A Biblical Definition of Saving Faith -- By: H. Phillip Hook

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 121:482 (Apr 1964)
Article: A Biblical Definition of Saving Faith
Author: H. Phillip Hook


A Biblical Definition of Saving Faith

H. Phillip Hook

[H. Phillip Hook, Assistant Professor of Bible and Philosophy, Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois.]

Probably the greatest contribution of the Reformation to theology was its clarification of the doctrine of justification by faith. Although this doctrine has continued to be the cornerstone of Reformed and Protestant theology, the definition of the position has been the continuing responsibility of theologians. In light of the vast amount of literature on the subject, it seems that the problem would be settled, but it remains a crucial issue. While this article does not expect to add to the findings of the Reformers and those who have written since that time, it is hoped that a review of some of these thoughts applied to the contemporary problems will be of value in clarifying the issues at present.

There seem to be three erroneous approaches to saving faith on the theological front today. One, while seeking to emphasize the importance of faith, is unwilling to define its object. This may take two forms, the liberal who really believes in ultimate goodness or human reason, or the neo-orthodox who cannot allow for propositional truth in relation to the object of faith. The second approach finds faith in the gospel alone an “easy believism” and seeks to add something to faith in order to accomplish salvation. Third, the contemporary Arminian view holds that faith accomplishes salvation only if it continues; thus, to depart from faith or to fail to continue to believe is to be severed from Christ.1 Each of these views seems to miss part of the teaching of Scripture concerning faith.

The Biblical Use of the Word Faith

Apparently some of the confusion about the meaning of faith has arisen from the way the word is used in its nonreligious sense. In English such statements as “I believe it is going to rain tomorrow” imply little more than a calculated hope, and “I believe in God” may be only mental assent to a deity. To suggest that the Biblical use of the word parallels either of these instances is to fall far short of a true understanding of Scripture.

While it is not within the scope of the study to consider all the forms and uses of the Greek word faith, it should be observed that both in Biblical and extra-Biblical sources there is no radical departure from the way it is used in the nonreligious sense in English.2 It retains the sense of hope or supposition, as well as assent and trust. But, the big difference in Biblical usage is the description of relationship to God. Here the word takes ...

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