This reflection from Jacqueline Lapsley of the Princeton Theological Seminary has one of the more elegant distinctions between Faith and Belief that I have seen. Belief is a checklist; Faith a poem. Belief is a statement; Faith is a relationship.

My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.

— Psalm 84:2


The contrast that Christian Wiman makes between faith and belief reminds me how my childhood pastor explained his faith to me: “it is not about belief in X or Y, but rather, whom do I trust?” Faith is not about propositional statements, but about the character of the One who draws us in, to trust. The psalmist conveys this by the language of longing, of fainting for God’s presence, but also by using the language of song. Our songs to God are literal songs, of course, but also the way in which we lift all our yearnings—all the day long—toward the God who made us, and who longs for us as well.

Jacqueline Lapsley
Associate Professor of Old Testament

Faith is nothing more—but how much this is—than a motion of the soul toward God. It is not belief. Belief has objects—Christ was resurrected, God created the earth—faith does not. Even the motion of faith is mysterious and inexplicable: I say the soul moves ‘toward’ God, but that is only the limitation of language. It may be God who moves, the soul that opens for [God]. Faith is faith in the soul. Faith is the word “faith” decaying into pure meaning.

— Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss

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