Faith like a cappuccino maker?

What have the milk for a cappuccino and Arminian faith got in common? They both needed to be whipped up. Many people imagine faith is something which needs a constant supply of energy to keep it frothy, or else it will cool and die down. I have viewed quiet times, bible reading, study and even singing worship songs as ways in which I could increase my faith, spending time in the energy of the Holy Spirit. This practice never really led to peace, as I could never generate enough faith.

I believe the cappuccino maker view of faith is what underlies much of the charismatic movement’s emphasis on the extended corporate worship experience. Half an hour or more of singing choruses is thought to be enough to whip up lots of faith, but it always had the effect of making my legs ache as I reached for the back of the nearest seat, or gave up altogether and sat down.

In “God’s way of Holiness”, Horatius Bonar quotes from a letter from Brentius to Luther which shows where I’d misunderstood faith:

“[Brentius]…Just as I was finishing my letter, I remembered an argument of yours about works, to the effect that if we are justified by love, we can never have assurance because we can never love as we ought. In like manner I argue regarding faith as a work; if justification come to us through faith as a work, or merit, or excellence, we can never be assured about it, because we can never believe as we ought.”

[Bonar]…the darkening of many minds and the confusion of all Reformation theology [stems from a confusion over faith and works]. For how often did Luther reiterate that statement: “Faith justifies us, no, not even as a gift of the Holy Ghost, but solely on account of its reference to Christ…faith does not justify for its own sake, or because of any inherent virtue belonging to it.” So long as this confusion exists, so long as men do not distinguish between Christ’s work and the Spirit’s work, so long as they lay any stress upon the quality or quantity of their act of faith, there can be not only no peace of conscience, but no progress in holiness, no bringing forth of good works. Of this confusion Arminianism, in its subtlest form, is the necessary offspring. For so long as men think to be justified by faith as a work, or as an act of their mind, or as a gift of the Spirit, they are seeking justification by something inherent, not by something imputed. To deny that it is inherent, because infused into them by the Spirit, is simply to cheat themselves with a play upon words, and to cheat themselves all the more effectually, because professing to honour the Spirit by ascribing to Him the infused quality or act, out of which they seek to extract their justification. In seeking justification or peace of conscience from something wrought in them by the Spirit, they are seeking these from that which is confessedly imperfect, and which God never gave for such a purpose; nay, they are rejecting the perfect righteousness of the Substitute, and so preventing the possibility of their doing any acceptable works at all. For if “the righteousness of the Law can only be fulfilled in us,” as the fruit of our acceptance of the imputed righteousness of the Son of God, then there can be no righteous thing done by us till we have realized the position of men to whom the great truth of “Christ for us,” “Jehovah our righteousness,” has become the basis of all reconciliation with God.

You can read God’s Way of Holiness on-line.

Although faith is imputed, affection needs stirring up, as I posted on the benefits of biblical meditation.

About neilrobbie

I am a 6'6" formerly ginger Scot, in a cross cultural marriage to my lovely Londoner wife. We've lived in SE Asia and since 2005, I have served as an Anglican minister in Wolverhampton and West Bromwich.
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