Exploring the essence of faith reveals a complex interplay of knowledge, conviction, and consent. It’s not merely an abstract feeling but a structured process that engages the intellect, the emotions, and the will. This exploration aims to dissect the components that constitute faith, using the analogy of trusting a chair to support one’s weight, and extending this understanding to the faith in Christ. By examining these elements, we gain insight into the nature of belief and the personal commitment it entails.
The Elements of Faith

1. Content (notitia or knowledge): There is no such thing as contentless faith. We have to have a defined object to trust. (“Claim” could work as well).
In the illustration: “A chair is some solid structure that can hold an individual while sitting, and I believe this is a chair.”

2. Conviction (assensus or assent): Faith requires a degree of being persuaded that something or someone is and can do or has done what is claimed in the content.In the illustration: “I have investigated this chair and have become convinced enough that it can hold me.”

3. Consent (fiducial or trust): Consent here is to yield to the claims by virtue of action.
In the illustration: “I am now resting the weight of my body on this chair, thereby evidencing my belief that this is a chair.”

What this Looks Like with Christ

Content: “I have the knowledge of the claim that Christ loves me and 2000 years ago, He became man so as to die for me on a cross to suffer my penalty for sin, and His desire is for me to believe this and so have eternal life with Him.”

Conviction: “I actually believe this claim about Christ is true. The more I research, the more I find that Christ did everything for me required and that He calls me to repent right now.”

Consent: “Though my knowledge is not perfect, nor is my conviction as certain as it could be, I have decided to rest the full weight of my life and future on Christ.”


Faith, as dissected through the metaphor of sitting in a chair and the profound belief in Christ’s sacrifice, transcends mere acknowledgment. It demands an active engagement with the claims presented, a degree of conviction of their truth, and a consent that manifests in a degree of personal commitment and action. This exploration not only clarifies the anatomy of faith but also emphasizes its depth, challenging us to consider the basis of our beliefs and the extent of our trust. It also should bring to our lives a desire to grow in all three areas.

In understanding these components, we find that faith is not a passive state but a dynamic and deliberate move toward knowledge, conviction, and trust.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

    7 replies to "The Anatomy of Faith – Defining What Faith Really is All About"

    • Bibliophile

      For Catholics, more than a merely subject-dependent feeling or rationalization, faith is an infused virtue that directs man towards his ultimate happiness beyond his natural powers to obtain; a real relation that orients man to God, as opposed to the “legal fiction” of imputation.

      You would have done better to alert readers that this is the narrow, biased and reactionary Reformed definition of faith, with its nominalist undercurrents and theological precommitments.

    • Eric Quek

      To All Valued members of our community who have benefited from Michael Patton’s insightful work on “Anatomy of Faith,” and many other articles (blogs).

      It is time that we reflect on his tirelessly work to demystify theology for the layperson, yet we must not overlook the personal cost of his mission. His battles with depression, dependence/addiction to narcotics, financial difficulties and health issues are not just personal struggles—they are a clarion call for our support and understanding.

      Recent studies by Barna Research (2015-2022) & SurvivorNet paint a concerning picture of pastors’ well-being, one that Michael himself mirrors. The decline in pastor’s physical, mental and emotional health, along with the erosion of genuine friendships is alarming. For instance, only 17% of pastors in 2022 reported having excellent true friendships, down from 34% in 2015. This decline in well being isn’t just a statistic it is a reflection of the challenges faced by leaders like Michael.

      This is more than a call for empathy; it’s a plea for action. We must collectively seek ways to offer tangible support to Michael, ensuring that his well-being is prioritized alongside his professional endeavors. This might involve creating forums for open dialogue, providing resource s for mental and physical health, or simply being a consistent source of encouragement and support.

      As we travel this journey of support, it’s crucial to remember the fundamental virtues of Christian teaching: Our interactions and responses should be marked by charity, respect, and empathy, mirroring Christ’s love. We should embrace and respect the diversity of theological thought, steering clear of oversimplification or biased views, particularly in the current context of reactionary and biased interpretations.

      Your suggestion and ideas are vital in this journey. How can we, as a community, foster an environment that not only appreciates Michael’s work but also actively contributes to his well being? This isn’t just about supporting a valued leader; it’s about nurturing the health of our community. Let’s come together to offer Michael the support he need to thrive, not just survive. Your insights, comments and proactive suggestions are crucial to this mission.

      • C Michael Patton

        Wow! Thanks Erik. Completely agree. Gentleness and respect, or don’t engage.

      • Bibliophile

        The “personal cost” to MCP of which you speak is related to “Activism” (the belief that the gospel must be spread through effort) as defined in the Evangelical quadrilateral. Maybe if more Evangelicals didn’t buy into that idea and just quit trying to convince themselves that they have been “called to ministry”, then they would all be a lot healthier and happier, together with their (often neglected) families.

    • Eric Quek

      A Firm Rebuttal to the Uninformed and Misaligned Commentary

      Comment by “Bibliophile” who appears to possess a limited, almost juvenile grasp of theological depth, necessitate a forthright and assertive response. His critique of Michael Patton’s work and the broader challenges faced by faith leaders is not only IMMATURE in its assessment but also fundamentally misaligned with core Christian principles (be it Protestant or Catholic) principles of compassion, understanding, and support.

      Dissecting his Simplistic and Naïve perspective: His comments reveal a startlingly simplistic and naïve perspective, akin to that of a theological teenage (see Patton article Theological Teenagers-Navigating the Dangerous landscape of Theology.)—someone who has just begun to grapple with the complexities of faith but speaks with undue confidence. His assertion linking the personal struggles of faith leaders solely to evangelical activism is a GROSS oversimplification. This perspective blatantly ignores the multifaceted nature of mental health challenges and the diverse stressors unique to pastoral roles. It’s a viewpoint that LACKS depth, FAILS to recognize the individual experiences within ministry, and simplifies complex personal and societal factors that affect mental health. This critique becomes more poignant when we consider the revered example of Mother Teresa, whose life, marked by both monumental achievements and personal struggles, stands in stark contrast to his assertions.

      The suggestion that individuals in pastoral ministry like Michael Patton should reconsider their calling demonstrates a PROFOUND misunderstanding of the nature of spiritual vocation. Such a stance is not only DISMISSIVE but also ARROGANTLY undermines the sincere convictions and commitments of those dedicated to ministry. His comments reflect a NARROW-MINDED view, one that fails to appreciate the diversity of experiences and motivations that guide individuals in their spiritual journeys.

      The lack of empathy and compassion in his tone starkly contrasts with the very essence of Christian values. Christian teachings are tooted in understanding, empathy, and a supportive spirit, especially in addressing challenges and struggles. Instead, his approach, marked by judgment and dismissal, is antithetical to these principles. The question arises: do you with your comment about Michael and others who are actively engage in these callings, do you exhibit Schadenfreude, taking pleasure in the struggles of others, in addition to your judgmental and dismissive attitude? If so, this adds another layer of concern, as it further deviates from the ethos of empathy and support fundamental to Christian teachings. Engaging in a meaningful discussion about mental health and personal challenges in ministry requires a compassionate and nurturing mindset, not a JUDGMENTAL and DISMISSIVE.

      In conclusion, his commentary not only displays an IMMATURE understanding of theological and pastoral complexities but also strays significantly from the principles of Christian empathy and supportive ethos central to Christian values. The example of Mother Teresa ( a Roman Catholic saint, Nobel laureate, and was canonized on September 4, 2016 as Saint Teresa of Calcutta) vividly illustrates that personal struggles, such as depression, do not diminish the value or impact of a life dedicated to spiritual service. Instead, they highlight the profound humanity and resilience inherent in such a calling. Our response to such struggles should be one of compassion and support, not judgment or schadenfreude, aligning with the Christian values of empathy and understanding.

      • Bibliophile

        Eric Quek. I think there’s a problem with the “CAPS-LOCK” key on your device… You might want to get that sorted out.

    • Bibliophile

      Also, Eric Quek, I know you got butthurt before you started spazzing out on your keyboard (probably because you are hoping MCP offers you the position as his PA and want to take this opportunity to earn brownie points by displaying what a big fuss you can make over him. There’s a good chap. Pat, pat.); but you might want to try reading the comments, and understanding what you read, before you respond to them: because at no point have I even so much as implied such a nonsense as “depression diminishes the value of spiritual service”. That’s a man of straw you built all by yourself and are now with maniacal glee attacking by throwing up a massive – and mostly boring – wall of text.

      PS – the PA job doesn’t pay, I checked.

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