Thursday, March 06, 2008

Justification in the Pauline Corpus: Day 3

Where do you go when you get lost in a town? An information stand. A directory. But where do you go when you get lost in a jungle? Nowhere, stay where you are and pray? I checked this blog, and it says amongst others to: draw attention, get along with the wildlife and keep a sense of humour.

In class, I did not quite draw any attention, i.e. I did not ask any questions - not because I didn't want to - I don't know what to ask! But I got along the the "wildlife" alright - i.e. the notes, the contents, the lecture, whatever, I just went along with it. And I kept a sense of humour. Right here: the perfect place to do it (and whether or not I am humourous is not the point).

We touched on faith and justification today. What is faith?

Luther said that real, true Christian faith is not simply that you believe Christ is a man, but Christ is the man for you. It involves wholehearted trust that God is on your side. Calvin said that faith is the firm and certain knowledge of God's benevolence towards us.

O'Brien gave a few more on what is faith according to the Reformation view:
  • It is personal, but it points away from oneself to God. It is focused on the person of God, not simply doctrine: I fully subscribe to this, we live in a world that is too much of the unholy trinity - I, me, and myself. As I was mentioning at one of my post on Sunday, the worship songs we sing sometimes are so "I, me and myself".
  • It is bound to the word of God, always: it is not wishy washy faith, not something you believe because "you feel it", but something you worked out based on the word of God.
  • It is a gift of God. It is not a natural faculty of human beings: this is where I beg to differ. I know there are more so-called Calvinists than Armenians - so, please don't bite my head off, I hear you. I appreciate being reminded that it is indeed a gift from God, because I know that on my own, I would never have received and believed in Him. God is so gracious as to place me in a believing family and faith-community that I grew into Him. But this gift of faith, which is received, if not nurtured and built on, might disappear, just like gifts received can get lost. Now, where did I put that coffee pot I got last year?
  • It involves both knowledge and confidence: I am not sure what was discussed here (bear with me, it was about 10pm then), but how does this square with Heb 11:1? Knowledge and confidence? Things hoped for and things not seen?
  • It implies assurance: I think O'Brien mentioned here that if faith is depending on regeneration, there is no assurance, but I may be wrong. To me, I have the assurance of salvation but I can lose it too, if one day I just decide out of the blue I am out. That is also an assurance, is it not?
  • It is characterise by struggle - Luther said it was 'restless' - putting to death and made alive. Calvin said one cannot imagine 'faith' with an element of doubt: I can certainly attest to that, it is when I doubted that when I address that doubt and work it out, my faith is strengthened.
  • It is inseparable from hope and love. If we trust in him, loves directs the consequences: I "feel asleep" by the time we got to this point. But looking at it now, it has to do with 1 Cor 13's "faith, hope and love, abide these three".
  • It is instrumental but constitutive. Faith generates an entirely new perspective. Faith is nothing in itself, it gains no merit, and it doesn't co-operate with God (as the Catholics taught): co-operate with God? What?

Questions, questions, questions.
Just no answers.


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