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The Theological Virtue of Faith

Fr. Peter-Michael Preble

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There are many different types of virtues, cardinal virtues, theological virtues, western virtues etc. I am focusing on the theological virtues for the purpose of this series. A theological virtue is so named because the object of these virtues is the divine being — the Theos — if you will. Other virtues have vice as the extreme and are only virtues when they are maintained between the two extremes of virtue and vice. Theological virtues do not contribute to a vice at the positive extreme. There is no vice in having an unlimited amount of faith, hope, or love when God is the object.

So what is the virtue of faith and how can we define it? My dictionary defines faith in several different ways:

  • Confidence in or dependence on a person, statement, or thing as trustworthy.
  • Belief without need of certain proof.
  • Belief in God or in the Scriptures or other religious writings.

My theological dictionary defines faith in some of the same ways but adds this one; Belief and trust in Christ as one's Savior. No doubt this is a decidedly Christian view. Basically faith is a belief without proof but also steadfastness in this belief.

Faith is the foundational virtue of all Christian belief. We cannot go any further in our discussion if we do not have faith. Faith is the natural possession of all human beings that are wise and virtuous. Without faith in humanity's ability to know, to do well, and to find meaning in life, then nothing wise or virtuous can be achieved.

In his letter to the Hebrews St. Paul defines faith in these words, "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). Faith then is the confidence in the spiritual capabilities of humanity and in the goodness and power of God. Faith is a gift from God that is given to all and accepted by all who are open to activity of God in their lives (Ephesians 2:8).

Sometimes we have the tendency to believe that faith is a blind leap into the dark and the unknown. Sometimes the Church has used faith to explain everything that we do. "We just need faith." But genuine faith is in fact not a blind leap it is not an irrational or unreasonable acceptance of the unreasonable and the absurd. Faith that is rooted and grounded in our reasonable nature that is made in the image of God is genuine. If we do not have faith in the Scriptures this becomes the epitomes of foolishness and absurdity. "The fool says in his heart, 'there is no God.' They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none that does good" (Psalm 14:1-2). "The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any that act wisely that seek after God" (Psalm 53:1-2).

As humans, we were made to have faith in God. We were created in His image and likeness and to worship God the creator of all things. If we do not have belief in God then we pervert human nature and this is the cause of all evils. The weakness of our faith in God is rooted in sin, impurity and finally pride. This is not something on the intellectual level but it is in fact our suppression of the truth of God and our refusal to acknowledge God with honor and thanksgiving.

Those of us who wish to be spiritual are people who live "by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). The spiritual person then is one who, by the grace of God, is faithful in all things.

Fr. Peter-Michael Preble is the Pastor of St. Michael’s Orthodox Christian Church in Southbridge, Massachusetts and the host of the Shepherd of Souls syndicated radio program. Visit Fr. Peter's blog.

Posted: 20-Dec-2008



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