faith not merely intellectual

James Buchanan (C19th Scottish theologian) and the orthodox view of faith, with original capitalisation retained:

“Some have held that it [saving faith] is a mere intellectual belief, involving no gracious affection of any kind – an opinion which has been maintained on different grounds, and applied to different purposes, by two parties standing apparently at opposite extremes on the subject of Justification – by Popish writers, with the view of showing that faith is only a preparatory disposition, and has no value or efficacy until it is ‘informed by charity’; and by Sandemanian writers, with the view of excluding from it everything but ‘the truth believed’; lest by conceiving it to include trust, or reliance, or gratitude, or love, we should thereby make justification to depend on some other ground than the finished work of Christ. So far these parties, although placed at opposite extremes, have met, and occupied common ground; but beyond this point, they differ materially from each other, since the former have maintained that the faith of which they speak, and which is evidently nothing more than the ‘dead faith’ which James rejects, is not necessarily productive of love, or effectual for justification without it; while the latter have held that a true scriptural faith, although it consists only in the truth believed, is … invariably productive of trust, gratitude, and love, as its immediate effects, and through them of universal holiness in heart and life.

In opposition to both, Protestant divines have generally held that faith itself is a spiritual grace, and that every act of faith is an act of obedience, since it is one of the fruits of the Spirit which can only be implatned along with a spiritual apprehension of the truth, and a cordial approbation of it, while every exercise of faith is in conformity with the requirements of God’s revealed will; and yet they have denied that its being such is at variance with the doctrine of a free justification by the vicarious satisfaction and righteousness of Christ, simply because they exclude faith istself, as well as all its fruits – whether more or less immediate – from forming any part of the ground of our acceptance with God. …

It [faith] is there [in Scripture] described sometimes as the belief of the Truth – sometimes as trust in a Person – sometimes as ‘looking unto Jesus,’ like the wounded Israelite when he looked to the brazen serpent – sometimes as ‘fleeing for refuge to the hope that is set before us’ – sometimes as ‘coming to Christ’ that we may find rest for our souls – sometimes as ‘receiving Christ’ – sometimes as ‘resting on him’ as the sure foundation – sometimes as committing our souls to him …

By all these various expressions, and many more, which are for the most part figurative, … the Holy Spirit has set forth the gracious principle and actings of saving faith, while He has recorded many instructive exemplifications of it, in the life of Abraham and the patriarchs under the Old Testament, and in the cases of ‘the woman that was a sinner,’ the Syrophenician, the malefactor on the cross, the gaoler at Philippi, and many more, under the New Testament, whose faith we are called to follow, considering the end of their conversation, Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and for ever.

These figurative descriptions, and practical exemplifications, of Faith, seem to have been multiplied on purpose, to guard us against the danger of resting in defective views of it, and to impress our minds with the conviction that, while all true faith is saving, all faith is not true – that there is a ‘dead’ as well as a ‘living’ faith – and that it nearly concerns our everlasting salvation to discriminate aright between the two, and still more to test our own faith by its fruits.”

3 thoughts on “faith not merely intellectual

  1. Cath,

    Interesting article as the sermon I listened to yesterday morning at Church was based on Hebrews 11.13

    I suppose the message could have been entitled ‘Aspects of Faith.’

    The heads the minister enlarged on were ; Seeing, Persuasion, Embracing and Confession.

    There is alot more to faith than mere intellectual assent.

    Saving faith would include all the above aspects.


  2. Pingback: whose story | ninetysix and ten

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