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)

Friday, June 30, 2006

Answer To Traditionalism's Fatal Errors on 'Faith'

I have to say that Solifidian aptly answered Daniel on Daniel's blog here: Click. It is completely worthy; the link just given is a new post on “Unashamed of Grace”. (I hope he has not objections!)

Not to tread on any ground that Solifidian already covered, I would like to include these points:

1) Pistis (faith, comes from the Latin by way of French) and Pisteuw (believe, comes by way of Anglo-Saxon) are exact corresponding cognates: Pistis (faith, or belief) is the noun, and Pisteuw (believe, exercise faith) is the verb.

They both can be translated using the Latin or the Anglo Saxon derivatives:

Pistis: faith or belief
Pisteuw: believe or exercise faith

They are used interchangeably as in Romans 4:5

But to him who does not work but believes (pisteuw) on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith (pistis) is accounted for righteousness.

Apart from the times the word “pistis” is used of the “the body of beliefs (of Christianity)”, “faithfulness”, and “pledge”, the terms at no time, in the Greek New Testament, have distinguishing shades of meaning from each other, or any additional import such as “obey” or “using the truth to some affect”. As the standard Greek lexicon (BAGD) makes clear, pistis is “trust, confidence, faith in the active sense = ‘believing’”.

I would suggest that Daniel, of Doulogos, or any other Traditionalist make a Biblical case that there resides some difference between “believing”, which Daniel says is “mere intellectual assent” and “faith”, which Daniel says is “using that truth to some affect” (thus equating “faith” with the doing of works “sitting in a chair”).

There are no differences between “having faith in Christ” and “believing in Christ”. They are exactly the same!. And I would challenge Daniel to use his Bible and prove this assertion wrong.

2) Language is ever evolving. Words take on the meaning of their current contextual usage in the language of the day. For instance, “gay” is not used for “happy” anymore, but “homosexual”.

In the usage of today, the terms such as “trust” and “believe” are now used in a variety of ways. No longer (as in Biblical Greek) do they convey the sense of “absolute certainty and assurance”. A few examples:

“I am not certain that my roommate will pay rent on time. I am just going to have to trust him” (IOW, “I will just have to hope he will do it”).

I may say, "I believe he will come," when I am not really certain that he will. Usually when we use the word this way, we signal our doubt by a tonal inflection.

Nevertheless, these are legitimate usages of the English words, for meaning is determined by current usage. The words are still used of “certainty” in other contexts. They just have a wider semantic range now.

It is interesting to note that Daniel, who is distinguishing between “belief” and “faith”, nevertheless uses them interchangeably in his illustration:

“He asked the class if they believed” and “He then asked for a volunteer to ‘test their faith’”.

Many people, though, currently use the term “belief” and “faith” relatively, as in degrees. What they mean when they use these words that way is that they “are disposed toward” rather than “are certain”. The Biblical usage always means “certainty, assurance” and never anything less.

3) Doubt precludes faith, faith precludes doubt.

Matt 8:26
But He said to them, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?"

The parallel accounts have this to say:

Mark 4:40
But He said to them, "Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?"

Luke 8:25
But He said to them, "Where is your faith?"

When they doubt, Jesus asks them why they "have no faith", and "Where is your faith". Jesus here is full aware that doubt precludes faith.

There can be degrees of doubt from:

being fully undisposed toward


being greatly disposed toward

(and everything in between)

But there are no degrees of faith. It is a question of possession. You either have faith or you do not.

Mark 11:23
Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.

Jesus places faith and doubt here in complete contradistinction:

"does not doubt... but believes"

Here again, faith precludes doubt

Rom 14:23
But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith;

Paul makes it abundantly clear that the one who "doubts" does not possess "faith".

James 1:6-8
But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

The doubter should not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord. This man is double-souled. Faith and doubting are again put into contra-distinction.

Faith and doubt cannot reside in the mind at the same moment in the same proposition. There may be a rollercoaster of faith and doubt as time elapses, but never faith and doubt at the same time in the same issue. Since faith = certainty, assurance, faith precludes doubt.

In such an instance as the Daniel’s illustration, a few different options can be shown:

1) The person who moved out of the way had faith, believed, that the wrecking ball would not hit him before he got up there, but when the wrecking ball started toward him, this circumstance caused his faith to be broken, and at the moment he moved away, he experienced doubt, and was no longer exercising faith.

This perfectly parallels Peter’s experience when he was walking on the water. He had faith, but when he contemplated the wind and the waves, this circumstance “broke” his faith, IOW, he no longer was exercising faith, but was doubting.

This is what weak, or little, faith is. It is faith that has not been satisfactorily strengthened by time and the successful completion of trials, so that when the circumstances come, the faith is “broken”.

2) The person was not really certain (did not believe in the Biblical sense), and was using the concept of “faith” or “belief” that is something less than certain (a current usage of the word that denotes “disposed toward” rather than “certainty”). Apart from being convinced (believing, being certain), he, by an act of the will and not one of being persuaded, determined by the will to perform in the experiment. When he saw the wrecking ball coming for him, the determination that was prompted by his relative disposition faded, and so he stepped out of the way.

Daniel’s view of faith and belief are dangerously skewed.

Imagine for instance a genuine new Christian (for the sake of argument, he is a definitely regenerate man). He is brand new to the faith and is but a mere babe. He hasn’t invested the time to possess a strong faith. He has been told that lying is wrong. He is convinced that lying is wrong! But a week after he had been saved a gun was pointed at his head and he was told that if he is a Christian that he would be blown away. He starts thinking about his wife, pregnant with their first child, and says, “I am not a Christian”. He, thus, has acted contrarily to his conviction, to his faith!

What, you don’t think that is possible?

Be honest with yourself, if you lived your faith all the time, you would not sin! But we often sin against those principles that we have faith in!

Being greatly disposed toward is not the same as faith, belief, for a disposition is not being convinced.

Daniel recognizes “a grand difference between an intellectual assent that something is certain and true, and a willingness to trust that truth” (italics his).

I would ask him “What is the element lacking between the one who merely believes the wrecking ball won’t hit him and the one who has faith that the wrecking ball won’t hit him?” What is the difference between the one who is certain (believes) that the wrecking ball will sway the other way before hitting him, and the one who has faith? The only thing that I can think of, if I were to answer him, is faith = mere belief + obedience (in action, works, in doing!!).

Maybe he would say, “The person would be willing to actually stand by the wall”. But this is where his “willingness” doctrine breaks down! In his illustration, the one who “believed” but nevertheless “did not have faith” was “willing” to test out his “faith”! He went to go stand by the wall! So it isn’t a matter of “willingness” it is a matter of “action”, i.e. works!

What Daniel has done is confused “faith” with “acting on faith”, or “belief” with “acting on our beliefs” and has made an illegitimate difference between “belief” and “faith”. Daniel thus defines faith in terms of “the works” that, in his view, mere belief must accomplish in order to be true faith! Daniel has imported the idea of “works” into the semantic value of “faith” and has thus made eternal life the result of “belief” + works (his definition of “faith”)

--men are saved by faith
--faith is belief (mental assent) + obedience to works
--men are saved by a works salvation

The Bible knows of no difference between “faith” and “belief”. They are the same word (pistis). The Bible knows of no difference between “believe” and “have faith”. They are the same word (pisteuw). The difference resides in the mind of the Traditionalist, who, giving lip service to “faith alone in Christ alone”, nevertheless is convinced that works, in a real sense, and on a genuine level, are a necessary requirement for entrance into heaven.

For good reason Traditionalists do not believe that believing in the promise of Christ alone saves. The promise is “Most assuredly I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). This promise does not have an action referred to in the span of its proposition. You couldn’t get in front of a wall and wait for a wrecking ball to swing toward you in order to add to and fulfill your mere intellectual assent, making the belief into faith, and thus “prove” your faith. They prefer the proposition “You must make Jesus Lord of life!” for in this, they could deem you saved or lost by inspection of your works, which they proclaim fulfill your belief making it faith. But this command of theirs is not the promise of the gospel, but another gospel altogether.

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!


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Backhanded concession?

I thought this was an interesting quote that I found from a blog that was written today:

"Roman Catholics and Mormons believe in Christ, faith, grace, and the glory of God. It's the 'alone' that separates Biblical doctrine from Romish doctrine. With Christian leaky-canon pop-off-ets, Roman Catholics and Mormons believe in the Scripture. It's the 'alone' that distinguishes the one from the other."

It wasn't from a Free Gracer.

It was from a 5 pointer:

Dan Philips of


It is an interesting quote in light of the conversations that I had been participating in last month...

Antonio da Rosa

Monday, June 19, 2006

Rewards and Selfishness

The following is an excerpt from a journal article by Zane C. Hodges, found at Grace Evangelical Society

Another problem some Christians have with the doctrine of rewards is that this doctrine seems to them to appeal to our "selfishness." Such Christian brothers may go on to say that we do not need to be motivated this way. Instead, we ought to do all that we do for God out of love and gratitude to Him.

This point of view, however, confronts a serious problem of its own. Not only is a doctrine of rewards taught in Scripture, but we are actually commanded to pursue them.

Thus Jesus said:

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth... but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matt 6:19-21).

We may observe here that our Lord does not present the pursuit of heavenly treasure as though it were optional. On the contrary, it is clear that He wants every disciple of His to lay up this celestial wealth.

The reason for this is also stated. Wherever our treasure happens to be, that's where our hearts will be focused. And God wants our hearts to be focused on heaven and that is why we are commanded to invest in heavenly rewards.

God knows better than we do what will captivate our hearts for Him. Evidently, rewards play a significant role in this.

It may sound pious for someone to say: "I am not interested in rewards! I serve God out of love and gratitude alone!" But such a person is claiming to be more loftily motivated than even the Apostle Paul himself! He wrote:

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified (1 Cor 9:24-27).

Obviously Paul was not "running" to obtain his justification or his eternal salvation! Those things were already his by grace alone. It follows then that Paul is talking about the "reward"—the prize—that could be won by a person who ran a winning race.

Obviously, too, Paul is highly motivated by the thought of winning this prize. He dedicates himself to obtaining it with the same intense self-discipline that characterizes the superior athlete.

Those who disparage rewards as a powerful Christian motivation ought to read their NT again—this time, with their eyes open!

But is this motivation selfish? We believe that no motivation encouraged by the Lord Jesus and His Apostles could ever possibly be termed "selfish"!

What is wrong, in fact, is our own incorrect view of "selfishness. Scripture does not teach us to be uninterested in our own happiness or well-being. The very desire to escape eternal damnation is a legitimate and urgent self-interest. The instinct to preserve our lives is the same. Nor are pleasure and enjoyment illegitimate experiences.

When God put Adam and Eve in the garden, He furnished them with every tree... that is pleasant to the sight and good for food" (Gen 2:9). They could enjoy themselves freely provided they abstained from eating from the one forbidden tree. Similarly, Paul tells rich people that "God… gives us richly all things to enjoy (1 Tim 6:17; italics added).

Selfishness ought not to be defined simply as the pursuit of our own self-interest. Instead, it should be defined as the pursuit of our self-interest in our own way, rather than in God's way. Since "love" is a preeminent virtue in Christianity, true selfishness often involves a pursuit of self-interest that violates the law of love.

But no one who seriously pursues heavenly treasure can afford to be unloving. As Paul pointed out in his great chapter on love, all seemingly spiritual and sacrificial activities are reduced to nothing in the absence of love (1 Cor 13:1-3). Loveless activity will no doubt go up in billows of smoke at the Judgment Seat of Christ as though it were so much wood, hay, or stubble (1 Cor 3:11-15).

No indeed! It is not selfish to obey God by pursuing eternal rewards. Still less can someone who does so afford to be selfish in nature. For if he is, he is forfeiting the very rewards he professes to seek.

No wonder that James censures his Christian readers for showing partiality toward the rich and neglecting the poor. In doing so they violate the "royal law" of Scripture: "'You shall love your neighbor as yourself"' Jas 2:8).

A couple of verses later, James gives his fellow Christians the bottom line:

So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment (Jas 2:12-13).4

The doctrine of the Judgment Seat of Christ and of rewards is not merely not selfish. It is one of the strongest scriptural motivations for an unselfish, loving, and merciful lifestyle!