Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:13-14)

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Does 'exercise faith' and 'believe' mean different things?

I found this quote in the comment area of a Traditionalist's blog that I found quite interesting

"It amazes me that I could believe something to be absolutely true, and at the same time have absolutely no faith in it"

This statement is completely contradictory. If he believed it, he had faith in it, and contrarily, if he had faith in it, he believed it. "to exercise faith" and "believe" are exactly the same in meaning.

The classic English Bible, the KJV, is basically Anglo-Saxon in vocabulary and completely so in structure. But the 1611 translators were not afraid to use some choice Latin-type words, especially in the theological texts: justification, salvation, faith, cross, glory, and propitiation, to name a few.

But this dual origin of English vocabulary occasionally poses a problem. Oddly enough, the most important Gospel word-family in the Greek NT is obscured in English. This is because we translate the Greek verb pisteuo by the Anglo-Saxon word believe, and the related noun pistis by the totally unrelated word faith (from the Latin fides, by way of French).

At least partly due to this lack of similarity, many preachers who are weak on grace are able to maintain that the Greek lying behind one or both of the English words includes a whole possible agenda of works, such as commitment, repentance, perseverance, etc.

Actually, believe and faith, as the Greek shows, are just the verb and the noun for a concept that is really no different in English than in Greek. That concept is taking people at their word, trusting that what they say is true.

(Art Farstad, The Words of the Gospel: BELIEVE/FAITH

Believing is not enough in this man's theology, a person must have faith, which is belief + repentance, I gather.

Upon closer examination, people ought to see this as the hulabaloo it actually is. "faith" and "believe" are exact corresponding cognates, the former a noun, the latter a verb, the former coming into English through the Latin by way of French, and the latter came through Anglo-Saxon.

In order to clearly demonstrate this fact we would like to take three of the most famous "believe" verses in the NT and re-translate them a little by using the word "faith" to show they are really the same in the original.

First, the best known verse of all, the one Martin Luther called "the Gospel in a nutshell":

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever has faith in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

Next, Paul's clear, simple Gospel command to the seeking Philippian jailer:

Put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved (Acts 16:31).
Third, our Lord's wonderfully gracious promise:

Amen, amen [lit. Greek text] I tell you, whoever hears My word and has faith in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life (John 5:24).

These edited translations should help show that believe and faith really convey the same meaning.

Now let's go in the other direction; let's take three famous "faith" passages and re-translate a bit to bring out the fact that the word in the original is just another form of the "believe" concept.

First, the verse that gives us, not an abstract, but a working definition of faith:

Now believing is the substantiation of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Heb 11:1).
And here is probably the number two Gospel text for grace-believers:

For by grace you have been saved through believing, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Eph 2:8-9).

And finally, another verse from that great teacher of salvation by grace through faith, the Apostle Paul:

But to him who does not work but believes [from pisteuo] on Him who justifies the ungodly, his believing [pistis] is accounted for righteousness (Rom 4:5).

The lengths that people go to support their insupportable theologies is what is "amazing" to me!



Blogger Rose~ said...

I am glad you posted this over here so I could tell you here that I think you are right on! The words faith and believe are the same thing. It is not that complicated.

June 30, 2006 5:04 AM  
Blogger Daniel said...

A teacher once explained the pendulum effect to a classroom of students. He demonstrated that with each iteration, because of friction, the pendulum would swing a little less each way, each time.

He showed the mathematics, and demonstrated that this was a scientific certainty - a truth that could not be denied.

He asked the class if they believed that these calculations were true. They all agreed - with each passing iteration the pendulum would lose energy due to friction, and that this loss would be manifested by shortening (ever so slightly) the length of each iterative arc.

Then the teacher took a 600 lb wrecking ball, and suspended it from the main beam which was high enough above the lecture hall to allow a physical demonstration.

He then asked for a volunteer to "test their faith" in the pendulum effect, and so had the volunteer stand flat against one wall - then the professor, with the help of some students pulled the wrecking ball towards the student so that it just lightly touched his nose. He then demonstrated the difference between acknowledging the truth, and having perfect trust in it, by telling the student to remain there.

They let the weight go, and through its silent arc across the room the class was hushed, but as it began to come back, 600 lbs, the student who fully accepted the pendulum truths, upons seeing this weight accelerating towards him - the same stepped to the side in fear before the weight fully returned.

One might argue that the student didn't really believe the maths - or one might come up with some explaination that satisfies their intellectual position, but I recognize, even if you cannot, a grand difference between an intellectual assent that something is certain and true, and a willingness to trust that truth. The first is mere intellectual persuasion, carnal consent that something is fact - the second requires more than an assent to the truth - it requires faith in the pendulum effect. No one can exercise trust in the gospel truth except that God's Spirit enables them - they may, like anyone, accept that it is true - but that is not the same as trusting "in" that truth.

I confess - this seems quite obvious to me, but then, I am not merely articulating it - I lived it. I know full well what it means to believe that God saves people, but to refuse to believe that God will save --ME--. God be praised for the grace He freely bestowed on me so that I was able to exercise faith in what I knew to be true (that is, I was able to believe what I already held to be true - to apply that truth to myself.)

I think your focus on the synonymity (in English) of the words "faith" and "believe", perhaps has clouded your thinking?

Thanks for the link btw. ;-)

Rose, I apologize if I have in some way contributed to making you feel more comfortable posting your opinions on this matter here as opposed to elsewhere.

June 30, 2006 6:46 AM  
Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Daniel, what is the difference between my believing that I have eternal life through Jesus Christ and my trusting Jesus Christ for eternal life?

June 30, 2006 8:57 AM  
Blogger Daniel said...

Matt - Have you ever ministered to Satanists before? You know, the ones who grew up in a Christian home and heard the gospel ever since they were little, but have rejected it for themselves - and instead have embraced Satan whom they would rather worship?

They know that the gospel is true - and they certainly believe that it produces Christians who are "saved;" - they know it is the one and only way to be saved, and they know that God and Christ are who they say they are, and that the bible accurately portrays them etc. etc. - Does ~that~ knowledge of the truth (possessed and believed by them) make them saved?


I am not suggesting, though I am probably caricatured as doing so, that people have to adopt a particular nomenclature or that there is some grand difference between the lexical use of the words faith and believe -- what I am suggesting is that accepting the truthfulness of the gospel isn't always synonymous with being or having been saved by that truth. It appears to be a subtle distinction - though I see it plain as day.

I believe many false converts enter into their deception because they are taught that acknowledging that these things are true (that is, believing "about" Jesus) is the same thing as believing "in" Jesus - and I think that highlighting that distinction may well prompt some who are in error to repent and be saved.

If I am zealous, it is for every lamb to enter the fold.

June 30, 2006 9:58 AM  
Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

You have not answered my question.

What is the difference between believing that one has eternal life through Jesus Christ and trusting that one has eternal life through Jesus Christ?

A man may believe that Jesus can save others, but if he believes that he is saved by Jesus, is he not trusting in our Lord?

Every Blessing in Christ


June 30, 2006 1:31 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

Matthew asks, "What is the difference between believing that one has eternal life through Jesus Christ and trusting that one has eternal life through Jesus Christ?"

There is no difference, assuming that by both you mean that one believes personally in the promise of salvation through Christ.

The problem I am talking about is when someone does believe that the promise is valid, but doesn't believe it for (that is, apply it to) themselves. I am not suggesting there is some distinction in the meaning of terms, that is, I am not saying that "belief" means this, and "faith" means something else.

I am talking about the difference between one who truly believes that Jesus does save people in general, but don't understand that they must believe that Jesus will save them personally and one who not only understands that Jesus must save them personally, but believes with His heart that according to Christ's promise Christ will do just that for them.

The first believes that Christ has made a valid promise - but that is all -- the second however believes "in" the promise for themselves.

Would that I were better equipped to express myself.

June 30, 2006 2:01 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Daniel says,

"I am not saying that "belief" means this, and "faith" means something else."

Then, my friend, you have conceded the whole argument and therefore your statement:

"It amazes me that I could believe something to be absolutely true, and at the same time have absolutely no faith in it"

is completely contradictory!


PS: It, as well, is contradictory to say that one can believe a promise addressed to everyone to be true, yet not believe the promise for yourself.

Notwithstanding, you are equivocating on the use and definitions of the terms you have been using.

To believe that a wrecking ball will miss anyone because of the pendulum affect is to necessarily hold that as true for oneself as for one incorporates the other, moving from the general to the specific.

Yet, your point hasn't spoken to this.

Your point has been that "belief" and "faith" are different! But seeing the sand you stand on in terms of lexical considerations, you have equivocated.


June 30, 2006 5:19 PM  
Blogger Bhedr said...

For what its worth Daniel. I hear your agony and agree that there definately is a differance between mental assent and faith. I think you have done a good job here.

I like that illustration on the pendulum. My mom once used the illustration of blindfolding children and putting a chair behind them and asking them to sit, trusting her word that the chair was there. I tried it with my Jr Church kids and some older kids. Its kinda funny because the older ones wouldn't sit, but trembled wondering, but the younger the child? She just sat down at my word. Faith

July 01, 2006 6:29 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

Your point has been that "belief" and "faith" are different

No it wasn't. That was just the straw man you were contending so fiercely against.

You did a great job too - if I ever had imagined for a second that the words meant different things, I would certainly have been persuaded by your thoughtful exegesis and wonderfully humble tone.

My argument however was that there is a difference between believing "about" something and believing "in" something. Not a grammatical switcheroo, but the difference between a false gospel and the real one.

Surely you would admit that believing that your gospel is legitimate is not the same as applying it to yourself?

July 02, 2006 8:11 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Daniel has said:
"It amazes me that I could believe something to be absolutely true, and at the same time have absolutely no faith in it"

It amazes me that I could have faith that something is absolutely true, and at the same time have absolutely no belief in it.

How are these two sentences fundamentally different? They aren't. The words (faith, belief; have faith, believe) are essentially the same. The second clause of each of the above sentences directly contradicts that of the first.

Solifidian has already answered your assertion about a difference about reckoning a statement true and applying that statement to yourself.

The difference would be an extra step of obedience, which is action, works.

As concerning your now distinction between believing something is "legitimate" and believing that something is true.

Solifidian said:
My local politician may promise to lower my taxes. I understand that he makes that promise. I, however, do not agree with him. Jesus Christ offers me eternal life if I believe Him, i.e., take Him at His word. Unlike my lack of faith in the politician, I do agree with Jesus Christ’s promise to me of eternal life. I take Him at His word. I believe Him.

Daniel, if I wasn't persuaded that you are a smart and articulate guy, I would propose that you are being very wishy-washy, and ambiguous about what you believe, to the extent that your communications are confusing and contradictory. But I am convinced that you do not have a firm grasp on your position. You have gone from one issue to the next, and have equivocated with your terms.

Let me ask you point blank:

If I am convinced, persuaded, certain, have faith in, believe, take Jesus at His word, that He guarantees my eternal destiny, and add nothing to that faith, am I saved or not and why?

I am confused about your choice of words "legitimate". First you have stated that you can believe that something is true and yet not believe in that truth. What is the distinction between:

1) believing that
2) believing in

What is the process, how do you, "apply" something that you already believe to be true? What is the mysterious additional step?

John 11:27
She said to Him, "Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world."

John 20:31
but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

1 John 5:1
Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God

July 02, 2006 9:11 PM  
Blogger Pastor Jim said...

"'It amazes me that I could believe something to be absolutely true, and at the same time have absolutely no faith in it'

This statement is completely contradictory. If he believed it, he had faith in it, and contrarily, if he had faith in it, he believed it. 'to exercise faith' and 'believe' are exactly the same in meaning."

If exercising faith and believing are exactly the same meaning then why do you contradict yourself.

The swinging pendulum was an excellent analogy for this conversation, but as always, you didn't get it. So, lets use you and the Bible...

You, antonio, "exercise your faith" in the Bible by preaching "Faith Only." Yet, you do not "believe" the entire Bible. You choose to neglect all of the verses which contradict this belief. You repeatedly quote the same handful of verses to back up your so-called Biblical belief system, then turn a blind eye on the multiple scriptures which prove your system non-Biblical. You must take the entire Bible and put everything in context to get the full meaning. In the Old Testament is was pleasing to God to give animal sacrifices to Him. Deuteronomy 16:2...."Sacrifice as the Passover to the LORD your God an animal from your flock or herd at the place the LORD will choose as a dwelling for his Name." Does that mean we should offer sacrifices to God? No!!! Because, as we read in other parts of the Bible it tells us the proper way to show our love to God. I'm sure you agree with this, then why can't you use the same reasoning for "Faith Only?"

If you believe the above statement to be "contradict"ory....Then how, if you don't "believe" in the Bible, can you "have faith in" the Bible.

Matthew 12:37
For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

Matthew 16:27
For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.

Matthew 19:17
If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.

Matthew 25:41-46
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

Luke 10:26-28
He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

John 5:29
And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

Romans 2:6, 13
Who will render to each one according to his deeds. ... For not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified.

2 Corinthians 5:10
For we must all appear before the jugment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

2 Corinthians 11:15
Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.

Philippians 2:12
"Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling."

James 2:14
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?

James 2:17
Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

James 2:21-25
Was not Abraham our father justified by works? You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rabab the harlot also justified by works? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

1 Peter 1:17
The Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work.

Revelation 2:23
I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

Revelation 20:12-13
And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

Revelation 22:14
Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life.

July 03, 2006 4:54 PM  
Blogger Bhedr said...


You have a right to be concerned about this issue; but again I must say that even if Daniel is not communicating completely properly it doesn't mean he is wrong about the heart of the matter.

"Then they said to the woman, "Now we believe becasue we have heard him ourselves, not just because of what you told us. He is indeed the Saviour of the world." John 4:42

We have to ask ourselves...why is that verse there in the bible? Is there importance behind it?

Pastor Jim,

AS I said, Antonio is contending for an important truth here. Are you sure you are grounded in justification by faith alone?

Even if Antonio does have some differant ideas that sometimes appear odd, that doesn't mean that the line musn't be towed and while I don't believe in a mere intellectuall assent, I am concerned about not understanding completely coming to rest in Him alone.

Love you all,


July 04, 2006 1:22 PM  

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