Confronting the Crisis of Faith
To understand the Threefold faith in God
While we need to believe that God exists and believe God, the faith that will pull us out of the "crisis of faith," is the third kind of faith, believing in God, credere in Deum, believing in Christ, credere in Christum. This sort of faith is an act of personal adherence to the Lord and his teachings; it is an act of entrustment in the Lord, an act that recognizes God and Jesus as our end. It is inspired by charity and seeks intimate union with the Lord.
To understand the "crisis of faith," we have to understand faith.
Faith is a rich, multi-layered concept, and traditionally theologians distinguished between believing in God's existence (credere Deum), to believe God (credere Deo), and to believe in God (credere in Deum). This threefold faith was applied also to Christ, so that theologians spoke about believing in Christ's existence (credere Christum), to believe Christ (credere Christo), and believing in Christ (credere in Christum).
Believing that God exists or that Christ existed or exists, is of no particular merit. Even the demons believe that God is one and that he exists. (James 2:19) This faith--a wholly intellectual assent without an act of will--is without charity, and does not save. Thomas Jefferson, for example, believed that Jesus was a historical figure, but that did not make him a Christian.
Believing that God exists or that Christ existed is not the kind of faith that will pull us out of the "crisis of faith" of which Pope Benedict XVI speaks, although it is the first step to getting us to the faith that can do so.
We have to believe that God exists, that Christ existed, but that is not enough.
Believing God is another kind of faith, but it is not meritorious or salvific either. In fact, this kind of faith is commonplace. This is the human faith of everyday life applied to God.
We believe scientists when they say that the earth revolves around the sun. We believe the newscaster when she tells us that Romney picked Ryan as his running mate. We believe our parents when they told us we were born on our birthday. Again, even the demons possess this kind of faith.
As St. Augustine notes in his Commentary on the Gospel of John, there is a watershed of difference between believing God and believing in God. "We can also say about his Apostles, 'We believe Paul,' but not 'We believe in Paul,' "We believe Peter,' but not, 'We believe in Peter.'"
Thomas Jefferson believed Jesus as a moral teacher. But he did not believe in Jesus, and so he cannot be counted a Christian.
While we need to believe that God exists and believe God, the faith that will pull us out of the "crisis of faith," is the third kind of faith, believing in God, credere in Deum, believing in Christ, credere in Christum. This sort of faith is an act of personal adherence to the Lord and his teachings, it is an act of entrustment in the Lord, an act that recognizes God and Jesus as our end. It is inspired by charity and seeks intimate union with the Lord.
As Peter Lombard puts it in his Sentences, credere in Deum is by believing to love God, by believing to go into God, by believing to adhere to God, and to be incorporated into his body of believers.
Peter Lombard simply regurgitates St. Augustine: Quid est credere in Deum? Credendo amare, credendo diligere, credendo in eum ire, et eius membris incorporari. What is it to believe in God? By faith to love him, by faith to follow him, by faith to go into him, and to become a member of his Church.
This faith--believing in God, credere in Deum--is not dead. (cf. James 2:17) It is faith of this kind which justifies the sinner and which necessarily shows itself through the works of love. It is this faith, and this faith alone, that will take us out of the "crisis of faith."
The credere in Deum faith is the ample, life-changing faith that is suggested in the interesting vision of the hermit St. Nicholas of Flüe (1417-1487), or Brother Klaus as he is popularly known. In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (§ 226) draws upon a prayer composed by St. Nicholas in describing the implications of faith in one God:
My Lord and my God, take from me everything that distances me from you.
My Lord and my God, give me everything that brings me closer to you.
My Lord and my God, detach me from myself to give my all to you.
This credere in Christum faith transforms. It incites love, union, adherence and fidelity, and incorporation into the body of Christ, his Church. It is this faith that provides fuel to the flame of love of God and allows us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, ...
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