What do we mean by 'faith'?

There are as many kinds of religious faith as there are different religions. In fact, there are many more because within each religion people emphasize different aspects of their faith. Outside mainstream religions, people cling to faith in pseudo-religious beliefs such as astrology, faith healing, and various other superstitions.
Some western Christians compare faith in God to the many kinds of faith we use in our everyday life. We show faith in an airline pilot when we place our life in his or her hands; we show faith in the surgeon when we undergo an operation; we show faith in the teachers who care for and educate us.These forms of faith appear quite reasonable because pilots, doctors and teachers all undergo extensive training. This is true, but does it make our faith in them reasonable? Have we personally checked the competence of these people or are we relying on faith that they are qualified and still competent to perform these vital jobs? The number of medical blunders and aircraft accidents caused by incompetence might cause us to reconsider this. Nonetheless, this argument is a shallow one and cannot be used to explain faith in God with any real chance of success. 

In the examples we discussed above, faith is exercised in the hope of some physical or worldly benefit. Orthodox Christian faith in God is unlike these examples, not because of its weakness but because of its uniqueness. We trust in God and have faith in Him in the hope of an eternal reward; we demonstrate this faith in God by love for our neighbour. Faith in God is not simply a mental decision that we can proclaim and then forget about. Christ Himself said: ‘If ye love Me, keep My commandments’ (John 14:15). A faith in God without performing the commandments of God is a dead faith. We are not Christians if we only say that we believe in God. Neither are we Christians if we simply perform good works without the right faith. 

At different times in our life, our Orthodox faith will be stronger or weaker. Our faith needs to be strengthened by prayer, fasting, reading about Orthodoxy and above all by repentance. The biggest danger to our faith is modern life itself, and our pursuit of earthly happiness through greed and selfishness.


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