Christian Counselors As Guides Towards FaithFor centuries the debate of faith versus reason has gone back and forth. Aquinas and Augustine championed the Christian metaphysical views. Later they were challenged by the Empiricists and Logical Positivists who denied the existence of anything that cannot be physically verified. In return, various Christian apologetics responded that one cannot study metaphysics as a physical science for it transcends science and the tools of science cannot comprehend or measure it. The purpose of today’s blog is not to be a course study in apologetics, but instead is intended for Christians who already believe, or may sometimes feel doubt in their faith. Hence today’s blog is more pastoral. Christian Counselors will find many spiritual children who may doubt their faith but not have surrendered it. Today we present some thoughts regarding counseling the doubtful.
First and foremost, any doubt against faith is from Satan who wishes to uproot our faith in Christ. While it is always good to question in order to become stronger, it is never good to doubt what you question when it comes to the faith of Christ. St. Augustine stated that he “believes so therefore he can understand”.
How can one dare to understand the deepest mysteries of the Trinity, our origins and the many other mysteries that are our faith? Only extreme hubris would attempt to understand the infinite mysteries of faith. Instead we must accept faith and then hope to understand. God will not grant sacred illumination to the proud or the intellectuals who hope from a finite perspective to divulge the infinite. Wisdom is given to those who humbly accept not the pompus and obnoxious minds of our generation.
So, as a child, one must accept what God has revealed. This is a supernatural gift, the gift of faith. It is a virtue that is instilled into our souls at Baptism and it grows as we grow in our love of God. While intellectuals may scoff at such childlike dependency and present scientific findings that seem to contradict faith, one who is guided by God finds no doubt. While the empiricists search the lower essence of man for answers, the gift of faith enables even children to search the higher levels of man’s essence for answers.
Is this to discredit science? Is this to discredit reason? Absolutely not! Reason is quite useful in understanding why we believe. However, reason and the intellect can only go so far. The will then must assent to the grace of the Holy Spirit to bridge the gap between finite and infinite. Science, as a profane study, can never reach the lofty heights of theology as a science because it cannot operate in the metaphysical realm. It lacks the spiritual lens and is incapable of working with the grace of God. Its study belongs to the observable but this study is not in contradiction to faith. It leads to faith. Only those who hope to destroy faith, utilize science as a tool to undermine it. For if God is author of both faith and science, then both are truth but at different levels.
So, we again attest, faith before reason because faith and metaphysics is the highest science. Through faith, God allows us to understand. Is not one of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit understanding? Only after the infusion of the theological virtue of faith, can the gifts of the Holy Spirit manifest. It is thus through Baptism that we become equipped with the necessary tools to believe.
While some psychologists may attempt to classify faith as a pathological state, in which some cases it can be, one cannot undermine true faith. True faith does not harm the other faculties of the soul. The intellect still responds rationally and the mind is at peace. There are cases where “faith” seems to uproot the rationale mind. These cases are not true faith for they cause division within the mind of man and cause pathological disorder.
So when doubt occurs, the Christian must embrace this powerful gift. The virtue of faith is fed by the Holy Spirit and any Christian who faces doubt must submit his will to God. This trial can at times be difficult. It may be presented by a seeming paradox between science and faith or a mystery that one cannot completely comprehend. In these cases, allow the power of faith to heal the doubt and produce peace. These things are not meant for us to understand or comprehend. Christian Counselors do not need to present a solid presentation every time one feels a loss of hope, but instead they need to direct that person to prayer and allow the Holy Spirit to bring calm and then understanding.
The understanding may not even be of the particular mystery but an understanding that one is not meant to comprehend this mystery at that time. This prayer can also soothe the soul in reinforcing God’s presence. The sense of God’s presence can soothe the childlike mind. When a parent holds a child who is traumatized, the child’s peace and security is not because he understands the situation but only the warmth and presence of the parent. Faith works this way and removes the fear and gives peace.
As one assents to the powers of faith and allows its particular spiritual fragrance to subdue the soul, one will gradually grow deeper and deeper into spirituality and the mystical realm. One’s spiritual eyes will open and God’s revelation and words will grow. Ultimately, a peace will overtake the soul as a result of God’s presence.
We must have faith that what is unseen will one day be seen. In the meantime, God has given us supernatural gifts that alleviate the finite mind’s worry. Ultimately, let us be rewarded for our faith when Christ’s promise is fulfilled: “Blessed are those who have not seen, yet still believe”
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Mark Moran, MA