What is faith, in Christianity? In some precious discussions with a
friend, we found out that there are at least two positions. See if you
can agree:

certain faith
The certain faith of fundamentalists is the human work of
accepting some content as the truth.
hoping faith
The hoping faith of non-fundamentalists is an unproven but
justifiable hope that some content is true. Justifiable means that it
remained after considering in all incertainties, difficulties and
objections.

Both definitions apply to all kinds of believers: Christians,
Marxists, evolutionists, etc..

Practical differences

In Christianity, certain and hoping faith show at least these key
differences in practical living:

  • Dealing with facts and arguments.
    For certain faith, being convinced is the work which a fundamentalist
    believer does. He is stronger convinced of the believed content than he
    can justify by facts and arguments; he even needs no facts and
    arguments at all to perform the work of being convinced. So, either he
    is not interested in facts and arguments at all, or he builds tools
    from them to express his convictions. But he does not allow the facts
    and arguments to affect his faith. On the other hand, with a hoping
    faith you are interested in facts and arguments, you believe “for sure”
    what is provable from them, and believe “as a hope” what you can
    justifiably extrapolate.
  • Salvation by grace, or by grace
    and the work of faith?
    Fundamentalists think that faith is the
    “only necessary work” man has to add in order to be justified without
    works. They would not verbalize it that explicitly, but it may be seen
    from their insecurity when discussing what faith is, if not a work.
    Non-fundamentalists think that their faith is no work but the
    acceptance of the work of Jesus Christ, which is justification by grace
    alone. As faith is not esteemed a work, it needs no quality: even the
    philosophically justifiable conviction that Jesus is the Christ if
    there is any God at all
    is saving faith. To fundamentalists
    however, such a conviction is no faith at all: for them, only a certain
    conviction of all the Bible says is faith. Fundamentalists have a
    work-based faith, as faith is a work for them; so they have the same
    burden as every other believer with a work-based faith: salvation has
    to be achieved by good human performance, here by believing in a most
    straight and certain way.
  • Cultivating strenghth or
    weakness.
    In
    fundamentalist faith, being convinced is a human activity, and
    salvation depends on it. So for the sake of your eternal life, you are
    not allowed to be weak here. This cultivated strength results in
    hypocrisy, because people will hide doubts from themselves and
    others. And this cultivated strength extends to other areas, generating
    the idea that holiness must be and can be achieved by human strenght.
    The result is people and churches which pretend strength and hide
    weakness, to be spiritual. On the other hand, hoping faith communicates
    doubts and difficulties and does not fear them: as a justifiable hope,
    it will stand as long as there is a reason to hope. The content of both
    certain and hoping faith is that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah of
    this wrecked human race. But only in a faith that needs no own strength
    (i.e. hoping faith), the conception of one’s own wreckedness finds room
    and can grow, resulting in cultivating the admission of weakness. Which
    generates authentic, compassionate people and churches.
  • Strong and weak interpretation
    of the Bible.
    People with a certain faith are certain what they
    believe and that it is true. From this flows a strength-demonstrating,
    knowing interpretation of the Bible, not leaving any questions. On the
    other side, people with a hoping faith might admit that they don’t know
    what many passages of the Bible mean.
  • Trusting oneself or something
    external.
    Certain faith does not need the believed reality to
    exist: it relies only on the ability of the believing person to
    believe. On the contrary, hoping faith trusts not in any own ability
    but in the existence of a real God. Therefore it is interested in God’s
    power and help and can acknowledges one’s own weakness and wreckedness.
    Hoping faith leans on God and trusts God, while certain faith leans on
    oneself and trusts oneself. This is the practical difference of
    “faith’s perspective”, apart from the question how faith is justified.

Which faith is the Christian one

I want to invite you to think about the question whether the
Christian faith is intended to be certain or hoping … you are invited
to discuss it with me here, also. You’ll have noticed that I couldn’t
conceal my opinion in what you’ve read so far. Now I will reveal the
way I came to this opinion. Grown up with the “certain faith paradigm”
(though far ess extreme as pictured above), I couldn’t bear the
unjustiied certainty of my faith. But I though that my faith had to be
that certain and that my salvation depends on such a faith.

Now, the honest consequence of a certain but unjustified faith is to
search for justification. Which means, I needed the scientific-style
proof that Jesus is the Christ, i.e., God’s promised saviour of
mankind. I thought to prove that by contemporary miracles which happen
“in the name of Jesus Christ” and called the project which collects
such miracles “Second Acts”. I intended to execute this project during
a world tour of several years … .

I need not to mention that this kind of faith was
at times a very stressing issue: seeing this certain faith as the key
to
salvation, I expected myself to believe “for certain” but was unwilling
or unable to do as long as the justification was missing. From these
negative consequences, and because salvation is absolutely “not by
works”, I conclude that the gospel of a “certain faith” is no good
message at all, i.e. cannot be the gospel. So Christian faith is hoping
faith.

Another confirming argument is how I arrived at a practical way of
coping with the lack of proofs for my faith, yet without knowing that
this was the transition from certain to hoping faith: in the dilemma of
believing for certain without prove, the two bad options are (1) to
think that you do not need proofs or (2) to generate fake proofs. The
real way out however was to hope that you will once have the proof for
your faith. Concretely, I hoped to find this prove by collecting
“Second Acts”.

This basically turned my faith from a certain one to a hoping one
(but yet with a temporary target and the illusionary idea that I will
arrive at an ultimately proven certain faith within life on this earth
by writing “Second Acts”). At the point of writing this, the current
situation is even better: I can cope with the lack of ultimate proof
until death, where I expect to come from “hoping to seeing”. This is
however no insecure hoping as if in doubt: hoping means that I think
and expect to be true what I believe. But not in a fundamentalist
manner which proclaims certainty beyond measure, rather with a unproven
but justifiable hope.

Now, the essence of hope is the wish to see the hoped-for reality
more and more, to get more and more proof. Which means that this
“Second Acts” project is still alive, but with other reasons behind: I
intend to do a world tour of several years to document proven
contemporary acts of God. There’s nothing more cool and precious than
to see what we hoped for, though this will be limited in this
world to the first few steps only. But anyway, it’s so cool and
precious! If anybody shares this same fascination, just tell me.
Perhaps some of you even like to join me on this world tour?

“For we were saved with this hope in mind.  Now hope that is
seen is
not really hope, for who hopes for what can be seen? But if we hope for
what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience.” [Romans
8:24-25 ISV]


Start date: 2007-10-08
Post date: 2007-10-08
Version date: 2007-10-08 (for last meaningful change)

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