Sunday, February 25, 2007

Is Faith a Gift?

Excerpted from page 167 of The Gospel Under Siege, by Zane C. Hodges.

[Begin Excerpt] It is often claimed by theologians that man has no capacity to believe and that faith, like salvation, must be given to him as a gift. But this view is contradicted by 2 Corinthians 4:3,4 where Paul writes, “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose mind the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine upon them.”

From Paul’s words it appears that Satan himself does not regard men as constitutionally incapable of faith. Instead, from his point of view, men are in danger of believing unless he actively blinds them! He must therefore prevent the truth from dawning on their hearts. This may be compared to an effort to keep light out of a dark room by (for example) drawing together a thick pair of curtains. The room can receive light but is prevented from doing so by the curtains. If someone pulls the curtains apart, light will automatically shine into the room.

God’s role in bringing men to faith is therefore revelatory. (See our Lord’s statement to Peter in Matthew 16:17). As Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 4:6, God shines His light into our hearts. Perceiving God’s word as light (i.e., as truth) is precisely what faith does. When the truth of the sufficiency of Christ for the eternal salvation of every believer dawns on our hearts, at that moment we are believing the light and thus know that, in so believing, we ourselves are eternally saved. Thus faith is a capacity built into man by His Creator, just like the capacity to think or speak. None of these capabilities are obliterated by the Fall, but man’s use of them is seriously impaired by his own sinfulness. As a sinner, he prefers to believe a lie rather than the truth (See Romans 1:20-25).

Yet despite man’s darkened heart and Satan’s special efforts to prevent man’s illumination, God can break through all this darkness with the light of His truth and in so doing can meet a response of faith in man. So it is clear from all this that man’s created capacity to believe things is awakened by the illumination God gives in the Gospel. Belief in the truth is impossible for any man so long as he remains persuaded that the truth is false. Once he is persuaded of the truth of the saving message, he has believed it.

Finally, one must say that the Reformed view that man is in every sense a “corpse” without even the capacity to believe the light when it shines forth to him is a gross distortion of reality. It is a transparent effort to press a metaphor like “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1) well beyond the legitimate parameters of that metaphor. Man is “dead in sins” precisely because he is separated from God’s own kind of life, as Paul states in Ephesians 4:18: “being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them.” But the metaphor is seriously misused when it is made the basis for denying to man any and all capacity to receive the truth of God as light. If man had no such capacity, he could not be charged with sin for his unbelief, as Jesus told the Pharisees: “If you were blind, you would have no sin” (John 9:41). [End Excerpt]

Monday, February 12, 2007

Is Trust (Fiducia) a Component of Faith or a Synonym for Faith?

Gordon H. Clark explains in What is Saving Faith (p. 47):

“The crux of the difficulty with the popular analysis of faith into notitia (understanding), assensus (assent), and fiducia (trust), is that fiducia comes from the same root as fides (faith). The Latin fide is not a good synonym for the Greek pisteuoo. Hence this popular analysis reduces to the obviously absurd definition that faith consists of understanding, assent, and faith. Something better than this tautology must be found.”

Or as Dr. Bob Wilkin explained in his debate with Dr. James White:
[Begin] You’ve heard the old line: notitia, assensus, fiducia. That’s understanding, acceptance, and trust. Gordon Clark points out that fiducia is a synonym for faith. And so when you say “understanding, acceptance, and trust,” that’s like saying, “understanding, acceptance, and faith.” You can’t say that a part of something is the whole thing. It would be like saying that a car is made up of glass, metal, and automobile. Well, you can’t do that because an automobile is a car. Faith is fiducia. And so when he says that “you’re choosing to believe,” no, you don’t choose to believe. The evidence either convinces you or it doesn’t. And if the evidence convinces, you believe. [End]

Monday, February 05, 2007

Can We be Sure of Someone Else’s Salvation?

Transcribed from the question and answer session with Zane Hodges that followed his lecture, Once Again James 2, delivered at the 2005 Grace Evangelical Society annual conference. The lecture dealt with the concept of “justification by works” as found in James 2:21-26.

Question from the Audience: This [question] wasn’t what you were speaking about, but it relates. Can we ever be sure of someone else’s salvation? If so, based on what?

Professor Hodges: First John 5:1 says, “Whosoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” And it says that in the context where it is trying to identify the brother that we are to love. I think that has to be understood in the light of Johannine theology, but to believe that Jesus is the Christ is to believe that He is the one who gives eternal life to the person who believes in Him. And, personally, I don’t think there is any grounds for doubting the salvation of someone who apparently with all sincerity and understanding says, “That is what I believe.”

Now I admit that I have met a few people who told me that, and I didn’t think that was really what they really believed, so I had some doubts about that. But most of the people that I meet and interact with can easily convince me they’re saved by saying, “Yes, I know I’m going to heaven because I believed in Christ, and He’s given me eternal life.” And unless they’re the best liars in the world, I think they’re brothers.

Follow-up Question: Just a follow-up on that, what would lead you to question a person if that is what they affirmed? What in those situations made you question that?

Professor Hodges: Well I knew a little bit about the person and the circumstances under which the person was talking to me, so I had suspicions… They were telling me, I think, what they thought I wanted to hear…That does happen. People are capable of that, but, you know, how often does that happen? To me it hasn’t happened very much, but it has happened a couple of times.

Is There Such a Thing as a Believer Who Never Does Anything as a Result of His Faith?

Transcribed from the question and answer session that followed the lecture, Once Again James 2, delivered by Zane Hodges at the 2005 Grace Evangelical Society annual conference. The lecture dealt with the concept of “justification by works” as found in James 2:21-26.

Question from the Audience: Are you saying that faith will at least be manifested externally at some point in the life. I know you haven’t specifically addressed that question [in your lecture], but here’s the question: Would you say that faith is externally manifested at least at some point in every believer’s life?

Professor Hodges: No.

Followup question: Would you like to elaborate on that? [laughter from the audience].

Professor Hodges: No…[laughter from the audience]…, however, I will [laughter from the audience]. This is closely related to the long-running question: Is there such a thing as a believer who never ever does anything as a result of his faith? My answer to that, what I have gone into print as saying, is I don’t think there is any such thing as a believer who never ever does anything at all as a result of their faith, but I cannot prove it from Scripture, so it cannot be a fundamental doctrine.

But even if a person does one or two things as a result of their faith, that is certainly not grounds for assurance of salvation. And the really important issue is that works are not indispensable to an assurance of eternal life. What is indispensable to that is the promise of God and our conviction that that promise is true.