Faith -- Action or Belief?
By Jim Myers

Faith is a very important word in many of the world's religions.  Millions of people have been told that unless they have it they will be condemned to an eternity of punishment.  The problem is that most don't know exactly what "it" is, while others can't agree upon what "it" means.  But, they will all adamantly insist that it is imperative that everyone has "it."

How do we find out what the word "faith" really means?  My approach is to use a system that I created many years ago -- I call it The Laws of Language.  The first linguistic law is:

The meaning of a word or phrase is a bundle of associations; those associations are products of the Source's culture, historical time period, geographical location, and personal experiences.

The Source is the person using the word, the author or speaker.  The person receiving the word, the reader or hearer, is called the Receptor.  Therefore in the current context our starting point for this study is stated below.

The meaning of the word "faith" is a bundle of associations; those associations are products of the author's or speaker's culture, historical time period, geographical location, and personal experiences.

The next linguistic law is:

Over time a word may have more than one "bundle of associations" or meaning.  Therefore, one word may have different meanings at different times and places.  In other words, the meaning of a word may change from one period of time to another or from one place to another.

Therefore, instead of asking -- "What does the word `faith' mean?" -- we must instead ask -- "What did the word `faith' mean to the different Sources at the times and places they used it? 

The Meaning of "Faith" 
in the United States of America (1981 CE)

What was so special about 1981?  Nothing, it just happens to be the date my Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary 150th Anniversary Edition was published and it is the first Source I am going to use to help determine the meanings for the word "faith."

faith - from Latin fides; akin to Latin fidere to trust -- more at BIDE1.a. allegiance to duty or person: LOYALTY; b. fidelity to one's promises. 2.a.1. belief and trust in and loyalty to God; a.2. belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion.  b.1. firm belief in something for which there is no proof; b.2. complete confidence.  3. something that is believed esp. with strong conviction; a system of religious beliefs; without doubt or question.

Next, we must define the word "bide."

bide - 1. to continue in a state or condition.  2. to wait awhile: TARRY.  3. to continue in a place: SOJOURN. 4. to wait for. 5. archaic - to wait confidently or defiantly.

The Meaning of "Faith" 
in the United States of America (1828 CE)

Now let's see what "faith" meant in 1828.  Our source will be The 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language by Noah Webster.

1. Belief; the assent of the mind to the truth of what is declared by another, resting on his authority and veracity, without other evidence; the judgment that what another states or testifies is the truth.  2. The assent of the mind to the truth of a proposition advanced by another; belief, on probable evidence of any kind.  3. In theology, the assent of the mind or understanding to the truth of what God has revealed.  Simple belief of the scriptures, of the being and perfections of God, and of the existence, character and doctrines of Christ, founded on the testimony of the sacred writers, is called historical or speculative faith; a faith little distinguished from the belief of the existence and achievements of Alexander or of Caesar.

When it comes to how the word "faith" is understood by most of the Christians that I know, the 1828 version is the most accurate -- "the assent of the mind to the truth of what is declared by another, resting on his authority and veracity, without other evidence."  How does that compare with your understanding of it?

It's Greek to Me!

Since the oldest existing manuscripts of the New Testament are Greek, our next goal is to determine which Greek word was translated into English as "faith," and the "bundles of 

associations" attached to it.  The Greek word is  and below are its meanings.

(1) actively, as belief directed toward a person or thing confidence, faith, trust, reliance on; (2) abs. without an obj.; (a) as the essential Christian religion (the) faith; (b) as recognition and acceptance of Christian teaching faith; (c) as a decision to be faithful and loyal to the Christian religion promise, pledge, commitment; (d) as a conviction that brings certainty faith, assurance; (e) as a Christian virtue, esp. along w. hope and love as characterizing believers; (3) passively; (a) of what brings trust and confidence fr. others faithfulness, fidelity, reliability; (b) as what inspires confidence a pledge, (means of) proof, guarantee; (4) objectively, as the content of what is believed doctrine, (the) faith.

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