Saturday, December 05, 2009

Who is the author of your faith?

"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising public shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." (Hebrews 12:1-2, NASB)

One thing that I have reformed in my theology is my soteriology (the study of salvation). That is, it has drastically turned from a man-centered soteriology to a God-centered soteriology. This may seem confusing to some, so let me explain with a question: who do you give credit to for your salvation? If you are a Christian, you will probably say "God" and rightly so. But since so many of us, myself included, are unintentionally entangled in man's traditions, we may not have as much of a God-centered soteriology as we might think.

When we think about our salvation, it is easy and convenient to think of it in terms of God making the offer and we having the option of responding. That is, God has provided the necessary means to achieve forgiveness of sins through Christ's atoning work as well as justification through imputation of righteousness (see 2 Cor. 5:19, Romans 4:5, etc.), and it us up to us to generate the type of faith necessary to receive these things. But do you ever take a step back and wonder where your faith comes from? Furthermore, have you ever wondered how and why Christians, like the apostle Paul, were able to endure to the end? Is it because Paul was able to muster up enough faith to make it from start to finish? Quite the contrary.

If you read Hebrews 12:1-2, you will notice a very Christ-centered soteriology. Yes, we do the "running" as well as the "enduring," but notice who the source is. Think of it like a car. Do cars do work? Of course they do. But you provide the fuel, to which it would be useless without it. And under no circumstances would a car be able to run without the fuel. You are the source. And as long as you provide the fuel (and repairs), it will run as long as you need it to.

Though no analogy is perfect in illustrating this, I feel that it is sufficient in comparing our dependence on Christ for salvation as well as our endurance. If Christ is the source (or the author) for our faith, then what does this say about us? For me, it certainly puts a damper on the possibility that I was the one who generated what was needed to respond to God's offer of salvation. In addition, it puts a damper on the possibility that I am the one who provides the necessary faith to endure till the end.

This leads me to two conclusions.

1. Christ begins our faith as well as finishes it. The question is, does Christ provide faith that isn't able to endure? If you are the "author and perfecter" of a book, wouldn't it be reasonable to conclude that you have accomplished what you were set out to do? Similarly, if Christ is able to provide my faith, isn't he also able to perfect it all the way to the end?

2. Some people have faith in Christ and many do not. Does Christ provide faith for everyone? If so, then why isn't Christ able to continue to perfect what he set out to accomplish? In light of Hebrews 12:2, Christ can't be the "author" of faith in all cases but only the "perfecter" in some. Its either all or nothing. That is, all of those faiths that Christ "authors" he will also "perfect." This leads to the inevitable conclusion that God has chosen to redeem some rather than all.


bossmanham said...

IMO, this passage could just as well be read as Jesus being the reason for our faith. What I mean by that is Christ's offer and call is the reason anyone can have and does have faith in Him. He is the author in the sense that is was His work that enabled us to have faith and provided the means and action for us to have faith as well.

Also, the verse in no way indicates this offer, this faith that is available, is irresistible. In fact, Stephen was dumbfouded at the people's rejection of the offer of God through the Holy Spirit in Acts 7:51.

This interpretation eliminates having to try to explain away passages like 1 John 2:2 and 1 Timothy 2:4. God genuinely wants and offers a completed work to all people and allows them to accept it or reject it.

As for being the finisher of the faith, I think that could refer to our glorification.

Mike Felker said...

Thank you for your comments. I understand what you are saying and agree with a lot of it. But I have a few things i'd like to assert for you to think about.

First, I don't see anything in this passage that supports the idea that this is speaking about a general offer and call. That is, the words are very specific, in using "author" to describe Christ's role in our faith. And when I think of authors, I don't get the sense of one who would "offer and call" something into being.

And yes, Christ's work certain did enable us to have faith, but I believe that it goes far beyond this, since the one who "authors" our faith also "perfects" it. I don't personally care for words like "irresistible" in describing this, for the Bible. But I do believe that those whom Christ sets out to author their salvation will inevitably result in perfecting it.

And this is where I think your interpretation falls short; you believe that Christ can "author" everyone's faith (since you seem to equate this with a general call to salvation), but at the same time, not perfect that same faith which he authors. In other words, I believe the "authoring" is personal and specific rather than general.

As for Acts 7:51, I don't see how this would counteract my position on this. I have no reason to deny that the Spirit is active in convicting unbelievers of sin, whereby they resist Him in this work. Nor do I have any reason to believe that the working of the Spirit in Acts 7:51 is the same as what Christ describes in John 6:44.

As for 1 John 2:2 and 1 Timothy 2:4, I don't see how this "eliminates having to try to explain away" these verses. I have to interpret those verses in their context just like any other.

bossmanham said...


First, I don't see anything in this passage that supports the idea that this is speaking about a general offer and call

I agree that this passage alone is not enough to extrapolate a universal call of salvation. I think you must interpret scripture with scripture, and I think the best conclusion reached when that is done is that God genuinely wants all men to come to repentance.

but at the same time, not perfect that same faith which he authors.

I do think He perfects people's faith, not only in sanctification, but in ultimate glorification. But that faith must be present to perfect.

As for 1 John 2:2 and 1 Timothy 2:4, I don't see how this "eliminates having to try to explain away" these verses. I have to interpret those verses in their context just like any other.

Well, from what I understand from your view, God doesn't genuinely want the people He does not produce faith in to repent. But in 1 Tim. 2:4, it says God wants all men to repent, and in 1 John 2:2 it says He has provided payment for all men.

Anyway, thanks for this pleasant dialog. I really enjoy your blog.

God bless.

Chaz said...

I completely turn away from interpretations of Scripture that suggest that God does not love everyone. To interpret so as to imply that our God does not go all out beyond our wildest dreams to see to it that every single person has every conceivable possibility for salvation fails the love test. We are misinterpreting no matter how compelling our logic may be.

Also, if God doesn't love everyone then I cannot obey His command when He tells ME to, for I have nothing for my neighbor but what He supplies.

From the thoughts of George MacDonald, if God didn't love everyone then I wouldn't want Him to love me.

Really like your site, Mike.