Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Over on the Reformed Protestant website titled, Beggars All (here), a gentleman, known as Augustinian Successor commented on my statement pertaining to the Catholic view of faith claiming that it was silly. He goes on to suggest that somehow I was advocating a sort of blind faith or obedience in some sort of totalitarian system. Let me dispel that myth, here and now. I do not ascribe to such a view. Such a notion is at the root of a heresy I do not adhere to called traditionalism.

However, I do reaffirm what I said at Beggars All, “At its core, faith is based on obedience and assent. It is not based on how well we understand. I do not need to understand in order to have faith in Jesus Christ, in His infallible Word and in His infallible Church.”

As I will show here. my view is not silly; it is both biblical and supported by two great Doctors of the Catholic Church, SS. Augustine and Anselm. I only need to give you two references to show how hollow A.S. words are here: Heb. 11:4-38 and Luke 1:26-38. Go through the examples listed in these two passages from Scripture. Now I ask, were Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, etc. in the OT or the Blessed Virgin Mary in the NT faithful based on their understanding of the Scriptures or due to their obedience to God’s Word?

St. Paul tells us at Rom. 1:5-6 that he was called as an apostle to bring about an "obedience of faith" in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. See also, Rom. 16:26. While the grace that comes to us after showing faith creates a desire for understanding and deepens that faith, it does not follow from a full understanding of all things contained in the Scriptures.

As I mentioned before, both St. Augustine and St. Anselm ascribe to my view of faith.

St. Augustine said in Sermon 126:

“Understanding is the reward of faith. Seek not to understand in order to believe, but believe in order to understand.” (Sermon 126)

St. Anselm expanded on St. Augustine in his "Proslogium":

I do not endeavor, O Lord, to penetrate your sublimity, for in no wise do I compare my understanding with that; but I long to understand in some degree your truth, which my heart believes and loves. For I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, —that unless I believed, I should not understand."

Now what do we mean when we talk about “obedience of faith?” To “obey” in faith is to submit freely to the Word that has been heard, because its truth is guaranteed by God, who is Truth itself. The word “obey” comes from a Latin word meaning “to hear and listen to.” Another word for obedience is to trust. Implicitly, to trust in the truth of the Word of God is another way of saying I acknowledge and assent to be under God’s authority and to obey Him and His Church.

The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “…we respond to God with the obedience of faith, which means the full surrender of ourselves to God and the acceptance of his truth, insofar as it is guaranteed by the One who is Truth itself. St. Augustine called the faith [trust] by which we believe, “fides qua creditur,” as opposed to faith which is believed, “fides quae creditur.” We Catholics call faith in the second sense, the content of faith. What I am talking about here is faith in the first sense, not in the second sense of the word. I apologize to A.S. for not making that clear.

Faith in the first sense of the word is an act of intellect assenting to divine truth at the command of the will, which is moved to do so only after reception of God’s grace. After this initial act of faith which places us in Christ’s Church and under its teaching authority, understanding of the content of faith follows. As Psalm 36:9 states, “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.”

While understanding follows faith, our use of our reason does not. Faith is not a blind leap after leaving reason behind, but rather a foundation. God has revealed to man truths which are not in themselves evident to our the human mind. Since it is not evident, we can not claim to understand it. Did not St. Paul say at Rom. 11:33-34, “ O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments, and how unsearchable his ways! For who hath known the mind of the Lord?”

We have a choice then: either reject God’s revelation altogether, or accept it by faith; that is, we must submit our intellect to truths which we cannot understand, but which come to us on Divine authority. The First Vatican Council held, “We believe that revelation is true, not indeed because the intrinsic truth of the mysteries is clearly seen by the natural light of reason, but because of the authority of God Who reveals them, for He can neither deceive nor be deceived."

For a Catholic, faith is not the product of our human insights, our human judgments and concerns unlike Protestants who believe in the notion of private judgment. Faith means to trust and confide in God. It allows us then to overcome our limited intellects clouded or influenced by our education, cultural factors, bias, prejudices, weaknesses and strengths. It allows us to be more certain than all our human certitudes. For Catholics then, God himself is the focus of our faith along with His revealed truth, the fidelity and reliability of which is guaranteed through His Church here on earth. Our ability to comprehend in not based on merely our intellect, but on no less an authority than God, Himself, and His Revelation; that is, the authority of Scripture, but also the Apostolic Tradition and the practice of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

May we all "Believe in order to understand!"


Some Scripture passages which support my points

"Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Heb. 11:1)

“A man's steps are ordered by the Lord; how then can man understand his way?” (Prov. 20:24)

They that trust in him, shall understand the truth: and they that are faithful in love shall rest in him: for grace and peace is to his elect.” (Wisdom of Solomon 3:9)

And they shall know that I am the Lord their God: and I will give them a heart, and they shall understand: and ears, and they shall hear.” (Baruch 2:31)

And his disciples came and said to him: Why speakest thou to them in parables? [Jesus] answered and said to them: Because to you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven: but to them it is not given. For he that hath, to him shall be given, and he shall abound: but he that hath not, from him shall be taken away that also which he hath. Therefore do I speak to them in parables: because seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And the prophecy of Isaias is fulfilled in them, who saith: By hearing you shall hear, and shall not understand: and seeing you shall see, and shall not perceive. For the heart of this people is grown gross, and with their ears they have been dull of hearing, and their eyes they have shut: lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear. For, amen, I say to you, many prophets and just men have desired to see the things that you see, and have not seen them, and to hear the things that you hear and have not heard them. (Matt. 13:10-17. See also, Acts 28:16-30).

In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

My God, I confess that you can enlighten my darkness.
I confess that you alone can.
I wish my darkness to be enlightened.
I do not know whether you will;
but that you can and that I wish, are sufficient reason for me to ask.
I hereby promise that by your grace which I am asking,
I will embrace whatever I at length feel certain is the truth.
By your grace I will guard against all self deceit
which may lead me to take what nature would have,
rather than what reason approves.

~the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman