Evidence and Faith

The problem is not that we do not have enough faith, but that we don’t really understand what faith is, and because believers themselves do not understand the concept of faith, and hawk about the wrong ideas of faith it gives ammunition to the doubters, atheists and agnostics.

So, some people believe that having ‘faith’ is believing something which they secretly think is a load of codswallop. Somehow or other they have to try very hard to suspend their disbelief and ‘have faith’ in propositions and stories which everybody really knows are just untrue.

Others use have ‘faith’ in the God of the gaps. That is to say, where scientific and historical evidence stop–faith begins. They’re good as long as they can be practical and utilitarian and sensible. Then when all that doesn’t work anymore and they’re confronted with something for which they do not have an explanation, then ‘faith’ kicks in.

Then there are the sentimentalists–for them ‘faith’ is a personal experience. It’s a feeling about what is right. It is the moment when they decided to ‘trust Jesus’ or ‘accept Jesus into their heart.’ Their faith is validated, they feel, because they have had a memorable emotional experience of repentance and this was combined with ‘faith’ in Jesus Christ to save them from their sins.

For others ‘faith’ is an intellectual assent to a certain credal proposition. They believe in a certain set of doctrines and moral precepts, and by ‘believe’ they mean that they believe them to be true or correct or at least the most practical and positive. This kind of ‘faith’ is a kind of intellectual agreement.

True faith, however, is something different from all these things, and yet perhaps inclusive of all these things. The man of faith begins with evidence–not lack of evidence. He sees that the world works a certain way. He has particular experiences which give him evidence that he must account for. The religious explanation is the one which he has figured out has the most possibilities of answering the questions that have arisen from the evidence he has gathered and the experiences he has had. He then takes action based on those conclusions, consequently he believes certain things to be true, and on these beliefs and personal experiences he takes action, and begins to live in a certain way. All of this together comprises ‘faith’.

The man of faith therefore has certain experiences, believes certain truths, has certain emotions and holds to certain ways of looking at the world, and these things combined enable him to live in a particular way–the way of faith.

Too often religious people have offered only  truncated view of faith, and no version of Christianity does this more than Protestantism which offers ‘salvation by faith alone.’ In this heresy the beliefs and trust and emotions are separated out from the actions which come from faith. The actions don’t matter. But ‘faith without works is dead.’ The faithful actions that result from the step of faith are what make the faith real and make faith a dynamic and living force–rather than a dead and past event.

About Fr. Dwight Longenecker
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04843514873861242426 Howard

    Exactly. In St. John's Gospel we find that although "many" who saw Lazarus raised from the dead believed on Jesus, not all did — some ran to tell the Pharisees. In chapter 9 of that same Gospel, they rejected the healing of the man blind from birth because it was done on the Sabbath. And in St. Luke's Gospel, Abraham tells the rich man, "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe, if one rise again from the dead."I suspect miracles are rare because they wouldn't change most people's hearts anyway, and without them there is greater merit for the believer and less blame for the unbeliever.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17691145638703824456 kkollwitz

    "I suspect miracles are rare because they wouldn't change most people's hearts anyway"Yes, like the Pharisees who refused to believe Jesus had healed the man who'd been blind from birth.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr Longenecker

    It could be that there are many more miracles that take place that we do not know of because we have not the eyes or the time to see them.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07519428794618769856 Highland Cathedral

    My understanding is that Evangelicals will agree that faith without works is dead but that it is the faith bit which saves them. They will say that a real faith is one which results in works but that the works do not themselves have any part in salvation. But if they say that only a faith which results in works is a saving faith is that in any significant way different from the Catholic doctrine? And how was it possible for the Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church to produce a document in which they came to an agreement on the doctrine of Justification? Is there a significant difference of doctrine or is it just semantics?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01855700140160698089 Philip Jude

    Faith is, in Paul's words, offering yourself up as a "living sacrifice" to and for God. It is committing yourself moment by moment to the Person of Christ, the image of the invisible God. I wrote about the importance of vital and consuming faith here: http://a-heart-of-flesh.blogspot.com/2011/10/mystery-of-faith.html

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04843514873861242426 Howard

    @Fr Longenecker"Rare" is a terribly subjective word. I agree that miracles are more common than many people think, but they are still not the sort of thing to be expected on a daily basis. And again, I only mean "signs and wonders", not other manifestations of supernatural power such as baptism or the Eucharist — or even the continuing existence of the universe. I've had odd things happen to me that are plausibly minor miracles. For example, I was attending a Catholic church for a year or so before my conversion, and I bought $5 worth of raffle tickets for some statues for an upcoming church dinner. When the time for the dinner came around, I drove to the place it was being held, because I knew I would win. I turned around and drove back. There were 2 statues, so 2 drawings. The first one went to someone who was not present, and the statue of St. Joseph was chosen for him. Now I really knew I was going to win the second drawing. The sensation was very unpleasant — it was like being picked up and shaken in the mouth of a large lion. And, of course, I did win it. I knew what it meant: Hey, stupid, you need to join the Catholic Church. Soon would be better.Was that a miracle? The CDF would never certify it. Anyone is free to believe it all took place in my imagination (except for winning the statue, which I of course still have). It was a message meant for me, not for anyone else. None of the people sitting with me had a clue what was going on. (Though I did get a curious look from Fr. Corcoran, since I had spoken with him not long before.)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01381975931563167173 Veritas

    "For others 'faith' is an intellectual assent to a certain credal proposition. They believe in a certain set of doctrines and moral precepts, and by 'believe' they mean that they believe them to be true… This kind of 'faith' is a kind of intellectual agreement."The above is a perfect definition of the act of faith.We can look at faith in two ways: As a supernatural virtue, and as an act.1.)Faith as a Virtue: As Vatican I teaches (also see Satis Cognitum of Leo XIII), faith is a supernatural virtue that helps us to believe the truths that God has revealed. 2.) The act of Faith: The act of faith takes place when we actually assent with our intellect and will to a truth revealed by God.We live according to our faith when our lives conform to what we believe by faith.In short, the act of faith is intellectual assent to truths revealed by God, through the assistance of the virtue of faith.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16175190666242429698 Patrick

    so can someone have saving faith but not be baptized? i am thinking of the good thief.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05336781734419554046 broken

    To Veritas,Thank you for clarifying the difference between supernatural faith and the act of faith. I was just saying to my husband how I believe people who are baptized as babies just naturally seem to believe church doctrine, and as they grow older, seek the understanding behind the doctrines of the faith. Perhaps Protestants struggle with faith because they are not infused with the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity from the get-go, as are Catholics.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04843514873861242426 Howard

    @PatrickThe baptism of desire applies to the case of the Good Thief.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01381975931563167173 Veritas

    Broken wrote: "Thank you for clarifying the difference between supernatural faith and the act of faith. I was just saying to my husband how I believe people who are baptized as babies just naturally seem to believe church doctrine, and as they grow older, seek the understanding behind the doctrines of the faith."You were exactly right! That is exactly what the supernatural virtue of faith does. The best talk I have ever heard on the virtue of faith was given by Fr. Ripperger, former Seminary Professor for the Fraterity of St. Peter, and is available online.If you would like to listen to that talk, go this this website http://www.sensustraditionis.org/multimedia.html , scoll down to "Omaha recollection" and click on "Faith". I'm sure you will be very edified and learn a great deal.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05336781734419554046 broken

    To Veritas,Thank You so much! I've bookmarked it and plan on listening to it tomorrow. I love being Catholic. I'm so grateful.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01381975931563167173 Veritas

    Broken,I'm listening to the talk again right now. It is very good.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14562496204304992797 Irenaeus of New York

    @PatrickBaptism of Desire (St. Dismas the Good Thief) or Baptism by Blood (i.e. martyrdom before baptism like the Holy Innocents)As the Holy Father says, faith and joyful hope are almost interchangeable in scripture. The opposite being despair like Judas.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03601404337397444540 James Joseph

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14807873592896092136 Anthony S. Layne

    One definition of faith I read (in Claude Tresmontant's The Hebrew Christ) stems from understanding the Greek pistis: "objective certitude regarding the truth". In this respect, there are many things outside of religion that we accept as true without requiring proof; indeed, some things don't admit of proof … they're axioms. For instance, you can't prove that a line is the shortest distance between two points; you have to start from there, otherwise nothing else in geometry makes sense. We take it on faith, not because its truth is unknowable but because it is certain.@ Howard: About your minor miracle … I often say the law of probability proves that God has a sense of humor. While the CDF (or the Congregation for Causes) might rule out anything that can be explained by natural causes or reasonable operation of probability, I see no problem with God rigging the lots so His influence appears natural. In fact, He's got a track record of doing so.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09412688173034951824 Andreas Kjernald

    As always I find myself agreeing with Longenecker…although this time I expected him to write something else regarding "faith". Yes, we protestants often miss the side of works when it comes to salvation. Salvation by faith alone is our cornerstone but I would argue that this wrong-thinking had to happen since the Catholic church (at the time) was so steeped in salvation by works that it amounted to heresy/being un-Biblical as well. Nothing we do can save us…except trusting Jesus and living a life controlled by him.This is what I thought the post was coming to, trusting Jesus. I agree with everything written in the post about faith being a response to an understanding of the world and of God, but I think that faith in its essence is extremely close to "trust". We have faith, or believe in, a person and not facts. True, we do believe in facts about a person (such as Jesus dying and rising) but we have faith in him, not the facts. Facts don't save us. Answers don't save us. Dr. Peter Kreeft, a catholic, often compares believing in Jesus to a wedding. Thus, to "have faith" (or to put it more Biblically "to receive faith" and act on it) is more an act of marriage than it is a conclusion to our understanding of the world. We get married to Jesus, sort of, by having faith in Him. Faith is to believe and when we decide to believe (enabled by His grace) it's like saying "yes" at the altar.True, Jesus is the answer to our questions.True, Jesus is the summation of how the world works.True, everything is for Him and by him.But the life of faith is (in my opinion) a life lived being united with Christ and allowing Christ to unite himself with me…not so much living a life because of a certain metanarrative that makes sense to me (though of course it does).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01381975931563167173 Veritas

    Adreas Kjarnold wrote: "True, we do believe in facts about a person (such as Jesus dying and rising) but we have faith in him, not the facts." But there is one thing you left out. If we truly have faith in the person, we will also believe what the person taught. To reject what the person taught is to reject the person, regardless of how much faith we claim to have in Him.So, for example, anyone who believes in Jesus will have to believe that keeping the Commandments is necessary to enter into heaven, since this is what Jesus taught (Mt 19:17). We can't say faith is merely believing in the person, without also including belief in every single teaching of that person. True faith is believing all that Jesus Christ taught, because He is God who can neither deceive nor be deceived."Living according to faith" should follow from our faith, but faith itself is an intellectual assent to propositional truths.Luther rejected just about every teaching of Jesus Christ, and then claimed that "faith" in Jesus is what saves. But if you reject even one teaching of Christ, you actually have no faith at all, but merely an opinion. Having lost the faith by rejecting most of what Jesus taught, Luther redefined "faith" as "trust", and claimed that as long as one trusted in Jesus, the merits of Jesus would cover them over and they would be saved, regardless of whether or not their lives were lived in accord with what Jesus taught.So Luther not only rejected true faith, but he also rejected the necessity to live according to faith. "If I should commit murder or adultery 1000 times a day", Luther wrote, "God would not be concerned in the least".Luther's error started with a heretical definition of faith, which then led him to the most ridiculous conclusions. I would encourage you to read what the Council of Trent taught regarding faith. I think you will find that it makes a lot of sense, and reconciles Bible verses that may have been difficult for you to reconcile in the past.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09412688173034951824 Andreas Kjernald

    @Veritas-wow, that is some serious butchering of my name. Even Red Lobster used to get it closer than that ;) . On a more serious note. I am not a Lutheran neither do I agree with Luther on many things. I think you misunderstood me. You understand me to say that "faith is merely believing in the person, without also including belief in every single teaching of that person". No, that is not what I said. I simply said that I don't think nor believe that saving faith is obeying some commands or believing some facts or agreeing with a dogma (Longenecker's point). Saving faith to me, and I think the Bible, is faith in the person of Jesus/God, not faith in facts. Again, facts don't save us and neither do commandments or rules or dogmas. We are saved by a person.Of course, we can't say that we have faith in Jesus while ignoring what he taught or the facts about his life. Clearly, to love Jesus is to obey what he taught (John 15:10). So?As far as your understanding of Luther's understanding of Jesus I think you are simply wrong. For starters, didn't Luther believe in the Creeds or his Sermon on the Mount that you also believe in?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09412688173034951824 Andreas Kjernald

    …should read "Jesus' Sermon on the Mount…". Not Luther's….

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01381975931563167173 Veritas

    Andreas wrote: “On a more serious note. I am not a Lutheran neither do I agree with Luther on many things. I think you misunderstood me. You understand me to say that "faith is merely believing in the person, without also including belief in every single teaching of that person". No, that is not what I said. I simply said that I don't think nor believe that saving faith is obeying some commands or believing some facts or agreeing with a dogma (Longenecker's point). Saving faith to me, and I think the Bible, is faith in the person of Jesus/God, not faith in facts. Again, facts don't save us and neither do commandments or rules or dogmas. We are saved by a person.Of course, we can't say that we have faith in Jesus while ignoring what he taught or the facts about his life. Clearly, to love Jesus is to obey what he taught”…Woops. Sorry about spelling your name wrong.The reason I mentioned Luther is because he caused a lot of confusion in the area of faith and justification. What was clearly understood prior to Luther became, to a large extent, obscured by Luther’s heresies; and for some reason these errors have persisted to the present day. Today, 500 years after Luther introduced them, not only do the errors themselves remain, but there is now a mixture of his errors and the truth, in such a way that people will hold to one of his errors, while at the same time rejecting another related error. It has resulted in a lot of confusion about the very nature of faith, which is often reduced to a vague “trust”. But when Luther’s errors are understood it clears up much of the confusion. The remaining confusion is cleared up by reading what the Council of Trent taught on this subject.Luther’s Error: To understand Luther’s system the first thing to realize is that he denied free will. By denying free will, he not only rejected the idea that we must obey God (since, having lost free will, doing so in not in our power), but he also claimed that if man sinned, he was not responsible in God’s eyes.Martin Luther: "It is either God or the devil that rules; man has no freedom of choice and is absolutely devoid of responsibility for his acts. Having lost free will, man cannot observe the precepts of the Decalogue; he cannot master his passions; he must sin as long as he lives." "As God pushes him, then he does something not through free will, but by the power of God; and when the devil pushes him, then he does something not through free will, but by the power of Satan who takes possession of him" (Martin Luther, Enslavement of the will). According to Luther, God is not bothered by our sins. That is why he wrote the following:"During this life we have to sin. It is sufficient that, by the mercy of God, we know the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. Sin will not separate us from Him, even though we were to commit a thousand murders and a thousand adulteries per day" (Franca, 9.439).You see, if we don’t have free will we are not responsible for out acts. continue…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01381975931563167173 Veritas

    continuationNow, according to Luther, since obedience to God is not possible, all that is required is that we “believe” (trust) in Jesus. If we “trust” in Jesus (which is what he meant by “faith”), then His merits will cover over our filth and we will be saved. He reduced faith to mere “trust in Jesus”, and then claimed that this alone was necessary for salvation."God only obliges you to believe and to confess. In all other things He leaves you free, Lord and master to do whatever you will without any danger to your conscience; on the contrary, it is certain that, as far as He is concerned, it makes no difference whether you leave your wife, flee from your lord, or are unfaithful to every obligation. What is it to Him if you do or do not do such things? (Werke XXI p. 131) "During this life we have to sin. It is sufficient that, by the mercy of God, we know the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. (Franca, 9.439). "The husband may drive away his wife; God cares not. Let Vashti go and take an Esther, as did the king of Ahasuerus" (Wittenb. V, 123).Also keep in mind that it is not our good works saved us, but rather our “bad works” (sin) that will damn us, regardless of how much faith we claim to have. “He that sayeth I know Him, and keepeth not the commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4).True faith is not merely a vague trust, but an intellectual assent to what Jesus taught. Let me give just one example: In John 6, Jesus had a huge following. After He performed a miracle, they asked him what was required to be saved – “what must we do to be saved”. His reply “believe” (vs 29). Keep in mind that at the time they all claimed to believe, but later a few munites later (recorded in the same Chapter of John’s Gospel) He told them they must ‘eat His Flesh and drink His Blood”. This was the test of their belief. What happened? Most of them left. They said “this is a hard saying, who can believe it”. Therefore, rejecting this teaching they left him “and walked no more with Him.” At first they claimed to believe in Jesus, yet when he gave them a hard teaching they couldn’t accept it. This shows that they lacked true supernatural faith. The difference with our day is that people today reject what Jesus taught and still think they have faith. They claim to believe in Jesus, but in reality, by rejecting what He taught they are also rejecting Him. Heresy (rejecting a truth revealed by God) is incompatible with supernatural faith, and without faith a person cannot be united to God.continue

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01381975931563167173 Veritas

    continuationThe person with true faith (which is a very precious gift, especially in our day) will result in a person believing every single teaching of Jesus Christ. Yet this alone will not suffice for salvation. The person must also possess supernatural charity, or “grace” in their soul.Grace is an infusion of the very life of God into the soul – “a participation in the Divine nature” as St. Peter put it – which divinized the human soul, makes it a “new creation in Christ Jesus”, and raises it to the supernatural level. In order to possess grace, a person must have supernatural faith, which itself the foundation of the supernatural life.Once a person obtains the state of grace, obedience to God’s commandments are necessary for salvation. If a person breaks one commandment with full knowledge and volition, this turning away from God and towards sin results in the loss of grace. Confession to a Priest is the ordinary way to recover lost grace.So, to be saved it is necessary to have true supernatural faith, which requires believe in all that Jesus taught, and supernatural charity (or “grace”) in the soul; and in order to retain grace in the soul, obedience to God is necessary. With the intellect we believe (faith) and with the will we do (charity). Faith is of the intellect and charity is of the will. Both are necessary for salvation for one who has attained the use of reason.Anyway, I better post this now as it is getting pretty long. Please read through the Council of Trent and let me know what you think.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09412688173034951824 Andreas Kjernald

    @Veritas-will do, as soon as I have time. For your information I am a Wesleyan, not a Lutheran. That might help you understand me better.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12883508561700901694 Catherine

    I have always loved this line by C.S. Lewis on faith: "Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods."


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