Faith: external or internal?

ìFaith was a recognizable dimension of everything he did in public and

private life. It was never a badge or an ornament to make others

uncomfortable, but always a star he checked to set his own course.î

–a statement given at the funeral of Thomas (Tip) O√≠Neill, former

Speaker of the House of Representatives

The idea of faith being a star as a guide is interesting. I’ve always

thought of faith as something internal. Like through the Holy Spirit

working within me, I have faith. And some parts of religion that defy

human logic, we rely on faith to believe.

Some phrases imply faith is something that we have. “I have faith

that…” Or for some… something we don’t have. “I lost my faith

in…” Phrases like these imply that faith is something internal.

Hebrews 11:1 says, ìNow faith is the substance of things hoped for, the

evidence of things not seen.î

“Substance” is a Greek word meaning “a standing under”. This word

“substance” was used in terms of a title deed, like you stand under a

the claim to a property to support its validity. Under this light, the

star metaphor makes sense. It’s something you look at to guide your


Seeing that faith is a gift from God, it makes sense that it can be

seen as both an external and internal entity (what’s the right word

there? entity? concept? principle?… anyways) External, because it

comes from God. Internal, because God gave it to us.

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Tom Saaristo
19 years ago

If you’ll permit me: A Buddhist perspective. From Nicherin Daishonin’s Major Writings “What we call faith is nothing extraordinary. As a woman cherishes her husband, as a man will give his life for his wife, as parents will not abandon their children, or as a child refuses to leave his mother, so should we put our trust in the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni, Taho, and all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions, as well as the heavenly gods and benevolent deities, and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. This is what is meant by faith. Moreover, you should ponder the sutra passages, “Honestly discarding the provisional teachings” and “Not accepting even a single verse from any of the other sutras” and never be of a mind to abandon them, just as a woman will not throw away her mirror or as a man always wears his sword. Respectfully, Nichiren”

Tom Saaristo
19 years ago

Faith can absolutely cause action. Faith in and of itself is internal, from the Buddhist perspective. People have faith and it can catapult them into action. Faith does not come from an outside source, inherently, but there are ideas and concepts from the outside that influence faith. If you don’t have faith in the teachings that you follow, then they are essentially null. That’s what the part of the quote you referenced is saying. To have faith is to put forth effort. Faith comes from within, but there are external elements that need to exist, the elements/thoughts/ideas/writings/teachings that we have faith in. In the Daishonin’s Buddhism, you must have faith in Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Faith is one of the three elements of a practice that will lead one to happiness, the other two being Practice and Study. Without faith, in any language or religion, what is there?

laura k.
laura k.
19 years ago

faith can be a tricky business. i think some people hide behind it, or use it to excuse iffy actions. i think it’s a very subjective and personal thing, individualized.

19 years ago

Faith is trusting your own deepest experience; when you trust the truth inside, you are also trusting the greater truth that we are all connected to. I envision it as a million stars bursting within me, spiraling up to the Light. God is within and without. When we have faith, we are acknowledging our inherent self worth.

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