Practice These Principles
Living the Spiritual Disciplines and Virtues in 12-Step Recovery

The Virtue of Faith

Faith is a fact of life, made necessary by our human condition as being, not God, but limited creatures capable only of incomplete and uncertain knowledge. As a spiritual virtue, faith is a firm disposition, warranted by reason, authority, and experience, to believe the truth about ultimate reality, comprehending who God is and who we are in relation to him. 

Faith is the business of Step 2, where we are motivated by hope to believe in a God who can heal us; of Step 3, where we make a decision to surrender all to a God we begin to understand as a caring and a loving God; of Steps 5, 6, and 7, where we admit and surrender our defects of character to him; and of Step 11, where through prayer and meditation we seek conscious contact with a God we now understand as having a will for us and the power to help us carry that out.

[Image: Rowland H., link in spiritual chain from Carl Jung to Oxford Group to Ebby T. to Bill W. to Dr. Bob.]

“In my own case, the foundation stone of freedom from fear is that of faith: a faith that, despite all worldly appearances to the contrary, causes me to believe that I live in a universe that makes sense.” – Bill W.

“For faith in a Power greater than ourselves, and miraculous demonstrations of that power in human lives, are facts as old as man himself.” – Big Book 

“True humility and an open mind can lead us to faith, and every A.A. meeting is an assurance that God will restore us to sanity if we rightly relate ourselves to Him.” – 12&12

“Faith without works is dead, but works without faith is not dead. Works without faith builds faith, if this is your goal. All I could do in the beginning was to offer to serve any place I could serve. And I learned, by such simple service, how to stay sober.” – Wynn L., “Freedom from Bondage,” in Big Book

“Faith without works is dead.” – James 2:26 and Big Book

“Now, faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” – Hebrews 11:1

“Lord, make me a channel of thy peace . . . that where there is doubt, I may bring faith.” – Prayer of St. Francis


“Faith seeks understanding.” – St. Anselm of Canterbury


“I believe, in order to understand; and I understand, the better to believe.”
– St. Augustine

“You can judge the quality of their faith from the way they behave.”
– Tertullian


"To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible." – St. Thomas Aquinas

“Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is not alone.” – John Calvin

“Everyone must do his own believing, as he will have to do his own dying.”
– Martin Luther  


“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” 
– Julian of Norwich 


"Faith certainly tells us what the senses do not, but not contrary to what they see; it is above, not against them." – Blaise Pascal

“All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson


"Faith means belief in something concerning which doubt is theoretically possible." – William James


“Faith comes and goes. It rises and falls like the tides of an invisible ocean. If it is presumptuous to think that faith will stay with you forever, it is just as presumptuous to think that unbelief will.” – Flannery O’Connor

“I cannot conceive of a great scientist without this profound faith. Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” – Albert Einstein

“Faith is a knowledge within the heart, beyond the reach of proof.” – Kahlil Gibran


“Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes.” – C.S. Lewis

“When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing; they then become capable of believing in anything.” – G.K. Chesterton


“Unthinking faith is a curious offering to be made to the creator of the human mind.” – John A. Hutchinson


“He does not believe who does not live according to his belief.” – Thomas Fuller 


“Faith must have adequate evidence, else it is mere superstition.” – A.A. Hodge


“If to exhibit faith in God is to actively affirm his control over one’s life, then to lack faith is to assert one’s control over it.” – James S. Spiegel

“The object of faith is God, not ideas about God.” – Peter Kreeft


“Chuck, your cross was alcoholism; my cross was lack of faith. I went through all my studies and was ordained and didn’t believe a thing. I came to believe by watching what happens to you people in Alcoholics Anonymous.” – Father Dowling

“The sorts of answers sought [by faith] are literally metaphysical, and thus unable to be verified with more empirical methods that so often provide us with clarity and certainty.” – William C. Mattison



“Faith is not some oddity of religion, but a fundamental principle of nearly all human activity.” – Montague Brown


“It is not theological arguments that solve the problems of the questing soul, but the sincere cry of that soul to God for strength and the certainty of that soul that the cry will be heard and answered.” – Twenty-Four Hours a Day

“Yet, Step 2 and AA spirituality is about nothing if it isn’t about faith in God. Many good reasons exist why AA makes a distinction between religion and spirituality, but a denial of God is not one of them.” – PTP


“The essence of humility in Step 3 is acknowledging and accepting our dependence on God. The essence of faith is trusting God.” – PTP


For more PTP passages on faith, see, among others, “Roadblocks to Faith,” pp. 97-132, “Humility Can Lead Us to Faith,” pp.161-183, and “A Faith That Works,” pp.186-188. For more BB and 12&12 passages, click on and search “faith.” See also entries in As Bill Sees It.

Additional Resources

  1. Readings for 03/16, 03/17, and 04/09 in The Business of Heaven: Daily Readings from C. S. Lewis, edited by Walter Hooper

  2. “Practicing Trust: The Virtue of Faith,” chapter in How to Be Good in a World Gone Bad: Living a Life of Christian Virtue, by James S. Spiegel

  3. “The Virtue of Faith: Answering Big-Picture Questions,” chapter in Introducing Moral Theology: True Happiness and the Virtues, by William C. Mattison

For other posts on the virtues and the disciplines, please click on Practice These.