Does faith=feelings?

This is a spin-off from another thread:

[quote=Della]Faith is much more than a feeling. According to Heb.11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. There’s nothing mentioned in Scripture or Church teaching that faith is a feeling. Faith is not unreasonable. It is not believed in spite of reason, but is supported by reason.

[quote=SpiritMeadow]I think you are being a bit picky. Faith like love, hate, anger, compassion, are not really things that one can make oneself feel. They are emotions. Faith may be arrived at purely intellectually I would argue, but I doubt that is what happens for most people. It is an emotional belief, a feeling. The fact that it is not defined in the bible as such is of no import. We are merely talking about the feeling of faith. I submit, you cannot make yourself be faithful. The mind is not it appears subject to that type of control. When we say that we will obey the Church in its teaching, regardless of how much we might think it wrong, we are not changing our mind really, but we are agreeing we will not speak or write contrary to the teaching and will make every effort to belief as we are told. However…and its a big however, we cannot make the mind believe what it does not believe, no matter how dearly we may wish to.

So, who is right and why? (I’ll put in my :twocents: after others have had a chance to post.)

“What do you ask of the Church of God?” The catechumen responds, “Faith,” not feelings. Just as reason has the natural facility of accepting as true realities proposed to it through evidence, so this gift of faith is a permanent bent inclining the soul to adhere to Christian revelation. By means of this theological virtue the believer can cling to revelation with more tenacity and certainty than he does to natural truths. This permanent power is necessary because obstacles to belief are multiple.

That faith is a feeling is Modernism, pure and simple.

According to the First Vatican Council:

If anyone says that divine revelation cannot be made credible by external signs, and that therefore men and women ought to be moved to faith only by each one’s internal experience or private inspiration: let him be anathema.


Faith may (can probably be expected to) give rise to feelings, but faith is certainly not just “feelings,” any more than knowledge (as in, “I know”) is the same as feelings (as in, “I feel”).

Equating faith with feelings has, like equating knowledge, served a very useful purpose for some who want to manufacture a god of their own devising, and worship that god. When faith equals feelings, “if it feels good, do it” becomes the test of faith. Where that has happened, the results have been uniformly disastrous.

Feelings can be easily influenced by such things as how well we slept, or what we ate. Christian faith goes deeper.



It would seem that any one of the three Cardinal Virtues, Faith, Hope, and Love are not feelings but graced gifts that require acts of the intellect and will. When someone makes these virtues into emotion or feelings they lose their meanings, as feelings are like the wind that blows. Direction and strength changes and waxes and wanes and one becomes like a rudderless boat tossed on the seas of life.

Hi All
I’m not saying this to be mean but I think I’ve found the reason that any Catholic service I’ve been to (I’ve been to quite a few) seem almost lifeless. My wife who is a former Catholic said that most Roman Catholics seem to just go through the motions, if she was out of town for the weekend. then came back to her home church nobody would even know she was gone the week before. You can’t be a Christian and leave out emotion. The two greatest commandments are to LOVE God and to LOVE your neighbor. Love is an emotion more than it is a work.

If God is Love, how can Love be an emotion?

It never ceases to amaze me how so many of those who leave the Catholic Church (and so many who were never Catholic) are mind readers. What an amazing skill to look into someone’s heart and mind and discover that they are just going through the motions. How utterly judgmental. You have no clue.

Christian Love - like the Love between spouses - is not a warm fuzzy. Our culture has polluted the definition of “love” to such a point that people divorce if and when they loose the warm fuzzies. Christian love is an act of the will (one that can be rewarded by warm fuzzies). If it is not accompanied by the warm fuzzies, however, the obligation to love remains. Christian Love is a liturgy of gratitude. Christian love calls for the love of the utterly unlovable when the warm fuzzies are impossible. Human emotions are too weak, too volatile, too unpredictable to base a salvific faith on. The warm fuzzies are the sizzle, not the steak.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

"Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed… Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace" (150, 155).

Note that both the human intellect and will are mentioned here, but not the emotions. Of course, this doesn’t mean that faith has no effect on one’s emotions, but it does mean that feelings are not a component of faith itself. In short, faith is not an emotion, nor does it rely on one’s feelings or sentiments, but rather on the truth.

The Catholic Church has always emphasized the human will in the act of faith. Faith is something we do----it’s an action on our part, a choice we make to trust in God and obey him----and not just a feeling we have about him. Indeed, how could God command human beings to have faith, if faith were simply a part of our ever-changing and unpredictable emotions? The same goes for the concept of love, which our popular culture defines in romantic, emotive terms, but which Scripture and Church teaching defines, again, as an act of the will----a choice to value someone else over ourselves. Love is not primarily a feeling (else, how could God command us to love him and our neighbor----or, gulp, our spouse?), but is a personal commitment to serve. As St. Thomas Aquinas describes it: “To love is to will the good of another.” People often confuse “romance” (intimate emotions) with “love” (commitment to serve). Likewise with “faith,” which is often defined in romantic terms, rather than in biblical and theological ones.

Hope this helps. God bless.


Hi Don,

Bull’s eye!

Faith is an intellectual act moved by the will. It may be accompanied by emotional reactions, but it is essentially the homage of our intellect and will to God.


Very well put.


It seems you may have been influenced more by popular culture than by Scripture and genuinely Christian teaching. See Posts 8, 9, and 10 above.

God bless,


Faith is not feelings. Feelings can disappear in a blink of an eye.

On the other hand, one shouldn’t reduce the concept of “faith” to a mere emotion. Muslim gatherings can be extremely emotional experiences; likewise with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Surely we shouldn’t therefore conclude that Islam and the Watchtower are true? I’m reminded of a statement by St. Augustine that really applies here: “Food in dreams is exactly like real food, yet it does not sustain us; for we are only dreaming.” In other words, feelings tell us absolutely nothing about whether or not our experience is true----they tell us only that we’re having an experience, and nothing more. Emotion without truth is simply a lie. Truth without emotion is spiritually dry----but it’s still truth.

As far as your wife’s experience goes, I’d have to say that this merely reflects her own interpretation of a situation that she couldn’t possibly discern without being omniscient. Catholics are like any other Christians. You have good days and bad days, times of spiritual refreshment, and times of spiritual dryness. But we’re all doing the best that we can at the moment. Pray for us Catholics now and then, and we’ll pray for you.



If Love is an emotion then expect to be out of it frequently.

Loving someone is something you do, not something you feel.

If it’s a “feeling” then how pray tell are we supposed to “Love your enemy” as we’ve been commanded?


It is by God’s grace that we by faith respond to God. The grace is the amazing and wonderful gift. We respond if we are drawn to God. Some are not. Some and many wish they could be. What I am attempting to convey is that one cannot make oneself believe in God…it is a grace that is awakened in the heart. No amount of desiring it can accomplish it, unless God’s grace penetrates to the heart.

Feelings and emotions seemed a good metaphor for a mysterious process. I think it was obvious in the thread this originated from what I meant. I am sorry for the misunderstanding. I just have never run across a group of people who can parse words so narrowly when I think the obvious intent was clear.

Thanks and blessings,

Hi SpiritMeadow :slight_smile:

If you are a Roman Catholic, Faith is objectively, the sum of truths revealed by God in Scripture and tradition, and present to the faithful for their belief by the Church, which is the custodian of the truths of Faith. Subjectively, the virtue which enables man to assent to truths revealed by God in Scripture and tradition. It is one of the three theological virtues, the immediate object of which is God. Faith (the theological virtue) is normally infused into the soul at the time of Baptism. :slight_smile:


the point is that contrary to the way it looks here by the OP, I was referring to faith as “a belief in God.” This is a dictionary definition. I was not referring to faith in a technical sense. One has to go to the other thread to see the context. This was a minor statement on another topic completely.

Like I said, I have nothing further to say on the subject. I have no objection certainly to the discussion but I object to being unfairly pulled into it by selective cut and pasting. The inference that I said faith and feelings were equated is simply not correct.

That wasn’t a dictionary definition. It was taken from the encyclopedia of my Roman Catholic Bible.:smiley:

I did review your entire dialogue on another topic.

What defines the word faith/Faith? Three things.

  1. Trust
  2. Confidence
  3. Belief

SpiritMeadow, I noted on another topic that you are a panentheist. I can understand why it might be difficult for you to have as you say, *faith as “a belief in God .”


Respectfully, I think you may be incorrectly defining “believe” when you say that we cannot make the mind believe what it does not believe no matter how much we may wish to. If by “believe” you mean “seem realistic” or “have a sense of certainty” about what we are professing faith in, to repeat what some other posters have said, it seems like you’re equating faith purely with feelings.

There have been plenty of times when I’ve prayed and the things I’ve professed belief in didn’t seem realistic to me at all or I lacked a sense of mental certainty, maybe because of something I had read on these forums that challenged Catholic faith, or something in a book that I read.

However, most (hopefully all) of those times I’ve nonetheless gone on and simply said, with the assent of my mind and will: “I believe Lord, help my unbelief.” After saying that the sense of doubt and uncertainty would very well return immediately many times or even remain as I professed faith, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real faith, because I accept the tenets of faith regardless of my present mental state or feelings. A good strong sense of certainty in your faith is a gift of grace from God but it most definitely is not the essence of faith.

The essense of faith begins with and simply is the mental decision to make an act of faith with the assent of the will.

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