Let's be reasonable with one another, shall we?

Friday, May 09, 2008

Three Passages that Teach the Same Thing to the People of God, not the Unregenerate

These are about how to put your faith to work so that the invisible (faith) will be visible. None of these passges is for the purpose of examining your works to see if you really have faith or if you really are regenerate. These passages are to believers who generally know they are saved because of Christ's work, not their own.

Matthew 5:
13"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. 14"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

1 Peter 2
11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, 12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.

James 2
14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

21 Comments:

  • Hi Rose, I hope you are well.

    I can't imagine anyone, especially those who understand the doctrines of grace, pretending or/ especially believing that the purpose of examining our works is to determine whether we really have faith (that is, whether we are really regenerate.)

    Good gravy what a thought! What a monstrous thought.

    The man or woman who looks to works to assure themselves is confused about where assurance comes from, and is using works as a proof when faith alone is the only proof of salvation.

    Mormons, Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses, and even secular humanists are not without good works, do their good deeds give evidence of saving faith? Certainly not, and neither do our good works give any such evidence in and of themselves.

    I add that "in and of themselves" because the reality is that there are many people who believe that Jesus is who he said he was, and they believe that God's promises are true, and they attend church and sing, and pray, and read the bible - and believe themselves to be good Christians, and do good works - who do their good works for the exact same reason that the Muslims, Mormons, JW's and Secular Humanists do: Because they believe that their good works are meritorious. They believe all the right things are true, but in spite of that knowledge they still don't really trust that Jesus is going to save them unless they validate their faith through doing good works. That is, they aren't trusting Christ to save them, they are trusting that they have jumped on the right information, with the right God, and that now if they do the right things they will be saved.

    It is a twisted, deceived "faith" in that it has all the elements except the primary one - dependence on God for all things including, and especially, to save them in spite of their sin.

    Most false religions have these two things in common: they deny that an individual is condemned already, (you won't really die if you eat the fruit... that is, you aren't really condemned if you sin...) and the other is they believe that no matter what God has promised, they still have to do good works to seal the deal. This is ostensibly a works plus information = "saving faith" formula, and it is certainly wrong and worthy of contempt.

    Yet there are many who in correcting this error slide off the other side of the horse and conclude that saving faith can be had through intellectual persuasion alone.

    Don't get me wrong, intellectual persuasion is certainly a requisite component of saving faith - but unless a person abandons himself to Christ, his intellectual persuasion will not save him. I may believe a chair is real, and reason that it will support my weight, but these things are not the same as actually sitting in the chair and letting the chair support me. I can believe that they are true without ever actually sitting in the chair.

    Yes, I ought to believe that the chair is made for sitting, and that it will hold my weight - but until I actually sit down in it, I am not sitting in the chair. The information and the belief of it certainly are the means by which I come to sit in the chair, but they, in and of themselves, are not equal to actually sitting in the chair.

    One must be persuaded of the truth, and believe it to be true in order to become a believer - as these are the means by which one becomes a believer - but it is a grave error to equate the tools by which saving faith is acquired with saving faith itself, as though possessing the key was one and the same as actually using the key to open the door.

    I think there are some, especially in the free grace crowd, who rail against the idea that faith produces anything other than salvation from hell. The bible says that Christ came to save us from sin. Has anyone ever been set free from sin through the power of intellectual persuasion? Not yet, and I don't expect to see anyone ever be free from what they are by virtue of their intellect, their choices, and what they believe.

    But the one in whom the Spirit of God dwells, this one will begin to experience deliverance from sin - and the most common sin is self exaltation. Good works may well rise out of a desire to purchase favor, either with men or with God - to increase our fame, to increase the opinion of ourselves amongst those whom we want to admire us, or even to increase God's opinion of us if we are so confused. Likewise good works can rise out of fear - God will hate me if I don't do good works, or perhaps I am not really a Christian if I don't do good works. But these are all works of the flesh, and what is born of the flesh is by no means a spiritual thing.

    Good works that are born of the spirit begin with the conviction that God is God, and that I have not, nor can I ever merit God's favor by any good work that I may do. When I begin to fathom that there is nothing that I can do to commend myself to God - no "right" thinking, no "right" acting - nothing, that I am utterly incapable of pleasing God, or doing anything that can even come close to being good. That is, when I begin to see that all "my" good deeds are indeed as unclean to God as unclean rags. Not that I convince myself that these things are true, and now that I am convinced all my good deeds are "really" good - but that when I become convinced of the truth - that God saved me, and is saving me, and will save me because He is merciful, and not because I am obedient, or even helpful - that God is dragging me to himself, and not that I am coming to him because I am a reasonable person - but that if I were left to myself without God's influence in my life I would certainly embrace sin unconditionally, and though I may not live as depraved as a man can possibly be, I would certainly be as depraved as I could get away with.

    When I begin to see who I really am, and who God really is, it isn't that I act humble, it is that God has granted me humility - I begin to understand that I do not and cannot purchase anything from God in my relationship, and this happens not because I am clever, but because God grants that my closed eyes, open up and see the truth. When I see myself as God sees me - that is, when I know who I really am - that every wicked thing I have ever done has sprung from me, and that every good thing I have ever done was by no means good, but always and ever serving my self in some way - so that even my "good" deeds are shown to be wickedly tainted by sin - only then am I in any position to understand that this thing I call me -must- not live. Only then will I agree that it must die, as it only produces sin and sin is death.

    When I begin to see that all that I thought was good in me is actually just a death-producing lie, only then can I understand what Christ took to the cross and why He took it there. When I begin to agree with God that this thing belongs on Calvary - condemned and wicked - I will begin to loathe letting it have any reign over my members. I will begin to hate it with a holy hatred, because it won't be to me just my desires coming out - it will be the thing that is producing death in me, and fortifying it in others, and as I agree that it deserves no room to exercise itself in my flesh, I will gladly make war against it, and instead of letting it reign over me, I will look instead to the Spirit of Christ within - and allow what He demands to happen in my life.

    That is a picture of maturity - and every genuine Christian is being drawn by the Holy Spirit into that maturity. The work of sanctification in the believer is a spiritual work - and the same spirit works in -every- genuine believer.

    Does that mean that every believer is instantly obedient? No. Does that mean that every believer is suddenly, and obviously changed? No. All it means is that for those believers who are genuine, God begins this work immediately. At first the believer only understands the conviction of sin - they don't want to sin - and that is the first fruit of their salvation, the work of the Holy Spirit. They may not perfectly respond to that conviction - that is the resistance of the flesh as it continues to spew sin and rebellion even in the life of the believer.

    What is meant therefore in such a phrase as "Show my your faith by your works" is not that by doing good deeds one validates his or her genuineness, but rather that genuine faith brings with it the person of the Holy Spirit who immediately begins to bring the believer from immaturity into maturity, and inevitably the fruit of this ministry in the life of the believer exposes itself (that is, becomes visible to the external world) as "good works".

    The gospel that men like John MacArthur preaches is not "do works and have faith and you will be saved" - it is "faith alone saves you - but not in a vacuum. The Holy Spirit immediately comes into your life and begins to minister to you, and the fruit of his ministry is that you begin to staunch the reign of death, and allow the reign of Christ in your life".

    I know I am verbose, and I apologize, I didn't have the time to trim it down to a palatable size.

    By Blogger Daniel, at 5/09/2008 12:53 PM  

  • Hi Rose!

    Daniel,

    There is an escape ladder attached to the second story window at my counsin's house. They have never had to use it at anytime.

    Are you telling me that this ladder cannot be trusted to save my cousin from a burning house unless he actually gets on the ladder and climbs down?

    This idea is so absurd as to cause me to think that I must have you wrong!

    Furthermore, sitting in the chair is a work. It is also absurd to suggest that one cannot believe in a chair (with the content of believing in its reliability)without first sitting in it.

    To believe in Jesus is to rely on Him. There is no need for any further act, like sitting in a chair, or the correspondence you would use in the spiritual realm.

    You write:
    ----------
    I don't expect to see anyone ever be free from what they are by... what they believe.
    ----------
    I totally disagree. The lost are hellbound. But when they believe Jesus in His promise, who guarantees everlasting life to the believer, then they are free from being hellbound.

    Antonio

    By Blogger Antonio, at 5/09/2008 5:03 PM  

  • What I was getting at is believing in Jesus is relying on Him. Faith is nothing more than entrusting your eternal destiny into his hands. No need to get on the elevator, sit on the chair, get on Blondin's shoulders, etc. The illustration with a chair is illegitimate. Intellectual persuasion that Jesus is your certain Savior and providor of eternal life is reliance on Him. It is simply committing your eternal well-being into His hands. And as such, it is a simple act of belief.

    Antonio

    By Blogger Antonio, at 5/09/2008 5:06 PM  

  • Rose,

    The people to whom Jesus spoke Matthew 5 (and I will suggest that also the people to whom the other two passages were written) knew they were saved because of Christ's authoratative guarantee that anyone who believes in Him will never perish but has everlasting life. At the time that Jesus spoke the sermon on the mount, He had yet to endure His essential suffering (for our salvation and His too!) on the cross.

    Yes, Jesus was saved! The Greek word "soteria" (salvation) can mean victory and triumph. Jesus, because of His death on the cross, was exalted to the right hand of the Father, meriting His own peculiar Messianic joy. What a salvation that is! And this salvation He wishes to share with individual members of the church, but they first must endure like He did (see Heb 3:14).

    Antonio

    By Blogger Antonio, at 5/09/2008 5:14 PM  

  • Hi Antonio.

    You asked, "Are you telling me that this ladder cannot be trusted to save my cousin from a burning house unless he actually gets on the ladder and climbs down?"

    What I am telling you is that until their house is on fire and they climb out on the ladder, they haven't been saved yet - they just know and believe that their escape route is a valid one.

    I don't find that absurd, I think it demonstrably rational, as even your own example makes self evident.

    Your rightly discern that sitting in a chair is a very poor model of saving faith, since the physical act of sitting is a surely a work, but that wasn't the point of the illustration - and as the author of the illustration, allow me to correct your misconstrued parallelism.

    The point of the illustration was not to set up the "sitting down" as a metaphor for salvation - it was (follow me here sir,) to make a distinction between [1] believing in a truth, and [2] following through on that belief.

    To believe that the key opens the door is certain correct, but unless one puts the key in the door and turns it - that belief by no means opens the door. It serves a purpose, but the purpose it serves is not equal to it - it is only the path to it.

    There are certainly satanists who believe that Jesus is the son of God, and that those who believe the gospel will be saved - but this knowledge is not salvation, it is just assent to the truth. Demons assent to the truth too.

    You say that to believe in Jesus is to rely on Him, and I say that this is true as long as we qualify belief as being more than intellectual assent. But if you make it so that all one must do is believe these things are true, as opposed to placing their trust in God to save them - I will contend with you.

    You imagine that I disagree with you about faith being simply relying on Jesus - I couldn't agree more. That is a good description of saving faith. It includes three parts:

    [1] having the correct information
    [2] believing the information is true
    [3] acting on that information by trusting in Christ.

    No one can be saved unless they have all three. I am saying that if you have the first two, and not the third, you are by no means saved.

    There is nothing implied in that which suggests that one must do any more than that - but I would contend that one must not do less than that.

    Any gospel that comes across as requiring only the first two items and fails to rest on the third, is (at best) depending on the Holy Spirit to fill what was lacking in the presentation. I don't deny that the Holy Spirit can and does fill that it - but I don't pretend that giving the first two points and failing to explain the third is a good (complete) sharing of the gospel.

    The distinction is (IMO) an critical one. When I share the gospel, I don't iterate the facts and tell people to believe them - I iterate the facts and tell people that these are the things through which they can come to eternal life - if they are willing to agree with God that they are condemned because of their sins, and having found their need to flee the wrath to come, they willingly turn to Christ in faith and believe that He -will- save them.

    No sinner is glory bound since our sin condemns us. That is, even as scripture says - we are all condemned because all have sinned. It doesn't say we are all hell bound, it says we are all condemned.

    But if I am condemned how do I get into heaven? I get into heaven if by faith my condemnation is borne in Christ on Calvary. There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus - not because the condemnation dissipates into thin air, but because Christ bears the wrath that is poured out on my sin.

    All sinners are "condemned" - both the regenerate and the unregenerate, but not all bear that condemnation themselves - those individuals whom God choses to extend grace to, these are freely given the grace to respond contrary to their dead nature, and by this grace of God, through placing their trust in Christ, God saves them from His own wrath.

    So it isn't as though the elect are hell bound. They are condemned - scripture makes that plain - but hell bound? Not according to what I see in scripture. I respect that from our temporal perspective, that until the elect are brought into the fold, they are certainly in the world, and no different in their condemnation - and that we have no way of knowing who amongst the condemned God will awaken until new life with the gospel - and in that philosophical, earthly wisdom, perhaps there is room to imagine that they are "hell bound" in the sense that were God not going to eventually, and irresistibly intervene in their life on the day that God has set for them to enter the kingdom - they would certain wind up in hell, but here we come to the place where our impression of God's sovereignty decides how we will proceed.

    I, as you are aware, believe that God's sovereignty is not dependent upon man's choice, but rather man's choice is in accord with God's predetermined will, thus I conclude that God did not send His Son to provide the possibility of salvation for everyone, but rather to provide a way to save those condemned sinners whom He determined before hand to show mercy to.

    Given my understanding of God's nature, and sovereignty, I naturally reject the idea that man does anything other than react to God's call. Lazarus, no matter how supreme his mighty will might have been, could by no means refuse to come to life when Christ commanded it. So to, when the gospel calls the elect, they are made alive in their spirit - not because they are persuaded by the caller, not because they have just enough life in them to initiate the process - but because those elect who were dead in their trespasses and sins come to life through the preaching of the gospel, and those who are not elect will by no means come to life by the strength of their own will, no matter how precisely and passionately the gospel is preached to them. They are dead, and there is no life in them - they don't have ears to hear, and they can't make themselves ears to hear.

    So as I say, I agree that philosophically speaking, and from some temporal perspective, it certainly appears that the unregenerate elect are as hell bound as any other sinner - but from God's perspective, they are most certainly -not- hell bound.

    By Blogger Daniel, at 5/09/2008 6:04 PM  

  • Something I once wrote:

    I think that some around here have subtly defined "faith" by what response and/or emotion that they deem must ensue.

    That would be defining faith in light of its supposed fruit rather than by its constituency.

    Now if faith is assurance/certainty, the passive "act" in response to being convinced/persuaded, then one can know if they have faith if they are certain (having been convinced) that a proposition it true.

    I love what Gordon Clark says:

    "To be sure, some beliefs stir the emotions, but the very sober belief that a man has five fingers on each hand is as much a belief as [being convinced of] some shattering news"

    It is not helpful to define faith by its alleged fruits. This tends to obfuscate rather than to clarify.

    I was talking to a woman whose 22 year old daughter had a baby with a man 12 years her senior. He turned out to be a real crazy person, and it is alleged that he has sexually absued the baby. If the news came out that this man died, or fell off the face of the earth, the mom of the daughter would experience an emotional reaction upon believing that news quite different than the mother of the father of the child.

    Personality is widely subjective, and often our emotions and actions spring from it; have it as their foundation. When foreign elements to belief are imported into its conception, a subjectivity is introduced into it which can rob one of the certainty that is faith!

    The only test to whether or not one believes something is if he is certain, having been convinced/persuaded as to the proposition. This is objective and will net results that are the same.

    Are we going to say that a woman who is certain that mail will indeed come to her house the next day, yet troubled by it for she deems that most of it will be bills, nevertheless does not believe the proposition that mail will indeed be delivered to her house tomorrow?

    I think that one of the reasons we have gone on this roundabout is a confusion between faith and trust.

    For some reason the word "trust" is more preferable to some over the word "belief". It is interesting that John the Evangelist in his gospel uses the Greek words pistis/pisteuw (belief/believe) 99 times in his gospel written so that man may have eternal life, and uses the term "trust" only once, and not even in a soteriological aspect.

    He did not consider the term "trust" be be superior to "belief".

    Trust is specific belief into one or more propositions.

    "I trust the airline pilot"

    Can be broken up in this way:

    I believe that the airline pilot is a professional, highly trained plane operator, skilled in flying, troubleshooting, emergency issues, flight safety, etc. I believe that he is able to conduct affairs sufficiently so that I will reach my destination.

    "Trust" in the mind of many here has an added element to "faith" that makes it superior to bare "faith". This element is either an "emotion", a "volition", or a "commitment". Emotion, volition, and commitment may very well follow trust. But at the very moment you define trust by its alleged and supposed fruits, you have added those consequent fruits as a condition for 'faith' being genuine faith, and have destroyed the certainty that faith inherently consists of.

    "Trust" is not a superior word to "faith," "belief," or "believe". Trust is a synonym to faith! Often times "trust" denotes faith in the reliability of an object, but it is nothing more!

    The words pistis/pisteuw (belief/believe) are the operative words in salvific contexts. Why are we so ambivalent to use them? People know what it means to believe something, they know whether or not they are convinced as to something or not!

    Further, I find that much confusion has ensued because of an ambiguity in the exact gospel proposition(s).

    John 11:25-26
    25 Jesus said to her, "I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?"

    Jesus asks Martha if she believes these propositions Jesus has stated concerning Himself. Her response to this is:

    John 11:27
    27 She said to Him, "Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God..."

    Her answer directly parallels the thematic statement of the whole epistle:

    John 20:30-31

    And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

    To believe those propositions is to believe that Jesus is the Christ! If you believe that Jesus is the Christ, (in the sense as it has just been defined by John in his evangelistic treatise: that He is the Guarantor of eternal life and resurrection to the believer in Him) you have 'exercised' saving faith!

    I frankly am baffled as to why some additional "personal" element is needed. The one who believes, IOW, the one who is certain of Christ's promise is believing Jesus Christ's saving gospel! The only personal element needed is inherent in the promise: "He who believes in Me (IOW what I am saying!)", "whoever... believes in Me". At the moment one believes Christ's promise, His propositions concerning Himself, IOW, is CERTAIN that what He is saying is absolutely true, it is sufficiently personalized, for the believer is included within the sphere of "he who" and "whoever".

    Of course it is not wrong nor misleading to ask one who claims that they are certain of Christ's guarantee what they now have. If they do not respond with "eternal life" then it is certain that they do not believe Christ.

    Nor is it wrong to "personalize" the message: "Do you believe Christ's promise that guarantees for you eternal life?" But it is not necessary.

    The one who believes Christ's promise is certain that Christ guarantees "he who" and "whoever" eternal life, which obviously includes them, for they are believing Christ.

    I cannot conceieve of someone saying "I believe Christ's promise, but I don't personally receive Christ's promise." They obviously do not understand the promise then and therefore cannot be believing Christ!

    The offer is "believe and YOU HAVE". If you believe then you at that moment HAVE. It is not qualified by any other component; not commitment, not volition, not emotion.

    So there are two problems: 1)the word "trust" is given preference over "believe" and 2) there is ambiguity over the proposition, due to inaccurate and misleading analogies.

    By Blogger Antonio, at 5/09/2008 8:16 PM  

  • Antonio, the early church Fathers, like the Reformers, and those of us who hold to sovereign grace, recognize three aspects of saving faith. I am sure you are familiar with the Latin words behind these aspects, notitia, (correct content or knowledge) assensus ( intellectual assent), and fiducia (trust/faith). These words are of course the historic shorthand for describing how in order to have saving faith, one must first have correct content or knowledge of the truth, one must thereafter agree that this knowledge is in fact true, that is, one must assent intellectually to the trustworthiness of the information - one must regard it as "truth" - both of which are required for any saving faith - but which by themselves are insufficient without the third part, which is that one must exercise a personal trust in these truths.

    These distinctions are not some novel invention, but have been around for millennia; not that antiquity causes me to revere them, but rather that I am careful to examine them, and in doing so I find that rather than dismissing them with cavalier abandon, I am in complete agreement with the distinctions.

    No one is arguing that the offer is anything other than "believe and you have". What is being discussed is whether a profession of faith can happen without fiducia, that is, does notitia and assensus by themselves constitute saving faith - and I agree with the westminster divines on this one - it most certainly does not.

    Yet fiducia is not qualified by volition or emotion, but it is certainly not only qualified by, but dependant upon commitment.

    No marriage, not yours, not mine - not the churches marriage to the groom - can take place without commitment. A commonlaw union is not a marriage, it stands in the place of a marriage. We cannot enter into commonlaw union with Christ, we either commit to the marriage, or we do not - there is no middle ground.

    The word "believe" is not in any of John's writings because the language he wrote in was not English but Koine. It isn't as though there is a different word for "trust" in the Greek language. The word trust is a little more clunky in English that believe. If one word is chosen over another in a translation, it is because stylistically speaking, the translates is smoother (in the opinion of the translator) using the word "believe" rather than trust. If it makes you feel better, go through the book of John and examine every time it says "believe" and remind yourself that the same word can just as accurately be translated as "trust", and perhaps that will divest you of this distinction you continue to make.

    The words "trust" and "believe" each have their own nuanced meanings, some of which overlap. It is where the English nuances for these two words overlap that we find the Greek meaning, and not in the places where these English words divert.

    In classical Greek, pistos, which is attested first, means a) trusting (also obedient) and b) trustworthy, ie, faithful, reliable.

    the exact opposite, "apistos" means not trustworthy, or unreliable (as opposed to not believing)

    "Pistis" (not to be confused with pistos) has (primarily) the sense of confidence, certainty, trust, then secondarily trustworthiness, and finally as a guarentee or assurance in the sense of a pledge or outh - the nuance of which would be to be trustworthy, or acting as proof.

    pisteuo, means to trust or to obey, or to believe (as in believing words) - or passively to enjoy confidence, as in to confide in someone.

    apisteuo means to be distrustful, or that you do not believe (words).

    apistia means untrustworthy, unreliable, or to distrust.

    pistoo means to make someone a pistos, that is, to bind someone by contract, to make them trustworthy - to bind them by a pledge or contract, and hence reliable.

    In Hellenistic writings, conduct is always affected by belief. In Stoic usage, pistis means faithfulness, as in the solidity of character.

    In the old testament, faith is the human reaction to God's primary action - corresponding to the LXX usage of pisteue, and involved at the same time, the trust in the person and faith in their words, carrying a strong element of acknowledgment and obedience.

    The Jewish Philosopher Philo used the word to desscript trust in the providence of God - encompassing the idea of turning away from the world and towards God.

    The NT usage denotes (formally) reliance, trust, and belief (and by belief I do not mean "assent").

    For words like pisteue in the NT, the idea is to "entrust oneself or commit oneself to" something,

    Pistis means faithfulness as is best nuanced in the English word "trust" or "faith"

    Pistos again, means faithful or trusting - the former sense being more secular than spiritual.

    Pistoo carries in the NT the sense of being made certain of a thing, and to remain certain.

    apistos comes across as faithless or putting no trust in someone

    apisteuo means being unfaithful, or refusing to believe.

    apistia means unfaithfulness, as in carrying the nuance of disobedience springing from unbelief (as in belief produces obedience, and unbelief produces disobedience).

    I could go on, but the family is calling for me. The point is that hanging your hope of one card-board nuance of the English word "believe" is not really how I would understand the word - get a good dictionary - Kittel's is a find scholarly work, and see if there isn't room for understanding the words "faith" and "trust" in their synonymous sense, rather than forcing every text to always mean "assent" ...

    I don't think that Christians have historically been hoodwinked on what faith is. No one is suggesting that a person has to do anything other than believe - what is being suggested is that we be careful to define what we mean when we say "believe".

    By Blogger Daniel, at 5/09/2008 9:29 PM  

  • Something else I wrote:

    1) Pistis (faith, comes from the Latin by way of French) and Pisteuw (believe, comes by way of Anglo-Saxon) are exact corresponding cognates: Pistis (faith, or belief) is the noun, and Pisteuw (believe, exercise faith) is the verb.

    They both can be translated using the Latin or the Anglo Saxon derivatives:

    Pistis: faith or belief
    Pisteuw: believe or exercise faith

    They are used interchangeably as in Romans 4:5

    But to him who does not work but believes (pisteuw) on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith (pistis) is accounted for righteousness.

    Apart from the times the word “pistis” is used of the “the body of beliefs (of Christianity)”, “faithfulness”, and “pledge”, the terms at no time, in the Greek New Testament, have distinguishing shades of meaning from each other, or any additional import such as “obey” or “using the truth to some affect”. As the standard Greek lexicon (BAGD) makes clear, pistis is “trust, confidence, faith in the active sense = ‘believing’”.

    I would suggest that Daniel, of Doulogos, or any other Traditionalist make a Biblical case that there resides some difference between “believing”, which Daniel says is “mere intellectual assent” and “faith”, which Daniel says is “using that truth to some affect” (thus equating “faith” with the doing of works “sitting in a chair”).

    There are no differences between “having faith in Christ” and “believing in Christ”. They are exactly the same!. And I would challenge Daniel to use his Bible and prove this assertion wrong.

    2) Language is ever evolving. Words take on the meaning of their current contextual usage in the language of the day. For instance, “gay” is not used for “happy” anymore, but “homosexual”.

    In the usage of today, the terms such as “trust” and “believe” are now used in a variety of ways. No longer (as in Biblical Greek) do they convey the sense of “absolute certainty and assurance”. A few examples:

    “I am not certain that my roommate will pay rent on time. I am just going to have to trust him” (IOW, “I will just have to hope he will do it”).

    I may say, "I believe he will come," when I am not really certain that he will. Usually when we use the word this way, we signal our doubt by a tonal inflection.

    Nevertheless, these are legitimate usages of the English words, for meaning is determined by current usage. The words are still used of “certainty” in other contexts. They just have a wider semantic range now.

    It is interesting to note that Daniel, who is distinguishing between “belief” and “faith”, nevertheless uses them interchangeably in his illustration:

    “He asked the class if they believed” and “He then asked for a volunteer to ‘test their faith’”.

    Many people, though, currently use the term “belief” and “faith” relatively, as in degrees. What they mean when they use these words that way is that they “are disposed toward” rather than “are certain”. The Biblical usage always means “certainty, assurance” and never anything less.

    3) Doubt precludes faith, faith precludes doubt.

    Matt 8:26
    But He said to them, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?"

    The parallel accounts have this to say:

    Mark 4:40
    But He said to them, "Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?"

    Luke 8:25
    But He said to them, "Where is your faith?"

    When they doubt, Jesus asks them why they "have no faith", and "Where is your faith". Jesus here is full aware that doubt precludes faith.

    There can be degrees of doubt from:

    being fully undisposed toward

    to

    being greatly disposed toward

    (and everything in between)

    But there are no degrees of faith. It is a question of possession. You either have faith or you do not.

    Mark 11:23
    Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.

    Jesus places faith and doubt here in complete contradistinction:

    "does not doubt... but believes"

    Here again, faith precludes doubt

    Rom 14:23
    But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith;

    Paul makes it abundantly clear that the one who "doubts" does not possess "faith".

    James 1:6-8
    But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

    The doubter should not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord. This man is double-souled. Faith and doubting are again put into contra-distinction.

    Faith and doubt cannot reside in the mind at the same moment in the same proposition. There may be a rollercoaster of faith and doubt as time elapses, but never faith and doubt at the same time in the same issue. Since faith = certainty, assurance, faith precludes doubt.

    In such an instance as the Daniel’s illustration, a few different options can be shown:

    1) The person who moved out of the way had faith, believed, that the wrecking ball would not hit him before he got up there, but when the wrecking ball started toward him, this circumstance caused his faith to be broken, and at the moment he moved away, he experienced doubt, and was no longer exercising faith.

    This perfectly parallels Peter’s experience when he was walking on the water. He had faith, but when he contemplated the wind and the waves, this circumstance “broke” his faith, IOW, he no longer was exercising faith, but was doubting.

    This is what weak, or little, faith is. It is faith that has not been satisfactorily strengthened by time and the successful completion of trials, so that when the circumstances come, the faith is “broken”.

    2) The person was not really certain (did not believe in the Biblical sense), and was using the concept of “faith” or “belief” that is something less than certain (a current usage of the word that denotes “disposed toward” rather than “certainty”). Apart from being convinced (believing, being certain), he, by an act of the will and not one of being persuaded, determined by the will to perform in the experiment. When he saw the wrecking ball coming for him, the determination that was prompted by his relative disposition faded, and so he stepped out of the way.

    Daniel’s view of faith and belief are dangerously skewed.

    Imagine for instance a genuine new Christian (for the sake of argument, he is a definitely regenerate man). He is brand new to the faith and is but a mere babe. He hasn’t invested the time to possess a strong faith. He has been told that lying is wrong. He is convinced that lying is wrong! But a week after he had been saved a gun was pointed at his head and he was told that if he is a Christian that he would be blown away. He starts thinking about his wife, pregnant with their first child, and says, “I am not a Christian”. He, thus, has acted contrarily to his conviction, to his faith!

    What, you don’t think that is possible?

    Be honest with yourself, if you lived your faith all the time, you would not sin! But we often sin against those principles that we have faith in!

    Being greatly disposed toward is not the same as faith, belief, for a disposition is not being convinced.

    Daniel recognizes “a grand difference between an intellectual assent that something is certain and true, and a willingness to trust that truth” (italics his).

    I would ask him “What is the element lacking between the one who merely believes the wrecking ball won’t hit him and the one who has faith that the wrecking ball won’t hit him?” What is the difference between the one who is certain (believes) that the wrecking ball will sway the other way before hitting him, and the one who has faith? The only thing that I can think of, if I were to answer him, is faith = mere belief + obedience (in action, works, in doing!!).

    Maybe he would say, “The person would be willing to actually stand by the wall”. But this is where his “willingness” doctrine breaks down! In his illustration, the one who “believed” but nevertheless “did not have faith” was “willing” to test out his “faith”! He went to go stand by the wall! So it isn’t a matter of “willingness” it is a matter of “action”, i.e. works!

    What Daniel has done is confused “faith” with “acting on faith”, or “belief” with “acting on our beliefs” and has made an illegitimate difference between “belief” and “faith”. Daniel thus defines faith in terms of “the works” that, in his view, mere belief must accomplish in order to be true faith! Daniel has imported the idea of “works” into the semantic value of “faith” and has thus made eternal life the result of “belief” + works (his definition of “faith”)

    --men are saved by faith
    --faith is belief (mental assent) + obedience to works
    --------------------
    --men are saved by a works salvation

    The Bible knows of no difference between “faith” and “belief”. They are the same word (pistis). The Bible knows of no difference between “believe” and “have faith”. They are the same word (pisteuw). The difference resides in the mind of the Traditionalist, who, giving lip service to “faith alone in Christ alone”, nevertheless is convinced that works, in a real sense, and on a genuine level, are a necessary requirement for entrance into heaven.

    For good reason Traditionalists do not believe that believing in the promise of Christ alone saves. The promise is “Most assuredly I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). This promise does not have an action referred to in the span of its proposition. You couldn’t get in front of a wall and wait for a wrecking ball to swing toward you in order to add to and fulfill your mere intellectual assent, making the belief into faith, and thus “prove” your faith. They prefer the proposition “You must make Jesus Lord of life!” for in this, they could deem you saved or lost by inspection of your works, which they proclaim fulfill your belief making it faith. But this command of theirs is not the promise of the gospel, but another gospel altogether.

    By Blogger Antonio, at 5/09/2008 9:34 PM  

  • I do love that final paragraph:

    For good reason Traditionalists do not believe that believing in the promise of Christ alone saves. The promise is “Most assuredly I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). This promise does not have an action referred to in the span of its proposition. You couldn’t get in front of a wall and wait for a wrecking ball to swing toward you in order to add to and fulfill your mere intellectual assent, making the belief into faith, and thus “prove” your faith. They prefer the proposition “You must make Jesus Lord of life!” for in this, they could deem you saved or lost by inspection of your works, which they proclaim fulfill your belief making it faith. But this command of theirs is not the promise of the gospel, but another gospel altogether.

    By Blogger Antonio, at 5/09/2008 9:40 PM  

  • Antonio, no one is suggesting that the word "belief" is an inappropriate word. What is being said is that the nuance of "trust" cannot be surgically removed from the "pist" family just because it doesn't fit well with your unbalanced interpretation.

    People haven't been making this distinction for 1900 years because of a dangerously skewed view of faith and belief, as you suggest (and I remind our readers that although Antonio points his arrows at Daniel here, he is in fact taking aim at the historic and orthodox definition of what faith has meant to both the early church fathers, and the reformers who, unable to abide the Roman perversion of the faith, sought to restore what was historically considered the true faith), Antonio therefore may fling his stones at me, but I am hardly the true target, I am merely the guy saying, "this is what believers have consistently identified faith as being".

    To rail against that is not to rail against Daniel - as though I were the one bringing new and interesting twists to the interpretation of scripture. I am merely offering up what I think is a better thought out, better expressed, and more biblical understanding of faith.

    As to your challenge Antonio, to produce a biblical reply, I must confess - that I doubt such would convince you, since you and I have the same bible, and you are still convinced contrary to what I see in scripture.

    My goal in this conversation is not to open the eyes and ears of Antonio, for that is beyond all but God's power, nor is my goal to prove that I am right - for that too is beyond my power, for on that last day we shall learn if either of us really nailed it. My goal is only to engage a post that Rose made because she deserves, in my opinion, to hear that the doctrines of grace by no means suggests that good works are used to prove one is a Christian.

    I have four children and a wife that need my time, so I can't really argue with you. I have said what I have said, and perhaps in my blindness I am mixing faith with works - but I doubt it. My hope is (of course) in God to fix me if I am, since I remain willing to follow the truth if and when it presents itself to my understanding as such.

    ta ta.

    By Blogger Daniel, at 5/09/2008 11:01 PM  

  • Daniel, here is another little something that I had written to you a while back. I hope it is here instructive to Rose and her readers:

    I found this quote in the comment area of a Traditionalist's blog (Daniel of Doulogos) that I found quite interesting.

    "It amazes me that I could believe something to be absolutely true, and at the same time have absolutely no faith in it" (Daniel of Doulogos)

    This statement is completely contradictory. If he believed it, he had faith in it, and contrarily, if he had faith in it, he believed it. "to exercise faith" and "believe" are exactly the same in meaning.

    ----------
    The classic English Bible, the KJV, is basically Anglo-Saxon in vocabulary and completely so in structure. But the 1611 translators were not afraid to use some choice Latin-type words, especially in the theological texts: justification, salvation, faith, cross, glory, and propitiation, to name a few.

    But this dual origin of English vocabulary occasionally poses a problem. Oddly enough, the most important Gospel word-family in the Greek NT is obscured in English. This is because we translate the Greek verb pisteuo by the Anglo-Saxon word believe, and the related noun pistis by the totally unrelated word faith (from the Latin fides, by way of French).

    At least partly due to this lack of similarity, many preachers who are weak on grace are able to maintain that the Greek lying behind one or both of the English words includes a whole possible agenda of works, such as commitment, repentance, perseverance, etc.

    Actually, believe and faith, as the Greek shows, are just the verb and the noun for a concept that is really no different in English than in Greek. That concept is taking people at their word, trusting that what they say is true.

    ----------
    (Art Farstad, The Words of the Gospel: BELIEVE/FAITH

    Believing is not enough in this man's theology, a person must have faith, which is belief + repentance, I gather.

    Upon closer examination, people ought to see this as the hulabaloo it actually is. "faith" and "believe" are exact corresponding cognates, the former a noun, the latter a verb, the former coming into English through the Latin by way of French, and the latter came through Anglo-Saxon.

    ----------
    In order to clearly demonstrate this fact we would like to take three of the most famous "believe" verses in the NT and re-translate them a little by using the word "faith" to show they are really the same in the original.

    First, the best known verse of all, the one Martin Luther called "the Gospel in a nutshell":

    For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever has faith in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

    Next, Paul's clear, simple Gospel command to the seeking Philippian jailer:

    Put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved (Acts 16:31).
    Third, our Lord's wonderfully gracious promise:

    Amen, amen [lit. Greek text] I tell you, whoever hears My word and has faith in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life (John 5:24).

    These edited translations should help show that believe and faith really convey the same meaning.

    Now let's go in the other direction; let's take three famous "faith" passages and re-translate a bit to bring out the fact that the word in the original is just another form of the "believe" concept.

    First, the verse that gives us, not an abstract, but a working definition of faith:

    Now believing is the substantiation of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Heb 11:1).
    And here is probably the number two Gospel text for grace-believers:

    For by grace you have been saved through believing, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Eph 2:8-9).

    And finally, another verse from that great teacher of salvation by grace through faith, the Apostle Paul:

    But to him who does not work but believes [from pisteuo] on Him who justifies the ungodly, his believing [pistis] is accounted for righteousness (Rom 4:5).
    ----------
    (Ibid.)

    The lengths that people go to support their insupportable theologies is what is "amazing" to me!

    Antonio

    By Blogger Antonio, at 5/09/2008 11:47 PM  

  • Hi Rose, glad to see your still making a difference in the Blogisfere, or something like that, someday I’ll learn how to spell.

    Antonio, thank you for the time you took in refuting this false teaching of the doctrines of grace. They try to make it sound so biblical and point to their traditions “this is the way it’s always been, or your not attacking me but the founding fathers.” You clearly have shown the difference between faith alone and faith plus works. Even though they say,,No! No! we believe in faith alone! If you read between the lines they clearly believe in a works salvation,,,,,if the salvation doesn’t work then it’s not real. To believe is not enough for them IT HAS TO WORK!!! Or it’s just intellectual assent!
    Antonio thanks again for putting the light upon the truth, you clearly have shown that believe simply means just that to believe, and you don’t have to sit in a chair to do that!!! Ha! Ha!

    alvin

    By Blogger alvin, at 5/10/2008 6:20 AM  

  • Hi, Rose, I will not jump into this debate (I only even ever heard of the terms "free grace theology" and..."lordship theology"? is that the name for the other view? -- a week or so ago!).

    Those are beautiful and very familiar passages -- especially the Matthew and James passages. ("fleshly lusts which war against the soul" doesn't pop up in Sunday School lessons quite so often, oddly enough ;) ) I remember my preacher preaching on James and talking about how some throughout history have taken passages like that ("Can faith save him?") and answered "no, but works can!" albeit not in those exact words. Clearly not the intent of the passage, though, all the more so because it is addressed to believers -- those who already have faith. I think one thing it speaks to is the complacency we are subject to at times -- complacency in our daily lives as Christians. Though our light may at times shine brighter and at times grow dimmer, may it never go out under a bowl! (or a bushel, as I remember from the song "This Little Light of Mine")

    Daniel, I like the chair illustration, though of course all metaphors from the physical world will "fall short of the glory of God." But we do the best we can with what we've got! My pastor from about three pastors ago always used the chair illustration when preaching his most basic evangelism sermon (quite a good one, too), and always demonstrated, making the point you do, that it is not really faith until you have actually trusted. One time I asked my friend (this preacher's daughter) what he would have done if the chair'd had a weak leg and collapsed! Without a moment's hesitation she answered that he would have said, "And that's why we put our true faith in Christ and not the things of this world." Amen!

    By OpenID pointnine, at 5/12/2008 11:28 PM  

  • Hi Rose, great blog entry.

    Daniel, awesome writing.

    By Blogger Earl, at 5/13/2008 2:23 AM  

  • Hi Pointnine,

    Actually the way that the question "Can faith save him?" is in the Greek expects a negative answer! It could be legitimately paraphrased, as "Faith can't save him, can it?"

    No, of course, faith cannot save him, says James. If this was kept clearly in mind, people wouldn't have so much trouble harmonizing Paul and James!

    You see, the "salvation" that James is talking about is being saved from the physical death dealing consequences of sin in the life of believers.

    Anyway, my two cents.

    Antonio

    By Blogger Antonio, at 5/13/2008 4:29 PM  

  • Earl compliments Daniel.

    **Antonio scratches his head**
    **He thought Earl was a great fan of Gordon Clark who wrote the wonderfully genuine Reformed book "Faith and Saving Faith"**

    By Blogger Antonio, at 5/13/2008 4:32 PM  

  • Hi Rose
    I've been praying that you will get over your illness.
    blessings alvin

    By Blogger alvin, at 5/13/2008 6:27 PM  

  • Antonio,

    ...impish totally depraved giggle, I just wanted to see if anyone was paying attention. :o)

    Some days I like Clark and Robbins, some days I don't. They're not the last word in Reformed. But I'm also not the best judge of Reformed either.

    By Blogger Earl, at 5/13/2008 10:27 PM  

  • ...but on a more serious note, you are in my prayers for a speedy recovery Rose!

    By Blogger Earl, at 5/13/2008 10:29 PM  

  • Daniel and Antonio,
    Thank you for your spirited comments. I read them and had reaction last week but then fell ill before I had a chance to repsond. Now I don't have time to re-read them but I want you to know I appreciate the time you both took to contribute to the issue.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 5/15/2008 2:50 PM  

  • Alvin brother,
    Your 'spell' comment cracked me up. God bless you and thank you for the well wishes in the other comment thread.

    Pointnine,
    Thank you as well for commenting!

    Earl, You also crack me up brother! hahaha God bless you for your transparency. :~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 5/15/2008 2:53 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

 

Who Links Here