We commonly identify the major parts of a human soul as MIND, WILL and EMOTIONS. When the Bible writers tell us that we are saved by faith, which qualities of the human soul are involved? The answer depends on your definition of faith. (We’re talking about SAVING FAITH, okay?)
1. If “faith” refers to the CONTENT of the faith, “the faith”, then the most prominent part would be the mind. You would say that faith refers to MENTAL ASSENT to a truth, proposition, or doctrine. This was the position of the Roman Catholic Church. You were saved by “the Faith”, adherence to the mother church.
To this day, the word faith often denotes the Sacraments of the Catholic church… so that saying a person is saved through faith means through participation in the Sacraments of the church. “The faithful” is another way of saying “Catholics who participate in the Sacraments (baptism, communion, confession, etc.).”
The Reformers rejected this concept of faith.
2. Others teach that “faith” refers to a person who has been fully persuaded that something is true. Faith is the result of being persuaded of something–you have now come to believe it is true.
I’m not sure historically who has held this position, but I know that it is the main position of many scholars within the Free Grace movement today–a movement that I’m highly sympathetic with. Click here for a sample journal article espousing this position.
To me, this position falls short. a) It leaves us a the whim of the most persuasive evidence; we can’t choose what to believe or not. b) It leaves faith entirely in the realm of the MIND, the very shortcoming James argues against in his epistle. c) It nullifies any biblical command to believe, such as “31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”” Acts 16:31, NKJV.
How can one be commanded to “be persuaded” of something? Yes, being persuaded is an aspect of faith, but it is not the core element of saving faith.
3. Faith is an act of the WILL in which we repose our TRUST in Jesus and his Finished Work. Get all that?
The MIND comes first: there must be information about Jesus. At its irreducible minimum, we are talking about Jesus, sent from God, sacrificed his life for the sin of the world, that he alone might reconcile us to the infinite, invisible, Creator God.
Once a person has that information in his/her mind, the WILL comes into play. Now that you know Jesus is the way to God, WILL YOU TRUST HIM AS SUCH? Will you choose to rely on Jesus as your only hope? Will you end your confidence in your own morality, religion, efforts, and works… and will you transfer by CHOICE all that confidence into Jesus alone?
The Reformers coined some mottoes: Sola fide. Faith alone! and Fides est fiducia. Faith is trust. Faith is you, confiding in the gracious provision God made thru Christ.
In the counter-reformation, the Catholic church fired back saying “Whoever says fides est fiducia, let him be anathema [damned].” Here’s the actual statement from the mid 1500’s from the Council of Trent:
CANON XII.-If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ’s sake; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified; let him be anathema.
You can tell they were pretty angry. I’m not here to cast anathemas on anybody. Just to respectfully and lovingly state what I see in Scripture. We have to learn now to disagree without… being jackasses (gotcha on that one, didn’t I?).
The concept of faith has been debated for over 2,000 years. But the Reformers were right: faith is trust. The MIND comes first: you must hear the message of Jesus, even in a simplified form. The WILL comes next: you choose to trust in Jesus alone.
If you’re reading this blog in a room with many chairs, the chances are high that ANY chair can hold you up. You believe THAT all the chairs in the room can hold you up. You are persuaded that they all can. But right now, there’s only ONE chair that you’re trusting, right? Which one? The one you’re sitting in.
The gospel message invites you to consider all the places you can rest the burden of your salvation: the chairs of your religion, your efforts, your rituals, your beliefs, your performance. It summons you OUT OF ALL THOSE OTHER CHAIRS, and into the Chair of Christ alone! Plop your weight on him alone.
It’s your choice. Faith is volitional. Where is your hope for eternity?
More on faith in the next blogs. Thanks for stopping by.