Daily Archives: August 14, 2010

The Theological Virtue of Faith and how V II disfigured it. Part One

Moretto da Brescia, "Allegory of Faith". Hermitage, St. Petersburg.

One of the poisoned fruits of Vatican II is the watering down of the faith. This has happened because after Vatican II the Church has stopped teaching what faith is in the correct but technical way used in the past, and has started talking of faith in more “emotional” terms instead. This entry deals with the correct understanding of the theological virtue of faith as adherence of the intellect to revealed truth. A separate entry will be devoted to the purely emotional, “searching” approach all too often taught after Vatican II.

Faith as a theological virtue is nothing to do with emotions. It is not something you attain by crying hysterically and waving your arms in the air. Faith as theological virtue is a process taking place exclusively in your intellect.

We can see it as a process by which the will is the starter. To acquire faith, one must want it. This is where agnostics and atheists already stop.
If one is willing to acquire faith, then a purely intellectual process starts. By this process a man will know and recognise that his intellect is limited; he will then proceed to use the limited means he has at his disposal and will examine the objective, historic truth of the existence of Jesus; he will examine and persuade himself intellectually of the historical truth that the Old Testament announced and promised the arrival of the Messiah and provided a great number of ways to recognise Him when he would come; he will – always rationally, no waving of arms in sight 😉 – acknowledge that Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament and is, beyond doubt, the Messiah who was announced; continuing, he will grasp the very simple truth that this Messiah claimed to be God and will therefore conclude that if it is true that He was the Messiah announced by the Old Testament (which he undoubtedly is, according to pure historically recorded facts) than he must, rationally, be God as He says he is.

Here, the faithful arrives to the first great finishing post: he has grasped the existence of God (and of the God of the Scriptures, not of any other system of belief) due to the work of his intellect, supported by his will. But what is paramount here is the intellect, the will is merely what persuades a man to use his god-given intellect in the first place.

This is a traditional mainstay of Catholic teaching, which the First Vatican Council has beautifully and solemnly expressed with these words:

The one true God, Creator and Lord, can be known with certainty by the natural light of human reason

Notice the words: Known with certainty, not felt with certainty.

This is obviously not the end of the journey yet. The intellect has now reached the knowledge of the existence of the One True God of the Scriptures. It has learnt, understood, drawn the conclusions, attained the relevant knowledge. But this intellectual knowledge can never grasp supernatural truths. It cannot grasp the Trinity, it cannot truly understand a God who is All Divine and All Human, it cannot reach an intellectual proof of the existence of the Real Presence, and so on.

To grasp supernatural truths something additional is necessary: a supernatural virtue (also called faith) given by the grace of God. Through the God-given grace of faith, man is given a powerful tool to go beyond his own intellect and, building on the certainties he has acquired intellectually, believe in supernatural truths beyond his intellect’s grasp.

Still, even the supernatural grace of faith is not an emotional process. It is given by God, but it is always firmly rooted in reason, not in emotions or feelings. Faith is based in the intellectual process, because through the intellect I know that the supernatural truths are not in contrast with reason.
Seek, and you shall find. Exercise your will to activate your intellect to attain the Truth, and the supernatural grace of Faith will carry you even in those supernatural regions where your intellect alone cannot carry you anymore.

This is the traditional way to understand faith. No emotionalism. You take a fundamental decision that you want to attain faith; you do your homework, learn the facts, persuade yourself of the existence of God purely in light of your reason; then God’s grace intervenes and after your will has started your intellectual engine and your intellectual engine has caused your car to drive as fast as it can, faith gives your car a pair of wings and allows you to fly. At this point your faith is very strong; it is, as St. Paul says, “evidence of things not seen”.

The contrast with today’s shallow teaching (when there is a teaching in the first place) is striking, but the exam of post-Vatican II approximations and emotionalism is for another entry.


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