The meaning of 'faith'
People seem to have very different ideas about what 'faith' means. Everyone seems to think their view is obvious.
I enjoy reading discussions about the relationship between faith and works in salvation. Yet such discussions seem to suffer when no effort is made to define 'faith'. I am amazed at how often even scholars omit discussion of the meaning of 'faith' when talking about the relationship between faith and works.
For example, I've just been reading a discussion of Origen's thought on the relationship between faith and works in justification. I would have thought that such an analysis should ask what meaning Origen gives to these key terms. Apparently not.
Surely to understand how faith and works might relate, it is crucial to understand what they themselves are? Maybe not. I suppose that for most popular definitions of 'faith', the concept of 'faith' is entirely separate from the concept of 'works'. Such defintions only become relevant if you take a view like mine that the actual definition and meaning of the word 'faith' (pistis) means something that overlaps with the concept of 'works' (eg means 'the faithful doing of God's will' or somesuch). In that case, in asking how faith and works relate, you are asking a very subtle question of the distinction between faithfully doing God's will and doing the good works that God wills. It is suddenly essential to know exactly how 'faith' and 'works' are being defined so that the subtle distinctions can be understood.
But if 'faith' and 'works' are completely separate - eg. 'believing things' and 'doing stuff' - then you don't need to enquire so closely into their definitions in order to talk about their relationship to each other.