The Nature of Faith -- By: David R. Anderson
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The Nature of Faith
[*Editor's note: David Anderson earned his B.S. degree at Rice University, and the Th.M. and Ph.D. degrees at Dallas Theological Seminary. Besides contributing articles to The Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, and speaking at pastors’ conferences, Dr. Anderson pastors Faith Community Church in The Woodlands, Texas, and is an adjunct professor at Dallas Theological Seminary in Houston, Texas. His e-mail address is [email protected]]
Over the centuries much of the discussion within Soteriology1 has involved the nature of faith. Although no one leaves faith out of the equation, many teachers and denominations add further requirements to obtain eternal life. If faith is essential, just what does faith mean? Does it include different elements? Do we discover different types of faith in the New Testament, such as “permanent faith,” “passing faith,” “genuine faith,” and “spurious faith”?
Discussions about Faith
Faith in the Gospels
A good place to begin exploration of faith is in the Gospels. Although the Synoptics (Matthew-Mark-Luke) use the verb believe sparingly, John uses it almost 100 times.2 Oddly enough, we never find the noun faith in John. Since John wrote his book expressly for evangelistic purposes (John 20:31), the prominent role of faith should tell us something about God’s requirement for salvation.
One of Lordship Salvation’s chief attacks against the Free Grace position claims that it defines faith as mental assent. One writer charges that those who so believe “have been deceived by a corrupted gospel. They have been told that faith alone will save
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them, but they neither understand nor possess real faith. The ‘faith’ they are relying on is only intellectual acquiescence to a set of facts. It will not save.”3 J. I. Packer claims, “Simple assent to the gospel, divorced from a transforming commitment to the living Christ, is by biblical standards less than faith, and less than saving, and to elicit only assent of this kind would be to secure only false conversions.”4 And, according to James Montgomery Boice, this approach to faith “reduces the gospel to the mere fact of Christ’s having died for sinners, requires of sinners only that they acknowledge this by the barest intellectual assent, and then assures them of their eternal sec...
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