This post is part of a series on faith in the New Testament.
[F]or years now I’ve been a big fan of Tim Keller. I admire him as a theologian, as a preacher, and as an author. I agree with many that he is the closest thing to a modern day C.S. Lewis that we have today. As is true with just about anybody that I listen to, this does not mean I agree with everything he says. I’m currently reading through his book entitled King’s Cross and he addressed faith in a way that seems to be very common these days.
“…faith ultimately is not a virtue; it’s a gift. If you want to believe but can’t, stop looking inside; go to Jesus and say, ‘Help me believe.’ Go to him and say, ‘So you’re the one who gives faith! I’ve been trying to work it out by reasoning and thinking and meditating and going to church in hopes that a sermon will move me–I’ve been trying to get faith by myself. Now I see that you’re the source of faith. Please give it to me.’ If you do that, you’ll find that Jesus has been seeking you–he’s the author of faith, the provider of faith, and the object of faith.”
This sounds great. But it puts the responsibility of faith primarily on God. The problem with this for me is that there are some passages that seem to lean in this direction while others seem to imply just the opposite, as we shall soon see.
Here’s the question as I see it: If I have great faith, is it because God has given it to me, and thus is a result of His effort; or is it because I have chosen it, and thus is a result of my effort?
I’m not trying to minimize God’s part in faith or make it seem that somehow we can do this without Him. What I am trying to do is get at the heart of how we should approach developing faith to a deeper level. Does it have to be something that God grants to us or can we choose it for ourselves? Or to use Keller’s terminology, is it a virtue or a gift? While Keller clearly falls on the side of it being a gift, I am currently on the side of it being a virtue. Regardless of where you land on the question, our answer to this will radically shape how we seek out a maturation of faith in our discipleship journey with God.
As we look at all of the uses of the word faith in the New Testament in this blog series, this will be the driving question in allowing God’s Spirit to speak to us through His Word.