To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.
St. Thomas Aquinas
This is probably the most popular St. Thomas Aquinas quote on faith.
To me, it says we teach too much.
I’m as guilty as anyone. I’m a trained teacher. I love teaching. I’ve got years of experience teaching things that students don’t really care to learn, but I love teaching.
Evangelization can’t work this way. The teaching will come, in time, but we can’t start there. Teaching is only a step in the process.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and incredible teacher, knew this well. He was deeply concerned with teaching his students. He loved to teach and had a gift for creating highly logical and reasonable arguments to support the faith that he shared with his students.
He was the king of explanations. Just check out his masterpiece, Summa Theologiae. Explanation after explanation after explanation provide an incredible teaching tool.
Teaching Those without Faith
But what about people without faith? Can we teach them faith?
Anyone can learn the doctrines of the faith. Anyone can read, study, and pass a theology test.
Faith is different. Faith isn’t knowledge of doctrines, recitation of explanations. If we want to share our faith with someone, we can’t just teach them. They won’t be ready yet. Explanations won’t suffice, they will only make it easier for light of faith to find its way into someone’s heart. They help, but they are not enough.
According to a Catholic forum, the quote above is a loose paraphrase from Aquinas’s Summa (thanks Don):
It appears to be a loose paraphrase of S.T. II-II, Q. 1, Art. 5, reply obj. 1: “Unbelievers are in ignorance of things that are of faith, for neither do they see or know them in themselves, nor do they know them to be credible. The faithful, on the other hand, know them, not as by demonstration, but by the light of faith which makes them see that they ought to believe them, as stated above” (A. 4, ad 2, 3).
Truth and Love
I’ve met many Christians, Catholics, and even priests who have said that it was Truth that drew them into the faith.
The pursuit of Truth is magnetic. We’re all on that path of searching. It is a path that is driven by our hearts, by our will.
I am the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6)
But let’s just be careful. We can’t win people over to the faith through teaching alone. We have to win over hearts. And hearts can only be won over by God.
Love always comes before faith; and God is love.