Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Saved by Whose Faith?

One reader wrote in:

I have a quick question that I am hoping you could help me on. It is about faith and the Arminian view of it. The Arminian side says that we must have faith before we are saved and that is what election is based on, I hope at least that that is what they say. I have been reading [a writer] and he states that we live by the faith of Jesus, not by our faith [in] Him. Meaning it is not our faith that saves us, but rather his faith/faithfulness that saves us. Would you agree to that? It seems like most of the Bible translations have those Scripture verses read our faith. Some that were in the book Gal. 2:20, Rom. 3:22, Philippians 3:8,9.

He also wrote that the last part of Romans 8:1 should not be included as it is in the KJV. I have looked at the Geneva Bible that you recommended and it has the last part of the verse in there as well. “… that walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” He argues that the writer’s eyes moved to verse 4.

If it is not our faith that saves us, but rather our Lord’s faith/faithfulness that saves us then I wonder how the Arminian side can stand? Would the argument be that it should not read His faith, but it should read our faith?

Thanks for the time and for shedding more light on this for me.
I respond:

It is the righteousness of Christ, his faithful obedience to God's law, that saves us.

His work is imputed to us by faith. In other words, we trust in the work of Christ.

Thus, faith has an instrumental role.

One important problem with the Arminian position is that it fails to recognize what faith is: faith is trusting in the work of Christ.

Arminian theology tends to change faith into a work, something we do in order to be saved: as though we are saved on account of our faith (the thing itself) rather than on account of Christ's righteousness (the object of faith).

Because Arminian theology views faith as the meritorious cause of our salvation, Arminian theology also often asserts that the elect are chosen on account of foreseen faith.

There is a serious flaw with the Arminian argument though: faith is one of the fruits of the Spirit: it is something that the Spirit produces in us. Scripture says so.

How does the Spirit do so? By opening the spiritually blind eyes, and the spiritually deaf ears. Do you honestly think any person in their right mind prefers eternal punishment to eternal blessedness? Do you honestly think that any person does the calculus and decides that the pleasure of rebellion against God is worth eternal damnation?

Surely not.

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

People do not seek the physician because they do not believe they are ill. Some people may not have looked to the brazen serpent, because they doubted the efficacy of that course of treatment for snake bite. Few people believe that Christ can save them, and few trust in Him to do so.

But note that we do not "trust in trust" or have "faith in faith" instead we trust in Christ, we have faith in the Son of God.

What saves us? It is not our faith, though it is by faith that Christ's righteousness is imputed to us. It is Christ's righteousness that saves us.

Regeneration is the reason we see our sinful condition, our need of a Saviour, and the Identity of that Saviour, the Saviour of the World (for there is no other saviour in the world, nor is there one saviour for Whites and another for Blacks, but one saviour for all nations). With our eyes wide open, what choice do we have?

In one way of looking at it, we have no choice at all. It is a no brainer. We either Worship God or Die. It is the most extreme form of threatening coersion possible, for there is nothing more fearful than Him who can place both body and soul in hell for all eternity.

Those who do not repent of their sins and trust in Christ are blind and deaf to the warnings of the Gospel. "Repent and Believe or Perish," it says.

"I'll take my chances," answers the fool.

So then, it is God that saves us from beginning to end. It is the Spirit that works faith in us, as Scripture says, by opening our minds to the light of the truth so that we may be converted and God would save us.

Is faith a means to the end of our salvation? Certainly.

Is faith obedience to the command of God? Surely.

Yet is faith the meritorious cause of our salvation? God forbid! For salvation is by grace through faith. It is not of ourselves, but a gift of God, lest anyone should boast.

God does not choose to save those who first choose him. God chooses to save some, and consequently arranges so that they choose him. Just as the disciples were chosen by God (not the other way around), so are all the disciples even to the present day. He chooses us, not we him (though we do choose him, and though the disciples did choose him).

I do not think the Arminian position can stand. We do not distinguish ourselves (assisted or unassisted) from those who are lost by a superior exercise of our will - we are distinguished from those who are loss by the grace alone (sola gratia) of God, who has mercy on whom He will.

Praise be His Glorious and Holy Name!

-Turretinfan

P.S. As for the textual issue, it's not a particularly significant variant, as far as I can tell, because the meaning is about the same whether "who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit" is present once or twice. Without more detailed investigation I'd be inclined to accept it as genuine despite some early manuscripts that omit it, because I think scribes are more likely to omit material than add material. On the other hand, without more investigation (and I have not investigated this variant in much detail) the argument in favor of omission being proper is slightly strengthened by the proximity of the repeat phrase. Still, the phrase really seems to fit the flow of the passage in both cases, and so I don't see a big reason to think it was not original. I'd want to dig deeper before being dogmatic. Is it important? I don't think so: it doesn't significantly change the meaning of the passage whether it is included or omitted (which may be why some scribes omitted it).

7 comments:

Paul said...

While there are some Arminian’s that see election based on foreseen faith, I think most view it as more of a dynamic event rather than a one time only event. They would use Romans 11:17 – 24 to prove their point and if I understand them correctly they think that election is based in Jesus not on an individual. So God loves and knows who are in His Son and they way that we come to be in His Son is too believe. I believe that the Arminian would stress corporate election above individual election.

Perhaps that is one of the problems of Arminianism, they believe a variety of different things and it is hard to pin down exactly what some believe. You made a great point that they turn faith into a work; of course they would vehemently deny that.

Paul said...

Not being the brightest bulb in the socket I was drawn to salvation is by grace through faith. I know that Arminians say the same thing, but I think the stress the through faith part. If I understand it correctly then the say that God saves man by the condition of faith in His Son. After all, why would God ask man to believe when he has not given them the ability to respond? Of course we have the total depravity part to deal with and in order to get around that we get prevenient grace. Perhaps that is where my stumbling block comes in, I am unable to find anywhere in Scripture where prevenient grace is defined as enabling the totally depraved man to respond. If I view it correctly then the Arminian believes that we must have faith before we are reborn and that we can attain this faith by prevenient grace and the Holy Spirit convicting us of our sin. I get stuck there though, for why would a totally depraved man even respond since he is very happy, in his mind, with the state he is in now?

Turretinfan said...

Dear Paul,

I think you've identified the issues well.

Arminians do say the same thing, but they seem to fail to recognize that even faith (our trust in Christ) is something we receive from God by the work of the Spirit.

"It (i.e. the whole package) is a gift of God, not of works"

Arminians and Catholics suggest we are saved because we cooperate with grace: the Reformed say that God works faith in us, and then imputes Christ's righteousness to us, via faith. Thus, through faith is involved in the process, it is all of grace.

-Turretinfan

kangeroodort said...

One important problem with the Arminian position is that it fails to recognize what faith is: faith is trusting in the work of Christ.

Arminian theology tends to change faith into a work, something we do in order to be saved: as though we are saved on account of our faith (the thing itself) rather than on account of Christ's righteousness (the object of faith).

Because Arminian theology views faith as the meritorious cause of our salvation, Arminian theology also often asserts that the elect are chosen on account of foreseen faith.


turretinfan,

Please tell me you are joking. Those comments are a gross misrepresentation of what Arminians believe.

No true Arminian believes that faith is meritorious, or would fail to recognize that faith is looking to and depending on the merits of Christ. Nor would any true Arminian say that faith "causes" salvation.

I expected more from you.

Turretinfan said...

KoD wrote: "Please tell me you are joking."

Surprisingly, perhaps, no.

KoD wrote: "Those comments are a gross misrepresentation of what Arminians believe."

Sadly, no. But I am using "Arminian" loosely. That clarification is important.

KoD wrote: "No true Arminian believes that faith is meritorious, or would fail to recognize that faith is looking to and depending on the merits of Christ."

What constitutes "true Arminianism"??? It's not like there is a homogenous "Arminian" view out there. In point of fact, many Arminians do make faith the meritorious cause of election. Some even go farther (as WLC mentions in his book "The Only Wise God") and make hypothetical faith the meritorious cause of the salvation of those who never have a chance to actually hear the gospel.

Maybe, sir, that is not your position; but I do not see on what basis you can exclude such folks from Arminianism.

KoD wrote: "Nor would any true Arminian say that faith "causes" salvation."

Perhaps not, once the "true" Arminians are sorted out from the neo-Arminians (or whatever they must be labeled). I was using the term loosely. I recognize that there is a variety of thought within Arminianism (though potentially NOT within "true Arminianism" - whatever that may be).

KoD wrote: "I expected more from you."

Oh, please. No need for soapbox patronage.

(after all, this here blog is my soapbox)

-Turretinfan

Turretinfan said...

Ben,

In response to your further comments:

A) No, I would not conflate Arminianism and Open Theism;

B) I apologize for unnecessarily offending your sensibilities as to what constitutes Arminianism.

C) Don't make this something it's not. I was not trying to smear the label Arminianism, and I think all my readers know that - yourself included. I was using the term in a much more broad sense than you personally feel is appropriate. Ok. Your point has been made.

D) Calvinism is rather well-defined compared to Arminianism, I think you have to admit (no, of course, you don't have HAVE to admit, but most people would), and so the analogy breaks down.

-Turretinfan

Turretinfan said...

P wrote: "While there are some Arminian’s that see election based on foreseen faith, I think most view it as more of a dynamic event rather than a one time only event."

The idea of it being a dynamic event is clearly contradicted by

Ephesians 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

P wrote: "They would use Romans 11:17 – 24 to prove their point and if I understand them correctly they think that election is based in Jesus not on an individual."

I don't think it would avail them, but perhaps I just haven't found an Arminian writer who could explain it.

P wrote: "So God loves and knows who are in His Son and they way that we come to be in His Son is too believe."

That is the Arminian contention: whereas we view Christ's relation to us as existing on the cross, which seems more consistent with Scripture.

P wrote: "I believe that the Arminian would stress corporate election above individual election."

That, of course, depersonalizes the love of God. Consequently it doesn't seem to jibe with Paul's and John's testimony of God's personal love for them.

P wrote: "Perhaps that is one of the problems of Arminianism, they believe a variety of different things and it is hard to pin down exactly what some believe."

Undoubtedly that is a problem.

-TurretinFan