In Christian understanding faith is man's response to God revealing himself in Christ. Faith and revelation together constitute the mystery of God's encounter with man in Christ. God reveals himself to human persons in history. God makes the first move: faith is a gift to which human beings respond in freedom. Faith is both gift of God and a human act, both grace and freedom. Faith is man's comprehensive 'yes' to God revealing himself as our liberator (saviour) in Christ.
Faith emphasizes commitment, where the whole being of a person is involved. It affects the whole world-view of a person, so that the world, human, life, etc., are all looked at from a particular angle. Belief on the other hand emphasises the notional angle. It does not govern the way a person looks at life. This may or may not be the objects of the faith. A belief is rather a human expression, which may help to live and deepen the faith. E.g. Novenas and devotions are not the objects of Christian faith, which is the mystery of Christ. This leads us to look at faith as a fundamental option.
Faith is a radical openness of the finite towards the infinite. It is the universal horizon against which the belief takes its shape and finds its ultimate meaning. If belief is deprived of faith-dimension it easily becomes religious fanaticism and gives rise to religious warfare and communalism.
Our freedom is the fundamental capacity for making a final and irrevocable choice to be someone, to be a particular kind of human being. Therefore, it has the capacity for the eternal, for God. It is that which allows us to orient ourselves beyond ourselves, to recognize who we are ultimately and to shape our entire life (not just individual acts) according to that new self-consciousness of who we are in the presence of God.
Our faith commitment too takes the same direction; it is not a bondage, nor limitation. It is a relationship of love between God and us. God takes the initiative in the relationship. But we have the freedom to respond or not to. It is not just a single decision or just a momentary act. It is our whole orientation, our basic disposition.
Thus Christian faith is a response to a call in freedom and a commitment to action for the sake of the Kingdom. This call demands a daring spirit to take risks. It demands an orientation of one's life and activity geared to the establishment of the Kingdom of God and thus bringing about the values of Justice, fellowship and peace, which characterise the kingdom. This means personalising of these values in the beliefs, life and proclamation of them through one's life, work and preaching.
Different ways of Expressing, Faith: Rites, Symbols, Doxologies, Dogmas
Rites: when St. Paul speaks of the incorporation of a believer into Christ and into the body of Christ, he speaks of baptism where there is a ratification of this faith commitment by which a person is saved. This ratification is through an external sacramental rite where by the faith professed is made sacramental and the believer personalised the gifts of Christ's works. Faith and baptism are very much related and are the means by which man is transformed and becomes a new being who has died and risen with Christ (Rm 6:4).
Rites were also a means of worshipping and praising God for the gift of faith and for the works he has fulfilled in the Christ event. This was expressed in the early liturgy and also in the Eucharistic liturgy, which becomes a sign of the fellowship in faith and of their commitment to Christ and all that he had accomplished in his life, death and resurrection. This fellowship works for the Kingdom of God and brings all human beings gradually into this one body. Thus the rite became a sign of the faith option and faith commitment of believers as also an expression of their praise to God for it and the faith they upheld.
The earliest formulas of faith were understood as confession doxologies and were part of the baptism and Eucharistic liturgy. Thus, these arose in the context of liturgical celebration and fulfil an inner need to praise and thank God for the gift of salvation. These doxologies were intimately Christological. 'To Him, therefore, who alone is wisdom, gives glory through Christ for ever and ever, Amen' (Rm 16:27; 2 Cor 1:20; Heb 13:15; 1 Pet 4:11). In the history of the Church we see a development in these doxologies in the middle of second century.
Then confessional formulas or doxologies are not to be taken as simple dogmas in the present sense. They have no universal validity but only a more or less local one, they are never taken as doctrinal laws, but they remained linked with the actual confession, situation. There is thus a multiplicity of such confessions, rich in tension within the one NT, the unit of which is not a static and one rigid, but uniformity by a dynamic and historical one.