Many of the protestant churches believe in “sola fide” that the only requirement for salvation is faith in God and his saving action in Jesus’ death on the cross. If you only believe, you are “saved” – and “okay” with God. By “faith alone” you will be saved… But what is faith? And is it truly enough?
Google tells me that faith is: 1. Complete trust or confidence in someone or something. 2. Strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof. Examples include: 1. A system of religious belief. 2. A strongly held belief or theory.
The website “Life Hope & Truth” explains that:
In the New Testament the English word faith is used to translate the Greek word pistis. The New Strong’s Expanded Dictionary of Bible Word says, “Pistis is used of belief with the predominate idea of trust (or confidence) whether in God or in Christ, springing from faith in the same. ‘Faith’ means trust, confidence, assurance, and belief” (p. 1315).
In St. Paul’s letter to the Hebrews, 11:1, the word “pistis” is well defined: “To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see. “ (Good News translation)
The Life Hope & Truth website further defines that: “Faith is trust, assurance and confidence in God.”
So, to have faith is to believe in something unprovable and unseeable. But does “faith” necessarily include “without evidence?” Or does the simple need for “proof” shatter the entire concept of faith?
In my young-adult days I even made a bulletin board for the Christian house where I lived which had a picture of a hot-air balloon. My theme was: “Faith – sailing with an unseen pilot.” For me, at the time, it was the perfect illustration of what faith was. Yet having sailed the stormy seas of adulthood for awhile now, such an illustration of blind faith isn’t enough anymore. This loose concept based on intangible concepts of “trust”, “confidence” and “belief” needs a stronger foundation. Perhaps that’s why many lose their faith when their life experiences “grow them up.”
Faith is still faith – especially when proven.
An article from Focus on the Family tells us that “faith is anchored in truth.”
Dr. Peter Kreeft mentions in his speech about his conversion to Catholicism that “the only honest reason for believing anything is (that) it’s true.”
God’s people have always been a people of miracles. Sometimes, they are “little” miracles in the form of day-to-day living such as landing a new job or passing a difficult test. Sometimes, they are larger miracles such as the healing of a terminal illness or congenital disfigurement (many of the miraculous places of the world are associated with such miracles.) Sometimes, they are grand-scale miracles such as Our Lady of Fatima’s appearance to thousands of people in Portugal.
People don’t always want to believe in miracles. Some like to think the witnesses are all attention-seeking media-pleasers. I guess it’s kind of like ghost stories.
Ghost stories can be an example of faith built on testimony and experiences. There is still very little scientific evidence of this phenomenon, yet there are many stories and accounts of ghosts in this world. We can take several approaches when we hear them…
1. All who tell such stories are liars and deceivers.
2. All who tell such stories are mistaken or ill.
3. There is truth to be found – and learned from.
The miracles and mysteries of the Church and personal testimonies of the Gospel can be viewed with the same options. I have more faith in people than to believe that all are liars, deceivers, mistaken or ill… Therefore, at least some of the stories are true. Thankfully, this is the approach the Church has chosen to take in substantiating people’s claims of miraculous events.
Faith requires service and obedience
Again, from the Life, Hope & Truth Website, we are told that: “Living faith is shown by service and obedience to God.”
I remember the first time I read through the Bible and read this section in James. Here, I quote from the Good News Bible. James, chapter 2, verses 14-26.
14 My friends, what good is it for one of you to say that you have faith if your actions do not prove it? Can that faith save you?
15 Suppose there are brothers or sisters who need clothes and don’t have enough to eat.
16 What good is there in your saying to them, “God bless you! Keep warm and eat well!” – if you don’t give them the necessities of life?
17 So it is with faith: if it is alone and includes no actions, then it is dead.
18 But someone will say, “One person has faith, another has actions.” My answer is, “Show me how anyone can have faith without actions. I will show you my faith by my actions.”
19 Do you believe that there is only one God? Good! The demons also believe – and tremble with fear.
20 You fool! Do you want to be shown that faith without actions is useless?
21 How was our ancestor Abraham put right with God? It was through his actions, when he offered his son Isaac on the altar.
22 Can’t you see? His faith and his actions worked together; his faith was made perfect through his actions.
23 And the scripture came true that said, “Abraham believed God, and because of his faith God accepted him as righteous.” And so Abraham was called God’s friend.
24 You see, then, that it is by our actions that we are put right with God, and not by our faith alone.
25 It was the same with the prostitute Rahab. She was put right with God through her actions, by welcoming the Israelite spies and helping them to escape by a different road.
26 So then, as the body without the spirit is dead, also faith without actions is dead.
While actions of service and obedience cannot create salvation in their own right, it is very clear that without these, faith is of little benefit to anyone. If you have someone in your community (of faith or otherwise) who is hungry, you do not simply tell them to be fed… you do not simply pray for them to have food… you feed them. If they are homeless, you don’t tell them to “get a job” (easier said than done for many) or pray that someone will help them… you become that “someone” and help them get a leg-up on life.
You serve and obey God by getting out there and helping those who need it. A side affect of this act of service and obedience is to increase the faith of yourself and those around you – especially those who are the most needy.
Faith requires testing and proving
In the previously-mentioned article from Focus on the Family, faith “grows in the dark.”
Seeds are covered by dirt and filth. There is no light. Yet, this filth becomes fertile. The seeds begin to sprout as they are watered, kept warm and cared for. It is through their trial that seeds are able to grow – and the same is true for your faith.
However, only the viable seeds are able to withstand the rigors of the soil. It is only faith that is founded on rock-hard truth that will best survive the Spring rains and gales.
We are looking for a faith that will endure through all times great and terrible… While you are busy doing your acts of service and obedience, BE the proof that someone else’s faith is based on truth. Help someone’s faith grow in the darkness and be with them until they find the light again.
Faith is what keeps us going in the lean times – of which, there will be many. Yet, faith originates in the search for (and finding of) Truth.
Chicken and Egg
Which comes first, faith or proof?
Faith produces miracles and miracles produce faith…
Faith produces works and works can produce faith…
Faith produces testimony and testimony produces faith…
Even when Jesus walked on the Earth, there were some who believed without seeing, and then those who believe because of what they saw – and then went on to become great pillars of truth!
Maybe it doesn’t matter which one comes first. Faith flows as both a cause and as an effect and strengthens those around the believer if so allowed.
Belief is not enough
It is not enough to simply believe. One can believe in anything – and get goose bumps every time something confirms (in our mind) the accuracy of our beliefs. (I, personally, have “believed” many things which turned out to not be true.) Those goose bumps are often simply the emotional reaction which can be found almost anywhere when finding an unexpected kernel of truth. We need something more substantial to form and (most importantly) maintain faith.
Undeniable truths are what will bring one back from the edge of the precipice. In my own walk, these truths are what lingered at the back of my mind when my heart had been hardened by life. These truths are what finally brought me back home.
This is why one of the main focuses of this blog is to give you EVIDENCE that truth (both tangible and intangible) is to be found in Catholicism. Miracles and mysteries are one of the main things that can give you enhanced faith. Stories of people of faith will also encourage you and give you a hefty boost to your faith.
Built on truth, one’s faith will become unshakable combined with acts of service and obedience to God’s Word and His Church.