I guess you could read the last few entries and conclude, “John has some serious problems with faith.”

I don’t think that is where I am. I have some serious problems with confusing faith with some things that faith is not, such as certainty, gullibility, or intellectual passivity.

For me faith is an active process. It is also an open-ended process. Otherwise it would not be faith. Likewise, doubt is also an active process. It is not disbelief or dismissal, but rather an active questioning, a desire to clarify, an optimistic skepticism.

For example, I, like many others, frequently confuse faith with my feelings and my judgments. Some recent examples:

  • Following the recent NCAA national championship football game, a player from the winning team responded to the sportscaster’s question with, “First I want to give thanks to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” My first thought was, “Would he have said the same thing if his team had gotten trounced? Would he have thanked God for allowing them to lose and thereby learn a valuable lesson that they would not have learned otherwise?”
  • A friend, talking about finding something she thought she had lost forever, described it as “a God thing.” I thought but did not ask, “What about all the other things you’ve lost, never to see again, including people you loved? Are those God things as well?”
  • The presidential candidate who responded to the reporter’s question about the outcome of the primary, “We’ll just leave it to God.” OK, but will you then give God thanks and credit if you lose?

I say and assume many things that carry the implication that when things go well, it’s a God thing. If not, well, perhaps I am being tested. Those two conclusions involve judging a situation as good or bad, based on my feelings and my limited understanding of the situation. That’s not faith. Or at least it is not a substantial faith.

Faith is about stepping into each situation life presents with a singular attitude. That singular attitude is determined by where I put my faith.

Is my faith in a God who will take care of me by altering circumstances for my benefit if I ask? Is it in a God who allows life to unfold and then provides me with the grace and fortitude to deal with it? Is it faith in the essential goodness of others, or in the goodness of life? Is it in my ability to persevere?

Where I place my faith determines the singular attitude in which I face each situation in life. If that attitude involves judging situations as good or bad, then I am putting my faith in my judgment, not in something greater than I.

What we mean by “faith in God” is ultimately up to us to define, and it says far more about us than it does about God.