Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What About Trust?



In the previous post, I was asked in a comment, "What do you mean by the crux of salvation is in our trusting Christ?". This is such a huge topic and requires a long answer, so I decided to write my response as a new post. 

 (pistis/pisteuw

These are the Greek words used for what I have come to understand as trust. Consider the following notes I got from a study we did in church. 
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Without initially trying to define what Jesus/the New Testament writers meant by the concept (pistis/pisteuw), let’s consider its use and leave its actual meaning open for the moment by just denoting it as “π”.

1. Jesus makes “π” toward himself the basis for forgiveness of sins.

2. Jesus makes “π” the means of accessing the power of God.

3. Jesus makes “π” the basis for receiving healing.

4. Jesus makes “π” the means of escaping destruction.

5. Jesus says that “π” is the work of God for man. 

6. Jesus says Π is the basis for resurrection from the dead.

7. Jesus says that the withholding of “π” is a means of protection against false prophets. 

8. Jesus makes “π” the unique identifier in defining our connection to himself.

9. John says that “π” was the ultimate purpose of the ministry of John the Baptist. 

10. John connects “π” toward the name of Jesus with being given authority to become a son of God. 

11. John says that “π” is the basis for receiving the Holy Spirit.

12.  John says that the reason he wrote his Gospel was to produce “π”  toward Jesus, and that thereby you might have life.

13. Paul says that Abraham‘s “π” toward God “was accounted to him for righteousness”. 

14. Paul says that our “π” in Jesus Christ is the means of our justification.

15. Paul redefines sin as “whatsoever is not of “π”. 

16. Peter said that “π” was the means by which the hearts of the gentiles were cleansed.(Cornelius’ household).

17. Paul quoting the OT says “the just shall live by “π””.

18. The Hebrew writer says it is impossible to please God without “π”, and then goes on to characterize most of the most notable holy men from the OT as having accomplished what they did (not by “grace” interestingly enough) but by “π”. 

19. Paul says in answer to the question, "Why is it that (Romans 9:31)... Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness."?  "Because they sought it not by “π” ".

Any one of these uses is of a type that demands our serious attention.  The fact that there are this many weighty statements connected by a common concept demands colossal attention.

From Liddell and Scott we have the following lexicon entries (notice that in English translations pi,stij usually becomes "faith" on account of the weighty influence of Latin on scripture where pi,stij became fides)

33665  pi,stij
pi,stij, h`, gen. ewj: dat. pi,stei, Ion. pi,sti¯: Ion. nom. and acc. pl. pi,sti¯j; dat. pi,stisi: (pei,qomai):-trust in others, faith, Lat. fides, fiducia, Hes., Theogn., Att.; c. gen. pers. faith or belief in one, Eur.:-generally, persuasion of a thing, confidence, assurance, Pind., Att.
2. good faith, trustworthiness, faithfulness, honesty, Lat. fides, Theogn., Hdt., Att.
3. in a commercial sense, credit, trust, pi,stij tosou,twn crhma,twn evsti, moi para, tini I have credit for so much money with him, Dem.; eivj pi,stin dido,nai ti, tini Id.
4. in Theol. faith, belief, as opp. to sight and knowledge, N.T.
II. that which gives confidence: hence,
1. an assurance, pledge of good faith, warrant, guarantee, Soph., Eur.; pi,stin kai. o[rkia poiei/sqai to make a treaty by exchange of assurances and oaths, Hdt.; ou;te pÅ ou;qV o[rkoj me,nei Ar.; pi,stin dido,nai to give assurances, Hdt.; dido,nai kai. lamba,nein to interchange them, Xen.:-of an oath, qew/n pi,steij ovmnu,nai Thuc.; pi,stin evpitiqe,nai or prostiqe,nai tini, Dem.:- fo,bwn p. an assurance against fears, Eur.
2. a means of persuasion, an argument, proof, such as used by orators, Plat., etc.

33663  pisteu,w
pisteu,w, f. eu,sw: plqpf. pepisteu,kein: (pi,stij):-to trust, trust to or in, put faith in, rely on, believe in a person or thing, c. dat., pÅ tini, Hdt., Att.; with neut. Adj., lo,goij evmoi/si pi,steuson ta,de believe my words herein, Eur.:-later, pÅ eivj Qeo,n to believe on or in God, N.T.; pÅ evpi. to.n Ku,rion Ib.:-absol. to believe, Hdt., Thuc.:-Pass. to be trusted or believed, Plat.; pisteu,esqai u`po, tinoj to enjoy his confidence, Xen.; pÅ para, tini( pro,j tina Dem.; w`j pisteuqhso,menoj as if he would be believed, Id.:-Med. to believe mutually, Id.
2. to comply, Soph.
3. c. inf. to believe that, feel sure or confident that a thing is, will be, has been, Eur., etc.; pÅ poiei/n to dare to do a thing, Dem.:-Pass., pisteu,omai avlhqeu,sein I am believed likely to speak truth, Xen.
4. c. dat. et inf., toi/si evpi,steue siga/n to whom he trusted that they would keep silence, in whose secresy he confided, Hdt.
5. to believe, have faith, N.T.
II. pÅ ti, tini to entrust something to another, Xen., etc.:-Pass., pisteu,omai, ti I am entrusted with a thing, have it committed to me, Id.



Now, these same uses with refs.


1. Jesus makes “π” toward himself the basis for forgiveness of sins.

Luke 7:48-50   48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.  49 And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also?  50 And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.

Matthew 9:2   2 And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.

2. Jesus makes “π” the means of accessing the power of God. Mat 17:20

Matthew 17:19-20   19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?  20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

Matthew 21:22   22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.



3. Jesus makes “π” the basis for receiving healing. Mat 8:13,9:29, 9:22

Luke 18:40-42  40 And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto him: and when he was come near, he asked him,  41 Saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight.  42 And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee.

Matthew 9:20-22  20 And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment:  21 For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.  22 But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.

Matthew 9:28-29   28 And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord.  29 Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you.

4. Jesus makes “π” the means of escaping judgment and/or destruction.

John 3:14-16  14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:  15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.  16 ¶ For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
John 3:36   36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

John 5:24  24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.


5. Jesus says that “π” is the work of God for man. 

John 6:28-29   28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?  29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.


6. Jesus says it is the basis for resurrection from the dead or eternal life.

John 6:40   40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

John 6:47   47 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.


7. Jesus says that the withholding of “π” is a means of protection against false prophets. 

Matthew 24:23-24   23 Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.  24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
John 2:23-25   23 ¶ Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did.  24 But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men25 And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.


8. Jesus makes “π” the unique identifier in defining our connection to himself.


Matthew 18:6   6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

John 14:12  12 ¶ Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

John 17:20-21   20 ¶ Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;  21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

Acts 5:14   14 And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.

1 Timothy 4:12   12 Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.


9. John says that “π” was the ultimate purpose of the ministry of John the Baptist.  Jn 1:6-7

John 1:6-7  6 ¶ There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.

10. John connects “π” toward the name of Jesus with being given authority to become a son of God. 

John 1:12  12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

11. John says that “π” is the basis for receiving the Holy Spirit.

John 7:37-39  37 ¶ In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.  38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.  39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

12.  John says that the reason he wrote his Gospel was to produce “π”  toward Jesus, and that thereby you might have life.

John 20:31 - 21:1   31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. 


13. Paul says that Abraham‘s “π” toward God “was accounted to him for righteousness”. 


Galatians 3:6-7   6 ¶ Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.  7 Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.


14. Paul says that our “π” in Jesus Christ is the means of our justification. Gal 3:24

Galatians 2:16   16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Galatians 3:24   24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.


15. Paul redefines sin as “whatsoever is not of “π”.  Romans 14:23

Romans 14:23  23 ... for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.


16. Peter said that “π” was the means by which the hearts of the gentiles were cleansed.(Cornelius’ household).


Acts 15:8-9   8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;  9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.


17. Paul quoting the OT says “the just shall live by “π””.


Galatians 3:11   11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.  (Hab 2:4)



18. The Hebrew writer says it is impossible to please God without “π”, and then goes on to characterize most of the most notable holy men from the OT as having accomplished what they did (not by “grace” interestingly enough) but by “π”.


Hebrews 11:6  6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Hebrews 11:8   8 ¶ By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.


Hebrews 11:32 - 12:1   32 ¶ And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:  33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,  34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.  35 Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:  36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:  37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;  38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.  39 ¶ And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:  40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. 


19. Paul says in answer to the question, "Why is it that (Romans 9:31)... Israel, which followed after the law of righeousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness."? "Because they sought it not by “π” ".

Romans 9:31-32   31 But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.  32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law.


20. In the passive voice, this word is clearly used to mean " to entrust".

Romans 3:2   2 Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.


So then, just how prevalent is this concept in the New Testament?

Over 580 refs from noun,verb, and related...

Compare-

Love - 109

Grace - 147

Holiness - 10

Hope - 79

Obey/Obedience   -  35
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This is why I believe "the crux of salvation is in our trusting Christ."

20 comments:

  1. I enjoyed reading through these verses. I certainly hope you had all this already typed up. It looks like a lot of work.

    I wholeheartedly agree that faith is a central theme of the gospel, and without it no man will see the Father. I hope this doesn't cause a lot of work on your part, but how does one obtain this faith that saves?

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    1. Kevin,
      Your question as stated contains at least two presuppositions.

      1. That "faith" is somehow transferable
      2. That "faith" comes in different "flavors"

      A less prejudiced version would be, "What did Jesus mean by the use of this term?" And so the question of most immediate concern is, "How would we go about finding out what Jesus meant?".

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  2. I would disagree that I presupposed #1 but agree on #2. I'll explain.

    1. I am assuming you are getting this from my use of the word "obtain" which means "to gain or attain usually by planned action or effort". Is all that is gained or attained necessarily transferable? I would say no. For example, I know first hand that you are a very skilled piano player. At some point in your life you did not have this skill but, over the course of time, you obtained it. Does that make it transferable?

    2. I think faith, by definition, has to come in different flavors. The first definition I found for faith is "confidence or trust in a person or thing". Since faith can be placed in different people or things doesn't that mean it has to come in different "flavors"?

    You suggested a "less prejudiced version" of my question, but I think it's a completely different question altogether. I would agree it's important to know what Jesus meant by the term, but defining Biblical faith and having Biblical faith are two totally different things.

    The thrust of my question is regarding the possession of Biblical faith (faith that saves). I believe it's evident from Scripture that some people have faith and some do not. I also believe it's evident some people who do not have faith at one point in their life do have faith at some later point (come to faith). My questions are: how and why does this happen?

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    1. Kevin,

      Thanks for your response.

      You are completely correct that my question was a different question than you were asking. Sorry about that. I misspoke in calling it a "less prejudiced version." I meant "less prejudiced question" and I didn't intend "prejudiced" in a pejorative sense, simply presumed.

      I am somewhat reassured by your response. It is good to get the clarification that you don't see faith as a thing transferred, and your example of the use of the word "obtained" seems to show that you realize that the use of language in the real world is flexible and highly dependent on context. While as a piano player/instructor I would probably never talk in terms of "obtaining" such a skill, since piano playing can be done at many skill levels and each level is achieved by a process of individual development and discipline which must be continued to be maintained, yet if someone wants to talk about "obtaining" the skill of playing the piano, only an alien unfamiliar with the nature of the skill would suppose that you could just pick one up at Wal-Mart.

      With regard to "flavors," it would seem that the definition you offer eliminates the need for "flavors." If the fundamental concept is "trust," then the so-called "flavor" distinction is simply a distinction in the object of that trust. It still is trust in all cases, but the difference is in whom you put your trust. It then too is a figure of speech to talk of "having" faith as though it is possessed or transferred as an object.

      The answer to your question of "how and why" also flows logically from your definition. Trust is a word we use to describe not a substance but an action. We are said to be "trusting" when we choose to "trust," and we do so because we judge the object of our trust worthy.

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  3. I only belabor this point because I think it’s important. At it’s root is what we believe about God and his character and man and his character. The title of the original post on which this discussion began was “What Makes Us A Christian?” How we answer this question informs our attitude toward God and man and speaks volumes to the world around us.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm taking your answer to the “why” question of trust as "because we judge the object of our trust worthy". Although I don’t disagree, I cannot accept this as a sufficient answer. I’ll explain with an example.

    I have two boys, Calvin and Eli. Suppose I say to Calvin, “Why did you hit Eli?”. He answers, “Because I raised my fist in the air and swung it at his head without stopping.”. Now, his answer is truthful in the strictest sense, but it’s also insufficient. He is merely defining what it means to hit with the hand which, while accurate, does not get to the root of the issue.

    To say we trust someone because we judge them trustworthy is really just to say we trust them because we trust them. Do we ever trust someone we don’t deem trustworthy? Do we ever not trust someone we do deem worthy?

    So, to further the discussion, why would a non-Christian judge Jesus trustworthy? And why would thousands of seemingly intelligent, rational people judge the same Jesus not trustworthy? These people are reading the same Bible and often hearing the same exposition of that Bible. What’s the difference?

    By the way, I was not intending to make any statement, pro or con, regarding the transferability of faith. I just wanted to clarify that the word “obtain” doesn’t specify transferability.

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    1. Dear Kevin,

      Thanks for the dialog.

      Guess I don't think the point belabored. I believe I will give an account someday for my influence on others, so I care a lot about accurate communication.

      With regard to your example of your boys, I think you are mistaken. To say that you trust someone because you judge them trustworthy is not equivalent to saying that you trust them because you trust them. Just as saying that you hit someone “Because I raised my fist in the air and swung it at his head without stopping” is not equivalent to saying you hit them because you judged them worthy of a hit. The significant difference in both cases is a judgment you make, and in both cases the final result is not achieved until you act on that judgment.

      Do we ever trust someone we don’t deem trustworthy? Do we ever not trust someone we do deem worthy? I'm not sure here if you are actually searching for an understanding of trust or if you intend to cast doubt on the adequacy of my greatly simplified outline of how it works. Assuming the former, it is important to notice that there are two aspects that are always present when a human trusts. First, in order for "trust" to be the operative concept in behavior there is always a risk involved. Absent that, you're actually talking about something else even though you may use the word "trust." Second, the act of trusting always involves willingly giving up some part - maybe all - of your sovereignty (your prerogative to act or control outcomes).

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    2. Imagine the situation: You arrive at a nice restaurant and the valet comes out to park your Lamborghini (I say imagine... it's not something I've experienced). The problem is the valet is poorly dressed, dancing to music you can't hear, and hardly even acknowledges your existence as you consider handing him the keys. It immediately registers in your mind that this is not someone you can trust. However the cars are backed up behind you, and you've chosen this restaurant to make a good impression on your potential future in-laws (ok, I'm not sure how you all got in the Lamborghini but go with it for the moment) so you go ahead and give him the keys. Does this mean you have trusted him? Well, this immediately brings to mind the complexities of language use. From the vantage point of an outside observer, it would appear that yes, you trusted the man with your car. But if you examine your heart and mind, maybe not. For instance if you're so worried about the car that you can't even eat, then no, you are not trusting the valet. While you gave him the keys it was under duress, so while language from one perspective allows us to say you have entrusted him with your car, yet in your heart you do not trust the man. After making these kind of distinctions, I would say no, a sane person would never trust someone they judged to be untrustworthy. As far as "not trusting someone we do deem worthy," the judgment that deems someone worthy is separate from the act of trusting. There may be no occasion to trust someone who you would nonetheless trust if the occasion arose.


      Why would a non-Christian judge Jesus trustworthy? And why would thousands of seemingly intelligent, rational people judge the same Jesus not trustworthy? These people are reading the same Bible and often hearing the same exposition of that Bible. What’s the difference?

      Once again I'm not sure of your intent with these questions. They seem to venture into the realm of speculation. Are there reasons to judge Jesus trustworthy? Absolutely! Are many people not willing to take the risk of giving Him control? Absolutely! But life is complicated by many things. Some people have never seen Jesus for who He is. Some have never recognized the issues at stake. Some have been indoctrinated to embrace as true what is false.

      Neither "reading the Bible" nor "hearing exposition" is a process that is immune from cognitive bias. The "sameness" suggested by these questions is not reflected in reality. What amazes me is that after 2000 years, if we listen we can still "hear" the voice of the man from Galilee saying "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30

      And the only question that really matters, now as then, is, do you trust this man?

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    3. Laura,

      Thank you for your response and your willingness to discuss this issue.

      I think our difference on this point comes down to whether or not trust is itself an action. It appears from your response you believe it is. “... the act of trusting.” I would disagree, and I’ll explain why.

      I do not wish to separate trust from the actions that come from it, but I do wish to distinguish between the two. In the same way James says you cannot separate faith and works he still distinguishes between faith (a heart condition) and works (outward action). The distinction is required to create logical order. Faith first, then works. Trust first, then choices based on that trust. One causes the other.

      You equated trusting with the hitting in my analogy, but that’s not a fair comparison if trust is not an action in itself as is hitting. Hitting comes from a heart condition of hate or rebellion or selfishness or anger etc.., but hating is not hitting in the same way as trusting is not the actions that result from it. Your story of the man with the Lamborghini makes this quite obvious. In order to see whether he was really trusting you have to look at his heart not his actions. If trusting is the action itself then there is no need to look at the heart.

      What I’m trying to get at is that man will always act out of the strongest inclination of his heart. That is, man does what his heart wants. Choices do not happen in a vacuum outside of a heart’s desire. If you say you choose Jesus, then I say, what heart’s desire prompted that choice?

      Back to the original question: “What makes us a Christian?”. In answering that question I’m looking for the prime mover. If my choice makes me a Christian. Then I say that choice was a result of a heart’s desire. So what prompted that heart’s desire? Can I change my own heart? If my choice was the prime mover then who gets the thanks?

      You questioned my intent regarding my question of why some people are Christians and others are not. My intent is to pursue a Biblical response to this question. You said they “seem to venture into the realm of speculation”. There is no need to speculate. God has revealed the answer plainly in his Word.

      And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
      Ephesians 2:1-3

      It appears quite obvious why people reject Christ based on the above passage. People rejecting Christ is not a result of “cognitive bias”, but rather spiritual deadness. Not the “complications” of life but the lack of life. Not “not seeing Jesus for who He is”, but rather being sightless. In fact, the above passage begs the question, “How could anyone come to Christ?”. I think Paul answers that in the following verses.

      But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
      Ephesians 2:4-7

      Who is the prime mover in the above verses? It’s quite obviously God, not man. I do not reject the teaching that we do choose Jesus. We do so willingly and with a joyful heart. But we must ask why we choose Jesus. What made us willing when previously we were unwilling? I believe the above verses answer that question.

      If you have another interpretation of the above verses I would love to discuss it. If you believe I have taken it out of context I will gladly begin at chapter 1 verse 1. I also believe there are many other verses which speak to the same issue. Many from the mouth of Jesus himself.

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    4. Dear Kevin,

      It really is good to chat with you. Our relationship goes back a lot of years, and I have many fond memories. Remember going to Six Flags when Daniel had a broken leg and we got to go to the front of the roller coaster line over and over?! That's the way to do amusement park rides! Sorry for Daniel, but it sure was nice for us! ;) I am happy that you seem to be happily married and desirous of raising your children to love Jesus.

      It seems to me, from everything I can gather, that you are not really approaching this discussion with any anticipation of learning something. That is, it's more like you already have a fairly comprehensive grip of truth and feel compelled to "set the record straight" on account of something I have said or implied. At the very least, you clearly have a direction in which you would like to take the conversation.

      I have tried in my writing to make it very clear that I am well aware of my capacity not only of not saying things right but of being wrong.

      The logical development of ideas, ideas used to form our understanding of reality is a challenge for me under the best of circumstances. Whenever the process is pulled by a current of thought that wants very badly to move things along in a particular direction, it becomes very difficult indeed.

      For lack of a better analogy, in spite of your eagerness to move along here, I still find myself tripping over the partially mangled carcasses of half developed ideas that now lie strewn across the landscape of our conversation.

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    5. We started talking about "faith." I accepted your proffered definition of "faith" as "trust."

      You claimed that we have a fundamental difference in our understanding of "trust" in that I think it is an "action" and you don't. What follows is a little hard to categorize under one heading. I'm sorry, but your attempt to "create logical order" didn't work for me.

      It seems your thinking here is rooted in the notion that "action" = "works." Surely you are aware that the New Testament Epistles extensively (though not exclusively) use the term "works" as a technical term to refer to "deeds with a view to their moral character" (i.e. "works of righteousness,” “works of the law," "works of the flesh"). Clearly James is using it here in the positive (works of righteousness)sense. James 2:14 "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works?" (The only way a man can "have no outward actions" is if he were dead, and James is not talking about dead men.)

      Not all “outward actions” are considered “works.” There are many actions (i.e. breathing, hearing) that would not be considered by James or any other NT writer as "works." In fact, actions are not all "outward." There are also actions of the heart. You can choose to hate, love, lust and a good many other things in heart without immediately showing any evidence outwardly. However, Jesus makes clear in Matt 5 that God sees you as you have chosen in your heart even if you don't follow through outwardly. Actions of the heart are every bit as much actions on the part of a human being as are visible deeds. In general usage, "action" seems to point to that which we immediately initiate (not necessarily ultimately) and seems to have always been distinguished linguistically as such from passions, which refer to that which is done to us, whether experienced inwardly or outwardly. Inwardly, passions arise not due to a choice on our part. Outwardly, we talk about the Passion of Christ, a reference to what He suffered at the hands of others.

      Experientially, "trust" is clearly an action in this sense. If I were to tell you, "Look, Kevin, this is true, and I know it is because I have verified it beyond a shadow of a doubt," then in your mind you either trust this claim or you don't. In a somewhat awkward fashion we can then talk about the "condition" of your heart as being characterized by "trusting me on this issue" or of "not trusting me on this issue," but this is hardly a comprehensive characterization of the heart on anything but this one issue. At any rate, "trust" as a transitive verb, (which is the sense our definition designates) would not be used to describe a condition.

      Further, the future state of your heart on this issue does not derive from a past condition of your heart; it comes from whether you have acted to trust or not. In this case, the action of trusting creates the "condition," if you want to insist on using that terminology.
      Yes, logically any outward deeds that are a consequence of trusting follow the trusting, rather than precede it. But your reference to James does not provide any reason to say "trust" as a verb is not an action, and you are not quoting James when you split things into "outward works" vs. "heart conditions."

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    6. "If trusting is the action itself then there is no need to look at the heart…" unless of course trusting is an action of the heart.

      You wrote:
      "You equated trusting with the hitting in my analogy, but that’s not a fair comparison if trust is not an action in itself as is hitting."

      I don't understand your assessment of unfairness here. You created the analogy which compared my statement about trusting to your example of hitting. How is it unfair to quote your analogy? Do you wish to withdraw your analogy?

      There is much else to respond to but I want to keep the number of issues currently considered as low as possible to see if we can reduce the carcass count. :)

      Meanwhile, with Paul I can honestly say, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
      Philippians 3:13-14

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    7. Laura,

      I remember that day at Six Flags. That was a lot of fun. I remember we rode the big hanging roller coaster at least 6 times. Also, I’ve been enjoying the pictures you’ve included in your last few posts. They bring back a lot of memories since that’s the only way I remember your family. The last time I saw your girls they looked like they did in those pictures. The other thing I remember is how soft my socks were after you washed them. I don’t know if it was because of some fabric softener or detergent you used or that your dryer was gas instead of electric. It’s funny the things we remember. Did you guys ever finish your master bedroom? I remember you had left part of the house unfinished originally, and I think it was the master bedroom.

      In retrospect I do think I included too much in my last response. I think I took the conversation further than it was ready to go. Like you said, we need to “reduce the carcass count”. In this response I only intend to respond to the specific points you raised in your last writing.

      Am I intending to learn something through this discussion? Yes. I want to learn what you believe and why you believe it. I obviously have my own beliefs and what I believe are legitimate reasons for believing them. I hope to learn that our beliefs are not so far apart as they appear on the surface. I hope to learn that our differences lie primarily in what we emphasise and not on the substance itself.

      Do I feel that I have a “fairly comprehensive grip of truth”? Well, I don’t think I believe things that I know to be false. I would like to think what I believe is true, but I know I can be wrong. However, I’m not going to feign ambivalence.

      Do I feel compelled to “set the record straight”? I’m not sure exactly what you mean by that. I will state ideas I believe to be true and if they are contrary to what you believe then I will try to provide the reasons as to why I believe the way I do, or, conversely, why I don’t believe the way you do. If that constitutes “setting the record straight” then so be it.

      Do I have a “direction in which I would like to take the conversation”? Absolutely! I’m not going to deny that I bring some very strong biases to the conversation. If I have to leave behind my biases then I don’t think I can have a conversation. It is my opinion that nothing can be said or done from a state of neutrality. To be truly neutral would be to say or do nothing.

      More to follow...

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    8. You said, “It seems your thinking here is rooted in the notion that ‘action’ = ‘works’.” I was intending to make an analogy between faith/works and trust/action. I was not equating works and action, but rather saying they are analogous in a particular way.

      I agree that when James used the word “works” he was referring to outward acts of righteousness.

      If you want to use the phrase “actions of the heart” to mean what the heart does then I can accept that, but I’d like to know how these actions come about. Hopefully that will come out as our discussion continues.

      Could you expound on what you mean by inward passions?

      I do not wish to withdraw my analogy about hitting. However, I have been thinking about the idea that someone can be judged worthy of a hit without actually hitting them. The more I think about it the more I tend to disagree. It is one thing to say someone has done things that qualify them to be hit. It’s another thing to say they are, in your opinion, worthy of being hit by you. The definition of worthy that I believe applies here is the second one listed at Merriam-Webster: having sufficient worth or importance. When it comes to deciding whether or not to hit someone there are only two options: to hit them or not. If circumstances present themselves where the worth of being hit is sufficient then hitting will happen every time. Otherwise the worth is insufficient to warrant a hit and no hitting happens. We may say someone is worthy of being hit even though we chose not to hit them, but I think this is just a manner of speaking but is not actually true. Does this make any sense?

      I’ll give another example. Let’s say I am presented with two options for dessert - pie and cake. Let’s also say I can only choose one. Now, even though I like both there is only one that can be judged worthy (having sufficient worth) of being eaten in light of the given situation (choose only one). No matter how much I like cake, if I choose to eat pie then I have judged cake unworthy of being eaten given the circumstances - it did not have sufficient worth. Conversely, for me to judge the cake worthy of being eaten and then choose to eat the pie would qualify me for serious mental evaluation.

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    9. Dear Kevin,

      Oh, the hanging Batman ride! That was fun. I had to laugh about the soft socks. I had forgotten. Wow, but do the years pass quickly! I remember you guys getting a kick out of how much Rachelle could eat. I know Jennifer had fun feeding her. Good days and good memories.

      OK, back to our discussion. :)

      Inward passions...

      From my understanding, historically, inward passions would be what we more commonly now call emotions or feelings (love, hate, fear) that arise spontaneously, not of our choice, but usually in response to some stimulus, mental or external, but distinct from, for instance, love as a choice.

      I am assuming that your discussion about worth is your means of salvaging your "hitting" analogy. The new example of "if you have your cake you can’t have any pie" is a really unnatural way to talk about worth, choice, and dessert. By considering the choice as an issue of worth, the suggestion is that there is something of intrinsic value to the cake or pie that is more than or less than, when in fact, most such decisions are about you and what sort of taste experience your palate currently prefers.

      You originally stated that you "were not satisfied" with my answer to your question of "why trust." I have found in life that "reverse can be a very useful gear," so if this lack of satisfaction is the real cause for your analogy, maybe we could make some progress here by my fleshing out my answer rather that dickering over the accuracy of the analogy.

      Anytime I contemplate the answer to a question, I find myself hearing the voice of my brother, "before you go trying to find an answer, be sure you know the real question." (It is, after all, possible to formulate invalid questions.) In this case, "why trust," I am not entirely sure what you want to know (or what you want to hear my response on). Generalizing can be dangerous, but anyway, in general, it seems the only reason a human being would trust is to meet some need that can’t be met any other way. Trust involves the surrender of some degree of independence and autonomy which, by nature, humans are not eager to give up.

      Suppose I need a bridge over a deep canyon on my property. This is something I cannot design or build myself. If I am going to get this need met, I will have to trust some engineer to design it. Why do I trust them? In order to get my need met. Why do I trust any particular engineer? Well, in considering who to get, I ask, is this person certified, licensed, insured, experienced? There could be a variety of factors that I might consider, but it all culminates in one thing... my judgment on "can I trust them?" Hence, another "why" is my judgment of their nature. Now, if you're wanting to micro-analyze this for some reason, we can distinguish between "coming to a judgment" on the issue and in actually "signing on the dotted line"... the point of no return. And then we could also note that as the job progresses there may arise new evidence that may cause us to question the validity of our judgment, and we will once again be required to choose whether to continue trusting this person. In this case, we see trust is not only an initial choice but a "walk" of choices.

      Maybe that is more along the lines of what you are looking for?

      With regard to biases... I too recognize I have biases. But I hope you are not thinking that biases are a strength to be celebrated. In my world, biases are an ever present handicap to be resisted. In fact, the extent to which I can see the unvarnished truth is the extent to which I get beyond my biases. If I fail here, then the Jesus I see will begin to look a lot like my preconceptions of Him regardless of the reality of His being.

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  4. Laura,

    I do not want to take too much of your time or overrun the comment section of your blog. So, at any time, if you wish to discontinue this discussion just let me know and there will be no hard feelings whatsoever.

    My discussion about worth is not about “salvaging” my analogy, but rather about understanding why we do what we do. If we desire to do a thing A, but end up choosing to do not A then there must have been a stronger desire to do not A rather than A. In the same way if one chooses not to trust Jesus then the value they place on not trusting Jesus must have been stronger than the value they place on trusting Him. In this way, to talk about making a judgement that Jesus is worthy of trust when in fact there is a stronger opposing judgement that Jesus is not worthy of trust does not make sense.

    You said,

    “By considering the choice as an issue of worth, the suggestion is that there is something of intrinsic value to the cake or pie that is more than or less than, when in fact, most such decisions are about you and what sort of taste experience your palate currently prefers.”

    I’m sorry, but I don’t know what you mean by this. Everything we choose to do or say is because of value judgements we make. I fail to see how this is an “unnatural” way to talk about what to have for dessert or any other choice we make. My palate, among many other things, is what determines the value I place on a particular dessert. Are we not discussing personal value judgements that result in personal choices?

    More to come...

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  5. I would agree that we must have knowledge of people before we can trust them. What I want to discuss is why people, who have been given the same information about Jesus, come to such radically different conclusions regarding His trustworthiness. I know you have previously questioned the “sameness” in this issue, but I’m not talking about the sameness in people. The sameness is in the message. There are obviously differences in the people since they come to different conclusions based on the same evidence. My question is: why is one person able to see the truth of Jesus and another person is not? To put it another way, what is the decisive factor when it comes to salvation? If you don’t feel you can answer this question generically then I would just ask you personally. What was the decisive factor in your salvation?

    Regarding biases. Just for clarity, I’ll define “bias” via Merriam-Webster:

    “an inclination of temperament or outlook; especially : a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment”

    You said,
    “ But I hope you are not thinking that biases are a strength to be celebrated. In my world, biases are an ever present handicap to be resisted. In fact, the extent to which I can see the unvarnished truth is the extent to which I get beyond my biases”

    There is a significant assumption in this line of thinking that I think should be considered, and that is to overcome our biases (assuming this is even possible) will somehow give us some sort of superior decision making ability. I’m going assume that the best decision making ability is that which allows us to choose what is good, right, best, etc... To say that man, in some sort of presumed state of neutrality, is only then most capable of making the best decisions regarding truth and falsehood is an assumption for which I see no basis. This appears to be a very humanistic way of thinking. What if man’s default position is not one that loves what is good or is even neutral toward good and evil? The real danger is if man’s natural, unbiased position is one that hates good and loves evil.

    I do not believe you would actually live your life according to this anti-bias principle. For example, in following your blog I can see you take parently very seriously. It appears you have invested much of your life training your daughters regarding the things of God. When they are faced with moral decisions would you now instruct them to put aside all the years of instruction and training you have given them so that they can then make an unbiased decision? Is not one of the goals of parenting to instill in our children a temperament or outlook that esteems what is good and hates what is evil, and in this way we desired them to be biased?

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  6. Hi Kevin,

    I'm sorry to have been so long away from this. These days have been incredibly full and busy. I don't have time to respond to everything, but I wanted to respond to the issue of biases.

    I discussed this at length with Curt. It seems to me that any bias can interfere with the pursuit of truth. Biases are a handicap to be overcome as much as possible. Do I ever presume to have overcome them entirely? I would never claim that. But when I see a bias in my life, I consider it essential to guard against its interference with my ability to see truth.

    Curt and I can unequivocally say that the only "bias" we want to instill in our children is the unbiased pursuit of what is true. That is what the years of training and instruction are about. Truth. I don’t want them to have a bias to believe what I told them is evil is evil, or what I told them is good is good. Of course, we have to teach them what to believe when they are young, to get them started. That is our role. In the natural course of life we should have a better grasp of it than does a small child. But as they mature, we become less the dispenser and more of a fellow-pursuer. If they, in an honest and sincere pursuit of truth, discover truly that something I thought (and taught) was evil is actually good, or something I thought (and taught) to be good is actually evil, I want them to not only embrace the truth but bring that information to enlighten me as well. Truth is not what I tell them it is; truth is what it is. I never presume to have a full grasp of it, so I would not want to limit my children in their pursuit of it.

    You might say the only "bias" we want them to have is an “inclination of temperament” against any predetermined conclusions, “especially: a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment.”

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  7. Laura,

    No problem on the time delay. I understand the busyness of life.

    I don’t have much to add to this other than I disagree with your conclusions regarding biases. We can’t believe anything without bias; for any truth claim we make is necessarily an “inclination of temperament” for that claim.

    I believe the following statement: “God exists”. This is an inclination of my temperament as well as an outlook. It is also a personal judgement and some people would call it unreasonable. All of this fits the definition of bias. Should I therefore assume this is “a handicap to be overcome as much as possible” and that I should “guard against its interference with my ability to see truth”?

    Kevin

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    1. Kevin

      Well, if the god you believe exists is Ahura Mazda, or Brahma, or Shiva, or Vishnu, or a good many others, yes, I would say this is “a handicap to be overcome as much as possible” and that I should “guard against its interference with my ability to see truth.”

      In fact, even if the god you believe exists is Jehovah you shouldn't believe it because of a bias. You should believe it because you have good evidence that it is true.

      I'm really wondering here if you're not just "putting me on." :/

      You write "All of this fits the definition of bias."

      I don't mean to be insulting, but you do understand that dictionary definitions do not create meaning...? They catalog usage.

      Further, words don't create reality. Words are simply signs that we use to represent ideas. And, unless we agree on what they signify, communication is impossible.

      As it seems we cannot agree on the common usage of the word "bias,"
      I can easily talk about the dangers of prejudicial thinking without using the word "bias."

      Prejudicial thinking is the analogical equivalent of determining weight with a pre-weighted scales. You may be fine with using it to sell me something by the pound, but no sane person would expect to get a fair deal if they are the one buying from someone using such a scales.

      The most logically acute mind in the world is doomed to remain ignorant of reality if fettered by predetermined notions that don't happen to be correct. And only the mind of God is safe from the possibility of having predetermined notions that are incorrect.

      This susceptibility of the human mind to error is not something that is safe to ignore just because everyone has it. And it most certainly is “a handicap to be overcome as much as possible” and I should “guard against its interference with my ability to see truth.”

      On review, it seems that this fork in the discussion came out of your comments regarding “neutrality.” I will grant that we all come to the table from some position. But if you insist on selling me a bill of goods measured with a pre-weighted scales... there’s no deal. And, I expect you to require the same from me.

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  8. Dear Kevin,

    Please pardon the delay in responding to these other points. I truly appreciate your interest and effort to communicate with an old friend. Responding to your concerns requires a considerably higher than average level of concentration which the demands of life during the last few weeks have prevented. :)

    It seems that the examples we are using to aid in the communication of the ideas we espouse are themselves more contested that the ideas themselves. I would readily agree that "people do what they value." The problem with the cake/pie illustration is that it does not necessarily involve a moral judgment. It may not even involve a preference. I may like each equally but if pressed for a decision just take whatever you have in your hand to get on with it.

    Such a decision reflects my values but not necessarily my "judgment of the worthiness" of the cake or pie. In my neck of the woods, it is not "natural" to talk or think about dessert choices in terms of their "worthiness" even though the dictionary lists "having value" as one definition of "worthy." This is not to say you violate some law by choosing to use language in that way. It's just that to someone who finds it unconventional, the question arises as to what point you might be working up to.

    With regard to that, I notice this. You speak first about "understanding why we do what we do." Then "why people...come to such radically different conclusions..." So far so good... you're seeking to understand... so am I. But next, it becomes "why is one person able to see the truth of Jesus and another person is not?" This question is problematic. It casually imposes a paradigm of its own which requires acceptance if one were to answer. It presumes without proof or even evidence that the "difference" between people is a difference in ability. One person “does” because they are "able." The other “doesn't” because they are not "able." It is no longer asking "why people do what they do?," it is asking "why are some people able to do and others not able?" I can't accept your paradigm here.

    Concerning the "sameness of the message," my point remains. The sounds or letters of the message may be broadcast to each identically, but the "message" does not even exist for the individuals to whom it is sent until it enters their individual minds. The only way it enters our minds is through physiological and then cognitive processes which are never identical.

    But suppose we do a thought experiment and assume that somehow we do manage to get the identical message into the minds of two people. Even then, why would we ever expect them to respond with the same decision? We have already noted that "people do what they value" and so what are the chances of two people having exactly the same values?

    You ask, "What is the decisive factor when it comes to salvation?". Well this can be answered on different levels. Ultimately, the decisive factor in my salvation is God. In particular, "For God so loved the world..." By revelation it appears that His love initiated it all.

    As to how it applies to me, I answered that in my post... according to the words of Jesus, I am saved by trusting in Him. In this context, "trust" is an action of my heart. A conscious choice, albeit a curious choice. For it seems that "trust" is the only choice I can make that results in a loss of choice... the surrender of self-determination to another.

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