Faith

The New Testament is big on the idea that a person is saved through “faith” rather than earning their way through “good works.” Pontius Pilate infamously asked, “what is truth” but turned away before the individual he was asking could answer. The question might also be asked “What is faith?”

Full disclosure: I am not a Christian. This, however, does not mean that there isn’t much within Christianity that is worth considering and implementing in ones own life just as there is in many another belief system (not all; I am not so foolish as to declare that all belief systems have their “good side”).

I submit that doing good simply because it is good is, in itself, an act of faith. Consider the exchange between Susan and Death at the end of Terry Pratchett’s book The Hogfather (a book I highly recommend):

Susan:
Now… tell me…

Death:
What would have happened if you hadn’t saved him?

Susan:
Yes.

Death:
The sun would not have risen.

Susan:
Then what would have happened?

Death:
A mere ball of flaming gas would have illuminated the world.

Susan:
All right, I’m not stupid. You’re saying that humans need fantasies to make life bearable.

Death:
No. Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.

Susan:
With tooth fairies? Hogfathers?

Death:
Yes. As practice, you have to start out learning to believe the little lies.

Susan:
So we can believe the big ones?

Death:
Yes. Justice, mercy, duty. That sort of thing.

Susan:
They’re not the same at all!

Death:
You think so? Then take the universe and grind it down to the finest powder and sieve it through the finest sieve and THEN show me one atom of justice, one molecule of mercy. And yet… you try to act as if there is some ideal order in the world. As if there is some… some rightness in the universe by which it may be judged.

Susan:
But people have got to believe that, or what’s the point?

Death:
You need to believe in things that aren’t true. How else can they become?

When people do “good”, not for gain or to avoid loss–not because they will be rewarded for doing it or punished for not doing it–they are acting on the basis of their own belief. They are, in effect, exercising faith.

This is implicit in Jesus’ admonition about the giving of alms, of charity:

1Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
2Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
3But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
4That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
Matthew 6:1-4 (I usually use the KJV simply because that’s the one I grew up on and, thus, the one I’m most comfortable with)

If one is “doing alms” publicly, in order to receive the praise of other men (and women), then it’s something being done for reward. When done in secret however, not even letting your left hand know what your right hand is doing, then you do it because you believe it to be good pure and simple. Any reward that might come is of the “bread cast upon the waters” variety, uncertain and itself a matter of faith.

There simply is no greater act of faith than to do “good” simply because one believes it to be good.

“Go, and do thou likewise.”

4 thoughts on “Faith”

  1. I submit that doing good simply because it is good is, in itself, an act of faith.

    It’s legit, yep.
    Also phrased as “love,” which IIRC was generally specifically caritas, Christ-like love.

    ********

    I’d say all belief systems, at least at one point, had a utility. That’s as close to “good” as I would go.

    Christianity has a lot of utility for “make a culture where all people can be.”

    Like

  2. “Do the right thing, because it is the right thing to do – even (especially) if no-one is watching.” That seems a pretty good ‘rule to live by’. And, in a way, that’s why a Surveillance Society scares me – if the ONLY reason to ‘behave’ is because someone is/might be watching… what happens when the power is out and the cameras are off?

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s