What Is Religious Faith?

Andrew Sullivan —  Dec 28 2014 @ 7:35am

In an interview, John Caputo – a philosopher whose work explores the connections between postmodernism and Christian theology – distinguishes it from mere “belief”:

Faith is a form of life and so it also has a specific form. I wouldn’t say that faith is more general; I would say it is deeper. It gets expressed in a specific form like liturgy. It is an exercise of the whole person: affective, bodily, performative. It is making the truth.

If we didn’t have the specific historical religious traditions, we would be much the poorer for it. Without Christianity, we wouldn’t have the memory of Jesus. We wouldn’t have the books of the New Testament. You need these concrete, historical traditions that are the bearers of ancient stories and are cut to fit to various cultures. But I don’t want to absolutize them or freeze-frame them. I don’t think of one religion being true at the expense of another in a zero-sum game. I am not saying that if you burrow deeply enough under each religious tradition, you will find they are all the same. They are quite different. They are as different as the cultures and the languages out of which they come. There is an irreducible multiplicity.

This is one of the hallmarks of postmodernity: you can’t boil everything down to one common thing. There are many ways of doing the truth. There can’t be one true religion any more than there can be one true language. The truth of religion is not the truth of a certain body of assertions. It is not about a core set of agreements. That’s not relativism, and it is not saying that there is nothing true in religion. It is saying that religious truth is not like the truth of mathematics. It is a different sort that is deeply woven together with a form of life.