Words are symbols, the meanings to which develop in each mind independently, varying as the result of brain structure and response to external circumstance.
Words which point to that which is not concrete, like "belief" and "faith", have to find their meaning by crossing the river of analogy at least twice. At that point "Webster" is of limited help: there must be hundreds of "Websters", inasmuch as the original Daniel Webster is no longer around to defend his trademark. That situation itself has its analogies in religious circumstance: neither Jesus nor St. Paul is around to fire the innumerable competing teams of lawyers claiming to represent them.
BELIEF: where I live, the word "belief" symbolizes a hypothesis which has not yet found the evidence which would either confirm it or refute it. It's rather in the same realm as opinion. It concerns stuff about which well-informed rational people could disagree. In Christianity, creeds are built around the stuff that requires human threats to enforce, because the universe does not testify on its behalf. The world of the Psalmist and the world of the Council of Nicea are two different and irreconcilable worlds. Jesus claimed the first world and never heard of the second one. St. Paul claimed the Greek world of philosophical mysteries, and would have been shocked to find out what he inadvertently gave rise to-- a Roman political party that kept imperialism in place for most of two millenia.
FAITH: where I live, faith is action in the face of uncertainty. It is the response to the vision. The wealthy are usually not very good at it, because they have arranged their lives about creating security prior to the confrontation with the undertaker. The poor lack that arrangement and have no choice but to live by faith. That in a nutshell is the reason for the early success of Pauline and Nazorean Christianity among the poor of the Greek world, and of Shin Buddhism in Japan. .......This very email is an act of faith. Nobody in their right mind would waste time on the proposition that the relief of someone else's suffering might be more important than the relief of my own, or that having come face to face with the terror and beauty and love of Reality myself, anyone else would want to live there.
KNOWING OF GOD'S PRESENCE: People know in different ways. Here's how I have known as far back as I can remember. ......As a toddler I was taught in some combination of Sunday School and at home, the following principles:
1. God created the world as good.
2. It's our job to keep it good, and not make it bad.
3. God sent his son Jesus into the world to teach us how to do this.
I don't remember the actual teaching, who said what: it happened at too young an age. What I remember is what I knew, and it has never failed me. No argument or convincing was ever necessary, because the whole thing was obvious on the face of, confirmed in everyday life. My understanding of the details is more sophisticated nowadays than it was when I was a toddler, but the underlying insight was the same then as now over 50 years later. It is in plain view, it is what I live, and there is nothing to believe in. Many have denied it and still do, but nobody has ever offered to refute it other than by arguing over the form the symbols took. Which of course is no refutation at all. Those three principles are things that Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and even atheists can agree on, once you account for the variations in the way the symbols are understood.
"In which we live and move and have our being": nothing left to believe in, only something to swim in.
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