Faith

“Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past…”

Rom. 3:25

“And He said, ‘I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith.'”

Dt. 32:20

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God”

Eph. 2:8

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Order of Contents

Articles
Books
Early Church on By Faith Alone
Faith is Grounded in Evidence, Contra Fideism & Implicit Faith
Can Infants have Faith?
Contra Sandemanianism
Distinction Between Express & Habitual Faith
On the Need for Faith in All Natural Actions

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Articles

1800’s

Buchanan, James – New Birth Repentance and Faith  1847, 10 paragraphs, from The Office and Work of the Holy Spirit

Cunningham, William – Faith Unites us to Christ  Buy  from Sermons 1828-1860, 1872, 8  paragraphs

Hodge, Charles – Faith and Repentance  from his Way of Life, chs. 6 & 7

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1900’s

Warfield, B.B. – ‘Faith in its Psychological Aspects’  in The Princeton Review Theological Review ix, 1911, p. 537, also in Studies in Theology (New York, 1932) & in Biblical and Theological Studies  (Philadelphia, 1952)

Berkhof, Louis – Faith  1950, 42 paragraphs, from his Systematic Theology

Murray, John

‘Faith & Repentance’

“Faith…  is a whole-souled movement of self-commitment to Christ for salvation from sin and its consequences.”

‘From Faith to Faith’  on Rom. 3:22

19. ‘Faith’ & 20. ‘The Assurance of Faith’  in Collected Writings 2.235

In the first of these articles Murray discusses three things: “Faith as a Psychological State, Fides Generalis [a general faith], and Fides Specialis [a special faith].” 

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2000’s

Isbell, Sherman – Temporary Faith  2005, p. 32, 5 pp.

Isbell Biblically describes and distinguishes Temporary Faith from Saving Faith

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Books

Bavinck, Herman – The Certainty of Faith  Buy  1980  92 pp.

Machen, J. Gresham – What is Faith?  1925  260 pp.

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The Early Church on By Faith Alone

Armchair Theologian – ‘Church Fathers on Sola Fide’  2016

The author is a layman in the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod.  He gives excerpts from Clement of Rome, Irenaeus, Epiphanios, Nanzianzus, Basil the Great, Ambrose, Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria & Peter Chrysologus.

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Faith is Grounded in God’-given Reason & Evidence, Contra Fideism & Implicit Faith

Intro

All of the material below illustrates the Reformation’s teaching that Scripture is autopistis, or self-evidencing.  That is, the reason and evidence for belief (which is necessary for rational creatures), is supplied by God in the Scriptural revelation itself.  Such reason and evidence leads us to receive the Scripture as the Word of God as it is recognized to be the Word of God, God having given it.

The methodology of apologetics that seeks to argue for a certain divine faith from anything less, namely from external evidence to the Bible and natural or moral reason (as though this were sufficient, despite whatever help it may be), is a serious error (see Owen), as well as the methodology that wholly disclaims or ignores the evidence and reason provided by God and insists on an a-rational dogmatism alone.

Regarding saving faith in Christ, the characteristics of the issue are the same.  Christ’s message and the Scripture’s witness to Him provide sufficient and compelling evidence and reason, upon God’s own authority, to the human heart to trust in Him as one’s Savior.  To be oblivious to these rational grounds in ignorance is not helpful; to ignore them in preaching is detrimental to rational, human souls.

For a definition of faith, see especially John Murray below.  Owen gives a faithful expounding of the doctrine contained in WCF 1.4-5.

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Quotes

1600’s

Owen, John

p. 612-3  of ‘The Testimony of the Church is not the Only, nor the Chief Reason of our Believing the Scripture to be the Word of God’  in Puritan Sermons, 5.606-648 & in Works, 8.495-543

“We affirm on the other side [from the Papists], that the testimony of the Spirit of God in the Word itself–witnessing it to be of God, by that stamp and impress, or, which comes to the same, by those notes and marks of divinity, which everywhere appear in it–is the immediate and principal, and a sufficient, reason of our believing it to be the Word of God, and the medium [which] the Spirit, working inwardly in our hearts, moves as the efficient of our faith, so the Scripture itself, in its own intrinsical beauty, luster, power and excellency, is that which moves us, in the way of an object or medium, to yield our assent to its being of God.

By this the Spirit of God; and, by an internal application of this to our minds, induceth us to assent to its so being….  This they [the Papists] deny; and this we shall first, though more briefly prove…”

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pp. 28-30 of The Reason of Faith...  (Glasgow, 1801), ch. 3, ‘Sundry convincing external Arguments for Divine Revelation’ also in Works, vol. 4

“There are sundry cogent arguments which are taken
from external considerations of the Scripture, that evince
it on rational grounds to be from God.  All these are motives of credibility, or effectual persuasives to account and esteem it to be the word of God.  And although they neither are, nor is it possible they ever should be, the ground and reason whereon we believe it so to be with faith divine and supernateral; yet are they necessary unto the confirmation of our faith herein against temptations, oppositions, and objections.  These arguments have been pleaded by many and that usefully, and therefore it is not needful for me to insist upon them.  And they are the same for the substance of them in ancient and modern writers, however managed by some with more learning, dexterity, and force of reasoning than by others.

…although we plead that no man can believe the Scriptures to be the word of God with faith divine, supernatural, and infallible, but upon its own internal divine evidence and efficacy, yet we allow and make use of all those external arguments of its sacred truth and divine original which are pleaded by others, ascribing unto them as much weight and cogency as they can do, acknowledging the persuasion which they beget and effect: to be as firm as they can pretend it to be:

Only we do not judge them to contain the whole of the evidence which we have for faith to rest in, or to be resolved into; yea not that at all, which renders it divine, supernatural and infallible.  The rational arguments we say which are, or may be used in this matter, with the human testimonies whereby they are corroborated, may and ought to be made use of and insisted on; and it is but vainly pretended that their use is superseded by our other assertions; as though where faith is required, all the subservient use of reason were absolutely discarded, and our faith thereby rendered irrational; and the assent unto the divine original and authority of the Scriptures, which the mind ought to give upon them, we grant to be of as high a nature as is pretended to be, namely, a moral certainty.

Moreover, the conclusion which unprejudiced reason will make upon these arguments, is more firm, better grounded, and more pleadable, than that which is built merely on the sole authority of any church whatever…”

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1800’s

Cunningham, William

III. ‘What are the Scriptures’  on Jn. 5:39  in Sermons from 1828-1860 (rep. Still Waters Revival, n.d.), pp. 43-44

“But there is not wanting evidence, and rational evidence, by means of which the great body of the people may be convinced that the Scriptures are indeed the Word of God.  There is an evidence to this important truth contained within the Bible itself–and evidence for the full understanding of which, nothing more is necessary than just a natural conscience, and a susceptibility of emotions–which requires nothing more in the way of mental cultivation and acquired knowledge, in order to be understood and felt, than what is not only within the reach, but actually within the possession, of almost, if not altogether, every individual of the human race.

This evidence consists chiefly in the correspondence between the principles and wants and desires of our nature, and the scriptural statements in regard to the Gospel scheme of salvation–a correspondence which is so complete and so striking, that it furnishes to all who feel and perceive it an abundant proof that the Bible comes from Him who made the heart, and who knows it best.

But this evidence for the Divine origin and authority of the Scriptures, drawn from the correspondence between its statements and the principles and feelings of our hearts, rises to the highest degree of clearness and certainty in Believers.  ‘He that believeth, hath this witness in himself.’ [1 Jn. 5:10]  From the changes which he has experienced in his own heart and character, he has the firmest ground for believing that the Bible, whose statements were the immediate cause of those changes, must proceed from a higher than human source , must have come down from the Father of his spirit.”

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Robert Dabney

‘The Bible its Own Witness’  in Discussions, vol. 1 (Richmond, VA: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1890), p. 116

“But we reply unanswerably, that from the very nature of the human mind, belief cannot possibly arise without evidence…”

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1900’s

B.B. Warfield

‘Faith in its Psychological Aspects’  in The Princeton Review Theological Review ix, 1911, p. 537, also in Studies in Theology (New York, 1932), p. 313 & in Biblical and Theological Studies  (Philadelphia, 1952), p. 375, and as quoted by John Murray, Collected Writings, 2.238

“The conception embodied in the terms, ‘belief’, ‘faith’, is not that of an arbitrary act of the subject, it is that of a mental state or act which is determined by sufficient reasons.”

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John Murray

‘Faith’  in Collected Writings 2.235-6, 237, 241

“When we use the word faith strictly and properly we mean that for certain reasons apprehended by us we are satisfied as to the reality, reliability or truth of a certain event, object or person…  When it has respect to a person we mean that we credit him as trustworthy in respect of that character which is under consideration…

To sum up, faith is trust.  Trust presupposes an object.  An object evokes our trust when there is an antecedent judgment of the mind that the object is trustworthy.  This judgment is formed by the evaluation of evidence as sufficient.  It is a state of mind induced by considerations objective to ourselves though always apprehended by our minds.

In this case it is useless or futile to try to ground this conviction [that the Scripture is the Word of God] upon rational argumentation based upon evidence extraneous to the sum total of the data with which the Christian revelation confronts us.  It might seem that such argumentation is necessary in order to avoid the charge of arguing in a circle.  But it will become apparent how impossible it is to produce by evidence extraneous to the Scripture the faith which has as its object the Scripture itself.  The Reformers were aware of the fallacy attaching to argumentation on the basis of extrinsic evidence, and so they laid down the principle that Scripture is autopistic, that is, self-authenticating, and this means that the evidence validating the faith of Scripture as the Word of God is the Scripture itself.  This is to say that it contains within itself the evidence of its divine origin, character, and authority.”

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Articles

1500’s

Rollock, Robert – ‘Scripture is Autopistos’  Select Works, 1.68-73

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1600’s

Owen, John – Book 6, pt. 1, The Reason of Faith; or, an answer unto that inquiry, ‘Wherefore we believe the Scripture to be the Word of God;’ with the causes and nature of that faith wherewith we do so: wherein the grounds whereon the Holy Scripture is believed to be the Word of God with faith divine and supernatural are declared and vindicated  in Pneumatologia: or, A Discourse concerning the Holy Spirit, Continued  in Works, vol. 4, pp. 1-115

See especially Ch. 5, ‘Divine Revelation itself the only foundation and reason of faith’, p. 69 ff.

“What is the work of the Holy Ghost with respect unto the objective evidence which we have concerning the Scripture, that it is the word of God, which is the formal reason of our faith, and whereinto it is resolved?…

These things being supposed , we do affirm, That it is the authority and truth of God, as manifesting themselves in the supernatural revelation made in the Scripture [emphasis added], that our faith arises from and is resolved into.

As the issue of this whole discourse, it is affirmed that our faith is built on and resolved into the Scripture itself, which carries with it its own evidence of being a divine revelation; and therefore doth that faith ultimately rest on the truth and authority of God alone, and not on any human testimony, such as is that of the church, nor on any rational arguments or motive that are absolutely fallible.” – pp. 69, 72, 81

On the necessary role of natural and rational evidence in faith, contra Fideism, see the first half of ch. 6, ‘The Nature of Divine Revelations.  Their Self-Evidencing Power Considered…’  The opening paragraph of the chapter states the objection of Fideism (below); Owen then proceeds in the rest of the chapter to refute it in a very careful, meticulous and helpful way.

“It may be said that if the Scripture thus evidence itself
to be the word of God, as the sun manifests itself by
light…  or as the first principles of reason are evident in themselves without further proof or testimony, then every one and all men, upon the proposal of the Scripture unto them, and its own bare assertion that it is the word of God, would necessarily on that evidence alone, assent thereunto, and believe it so to be.

But this is not so: all experience Iies against it, nor is there any pleadable ground of reason that so it is, or that so it ought to be.”

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Turretin, Francis – Q. 11, ‘Is there any use of the Testimony of the Senses in Mysteries of Faith, or Ought it to be entirely Rejected?  We Affirm the Former & Deny the Latter.’  in Institutes (P&R), vol. 1, 1st Topic, ‘Theology’, ‘The Genus of Theology’, pp. 34-37

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Can Infants have Faith?

Turretin, Francis – The Faith of Infants  †1687  21 paragraphs

This is the best article on the topic.  Turretin says yes and no, and distinguishes. Lutherans go too far in giving infants full fledged adult faith.  Anabaptists go too far in denying any possibility of faith whatsoever in infants.  Turretin argues the historic reformed view that infants are capable according to their infant nature, to trust in the sense of divinity stamped on their souls.  

They may have a seed-form of faith, which, if present savingly by God’s regeneration, will blossom into trusting the Son of God to save them from their sins when they can understand and are taught such.

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Contra Sandemanianism

Intro

Named after the Scottish Robert Sandeman (†1771), one tenet of this distinctive system was defining faith as only (1) comprehension and (2) assent, leaving out the vital aspect of (3) trust, making faith to be no more than a historic faith and nominalism.

John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan of the old Free Church of Scotland came out of this influence.  Gordon Clark was a late, contemporary proponent of it.  Many Christians are practical Sandemanians though they know not the name of it.

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Articles

Westminster Confession – Ch. 14.2 – ‘Of Saving Faith’

Turretin, Francis – 15th Topic, ‘Calling & Faith’, Q. 10, ‘Is Faith Trust?  We Affirm Against the Romanists’  in Institutes  (P&R), pp. 569-71

Fuller, Andrew – Strictures on Sandemanianism in 12 Letters to a Friend  1811  250 pp.  See especially Letters 3-8, pp. 45-175

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Distinction Between Express & Habitual Faith

Samuel Rutherford

The Divine Right of Church Government…  (1646), pp. 73-4

“2.  Express and actual reference and intention to every commandment of God, or to God’s glory in every particular action, I do not urge; a habitual reference and intention I conceive is holden forth to us in Scripture: 1 Cor. 10:31…

Whereas being created according to God’s image, especially, he living in the visible Church, he is to do all his actions deliberate, even natural and moral in faith, and with a warrant from scripture to make good their morality, Ps. 119:9; Prov. 3:23-24; 2 Cor. 5:7.”

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On the Need for Faith in All Natural Actions

Samuel Rutherford

The Divine Right of Church Government…  (1646), Intro, Section 5, pp. 79

“…there be some things that the Law of Nature commands, as to move, eat, sleep; and here with leave I distinguish factum, ‘the common practice’ of men from the jus, what men in conscience ‘ought’ to do;

As concerning the former, moral and natural men’s practice is all resolved in their own carnal will and lusts; and so they eat, move and sleep because nature and carnal will leads them thereinto, not because God in the Law of nature (which I humbly conceive to be a part of the first elements and principles of the Moral Law, or Decalogue, and so a part of Scripture) does so warrant us to do; and therefore the moving, eating, drinking of natural Moralists, are materially lawful and conform to Scripture, for God by the Law of nature commands both heathen men and pure Moralists within the visible Church [nominal church members], to do natural acts of this kind, because the Lord has revealed that to be his will in the Book of Nature:

But these heathen do these acts because they are suitable to their lusts and carnal will, and not because God has commanded them so to do in the Book of Nature; and this is their sin in the manner of doing though materially, et quod substantiam actus [and that according to the substance of the act], the action be good; and the same is the sin of natural men within the visible Church, and a greater sin, for God not only commands them in the Law of Nature, but also in Scripture to do all these natural acts, because God has revealed his will in these natural actions, as they are moral, to natural men within the visible Church, both in the Law of Nature and in the Scripture, and de jure they ought to obey because God so commands in bot; and in regard all within the visible Church are obliged to all natural actions in a spiritual way, though their eating, moving, sleeping be lawful materially, et quod substantiam actus; yet because they do them without any the least habitual reference to God, so commanding in Nature’s Law and Scripture, they are in the manner of doing, sinful;”

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“Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.”

Rom. 3:27

“That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”

1 Cor. 2:5

“Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.”

2 Cor. 1:24

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