One of my favorite passages from the Letter to the Hebrews is the assurance that “faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen” (11:1).
It seems to me that this is a helpful introduction to Bob Lockwood’s article on the New Atheists, in which readers encounter what passes for some of the leading minds among the modern critics of faith. As Bob demonstrates, of course, their “new” arguments are really very old and rather tired ones, and they are readily refuted by any thinking Christian. The key, naturally, is to be a thinking Christian.
And here is one reason that Woodeene Koenig-Bricker has done all of us a service with her article on how to be a good godparent. As she memorably writes, a godparent should help to hand on “the gift of faith.” This is a lovely extension of the image of the family as the Domestic Church. Here, in this small community of believers, faith is planted, formed and nourished. And it is passed on.
Recently during Mass, I overheard a young father sitting behind me in the pew talking to his 4- or 5-year-old daughter. As the Mass proceeded, he very quietly explained each of the parts, described what was going on and encouraged her to be mindful of what was happening on the altar. It was a beautiful moment, and I was impressed not just by the little girl, but by the generous faith of her father.
Hebrews goes on to say, “By faith we understand that the universe was ordered by the word of God” (11:3). This does not say we must reject science. Quite the opposite. Our very faith impels us to be inquisitive about God’s created order to better love and understand Him. As Michał Heller, a Polish priest and cosmologist, declared in 2008 when he won the prestigious Templeton Prize, “Science is but a collective effort of the human mind to read the mind of God from question marks out of which we and the world around us seem to be made.”
Heller speaks from faith, the same faith of the little girl in the pew, and her father, and the same faith that has been handed on since the first days of the Church. There is a very good reason, then, why Hebrews 11 adds one other point about faith: “Because of it the ancients were well attested” (v. 2). I wonder if future generations will say the same about us?
Matthew Bunson, M.Div., D.Min. , is editor of The Catholic Answer and The Catholic Almanac and author of more than 40 books. He is a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and a professor at the Catholic Distance University. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.