We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
"It cannot be said too often that in the New Testament, the opposite of sin is not virtue, it is faith. Not only does Paul say as much in Romans 14:23: "all that is not of faith is sin"; his endless insistence that salvation is not by the works of the law but by grace through faith . . . bears witness to the fact that our morals have nothing to do with either our salvation or our damnation. We are saved only because God, immorally, has accepted us while we were yet sinners; and we are damned only if we stupidly (that is, as neither faithful nor wise) insist on rejecting that acceptance by unbelief."
"Unfaith is its own punishment. All God ever does is confirm the stupid sentence of alienation it pronounces on itself; all he ever condemns are people who want to be more respectable than he is. . . . The best part of it all is that even your insistence on being a moralistic turkey doesn't matter. Nothing ever matters - nothing ever will matter - but faith."
I entirely get the idea of salvation, transformation through Christ. The idea of eternal life, in any form, holds no special appeal to me: What for? Why?
I've experienced protestant theology, including the various permutations on free will, predestination, and the whole sin and redemption thing. None of it works for me, logically.
Faith as it's typically asserted can essentially be nothing more than a revision of salvation by works; the switch thrown by a mind in order to be deemed acceptable to a G-d that works in terms of penalty and blood. That's not substantially rational, especially in the assertions that work solely on the what of a thing not a person alive grasps the how and especially the why thereof. That matrix projects onto G-d human foibles on morality and justice, hardly an iron-clad interpretation of the Mind of G-d.
So I ask: Can we define faith as the term of engagement with the divine it purportedly is, and can anyone define the structure of merit therein to a G-d that no mortal soul can possibly interpret? Not "faith is X, Y, and Z" because it's written thus - that text has already been subject to human editorial interpretation, plus it's just an assertion of the theological what and neither the philosophical how or the divine why.
Do I have an answer? Not hardly, but I do think the notion of "leap of faith" possibly essential, but not in the usual vernacular of the blood-of-Christ thing. A leap of faith puts choice back where it belongs, front and center of mind where it remodels human trajectory completely, and that, I think, alludes to what Christ was on about. Choose first; grasp later, as any believer knows from experience. But grasp what?
Yet, like the rest, not a soul has ever grasped what Christ grasped, so essentially that He invoked higher greatness in those who follow Him then even Himself. I highly suspect there's vastly more to all this - probably with Eastern resonance - and in a distinctly different tributary, than we think, at least when we issue rote notions on faith per se.
Not a syllable of disrespect or controversy is intended, Farmers. Just genuinely curious. These questions I've posed among PhD's in theology, philosophy, and psychology I respect more than I can say. Likewise laymen steeped in centuries of theological heritage (although so far, none Catholic.) So here as well.
Preach it, BD. Capon says that God, immorally, accepted us while we were yet sinners. Not quite. His immorality in accepting sinners was made morality at the cross. The price was paid.
Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Without faith, it is impossible to please God, and its value to Him is in that He wants us to draw near to Him. We draw near by faith.
"What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?"
I don't think any Christian would deny that faith is the most essential, the first step towards pleasing God. But, deeds and the law are what keep the faith of a people intact. The Jews have a heritage that has spanned thousands of years across the globe. The law is what makes that happen even when faith weakens.
Likewise for Christians, I think that faith is a foundation to build upon. But as James said, "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder."
The quotes of the author focus on the New Testament with faith as the central theme. The NT deals address disunity within and among the developing new churches and what to do with the large number of pagan converts unfamiliar with Jewish Law. But I would argue that if you focus on only the Gospels of Christ, then LOVE is the central theme. You show love towards your fellow man through deeds, not faith. Faith, without deeds, is dead.
You asked about eternal life. I look forward to a place where I won't know pain, suffering, separation, loss, etc. Those are all par for the course on this side of Heaven. And while I don't begin to understand what Heaven holds, I know that I won't be disappointed when I get there.
C.S. Lewis talks about faith as something different from the common usage of blind belief in something. He points out that we have a hard time sticking to something once we've decided that it's true. For him, faith is like trusting your wife when you have no valid reason to doubt her. It's holding the course you know to be the right one, even when you're frightened and confused or would find it convenient to ignore what you know. It's manning your post when you're frightened and would like to desert.