Faith: A Stumbling Block and a Balm for Christianity
None of the
theological virtues is more confused, distorted, publicized and mocked than the virtue of
faith. Yet, it is the centerpiece of nearly
every Sunday sermon throughout the world and is synonymous with piety and religion in our
modern culture. Centuries of heresy and a
corrosion of religious teaching have wrecked havoc on the simple foundation of the
None of the theological virtues is more confused, distorted, publicized and mocked than the virtue of faith. Yet, it is the centerpiece of nearly every Sunday sermon throughout the world and is synonymous with piety and religion in our modern culture. Centuries of heresy and a corrosion of religious teaching have wrecked havoc on the simple foundation of the
In an age that respects tolerance of beliefs over the value of objective truth, it is no wonder that so many people no longer believe in the necessity of the Christian faith. Indeed a common position held today is the following: It doesnt matter which religion you belong to as long as you are a good person. God doesnt care which religion you join as long as you mean well. This statement is an example of a modern heresy called indifference, and it has taken root throughout all levels of Christianity. If this heretical statement were to come from a Christian (and it very often does) and they were to be challenged by asking, What about faith, isnt it necessary for salvation? the answer would probably be that faith only means you believe in some god. After all, if God is good why would he burn someone in hell for picking the wrong religion? Here it can be seen that the proponent of indifference has struck a chord of truth: why punish the ignorant for not knowing the facts? This is the very bane of modern Christianity: a distortion of Christian doctrines with half-truths, confusion of facts and ignorance. Modernism is so insidious because it resonates with half-truths. Perhaps an examination of what faith really means is necessary to obviate religious indifference.
Faith means believing in the teachings of God without the need for direct evidence or rationalizations. Christians believe in the articles of faith because God has told us they are true, and we need no other evidence in order to live our lives according to those articles. It needs to be emphasized that faith is not a warm sensation we have in our hearts that tells us we are right. Faith is not defined as simply believing that God exists. Faith is not even a warm, gooey emotion that lets us know God loves us. In its essence, faith is intellectual and virtuous. C. S. Lewis noted in Mere Christianity that faith is considered virtuous because it sustains us in periods of trial when our beliefs are in doubt. Faith does not force us to believe something irrational; rather it allows us to hold true to our Christianity during periods when irrational doubt assails us. Indeed, faith is not irrational or contrary to reason, hence no Christian believes the articles of Christianity to be contrary or opposed to reason. Given this definition of faith we can understand why religious indifference is contrary to true Christianity. A man cannot have true Christian faith unless he is willing to accept and believe the articles of faith. Here we arrive at the crux of the problem: what are the Christian articles of faith and how are we to know they are those of Jesus Christ?
The source of
the Christian articles are those teachings that come from God. Christians and Jews believe that God first
communicated his truths to men through the Jewish prophets beginning with Abraham, father
of the Jewish nation. God adopted the
descendants of Abraham as his chosen people and in doing so helped to forge the first seed
of salvation throughout the ancient world. It
was the Jews who first received the Ten Commandments and the law of God. The Jews became the bulwark of truth in a
confused, pagan world. They were the first
major religion to embrace monotheism, a radical notion at the time (although it seems very
orthodox and obvious today). This is not to
say they were a perfect people, in fact they very often rebelled against God and turned to
polytheism and its pantheon of false gods. It
took nearly four thousand years for the Jewish people to reach the point were they could
go no further. Their religion was wholesome
and good in that it reinforced the law of God that is written in our hearts, it encouraged
prayer, and most importantly it offered an imperfect sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin. Unfortunately, it could go no further. The Jewish faith was very stagnant and had become
mired in hairsplitting over interpretations of the Mosaic law. No attempt was made to evangelize to those outside
the Jewish faith because the Jews believed their religion to be hereditary: they believed
the truth was meant only for Abrahams children.
Finally, the imperfect sacrifices offered by the Jewish High Priests was not
enough to atone for the scandal of mans sins. It was then that the God-man Jesus
appeared from the obscure town of
have heard the story of the birth of Christianity countless times, and the point of
reiterating it is to show what the basis of our faith is.
We have faith in Christianity because this man Jesus proved himself to be
more then a man by his deeds, words, prophetic fulfillment, and resurrection from the
dead. We believe his teachings are true
because we believe he is God, and his teachings
and practices constitute the fulfillment (not the replacement) of the Jewish religion. Although Jesus ascended into heaven forty days
after his resurrection from the dead, he did not abandon his flock. He instituted a living, visible Church lead by his
apostles and guided by the Holy Spirit. The
leader of the infant Church, Peter (whose original name was Simon until Christ changed
it), was chosen by Christ, You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church and
the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew ).
The Church, lead by Peter and his successors, has always been the guardians
and teachers of the doctrine of Christ for, the household of God [is] built upon the
foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone
God has given us the church to instruct and interpret Christs
teachings. No man is left to private
interpretation of the Bible; rather the Church protects the original creeds of the
apostles and shepherds us to the truth. One of
the first leaders of the church,
Now there can be
no doubt that the Catholic Church of today is the same church as that instituted by Christ
nearly 2000 years ago. Does this seem
shocking? It should not, for we can see that
Christ clearly instituted a church lead by St. Peter in the scriptures. The name Peter is the English translation of the
Greek word Petros which translates to kepha in Aramaic, the
language of Christ. Kepha means rock in
Aramaic, and it is clear in Matthew that Jesus changed Simons name
to Peter (rock) in order to show that Simon was the rock on which the church would be
built. Additionally, Christ said that the
gates of hell would not prevail against his church; we thus have an assurance that the
Church cannot fail or fall away. It makes sense that the Church would remain infallible in
doctrine and teaching, even though its own leaders are still vulnerable to sin. The Church cannot fail in correct teaching and
interpretation of doctrine because this would undermine the basis for all Christian faith. How could we ever be assured of the truth without
an infallible, everlasting church? The
Protestant reformers, no matter how good their intentions, erred seriously in defecting
from the church. Although, they had good
reason to protest the corruption and sins within the hierarchy of the church leadership at
the time, they had no right to break from the infallible
Does the reader
still need evidence that any given Protestant church is not the original
· Infant baptismOrigen wrote in the 3rd century, the Church received from the apostles the tradition of giving baptism also to infants. Yet nearly every Baptist, evangelical and fundamentalist Protestant denomination rejects this vital doctrine.
· Sacrifice of the MassClement of Rome wrote about the bishops offering of masses in the 2nd century, from the episcopate who blamelessly and holily have offered its sacrifices. Unfortunately, only the Orthodox and Anglicans make any pretense to offer a sacrifice of the mass.
The list could go on and on, but the fact remains that Christ would not come to earth and leave his teachings without any authorized guardian and teacher. Those who claim the Holy Spirit helps each individual person correctly interpret scripture without any need for a single, authoritative church needs to open their eyes. Protestantism has tried this theory and failed: witness the countless denominations that preach conflicting doctrines. Only the Catholic Church can make any valid claim to being the historical Church, because only Catholics can attribute the succession of leadership from St. Peter through the chain of popes. So it seems that Christian faith is tied to belief in the teachings of Christ as well as membership and loyalty to the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has often been called the ark of salvation because the Churchs protection of Christs doctrines is necessary for the perpetuation of the faith.
Nonetheless, there are still those who do not understand why faith is necessary for eternal salvation. After all, whats so great about believing a list of teachings? Isnt being good so much more important? The Church has always recognized that three virtues are necessary for salvation: faith, hope and charity. Faith helps us to properly conform our consciences to the law of God and reinforces our loyalty to him during the best and worst of times. Without faith, a man might believe his actions are permissible when in fact they are evil (such as those who fool themselves into believing abortion, mercy killing, or promiscuous sex is not sinful.) Hope is necessary because it gives us utter reliance and longing for God. Without virtuous hope, a man would lose sight of God and pursue a lesser good, or he would believe God is no longer necessary for salvation. Finally, charity, also known as love, is necessary because it brings us into communion with God, the one being who loves us more than anyone else. St. Paul tells us charity is the greatest of all virtues, but hope and faith are also necessary for salvation, faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13). Hope and faith sustain a Christian and fuel a Christians love for God.
At last we finally understand why faith is so misunderstood and so needed in todays modern church. True faith helps us conform our lives to Gods will, and without faith guided by the Catholic Church, we are doomed to languish in manmade religions. If faith is to become the balm of the modern world rather than a stumbling block, the Christians of today must enter into the one, holy, unified, and apostolic church. For, the church of the living God [is] the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Timothy 3:15).
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