How do you know if you really have *faith* and not just "intellecual assent"?

Sometimes I feel as if my faith is not really the *virtue *of faith as much as it is an intellectual assent to this or that doctrine of the church. That is, sometimes I doubt that my “faith” is the faith defined as total adherence to God and the revealed truths taught by the church. Rather, it is more of intellectual reasoning to particular doctrines, even the existence of God or Resurrection of Jesus.

How does one know if he or she really has the virtue of faith as opposed to this more purely intellectual assent? Anyone can see the reasonableness of certain Christian truths and event assent to such truths. But how do we really know when we have the virtue of faith?

I have a feeling that the virtue of faith is much more consoling, much more all-encompassing. What some have called a “fundamental option” ordered towards God. What I have now is often an anxious, shaky “faith” in this teaching or that teaching. And not even necessarily Catholic doctrine but more general truths about Jesus and God. Should I be concerned?

Faith is an intellectual assent to the whole Faith, aided by grace. But, if you have assented to the whole Faith, you have been aided by grace, since you have reordered your nature to something supernatural. You can simply infer that you have been helped by God… He does not allow one to believe Him as a First Truth through the Church, unless he has given them that particular grace of faith. (You’ve touched on a very cool problem in theology though…)

In itself, grace is not detectable, but you can see it indirectly sometimes…

Furthermore, you are overthinking it. For instance, faith is not necessarily “consoling,” as I think you mean it… It’s not about the goose bumps, it’s about foundation for making the blood, sweat, and tears fighting to live a life of virtue for God’s glory and for the good of others in the name of Christ be able to be truly “charitable,” which is a grace that is built on hope, which needs faith in order to exist in a person.

Does this help?

If your faith and your intellect coexist in harmony, you’re doing fine! I think of St. Thomas Aquinas, who brought his tremendous intellect to bear on his faith. He had his gifts. You have yours. Use whatever talents the good Lord gave you.

One is based on reason and the other based in genuine love.

Even better if they intersect.

Do you agree that there are no perfect people in the world? Total adherence would require someone to be perfect. I have a feeling you are holding yourself to a standard no human can meet.

If I were you, I would spend some time with Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Possibly a Holy Hour whenever you can. HE has helped me thru so many worries, doubts and sorrows. Our Blessed Mother is also my constant companion. God Bless, Memaw

The state of grace includes three infused virtues: love, faith, hope. If you truly love God and neighbor, then you have love, and love is always accompanied by faith and hope.

If a person in a state of grace commits actual mortal sin, he loses love and hope, but may still retain faith. That retained faith is true faith and the person is still a Christian. But that faith is not salvific unless the person repents, so that his faith will again be enlivened by love and hope.

The OP is overthinking it.

Faith is trust. Nothing more.

Do you trust that God will raise you from the dead if you endure patiently to the end?


Exactly. It is taking God at His word (believing the revelation based on the authority of the revealer, to put it more formally).

Like you said, other than God’s promise, we can’t prove or know that we will be saved if we do what God commands.

Wow! I was just talking to some people at my Church yesterday about how this was me for a LONG time. I lived without religion for a few years in my 20s, but I became uncomfortable with this as time went on. I started going to Church, immersed myself in reading about Church teaching and came to really believe that the Church made complete sense. Yet, I still had no sense of God’s presence in my life – no feeling of loving God or no sense that God loved me. This went on for more than 10 years after I came back. I also found it nearly impossible to make real changes in my behaviors – to let go of sins I was attached to. I hated myself and worried that I was on my way to Hell.

Prayer was the only thing that eventually helped. I took a class in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, which helped tremendously. If you have an opportunity to do that, I’d recommend it, but just getting to Church outside of Mass, spending some time in front of the Blessed Sacrament and letting God talk to you may work wonders. Some people love the Rosary or other forms of prayer like that – and I want to get better at that myself – but for me, silent prayer is often the most effective.

This is a good point – consolation is a gift God sometimes gives, but the lack of it isn’t necessarily a sign that something is wrong.Still, I know what a struggle it is to not be able to connect the theory of faith to a reality. I think it is worth asking God for help with that.

Respectfully disagree. Faith is a loaded concept.

It is a recurring temptation to reduce the concept to its simplest form, but imho, that shortchanges what faith actually entails–which is much more than trust. Faith is a virtue; it is grace; it is force; it is action; it is reaction. It entails love, mercy, compassion, commitment, dedication, trust, and work. Even more.

…but it is not merely ‘trusting’ in God (though that is certainly a crucial element).

Here is an overview of what comprises ‘faith’ per the CCC:

*Part One: The profession of faith

14 Those who belong to Christ through faith and Baptism must confess** their baptismal faith** before men.16 First therefore the Catechism expounds revelation, by which God addresses and gives himself to man, and the faith by which man responds to God (Section One). The profession of faith summarizes the gifts that God gives man: as the Author of all that is good; as Redeemer; and as Sanctifier. It develops these in the three chapters on our baptismal faith in the one God: the almighty Father, the Creator; his Son Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior; and the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier, in the Holy Church (Section Two).

Part Two: The sacraments of faith

15 The second part of the Catechism explains how God’s salvation, accomplished once for all through Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit, is made present in the sacred actions of the Church’s liturgy (Section One), especially in the seven sacraments (Section Two).

Part Three: The life of faith

16 The third part of the Catechism deals with the final end of man created in the image of God: beatitude, and the ways of reaching it—through right conduct freely chosen, with the help of **God’s law and grace **(Section One), and through conduct that fulfills the twofold commandment of charity, specified in God’s Ten Commandments (Section Two).

Part Four: Prayer in the life of faith

17 The last part of the Catechism deals with the meaning and importance of prayer in the life of believers (Section One). It concludes with a brief commentary on the seven petitions of the Lord’s Prayer (Section Two), for indeed we find in these the sum of all the good things which we must hope for and which our heavenly Father wants to grant us.*

And defined:

FAITH: Both a gift of God and a human act by which the believer gives personal adherence to God who invites his response, and freely assents to the whole truth that God has revealed. It is this revelation of God which the Church proposes for our belief, and which we profess in the Creed, celebrate in the sacraments, live by right conduct that fulfills the twofold commandment of charity (as specified in the ten commandments), and respond to in our prayer of faith. Faith is both a theological virtue given by God as grace, and an obligation which flows from the first commandment of God (26, 142, 150, 1814, 2087).

Point being however, the concept of ‘faith’ covers the majority of the CCC.

If it were as easy as ‘Faith = x’, there would be no need for the CCC. Or at least like 90% of it.

Saints have dedicated their lives to searching and seeking for the meaning of faith, and elaborating on it, and shedding light on this extremely challenging concept.

TBL, ‘faith’ is simply not a check-the-box deal. It’s not “…yeah, I got the faith thing covered, and the love thing covered, check, and the do good to your neighbors thing……”.

There’s a helluva a lot more to it.

It is quite literally, a vocation (if you must pigeon hole it into a single word, at least let it be one that is duly loaded, and up to the task).

It is what we are call called to a life of. Our entire life. Our entire being.

…that nothing less than eternity may be its actual legacy–because that is what is at stake.

So you tell me: Does that sound like an intellectual/academic exercise?

The problem so many of us encounter, is getting tangled up in the minutae (e.g.–the 800 pages of the CCC–it’s designed to help expedite your faith journey, by disposing of so many intellectual obstacles; not to become an intellectual obstacle itself, by stifling the reader/believer into stagnation due to mediation–the proverbial ‘paralysis by analysis’), along with so many other distractions.

So we feel the need to simplify the concept of faith; reduce it; shrink it…

Alas, faith simply defies any such simplification.

Faith requires our all–and that is exactly what Christ demands of us–which as difficult as it sounds, is certainly less than what He gave for us.

Try to grasp God not just with your mind but also with your heart. It is great to have grasped God with one’s mind. Be open to the fact that you also have emotions, and to love God is your next step in the journey.

I often think about how I know my daughter. She is little and wonderful and a gift. But what if she were suddenly gone and people denied her existence. We can discuss facts, and logic. But I would always know that my love for her is more real to me than anything.

God does not ask you for much. But he is very clear that he does ask for your love.

We are a family.


What you are talking about is the fullness of faith. Faith-fullness.

What you are talking about is faithfullness.

What you are talking about is what Mary had.


This is a very good question, C1S.

You are right that a saving faith is beyond intellectual assent. It is based in a relationship with the risen Christ, one where He is Lord of one’s life, being at the center of it. The reign of his Kingdom in our souls is learning to live each moment with Him on the throne.

One of the best ways to know you are in this faith is that your life will bear fruit. Saving faith is faith that works - it bears the fruits that befit repentance.

5For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, 6knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, 7godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1

Goodness, growth in the faith, self control, godliness, brotherly affecton and love will increase in your life, and you will be useful and fruitful in the knowledge of God.

What I’m talking about, or what the Catechism is talking about?

Here is the definition again, without regard to the multitude of passages–nay, whole sections, elaborating on it, as alluded to above.

FAITH: Both a gift of God and a human act by which* the believer gives personal adherence to God** who invites his response, and freely assents to the whole truth that God has revealed. It is this revelation of God which the Church proposes for our belief, and which we profess in the Creed, celebrate in the sacraments, live by right conduct that fulfills the twofold commandment of charity (as specified in the ten commandments), and respond to in our prayer of faith. Faith is** both a theological virtue** given by God as grace, and an obligation which flows from the first commandment of God (26, 142, 150, 1814, 2087).

That is incredibly loaded to me–in fact, packed.

So much so, that it seems like the greater part of the CCC is spent unpacking it.


Thank you so much for the answers!

I know that I have to improve my faith with prayer. I have been negligent in that. And I also need to make use of the sacraments much more.

Also, I have never really read about any spiritual writers, saints, or mystics. Any recommendation?

2 all time classics:

St. Augustine’s The Confessions:

or here:

Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ:

or here:

Heb 11:1
faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul uses faith as one of the three theological virtues, with hope and charity added to it. In this sense, hope and charity must be present also, and charity (love) NOT faith, is the greatest of these 3 virtues.

[FONT=&quot]That pretty much destroys the faith “alone” argument.

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