Maimonides on Faith

…bear in mind that by “faith” we do not understand merely that which is uttered with the lips, but also that which is apprehended by the soul, the conviction that the object [of belief] is exactly as it is apprehended. If, as regards real or supposed truths, you content yourself with giving utterance to them in words, without apprehending them or believing in them, especially if you do not seek real truth, you have a very easy task as, in fact, you will find many ignorant people professing articles of faith without connecting any idea with them.

Moses Maimonides, The Guide for the Perplexed, 1.L.

The great Medieval Rabbi Maimonides (or Moses ben Maimon 1135-1204) falls short in his definition. He still places faith exclusively within the intellect. He urges his readers beyond the mere acceptance of dogmatic articles of faith, but faith is still in this case a knowledge issue, a conviction of deeper truth. Yes, faith includes an intellectual assent, but it also implies a reliance on, or trust in something outside of self.

What I appreciate though is the call to be engaged with belief. Think it through. Often opponents of faith view faith as unquestioning acceptance of dogma; brainwashing if you will. Many criticize the followers of revealed religion as being “duped” on account of their foolishness, blindness or gullibility. However, God never asks us to surrender our intellect to accept what we’re told without ever processing it. We have to have a faith which stands up to scrutiny, which has been given proper consideration, and “holds water”. It has to be rooted in solid conviction or else the whole thing crumbles.


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