What is Faith?

Having Faith is obviously a big part of being a Catholic. As far as I understand it, we need Faith because being a Catholic involves accepting certain things that we cannot experience through the evidence of our senses. Also, we have to accept things that are impossible to fully comprehend through reason alone. Some examples are: Christ’s miracles, the Trinity, Transubstantiation, the Real Presence, etc. Even believing in God requires Faith!

However I don’t really understand the concept of Faith. What is it, exactly? How is it different from “wishful thinking” - i.e. believing something because we want it to be true?

Also, how do you “get” Faith if you don’t have it? What if you have a lot of trouble accepting doctrines like the ones I mentioned above? How do you make the “leap of Faith” required to fully accept these things?

And finally, how do you know when you actually do have Faith? How do you know that it’s the genuine article, and not some part of your mind that wants these things to be true for various reason, such as fear of death, wanting there to be an explanation for things, looking for a higher meaning to life and the world, etc.?

Great questions, all! Sorry I missed your discussion thread until now, Andrew. A good place to start might be Sacred Scripture:

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

(Hebrews 1:1)

Two observations: Faith is (1) being sure and certain, and (2) not the same as hope, which must be less sure and certain than faith. The next question, I think, is this: How does one become “sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”?


Here is how the Catechism defines it:*CCC#1814 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. By faith “man freely commits his entire self to God.” For this reason the believer seeks to know and do God’s will. “The righteous shall live by faith.” Living faith “work[s] through charity.”*Faith requires humility because one must submit his own difficulties to the word of God. That word comes to us from the Church, which has passed on to us Scripture and Tradition. Jesus is the “truth” as Scripture says (Jn 14:6), and the Church is the pillar of truth (1 Tim 3:15).

If you believe in God and desire to do His will, then you have a foundation for faith. If you are not sure, pray! When you have a trouble, form that trouble into a prayer: God, please show me what it is to have faith. God, grant me stronger faith. God, teach me what faith is. You see how it works? :o

Faith is a gift from God. You can’t ‘get’ Faith and you can’t ‘do’ Faith. It is the same gift that God gave Peter when Christ asked him, “Who do you say I am?” to which Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus then tells Peter that this insight was given to him by God and not by any human means. Matthew 16.

We are given Faith as a gift through our Baptism. But it is also up to our parents, our godparents, and our Church to help us develop that Faith. Can we lose it? Yes. We can lose it by not caring about it, and not cultivating it, like Christ was talking about in His parable of the talents. The sacraments of the Church help us to keep our Faith by infusing us with divine grace, particularly the Eucharist.

You know you have an authentic Faith when Christ becomes the center of your life and you accept all the teachings His Church, and that you live, to the best of your ability, a holy and prayerful life.

An act of faith is, in the Catholic sense, an act of reason, an assent
on adequate grounds to certain intellectual propositions. Outsiders constantly misunderstand and frequently misrepresent the Catholic act of faith. Hence, to avoid confusion, I will treat the matter in two ways.
First. - I will try to tell you what faith is not.
Second. - Then I will try to explain more fully what it actually is, and to show you how reasonable it is, and how it benefits a sane man to make acts of faith.
(1) First, then, a Catholic act of faith is not mere credulity or a blind acceptance of the marvellous without reasonable grounds. Non-Catholics often credit Catholics with this kind of thing; they imagine Catholics to be folk gaping openmouthed for any strange story to swallow it down whole.
(2) Nor is faith mere sentimentalism - i.e., accepting things as true because they give you a comfortable feeling. The Catholic, in believing, is not guided by emotion, but by conviction.
(3) Nor, again, does Catholicism appeal, as the Modernists did, to a special sort of instinct whereby one reaches out after the Supernatural - apart from intellectual conviction. Modernists taught that the department of faith was so distinct from that of science that while by faith you believe the Resurrection of Christ to be true, scientifically you might deny its truth; and so with other Christian dogmas. If we Catholics taught that kind of thing we could hardly claim that ours is a sane religious system.

Hence, I repeat, faith is not mere blind superstition, not sentimentalism, not the functioning of a special subconscious faculty, whereby the soul grasps the Divine. No! in the true Catholic sense, faith is conviction. The Catholic says, “I KNOW.”

What is Faith?

Now we come to the positive declaration of what faith really is. Religious faith in the reasonable and Catholic sense is an extension or application to the spiritual world of an ordinary intellectual process which all exercise daily, and without the exercise of which our lives as social beings would be impossible. This process consists in assenting to the truth of propositions on the testimony of others. We may acquire knowledge in two ways - either by direct observation (you see a man knocked down by a motor car in the street), or through the testimony of others (you read an account of the accident in the evening paper, or learn it from a friend).

The last intellectual operation, whereby we assent to the truth of facts (which are, perhaps, beyond the reach of our Own observation) because other men testify to their truth, plays an incessant part in our lives. It is in this way most of our knowledge comes to us - on the authority of others. If you reflect on the method whereby people as a rule acquire scientific, geographical, historical, philosophical knowledge, or if you think of the part which books and newspapers play in our lives, you will, I think, admit the truth of what I say. We each of us investigate a very small portion of the earth’s surface on which we live - namely, the part traversed by the tiny track of our perambulations through life. All the other knowledge we have of the world - or of the universe - rests on the testimony of others.

Not Unscientific

Now, who will say that such faith, such willingness to accept testimony, is unscientific, or unworthy of a rational being? Who will suggest that it is not based on sound intellectual principles? It may not be easy for you to trace the process whereby you have come to believe without any doubt in the existence of Jupiter’s satellites, or of icebergs in the Antarctic, or of Hitler or Mussolini. The evidence has come through many almost imperceptible channels, but is such that it excludes all doubt from your mind. If you analyze the process, it comes to this: You convince yourself by direct examination or reasoning of the reliability of the witness; then you accept his testimony as true. Two things must be clear to you about the witness
(1) That he had ample opportunity to learn the facts;
(2) that he is telling the truth.
In other words, that he is not deceived himself, nor wants to deceive you. In a court of law, the judge and jury must test these two points: Is the witness truthful? Has he knowledge of the facts? Once they are convinced of these two things, then they accept his evidence, and believe his statements to be true.

To a Catholic believer Faith is just this process. It is not conjecture, nor is it credulity. It means assenting to the truth of certain facts on the evidence of a reliable witness, the witness in this case being God Himself. That the facts (e.g., the Trinity, Incarnation, the Real Presence ) are beyond our ken and cannot be directly tested by us is no more a difficulty to our accepting them (when the evidence is sufficient) than my inability to investigate directly the murder of Julius Caesar or the execution of Mary Queen of Scots militates against my belief that these two eminent persons met with violent deaths.

The steps that lead to Faith are these: -
(1) I assure myself by reasoning and argument that God has actually spoken and communicated knowledge to mankind - that He is a witness to men of truth.
(2) I prove that this knowledge is still available for use, is actually preserved somewhere in the world, is in the keeping of somebody from whom I can obtain it.
(3) I learn the contents of the message, and accept them as God’s revelation, on His authority. This last mental act is the formal act of faith. The other two processes, for the carrying out of which we rely on our own intellectual acumen and activity (aided by God’s grace), are preparatory, and lead up to the formal act of faith.
Suppose you receive a letter from a friend whose word you trust implicitly. A glance at the handwriting and signature assures you that the letter is actually from this friend. You thereby establish its genuineness and authenticity, and even before you read the letter or know its contents you are assured that your friend has sent you a message, and that you have his message in your hands. This corresponds to the preparatory stages (the praeambula fidei, as theologians call them), described above. Then you read the letter and learn certain facts, which you accept as true on the authority of your friend. This corresponds to the formal act of faith.

By Rev. Albert Power S.J. 1960 (“The Sanity of Catholicism” no longer available on line)

What precisely is this chain of acts and events that runs from our first hour through our last. The one says natural necessity, the other historical consequence, a third, something else.

Faith says: It is Providence. The God who made you, saved you, and will one day place you in his light, also directs your life. What happens between birth and death is message, challenge, test, succor – all from his hands It is not meant to be learned theoretically, but personally experienced and assimilated. Where this is so, aren’t all things necessarily transfigured? What is the resultant attitude but faith?

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The previous bible verse given as Heb 1:1 is incorrect, it is Heb 11:1, also, the translation given was all together incorrect, the most accurate translation, the one closest to the actual original words, in the same prose and context is the KJ bible, the verse is as follows:

Hebrews 11:1 (King James Version)
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

This is quite a bit different from the one the previous poster posted.

This teaches that faith has substance, substance implies energy is explelled, and axpelled energy implies that work was done.

We are not saved by OUR work.

We cannot accept Christ based on OUR faith and OUR beliefe.

Faith and belief are the same word, except one is a nour and one is a verb.

The answer to who’s faith it is that saves, is found in Galation 2:16

Galatians 2:16 (King James Version)

16Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Again, the KJ translation is the most accurate in this case, if you research this particular passage in all the many different translations, you stumble upon a glaring hypocracy in the text.

That is that most bibles will read this verse as “By the faith IN Christ” which is altogether wrong. Because that implies that you can have faith in Christ and be saved, yet we learned that your faith in Christ, is your own, it has substance, and substance implies work, and WE ARE NOT TO TRUST IN ANYTHING WE HAVE DONE FOR OUR SALVATION, DO NOT TRUST YOUR OWN WORKS. If you continue to read this verse, it teaches that a person should not trust in the works they have done. Works do not save you, Baptism is a work, accepting Christ is a work, DO NOT TRUST IN WHAT YOU HAVE DONE TO BE SAVED!! That is contrary to the bible teaching.

We know this because faith has substance, so by accepting Christ, you are expelling energy, which is work, by getting baptised, you are expelling energy and accepting Christ and that is work. do not trust in those things as they are all something that you do in order to take a giant step towards your salvation, that is work.

Gal 2:16 teaches that by the faith **OF **Christ. So whos faith is it that has substance and gets you saved, is it your faith, or your belief, no, that has substance, and that is work and we are not availed by the works of flesh. Do not trust in anything you have done, you will be dissapointed. It is by the faith OF Christ in you, that you are reborn a new spiritual being, given a new resurrected soul. Only by the faith of Christ can your stain of original sin be cleansed, by His blood, this is a gift of mercy and grace, thus YOU CANNOT PROCLAIM TO ACCEPT IT!

Ill tell you whate happenes, is faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God, and as a result of Christ having faith in you, you begin to produce good works in your life, this is the only way this works. In which case, your mindset is not of a natural man, but of a spiritual man, so these words will make sense.

This fits in nicely with the teaching of election, of those chosen before the foundations of the earth, who were washed by the blood of the Lamb, thus you can imagine that everybody who jumps up and down saying they believ means nothing, many people believe, the whole world has there own idea of God, but we know there is only one true God, and God’s word is given in the bible for those who would seek Him, and faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,

Notice this says, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word. not faith comes by baptism, not faith comes by eucharist, not faith comes by proclomation.

good works are a RESULT… of Christ’s faith in you.

Nobody can know for certian if they are saved, this why we continue to approach God borken and in sack cloth and ashes, that is a picture of humility, meekness, fear and begging for forgivness. Like the publican who smote his breast, like the Ninevites who repented, this is the fault of believing you are saved because of something you did, you lose that reverance, and your living a lie anyway, a true child of God would trust that which he reads in Gods word the bible over any other doctrine, whether it be from a church or a pope. Nobody is justified in amending, modifiying or not letting themselves be corrected for doctrine and reproof in instruction in righteousness.

A true child of God would allow himself to be corrected

2Tim 3:17 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

The ultimate authority is Scripture, and is profitable for docrine, for reproof and for correction, and for instruction in righteousness.

God is the author and final authority, not any man, no matter how pious, how reverent, or if he was handed the keys so the gates of hell shall not prevail.

Notice it says that “we build upon the foundation that is jesus Christ, the cornerstone”
that means you let yourself be corrected by your teacher, Jesus Christ, nobody else. Now we are all preachers, a preacher is anybody proclaiming the good news. however don’t be a fool and trust everything you hear,

Be like the faithful Boreans:
Acts 17:11 These were more fair minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and **searched the Scriptures daily **to find out whether these things were so.

Blind faith is going to a busy intersection ,saying a prayer and crossing without looking both ways…The faith as taught by Jesus and the RCC is logical. This is the devils world so beware of any easy solutions to daily problems. Look both ways before crossing and thank God when you make it to the other side!!!To me it is logical that Jesus did return from the dead for the average people He had around him changed from cringing cowards to the bravest soldiers of Truth the world has ever known…so they MUST have seen and been with HIM after good friday…for no one dies for a lie they know is a lie. Pas

Perhaps the first link in the chain is fear, which leads to wisdom; and the last link is Love, which leads to love?

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding.

(Psalm 111:10)

We love because he first loved us.

(1 John 4:19)

Faith is believing that something you do not see…really exists after all.

How do we get faith? Simple: ask God for it.

He will lead us to whatever avenue or vehicle we need in our lives in order to gain faith. God does not turn a deaf ear to someone sincerely asking for an increase in faith.

But…and it’s a ‘big but’…we have to properly dispose ourselves to receive this faith by being willing to be open to things that we don’t understand…and by being willing to accept that some things are still a divine mystery, which our human minds cannot understand.

One of the biggest “stumbling blocks” to faith is our own ego…our own pride. “I can’t understand it, therefore it doesn’t exist!” (what rubbish!!!)

Faith is simply belief in revelation. Everything else is put through the test of the reason.

Faith and repentance are 2 graces given by the Lord.They are the 2 sides of one coin.Who is coming first? this would be the work of the Holy Spirit.Read the book the coin of the temple by Souheil Bayoud and you will see the 2 graces in that real story.God bless you.

Pope Benedict XVI



Great insight! Based on the others’ replies, we can see that the word “faith” can have several definitions:

  1. Faith as a noun. It is the revealed body (or portion of the) Truth as handed down by the Word of God through the apostles and through the Church either by word of mouth or by writing from generation to generation.
  2. Faith as a verb-noun. In this case, it is the active participation in living out the Faith as defined in #1 above. In a non-catholic definition, this would be a willful belief in something as part of the truth.
  3. In both cases, Faith is truly a gift of God to Man and is thus a theological virtue.

I have not read the following link entirely but its message seems to be those of the above: newadvent.org/cathen/05752c.htm.


Dear EnterCanaan,

First, you are misunderstanding the Hebrews 11:1 (KJV) quote:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

The meaning of the phrase “faith is the substance of things hoped for” does not mean that faith has substance, but rather means that things hoped for find their substance in faith because the very thing we hope for is stronger faith. Look at the wording again. And I am in no way implying that faith is not real or “substantial” in any way, but that this verse is saying that our Christian hope finds its substance in our faith; our knowledge and joy in the Word of God

Additionally, your Galatians 2:16 verse is likely referring to the faith that Jesus Christ founded when it says the “faith of Jesus Christ.” Note: Galatians was written much, much before the present times, notably long before the Catholic faith was even possibly the reference of the word “law.” What Galatians means is that don’t do your works because of the law, but because of Christ and your love for him. It never says that you are not rewarded for work done through an outpouring of the Spirit. And I don’t mean “rewarded” as in things sinful and of the flesh, but spiritual gifts and holiness and sanctifying grace.

Also, It is written right in the middle of the verse: “even we have believed in Jesus Christ” so why do you question all that others profess in the name of the Lord? You say: “Only by the faith of Christ can your stain of original sin be cleansed, by His blood, this is a gift of mercy and grace, thus YOU CANNOT PROCLAIM TO ACCEPT IT!” What do you mean? Because Christ loves us enough to die for us that we are not to return his love?

Remember your own words: “A true child of God would allow himself to be corrected” when you read what I write, because I write to you as a brother in faith, like the apostles wrote their letters to the early Christians. And be joyous, God says many times not to be afraid, but that he loves us. Is that not what Jesus says in the gospels: he tells us be like these children who approach him in love and adoration, not in shame and fear. Be filled with the Holy Spirit and sin no more. (read Romans 8 again).

Peace be with you.

Wow! GREAT questions. Thanks:thumbsup:

Faith is a “free gift from God.” Another way to put it is that Faith is a “GRACE” from God.

Three key words:

[from] God
“Grace”, [gift].

**Faith **has its origin in God. God is the origin of faith, the only source for Faith, and the giver and sustenance of Faith. Without God as a reality and as the only giver of “faith-grace”; Faith is impossible.

God by virtue of being God: Good, fair, just, perfect MUST make sufficient grace available to every human person, past, present, future to allow for at least the ** possibility ** of there personal salvation.

So we can know that “Faith” [a specific kind of grace] is offered to everyone at some time in sufficient quanity, that if accepted and fully and properly applied [in full conformity to God’s Will for us] that ones personal salvation is granted by God.

**Grace ** is in the pure sense; a “free gift from God”. I said above that God being God MUST offer sufficient grace to everyone. The key word here being "offer." Like a “job,” or a “promotion,” or “a transfer,” this offer can be rejected by application of our minds, intellects and FREEWILLS. All three of which are “Spiritual Things” that can ONLY come from God who is “Spirit and Truth.”

“Faith” is a “grace.” So then what is “a grace?” The perfect and precise use of these spiritual gifts [mind, intellect and Freewill] is to be able to recognize when they are offered and to have the Fortitude to accept it.

"Grace" is the necessary component to be able to identify “faith and grace,” to recognize it for what it is, an opportunity to “get faith,” WHEN it is offered to us.

God tends to speak very softly. How one has lived in accord to God’s Divine Will; the Moral Laws written on our hearts, obedience to His Commandments which too can be known [without actually “being known,]” will in Divine Justice have a significant role in how “much grace” is offered to us [how loud God speaks to our hearts], an therefore is critical to our awareness of the “free gift” and our natural response to accept, ignore or outright rejection of it.

Precisely how God does this can vary by how receptive [open to God] we are and have been. God never forces one to accept his gift of faith.

Faith can be lost and one can GROW in Faith, Wisdom, Understanding, through prayer, sacrifice and most importantly and significantly, worthy and frequent reception of the Sacraments, especially Confession and the Eucharist; Christ Himself.:slight_smile:

One can gain further Faith and understanding by remaining “in the state of Grace” and praying specifically for the GRACE of Wisdom, Knowledge and Understanding; the common manifestations for Faith through grace.

Love and prayers,


Andy-rew, where are you? The discussion would be much better if you stopped by to reply once in a while.


I’m here, and I’ve been following this thread, but I haven’t said anything because I don’t really have anything to add to be honest. I’m operating from a low level of knowledge here so much of this is new to me. But I’m learning…

Thanks to everyone who’s taken the time to reply, there’s some very interesting and very helpful information here. I have a lot to think about and a lot more reading to do…

“INTUITING THE UNSEEN is a gift of perspective. Albert Einstein said there are two ways to see the world: as if everything is a miracle or as if nothing is a miracle. Living with an awareness of the miraculous re-enchants the world. From a flower to a star, it is easy to confuse knowing what a thing is made of with knowing what it is. Significance overspills the physical description; mastering botany is not the same as appreciating beauty. Acknowledging that overflow, what a flower means or what a human being is, not in chemical composition but in spiritual significance, is seeing everything as a miracle.”

Rabbi David Wolpe from his little book on Why Faith Matters

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