John Calvin, John Piper, and Saving Faith

Posted: December 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

For years I have been intrigued by what it means for  a person to believe the gospel. That is, what is the nature of saving faith? I hope to pursue this line of thought in the future, especially looking at the way John Piper and John Calvin have understood the issue. It is, in my estimation, an issue that we do not understand as we should. We talk much about making sure we understand the gospel, but we seem to talk little about what it means to believe the gospel.

Here are some thoughts on this issue from John Calvin, theologian of the Reformation, and John Piper, pastor-theologian of the 21st century.

Calvin defines the nature of saving faith as follows: Faith is “a firm and certain knowledge of God’s benevolence toward us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promise in Christ, both revealed to our minds and sealed upon our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Institutes, Book III, ch. II. n. 7).

Piper seems to speak more of the affections and their role in faith (or belief). In Finally Alive, Piper speaks of our involvement in the new birth and writes briefly about faith (using belief or believing as synonymous). He states, “[t]he way you are engaged in the event of your new birth is by believing on Christ. You are involved in the new birth because in it you receive Christ for who he really is, the supremely valuable Savior, Lord,and treasure of the universe” (Finally Alive, 102). In his massively influential work Desiring God, Piper talks about believing in hedonistic language. He states, “[t]he aim of this chapter is to show the necessity of conversion and to argue that is nothing less than the creation of a Christian hedonist…I mean that no one is a Christian who does not embrace Jesus gladly as his most valued treasure, and then pursue the fullness of joy in Christ that honors Him” (Desiring God, 54).

Diving into the issue is exciting. I see this as an intensely practical theological issue with life or death, heaven and hell, eternal ramifications. I hope to add many future posts that show the development of my thought on this issue.


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