The faith of God, part three


Continued from part two.

To summarize from part two: faith is not hope, nor hope faith, nor either of these charity, but these are three distinct principles. Also, faith is a noun, meaning that it is a thing or things that can be possessed or obtained, but that once the thing or things is obtained or seen, in other words, once the thing or things become perfectly known, faith becomes dormant in that thing or things and knowledge takes over. Knowledge and faith, therefore, are opposing principles, each one nullifying or canceling out the effect of the other. As God has all and perfect knowledge, it appears that my Buddhist ex co-worker monk was correct in his conclusion that it is impossible for God to have faith. Nevertheless, there are more evidences to consider.

Acts of faith summarized

The whole of the standard works records acts of faith from page one to the very last, but two writers in particular dedicate a chapter each to a summary of those acts. In Hebrews 11 and Ether 12, Paul and Moroni go through the list of things accomplished or obtained by faith. Essentially, they conclude that all things are accomplished “by the faith of men” (Ether 12: 8). Or, in the words of Ether, “by faith all things are fulfilled” (Ether 12: 3).

Mormon also talked about faith (and hope and charity) in Moroni 7. Like Ether and Helaman, quoted in the previous part, Mormon explains that faith precedes hope. (See Moroni 7: 41-42 “…ye shall have hope…because of your faith…” and “…without faith there cannot be any hope…”) In fact, the order of these three grand principles is always given as “faith, hope and charity” because faith precedes hope, or allows hope to be engendered and then faith and hope allow charity to be engendered. (This is a topic for a different post and will not be covered here. I mention it merely to show that faith is different than hope and charity and required in order to obtain the other two necessary principles.)

Living by faith is better than living by knowledge

One of the more curious aspects of faith is that in the scriptures it is emphasized more than knowledge is. The scriptures even go so far as to say those who live by faith are more blessed than those who live by knowledge. (See Scriptural Discussion #10 for these scriptures.) Both Alma and Jesus himself stated this. Strangely enough, though, modern LDS stress the acquisition of knowledge over the acquisition of faith. For example, we bear our testimony, not our belief, in fast and testimony meeting each month. We say, “I know the church is true,” not “I believe the church is true.”

If we follow the thought of Alma and Jesus and apply it to God, then we get that God is less blessed than us since he knows and sees all things and cannot (according to the Buddhist) exercise faith, whereas we mortals, seeing and knowing very little, can be more blessed than him if we exercise faith. But can anyone be more blessed than God? Such a thought seems impossible. God possesses all things. Can anyone possess more than God? Surely not.

The easy way out of this quandary is to simply say that the scriptures apply to mortals, only, and not to God. We exercise faith until we become like God, knowing and seeing all things, and then our faith becomes dormant and we live by our knowledge, as he does. Faith, then, becomes a crutch or means to obtain the knowledge that God has. Once obtained, we need faith no longer and rely upon our knowledge from then on.

A lot of LDS probably think along these lines. I think that the Buddhist was probably also thinking along these lines. But what if the scriptures apply equally to God, as they do to man?

Assuming that God has faith…

What if the principles communicated in the scriptures, beginning with the very first principle of the gospel, which is faith, are all part of the nature and characteristics of God, which must be developed by us in order to becomes like him? One of the comments to the previous article took the view that God does have faith, but that there are two types of faith: pre-knowledge (lower level) faith and post-knowledge (higher level) faith. Personally, I found the creativity involved in making this distinction quite refreshing. Most people never give the thought of God having faith more than, “yes, he does” or “no, he doesn’t.” The problem posed by the Buddhist is a valid one. If God has faith, how is this possible since knowledge nullifies faith? If God does not have faith, why are we continually striving to develop an attribute which is ungodly?

Let’s assume the impossible. Let’s assume that the scriptural principles are descriptions of the attributes of God and that God sees and knows all things but lives by faith, thus making him qualify, according to his own words, as “more blessed.”

In subsequent parts I will attempt to show that, in fact, God possesses all knowledge and all faith, that he walks both by sight and by faith in all possible ways, and that his power does not reside in his knowledge, but in his perfect faith. I will attempt to show that it is through his immense faith that he obtained his knowledge and that it is through his faith that he continually increases his knowledge and that it is through his continually increasing knowledge that his faith continues to increase. I will show the reader that God’s fullness of faith, knowledge, etc., are not a set amount, but that these things continually expand as his dominions increase.

This is probably going to be fairly deep doctrine, but I’m going to keep it out of the Deep Waters section, as faith is so basic to everything. I want to open it up completely and give everyone who reads a good long look at my understanding of why faith accomplishes all things, why faith is needed by us mortals, why it is the very first principle of the gospel, how it is obtained, how it is maintained, how it is expanded, why God possesses a fullness of faith, and why he would cease to be God if he didn’t both have and exercise all faith.

Once this understanding is communicated, it should be easier to see why the whole purpose of the gospel is “that faith…might increase in the earth” (D&C 1: 21). It is the acquisition and exercise of a fullness of faith that makes us like heavenly Father and it is the acquisition and exercise of a fullness of faith that keeps heavenly Father in power. That’s it, in a nutshell. We are here on Earth to obtain and live by faith and to increase it continually until we receive a fullness. Everything else is an appendage.

Next Faith of God article: The faith of God, part four: the word of God

Previous Faith of God article: The faith of God, part two

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The faith of God, part two


Continued from part one.

Before one can talk about the faith of God, faith itself must be defined.

Small English Lesson – Faith is a Noun

Modern dictionaries do not give the scriptural definition of faith, as they record modern and ancient usage of terms, which may or may not correspond to the scriptures, however, they are, at least, helpful in determining whether faith is a noun, a verb, an adverb, etc. If you consult a good dictionary, you’ll find that faith is used as a noun most times, unless it is used in its archaic, transitive verb form. The archaic, transitive verb form is not used, to my knowledge, in the scriptures. An example of the archaic use would be the sentence, “I faith all that you say to me.” As a transitive verb, the construction in a sentence would be “to faith [something].” We no longer use this awkward construction in modern speech, and, as I said, in the scriptures it is always used as a noun. So, let’s begin this discussion by considering faith as a noun.

Scriptural Definition of Faith

The definition of faith can be assembled by some of the prophetic teachings found in the scriptures. As faith is a concept revealed from heaven, it is of no concern what we, the dictionary authors or anyone else give as the definition of faith, the important thing is to get the correct, heavenly-given definition, which comes from the scriptures.

Paul taught that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). He also taught that faith comes by hearing the word of God preached. (See Rom. 10: 14-17.) Alma taught that “faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things” and also that if we have faith, we “hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” (See Alma 32: 21.) He also explained that exercising the smallest bit of faith (“a particle of faith”) is nothing more than desiring to believe. (See Alma 32: 27.) Moroni, in my opinion, gave the clearest definition of faith when he said, “faith is things which are hoped for, and not seen” (Ether 12: 6).

I’ll come back to these scriptures later…

Faith as hope (noun) or to hope (verb)

I find that when discussing faith with LDS, the general definition given by them is “a hope of things not seen which are true.” I imagine they are extrapolating this definition from Alma 32: 21. They may also be getting it from the LDS Bible Dictionary, which states in the opening sentence on its entry on faith, “faith is to hope for things which are not seen, but which are true.” This grammatically incorrect sentence defines faith (a noun) as a verb (“to hope”). (The only way to cause the opening Bible Dictionary sentence to make grammatical sense is to understand that the author meant to put the words “to have” in front of faith, so that it reads “to have [verb] faith [noun] is to hope [verb] for things [noun]…” The second sentence of the entry does this very thing when it states, “To have [verb] faith [noun] is to have [verb] confidence [noun]…” The second sentence is grammatically correct, everything on one side of the “is” equalling everything else on the other side of the “is.” This could and should have been done with the opening sentence.) Even if we assume that the Bible Dictionary author was referring to the archaic, verb form of faith and not the noun form, the use of the word in the sentence is in the intransitive form, instead of the correct transitive form. So, whether used as a noun or a verb, the sentence is grammatically incorrect and makes no sense whatsoever. To illustrate, put any noun in the place of faith, for example, “Car [noun] is to hope [verb] for things…” It doesn’t make sense. But if you say, “To drive [verb] is to hope [verb] for things…” that makes more sense because you are stating a verb is a verb, not a noun is a verb. Had the author used faith correctly as an archaic, transitive verb, it should have read, “To faith [something] is to hope for things…” Okay, enough with invalidating this messy Bible Dictionary sentence.

(I pick on the Bible Dictionary’s grammar not to make a grammatical statement, which really isn’t all that important, as English is not a static language and its rules of grammar do and will continue to change. I pick on it because the entry’s author contributes to the strange custom that people have of calling faith “an action word.” Action words are verbs, of course, hence the tendency to incorrectly define faith, which is scripturally a noun, as a verb, such as to hope. The Bible Dictionary’s opening sentence contributes to this confusion and also to the modern trend of corruption of the English language. For example, the phrase “I couldn’t care less about that,” which grammatically means “that is the least of all the things I care about” has been corrupted into “I could care less about that,” which grammatically means “that is not the least of all the things I care about.” People still retain the meaning of the original phrase, but now, due to the laziness of speaking the necessary “n’t,” it means the opposite of its grammatical meaning. This is language corruption.)

Alma 32: 21 does not state that faith is a hope, only that if we have faith, we “hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” The faith-equals-hope definition arrived at by many LDS is an extrapolation from this scripture. Alma does not say, “to have faith is to hope for things which are not seen, which are true,” but instead he says, “if ye have faith, ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” The two statements are saying entirely different things. In the first, Alma would be categorically stating that faith is hope, which of course he isn’t saying. In the second, Alma is stating that hope (or hoping) accompanies faith (or the possession of faith). This is a big difference that is lost to many people. It is like saying, “If you have this, you do that.” Or, “if you have chicken pox, you scratch your skin.” Having chicken pox and scratching skin are not the same things, but scratching skin accompanies having chicken pox. They go hand in hand, but are not the same thing. (I wish there were more English language majors among our people, instead of business and law majors, as these mistakes would not be made as often as they are.)Despite the lack of English majors in the church, I still find it strange that the LDS have the widespread tendency to think of faith as hope, given that our scriptures emphasize that there are three grand principles (faith, hope and charity) and the scriptures do not confuse faith as hope or hope as faith.

Hope defined

I suppose before I move on, I ought to define hope. I’ll use the dictionary definition, as it is scripturally accurate in this instance. To hope is “to desire with expectation of obtainment.”

Faith is power to obtain or to create or to do [whatever]

A person can hope all they want and yet never obtain. They can desire lots of things and expect to obtain or receive them all and still their desires may remain unfulfilled. Faith, though, is different. When a person possesses faith, he possesses power to obtain something or to create something or to do something. He has power to obtain whatever it is that he hopes for, or whatever it is that he “desires with expectation of obtainment.” This is why hope always accompanies faith. Once faith is possessed, the individual can now expect to receive according to his desires. This is why Ether taught that “hope cometh of faith” (Ether 12: 4). Another example of this principle is found in Helaman’s words. After he and his soldiers poured out their hearts to God in prayer, the Lord gave them faith (assurances, peace to their souls, great faith) and then they were able to hope:

Helaman said, “Yea, and it came to pass that the Lord our God did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him. ” (Alma 58: 11)

When faith is dormant

Alma on the dormancy of faith:

Yea, there are many who do say: If thou wilt show unto us a sign from heaven, then we shall know of a surety; then we shall believe. Now I ask, is this faith? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for if a man knoweth a thing he hath no cause to believe, for he knoweth it. (Alma 32: 17-18 )

And now as I said concerning faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true. (Alma 32: 21)

Now, as I said concerning faith—that it was not a perfect knowledge—even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge. (Alma 32: 26)

Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge. (Alma 32: 29)

And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand. (Alma 32: 34)

Alma explained that faith is not a perfect knowledge, but that faith can grow into a perfect knowledge. He also explained that once faith grows into perfect knowledge, faith becomes dormant. If knowledge is given from the get-go via sight (“show us a sign” Alma 32: 17), there is no cause to believe, or faith cannot be engendered. Therefore, if a thing is seen or if one has perfect knowledge of a thing, faith goes down to a zero value in that thing.

The knowledge and sight of God

This brings up an interesting dichotomy when faith is applied to God. God sees all things, both past, present and future. “But they reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord” (D&C 130: 7). He also is omniscient, or all-knowing, both of the past, present and future. “But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning” (2 Nephi 9: 6). “O how great the holiness of our God! For he knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it” (2 Nephi 9: 20).

So, based on these evidences, it would appear that faith cannot apply to God, or that God cannot exercise faith. It would seem that my ex co-worker, the monk, was correct in his assessment that God did not have faith, but accomplished (and accomplishes) all things according to his knowledge (and sight) of all things.

But there may be more than meets the eye here…

Next Faith of God article: The faith of God, part three

Previous Faith of God article: The faith of God, part one

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