Monday, October 06, 2008

Does God Create Faith?

One of the reasons why I identify with the Reformed tradition is because it emphasizes the gracious initiative and saving power of God in the event of salvation. Furthermore, it is my contention that God does not "draw out" or "woo" faith from us, but gives it as a gift through his efficacious Word. Several texts point in this direction:

1. Philippians 1:29 - "For it has been granted to you not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for him." What has been graciously given (εχαρισθη) is to both believe and to suffer on behalf of Christ.

2. Ephesians 2:8 - "For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God." This passage is slightly deceptive! The closest antecedent of the demonstrative pronoun τουτο (this) is πιστεως (faith). But πιστεως is feminine while τουτο is neuter (as is δωρον [gift]). So it is not strictly saying that faith is a gift from God. Rather, και τουτο is probably an adverbial explication of χαριτι εστε σεσωσμενοι (by grace you are saved). Yet the gift of grace-salvation leads to faith implying that God is behind everything that brings salvation to its fullest form, otherwise grace is hardly a gift.

3. Romans 10:17 - "Consequently faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the preached word of Christ." The logic of the passage is that the word of Christ + hearing = faith. In light of Rom. 10.8, we can say that the "word of faith" is often efficacious in its result, but in light of Rom. 10.18-19 it is ineffective at other times. It would be unwise to try use this passage to create a precise ordo salutis, but all the same, the preached word is the logical and causal antecedent of faith which is specifically linked to God's electing purposes.

4. Acts 16:14 - "A woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, a God-fearing woman, listened to us. The Lord opened her heart to respond to what Paul was saying." The infinitive προσεχειν means more than "listen intently" and connotes a positive response as well. That the "Lord opened her heart" to so respond seems like a pretty clear indication of divine initiative and not merely divine assistance.

Overall, I think Martin Luther is right: God creates faith the same way that he made the universe, he found nothing and made something!


Marc said...


Interesting topic.

Paul refers in Romans 2:14 I believe about a 'natural law'. I believe all humankind is born with some kind of faith. But you see this faith manifested in man different ways such as faith in nature versus faith in the Creator.

Faith in the wrong 'place' if you will.

God doesn't want robots but wants real faith, real love.


Bob MacDonald said...

Does God create faith? Yes, and we are mysteriously entrusted with the message of God's presence!

Thanks for this note - my agreement is unconditional.

Gerschi said...

Great blog! Having come to faith in a more mainstream evangelical way ("It' up to you! It's your decision!"), disovering my Lutheran/reformational roots saved me from many aporias. One of the (in the beginning) hardest and then greatest discoveries was twofold, my will is bound and faith is a gift of God. Praise God!!!

A Lutheran brother in Christ,

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Catholic/ Christian Church,
the communion of saints,...

Was ist das?
Ich glaube,
daß ich nicht aus eigener Vernunft noch Kraft an Jesus Christus, meinen Herrn, glauben oder zu ihm kommen kann;
sondern der Heilige Geist hat mich durch das Evangelium berufen,
mit seinen Gaben erleuchtet,
im rechten Glauben geheiligt und erhalten;
gleichwie er die ganze Christenheit auf Erden beruft,
sammelt, erleuchtet, heiligt und bei Jesus Christus erhält im rechten, einigen Glauben...

(M. Luther, Kleiner Katechismus.)

sujomo said...

Hi Mike,

Hope you are on the way to full recovery.

What about 2 Peter 1:1 where the gift of faith is linked to the righteousness of God?



Marc said...

Roy ALL righteousness comes from God. He's the One who circumcises our

"The Lord is our Righteousness"

When we do obey His commands, we are taking God righteousness,what is
righteousness as defined by God in the Scripture, and we are making it
our own. It becomes OURS, just as it was Jesus.

His Righteousness can't be called ours unless it's from obeying from
the heart.