Ever since the days of the Enlightenment, faith and science have been in a perpetual war – both vying for supremacy – at least in the minds of some. Herein lies the importance of R.C. Sproul’s little book, What is Faith?
Sproul’s book is the eighth in his Crucial Questions Series. “Faith” according to Hebrews 11:1 is “the substance of things hoped for …” The author adds, “The promises of God for tomorrow are the anchor for believers today.” But the passage continues in Hebrew 1: “Faith is the evidence of things not seen.” Sproul argues (to the chagrin of skeptics who charge Christians with embracing “blind faith”) that “the New Testament calls us to put our trust in the gospel not on the basis of some irrational leap into the darkness but on the basis of the testimony of eyewitnesses who report in Scripture about what they saw.” And so faith in the final analysis is “not believing in God. It’s believing God.”
The author provides examples of characters in the Bible who demonstrated authentic faith; people like Abel, Enoch, Abraham, and Sarah. The critical lesson is this: “Living in submission to what God commands is the essence of faith.” We do well, then, to model the stalwarts of the faith who led by example.
Sproul moves into deeper theological waters with a discussion of faith as set forth in Reformed theology. The essence of his argument is that faith is a gift from God; a reality that many Evangelicals have forgotten or neglected. Simply put, a host of professing Christians have been deceived by Semi-Pelagianism. The author rightly adds that regeneration precedes faith. Additionally, saving faith requires the doctrine of election. Given our state of total depravity (total inability), sinners should welcome the doctrine of election.
Finally, Sproul discusses the necessity of a growing faith. Christ-followers grow by listening and reading the Word of God. They grow as they subject themselves to the means of grace. He warns about the negative consequences of jettisoning the means of grace: “… If I am negligent in reading the Scriptures, I open myself to ideas pouring into my head from the secular world, which may lessen the ardor of my faith.” Christian faith, by definition should be a robust faith.
R.C. Sproul continues to use his gift to encourage the church and warn skeptics. Christ-followers are admonished to grow deeply in the soil of God’s grace – which results in strong faith. Skeptics are challenged with beginning a faith journey – which is a result of God’s sovereign initiative.