Is Belief the Same as Faith?
by Helen Bryant
Suitable for Key Stage 4/5
To look at the difference between belief and faith and how one feeds into another.
Preparation and materials
- Note: the main story about losing faith is as a result of someone's mother passing away due to an illness, so if anyone who will be at the assembly might have had this experience, adapt it, using a different example.
- Create an image showing some of the various definitions of 'faith' and another of the definitions of 'belief' and have the means to display them during the assembly (optional).
- Have available your choice of artist singing ‘Wind beneath my wings’ and the means to play it at the end of the assembly.
- Can anyone give me a definition of the word 'faith'?
Take various answers or show the image of the definitions of 'faith' , if using, or do both.
'Faith' means to have complete trust or confidence in someone or something. Can you think of any examples of when you have such trust or faith in someone or something?
Take various answers.
- You have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow because, from your experience, the sun rose this morning and the day before that and, as far you're aware, every single day since the Earth began some several billion years ago. You have faith and trust in your parents or whoever looks after you that they will do just that and provide for you (although, I know this may not be the case for everyone). You may have complete faith that the chair you're sitting on will not break.
- Some people have complete faith and trust in the existence of God and that in itself is one of the meanings of what it is to have 'faith'. You may not necessarily be able to 'see' the thing you have put your trust in – you simply trust your instincts and your experiences to tell you that it is OK to doso.
- What happens, then, if that faith fails? If the chair you trusted to hold your weight did break, if your parents or carers did something that you couldn't forgive or God didn't seem to help at the very moment you needed him to. How would you rebuild that faith?
As with everything, there has to be a foundation to trust and faith and, if it goes, often it takes a long time to get it back.
I had a friend who had what she called faith in God. Her mother became desperately ill and she prayed that God would help her mother survive the illness. Sadly, her mother died on Christmas Eve and she was so angry and hurt that she lost her faith completely, refusing to even set foot in a church or enter into a dialogue about faith. Why should she have faith in God when he had let her down when she needed him most? Loss of faith due to an event like this is not uncommon. We will come back to her story a little later.
- Now, can anyone give me a definition of the word 'belief'?
As before, take various answers or show the image of the definitions of 'belief', if using, or do both.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as, 'an acceptance that something exists or is true, especially one without proof.' I believe that Crystal Palace (or any other football team) will win the Premiership. I believe that One Direction will be reunited next week. You have no proof for either of those events, yet you can believe it despite not knowing what will actually happen.
- These two words seem to link with each other. That is, you can't have belief without faith and you can't have faith without belief. In order to believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, you have to believe he was the Son of God. You also have to believe in God in the first place. To believe these things, you have to have faith.
- Let's go back to our young lady who lost her mother. Many years later – about 20, in fact – she started to look at things a little differently. She had had her own children by then and, although she missed her mother terribly, she began to realize that maybe God wasn't necessarily to blame for what had happened to her. What she had asked for just wasn't possibile. Unlike before, this didn't lessen her belief or faith – in fact, it began to strengthen them as she considered that God hadn't just left her, he had been with her through everything, the grief and the loss. She finally saw her faith in God as something that is not dependent on God doing something for her. She needed to recognize that things 'just happen'. Regardless of how much or how fervently she prayed that day, sadly her mother was too ill to be saved.
- Her faith was linked to her belief and now both have been strengthened and she is a lay minister for the United Reformed Church. What makes her faith so interesting for me is that she questioned both her belief and her faith and, when the time was right, she was ready to consider her faith critically and understand her belief in greater detail. She understands what it means to lose faith and return to it again – a bit like you might if your football team were to be relegated this year rather than winning the Premiership or you still really like One Direction despite the loss of one of its members.
Time for reflection
I wonder what you have faith in?
Is it a religious faith or is it faith in yourself, your family, those you love?
I wonder how your faith will stand the test of time? Is it realistic?
‘Wind beneath my wings’ by your choice of artist