What Faith Is and Isn’t – Fr. Robert Barron

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Here is another among the many excellent videos by Fr. Robert Barron. The video clarifies the common but (I think) often misused or misunderstood term “faith”.

This particular video caught my eye and then my immense interest and excitement upon watching  because Fr. Barron beautifully and concisely explains faith as it needs to be explained to the modern mind, for whom the word has so much baggage that it almost loses all meaning.

Using human relationships as an analogy, Fr. Barron shows how faith is not only normal but necessary in our relationships with both the human and the divine . In his example, Fr. Barron explains that while we can and do use our reason to learn much about another person, there is a whole world of knowledge about that person we will never know without them telling us: their thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, desires, goals, etc. To know a person on this level we must listen to them speak and at some point make the choice to trust what they say. Without this trust, human relationships are impossible. ( I once used a very similar example and line of thought in a talk I gave to high schoolers about the nature of faith. Great minds think alike, and mediocre minds, like mine, sometimes get lucky.)

This is insightful because faith is seldom thought of or talked about in a relational sense. Often faith is reduced by both believers and nonbelievers  to being blind belief, superstition, or a mere wager on God’s potential existence based on the probabilities of risk and reward.  But this is simply not what Catholics mean by religious faith.

In article 26 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church it states, “faith is man’s response to God, who reveals himself and gives himself to man”. Humans cannot initiate faith on our own (as they could if faith simply were an act of blind belief or a bet). Rather, faith is a relational response to God. God reveals himself and it is our decision to trust this revelation and act upon it which constitutes faith.

I think this idea of faith clarifies and makes sense out of a term that is often used quite vaguely. However, I think it is also challenging. It implies that faith really is about an encounter with God, a relationship with God. It is about trusting and obeying a live author who entered His own story in the person of Jesus Christ and remains present and approachable in prayer and in the sacraments of the Church.

If, contrary to its detractors, faith is not mere blind belief, superstition, or a cosmic wager, but rather a “yes” to the God who reveals Himself to us in Christ, the Word, through the natural world, art, beauty, the Church, the sacraments, and in our own hearts, there are important questions to be pondered by believers and non-believers alike.

Have I rejected or feared “faith” because I thought it was superstition or a blind jump? Am I open enough to Truth that I would accept and put faith in God if I really did encounter Him? Have I really sought God Himself or rather just some mental proposition about God?  Though I purport to “believe”, have I avoided this kind of faith in God for fear that He may not really be there? Have I avoided this kind of faith in God for fear that He really might be there after all, and want more from me than I am willing to give?

Here are a couple of my articles that ask and ponder similar questions:

Eucharistic Adoration: Alone with the Perilous Question

Two Fears – The Reasons We Avoid Discovering Whether God Is Really There

The com-box is open. I would love to know your thoughts!

2 thoughts on “What Faith Is and Isn’t – Fr. Robert Barron

  1. Guest

    Although Fr. Barron makes some great points, it was sad to see him evoke Tillich at the beginning of the video and then not present any of Tillich understandings about what faith is. I’m guessing Fr. Barron finds them too threatening to his own views..

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