Faith

Faith is not the creating of reality by “positive thinking” or “possibility thinking.” Nor is faith just the believing of correct tenets of orthodoxy in the veracity of historical events and the accuracy of theological formulations.

Rather, faith might better be conceived of as “our receptivity to God’s activity,” both initially and continually, which by definition precludes passivism and acquiescence.

The definition of faith in many evangelical circles has to do with “believing the right things”, i.e. the doctrinal statements of a particular denomination. Faith is often viewed as nothing more than mental assent to the veracity of the historicity of Jesus and particular theological statements.

J.I. Packer – “Simple assent to the gospel, divorced from a transforming commitment to the living Christ, is by Biblical standards less than faith, and less than saving, and to elicit only assent of this kind would be to secure only false conversions.”

C.S. Lewis – Mere Christianity – “Faith is used by Christians in two senses or on two levels. (1) simple belief-accepting or regarding as true the doctrines of Christianity. (2) Faith in the higher sense of trusting God.

Jacques Ellul – Living Faith – (remarkable contrast of belief and faith)

“Belief provides answers to people’s questions, so as to find assurance and provide a solution; so as to fashion for themselves a system of beliefs. Faith is not to supply us with explanation, but to get us to listen to God’s questions. Belief talks and talks, it wallows in words, it takes the initiative to explain. Faith listens patiently. Belief brings people together, joined in the same institutional current, oriented toward the same object of belief, sharing the same ideas, following the same rituals, enrolled in the same organization, speaking the same language. It has the social benefit of consensus and identification. Faith individualizes. It has to do with a personal relationship with God in which God confers each with unique identity. Faith separates people and makes them unique, set apart for what God wants to do. Belief is antithetical to doubt. It is the basis of fundamentalism; people unbending in their convictions, intolerant of any deviation. In their articulation of belief they press rigor and absolutism to their limits. Belief is rapidly transformed into passwords, rites, orthodoxy. Faith recognizes doubt. Faith puts to the test every element of my life and society. It leads me to question all my certitudes, all my moralities, beliefs, and policies. It forbids me to attach ultimate significance to any expression of human activity.”

Faith is not just believing the right things, historical or theological. Faith is man’s receptivity of God’s activity!!

John Calvin (Institutes III, xiii,5) – “faith is a thing merely passive, bringing nothing of our own to conciliate the favor of God, but receiving what we need from Christ.”

William Barclay –The Mind of Christ – “The first element in faith is what we can only call receptivity – not simply receptivity of facts; not just receptivity of the significance of the facts; but receptivity of Jesus Christ.”

Faith – our receptivity of HIS activity. Faith is personal. Faith is not just faith in a procedure, or a promise, or in the power of faith, but faith is receptivity of a Person. Faith is not receptivity of an offer or a benefit. The content of that which we receive in faith is Personified Truth, the expression of God’s Word.

Faith is the continuous response of man to God’s grace. Our receptivity of His grace activity. The “obedience of faith” (Rom. 1:5; 16:26) is but the receptivity of the divine dynamic that alone fulfills the divine demands; the receptivity of the divine expression that alone fulfills the divine expectation.

C.S. Lewis – Mere Christianity

“Faith in the higher sense…arises after a man has tried his level best to practice the Christian virtues, and found that he fails, and seen that even if he could he would only be giving back to God what was already God’s own. In other words, he discovers his bankruptcy. What God cares about is not exactly our actions…but that we should be the creatures He intended us to be-creatures related to Himself. Faith is that vital moment when you turn to God and say, “I can’t; only You can!”

Jacques Ellul – Living Faith

“Belief is reassuring; makes us feel safe. Faith is forever placing us on the razor’s edge. “Where will God take us next?” Belief simplifies things; attempts to normalize God. Faith is always expansive. No telling what God will do next. Belief takes the finite understanding of the here and now and formulates ultimates and absolutes. Faith concerns itself with the functional. How does God wish to incarnate Himself today by the Word?”

G.W. Bromiley – International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (revised) –

“patristic age quickly lost sight of the essential element in New Testament faith and tended to subsume faith under “the faith”, or “assent to the faith.” A trend toward intellectualization of faith is plainly seen in Tertullion and the Alexandrian view of faith as little more than minimal assent to rudiments. The Scholastic theology of the Middle ages understood faith as mere assent induced by reason. Luther rediscovered the significance of faith, looking away from all human merit to the unique merit of Christ Himself, but Lutheran and Reformed orthodoxy today is not free from the tendency to substitute right belief for true and living faith.”

The implications of this dynamic receptivity of “faith” are sobering. “Whatever is not of faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). Whenever we do not allow for the receptivity of the grace-activity of God, always consistent with His character, then the result can only be inconsistent with the character of God, and therefore “sin.” “Without faith it is impossible (no dynamic) to please Him” (Heb 11:6).

A true understanding of faith must take into account the continuous on-going feature of “our receptivity of His dynamic activity.”




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