Mark 8:12 Does God require belief without evidence?


Today’s Gospel reading is Mark 8:11-13, “The Demand for a Sign”:

11 The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.
12 He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”
13 Then he left them, got into the boat again, and went off to the other shore.

I’m not sure of the context here and what God is telling me here. My understanding is that the Church condemns fideism, i.e. the idea that God requires pure faith from us without reason, or that all knowledge is an act of faith. Moreover, note 1 Thes. 5:21 (from “Church Order”):

12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who are laboring among you and who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you,
13 and to show esteem for them with special love on account of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.
14 We urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, cheer the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient with all.
15 See that no one returns evil for evil; rather, always seek what is good [both] for each other and for all.
16 Rejoice always.
17 Pray without ceasing.
18 In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.h
19 Do not quench the Spirit.
20 Do not despise prophetic utterances.
21 Test everything; retain what is good.
22 Refrain from every kind of evil.

So it appears to me that testing and requiring signs is part of being a faithful subject – the Jews were to do so to verify the prophet’s authenticity (hence we know Muhammad isn’t a true prophet, from the lack of miracles), just as the Church does today to verify that people are in heaven.

The Haydock Commentary offers these explanations:

Ver. 11. Jesus Christ did not consent to the petition they made him, because there will be another time for signs and wonders, viz. his second coming, when the powers of heaven shall be moved, and the moon refuse her light. This his first coming is not to terrify man, but to instruct and store his mind with lessons of humility, and every other virtue. (Theophylactus)

Ver. 12. Jesus Christ fetches a deep sigh on account of their obduracy, and says; why do these ask for a miracle to confirm their belief, when they resist the authority of so many miracles, which are daily performed under their eyes? (Bible de Vence) — A sign shall not be given. But by a Hebrew form of speech, if divers times is put for a negative. (Witham)

Bible de Vence seems to be correct, that they were rather acting like the unbelieving atheist, “Why doesn’t God just part the clouds and appear in the sky?” both making an unreasonable request and insulting God as if He were a servant to dispense favors on demand.

But if this is the case, then why does Jesus say so generally, “this generation”, as if it was everyone alive at that time? What are we to take from it today, especially in light of the entirety of revelation, e.g. 1 Thes. 5:21?

Also, it seems to me that God requires an element of uncertainty, perhaps because if we had “solid evidence” then our relationship with God would be obligatory rather than voluntary. Do you agree that for this reason all reports of miracles are unverifiable (e.g. Our Lady of Fatima’s Miracle of the Sun is hearsay from the 1910’s Portugal, Our Lady of Akita’s miracle of healing and statue shedding tears is hearsay from the 1980’s Japan, all remote places; likewise, the Resurrection is hearsay from 2000 years ago), requiring faith that they actually happened? Yet it seems our relationship with God is already obligatory – as Peter says in John 6:68, “to whom shall we go?” etc. There is no other way to happiness, and God created us with a need for happiness.

So what is the relationship between faith, evidence, and reason? Does God withhold evidence to require faith (to be bolstered by reason)? Always, sometimes, or never? How concrete a sign is God willing to give us? How is withholding evidence not counteracting our reason which demands evidence for certainty? What is God telling us in Mark 8 here?

I did read St. John Paul II’s “Fides et Ratio” a while ago (perhaps over a year ago), but I found it to be nothing more than a series of platitudes and learned little from it. For example, from a random paragraph:

No less important than research in the theoretical field is research in the practical field—by which I mean the search for truth which looks to the good which is to be performed. In acting ethically, according to a free and rightly tuned will, the human person sets foot upon the path to happiness and moves towards perfection. Here too it is a question of truth. It is this conviction which I stressed in my Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor: “There is no morality without freedom… Although each individual has a right to be respected in his own journey in search of the truth, there exists a prior moral obligation, and a grave one at that, to seek the truth and to adhere to it once it is known”.(25)

He says a bunch of true things that one learns from studying the faith (e.g. reading the Catechism) and living a Christian life, but I don’t recall him answering the questions I’ve asked here.


He healed all who came to him…

The sign of Jonah was given as a sign! :slight_smile:

Not withstanding God (Jesus) also wants our Trust.:gopray2:

I really liked Fide et Ratio myself. :stuck_out_tongue:

Your quotation needs context for it to make sense, I think. It reminds me of turning the TV on but having the volume off. :thumbsup:


My approach is to consider the particular context of asking such questions.

Note that it was the Pharisees who demanded a sign. And if the usual conduct of Pharisees is anything to go by, then they were probably demanding a sign, a proof, in order to find some kind of loophole, so as to not have to apply what Jesus was teaching.

Would a pure, sinless person seek a sign? I don’t know, I suppose one would have to be pure, sinless to answer this.

Fideism brings with itself its own brand of craziness. So I think a common-sense approach to the set of questions you ask above may be more productive.

Such as here, as proposed by William James, from pg. 35 onwards:

*So long as your would-be suicide leaves an evil of his own unremedied, so long he has strictly no concern with evil in the abstract and at large. The submission which you demand of yourself to the general fact of evil in the world, your apparent acquiescence in it, is here nothing but the conviction that evil at large is none of your business until your business with your private particular evils is liquidated and settled up. A challenge of this sort, with proper designation of detail, is one that need only be made to be accepted by men whose normal instincts are not decayed; and your reflective would-be suicide may easily be moved by it to face life with a certain interest again. The sentiment of honor is a very penetrating thing. When you and I, for instance, realize how many innocent beasts have had to suffer in cattle-cars and slaughter-pens and lay down their lives that we might grow up, all fattened and clad, to sit together here in comfort and carry on this discourse, it does, indeed, put our relation to the universe in a more solemn light. “Does not,” as a young Amherst philosopher (Xenos Clark, now dead) once wrote, “the acceptance of a happy life upon such terms involve a point of honor?” Are we not bound to take some suffering upon ourselves, to do some self-denying service with our lives, in return for all those lives upon which ours are built? To hear this question is to answer it in but one possible way, if one have a normally constituted heart.

Thus, then, we see that mere instinctive curiosity, pugnacity, and honor may make life on a purely naturalistic basis seem worth living from day to day to men who have cast away all metaphysics in order to get rid of hypochondria, but who are resolved to owe nothing as yet to religion and its more positive gifts. A poor half-way stage, some of you may be inclined to say; but at least you must grant it to be an honest stage; and no man should dare to speak meanly of these instincts which are our nature’s best equipment, and to which religion herself must in the last resort address her own peculiar appeals.

As the Imitation of Christ says, “a pure conscience gives great confidence towards God” (1.2.2).

I think that if one lives one’s life in a way that one’s conscience is clear, this then resolves numerous other problems, such as the problem of signs, or the grounds on which to take what is said to be God’s word.
Chances are the Pharisees didn’t have a clear conscience.


No, because there is evidence everywhere ,but many are deaf or blind to God’s first commandment of love(faith) and this blocks all the other gifts of the H.S.

So when one drops the 'defence ’ of the intellectual ego ,read and hear what He is saying in your heart and then mix and discuss with others ,it is important to hear others in the community of , because as we know the clergy are not always those with gift of the H.S. but many in the ordinary lives, are wiser .

As a catholic I was blocked by priests and nuns from finding the God I knew as a child ,because they told me not to ask questions ,just do as I was told .

Isaiah 8 “These people honour me with their lips ,but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain : their teachings are rules taught by men.”

This resulted in ‘my lost period’ ,until God Himself guided me to read and study and experience His love and forgiveness,and the miracle of life and knowledge revealed .

Most of God’s knowledge is ‘hidden in plain sight’ ,right in front of our eyes as we say.


Not all evidence is empirical evidence. For instance we have Aquinas’ proofs of God which would be considered logical evidence.

“Now faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not.”
Heb 11:1


re: "[Mark 8] 12 He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, ‘Why does this generation seek a sign? Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.’”

And yet Matthew 12:39 says that the sign of Jonah would be given to them.


God lies beyond any amount of evidence that we can access; so more evidence will never be so conclusive as to pre-empt the need for faith.


I believe that when humanity fell they became helpless and ignorant,and ‘evolution’ back to his original state is God’s plan for humanity .Each of us is deficient in some way or other,but the ‘sin’ of pride assuming that we don’t need God ,and that we will only love and obey Him if he does what we want Him to dois the worst sin of all .

God has been there already at the ‘fall’, and in the lessons which He makes us learn we must repeatedly prove to Him that we trust Him,and need Him .When we have demonstrated enough that we are to be trusted He begins to make miracles in our lives .
You say that people have been good to you ,but God has not ; that is atheism,not agnosticism .The simplest and best ‘miracle’ is that of ‘faith’ that comes when we take the risk and ‘follow’ Him.
For me who had gone off the path and was beginning to read the bible but still was not 'connecting totally ,I called out one night and since then He has always been there for me .But the journey continues, and the story of Abraham and Isaac began to mean something to me, as in it I saw that unless at some time in my voyage I would totally give up all my power to Him, I would not be His .

The internet was a good metaphor ,as I realised that I had to plug in if I wanted to be
connected , and it is the same to have the graces from God;:slight_smile: we must connect .


John 20:29

Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”


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