Do We Have Sufficient Evidence to Make an Act of Faith?
Catholics commonly make an Act of Faith that includes this phrase: “I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches because you have revealed them who are eternal truth and wisdom.” Do we have sufficient evidence to make that assertion, or at least to exclaim, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief” (Mk. 9:24)?
God created our minds to judge with sufficient evidence. When the evidence falls short, our judgments may be sinfully rash. (In emergency conditions, we must act on the available evidence.) When we use our correct conclusions unjustly or uncharitably, we violate the Fifth or Eighth Commandments.
(The term “judgmental” commonly refers to a hyper-critical attitude. But the term tends to blur the distinction between a rash judgment and the abuse of correct judgments. Worse, many people intentionally use the expression to silence those who oppose sinful behavior. It works. It is surprisingly easy for wayward children in sinful lifestyles to shame and silence parents by labeling them “judgmental.”)
The Apostles listened to the teachings of Jesus. The Gospel accounts provide ample evidence. They witnessed His miracles. Peter, James, and John previewed heavenly glory in the Transfiguration of Jesus. In their specific ways, they suffered the humiliation of the Cross, and they encountered the risen Jesus in His glorified flesh. When St. Thomas exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn. 20:28), he professed faith in the Divinity of Jesus. After Pentecost, the disciples proclaimed the Cross and Resurrection to all nations. The Apostles’ Creed summarizes their experience with Jesus and their faith in His promises.
The Apostles’ Creed is “inclusive”—universal—and excludes heretical content (including that of prominent prelates in our day). Regardless of personal belief, its realism spans the history of mankind, from creation to redemption and salvation. The Apostles had sufficient evidence to accept and proclaim the precepts of the Creed. We similarly evaluate the evidence we gather to help us guide our daily decisions. We trust our parents. We marry. We vote for our favorite pro-life candidates, and so on. But our certainty usually has deficiencies.
Sometimes parents fail. We realize we’ve ignored the bothersome (and sometimes significant) character traits of spouses. Candidates voted into office betray campaign promises and looking back, we concede we should have known. These failures do not suggest that we give up on the responsibility to make judgments, but impress upon us the need for greater vigilance to search for sufficient evidence.
We have sufficient evidence to acknowledge God’s existence. We cannot explain the beauty of nature except to concede God’s creative handiwork. Honesty demands that even the life mothers and fathers give their babies involves a profoundly mysterious Hidden Realty—a Creator, with the parents as co-creators.
A very pleasant—indeed poignant—unattributed literary dialog between unborn baby twins helps us with our struggle to obtain sufficient evidence to recognize the existence of God and everlasting life in Jesus:
“Do you believe in life after delivery?”
“Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”
“Nonsense. There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?”
“I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.”
“That is absurd. Walking is impossible. Use our mouths to eat? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery doesn’t make sense.”
“Well, I believe there is something, and maybe it’s different than it is here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.”
“If there is life, why has no one ever come back? Delivery is the end of life. In the after-delivery, there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.”
“Well, I don’t know. But certainly, we will meet Mother, and she will take care of us.”
“Mother? Do you actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists, then where is She now?”
“She is all around us. She surrounds us. We are of Her. It is in Her that we live. Without Her, this world would not and could not exist.”
“Well, I don’t see her, so it is only logical that She doesn’t exist.”
“Sometimes, when you’re in silence—and you focus and listen, you can perceive Her presence and hear Her loving voice, calling down from above.”
Every creed involves an admixture of experience and belief. We see the beauty of God’s creation; we encounter the goodness of the saints; and the words of truth in proclamation and the Sacraments reinforce our confidence in the Apostles’ Creed. So, I believe.
Those who reject the Christian summary of faith must make peace with an alternative creed, live accordingly, and hope for ultimate consolation. The need for sufficient evidence to frame our faith remains. Even an atheist lacks scientific evidence that promises the comfort of eternal non-existence. Absolute annihilation at death—a scattering of cremated ashes in pursuit of eternal oblivion—requires a leap of faith based on nervous hope.
We have extensive evidence to commend our lives to the testimony of the Apostles and the Church. The Apostles’ Creed is our rule of life and enlightens our path to eternal consolation and joy. Let’s pray the Act of Faith with confidence:
O my God, I firmly believe that you are one God in three divine Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I believe that your divine Son became man and died for our sins and that he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches because you have revealed them who are eternal truth and wisdom, who can neither deceive nor be deceived. In this faith I intend to live and die. Amen.
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