I think our conversation stalled here and it was probably my thoughts on faith that may have done it. So let me elaborate and see whether this is something that can be considered or not.
I spoke of a definition of faith that is a passive action but with culpability. Let me use an analogy for a moment, knowing that analogies always will break down eventually. Also, for now, let?s suspend our conversation about the sovereignty of God ? let?s assume that anything that is written in this aligns with whatever understanding of the sovereignty of God that you hold to (I promise that if that is the only lose end left, that I will deal with it in depth ? especially since its one of the posts I?ve committed to :) ).
My heart beats. My mind controls this, but it is certainly not something that I can will. I can?t make it stop completely on its own. I can?t make it speed up or slow down completely on its own. I can do different things that will cause it to change the way it?s supposed to work (breathing exercises, piercing my chest with a knife). But ultimately, though my mind controls my heart, my will has no impact upon it except in a secondary manner.
There are many ways to damage my heart. One way that will be familiar especially to our American audience is through eating the wrong diet. Should I drink too much, exercise too little, and, we are told by our doctors, a whole host of other actions can cause heart damage. The more damage, the more its functionality is limited and the less likely that it will run the way it?s supposed to.
What if our faith is like our heart (not ?heart? in the Biblical sense of our whole being ? but heart as in our organ)? When Adam and Eve were created we often times think of their relationship being based upon their obedience. But their obedience was not based upon their will to be obedient ? their obedience was based upon their faith in God. So, we see at the very heart of Adam and Eve?s relationship with God faith. It has been created into the very fabric of who we are.
When Adam and Eve sinned, all the faculties that they had prior to their sinfulness were broken ? some in very damaging ways. None of these faculties were utterly destroyed, though ? some remnants remained. However, after sin entered our lives and world, things changed. Instead of mankind living in a fully trusting (faith) relationship with God, we instead placed our desires (our will) in the place of prominence in our lives. This self-centeredness, the desire to be God, is at the very heart of our sinfulness. Because of our craving for self-centeredness, we pursue only that which will prop us up and please us. This pursuit of ourselves, even when masked in religious works, is sin and causes us to be separated from God. The more we sin, the more we become enamored with ourselves. The more we trust ourselves, the more damage we do to faith (much in the same way as lack of exercise or poor diet does ongoing damage to the heart ? you may have been wondering when that analogy was going to come in :)).
But God still loves us ? He still pursues us even when we are not pursuing Him. Because of what Jesus has done for us, He bridges the gap of our sin and convicts us of the truthfulness of our sin, the righteousness of Jesus through the cross that we so desperately need, and the judgment that the resurrection proclaims on those who remain separated from God. It is at this moment that whatever remnant of ability to trust God that a person may have can again begin trusting in God ? not because of an act of the will for our wills would bring us away from God ? but because we were created to be in a trusting relationship with God and He again offers through Jesus the opportunity to return to that natural state. This return to trusting in God is in no way meritorious on the part of mankind for it is not doing anything other than what we were originally created to do. Nor is it something that we can boast of because if a person believes, they are only doing what God created them to do.
So why doesn?t everyone believe? Because using our will to pursue ourselves damages our ability to trust in God. The more damage that has been done, the less likely that a person is to exercise their faith. Understand that the damage may not be visible ? thus, a fall down drunk in the bowery may have done less damage to their ability to believe than the good person who faithfully (but without faith) attends church every week.
Does this cover all the tensions that we have discussed? It keeps the act of salvation purely in the hands of God with no credit to us. Yet, it presents us with culpability if we do not believe and explains why faith is expected to be something that mankind can exercise.
I have purposely not placed Scripture verses in this because I?m going to assume that I?m going to read into Scripture what I want to see there. You let me know?.does this align with Scripture (apart from the sovereignty of God issue?.we will discuss that soon enough)?
- T – Total Depravity
- U – Unconditional Election
- (F) – Faith
- L – Limited Atonement
- I – Irresistible Grace
- P -Perseverance
- S – Sovereignty