Seeing is NOT Believing. It is Only Seeing

Some people say that if they could see they would believe. But seeing is not believing, seeing is only seeing. Scripture says Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). It also says Although you have not seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him  (1 Peter 1:8). It is true that Jesus says to Thomas, You believe in me Thomas becuase you have seen me, but blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. Yet as both St. Gregory (Homilia26) and St. Thomas Aquinas (II, IIae 1.4) point out, Thomas saw one thing and believed another. He saw the man which required no faith, but confessed Jesus to be Lord and God which required faith and cannot be “seen.” So again, as Scripture says, We walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7)

And yet  many people often say, if only I could have been alive and have seen Jesus workmiracles, I would believe more. Maybe, maybe not, because seeing is only seeing. Seeing even impossible things doesn’t necessarily make a person believe. Consider the video just below. What you will see in it will look impossible. And yet it is happening before your very eyes. I have been to live magic shows and seen the same thing. People seem to vanish into thin air or instantly change appearance. Is it a miracle or just some fancy illusion? Most people, even upon seeing what looks like it can only be a miracle, usually conclude that it is a trick or that there is “some way they do that.”

Now remove these magicians in the video and go with me back in time as Jesus works a miracle. Presume for a moment that you’ve never met Jesus or heard of him. Yet watch him cast out blindness or enable a paralyzed man to walk. Is it a miracle, or is it a clever trick? Should you really believe his claims to be from God and to be God based on these wonderful works? Has Jesus staged this well or is he really the Son of God? You see? It still takes faith doesn’t it? Simply seeing miracles isn’t enough. You just can’t substitute for faith, it is an absolute requirement to accept who Jesus is. Miracles can help but seeing is not believing, it’s only seeing. In the end you have to decide: fancy trick or real miracle? Son of God or just a skilled illusionist?

Remember too, Jesus did not work miracles to “cause” faith but to confirm it. When faith was lacking Jesus did not work miracles. For example it is said of him when he was in Nazareth, He could work no miracles there except to cure a few sick, so much did their lack of faith disturb him. (Mk 6:5). Further, Jesus would often inquire of a person’s faith or draw it out before working a miracle (eg. Mat 9:28; Jn 11:26; Mat 15:27; Matt 8:10; inter al.) In the end miracles are not the cause of faith, they are the result of it. Likewise, seeing is not the cause of faith but does result from it to some extent. We see many things by faith.

Watch this video and see what look like realmiracles before your very eyes. But pay attention to what your mind does and how quickly you can dismiss the visual evidence. You do not conclude that these people are gods because of what they do. Seeing even fantastic things just isn’t enough. In this case they likely are not miracles, just very well done illusions. But many saw  Jesus work wonders which really were miracles and it was not enough. In the end you have to have faith. In other words, some people think if only God would work miracles in their life, they could believe. But miracles alone cannot bring faith because seeing is not believing it is only seeing.

Cumulative evidence can bring us to accept God’s existence as a reasonable proposition but only faith can really lead us to believe all that God has said. Pray for the gift of faith and you will see miracles, and more!

11 Replies to “Seeing is NOT Believing. It is Only Seeing”

  1. As I’ve mentioned before, I work with patients that are dying quite a bit. In my 6 years in medicine (which is not a lot for most people, but at my age, it is), I have only seen a patient “come back” about 5 times. I thought for sure they were dead, and then they randomly came back to life. I could do chest compressions until I am blue in the face needing CPR myself and the patient won’t come back unless it is God’s Will. I truly believe that the times a patient came back while I was administering CPR that it was all God, and had nothing to do with me. Sure, I played a role, but see aforementioned comment on doing chest compressions until I am blue in the face – if a patient comes back it is all God, baby. Scientifically speaking, if a patient’s “down” or unwitnessed arrest for a certain number of minutes, their chances of surival diminish rapidly.

    I have also seen miracles in trying to keep patients alive. I was on Trauma and Code Team one night, and we had a patient that had a diagnosis of aortic dissection – meaning that his aorta (that large artery popping and curving out of the heart) was literally dissected in half. He had to be flown out to the Hospital Center for emergency heart surgery, and my coworker and I, who had worked on him for 4 hours trying to get him stable, thought for sure that he wasn’t going to live with an aortic dissection that major. I just found out a few months ago that he did indeed make it and is now living a healthy life with no more problems with his heart! God is good.

    Also the fact that in my major horseback riding accident that I could have snapped my spine and my neck and died had I been a few inches to the left when I fell and hit the very solid fence, is proof enough that God exists and that miracles happen. These are examples from my own life where I have personally seen miracles, and whenever I feel myself starting to wander in my faith, I think back on these experiences and it keeps my faith strong. I know in my heart that God DOES exist, and I’ve had my own proof.

  2. I was thinking of the scene in Acts where the apostles are talking in tongues… a miracle/gift. And crowds of people are witnessing this. Some people murmur they were drunk, others are astonished. I think it is the same idea of receptivity that only faith can provide. (Acts 2:11-15) How else can two people witnessing the same thing walk away with a different experiences. The light shineth and the darkness comprehendeth it not.

  3. Simply seeing miracles isn’t enough. You just can’t substitute for faith, it is an absolute requirement to accept who Jesus is.

    All a very good lesson, but . . .

    Ours is not a blind faith, and it is not an arbitrary faith divorced from reason. It is a faith grounded in witness and testimony. With respect to the Resurrection, it is necessarily a matter of faith of whether you believe it or not, but it is a faith based upon the Apostles saying that they saw the Lord with their own eyes. We are bodily creatures who come to acquire knowledge through our senses — seeing, hearing, touching, etc. We believe largely because we have heard from those who have passed down through the centuries what it is that they saw.

    That is the whole basis of the Sacraments — making visible the conveyance of invisible grace. But, then, in that case too, it comes back to faith — either you believe that, by the vocal words and water of Baptism, the unseen forgiveness of sin is effected, or you do not believe. But then again, we believe only because He said it was so. We believe that that host is His Body, not as a matter of undetached faith, but because we heard Him say it and the Apostles saw Him do it.

    We believe, not blindly, but as a matter of reason, because, even though some things might seem contrary to what is known about the world, e.g. the Resurrection, believing in more reasonable than not believing. We believe because the people who have told us these things are people that we consider to be trustworthy and credible, and thus to be believed.

    However, there will be those who will not hear, who cover their ears to truth, who will not listen to the testimony of witnesses. And God has sent us countless witnesses over the millenia. That should be enough. Indeed, that is enough for those who are willing to believe. If they will not listen to the Apostles, if they will not listen to the saints, if they will not listen to the believers of today, “if they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.” (Lk 16:31).

    1. Yes, I mentioned this aspect in the final sentence but it is good that you have develpped it further here, Bender. Grace builds on nature and this is no less true of faith which commends itself to our reason by certain evidences and reasonable propositions. The gift of faith is not usually a bolt from the the blue and “Shazam!” we believe.

  4. St. Thomas the Apostle could be the most important Apostle when addressing the issue of faith of lack thereof. This is because we can identify with him when we struggle with our faith. He was most like us in that regard. In Matt. 16: The Demand for a sign was made to Jesus by the Pharisees and Sadducess who came to test Jesus, and ask Him for a sign from heaven.(2) He said to them on reply; In the evening you say “tomorrow will be fair, for the sky is red;” and in the morning “today will be stomy, for the sky is red and threatening.” You know how to judge the appearance of the sky, but you cannot judge the signs of the times….no sign will be given except the sign of Jonah. How many really do not believe in Jonah, Noah, the crossing of the Red Sea, or one individual named Adam, or his wife Eve. On the other hand Evolution is also a faith based system where the atheist is required to believe things far more unbelievable than what us poor Christians are expected to believe. Their belief in Macro evolution is belief in the unseen (no one has ever witnessed one species turn into another species, not even Darwin). They believe things like a cow walked into the ocean to evolve into a mammal fish, the whale; or birds flying out of the species of dinosaurs. So when did all that macro jumping of species stop. Why did it stop with the allegation that man evolved from an ape. Anyway, Thank God for Jesus. He is our Sign and signpost. The sign says: I AM THE WAY!

  5. It should be noted that elsewhere in the Gospels, there is no lack of faith on the part of Thomas. And, at least in English translations, there is an ambiguity in the account — is he doubting that Jesus rose from the dead, or is he doubting that the other Apostles saw Him? Or is he merely saying out loud that he will not believe, while he secretly inside does believe?

    No doubt when Lazarus came walking out of the tomb, there were plenty of people who were saying to themselves, “no way,” for a few minutes until the reality of the situation sank in. And then you had Peter and John have to run to the tomb to see for themselves, rather than simply trust the word of Mary Magdalene.

    In all of these cases, you had simultaneous belief and disbelief, a level of cognitive dissonance, which means that the seed of belief was there already, just waiting to burst out in certitude.

    1. Well, I have usually preached that Thomas’ lack of belief was in he rejected the solemn testimony of the Church. When did it become so? When, as Luke records it, the apostles say, “The has truly been raised, he has appeared to Simon Peter.” Now it becomes not just Magdalene’s declaration, nor that of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, now it becomes the official delcaration of the Church. Hence Thomas sins against faith by refusing to believe the testimony of the Church. The Church is an object of faith as we so decalre in the Nicene Creed, I beleive in one, holy catholic and apostolic Church. Hence Thomas receives a rebuke from the Lord to the effect that his insistence to see cannot be normative since faith will come by hearing, hearing by the Word of God and the Word of God from them who have been sent. The Christian must accept the testimony of the Church in faith.

  6. i lost my faith & lived outside the catholic church for 43 years. in september 2007 i started attending daily Mass. on oct 26, 2007 i was at Mass, & suddenly i realized, “i believe what these people believe!” wow! next step was reconciliation, etc. today i am a super-active member of my parish & i try to evangelize every chance i get.
    p.s. the quote (say what u mean…) is from 12-step programs.

  7. Peter denied Christ and yet he walked with Him and saw the miracles. If we think our struggles with faith would be resolved by signs then we delude ourselves. I’m not exactly sure why we believe what we believe. But I do feel that most of what we believe is what we want to believe. This might be particularly true in modern America. Those who dont believe in God do so because they want to believe in the supremacy of man. Those who do believe in God have at the very least some basic understanding of man’s place in the world. Recognizing our place allows us to receive the truth. We’ll still rebel against it because it is in our human nature. But we hope that we will be transformed and welcome more and more God’s eternal truth.

  8. Even after witnessing the miracles that Jesus performed, the apostles were not prepared to propagate the faith without the Helper (the Holy Spirit). I have witnessed a couple of miracles (I’d venture to guess most people have–since life is full of them), and as soon as it’s over, you say to yourself, “Did I just see what I saw or was I mistaken?” It is our nature fails but, thankfully, the Lord pursues us.

  9. I have had the experience where I could physically see an object, but my brain couldn’t make the connection that it was really there a myriad of times. Why is this? I kind of agree with this article on that one. When it comes to actually noticing an object for the first time, and one knows that she has never seen it in her life before, then there is no way that thing can be interpreted as physically there when one doesn’t see it mentally. Yes, truly seeing is just seeing, at least in this sense that I and this article mention it here. Seeing is believing otherwise, though. That is it, very comprehendible. Do you see that? (Get it?)

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