Have you ever read the following verse in the Bible? “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24). It might be shocking to many non-Catholic Christians, but an informed Catholic should be able to take it in stride and place it in its proper context. It is interesting to note however, that the ONLY time the words “faith” and “alone” appear together in the Bible is in that one verse from James. That being that said, reason alone is also not enough.
Faith is something personal, this is why Jesus first asked his disciples, “Who do others say I am?” All kinds of reasons were given with all kinds of reasoning, but then the real point of the dialog comes in when he asked, “Who do YOU say I am?” This makes it personal and God wants it personal.
This makes sense to me as a father myself. I want my kids to have personal faith in me, not because they have evidence combined with the calculating logic of reason, but just because I’m their father. Obviously this would not be about faith in my existence, but let’s use faith in my judgment as an example.
Dad: You need to trust my judgment.
Kid: There is no evidence that your judgment is better than mine.
Kid: That is only evidence that you are older.
Dad: I gave you life and everything you have.
Kid: That is only evidence that you have money and you know The Stork.
Dad: What about all the other times I’ve been right?
Kid: Your astonishing random good luck is self-evident.
Dad: Mom and everyone else in the family trust my judgment.
Kid: That is evidence that they do not demand evidence.
Dad: You need to trust me.
Kid: Sorry, you need to provide evidence that you are worthy of my trust, and not just any evidence. It must be evidence that satisfies me.
So, at this point would a good father obey the child and provide whatever specific evidence the child demands? I think not. The father may just let the child suffer the natural consequences of not trusting in order to learn how to trust in the first place. In fact, I could even see a good father intentionally hiding evidence so that the child would have no choice but to trust. This is the only way a healthy parent-child relationship can work. Often times I feel quite certain that God made children as stubborn as they are in order to show us grown-ups how we act towards Him!
Trust is key for any good relationship and same is true for our relationship with God. It won’t work without trust. This is demonstrated throughout all of salvation history. If you know the people and the Bible stories, you know when there was trust and when there was not. Think about Adam & Eve, then Noah, then Abraham, then Moses, then the Israelites, then the Kings of Israel, then Mary & Joseph, all the way up to Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. Think about who trusted and who didn't and how did it turn out?
In the first chapter of John’s Gospel we read about the two disciples of John the Baptist following Jesus and then asking him “where are you staying?” He replied "Come, and you will see." So they went and they saw (see John 1:36-39). The same is true for us today. First you must ask, then you must “go”, and only then will you “see”. He who tries to be a mere observer experiences nothing. Only by entering the faith experiment in trust does one have an experience; only by cooperating does one ask at all, and only he who asks shall receive.
"I believe in God as I believe the sun had risen, not because I can see it, but because by way of it, I can see everything else."
- C.S. Lewis