The first theological virtue

Gabriel Blanchard is in the middle of a series of of rather personal posts explaining why he is a Catholic. This passage in his third one leaped out at me:

[…]referral to the macrocosm, to the Resurrection, cannot really be used as an answer. That reality left its evidences upon history; and I do think that Pascal was right, when he said that there is enough light for those who wish to see as there is enough darkness for those who don’t. But to place one’s faith in the Resurrection and in the universe that it signifies is precisely an act of faith — it is not simply the obvious and reasonable thing to do, ever.


That, I think, was my mistake. Not only as a child, but for years afterward, and even in my conversions from atheism to Christianity and from Christianity in general to Catholicism in particular. I never fully grappled with the fact that the act of faith was an act of faith — that is, trusting a Person, not simply accepting an idea — not of following a chain of reasoning to its logical end. Following that chain did put me in a position to make an act of faith. I don’t regret that. And, while it’s impossible to know whether I would have made the same decision if I had grappled with that question during my conversions, I think I might have done. But it has left me to grapple with that same problem now.

This resonates with me as well. I do feel that all the heady philosophizing that pushed me into my conversion gave me a mindset that threatens to obscure the role that faith has to play. This has at times led to a kind of subtle doubt that there was any real conversion at all – that I just had a change of venue, with no real interior ontological shift.

I don’t think this is actually true. If my Catholicism were nothing but just another philosophical position, I have a feeling it would have been destroyed by this point. My persistence in the Faith strikes me as supernatural. But this is one of the reasons for why I am reluctant to engage in apologetics. While a worthwhile endeavor in itself, I find that it brings me too close to a corrosive mindset that wants a philosophy rather than a faith.

Faith is listed as the first theological virtue – theological meaning that it is not the result of any developed aptitude but rather an effect of the direct operation of divine grace. It is, in a sense, a limited participation in God’s own knowledge. But it follows from this that it can never be the sort of easy answer that we often want, but which also smashes up against reality. It is both an affirmation of Mystery and also something mysterious in its own right.

About Josh W

Scribbler and doodler
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