Monday, August 28, 2006

Comments on the Passive Nature of Faith

Continuing with questions following the second half of Zane Hodges’ 2000 speech at the Grace Evangelical Society conference, here is another question and answer:

Question from the Audience: Zane, I’d like for you to address a little further the issue of the concept of the passive nature of faith and the concept that it is not decisional. One of the things that we teach at Chafer Seminary is with regard to Acts 28:24—the response to the last sermon that Paul delivered in Acts being a practical definition, or synonyms for faith are being given there. The response was, “And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved.” And so, we have, on one hand, some people being “persuaded”—a passive concept. The alternative is expressed as, “some others disbelieved.” And we use that in order to illustrate that faith is passive; it is not something that we decide to do.

Answer from Professor Hodges: I think that is an important consideration. Basically, as I was using Bob Wilkin as an illustration, I cannot believe that he is the biggest crook in Dallas until I’m persuaded that he is. And if nobody is capable of persuading me, then I’ll never be able to believe that he’s the biggest crook in Dallas.

But let’s suppose that the FBI and the DEA and all of these people come to me on the side, and they present all sorts of proof. And I may be very reluctant to accept their proof, but I have no way of challenging it. And so, at that point, I’m persuaded that what they are alleging is true. Now that’s not an act of the will because a persuasion is different than an act of the will.

And we have, I think, muddied the gospel waters considerably by telling people that they can decide to believe. Nobody can decide to believe. They can be persuaded.

And, therefore, that leaves a very significant area in which the Holy Spirit must operate. God who commanded light to shine out of darkness has shined into our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. God, in the final analysis, must persuade the heart. And, therefore, until a person has the divine illumination that amounts to persuasion, they will remain an unbeliever. And they can’t decide differently.

Now that’s not the same as saying man doesn’t have the capacity to believe—he does. But he does not have the capacity to believe the gospel without the assistance and ministry of the Holy Spirit. And I think that we need to keep that balance. Otherwise, we will think if I have led this person through the proper routine, or the proper prayer, or whatever technique I use, then that does it. If he has decided to do what I told him to do, then that does it. No, a man is not saved until he is persuaded that the gospel message is true.