What is the "analogy of faith"?

By November 8, 2014 3 Comments

Full Question

In Catholic literature I sometimes run across references to the “analogy of faith.” Can you explain what this term means?


The New Catholic Encyclopedia gives this definition:

Originally a mathematical term, the Greek word for analogy means "proportion" and was borrowed by philosophers. to refer to the relationship between concepts of things that are partly the same and partly different. It took on special importance in the concept of analogy of being (Latin: analogia entis). The analogy of faith (analogia fidei) must not be confused with this more philosophic concept..
The phrase analogy of faith is biblical: Romans 12:6 speaks of the charism of prophecy, along with such similar gifts as ministering, teaching, exhorting. Prophets exercised one of several "offices" within the primitive church (Acts 11:27 13:1); guided by the Spirit, they gained insight into the faith or recognized tasks to be undertaken. The Pauline injunction is given that this gift of prophecy must be exercised "according to the proportion (Gk. analogian) of faith." No prophet is to be accepted who proclaims anything opposed to the "one faith" proper to the "one body in Christ." Such preaching would be out of proportion to, or beyond, the objective truth entrusted to the Christian community.
The analogy of faith, therefore, has always been associated with the one unchanging faith of the Church; it is closely related to the notion of Tradition and soon became a norm for the early Christian writers. They saw a "proportion" in the manner in which the New Testament complements the Old Testament and in which each particular truth contributes to the inner unity of the entire Christian revelation.
Thus the phrase came to indicate a rule or guide for the exegesis of Scripture. In difficult texts, the teachings of tradition and the analogy of faith must lead the way. The Catholic exegete, conscious of his faith, recognizes the intimate relationship between Scripture and Tradition; he strives to explain Scriptural passages in such a way that the sacred writers will not be set in opposition to one another or to the faith and teaching of the Church.


  • Hoss says:

    Didn’t we used to call this “The Harmony of Faith?”

  • Mario Simonelli says:

    We know that religious faith is a conviction of something we believe in, without having tangible proof of its existence. This is also how new inventions are made: in the later case the inventor understands and believe that if he does a certain thing the device will work, and if it does, his faith is rewarded, and the new proven knowledge is shared to the advantage of all. If this is true, then we have discovered that the principle of understanding the matter is the inventor’s assurance of faith.
    We should also realise that the assurance of faith for the religious person comes the same way. As we read in Romans 1:20: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that all of us are without excuse.” Thus, believing in God, through understanding the awesome of creation, is the start of something inherently good within us. To contemplate the awesome nature of creation should humble anyone, even unbelievers.
    It is written in Proverbs 9:10: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” I am sure that we have heard that phrase many times and most of us have a good grasp of its meaning. However, the second part of Proverbs 9:10 is hardly acknowledged and its meaning is elusive, for it says: “And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Consequently, we should share our understanding of God’s word with the hope that eventually all genuine believers will benefit from the knowledge of the Holy One, to the praise and glory of God.
    Now we will have to acknowledge that despite our fleshly efforts, our faith is not yet complete, because while we all claim to have faith and some understanding of God’s word, we all unwillingly harbour in our heart the frustrating influence of doubt. This doubt that we have seems beyond our control, as if part of our inherited character, for we read in Mark 9:23-24: “And Jesus said to him, ‘If you can! All things are possible to him who believes’. Immediately the boy’s father cried out and began saying, ‘I do believe; help my unbelief.’”
    We all know that doubt and unbelief are the enemy of faith, but not all of us realise that understanding is the archenemy of unbelief. Jesus knew the importance of understanding because after He rebuked the disciples about the doubts and unbelief that they had, even in His resurrected presence, He set out to help them deal with their doubt and unbelief for among other things in Luke 24:36-45 we read: “Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” In other words, Jesus enabled them to overcome their natural inbuilt unbelief through the understanding of the scriptures.
    It is categorically clear that as our understanding of God’s word increases, our faith will increase with it.

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