Friday, December 21, 2007

Is Faith Mere Intellectual Assent?

The following is an excerpt from Absolutely Free, by Zane Hodges, pages 30-31 :

In [discussions of faith], we should discard words like mental or intellectual altogether. The Bible knows nothing about an intellectual faith as over against some other kind of faith (like emotional or volitional). What the Bible does recognize is the obvious distinction between faith and unbelief!

No one needs to be a psychologist to understand what faith is. Still less do we need to resort to “pop psychology” to explain it. It is an unproductive waste of time to employ the popular categories—intellect, emotion, or will—as a way of analyzing the mechanics of faith. Such discussions lie far outside the boundaries of biblical thought. People know whether they believe something or not, and that is the real issue where God is concerned.

But lordship salvation drives its adherents into a psychological shadowland. We are told true faith has volitional and emotional elements. But we might ask: In what sense?

Have we not all at some time been compelled by facts to believe something we did not wish to believe? Did we not, in a sense, believe against our will? Was that not even the case with Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus? And is it not equally true that we often believe things without any discernible emotional response to them, while at other times we are overwhelmed with emotion?

Such questions show how precarious and contradictory are the notions about faith which arise out of popular psychology.

The one thing we cannot do, however, is to believe something we don’t know about. That is why the apostle Paul declared quite plainly, “And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?” (Ro 10:14). And he added appropriately, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (10:17).

Does that involve the intellect? Of course! But is it mere intellectual assent? Of course not! To describe faith that way is to demean it as a trivial, academic exercise, when in fact it is no such thing.

What faith really is, in biblical language, is receiving the testimony of God. It is the inward conviction that what God says to us in the gospel is true. That—and that alone—is saving faith.

[End excerpt]