Faith comes at the conclusion of a reasoning process—not as the presupposition to it. Let’s look at the disciples for a demonstration.

The disciples saw Jesus heal the sick and bring the dead to life. They saw him walk on water and calm a storm. These facts convinced them to have faith in Jesus, believing him to be the Son of God (Matt 16:16). But only at the day of Pentecost did they fully believe in Jesus as Lord (Acts 11:17). Then they received the Holy Spirit.

How did the disciples expect others to come to faith? Peter spoke to the crowd:

Acts 2:22: “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know…”

Peter told the people to trust in Jesus on the basis of the facts they knew. Likewise, John points to facts. John counts his report as good evidence:

John 20:30-31: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

Conclusions: faith comes when the Holy Spirit cuts a person to the heart, convicting him of his sin and Christ’s lordship (Acts 2:37). A person must understand his sin and Christ’s lordship before faith is possible.

“Sin” and “lordship” are concepts, and they are not innate. They come from our reasoning about observed data. As Aristotle and Aquinas held, “Nothing is in the intellect that was not first in the senses.”

What then of Augustine’s idea of “faith seeking understanding”? That phrase does accurately describe someone who already has faith. I trust in God, but seek to understand him more. But at any level what is faith?

Faith is first of all a response to facts, and facts must be grasped by reason.

The theme of my blog is “Your Life, Your Reason, Your Faith.” I argue that if we will live, we must value life, reason, and faith—in that order. The man who values his own life has need of reason. The man who follows reason discovers faith.

In light of the above, the modern method of presuppositional apologetics has major problems.

You may also like: Understanding and then Faith.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Cody, what a well-written and provocative post. Thank you! In response, I’d like to push back on something that you wrote:

    “Conclusions: faith comes when the Holy Spirit cuts a person to the heart, convicting him of his sin and Christ’s lordship (Acts 2:37). A person must understand his sin and Christ’s lordship before faith is possible.”

    You make it sound as though right understanding comes first and then conviction follows. But can understanding of sin and Jesus come prior to the conviction of the Holy Spirit? If one has not been convicted of the severity of and consequences for one’s sin, then how can one truly understand sin? Contrary to your (apparent) formulation, I submit that one does not and cannot attain actual understanding until one has undergone the conviction that accompanies faith.

    In other words, man cannot reason his way to faith. Faith must bridge the gap that exists as a result of our futile reasoning (cf. Rom. 1:21). Of course, what I’m alluding to is the doctrine of the noetic effects of sin. Do you reject this doctrine (or at least the tradition formulation of it)?

    Perhaps all of this will be clear when you write your post on presuppositional apologetics. I’ll look forward to it! Thank you so much for your thoughts and time. God bless.

  2. Thanks for the comment! We have to understand something of our sin and Christ’s lordship before we can be convicted of having sinned against the Lord. At that point we may respond to the conviction or evade it. In the biblical conversions and Paul’s letters the Holy Spirit works to renew people’s minds, allowing them to overcome evasion and to respond in faith. Before the work of the Holy Spirit we can’t have faith. Faith itself is a gift from God (Eph 2:8-9). Nevertheless, a person must have some understanding of a proposition before he can believe it. After conversion the understanding grows. I consider the sequence to be: facts of sin and Christ’s lordship, perception of data, conception of the facts, conviction of the heart, choice to trust or not trust.

  3. Jesus freely communicated with anyone who was aware of his presence. Even if they did not want a conversation with our Lord, they found their thoughts affected by Jesus’ words and actions.

    Hitler freely communicated with anyone who was aware of his presence. Even if they did not want a conversation with our villian, they found their thoughts affected by Hitler’s words and actions.

    (To be very clear: Jesus – Good. Hitler – Bad)

    The Holy Spirit is omnipresent. Where does the Scripture say He is not affecting the thoughts of man, whether a man is Born of the Spirit or not?

    (To be very clear: “Affecting the thoughts” is not the same as clear communication)

    Oft times the disciples were over-awed by Christ to the point of great fear and wonder. Other times they were aware of His righteousness. Those disciples who humbled themselves before Jesus and knew Him to be the Christ, the Messiah, put their faith in Him. The Father, the Son (Word) and the Spirit affected the disciples thinking, just like you affected my thinking by writing this post. Spirits communicate. If they have mutual desires and get along, they have fellowship. If one Spirit is infinite in nature and the little spirit submits, then they continue to grow closer together.

    In my opinion, Biblical faith is believing our Lord’s words to the point of doing what He says.

    And, of course, if I wrote this all in German, it would be more academically impressive.

  4. Simply put , faith comes a lot easier when truth makes simple sense. For the truth of Jesus to make sense, men must be able to accept certain facts of life as true. I mean simple foundational facts, because to build our faith, we must start at the simple beginning.
    1. In the beginning God created man… therefore man is not God. Simple! No Man walking the earth today is God.
    2. “In the beginning was the word…” God is the author of our reality today. What is right today, was right in the beginning. God defined good, therefore whatever was not good was not living within God’s intentional reality. It is the imagination of man run amok. When the lie and distorted truth is believed, truth and reality departs. Adam and Eve entered into “unreality” and error. How many people do you know who do not live in reality, instead choosing to make up their own definitions of good and evil, truth and lies? Too many people believe lies and nonsense.
    3. Given that God gave man the freedom to choose, people choose error rather than truth, and death rather than life. He who would choose life must choose truth and renew his mind by the simple truth. “I am the way, the truth, and life…” God simply preserved his truth, wisdom, love, and definitions of good and evil for mankind in the Holy Bible.

    Trouble is, I can’t find many who are sincerely looking for truth and God’s love. Most people think that they already know it all… Some mistakenly think they have to humble themselves to me rather than to God. They say, “I can’t admit Russ is right, because that is humbling myself to Russ’s way of thinking. It is easier to do my own thing rather than admit someone else is right.” (Pride and ego)

    Here is the deal: We are all born ignorant and self centered. “Self” occupies the world of unregenerate mankind. Each must seek the truth and understanding for themselves in the scriptures, just as the scriptures say. To gain wisdom and understanding each one must allow the Holy Spirit to convict of error and repent, leaving behind the sin, error, or misunderstanding. When reading the Bible we all must allow the words to convict us, and we must seek the proper meaning and application of his word. Always testing and searching the scriptures. —something the lost are obviously not doing… but the truth will make simple sense when you know it, and learn to use it like you know and use the alphabet and the multiplication table.

    If you want eternal life, love God first, and He, by his words, will teach you how to love family, friends, and neighbors in truth, righteousness, justice, and mercy. Be good soil and endure the opposition from adversaries who speak as if they know the truth, but have never picked up and read the Bible.

    Too many generations left behind… the pulpits and the fathers are responsible for it, Mal. 4:6.

    Go Cody, and keep going! Dig deeper than those around you. Don’t stop where they stop. Challenge them to go further, too. 2Pe 1:19, And we have the word of the prophets (the Old Testament) made more certain and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place (our dark world and dark churches), until the day dawns (light bulbs come on in your head) and the Morning star (Jesus, His Kingdom, His understanding, the treasure in the field) rises in your hearts.

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