“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
Belief and faith are words that tend to be used interchangeably in many religious circles, but I think of them differently. Belief is the holding of a mental proposition to be true. Faith is trusting in something or someone even without proof.
For me, belief comes from the head. Faith comes from the heart.
I’ve long believed that every choice is both a yes and a no. For everything that I say yes to, I am saying no to something else. Everything that I say no to is a yes to a different choice. It’s always a trade-off.
I tend to go against the cultural norm by saying no to a lot of things that other people say yes to, but in every case, it is because I am saying yes to something that is more valuable to me (even though it doesn’t fit the “norm”).
One of the (many) gifts I took away from my recent class in Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) was a renewed appreciation for the role that story plays in a life of faith. The Old Testament begins with long sections of story-telling. These stories are re-told and re-interpreted throughout the rest of the Old Testament books and into the New Testament. In fact, we still engage with those stories today both in traditional religious settings and in literature.
While there are ways that my religious upbringing has left some deep scars, one of the things that it did give me was a strong knowledge of these stories. Some of the stories are comforting, many are disturbing in one way or another, but all reflect the messiness of real life as it was then and as it still is today.
“Our ultimate freedom is the right and power to decide how anybody or anything outside ourselves will affect us.” ~Stephen Covey
I’ve been the recipient lately of an unusually (for me) large amount of positive feedback, and this has done wonders for my mood and my self-confidence over the last few months. However, this has also provided an opportunity for me to really observe how I react to feedback from other people, and I’ve discovered something very interesting.
I’ve been studying for my final exam in my Introduction to the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament class this weekend. One of the topics that I have been reviewing in preparation for the exam is the category of wisdom literature found in the Bible.
All wisdom literature is made up of human reflections on the meaning of life and how it works, but we find two kinds of wisdom literature in the Bible. One is proverbial wisdom, which comprises collections of short, pithy statements (and sometimes short stories) that is general good advice about how to live well. These proverbs often take a concrete example and generalize it to all of life. The problem is that life is rarely that simple, and there are many exceptions to these “rules” for living.
The second kind of wisdom literature is known as philosophical wisdom, and we find this type of wisdom literature in the books of Job and Ecclesiastes. Both of these books are asking and exploring a question about life. Ecclesiastes is asking about profit we get from life. What is the point of life beyond working to get our basic needs met? Job is asking whether there is ever such a thing as disinterested righteousness. Do we ever do good when there is no reward (or no perceived reward) for doing so?
I’m taking an Introduction to Hebrew Bible (a.k.a. Old Testament) class this semester, and it’s really fascinating stuff. As I’ve been preparing for my first exam (tomorrow! eek!) on the first five books of the Bible, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the role that the Bible plays in our understanding of our faith. Depending on how each of believes the text was originally written—its origin, the date it was produced, the intent of the author(s)—dictates the degree to which it should be taken literally, how we interpret its meaning, how we react to written texts of other faiths, and how we apply it to our lives today.
This week’s set of links are ones that I’ve recently come across that address some of these questions. Each one addresses a slightly different aspect of this question, but each one has provided additional food for thought as I’ve been pondering these things.
Someone asked me this question today in the context of a getting-to-know-you conversation, skipping right past all of the usual what-do-you-do, where-are-you-from, what-are-your-hobbies kind of questions right to this one. It made me stop and think.
What does define me? I don’t think anyone has ever asked me that before.