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Faith or Belief: What is the Difference

Belief is a component of faith. But by its nature, belief is secondary. To have any validity, it must be connected to the right thing. George Fox put it this way:

And Christ saith, verily I say unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is past from death to life.' John v. 24.

Now this is and was their belief in the light, that were the children of the light, and born of God, which are the living members of the living head, that have this everlasting life.

And Jesus said, I am the bread of life, he that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that cometh to me shall never thirst.' And again Christ said, verily I say unto you, he that believeth on me hath everlasting life.'

And Christ further said, ' he that believeth on me, as the, scriptures have said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.' John vii. 38.

Now these believers were more than formal historical believers; for the devil believed, and the Jews believed, but they did not believe in Christ the light: for the Jews' belief was but an historical belief, and the devil's belief did not graft him into Christ: and wicked men will say they believe, but they and the devil have not eternal life, nor the Jews; for Christ hath destroyed death, and the devil the power of it; neither have the Jews eternal life, nor any wicked men by an historical belief, except they believe in Christ the light, who is the life. (Works of Fox, Vol. 5, pp. 305-306)

There are any number of bodies of belief and these are often referred to as "our faith." Thus we can talk about the Buddhist faith, the Methodist faith, the faith based upon the Nicaean Creed. But once you understand what the writers of the Scripture meant by the term "faith," you realize that all this other terminology is utter nonsense. Faith is that which gives victory over the world, and true belief "is that which passeth from death to life, by which belief they are grafted into Christ..." (Works of Fox, Vol. 5, p. 306)

Buddhists don't have faith. There is no such thing as a Methodist faith. The Nicaean Creed has absolutely nothing to do with faith. These are all systems of belief, but that belief is not connected to anything that gives life. If anyone comes to life, it is not by Buddhism, Methodism, credalism, or other --ism.

Paul said, "Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness." (Rom. 4:3) First Abraham heard God's voice commanding him to forsake his country, city, and father's house and follow God to a country he did not know. If you are going to believe such a voice, you can't do it sitting down. Abraham's belief was connected to hearing the voice of God and resulted in him leaving Ur and traveling to Caanan. It would have been impossible for Abraham to have encountered a creedal statement or system of belief and to have arrived at righteousness. Righteousness is not an adherence to a moral code of ethics, rather a conformity to the will and purpose of God.

Lucky Abraham to have been singled out to hear God's voice, but what about the rest of us? In John 1, the writer points out that in the Word is the life. This life is the light of men and enlightens everyone that comes into the world. As many as receive this light, its reproofs and its directions, to them is given the power to become sons of God, i. e. become righteous. Righteousness can have no other foundation than a continuing encounter with the light of Jesus Christ that enlightens us, showing us what to come out of and what to come into. Thus we become participators in the faith of Abraham.

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Comment by Patricia Dallmann on 7thMo. 25, 2016 at 15:25

Thanks, Ellis, for making the distinction between faith and belief. As you say, belief is secondary and must be connected to the right thing. Once we've been given this faith, we come to believe (that is, we are convinced) that true worship is to wait upon Christ Jesus, the Word revealed to us. Then are we are united with him and in unity among ourselves. We also are in unity with those of previous times, in the light that "owns the scripture and the ordinances of God" (Works, 3:111). Beliefs alone, apart from the faith that comes down from above, neither lead to unity, a recognition of scripture meaning and intent, nor to the inward acclamation of the soul, all of which accompany faith revealed by God. The faith of Abraham changes our lives just as it changed his: away from dependency on communal values and beliefs, to a life dependency on faith revealed. 

Comment by Patricia Dallmann on 8thMo. 2, 2016 at 14:06

In this morning's reading from The Great Mystery (p. 224), I came across this exchange between a Puritan and a Friend, which gives a number of descriptors of faith, all of which ascribe its origin to God. It appears as though the Puritan in this exchange was mistaking "belief" for "faith." 

The Puritan has asserted "that faith was not perfect." 

The Quaker responds: "Faith is holy, and the gift of God, and purifies, and justifies, and is a mystery, in which is the unity, by which God is pleased; and this is perfect, being the gift of God; and from this he [Gifford, a priest] hath showed his reprobation, and his ignorance."

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