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ALPB => Your Turn => Topic started by: Brian Stoffregen on February 28, 2021, 06:13:54 PM

Title: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on February 28, 2021, 06:13:54 PM
In listening to a sermon online this morning, the pastor (not a member of this group,) talked about increasing our faith. I wondered if that is possible. That is, didn't God give us enough when we first believed?


I've argued in other discussions that we can do nothing about our relationship with God. God has already done everything necessary through the death and resurrection of Jesus and sending the Holy Spirit who brings us to faith.


At the same time, I recognize that the disciples' ask Jesus in Luke 17:5: "Increase our faith." Does their request indicate that one can have more or less faith? What was the clue that they had an inadequate faith? Earlier Jesus (9:1-6) had sent them out with power over demons and diseases. They preached and healed. They went about without any supplies of their own. They had the faith to trust God for their necessities. They had the faith to heal the sick and cast out demons. They had the faith to proclaim the coming Kingdom of God. Why do they now ask for more faith? Did they need more faith to stand up to temptations to sin? To cease from causing others to sin? To rebuke those who had sinned against them? To forgive one another? Perhaps moving mulberry trees (or mountains as in the parallels) into the sea is an easier act of faith than moving us to “rebuke” and “forgive” people who have sinned against us; to confront sin rather than always being nice.


An analogy that I used in my notes on Luke 17:1-16: I think that our growth in faith is nearly always a movement from faith to faith (rather than from unbelief to faith). While the faith I have today is similar to the faith given at baptism, it is also different. Similarly, who I am today is both the same and different than who I was as an infant. My essence – my DNA is exactly the same, but my knowledge, physical size, abilities, etc. have changed considerably since birth.


I think it is more accurate to talk about a growth in understanding our faith. We certainly can and should grow in understanding what God has done and promises to do for us. We certainly can and should grow in our responses to the faith God has given us, e.g., increasing our actions of love towards neighbors (and enemies). Also, given the context of Luke 17, improve (1) in the ways we avoid scandalizing other people; and (2) our rebuke and forgiveness of those who have sinned against us. I'm not sure I would call these "a growth in faith." Rather growing in understanding or maturing in the faith God has given.


However, assuming faith can increase, what would an increased faith look like?


What might happen to us if and when God honors our request for more faith? I’m not sure that we really want more faith. More faith could lead us to stop doing some sinful things that we really like to do. For example, be less greedy and give away many of our possessions that we don’t really need. (Actually, as I think more about it, more faith could have us give away the stuff we really cherish. Then it’s sacrificial giving.) More faith could lead us to be more forgiving towards those who have sinned against us – and we really don’t want to forgive some of those mean, rotten people. In some cases, we would like to see them dead. More faith would mean loving them as Jesus has loved us.
 
More faith could lead us to be more like the slave in the story at the end of our text. That is, we become more dutiful slaves of God. Doing our duties willingly: Being more dutiful in attending worship services every week; being more dutiful in contributing generously of time and money to the church and to the needy; being more dutiful in participating in Sunday school and committees and other church activities; being more dutiful and doing such duties willingly, without grumbling or complaining. Could more faith mean sacrificing one’s own pleasures for the sake of the needy? Could more faith mean following more closely the footsteps of Jesus – which led him to the ridicule and suffering and death on the cross?
 
I’m not sure that a lot of people really want more faith. They may want more of the faith that will help them out – a faith that might heal themselves or a loved one, a faith that will help them pass a test, a faith that gives them assurance of eternal life; but do they really want a faith that will make them more Christ-like in sacrificial giving, in sacrificial loving, in sacrificial forgiving? I’m not sure if people want that.
 
It has been suggested that many people want only an inoculation of Christianity – just enough of it to protect them from catching the real thing. There is a danger in asking God to give you more faith. You might get it – then what?



Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on February 28, 2021, 06:28:56 PM
Another biblical reference about growing faith is 2 Corinthians 10:15. Paul writes about the Corinthians' faith growing. In some ways it's a bit like John the Baptist's comment about Jesus must increase and I must decrease. They need to learn to stop boasting about themselves and boast about Christ.


Or, as Paul might suggest in the next verse, growing the faith means spreading the gospel to more and more people.
Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: Dave Benke on February 28, 2021, 06:59:19 PM
You can pray against faith shrinkage in the words of the doctrinally-approved hymn:

O for a faith that will not shrink
Tho pressed by many a foe
That will not totter on the brink
Of poverty or woe (or "or any earthly woe", widening the chasm of inclusion).

Of course, that's an inverse argument, but taken from the Bible in its own way: "Luke 17 - 5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

6 He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you."

That implies that the apostles' faith could grow, unless they had already done that thing with the mulberry tree.

Dave Benke

Dave Benke

Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: Rev. Edward Engelbrecht on February 28, 2021, 07:00:55 PM
2 Thessalonians 1:3--4
Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: Dave Benke on February 28, 2021, 07:22:09 PM
2 Thessalonians 1:3--4

Yes.  Cf. Romans 5, with the similar theme that growth comes through trial and tribulation.  We just had several testimonies to that effect during our live-stream worship this morning. 

Dave Benke
Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: Weedon on February 28, 2021, 07:35:23 PM
If you all will pardon some Nagelisms: faith is being given to by God. Little faith, little Jesus. Today we had for Reminiscere the Canaanite Woman from Matthew 15. She came to receive help from Jesus for her daughter, of course, who was severely demon oppressed. But the Lord “stretched” (Pr. Ball’s good term for this) her faith, her giveabletoness, by the way he treated her. Many times little faith says to God: “Ah, perfect. Right there. That’s all I want. Thank you, no more.” And this particularly when God sends our way very difficult and trying situations, including the hard words He speaks. Can this woman receive even being a dog as a gift? Her faith stretches and grows and she RECEIVES IT. Yes, Lord, let me be your little dog, but give the dog it’s due. I’m only asking for a crumb for my daughter! Jesus’ response? “O woman! GREAT is your faith.” We could riff that with: You took everything I tossed at you. The ignoring you; the statement that I was only for the lost sheep of Israel; and even calling you a dog. You RECEIVED as a gift from me everything I gave.

Faith “grows” when the Lord stretches us to receive the gifts from Him, particularly the really hard ones. We may come to His Niagara with our little teacup; He wants us to be hauling buckets!

One last point that Dr. Kleinig never tires of driving home: in human life, growth tends to be mean growing independence. But in spiritual life, it’s the opposite: grow means growing DEPENDENCE upon Jesus and His words and promises. The whole of life is a process in which He “gives us” the gift of loss. He takes things from us. But He always whispers: But child, you have ME and I am all you need. And this goes on with the loss of friends and family, health and that great independence we prized so highly, and finally, finally, He takes even the breath away. And still His whisper is the same: “You have me. I’m all you need.” And we’ll find it to be so indeed. That is when faith is stretched to its uttermost, to receive even our own death as a gift from the hand of God.
Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: J. Thomas Shelley on February 28, 2021, 07:39:15 PM
"Increase our faith" is part of the life-long journey and work of Theosis.

Increase our faith, strengthen our hope, and deepen our love...what the Paschal pilgrimage of Lent is all about.
Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on February 28, 2021, 07:50:35 PM
Another analogy is the contrast between being weak in faith (Romans 14:1, 2) vs. strong in faith Romans 4:20.


What does this difference look like?


When someone refuses medical treatment because they (strongly) believe that God will heal them, is that a strong faith? That seems to be similar to Abraham's strong faith that God would provide a child when it seemed impossible.
Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on February 28, 2021, 07:53:17 PM
There is also Matthew's term for the disciples: "little faith:" 6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8; 17:20. (Also used once elsewhere: Luke 12:28.)
Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: Dave Benke on February 28, 2021, 07:56:50 PM
"Increase our faith" is part of the life-long journey and work of Theosis.

Increase our faith, strengthen our hope, and deepen our love...what the Paschal pilgrimage of Lent is all about.

Yes - in line with what Will Weedon has written there's the connection to Theosis through the Unio Mystica received by grace through Holy Baptism.  Thus the Nagel line "faith is being given to by God." 

In the fine book on the Holy Spirit available right now this evening through ALPB, the concept is expanded upon by talking through the converse - the greater my faith, the less I need God, because my faith is in ...........my faith, leading to Pentecostal perfectionism.  Werner Elert puts the torch to this, talking us through the "psychic I" which is reduced to ash and then covered by the cross of Christ.  So much for perfection.  And so much more for the cross.

Dave Benke
Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on February 28, 2021, 07:57:42 PM
If you all will pardon some Nagelisms: faith is being given to by God. Little faith, little Jesus. Today we had for Reminiscere the Canaanite Woman from Matthew 15. She came to receive help from Jesus for her daughter, of course, who was severely demon oppressed. But the Lord “stretched” (Pr. Ball’s good term for this) her faith, her giveabletoness, by the way he treated her. Many times little faith says to God: “Ah, perfect. Right there. That’s all I want. Thank you, no more.” And this particularly when God sends our way very difficult and trying situations, including the hard words He speaks. Can this woman receive even being a dog as a gift? Her faith stretches and grows and she RECEIVES IT. Yes, Lord, let me be your little dog, but give the dog it’s due. I’m only asking for a crumb for my daughter! Jesus’ response? “O woman! GREAT is your faith.” We could riff that with: You took everything I tossed at you. The ignoring you; the statement that I was only for the lost sheep of Israel; and even calling you a dog. You RECEIVED as a gift from me everything I gave.

Faith “grows” when the Lord stretches us to receive the gifts from Him, particularly the really hard ones. We may come to His Niagara with our little teacup; He wants us to be hauling buckets!

One last point that Dr. Kleinig never tires of driving home: in human life, growth tends to be mean growing independence. But in spiritual life, it’s the opposite: grow means growing DEPENDENCE upon Jesus and His words and promises. The whole of life is a process in which He “gives us” the gift of loss. He takes things from us. But He always whispers: But child, you have ME and I am all you need. And this goes on with the loss of friends and family, health and that great independence we prized so highly, and finally, finally, He takes even the breath away. And still His whisper is the same: “You have me. I’m all you need.” And we’ll find it to be so indeed. That is when faith is stretched to its uttermost, to receive even our own death as a gift from the hand of God.


Perhaps we could say that Jesus drew the great faith out of her.


I agree with the growth in dependency on Christ. Another way of seeing this is growing in our awareness of our sinfulness. A movement from sins: I did something wrong; to sinfulness: my whole nature is sinful. With that also comes a growth in the graciousness of God that covers our deepest sins as well as our sinful nature.
Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: David Garner on February 28, 2021, 08:00:23 PM
Today is the Sunday of the Prodigal Son in the Orthodox Church.  Along the lines of what Pastor Weedon said above, increase in faith is not an increase in something we do, as if faith were a work.  I think that's looking at it from entirely the wrong perspective.

The Prodigal Son had his story straight.  He was going to say all the right things to win his father's heart back.  But as he approached the house, the father ran to greet him, killed the fatted calf, put a cloak and a ring on him and celebrated.  Was it because the Prodigal Son told such a great story to his father?  Or was it simply the father giving of his abundance to his son, because he loves him?

If we answer that, we can answer why it is possible to increase in faith without robbing God of His gift-giving ability.  God is always sufficient.  We are the ones who fall short.  Thank God our Father is gracious, so that we might learn to live of His abundance rather than squandering our inheritence.
Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: Terry W Culler on February 28, 2021, 08:16:38 PM
Sanctification is the process by which our faith grows as we study the Word of God, receive the Sacrament and experience the mutual consolation  of the saints.  A saving faith may indeed be a small faith, but why anyone would be satisfied with such is a mystery to me.  Why anyone would not want to know the Word more thoroughly and live a life richer in service to our God is beyond by understanding.  But I must note that, for a long time hence, many in the Church seem to be almost embarrassed by a visible piety among the faithful, almost as if it is being too religious.  I am teaching a class on Puritanism this semester at a local college and, as I've prepared, I have been struck by how fully those folks preached and lived a vibrant faith life.  I might suggest Thomas Watson's A Body of Divinity  if you would like to experience some of that vibrancy.
Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: J. Thomas Shelley on February 28, 2021, 08:32:07 PM
Sanctification is the process by which our faith grows as we study the Word of God, receive the Sacrament and experience the mutual consolation  of the saints.  A saving faith may indeed be a small faith, but why anyone would be satisfied with such is a mystery to me. .

A colleague once remarked that "sanctification is the Achille's heel of Lutheranism".

Why would anyone be satisfied with minimalism?

Good question to raise on this forum!  Through the years I have drawn a few beatdowns from UberLutherans whose myopic focus is solely on Justification and who eschew any notion of cooperation with God's grace, much less anything that could remotely be construed as works righteousness.

Thank God for Justification!   But that is only the beginning of the real story...
Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: Weedon on February 28, 2021, 08:51:10 PM
I would think Sanctification is one of the true gems of Lutheranism, Thomas, not its Achilles Heel. At its heart, it results FROM the mystical union which results from justification. God forgives us and justifies us so that He can safely “move in” (i.e., without His holiness wiping us out!) and the Holy Spirit begins a process of renewal that reaches from that moment out to our resurrection. True, as we always say, it’s rather a weak beginning (not because of HIM, but because of us), but it is a genuine beginning nonetheless. And so we do indeed live under God’s pardon till the end (as Augustine put it so well). I think the Lutheran doctrine of sanctification and the new life is a source of abounding joy; it destroys the acedia that would make us just want to give up. As Luther said so unforgettably:

This life is not godliness, but growth in godliness;
  not health, but healing;
  not being, but becoming;
  not rest, but exercise.
  We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way;
  the process is not yet finished, but it has begun;
  this is not the goal, but it is road;
  at present all does not gleam and glitter, but everything is being purified.
    - Martin Luther, A Defense and Explanation of All Articles (AE 32:24)
Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: George Rahn on February 28, 2021, 11:14:57 PM
Cf.  Mark 9:23-24
Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: David Garner on March 01, 2021, 09:18:18 AM
I would think Sanctification is one of the true gems of Lutheranism, Thomas, not its Achilles Heel. At its heart, it results FROM the mystical union which results from justification. God forgives us and justifies us so that He can safely “move in” (i.e., without His holiness wiping us out!) and the Holy Spirit begins a process of renewal that reaches from that moment out to our resurrection. True, as we always say, it’s rather a weak beginning (not because of HIM, but because of us), but it is a genuine beginning nonetheless. And so we do indeed live under God’s pardon till the end (as Augustine put it so well). I think the Lutheran doctrine of sanctification and the new life is a source of abounding joy; it destroys the acedia that would make us just want to give up. As Luther said so unforgettably:

This life is not godliness, but growth in godliness;
  not health, but healing;
  not being, but becoming;
  not rest, but exercise.
  We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way;
  the process is not yet finished, but it has begun;
  this is not the goal, but it is road;
  at present all does not gleam and glitter, but everything is being purified.
    - Martin Luther, A Defense and Explanation of All Articles (AE 32:24)

I have never seen that quote from Luther.  It is a true gem.  Thank you for sharing it.
Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: Dave Likeness on March 01, 2021, 11:14:59 AM
In the New Testament there are texts which speak about Christians becoming MATURE
in their faith. They are to stand firm in the will of God and become obedient to Him. (Colossians 4:12)
The Apostle Paul speaks about his ministry to the church and his goal to present everyone mature
in Christ (Colossians 1:28)  We are to become more Christ-like as we mature in our relationship
with Him. 
Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on March 01, 2021, 01:30:56 PM
Cf.  Mark 9:23-24


Do we ever get beyond that prayer? What would life look like if we had no unbelief?


I believe that's a key verse for Mark's portrait of Jesus and his followers. (It's not found in the other gospels.) We are people who believe and who need help with our unbelief. Like Luther's simul justus et peccator, we are simultaneously believers and unbelievers. We "worship and doubt" (Matthew 28:17, the Greek can be translated with "and" rather than, "but some doubted." "Some" is not in the Greek text.)


I remember a seminary professor in, I believe, our first year theology course talking about being 100% sinners now; and in 10 years from now we will still be 100% sinners. 50 years we'll still be 100% sinners. So, how can we talk about making any progress? The idea, among some Christians, that sanctification is a movement from being less sinful to being more saintly isn't part of Lutheranism. Throughout our lives we remain simul justus et peccator. We can, and our Confessions, talk about our ability to make improvements in our civil righteousness. If that's what we mean by increasing our faith, I can agree with it.


Back to the Gospel of Mark: we might expect that Jesus' chosen disciples might become better and better at following Jesus throughout the narrative. They witness his miracles. They hear his words. They should come to better understand his mission on earth. They don't. They all run away. Some women continue to follow. They witness the crucifixion and the burial; but in the end, they also run away and say nothing to anyone.


Related to this: The “Healing of the Blind Man” in 8:22-26 is the only miracle story that is found exclusively in the Gospel of Mark. (Unfortunately, it is not an assigned text in the lectionary.) It  illustration the key theme in this gospel, “I believe. Help my unbelief.” In this story Mark suggests that there are three groups of people: (1) the uncured blind, (2) those who have received one touch and see partially, and (3) those who have received the second touch and can see clearly (τηλαυγῶς). It seems to me that most of the characters in Mark are either type 1 or type 2 people. Perhaps the only one who sees clearly is the Centurion who sees Jesus die and says, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” (15:39). Throughout the gospels, the disciples see, but only partially, e.g., Peter's confession followed by rebuking Jesus.


Paul indicates in 1 Corinthians 13:12 that until Jesus returns, we all only see "in part." Even after being touched by Jesus in Word and Sacraments, we haven't reached the point of seeing clearly.
Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: George Rahn on March 01, 2021, 02:25:19 PM
Cf.  Mark 9:23-24


Do we ever get beyond that prayer? What would life look like if we had no unbelief?


I believe that's a key verse for Mark's portrait of Jesus and his followers. (It's not found in the other gospels.) We are people who believe and who need help with our unbelief. Like Luther's simul justus et peccator, we are simultaneously believers and unbelievers. We "worship and doubt" (Matthew 28:17, the Greek can be translated with "and" rather than, "but some doubted." "Some" is not in the Greek text.)


I remember a seminary professor in, I believe, our first year theology course talking about being 100% sinners now; and in 10 years from now we will still be 100% sinners. 50 years we'll still be 100% sinners. So, how can we talk about making any progress? The idea, among some Christians, that sanctification is a movement from being less sinful to being more saintly isn't part of Lutheranism. Throughout our lives we remain simul justus et peccator. We can, and our Confessions, talk about our ability to make improvements in our civil righteousness. If that's what we mean by increasing our faith, I can agree with it.


Back to the Gospel of Mark: we might expect that Jesus' chosen disciples might become better and better at following Jesus throughout the narrative. They witness his miracles. They hear his words. They should come to better understand his mission on earth. They don't. They all run away. Some women continue to follow. They witness the crucifixion and the burial; but in the end, they also run away and say nothing to anyone.


Related to this: The “Healing of the Blind Man” in 8:22-26 is the only miracle story that is found exclusively in the Gospel of Mark. (Unfortunately, it is not an assigned text in the lectionary.) It  illustration the key theme in this gospel, “I believe. Help my unbelief.” In this story Mark suggests that there are three groups of people: (1) the uncured blind, (2) those who have received one touch and see partially, and (3) those who have received the second touch and can see clearly (τηλαυγῶς). It seems to me that most of the characters in Mark are either type 1 or type 2 people. Perhaps the only one who sees clearly is the Centurion who sees Jesus die and says, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” (15:39). Throughout the gospels, the disciples see, but only partially, e.g., Peter's confession followed by rebuking Jesus.


Paul indicates in 1 Corinthians 13:12 that until Jesus returns, we all only see "in part." Even after being touched by Jesus in Word and Sacraments, we haven't reached the point of seeing clearly.

In faith, you get all of "it" (or in this case in Mark 9 the man gets the whole Jesus) at that point.  In unbelief you get nothing and you get no one at all (even if Jesus is there).  I think in the New Testament little faith is meant to mean that you have all of it but it is just little. ie. small.  Great is your faith means you get all faith all at once and in a great measure.  I sense that the man in Mark 9 was desperate to feel that faith in Jesus was enough for him.  He wanted the health of his son back and the whole son returned to him.  Jesus did that for him and the man trusted Jesus and his very word and deed  That man's faith was enough for him at that point because he "had" received for himself all of Jesus at that point.  He trusted Jesus and Jesus's act of healing the man's son.  The man "got" Jesus when he trusted what Jesus did for him and for his son.

I think it was M. Luther who said this:  "As much as I comprehend that is how much I have."  In the case of the man in Mark 9, he trusted the whole person and work of Christ for himself and he "got" Jesus that way, ie. the whole person and work of Christ.
Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: George Rahn on March 01, 2021, 02:34:25 PM
In light of the thread's topic here is a gem for reading and understanding:   https://crossings.org/faith-alone-justifies/?print=print
Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on March 01, 2021, 03:09:02 PM
In the New Testament there are texts which speak about Christians becoming MATURE
in their faith. They are to stand firm in the will of God and become obedient to Him. (Colossians 4:12)
The Apostle Paul speaks about his ministry to the church and his goal to present everyone mature
in Christ (Colossians 1:28)  We are to become more Christ-like as we mature in our relationship
with Him.


Yes, there are passages that talk about becoming mature. I spent some time studying Ephesians 4 during a month of continuing education. That chapter includes this paragraph (CEB emphasis added):

11 He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. 12 His purpose was to equip God’s people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ 13 until we all reach the unity of faith and knowledge of God’s Son. God’s goal is for us to become mature adults—to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we aren’t supposed to be infants any longer who can be tossed and blown around by every wind that comes from teaching with deceitful scheming and the tricks people play to deliberately mislead others. 15 Instead, by speaking the truth with love, let’s grow in every way into Christ, 16 who is the head. The whole body grows from him, as it is joined and held together by all the supporting ligaments. The body makes itself grow in that it builds itself up with love as each one does their part.

I've also frequently used 1 Corinthians 3 to talk about immature believers (CEB emphasis added):

1 Brothers and sisters, I couldn’t talk to you like spiritual people but like unspiritual people, like babies in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink instead of solid food, because you weren’t up to it yet. 3 Now you are still not up to it because you are still unspiritual. When jealousy and fighting exist between you, aren’t you unspiritual and living by human standards?

What struck me in my studies of these texts is how much of our growth is about our relationships with other people. I'm not sure that we can do anything about our relationship with God (except admitting the numerous times we fail in that relationship). It's a relationships established, sustained, and continually re-established by God. We can do much about our relationships with other people. I've also begun to look at the fruit of the Spirit (as well as works of the flesh) in Galatians 5 to be about our relationship with other people.
Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: David Garner on March 01, 2021, 03:37:30 PM
I think Pastor Stoffregen is hitting on something important here when he suggests we are always 100% sinners, but I would not go the direction of saying "therefore we cannot increase our faith."  Rather, it seems to me, increase of faith illuminates for us how very sinful we are.  The saints are often noted to say on their deathbeds "I need more time to repent."  St. John Climacus devoted an entire step in The Ladder of Divine Ascent to remembrance of death, and among the most beautiful words in The Ladder are these -- "the penitent stands guilty, but undisgraced."  He locates penitence in humility, viewing our sins not as afflictions, but as deserved chastisement.  That is one reason he advises things like rote repetition of prayer and asking for forgiveness even if you do not mean it.  He says we should apologize to your enemies "if only with empty words whose sincerity may shame [us].”

Awareness of one's own sin IS increase in faith.  And whereas the immature Christian may indeed see such awareness as empty words, eventually one hopes one might come to believe how great a sinner one is, and truly repent, not so that one might be a better person, or earn forgiveness, but so that one might rightly live in the grace God freely gives us.

If we believed we were sinners who stood condemned, we would not act as if we are not.  If we believed we were forgiven, we would treasure the gift all the more.  Growth in faith is simply increase in humility and awareness of the magnitude of our sins, and therefore of the magnitude of God's grace.  If you all will permit this non-Lutheran to recite one of my favorite quotes from Luther, "if you are a pastel sinner, then you have a pastel Savior."

He didn't mean we should sin all the more.  He was exhorting us to greater awareness of our sinfulness.
Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on March 01, 2021, 04:03:35 PM
I think Pastor Stoffregen is hitting on something important here when he suggests we are always 100% sinners, but I would not go the direction of saying "therefore we cannot increase our faith."  Rather, it seems to me, increase of faith illuminates for us how very sinful we are.  The saints are often noted to say on their deathbeds "I need more time to repent."  St. John Climacus devoted an entire step in The Ladder of Divine Ascent to remembrance of death, and among the most beautiful words in The Ladder are these -- "the penitent stands guilty, but undisgraced."  He locates penitence in humility, viewing our sins not as afflictions, but as deserved chastisement.  That is one reason he advises things like rote repetition of prayer and asking for forgiveness even if you do not mean it.  He says we should apologize to your enemies "if only with empty words whose sincerity may shame [us].”

Awareness of one's own sin IS increase in faith.  And whereas the immature Christian may indeed see such awareness as empty words, eventually one hopes one might come to believe how great a sinner one is, and truly repent, not so that one might be a better person, or earn forgiveness, but so that one might rightly live in the grace God freely gives us.

If we believed we were sinners who stood condemned, we would not act as if we are not.  If we believed we were forgiven, we would treasure the gift all the more.  Growth in faith is simply increase in humility and awareness of the magnitude of our sins, and therefore of the magnitude of God's grace.  If you all will permit this non-Lutheran to recite one of my favorite quotes from Luther, "if you are a pastel sinner, then you have a pastel Savior."

He didn't mean we should sin all the more.  He was exhorting us to greater awareness of our sinfulness.


I'm thinking that faith may have three components: our relationship with God (which is totally God's actions); our relationship with our selves (increased awareness of our sinfulness and also knowledge of God's actions for us); and our relationship with others (the difference in our lives that having faith makes and we can and should continually improve in our love for others).
Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: Dave Benke on March 02, 2021, 08:41:35 AM
I'm trying to recall the place in the Werner Elert corpus where the two faith dynamics are explored/explained.  This is only a recollection - Saving faith is a gift from God.  It is not our "work."  At all.  Faith that grasps/clings to the gift is able to be strengthened, and the biblical means to that strengthening is often tribulation/temptation/trial/suffering, ie more dependence and clinging to the cross of Christ. 

So the answer to your question "what would it look like" is what's been happening in the world for the last year as experienced by Christians, who have been led to the cross and remained there through it all.

Dave Benke
Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: Charles Austin on March 02, 2021, 09:08:43 AM
Good distinction, Dave. “Saving faith“ and the faith by which we hold to that. Two different things.
Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: David Garner on March 02, 2021, 10:23:03 AM
I'm trying to recall the place in the Werner Elert corpus where the two faith dynamics are explored/explained.  This is only a recollection - Saving faith is a gift from God.  It is not our "work."  At all.  Faith that grasps/clings to the gift is able to be strengthened, and the biblical means to that strengthening is often tribulation/temptation/trial/suffering, ie more dependence and clinging to the cross of Christ. 

So the answer to your question "what would it look like" is what's been happening in the world for the last year as experienced by Christians, who have been led to the cross and remained there through it all.

Dave Benke

The other thing is, what does "faith" mean?  Most people take it to be something like "belief," which is why it is so often taken as something that is up to us.  But in a Biblical and Patristic sense, "faith" is more like "trust."  It isn't that we have so much of it, or that we do it so well.  It's simply that our role in it is no more than to look to God as a child looks to a parent.  I don't get any credit for being my parents' kid.  But I do trust them, because they have never failed me.  The trust is in the object, and the object does the work of strengthening the trust.
Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: George Rahn on March 02, 2021, 11:34:51 AM
I think that both Garner and Stoffregen bring up the very important issue regarding the Holy Spirit's alien work of making our awareness of the depth of our sinfulness apparent to us.  This places the immediate need for the comfort of the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins to be preached/taught by the Church within the hearing of the sinner/sinners.  And thus the venture of faith upon the sinner/sinners becomes both critical and risky.  Faith becomes more about (at least for me) adherence to the Person and work of the Savior and how critical it is to find that Jesus rescues me/us from the indebtedness that surrounds and is within.  The negative part of faith presents us with the truth of who we are before God.  Redemption and the second person of the Trinity is therefore of critical and surpassing value.  This is where the Holy Spirit advises us of both the impossibility for human opinion to deliver (see below) and God's actual act of redemption in Christ's death and resurrection for the sinner/sinners.  In these cases there is no increase or decrease of faith but simply the cavern that opens between faith and unbelief.

I have been looking at Mark 10, specifically confining my view to verses 1-9.  Here Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees to define their conversation with him around human opinion which has no standing before God's word of law.  They simply ask Jesus whether it is permissible to divorce in the matter of marriage.  Here is the real perniciousness of the set-up by the Pharisees.  Yet Jesus is aware of this set-up as he immediately talks about what it is that Moses (not God) has done.  The certificate of divorce which is a creation out of human opinion is proposed as a subtle way of introducing divorce as perhaps permissible before the harshness of God's law.  God's law is established that 1)at the beginning God created them male and female and 2) that a man will leave his father and mother and be joined with his wife.  There is no room for separation or divorce in God's law.  And yet the Pharisees have presented human opinion before Jesus (God) without being able to see that this will not stand before God.  God is never mentioned in Jesus' beginning words with the Pharisees.  Jesus places Moses as the author of the legal issue of divorce leaving folks stuck within their hardness of heart.  And with the Pharisees there is no capacity for them to hear the Gospel; and, so they are confronted again with what God's law actually says about marriage.   Jesus (God) is the one who must restate that for them.  It is only in the hearing of Jesus' disciples in verses 10ff that the matter of adultery is taken up.  Which then becomes an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to begin the process of purgation in the hearts of the disciples (who are sinners). 

Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on March 02, 2021, 11:50:28 AM
Good distinction, Dave. “Saving faith“ and the faith by which we hold to that. Two different things.


Back in seminary days, I realized that there needed to be a difference between "saving faith," and theology. The students who couldn't make that distinction had difficulties dealing with some aspects of studying theologies. Others could look at, for example, Bultmann's demythologizing, and see it as an academic exercise; a topic for discussion/debate, etc. We could talk about Borg's "take the Bible seriously, but not literally" approach. Such discussions in classrooms or hallways didn't change God's love and actions for us through Christ's life, death, and resurrection.


 
Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: Dave Benke on March 02, 2021, 12:06:09 PM
I'm trying to recall the place in the Werner Elert corpus where the two faith dynamics are explored/explained.  This is only a recollection - Saving faith is a gift from God.  It is not our "work."  At all.  Faith that grasps/clings to the gift is able to be strengthened, and the biblical means to that strengthening is often tribulation/temptation/trial/suffering, ie more dependence and clinging to the cross of Christ. 

So the answer to your question "what would it look like" is what's been happening in the world for the last year as experienced by Christians, who have been led to the cross and remained there through it all.

Dave Benke

The other thing is, what does "faith" mean?  Most people take it to be something like "belief," which is why it is so often taken as something that is up to us.  But in a Biblical and Patristic sense, "faith" is more like "trust."  It isn't that we have so much of it, or that we do it so well.  It's simply that our role in it is no more than to look to God as a child looks to a parent.  I don't get any credit for being my parents' kid.  But I do trust them, because they have never failed me.  The trust is in the object, and the object does the work of strengthening the trust.

A huge vote for faith as trust.   "What does this mean" is a Lutheran hallmark question, and the answer in the first commandment instance is "to fear, love and trust in God above all things."

Not to derail, but a major feature in admission to the altar for me through the decades has been the answer to the Luther-posed question "Who receives this Sacrament worthily?"  The answer is "...that person is truly worthy and well-prepared who has faith in these words - 'given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.'" Faith in the promises is the entrance requirement.  To deny admission to a person who trusts in the promise of God in the Sacrament is not possible for me.

Dave Benke
Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on March 02, 2021, 12:22:52 PM
I'm trying to recall the place in the Werner Elert corpus where the two faith dynamics are explored/explained.  This is only a recollection - Saving faith is a gift from God.  It is not our "work."  At all.  Faith that grasps/clings to the gift is able to be strengthened, and the biblical means to that strengthening is often tribulation/temptation/trial/suffering, ie more dependence and clinging to the cross of Christ. 

So the answer to your question "what would it look like" is what's been happening in the world for the last year as experienced by Christians, who have been led to the cross and remained there through it all.

Dave Benke

The other thing is, what does "faith" mean?  Most people take it to be something like "belief," which is why it is so often taken as something that is up to us.  But in a Biblical and Patristic sense, "faith" is more like "trust."  It isn't that we have so much of it, or that we do it so well.  It's simply that our role in it is no more than to look to God as a child looks to a parent.  I don't get any credit for being my parents' kid.  But I do trust them, because they have never failed me.  The trust is in the object, and the object does the work of strengthening the trust.


The Greek word group, πιστ- are translated with words/phrases like: believe, belief, faith, trust, trustworthiness, confidence. DBAG gives a sense of the range in its statement about πίστις ranging in meaning from subjective confidence to objective basis for confidence. It is both something within us, e.g., "trust," but that something within is evoked by something/someone outside of self, i.e., "trustworthiness" of a person or thing.


As a simple example, my confidence that a chair will hold me up when I sit on it comes from past experiences with chairs (or even that particular chair) that I've sat in and they didn't break. Conversely, I might look at a chair and conclude that it doesn't look strong enough to hold my weight, so I don't trust it to hold my weight. Which could also be phrased, I don't believe it will hold me. I don't have confidence that it will hold me. However, my subjective assessment comes from the object of the chair. The chair evokes my trust (or lack of trust). Such inward trust usually comes from past experiences and/or knowledge about chairs.


Our trust in God can increase, but it comes as we have more experiences with God and/or learn more about God's ways with sinful humanity.


These Greek words are most often used for the Hebrew root, אמן where we get the word, "Amen."
Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on March 02, 2021, 12:31:41 PM
I think that both Garner and Stoffregen bring up the very important issue regarding the Holy Spirit's alien work of making our awareness of the depth of our sinfulness apparent to us.  This places the immediate need for the comfort of the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins to be preached/taught by the Church within the hearing of the sinner/sinners.  And thus the venture of faith upon the sinner/sinners becomes both critical and risky.  Faith becomes more about (at least for me) adherence to the Person and work of the Savior and how critical it is to find that Jesus rescues me/us from the indebtedness that surrounds and is within.  The negative part of faith presents us with the truth of who we are before God.  Redemption and the second person of the Trinity is therefore of critical and surpassing value.  This is where the Holy Spirit advises us of both the impossibility for human opinion to deliver (see below) and God's actual act of redemption in Christ's death and resurrection for the sinner/sinners.  In these cases there is no increase or decrease of faith but simply the cavern that opens between faith and unbelief.

I have been looking at Mark 10, specifically confining my view to verses 1-9.  Here Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees to define their conversation with him around human opinion which has no standing before God's word of law.  They simply ask Jesus whether it is permissible to divorce in the matter of marriage.  Here is the real perniciousness of the set-up by the Pharisees.  Yet Jesus is aware of this set-up as he immediately talks about what it is that Moses (not God) has done.  The certificate of divorce which is a creation out of human opinion is proposed as a subtle way of introducing divorce as perhaps permissible before the harshness of God's law.  God's law is established that 1)at the beginning God created them male and female and 2) that a man will leave his father and mother and be joined with his wife.  There is no room for separation or divorce in God's law.  And yet the Pharisees have presented human opinion before Jesus (God) without being able to see that this will not stand before God.  God is never mentioned in Jesus' beginning words with the Pharisees.  Jesus places Moses as the author of the legal issue of divorce leaving folks stuck within their hardness of heart.  And with the Pharisees there is no capacity for them to hear the Gospel; and, so they are confronted again with what God's law actually says about marriage.   Jesus (God) is the one who must restate that for them.  It is only in the hearing of Jesus' disciples in verses 10ff that the matter of adultery is taken up.  Which then becomes an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to begin the process of purgation in the hearts of the disciples (who are sinners).


Hmmm, are you then saying that Moses (or some other human) is the source of the Torah, rather than words God gave directly to Moses on Mount Sinai. Were all 613 commands written by God on the tablets? Did they contain only the "ten words" as many drawings indicate? If so, where did all the other commands come from? In line with this topic, what makes them "trustworthy"?
Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: George Rahn on March 02, 2021, 12:38:31 PM
I think that both Garner and Stoffregen bring up the very important issue regarding the Holy Spirit's alien work of making our awareness of the depth of our sinfulness apparent to us.  This places the immediate need for the comfort of the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins to be preached/taught by the Church within the hearing of the sinner/sinners.  And thus the venture of faith upon the sinner/sinners becomes both critical and risky.  Faith becomes more about (at least for me) adherence to the Person and work of the Savior and how critical it is to find that Jesus rescues me/us from the indebtedness that surrounds and is within.  The negative part of faith presents us with the truth of who we are before God.  Redemption and the second person of the Trinity is therefore of critical and surpassing value.  This is where the Holy Spirit advises us of both the impossibility for human opinion to deliver (see below) and God's actual act of redemption in Christ's death and resurrection for the sinner/sinners.  In these cases there is no increase or decrease of faith but simply the cavern that opens between faith and unbelief.

I have been looking at Mark 10, specifically confining my view to verses 1-9.  Here Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees to define their conversation with him around human opinion which has no standing before God's word of law.  They simply ask Jesus whether it is permissible to divorce in the matter of marriage.  Here is the real perniciousness of the set-up by the Pharisees.  Yet Jesus is aware of this set-up as he immediately talks about what it is that Moses (not God) has done.  The certificate of divorce which is a creation out of human opinion is proposed as a subtle way of introducing divorce as perhaps permissible before the harshness of God's law.  God's law is established that 1)at the beginning God created them male and female and 2) that a man will leave his father and mother and be joined with his wife.  There is no room for separation or divorce in God's law.  And yet the Pharisees have presented human opinion before Jesus (God) without being able to see that this will not stand before God.  God is never mentioned in Jesus' beginning words with the Pharisees.  Jesus places Moses as the author of the legal issue of divorce leaving folks stuck within their hardness of heart.  And with the Pharisees there is no capacity for them to hear the Gospel; and, so they are confronted again with what God's law actually says about marriage.   Jesus (God) is the one who must restate that for them.  It is only in the hearing of Jesus' disciples in verses 10ff that the matter of adultery is taken up.  Which then becomes an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to begin the process of purgation in the hearts of the disciples (who are sinners).


Hmmm, are you then saying that Moses (or some other human) is the source of the Torah, rather than words God gave directly to Moses on Mount Sinai. Were all 613 commands written by God on the tablets? Did they contain only the "ten words" as many drawings indicate? If so, where did all the other commands come from? In line with this topic, what makes them "trustworthy"?

I’m not surprised you are reading this without seeing what Jesus is doing in Mark 10.  Moses is human opinion-making which is contrary to God’s clear word in Genesis 1-2 (ie. Pre-fall and exile of Adam and Eve.)
Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on March 02, 2021, 07:19:13 PM
I think that both Garner and Stoffregen bring up the very important issue regarding the Holy Spirit's alien work of making our awareness of the depth of our sinfulness apparent to us.  This places the immediate need for the comfort of the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins to be preached/taught by the Church within the hearing of the sinner/sinners.  And thus the venture of faith upon the sinner/sinners becomes both critical and risky.  Faith becomes more about (at least for me) adherence to the Person and work of the Savior and how critical it is to find that Jesus rescues me/us from the indebtedness that surrounds and is within.  The negative part of faith presents us with the truth of who we are before God.  Redemption and the second person of the Trinity is therefore of critical and surpassing value.  This is where the Holy Spirit advises us of both the impossibility for human opinion to deliver (see below) and God's actual act of redemption in Christ's death and resurrection for the sinner/sinners.  In these cases there is no increase or decrease of faith but simply the cavern that opens between faith and unbelief.

I have been looking at Mark 10, specifically confining my view to verses 1-9.  Here Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees to define their conversation with him around human opinion which has no standing before God's word of law.  They simply ask Jesus whether it is permissible to divorce in the matter of marriage.  Here is the real perniciousness of the set-up by the Pharisees.  Yet Jesus is aware of this set-up as he immediately talks about what it is that Moses (not God) has done.  The certificate of divorce which is a creation out of human opinion is proposed as a subtle way of introducing divorce as perhaps permissible before the harshness of God's law.  God's law is established that 1)at the beginning God created them male and female and 2) that a man will leave his father and mother and be joined with his wife.  There is no room for separation or divorce in God's law.  And yet the Pharisees have presented human opinion before Jesus (God) without being able to see that this will not stand before God.  God is never mentioned in Jesus' beginning words with the Pharisees.  Jesus places Moses as the author of the legal issue of divorce leaving folks stuck within their hardness of heart.  And with the Pharisees there is no capacity for them to hear the Gospel; and, so they are confronted again with what God's law actually says about marriage.   Jesus (God) is the one who must restate that for them.  It is only in the hearing of Jesus' disciples in verses 10ff that the matter of adultery is taken up.  Which then becomes an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to begin the process of purgation in the hearts of the disciples (who are sinners).


Hmmm, are you then saying that Moses (or some other human) is the source of the Torah, rather than words God gave directly to Moses on Mount Sinai. Were all 613 commands written by God on the tablets? Did they contain only the "ten words" as many drawings indicate? If so, where did all the other commands come from? In line with this topic, what makes them "trustworthy"?

I’m not surprised you are reading this without seeing what Jesus is doing in Mark 10.  Moses is human opinion-making which is contrary to God’s clear word in Genesis 1-2 (ie. Pre-fall and exile of Adam and Eve.)


Commands were not necessary pre-fall. The first humans were "very good." They would naturally do all that God expected them to do. We no longer live in that world.


I see Jesus saying in Mark 10 that divorce laws are necessary because people have hard hearts.


What do you do with the commands in Ezra and Nehemiah where Jewish men are commanded to divorce their foreign wives? What do you do with Paul's words allowing believers to be divorced by unbelieving spouses?
Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: George Rahn on March 02, 2021, 07:37:44 PM
I think that both Garner and Stoffregen bring up the very important issue regarding the Holy Spirit's alien work of making our awareness of the depth of our sinfulness apparent to us.  This places the immediate need for the comfort of the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins to be preached/taught by the Church within the hearing of the sinner/sinners.  And thus the venture of faith upon the sinner/sinners becomes both critical and risky.  Faith becomes more about (at least for me) adherence to the Person and work of the Savior and how critical it is to find that Jesus rescues me/us from the indebtedness that surrounds and is within.  The negative part of faith presents us with the truth of who we are before God.  Redemption and the second person of the Trinity is therefore of critical and surpassing value.  This is where the Holy Spirit advises us of both the impossibility for human opinion to deliver (see below) and God's actual act of redemption in Christ's death and resurrection for the sinner/sinners.  In these cases there is no increase or decrease of faith but simply the cavern that opens between faith and unbelief.

I have been looking at Mark 10, specifically confining my view to verses 1-9.  Here Jesus is confronted by the Pharisees to define their conversation with him around human opinion which has no standing before God's word of law.  They simply ask Jesus whether it is permissible to divorce in the matter of marriage.  Here is the real perniciousness of the set-up by the Pharisees.  Yet Jesus is aware of this set-up as he immediately talks about what it is that Moses (not God) has done.  The certificate of divorce which is a creation out of human opinion is proposed as a subtle way of introducing divorce as perhaps permissible before the harshness of God's law.  God's law is established that 1)at the beginning God created them male and female and 2) that a man will leave his father and mother and be joined with his wife.  There is no room for separation or divorce in God's law.  And yet the Pharisees have presented human opinion before Jesus (God) without being able to see that this will not stand before God.  God is never mentioned in Jesus' beginning words with the Pharisees.  Jesus places Moses as the author of the legal issue of divorce leaving folks stuck within their hardness of heart.  And with the Pharisees there is no capacity for them to hear the Gospel; and, so they are confronted again with what God's law actually says about marriage.   Jesus (God) is the one who must restate that for them.  It is only in the hearing of Jesus' disciples in verses 10ff that the matter of adultery is taken up.  Which then becomes an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to begin the process of purgation in the hearts of the disciples (who are sinners).


Hmmm, are you then saying that Moses (or some other human) is the source of the Torah, rather than words God gave directly to Moses on Mount Sinai. Were all 613 commands written by God on the tablets? Did they contain only the "ten words" as many drawings indicate? If so, where did all the other commands come from? In line with this topic, what makes them "trustworthy"?

I’m not surprised you are reading this without seeing what Jesus is doing in Mark 10.  Moses is human opinion-making which is contrary to God’s clear word in Genesis 1-2 (ie. Pre-fall and exile of Adam and Eve.)


Commands were not necessary pre-fall. The first humans were "very good." They would naturally do all that God expected them to do. We no longer live in that world.


I see Jesus saying in Mark 10 that divorce laws are necessary because people have hard hearts.


What do you do with the commands in Ezra and Nehemiah where Jewish men are commanded to divorce their foreign wives? What do you do with Paul's words allowing believers to be divorced by unbelieving spouses?

Ezra and Nehemiah in their content are not directed to Christians, per se. 

Jesus is pointedly responding to the Pharisees based on their question regarding divorce.  Jesus responds as to what Moses did.  Moses is not God.  God, on the other hand, does not recognize divorce. 
Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on March 03, 2021, 01:58:52 AM
Ezra and Nehemiah in their content are not directed to Christians, per se.



Paul's writings are directed to Christians.

Quote
Jesus is pointedly responding to the Pharisees based on their question regarding divorce.  Jesus responds as to what Moses did.  Moses is not God.  God, on the other hand, does not recognize divorce.


The distinction between the LORD's words and Moses's words is not so clear in Deuteronomy.


Deuteronomy 1:3 tells us: "It was in the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, that Moses spoke to the Israelites precisely what the Lord had commanded him for them."


Deuteronomy 4:2: "Don’t add anything to the word that I am commanding you, and don’t take anything away from it. Instead, keep the commands of the Lord your God that I am commanding all of you."


Deuteronomy 4:40: "Keep the Lord’s regulations and his commandments. I’m commanding them to you today for your well-being and for the well-being of your children after you, so that you may extend your time on the fertile land that the Lord your God is giving you forever."


Deuteronomy 5:1-5: "1 Moses called out to all Israel, saying to them: “Israel! Listen to the regulations and the case laws that I’m recounting in your hearing right now. Learn them and carefully do them. 2 The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Mount Horeb. 3 The Lord didn’t make this covenant with our ancestors but with us—all of us who are here and alive right now. 4 The Lord spoke with you face-to-face on the mountain from the very fire itself. 5 At that time, I was standing between the Lord and you, declaring to you the Lord’s word, because you were terrified of the fire and didn’t go up on the mountain.”


Deuteronomy 6:1-3: "1 Now these are the commandments, the regulations, and the case laws that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you to follow in the land you are entering to possess, 2 so that you will fear the Lord your God by keeping all his regulations and his commandments that I am commanding you—both you and your sons and daughters—all the days of your life and so that you will lengthen your life. 3 Listen to them, Israel! Follow them carefully so that things will go well for you and so that you will continue to multiply exactly as the Lord, your ancestors’ God, promised you, in a land full of milk and honey."


Deuteronomy 10:13: "and by keeping the Lord’s commandments and his regulations that I’m commanding you right now. It’s for your own good!"


Deuteronomy 11:13: "Now, if you completely obey God’s commandments that I am giving you right now, by loving the Lord your God and by serving him with all your heart and all your being,


Deuteronomy 30:16: "If you obey the Lord your God’s commandments that I’m commanding you right now by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments, his regulations, and his case laws, then you will live and thrive, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess."


In the thinking of the people, the commands Moses gave the people were the commands from God.

Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: pearson on March 03, 2021, 11:33:37 AM

The other thing is, what does "faith" mean?  Most people take it to be something like "belief," which is why it is so often taken as something that is up to us.  But in a Biblical and Patristic sense, "faith" is more like "trust."  It isn't that we have so much of it, or that we do it so well.  It's simply that our role in it is no more than to look to God as a child looks to a parent.  I don't get any credit for being my parents' kid.  But I do trust them, because they have never failed me.  The trust is in the object, and the object does the work of strengthening the trust.


You ever look at a fan with rotating blades at high speed?  When you look straight at the fan, the blades are just a blur.  But when you look off to one side of the fan, the blades seem to slow down and you can start to see the individual fan blades, however momentarily.  For me, "my faith" is rather like that.  When I begin to inspect "my faith" closely, I discover I can't find it.  But if I don't focus directly on it -- if I concentrate on living out my multiple vocations, fulfilling as best I can the obligations of the daily life God has given me -- then I can dimly begin to recognize the presence of the faith that sustains me.  I suspect this something like the "trust" that David Garner speaks of.  The more I look straight on at "my faith," the more I lose sight of it.

Tom Pearson
Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: Weedon on March 03, 2021, 11:43:38 AM
Tom,

As Dr. Nagel never tired pointing out: faith doesn’t look at itself or talk about itself. It’s instead focused on Jesus. He even had an equation: “Faith minus Christ equals nothing.” Which, if you reduce the equation ends up with Faith equals Christ! Faith is nothing but what it is given, and Jesus is what is given.
Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: David Garner on March 04, 2021, 11:07:13 AM

The other thing is, what does "faith" mean?  Most people take it to be something like "belief," which is why it is so often taken as something that is up to us.  But in a Biblical and Patristic sense, "faith" is more like "trust."  It isn't that we have so much of it, or that we do it so well.  It's simply that our role in it is no more than to look to God as a child looks to a parent.  I don't get any credit for being my parents' kid.  But I do trust them, because they have never failed me.  The trust is in the object, and the object does the work of strengthening the trust.


You ever look at a fan with rotating blades at high speed?  When you look straight at the fan, the blades are just a blur.  But when you look off to one side of the fan, the blades seem to slow down and you can start to see the individual fan blades, however momentarily.  For me, "my faith" is rather like that.  When I begin to inspect "my faith" closely, I discover I can't find it.  But if I don't focus directly on it -- if I concentrate on living out my multiple vocations, fulfilling as best I can the obligations of the daily life God has given me -- then I can dimly begin to recognize the presence of the faith that sustains me.  I suspect this something like the "trust" that David Garner speaks of.  The more I look straight on at "my faith," the more I lose sight of it.

Tom Pearson

Tom,

As Dr. Nagel never tired pointing out: faith doesn’t look at itself or talk about itself. It’s instead focused on Jesus. He even had an equation: “Faith minus Christ equals nothing.” Which, if you reduce the equation ends up with Faith equals Christ! Faith is nothing but what it is given, and Jesus is what is given.

Absolutely.  Faith interested in faith for faith's sake is meaningless.  It is Christ that is the center of faith, and it is Christ we are to keep in mind whether we are speaking of salvation, works, repentance, or faith itself. When calling others to repentance, we ought be mindful first of our own unworthiness and second of the fact that the person we are calling to repentance is one for whom Christ died.  When repenting ourselves, we ought be mindful that we are not repenting so we can be better people, but rather to conform to a standard Christ embodies. Salvation is in and through Christ, so while we are saved "through faith," what this really means is BY Christ, and faith is no more than our trust in Him that He is sure and certain and will keep His promises to us.  When we focus on our role in any of this, we are sure to be disappointed, for we are weak and sinful and imperfect.  Or else we will be deluded by denying those things.  But focusing on Him reminds us that He is powerful and sinless and perfect, and He is the One Who has promised us forgiveness, unity and salvation.
Title: Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on March 04, 2021, 11:19:19 AM

The other thing is, what does "faith" mean?  Most people take it to be something like "belief," which is why it is so often taken as something that is up to us.  But in a Biblical and Patristic sense, "faith" is more like "trust."  It isn't that we have so much of it, or that we do it so well.  It's simply that our role in it is no more than to look to God as a child looks to a parent.  I don't get any credit for being my parents' kid.  But I do trust them, because they have never failed me.  The trust is in the object, and the object does the work of strengthening the trust.


You ever look at a fan with rotating blades at high speed?  When you look straight at the fan, the blades are just a blur.  But when you look off to one side of the fan, the blades seem to slow down and you can start to see the individual fan blades, however momentarily.  For me, "my faith" is rather like that.  When I begin to inspect "my faith" closely, I discover I can't find it.  But if I don't focus directly on it -- if I concentrate on living out my multiple vocations, fulfilling as best I can the obligations of the daily life God has given me -- then I can dimly begin to recognize the presence of the faith that sustains me.  I suspect this something like the "trust" that David Garner speaks of.  The more I look straight on at "my faith," the more I lose sight of it.

Tom Pearson

Tom,

As Dr. Nagel never tired pointing out: faith doesn’t look at itself or talk about itself. It’s instead focused on Jesus. He even had an equation: “Faith minus Christ equals nothing.” Which, if you reduce the equation ends up with Faith equals Christ! Faith is nothing but what it is given, and Jesus is what is given.

Absolutely.  Faith interested in faith for faith's sake is meaningless.  It is Christ that is the center of faith, and it is Christ we are to keep in mind whether we are speaking of salvation, works, repentance, or faith itself. When calling others to repentance, we ought be mindful first of our own unworthiness and second of the fact that the person we are calling to repentance is one for whom Christ died.  When repenting ourselves, we ought be mindful that we are not repenting so we can be better people, but rather to conform to a standard Christ embodies. Salvation is in and through Christ, so while we are saved "through faith," what this really means is BY Christ, and faith is no more than our trust in Him that He is sure and certain and will keep His promises to us.  When we focus on our role in any of this, we are sure to be disappointed, for we are weak and sinful and imperfect.  Or else we will be deluded by denying those things.  But focusing on Him reminds us that He is powerful and sinless and perfect, and He is the One Who has promised us forgiveness, unity and salvation.


When we think or talk about faith, it has become theology = "God words." Theology is not faith. It is our human attempts to describe God's ways with humanity; including the giving or imposition of faith/trust within us. Our words about "it" are not the same thing as the "it" we are talking about.


(This gets back to earlier discussions we've had about all language being metaphoric.)