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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Answering a question about faith, and a few other things

As seen from the Theologica forums.

Brian Leffert said:
"Hello Inorm 888,

1) Paul is making a case that something is "not of ourselves" in Eph 2, what would you understand that to be?"

Hello Brian,

You can see the full thing here:
eph 2:8 and "The gift of God"

But I will repost the necessary info here along with a new commentary:

This is what Saint Augustine said about the issue:
chapter 12 of (Book I) "On the Predestination of the Saints"
""And he says that a man is justified by faith and not by works, because
faith itself is first given, from which may be obtained other things which are
specially characterized as works, in which a man may live righteously. For he
himself also says, "By grace you are saved through faith; and this not of
yourselves; but it is the gift of God," Ephesians 2:8 —that is to say, "And in
saying 'through faith,' even faith itself is not of yourselves, but is God's
gift." "Not of works," he says, "lest any man should be lifted up.""

Saint Augustine was wrong. He made a mistake that caused the west to error even to this day.

John Calvin tried to correct this common western error:
From John Calvin's Commentary on the book of Ephesians.
""But it is still more absurd to overlook the apostle's inference, lest any
man should boast. Some room must always remain for man's boasting, so long as,
independently of grace, merits are of any avail. Paul's doctrine is overthrown,
unless the whole praise is rendered to God alone and to his mercy. And here we
must advert to a very common error in the interpretation of this passage. Many
persons restrict the word gift to faith alone. But Paul is only repeating in
other words the former sentiment. His meaning is, not that faith is the gift of
God, but that salvation is given to us by God, or, that we obtain it by the gift
of God."

The scholarly view now in some circles that are still trying to hold on to the Augustinian tradition is that the text/passage is talking about everything in the preceding clause.

But literally the passage is talking about the word "saved/salvation".

This is what Joseph Dongell had to say about Eph 2:8

"If faith is not our doing but God's gift, then the well-known features of
calvinism fall into place. Those who "have faith" have been given faith by God,
and those who don't have not given faith by God. By this view, faith becomes a
function of divine causation operating according to the individual electing will
of God.

But the terms (faith, this, it) that seem so clearly linked in
English are not so neatly connected in Greek. The English ear depends largely on
word order for making sense of language, and so automatically presumes that this
(which "is not from yourselves") must obviously refer back to faith, since faith
immediately precedes this in the word order of the text. But Greek, being an
inflected language, actually depends on "tags" that are attached to words for
guiding the reader. If our writer had desired readers to connect faith directly
to this, these two words should have matched each other as grammatically
feminine. We find, however, that this, being neuter in gender, likely points us
back several words earlier- to the idea of salvation expressed by the verb.
Accordingly, we should read the text with a different line of connections as
follows: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this
[salvation is] not from yourself, [this salvation] is the gift of God."

Many Calvinists fear that any retreat from the conviction that God
causes faith will make salvation a human accomplishment. If faith is something
we do, then salvation rests on our deeds and no longer on God's grace. If faith
is viewed as our part in the process of salvation, then salvation must be viewed
as a cooperative affair, and we should then describe ourselves as self-saviors
in part.
But the flaw in this Calvinist fear lies in its improper
understanding of the nature of faith itself. The Bible itself does not describe
faith as a work that accomplishes a taske, or as a deed that establishes merit,
or as a lever that forces God to act. Instead, we find that genuine faith is
something quite different. As Paul's treatment of Abraham shows, the patriarch's
faith had no power over God, earned no merit before God and stood as the polar
opposite to honorific deeds. Abraham believed God, and righteousness was
"credited" to him, not paid to him. God alone justified Abraham freely on the
basis of Abraham's faith (Rom 4:1-6). Since by its very nature faith confesses
the complete lack of human merit and human power, it subtracts nothing from the
Savior's grace or glory. By its very nature, faith points away from all human
status and looks to God alone for rescue and restoration."

From the
book "Why I am not a Calvinist" by Jerry L. Walls & Joseph R. Dongell pages
77 & 78

You can see the same view with Adam Clark in his commentary.
Adam Clark's Commentary to
the Ephesians

"Verse 8. For by grace are ye saved, through faith] As ye are now brought into a
state of salvation, your sins being all blotted out, and you made partakers of
the Holy Spirit; and, having a hope full of immortality, you must not attribute
this to any works or merit of yours; for when this Gospel reached you, you were
all found dead in trespasses and dead in sins; therefore it was God's free mercy
to you, manifested through Christ, in whom ye were commanded to believe; and,
having believed by the power of the Holy Spirit, ye received, and were sealed
by, the Holy Spirit of promise; so that this salvation is in no sense of
yourselves, but is the free gift of God; and not of any kind of works; so that
no man can boast as having wrought out his own salvation, or even contributed
any thing towards it. By grace arc ye saved, through faith in Christ. This is a
true doctrine, and continues to be essential to the salvation of man to the end
of the world.

But whether are we to understand, faith or salvation as
being the gift of God? This question is answered by the Greek text: th gar
cariti este seswsmenoi dia thv pistewv? kai touto ouk ex umwn? qeou to dwron,
ouk ex ergwn? ina mh tiv kauchshtai? "By this grace ye are saved through faith;
and THIS (touto, this salvation) not of you; it is the gift of God, not of
works: so that no one can boast."The relative touto, this, which is in the
neuter gender, cannot stand for pistiv, faith, which is the feminine; but it has
the whole sentence that goes before for its antecedent." But it may be asked: Is
not faith the gift of God? Yes, as to the grace by which it is produced; but the
grace or power to believe, and the act of believing, are two different things.
Without the grace or power to believe no man ever did or can believe; but with
that power the act of faith is a man's own. God never believes for any man, no
more than he repents for him: the penitent, through this grace enabling him,
believes for himself: nor does he believe necessarily, or impulsively when he
has that power; the power to believe may be present long before it is exercised,
else, why the solemn warnings with which we meet every where in the word of God,
and threatenings against those who do not believe? Is not this a proof that such
persons have the power but do not use it? They believe not, and therefore are
not established. This, therefore, is the true state of the case: God gives the
power, man uses the power thus given, and brings glory to God: without the power
no man can believe; with it, any man may."

Saint John Chrysostom also focuses on Regeneration / the new creation / Salvation in regards to Eph chapter 2

""Again Christ is introduced, and it is a matter well worthy of our belief,
because if the firstfruits live, so do we also. He has quickened both Him and
us. Do you see that all this is said of Christ incarnate?......Those who were
dead, those who were children of wrath, those He has quickened. Do you behold
'the hope of his calling? ....Do you behold the glory of his inheritance?.....As
yet not one is actually raised, excepting that inasmuch as the Head has risen,
we also are raised....Truly there is need of the Spirit and of revelation, in
order to understand the depth of these mysteries. And then so you may have no
distrust about the matter, observe what he adds further....was faith then, you
will say, enough to save us? No, but God he says, has required this, lest He
should save us, barren and without work at all. His expression is that faith
saves, but it is because God so wills it that faith saves....'We are His
workmanship.' He here alludes to the regeneration which is in reality a second
creation. We have been brought from non-existence into being. As to what we were
before, that is, the old man, we are dead."

From the Eastern
Orthodox Lectionary & Commentary called "The Bible and the Holy Fathers"
compiled and Edited by Johanna Manley & Foreword by Bishop Kallistos Ware,
pages 489-490

So now you know why I believe the way I do in regards to Eph 2:8

Brian Leffert said:
2) This discussion is about faith being a gift, you said you agree. please share some of the other verses that you believe would better witness to this.

Because of the differences between free will and determinism, you and I will naturally disagree in how we understand these things, but we will also find some common ground somewhere as well.

Philippians 1:29
For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him,

Romans 12:3
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.


1 Corinthians 12
Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit

Brian Leffert said:
3) We receive many gifts from our creator that are given at His will only. Your natural body and spirit were given without your permission. When the Holy Spirit removes the scales from an unbelievers eyes, and regenerates them they believe what was foolishness to them in there natural (spiritually dead) state. Remember Spiritually dead people cannot make a spiritual decision to rise from the dead any more than physically dead people can of there own will choose to live. Regeneration must precede, and in fact facilitate this decision.

I believe in what is called Baptismal Regeneration, and so I will naturally understand Regeneration differently than you. The Biblical and Christian historic view (both east and west) is one of Baptismal Regeneration. We are literally Born Again / Born anew / Born from above through water Baptism and Chrismation / Confirmation. Yes, there is a grace that precedes Water Baptism, but that grace is the drawing of the Holy Spirit that guides us to the grace of water Baptism. You are confusing "Regeneration" with the drawing of God. Regeneration is properly put in the waters of Baptism for that is when we get a new heart and mind......and become united with Christ!

Ezekiel 36:25-27
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.


John 3
Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[b] gives birth to spirit. 7You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You[c] must be born again.' 8The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."


Colossians 2:11-13
In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins[c] of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,


Acts 22:16
And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.'

Brian Leffert said:
4) All life is dependent on God, well said. All men are not "in Christ".
My desire is to make clear that the discussion is about two very different understandings of the the ability of an unregenerate (natural) man to will, or desire to believe. Some would say the natural man's will is "free" or my word "autonomous", still having the capability to comprehend and believe the gospel. Others would say the natural man's will is fallen, or desperately wicked, and that the gospel can not be understood by them as anything but foolishness.

If you are a Calvinist then yes, I understand what you were trying to say. I just disagree with it. For if Acts chapter 17 is true, then you are only setting up a straw man by saying all that. Such a view destroys God's Omni-Presence as well as creates a world in where atheists and agnostics can exist......for basically what you are saying is that there are people walking around somewhere where God is not and willing somewhere where God is not. Such a world is an atheists dream! An agnostics dream! A deists dream! A secularists dream! This is there dream world!

But such a world doesn't exist! And so you are only setting up a strawman by saying such things.

Brian Leffert said:
5) Did I quote Calvin somewhere? :)

You didn't have to.



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