but that is all.

Humanity knows nothing yet. In our arrogance we think we know it all. We want physical proof of everything. Just think back 150 years.
What did we know then of science and what do we know now? And this is only 150 years in the thousands and thousands of years of human existence on this earth. Imagine the future. Perhaps in years to come man will be able to physically prove faith, love, etc. Will that be so important?

Effie

#18 Demetrios

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Posted 07 January 2008 - 06:13 PM

The one definition of faith in Scripture that I know of right off hand is found in Hebrews 11:1 -- Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence (proof) of things unseen. So for a pure logician, this is an obvious example of circular reasoning. When we hope for something, we have faith in it, yet it is the faith that is the thing that we get back. And when we look for something, we do so through the eyes of faith, and what we get back is faith. In other words, the only proof of God's "existence" is the fact of faith, and what it does to people. Consequently, faith is an action verb. It is a virtue. It is a way of seeing things differently, and of doing things differently. You and I can look at the same person, and my response would be -- look at that person! Look how he is living! Look how he is ruining his life! Look how he is misbehaving or causing problems! And you look at him and see something and someone quite different. You see Christ who is thirsty and needs a drink of water.



Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence (proof) of things unseen.
With a couple of examples we can see this. My hope could be for eternal life. This is what I hinge my faith on. But others may hinge it to seeing there loved ones and so on. Or a combination of things. For one to have faith , we have to hinge onto a future event and hope for it to materialize into reality. This is what I believe faith is. A future event that is hoped for.

#19 Owen Jones

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Posted 07 January 2008 - 07:16 PM

mmm...I think the "definition" in Hebrews is not about the expectation of some future event, but rather the substance of life eternal -- here and now. The man of faith lives in eternity, now, or as near as possible to that reality while still in our bodily existence.

And it is the evidence of God's reality. If there were no God, there would be no such thing as faith. Faith is the evidence of God. Faith is the irreducible fact of human existence.

#20 Owen Jones

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Posted 07 January 2008 - 07:18 PM

The evidence of God, the only evidence we truly need, is in the faith of exemplars.




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