What is faith? What cause me to ask this question was that I was reading a book review from an author who was making a compelling case for the "historical" Jesus, and in the comments section was a lapsed Catholic who was looking for confirmation of what she called FACTS, and that this led her back to the church, unfortunately not the Catholic Church(perhaps she should investigate some more FACTS about Christianity and the Early Church). Back to my question: what is faith? Well, before I share what I consider faith to be let's look at what the secular world thinks faith is. I work with young people and they for the most part have bought into what modern thought has defined as faith: faith is separate from rational thought. Faith is isolated and belongs to those who believe in something akin to"fairy tales", mythology, and superstition. Faith has no place in the realm of every day thinking, of a rational, thinking person. Well my friend that is absurd! If you wake up and get out of bed you have faith. You have set of beliefs that guide how you will act, what you will do, where you will go. There is no such thing as a neutral set of values. Everyday a person lives, he or she makes decisions based on their personal faith.( even an atheist believes there is no God, not possessing definitive proof) Another ridiculous notion is that "traditional" beliefs are old, archaic, and silly - the thoughts of ancient, superstitious people who do not have the benefit of modern thought and clarity. Pure nonsense! Most of secular thinking that people today live by, came from people who lived from 200 to 100 years ago. These individuals would be considered backwards today by most people's standards. The average "Joe" is intellectually lazy, knows not how he or she came about believing what they believe, and frankly could care less. As I said if you get out of bed you believe in something, even if what you believe has been around for a while. Back in the neighborhood of 200BC a fella known as Qoheleth, writing in the Book of Ecclesiastes said "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." Much of modern secular thinking is a "re-hash" and "re-engineering" of old thinking. The difference today is most people do not possesses the ability to critically investigate what they believe - they just believe it. That my friend is faith! Going full circle back to the beginning of this post, it was a good things that that woman wanted some historical FACTS to back her belief. Christianity is not something that somebody invented as an alternative to pagan beliefs. Jesus lived here on earth, people testified to knowing him. Second generation Early Church Fathers testified to knowing the apostles, who had first hand experiences with Jesus. Christian Faith is assenting to God and the teachings of Jesus Christ. This assent is a "supernatural gift", it does not require "scientific testing." Pope Benedict XVI in his prior writings as Cardinal Ratzinger puts it this way:
"Contrary to scientific knowledge or other types of certainty, the assent of faith comes from a personal encounter with God. He reveals himself to us, and we respond with the assent of faith. “Through being touched in this way, the will knows that even what is still not ‘clear’ to reason is true” and it assents to faith in God. “When the heart comes into contact with God’s Logos, with the Word who became man, this inmost point of his existence is being touched.” Or, put another way, “just as a person becomes certain of another’s love without being able to subject it to methods of scientific experiment, so in the contact between God and man there is a certainty of a quite different kind from the certainty of objectivizing thought.” He goes on to say:
“in the act of believing the assent comes about …by an act of the will, in connection with which the thought process remains open and still under way.” In other words, although the heart has assented to give itself fully to the truth, because the assent has not come by means of reason, the thought process, the search for understanding, must strive to catch up with the assent of the heart and is therefore open, and, furthermore, spurred on, to search for deeper understanding. Within this search, what Thomas calls a contrary motion (motus de contrario), arises, which can “be the challenge summoning forth a deeper knowledge.”
Contrary to the shallow modern thought that fails to investigate what it believes and rejects any challenges to it; Catholic faith is a process whereby theologians are constantly asking why do we believe what we do. Catholics and Christians who "buy into" secular thinking, stop thinking and that is very dangerous.