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Borg on the three meanings of “faith”

I’ve taken these three points, quotes, and ideas from a poignant sermon by Marcus Borg. It’s on the meanings of the word “faith,” and what the differences between these three conceptions mean for the Christian life.

Definitions of Faith

  1. Assent (or assensus): Faith as believing that something is true.
    • It’s opposite is doubt or disbelief.
  2. Fidelity (or fidelitas): Faith as commitment.
    • It’s opposite is adultery.
  3. Fiducia (or fiduciary): Faith as trust.
    • It’s opposite is anxiety.

Believe as Belove

“I’ve already mentioned that for many modern people, “belief” means believing something to be true, though there are reasons to think otherwise. If you go back to the English language before the Enlightenment, Shakespeare and before, the word “believe” invariably means “love.” You see this in the Middle English word believen. That is where you get the modern English word “believe.” Believen means to belove, so that ultimately, what you believe really means what you belove.”

A Quick Thought

What’s a stronger expression of faith than obedience amidst doubt? Even stronger, I think, than obedience amidst certainty. Because certainty is not something won or achieved, but something granted by nature (or God).

Also, I think of William Cowper—a tortured man who seemed unduly obsessed with Christian assensus (and his failure, ultimately, to assent). I highly recommend David Cecil’s biography of Cowper. He was an obedient man, anxious though he was. In this context, he had intense fidelitas to God.

By Nick Freiling

Founder/CEO of PeopleFish. I write on technology, market research and economics. Bylines at Startup Grind, FEE, the American Enterprise Institute and the Mises Institute.

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