Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Working on Faith

What is faith? It seems that something so primal and primary should be easy to define, but there are several definitions. The first definition in the dictionary says faith is, “confidence or trust in a person or thing.” People also like to rely on the Bible quote, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11: 1). Generally, it seems that confidence, trust, faith, and belief are all interchangeable. But I’m no closer to understanding what it is. Is it a state of being, an emotion, an action? Is it something I can choose or control?

Sola Fide is one of the big tenets of Protestantism, that faith alone can save. But is faith ever alone? It doesn’t exist in a vacuum; it is influenced, cultured, lived. James 2:14-26 says that faith without works is like a body without spirit. One doesn’t produce the other, rather, they should be so intertwined that is wrong to separate them.

The catechism says, "Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself" and that "service of and witness to the faith are necessary for salvation" (CCC 1814, 1816). Again, faith and belief seem interchangeable. Which takes me back to the question, can one choose to believe. Can I choose faith?

I didn’t ask to believe. And I certainly didn’t seek out the Church. God’s existence is as obvious to me as my own. It’s not a result of study and experimentation and conclusion. It just is. And to others, the nonexistence of God seems just as obvious. Or the existence of God in an entirely different manner. I didn’t choose this. And what kind of witness can I be, for I don’t know how to lead people to make a choice I didn’t make.

On the other hand, I did choose. I make a decision every day and sometimes multiple times throughout a day. I choose to say yes to God (sometimes I choose to say no). I choose to worship, to love, to work toward the goal of total reconciliation. I choose to keep praying and keep learning. I choose to bend my actions to match my cosmological beliefs. I choose to blur the line between faith and works. Faith is an action, if you believe enough.

I don’t think our actions can rid us of sin. Works cannot earn salvation. And yet, a faith without work, a faith that isn’t a verb, does nothing. We cannot earn our salvation, but we can willingly participate in our salvation by growing in virtue. The catechism also says, “The theological virtues dispose Christians to live in a relationship with the Holy Trinity. They have God for their origin, their motive, and their object—God known by faith, God hoped in and loved for his own sake” (CCC 1840). Faith comes from and returns to God, but it’s important to do something with it in between

No comments:

Post a Comment