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Faith and Belief - Ellul

Faith and Belief - Ellul

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Published by sumajorko484
Belief is not the same as faith. In this insightful article Ellul helps us to understand the vital difference.
Belief is not the same as faith. In this insightful article Ellul helps us to understand the vital difference.

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Published by: sumajorko484 on Jan 21, 2011
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An extended excerpt from the book, Living Faith, by Jacques EllulThis synopsized excerpt is from copyrighted material whichhas been duly cited, and we recommend that you purchasethis book to read it in its entirety. Note bibliographicalinformation at end of article.------------------------------------------------------------
Out of the single verb "to believe" come noun forms for tworadically antithetical actions: belief and faith. However,when I wish to use a verb form to give expression to myfaith, I still have to use "to believe," unless I happen touse an even worse formula, "to have faith."Belief provides answers to people's questions while faithnever does. People believe so as to find assurance, asolution, an answer to their questions to fashion forthemselves a system of beliefs. Faith (biblical faith) iscompletely different. The purpose of revelation is not tosupply us with explanations, but to get us to listen toquestions.Faith is, as Barth so often reminds us, in the firstinstance, hearing. Belief talks and talks, it wallows inwords, it interpolates the gods, it takes the initiative.Faith takes an entirely opposite stance: it waits, remainson guard, picks up signs, knows what to make of the mostdelicate parables; it listens patiently to the silence untilthat silence is filled up with what it takes to be the
indisputable word of God.Faith isolates; belief (Christian or otherwise) brings together.We find ourselves joined with others in the same institutionalcurrent, all of us oriented toward the same object of belief,sharing the same ideas, following the same rituals, enrolledin the same organization, be it social or religious, speakingthe same language. Belief is quite useful for the smoothfunctioning of society. Belief is the key to the consensus welook for, the one long proclaimed essential of communal life.Faith works in exactly the opposite way. Faith individualizes;it is always an exclusively personal matter. Faith is thepersonal relationship with a God who reveals Himself as aperson. This God singularizes people, sets them apart, andconfers on each an identity comparable to none other. Theperson who listens to His word is the only one to hear it; he orshe is separated from the others, becomes unique, simplybecause the tie that binds that individual to God is unique,unlike any other, incommunicable, a unique relationship witha unique, absolutely incomparable God. God particularizes,singularizes the person to whom He says, "I call you by yourname" (Isa. 45:4). Faith separates people and makes each of them unique. In the Bible "holy" means "separated". To beholy is to be separated from everyone else, to be madeunique for the sake of a task that can be accomplished by noone else, which one receives through faith.Faith presupposes doubt while belief excludes it. Theopposite of doubt isn't faith, but belief. The "knights" of belief comply unfailingly with the law and the commandments. They are unbending in their convictions, intolerant of anydeviation. In the articulation of belief they press rigor andabsolutism to their limits. They unceasingly refine theexpression of their belief and seek to give it explicitintellectual formulation in a system as coherent and completeas possible. They insist on total orthodoxy. Ways of thinkingand acting are rigidly codified. This leads to a very high level
of efficiency; the believer is a person who gets the job done,but all this activity is hollow at the core. Believers have solittle internal reality of their own that they can live andexpress that reality only by and in a conventional establishedunit. They are the people of gatherings. Believers findencouragement and certitude in the presence of others ? thecertitude that those others really believe ? and so communitylife fills up the existential void. Multiplying the number of liturgies, commitments, and activities gives believerscomplete satisfaction ? in the midst of them they have noneed of questioning the truth or reality of their belief; activitykeeps them busy. But in this situation you can imagine howintolerable the diversity of beliefs becomes. There must beneither doubt nor uncertainty, for that would be radicallydestructive. So diversity cannot be tolerated. Diversity isalways a source of further questions, of self-criticism, andthus of possible doubt ? so belief is rapidly transformed intopasswords, rites, and orthodoxy.Faith is summarized in the words, "I believe; help myunbelief" (Mark 9:24). Faith constrains me above all tomeasure how much I don't live by faith; how seldom faithfills up my life. Faith puts to the test every element of mylife and society; it spares nothing. It leads me ineluctablyto question all my certitudes, all my moralities, beliefs,and policies. It forbids me to attach ultimate significanceto any expression of human activity. It detaches anddelivers me from money and the family, from my job and myknowledge. It is the surest road to realizing that "the onlything I know is that I don't know anything." Faith leavesnothing intact. The only thing faith can bring me torecognize is my impotence, in incapacity, my inadequacy, myincompleteness, and consequently my incredulity (naturallyfaith is the most unerring and lethal weapon against allbeliefs).Belief is reassuring. People who live in the world of belief 

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