The Nature Of Faith -- By: Vernon C. Grounds

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 06:4 (Fall 1963)
Article: The Nature Of Faith
Author: Vernon C. Grounds

The Nature Of Faith

Vernon C. Grounds

Unique in many respects among world-religions, Christianity is strikingly unique in the emphasis which it assigns to faith. So, for example, Gerhard Ebeling, professor of Theology at Zurich, declares:

The decisive thing in Christianity is faith… However confusing the manifold historical forms in which Christianity makes its appearance in the different centuries and different parts of the earth, the different nations and civilizations, the different confessions and personalities, however repulsive the contentions about faith, and however attractive only so-called practical Christianity may seem, nevertheless there cannot be the least doubt that Christianity itself has at all times and in all places regarded faith as constituting its essence. He who becomes a Christian has always been asked, do you believe?1

In thus identifying faith with the essence of Christianity, Ebeling is echoing the famous American Calvinist, B. B. Warfield, who in a typically masterful article on the Biblical meaning of pistis shows how in the New Testament this term evolves into “a synonym for ‘Christianity’ . . . and we may trace a development,” Warfield adds, “by means of which pistis has come to mean the religion which is marked by and consists essentially in ‘believing.’ . . . the idea of ‘faith’ is conceived of in the New Testament as the characteristic idea of Christianity.”2

Our concern, therefore, is not with faith-in-general, faith per se, either as concept or phenomenon. Our concern is with Christian faith in particular and with Christian faith in its theological formulation. At once many issues, important and engrossing in their own right, are swept aside as irrelevant. Thus we shall not be considering faith, Christian or otherwise, epistemologically,3 historically,4 lexically,5apologetically6, polemically,7 or psychologically.8 Our attention will be focused on the analyses of faith made by Soren Kierkegaard, nineteenth century litterateur, and alleged father of existentialism.

I. Faith In The Theology Of Protestant Orthodoxy

In order to evaluate Kierkegaard’s views on this subject we must first glance at its treatment by Reformed theologians.

Biblical religion in the Old Testament...

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