Tuesday, December 03, 2013

The difference between "credere in Deum" and "credere Deum"

In The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis mentions a distinction between two types of faith. In no. 124 he talks about popular piety:

"Nor is it [popular piety] devoid of content; rather it discovers and expresses that content more by way of symbols than by discursive reasoning, and in the act of faith greater accent is placed on credere in Deum than on credere Deum." 

What is the difference between them? A note here references St. Thomas on faith.

Briefly, "credere in Deum" is a living faith (what Thomas would call a formed faith). It's a faith  that works through love, a faith that is not a dead letter for the person who has it, but one that urges them ever closer to God. It means to believe in God not just in an abstract intellectual way, but with love, with our whole will.

"Credere Deum" instead refers to the content of faith. It's the "what" we believe. That's very important too, and we need to know the content of our faith. But it needs to be completed by the "credere in Deum" that moves us to love God and show our faith in the way we live.

For example, Catholics who believe in what the Church teaches about the Mass and the sacraments, but never go to Mass, have credere Deum but not credere in Deum. In terms of our own spiritual life, the more we can move from credere Deum to credere in Deum, the holier we will become.

So in the context of this part of the letter, I think Francis is saying that authentic popular piety is linked with a real living out of faith. It leads to a loving, dynamic faith, one that doesn't stop at only marking out the limits of what we believe, but leads to a faith that changes our lives.

The reference is to the Summa, II-II, q. 2, article 2.


D. Sweeden said...

Thank you, Sister Marianne. Our couples' Bible Study is studying The Joy of the Gospel, and we will be able to use your comments in our next lesson, which includes this particular section. We appreciate your thoughts, and we all appreciate our Holy Father for his wisdom, pastoral leadership, and humor.

Sr. Marianne Lorraine Trouve said...

You're very welcome! I hope that your study goes well. Pope Francis does have a good sense of humor. I had to laugh in the part on homilies where he said both clergy and laity suffer because of homilies; the clergy because they have to give them, and the laity because they have to listen to them!

Gareth Rowe said...

Thank you. Your post is very helpful

Deacon Scott said...

Thank you, Sister. I have a small Christian Community gathering in my home that currently is reading The Joy of the Gospel. I knew this distinction would come up, and while my training (I'm a deacon) planted the seed of the answer, your brief exposition gave it more life. Thank you for your ministry!

Sr. Marianne Lorraine Trouve said...

Thank you, Deacon Scott. I'm glad that this was helpful to you. I hope your group study goes well!