Thursday, November 01, 2007

Miles Apart

Faith - an act or and attitude?

I have been reading a book by Charled Arand (when I get bored with the thesis) and I came to an interesting point when he related the story of Henry E. Jacobs. Jacobs was considering whether he will continue with Methodist style revivalism or continue with his Lutheran confessionalism. He said that in the revivalism in America it was

justification -- per Christum propter fidem (justification by Christ on account of faith)

rather than

justification -- per fidem propter Christum
(justification by faith on account of Christ).

One might say, well there is no difference. Yes there is and the difference is miles and even galaxies apart. The first emphasizes faith, the latter emphasizes Christ. The first leads to faith in faith, the latter leads faith to Christ. On what account are we justified? On account of faith (which can be turned to works), or on account of Christ (this you can never turn to a work). Consequently the experience of conversion becomes the focus of the first but Christ becomes the one that is prominent in the second. The first will make you look inside, the second will make you look outside.

Now being trained to listen about faith as an act continues to be my plague, the 25+ years of living in that psyche is a battle. In an unguarded moment, I notice myself cycling on the first. I also noticed that for Jacobs, faith is an attitude rather than an act. This difference caused Jacobs to retreat from revivalism and settle on confessional Lutheranism.

Think about it too. propter fidem or propter Christum?


David said...


propter Christum all the way!

It is not merely years wrapped up in popular evangelicalism which causes the slip. As natural theologians of glory the inner brat will always look to self. That is why church groups which cater to this propter fidem are so successful. We really do love it dont we.

However, the rub comes when the chips are down and one is faced with forever falling short in actions and especially in faith. It does not take much for one to feel threatened and have to become defensive. Whenever you encourage another to lean solely on Jesus you have a fight on your hands.

soli deo gloria

Augustinian Successor said...

I'm enjoying this blog by the day! :-)

L P Cruz said...

Thanks for the comments Jason/David,

It is indeed that inner brat isn't?

The theologian of glory in us has always the habit of turning a gift into a reward, turning grace into works, turning Gospel to Law.

Lord have mercy.


Past Elder said...

That is absolutely brilliant!

It sets out exactly how both speak of apparently the same thing, justification, but mean entirely different things by it.

Years ago, I used to have this idea called the Prepositional Nature of Reality. In this context it would run something like this:

There is no such thing as faith. Faith is always faith IN or faith THAT -- faith in someone or something, faith that something will happen, but never just faith period.

We are justified through faith because of Christ; if we have faith in someone or something other than Christ, we are not justified.

If it were not so, then justification by faith is justification by works, since faith is a work. But faith is not a work, it is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and it is faith in Christ, which justifies because of Christ.

As Walther put it, one can no more make a decision for faith or Christ than one can decide to wake from the dead.

What an excellent post!

Dizma said...

I agree with my predesessors. :) Well done, Cruz.

L P Cruz said...

Past Elder/Dizma,

Thank you for your kind words.

I have been reflecting on 'faith' and I do see that in itself, faith is really nothing as you Past Elder says; because it finds it importance on not on itself, it only has value on what it latches itself into. So faith in faith is like trying to levitate on air.

But it is amazing that majority of Christians in the Protestant camp are being taught that way and I was severely indoctrinated in such a view, yet all the while it has not been taught that way by the Protestant confessions.


Doorman-Priest said...

An interesting post. Tell me, do Australians identify with Europe or America in terms of Christian trends?

L P Cruz said...

The evangelical/pentecostals identify with the American origins of their movements, the rest with European.


Past Elder said...

While not on the surface discussing this issue, I recommend the emerging discussion on Weedon's Blog on a recent Spengler Asia Times article in this context.