What Is Faith? That Is The Question!

Why this picture? See below.

One of our regular commenters, Adrian, has been asking a lot of questions about Faith. He is coming from a position of atheism/agnosticism, and I cannot be sure he isn’t here just to make trouble, but I always prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt, and so I will attempt to answer his query, which I see as “What is Faith?”

First off, Faith is NOT blind belief. You will find that Catholics are meant to be very sceptical about everything they are told, and should always question things right down to the nitty-gritty. Part of a Catholic’s spiritual growth is this questioning of everything. Of course, in order to question, one has to believe that questioning and questions exist.

Questions are demands put to our reasoning in hope of an answer. Does reasoning exist? You tell me! Of course it does, or I wouldn’t be writing this, and you wouldn’t be reading it or formulating a reply. Where is reasoning taking place? Well, it is not in my desk or computer, but in my mind, and your mind, and everybody’s mind, except when we are in a coma. (We even reason when we are asleep, though sub optimally. Thus dreams are hard to make sense of, during and after).

There is more to mind than just reasoning. There is memory, and there is emotion, and most uniquely to humans, there is will. A mind functioning perfectly has a concert hall of memory, an orchestra of emotions, a choir of sound reasoning, and a conductor of good will.

So what is Faith? Well, that is the Score, of course! The Composer of the Score is bashful and cheeky, and wants you to try playing His music first before revealing Himself.

The Composer is a great artist and has founded galleries full of His art as well. (Try “the universe”, for instance). He is a great sponsor of the arts too.

PS: I shall try to continue this fugue in later articles if there is interest shown.

About Brother Burrito

A sinner who hopes in God's Mercy, and who cannot stop smiling since realizing that Christ IS the Way , the Truth and the Life. Alleluia!
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39 Responses to What Is Faith? That Is The Question!

  1. kathleen says:

    A very good article Burrito! You are quite right that “Faith is NOT blind belief”, and that reasoning (that you are calling “scepticism”) has to come into it. If it did not, Faith would be reduced to a form of brain-washed blind following of a creed. For example, this unfortunately is what appears to be the case with many followers of the islamic faith.

    In the opening of the Encyclical Letter FIDES ET RATIO, Bl. Pope John Paul II declares:

    “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”



  2. Andy Oldham says:

    Please do continue!


  3. Adrian Meades says:

    Thanks BB! I do like this article, and it is quite poetic, but I’m not too sure how much sense it makes to me, so will give it some more thought.
    Where do instinctive, concupiscent, animal drives come into the analogy?


  4. shieldsheafson says:

    “Faith without Reason is blind; Reason without Faith is empty.”
    I. Kant


  5. shieldsheafson says:

    St. Bonaventura emphasises that we are not merely creatures of our corporeal senses, e.g., the assent to the truth of observation, but also, that knowledge, in the last analysis, comes down to seeing, to contemplation, to a kind of experience in which we know certain things to be true without further argument or demonstration. On the lowest level, this occurs in sensory observation, on the highest in the mystic vision.

    For myself, it is by appealing to the inward experience of the divine nature of existence which is found in the voice of conscience. I sincerely hope that this is not just wishful thinking.


  6. Toadspitttle says:

    “First off, Faith is NOT blind belief. You will find that Catholics are meant to be very sceptical about everything they are told, and should always question things right down to the nitty-gritty.”
    Nicely and elegantly put, Burron.
    What sceptical questions ought we to put regarding, say, transubstantiation?
    How do we know Raven is not – in reality – a writing desk?

    (Is that Waldo, 15th from left, 3rd row? Sceptical of that, myself.)


  7. johnhenrycn says:

    “Thus dreams are hard to make sense of, during and after.”

    I must agree with that, BB. Had one myself last night, about a hockey game where a group of 4 or 5 cardinals in full regalia (birettas, mozzettas, rochets, cassocks…) were watching it from rinkside seats. A glass panel from the arena ceiling fell and shattered on the ice directly in front of them. I was sent to clean up the glass shards with a broom that looked like a witch’s broom (very roughly and crudely made) and one of the cardinals smoking a cigarette, smiled at me and nodded his head. Not as meaningful a dream as Jacob’s Ladder, I guess.


  8. Toadspitttle says:

    “A glass panel from the arena ceiling fell and shattered on the ice directly in front of (the cardinals.)”
    On the contrary, a very meaningful dream. Clearly, JH is subconsciously in favour of women breaking through “the glass ceiling,” and becoming cardinals and suchlike.
    Good for him – or at least for his subconscious!

    Toad thinks women would make just as rotten cardinals as men do.
    Matter of opinion, though. Some people probably think they wouldn’t.


  9. johnhenrycn says:

    Ha, ha 🙂


  10. Mimi says:

    “Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation.”

    This is the best description of faith that I have ever come across. Sadly, I can’t remember who said it. It may possibly have been a Quaker chap. (Or perhaps one of Toad’s perennial favourites, the Quivering Brethren. )


  11. Toadspitttle says:

    “Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation.”

    That is a good quote, but open to debate
    The first half is questionable because we can never have “proof” of anything metaphysical – so it’s meaningless. I have faith that Shostakovitch is better than Snoop Doggy Dog, but I can’t prove it.
    And I suspect it’s possible to have trust with reservations.
    I may trust the plumber when he says he’s coming Wednesday.
    But I may also be wise to have reservations. Particularly in Spain.

    Man and wife go to a Sushi bar. “Do you have reservations, Sir?” asks the receptionist. “Yes, I don’t know if I want to eat raw fish or not” says the man.


  12. Mimi says:

    Toad, it is indeed possible to have trust with reservations, but in that case it is not faith, which the writer defined as trust *without* reservation. ‘Without’ is the important word here.


  13. Toadspitttle says:

    Good point, Mimi.
    And anyone with unreserved faith in Spanish plumbers doing what they promise – has only got themselves to blame. That and a blocked-up drain.


  14. johnhenrycn says:

    “Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation”

    But there are those of little faith (Matt. 6:30 and 17:20), which is not the same as faithless.

    Are not we Christians of “little faith” less trusting than some other Christians?


  15. Shadaan says:

    Sometimes we think life is mechanical, and at other times when there is sorrow and confusion, we revert to faith, looking to some supreme being for guidance and help. You know, in the case of most of us, the mind is noisy, talking to itself, or about something, or trying to talk to it, to convince itself of something. May we are all insane to a certain level, howevere from that noise, we act. Any action born of noise produces more noise, more confusion. There we are confused faith becomes our outlet to solve any problems mostly our fears that is gripping us. And along come the evangelists and the religious preachers. They’re making pots of money, in the name of Jesus or their respective prophets. They all definitely talk about faith and we know that fear is the base of all this and none of us including the preachers are sure there is a creator God. If there was no fear, we wouldn’t need gods. “I’m not being cynical. I’m just pointing this out. Prophets spoke with God is ridiculous. The life histories of these Prophets indicate that they lied blatantly with their disciples. There is no valid reason or logic to believe that, a creator “God” suddenly decided to talk on daily basis just a few thousand years back after a long silence for millions or billions of years with a bunch of utterly illiterate Middle-Eastern guys from pure desert of Arabia then decided to remain silent for ever. Is there any truth in organized religion? It may immerse, truth, but the organized religion itself is not true. Therefore, organized religion is false, it separates man from man. You are a Muslim, I am a Hindu, another is a Christian or a Buddhist and we are wrangling, butchering each other. Is there any truth in that? If there is no truth or facts than what is faith or why there is such a thing called faith. What is there in the unknown for us to have faith?


  16. johnhenrycn says:

    [The moderator – Come now, JH, a little restraint with our guests]


  17. johnhenrycn says:

    Reading Shadaan’s entry reminds me of being bitten to death by a duck.


  18. Toadspitttle says:

    “First off, Faith is NOT blind belief. You will find that Catholics are meant to be very sceptical about everything they are told, and should always question things right down to the nitty-gritty.”

    Second off, can we get back to the point?
    Wrench ourselves reluctantly away from JH‘s feminist dreams?
    What about transubstantiation, for example? How are we to apply Burronian Scepticism to the nitty-gritty of that? Or the recently-approved Assumption of Our Lady?
    I think we should be told. Surely we all agree?

    There used to be a duck in Moratinos, named Lucas, who liked “biting” Toad’s toes when he wore sandals. (when Toad wore sandals, of course, not Lucas.) Dead now, alas.


  19. Toadspitttle says:

    Bit more brotherly love here, please, neighbours.

    Though we could all try to be nicer and smarter. And taller and younger and healthier and better looking. Particularly Toad.
    Can’t hurt.


  20. kathleen says:

    Well, I don’t know what JH’s deleted comment was all about as I never saw it, but surely the poisoned garbage of Shadaan’s is enough to make any of us outraged!

    What gods do you pray to Shadaan?…. But wait, perhaps you think yourself a type of god, and are suggesting we should all do the same?


  21. kathleen says:

    Toad @ 5:40

    Faith is a process. Once the certainty of God’s Being hits you (although this is usually a gradual process) and that Jesus Christ is God Incarnate, you will need to learn all that God has revealed to Man.
    It will follow that there can only possibly be One Church (the teaching body of Christ) as common sense demands, for there are some conflicting teachings among churches. Then you go back to the origins when Jesus formed His Church on Earth to carry on His Mission, and that is the Catholic Church. (There are other Catholic Churches besides the “Latin” one we belong to, and they are all valid – united under one Pontiff, and with the same Doctrines and Dogmas.)

    Once this is established, and you understand how the Church has the God-given Authority to interpret all that Jesus, the Word of God, gave us, the belief in Transubstantiation, or the Assumption of Our Lady* (that you mention) is accepted as God revealed Truths.

    BB’s use of the word “scepticism” is not one I would have used, but he is quite right that we should use our brains (intelligence) as well as our hearts (emotions) in our faith journeys to God. There are countless subjects we can discuss about our Catholic Faith that are not established Truths. Those are out-of-bounds for faithful Catholics to dispute or question, for the Holy Spirit has already spoken on their veracity through the Pope and Magisterium.

    * The Assumption of Our Blessed Lady was an accepted belief of the Church for centuries, although you are quite right that it was only defined as an infallible dogma by Pope Pius XII as recently as 1950.


  22. johnhenrycn says:

    Er, sorry, Mr. Moderator (and Shadaan), I was just trying out a Shakespeare Insult Generator. No offence.


  23. Toadspitttle says:

    The point about transubstantiation, particularly, Kathleen, is – as I see it, at least – that if we accept it as a fact – where does it end? Any object can become any other object while looking the same as before. Or does it only “work” for bread and wine?
    I don’t like to keep spelling this out, but – if not – how can we then say that the rusty old wheelbarrow at the bottom of the garden is not GC‘s now semi-legendary, “transubstantiated,” Little Pink Unicorn?
    This is, in my view, a valid objection which needs to be addressed.

    “…established Truths… are out-of-bounds for faithful Catholics to dispute or question..”
    Well, that just won’t do, will it? Pitiful. Unacceptable. There can be nothing in the universe that cannot be questioned by intelligent human beings, and indeed everything MUST be questioned.
    And I’m sure Burro, and Raven, and GC, and Raga, et al agree. (I’m not really, I just made that up.)

    I also suspect Catholics are actually no more “certain” of things – like the existence of God – than I am. But what they are “certain” of is that they believe their beliefs to be unquestionable.
    Which sounds superficially the same. But is not.
    Nor is it very well put by me.
    So, let me put it another way: “We don’t know there is a God. We merely know for certain that we sincerely believe there is a God.” (Doesn’t really help, does it? Oh, well.)

    Incidentally, I’ve come to absurd conclusions like this largely by attentively reading CP&S. So thanks to all for that.
    …Although those conclusions can change in a moment, if confronted by a more convincing argument. Yours can’t.


  24. Shadaan says:

    .It is not a question of which God one prays to but fundamental questions about the existence of this God all five religions claim to talk about and is that part of what we are discussing about? Since five religions portray God differently does it not make you ask questions? Could all five be lying and doesn’t money seem to be the motive of all these religious systems, they are filthy rich and there is enough evidence. Where does this leave ordinary people, just accept whatever. Otherwise just live conditioned to a belief system and apply faith when there is any kind of questions that pop up. Would you want to live a life where you are told lies or given the mumbo jumbo and told to just go along? Isn’t it important for religious authorities to answer fundamental questions because they generate their belief system? What about human intelligence should that not play a part in your life? Does evil not touch your heart and doesn’t it hurt. Is the existence of evil compatible with the existence of an omnipotent god with the ability to desire to eliminate evil? That seems unlikely and many anthological arguments have been based upon just that. A solid argument makes the existence of the traditional God unlikely at best – and belief in it unreasonable. But I very much hope God exist, and not any God.


  25. kathleen says:

    Toad @ 12;17

    “Any object can become any other object while looking the same as before. Or does it only “work” for bread and wine?”

    Anything is possible for God, but the only “transubstantiation” that Jesus Christ gave us was that of bread and wine into His Body and Blood. Every Mass is an enactment of Christ’s Sacrifice on Calvary, and His Body and Blood is the spiritually-strengthening “Food” for our souls. It is a sublimely beautiful gift to Mankind. Numerous well-documented accounts of Eucharistic miracles down through the centuries have given credit to the Truth of this Catholic teaching.

    “…established Truths… are out-of-bounds for faithful Catholics to dispute or question..”
Well, that just won’t do, will it? Pitiful. Unacceptable.”

    Now, where have I heard those words before?…. They sound something like that “Non serviam” some guy once said.

    Toad’s final bumptious statement is: (My) “conclusions” could “change in a moment if confronted by a more convincing argument”.

    Forgive me if I think the “eternal relativist” is not telling the truth here. 😉

    “Yours can’t”.

    They are the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church’s “conclusions” Toad. Not mine.
    And no, they can’t change… ever.


  26. kathleen says:

    God does exist Shadaan, and if you want to find the One True God you need to first rid yourself of some of your very clear hang-ups and anxiety. Without meaning to offend you, you appear to be extremely ignorant of the teachings of the Christian Faith. You need to read and investigate more about it before having just an embittered rant. Your insinuations that as believers we do not use our intelligence is very insulting.

    Christianity is the largest of the world’s “religions”, and this spread faster than any other right from the outset, and in spite of the persecution of Christians at the time. It preaches love of God first, and love of neighbour second, and it was through the faith, hope and especially charity of those early Christians that it spread so fast.
    Islam’s spread was mostly through forced conversions and battles. Their religion is often considered a Christian heresy because they see Jesus Christ as only a Prophet.
    The Jewish Faith is “the elder brother” of Christianity, for it was to this people that Jesus was born, and the first thousands of Christians were of the Jewish race. The Jews today are those who did not recognise their Messiah.
    Hinduism, and its numerous gods and caste system is totally alien to me I’m afraid.

    Of course evil and suffering is a problem and a worry for all of us, but why do you see this as a proof against God’s existence? It is a Fallen World where the Devil roams, but which Our Saviour came to redeem as He had promised our first parents He would.


  27. Shadaan says:

    (Moderator: We do not allow defamatory lies and baseless abuse of Catholicism on our blog.)


  28. john konnor says:

    ..there are many senses in scripture…literal..and spiritual {moral, allegorical, anagogical[mystical]}…if one rendering is not consistent with aspects of Gods nature then we turn to different senses to glean the meaning..it is not a strict literal interpretation everytime…God is the author of the evil of punishment yes but not of the evil of fault..that a one who follows their own way should be vanquished by their own vice is the essence of God’s penal justice…your reductio ad hitlerum argument is false..since the world is contingent it is inevitable that one should suffer peradventure through another since we are free without freedom we have no capacity to choose or make preferences and exercise love..without this operation we are unlovable..God would be left to love himself this is repugnant to perfect love..perfect love must be able to love another perfectly so we have the Son and this love must needs be shared perfectly and so we have the Holy Spirit..God loves what he creates and so he does not will evil..yet it happens as a result of choice without which there can be no creation…


  29. New Templar says:

    “First off, Faith is NOT blind belief. You will find that Catholics are meant to be very sceptical about everything they are told, and should always question things right down to the nitty-gritty. Part of a Catholic’s spiritual growth is this questioning of everything. Of course, in order to question, one has to believe that questioning and questions exist.”

    Faith excludes doubt. The knowledge derived through faith must not be considered less certain because its objects are not seen; for the divine light by which we know them, although it does not render them evident, yet suffers us not to doubt them. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath Himself shone in our hearts, (2 Cor. iv 6) that the gospel be not hidden to us, as to those that perish. (2 Cor. iv 3)


  30. Shadaan says:

    Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. – Hebrews 11:1.
    James 2:26 – As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. Faith cannot be blind. It should be backed up by a bit of works, intelligence, simple research, and an ability to both think logically AND ponder deeply things unseen. Too many who have faith in religion are blindly ignorant.


  31. GC says:

    Fr Barron on the Strange Notions website confirms much of what Brother Burrito has so lucidly said about faith on this and other threads:

    What Faith Is and What it Isn’t.

    Actually, the Strange Notions website (the Digital Areopagus, it calls itself) may be of interest to our sporadic sceptics here, if they don’t know of it already. It was set up not all that long ago by a bunch of quite learned Catholics specifically for dialogue with atheists and agnostics.


  32. johnhenrycn says:

    “What is Faith?”


    “As the CEO of volunteers of the FAMILY LIFE FOUNDATION (FLF)–a registered charity, it is not surprising to me–that is, one who has been there and done that, has had more than one battle with my own ego and with more than one addiction, including tobacco/alcohol–that the embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has a strong ego, a combative, angry, defensive and combustible kind of personality–the kind which often comes to the fore whenever one comes under the stress of life, including, personal attacks by others.

    With this in mind, I picked up the phone and called the mayor–I think that was on Nov., 2, or 3. He did not answer, but fortunately there was room in his Voice Mail.

    In addition to telling him who I was–about my experience helping civic leaders for over 40 years (1953-1994) of active ministry in the United Church (mostly in Toronto)–as a FLF volunteer, I offered him empathetic, non-sectarian help from the FLF flfcanada.com (founded in 1973). It seems to have helped. Shortly after that, the full “story” began to unfold.”

    “Good for you Reverend. If you’d been Moderator back in the late 90s instead of ‘I don’t believe Jesus was God’ Bill Phipps, I might not have left the UCC. But perhaps you don’t believe Jesus was is God either?”

    “John, I would love to have a one-on-one dialogue–that is, a Jesus-like sharing of opinions, and asking of questions–with you, about the teachings of Jesus, which I LOVE–that is, Agape-LOVE–very much.

    May I ask this question: Read, carefully, John 10: 22 to the end of the chapter. Note, especially, verse, 34. Now I ask: What is your opinion of verse 34? What about the theme of the whole passage?

    Also, check out John 17: 20 to end of passage, especially verse 21–THAT ALL MY BE ONE–on the crest of the UC.”

    “John 6:51, amongst other Gospel passages, is my answer to those who seek to deny the dual nature of Christ. True God and true man.

    If you are interested in dialogue, Reverend, may I invite you to this website, where a vigorous but polite debate has been ongoing for several years?”


  33. GC says:

    My journey back to faith was as much a movement of the heart as a thoroughgoing intellectual inquiry. It had to be both: if my ancestors’ lives trouble faith then as their descendant I couldn’t but confront the issues head on. That I freely chose to be a Catholic after much thought and analysis, and wasn’t brainwashed into it, baffles my friends and family alike.
    (Laura Keynes, greatX3 grand-daughter of Charles Darwin, from the Strange Notions website, mentioned above.)


  34. GC says:

    If you’re still there, JH, good morning.

    I thought you might like to see this. It’s not entirely unrelated to the question “What is faith?”, now is it?


  35. johnhenrycn says:

    I watched the entire video, GC. What can one say? It seems to me that the future of the Church, the renewal of the Church, is in the Third World. Enough of our arguments with atheists who, like us, are sitting in comfortable pews, but who, unlike us, are happy being there. Tired I am, as Yoda might say, of their precious preening punditry that seeks to satisfy their solipsistic sophistry without even an iota of concern for anything or anyone but themselves and their dogs. The atheists here never ever talk about how they hope to make our world a better one. Their agenda here is to display their superficial cleverness. This blog often talks of beauty, charity, sacrifice and service, to which our atheist/agnostic contributors respond with a sneer, but nothing else.


  36. GC says:

    Faith, hope and love written all the way through that video, JH. Lovely.

    But these guys seem to be a bit “hung up” about something, bless their souls, and that’s without even getting their hands dirty.


  37. kathleen says:

    Mmm, I loved your video link GC. What a great example of a living Faith these lovely people give us! This is one of the reason I love to be surrounded by all the wonderful people (the majority of them young) who reunite for celebrations like the Chartres pilgrimage. You see Faith in Action. It’s truly inspiring.


  38. Brother Burrito says:

    I have added a link to the “Strange Notions” website to our Apologetics section.
    Maybe our atheist visitors can try going there.


  39. kathleen says:

    Talking about what Faith Isn’t, how about this amusing definition of Atheism I found whilst browsing on the web:

    “The belief that there was nothing and nothing happened to nothing, and then nothing magically exploded for no reason, creating everything, and then a bunch of everything magically rearranged itself for no reason what-so-ever into self-replicating bits which then turned into dinosaurs.
    Makes perfect sense.” 😕


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