March 08, 2004

This evening my wife and I watched an episode of “Now” on PBS that we had previously recorded on our TiVo. The bulk of the show was an interview with the Reverend William Sloane Coffin. During the free-wheeling interview Reverend Coffin made the following statement about faith:

“Faith is not believing without proof. Faith is trusting without reservation.’

For most of my adult life I have vigorously resisted the idea of faith because I defined it as belief without proof. I have always been moved by empirical data; and living my life based in something I couldn’t point to, something I couldn’t prove seemed impossible to me.

However, re-framing the idea of faith as trust works for me. I know I can’t point to trust anymore than I can point to belief, but I live every day with trust. I trust my wife completely. I trust my friends and family. Driving the car to work each day requires a level of trust in the other drivers on the road. Without trust life as I understand it would be impossible.

Perhaps I’m splitting hairs saying that I can trust when I can’t believe. But for me the language used to talk about an idea is vitally important. Saying belief without proof leaves me intractable and unwilling be open and accepting. Saying trust without reservation gives me a pathway to openness and accepting. I can start without trusting at all, and over time identify and address my reservations. Ultimately I could reach trust without reservation. Belief without proof is always without proof, it’s all or nothing.

In the past few years I have been questing for spirituality, for a pathway to understanding. I’ve always felt that without faith I couldn’t achieve this goal. Thanks to the Reverend Coffin I now have a working definition of faith that works for me.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.