On How the Christian Virtue of Faith Informs a Romance
by Christian Castro
Most people seek to find the perfect soulmate, but the truth is that no such soulmate exists because everyone brings some degree of baggage to any given relationship. Problems inevitably arise, and some romantics become disillusioned when they observe more keenly their partner’s flaws. At this juncture, romantics would do well to practice the Christian virtue of faith, for faith can allay the doubts and disappointments which invariably arise in any given romantic relationship.
Hereby, faith must be defined. In conventional terms, faith is regarded as an irrational trust in supernatural phenomena. However, this definition suffers undue materialistic bias. Traditionally, the idea of faith has not been isolated from reason. “Faith can allay the doubts and disappointments which invariably arise in any given romantic relationship.”Instead, the West has embraced the notion that the two work in tandem. Indeed, Westerners have always applied the concept of faith to any given circumstance, and they have thereby gleaned wisdom and lived well. It is a travesty, therefore, that people today have settled for a shallow, materialistic view of faith. Such a view is unable to breed wisdom. Moreover, such a view could not possibly illuminate the mystery of romance. If faith is merely superstition, then it cannot serve as a grounding principle for any relationship. But if, on the other hand, faith is a real substance, then it behooves all people to understand what faith is and to live according to her counsel.
Christian philosophers maintain that faith is a real substance. In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis tries to define faith in two senses. In the first sense, he writes that faith is an acceptance of, and a belief in, evidence and facts. That is to say, faith is an intellectual activity, a cognitive reality. In the second “The Christian virtue of faith implies both belief in Biblical principles and commitment to them.”sense, faith is a prerogative of the will, a virtue of the soul. For, according to Lewis, there is a tension that surfaces between one’s reason and one’s emotions during trying times, when a person is forced to act either in agreement with his held beliefs or in acquiescence to his feelings. At that time, faith becomes “…the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity) Thus, the Christian virtue of faith implies both belief in Biblical principles and commitment to them.
The Bible delineates good and profitable relationships according to the pursuit of holiness. “Do not be “A rational faith heeding scriptures understands that a blessed relationship is oriented towards Heaven and that its formal cause is sanctification.”unequally yoked with unbelievers,” writes St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:14 “For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?” Hence, a rational faith heeding scriptures understands that a blessed relationship is oriented towards Heaven and that its formal cause is sanctification. But this is only understanding; this is merely faith in the first sense.
Faith in the second sense demonstrates commitment, but it can only manifest itself in the tension between one’s rational faith and one’s wayward emotions. When it occurs to the man who for the first time noticed the snappiness in her tone; when it occurs to the woman who for the first time observed his“Faith in the second sense demonstrates commitment, but it can only manifest itself in the tension between one’s rational faith and one’s wayward emotions.” laziness on display, i.e., when it occurs to them both that neither one of them is perfect, then, at that time, the virtue of faith is tested. The virtue is tested insofar as it requires one partner to work to sanctify the other partner, notwithstanding any discomfort which the effort could produce. For when the emotions would lead to disillusionment and resignation, the rational faith would insist on sanctification. Such a faith requires a commitment, and its virtue must prevail.
Faith necessarily requires much effort, but it also yields much gain. The greatest blessing faith can afford is peace, for one has peace in believing that God has assigned to that person a specific partner who is “equally yoked” albeit flawed. Peace is granted with the understanding that both partners are meant for the good of the other, without either partner being sufficient for the other in terms of absolutely satisfying. Hence, their life together becomes a journey towards heaven. In that journey, both become “The greatest blessing faith can afford is peace, for one has peace in believing that God has assigned to that person a specific partner who is “equally yoked” albeit flawed.”more holy. Consequently, both become more pleasant and more agreeable. They enjoy a deeper satisfaction and joy in their relationship while their doubts and disappointments necessarily subside. For since faith is acceptance and commitment to God’s principles for living, therefore faith yields the utmost peace and joy.
Faith, however, is not polarizing, for no person either has absolute faith or has absolutely no faith at all. For by saying that one has faith, it is meant that one understands and adheres to God’s counsel in scripture. If a person had absolute faith, he would follow God perfectly. Therefore, he would be morally perfect. Conversely, if a person had absolutely no faith at all, then that person would avoid walking every “How does one increase the mean of one’s faith in romance?”step in tandem with God’s laws and instruction. The person with no faith would be absolutely evil. But it is impossible to be either absolutely perfect or absolutely evil in this life because every person sins, but also because nobody sins as much as they possibly could. Therefore, faith does not indicate a polarity.
It may be, however, that faith does indicate a mean on a spectrum. The good end of the spectrum indicates a cognizant obedience of God’s counsel, whereas the bad end of the spectrum indicates willful disobedience. Faith must fall as a mean somewhere in between the brackets. A high mean implies an impassioned pursuit of God, whereas a low mean implies spiritual abdication.
Of course, faith is an all-encompassing virtue. Every one of life’s phenomena may be evaluated on the spectrum of faith, whether it be the measure of faith applied to one’s career pursuits or the measure of faith applied to one’s physical health and wellness, etc. Now, it is understood that faith must inform “Seeing one’s beloved grow in virtue is immensely satisfying, and it is exceedingly attractive.”romantic relationships by orienting them towards heaven. Here, to reiterate, faith’s necessary components are twofold: first, patience in acknowledgement that God has ordained one to have a partner who is “equally yoked” albeit flawed and, second, unequivocal commitment to the purpose of sanctification in the relationship no matter what. But how does this head knowledge become practical, and how does one grow in faith? Or, put another way, how does one increase the mean of one’s faith in romance?
First, one must remember that faith is godliness and that the byproduct of godliness is never disillusionment. If one is apathetic and frustrated in a relationship, it is because that person lacks faith and has forgotten what is the formal cause of that relationship, viz. sanctification. (This assumes that both partners in the relationships are already equally yoked and therefore have been brought together by“Disillusionment is the byproduct of selfishness.” God.)
Furthermore, that person is passionless because he has neglected to cultivate his own partner’s potential to radiate and magnify the glory of heaven on earth. Seeing one’s beloved grow in virtue is immensely satisfying, and it is exceedingly attractive. Therefore, it cannot be that a person of faith lacks delight in a romantic relationship because the person of faith is devoutly committed to pursuing heaven’s joys here on earth and investing them all in his partner.
Disillusionment, therefore, is the byproduct of selfishness. Only a man who is greedy for adoration and for acts of service rendered to him can become vexed by another person’s slights and faults. But the vice animating selfishness is, itself, far worse. It is pride. Pride puffs a man up to the point that he thinks he is“The proud man is insuperably selfish, but he is also discontent.” all too good for, yet still deserving of, another person’s best efforts and affections. Thus, the proud man is insuperably selfish, but he is also discontent. For since it is impossible to sufficiently please and honor him, it is inevitable that he should feel disappointment in any relationship. Thus, pride bars out faith.
By contrast, faith is realized only in humble hearts. To grow in faith, one must think of oneself in lowly terms. Herein, relationships provide the perfect opportunity. For when a man prefers his partner’s needs over his own and serves his partner with the mind that he is serving Christ, he is walking by faith. And “Marriage is the convergence of two souls into one body of service oriented towards heaven.”when he does so in difficult moments, contrary to selfish temptation, his mean of faith increases. Marriage, then, from this point of view, literally embodies all that is a sacrament, in that it is the convergence of two souls into one body of service oriented towards heaven.
Service is the crucial discipline. It can be defined as work done intentionally for another person’s good. The magic of service is that it draws someone’s thoughts towards the consideration of others. Since working for the good of others is essentially a heavenly thing, service, itself, becomes an act of orientation. When a man serves his partner, either to bless her spirit or her emotions or any other part of“Faith is realized only in humble hearts.” her, he is, by default, orienting himself towards heaven by following the example of Christ. She, in turn, sees the faith of her partner, and therefore her own faith is quickened. Hence, the two establish between themselves a partnership which is conducive for growth in faithfulness. Thus, they sanctify each other and enjoy each other more fully, as a result of their commitment to Biblical principles.
Therefore, it is true that the virtue of Christian faith can allay any doubts or disappointments arising in any given romantic relationship. The reason why is because faith understands that the goal, or telos, of such a relationship is holiness. The essence of such a relationship, therefore, must be sanctification, “Faith understands that the goal, or telos, of a relationship is holiness”which requires making unequivocal commitments to the other person’s good. Such commitments are actualized through persistent acts of service, which in turn yield great blessings, namely all the deep joys and pleasures of romantic love: stability, comfort, and happiness.
Corresponding to this, such persistent acts of service naturally expunge the selfishness and pride which are at the root of any disillusionment. Thus, the best romance is the one conceived in the Christian virtue of faith.
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