AskDefine | Define faith

Dictionary Definition



1 a strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny; "he lost his faith but not his morality" [syn: religion, religious belief]
2 complete confidence in a person or plan etc; "he cherished the faith of a good woman"; "the doctor-patient relationship is based on trust" [syn: trust]
3 institution to express belief in a divine power; "he was raised in the Baptist religion"; "a member of his own faith contradicted him" [syn: religion]
4 loyalty or allegiance to a cause or a person; "keep the faith"; "they broke faith with their investors"

User Contributed Dictionary

see Faith


Alternative spellings



From Middle English feith, from Old French feid, from Latin fides, faith, trust. Used in English since the 12th Century.


  1. Mental acceptance of and confidence in a claim as truth without proof supporting the claim.
    I have faith in a just and loving God.
  2. (Christian theology) Belief and trust in the Christian God's promises revealed through Christ in the New Testament.
    "Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld." (Hebrews 11:1)
  3. A feeling or belief, that something is true, real, or will happen.
    Have faith that the criminal justice system will avenge the murder.
  4. A trust in the intentions or abilities of a person or object.
    I have faith in the goodness of my fellow man.
  5. A system of religious belief.
    The Christian faith has been spread by proselytizing.
  6. An obligation of loyalty or fidelity.
  7. The observance of such an obligation.
    He acted in good faith to restore broken diplomatic ties after defeating the incumbent.



  • Albanian: besim, besë
  • Bosnian: vjera
  • Chinese: 信念 (trad. and simp.), pinyin xìnniàn
  • Czech: víra
  • Croatian: vjera
  • Danish: tro
  • Dutch: vertrouwen
  • Finnish: usko
  • Esperanto: fido
  • French: foi
  • German: Glaube
  • Greek: πίστη
  • Italian: fede
  • Japanese: 信頼 (しんらい, shinrai, trust), 信奉 (しんぽう, shinpō)
  • Korean: 믿음 (mideum)
  • Maltese: fidi
  • Polish: wiara
  • Portuguese: fé
  • Romanian: credinţă
  • Russian: вера
  • Scots: Gaelic creideamh , creideas
  • Serbian:
    Cyrillic: вера
    Roman: vera
  • Slovak: viera
  • Spanish: fe
  • Telugu: నమ్మకము, విశ్వాసము

Derived terms

Related terms

Extensive Definition

Faith is a belief in the trustworthiness of an idea that one has not proven formally or cannot prove formally. Formal usage of the word "faith" is largely reserved for concepts of religion, where it almost universally refers to a trusting belief in a transcendent reality (therefore spirituality and spiritual immortality), or else in a Supreme Being and their role as a guide for people moving into an experience of such reality.
Informal usage of the word "faith" can be quite broad, and may be used standardly in place of either as "trust," "belief," or "hope". For example, the word "faith" can refer to a religion itself or to religion in general. (For informal uses of the word "faith", see Faith (word)). As with "trust," faith involves a concept of future events or outcomes.

Epistemological validity of faith

There exists a wide spectrum of opinion with respect to the epistemological validity of faith. On one extreme is logical positivism, which denies the validity of any beliefs held by faith; on the other extreme is fideism, which holds that true belief can only arise from faith, because reason and evidence cannot lead to truth. Some foundationalists, such as St. Augustine of Hippo and Alvin Plantinga, hold that all of our beliefs rest ultimately on beliefs accepted by faith. Others, such as C. S. Lewis, hold that faith is merely the virtue by which we hold to our reasoned ideas, despite moods to the contrary.

Fideism and Pistisism

In Christian theology, fideism is any of several belief systems which hold, on various grounds, that reason is irrelevant to religious faith. According to some versions of fideism, reason is the antithesis of faith; according to others, faith is prior to or beyond reason, and therefore is unable to be proven or unproven by it.
The word is also occasionally used to refer to the Protestant belief that Christians are saved by faith alone: for which see sola fide. This position is sometimes called solifidianism and sol Pistisism.
Many noted philosophers and theologians have espoused the idea that faith is the basis of all knowledge. One example is St. Augustine of Hippo. Known as one of his key contributions to philosophy, the idea of "faith seeking understanding" was set forth by St. Augustine in his statement "Crede, ut intelligas" ("Believe in order that you may understand"). This statement extends beyond the sphere of religion to encompass the totality of knowledge. In essence, faith must be present in order to know anything. In other words, one must assume, believe, or have faith in the credibility of a person, place, thing, or idea in order to have a basis for knowledge.
One illustration of this concept is in the development of knowledge in children. A child typically holds parental teaching as credible, in spite of the child's lack of sufficient research to establish such credibility empirically. That parental teaching, however fallible, becomes a foundation upon which future knowledge is built. The child’s faith in his/her parents teaching is based on a belief in their credibility. Unless/until the child’s belief in their parents’ credibility is superseded by a stronger belief, the parental teaching will serve as a filter through which other teaching must be processed and/or evaluated. Following this line of reasoning, and assuming that children have finite or limited empirical knowledge at birth, it follows that faith is the fundamental basis of all knowledge one has. Even adults attribute the basis for some of their knowledge to so called "authorities" in a given field of study. This is true because one simply does not have the time or resources to evaluate all of his/her knowledge empirically and exhaustively. "Faith" is used instead. However, a child's parents are not infallible. Some of what the child learns from them will be wrong, and some will be rejected. It is rational (albeit at a perhaps instinctive level) for the child to trust the parents in the absence of other sources of information, but it is also irrational to cling rigidly to everything one was originally taught in the face of countervailing evidence. Parental instruction may be the historical foundation of future knowledge, but that does not necessarily make it a structural foundation.
It is sometimes argued that even scientific knowledge is dependent on 'faith' - for example, faith that the researcher responsible for an empirical conclusion is competent, and honest. Indeed, distinguished chemist and philosopher Michael Polanyi argued that scientific discovery begins with a scientist's faith that an unknown discovery is possible. Scientific discovery thus requires a passionate commitment to a result that is unknowable at the outset. Polanyi argued that the scientific method is not an objective method removed from man's passion. On the contrary, scientific progress depends primarily on the unique capability of free man to notice and investigate patterns and connections, and on the individual scientist's willingness to commit time and resources to such investigation, which usually must begin before the truth is known or the benefits of the discovery are imagined, let alone understood fully. It could then be argued that until one possesses all knowledge in totality, one will need faith in order to believe an understanding to be correct or incorrect in total affirmation. Again, scientific faith is not dogmatic. While the scientist must make presuppositions in order to get the enterprise under way, almost everything (according to some thinkers, such as Quine, literally everything) is revisable and discardable. In conclusion faith is trust.

Faith as commitment

Sometimes, faith means a belief in a relationship with a deity. In this case, "faith" is used in the sense of "fidelity." For many Jews, the Hebrew Bible and Talmud depict a committed but contentious relationship between their God and the Children of Israel. For a lot of people, faith or the lack thereof, is an important part of their identity, for example a person who identifies himself or herself as a Muslim or a skeptic.

Faith in world religions


The Biblical understanding of faith has many contextual applications. However, one of the most prominent definitions is found in Epistle to the Hebrews 11:1 which states, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." In other words, faith is the "evidence" of what Christians "know" to be true within their own hearts that has been revealed to them by God.

The Faith of Abraham

Abraham heard God before he believed in God. In Genesis 12:1 Abraham is commanded to leave his country, his relatives and his fathers house, and go to a land that God was to personally show him. This points to another aspect of faith: Once God speaks to you and you believe in Him you will be immediately called out of the world into His kingdom. Faith brings a separation because it is Holy and the life of faith can only be lived with those that are holy; therefore, God will demand that you leave behind the works of darkness.
Abraham's faith is used by the Apostle Paul, in Epistle to the Romans Chapter 4, as an illustration of the kind of faith that changes lives. Abraham's faith is used as an illustration to show that Abraham's faith came before God told him the plan (the covenant of circumcision - Gen 15:18), and before he understood the rules (Mosaic Law - Exodus 24:12). Abraham even illustrates that faith does not need to be perfect in order to be effective - Abraham made several big mistakes (he lied about his wife, tried to adopt a servant, took another wife to have an heir) but in spite of these mistakes he continued to love his wife Sarah after it looked like all hope was lost.


Although Judaism does recognize the positive value of Emunah (faith/belief) and the negative status of the Apikorus (heretic) the specific tenets that compose required belief and their application to the times have been heatedly disputed throughout Jewish history. Many, but not all, Orthodox Jews have accepted Maimonides' Thirteen Principles of Belief.
A traditional example of faith as seen in the Jewish annals is found in the person of Abraham. A number of occasions, Abraham both accepts statements from God that seem impossible and offers obedient actions in response to direction from God to do things that seem implausible (see Genesis 12-15).
For a wide history of this dispute, see: Shapira, Marc: The Limits of Orthodox Theology: Maimonides' Thirteen Principles Reappraised (Littman Library of Jewish Civilization (Series).)


Faith in Islam is called iman. It is a complete submission to Allah (Allah) which includes belief, profession, and the body's performance of deeds consistent with the commission as vicegerent on Earth according to Allah's will.
Iman has two aspects
  • Recognizing and affirming that there is one Creator of the universe and only to this Creator is worship due. According to Islamic thought, this comes naturally because faith is an instinct of the human soul. This instinct is then trained via parents or guardians into specific religious or spiritual paths. Likewise, the instinct may not be guided at all.
  • Willingness and commitment to submitting that Allah exists, and to His prescriptions for living in accordance with vicegerency. The Quran (Koran) is the dictation of Allah's prescriptions through Prophet Muhammad and is believed to have updated and completed previous revelations Allah sent through earlier prophets.
In the Qur'an, God (Allah in Arabic), states (2:62): Surely, those who believe, those who are Jewish, the Christians, and the converts; anyone who (1) believes in GOD, and (2) believes in the Last Day, and (3) leads a righteous life, will receive their recompense from their Lord. They have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.


Faith (saddha/sraddha) is an important constituent element of the teachings of the Buddha - both in the Theravada tradition as in the Mahayana. Faith in Buddhism derives from the pali word saddhā, which often refers to a sense of conviction. The saddhā is often described as:
  • A conviction that something is
  • A determination to accomplish one's goals
  • A sense of joy deriving from the other two
While faith in Buddhism does not imply "blind faith", Buddhist faith (as advocated by the Buddha in various scriptures, or sutras) nevertheless requires a degree of blind faith and belief primarily in the spiritual attainment and salvational knowledge of the Buddha. Faith in Buddhism centers on belief in the Buddha as a supremely Awakened being, on his superior role as teacher of both humans and gods, in the truth of his Dharma (spiritual Doctrine), and in his Sangha (community of spiritually developed followers). Faith in Buddhism is intended to lead to the goal of Awakening (bodhi) and Nirvana. Volitionally, faith implies a resolute and courageous act of will. It combines the steadfast resolution that one will do a thing with the self-confidence that one can do it.
As a counter to any form of "blind faith", the Buddha taught the Kalama Sutra, exhorting his disciples to investigate any teaching and weigh its merits rather than believing something outright.
For more, see Faith in Buddhism

Bahá'í Faith

In the Bahá'í Faith a personal faith is viewed as a progressive understanding an individual goes through to learn the truth for oneself, towards the end that one may learn of God, of oneself, and also develop a praiseworthy character (not simply by knowing the truth, but by living honorably in relation to it.) Different ways of learning the truth for oneself are all respected and culminate in a spirit of faith or indwelling spirit by which the Holy Spirit informs one's belief without recourse to senses, intellect, intuition, scripture, or experience and research. However, such a state is not considered to be independent of the Revelation of God by which the great Prophets founded the religions, nor is it meant to act as a sure guide for others.


Although Rastas claim not to hold belief systems, and instead claims that faith to the Rastafarians implies knowledge of the divinity of Haile Selassie, it still is a belief system not parallel with science. Their faith in Selassie as God, and as the being who is going to end their sufferings at the day of judgement when they will return to live in Africa under his rule is at the center of their lives. The dreadlocks are worn as an open declaration of faith in and loyalty towards Haile Selassie, while marijuana is seen to help cultivate a strong faith by bringing the faithful closer to God. Selassie is seen as both God the Father, who created Heaven and earth, and as God the Son, the Reincarnation of Jesus Christ. To complete the Holy Trinity the Holy Spirit is seen as being in the believers themselves, and within all human beings. The announcement of the death of Selassie in 1975 did not disturb the faith of the Rastas, who assumed that God cannot die, and that therefore the news was false. Rastas also have a faith in physical immortality, both for Haile Selassie and for themselves.

Criticisms of faith

A certain number of religious rationalists, as well as non-religious people, criticize implicit faith as being irrational, and see faith as ignorance of reality: a strong belief in something with no evidence. Bertrand Russell used to note that no one speaks of faith in the existence of such entities as gravity or electricity; rather, resorts to arguing faith occur only when evidence or logic fails. The issue is more than theoretical. People can agree on the reality of that which is evidential or reasonable, but what is based on faith is not usually communicable except by common inculcation, which makes faith a divider and thus a phenomenon commonly correlated to intolerance and warfare. In the rationalist view, belief should be restricted to what is directly supportable by logic or scientific evidence.
Defenders of faith say that belief in scientific evidence is itself based on faith — in positivism; yet they do not themselves defy reason by walking off cliffs out of faith in divine intervention. Others claim that faith is perfectly compatible with and does not necessarily contradict reason, "faith" meaning an assumed belief. Many Jews, Christians and Muslims claim that there is adequate historical evidence of their God's existence and interaction with human beings. As such, they may believe that there is no need for "faith" in God in the sense of belief against or despite evidence; rather, they hold that evidence is sufficient to demonstrate that their God probably exists or certainly exists.
No historical evidence has managed to convince the entirety of the community of historians that any one religion is true. For people in this category, "faith" in a God simply means "belief that one has knowledge of [any particular] God[s]". It is logically impossible - according to standard Aristotelian logic - that all these different religions with their mutually contradictory beliefs can simultaneously be objectively true. Therefore, most historians with religious beliefs hold others to be "false", or essentially wrong. This is a standard tenet of most religions as well, though there are exceptions. An example of this is some forms of Hinduism, which hold the view that the several different faiths are just aspects of the ultimate truth that the several religions have difficulty describing or understanding. They see the different religions as just different paths to the same goal. This does not explain away all logical contradictions between faiths but these traditions say that all seeming contradictions will be understood once a person has an experience of the Hindu concept of moksha.
Some religious believers – and many of their critics – often use the term "faith" as the affirmation of belief without an ongoing test of evidence. In this sense faith refers to belief beyond evidence or logical arguments, sometimes called "implicit faith." Another form of this kind of faith is fideism: one ought to believe that God exists, but one should not base that belief on any other beliefs; one should, instead, accept it without any reasons at all. "Faith" in this sense, belief for the sake of believing, is often associated with Søren Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling and some other existentialist religious thinkers.
Faith as Religious belief, has been advanced as being desirable, for example for emotional reasons or to regulate society, and this can be seen as ‘positive’ when it has 'benign’ effects. However, rationalists may become alarmed that faithful activists, perhaps with extreme beliefs, might not be amenable to argument or to negotiation over their behavior Robert Todd Carroll, author of, argues that the word "faith" is usually used to refer to belief in a proposition that is not supported by a perceived majority of evidence. Since many beliefs are in propositions that are supported by a perceived majority of evidence, the claim that all beliefs/knowledge are based on faith is a misconception "or perhaps it is an intentional attempt at disinformation and obscurantism" made by religious apologists:
"There seems to be something profoundly deceptive and misleading about lumping together as acts of faith such things as belief in the Virgin birth and belief in the existence of an external world or in the principle of contradiction. Such a view trivializes religious faith by putting all non-empirical claims in the same category as religious faith. In fact, religious faith should be put in the same category as belief in superstitions, fairy tales, and delusions of all varieties."
but according to Michael Green (theologian) faith is:
"Self-commitment on the basis of evidence"

See also


Further reading

  • Sam Harris, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, W. W. Norton (2004), hardcover, 336 pages, ISBN 0-393-03515-8
  • Hein, David. "Faith and Doubt in Rose Macaulay's The Towers of Trebizond." Anglican Theological Review Winter2006, Vol. 88 Issue 1, p47-68.
  • Zarlengo, Michael. Pray Like This: God's Secret to Answered Prayer. Dallas, Texas: Michael Zarlengo Publishing, 2005.
  • D. Mark Parks, "Faith/Faithfulness" Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Eds. Chad Brand, Charles Draper, Archie England. Nashville: Holman Publishers, 2003.

Classic reflections on the nature of faith

The Reformation view of faith

Faith in Analysis
faith in Arabic: إيمان
faith in Catalan: Fe
faith in Czech: Víra
faith in Danish: Tro
faith in German: Glaube
faith in Estonian: Usk
faith in Spanish: Fe
faith in French: Foi
faith in Indonesian: Iman
faith in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Fide
faith in Italian: Fede
faith in Hungarian: Hit
faith in Japanese: 信仰
faith in Polish: Wiara
faith in Portuguese: Fé
faith in Romanian: Credinţă
faith in Russian: Вера
faith in Albanian: Besimi
faith in Serbian: Вера
faith in Tatar: Íman
faith in Vietnamese: Tín ngưỡng
faith in Ukrainian: Віра (релігійна)
faith in Yiddish: בטחון
faith in Chinese: 信心

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Weltanschauung, abandon, acceptation, acception, acquiescence, activity, adherence, adherents, adhesion, adoration, allegiance, apostolic faith, ardency, ardor, arrogance, articles of religion, aspiration, assumption, assurance, assured faith, assuredness, attachment, avouch, avouchment, belief, bona fides, bond, bonne foi, campaign, cardinal virtues, catechism, cause, certainty, certitude, charity, cheerful expectation, church, churchgoing, class, cocksureness, commitment, committedness, communion, compliance, confession, confidence, confidentness, conformity, connection, consecration, constancy, conviction, courage, credence, credenda, credit, credo, credulity, creed, crusade, cult, cultism, dedication, denomination, dependence, desire, devotedness, devotion, devoutness, disciples, doctrinal statement, doctrine, dogma, doomed hope, drive, duteousness, dutifulness, duty, earnestness, expectation, fair prospect, faithfulness, fealty, fervency, fervent hope, fervidness, fervor, fidelity, fire, firmness, followers, formulated belief, fortitude, good cheer, good faith, good hope, gospel, great cause, great expectations, guarantee, heartiness, heat, heatedness, high hopes, homage, hope, hopeful prognosis, hopefulness, hopes, hoping, hoping against hope, hubris, ideology, impassionedness, intensity, intentness, interest, ism, issue, justice, lifework, love, love of God, loyalty, mass movement, movement, natural virtues, oath, obedience, obediency, obligation, observance, old-time religion, order, orthodoxy, overconfidence, oversureness, overweening, overweeningness, parole, passion, passionateness, persuasion, pietism, piety, piousness, pledge, plight, poise, political faith, political philosophy, pomposity, positiveness, prayerful hope, presumption, pride, primitive faith, principle, promise, prospect, prospects, prudence, reason for being, reception, reliance, reliance on, religion, religionism, religious belief, religious faith, religiousness, resolution, reverence, sanguine expectation, school, sect, security, self-assurance, self-confidence, self-importance, self-reliance, seriousness, service, servility, servitium, settled belief, sincerity, solemn declaration, spirit, staunchness, steadfastness, stock, store, subjective certainty, submission, submissiveness, suit and service, suit service, supernatural virtues, sureness, surety, suspension of disbelief, system of belief, system of beliefs, teaching, temperance, tenets, the faith, theism, theological virtues, theology, tie, tradition, troth, true blue, true faith, trueness, trust, vehemence, veneration, vow, warmth, warranty, well-grounded hope, willingness, word, word of honor, world view, worship, worshipfulness, zeal
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1