What do you mean by "believe"?


I keep reading statements about “belief” on this forum. What do Catholics mean by “belief”, exactly? For instance, if you have to “believe” in the teachings of the Church, what sort of action does that “belief” entail? Let’s pick the Virgin Birth: what does it mean to “believe” in the Virgin Birth?

Does it mean that you constantly tell yourself “Virgin Birth really, actually happened”? Does it mean that if someone asks you, “Did the Virgin Birth really happen?” you say “Yes!” Does it mean that you see the Virgin Birth as a powerful statement concerning something that is beyond the rational mind, yet is ‘true’ in some sense? Does it mean that you “trust” in the Virgin Birth story, whether it actually happened or not? Does it mean that you love God so much that you accept it when he says the Virgin Birth occurred, even though scientifically you think it’s impossible? Does it mean that you’re unwilling to consider the possibility that there was no Virgin Birth? Does it mean that, even if there was no Virgin Birth, acceptance of the Virgin Birth is something that God desires, for reasons known only to him?

Is there an official catechism definition of what it means to “believe”?



It means that you accept it as Truth!


I can’t speak for the Catholic Church, but I imagine that it would be much the same as the Reformers and other church Fathers belief about "faith."To the reformers(or as you might put it–deformers!), three elements had to be true about saving faith:

  1. Noticia (knowledge): A person must have sufficient knowledge or information about that which is to be believed.
  2. Assensus (assent or agreement): A person must intellectually agree or be persuaded of the facts of the knowlege.
  3. Fiducia (trust): A person must then trust in the implications of that which he or she has assented to.

For example, take Christ. A person can have knowledge of Christ (say that He died and rose from the grave as an atonement for our sin) and even be persuaded of the truth of the matter. This does not equate to saving faith according to the Reformers. The person must finally trust Christ to forgive us for our sins.

Here is an illustration: A life raft was thrown out to four drowning people:

The first person says, “I do not beleive that that is a life raft and I do not believe it can save me.” He drowns.

The second person says, “I believe that is a life raft, but I don’t believe it can save me.” He drowns.

The third person says, “I believe that is a lift raft, and I believe it can save me.” But he never grabs ahold. He drowns.

The fourth person says, “I believe that is a life raft, and I believe it can save me.” He grabs a hold and lives.

Only the fourth person had all the elements of true faith.

I hope that this has been of some help.



The question though becomes; to what degree must we trust?

I read a statement the other day that seemed to resonate with me.

paraphrasing: Faith is to doubt as courage is to fear.

In other words, you can be courageous and still have fear (you just overcome it).

you can have faith, yet not an absence of doubt (you just overcome it).

I believe it is a constant lifeelong battle for most.


Childlike faith. The faith of a mustard seed.

On a scale of 0-10, you must be above the 0. Thats it.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.