“Praestet fides supplementum sensuum defectui…”Or, in some translations I’ve seen, “Faith supplies what the senses cannot…” But I am no Latin scholar. We get the idea easily enough, though. In the first place, this little sentence implies that there are things that are real that our senses themselves are inadequate to detect. In the second place, the ‘organ’ for making the detection is ‘faith.’
Faith has gotten a bad rap. In part, this is because notions of faith being a belief based without evidence or even in spite of the evidence. This is a pretty distorted view of ‘faith,’ and at least it can be said it is not the Biblical view on faith. God was well aware of our need for evidence- Jesus told his disciples that if they doubted him, they could take into consideration his miracles. The resurrection is a specifically concrete demonstration. God does not request or require faith in him apart from evidence- in fact, he provides it. This particular event, the resurrection, also tells us something of WHY we ought to have faith in God… WHY should we trust him… ?
Simply put, the resurrection was not merely explicit evidence of God’s existence (the resurrection validates Jesus’ claim to be God), but also for his concern about issues that trouble the human race. The problem of pain, the problem of suffering, God’s apparent distancing from the human predicament… reasonable people have struggled with these issues, but the resurrection is evidence that God is not in fact indifferent and even if we don’t know the solutions to them, he has acted. He has taken on death and suffering… and when he says he’ll come again to really finish up the problem, we have reason to believe it.
In this context, then, ‘faith’ can provide answers and understanding that raw sensory data cannot provide. ‘Faith’ is the trust context which helps us decide what kinds of relationships are sound and which are not. For example, I have faith that my chair will not disappear from underneath me. This faith, this trust, is based on the fact that chairs haven’t let me down yet- or at least, not very often- we have a good relationship! Similarly, if I understand that God is aware of the human predicament and has taken at least one concrete step to deal with it, I am able to view the world through that lens- and I may begin to come to understandings and truths that were unknowable while I remained a skeptic, cynical, or unfaithful.
Praestet fides supplementum sensuum defectui
Let faith supply what the senses cannot.