Page 8 - March 2020 - Truth & Tidings
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n an acceptance speech for the 1996   in our hearts?  In Institutes of the Christian
            Humanist of the Year award, Richard   Religion,  John  Calvin  presents  many
        IDawkins declared faith to be “one of   corrections, and indeed overcorrections, to
        the world’s great evils, comparable to the   the “Papists” and their “scholastic dogma,”
        smallpox virus but harder to eradicate.”    as well as the “semi-papists” and their
        By contrast, John Calvin describes faith as   “pestilential philosophy.” It is to them he
        follows: “It is certain that no man will ever   ascribes a so-called “common faith,” which
        know him aright without at the same time   he describes as “a certain common assent
        receiving the sanctification of the Spirit.”    to gospel history.” His rebuttal was that
        Before we look at the faith of the heroes   the reprobate can only be “impressed for
        of Hebrews 11, we must first consider the   a time with a fading faith,” what he calls
        topic of faith generally. What is faith? And   in the same section a “temporary faith”
        what is it not?                      and “an inferior operation of the Spirit,”
          Faith is the instrument by which we   and even more sharply, “in the elect alone
        have confidence in things we cannot   he implants the living root of faith so that
        see. That is not to say there’s no good   they persevere even to the end.” It is this
        reason to employ this trust. Just as these   living or “everduring” faith that Calvin
        “worthies” embraced, confessed and were   believed was originated by the Spirit and
        persuaded that these things were true,   gradually increased by Him. In summary,
        so the individual believer exercises faith   Calvin and many of his followers assert
        when he receives God’s testimony and   that there are different types of faith: “We
        thereby “has certified that God is true”   are inquiring after a faith which separates
                                             the children of God from the reprobate.”
        (Joh 3:33  NKJV). This is not to reduce
        faith to a fuzzy word for the mathematics   It is this special kind of faith which,
                                             according to his definition, is “revealed
        of probability,  though it is not less than   to our minds and sealed on our hearts by
        that.  The  faith  of  these  Old  Testament   the Holy Spirit.”  There is a kind of faith
        believers  “consisted  simply  in  taking   that unbelievers are capable of exercising
        God at his word and directing their lives   but it is not the same as the faith the Spirit
        accordingly.”  Our faith is exactly the same.   gives you. But is this what the Scriptures
          But does this confidence come only “by   teach about faith?
        hearing” or must the Spirit also create it
                                             ⁵ Act 11:18; Rom 12:3; Eph 6:23; Php 1:29; 1Co
        ¹ Richard Dawkins, ”Is Science a Religion?” The   12:9; 2Ti 2:24,25. These are common proof
        Humanist, Vol.57, No.1.              texts for this view and each deserves a proper
        ² John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion,   explanation of its immediate context (and the
        Book 3, No.8.                        Scriptures as a whole) to understand that they
        ³ Brian Blais, A Measure of Faith: Probability in   do not teach an external “gift” of faith.
        Religious Thought (Self Published, 2019), 102.    ⁶ Quotations in this paragraph are from John
        ⁴ F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand   Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 3,
        Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964), 277.    Nos.1-38.

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