Is Faith What We Do to Be Saved?

The weakest faith clings to a sufficient Savior.

Most people on the street today would say that one’s subjective act of faith has nothing to do with the object [of that faith]. The significance of faith becomes determined entirely by the quality of our choosing rather than on the quality of what is chosen.

 

According to reports, Prince Charles intends—if he ever ascends the British throne—to change his title from “Defender of the Faith” to “Defender of Faith.” What’s the loss in dropping a definite article? Everything, actually—the traditional title refers to the defense of a particular confession, a body of doctrine concerning the Triune God who has rescued us from our sins by the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of the Son, Jesus Christ. With the proposed change, the intention is to encourage the act of faith—regardless of the object.

In fact, making faith itself the object of faith is just another way of believing in yourself. The important thing is the integrity, sincerity and strength of your believing. “But she really believes it,” we say when someone challenges the view of a friend. Well, then, if she really believes it, who am I to question?

From “the Faith” to “Faith”

The first thing we have to do when talking to people today is move the central truths of the Christian faith from the category of “faith” (understood as a mere leap based on will) to “truth” (understood as an objective state of affairs). The apostle Paul did not say that the most important stuff in religion is true regardless of whether Christ was raised; on the contrary, he insisted that if Christ was not raised, then our faith is futile, we are still in our sins, we have lied about God, and “we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:12–19). There is nothing left of Christianity if Christ has not been raised and, consequently, no reason at all to be religious. The Christian faith is based not on faith—that is, on the subjective religiosity and sincerity of pious individuals—but on historical events of saving significance.

Faith in Christ as Known in the Faith

To counter both of these extremes, it is important to follow the classic distinction between the faith that is believed (fides quae creditur) and the faith that believes (fides qua creditur). Sometimes the Bible speaks of “the faith once and for all delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3; cf. Acts 6:7; Phil. 1:27; 1 Tim. 6:12; Titus 1:4), and at other times understands faith as the human act of trusting in the gospel. In Scripture, our personal act of faith is directed to the objective person and work of Christ as he is clothed in his gospel. My faith is determined by the faith that is believed everywhere and at all times by all Christians. However, most people on the street today would say that one’s subjective act of faith has nothing to do with the object. The significance of faith becomes determined entirely by the quality of our choosing rather than on the quality of what is chosen.

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