What does it take?

September 25, 2006

In posts I have written and the ensuing comments in the last few days, one of the things that has struck me is that it seems to me that sometimes it is difficult for us to acknowledge that we have a threshhold for knowing when or where we might change.

In other words, we all have different points at which we acknowledge that we might be wrong, or need to make adjustments in what we believe. In the thread on “God is Bigger than the Church” it is clear that some of us have a very high threshhold in order to change– I think that is also what I was talking about in my post on “Faith“.

If we have “Faith” and not “Knowledge”, it seems to me like we have a responsibility to ask ourselves where the threshhold is within us that we can be persuaded to change our belief.

Because “Faith” is based on things unseen, at what point can things that are seen influence, shape, and guide us into forming our faith?

In the “God is Bigger than the Church” thread, we’ve been discussing how discoveries, largely of the 20th century have enhanced and changed most scholars views of the Old Testament.  Others have rejected those views, choosing instead to cling to their existing ideas.

So here I throw out the question for reflection, what does it take for you to change your faith?  Do you see that as a good thing or a bad thing?

My answer is that it doesn’t take much, because I see the shaping of my faith as a lifelong journey to which I should be listening daily for input and guidance.

What I hear from others is that faith should be an unmalleable rock, and nothing– seen or unseen– should change it once it has formed.

If this is the case, it is where we have our problems.  To change or not to change.  Embracing new ideas, or turning to the past.  Looking forward, or looking back.

Very different points of view.  None necessarily with a value judgement associated, but each with very different implications on how we interact one with another.



5 Responses to “What does it take?”

  1. FrMichael Says:

    In my tradition, faith and reason are two forms of knowledge. There can be no essential contradiction, only harmony and paradox (e.g. the Trinity) between them, since God is the source of all truth and does not contradict Himself. Paradox here is not defined as mutual contradiction but as a mystery that is too large for our minds to understand.

    Roman Catholic seminarians take extensive courses in Western philosophy (minimum 24 semester units) so that we learn how to think logically about the connection between faith and reason. And within reason are different types of knowledge– scientific, philosophical and logical, historical, cultural, and others– that need to be accounted for in diverse ways. Among conservative Catholics like myself, contemporary human experience is the least valuable source in determining theology. Among liberal Catholics, it has high status.

    As I read your question, I think you have to define the term “faith” a little better. Is it the sum total of what God has revealed to us that we have to accept on His authority or are you speaking of how a single person experiences God to be.

  2. FrMichael Says:

    Missing a “?” at the end of my last sentence 🙂

  3. Jeff Says:

    I think I mean it to be an intentionally open-ended question.

    For some there may not be a difference between the total of what God has revealed himself to be and how a single person may experience God, and for some there may be a large gap between the two.

    If forced to clarify, I would clarify like this: What would it take for you to make a major shift in your theology, about the nature of God and what God wants/expects from us? I would assume that would mean that some kind of new information/catalyst would have to be taken in now; whether that be new information about the way God revealed himself in the past or information about how God is working in the present. What would that information/catalyst be?


  4. FrMichael Says:


    I don’t expect to make a major shift in my theology about the nature of God. God Himself is immutable and since I’m well-acquainted with and fully accept in faith the dogmatic teachings (mostly conciliar) regarding the Trinity and Incarnation the only major change I could make would be toward heresy or apostasy. May God preserve me from those sins!

    What God expects of us as a community of faith, the Church, is also constant– faith, hope, and love. Prayer, evangelization, and catechesis. Service to the least of our brothers and sisters.

    What is changing is what can be discerned for what God wants of me at any given moment. An example of this was my change of plans from marriage to priesthood. The context of ministry also forces me to discern anew how to proceed: working in a university setting is different than in a poor immigrant parish.

  5. Jeff Says:

    Thanks, Fr. Michael. That’s really the question, though, isn’t it? We’re all fully comfortable in our position towards God, but what if we, in our humanness, have made a mistake? What would it take for God to show us that we need to grow in our understanding? That’s really the question.


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