Faith


I recently noticed that the popular NBC TV show, Heroes, is boasting a new series with the promo “In every hero there could be a villain”.  It seems to be centered around the idea that the heroes are also the villains at different times throughout the drama.  I think I can relate.  But I would argue that in every hero there IS a villain.

I have been a believer in Jesus Christ since I was five years of age.  I was dramatically converted from a life of thumb-sucking and temper tantrums, I like to say.  In reality, I know I was “born from above,” as John chapter 3 puts it, because of the warfare that has raged in my soul ever since, among other reasons.  Recently, I have felt frustrated with some of the ways that I have been tempted and, at times, given in to my old nature, the sinful power in me, the “villain” that opposes everything I want to be for God.  I’ve been asking myself alot of questions.  Questions like:

Where does my desire to tear down another person in order to build myself up come from?

Why do I worry about the future when I am promised my needs will be cared for forever? 

What keeps me from sharing God’s truth to my aquaintances every chance I get? 

Why do I care so much about my own comfort? 

Why do I fear for my own loss when everything that really matters I already have, and that which I have I can never lose?

Why do I lose my joy?  How can I fix my eyes on any earthly situation for more than a moment when I could be gazing (spiritually) into the eyes of my Redeemer?

How can I neglect to truly pray when I know that all that I could ever want is found in the whisper of His name?

Why do I choose to feed my physical thirst and neglect feeding my spiritual thirst when my appetite for the former is never quenched, but the latter springs up unto life eternal? 

How is it that I can sin and not shed a single tear when Jesus Christ wept over my sin in the Garden the night before it cost Him His life?

Why do I no longer tremble when I think of how close I came to spending all of forever in eternal damnation and punishment?

How can I forget so easily the agony of that night in the garden or in Pilate’s palace?  How is it that Golgotha slips so quickly from my mind?

Why does my anger rise up within me when I am ridiculed – do I not deserve every word against me and more?

How can I choose the evening sitcom over bedside prayers with my children?

How can I allow images of women other than my wife to linger in my mind?

What causes me to desire to deceive or withhold information in order to be praised by my peers or obtain a larger paycheck?

Why do I choose to stay in bed some mornings when I could be exploring the riches of the Holy Scriptures?

Why do I quickly question and want to rebel in my heart against any and all authority set over me regardless of who it is? 

How do I fall in love so quickly with anything and everything that tickles my fancy when it displaces my first love for my Savior? 

Why do I fail to be content when I already have everything that is good for me?

These are just a few of the questions that lately have plagued my mind.  I want to do what is right.  I want to be holy.  I get so tired some times of struggling with my self.  I see in me this law that all that I don’t want to do, that I do.  And that which I want to do, I don’t do.  What a treacherous man I am!  Who will rescue me from from this war that rages in my soul?  Thank God that I can be free through Jesus Christ, my Lord.  So with my mind I am serving this principle of Christ, but with my flesh I am serving this principle of sin.  (See Romans 7:22-25 – my own paraphrase) 

Once again, my victory over this arch enemy deep within lies in Scripture.  Romans chapter 8, verses 5,13, 14, 26 & 32 seems to spell it out.

Verse 5 teaches me to set my mind on the things of the Spirit.

Verse 13 teaches me to put to death the actions of the sinful nature (the flesh).

Verse 14 commands me to follow the Spirit.

Verses 26 & 32 prompt me to pray for the victory.

Can it really be that simple?  Yes, I think it can be.  Has God’s will ever been hard to understand?  The difficulty is in obeying these simple commands daily.  This battle that I face every day is won by following these four commands.  When I keep my mind on spiritual matters (the Word of God) through memorizing, meditating and mentioning (Psalm 119:11 & Joshua 1:8) it consistently, I have obeyed the first command.  But I have only begun the battle.  When I refuse to obey the desires of my sinful nature, I have gained another part of the victory. 

Thirdly, I must follow the Spirit of God.  “Follower” is a synonym with “disciple”  from which we get the word discipline.  We must discipline ourselves to follow the new law of the Spirit.  Over 1000 commands are given in the new testament and by God’s grace, we are to follow them.  Not as legalists trying to obtain God’s favor, but as children seeking to please Him who has made us accepted in the beloved.  But, even this is futile if we fail to follow verses 26 & 32. 

It is only when I add quality time before the throne of God, allowing the Spirit to pray through me in groanings that often cannot even be uttered, that I ensure I have done my part and have been victorious.  Yes, and I know that I am victorious over this principle of sin because I am more than a conqueror through him that loved me and that predestined me to be conformed to the image of his Son.  (Romans 8:30 & 37)

Praise God for the victory that I have over the villain inside me when I simply trust and obey the truths of His word!   And I don’t even need to watch the TV show.

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Leading up to our meetings with Evangelist Milton my concept of Revival was, I am sure, like most of yours in that I was praying for a manifestation of the Holy Spirit.  I was looking for a “filling” of the Spirit.  In truth I was looking for a “feeling”.  This week I learned that God answers prayers asked amiss.  I had missed the mark by a mile in my perception of revival.  Allow me to explain.

            My perception of revival was that I could prepare myself and stand waiting for the Lord to move in some type of emotional or spiritual manifestation.  What I learned as Christ revealed to me through His servant Brother Milton was that revival is the opening of our spiritual eyes to the truth that is already prepared for us.  Revival is a re-focusing of our attention on the things of God, even the deeper things of God.  It is a revelation to the individual of his relationship to and fellowship with Jesus Christ the Son of God.  It is the answer made real to the question, ”Who, Am I?”

So who am I?  I am dust of the earth.  I am miry clay that the Creator is forming for His good pleasure.  I am a nothing aside of what my Lord makes of me.   I have no intrinsic value.  I am worthy only of the wrath of God.  The real question then becomes “Who am I in Christ?”  In Christ I am a child of the King, a son and an heir. (Romans 8:17)   I am of the royal priesthood. (I Peter 2:9)  I am an ambassador for Christ to the world around me. (2 Corinthians 5:20)  I am not boasting in the flesh because the flesh is reckoned dead and Christ now lives in me. (Galatians 2:20)  This is not being told to build us up but to humble us with the very thought that God so loved us… moreover God so loved me that He would give His only Son to die in my place that I might be saved and be eternally with Him. I have not believed, truly believed who I am in Christ, else I would live more victoriously.

My Christian walk with my Lord and Savior has been so sub-standard that as I look around me I see what a pathetic creature I am.  My righteousness truly is as filthy rags.  I have been trying to live this life on my own without realizing the vast resources at my disposal through Christ.  Therein lies Revival.  Revival is not an entity unto itself.  Revival is the Holy Spirit revealing the riches of Christ we have at our disposal, the vast resources He already has waiting for us since the instant He saved us.  We are sons and daughters what good thing is the Father going to withhold from us? (Mathew 7:8-11) Put down the cup, the bottle and the thimble, wade out in the river and be filled!  We settle for the few drops of blessing in our dry and parched souls when we could be drinking deeply at the Spring of Living Water.

My soul, I have been wandering in the wilderness.  God is not withholding His blessing from me on a whim.  God has not given to me before because I have not asked in faith, fully believing who I am in Christ Jesus.  “I” keep getting in the way so that God cannot bless me and mature me as one of His children.   Not I but Christ, Not I but Christ, Not I but Christ, lives in me!   O, that we I would live every second of our my life proving this truth.,  what Revival we I would have!  

The evangelist has sown the seed and he sowed liberally.  We are now left to feast on the meal the Holy Spirit has spread before us.  When anyone asks you, “Hey, did y’all have “REVIVAL?” up at the church?”  Look them right in the eye and tell them, “Yes, Praise God we did!”  Yes we did and thank God we still are.  Now we are looking for the Quickening work of the Holy Spirit.  (Revival restores life to the believer, quickening brings new life to those without it.  But that is another sermon.)

A Message from  

 

“A number of people called our attention to this clip from the popular TV series ER. It really is amazing for secular television.The “Fair Use” law allowed us to teach from it, without violating copyright laws. It has wonderful evangelistic potential, so please use it all over the Internet.”

To me this one is worth re-posting for WOTM.

Faith & Reason (Continued from Part 1)

We have already established that there is an interrelation between faith and reason.  Now the question is: How do they relate to each other?  This, the second post on this subject, will seek to answer that question.  There are three major categories in which faith and reason can relate.  These are (1) faith only; (2) reason only; and (3) faith and reason.

Fideism (Faith Only)
The “faith only” perspective says that reason plays no part in matters of religion.  As Tertullian said, “I believe because it is absurd!”  This view asserts that the only valid way to know anything about God is solely through faith.  Famous faith-only Christians include individuals such as Tertullian (160?-230?), Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), Karl Barth (1886-1968), and to a slightly lesser degree, Blaise Pascal (1623-1662). 

 The driving force behind Fideism is the separation of man from God.  The finitude of human beings (specifically in regard to the intellect), and the transcendent nature of God keeps us from being able to effectively reason on spiritual matters.  On the one hand there is the fallen state of man which has left his mind and intellect in opposition to God; while on the other, there is the infinite greatness of God’s power and wisdom, which is totally foreign to human reason and can only present paradoxes to mankind.

Soren Kierkegaard
One of the most influential proponents of the “faith only” movement was the Danish philosopher and theologian, Soren Kierkegaard.  Among his many written works, his book, Fear and Trembling, especially sets forth his case.

The theme of Fear and Trembling is the well-known story of God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac.  Kierkegaard’s literary skill is superb as he captures the poignant emotions that Abraham must have felt as he traveled with his son to the mountain of sacrifice.  According to Kierkegaard, Abraham – unable to ascertain a rational motive explaining God’s command – had to make a “leap of faith” and obey God instead of his own reason.

This “leap of faith” stands at the core of Kierkegaard’s conception of faith and reason.  In essence he taught that the only way to understand God was to let go of reason and venture out on faith alone, that rational proofs of God’s existence were pointless and an affront to his nature, and that (contrary to Romans 1) there was no such thing as natural revelation.  Frederick Copleston, in his History of Philosophy, describes Kierkegaard’s philosophy:

God is not man, and man is not God.  And the gulf between them cannot be bridged by dialectical thinking.  It can be bridged only by a leap of faith, by a voluntary act by which man relates himself to God and freely appropriates, as it were, his relation as creature to the Creator, as a finite individual to the transcendent Absolute.[i]

Evaluation
Although the “faith only” viewpoint does indeed contribute some important teaching concerning God, faith, and reason, it has made a serious error in attempting to disregard reason altogether.  God created man a rational being and expects him to use his reason even in matters of faith.  If reason is denied then we have no basis of certainty for Scripture and faith.

Rationalism (Reason Only)
Whereas Fideism advocates that we should disregard reason for faith; the “reason only” view holds to just the opposite.  According to Rationalism, anything that cannot be apprehended or explained by reason must be rejected.  Famous rationalists include such individuals as Rene Descartes (1596-1650), Benedict Spinoza (1632-1677), and Immanuel Kant (1724-1804).

Although there are various degrees within the “reason only” perspective, the basic idea that is held in common is the belief that all truth can be discovered by unaided human reason.  Therefore the reason of man becomes the measure of all things.  Even Scripture must acquiesce to reason as it must pass the test of rational inquiry before it is accepted.

This ideology is the basis for higher criticism and theological liberalism.  Spirituality and religion are measured only by man’s ability to comprehend them.  Immanuel Kant succinctly summed up the “reason only” movement with the title of his book, Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone.     

Evaluation
On a positive note, the “reason only” movement has been successful in dampening some of the influence of the more extreme versions of anti-intellectualism, although in the final analysis, this system of thought has consistently demonstrated itself to be bankrupt of any legitimate insight into the nature of God and Scripture.  While it is correct in assuming that God intends for us to use the reasoning powers of our minds, it errs in placing the mind of man above God and denying the role of faith in the Christian experience.

Interrelation (Faith and Reason)
 The final view that will be stated here represents a synthesis of faith and reason.  This view asserts that faith and reason are interrelational, that is to say, that they both play a part in understanding God and Scripture.  This view was set forth in particular by two of Christendom’s greatest thinkers: St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) and St. Thomas Aquinas (1225?-1274).  

This perspective can best be described by the phrase, “faith seeking understanding”.  In Augustine’s opinion, faith was necessary to reason correctly about God.  We all have to place our faith in some authority as the basis for how we think; Augustine said that the authority of the Christian faith is Scripture.  However we should not be satisfied with simply resting on an authority, but we should seek to understand the authority in which we have placed our faith.  In other words, we should not just believe, but we should seek to understand why and what we believe

Aquinas’ position was very similar.  He believed that man could come to a basic knowledge of God based on reason but that Scripture was necessary for understanding many things within the realm of the Divine.  As he said in Theology, Faith, and Reason:

There are some intelligible truths to which the efficacy of [reason] extends, such as the principles which a man naturally knows and the things which are deduced from them, and for knowledge of these no new intelligible light is required, but the naturally inborn light suffices.  But there are things to which these principles do not extend, such as what pertains to faith and exceeds the capacity of reason…The human mind cannot know these unless it is illumined by a new light superadded to the natural.[ii]

Thomas was basically saying that there are things about God that the human mind can deduce from creation itself, but there are other things which can only be understood through the revelation of Scripture.  Based on this premise, Thomas believed that it was possible to prove the existence of God from reasoning about creation, which he set forth in his famous “Five Ways” in the Summa Theologica.

Evaluation
It has been said before that Satan does not care whether you or going Upstream or Downstream just so long as you are Extreme.  The “faith only” and “reason only” viewpoints represent the extremes of our subject.  The Christian life is one of perpetual balance and this extends to the realm of faith and reason.  It is important that we see that there is an interrelationship between faith and reason, and that we do jump to the fringe on either side.  Blind faith and cold reason are both dangerous guides.  The balanced Christian seeks to have the body of reason animated by the fire of faith.


[i] Copleston, Frederick. A History of Philosophy: Vol. II. (New York: Image Books, 1994), p. 336[ii] Aquinas, Thomas. Theology, Faith, and Reason: On Boethius’ “On the Trinity”.

Many people associate Christian faith with a “blind leap into the dark”.  In their opinion, Christians are required to throw away reason in order to embrace a fantastic story that helps them worry less and sleep more soundly.  Modern culture often ignores the voice of Christianity, because it is assumed that faith has no bearing upon reason.

But is this true?  Are faith and reason mutually exclusive?  Can there be reconciliation between the two?  The answer to that question is a resounding yes.  One does not have to check his brain at the door when entering the realm of faith.  On the contrary, we have an injunction from the Almighty not only to love Him with all of our heart and soul, but with our mind as well.

What is Faith?
Many of the misunderstandings concerning faith and reason stem from a misconception of what faith really is.  Many consider faith to be some mystical feeling in the pit of their stomach; a magical intuition that guides them to deeper truth.  To others, faith is a thoughtless adherence to creeds and dogma without any concern or attention to the facts that under gird them.  Neither of these is the Biblical definition of faith, nor are they the traditional concept of faith that the church has held for centuries.

Faith According to Scripture
Nearly every time the word “faith” is used in the New Testament, it is translated from a form of the Greek word pistis.   The primary definition of pistis is a “a conviction of the truth of something that leads to belief“. We see, therefore, that the New Testament conception of faith is not a belief in an irrational fantasy, but rather a confidence in what one knows to be true.  As one theologian has said, “The heart cannot delight in what the mind rejects as false.”[ii]

The most comprehensive treatment on the subject of faith found in Scripture is found in Hebrews 11.  Often regarded as the “faith hall of fame”, this chapter sets forth a concise definition of faith in its first verse:  “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

A closer look at the attributes given to faith found in this verse will greatly increase our understanding of what faith really is.  The word “substance” is translated from the Greek word hupostatis.  This word, which is translated as “confidence” in 3:14, means “the strongest possible form of confidence that something is true“.  The word “evidence”, found within this verse and translated from elegchos, literally means “a strong conviction“.  The verse, literally translated, would read, “Now faith is the confidence of things hoped for and the conviction (or assurance) of things not seen.”

By looking carefully at this and other portions of Scripture, we can ascertain that the Biblical concept of faith is not an irrational leap into the dark, but a reasonable step into the light.  Although our faith rests in things which cannot be seen, it does so after being previously convinced that those things, though unseen, are real nonetheless.

Faith According to Theology
When we examine much of the traditional theology of the church, we find no conception of an irrational or blind faith.  The theology of saving faith was carefully systemized by the theologians of the past.  These men divided true, saving faith into three components: Notitia, Assensus, and Fiducia.

Notitia
This word means “the idea” and deals with the recognition of facts and data.  Faith cannot exist without some form of knowledge of what one is to believe.  In regard to saving faith, there must be an exposure to the data or facts of the gospel before one will ever be able to have faith in what it says.  Romans 10:14-17 states:

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”  But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”  So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. 

Thus we see that faith must begin with a conscious recognition of fact, and cannot exist within a mental vacuum.

Assensus
Assensus means “to give intellectual agreement to the validity or truth of a statement”.  This means that one not only knows (notitia) the message of the Gospel, but that they have agreed that its message is true (assensus).

Although notitia and assensus are necessary to saving faith they are not sufficient in and of themselves.  This insufficient type of faith is known as fides historica, or mere historical faith, as opposed to fides salvifica (saving faith).

It is important to note, however, that assensus is necessary to salvation.  There must be an agreement with the facts before someone can exercise faith.  This, in itself, demonstrates Christianity to be reasonable faith; because there is no disregard of fact or evidence. It does not mean that the person coming to faith understands all of the facts presented, but that he has agreed that they are true in light of the evidence.  To quote Charles Hodge,

“God requires nothing irrational of his creatures. He does not require faith without evidence. Christianity is equally opposed to superstition and Rationalism. The one is faith without appropriate evidence, the other refuses to believe what it does not understand, in spite of evidence which should command belief.”[iv] 

Fiducia
This term literally means “trust”.  It is the third and final necessary component of faith.  It involves an appropriation and reliance on what one knows to be true.  In the case of the gospel, it is a complete surrender to, and total trust in the promises made by God through Christ. 

It is also important to note that fiducia involves trust in a person and not just agreement with fact (assensus).  Our faith is not is not based on evidence or facts about Christ (though it may be supported by it), but in Christ Himself.    

We exercise these three aspects of faith every day.  Here is a simple but cogent illustration.  Our first reaction upon walking into a dark room is to search for the light switch.  Upon locating the switch we use it to turn on the light.   All of the three components that have been previously mentioned are involved in this simple act of faith. 

switch.jpg

  • 1. Notitia– We realize that the room is dark and we discover the location of the light switch.
  • 2. Assensus– We intellectually assent that the switch will turn on the lights based upon on the evidence (i.e. switches found in similar locations have always turned on the lights before).
  • 3. Fiducia– By actually flipping the switch we have placed our trust in the fact that it will perform the task we have already mentally agreed that it would do.

Although these three divisions of faith may occur almost simultaneously, each one is necessary for true faith to occur.  Therefore a study of the very nature of faith demonstrates that the idea that it is “blind” or somehow separate from reason is absurd.  While reason is not faith, it is necessary for faith.


[ii] Pinnock, Clark, Set Forth Your Case (The Craig Press, 1967), p. 3
.[iv] Hodge, Charles, Systematic Theology,  Taken from Introduction to Chapter 3, “Rationalism”