Is faith an issue of the mind or the heart?

By Monsignor John Devine

As well as riding them, I enjoy taking motorbikes to pieces and putting them back together again. I will also have a go at washing machines and vacuum cleaners. I'm not Isambard Kingdom Brunel or George Stephenson but I find that solving mechanical and electrical problems is the perfect antidote to dealing with people. My bike doesn't work, I fix it; task complete. So when I read that a significant number of Islamic fundamentalists are engineering graduates, it set me wondering if the same might apply to Christian fundamentalists.

Scientists hate unanswered questions. That is what drives them. Students of the humanities, however, are happy to live alongside unanswered questions. Artists and novelists and musicians aren't really concerned with the 'right' answers. They answer one question with another. When it comes to decision time they tend to go with their feelings.

I think Thomas the Apostle might have been an engineer. He wanted to know the right answer. He lined up the evidence and found it wanting. He probably berated the other apostles for getting carried away. The wounds in Jesus's hands and feet were the decisive piece of evidence he sought. The contrast between Peter and Thomas is clear. Peter is always ready to have a go and take the plunge; to shoot first and ask questions later. Thomas makes a virtue of suspicion. The description 'Doubting' is seen by most as a negative. Thomas could well have been pleased with his nickname.

Is faith an issue of the mind or the heart? Some Christians delight in scouring the scriptures to find clues that will make their faith watertight and rational. Others are warmed by accounts of the powerful chemistry between Jesus and his followers and those whom he healed. Is faith a gift, a grace, or is it a puzzle to be solved? "My Lord and my God" and "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" are both perfect acts of faith. Thomas and Peter arrived at the same place but by different routes.