What is faith anyway? There are many directions and rabbit holes with this question, but here are two to consider. The first is the formal approach. This is faith in regards to commitment or trust in a person or deity. This is the way of the religious. The second is informal faith. This approach relies more on hope, trust, and belief. It’s based on the wisdom, intuitions, and experiences of our lives.
Many of us get stuck in the formal. We try to adapt to thoughts and ideas that may or may not feel right. The informal can be just a dangerous in that we may have hopes and beliefs in things that just don’t make sense – religiously, logically, or both.
The formal generally has lots of people, practices, traditions, and texts to lean on. This is good, and can make one feel comfortable. But there is also some hypocrisy, and the texts are hard to interpret, or are interpreted in ways that are less than healthy.
The informal frees us to express ourselves and thoughts in a variety of ways. This is also good. We can build on our strengths and grow as we practice and learn. However, without structure and guidance, many of us are lost. We can’t find our way – or it’s terribly destructive.
I do not think one is better than the other. I believe they need to be trusted together. Some moments we’ll lean more on ourselves versus religious teachings. Other moments we’ll rely less on our own understanding and more on the formal. The formal and the informal keep one in check, but also allow for greater understanding and freedom of expression.
When we break it down, it looks like this:
Your Faith – it’s what you believe and pratice. It may be good or bad.
My Faith – this is what I believe and practice. It may be good or bad.
The Faith – this is what a community of believers believe and practice. It may be good or bad.
Holistic Faith – this takes all the above as its teachers. It may be good or bad.
Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson