What is faith?

We generally think of faith in religious terms, but I want to start by looking at it in a broader context. Faith, at a basic level, simply refers to the act of taking something on the word of another.

The Letter to the Hebrews describes faith as “evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Walking by faith is different from walking by sight (2 Cor 5:7)—by faith we receive things as true based on the word of another; by sight we ourselves can see the proof. If we were to limit ourselves to accepting only those things that we had personally proven or tested, we would live in a very small world. Instead, we trust the people that build our houses, prepare our food, or teach us complex sciences. This frees us from starting from scratch and allows us to flourish. Faith is not something strange to human beings. It is basically necessary for survival! The question is not really whether to have faith or not, but where we should place our faith.

Faith can also expand our vision. I think a great analogy for this (although a little technical) is light. Human beings are able to see some of the light spectrum with the naked eye, but that is just a small portion. With aid we can see the infrared, ultraviolet, etc. It is a pretty bold claim to say that there is nothing to be known beyond what we can know by human knowledge alone! And, this additional knowledge that we hold by faith isn’t necessarily less certain- although it may seem less clear to us personally. A child that (by faith) believes the world is round participates in the certainty of the astronaut who has seen it. So, it can be reasonable to have faith. Faith and reason are not opposed. They interact as two complementary ways to achieve knowledge.

The final point, then, is to examine the source of faith. There are basically three main claims of faith that are held by the Church: that God exists, that Jesus Christ is God Incarnate, and that the Catholic Church holds to the fullness of his revelation. In my next posts I will look at some reasons for belief in these claims.

God bless!

One comment on “What is faith?

  1. […] a previous post I mentioned three key questions: Why believe in God? in Christ? in the Church? Today I want to start […]

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