Doctrinal Matters: Catholicism
Is Faith "Infused" Directly by God?
According to Catholic Catechism 153, “Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him.” Unlike other religious peoples who use Ephesians 2:8 as a proof text to teach (erroneously) that faith is a direct gift from God, Catholics base their view of infused faith on a statement Jesus made to Peter during His earthly ministry. Once, after Peter confessed to Jesus, saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:16-17). The Catholic Church believes that Jesus’ statement proves that faith is given directly and supernaturally by God. Faith comes, not from “flesh and blood,” but purportedly is “infused” directly by the Father above.
The central problem with the 153rd Catholic Catechism is that Jesus did not say that God gave Peter faith in Jesus as the Son of God. Jesus stated that God “revealed” to Peter that Jesus was the Son of God. There is a difference between revealing to someone a truth (e.g., the deity of Christ), and compelling someone to believe that truth. If a teacher quizzes a class in preparation for a final exam, and, in the process, reveals every answer to the class that they need to know in order to score a 100 on the exam, one or more students still may fail. Students might fail because they chose not to take the exam. Some could fail because they did not take heed to the revelation of facts given by the teacher during the review session. Still others could fail simply because they deliberately wrote the wrong answers on the test, thinking it was fashionable to make low grades in school. Even though the teacher revealed all of the knowledge needed for every student in the class to make a perfect score on the exam, each student still had a choice as to whether he or she would act upon that knowledge wisely and ace the test.
Similarly, even though God revealed to Peter that Jesus was the Son of God, that does not mean that God directly infused faith into Peter. Faith is a commanded action on man’s part that comes after revelation, not before, or simultaneously (Acts 16:29-34; John 7:24; Romans 10:17). The Bible never speaks of faith as being given directly by God. Rather, it is self-developed following revelation from God. In Peter’s case, such revelation did not come from “flesh and blood” (Matthew 16:17; cf. 17:5). Today, biblical faith is developed by hearing or reading the written revelation from God—the Bible (John 20:30-31; Romans 10:17; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Catechism of the Catholic Church, [On-line], URL: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p1s1c3a1.htm.