Belief Without Understanding

Belief Without Understanding

How does a person get to believe in something? The New Testament says to “just believe” throughout the Bible, but that is hard for me to do because I am new to the Catholic Church, and I am not five years old. In other words, I keep reading, but when do I really, really, really believe the story? Please don’t tell me just to have faith. – Richard

Patrick Madrid: I love that line in Scripture, ‘I believe, I believe, Lord. Help Thou my unbelief.’ We all have those doubts and moments when we wonder, ‘Is this really true? Did this really happen? Did Jesus really exist?’ And those kinds of questions are normal. It’s not as if you are doing anything wrong by wondering about them.

Two things are necessary to answer your question. The first one is that you be willing to adequately examine the evidence. So our faith as Christians is not a faith that is blind. It’s not a faith that is based just upon hearsay.  It’s not a faith that is requiring you to suspend your intellect or to not use logic. It’s actually the opposite.

The Christian faith is based on evidence. Hard, historical data, for example. Corroborating witnesses, as another example. Proofs of miracles, the examples of the existence of the Church for 2,000 years, and there’s so many things we could discuss, those are just a few of them.

So that would be the first thing I would say in answer to your question: what do you need to do to have faith? I would say first of all, examine the evidence adequately.

The second thing is ask for the gift of faith. Because faith is a supernatural virtue. The Bible talks in 1 Corinthians 13 about the premier virtues of faith, hope, and charity. Now the greatest of these, St. Paul says, is charity – love of God and love of neighbor for the sake of God. Faith, hope, and love are gifts from God, they are supernatural graces that God gives to those who ask Him for them. So that’s the second part.

Spend as much time as you can, and look at the evidence for what it is, and also ask God to give you the grace of faith so that you will have that supernatural certitude that goes beyond merely the evidence. I’m not suggesting there’s anything paltry or minimalistic about the evidence, but in order to have saving faith, there you have to have that supernatural gift that God will grant you, but you have to ask Him for it. He’s not going to force it on you.

And even if you have supernatural saving faith, don’t be surprised that if at the same time you may also have doubts … or you might wonder or there may be something about your belief in Jesus or the Gospel that is still something you don’t fully understand.

There are a lot of things that I believe that I don’t fully understand. I don’t fully understand, in fact I hardly understand, how the sound of my voice is reaching you. It’s coming to you through the air, it’s coming on radio waves, I understand theoretically the description of it, but I honestly don’t understand exactly how it works. But yet, my voice from the studio that I’m sitting in is coming to you wherever you happen to be. And I believe it because I see the effects of it, even though I don’t fully understand it.

That’s just at the natural level. You can maybe pinch yourself and say, ‘I can’t believe she loves me! Wow, me! She loves me!’ And maybe just at the level of the love relationship, it can be astonishing. You can’t quite believe that she actually loves you, but she does. How do you know that she loves you? Because you see the proof of it, you see the evidence of it, and then you can begin to believe. And that’s partly based on faith. You see the evidence but you also have a kind of trust and certitude that arises from that evidence, that goes beyond the evidence, in which you have that unshakable faith that she loves you.

It’s kind of like that. And the beauty part about it is it’s not difficult to have saving faith. The demons, we’re told in the epistle of St. James that they have a kind of faith. They believe, they know God exists, and they believe in things like that. But it’s not a saving faith. Saving faith is that special gift that you receive from Almighty God.

Listen to Patrick’s full response below:

The Patrick Madrid Show airs weekdays from 6:00 – 9:00 a.m. Pacific on Immaculate Heart Radio.