persevering faith

One of the interminable theological debates is the source of faith. Some insist that faith is given by God. Others insist that faith is what a man does himself when he believes. I doubt very much that a blog post by me will bring this debate to any sort of resolution.

What I want to talk about, though, is something I heard in a recorded sermon preached by a friend of mine. He said something like this (loose paraphrase from memory):

God gives you faith. He gives it to you in such a way that genuine Christian faith will lead you to persevere in that faith. They won’t be able to burn it out of you, you will persevere to the end.

And such like…

Well. This raises some questions in my mind:

What about Sir Thomas More? He was beheaded by Henry VIII because he refused to sign the Act of Supremacy 1534 which made Henry the head of the Church of England. He was a vicious opponent of William Tyndale, stoutly defending the doctrine of salvation by works as opposed to Tyndale’s doctrine of salvation by faith alone. (Ironically, Tyndale was martyred shortly after More was beheaded.)

  • Did Thomas More have God-given faith? (I would suspect not.)
  • If not, why was he able to persevere to the end in his non-God-given something-or-other?

What about historical persecution of the Jews? The sons of Abraham have endured many persecutions in many lands in the last 2000 years. Many have been put to death by sword, fire, gas, or almost any other means. Yet they persisted in their refusal to acknowledge Christ as the Messiah and died in their unbelief.

  • The belief system of these Jews, was it God-given?
  • Or perhaps you wish to argue that God gave the Jews blindness (see Rm 9-11)?

What about thousands (millions?) of others who have died in the name of Allah, Buddha, Krishna, etc.?

  • How did they get their persevering faith?

So you see, I am bothered by my friend’s statement. I think he is overstating the case. I am not making an argument one way or another about the source of faith. But the many men who have died for other religions and causes are a testament against the way he presented it. People will burn persisting in error as much as they will persisting in the truth.

don_sig2

P. S. Regardless of the source of faith, it is an unfair accusation on the part of some to say that if man is the source of his own faith he therefore believes in salvation by works. Paul quite clearly states that faith is not a work: Rm 4.5.

Comments

  1. Keith says:

    The paraphrase of your friend says nothing about true faith being the only kind of persistent belief. All it says is that true faith always perseveres. If it doesn’t persevere it wasn’t God-given.

    No logic is violated in saying, “True, God-given faith always perseveres,” and also saying “Some folks may (and have) also held onto other types of beliefs or ‘faiths'”.

    The fact that a belief is maintained does not prove it is true, but loss of a belief does prove that it isn’t saving faith.

    • I agree with you in general. I suppose I didn’t do a good job paraphrasing! My friend used the word “only” as I recall, saying it something like this: “Only God-given faith can persevere to the end.”

      However, I am not certain that someone who may verbally recant under extreme duress is absolutely without saving faith. I am glad I don’t have to decide the question and I am sure the Lord knows his own.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  2. Really good post, and something that I think about a lot. You articulated the counter arguments perfectly. True God-given faith will persevere, but it’s not up to us to judge whether perseverance happened (even the suicide could repent at the last tenth-second of life, and be saved). And belief which stubbornly perseveres is not necessarily God-given. I’m reminded of the Tibetan “saints” who traversed the mountainous paths to Lhasa entirely on their bloodies knees and endured the greatest self-torture for “faith”. If we regard such self-destruction as “faith”, Adam and Eve represent the most faithful servants of all.

  3. Romans 12:3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

    I believe that God gives every person the ability to believe (so He is the source of true faith in that sense) – but it is up to man to believe the Word of God. Responding to the Word of God is what gives us true faith (see Romans 10:17) – though of course, man can generate his own false faith based on anything other than the Word of God (or even based on a wrong or incomplete understanding of the Word of God).