The Meaning of Faith

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."

In late February, UConn was slogging through a somewhat mediocre season. They looked like they would probably make the NCAA tournament, but "everyone" would have expected a first or second round knock-out.

At that point, their coach, Kevin Ollie (a devout Christian whose mother is a minister), was asked how he thought the rest of their season would play out. He replied "I think we will win the national championship."

What an absurd, ridiculous answer! A few days later, his team would get blown out by Louisville, 81-48. They looked like a team that could barely get the ball past half court, let alone win more than a single game in the NCAA tournament.

But Ollie's faith was not a statement about the Bayesian probability that his team would triumph. He was not, as many people who ridicule the idea of faith typically contend, irrationally believing that, say, unicorns exist, despite a massive amount of evidence that they don't. No: he was making an emotional commitment, he was refusing to hedge his bets, he was refusing to say "Well, I've done my best, but the players I have this year just aren't up to the challenge." He was declaring himself "all in."

And that, my friends, has always been the actual meaning of faith as talked about in Christianity: going all in. It has nothing to do with assent to dubious intellectual propositions: it is about commitment.

Oh, and by the way, who just won the national championship tonight?

UPDATE: 'Among Kevin Ollie's many notable phrases is "believing in the dark." He expects his players to believe, even when they can't see.' Um, that would be, perhaps, "the conviction of things not seen"?

UPDATE II: Let me be careful not to place the sole burden of this misinterpretation of the meaning of faith on nonbelievers: there are, of course, a minority of Christians who contend that faith means believing nonsense such as that there once was a boat that could have held all million-plus of the world's animal species at once, and that platypuses, pandas, penguins and pythons all somehow jetted to Israel to hop aboard this vessel.

UPDATE III: Ollie: "They believed in a vision before anyone had seen it."

2 comments:

  1. "irrationally believing that, say, unicorns exist, despite a massive amount of evidence that they don't"

    There is absolutely no evidence that unicorns do not exist, it is that there is no evidence that they exist that makes believing in them irrational.

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    1. Sorry, the fact no one has ever seen one is excellent evidence they don't exist. In any case, please let's not waste our time quibbling over words.

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