Author Topic: Can faith increase? What would it look like?  (Read 1505 times)

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
« Reply #30 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."
"The church Ö had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
« Reply #31 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"?
"The church Ö had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

George Rahn

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Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
« Reply #32 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"?

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

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
« Reply #33 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"?

Iím not surprised you are reading this without seeing what Jesus is doing in Mark 10.  Moses is human opinion-making which is contrary to Godís 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?
"The church Ö had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

George Rahn

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Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
« Reply #34 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"?

Iím not surprised you are reading this without seeing what Jesus is doing in Mark 10.  Moses is human opinion-making which is contrary to Godís 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. 

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
« Reply #35 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: "Donít add anything to the word that I am commanding you, and donít 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 Lordís regulations and his commandments. Iím 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: ďIsrael! Listen to the regulations and the case laws that Iím 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 didnít make this covenant with our ancestors but with usóall 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 Lordís word, because you were terrified of the fire and didnít go up on the mountain.Ē


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 youóboth you and your sons and daughtersóall 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 ancestorsí God, promised you, in a land full of milk and honey."


Deuteronomy 10:13: "and by keeping the Lordís commandments and his regulations that Iím commanding you right now. Itís for your own good!"


Deuteronomy 11:13: "Now, if you completely obey Godís 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 Godís commandments that Iím 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.

"The church Ö had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

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Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
« Reply #36 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

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Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
« Reply #37 on: March 03, 2021, 11:43:38 AM »
Tom,

As Dr. Nagel never tired pointing out: faith doesnít look at itself or talk about itself. Itís instead focused on Jesus. He even had an equation: ďFaith minus Christ equals nothing.Ē 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.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2021, 11:47:15 AM by Weedon »

David Garner

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Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
« Reply #38 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 doesnít look at itself or talk about itself. Itís instead focused on Jesus. He even had an equation: ďFaith minus Christ equals nothing.Ē 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.
Orthodox Reader and former Lutheran (LCMS and WELS).

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Can faith increase? What would it look like?
« Reply #39 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 doesnít look at itself or talk about itself. Itís instead focused on Jesus. He even had an equation: ďFaith minus Christ equals nothing.Ē 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.)
"The church Ö had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]