Friday, January 08, 2010

Trusting God as an Element of Faith and Discipleship (Acc. to Trent and the Catechism)

By Dave Armstrong (1-8-10)

My Presbyterian friend "Pilgrimsarbour" referred to a past blog post of his where faith was discussed (including discussion also on my blog), and this stimulated me to do my own study. His words will be in blue.

* * * * *

Adomnan and I had a fairly lengthy discussion regarding the issue of fiducia as an element of faith in the combox of one of Dave's previous posts. . . . The NT talks about faith but not trust, although the OT speaks volumes on trusting in God. As far as I can tell, Dave agreed with Adomnan that trusting in Christ is not taught in the NT and is not a requirement for salvation. I don't recall that Dave said this outright, but he didn't challenge Adomnan on the question and my request for other Catholics reading the combox to comment on the trust issue received no response. I gathered from that that official RCC policy is that faith does not require trust, although I recall perhaps quoting from the RCC Catechism that the word trust can be found there, but I think only once. Dave can speak for himself, of course, if he wishes, but he was pretty much silent during that discussion I believe (and trust ). ;-)

Trust is an important element of faith, but faith cannot be reduced to it. It is the constant Protestant reductionism and either/or mentality that we object to. See: The Catholic Encyclopedia: "Faith". Excerpt:

In the New Testament the meanings "to believe" and "belief", for pisteon and pistis, come to the fore; in Christ's speech, pistis frequently means "trust", but also "belief" (cf. Matthew 8:10). In Acts it is used objectively of the tenets of the Christians, but is often to be rendered "belief" (cf. 17:31; 20:21; 26:8). In Romans 14:23, it has the meaning of "conscience" — "all that is not of faith is sin" — but the Apostle repeatedly uses it in the sense of "belief" (cf. Romans 4 and Galatians 3).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church:

215 . . . God is Truth itself, whose words cannot deceive. This is why one can abandon oneself in full trust to the truth and faithfulness of his word in all things. . . .

It means trusting God in every circumstance, even in adversity. A prayer of St. Teresa of Jesus wonderfully expresses this trust: . . .

[under the section heading: "IV. THE IMPLICATIONS OF FAITH IN ONE GOD"]

304 . . . This is not a "primitive mode of speech", but a profound way of recalling God's primacy and absolute Lordship over history and the world, and so of educating his people to trust in him. The prayer of the Psalms is the great school of this trust.

Christ invites us to filial trust in the providence of our heavenly Father (cf. Mt 6:26-34), and St. Peter the apostle repeats: "Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you" (I Pt 5:7; cf. Ps 55:23).

396 . . . The "tree of the knowledge of good and evil"symbolically evokes the insurmountable limits that man, being a creature, must freely recognize and respect with trust. . . .

Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God's command. This is what man's first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.

 448 Very often in the Gospels people address Jesus as "Lord". This title testifies to the respect and trust of those who approach him for help and healing. . . .

451 Christian prayer is characterized by the title "Lord", whether in the invitation to prayer ("The Lord be with you"), its conclusion ("through Christ our Lord") or the exclamation full of trust and hope: Maran atha ("Our Lord, come!") or Marana tha ("Come, Lord!") - "Amen Come Lord Jesus!"

1062 In Hebrew, amen comes from the same root as the word "believe." This root expresses solidity, trustworthiness, faithfulness. And so we can understand why "Amen" may express both God's faithfulness towards us and our trust in him.

1431 Interior repentance is a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. At the same time it entails the desire and resolution to change one's life, with hope in God's mercy and trust in the help of his grace. This conversion of heart is accompanied by a salutary pain and sadness which the Fathers called animi cruciatus (affliction of spirit) and compunctio cordis (repentance of heart).

1520 . . . the Holy Spirit, who renews trust and faith in God . . .

1817 Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. . . .

1843 By hope we desire, and with steadfast trust await from God, eternal life and the graces to merit it.

2119 . . . The challenge contained in such tempting of God wounds the respect and trust we owe our Creator and Lord. It always harbors doubt about his love, his providence, and his power.

2547 . . . Abandonment to the providence of the Father in heaven frees us from anxiety about tomorrow. Trust in God is a preparation for the blessedness of the poor. They shall see God.

2579 . . . His prayer, the prayer of God's Anointed, is a faithful adherence to the divine promise and expresses a loving and joyful trust in God, the only King and Lord. . . .

2592 The prayer of Abraham and Jacob is presented as a battle of faith marked by trust in God's faithfulness and by certitude in the victory promised to perseverance.

2728 . . . what good does it do to pray? To overcome these obstacles, we must battle to gain humility, trust, and perseverance.

2733 . . . The humble are not surprised by their distress; it leads them to trust more, to hold fast in constancy.

Filial trust is tested - it proves itself - in tribulation. . . .

2738 The revelation of prayer in the economy of salvation teaches us that faith rests on God's action in history. Our filial trust is enkindled by his supreme act: the Passion and Resurrection of his Son. Christian prayer is cooperation with his providence, his plan of love for men.

2739 For St. Paul, this trust is bold, founded on the prayer of the Spirit in us and on the faithful love of the Father who has given us his only Son. . . .

2741 . . . If our prayer is resolutely united with that of Jesus, in trust and boldness as children, we obtain all that we ask in his name, even more than any particular thing: the Holy Spirit himself, who contains all gifts.

2756 Filial trust is put to the test when we feel that our prayer is not always heard. . . .

2778 This power of the Spirit who introduces us to the Lord's Prayer is expressed in the liturgies of East and of West by the beautiful, characteristically Christian expression: parrhesia, straightforward simplicity, filial trust, joyous assurance, humble boldness, the certainty of being loved.

2797 Simple and faithful trust, humble and joyous assurance are the proper dispositions for one who prays the Our Father.

2828 "Give us": The trust of children who look to their Father for everything is beautiful. . . .

2830 . . . In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus insists on the filial trust that cooperates with our Father's providence. . . .

2837 "Daily" (epiousios) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. Taken in a temporal sense, this word is a pedagogical repetition of "this day," to confirm us in trust "without reservation."

2861 In the fourth petition, by saying "give us," we express in communion with our brethren our filial trust in our heavenly Father. . . .

See also Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical Spe Salvi (Saved by Hope), of November 30, 2007, and my post about it.

All this, yet Pilgrimsarbour wrote:

I gathered from that that official RCC policy is that faith does not require trust, although I recall perhaps quoting from the RCC Catechism that the word trust can be found there, but I think only once.

Try the online Catechism with word search next time, my friend.

Thanks, Dave. And thanks for the link to the online catechism--to be honest, it just hadn't occurred to me! Word search--right! And where were you when our friend Adoman was beating me up in our discussion of faith and trust? That information would have been most helpful. :-)

I'm under no obligation whatever to participate in lengthy discussions here that begin wholly apart from me and often are even unrelated to the ostensible topic of the thread. This is especially the case in the Open Forum, where I usually participate very little or not at all.

I write about what interests me at any given time. I also try to respond to sincere questions. You asked about this, and it sparked my interest, so here I am doing a study on "trust" in Catholic teaching and in the Bible. That's why I am dealing with it now and didn't before.

But the endless debates that go on independently of what I am writing? Often, I don't even read them. Too time-consuming . . . only so many hours in a day. My main concern (as I'm sure you can understand) is my own papers and dialogue about them. The other discussions are fine, as long as it is understood that I reserve the right to comment on whatever I choose to, or to not do so, with regard to stuff extraneous from my own writing / research projects. I can't do everything.

You can't? ;-)

Not being God . . . LOL

Council of Trent:

Decree on Justification; CHAPTER XVI. On the fruit of Justification, that is, on the merit of good works, and on the nature of that merit.

. . . nevertheless God forbid that a Christian should either trust or glory in himself, and not in the Lord, whose bounty towards all [Page 44] men is so great, that He will have the things which are His own gifts be their merits.

Canons on Justification

CANON XXI.-If any one saith, that Christ Jesus was given of God to men, as a redeemer in whom to trust, and not also as a legislator whom to obey; let him be anathema.

[Note that this is not opposed to trust itself, but to the "either/or" exclusion of obedience alongside trust]

On the Most Holy Sacraments of Penance and Extreme Unction: On the Sacrament of Extreme Unction [Prologue]

For though our adversary seeks and seizes opportunities, all our life long, to be able in any way to devour our souls; yet is there no time wherein he strains more vehemently all the powers of his craft to ruin us utterly, and, if he can possibly, to make us fall even from trust in the mercy of God, than when he perceives the end of our life to be at hand.

See Trent online.

Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (W. E. Vine) makes it very clear that pistis ("Faith") contains the elements of belief and trust, precisely as in Catholic teaching (the biblical "both/and"), whereas Protestantism (at least in some circles) greatly overemphasizes the trust element, so that it is out of balance (the over-rationalistic "either/or"):

"Faith" / pistis

primarily, "firm persuasion," a conviction based upon hearing (akin to peitho, "to persuade"), is used in the NT always of "faith in God or Christ, or things spiritual."

The word is used of (a) trust, e.g., Rom. 3:25 [see Note (4) below]; 1 Cor. 2:5; 15:14,17; 2 Cor. 1:24; Gal. 3:23 [see Note (5) below]; Phil. 1:25; 2:17; 1 Thess. 3:2; 2 Thess. 1:3; 3:2; (b) trust-worthiness, e.g., Matt. 23:23; Rom. 3:3, RV, "the faithfulness of God;" Gal. 5:22 (RV, "faithfulness"); Titus 2:10, "fidelity;" (c) by metonymy, what is believed, the contents of belief, the "faith," Acts 6:7; 14:22; Gal. 1:23; 3:25 [contrast Gal. 3:23, under (a)]; Gal. 6:10; Phil. 1:27; 1 Thess. 3:10; Jude 1:3,20 (and perhaps 2 Thess. 3:2); (d) a ground for "faith," an assurance, Acts 17:31 (not as in AV, marg., "offered faith"); (e) a pledge of fidelity, plighted "faith," 1 Tim. 5:12.

The main elements in "faith" in its relation to the invisible God, as distinct from "faith" in man, are especially brought out in the use of this noun and the corresponding verb, pisteuo; they are (1) a firm conviction, producing a full acknowledgement of God's revelation or truth, e.g., 2 Thess. 2:11,12; (2) a personal surrender to Him, John 1:12; (3) a conduct inspired by such surrender, 2 Cor. 5:7. Prominence is given to one or other of these elements according to the context. All this stands in contrast to belief in its purely natural exercise, which consists of an opinion held in good "faith" without necessary reference to its proof. The object of Abraham's "faith" was not God's promise (that was the occasion of its exercise); his "faith" rested on God Himself, Rom. 4:17,20,21.


Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament reiterates the same things, but going into extreme detail. So, just as Protestants err if they reduce faith to mere "fiducial faith", it is also an error to the opposite extreme to cast all semblance of "trust" from the definition of faith.


Martin said...

In the OP Adomen objected to PH confounding trust with faith that is an operation belonging to Hope with one belonging to Faith. Faith is a kind of knowledge thus not "trust". I cannot now copy St. Aquinas to here so pardon the link. Note in the articles under faith he does not bring up trust.

Martin said...

....and here in his discussion of Hope as a virtue he clarifies

I answer that, A virtue is said to be theological from having God for the object to which it adheres. Now one may adhere to a thing in two ways: first, for its own sake; secondly, because something else is attained thereby. Accordingly charity makes us adhere to God for His own sake, uniting our minds to God by the emotion of love.
On the other hand, hope and faith make man adhere to God as to a principle wherefrom certain things accrue to us. Now we derive from God both knowledge of truth and the attainment of perfect goodness. Accordingly faith makes us adhere to God, as the source whence we derive the knowledge of truth , since we believe that what God tells us is true: while hope makes us adhere to God, as the source whence we derive perfect goodness, i.e. in so far as, by hope, we trust to the Divine assistance for obtaining happiness.

Martin said...

How's that for a late nite phone post? And no mispelled werds either ;-)

Dave Armstrong said...


Yes, there are different ways to categorize it. The theological virtues . . .

Even if one formally separates hope from faith, it is still an element of the Christian life and devotion to God, so any way we look at it, it's there, and quite necessary. The CCC makes this clear.

In the Bible (esp. the OT) not everything is wrapped up in neat abstract ways: that was more of a Greek thing. So things are all mixed together, and it is a very practical, concrete outlook.

Martin said...

Only time for a joke. St T of A aint Greek.

Seriosly, I may have misunderstood him but the categories are not arbitrary. Maybe A. will see this and weigh in. I will continue to read.

Dave Armstrong said...

St T of A [Aquinas] aint Greek.

No, but he thought very much like a Greek, because he was synthesizing Aristotle with Catholic theology.

I didn't say that the categories were arbitrary. I'm just saying that there are different ways to do it. Since the OT worldview doesn't fit neatly into Greek categories, there is an observable difference there.

We need not be confined to one category scheme only; even one as great as St. Thomas.

Adomnan said...

Martin, Thanks for doing research into Aquinas's views on faith and hope. I came to my own conclusions about the nature of Christian faith and hope not because of familiarity with what St. Thomas wrote but independently through my reading of the Bible and a general understanding of the consensus fidelium. It's gratifying to see that St. Thomas came to the same conclusions and suggests to me that I was on the right track.

On the other hand, I don't want to press the issue. It would be impossible -- and fruitless -- to argue that NT faith excluded any element of "trust," as Dave has shown. It was my purpose, in any event, not to exclude trust entirely from Christian faith but to challenge the Evangelical commonplace that faith is about "trusting in Christ for salvation." According to the Bible, we are to hope for salvation, not presume that Christ will get us off the hook through "trust alone."

Here's a passage from Paul (Galatians 5:5-6)) where he brings the three theological virtues (faith, hope and charity) together:
"But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith working by love."

Notice that we "hope" for righteousness, for Aquinas's "perfect goodness" -- not any mere "imputation of Christ's righteousness." We can hope for this righteousness because we have assented to God's revelation in Christ ("by faith we await"). Faith makes hope possible.

We see the "assent" meaning of justifying faith also in the professon of faith made at baptism, which Paul refers to in Romans 10:9-10: "That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved."

Here justifying faith is unmistakingly an assent to what God has revealed ("believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead;" "you believe and are justified.") Paul is not saying to "trust" that God raised Christ from the death, but to believe it.

Paul's "justification by faith" is, in the last analysis, "justification by baptism," as in Gal 3:24-27, where "being justified by faith" and being "baptized into Christ" are described as two ways of saying the same thing:

"So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ."

Dave Armstrong said...

Thanks for the further clarification. I pretty much agree with how you put this. I especially like the line: "According to the Bible, we are to hope for salvation, not presume that Christ will get us off the hook through 'trust alone.'"