I need a single word, a noun, that combines the meaning of the words 'faith' (in the religious sense) and 'discernment'. The word needs to fit in the sentence "Bob wants to have [insert word here]".

Basically, I want a word that says "this individual is careful about placing his loyalty in the correct truths". So he has discernment about where he places his faith.

I feel like there has to be a word for this. It's a very specific meaning, but in all the long history of all religion I feel like SOMEBODY has to have come up with an English word for this. The closest I've gotten so far is "wisdom" and just allowing the religious context give the word some religious connotation. Maybe you can help?

closed as unclear what you're asking by Drew, JHCL, tchrist, Brian Hooper, Hellion Oct 24 '15 at 17:55

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    I'm not convinced there's a meaningful real-world concept behind this. I simply don't believe "discerning" people really can use their powers of discrimination to select the "best" religion in any "objective" sense. I might claim to have a discerning palate which leads me to insist on only drinking Coca-Cola, for example, whereas someone else with an equally discerning palate might prefer Pepsi. At the end of the day, "discerning" in such contexts simply means "capable of telling the difference, and having a preference", so perhaps the best word is just fussy. – FumbleFingers Oct 21 '15 at 15:57
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    @A.P.: Define "correct truths". You can be careful about which individuals you place your "faith, trust" in (and avoid lending money to people who aren't likely to pay you back, for example). But clearly there's no real objective way to rank different religions as better or worse, so the idea of making a "discerning" choice between possible alternative faiths strikes me as nonsense. Even devout theists don't normally consider their specific faith to be a "choice" in the sense that they could reasonably have chosen a different one. You either believe or you don't. – FumbleFingers Oct 21 '15 at 16:24
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    @A.P. There is no way "discernment" can be involved in whatever you think is correct truth. I think that's what FumbleFingers means. – user140086 Oct 21 '15 at 16:30
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    @A.P.: The whole point of my first comment was to steer things away from "worldview discussion" issues that might arise in the context of religious faith. So far as use of English is concerned, it seems to me it would be just as relevant and less "divisive" to ask about making a "discerning choice" between different brands of cola. – FumbleFingers Oct 21 '15 at 16:42
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    @A.P. That's exactly why this question is off-topic and should be closed. At the same time, I don't think it is appropriate to jump to conclusion about what FumbleFingers wanted to express with his opinion. "Dicernment" is an abstract noun. That means it can mean anything you could imagine. – user140086 Oct 21 '15 at 16:51

It sounds like you want "discernment," but with a spiritual connotation. "Discernment" can have such a connotation: "discernment of spirits" is one of the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians (KJV).

The reason I don't think you're finding a word that is only used in a spiritual context is that discernment is something that applies in a variety of contexts. Baptism only makes sense in a spiritual context; same for pyx, manse, paten, and (with the particular meanings assigned) justification and salvation; but "discernment," with the meaning you want, works well in secular contexts as well.

You didn't say what you wanted this for. If you're writing and want the right connotation, the rest of your text will provide the connotation for you.

  • You make a good point. I personally think the word 'discernment' feels a little passive, so I was looking for one with more action tied to it, like 'faith'. If nothing better comes along, I'll have to reconsider this point. And it would take a while for me to describe why I need exactly one word for this, so I left that information out of the post--it wouldn't add any value to the post. – discerning_faith Oct 21 '15 at 20:55

Opposite to "blind faith", reasoned faith may fit (even if not a single word).

This comment found on the web illustrates the difference between these two types of faith:

Blind faith is the belief in something when there is evidence that is contrary to the belief reasoned faith is a faith in something which can not be proven but the corrolary arguements to the belief are examinable.

For example--blind faith is those who believe in the literal interpretation of the abrahamic myth book. There is ample evidence that the stories as written couldn't possibly be true. Those with blind faith therefore must scurry into the supernatural hand waving explanations

Reasoned faith is like many of the religous--who accept the bible as allegorical and not literal. You still can't prove your faith--but your faith is consistent with factual evidence. source

EDIT following OP comment for a single word:

To convey both "wisdom" and "religion", spirituality is a possibility.

All religions emphasise spirituality as being an important part of faith. But, spirituality is more of an individual practice and has to do with having a sense of peace and purpose. It also relates to the process of developing beliefs around the meaning of life and connection with others. source

  • You've pinpointed the reason I was wanting to avoid the word 'faith' alone. I feel that when people hear the word 'faith' by itself it brings to mind the "blind faith" concept your comment describes, and I want to steer clear from that. But I still need it to be one word, not two. – discerning_faith Oct 21 '15 at 21:04
  • @discerning_faith - I edited my answer to propose "spirituality". – Graffito Oct 21 '15 at 21:44

Consider, religious insight.


: an instance of apprehending he true nature of a thing, esp. Through intuitive understanding.

: penetrating mental vision or discernment.


  • This is a very interesting suggestion. "Apprehending true nature" applies to the 'discernment' part, and "through intuitive understanding" applies to the 'faith' part. I'll keep this answer in mind. – discerning_faith Oct 21 '15 at 20:58

The word I would use is "belief."

  • What makes you think "belief" has a connotation of "discernment" while faith doesn't. – user140086 Oct 21 '15 at 15:56
  • @Rathony What the OP asked for was a word which combined both faith and discernment. So perhaps belief is not a bad pot shot. – WS2 Oct 21 '15 at 18:20
  • @WS2 That's as much opinion-based. I don't want to argue about the difference between faith and belief. – user140086 Oct 21 '15 at 18:24
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    I don't find this response to be very helpful. – discerning_faith Oct 21 '15 at 20:59

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