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!