Snyder, George L Snyder, Lenore Snyder, God, ethics, morals, religion

The Elephant Speaks
One Man’s Elephant book II

Faith / Believe

            The following references a sermon by Reverend William Keagle. (Used with permission)

Source: The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament

Gerhard Kittel (Editor),

Gerhard Friedrich (Editor),

Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Translator)




Generally speaking, faith refers to human reactions to God’s actions. There are at least three Hebrew words in the Old Testament that are translated “faith.” “To have faith” and “to believe” are two translations of the same New Testament word; they mean the same thing. The New Testament also draws a careful distinction between faith and knowledge, knowing and believing . . .

1. FEAR. A term that comes from the 1600s when the first English translations were made. The term actually means reverence, awe, and wonder; which is also what a study of current science produces for me.

2. TRUST. To be able to rely on.

3. HOPE. A sense that life has meaning, that our life can make a difference, that life is worth living.

4. A SENSE OF SECURITY. The Bible warns of those who proclaim a false security. 9-11 demonstrated that many Americans had a false sense of security, as has the current economic crisis. “The only real security in life lies in recognizing that there is no security in this life.”

5. AN ACCEPTANCE OF DOCTRINE. A creed. “I believe in the following propositions.”

6. AN ORGANIZED SYSTEM OF BELIEF AND PRACTICE. “The Christian faith,” “the Jewish faith.”

7. COMMITMENT. An act of will; a choice.

8. CONDUCT. Faith is what you do, not what you say (the Book of James.)

9. A REJECTION OF THE WORLD’S STANDARDS AND VALUES. Accepting instead, God’s standards and values.

10. FAITHFULNESS. The most important meaning of faith in the Old Testament. Example: Mother Theresa, who in spite of all her doubts, questions, disillusionment, and grief, remained faithful to her work of helping the poor women of India.

11. A RELATIONSHIP. The most important New Testament understanding of Faith. Faith is a personal relationship with God, with self, with other people; a living, changing, dynamic relationship that includes doubt, disbelief, anger, resentment; all the ups and downs of life.

Above from a sermon Oct 4, 2009 Westminster Presbyterian Church

by the Reverend William Keagle Professor at Millikin University

Decatur Illinois

            Some people use John 3:16 to claim that it is faith, it is belief that leads you to your salvation. If you do not do everything in your power to move closer to God, you should question your own faith. You do not have faith, you do not believe if you avoid things that move you closer to God. Examine your behavior. If you really believe, then your actions reflect your faith. How can you have faith if your actions move you away from God and not closer to God?

            As a linguist, I am always interested in the meanings of words, and how they have developed through time. In John 3:16, believe is a very important word.


            The Greek words pistis and pisteuo meaning commitment, trust, loyalty, engagement; were used in the oldest documents available.

            When Jerome translated into Latin, there were no exact Latin words for these so he used words that were close in meaning.

            At the time of the translation of the King James version of the Bible, to pledge your believe meant to pledge your fealty. To pledge your service. To create and perpetuate a relationship of commitment.

             In middle English, bileven meant to prize, value, to hold dear.

This is the middle English believe.

            Faithful means full of faith. At the time the Bible was written and at the time the Bible was first translated to English, the word faith more closely followed the original Greek meanings. Since then, in English, the word faith has lost the meanings of relationship and commitment.

            Faith and belief are active words. They cannot ever be taken as passive words.

            How can you claim to have faith if you are not faithful?

            Do you wish to follow the Bible as it was written or do you wish to use the current, corrupted, diluted meaning of the word faith? Of the word belief?

All languages change with the progression of time.

            If the meaning of the word changes, then you cannot claim that the current meaning is accurate when the prophet that originally wrote God’s words meant something different. Something much more meaningful.

            Of course, you may have a totally different view of the elephant. Your view may require using the language you speak, not the language God spoke when talking to His prophet.

Now that makes John 3:16 quite different.

You don’t   just have to   believe   in the terms
you    will     find   in   your     dictionary
you   have   to   believe   in terms   of
commitment     and     engagement
in terms   of   loyalty   and   trust
Believe cannot be considered
just   passive   acceptance
to   Believe   is   active

You don’t just have to have faith in the terms
you    will    find   in   your    dictionary
you   have  to have  faith  in terms  of
commitment     and     engagement
in terms   of   loyalty   and   trust
Faith cannot be considered
just   passive   acceptance
having Faith is active

If you   truly believe,    if you truly have   faith

and have   only a   small handful   of rice

you will give it to one who has none

That is   engagement   with God

That is commitment to God

That is loyalty to God

That is trust in God

That   is   belief

That is faith

The Elephant Speaks              next chapter