Professor of Theology and Human Development at Emery University, Author
Faith is people’s evolved and evolving ways of experiencing self, others and world (as they construct them) as related to and affected by the ultimate conditions of existence (as they construct them) and of shaping their lives’ purposes and meaning, trusts and loyalties, in light of the character of being, value and power determining the ultimate conditions of existence (as grasped in their operative images – conscious and unconscious of them).
Faith, as imagination, grasps the ultimate conditions of our existence, unifying them into a comprehensive image in light of which we shape our responses and initiatives, our actions… Faith, then, is an active mode of knowing, of composing a felt sense or image of the condition of our lives taken as a whole. It unifies our lives’ force fields.
Most often faith is understood as belief in certain propositional, doctrinal formulations that in some essential ands static way are supposed to “contain” truth. But if faith is relational, a pledging of trust and fidelity to another, and a way of moving into the force field of life trusting in dynamic center of value and power, then the “truth” of faith takes on a different quality. Truth is lived: it is a pattern of being in relation to others and to God. In this light, doctrines and creeds come to be seen as playing a different though still crucial role. Rather than being the repositories of truth, like treasure chests to be honored and assented to, they becomes guides for the construction of contemporary ways of seeing and being.
Religious faith must link us to communities of shared memory and shared hope with which we can join in symbolizing our human condition and in enacting the visions that can animate give new life. Religious faith cannot be reduced to the ethical or to the merely utilitarian. But, as part of this larger and indispensable contribution that religious faith can provide to making and keeping life human, it needs also to be held accountable for the renewal and extension of a universal covenant with being. It needs to be held accountable for its broader contribution to good faith on earth.