What is the difference between faith and creed based on etymologies of the words, and what are the social and class implications of their etymological roots on society?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In religion, "faith" means "belief that is not based on proof" and "a system of religious belief" (Random House Dictionary).

The etymology of "faith" has its origins in Latin and moves into Modern English from Middle English. Modern English "faith" derives from Middle English "feith," which is borrowed from Anglo-French (after the French Conquest) "fed," which itself comes from Old French "feid" or "feit" that derives from the borrowed Latin "fidem/fides" meaning "trust." So Modern English "faith" derives ultimately from Latin "fides" meaning "trust."

1200–50; Middle English feith  < Anglo-French fed, Old French feid, feit  < Latin fidem,  accusative of fidēs  trust, akin to fīdere  to trust. (Random House Dictionary)

In religion, "creed" means a formal statement of specific beliefs that are codified within a doctrinal system. A creed is, in other words, a recitation of a detailed statement of religious belief and might start "We believe ..." or "I believe ..." (Random House Dictionary).

The etymology of "creed" has it origins in Latin and is borrowed directly into Old English, then moves into Middle English then enters Modern English. Modern English "creed" derives from Middle English "crede," which comes from Old English "crēda," which itself was borrowed directly from Latin "credo" meaning "I believe."

before 1000; Middle English crede, Old English crēda  < Latin crēdō  I believe; see credo (Random House Dictionary)

The etymologies of these two words are very different, each founded in very different word concepts, those being "trust" versus "I believe." It is interesting to note that the recitation of creeds today still begin with "We believe" or "I believe." It's harder to determine the social and class implications for society based on the etymological roots of these words without a sociological or sociolinguistic study to draw upon. Yet, it is possible to speculate as to what some implications might be.

As for "faith," it is possible that were we to fully grasp that "faith" means "trust," we might question more closely what it is that we are putting our trust in and why, and what the results of generations of similar trust have been. This might lead a person to change their anchor of trust. This would signify implications for socioeconomic classes in that upper classes are more disposed to this sort of reflection because of education and met needs. Lower classes are not so disposed because of the consuming struggle to meet needs and because of their limited educational training in analytical and logical thought. This may lead to a scenario in which the upper classes would take a leadership role in guiding and instructing the lower classes in reevaluating what they put their trust in.

As for "creed," it is possible that were we to fully grasp that "creed" means "I believe," we might question more closely from where, from what source, this codified statement of formal beliefs derives. What is the authoritative source? Is the source soundly interpreted and applied to a belief system? Has the source been manipulated by a human agent for a specific agenda not inherent within the authoritative source? The same rationale of implications in socioeconomic terms would apply to "creed" as to "faith." The upper classes would have the advantage while the lower would have the disadvantage. There may be a necessity for the upper classes to take active leadership in introducing the lower classes to the need to question creeds.