The Essence of Belief

The word pistis in Greek is usually translated as faith in the Bible. And faith is one of the most controversial words in scientific and philosophical discussion. There are some who see faith and rational thought as incompatible. It is basically said that if one has "faith" in something, one has blind adherence to a usually mock-worthy idea.

One of the first tasks of this blog is to clear up that erroneous separation, as well as reveal that faith is evidenced belief. In "How to Make our Ideas Clear" by Charles Pierce, we get to see that Biblical faith and pragmatic belief have one great common denominator; the establishment of actions and habits.

Faith and Reason's Relationship

Understanding the relationship between faith and reason is one of the greatest tasks for Christians in the 21st century. Before reason was elevated to the only viable method of attaining what is true, scientific and philosophical pursuit were grounded in the person of God.

It was understood that God placed a body, soul, and spirit into man. And in this soul, man had the seat of emotions, intellect and will. What does this say to us? It says that beliefs can exist in our intellect without guidance or submission to the Spirit of God. However, all truth is given by God, and even the truth we reason to should be submitted to God.

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thess. 5:23

Faith and reason have a particular relationship. When we allow reason to have supremacy over faith, our beliefs are susceptible to being wrong and not honoring God. It is of this relationship between faith and reason that God says "I will raise up your sons, O Zion (revelation), against your sons, O Greece (Reason), and make Zion as the sword of a might man. On the contrary, all reasoning submitted to God will always be right. He is the owner and administrator of all rational truth and all spiritual truth.

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. John 16:13

Characteristics of Belief

Charles Pierce writes about what he believes is the essence of belief. Coming from a background of pragmatism, his definition gives a very instrumental use for belief. Beliefs have three characteristics:

  1. They are something we aware of.
  2. It stops the irritation of doubt.
  3. It establishes in us a course of action and habits.

This last characteristic of belief is what he considered the essence of belief. All our beliefs in some way inform and give rise to actions. For example, we may believe that fire is hot. This belief makes us act a specific way around a stove with a flame. We might believe that the 10 ft. side of a pool is deep since we can't stand there. So if we do not know how to swim (another belief), we won't throw ourselves into that end.

Biblical Faith

The Bible also has something to say about our faith and its connections to our actions. In the book of James it says that our faith without works is dead. This is also the claim that Pierce fell upon. That our beliefs are not our beliefs unless they are what govern our actions.

So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. James 2:17

Many people claim that they believe something. However, both the Bible and Pierce would argue that what we actually believe is entirely congruent with what we do. Christians and non Christians alike fail under this scrutiny and reveal their hypocrisy. This means if we say we believe God exists, we should live as if we believe that. We should be able to list all our beliefs in such a manner that we have ended up describing the way we live our lives.


Faith in its essence is a system of belief that informs the way we see the world and act in the world. And this way of seeing the world is not irrational even when it doesn't always line up with reason. Reason as a system of belief does not recognize all truth comes from God, and will many times lead to error.

Ironically, these errors are the misalignment between faith and reason so many scientists and philosophers use to separate what God has united in Christ. As it is written:

" reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" Col 2:2-3