Author Topic: Can a person without faith sin against faith?  (Read 293 times)

Offline Daniel

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Can a person without faith sin against faith?
« on: July 31, 2018, 04:47:19 PM »
I understand that heresy, schism, and apostasy are sinful because they destroy faith.

But a person cannot destroy his own faith if he has no faith in the first place, so I am wondering whether a person without faith who commits heresy, schism, or apostasy still sins against faith? If so, why?
 

Offline Maximilian

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Re: Can a person without faith sin against faith?
« Reply #1 on: August 01, 2018, 10:49:43 AM »

I am wondering whether a person without faith who commits heresy, schism, or apostasy still sins against faith? If so, why?

Because Faith is an external, objective, real thing outside of ourselves. Faith is not merely an interior, personal, malleable thing that exists only in our own perceptions.

Just substitute the word "God" for "Faith," and it becomes apparent how it is easy to commit sins against something in which we do not believe.

St. Francis de Sales discusses the various definitions of Faith in his "Treatise on the Love of God."
 
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Offline james03

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Re: Can a person without faith sin against faith?
« Reply #2 on: August 02, 2018, 10:50:11 AM »
Quote
But a person cannot destroy his own faith if he has no faith in the first place, so I am wondering whether a person without faith who commits heresy, schism, or apostasy still sins against faith? If so, why?
1.  A person without Faith is under the Law.  He will burn in hell for all eternity.

2.  The sins he commits are against his own reason.  He rationalizes his way to hell.
"But he that doth not believe, is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God (Jn 3:18)."

"All sorrow leads to the foot of the Cross.  Weep for your sins."
 
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Offline Daniel

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Re: Can a person without faith sin against faith?
« Reply #3 on: August 02, 2018, 09:21:38 PM »
.
« Last Edit: August 02, 2018, 09:39:16 PM by Daniel »
 

Offline Gardener

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Re: Can a person without faith sin against faith?
« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2018, 09:43:17 PM »
If an unchaste person can sin against chastity, not possessing the virtue of it, then why is it troubling you for a person to sin against the virtue of Faith?

Similarly, someone who is not a priest can cause scandal (against the priesthood) by dressing as one and doing lewd things in public as much as a real priest would cause scandal in the same.

Hebrews 6 addresses this obliquely, note the bolded:

Quote
[1] Wherefore leaving the word of the beginning of Christ, let us go on to things more perfect, not laying again the foundation of penance from dead works, and of faith towards God, [2] Of the doctrine of baptisms, and imposition of hands, and of the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. [3] And this will we do, if God permit. [4] For it is impossible for those who were once illuminated, have tasted also the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, [5] Have moreover tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
[6] And are fallen away: to be renewed again to penance, crucifying again to themselves the Son of God, and making him a mockery. [7] For the earth that drinketh in the rain which cometh often upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is tilled, receiveth blessing from God. [8] But that which bringeth forth thorns and briers, is reprobate, and very near unto a curse, whose end is to be burnt. [9] But, my dearly beloved, we trust better things of you, and nearer to salvation; though we speak thus. [10] For God is not unjust, that he should forget your work, and the love which you have shewn in his name, you who have ministered, and do minister to the saints.

For a man to sin against faith, its object must be before him and he must make a rational rejection thereof -- without a rational rejection there is no sin per se. This presentation should necessarily be accompanied by a grace, at least to recognize the object for what it is -- and contained within that is the fruit of the grace, if not rejected.

The earth (humanity) receives the rain (grace) and the action of it (good fruit -- acceptance of faith; thorns -- rejection of faith).

What you are asking is if a patch of dirt (a man) with no good fruit can be held to account for going from a dirt patch to thistles and thorns. The answer is yes, because to do that he had to consider the object of faith and reject it despite receiving the grace (rain)
"And what use are the victories on the battlefield if we are ourselves are defeated in our innermost personal selves?" - St. Maximilian Kolbe
 
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Offline John Lamb

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Re: Can a person without faith sin against faith?
« Reply #5 on: August 03, 2018, 11:12:08 AM »
The sin of unbelief / infidelity.

Quote from: St. Thomas Aquinas
Article 1. Whether unbelief is a sin?

[...]

On the contrary, Vice is opposed to virtue. Now faith is a virtue, and unbelief is opposed to it. Therefore unbelief is a sin.

I answer that, Unbelief may be taken in two ways: first, by way of pure negation, so that a man be called an unbeliever, merely because he has not the faith. Secondly, unbelief may be taken by way of opposition to the faith; in which sense a man refuses to hear the faith, or despises it, according to Isaiah 53:1: "Who hath believed our report?" It is this that completes the notion of unbelief, and it is in this sense that unbelief is a sin.

If, however, we take it by way of pure negation, as we find it in those who have heard nothing about the faith, it bears the character, not of sin, but of punishment, because such like ignorance of Divine things is a result of the sin of our first parent. If such like unbelievers are damned, it is on account of other sins, which cannot be taken away without faith, but not on account of their sin of unbelief. Hence Our Lord said (John 15:22) "If I had not come, and spoken to them, they would not have sin"; which Augustine expounds (Tract. lxxxix in Joan.) as "referring to the sin whereby they believed not in Christ."
As many as received him, he gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in his name. (John 1:12)
 
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Offline Daniel

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Re: Can a person without faith sin against faith?
« Reply #6 on: August 05, 2018, 09:02:26 AM »
Because Faith is an external, objective, real thing outside of ourselves. Faith is not merely an interior, personal, malleable thing that exists only in our own perceptions.
Quote from: Gardener
If an unchaste person can sin against chastity, not possessing the virtue of it, then why is it troubling you for a person to sin against the virtue of Faith?
Ok, I didn't realize this. So sins against faith are sinful because they are contrary to the Platonic form of faith, even when they are not contrary to the non-existent virtue of faith? (Yet the man who subjectively has the virtue of faith loses that virtue when he to sins against the form of faith, in the same way that St. Augustine says that a man who sins against God loses his own subjective existence?)
« Last Edit: August 05, 2018, 09:41:11 AM by Daniel »
 

Offline Daniel

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Re: Can a person without faith sin against faith?
« Reply #7 on: August 05, 2018, 09:10:30 AM »
Quote from: Gardener
For a man to sin against faith, its object must be before him and he must make a rational rejection thereof -- without a rational rejection there is no sin per se. This presentation should necessarily be accompanied by a grace, at least to recognize the object for what it is -- and contained within that is the fruit of the grace, if not rejected.
Quote from: St.Thomas Aquinas
If, however, we take it by way of pure negation, as we find it in those who have heard nothing about the faith, it bears the character, not of sin, but of punishment, because such like ignorance of Divine things is a result of the sin of our first parent. If such like unbelievers are damned, it is on account of other sins, which cannot be taken away without faith, but not on account of their sin of unbelief.
So what about heretics, schismatics, and apostates who never had the faith to begin with? Their beliefs are still contrary to the Platonic form of faith, so surely they sin in believing what they believe, even though they couldn't have possibly believed rightly?
« Last Edit: August 05, 2018, 09:24:37 AM by Daniel »
 

Offline John Lamb

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Re: Can a person without faith sin against faith?
« Reply #8 on: August 06, 2018, 06:42:11 AM »
No, the object which is sinned against is not the "Platonic form of faith" (you don't sin against a virtue considered abstractly - like faith, chastity, justice, prudence considered as ideal principles - but by having the vice which is contrary to the having of that virtue), but rather you sin by rejecting the object of belief (i.e. the articles of faith), which is ultimately a rejection of the authority of God revealing. The sin is not in rejecting the Platonic idea of faith, but in rejecting God's authority. The virtue of faith is the intellect's habit of submitting to whatever God has revealed, such that once the intellect has sufficient reason to think that God has revealed something, it thereby submits without any doubt or hesitation.

The real malice involved in the sin of unbelief is not in those who reject the Church's teaching because they do not think that the Church is a credible witness to divine revelation; rather, the malice is those who do not care whether the Church is a credible witness to God, or who do not care what God has revealed in general. Just like the Pharisees who rejected Jesus' teaching despite His miracles being an indisputable witness to His divine authority and mission - they just didn't care whether He was a credible witness or not, they hated Him and refused to belief on that account. A man brought up in a Muslim country may not be guilty of the sin of unbelief because he may never have come in contact with the faith, or he may have only heard false and disparaging things said about it - his intellect may be ready to submit to the Church's teaching / divine revelation, it just hasn't had the right opportunity yet. He lacks belief but he is not guilty of unbelief, of resisting God's teaching. Whereas an academic biblical scholar in a western university may sin against faith every day, because his heart stubbornly refuses to even consider whether or not the scriptures are authentic divine revelation, but rejects even the possibility of it because of his prior commitment to living a godless life.
« Last Edit: August 06, 2018, 06:47:20 AM by John Lamb »
As many as received him, he gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in his name. (John 1:12)
 
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Offline Daniel

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Re: Can a person without faith sin against faith?
« Reply #9 on: August 06, 2018, 09:12:00 PM »
Thank you John Lamb. I think I see the distinction between 'negation of belief' and 'opposition to belief'. But I do have some more questions. (Sorry, I'm not trying to sound argumentative here. It's just that I've had these same questions for a while now...)

The virtue of faith is the intellect's habit of submitting to whatever God has revealed, such that once the intellect has sufficient reason to think that God has revealed something, it thereby submits without any doubt or hesitation.

That sounds like a good definition, but I must be missing something.

For one thing, this definition seems to imply that 'faith' is not a gift from God but is something that we attain for ourselves through our natural human faculties alone. As long as a man has a 'sufficient reason' for thinking that something was revealed by God, and as long as that man habitually assents to that which he thinks is from God, and as long as it is actually the case that that man's belief happens to be correct (i.e. that what-the-man-thinks-God-revealed is the same thing as what-God-actually-revealed), then that man has 'faith' (according to this definition). So far so good? So where exactly does God come into play? What is it that makes faith 'supernatural'?

For another thing, (and perhaps this is just an error in my terminology,) I thought that the word 'faith' signifies the 'sufficient reason' itself? Moreover, I thought that the 'faith' cannot merely be a 'sufficient reason' but must be an 'absolutely certain reason'? because to assent to something requires knowledge, and if the knowledge is missing then so is the assent. You cannot absolutely assent to something which you do not absolutely know.
Take the case of Abraham sacrificing Isaac, for example. If Abraham was not absolutely certain that the person who told him to kill Isaac was God (and not the devil), then Abraham's decision to kill Isaac would not have been an act of 'faith'. Rather, his decision to kill Isaac would have been cruel, foolish, and gravely sinful on many accounts: at the very least, Abraham would have committed a sin of negligence (killing haphazardly, without truly knowing that this particular act of killing Isaac was ok), and he'd also have committed a sin of murder (Isaac was innocent and humans do not have authority to take innocent life... even if the devil says it's ok) and a sin of idolatry (he'd have unwittingly offered Isaac as a sacrifice not to God but to the devil). But we see that Abraham, having 'faith', commits none of these sins, which proves that Abraham must have known that the person telling him to kill Isaac was in fact God. And how exactly did he know? It seems evident that God either gave him that knowledge directly (along with the knowledge of that knowledge, and the knowledge of that knowledge of that knowledge, ad infinitum), or else gave him some ability to infallibly discern.
(This knowledge, or this ability, is what I had previously thought was the essence of 'faith'. It's 'supernatural' insofar as it comes only from God, not from our nature. And so it must be the case that God gives this knowledge/ability to each non-Catholic above the age of reason whom He chooses, allowing each chosen non-Catholic to know that the propositions 'Christ is God', 'the Church is from God', etc. are true... and from there all the Church's dogmas logically follow, and so in knowing that the Church is from God, the non-Catholic also knows that all the articles of faith are true. The non-Catholic then, now knowing these things, naturally seeks entry into the Church, and so is baptised, and becomes Catholic).

But supposing 'faith' is the habitual assent towards revealed truths which we have 'sufficient reason' to believe are revealed, I'm still not sure I understand what constitutes a 'sufficient reason'. Miracles cannot serve as definitive proof for most of us, since most of us have never personally witnessed a miracle. And even for those of us who have, there's no way we can know that the miracle we are witnessing is a true miracle and not some sort of trickery or deception. The devil does some pretty amazing things, but the things he does do not prove that he is God. And even mere human performers such as David Blaine and Criss Angel can do some pretty impressive tricks without the aid of real magic, and it is difficult (oftentimes close to impossible) for an observer to watch the trick once and then figure out how it was done. Same thing with prophecy. The devils are good with guessing the future (hence the accuracy of occult knowledge attained through divination), and even non-magical performers can do a good job faking it some of the time (especially if they throw some ambiguity into their 'predictions').

Suppose one religion (i.e. Christ or the Church) is out there preaching one thing and doing some miracles and making prophecies to 'prove' that it has authority which was given to it by God, and then some other religion (an antichurch) is preaching something else and performing its own false miracles and giving false prophecies to 'prove' that it also has authority from God. How can we know that we ought to believe the testimony of the former rather than of the latter? Moreover, how do we know that either of these two religions has true authority and true testimony? Maybe God simply hasn't revealed anything, and none of these apparent 'miracles' or 'prophecies' are signs from God.

At any rate, it seems that the only way a man can avoid falling into error is for him to choose to remain in a perpetual state of skepticism/agnosticism, such that he never inadvertently denies anything that has been revealed (though in doing so, he unfortunately cannot assent to anything which has been revealed). I realize that this sort of skepticism is probably not humanly possible (psychologically humans are prone to believe one thing or another)... but I am wondering into which category it would fall? Is it a 'negation of belief', since the person does not know (and has no way of knowing) what to believe? Or is it 'opposed to belief', since the man is willfully choosing not to assent to things which he ought to believe (despite the fact that he knows not which things he ought to believe)?
« Last Edit: August 06, 2018, 10:25:15 PM by Daniel »
 

Offline Daniel

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Re: Can a person without faith sin against faith?
« Reply #10 on: August 09, 2018, 11:36:12 AM »
What about a Catholic such as myself who doesn't know whether the Church is true, who is of the opinion that the Church is not true, yet who never asserts it as certain that the Church is not true, who then proceeds to apostatize and live as if he were not a Catholic, but who never outright rejects any of the Church's teachings as false? Does he sin against faith? Or does he only sin against obedience (assuming that the Church is in fact true)?
« Last Edit: August 09, 2018, 12:41:16 PM by Daniel »