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Old 10-30-2013, 01:18 PM #1
TheSilentAssassin
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Faith: Epistemological or Salvational

The typical understanding of "faith" in the American Christian equation is that of epistemology. We can never prove that God/Christ exists, therefore we must have faith that God exists despite the lack of evidence. This leads to a traditional fideist (literally faith-ist) understanding most of American Christianity hold today.

However, this interpretation comes as suspect to me for a few reasons:
1) The Bible claims that there were many many biblical characters who did in fact have direct evidence/experience of God's existence, like Moses or Noah speaking with God or Jesus displaying his power through miracles. The bible's narrative seems far from this idea of belief by faith. If humanity is called to have faith in the existence of God, why would Jesus perform miracles? Doesn't that defeat the purpose?
2) The idea of the existence of God as a thing that is ungrounded and to be taken on faith alone seems contrary to the concept of a theistic God. Maybe in the round of deism that flies, but theism implies personal experience, not fideism, does it not?
3) The idea of a good and loving God basing our understanding of his existence on faith alone seems perhaps a bit immoral or atleast odd and unnecessary.
4) "Faith" isn't mentioned often in the Old Testament and when it is mentioned in the New Testament it seems to be in context to salvation instead of existence. More on this later.
*) I would be interested to hear if anyone has any other thoughts on this.

Obviously, I am not the first to do propose what I am about to propose, but I do think there is merit in reinventing the wheel... the experience of inventing the wheel yourself. So, I would like to give an alternative notion of "faith" and have a discussion on the effects this has on Christian interpretation, dogma, etc.

"Having faith" can be understood as epistemological like above, but can also be understood as a salvational notion. One must "have faith" that Jesus will save them from their sins. One must have faith that they will get to heaven due to Jesus' death. To break away from the Christian context for a moment to highlight the language, we are speaking of a difference between "I believe in Bigfoot" implying that one believes that bigfoot exists and "I believe in the Cowboys" which implies that one believes that the Cowboys will do what one wants them to do. It is the difference between "I believe in the existence of God" and "I believe that God is going to save/protect/do good for me". Or "I have faith that God exists" versus "I have faith that Jesus will save me from my sins".

This interpretation of faith does a couple things, but most interestingly it breaks ties with fideism. A fitting question is where this places us now. Thoughts? (I tried to leave this open ended to see where the discussion takes us. I don't have an agenda for this thread. Feel free to go where you please.)

Preemptive: I do not believe that this leads to the conclusion that God's existence is a thing that can be taken to science. Fideism and empiricism aren't our only 2 options.
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Old 10-30-2013, 11:32 PM #2
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I think the salvational definition of faith lines up with day to day reality and is therefore useful. If anything, it represents more certainty and conviction. Not only do you believe in God, but you believe that God has power over life in a significant way, which is a very profound statement.

Like I've said in another thread. I think a primary driver of faith such that it leads to a vital interest in religion and theology will be driven by religious experience. In many cases people seem to arrive at faith intellectually but I really gotta question the significance of that. Yeah you believe, but do you really feel it man?
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Old 10-31-2013, 12:29 AM #3
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Not only do you believe in God, but you believe that God has power over life in a significant way, which is a very profound statement.
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If anything, it represents more certainty and conviction.
Aren't thèse ideas kind of at odds with each other? Succumbing to the idea that the all powerful has both an active role in your daily life and a specific plan that he will carry out irequires a headfirst dive into the unknown.
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Old 10-31-2013, 09:25 AM #4
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Aren't thèse ideas kind of at odds with each other? Succumbing to the idea that the all powerful has both an active role in your daily life and a specific plan that he will carry out irequires a headfirst dive into the unknown.
That is going to depend on how the individual arrives at salvational faith. It could be the culmination of a journey. It could be axiomic in which case, you'd be right. What I was trying to convey was the seriousness implied by salvational faith versus epistemological.
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Old 11-03-2013, 03:41 PM #5
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I realize most here have very little stock in this dilemma, but how do you (I guess martian) feel about the idea of faith being strictly a salvational term in regards to the epistomological stance of Christianity. Does this seem problematic?
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Old 11-04-2013, 12:41 PM #6
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I'm with Guido de Giorgio, men must believe before they come to know. I think a Christian's first step, barring a "religious experience" must be a choice based on consent: I believe God exists. Therefore requiring the Christian to partake in ritual and practice in order to come to the knowledge itself, which surpasses belief. Thus, the faith in God becomes identical to the faith in the sun rising each day. Faith ought to be categorical and less operatively restrictive in order for Christianity to be a vital tradition.

Belief: Epistemological

Knowledge: Salvational

It is my opinion that both are needed with Salvational being the ultimate goal. Strict epistemological faith leads to agnosticism. Strict salvational faith pushes Christianity too far into esotericism. Dead ends at either extreme for a religion of metaphysical objectivism.

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Old 11-08-2013, 06:49 AM #7
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The way I see it,
Faith just is. It's lens you look at the world through, or the story you tell yourself. To argue about it is to moot because others don't have the same frame of reference. Kind of like going through the exercise to determine if your red is someone else's blue. :epistemological... Although it's more perception than knowledge IMHO.

Religion is when you try to make your faith more useful: salvational.
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Old 11-08-2013, 01:20 PM #8
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Not sure if this really relates (or has been covered) or not, but I haven't heard too many sermons trying to convince me that God exists.
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Old 11-08-2013, 10:26 PM #9
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Not sure if this really relates (or has been covered) or not, but I haven't heard too many sermons trying to convince me that God exists.
For starters, there is far more to Christian theology than just sermons.

But are you trying to say you haven't experienced epistemological faith even within the modern church? The idea that "I can't prove God but I have faith that he's there" is an epistemological claim. It differs from that of "God is real and I have faith that he will deliver me".

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The way I see it,
Faith just is. It's lens you look at the world through, or the story you tell yourself. To argue about it is to moot because others don't have the same frame of reference. Kind of like going through the exercise to determine if your red is someone else's blue. :epistemological... Although it's more perception than knowledge IMHO.

Religion is when you try to make your faith more useful: salvational.
My claim is that the epistemological use is theologically invalid and my question is the ramifications of that claim.
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Old 11-08-2013, 11:44 PM #10
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My claim is that the epistemological use is theologically invalid and my question is the ramifications of that claim.
I agree with that.

I guess I was simply pointing out the obvious in that faith and religion are different.

People use their faith to see what they want to see in their religion. It doesn't have to make sense to make sense... if you catch my drift.
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Old 11-09-2013, 03:18 PM #11
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I agree with that.

I guess I was simply pointing out the obvibia in that faith and religion are different.

People use their faith to see what they want to see in their religion. It doesn't have to make sense to make sense... if you catch my drift.
Yes, but No.

Faith is used in every system of knowledge in existence. The first principles of that system are always held true, independent of the body of knowledge those principles produced, on faith. Otherwise, the arguments become self referential.

Empiricism is true because the body of knowledge produced by empiricism is true because it was produced empirically.

I understand the context is religion, but implying faith is used to reinforce confirmation bias is a bit too generalized.
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Old 11-09-2013, 04:20 PM #12
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But are you trying to say you haven't experienced epistemological faith even within the modern church? The idea that "I can't prove God but I have faith that he's there" is an epistemological claim. It differs from that of "God is real and I have faith that he will deliver me".
First to clarify, I believe there are more interesting ideas that could be pursued with the OT examples you gave and how they relate to the teachings found in, to use your words, "the modern church". That out of the way, to your first, no, I would have no reason to argue. I believe one pursues religion based upon "I can't prove God but I have faith that he's there" in an attempt to learn of "this" God's character (whom they may not know). This is the primary focus of Christianity and has been, as far as I can tell, all along. To claim otherwise has the feeling of wrongness. Or maybe I'm missing the significance of what you are trying to relay, which is entirely possible for which I apologize. But as one who has been actively involved in churches, ministries and encouraged others to come to Christ, I seldom try to prove there is a God nor have I seen those around me try either but focus on encouraging those to have faith in Christ and His redemptive work. Or from what I understand, what you are promoting.

As I said I believe that there are more interesting avenues to pursue.
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Old 11-11-2013, 03:10 PM #13
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Yes, but No.

Faith is used in every system of knowledge in existence. The first principles of that system are always held true, independent of the body of knowledge those principles produced, on faith. Otherwise, the arguments become self referential.

Empiricism is true because the body of knowledge produced by empiricism is true because it was produced empirically.

I understand the context is religion, but implying faith is used to reinforce confirmation bias is a bit too generalized.
Faith is used in empiricism. I wasn't trying to say that it's not. In science it's called making an assumption. Also there is conformational bias in empiricism. The context in which data is placed makes a big difference in the conclusion.

There was a great meme that went around Facebook a few years ago that illustrated this. I can't find it. It showed a series of points on a graph and the different curves one would fit depending on the story they wanted to support. It is very true for my field. We try not to do that, but it does happen sometimes.

To quote the great philosophers simon and garfunkel:

"A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest."

I was really going for the concept that faith and religion are different.

I see Faith as an element in the lens you view row world through. It bends the light and helps smooth out the edges. Religion would be more like photoshop in this system and is more on the salvational end of the spectrum.
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Old 11-11-2013, 03:53 PM #14
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I understand now, thanks.
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Old 11-11-2013, 04:18 PM #15
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scienceguy: You keep using faith in the specific context I am trying to rule out. If faith is salvational and not empistemological, statements like "Faith as an element in the lens you view row world through" and "People use their faith to see what they want to see in their religion" are meaningless. Please try to understand my argument.

--

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First to clarify, I believe there are more interesting ideas that could be pursued with the OT examples you gave and how they relate to the teachings found in, to use your words, "the modern church".
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As I said I believe that there are more interesting avenues to pursue.
I'm confused by your point here. Is one limited to only one way of relating the OT to the modern church? Am I limited to only one avenue? If you don't find this all miserable uninteresting, why are you posting here?

To be frank, I don't particularly care if you find this interesting or not.
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I believe one pursues religion based upon "I can't prove God but I have faith that he's there" in an attempt to learn of "this" God's character (whom they may not know).
This is literally my point... "I can't prove God but I have faith that he's there" is epistemological faith, the very thing you just said didn't exist.

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This is the primary focus of Christianity and has been, as far as I can tell, all along. To claim otherwise has the feeling of wrongness.
This is where we are going to separate. To be clear, I am suggesting that modern christianity focuses on epistemological faith ("I can't prove God but I have faith that he's there") while the early christianity (up until probably mid to post-scholasticism) focused on salvational faith not epistemological faith.

For instance, Paul doesn't seem to be saying "have faith that he's there". He seems to be saying "have faith that he will deliver". That is an important distinction and the central premise to my point. Early Christianity does not seem to be a religion that pursues God pursues on the premise of "I can't prove God but I have faith that he's there" in an attempt to learn of "this" God's character (whom they may not know). In fact, it seems quite the opposite.

--

I'm not quite sure how to make this more clear.

--

My next question is going to be "where did this epistemological faith enter our picture?" Epicurianism or stoicism? scholastic philosophy? empiricism and the scientific revolution?
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Old 11-11-2013, 06:04 PM #16
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Protestant Heresy perhaps? Sola Scriptura Sola Fide? I'm not intimate with church history.
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Old 11-11-2013, 07:56 PM #17
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I pretty much agree with your assessment that the focus should be on the salvational message.

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This is literally my point... "I can't prove God but I have faith that he's there" is epistemological faith, the very thing you just said didn't exist.
I didn't say it didn't exist,

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Originally Posted by me
to your
Quote:
Originally Posted by you
are you trying to say you haven't experienced epistemological faith even within the modern church?
, no (I'm not saying that) I would have no reason to argue.
(I hope that clarifies, re-reading it I can see the confusion)


I'm saying I feel you are giving it more significance than it deserves when it comes to real world application. In my experience, Christianity (the practice of) does focus on the salvational message to bring people into an understanding of God or faith in Him. Again, the "prove God exists" seldom comes up in application.

To be honest I don't know that you can have one without the other. (epistemological/salvational faith). Or maybe they are more interdependent now.

I would suggest that today people are less ready to admit to there being a God, even the possibility of one or one that they may be accountable to, than they were way back when. Also for people today cynicism is rampant which adds very little. To say "He will deliver" to one who denies God would make no sense, but to one who does believe that God or gods exist you gain their attention. None of that negates the epistemological position. The epistemological position is a honest one which they may find aligns with their very own thoughts. It can validate their thoughts and help them in overcoming hurdles they may have in coming to faith in Christ. We are called to be a people in the world and the message doesn't change but the concerns and questions people have, have. To be so dogmatic as to not address those concerns or questions as they come up would lead to a stagnant religion which would have no place in the world. An example of it's usefulness, a while back when more Christians posted in this forum the standard response to "prove it" in regards to God's existence was "not my job". This was not a cop out but a statement of faith. Epistemological? maybe, but still valid. In no way does it change the salvational message, nor detract from it.

Still I just don't see the epistemological position as being as central or prominent (in practice) as your OP would suggest.
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"Having faith" can be understood as epistemological like above, but can also be understood as a salvational notion. One must "have faith" that Jesus will save them from their sins.
.... more or less what you are suggesting is happening. There may be more to Christianity theology than sermons but that preacher sure does reach a lot of people and those in turn are (at least should be - it is the great commission) reaching out to more, wherever they may be. Whether that be in a place where they question God's existence or His mercy shown to them we are called to give an account it should at least be honest.
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Old 11-11-2013, 08:43 PM #18
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I'm sorry markcheb, but it seems we have reached the end of our conversation. I've tried to make my argument as clear and simple as I know how, but it's apparent that I'm failing in that regard. This clearly isn't going anywhere.
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Old 11-13-2013, 04:45 PM #19
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scienceguy: You keep using faith in the specific context I am trying to rule out. If faith is salvational and not empistemological, statements like "Faith as an element in the lens you view row world through" and "People use their faith to see what they want to see in their religion" are meaningless. Please try to understand my argument.
Maybe the ball is flying way over my head here, but I thought I was agreeing with you. The two don't mix. I was expanding the term faith to mean more than belief in a god. It's more like perspective. It's like having faith that the universe exists, or soul exists. It isnt salvational by itself it's just there. Ideas and experience are molded around that framework.

Developing a religion to simplify your faith and make it useful is salvational.
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Old 11-13-2013, 05:00 PM #20
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Maybe the ball is flying way over my head here, but I thought I was agreeing with you. The two don't mix. I was expanding the term faith to mean more than belief in a god. It's more like perspective. It's like having faith that the universe exists, or soul exists. It isnt salvational by itself it's just there. Ideas and experience are molded around that framework.

Developing a religion to simplify your faith and make it useful is salvational.
No. That's not at all my argument.

--

My argument:
Epistemological faith: "I have faith that God is real", "I believe God exists but acknowledge that it cannot be proven"
Salvational faith: "I believe that Jesus died to deliver me", "I have faith in the cross that saved me from my sin"

Salvational faith is found in scripture. Epistemological is not. Epistemological faith is a modern concept not rooted in Christian theology.

To be really simple, the Bible agrees with the statement "I have faith that Jesus will get me to heaven (instead of own my own accord)" but not "I have faith that God exists even though I can't be certain".

My question:
What does this lead to? What are the effects of this? What caused this? Etc.

--

Does that help?

It seems you have added a third type of faith to the mix: an attitude, perspective, or worldview rooted in faith. Ultimately I don't think this has a place in Christian theology as well but that may be another conversation.
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