- To trust:
- To believe without reason:
- Believing impulsively, or believing based upon personal hopes
Epistemological validity of faith
There exists a wide spectrum of opinion with respect to the epistemological validity of faith. On one extreme is logical positivism, which denies the validity of any beliefs held by faith; on the other extreme is fideism, which holds that true belief can only arise from faith, because reason and evidence cannot lead to truth. Some foundationalists, such as St. Augustine of Hippo and Alvin Plantinga, hold that all of our beliefs rest ultimately on beliefs accepted by faith. Others, such as C.S. Lewis, hold that faith is merely the virtue by which we hold to our reasoned ideas, despite moods to the contrary.
In Christian theology, fideism is any of several belief systems which hold, on various grounds, that reason is irrelevant to religious faith. According to some versions of fideism, reason is the antithesis of faith; according to others, faith is prior to or beyond reason, and therefore is unable to be proven or disproven by it.
The word is also occasionally used to refer to the Protestant belief that Christians are saved by faith alone: for which see solā fide. This position is sometimes called solifidianism.
Faith as the basis for human knowledge
Many noted philosophers and theologians have espoused the idea that faith is the basis of all knowledge. One example is St. Augustine of Hippo. Known as one of his key contributions to philosophy, the idea of "faith seeking understanding" was set forth by St. Augustine in his statement "Crede, ut intelligas" ("Believe in order that you may understand"). This statement extends beyond the sphere of religion to encompass the totality of knowledge. In essence, faith must be present in order to know anything. In other words, one must assume, believe, or have faith in the credibility of a person, place, thing, or idea in order to have a basis for knowledge.
One illustration of this concept is in the development of knowledge in children. A child typically holds parental teaching as credible, in spite of the child's lack of sufficient research to establish such credibility empirically. That parental teaching, however fallible, becomes a foundation upon which future knowledge is built. The child’s faith in his/her parents teaching is based on a belief in their credibility. Unless/until the child’s belief in their parents’ credibility is superseded by a stronger belief, the parental teaching will serve as a filter through which other teaching must be processed and/or evaluated. Following this line of reasoning, and assuming that children have finite or limited empirical knowledge at birth, it follows that faith is the fundamental basis of all knowledge one has. Even adults attribute the basis for some of their knowledge to so called "authorities" in a given field of study. This is true because one simply does not have the time or resources to evaluate all of his/her knowledge empirically and exhaustively. "Faith" is used instead.
However, a child's parents are not infallible. Some of what the child learns from them will be wrong, and some will be rejected. It is rational (albeit at a perhaps instinctive level) for the child to trust the parents in the absence of other sources of information, but it is also irrational to cling rigidly to everything one was originally taught in the face of countervailing evidence. Parental instruction may be the historical foundation of future knowledge, but that does not necessarily make it a structural foundation.
It is sometimes argued that even scientific knowledge is dependent on 'faith' - for example, faith that the researcher responsible for an empirical conclusion is competent, and honest. Indeed, distinguished chemist and philosopher Michael Polanyi argued that scientific discovery begins with a scientist's faith that an unknown discovery is possible. Scientific discovery thus requires a passionate commitment to a result that is unknowable at the outset. Polanyi argued that the scientific method is not an objective method removed from man's passion. On the contrary, scientific progress depends primarily on the unique capability of free man to notice and investigate patterns and connections, and on the individual scientist's willingness to commit time and resources to such investigation, which usually must begin before the truth is known or the benefits of the discovery are imagined, let alone understood fully. It could then be argued that until one possesses all knowledge in totality, one will need faith in order to believe an understanding to be correct or incorrect in total affirmation.
Again, scientific faith is not dogmatic. Whilst the scientist must make presuppositions in order to get the enterprise under way, almost everything (according to some thinkers, such as Quine, literally everything) is revisable and discardable.
Faith as commitment
Sometimes, faith means a belief in a relationship with a deity. In this case, "faith" is used in the sense of "fidelity." For many Jews, the Hebrew Bible and Talmud depict a committed but contentious relationship between their God and the Children of Israel. For a lot of people, faith or the lack thereof, is an important part of their [identity]], for example a person who identifies himself or herself as a Muslim or a skeptic.
"Saving faith has its birth in the human heart when the moral consciousness of man realizes that human values may be translated in mortal experience from the material to the spiritual, from the human to the divine, from time to eternity."