The Doctrine of Faith

I am going to do something that I haven’t done on this blog before (which, come to think of it, could be almost anything!) and dedicate this post to Rose Cole who runs the Rose’s Reasonings blog. I have known Rose via the internet for about four years. At that time I began regularly commenting on her posts which usually had topics like: “what is faith?” or “what exactly must a person believe to be saved?” I was new to internet debates and was surprised by how hot they got.

Over the years that I have been reading Rose’s Reasonings, Rose has posted many times asking people to precisely define what saving faith is. Many times I would chime in with my two cents worth but I have always felt that I was missing something (and I was). Fortunately Grace Memorial Bible Church (you can find their link in the side bar) has made some of R.B. Thieme, Jr.’s detailed doctrines available on the internet. It just so happens that I noticed Colonel Thieme’s Doctrine of Faith was among the content that GMBC has posted. I have now converted the scanned version of the doctrine into text so it can be posted here.

I am providing the full doctrine below the fold but I do want to provide a quote from the doctrine that I think Rose (and anyone else looking to define what faith is) will find of interest:

Although I used the term, “saving faith” in the doctrine, there is really no such thing as “saving faith.” I mean by that, there is nothing like a faith that is made “saving,” genuine or efficacious by its quality or quantity. As I explained in the doctrine, faith is real or “saving” only because it has the proper object. Faith is given substance only by its object. Faith is “saving faith” only when it is in the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ on cross.

The entire doctrine is very valuable but the section that discusses “saving” faith is basically an extended footnote at the end of the doctrine. Please read and enjoy!

— — — — —

THE DOCTRINE OF FAITH

A. Definition.

1. Basically there are three systems of human perception.

a.            Faith is a non-meritorious system of perception based on confidence in the authority and the veracity of another. Faith is not based on one’s own knowledge, as is rationalism or empiricism.

b.            Rationalism is reason from the source of knowledge in itself, superior to and independent of any other source of perception. Rationalism says that reality is what you think to be true. Rationalism requires a high I.Q., from which systems of philosophy are often developed.

c.             Empiricism is knowledge from perception by observation and experience rather than by theory. All ideas are derived from some sensuous experience using the eyes, ears, nose, touch, etc., having no innate conceptions.

2. Perception by faith is always non-meritorious. It depends on the authority, veracity, and ability of someone else. Faith requires authority.

3. Faith also means a system of doctrine or a creed perceived by faith; i.e., what is believed.

B. Etymology.

1. Hebrew.

a. The verb AMAN means to believe, to support, to use someone as a prop, a crutch; to use someone else to be supported. The root meaning is a foundation on which you build something. This word is transliterated from Hebrew to Greek and to English as “amen.” It means, “I believe it!” When repeated as in “Verily, verily,” it is “amen, amen” it means something that is a point of doctrine.

(1)          In Isa 28:16, the hiphil means to cause to believe. The hiphil in Gen 15:6 uses AMAN for the salvation of Abraham, meaning to use God as a prop and foundation.

(2)          Further, AMAN means to prove oneself, to stay faithful to, to remain or continue.

(3)          Metaphorically, AMAN means to be faithful, trustworthy, and sure, as in Prov 19:8; Gen 42:20; 1 Kg 8:26; Hos 5:9.

b.            The noun EMUNAH means faithfulness, security, or that on which security is based, e.g., the integrity of God.

c.             The noun EMUN means integrity, fidelity, reliability.

d.            The noun OMEN means doctrine, truth, faithfulness.

e.            The noun EMETH means faithfulness, ability.

f.             The verb BATACH is a wrestling term, which means to trust in the sense of slamming your troubles on God; this has a faith-rest connotation. In Ps 37:3 and 91:2, it also means to confide in someone.

g.            The verb CHASAH means to hide in the cleft of a rock, as a rabbit does when chased by a fox. This verb is used for suffering and adversity. It means to trust in the sense of taking shelter or taking refuge in Bible doctrine; to believe in the integrity of God, Ps 57:1, 2:12,5:12, 25:20, 7:1.

h.            The verb YACHAL means to trust the Lord in time of great pain or disaster, Lam 3:21,24. In Job 13:15, it means to have hope and to wait. It is used for faith under great pressure, intense suffering, and pain.

i.              The verb QAWAH is the strongest word for faith, used in Ps 25:3. It depicts a fine thread woven into a giant rope that cannot be broken. It is used in Isa 40:31 for the faith of a mature believer. In Lam 3:25 it means to wait. This word means that faith that gets its strength from outside of itself, connoting the non-meritorious aspect of faith. All merit lies in the object of faith.

2. Greek.

a. The noun PISTIS.

(1)          Used as an attribute, PISTIS is what causes trust or faith, reliability, faithfulness, or integrity, Tit 2:10; 2 Thes 1:4.

(2)          In the active sense, PISTIS means faith, confidence, trust, faith as a recognition of and acceptance of Bible doctrine. In the active sense, faith is used in three ways.

(a)          Saving faith, Eph 2:9; 1 Jn 5:4-5. (see below*)

(b)          The three stages of faith-rest , Rom 3:20; Heb 4:3.

(c)           The learning of bible doctrine.

(3) The passive meaning of PISTIS is Bible doctrine, meaning that which is believed, i.e., doctrine, the body of belief. PISTIS is also translated “doctrine” in such passages as Gal 1:23; 2 Pet 1:5; 1 Tim 1:19, 4:1,6; Heb 11.

b.            The noun PISTOS, used as an adjective in the passive sense means being trustworthy, worthy of trust, faithful, dependable, and inspiring trust. In the active sense, it means trusting or believing.

c.             The verb PISTEUO means to believe, to trust something to someone, to use someone as an object of faith, Gal 2:16. It only takes a little more than no faith at all to be saved, Acts 16:31.

d.            The verb PEITHO in the passive means to come to believe, to obey, to be persuaded or convinced. The perfect passive means to have confidence, to be absolutely convinced, to be certain. The active meaning as in Gal 1:10 means to convince, to persuade, to appeal, to win over. The perfect tense with a present meaning means to depend on someone, to trust in someone, to have confidence.

e.            The verb PISTOO means to show oneself faithful; to be convinced; to have confidence, 2 Tim 3:14.

C. Biblical Use of “Faith” or PISTIS.

1.            PISTIS is used for doctrine in Heb 11. “In fact, doctrine is the reality from which we keep receiving confidence, the proof of matters not being seen; for by means of doctrine men of old gained approval.” (vs 1-3)

2.            A description of faith is found in 2 Cor 4:18. “We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Faith is the means by which we perceive reality in the invisible.

3.            Sometimes both faith-rest and doctrine are described in the meaning of PISTIS, as in 2 Cor 5:7. “We walk by faith and not by sight.” Your eyes are in your soul, and your soul must have Bible doctrine. We see the unseen through doctrine. Doctrine gives us relationship with the integrity of God that sustains us in time of disaster. We see the justice and integrity of God through doctrine.

4.            Heb 11:6, “And without doctrine resident in the soul, it is impossible to please God, for when one is occupied with God, he must be convinced that He is and that He becomes a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

5.             Rom 10:17, “Doctrine comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

6.            In each verse above, PISTIS relates faith to the perception of Bible doctrine. PISTIS means both faith and doctrine. All perception of doctrine is accomplished through the function of faith perception.

7.            1 Tim 1:19 and 4:1 use PISTIS for the doctrine of demons.

D. Faith is the means of salvation.

1.            Believing is non-meritorious perception. The merit is always found in the object of faith (Jesus Christ) and not in the subject, the one having the faith (the believer).

2.            That salvation is by faith and faith alone in Jesus Christ is documented in many passages, including Acts 16:31; Jn 3:16,18-19,36 6:47, 20:31; Rom 3:22,28, 4:5, 9:30; Gal 2:16, 3:26; 1 Jn 3:23, 5:4-5. Salvation is believing in Christ.

3.            The justice of God is our point of contact with the essence of God because justice judged our sins in Christ on the cross. Receiving all blessing from the justice of God is on the basis of grace. Grace is non-meritorious, compatible with faith, Eph 2:8-9.

E. Faith is a system of doctrine or what is believed.

1.            In the Christian way of life, the object of faith is Bible doctrine. This includes both doctrine in perception and in application. Bible doctrine is invisible. Faith is confidence in the unseen. Bible doctrine must be transferred to our soul by means of faith.

2.            The perception concept is related to the storage of doctrine in the soul. The application concept is related to faith-rest.

3.            Once you have Bible doctrine in your soul, then faith-rest in its maximum use applies doctrine to experience.

4.            Maturity demands maximum Bible doctrine in the soul, which comes through the daily perception and application of Bible doctrine.

5.            The intake of Bible doctrine results in maximum blessing to your soul. Blessing does not come because of your self-righteousness, personality, good works, or anything else.

F. The Object of Faith.

1.            The object of faith always has the merit. There is no merit in the subject because faith is a non-meritorious system of perception.

2.            All the faith in the world secures nothing but condemnation from the righteousness and justice of God. We are born with faith. We first learn vocabulary by faith.

3.            However, the tiniest bit of faith in Christ secures eternal salvation. It only takes a little more faith than no faith at all. It is the object of faith that counts, not the worthiness of the one with faith.

4.            There is no merit in believing; the merit lies in the object of faith.

5.            For salvation the object of faith is Jesus Christ. For maturity the object of faith is Bible doctrine.

6.            Faith is not something we do, but it is the channel by which we appropriate what God has done for us.

7.            For confession of sin the object of faith is twofold, depending on the believer’s spiritual growth.

a.            The Scripture is the object of faith for the immature believer, 1 Jn 1:9; 1 Cor 11:31; Ps 35, 32:5, 38:18; Prov 28:13.

b.            For the mature believer, doctrine is the object of faith, and the integrity of God is the basis for understanding the forgiveness of our sins through confession of sin.

G. The Application of Faith in the Function of the faith-rest.

1.            Faith must be exercised as it develops. Learning doctrine develops faith. As this occurs, faith has the increasing ability of perception, of learning more and greater details in the Word of God, Heb 4:1-3.

2.            God has blessing that will only be yours if you relate totally to the integrity of God by learning doctrine, 1 Pet 1:7-8.

3.            Abraham’s circumcision is the classical illustration of the mature believer with maximum application of his faith, Rom 4:17-21. Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac was the proof or testing of his mature faith, Gen 22:1-18.

4.            Faith-rest comprises three stages

a.            Stage one: Faith claims promises from the Bible, Heb 1:1-3, which can be called mixing the promises of God with faith.

b.            Stage two: Faith claims doctrines, like the essence of God, the plan of God, logistical grace, etc. This stage is known as reverse concentration, the application of doctrine. You concentrated on it when you learned it and stored it in your soul, now concentration brings it out of your soul into your consciousness.

c.             Stage three: Faith reaches doctrinal conclusions and takes control of the situation. This becomes the function of spiritual growth. It is the third stage of faith-rest that brings you to spiritual maturity.

H. The Victory of Faith

1 Jn 5:4-5. “for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcame the world, even our faith. 5) Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”

Relationship with God is greater than any pressure or disaster in life. It is more important than anything in life, whether failures, successes, pressures, or prosperity.

[This is the beginning of the extended footnote mentioned in the main post.]

*=Saving Faith

Although I used the term, “saving faith” in the doctrine, there is really no such thing as “saving faith.” I mean by that, there is nothing like a faith that is made “saving,” genuine or efficacious by its quality or quantity. As I explained in the doctrine, faith is real or “saving” only because it has the proper object. Faith is given substance only by its object. Faith is “saving faith” only when it is in the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ on cross.

Faith is never defined by how deep it is, how much it is, its results, its longevity or its pervasiveness. The heretical intrusion of the quality of one’s faith has permeated a growing segment of evangelical Christianity today. For years we have seen many adding “repentance” to faith as necessary for salvation. They define “repentance” as feeling sorry for one’s sins,” or “turning from one’s sins.” This heresy is disproved by the Greek for “repentance” which means nothing more than “a change of mind.” The word is metanoeo and the prefix, meta, means “to change” whereas, noeo is the word for “mind.” In the sense that an unbeliever changes his mind from unbelief to faith, repentance is a part of salvation. But there is no room for the false definitions. Furthermore, both false definitions are human works that are impossible for the unregenerate, totally depraved unbeliever to perform.

Under “Lordship Salvation” as propagated by Dr. John MacArthur, faith is made to include a form of continuance and dedication that in fact cannot be measured. Faith has become “commitment” in the evangelism of Billy Graham and his associates. This fits well with MacArthur. The problem is that commitment needs defining. It cannot be theologically defined except in a perfect sense, “perfect commitment.” At the beginning of one’s Christian life, with no absolute knowledge of the future, how can anyone make a perfect commitment of everything that will happen in the future? It is impossible. Therefore, at best it leads to a “hoped for” salvation whereas the Bible teaches a “know-so” salvation. It is possible to have an absolute confidence in one’s eternal salvation.

Therefore, the answer to the question, “What must I do to be saved?” is always and ever no more nor less than the stunning but simple truth: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” (Acts 16:31)

“Saving faith” joins other forms of spiritual sounding expressions that are at best meaningless and at worse heretical. We’re accustomed to hearing (and many of us use) terms like “deeper live,” “full Gospel,” “sovereign grace,” and many others. They are actually truth subverters. One suggestion is that when truth is expressed, it is best stated in the inspired words of Scripture rather than in the adjectives added by man.

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12 Comments on “The Doctrine of Faith”

  1. Rose Says:

    wow! that is a lot of reading amterial. I got to the first quote and I just wanted to pause and tell you I really like that quote and I so agree… it is the OBJECT of faith that saves, not the faith. So true and important to remember in the whole scheme of things. 🙂 Thanks for dedicting your post to me. That’s sweet 🙂

  2. Glenn Says:

    Hi Rose,

    I am glad you liked the quote. This is the most detailed study on the topic of faith that I know of. Where else will you find a list of both Old Testament and New Testament words for faith? While I don’t think this will change anyone’s mind it is a great resource and I hope you, and any other readers, benefit form the study.

    Thank you for stopping by.

    Glenn

  3. Sanc Says:

    Glenn,

    I enjoyed reading this post as well. Thanks….

    God bless, Michele

  4. Glenn Says:

    Michele,

    You’re welcome! Thank you for stopping by.

    Glenn

  5. Looker4522 Says:

    This is a very important topic. For those wanting to look at another source, I would suggest “What Is Saving Faith?” by Gordon H. Clark. It explores the words and concepts of faith throughout the Bible. While I don’t agree with some of Clark’s Calvinist thinking, there is much in this book from which one can learn useful lessons. Clark notes that the word FAITH has come from the roots of the Latin language and this leads hearers/readers to a certain way of thinking which would not have occurred if the word BELIEF (based on the Greek pistis) was the normal translation. The book is not an easy read, but it is worth the effort. He also includes much commentary on pisteuo throughout the Gospel of John. In agreement with your article, Clark regards the differences in beliefs to be differences in the propositions or objects believed rather than some “quality” difference in the belief/faith.

  6. Glenn Says:

    Looker4522,

    Thank you for the comment. I wasn’t aware that anyone had published such a detailed word study on the Greek words for belief. It sounds like it may be a bit of a stretch for me but I might have to put it on my Amazon wish list.

    Your statement about the Latin word for faith adversely affecting our understanding of what belief actually is dovetails with some conclusions I have come to over the last few years.I have began to strongly believe that a lot of modern scholars do not understand words in the same way that the original authors of scripture used them and this hurts our understanding of scripture.

    Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

    Glenn

  7. Looker4522 Says:

    Glenn,

    I think you would be wise to think about getting this since you obviously have an interest. I hope I didn’t scare others off by my review of the book. One doesn’t have to have any specific knowledge of Biblical languages or advanced theological training to get through the book. I have neither. I am just an interested layman. Though Clark is a scholar, the book is written for the general believing public. However, the layout and the writing style did hinder my progress through the book. I stopped half way through it on my first go round. I picked it back up months later and restarted from the beginning and got through it without much of a problem. I found some underlining and notations helped me to catalog the most important statements. The book has nice, wide margins for notes if you are so inclined. I do think a skilled editor could help to make this much more accessible to the average person.

    Thanks for your thoughts and keep up with your investigations!

  8. Daniel Says:

    I know this is a late response but I’m new to the site and decided to drop my two cents anyway. Anyone have any thoughts on this definition of faith? Faith – assent to a proposition

    • Glenn Says:

      Hi Daniel,

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting. This post was an attempt on my part to bring some clarity to a debate that I had been involved in for close to two years (that’s something I wouldn’t do again).

      I agree with your definition that belief is accepting or assenting to a proposition. However in a series of posts Rose Cole (see the first commenter above) and her friends had been debating what the precise definition of saving faith is. It got very convoluted and needlessly complex.

      You may not be interested but here is a sampling of some of the posts made by Antonio da Rosa (a friend of Rose) on the topic:

      Faith is the Passive Result of being Persuaded
      John MacArthur’s Radical Re-Definition of Faith
      Is Eternal Security an Optional Component of the Gospel?

      That may be more context than you are looking for but if you read through the posts and the comments you will see how complicated people can make things.

      Does that answer your question?

      Glenn

  9. fes Says:

    This is wonderful. I am blessed the posting.

  10. Tim Says:

    R.B.Thieme Jr. often expressed that faith is expressed by positive volition i.e. you make a decision – saying ‘yes’ to the Gospel for example. In Mark 1:15 Jesus says “Change your mind (metanoieo)and believe the good news.” So, whereas before you said ‘No’ to the Gospel message, now you say ‘Yes’ because you changed your mind. (or: Negative volition went to positive volition). So the decision (change of mind) and believing (expressing faith/trust in the Gospel message) are two sides of the same coin.


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