A Discussion on Faith
Brian Clemmons, M.Ed., LPC
There was a popular 80’s song that had faith as a tagline. The chorus went something like: “ cause’ you gotta’ have faith,… faith,…. faith”. Truer words were never spoken.
Hebrews 11:1 reminds us that “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”. Being assured that something we hope for is true and/or will happen allows us to live with confidence. Being convicted that things we cannot see are in fact there, and true , can give us much comfort. Faith can be interpreted as confidence, assurance and belief.
Faithfacts.org describes faith as having three separate components; first knowledge, then agreement, and lastly trust. In order to have faith in something, we must have some knowledge of it. Thankfully, we do not have to be physicians to know that antibiotics can cure infection. So it is enough to know that “people in the know” say they work and that many sick people have been cured by antibiotics. Agreeing with this knowledge is a natural next step. Perhaps the most difficult part is the trust; trust that the medicine will work, trust that our spouse will remain faithful, or trust that we will go to Heaven after having a salvation experience.
Wikipedia offers a non-religious exploration of the stages of faith based on James W. Fowler’s theory of faith development. Fowler describes faith as trusting, relating, and committing to the world based on a set of beliefs of how we each are related to the world and others around us.
Fowler’s Stages of Faith:
- Intuitive-projective: A stage of confusion and of high impressionability through which we understand faith through stories and rituals. This is generally a preschool period.
- Mythic-literal: A stage where information given to us is accepted at face value so that we may conform to society’s expectations of us. This happens during the school years.
- Synthetic-conventional: In this stage, acquired faith is made solid in the belief system by forgoing individual beliefs in favor of authorities beliefs that represent one’s belief systems. Typically, this occurs during late adolescence.
- Individuative-reflective: It is here that we critically analyze adopted and accepted faith with existing systems of faith. We tend to either become disillusioned or strengthened in our faith based on this analysis. This is our early adulthood stage.
- Conjunctive faith: Here we recognize the limits of logic and accept the great mystery of life. We often return to the stories and symbols of our initial understanding of faith. Mid life is where we reach this stage.
- Lastly, Universalizing faith: Here Fowler describes us as becoming enlightened. It is not a stage all attain; and is considered not even fully attainable by all. To reach this point, we must emerge from all the existing systems of faith and live our lives with the universal principles of compassion and love for others, and in service to lift up those around us. We would be doing this without worries or doubt. If we get to this point, it would be middle to late adulthood, according to Fowler.
Having faith begets expectation; that is, we believe something will happen and we are not surprised when it does. This is a common and helpful aspect of seeking therapy. We secure an appointment with a reputable provider, we engage in therapy, we follow along with the process and whatever is asked of us, and we expect to improve. And often we do. Clearly, our faith in the process must increase the chances of success in therapy.
A New Testament example of this is found in Matthew 9:27-30. When the two blind men approached Jesus and asked Him for healing, Jesus replied: “ Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They replied “Yes, Lord!” At this time He touched their eyes and said “According to your faith let it be to you.” And then they could see!
Real faith is more than just believing in God. It involves acting on our faith in our lives each day by service to God and keeping His commands. In the Old Testament, we have the example of Abraham. In James 2:21-22: “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?’ So believing is part of faith but living our faith involves also acting on what we believe. James admonishes us in James 2:19-20: “…faith without works is dead”.
We will all increase our faith by prayer and the study of the Bible. As we read, hear and witness examples of faith, our faith will also increase. We demonstrate our faith by serving God and obeying Him.
Having faith is an important coping mechanism that allows us to manage life on a daily basis. If we doubted and worried about every detail of our everyday lives, it would be almost unbearable. True, sometimes things don’t work out as we expect them to. But mostly, they do. Faith is an important part of the human experience and it is something we can strengthen by our actions and beliefs. And we will be better and more happy for it. “Cause you gotta have faith!