The Too Sophisticated Faith
As religion becomes more and more sentimental and emotional, the ability to defend the faith logically is something sorely lacking in many Catholics today and its importance cannot be stressed enough. However, we have to be careful in our desire to defend the faith, that we do not become too obsessed with “proving” our faith to the world.
It comes as no shock to anyone that people in general are prideful creatures. Most people can’t bear being looked down on by others. And in a day and age when many academics and well-educated people are highly skeptical of there being a true religion and even scoff at anyone who claims to have the truth, Catholics are suddenly looked down upon as superstitious fools. In an attempt to show them that we are not just superstitious and that our faith does have weight to it, we try to make the faith look sophisticated. We take the little philosophy we know, mix in some theology, throw in the science we think can help, put in as many modern ideas that seem to align with a catholic worldview and after a few books, documentaries, sermons, we emerge victorious with our newly crafted sophisticated and nuanced faith that modern critics could never possibly scoff at. Engaged in this delicate balancing act we set forth into the world ready to face any argument, proud of our ability to transform the silly, naive faith we had as a child, into this nuanced masterpiece.
Then one day we get into a debate with someone and he brings up a point that we are unable to refute. All of a sudden we are flustered. We turn red in the face and suddenly our air of superiority is gone and the dreadful feeling of being looked down upon is back. After the argument we rush home and look up how to fight his argument determined never to be looked down upon again. The cycle continues and we constantly work on our little masterpiece in a desperate attempt to make our beliefs as provable as 1+1=2. But in our obsession to make the faith accepted by our peers and the modern world perhaps we forget what the faith is.
The faith ultimately is a gift from God. It is a grace God gives us to believe in Him. The faith is not the ability to refute any argument the next modern thinker can think to throw against it. There will always be people smarter than you, arguments that you have not encountered, perhaps even facts that we cannot with our limited minds reconcile with the faith. No matter how much we learn, we can’t possibly know it all. And at times in a debate perhaps the only thing we can do is to swallow our pride, turn back to the naive childlike faith we once had and say “I don’t know the answer but I’m sure my faith is true.”
So in summary, I guess what I am trying to say is learning how to defend the faith is a worthwhile endeavour. However, the moment our reason for learning to defend our faith is just so we don’t seem naive or so we aren’t looked down on, stop and think. The faith does not mean being able to refute every argument people think of to fight against it. It means accepting the grace God gives you to believe in Him and that is all there is to it. It does not need to be complicated. Much more important than the ability to defend the faith is our ability to live it.
Perhaps it is more profitable to have imperfect knowledge, but the simple faith of St. Therese and her little way, then to be able to defend the faith completely but realise that in an attempt to amass all this knowledge, the faith became nothing more than an intellectual pursuit to seem smart among your peers rather than the belief a child has in his heavenly father.