Definition of a Christian?


#1

I was on Yahoo Answers :eek: , and someone asked what is a good definition of a Christian. I was wonering what some of your answers would be.


#2

A Christian is someone who believes what our Lord taught (has the true faith), and is a member of the mystical body of Christ, which is the Catholic Church. Those who belong to various and scattered sects and denominations are called Christian, but in reality they are not. After all, how can someone who rejects the teachings of Jesus Christ, and is not a member of the Church he founded, be a Christian?

Pius XII: “To be Christian one must be Roman [united to the Church of Rome]. One must recognize the oneness of Christ’s Church that is governed by one successor of the Prince of the Apostles who is the Bishop of Rome, Christ’s Vicar on earth” (Allocution to the Irish pilgrims of October 8, 1957).

Leo XIII: “So long as the member was in the body, it lived; separated, it lost its life. Thus the man, so long as he lives in the body of the [Catholic] Church, he is a Christian; separated from her, he becomes a heretic” (Encyclical Satis cognitum of June 29, 1896).

There are many sincere, and even morally good, heretics; but this does not make them true Christians. To be a true Christian requires the true faith. If they have been baptized, and by some miracle accept all that the Catholic Church teaches in spite of what they sect they attend teaches, they may be united to the soul of the Catholic Church, and in an “imperfect way” be Christian; but otherwise they are not.

So, the simple answer is that a Christian is a Catholic who believes what the Church teaches. Other groups who call themselves Christians are actually heretics and/or schismatics:


#3

Very true.


#4

A Christian is a person through an act of faith and has assented that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Saviour and with a dedication of mind and will pursues to walk in His way to greater Holiness and cultivate their personal relationship with Christ.

Pax et Caritas definition below demands a state that few people truly achieve just a few times in their life. It denies the journey we are all on of varying degrees of communion each and every day. Furthermore it denies the varying degrees of knowledge held by people and the environment in which they live/were raised.


#5

This is what I said a Christian was:

[quote=]A Christian is someone who believes what our Lord taught (has the true faith), and is a member of the mystical body of Christ, which is the Catholic Church.
[/quote]

Do you really believe that definition of a Christian to be something "that few people truly achieve just a few times in their life’?

What’s so hard about holding to the true faith and being a member of the Church our Lord founded? Which one of those two requirements is difficult?


#6

Someone that can honestly recite the Nicene Creed.


#7

Yes I absolutely believe it. Your defination: “A Christian is someone who believes what our Lord taught (has the true faith), and is a member of the mystical body of Christ, which is the Catholic Church.”

First, few of us (if any, including the Pope) have the training and knowledge to fully believe and understand all what the Lord taught. Every day I try to grow in my knowledge and understanding. Since my understanding is more complete today than yesterday, was I not a Christian yesterday?

Second, Pope Benedict in “Introduction to Christianity” written as Cardinal Ratzinger needed over 90 pages to explain what it means to say “I believe”. In short, he said it means to “understand and stand.” With regard to understanding, he talked extensively about how limited our ability to understand is. But more importantly, it requires us to “stand” for what we understand even when our understanding is imperfect (which it will be).

Third, we are sinners. No matter how sinful I am today, so long as I am pursuing Christ, I remain a Christian. When I sin, it is an act of unbelief or act of arrogance about who and what is God in my life.

Being a Christian isn’t about how perfect our assent to Christ is nor on our knowledge. Being a Christian is about making a daily honest effort to love Him more dearly and understand Him more clearly (pursuing Holiness). Except for the adherents to the Once Saved Always Saved theology, being a Christian is one on a journey rather than a state.


#8

[quote="Pax et caritas]What’s so hard about holding to the true faith and being a member of the Church our Lord founded? Which one of those two requirements is difficult?
[/quote]

Having the true faith does not mean understanding every deep mystery uttered by our Lord. It means holding fast to what the Church teaches even if understanding is lacking. What could be easier that submitting to what the Church teaches? That is much easier than attempting to figure everything out on ones own.

[quote=]Every day I try to grow in my knowledge and understanding. Since my understanding is more complete today than yesterday, was I not a Christian yesterday?
[/quote]

Belief and understanding are two different things: A child may believe the Eucharist is truly Jesus, but not understand how. Belief is not dependent upon understanding. Understanding is good, and helps us, but it is not necessary. What is required is that we believe, not that we understand.

[quote=]Second, Pope Benedict in “Introduction to Christianity” written as Cardinal Ratzinger needed over 90 pages to explain what it means to say “I believe”. In short, he said it means to “understand and stand.” With regard to understanding, he talked extensively about how limited our ability to understand is. But more importantly, it requires us to “stand” for what we understand even when our understanding is imperfect (which it will be).
[/quote]

He probably used those 90 pages in an attempt to explain that belief is intellectual assent to teachings, and is not one identical with understanding. Understanding is a gift of the Holy Ghost, and as such is very good, but understanding doctrines is not necessary for believing them.

[quote=]Third, we are sinners. No matter how sinful I am today, so long as I am pursuing Christ, I remain a Christian.
[/quote]

Mortal sin (unless it is heresy) does not separate one from the Church, but lack of faith does. Mortal sin removes grace from the soul; heresy cuts the soul off from the Church.

[quote=] When I sin, it is an act of unbelief or act of arrogance about who and what is God in my life.
[/quote]

Sin does not equal unbelief. Morally sinful conduct is a result of using our free will in a way that is contrary to God’s law. Unbelief is when you refuse to accept a doctrine revealed by God. Both are sins, but they are different kinds of sin. As mentioned above, morally sinful behavior does not cut a person off from the Church, but the sin of unbelief does.

[quote=]Being a Christian isn’t about how perfect our assent to Christ is nor on our knowledge. Being a Christian is about making a daily honest effort to love Him more dearly and understand Him more clearly (pursuing Holiness). Except for the adherents to the Once Saved Always Saved theology, being a Christian is one on a journey rather than a state.
[/quote]

Being a Christian requires, first and foremost, supernatural faith. The Bible teaches us that “without faith it is impossible to please God”. The council of Trent infallibly defined that the faith spoken of is the Catholic faith. Without the Catholic faith, which requires belief in all of the doctrines that have been revealed by God (or at least not rejecting any of them) a person is not a member of the Church or a Christian.

You ought to read the encyclical Satis Cognitum by Pope Leo XIII. It deals directly with this topic. It is clearly written, easy to understand, and the best part is - its free! No excuse not to read it. It is available online by simply doing a google search .


#9

You can use the word in several ways. The Church would say that a Christian is anyone who is validly baptised. This has the unfortunate technical effect of excluding Baptists, who are not baptised is the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and some liberal Protestants, who are baptised without water.

You could also include all “followers of Jesus” though we’ve got problems with people such as the Quakers, who are from a Christian tradition but don’t profess any doctrine - they are just “The Society of Friends” or Unitarians, who tend to see themselves as a unifying pan-religious movement.

Normally the term is used to include all Trinitarians, that is those who regard Jesus as divine, plus movements which are derived from them but are regarded as on the periphery, like Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses.

However some evangelical Protestants have begun using the term to refer only to members of similar movements to their own. There are several reasons for this, the main one being that the formal evangelical movements tend to be so small and recent that the actual name of the group carries no credibility, and implies divisions which evangelicals perfer not to acknowledge.

We should resist attempts to narrow “Christian” either to evangelical Christianity or to “good people”. On the other hand it is more legitimate to narrow to “practising Christian”, that is someone who attends organised worship.


#10

Lubos Motl is a Christian, but he calls himself an atheist too? So is he a Christian?


#11

Here is a quote from the CCC:

#1271 Baptism constitutes the foundation of communion among all Christians, including those who are not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church: “For men who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in some, though imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church. Justified by faith in Baptism, [they] are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church.”

If your statement is meant to agree with the CCC statement, you’ll need to clarify what you mean when speaking of being a “member of the mystical body of Christ, which is the Catholic Church”. If you don’t, it sounds like you’re saying only those people who are members of the physical institution of the Catholic Church are Christians. And I hope that’s not what you mean, since you would then be spreading teaching that is contrary to that of the very Church (Catholic Church) you are trying to uphold.

Nita


#12

Hi Nita,

I was going to respond to you by interpreting what the new Catechism says “in light of Tradition”; but instead I am going to ask you a question:

Does your interpretation of the new catechism contradict the following quotes from Pope Pius XII encyclical Mystici Corporis?

[quote=Pope Pius XII]. "Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed. “For in one spirit” says the Apostle, “were we all baptized into one Body, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether bond or free.” As therefore in the true Christian community there is only one Body, one Spirit, one Lord, and one Baptism, so there can be only one faith. And therefore if a man refuse to hear the Church let him be considered – so the Lord commands – as a heathen and a publican. It follows that those are divided in faith or government cannot be living in the unity of such a Body, nor can they be living the life of its one Divine Spirit.

"Nor must one imagine that the Body of the Church, just because it bears the name of Christ, is made up during the days of its earthly pilgrimage only of members conspicuous for their holiness, or that it consists only of those whom God has predestined to eternal happiness. it is owing to the Savior’s infinite mercy that place is allowed in His Mystical Body here below for those whom, of old, He did not exclude from the banquet. For not every sin, however grave it may be, is such as of its own nature to sever a man from the Body of the Church, as does schism or heresy or apostasy. Men may lose charity and divine grace through sin, thus becoming incapable of supernatural merit, and yet not be deprived of all life if they hold fast to faith and Christian hope, and if, illumined from above, they are spurred on by the interior promptings of the Holy Spirit to salutary fear and are moved to prayer and penance for their sins.

"Let every one then abhor sin, which defiles the mystical members of our Redeemer; but if anyone unhappily falls and his obstinacy has not made him unworthy of communion with the faithful, let him be received with great love, and let eager charity see in him a weak member of Jesus Christ. For, as the Bishop of Hippo [St. Augustine] remarks, it is better “to be cured within the Church’s community than to be cut off from its body as incurable members.” “As long as a member still forms part of the body there is no reason to despair of its cure; once it has been cut off, it can be neither cured nor healed”."

A few years later Pope Pius XII wrote the following in Humani Generis:

Pope Pius XII: “Some say they are not bound by the doctrine, explained in Our Encyclical Letter of a few years ago, and based on the sources of revelation, which teaches that the Mystical Body of Christ and the Roman Catholic Church are one and the same thing Some reduce to a meaningless formula the necessity of belonging to the true Church in order to gain eternal salvation”. (Humani Generis, #27, 1950).

My question is this: Realizing that the Catholic faith does not change, does your interpretation of the new catechism contradict the teaching of Pope Pius XII?

I would also ask you to compare the quotes from Pope Pius XII to my posts in this thread.
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#13

From Pax et Caritas: Mortal sin (unless it is heresy) does not separate one from the Church, but lack of faith does. Mortal sin removes grace from the soul; heresy cuts the soul off from the Church.

Mortal sin separates us from God AND THE CHURCH requiring a conversion to return. Granted the separation isn’t of nature of a permanent and irreversable separation. But it is a substantial separation for which the consequence is eternal death. This is why we can’t receive the sacraments when in a state of mortal sin. While the separation isn’t necessarily permanent, it is very real.

From the Catechism:

1855 Mortal sin **destroys **charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God’s law; it **turns man away **from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him. Venial sin allows charity to subsist, even though it offends and wounds it.

1856 Mortal sin, by attacking the vital principle within us—that is, charity—necessitates a new initiative of God’s mercy and a conversion of heart which is normally accomplished within the setting of the sacrament of reconciliation:

From Pax et Caritas: Sin does not equal unbelief. Morally sinful conduct is a result of using our free will in a way that is contrary to God’s law. Unbelief is when you refuse to accept a doctrine revealed by God. Both are sins, but they are different kinds of sin. As mentioned above, morally sinful behavior does not cut a person off from the Church, but the sin of unbelief does.

From the Catechism: 1850 Sin is an offense against God: “Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight.” Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become "like gods,"knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus “love of oneself even to contempt of God.” In this proud self-exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation

From Pax et Caritas: Being a Christian requires, first and foremost, supernatural faith. The Bible teaches us that “without faith it is impossible to please God”. The council of Trent infallibly defined that the faith spoken of is the Catholic faith. Without the Catholic faith, which requires belief in all of the doctrines that have been revealed by God (or at least not rejecting any of them) a person is not a member of the Church or a Christian.

There is a distinction between small f faith and capital F Faith. What the Council is talking about is capital F Faith as in the teachings of Catholic Church and not the unquestioning belief of individuals.


#14

Previously submitted definition by Pax et Caritas: A Christian is someone who believes what our Lord taught (has the true faith), and is a member of the mystical body of Christ, which is the Catholic Church."

Now I see why we are talking past each other. Your definition mixes two words that are not interchangeable: belief and faith.

Belief contains two required principles "understanding (albeit it can be errant, incomplete, and/or full) and a willingness to stand for what one understands. For instance, I can have the understanding that Jesus died for my sins but if it does nothing to change me, I don’t have belief but it is only knowledge.

Faith is belief in which we adopt our belief without qualification. Websters defines it as “unquestioning belief”.

By Pax et Caritas: Having the true faith does not mean understanding every deep mystery uttered by our Lord. It means holding fast to what the Church teaches even if understanding is lacking.

Let’s go back. Faith is unquestioning belief. Belief requires understanding. Thus, if we have no understanding, we have no faith. But you are correct, it is possible to have faith (albeit imperfect) if our understanding is lacking.

This goes to my earlier point that being Christian is about growing in understanding about Christ so our faith (unquestioning belief)can grow. Thus, a person with a very imperfect understanding can be a Christian vs. what you claimed in your first post. Furthermore, being a Christian is being open to the Holy Spirit. It is in this openness that we can truly grown in understanding/belief and faith.

From Pax et Caritas: What could be easier that submitting to what the Church teaches? That is much easier than attempting to figure everything out on ones own.

I only pray that I can be where you are that submitting to the teachings is easy. In the meantime, I hope that in charity, you will allow me to carry the moniker “Christian” as I continue my journey toward Christ and greater Holiness.

From Pax et Caritas: Belief and understanding are two different things: A child may believe the Eucharist is truly Jesus, but not understand how. Belief is not dependent upon understanding. Understanding is good, and helps us, but it is not necessary. What is required is that we believe, not that we understand.

Cardinal Ratzinger feels quite strongly that understanding is critical to belief. Let me give you an example from an early chapter of his book. One can say “I believe in God, the Father almighty.” But those words are meaningless unless the person has at least an elementary understanding of God. If one has a inaccurate understanding of God, their belief is inaccurate. In the example of the child you mention above, the first criteria for the child is to have an understanding of who Jesus is. If they think Jesus is a statue that keeps the boogey man out of their room at night, their belief that the Eucharist is Jesus causes them to potentially reach false conclusions about the Eucharist (not the source of eternal life but a superstitious protector). Thus, for correct belief, one has to have correct understanding. As I said before, Cardinal Ratzinger talked about how our belief will always contain incomplete understanding meaning our belief will be incomplete (but not necessarily erroneous like the child might reach in the example above).

From Pax et Caritas: He probably used those 90 pages in an attempt to explain that belief is intellectual assent to teachings, and is not one identical with understanding

. No. Intellectual assent is when our belief grows to become faith. See my earlier definition from websters that faith is “unquestioning belief.”

From Pax et Caritas: Understanding is a gift of the Holy Ghost, and as such is very good, but understanding doctrines is not necessary for believing them.

What I bolded is absolutely true. But again, understanding is critical to belief. Please don’t discount what Cardinal Ratzinger wrote in “Introduction to Christianity.” What you are getting at is that understanding is not essential to “submitting” and I agree. As a Catholic Christian, I must believe, to whatever level I am capable, what is contained in the Nicene Creed and that the Holy Catholic Church has been ordained by Christ to be His legitimate teaching authority on earth. Regarding all the doctrines and dogmas, I am not required to believe/understand anything else to be Catholic.

This is evidenced by the Rite of Confirmation. Those being confirmed are required to renew their baptismal promises and assent to the teaching role of the Church. The reason they are not required to state assent to the teachings is related to the understanding of mystagogia- Catholic life is a journey in growth in belief (understanding) and faith.

See part 2 below


#15

Well, I don’t go in for these long answers. I would say someone who believes in Christ as God


#16

From Pax et Caritas: Mortal sin (unless it is heresy) does not separate one from the Church, but lack of faith does. Mortal sin removes grace from the soul; heresy cuts the soul off from the Church.

The quotes you provided from the catechism confirm what I wrote: that mortal sin destroys sanctifying grace in the soul.

What the quotes do not say is that mortal separates a person from the Church.

That is the distinction you do not understand. There is a difference between being in the state of mortal sin and being separated, or cut off, from the Church. A person in the state of mortal sin is a dead member of the body of Christ and cut off from the life of grace. A heretic or schismatic is not only cut off from the life of grace, but is separated from from the Church - their heresy and/or schism has cut them off from the Church.

You may have been writing your post when I provided the quote from Mystici Corporis of Pius XII. If you read that quote, you will find that it answers just about every question you posed in an earlier post - and the Pope’s words are virtually identical to mine.

Here is the quote of Pius XII where he teaches that mortal sin does not cut a person off from the Church, as does heresy and schism.

Pope Pius XII: “For not every sin, however grave [mortal] it may be, is such as of its own nature to sever a man from the Body of the Church, as does schism or heresy or apostasy. Men may lose charity and divine grace through sin, thus becoming incapable of supernatural merit, and yet not be deprived of all life if they hold fast to faith and Christian hope…”.

The Pope also wrote the following:

Pius XII: “those [who] are divided in faith or government cannot be living in the unity of such a Body, nor can they be living the life of its one Divine Spirit.”

Heresy cuts a person off from the mystical body, whereas mortal sin only destroys sanctifying grace. I say “only” not intending to imply that loosing sanctifying grace is not serious, but only to state that it does not sever a person from the Church.

A Catholic who has fallen into mortal sin is still a Catholic. A person who has fallen into heres ceases to be a Catholic, and becomes a heretic.

see next
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#17

[quote=Pax et Caritas] From Pax et Caritas: Being a Christian requires, first and foremost, supernatural faith. The Bible teaches us that “without faith it is impossible to please God”. The council of Trent infallibly defined that the faith spoken of is the Catholic faith. Without the Catholic faith, which requires belief in all of the doctrines that have been revealed by God (or at least not rejecting any of them) a person is not a member of the Church or a Christian.
[/quote]

[quote=Orionthe hunter] There is a distinction between small f faith and capital F Faith. What the Council is talking about is capital F Faith as in the teachings of Catholic Church and not the unquestioning belief of individuals.

There is a distinction between small f faith and capital F Faith. What the Council is talking about is capital F Faith as in the teachings of Catholic Church and not the unquestioning belief of individuals.
[/quote]

What the council is talking about is the theological virtue of Faith. I have no idea what the distiction is between the theological virtue of faith and “faith” with a small F. If you have a magesterial document that explains this distiction, please pass it along. If not, I am going to assume you made up the “distinction”.

Let me provide an excellent magisterial quote from the encyclical I mentioned earliers - Satis Cognitum. This describes Faith what faith is, who has it, and who does not.

Pope Leo XIII: "Faith, as the Church teaches, is “that supernatural virtue by which, through the help of God and through the assistance of His grace, we believe what he has revealed to be true, not on account of the intrinsic truth perceived by the natural light of reason, but because of the authority of God Himself, the Revealer, who can neither deceive nor be deceived” (Vatican I., Sess. iii., cap. 3). If then it be certain that anything is revealed by God, and this is not , then nothing whatever is believed by divine Faith: for what the Apostle St. James judges to be the effect of a moral deliquency, the same is to be said of an erroneous opinion in the matter of faith. “Whosoever shall offend in one point, is become guilty of all” (Ep. James ii., 10). Nay, it applies with greater force to an erroneous opinion. For it can be said with less truth that every law is violated by one who commits a single sin, since it may be that he only virtually despises the majesty of God the Legislator. But he who dissents even in one point from divinely revealed truth absolutely rejects all faith, since he thereby refuses to honour God as the supreme truth and the formal motive of faith. “In many things they are with me, in a few things not with me; but in those few things in which they are not with me the many things in which they are will not profit them” (S. Augustinus in Psal. liv., n. 19). And this indeed most deservedly; for they, who take from Christian doctrine what they please, lean on their own judgments, not on faith; and not “bringing into captivity every understanding unto the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. x., 5), they more truly obey themselves than God. “You, who believe what you like, believe yourselves rather than the gospel” (S. Augustinus, lib. xvii., Contra Faustum Manichaeum, cap. 3). (Satis Cognitum, Pope Leo XIII)

Here we see what faith, as defined by the Church, is. And we see who has faith and who does not. A person who rejects even one point of divinely revealed faith absolutely rejects all faith.

Remember, mortal sin destroys charity (grace), but it does not cut a person off from the mystical body of the Church. However, heresy not only destroys charity, but it also removes supernatural faith and cuts a person off from the Church


#18

[quote=“Pax et caritas]Previously submitted definition by Pax et Caritas: A Christian is someone who believes what our Lord taught (has the true faith), and is a member of the mystical body of Christ, which is the Catholic Church.”
[/quote]

Faith is a supernatural virtue that helps us to believe what God has revealed.

[quote=Orionthehunter] Let’s go back. Faith is unquestioning belief. Belief requires understanding. Thus, if we have no understanding, we have no faith. But you are correct, it is possible to have faith (albeit imperfect) if our understanding is lacking.
[/quote]

I wasn’t going to take too much time to respond to this, but I think it needs to be cleared up.

Firstly, all we have to understand, in order to believe, is what is being proposed. Nothing more. In other words, I only need to understand what the Church is proposing for me to believe, it doesn’t need to “makes sense” to me personally.

For example, I need to understand that the Church teaches that there are three separate persons in one God, but I don’t have to understand how there can be three persons in one God.

The only understanding that is required for faith is that one understands what is being proposed. That’s it.

Surely you agree with that, right?

If not, then you have to say that those who do not understand how there can be three persons in one God do not believe in the Trinity, which would be an absurd thing to say.

Again, the only understanding required for belief is the understanding of what is proposed for our assent.

The supernatural virtue of faith helps us to believe, but not necessarily to understand. Understanding is a separate gift of the Holy Ghost, which God gives to believers.

There is a quote from St. Augustine which says that we don’t believe because we understand; we understand because we believe.

If we only believed because we understood, our faith would be founded on our own understanding, rather than on the authority of God who reveals.


#19

From Pax et Caritas: What the council is talking about is the theological virtue of Faith. I have no idea what the distiction is between the theological virtue of faith and “faith” with a small F. If you have a magesterial document that explains this distiction, please pass it along. If not, I am going to assume you made up the “distinction”.

The theological virtue of Faith is what I referred to as small f faith as opposed to the concept of complete body of Teachings and Traditions of the Church commonly referred to as the Catholic Faith.

From Pax et Caritas: Let me provide an excellent magisterial quote from the encyclical I mentioned earliers - Satis Cognitum. This describes Faith what faith is, who has it, and who does not.

Pope Leo XIII: "Faith, as the Church teaches, is “that supernatural virtue by which, through the help of God and through the assistance of His grace, we believe what he has revealed to be true, not on account of the intrinsic truth perceived by the natural light of reason, but because of the authority of God Himself, the Revealer, who can neither deceive nor be deceived” (Vatican I., Sess. iii., cap. 3). If then it be certain that anything is revealed by God, and this is not , then nothing whatever is believed by divine Faith: for what the Apostle St. James judges to be the effect of a moral deliquency, the same is to be said of an erroneous opinion in the matter of faith. “Whosoever shall offend in one point, is become guilty of all” (Ep. James ii., 10). Nay, it applies with greater force to an erroneous opinion. For it can be said with less truth that every law is violated by one who commits a single sin, since it may be that he only virtually despises the majesty of God the Legislator. But he who dissents even in one point from divinely revealed truth absolutely rejects all faith, since he thereby refuses to honour God as the supreme truth and the formal motive of faith. “In many things they are with me, in a few things not with me; but in those few things in which they are not with me the many things in which they are will not profit them” (S. Augustinus in Psal. liv., n. 19). And this indeed most deservedly; for they, who take from Christian doctrine what they please, lean on their own judgments, not on faith; and not “bringing into captivity every understanding unto the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. x., 5), they more truly obey themselves than God. “You, who believe what you like, believe yourselves rather than the gospel” (S. Augustinus, lib. xvii., Contra Faustum Manichaeum, cap. 3). (Satis Cognitum, Pope Leo XIII)

You are correct this is a good description of perfect faith to which all Catholics are called to aspire to.

From Pax et Caritas: Here we see what faith, as defined by the Church, is. And we see who has faith and who does not. A person who rejects even one point of divinely revealed faith absolutely rejects all faith.

You are again correct. However, it implies that one does so with full knowledge and consent. When a person rejects “one point of divinely revealed faith” out of incomplete understanding, it isn’t an absolute rejection of all faith. Each and every sin is such a rejection in the context of the quote you gave us above.

From Pax et Caritas: Remember, mortal sin destroys charity (grace), but it does not cut a person off from the mystical body of the Church. However, heresy not only destroys charity, but it also removes supernatural faith and cuts a person off from the Church.

Formal Heresy contains three very important elements: full knowledge and “obstinant adherence” and intent to promote what they know to not be true.


#20

From Pax et caritas: Faith is a supernatural virtue that helps us to believe what God has revealed.

I agree.

From Pax et Caritas: Firstly, all we have to understand, in order to believe, is what is being proposed. Nothing more. In other words, I only need to understand what the Church is proposing for me to believe, it doesn’t need to “makes sense” to me personally.

I agree. This is the “imperfect understanding” Cardinal Ratzinger discussed.

From Pax: For example, I need to understand that the Church teaches that there are three separate persons in one God, but I don’t have to understand how there can be three persons in one God.

Good example

From Pax et. Caritas: The supernatural virtue of faith helps us to believe, but not necessarily to understand. Understanding is a separate gift of the Holy Ghost, which God gives to believers.

The gift of the Holy Spirit to which you refer is a higher level of understanding. The lower level understanding to which I’ve described is what you have called “understanding the proposition.” We aren’t that far apart.

From Pax et Caritas: There is a quote from St. Augustine which says that we don’t believe because we understand; we understand because we believe.

If we only believed because we understood, our faith would be founded on our own understanding, rather than on the authority of God who reveals.

Good quote. I agree.

But lets go back to the original question of a definition of a Christian. It not only includes one who has reached the level of understanding you propose but one honestly seeking that level with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and a free dedication of their will and mind.


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