Pragmatic Faith: The Illusion of Trusting God
by Lawrence W. Hilliard

"A Faith that comes into being like a butterfly is ephemeral. He who is swift to believe is swift to forget. Faith does not come into being out of nothing, inadvertently, unprepared..." —Abraham Heschel, The Philosophy of Judaism, p. 152-153

The redefinition of foundational truths of philosophy and theology is the hallmark of current, minimalist thinking. The lexicon of axiomatic truth is being discarded by the purveyors of aorist functionality. The religious community in America and its extended family globally, has embraced a pragmatic definition of faith that has become the volitional foundation upon which present Christianity resides. The elevation of man's "will to believe", is the mantra that animates all sectors of the Christian community. From the blatant voices of Pentacostalism that propound "...just believe to receive your conceived aspirations", to the Evangelical churches conversional seduction of presenting Christ as if He were one of many viable options, and the choice is solely within the purview of the individual to decide if Christ is worthy of our allegiance. "Try Him," was the public relation slogan of city-wide revivalists just a few years ago. The emphasis is constantly upon the volition of man to initiate a relationship with God. "The sufficiency of the natural reason and will of man would seem to make supernatural revelation and grace superfluous." (Phillip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 3, p. 812). The fixation upon man's will is the endemic orientation that views God as only a partner in this salvific synergism. This insidious orientation was injected into the church by the Fifth Century British hersiarch, Pelagius. Pelagius enthroned the "will to believe" as the crown of man's capacity to acquire salvation by the freedom of choice unaided by divine grace. "Pelagius argued that the will, rather than being bound over to sin, is actually neutral—so that at any given moment or in any situation it is free to choose the good and do it." "Pelagius' position greatly limited the true scope of sin and inevitably led to a denial of the absolute need for the unmerited grace of God in salvation. Moreover, even where the gospel of grace is freely preached to the sinner, what ultimately determines whether he or she will be saved is not the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit within but the person's will which either receives or rejects the Savior." (James Montgomery Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith, p. 209-210. A semi-pelagianism, that defines man as in a synergistic relationship with God, is embraced by the majority of Christendom without any historical perspective. The individual is perceived to be a partner with God in all aspects of salvation, being the initiate of salvation itself. "The soul of the Pelagian system is human freedom." "Pelagius starts from the natural man, and works up, by his own exertions, to righteousness and holiness." "The [Pelagian system] loves to admire the dignity and strength of man. It flatters the natural pride..." "Pelagianism begins with self-exaltation and ends with the sense of self-deception and impotency." (Phillip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 3, p. 788). As debilitating as this natural orientation is to an understanding of Biblical faith, this erroneous doctrine has been conjoined to America's unique philosophy of pragmatism, to produce the illusionary belief system now currently proclaimed as Biblical faith.

"Nowadays falsehood stands erect and truth lies prostrate on the ground."
—Zohar II, 188

The demolishing of truth in the name of functionality is the bitter fruit of the harvest of pragmatism, the philosophical bedrock of the American educational system, and the dominant influence in our culture. From the writings of C. S. Peirce, William James, and John Dewey, has come the only unique American philosophy. Pragmatism redefines truth as any belief, opinion, or action which has a beneficial, workable, usable, practical consequence to an individual or society, issuing from a subjective matrix. Truth is divorced from having an enduring, immutable, transcendent nature of permanence. The usefulness of a given proposition or action that benefits the individual is categorized functionally as the definition of truth. "Consider what effects, that might conceivably have practical bearings, we conceive the object of our conception to have. Then our conception of these effects is the whole of our conception of the objects." (C. S. Peirce, How to Make Our Ideas Clear, 1878) " order to ascertain the meaning of an intellectual conception, one should consider what practical consequences might conceivably result by necessity from the truth of that conception; and the sum of these consequences will constitute the entire meaning of the conception." (C. S. Peirce, Collected Papers, Vol. 5, p. 9) "The true is only the expedient in our way of thinking, just as the right is only the expedient in the way of our behaving." (William James, The Meaning of Truth, pg. VII) The philosophy of pragmatism rejects the nature of truth as transcendent or metaphysical, but solely defines truth as experiential and expedient. Truth is thus the beneficial functionality of an act, it has become whatever works. Ideas and actions have value only if there is a "cash value" or "profit", a beneficial consequence to the individual. "...the main principle of pragmatism (is) that the full Ďcash valueí of any concept is exhausted in the changes it has in my experience." (Gordon Clarke, From Thales to Dewey, p. 506) Truth defined by pragmatism is devoid of any objective reality, it is only the subjective construct devised for my own benefit.

The pragmatic man is the individual who can get things done, bring forth results, notwithstanding whether the inherent nature of the action or decision is right or wrong, which is considered irrelevant to the net result. An educational system founded on such a philosophy has produced a generation that can efficiently accomplish certain specific tasks, within the narrow confines of the computer epoch, but is ignorant of the nature of truth. A society that can "do" but canít "think" rightly outside the parameter of the day-to-day functionality of their lives. "Urban secular man is pragmatic. He devotes himself to tackling specific problems. He is interested in what will work to get something done. He has little interest in what has been termed [by the pragmatist] Ďborderline questions of metaphysical considerations.í" (Harvey Cox, The Secular City) At the core of this destructive mindset is an inherent falsification, pragmatismís Achilles heel; for the most pragmatic act of functional consequence is the lie. If the determination of truth is whatever works functionally and beneficially, then a lie may be the best truth in operation. The lie works and works repeatedly as our politicians daily attest to, though camouflaged in the promised, practical consequences it will bring forth. A lie can produce results for centuries as the original temptation attests, "...and you will be like God,..." (Gen. 3:5). Millions of lives have gone to the grave pinning all on that transcendent lie.

"At this time and in the present state of our culture, to affirm absolutes and assert that not everything is relative goes against the grain of popular prejudice. The popular prejudice is, for the most part, unenlightened."
—Mortimer J. Adler, Chairman of the Board of Editors of the Encyclopedia Britannica, Adlerís Philosophical Dictionary, pg. 13

Pragmatism, intravenously fed by our educational system, obliterates the need to ask questions of ultimacy and transcendence. For such questions are arrogantly dismissed as being irrelevant and unrelated to a well-designed functioning society where each individual performs in drone-like fashion, to contribute to the pragmatic goal, i.e., the workability of the state, "...pragmatism leaves no room for the plan and historical activity of God." (Hans-Jurgen Hermission, professor of Old Testament, University Bonn, Faith, p. 24) Truth is no longer the motivation of life, a principle to die for, or establish faith upon, but only the instrument which produces beneficial results for the individual. Incidentally, both of our political parties are hewed from the same quarry, the rock of pragmatism, to forge this present day new Republican-Democrat hybrid. Political power is won, whether on a local, state, or federal level, by the enunciation of a utilitarian principle, what will bring forth the perceived greatest good to the constituency, but the good is invariably defined as pragmatic practicality devoid of any moral content or obligation. Within the political process, consideration of the inherent truthfulness or falsity of any given proposition has been eclipsed by pragmatic utilitarianism. The question is no longer, "Is it true?" but "Will it work?" Expediency thus governs the decision-making process. "If a moral philosophy is formulated entirely in terms of ends and means, it is utilitarian or pragmatic. It is an ethics without duties or moral obligations." (Mortimer J. Adler, Adlerís Philosophical Dictionary, p. 82) Within this lie-oriented philosophy, all statements and values are considered as valid or invalid, contingent upon their end result. If a centuries-old value is perceived as not producing current desired results, then it can easily be dismissed by the pragmatist as antiquated; to be replaced by a novel pop idea, even though it has been discredited in the past, but is now seen as capable of producing desired results. Thus history is demeaned as a dust-laden classroom of the ever-diminishing traditionalist while the next nanosecond is exalted by the pragmatic secularist as the new laboratory for change. Thus pragmatism produces a society of macularepithelists madly following the next faint glimpse before their noses. As a result, all of life is divorced from any continuum with the past. The lacuna of "now" holds nothing but the lie that there is a new truth superseding the old.

"Judaism must not permit itself to be trapped into...allowing religious faith to be relegated to a pragmatically valuable but purely subjective experience. Judaism must not renounce its claim that God has actually spoken to man."
—Rabbi Walter S. Wurzburger, The Condition of Jewish Belief, p. 280

Americaís unique philosophy is founded on a lie. And that falsehood has saturated all segments of society, including Judaism and Christianity. In the words of William James, "On pragmatic principles, if the hypotheses of God works satisfactorily in the widest sense of the word, it is true." (Pragmatism, pg. 299) "...if theological ideas prove to have a value for concrete life, they will be true, for pragmatism, in the sense of being good for so much." (William James, Pragmatism, p. 73) If the idea of God works for me, according to William James, it is true for me. If faith makes me feel better then it is personally, pragmatically true. In such a philosophical system God is thus reduced to a useful hypotheses that is only real or truthful if it brings forth results that are beneficial to me. "James talks of God as of an article to be sold to a materialistically-minded consumer by every device of optimistic advertising; and he counsels us to believe as if he were recommending long-term investments, with high dividends, in which there was nothing to lose, and all the (other) world to win." (Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy, p. 18) The Eternal Transcendent King of the Ages is dispensed with by the pragmatist, if He doesnít work for them. God is thus redefined into an image that serves man. Within the pragmatic mindset, faith becomes a subjective instrument akin to the mythical magic wand. "The notion that God is real for man only on the condition of subjective responsive trust makes a shambles of these verses (Ps. 139:5-8, 11, 13, 15-16). The objectively existing One is inescapably real even in hell, where man would be least likely to welcome intensive encounter with the living God. Even before birth, and before self-consciousness, before conception itself, the objectively real God works out his providential purposes in the created order. The self-revealing God is God who is; our being and reality are conditioned on His being and reality, and not vice versa." (Carl F. H. Henry, foremost American theologian and author, "God, Revelation and Authority," Vol. 5, pt. 1, p. 42) Devoid of an understanding regarding the nature and history of pragmatism, the venom of this insidious philosophy is mainlined through a myriad of current autosoteric, i.e., self-salvational movements within the religious world; pragmatic preaching, relational theology, the baby-boomer message, health and prosperity orientation, self-esteem reformation, positivism, feel-goodism, the binding of Satan. Each in their own way viewing faith as a catalyst that releases God, increasingly perceived as a cosmic power, to enhance oneís life. The object and essence of faith is no longer perceived or affirmed to be the character of God, but only the projected illusory concepts of oneís own subjective longings. The goal of faith to "please God" (Gen. 5:22-24, Eccles. 44:16, Heb. 11:6) is demeaned as an antiquated feature of an unenlightened past where manís needs were not clearly perceived. Contemporary man demands Divine catering to what looms so large before his perceptual grasp. The materialization of his desires, hopes, dreams, and lusts is what he wants from religion. The goal of such faith is for God to please man. Thus pragmatic faith is in reality just the gospel of and for narcissistic man. "Nowadays many seek to tread a middle way, drawing on the subjective certainty and comfort of religion while surrendering its objective truth and knowability. This makes religion a private matter, a psychological need: whatever someone considers useful and necessary to believe at a given time and place is deemed to be true. But if religion in the objective sense doesnít exist or is unknowable, itís subjective certainty is an illusion." (Herman Bavinck, 1854-1921, Dutch Reformed Theologian, Professor of Dogmatics and Apologetics at Free Reformed University of Amsterdam, 1902-1921, "The Certainty of Faith," pg. 82) "...because Judaism claims the allegiance of the individual Jew...the validity of its faith cannot be established by reference to merely personal and subjective experience, in which the feelings and aspirations of the individual are the sole determining factors, but must be sought in an objective revelation of God in history..." (Isidore Epstein, 1894-1962, English Rabbi and scholar, from 1948 Principal of Jewís College in London, "The Faith of Judaism," pg. ix) When the pragmatic consequences of a subjective faith subside, as they will, the disillusioned precursive faither will gravitate to another object of faith: a god of his or her own devising. Pragmatic religion is the Devilís most seductive bondage, for it camouflages belief in our dying self as faith in a Living God. "Religion is sui generis. It is not Ďforí something else. Its aim is the worship of God." (Louis Jacobs, 1920- , English Rabbi and Theological writer, "A Jewish Theology," pg. 289)

"Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father, There is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not; As Thou has been Thou forever wilt be. Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed Thy hand hath provided; Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!"
—T. O. Chisholm

"Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful (Heb. aman, "certainty, firmness, dependability") God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep his commandments..." (Deut. 7:9) "Because he who is blessed in the earth shall be blessed by the God of truth (Heb. amen, "trustworthy, sure, rock-like, faithful, dependable"); and he who swears in the earth shall swear by the God of truth (Heb. amen); because the former troubles are forgotten, and because they are hidden from My sight!" (Isa. 65:16) Truth is the quintessence of Godís nature. It is Godís eternal character of steadfast integrity upon which all His words and works are founded. So the reality of His being is not comparable to the reality of any other existing thing. This is what the prophet said, "The Lord is the true God," (Jer. 10:10), and the Torah states: "ĎThere is no one like unto Him,í implying that He alone is the Truth and there is no other Truth like His Truth (Deut. 4:39)." (Moses Maimonides, 1135-1204, foremost Medieval Jewish philosopher and Theologian, The Book of Knowledge, from the Mishnah Torah of Maimonides, Treatise 1, Chapter 1) Faith in God rests upon the knowledge that Godís nature is truthful, dependable, faithful, permanent, and steadfast (Ps. 89:2, 92:2, 100:5). "Basically the term (Heb. emuna, "faithfulness") applies to God himself (Deut. 32:4) to express his total dependability. It is frequently listed among the attributes of God, Psalms 36:5, 40:10, Lam. 3:23. It describes His works (Ps. 33:4) and His words (Ps. 119:86, 143:1.)" (Theological Word Book of the Old Testament, Vol. 1, pg. 52) Godís veracity communicated to man by His Word is eternally immutable, "Forever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven." (Ps. 119:89) The word of God is forever fixed and secure in heaven. Issuing forth from the God of eternal faithfulness it is confirmed to all eternity. The continuity of the earthís rotational orbit, the predestined order of the seasons, and the comprehensive preservation of all life are a constant witness to the unchangeable character of Godís word, "Thy faithfulness continues throughout all generations; Thou didst establish the earth, and it stands. They stand this day according to Thine ordinances, for all things are Thy servants." (Ps. 119:90-91) Godís word which established and perpetually maintains the world is the same in quality as the word which He has embodied in the scriptures. "Were he a God in whose hand the processes of nature were ever shifting, then might we conceive him a God from whose mouth the proclamations of grace had the like characters of variance and vacillation. But it is just because of our reliance on the one that we feel so much of repose in our dependence upon the other; and the same God who is so unfailing in the ordinances of his creation, we hold to be equally unfailing in the ordinances of his word." (Thomas Chalmers, 1780-1847, Scottish theologian, quoted from "The Treasury of David," Vol. 6, p. 219)

"Rock of Ages, let our song Praise Thy saving power; Thou, amidst the raging foes, Wast our sheltering tower. Furious, they assailed us, But Thine arm availed us, And Thy word Broke their sword When our own strength failed us."
—Hanukkah hymn

"O Truth of God beneath our life, The rock on which we rest: Thy Mind is near, Thy Spirit saith Our home is in Thy breast."
—George A. Gordon, 1853-1929

The faith of Judaism is founded on the eternal, immutable nature of the God of truth. His rock-like character of unshakeable truthfulness is the foundation upon which His people stand and rest upon, as the substance of faith. In a polytheistic world where appeasement to the capricious whims of the gods left man incessantly unsure of his life, only the certainty of the God of truth and faithfulness could provide an enduring relation of unshakeable security. "Unlike the pagan religions where unremitted anxiety was the rule, the Hebrew religion knew a God whose chief characteristic was faithfulness and trustworthiness (Deut. 33:28, I Sam. 12:11, Ps. 27:3)." (Theological Word Book of the Old Testament, Vol. 1, p. 102) "The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He." (Deut. 32:4) God is unalterable in character, His unchangeable rectitude thus guarantees His steadfast faithfulness to man. The Rock-like character of God "...denotes the Divine unchangeableness and its refuge for men. Ages pass away, but the rock remains a place of safety in time of storm and flood." (J. Hertz, 1872-1946, former Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth, 1913-1946, "The Pentateuch and Haptorahs," pg. 897) "Trust ye in the Lord forever; for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength (Lit. Heb. "is the Rock of ages")." (Isa. 26:4) "Trust ye in the Lord, for the Lord is God, an everlasting Rock." (Isa. 26:4, a new English translation of the Hebrew text from Soncino Books of the Bible, Isaiah, pg. 118) See also Deut. 32:18, Ps. 18:2, and Isa. 17:10. The Hanukkah hymn alludes to Isaiah 26:4, ascribing to God the title "Rock of Ages": "Rock of Ages, let our song praise Thy saving power..." Faith in God neither originates nor is expressed in an objective vacuum, but has as its sole source the objective reality of the God of eternal certainty. "...authentic faith has Godís external objective existence as its precondition." "Either manís faith takes place in a context involving what is truly and objectively the case or all talk of religious reality and knowledge capsizes into subjective confusion." (Carl F. H. Henry, "God, Revelation and Authority," Vol. 5, pt. 1, p. 27) Faith is not a leap into the dark abyss of uncertainty hoping that God, or some amorphous power, will validate this subjective venture borne out of desperation. Biblical faith is the trustful response to God, Whose abiding faithful presence has kept and preserved oneís life while in a condition that embraced a myriad of false objects of trust. "To believe in God, not to demand any special activity on Israelís part. All that Israel has to do is to place her feet on the Rock which is already there; then she will discover that she too is as Ďsureí, neíeman, as the Rock beneath her feet. To believe in God is to make the existential discovery that God is faithful and reliable;..." (George A. Knight, former Professor of Old Testament at McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago, "Deutero-Isaiah," pg. 97)

The Old Testament reveals many sources of false security that, in contrast to God, are seen to be vain, empty and fallacious. These objects of vacuity elicit the trust of man in defiance of the command of God to trust Him and Him alone. The varied objects of false security include man (Ps. 118:8, 146:3, Prov. 25:19, Jer. 17:5), wickedness (Isa. 47:10), violence and oppression (Ps. 55:23, 62:10, Isa. 30:12), riches (Ps. 49:6, 52:7, Prov. 11:28), idols (Ps. 31:6, 115:8, Isa. 42:17, Habb. 2:18), military power (Deut. 28:52, Ps. 44:6, Isa. 31:1, Jer. 5:17, Hos. 10:13), religion (Jer. 7:4, 8:14), oneís own righteousness (Ezek. 33:13, Hos. 10:13), and foreign alliances (Isa. 26:4ff, Ezek. 29:16ff). "...the devout Hebrew knew himself to be utterly without personal resources. But better to be utterly dependent on a gracious and dependable God, than left to oneís own devices in a sea of fickle gods, vengeful demons and inscrutable, magical forces. In view of these facts, Godís sovereign control of manís destiny and Godís total dependability, putting oneís confidence in anything but God is seen as utterly groundless." (Theological Word Book of the Old Testament, Vol. 1, p. 102) To extend trust for the security of oneís life to any other source but God will end in disgrace and shame, "My God, in Thee have I put my trust; let me not be deceived, let not my enemies triumph over me. Yea, all those who strive after Thee, shall not be deceived, they shall be deceived who break faith in vain." (Ps. 25:2-3, Hirsch translation) "...he who breaks faith with God for the sake of alien interests will find that he has committed this breach of faith in vain, and he will be grievously disappointed. He has forfeited Godís nearness and has gained nothing to compensate for this loss. Even if it appears that he has indeed attained his heartís desire by this means, the rude awakening is inevitable." (Samson Raphael Hirsch, 1808-1888, Rabbinical and Talmudic scholar, theologian and authority on the Pentateuch, The Hirsch Psalms, p. 179) "But as for me, I have trusted in Thee, O Lord; I have said it, ĎThou art my God.í" (Ps. 31:15, Hirsch translation)

"The sum (Lit. Heb. "the head") of Thy word is truth (Heb. emeth), and every one of Thy righteous ordinances is everlasting." Ps. 119:160. The quintessence of Godís word is truth. The totality, the whole of it is true, from top to bottom. "If he [the Psalmist] reckons up the word of God in its separate parts and as a whole, truth is the denominator of the whole, truth is the sum-total." (Franz Delitzsch,1813-1890, professor of Old Testament studies, Leipzig, "Commentary on the Old Testament," Vol. 5, p. 262) The Lord has nothing to retract, amend, or reverse. You can summarize the nature of every word in the Torah by one word: "truth", Heb. emeth. Emeth is the primary word in the faith vocabulary of the Old Testament emphasizing certainty, security, rock-like, foundation, pillar, stable, firm, support, uphold. To the ancient Hebrews anyone within the domestic and anything in the material sphere described as emeth spoke of permanency and stability (Ex. 17:12, Num. 11:12, Ruth 4:16, II Kings 18:16, 11:38, Esther 2:7, Isa. 60:4). When transferred into the realm of their knowledge of God, emeth readily spoke to them of the unchanging nature of Godís character, He was a God of truth and His Word was commensurate with His character. The immutability of the Word of God, as eternal truth, is the enduring foundation of faith. "Judaism is a religion of truth. In the words of a medieval prayer, ĎHe is a God of truth; His Torah is truth; His prophets are prophets of truth; He aboundeth in deeds of goodness and truth.í" "Judaism is a true religion because it is rooted in Godís truth." (Max J. Routtenberg, Rabbi of Temple Bnai Shalom, Long Island, NY, "The Condition of Jewish Belief," p. 189) Biblical faith is established on nothing else but the truth of God embodied in the scriptures, "A person becoming involved with God in faith does not just participate in some vague, pious feelings; that faith acquires a concrete content in this Godís words...God defines himself for the believer by means of these words." (Hans-Jurgen Hermission, "Faith," p. 28)

"...the certainty of faith, does not depend on fallible human insight but on unshakeable divine attributes."
—Herman Bavinck, "The Certainty of Faith," p. 25

Faith in God is the subsequent result of being convinced experientially that God is a God of truth. "And those who know Thy name (Heb. shem, "nature, character, reputation" ) will put their trust in Thee; for Thou, O Lord, hast not forsaken those who seek Thee." (Ps. 9:10) "Ignorance is worst when it amounts to ignorance of God, and knowledge is best when it exercises itself upon the name of God. This most excellent knowledge leads to the most excellent grace of faith. O, to learn more of the attributes and character of God. Unbelief, that hooting night bird, cannot live in the light of divine knowledge, it flies before the sun of Godís great and gracious name." "By knowing his name is also meant an experimental acquaintance with the attributes of God, which are every one of them anchors to hold the soul from drifting in seasons of peril." (Charles Spurgeon, "The Treasury of David," Vol. 1, p. 110) As I come to understand, through knowledge of His nature, communicated through His word, that God is a God of undeviating truthfulness, I then extend faith in His faithfulness, rely on His reliability, depend on His dependability, and trust in His trustfulness. Faith in God is not a production of my will, it is not self-generated, or a result of some external catalyst. Faith in God is the supernatural capacity to trust Him that is given to the individual who has a living knowledge of the eternal nature of the God of truth. In essence, faith in God is the supernatural byproduct of knowing Godís nature. "Faith presupposes knowledge, because it needs a mental complex, person or thing, to be occupied about." "In fact knowledge is so interwoven with faith that the question arises, whether it be sufficient to call it a prerequisite, and not rather an ingredient of faith." (Geerhardus Vos, 1862- 1932, professor of Biblical theology at Princeton Seminary from 1893-1932, "Biblical Theology," pg. 389) Faith must have a cognitive content whose foci is the eternally faithful God. This is the matrix from which the capacity to believe in God originates. "Without a genuinely cognitive element that experience cannot provide of itself, without supernatural revelation and some normative identification of transcendent Being, faith has no intellectual force." (Carl F. H. Henry, "God, Revelation and Authority," Vol. 6, p. 33).

" is grounded on nothing else but the truth of God; for Paul does not teach us that faith springs from any other kind of doctrine, but he expressly restricts it to the Word of God; and this restriction would have been improper if faith could rest on the decrees of men. Away then with all the devices of men when we speak of the certainty of faith."
—John Calvin, Notes on Romans 10:17

"Faith, however, is not a quality, a virtue, or a faculty. It is not something man can produce. It is simply a trustful response that is itself evoked by the Holy Spirit."
—A. Skevington Wood, Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 11, p. 36

Biblical faith is a gift of God as supernatural as all aspects of salvation (Mk. 11:22, Rom. 10:17, 12:3,6, Acts 3:16, Eph. 2:8, Phil. 1:29, 3:9, I Tim. 1:14, II Tim. 1:13, 3:15, Heb. 12:2). Faith, as a capacity to trust God is not endemic to man. Man has no innate ability to rely on God's faithful nature. "Even faith must come as a gift, because prior to the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit our depravity renders us impotent to cooperate with God's saving grace." "The Bible never says that we are saved because of our faith. That would make faith something good in us that we somehow contribute to the process. But the Bible does say that we are saved by or through faith, meaning that God must create faith in us, before we can be justified." (James Montgomery Boice, The Doctrines of Grace, p. 30. 151). The capacity of faith is a gift of grace bestowed through the instrumentality of the Word of God. "Then faith is from hearing, and the hearing through a word of Christ." (Rom. 10:17, Greek translation). The Apostle Paul uses an objective genetive in the passage to describe the message that brings faith, it is a message "about Christ" that produces the capacity of faith within the heart. It is a message about the person, nature, essence and work of Christ that produces in the hearer the capacity of faith. The individual who submits to the Word about Christ, is given the capacity to rely on His reliability, trust in His trustfulness, depend on His dependability and find security in His eternal faithfulness. This is not a pragmatic word about myself or about a myriad of topics but about Christ. " [the word about Christ] locates the content of the preaching in what God has given, not in what the preacher has thought up." (Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, p. 392). The message about Christ that produces faith will sustain the believer through time and eternity. This foundation of God's truthfulness will never be augmented or shaken. "And on whose word can man rely on more fully with mind and heart, in suffering and death, for time and eternity, than the testimony of Him who is Himself the truth?" (Herman Bavinck, "The Certainty of Faith," p. 27). Great is His eternal faithfulness! Amen.

"The steps of faith fall on the seeming void and find the Rock beneath."
—F. B. Meyer

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