Answers from Lumen Fidei

pI recently came across a document called the Lumen Fidei. It was more than insightful. The Lumen Fidei (light of faith) is a letter of Pope Francis that was circulated widely among top catholic bishops in 2013. Here are some questions this letter helped answer for me.

Question 1: What does it mean to be “faithful”?

This is a question I had when I studied about Abraham from Romans in UBF. I was confused what the difference between God being faithful, man being faithful, and what it meant to be a “man of faith”. I got varying answers, and I also got the old “Doing UBF activities makes you faithful.” vibe as well. Here is what the pontiff says:

“In the Bible, faith is expressed by the Hebrew word ’emûn?h, derived from the verb ’am?n whose root means “to uphold”. The term ’emûn?h can signify both God’s fidelity and man’s faith. The man of faith gains strength by putting himself in the hands of the God who is faithful. Playing on this double meaning of the word — also found in the corresponding terms in Greek (pistós) and Latin (fidelis) — Saint Cyril of Jerusalem praised the dignity of the Christian who receives God’s own name: both are called “faithful”.[8] As Saint Augustine explains: “Man is faithful when he believes in God and his promises; God is faithful when he grants to man what he has promised”

Question 2: What is “faith”? Can I have faith without actions? Is the physical appearance of faith what God desires?

Here Francis answers the question by dividing faith into two forms. There is the faith which brings salvation and the ecclesial faith. Of the former he says:

“The life of faith, as a filial existence, is the acknowledgment of a primordial and radical gift which upholds our lives. We see this clearly in Saint Paul’s question to the Corinthians: “What have you that you did not receive?” (1 Cor 4:7). This was at the very heart of Paul’s debate with the Pharisees: the issue of whether salvation is attained by faith or by the works of the law. Paul rejects the attitude of those who would consider themselves justified before God on the basis of their own works. Such people, even when they obey the commandments and do good works, are centred on themselves; they fail to realize that goodness comes from God.”

In some sense our faith is personal. After all, we cannot observe if someone does good deeds for their own glory or God’s. This idea of legalism as a byproduct of focusing on one’s self was something I never explicitly connected. Of the ecclesial faith he remarks:

“Faith is necessarily ecclesial; it is professed from within the body of Christ as a concrete communion of believers. It is against this ecclesial backdrop that faith opens the individual Christian towards all others. Christ’s word, once heard, by virtue of its inner power at work in the heart of the Christian, becomes a response, a spoken word, a profession of faith. As Saint Paul puts it: “one believes with the heart … and confesses with the lips” (Rom 10:10). Faith is not a private matter, a completely individualistic notion or a personal opinion: it comes from hearing, and it is meant to find expression in words and to be proclaimed. For “how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher?” (Rom 10:14). Faith becomes operative in the Christian on the basis of the gift received, the love which attracts our hearts to Christ (cf. Gal 5:6), and enables us to become part of the Church’s great pilgrimage through history until the end of the world. For those who have been transformed in this way, a new way of seeing opens up, faith becomes light for their eyes.”

It is debatable that this ecclesial faith is actually a work. I agree with the pontiff here, and I think that many in UBF preach that this form of faith is faith.

Question 3: Is theology worthwhile? Is too much “head knowledge” bad? Isn’t faith all we need?

This question has been more of an accusation recently. Although it is an accusation which I fear might have some merit. Francis says:

“Since faith is a light, it draws us into itself, inviting us to explore ever more fully the horizon which it illumines, all the better to know the object of our love. Christian theology is born of this desire. Clearly, theology is impossible without faith; it is part of the very process of faith, which seeks an ever deeper understanding of God’s self-disclosure culminating in Christ. It follows that theology is more than simply an effort of human reason to analyze and understand, along the lines of the experimental sciences. God cannot be reduced to an object… Theology thus demands the humility to be “touched” by God, admitting its own limitations before the mystery, while striving to investigate, with the discipline proper to reason, the inexhaustible riches of this mystery…Theology also shares in the ecclesial form of faith; its light is the light of the believing subject which is the Church. This implies, on the one hand, that theology must be at the service of the faith of Christians, that it must work humbly to protect and deepen the faith of everyone, especially ordinary believers.”

Question 4: What can be said about faith and its relation to marriage and family?

It seems self evident that faith must be involved in marriage. The problems with “marriage by faith” are well documented by now. What does Francis say?

“In Abraham’s journey towards the future city, the Letter to the Hebrews mentions the blessing which was passed on from fathers to sons (cf. Heb 11:20-21). The first setting in which faith enlightens the human city is the family. I think first and foremost of the stable union of man and woman in marriage. This union is born of their love, as a sign and presence of God’s own love, and of the acknowledgment and acceptance of the goodness of sexual differentiation, whereby spouses can become one flesh (cf. Gen 2:24) and are enabled to give birth to a new life, a manifestation of the Creator’s goodness, wisdom and loving plan. Grounded in this love, a man and a woman can promise each other mutual love in a gesture which engages their entire lives and mirrors many features of faith. Promising love for ever is possible when we perceive a plan bigger than our own ideas and undertakings, a plan which sustains us and enables us to surrender our future entirely to the one we love. Faith also helps us to grasp in all its depth and richness the begetting of children, as a sign of the love of the Creator who entrusts us with the mystery of a new person. So it was that Sarah, by faith, became a mother, for she trusted in God’s fidelity to his promise (cf. Heb 11:11).”

This letter contains many other amazing passages relating to hope, faith, and suffering. I highly recommend it to everyone:



  1. Thanks, Forests! Faith is one of the key teachings that I learned from UBF Bible study, in particular from Mk 11:22-25 and Heb 11:6. My mentor encouraged me to “have faith in God” in order to raise many disciples of Christ, up to 120 members in my fellowship.

    Though I believe that his intention to help me have faith in God was good, I mainly came to see and view faith as something I had to generate within myself. Often it seemed that my effort was insufficient to generate the faith that would please God (Heb 11:6).

    Over the last few years I began to realize that faith is not only my responsibility to be lived out as a Christian, but also a gift from God (Eph 2:8-9; Phil 1:29). Faith is primarily a gift from God which should evoke thanksgiving and praise, rather becoming proud because of my “superior faith.”

  2. This is a great read, thanks for sharing this, forests. I think many of the Pope’s words are a great corrective to the flaws in ubf KOPAHN theology.

    For example, in point #8, Francis makes these excellent points:

    “8. Faith opens the way before us and accompanies our steps through time. Hence, if we want to understand what faith is, we need to follow the route it has taken, the path trodden by believers, as witnessed first in the Old Testament. Here a unique place belongs to Abraham, our father in faith. Something disturbing takes place in his life: God speaks to him; he reveals himself as a God who speaks and calls his name. Faith is linked to hearing. Abraham does not see God, but hears his voice. Faith thus takes on a personal aspect.”

    Francis points to the goodness of a disturbing event in Abraham’s life. Learning to discern God’s voice is a critical part of faith, and Francis rightly ties the two together. But ubf KOPAHN theology teaches us that it is the ubf shepherd/director’s voice that matters, and that following the route of faith of historic Christianity is not so important. What is important, according to ubf KOPAHN, is preserving the ubf legacy, and walking in the path of the ubf ancestors of faith.

    He continues…

    “God is not the god of a particular place, or a deity linked to specific sacred time, but the God of a person, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, capable of interacting with man and establishing a covenant with him. Faith is our response to a word which engages us personally, to a “Thou” who calls us by name.”

    KOPAHN theology teaches us that God is a god of a particular place, and that we must discover the “god of America” or the “god of France” and our working for god will change that place to have the correct god, the god of the bible.

  3. bekamartin

    I see faith as what God himself gave to me, so that I could have faith in him and have faith to teach to others. And when I could have no faith, God helped me have faith.

    All from God himself.

  4. bekamartin

    Admin, I am not being able to like some posts. ???

    • Hi beka, our Like button account became too expensive to pay for. See this comment about Like buttons.

      I have downloaded the top 200 stats for likes and the top 200 stats for dislikes. But for now that functionality is turned off. If someone has a free plugin for WordPress, I’ll turn them on again! (BrianK)