Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A gift of grace

Thomas Cothran is "Against Faith in Faith":
It has become a strange and unfortunate commonplace that one must have faith in faith—faith, that is, in the ability to commit oneself to truths that transcend rational justification—not only out of respect for faith’s intrinsic (if futile) beauty, but also as a means to the truth. Confronted with inadequate evidence for the deeper truths of life, one must conjure up a commitment to ideas for which the subjective act of faith can be the only ground, and one must believe not only in the content of faith but in the faith-act itself.

This, at least, is the picture of faith one finds in the writings of Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris, and it has an embarrassing currency among Christian believers. ....

Faith, in the Christian life, has nothing to do with a subjective belief that does not admit rational justification (not even Kierkegaard quite said that), because faith begins not with the subject of faith but its object—the Trinitarian life of God. It consists not of assent to some proposition but the entrustment of one’s being to God’s providence. Faith does not originate in the individual believer’s own efforts, but is rather a gift of grace to the believer, usually received in baptism, as one means among many of participating in God’s own life.

Far from posing a threat to one’s faith, knowledge reinforces it: the more reason one has to believe in God’s providence, the more readily the believer entrusts himself to God. Faith likewise facilitates a more intimate knowledge of the plans God has set in store for the believer. As recent scholarship has demonstrated, “faith” in the Bible is often better rendered “faithfulness”; one has faith, therefore, less by belief than by piety. Faith is—at least in the order of time—primarily performative and only secondarily reflective. Recall St. Irenaeus’ dictum: “to believe in God is to do his will.” .... [more]
Against Faith in Faith | First Things