One of my favorite Catholic authors, Dr. Peter Kreeft, wrote something very interesting a while back. He said, “The core of faith is the will, not the intellect….God does not send you to Hell for flunking His theology exam, but for willingly divorcing from him.”
Kreeft went on to explain that our intellect certainly informs our will, but it’s our will that freely chooses to believe. And what exactly is our will? Well, it’s that mysterious center of our being – our soul, our spirit, our heart. It’s the part of us that has our unique desires and dreams, and then motivates us to achieve them. This is often described as being “strong-willed.”
But either way, the will is our motivational headquarters. It’s the part of us where our knowledge and experiences are combined with our morals and values and goals. Then it becomes the motivating force that makes us think, do, and say the things that make us who we are. So, the will is what makes us us.
(By the way, the will is not located in any particular bodily organ. This is further proof that we are not merely a bunch of big-brained apes who randomly emerged at the top of the evolutionary ladder. We are instead physical bodies that have been infused with a spiritual soul by our divine Creator.)
It is our will that freely chooses to have faith in God or not. But as Prof. Kreeft explains, our will is shaped by our intellect, so what we know about faith is very important, too. St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, “But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach?” (Romans 10:14).
It is important that the Gospel message is proclaimed to those who never heard it. Jesus’ final words at the end of Matthew’s gospel are crystal clear: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations….teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20).
The longest journey known to mankind travels a total distance of 18 inches. (18 inches?! That’s not very long!) Let me explain. Eighteen inches is the distance from our heads to our hearts. This symbolizes the short but difficult journey from knowing about God to knowing God; from having a bunch of facts and figures about God in our heads to entering into a personal relationship with Him.
This 18-inch journey is when our intellect informs our will, and then our will freely chooses to believe that God is the almighty eternal Creator, and therefore He is worthy of our trust and love.
Please don’t be fooled into thinking that having knowledge about God is the same thing as having saving faith in God. There are many people who could get a passing grade on God’s theology exam, but who have never made a willful decision to believe the Good News. They have not yet made the 18-inch journey.