Christian Faith-Its Nature, Object, And Intelligible Medium -- By: Alva J. McClain

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 090:358 (Apr 1933)
Article: Christian Faith-Its Nature, Object, And Intelligible Medium
Author: Alva J. McClain

Christian Faith-Its Nature, Object, And Intelligible Medium

Alva J. McClain

“The Greek thinkers had all agreed in looking for salvation through intelligence and knowledge. But eloquent leaders arose to reveal a new salvation, and over the portal of truth they erased the word ‘Reason’ and wrote ‘Faith’ in its stead: and the people listened gladly to the new prophets, for it was necessary only to believe to be saved, and believing is far easier than thinking.”1

With these words a comparatively recent book describes the entrance and spread of Christianity in the world. The quotation is offered here as an excellent example of that curious combination of terminological accuracy and utter confusion of meanings which may frequently be found in modern writings. For, in spite of the author’s misundertanding of Christian faith—not incomparable to the classic definition, “Faith is when you believe something that you know ain’t true,” given by William James’ schoolboy—it should be noted that he is able to fix accurately upon the very term which perhaps most clearly designates what Dr. Warfield has called the characteristic idea of Christianity.

In the gallery of Christian nomenclature the word “faith” occupies a place of peculiar importance. Indeed, at times within the sacred writings it seems to be employed as almost a synonym for Christianity (Gal. 3:23, 25); to “believe” is to become a Christian, and such are called “believers” before they are ever called “Christians.” Yet the misunderstanding of Christian faith is perennial, both without and within the household of faith. Hence, its meaning and apologetic need constantly to be restated.

The noun pistis in the New Testament writings is used in at least three distinct senses. Infrequently it may denote a quality, that which makes one worthy of belief, whether in God (Rom. 3:3) or in man (Tit. 2:10); or it may refer

to an object, that which is believed (Acts 6:7, Gal. 1:23, Jude 3). But in the great majority of instances the word is used to designate an act or state of believing (Rom. 3:22, Phil. 3:9, Col. 1:4, etc.), with reference always to faith in God, Christ, or that which p...

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