There are a couple of terms which are scheduled for inclusion in this lexicon that I mentioned in my first post regarding salvation. It was inevitable that I do so in that context, but I just want to follow up with some added information regarding those to support and expand on how it is I used them.
The first is faith. Those of us who grew up in the church know what that refers to, of course. All of our churches had “statements of faith” of one sort or another, which you had to agree to in order to be a member. In protestant evangelical contexts like mine it was absolutely front and center of our religion: what it is that made you a Christian, commonly known as “a believer.” Because that’s what faith meant: what you believe. Here let me draw in a quotation from Scripture, found in Galatians 5:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control (vv. 22,23)
Wait a minute, you say: there’s nothing in there about what you believe. Correct. There is, however, one of the fruits of the spirit which is faithfulness and it is the exact same Greek term, pistis, that is translated elsewhere as faith. But it does not mean belief. It means faithfulness, trustworthiness, or in the verb form and depending on context, to trust. But it does not mean to believe something to be true in some kind doctrinal sense. Nevertheless, that is how I grew up understanding it and how I still think many if not most Christians still think of it and how it is taught in our churches, at least of the type I grew up in.
The other major problem is how this term is translated in context, particularly the “faith in Jesus” passages. Some well known examples would be Gal. 2:16, know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ, Phil 3:9, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, or Rom. 3:22: This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ. Here we run into a grammatical issue, specifically the fact that in these passages the term is in the genitive, or possessive case. The question is, who is “possessing” the “faith.” Traditionally, of course, it is us: we possess faith in Jesus, that’s what saves us. But the evidence is, in my view (as well as that of an increasing number of scholars) overwhelming that these passages are all subjective genitives: the subject is the one doing the possessing. That is why in the footnote of the newest NIV translation, it will inform you of the alternate translation, “the faithfulness of Jesus.” The fact is that prior to Luther all of the biblical texts used it that way, and usage in other ancient texts as well as elsewhere in Scripture support that as correct. But Luther was not a great scholar of ancient languages and was working primarily from the Latin translation which is more amenable to seeing “fide” as what you believe, and hence was born “sola fide:” by faith alone, meaning it really only matters what you believe. But it was never about what you believe, and even more to the point, it was never about you at all.
That is why I said what I said about faith and salvation (see that post for details). The fact is that, intentionally or not, faith seen as what you believe became just another form of legalism for the religious gatekeepers to use in order to decide who’s in and who’s out. It just substituted performing the right rituals for agreeing with the right dogma, and that was never the gospel.
So does it not matter what you believe? Of course it does, because what you believe is going to be the basis for how you behave, what it is you are faithful to. There are a lot of things I hold to be true about God, Jesus, Scripture etc., such as the latest example of my favorite (or not) series of local billboards seen above. I may believe that statement to be true, but that is irrelevant to my status before God. It does, however, effect how I show up in the world and play into what I would call my “statement of faithfulness:” the principles I use to guide my practice. But I no longer worry about whether I believe the right things so I go to heaven when I die, nor do I fret about spending my life trying to convince others to do so. That understanding has resulted in a lot of freedom for me from the kinds of toxic religiosity that causes so much stress, regardless of whether that's about doing the right thing or believing the right dogma.
It seems to me someone once said “the truth shall set you free.” Someone that I trust.
Footnote: I could quote a lot of sources, but if I take my journey on this issue back to the beginning I would have to give a lot of credit to John E. Toews and his commentary on Romans, ironically enough published as a part of the Believers Church Bible Commentary series back in 2004.