Intellectual Faith and Saving Faith

Faith is often used in the Bible, and almost invariably by the secular world as well, to indicate a firm, intellectual belief in something. Christians often assume it to mean an acceptance of the doctrines of Christianity. With this definition, we understand a series of facts or creeds, accompanied by adequate evidence to assure us they are true. It is this type of faith, designated by the Greek word pepoitha, which means “to be persuaded.”

And when they had set a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God, and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening. And some were being persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not believe. —Acts 28:23-24 (NASB)

Although this type of faith or persuasion leads us to the truth, it is utterly impossible that a mere intellectual state will save us. It is this type of believing, for example, which James indicates even demons possess.

Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest
well: the devils also believe, and tremble. —James 2:19

Christian faith encompasses an intellectual faith, but is not exactly equivalent to it. In other words,one is not ultimately saved by believing, but one must believe in order to be saved. As Os Guiness points out, the will, not merely the intellect, is involved.

Becoming a Christian is an authentic choice of a whole man; it involves his reason, his emotions and his will; it is in this sense that faith is more than rational. [1]Remember—repentance doesn’t mean that we cease to be guilty—but that we cease to sin.

Operating under the law of cause and effect, the mind and emotions are not virtuous. Virtue is part of the will; it is therefore free from the law of cause and effect. In saving faith the heart is committed to the mind’s realization and acknowledgment of the following:

  1. That we are guilty [2]Os Guiness, The Dust of Death (InterVarsity), p. 358. and morally corrupt
  2. That God is holy and merciful
  3. That Christ came into the human situation and sacrificed his life on our behalf

Let us explore more fully the avenues of faith.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Remember—repentance doesn't mean that we cease to be guilty—but that we cease to sin.
2. Os Guiness, The Dust of Death (InterVarsity), p. 358.