Faith, doubt and infallibility

“Infallibility is for those of little faith.”

I came across this statement in a blog comment. I responded with my own comment over there, but won’t link to it as I don’t want to make this a personal thing. Instead I will treat it as representative of what I consider a common liberal Catholic attitude.

I have a vague idea of the reasoning behind the statement. The idea seems to be that the articles of faith can’t be proven, we can’t know them with our own natural powers, yet faith still allows us to believe them. Thus faith is “the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1.) Fair enough so far.

But the idea is taken further, and it is supposed that faith is the opposite of certainty: Anyone, they argue, can believe when he’s certain, but it takes real faith to believe while you doubt. The man of strong faith is constantly assailed with doubts, yet he soldiers on! While the weak in faith refuse to admit their doubts (after all, everybody has them) and crave to be coddled in the cradle of certainty.

The less certainty therefore, the more faith. I suppose then that they who are most certain that their religion is false, have the strongest faith!

But consider these scriptural passages:

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

James 1:6-8.

“Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

Matthew 14:29-31.

Faith then is single-minded and stable, whereas the presence of doubt is directly equated with a lessening of faith. In fact if doubt makes for stronger faith, why then did Peter sink?

No, they have got it quite backwards. Infallibility can be no comfort to one who has little faith. Faith has to come first, and then it’s a comfort. And the stronger the faith, the stronger the comfort. They who doubt the doctrine are the ones who are of little faith.

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