Is faith a choice?


#1

Can we really control what we believe?

–Rico


#2

I think choice is at the center of the issue: you commit to a belief system, you will to believe. That is analogous to ‘planting the seed’: you can’t grow in faith till the seed is planted.

Then I think you must confirm and strengthen the choice by living in accordance with it, learning more about it, reading appropriate material and praying on a daily basis: this is watering and feeding the seed you have planted. Planting without any other care yeilds no crop.

You fight diseases of doubt and indifference not by welcoming them in, but by caring for the seed you’ve planted even more carefully, so that it’s strong enough to withstand anything.

And you have to keep on choosing: we can fall or turn away, almost without noticing. We can’t shelter beneath a tree we’ve left far behind us…

If we are lucky, there will be emotional comforts for our hard work. But these are like fruit out of season, and shouldn’t be counted on. They aren’t the reason to beleive, they are just a consequence, if we are so fortunate. Many of God’s greatest servants did without, and we may have to, as well.


#3

Personally, I’d like to think of faith as a gift. It’s certainly a mystery. It is a choice in that we choose whether we would like to receive the gift that is faith.


#4

At least now in my life, I don’t think I agree with this. While I am certainly no shining example of Catholism in action, I have spent that last few years cultivating, nuturing my “faith” (at least more so than I ever did)…but I just don’t feel it has born much fruit. To be fair, I could probably do much more nuturing…but the fact is that over the last few years, I have felt my faith slowly slipping.

I do think if I could choose, I would choose to be on fire with my faith. But, sadly, I am not. And I don’t think I really can just choose to be that way…because the reality is I don’t believe that way.

And I will go out on a limb and say the there are surely tons of people like me…outwardly living what seems to be a relatively normalish, Catholic existence, but with very little fire on the inside.

I remember one session of a program I was involved with at Church, the presenter briefly touched on a particular saint (the name escapes me right now). Jesus appeared to her on several occasions and had conversations with her…and she of course went on to live a “saintly life.” During our table discussion, my comment was, “who among us wouldn’t live a “saintly life” after experiencing such an event on numerous occassions?” I can’t imagine that my life would look even remotely close to the same if I were to experience the same. There would be no room for doubt…for compromise…for the truth would be evident and clear.

But deep in my heart as it is…the truth is not clear to me. I want it to be, but it is not. Sure, perhaps I don’t want it enough…I am just not trying hard enough. Possible, if not likely. But in any case, I feel that I am unable to will myself into faith…and that the gift of faith is alluding me.

–Rico


#5

These struggles with faith are the matter of our earthly lives. Do not despair.

Let me just say that you are totally correct. It is quite obvious that you are mature and thoughtful in your own right. Your reflections have plowed the fields for a powerful resurgence in faith, I imagine, in a similar way it happened to me.

Let me just take one of your statements: “The truth is not clear to me.” Of course it’s not! We are human and God is Divine. The Truth of our faith is far beyond what we could ever grasp or even begin to understand without God’s help. The very fact that you can admit this is a sign of having reflected deeply on the matter.

Now, if you feel that God is not helping you, PRAY for him to. I assure you: sometimes God does not give his graces precisely because they haven’t been asked for. By having your prayers answered, you will grow in confidence of the God which is beyond our human sight. Pray for the grace of faith, and you will be rewarded. On the same note, be humble enough to receive what God gives you; it might be far from what you were expecting.

Let me take another statement: “I feel that I am unable to will myself into faith.” Another wonderful statement! You are correct in saying that faith is an act of the will precisely because the Truth is beyond our ability to grasp. If the Truth were apparent to us, we wouldn’t need to make a choice to believe–i.e., there really isn’t a choice to believe whether or not 2+2=4. So, what exactly do we mean by “an act of the will?” What do we mean that faith is a choice? It is this: faith is an act of trust in the revelations of God, in Scripture and in his Church, the veracity of which we hold by our intellect. Because we cannot understand, we must trust that God is right, and that’ll be enough.

Imagine yourself as a child. When your parents told you something or when they answered one of your questions, did you question them? Or did you just believe? As a child, you didn’t care so much to understand every minute detail of why the sky was blue, but you trusted the answer your parents gave you and that was how you wanted it to be. This is the foundation of our faith.

Please PM me if you want to continue this conversation. God bless you.


#6

Faith may be partly a choice, partly a gift. In the Bible, we have the parable of the talents, where God gives to one person five talents, another two talents, and a third one talent. When the one with five and the one with two make something out of their talents, God gives them more. When the one with one hides his under the ground, God takes away the little he has.

Mary had the love of God, which means she believed what the Angel Gabriel told her even though she was afraid. He said to her: “Fear not.” After she had the child, didn’t her faith rise up!! I think faith is a total dependence and trust and walking with God, that grows with prayer and with time.

The first commandment: You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart , with all your soul, and with all your mind.

**1 Corinthians 13: **If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

I think that if a person believes the Bible and pursues God with his or her whole heart by loving one’s neighbor to the utmost, following the Catholic church religiously, and praying the rosary/doing things for Jesus through Mary according to True Devotion to Mary by St. Louis de Montfort’s regime, then one will grow in faith in accordance with God’s will. (St. Louis de Montfort influenced at least 4 popes: Pope Leo XIII, Pope Pius X, Pope Pius XII and Pope John Paul II. Pope John Paul II said that reading True Devotion to Mary was a **decisive turning point **in his life.)

*Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee. Blessed art Thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen. *


#7

The 15 Promises for those who recite the RosaryThe following are the 15 promises of Mary to Christians who recite the rosary:
(given to St. Dominic and Blessed Alan)

  1. Whoever shall faithfully serve me by the recitation of the rosary, shall receive signal graces.
  2. I promise my special protection and the greatest graces to all those who shall recite the rosary.
  3. The rosary will be a powerful armor against hell. It will destroy vice, decrease sin and defeat heresies.
  4. It will cause virtue and good works to flourish; it will obtain for souls the abundant mercy of God; it will withdraw the hearts of men from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lift them to the desire of eternal things. Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means.
  5. Those who recommend themselves to me by the recitation of the Rosary shall not perish.
  6. Whoever shall recite the rosary devoutly, applying himself to the consideration of its sacred mysteries shall never be conquered by misfortune. God will not chastise him in His justice, he shall not perish by an unprovided death; if he be just, he shall remain in the grace of God, and become worthy of eternal life.
  7. Whoever shall have a true devotion for the rosary shall not die without the sacraments of the Church.
  8. Those who are faithful to recite the rosary shall have during their life and at their death, the light of God and the plentitude of His graces; at the moment of death they shall participate in the merits of the saints in paradise.
  9. I shall deliver from purgatory those who have been devoted to the rosary.
  10. The faithful children of the rosary shall merit a high degree of glory in heaven.
    11. You shall obtain all you ask of me by the recitation of the rosary.
  11. All those who propagate the holy rosary shall be aided by me in their necessities.
  12. I have obtained from my Divine Son that all the advocates of the rosary shall have for intercessors the entire celestial court during their life and at the hour of death.
  13. All who recite the rosary are my sons, and brothers of my only son, Jesus Christ.
  14. Devotion to my rosary is a great sign of predestination.

Surely, we will obtain faith if we ask of it from our Blessed Mother if we persist over a long period of time, perhaps even years in the rosary. Persistence, is important as mentioned by St. Louis de Montfort in True Devotion to Mary and by St. Teresa of Avila in The Way of Perfection. St. Louis de Montfort writes of those who do not persist: Inconstant devotees

  1. Inconstant devotees are those whose devotion to our Lady is practised in fits and starts. Sometimes they are fervent and sometimes they are lukewarm. Sometimes they appear ready to do anything to please our Lady, and then shortly afterwards they have completely changed. They start by embracing every devotion to our Lady. They join her confraternities, but they do not faithfully observe the rules. They are as changeable as the moon, and like the moon Mary puts them under her feet. Because of their fickleness they are unworthy to be included among the servants of the Virgin most faithful, because faithfulness and constancy are the hallmarks of Mary’s servants. It is better not to burden ourselves with a multitude of prayers and pious practices but rather adopt only a few and perform them with love and perseverance in spite of opposition from the devil the world and the flesh.

I believe that one can feel absolutely nothing, even go through a “dark night of the soul” where one finds it hard to believe and still have faith. Faith is not a feeling. Faith is a belief followed by action. Abraham was faithful because he was willing to sacrifice Issac and to venture off and follow God into the wilderness. Noah was faithful because he built an arc. So I believe that faith is a total dependence on God, not as a magic genie, but as God, the great I am.

*Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee. Blessed art Thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen. *


#8

Let me share a story told by Father Benedict Groeschel on faith.

Going from memory here, so it may not be exact but the gist is the same.

Your on a luxury ship taking a cruise. You’re standing on the deck leaning on the railing while looking out at the ocean when suddenly, the railing lets go and you fall overboard.

You yell for help and people see you and the ship’s crew responds. They throw you a life ring.

Now, for you to be saved, you must reach out and grab the life ring, otherwise, you will drown.

So it is with faith. It is there for us to reach out and grab on to, but, it is our choice whether to do so or not. In other words, faith requires our cooperation.

Jim


#9

To the question: Is faith a choice?

The answer is yes.

To the question: Can we really control what we believe?

The answer is no.

We choose what we believe in, but once it is believed in it leads us around, it essentially controls us.

Therefore, it is essential that we believe in the right things, and the way we know we’re believing the right things is by always checking on the results of what our beliefs bring us.

The nice thing about the Church (Catholic) is that we can check our personally received “feedback” resulting in what we personally believe (our private revelations) with the public revelation of the Church, and when they don’t match we know we’re in error and need some adjustment in our personal beliefs.

I pity all those who haven’t got this “checking mechanism” for righting themselves when their inevitable human fallibility looks so much like “my special truth” which they follow into habitual sin.

:shamrock2:


#10

Zahmir:

Thanks for the very thoughtful post…quite a bit to think about there.

I like that. Of course, where I stand right now, I guess it isn’t enough. :frowning:

Imagine yourself as a child. When your parents told you something or when they answered one of your questions, did you question them? Or did you just believe? As a child, you didn’t care so much to understand every minute detail of why the sky was blue, but you trusted the answer your parents gave you and that was how you wanted it to be. This is the foundation of our faith

Pretty interesting analogy. But as my children grow up, they are no longer satisfied with “Because I said so!” They want to know why? (In fact, I find it much more effective form of parenting to explain to them the “why” from a very early age). And you know what, my explanation does not always satisfy them anymore. As they begin to think for themselves, their defference to my authority becomes less automatic. I understand that their rejection of my authority is often rooted in selfishness, and in the natural tendency for older kids/young adults to reject authority in general. So maybe that is the same for me…perhaps I am in the “teenage” years of my faith life. :shrug:

I do know, much like my kids do to me, I find flaws in the Church’s positions, I am quick to point out hipocrisy within the church hierarchy, and the mistakes of the Church’s past I use to discredit their authority. Wow…I am like my own kids!! lol

Now, if you feel that God is not helping you, PRAY for him to. I assure you: sometimes God does not give his graces precisely because they haven’t been asked for. By having your prayers answered, you will grow in confidence of the God which is beyond our human sight. Pray for the grace of faith, and you will be rewarded.

Others in this thread have offered that up as a remedy…and one that I should probably take to heart. More prayer and less rebellion!! :slight_smile:

Again, thanks for your thoughtful post.

–Rico


#11

What if I have concerns about the Church’s authority, or if even question the reality of God? Clearly I am not believing in the right things…but how do I change that? I can’t just say, “Nope I now believe in God and His Holy Church…etc. etc.” Well, I may outwardly appear to have accepted this belief, but I can’t make it so in my heart just by saying so. At least, I can’t.

–Rico


#12

You said it better than I ever could. Maturation is a difficult process, but ultimately, we know that God, unlike our parents, have answers that are life-giving and ultimately all-satisfying. We can either learn and learn and learn and philosophize and come a bit closer to understanding the Truth on our own, or we can simply believe and try to understand what it is exactly that we believe.

:slight_smile:


#13

First of all your analogy about kids growing up doesn’t apply in relation to God. The reason you explain is that your kids can become (please God) as smart as you one day and understand all your explanations, even if they don’t at the time.

Now we can never have that parity with God where we would basically understand everything He knows, no matter how much He tried to explain to us. At least not in this life. That’s the reason Jesus specifically said that we must accept the kingdom with the faith of a child if we would wish to enter it.

What happens if you don’t believe? Your desire to believe (or at least to know and serve God in as far as it is possible) is itself the seed, and it’s more than enough for God to work with, who brought St Paul from utter unbelief to profound belief in a moment.

There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging to God that you can’t quite bring yourself to believe some things. There’s a reason why faith is a virtue, like the other virtues it’s BOTH something to be cultivated, nurtured and worked on by us, AND, above and beyond a certain point, a pure gift of God’s grace and the Holy Spirit. Simply pray along with the man in the Gospels who said ‘Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!’


#14

I think that what most people call faith is really hope. We hope there is a God out there who hears our prayers and cares about us as individuals. We all know there is ample evidence that the God most Christians believe in does not exist, yet we continue to wish it is all true.


#15

Why not “ask, seek, knock”.

Christ told us to. Blind Faith is one thing… but understanding is something too, and given by the Holy Spirit. Doesn’t Faith want to become all it can be?

I drove my folks crazy always asking why. Then the teachers in school… some were Nuns in parochial school; and the Priest too. That led to a closer more intimate reading of the Bible… not just learning the old Baltimore Catechism, or listening to the Sunday Mass readings (Epistle and Gospel).

All this could of appeared as doubt to those I inquired of answers. But it was more so a deep ‘inquisitiveness’ of what was already in my heart. As a Child of God, I saw nothing wrong with ‘ask, seek, knock’ for greater understanding. It was Christ who said let the Children come to Him; and Paul who said to have an answer for why you believe as you do. Doesn’t the Holy Spirit give us a list of Gift’s for this very purpose?

And wasn’t Abraham, Job, the Apostles, and most all the people of the Bible tested either by action or response? How many times was Christ tested? And by not only Satin, but also the people of His time. Can we expect anything less if we are to be Christ-Like? So how do we get weaned off the milk and start eating some meat and potato’s? As Paul says. I like to call it ‘fertilizer’… it is the down times in life that make me not only ‘seek’ but ‘knock’… so life’s trials are ‘good’ for me and my Soul, as it helps me get closer to God from the Heart… knowing He is Love (Faith tells me that). The ‘understanding’ comes from the Holy Spirit… and yes, sometimes the answer is just believe, as it is too much for my pea-sized mind to comprehend (but my Heart knows, and that is OK, I just can not explain that part of it). And now we have Faith… just because!


#16

What prevents you from believing that the Church is as the Church says she is?

What is your question about the reality of God?

My point is that these things need to be dealt with personally, and they have to be dealt with specifically and satisfyingly.

Your quest, as it were, is to do your part in finding what you say you want, which is clarity of conviction in “worthy beliefs”.

It’s not a wishing game. We don’t just “wish” and make ourselves fully convicted in the truth of what we believe. We have to do some discerning. But the work is well worth it, and MUCH better than agonizing in our “lukewarmness” and feeling sorry for ourselves.

I can’t just say, “Nope I now believe in God and His Holy Church…etc. etc.” Well, I may outwardly appear to have accepted this belief, but I can’t make it so in my heart just by saying so. At least, I can’t.

That sounds rather normal! :slight_smile:

The question is whether you can get over your “inertia” of complacency in lukewarmness, and do what is the hallmark of Christians, which is to do your homework, come to a decision and live it.

:shamrock2:


#17

I question the actual existence of God. So, of course it follows that I might not have the warm fuzzies about the Church.

The question is whether you can get over your “inertia” of complacency in lukewarmness, and do what is the hallmark of Christians, which is to do your homework, come to a decision and live it.

So you are definitlely of the opinion that faith is a choice, something that we can actively choose? People who have doubts, or are luke warm in their faith are just not trying hard enough? What “homework” will lead me to my faith. If I study the saints…read the bible more diligently…perhpas the papal encyclicals? I dunno…I kind of doubt it.

In my case… I just feel I don’t have that spark of “faith”…and while I earlier described my faith as “slipping away,” I am not sure that is accurate. I don’t think I really every had that spark, and it is just now that I have begun to look at my faith a bit more critically, ask questions that I never bothered to ask, I find that I have serious doubts.

I would imagine that many others are in the same boat…perhaps not actively doubting everything as I am now, but rather going through the motions due to inertia, devoid of that true spark of faith. Considering that, I was hoping this thread might have a broader appeal than just my situation.

At this point, I really do think faith is a gift from God…not something you choose.

–Rico


#18

Yes, I guess faith does require cooperation. We can look the other way, or harden our hearts when it comes our way.

Of course in your story, it seems an easy choice to grab hold the life ring of faith when the only alternative is death. It is not so clear cut in real life. (at least to those who are on this end of the life ring)

–Rico


#19

Rico

Of course in your story, it seems an easy choice to grab hold the life ring of faith when the only alternative is death. It is not so clear cut in real life. (at least to those who are on this end of the life ring)

But the reality is, if you don’t have faith, death is the ultimate end.

Jim


#20

yes and no. faith is a virtue, and as such there must be a conscience effort to posses maintain and develop it. there is also the infused virtue of faith at our baptism. it is one os the three theological virtues (along with hope and love). we may reject the virtue of faith, but the theological virtue would remain present, by virtue of baptism, though it would be considered dead or dormant.


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