Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What is Faith?

Still preparing for my comprehensive finals. I am reading books for one of the topics for the exam called "Theological Integration." Most of the books have sketchy theology in them that place human experience first and places Christ as an after thought (I think they are influenced by Karl Rhaner). They encourage theological reflection but mention little about prayer and meditation -- reflection on God is not the same things as praying to God. If you ask the writers what faith is, they would define it as follows (these are actually quotes from the texts):
  • Faith is "The process of constitutive knowing."
  • Faith has "to do with making maintenance and transformation of human meaning."
  • "Faith refers to the basic orientation of the person in which he or she knows the world and engages in the activity of meaning making."
  • "Faith is a self-constituting activity: the self is also being shaped by the way in which the self sees the world."
I am shocked at these definitions of faith by people who are considered Catholic theologians. Their definition of faith is very different from what St. Paul wrote in Hebrews: "Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen" (11.1 NAB). I don't understand why some theologians feel the need to reinvent things. It is as if they are trying to be original and instead fail at being original, and the resulting product is something that is less concrete and less profound than the original.

Also, the last definition, in my opinion, boarders relativism. That is, the last definition is relativistic in the sense that the self shapes the self and creates meaning by how one sees the world. This is a poor definition as it fails to allow a person to discover the truth and be shaped by the truth.

Maybe I'm just not smart enough to understand what the writers are saying, but what they have presented to me, the reader, seems somewhat peculiar to me and makes me take warning.


Joe of St. Thérèse said...

Or even better, Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.

You're right in saying that the last one borders on relativism. Of course there is always an individualistic aspect to how we see things, but objective fact must exist.

I touch more upon it here:

Think of it this way, at least they gave you this to study, because if it was Bp. Trautperson, he might have you read something like "Cat in the Hat" since we're too dumb to understand Spirit of the Liturgy.

Anonymous said...

St.Paul's is the only one that makes the least amount of sense to me. Now I'm a physics student, so I'm used to things being stated in clear terms, even if the concepts are wholly abstract, so maybe thats why I tend to it. However it's probably not news to you that St.Thomas Aquinas agreed with you that 'the authority of the Apostle suffices' (Part II of Part II Q: 4 Art. 1...found at the Summa on New Advent)

Anonymous said...

oh wait. typo! St Paul's is the only one which DOES make sense to me.

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

I know what you mean as a physicist as well. I guess that's why this theolgy stuff isn't all that bad, lol.

Paul Cat said...

Ha! You guys crack me up.

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