On the value of faith and faithfulness

International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 81 (1-2):7-29 (2017)
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Abstract

There was a time when Greco-Roman culture recognized faith as an indispensable social good. More recently, however, the value of faith has been called into question, particularly in connection with religious commitment. What, if anything, is valuable about faith—in the context of ordinary human relations or as a distinctive stance people might take in relation to God? I approach this question by examining the role that faith talk played both in ancient Jewish and Christian communities and in the larger Greco-Roman culture in which Christian faith talk evolved. I locate the value of faith and faithfulness in the context of relationships involving trust and loyalty and argue that what is most distinctively valuable about faith is the function it plays in sustaining relationships through various kinds of challenges, including through evidentially unfavorable circumstances and significant periods of doubt. In light of this discussion, I set out a view of relational faith and, taking Mother Teresa as an exemplar, argue for two further conclusions. First, faith can play the valuable role that it plays in sustaining relationships even without belief of the salient propositions. Second, in at least some circumstances, in order for faith to play this valuable role in a way that does not require epistemic opinions that fail to fit one’s evidence, it is important that faith does not require such belief.

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