When is Faith Real


#1

“Faith is real only when it is not one-sided but reciprocal. Man can rely on God, if God can rely on man. To have faith means to justify God’s faith in man. Faith is awareness of divine mutuality and companionship, a form of communion between God and man.”

  • A.J. Heschel

#2

This fits my faith system.


#3

How do we know when we have a reciprocal relationship with God? How is it demonstrated or manifested? By regular prayer? By doing what is right despite trembling anxiety and fear? How do we know when we are not just having a one-sided relationship with God despite the fact that we may talk to Him often? When I “walked among” Protestants, I often heard discussion about “real” faith versus a “said” faith and wanted to clear up my understanding now that I am Catholic. I think I understand the Protestant comparison as one of pronouncement but lacking prayer and obedience. But I want to go a step further than that and find out if Catholic/Christian theological intellectualism can usurp real faith without our realization. The answer may be far simpler than I make it seem here, but it’s worth discussing, however briefly. Especially in light of Mother Teresa’s “dark night of the soul” experience, how can we as Catholics/Christians assure ourselves that our bouts of spiritual dryness is faith and not… something else?


#4

I think that people live what they believe, what they truly believe. Sometimes people profess what they think they believe, wish they believe, think they should believe, etc. But how we actually live…that is what we believe, what we truly have our faith and source and hope in.

Prayer can take many forms…a set of familiar words, a song, attention to detail, willingness to work hard, willingness not to submit to injustice or participate in dishonesty…etc. Well, I guess it can take almost any form and relates to the point above.

If our whole lives can be a prayer…what are /whom are we praying to by living as we do? What is it we have faith in?

I really think it shows in a life.


#5

Faith for me, faith that God will never fail us. I consent and allow Him His right to train me as the loving Father that He is. That to me is ‘faith’. Good or bad, I know my loving Father will bring me through. In that way, every experience is a living faith experience as I do not know what wonders are about to befall me.

I think that faith is not a life extra that one can pick up and put down. Faith is a living dynamic part of our Spirit and an integral part of who we are. What we believe determines what we do and what we do determines who we are. So we can be fully understood by our faith.

The corollary: what we do should also mirror what we believe and others should be able to observe us and give glory to God.

While we can have conscious experience of our faith and how it impacts on our life, I am not sure that we are entirely conscious of our faith since it is so ingrained and part of us. But our faith should be transparent to others by what we say and what we do and how we respond, moreover ‘how much we love’.

But I can fail my faith by failing to bring love into a situation.Then I not only fail my faith but offend God, and all of His creation.


#6

I understand from the posts that faith is lived and what we believe is made manifest in our actions, but let’s say that I’m an atheist or agnostic who believes that I should respect all mankind out of humanistic love of creation and creatures and a desire to see the environment preserved and functional. Where does my faith lie? Is it with God? What if I never utter a prayer towards God because I don’t believe in Him? My behavior manifests a certain “holiness” but what can be said about my faith? Is prayer an essential component of faith?

And then, how do you understand the difference between faith and trust in God? Are they the same with some slight nuances? Are both necessary for salvation? How do we know if we have the one but struggle with the other?

I myself have been battling with the notion of tithing. I feel too poor to tithe my 10% because I have a few bills that need to be paid and the money runs out fast. I think of the widow’s mite, and I want to put my full 10% (or more!) in the collection basket but then something holds me back… “I won’t have enough for gas a couple of days from now if I give this $20 away,” and the concern is real. I suppose I don’t trust in the impracticality of tithing what I will need next week; modern-day financial miracles are not plentiful and I just don’t see money coming back to me unless I work for it.

Am I lacking a desired level of trust? Or am I being practical, realistic? What’s your take?


#7

I don’t believe that trusting in God to replenish your gas money has anything to do with faith. I"m not trying to belittle your very real problem of desiring to help others and fear of not having enough to help yourself. Judaism recognizes that to give charity to the point where one is unable to support themselves, or their children and spouse, is impractical.

While I don’t believe this is a question of faith, may I suggest that you look into doing something to help others that does not involve tithing? Meals on Wheels, teaching children to read, etc.? It will most likely do wonders for how you view the world and yourself.


#8

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. HEBREWS 11:1

Valke, I know that this isn’t considered Sacred Scripture by Jews. But if you get a chance read Hebrews Chapter 11, it is one of my favorite chapters in the New Testament.

Now if the author is speaking truthfully and we accept that God is omnipotent; how can it then be that faith is only possible with God being reliant on man? A being that knows all is reliant on none other than Himself. For God to be reliant upon man makes Him not God.


#9

Thank you for your response, although it is somewhat confusing and takes my concerns in a direction I’m not wanting to go. I already give time, talent, and treasures to the Church and other charities and give real aid to neighbors, friends, and family when they have need.

I’m not sure what you mean, however, when you say that you don’t believe this is a question of faith. If it is not, what is it? My concern is not about putting gas in my car. The concern lies in how we balance faith and trust with our actions. How do we know when we are acting in faith or relying our own strength? How do we know when our faith is real? How do we know when we truly trust God and not our insurance agents. If you’re interested in responding to this topic, please reread my original post.


#10

Well, you can have faith in things other than the Christian God, but they may play out in similar ways. (responding to the first part of your post) People might act in an eviornmentally conscious way because they believe that God made humans the stewards of the earth. Another may act in an eviornmentally conscious way because they believe that we are subject to the laws and workings of nature and to act otherwise endangers the health of the ecosystem that we and our kids and grandkids depend upon. Both are acting on faith, but faith in different things.

Likewise with tithing…some tithe because they have faith that no matter what, if they do so, God will provide, or even increase their income to meet their needs. Others tithe because they have faith that if they do not, God will punish them…now or in the after life. Others do not tithe unless they feel they can afford to, because they believe that God expects them to pay their bills first.

In the end…people live what they have faith in, but faith is not always about God or religion, people have faith in all manner of things…in Nature, themselves, good fairies, bad luck, etc, etc.


#11

I know this was aimed at Valke2, but I hope you don’t mind if I add my comments.

I do think it is a matter of faith, but a faith more broad than whether or not one submits to the teachings of their religion. You may believe/have faith that tithing is a good thing and the right thing to do, but if you do not have faith that God will make sure your needs are met, you may choose not to tithe.

Faith is always real, and we all have it, but we have it in different things. You may have faith that God will NOT step in and make sure you meet your bills, that may be why you do not tithe. Maybe the God you have come to know does not strike you as one who will miraculously meet your needs when you choose to give your money to charity/church. Or maybe your faith is that 10% can be paid through other means than writing a check…such as volunteering, etc. You already are living your faith.

Some people understand God to work through their insurance agents, that God provided society with such things as a means to take care of ourselves. Others feel that such shows we lack faith in God to provide.

Different interpretations of the same things depending on how a person understands God and life.


#12

Exactly, and to narrow the focus, for people whose aim it is to seek and follow Christ, how are they to know if their faith or trust in God falls short? How can we tell when we have become too reliant on material, or even on others?

What is the difference between faith and trust in God? I would really like that question tackled. What does trust look like? Speaking hypothetically, if I grow up in an environment of abuse or neglect and do not learn trust, how do I know what trust in God (whom I cannot see), or even man (whom I do not trust), looks like?


#13

Martin Buber tackles this issue in his book “Two Types of Faith”. He delineates the “faith” of the Christian tradition (which requires a belief in Jesus as God/Savior/Messiah) with the concept of emunah (trust) in God that he believes Jesus was really advocating. When one has true emunah, even death is seen as a blessing.

It has been a long time since I have read that book by Buber but the Jewish emunah concept reminds me of Caussade’s Abandonment to Divine Providence. Perhaps both of these will help you research this issue Jules.


#14

I’ve been exploring exactly that question in depth this past year. I did grow up in such a family, and indeed, I have ended up a pantheist, no “God” to rely on…just What Is. That is the coping mechanism that worked to keep me alive as a child.

No amount of prayer, sacrafice, promises made to God did anything to change my situation. The lesson I learned is that no one is going to bail me out of anything, that bad things will happen, that I am part of a larger system that runs by rules I have no control over.

Now…that system, as a whole is awesome and magnificent, even if my corner is sometimes horrific…But the idea of a loving god who cares for me personally and that I am supposed to trust? I think not. If “God” is father…I guess that means he is gone all the time, provides sustenance but little else.

I have no response to your question reguarding how one who believes in the Christian God knows when they are putting their trust in the right place.

Pantheism is all about trust…ultimate trust in What Is. But there is no report card. If I practice awareness and acknowledgment…I am rewarded with a greater sense of connectedness and awe and gratitude. If I do not…the only person I hurt is myself. What Is, doesn’t punish me for my inability or unwillingness to face the truth, except through natural consequences. If I don’t go to the party, I don’t have any of the fun.

I once said that I held a certain religious faith…but lived something else. One day…I decided to acknowledge what I truly believed and lived, now what I wished I could believe and live. I came to terms with the faith I had.

I think that is a wise step for anyone to take. To first be honest with themselves about what they truly believe, and then…it’s possible to work on making any changes, growth, etc in faith, but a person can’t do that when they are not honest, or are truly unaware of what they believe.

I don’t think people are usually trying to be dishonest…I think many really think they believe what they profess with their mouths, even if their lives run very counter to that.

A good question to ask is…what would my life look like if I really believed that were true?

I use that one a great deal, and it has transformed my life.

It isn’t about feeling…sometimes I have to force myself to act a certain way…to try a desired faith out in my life and see how it plays. Sometimes it is merely having to overcome a habit, and create a new one.

Spiritual discipline is a worthwhile investment…no matter what faith one holds.

cheddar


#15

Peregrino, thank you for what sounds like a great resource, Two Types of Faith. I will definitely get ahold of the book if it is still in circulation. It sounds like what I’m looking for as I feel a need to examine what is my level of trust in God.

Cheddarsox, as I mentioned earlier, I was speaking hypothetically, but like you, I too come from a background of emotional abuse and I struggle with trusting anyone more than superficially, and of course, it goes without saying that I am not sure what trust looks like, especially from a spiritual perspective. How does one reconcile the lack of control over others and the harm they may cause, and control over our own fragile self/ego with faith and trust in God knowing that others will, inadvertently or intentionally, cause us harm by their actions (i.e., a spouse’s adultery, a child’s experimentation with illicit drugs, a mother’s slanderous words against us). How do you muster the courage to trust when you don’t know how to put aside distrust? Can trust in God – whom we have not seen – exist when we cannot trust others – let alone ourselves – whom we see?

The suffering you endured in the past has given you a depth of wisdom that you would not have otherwise; that is one of the many blessings that come out of suffering. Your journey toward deeper faith and understanding of God’s providence is not over yet. The last page hasn’t been turned. The fact that you have any faith at all is testimony to the Holy Spirit’s action in your life. Keep persevering as you have. I commend you for your strength and honesty.


#16

Originally Posted by Valke2
I don’t believe that trusting in God to replenish your gas money has anything to do with faith. I"m not trying to belittle your very real problem of desiring to help others and fear of not having enough to help yourself. Judaism recognizes that to give charity to the point where one is unable to support themselves, or their children and spouse, is impractical.

But if one feels compelled to do it out of love, then I believe that God will provide. But we must also be fortuitous and hold back some to meet our responsibilities to others who are relying on our support.


#17

I have to admit I have never read Hebrews. I’ll take your advice and read Chapter 11 today.

When speaking of or about God, there has to be an element of paradox involved, to the extent that we are finite beings communicating with or about an infinite being. In one sense, you are right. How can a God that encompasses and is greater then reality and/or everything, need anything? But the original Heschel quote is conveying a message we have a responsibilty to behave in a way that makes us holy to God. We can’t just have faith that God will deliver for us if we are unwilling to deliver for God.


#18

I also believe God will provide. Sometimes He provides for what we need, rather than what we desire. So if you don’t have gas money, maybe God is telling you that you need to walk more :).


#19

[quote=Valke2]When speaking of or about God, there has to be an element of paradox involved, to the extent that we are finite beings communicating with or about an infinite being. In one sense, you are right. How can a God that encompasses and is greater then reality and/or everything, need anything? But the original Heschel quote is conveying a message we have a responsibilty to behave in a way that makes us holy to God. We can’t just have faith that God will deliver for us if we are unwilling to deliver for God.
[/quote]

Indeed when ever one opines about the Divine there has to be a bit of poetry involved (because if not you get some seriously dry and boring stuff. Ever read Aquinas? Oy vey …)

This quote kind of ties into a discussion we had (we being some students, a theology professor and myself) as to God’s being immutable or not. Christian ideology says rather staunchly that He is immutable. But we were arguing with Mr. Professor man that is God is truly immutable then hwo do we explain Hezekiah and his praying to God and receiving 15 more years of life? How do we explain forgiveness? How do we explain the growing of the Kingdom of God (in Christian sense here)? When I read the OP quote I remembered those discussions.

Oh, why do we have to work? Why can’t we sit under shade trees and argue theology all day? Money stinks!


#20

In response to your last statement, :amen: I want to spend all day in worship and discussion too! But it would probably contribute to an increase in catatonic patients in hospital.

Without diverging too much from the thread topic on faith, can you recommend the book you read on God’s (im)mutability? Better yet, can you recommend a website that might give a broad overview on the topic?

Thanks, and have a blessed, studious day! :coffeeread:


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