What is the Nature of Saving Faith? -- By: Steve Lewis

Journal: Conservative Theological Journal
Volume: CTJ 09:27 (Aug 2005)
Article: What is the Nature of Saving Faith?
Author: Steve Lewis

What is the Nature of Saving Faith?

Steve Lewis

Graduate studies, Tyndale Theological Seminary
High Peaks Bible Fellowship, Parker, Colorado


There is much confusion in the Church today over the nature of saving faith. Many contradictory theories have been proposed over the years, ranging from the Arminian view of absolute human free will to the extreme Calvinistic view of the complete inability of man which requires that faith itself be a gift of God. Many theories regarding the nature of saving faith are based on logical inferences that have been reached in an attempt to create coherent systems of theology, rather than being based on clear statements in Scripture. The present study will examine the evidence regarding the capabilities of fallen man, the pre-faith work of the Godhead within the unsaved, and the ultimate nature of saving faith as it relates to the process of salvation.

The Pre-Faith Capabilities of Unregenerate Man

In considering the nature of saving faith it is important to have a clear picture of the capabilities of unregenerate man. The question becomes, “Is mankind in his fallen state capable of exercising saving faith?” This question directly relates to another foundational doctrine of Scripture — the total depravity of man. Putting the question another way, “How can the doctrine of total depravity be maintained if mankind is capable of exercising saving faith and fulfilling the condition of salvation on the human side of the equation?” Some theologians would infer from passages such as Ephesians 2:1 that an unregenerate man is incapable of exercising saving faith because he is “dead in trespasses and sins.” Citing an instance of this type of thinking, Aldrich comments:

For example, Shedd says: ‘The Calvinist maintains that faith is wholly from God, being one of the effects of regeneration.’ This results in a strange plan of salvation. Because the sinner cannot believe, he is instructed to perform the following duties: 1. Read and hear the divine Word. 2. Give serious application of the mind to the truth. 3. Pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit for conviction and regeneration. Thus an unscriptural doctrine of total depravity

leads to an unscriptural and inconsistent plan of salvation. Doubtless the sinner is ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ (Eph. 2:1b). If this means that regeneration must precede faith, then it must also mean that regeneration must precede all three of the pious duties Shedd outlines for the lost. A doctrine of total depravity that excludes the possibilit...

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