Faith and belief

Learning words

What is the difference between Faith and Belief?

It was an interesting question, and if it had been asked in a room full of people, we could have had many answers.

My response is that both are important, but Belief belongs to the head and Faith belongs to the heart. The journey from head to heart can be called “devotion.”.

Let us open that up in a reflective way.

We can say that belief is the introduction to faith – “belief” means to cling or hold on to. Belief is composed of teachings we hold to be true.

“I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth…”

On the Christian journey, belief is is our basic Church teaching, a set of maps to guide us on life’s pilgrimage.

Sometimes, people will describe our church teaching as Catholic Faith when they really mean Catholic Belief.  They are talking about strictures and rules.

Belief and Faith are connected, but they are not the same.

So how do we describe faith?

We know that Catholic teaching is a one-size-its-all but, at the same time, the Church recognises that no two people are made exactly alike and we are encouraged to mature as spiritual individuals.

Maturity comes when we recognise this and step out in Faith.

We stop hugging the signposts and journey as God made us.

Faith is the fruit of Belief.

Belief has given Faith the certainty of Trust.

In the Gospels, we see this movement in Jesus.

When Jesus sent his disciples out, he told them not to go to Samaria or the Pagan territories. He believed his mission was to the lost people of Israel.

But later, thanks to a couple of women, Jesus stepped out in faith and preached to the Samaritans and to the pagans of the Decapolis.

That was a big movement in Jesus’ ministry.

Belief found the freedom of Faith.

On a Sunday morning, I look at the pews around me and see people as a beautiful forest, every tree different, and yet all rooted in the same rich soil.

That is one way of describing the relationship between Belief and Faith.

Or I could put it in a personal way:

I believe that Belief and Faith are different.
Belief is what I pack for the journey
and carry with me from day to day.
It’s the map I’ve been given.
It’s also a pair of boots for steep hills,
a coat for a change in weather,
and a first aid kit should I need it.
I regard Belief as essential
even though I don’t always unpack it.
It is that which gives me confidence
to go forward in the beautiful freedom
of Faith.

  • Joy Cowley is a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and retreat facilitator.
Additional reading

News category: Analysis and Comment.

Tags: , ,