Year ago, Dr. Bill Bright, the head of Campus Crusade for Christ International, came up with an illustration that i believe is useful for ALL Christians, including and especially Catholic Christians.
Fact Faith Feeling Train
Picture an old train. The car that pulls the train is the ENGINE–this represents the FACTS of our faith. Christianity is based on well-documented FACTS. Both Protestants and Catholics have plenty of apolgists who can able defend Christianity, and there have been apologists through the centuries e.g., St. Thomas Aquinas, who make a very logical case for Christianity. Read their books or attend their lectures. We don’t believe in a warm-fuzzy. We believe in a historical Christ and a historical Church.
Faith is the COAL CAR that powers the engine. It’s not enough to simply accept the facts of Christianity and agree that Jesus Christ was a real person, that the Bible is a factual history of the Jewish people who became Christians, that the resurrection of Jesus is a well-documented historical event, that the Catholic Church was started by Jesus Christ and has continued through the centuries to be the Church, etc. We must believe it in our hearts and souls and take the step to join that Church and follow Jesus.
Feeling is the CABOOSE. The caboose is not necessary to run the train. If it’s there, it’s nice, but if it’s not there, the train will still run just fine.
I’ve been reading CAF for years, and I’ve seen literally thousands of posts by Catholics who are relying on their FEELINGS to explain their Christianity and to maintain their commitment to Jesus and His Church. It won’t work to do this, just like it would be dangerous to put the caboose on the front of a train, or to try to run the train with the caboose, although you could fuel the train by tearing the caboose apart and using all the wood and other flammable parts to fuel the engine. But it will create a quick, hot fire that burns out too soon. And once the caboose is burned up, you can’t fill it up again like a coal car. Feelings are not what keeps our Christianity running–our FAITH keeps our Christianity running!
If you find my illustration confusing or stupid, I encourage you to Google “Fact Faith Feeling” train and read the explanation by greater Christians than me. And please don’t say, “This is a Protestant thing, and has no place in Catholic thinking.” I’ve seen and heard contemporary Catholic apologists use this illustration, too! It’s the truth. You can’t and shouldn’t evaluate your Christianity by your feelings. They will fluctuate depending on your state in life, your health, your neighbors, the President of the U.S. (or whoever your leader is), the weather, your boss, your school teacher, the hand that you draw in your weekly poker game, the number on the scale after you step onto it, etc.
But the facts remain solid, and your faith will grow as you trust and obey Jesus and His Church.