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Raising Olive

The truth behind the “Raising Olive” controversy.

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Today David shares an overview of Calvinism.

Pericope Adulterae in the Gospel of John

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Context, Context, Context

Dwayne Green discusses the importance of context in Philippians 4:13

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To Believe God

Original Article Posted at: https://findingthebalance.net
Written by: Chase Orosco

What does it mean to believe God? What does it mean to trust Him? How are we ultimately saved? These questions are questions that all of Christendom has asked over the centuries, and it is a question even the cults are obsessed with answering. The LDS gospel claims to hold to Paul’s teachings. But reading it’s own scriptures in the Book of Mormon, and even talking with LDS, you are hard pressed to find them truly confessing the truth of what the Bible had been teaching all along. What does it mean, therefore, to truly believe God?

The doctrine of Sola Fide (Faith Alone) is at the center of the Christian faith. Everyone wants to say they have faith in God, but who truly demonstrates it as Paul defined it in Romans 4? To truly capture the heart of this doctrine, it was no coincidence that Paul went to the Father of the Faithful, Abraham. Paul could not have picked a greater candidate to explain this doctrine.

For several reasons Paul goes to Abraham. One is as I stated above: he is the Father of the Faithful. Another reason is because Paul is dealing in Romans with Judiazers who are trying to teach Gentile Christians that to be truly followers of Christ, they must become members of the old covenant first, and adhere to the laws and statutes of the Jews. This is what Paul is responding to, and he does so by going all the way back to the beginning, before the Jewish nation even existed to prove to Jews and Greeks that his doctrine of faith alone supersedes the Jewish laws and customs. This is exactly what Paul is correcting in the Galatian church as well (Galatians 3:16-18).

A God of Promise

What it tells us is that the doctrine which Paul will be teaching us beginning at the end of Romans 3 and into 4 is not something Paul is inventing here towards the later half of the first century. It means that what he is about to explain to us began all the way back to Abraham himself. Before we can get into Romans 4, therefore, we should revisit exactly what it is Paul is pointing us to in order to understand the context of this chapter, which is the citadel of the doctrine of Sola Fide. Paul is pointing us to Genesis 15:

[After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.]

-Genesis 15:1-6 (ESV)

This is the passage Paul is referring to specifically. However, I think Paul is hoping that you read further in Genesis 15 to see something amazing, which all has to do with trusting God over our own efforts. Abram (as he was known then) fell asleep and saw a vision. We read this in the passage:

[When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land…]

Genesis 15:17-18 (ESV)

The three dots indicate that there is more to the verse cited, but what I want to focus on is in the nature of these two verses. This strange ritual that Abram saw in a dream represented Yahweh passing through the pieces of the dismembered animals as an oven, or a fire. The symbolism represents the reality that Yahweh had bound, not Abram, but Himself to this covenant He makes with Abram. Hence the burden of keeping the promise which God had given to Abram earlier in the chapter (verses 1-6) was not on Abram, but God.

If the promise rested upon God to uphold, how then could it fail? It could not. It was not what Abram was going to do, but what Yahweh Himself was going to do. That promise, as Paul tells us, is fulfilled in Christ.

Romans 4: By Faith Alone

He begins Romans 4 with a rhetorical question, iconic to Romans:

[What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh?]

-Romans 4:1 (ESV)

The question is meant to get the reader to think. Paul expands upon his rhetorical question in verse 2 that if indeed Abraham was justified by his works, then he had accomplished something apart from God’s own doing.

What Paul is doing here is contrasting a salvation by works and a salvation by faith. He offers no categories of some form of faith plus works–nor even faith with works. Either you work, in which case it is something owed, which means now God owes you according to your merits, and consequentially, your salvation is based on your merits, or it is by faith alone, in which you believe that God has earned the merits for you.

Paul then quotes Psalm 32:1-2, where David describes “the blessed man” who is the one whose sins are covered and their lawless deeds forgiven. How are they covered? How are they forgiven? Many of the cults love to talk about forgiveness of sins, but when you sit and talk with them, they will typically end up describing to you a gospel of works, of legalism in some fashion, and you can often tell when you cite a passage such as Romans 4:1-5, ask them if they believe it and they typically reply, “Yeah, but…” Once the ‘but’ comes in, then they’ve just removed faith from the equation. Remember, Paul does not provide any such categories here for faith with works. It is either by works, in which case faith is null, or by faith in God’s promise to do it for you, in which case it is a gift.

Hence, the Latter Day Saints, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Roman Catholics, as much as they might like to cheer on faith in Christ, none of them can follow Paul here without interrupting him in some way, indicating they do not truly believe in Paul’s doctrine of salvation by grace through faith, and why as Christian as they may sound, they have no gospel of salvation. How then are we saved by what Paul is teaching here?

Imputed Righteousness.

Let’s return to Romans 4:3, where Paul takes us all the way back to Abraham. When Abraham believes God, it is counted as righteousness. What does Abraham believe? He believes what we just went through, God’s promise of salvation by covenant. It was when Abraham believed God that he was counted as righteous. What ‘righteousness’ was counted to him, then? Firstly, let’s consider the Greek word being used as ‘counted’ here. The word means to be accounted as, to be considered to be. It is the equivalent of providing to one’s account, such as their bank account, in our day in age.

Abraham’s faith, then, accounts a righteousness to God, and what righteousness is that? Paul just told us in Romans 3:22–the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ, acquired by faith. So it is the righteousness of Jesus Christ. How then does this work? When you consider the Old Testament, particularly in Leviticus, when God is going through the nature of the atonement, an animal is killed on behalf of the one being atoned for, by the high priest. The high priest represents this person in the sacrifice, offers the sacrifice as being the ‘sin-bearer’ on behalf of the person being atoned for. This is to appease the righteous wrath of God for that sinner.

Christ becomes the ultimate sin offering on the cross, bearing upon himself the sins of all those who would have faith in him, and in return, his righteousness he had acquired is given to the sinner Christ represents in his atoning sacrifice. This is what we call the doctrine of imputed righteousness. My sins are placed upon the sin-bearer; not some, not most, all of my sins. And in return, I attain his righteousness; not some, not most, all of it. Since Christ’s atonement is infinite in its value, it atones eternally on my behalf. What left is there for me to do? This is essentially the question Paul asks later in Romans 8:31. God has done this. No one can add to it, nor take it away. Not even my own sin.

Now Christ’s righteous account is made mine by grace through faith, and God has dealt with my sins on the cross. And so we return to Romans 4:7-8 and ask again, how are our sins covered? How are our lawless deeds forgiven? By repentance? No. Paul never mentions it here. Our sins are covered by the sin offering, our lawless deeds are forgiven by the atonement of Christ. When I put my trust in Christ, my sins have all been dealt with. There is nothing left for me to do. It is done and finished, and I can therefore say with Paul in Romans 5:1 that I have peace with God because I have been justified, not by my repentance, not by my works, but by faith in and through our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is how Abraham was justified before God. And if Abraham is the Father of the Faithful, this then is how every believer is justified before God. They are not justified by any of their merits, nor their works, and to bring anything of our own to the cross is to blaspheme the cross and the work of God, claiming that Christ’s work was not enough on our behalf.

Paul continues his teaching of his doctrine of salvation in Romans 4:9, again by using Abraham as our model. He moves on to ask another rhetorical question, which is to ask if this justification occurred before or after Abraham began to work and live for God. This is another important point.

Take, for instance, in the Book of Mormon, in Moroni 10:32, where it says that once we deny ourselves of all ungodliness, and love the Lord with all our hearts mind and strength, then is God’s grace sufficient for us. It is after we have done these things do we have forgiveness. Interestingly enough, this contradicts what Enos says in Enos 5-8, where Enos is not forgiven after he has denied himself of all ungodliness, but rather by faith in Christ.

But for Paul, he goes in a completely opposite direction. Instead, Paul declares that Abraham was justified before he circumcised himself. In other words, before any works were performed by Abraham, he was justified and saved from all his sins. This is the significance of Paul’s use of Abraham. If this is how Abraham, who was the father of Israel, was saved, then that means all Israel is saved in this way (Romans 9:6), and that’s exactly what Paul says in the next set of verses.

To Believe God

This is how we are justified before God. Christ himself, when asked what the work of God was, answered that “you believe in him whom He has sent” (John 6:29). That is, to believe in the Son that the Father has sent. To believe with Abraham what God had promised to him thousands of years ago. Remember, when we go back to Genesis 15, it was not Abraham who walked through the parted animals to make an oath with God that he would do his part. It was God Himself passing through the pieces. It was God holding Himself to fulfill the covenant.

This God has done in Jesus Christ, and it is by this promise we are saved. I am not saved by my works, I am not saved by my obedience. Lord knows I cannot do this work. I have no ability to be perfect, as is demanded of me. Christ was perfect on my behalf, and when I trust in him, his life is for me. This does not mean that works are not involved. Indeed, James speaks of this in James 2. But the works flow out of justification, they don’t merit justification.

That is precisely what James was discussing, and indeed Paul’s doctrine, by implication, says what James also said of Abraham; that it was because Abraham was already justified and saved that he began to live in faith towards God. Abraham circumcised himself not to be just before God, but because he was, and he was trusting that God was going to do what He promised to do. It was because Abraham trusted God and His promise that he was willing to sacrifice Isaac, the promised and beloved son of Abraham, because his faith carried him through the trial, it made him see that somehow, some way, God was going to get Isaac through this because He promised. That’s what it’s all about.

In Hebrews 11 (which I believe was a written sermon of Paul by Luke), he says this very thing as he goes through all of the patriarchs of Scripture. From Abel, to Abraham, to Moses, to Gideon, David and on to all the elect, that it was faith that drove them, not their works in or towards God. They were not driven by what they were going to do. They were driven by what God promised He would do. That is who our God is, a God of mercy, of grace, a God of promise. That is what it means to believe in God.

Author: Chase Orosco

My name is Chase, I live in Texas. I am a Christian, saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. My life and all that I do is to reflect Christ and His glorious gospel. I am an author of the short story “The Champion King of the Remnant” meant to illustrate the divine power of Christ to save all those who have been given to Him by the Father (John 6:39). I have more stories in the works! All of them meant with the sole purpose of glorifying God in this world. I am of a Reformed background, one of those dreadful, mean Calvinists. My desire is to share the gospel message in my writing, to point people to Christ, and be willing to go against a culture that grows increasingly hostile to the Lordship of Christ. I could go on, but I will close simply by saying that I love the Bible, I enjoy theology, philosophy (as long as it doesn’t stray from a meaningful theological foundation), fantasy/fiction, reading, novel-writing, storytelling; I love good music, art, hiking and beholding God’s glorious creation everywhere I go. View all posts by Chase Orosco

The Nature of Faith

Original Article Posted at: https://findingthebalance.net
Written by: Chase Orosco

In every major religion that, in some form or fashion, arises out of the middle east, which is to say Islam, Judaism and Christianity (along with all of Christianity’s subsets and cults), throughout all their differences has been one thing in common that each have said is necessary to live out their religions, and that is faith. Faith is the buzz word, it is the ingredient that seems to be the bloodstream or the life of each religion.

Truly the word goes with almost all forms of life, religion, or spirituality. It’s a catchy word that has a mystical and romantic essence to it. To simply say “Christianity” or “The Christian religion” as well as “The Islamic religion” sounds almost too academic, or too static in some sense. To instead say, “The Christian faith” or “The Islamic faith” personalizes them. It makes them sound more than a simple exercise in formal living. The use of the word faith almost takes the object being discussed into a realm of transcendence, beyond the physical into the metaphysical.

There is a reason for this, however, which we will discuss soon. But for now, I wish simply to say that what I will be discussing in this article is the very nature of what faith is and ought to be. What is it truly? Does it have any relationship to reason? Does it go deeper than the simple experiential aspect we are prone to think it is as by today’s culture? I will begin by seeing how the secular world defines religious faith, and contrast that to what the Bible teaches that faith really is.

Faith in the Secular World

If you go on YouTube and listen to all the celebrity scientists such as Neil DeGrasse Tyson, or Richard Dawkins, two men well known for their animosity towards religious faith, you will see how they define what faith means. It is described as a “blind faith”. The secular world sees the word faith as a trust in non-reason, in irrationality.

In their view, faith means that where all reason goes out the window, my feelings and wishful thinking take over to formulate what they describe as faith. On the other hand, they say, they have science, which is truth, which is reason–solid grounding. They don’t need to have “faith” (in their definition) to believe in what they believe, they only need to “know” the truth of scientific discovery.

The Birth of Blind Faith

This narrative is borne out of the Enlightenment era, wherein the rising secularists and philosophers against religion began to push forward the rhetoric of separating faith and science, as it once was in a perfect unity. Notice how I said that it was “rhetoric” that was at the forefront of this. That’s because all it really was, was rhetoric, it was never really attempting to meaningfully engage what the biblical idea of faith was.

Fredrick Nietzsche, for example, along with other well-known atheists like Karl Marx, never attempted to contemplate with any meaningful inquiry (to my knowledge, anyway) the validity of the Christian faith that built the societies they lived in. Instead, they simply assumed it was false, unreliable, and needed to be abandoned. It was superstition by virtue of its own existence, nothing more. Hence it required no real, meaningful contemplation upon. It was simply dismissed as archaic and no longer useful as an answer to society’s problems. The western world was entering a new era, and needed new answers as a result. Science had proven that the god of lightning was simply a phenomenon of weather patterns, and so on. The great question of the philosophers of their day was, “If God does not exist, why are people hopelessly religious?”

The question was not an honest inquiry for truth. It was an assertion–God does not exist, yet people cannot help but need Him to exist. Why is that? That was the essence of the question. Neither Nietzsche nor Marx really attempted to discover the truth of this. Instead, the two used rhetoric, which is the art of using articulation and thoughtful speech to gain an audience, rather than actually debating ideas.

The centuries would prove the use of rhetoric a useful tactic; pragmatic and economic, in some degree, as we see that the rhetoric of Nietzsche’s atheistic existentialism and Marx’s classless society of communism make devastating inroads into western civilization. There was also Immanuel Kant in the nineteenth century Enlightenment, whose work also contributed heavily to the separating of reason and faith that would eventually be the catalyst for what we have in society today, which is a rhetoric that faith and reason are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum.

It is the works of men like these, particularly during the Enlightenment era, that gave rise to secularism’s definition of faith. It was not a matter of, “Are faith and reason compatible? Is there a fundamental and meaningful relationship between the two?” Rather, it was, “Due to the scientific discoveries of our current age, religion is no longer necessary to answer the questions man needs.”

From Faith to Reason

The great sadness in all of this is how the church responded. Rather than meaningfully confronting this rhetoric with the truth of Scripture, the church attempted to adopt the trending philosophies of “rationalism” of the day to try and make a synthesis with Scripture. The result was to allow an epistemology that is fundamentally at odds with the Christian worldview into the church and begin to infect it from within. The key error in this (which the church still utilizes to this day) is to attempt to sell Christianity to the culture, rather than expose them to the God of the Scriptures.

The emphasis was on trying to preserve the church, rather than God’s word, a fundamental error that has led to the Roman Church, and the LDS Church, which are focused primarily on the foundation and structure of their institutions over God’s revealed word. It’s a common confusion of God and His church, one that is easy to fall into, but is nevertheless costly. If we don’t distinguish between God in the revealed Scriptures and the church He has made in Christ on the authority of Scripture, the result is the tendency to defend the church at the cost of God’s revealed truth. This confusion has and continues to lead to a de-emphasis on Scripture, and eventually an abandonment of it as theopneustos (God-breathed) and to instead defend an institution that is nothing more than an empty shell without God’s word to give it life.

In response to the works of Kant and Nietzsche, Hume and others, Soren Kierkegaard developed his philosophy of Christian existentialism, wherein instead of attempting to combat the rationalistic arguments of the Enlightenment thinkers, Kierkegaard capitulated and codified the idea that faith was a blind leap into the dark of irrationality, separated from reason. Few true endeavors were made by Christian thinkers to combat the presuppositions of the titans of the Enlightenment.

Yes, even our soteriology was compromised–the great slogan of the Reformation, that salvation was a work of God the Holy Spirit by a supernatural rebirth of the soul was replaced with believing that the human mind had the ability, in and of itself, to rationally connect the dots and come to a saving knowledge of Christ. Salvation, then, was wrought by “reason” and not God’s sovereign grace. Once this fundamental truth was compromised, it was only a matter of time before the corrosive effects of secular, post-Enlightenment thought would break away at the foundations of the church from within.

Faith in Scripture

Having understood, in a brief sense, what the secular world, out of the Enlightenment, saw faith as, we will begin to contrast that with what the Bible says faith is. As stated before, today’s secular people see faith as a kind of blind, senseless, irrational leap into the dark. And the church’s capitulation to this rhetoric, rather than to confront it head on, only allowed it to persist, and to eventually make inroads into the church itself that has led to all the problems we have today.

Remember as before, the Enlightenment thinkers never really attempted to interact with the Bible’s concept of faith. It was simply dismissed. This is important because if we are going to honestly speak truth, we have to honestly investigate propositions and worldviews. A worldview rises or falls on its presuppositions. Hence to discover this, one must investigate the worldview in question. Simply to dismiss it is to at the same time dismiss one’s own credibility on the subject. You don’t go for a medical checkup with someone who hasn’t honestly understood the medical field and who is not a licensed doctor for the checkup. Why, in the same way, would we rely upon people who are openly, willingly ignorant of biblical theology, for understanding what the terms related to biblical words are?

It is therefore necessary that if we are going to have a proper understanding of what the Bible describes as faith, we must go to the Bible’s understanding. It is a bad form of argumentation to impose upon the Bible a foreign concept of faith and use that as its definition. In the Greek, the word for faith is pronounced “pistis” which means to trust, to believe, to be convinced of something or someone. That is the simple meaning of faith.

Based upon this, can we already declare that the secular idea of “faith” is the same as the Bible’s? No. For the secularist, faith is a blind, irrational and unsupported belief in something that’s not real. Biblical faith is to trust in something. Whether that something is worth trusting in is not even relevant to the subject. But for the secularist, this narrative has to fit, otherwise their argument collapses. We can talk about whether what we have faith in is a reasonable thing to have faith in, but it is simply false to demand that faith means not only trust in something, but trust in something inherently foolish.

Real faith, then, is to trust, to be convinced in the mind of something, or of the words of someone. What then does the Christian–the true Christian, have faith in? Romans 3 and 4 give an in-depth discussion on the nature of faith, and how we are justified by faith, or through faith, apart from the law (Romans 3:28, 4:1-5). Clearly there is something about the nature of “faith” that makes it powerful to save. Exploring Scripture helps us to see what that is.

Faith to Salvation

There are many places to start, but I think one of the best is to begin with what I believe is the citadel passage on the nature of faith as the instrument of salvation, and that is in Romans 4. Of course, in reality, it begins back in Romans 3; in Romans 3:1-20, Paul is laying down humanity’s greatest problem, that we are desperately wicked before a holy God, completely and utterly exposed to His righteous wrath against sin. Our very existence is an abomination in His sight.

It is only after this, beginning in verse 21-26, that Paul finally shows us the Light and that is Christ. Our hope comes apart from the Law, meaning that our hope does not come from obeying God’s commandments, but from beholding the One who has obeyed the commandments. Hence, as verse 21 says, this salvation is “apart from” the Law, but the Law “witnesses” it. This righteousness is the account of Christ, and it is acquired not by the exertion of the human will, which Paul just condemned as utterly unreliable.

It is acquired “through faith”. When rendered from the Greek, it literally reads: righteousness now God dia–through or by; because of–faith-in Jesus Christ. The word for righteousness in verse 22 in the Greek means primarily that this “righteousness” (dikaiosyne) is authored, or brought about by God. It’s not a righteousness that God presents and says that this is the kind of righteousness we need to build to get into heaven. It is a righteousness that He Himself has revealed and brought about in Christ that is acquired by faith.

In Romans 4, Paul explains this doctrine more clearly, using Abraham as his example. The point once again is to show that Abraham was ultimately made righteous before God by a righteousness that God was the author of, not Abraham. Abraham simply believed God’s promise in Genesis 15, and it was counted as righteousness to him (Romans 4:3). It was when Abraham believed God, which is to say when he was convinced by God, that he was declared righteous, or justified before God. It wasn’t his willingness to work for God that did. That very idea Paul rebukes in the following verses.

Faith then is the instrument of salvation, it is through faith that God saves by the righteousness of Jesus Christ. But we are not done yet by any stretch. Faith indeed is the instrument whereby we are saved, but so many Christians don’t go any farther than this. In point of fact, the Bible has much more to say about faith. We must go deeper.

Faith to Repentance

From that point, we move on to our next. We could easily combine this section with Faith to Action, but I want to take time here to focus exclusively on repentance. What is repentance? Repentance is often gravely misunderstood by the cults, and by Christians themselves, and no less by unbelievers. Repentance is often viewed as a form of working, of building oneself up. I know that I personally struggled with this confusion for a while, and primarily because as someone who held so strongly by conviction (to this day) in the doctrine of sola fide (faith alone), why was repentance so important, then? Not that it wasn’t, but if my repentance doesn’t earn me anything, why is it nevertheless necessary?

The problem of course was with what I was assuming, and that was that repentance was a form of making oneself worthy before God. It was because I confused repentance with this that I struggled with understanding how it fit into the whole issue.

The word “repentance” in the Greek (metanoias) means to have a change in mind; to turn from one state of mind to another. In this case, to turn from the love and desire of sin to the love and desire of God. You may ask again, how is this not working our way to heaven? It seems that way if you understand, again, repentance to be earning you something. But it’s not.

Remember that in justification, I’m made righteous by a righteousness outside of me, authored and perfected by God. My turning away from sin, therefore, does not merit me anything. It’s not something I do to be righteous, because I already am by legal declaration. It’s something I do firstly out of love for what God has done for me, and because it cleanses me. It doesn’t make me more valuable, more noble, it cleans me from sinful thoughts and desires. There are many places that we can go to demonstrate this, but my favorite is in Isaiah 44:21-22:

“Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you; you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me. I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist;return to me, for I have redeemed you.” -Isaiah 44:21-22 (ESV).

Notice here the order: First God declares that He Himself has removed, or sent away into the sea of forgetfulness the sins of Israel, His people. Who did this? Do the people blot out their own sins and then come to God? No, God Himself does it. I don’t declare myself righteous, I don’t undo my sins–God does. And what comes after this? After this, God now commands Israel to now return to Him. In other words, repent! Thus, our repentance is not something we do to attain forgiveness, it’s something we do because God has already forgiven us.

In John 8:34, Jesus declares that anyone who commits sin is a slave to sin, so this is everyone, since everyone is born in sin (Psalm 51:5). John 14:6, Jesus says that no one comes to the Father except through him. In John 6:44, Jesus declares that no one can come to him unless the Father first draws him. This means that the precondition for anyone to come to God is squarely in God’s initiative. John 8:36 says that if you have been set free by the Son, you are free indeed.

Put all of this together, and what we have is that a person is born in bondage to sin, in a state of hatred towards God (Romans 3:9-19), and thus by our position, have no capacity, no power to come to God. We are dependent upon God to act first (Ephesians 2:1-10). This is why no one can come, because they don’t want to. God gives it to them to come (Ezekiel 36:26-28), the Father draws. A person comes because they are drawn, and they come to the Son. The coming is synonymous with repentance.

So what do we have? We have God having set free the sinner, and as a result, the sinner comes to God. Do you see then how a contorted view of man’s free will disrupts the ability to see the harmony of Scripture? Man is not autonomous. Man is subject to his creaturely will, and that creaturely will is corrupted with sin that makes man unable to come to God, like a river that has been congested with so much filth and garbage; it cannot flow and give life to the environment. But once the obstructions are removed, it will go, as it was meant to. When God removes the obstructions of sins, the sinner will come to God.

Hence, repentance is the result of what God has done, not the attaining of what God offers. This leads us then to ask, if we persist in sinful habits, what does this prove? It does not prove we are losing faith, but instead that this sin has not really been dealt with. These are the indicators we are given, when we see the crystallized essence of the gospel, we begin to see that remaining sin is sin not yet released from. Then let us pray to God in great fervor, pray with the Psalmist in Psalm 19:4-6, call upon Yahweh to act, as the Psalmist also does in Psalm 107–cry out to God to save you from this sin, and He is faithful to do it!

Faith to Action

As I said above, repentance and this section may almost be one, but I wanted to dedicate some time on repentance in particular. Now I want to move on to faith that leads to action. What does saving faith cause one to do? As we have seen, it causes one to repent. It also causes one to grow in the light of that repentance. John the Baptist says in Matthew 3:8 to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance”. Meaning that we must repent not merely for the sake of ceasing to do bad things, but repent in order that we, in being cleansed, will in turn grow in faith towards God, and that growth leads to action for Him.

The important thing once again to notice is that faith and repentance is not earning us anything; it is a response on our behalf to what has been done to us. Remember in Ezekiel 36 the ordo salutis (order of salvation): God’s action comes first, and we merely respond. This is absolutely key to understanding the gospel. The gospel is not, nor has it ever been what you can do for God. It is what God has done for you, and you holding onto that with all your heart. It is in the light of this, and understanding this order, that we are disposed to action.

James 2 is often used so poorly as a proof-text for works-based salvation, and that is a terrible tragedy, because we miss what James was talking about. The proof text is often verse 24, where James says that we are not justified by faith alone, but by our works. The problem first is that this interpretation puts James in clear contradiction with Paul who specifically says in Romans 3:28 that we are justified by faith apart from works of the law. So either the Bible contradicts and hence is not God’s word, or there is a proper harmony that makes both speak true to each other.

The reality is that if you read James 2 in its context, James is telling us that faith alone saves, but a mere profession of faith that is not backed up by works is a worthless, false faith. It is not saying that the works are giving life to the faith, anymore than fruit gives life to the tree.

Notice James’ example for a working faith. It is Abraham, just like Paul when Paul is explaining justification by faith alone. So once again, it seems as though the two are using the same character, speaking about the same subject, but yet come to two different conclusions. Not so fast.

Notice that while they use the same patriarch, they use two different events in his life. For Paul, he is going to where Abraham was justified before God, when Abraham believed God (Genesis 15). James uses the event in Abraham’s life when he offered up Isaac on the altar (Genesis 22). This was after Abraham was counted as righteous. What’s the point? The point is that in the former, Abraham was saved, in the ladder, Abraham demonstrated that he was a saved man, under God’s grace by his willingness to sacrifice his beloved son that was promised. Why? Because that’s what faith does! It causes action!

In Hebrews 11, the author is preaching, going through the entire history of the biblical patriarchs and shows that they all were not motivated by any need to make themselves right before God, but that they believed God’s promise to deliver them Himself. It was God they were trusting in, not their performances, not their abilities to do things. They were weak men, who did extraordinary things because they were relying on God and His promises. They were moved to action by faith.

Faith as a Gift

Our next section covers what is often controversial, but absolutely necessary to the subject of faith. We are attempting to present the utmost biblical nature of faith here, and that means we must talk about some things we may otherwise find uncomfortable. Faith, as we have seen, is more than just blind, irrational and empty hope in foolishness. It is an instrumental cause of justification before God.

Now we must recognize faith as going even farther. As we will discuss, faith is a matter of persuasion, but it goes even deeper than this. Remember in Romans 3:20-26, Paul is explaining how we are saved, and he makes these claims in the backdrop of what he said previously, that mankind in his corrupt, fallen state, is utterly hopeless in himself to do anything pleasing to God that would save his soul. No one seeks for God (Romans 3:11). That is, no one in their unsaved state seeks for God.

Later, in Romans 8:5-8, Paul makes the strong statement that those in the flesh cannot please God. They have no capacity to do so. In Ephesians 2:1-3, the same apostle describes our state outside salvation as being “dead in trespasses and sins”, meaning that our state was so desperate, that like zombies that feel no pain when being struck, so to we feel no pain for having violated God’s law. There was no care in us at all–no life anywhere to be found. In verse 4, Paul provides the great words “but God” which indicates that the decisive factor of how such desperately wicked people could believe was because of an act of God.

That’s where in Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul tells us that faith is a gift. If indeed the human mind and spirit is so depraved, dead in sins and trespasses, then how can it even ascend to saving faith? It cannot. Therefore the faith that saves is a faith granted by what? It is by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). Grace is an activity performed by God unto a sinner that blesses them. It’s done all in grace, meaning it has absolutely nothing to do with the sinner.

In John 6:39-44, Jesus specifically says that it cannot be that anyone comes to him unless it is granted to him by the Father. In other words, anyone you see coming to Jesus comes because God has given them the gift that grants them to do it, and what is this gift? It is the gift of faith, and that faith is far more than an intellectual exercise. It is a faith that causes one to change, to move, to repent and grow more in their trust in God.

The thing that separates the believer and the unbeliever is an act of grace on the part of God to grant that believer faith. And it is because it is a gift from God that it cannot fail.

Blind Faith in Nature

There is an irony in this discussion. Remember how our secular friends identify faith as a blind, irrational leap into the dark. But once again, how does the Greek define faith? It defines it as to be convinced, or to believe someone. Who in our society is immune to this? No one is. We all, even the most anti-religious, take someone on their word for what they say. Hence, they too have great faith in the people like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye, or Christopher Hitchens.

But who are these men trusting in? Whose word are they taking on face value? We all adhere in some sense to an appeal to authority. For example, biology, and the nature of the universe. We take that verbatim as being reliable on its face. That is to say, we may be having faith in the laws of nature. But the real problem here for our secular friends is that while both of us may have faith in the laws of nature to be as they are, as a Christian, who believes the essential predication for faith in the laws and uniformity of nature is a God who is Himself eternal, self-existence, absolute and unchanging, I have a strong ground for believing in the laws of nature.

For the secularist, what does he ground his faith in the laws of nature in? The answer must be nothing. He has no reason to believe the laws of nature are of absolute uniformity, and hence, what assurance has he that he will be a coherent chunk of functioning matter today, and tomorrow explode? He has none. He must take the claims of his mere human observance at its word (despite it not being the absolute arbiter one needs to confidently rest that faith in it). We may put this in another way, that the secular atheist, when truly examining his worldview, has to conclude that the definition of “blind faith” that he wishes to ascribe to the Christian is actually true for himself.

Conclusion

As we have explored, the nature of faith in the Bible is far more in depth than our secular friends try to make it appear as. Sadly, it is also far more in depth than many evangelicals see it as. Faith is the instrument that saves us, it is to be convinced in the mind of God’s truth and His promises. Faith is a gift that God grants to His elect that they may be able to hold onto His promises. Faith grants the power to repent. Faith causes one to act.

Earlier in the article we looked at the rising tension between faith and reason in the Enlightenment era, and how eventually these two were on a collision course. But it is not the case that the two are at odds. Faith renews the mind (Romans 12:2), and purifies us more and more. It disposes us more and more to the God of the universe, and in understanding Him more, brings us into greater harmony with His creation. That is to say that true faith does not cancel out reason, but it promotes true, rational, and meaningful inquiry into reality. This is why Christianity can be so exclusive and hold to absolute truths over and against subjective experiences.

Ask an LDS how they know the Book of Mormon is true and they must fundamentally rely on a feeling they get. But God’s world and hence His truth does not operate on this kind of thinking. My thoughts and feelings don’t give rise to reality; God does, and hence the discovery of truth in the world is to, in faith towards God, be subject more and more to a renewing of my mind that allows me to grasp hold of truth more and more.

This is why Christianity is behind the greatest scientific findings in all of history, and it is only when the Creator is taken out of the picture does chaos ensue and mankind deteriorates, and drifts farther into the outer darkness.

Author: Chase Orosco

My name is Chase, I live in Texas. I am a Christian, saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. My life and all that I do is to reflect Christ and His glorious gospel. I am an author of the short story “The Champion King of the Remnant” meant to illustrate the divine power of Christ to save all those who have been given to Him by the Father (John 6:39). I have more stories in the works! All of them meant with the sole purpose of glorifying God in this world. I am of a Reformed background, one of those dreadful, mean Calvinists. My desire is to share the gospel message in my writing, to point people to Christ, and be willing to go against a culture that grows increasingly hostile to the Lordship of Christ. I could go on, but I will close simply by saying that I love the Bible, I enjoy theology, philosophy (as long as it doesn’t stray from a meaningful theological foundation), fantasy/fiction, reading, novel-writing, storytelling; I love good music, art, hiking and beholding God’s glorious creation everywhere I go. View all posts by Chase Orosco

What Harris and Sampson Prove About American Evangelicalism

Original Article Posted at: https://findingthebalance.net
Written by: Chase Orosco

By now most of us have heard the news about Joshua Harris apostatizing from the faith. I never knew about him (though I’ve heard of his book) and his background. The more and more the news came in, the more it became apparent to me why this was a big story. Harris’s book I Kissed Dating Goodbye was a huge success for him, and shot him up in popularity, becoming something of a celebrity minister in evangelicalism. Naturally, then, news about his departure from the faith comes at a great and heavy shock, especially to those who looked to him as a great example of a biblical man.

Not long after this, we hear of more news of apostasy, this time from a Hillsong worship leader and artist, Marty Sampson, who posted an Instagram article on why he was leaving the faith. Once again, I had never heard of this person before, and once again, it seems like in certain circles, he was a well-known and respected minister. Either way, this is two prominent figures in their respective evangelical worlds that have rejected the faith.

There is little doubt that this will, much like the recent shootings in El Paso and Dayton, cause many people to question things, and begin to wonder how and where things had gone wrong. I want to encourage my brothers and sisters in the faith, especially in reformed circles, to be mindful of the confusion and perhaps even betrayal many evangelicals feel about this. It can never be a kind feeling to discover that someone you once held at such high esteem (regardless of what other people may have thought of them) had betrayed the faith. We should pray for these people, that God would comfort them, and that perhaps these men would realize that they had never truly known Christ, and would hence truly repent and desire to know the true faith that saves.

At the same time, we have to talk about why, what Dr. James White has called, “a tsunami of apostasy”, seems to be happening right now. Granted, it seems that way primarily because we have two individuals who happen to have a significant spotlight that, when it goes out, drastically affects the lighting everywhere else. Nevertheless, more and more will come as our culture continues to deteriorate into God-hating rebellion, and if we do want to comfort those who followed these men all through the years, and help them through this confusing time, we need to discuss why (at least in a human perspective) this kind of thing happens, so that we can better ensure it happens on a far less frequent basis.

These Things Are Talked About, Sampson

I think the best way to diagnose what the problem is is found in Sampson’s Instagram article. There he states numerous “reasons” for why he is leaving the Christian faith. We cannot assume that these are recent developments. I suspect these have been things creeping in the back of his mind for many years, and he tried to push it down until he couldn’t take it anymore. His reasons include the claim that preachers “fall” and no one talks about it, miracles don’t typically happen, and no one talks about that. Finally, that there are “contradictions” in the Bible that no one wants to talk about.

It seems clear to me that these are things he could not find any solution to, and it was enough to destroy his faith. Sadly, if his faith could be destroyed by things like this, it demonstrates his faith was self-produced and self-sustained; not the biblical idea of faith, which is another theological problem that I address here.

Looking at the things Sampson said, and in particular, when he made the claims that the problems he mentioned in the church go with no one talking about them, those were some pretty strong statements. They were blanket, absolute statements; he didn’t say that people don’t often talk about them, but that no one actually does. That is simply untrue, of course, and the fact that he would say that demonstrates that Sampson was in certain circles and probably echo chambers where quite simply, no one did talk about them.

But if he had shared some of his concerns, instead of simply turning away, I can guarantee that someone somewhere, who takes their faith seriously, who knows that this is more than good vibes and being nice to people, has the answer to the alleged contradiction. I know for a fact that fallen pastors is something that is talked about, not swept under the rug. It’s just talked about in circles that will actually hold Christian ministers accountable.

It’s not discussed in the circles that Sampson was hanging around in, where the movement gets so big, that it has to engage in politics on some level to maintain its image and hence its income. This means that morally troubled pastors are not helpful for that, so they are swept under the rug, and most certainly, sound theology that is willing to divide over truth is not helpful to that kind of ministry’s growth.

Finally on this point, the same circles that will talk about fallen pastors will also be the ones willing to answer your difficulties with Scripture. The solution then is to get away from the Hillsong, good-vibes Christianity, and start taking your faith seriously. This is not a roller coaster ride. The God of the Bible is a righteous God, who demands justice–perfect justice, and you are a sinner. That is not something to glibly declare a thing Jesus magically sets aside for everyone, and is not a problem anymore.

The Origin of Good Vibes Christianity

The reality of the matter is that mainstream evangelicalism has forsaken sound, doctrinal teaching for emotional, romantic feelings about Jesus. At work, I was working on a gentleman’s car the other day, and his radio was playing a Christian music station. I don’t listen to Christian mainstream music, so I had no idea who this was, but I could tell so quickly from listening to the brief clips, and considering this sounded like the thousands of other Christian hit songs that comes out each year, all of which sound the same, that this was what I sometimes call “good-vibes Christianity”. It had the feel-good vibe, talked about having struggles but still having faith, and that they always trust and love Jesus. Your standard, dare I say lukewarm Christian who only goes to church on Sundays listens to that and gets their high from it. These are shallow songs that do not truly capture the power of God in Christ.

But songs like these honestly are not the cause of shallow evangelicalism. They are the symptom of it, feeding itself the same lukewarm poison that does not create a disciple of Christ. It just gives someone enough positive vibes wrapped in Christian buzz words to live lives of self-determination, self-interest and self-promotion until they meet their Judge in the afterlife, and may we pray God has abundant mercy, and that they learn truly in that moment what the words “mercy and grace” actually mean that they heard vaguely said in all those songs.

Of course, there are times when such desensitization is not able to keep a person fully inoculated with the good-vibes Christianity that Hillsong sells. Sampson is one such case. The result was that he could not find answers to the genuine questions he had in his mind. No amount of the emotional stimulation was able to sustain this lurking white noise in the back of his mind. He was aware of the alleged contradictions in the Bible (none of which he names in his Instagram post), but apparently, he could not find answers to these.

Which reminds me, Sampson also said in his post that he couldn’t understand how a God who is all loving would send 4-billion people to hell because they did not believe. Again, this is not a problem if Sampson knew what the Christian faith he sung about for so many years actually was. But he was not given any of this. He was pranced around on the stage because he happened to be a good musical artist, and had a way with crowds. That honestly is probably the only reason, and the “ministers” who put him out there like this evidently had no regard to his doctrinal security and personal conviction of the faith.

Joshua Harris was evidently a similar case. Here was a man thrust into a spotlight before he was really ready for it. What happens is he instantly becomes someone that people look to for guidance and help, while he is actually hiding secret, deep problems and cracks in the foundation. How can he come out and honestly express this problem when so many people rely on him? So he continues to take on the pressure of pastoral ministry when he’s not ready for it. Something eventually has to give.

The real problem here is we are dealing with an evangelical culture that does not have the doctrinal soundness, and the mental and spiritual conviction of what those doctrines stand for. As a result, men who once appeared to be great, wonderful, had the outward appearance of being men of God, eventually cave to the growing pressure of the culture around them. The flashes are there, but the conviction within is nowhere present.

If Sampson perhaps was taught right theology, rooted and grounded in solid, biblical faith, this may never have happened. That’s what the real problem here is. If Joshua Harris was given the sober truth about what it takes to be a pastor, to be an elder in a church, maybe he would have saved a lot of people the heartbreak later down the road and said then and there, “This ain’t my thing”. But It appears that there are Christian ministers and leaders out there who perhaps themselves are deceived as they deceive, who are pushing out these people when they don’t have the conviction to be in those positions.

The Importance of Sound Doctrine

We cannot look at what has happened to both of these men and continue to accept the idea that they simply apostatized, and there was no inherent reason for it. Though God always has His decree, that does not take away the fact that there are always internal reasons for why things happen. If we ignore what caused this, we will continue to see more and more people like them drop like flies. Again, I don’t want to discount the fact that God always keeps His elect, but we don’t know who they are, and hence must always be vigilant, must always be doing what God has commanded us to do, and be faithful to it.

If we do not want our children and our youth to be the next Joshua Harris, or Marty Sampson, we must learn from these fallen men, seeing that giving our youth good-vibe Christianity will not save their faith. It will not persevere in college, or in the adult world. We must be teaching our kids what the Christian faith is, and stop treating them like they are children who cannot understand theological truths. They can. I have had kids ask me about eternal security before, and I’ve heard them talk about the mystery of the Trinity. They are smart, so stop treating them like they are not. That kind of attitude towards them is why we lose them.

Look again at Sampson’s Instagram post. Show that to your kid and see if they can see the problems with it. If they can’t, your kid is in danger of apostasy just like him. Teach your children who God is, and that means teaching them sound theology. I’m not asking people to become covenant-theology, raving Calvinist reformers. I’m simply pleading that we desire to raise children to think and ponder upon Scripture.

Paul in Romans 12 calls us to be renewing our minds. Not renewing our feelings, renewing our minds. That involves intellectual exercises, and exegetial exposure to the word of God. Not eisegetical, narcegetical silliness that turns the Bible into something about us. It’s all about God. Knowing God is always first and foremost, and knowing God requires a life of devotion to prayer, worship, service and studying of His word. That sometimes means that college careers are to be sacrificed. But if you must choose between God’s word and a good career, the choice is obvious. God will always supply you with what you need. Simply throw away this life and come after Christ!

In Hebrews 5:11-14, the author rebukes and warns his audience against apostasy, and how does he do it? By telling them to listen to more emotional Christian music? No! By lecturing them on being dull of hearing, of needing milk rather than meat. In other words, not being able to discern deep theological truths that ground them in the faith to protect them against heresies and vain philosophies.

Churchianity will not save your children, nor will it save evangelicalism. Yet also still, neither will doctrine alone. The Spirit of God saves, and keeps His people. But part of that saving is renewing saved sinners in the things of the Spirit. There must be a balance between our heart-felt experience and our theological knowledge that helps us discern our feelings and our experiences. Make no mistake, a theological soundness with no functioning doxology is as worthless as good-vibes Christianity. But the existentialism, so to speak, cannot truly have any meaning unless proper theology is applied.

I can personally testify that growing in my theology deepens my conviction of the faith, emboldens me further in it amidst the pressure of the culture, and false religions around me, and more importantly, brings me into deeper worship of God. The more I know Him, the more holy He is, and hence the more I know myself and how much of a sinner I am, and hence, how much more I need Christ. That is how we sustain a healthy Christianity.

Questions Asked, Christianity Has Answers

Closing this article, I want to return once more to Sampson’s Instagram post for a brief moment. As has been stated before, it seems very clear to me that Sampson’s loss of faith was a result of a shallow, good-vibes Christianity that had a nicely decorated and impressive outer shell with nothing to show for it on the inside. Sampson said further that he wanted “genuine truth” and not simply “I just believe it”. Once again, that is sadly the reality of the Christian circles he was around, which is the mainstream of evangelicalism. He’s right. That is shallow and not worthy of being embraced or defended.

Unfortunately, that’s not what Christianity is. It goes far deeper than that. But Sampson did not get any of it because he drifted on the surface, and was never encouraged nor challenged to go deeper. As linked above, I have an article The Nature of Faith that you can read on the subject of faith and what it is. It shows that this is much more than a simple blind faith scheme.

But I would also like to say to Sampson one of the reasons this really hits home with me is because I was close to where you are. I never gave up my faith, of course, but like you, I had many questions. I was not content with just a faith in faith kind of Christianity. I had difficulties, and they needed answers. But that’s where we’re different. I knew that I needed more than what I was getting, and so I went looking, and I did, in fact, find more. I found answers. I found real answers to the questions I had–answers that did not try to satisfy what I wanted, but answers that I needed.

I do not believe that Sampson ever truly heard the gospel. My hope and prayer is that at least now, knowing he never truly knew the faith, he would actually attempt to understand what it actually is, as I have done. As I said, I’m not content with simply saying, “Jesus died for my sins”. Why did he die? Why did he have to die? Why did he have to be God? Questions like these, I needed to know the answer to, and learning the answers has deepened my faith. Knowing the answers to even the claims that the Bible contradicts itself (yes, Sampson, there are answers) has made my faith stronger, has convinced me more of the truth of the triune God, and hence given me the desire to live after His revealed word even more. I pray that happens for you one day.

For the rest of us, we must reject this empty shell of feel-good Christianity, and teach our people the faith. Yes, that will have consequences. I know it will. But the consequences are far less costly than the consequences that follow if we do not do this. We will lose more people to this culture of death. Unless we are willing to take seriously the phrase “theology matters” we will always be susceptible to this empty shell of feel-good Christianity that, because it has nothing inside of it giving it life, is a dried up shell that will eventually break apart, leaving a person in the situation that Marty Sampson has fallen into, and furthermore, will lead to incompetent Christian ministers who ordain more of themselves, more ill-prepared men like Joshua Harris, for ministry that leads only to collapse and ruin.

Author: Chase Orosco

My name is Chase, I live in Texas. I am a Christian, saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. My life and all that I do is to reflect Christ and His glorious gospel. I am an author of the short story “The Champion King of the Remnant” meant to illustrate the divine power of Christ to save all those who have been given to Him by the Father (John 6:39). I have more stories in the works! All of them meant with the sole purpose of glorifying God in this world. I am of a Reformed background, one of those dreadful, mean Calvinists. My desire is to share the gospel message in my writing, to point people to Christ, and be willing to go against a culture that grows increasingly hostile to the Lordship of Christ. I could go on, but I will close simply by saying that I love the Bible, I enjoy theology, philosophy (as long as it doesn’t stray from a meaningful theological foundation), fantasy/fiction, reading, novel-writing, storytelling; I love good music, art, hiking and beholding God’s glorious creation everywhere I go. View all posts by Chase Orosco

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