Stephanie sent me a link to an article by a defender of the Christian faith, an apologist. The 2018 article by J. Warner Wallace is entitled, “When Belief ‘That’ Becomes Belief ‘In.’” See here. See also this article at gotquestions.org that makes the same argument.
Stephanie writes, “Can you help me understand this article? It feels like he is making degrees out of belief. I would love your input. Thank you in advance.”
Wallace does not mention any Scripture in his article. That in itself is a red flag.
He suggests that believing in Jesus refers to saving faith and believing that Jesus is who the NT writers say does not refer to saving faith: “While my lengthy examination of Jesus led me to believe ‘that’ the New Testament was reliable, it did not bring me to a trusting faith ‘in’ Jesus (as my Savior).”
What is “a trusting faith in Jesus as my Savior”? He does not say. He does say, “But it is clearly more than mere intellectual assent; it is a confident trust in response to a recognized need.” What is confident trust? What is trusting faith? If it is more than mere intellectual assent, how can anyone know he has it?
In Greek, to believe in someone is expressed by pisteuō eis plus a person’s name. To believe that is pisteuō hoti plus what is believed to be true. This was something drilled into us at Dallas Theological Seminary concerning John’s Gospel: To believe in Jesus is the same as believing that He is the Christ, the Son of God.
Pisteuō eis equals pisteuō hoti in John.
John 3:16 and dozens of other verses in John use pisteuō eis to say that whoever believes in Him has everlasting life and will never perish, hunger, thirst, die, or be cast out. Yet there are other verses, such as John 11:27 and John 20:31, that unequivocally equate believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, with believing in Him for everlasting life.
Many have noted that in John 20:31, anyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, has everlasting life: “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that [by] believing you may have life in His name” (emphasis added). See also 1 John 5:1a, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.”
Believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, is the same as believing in Him for everlasting life. Otherwise, the purpose statement of John’s Gospel would be at odds with the rest of the book (e.g., John 3:14-18, 36; 6:47; 11:25-27).
We confuse people when we say believing does not mean believing but trusting. In Scripture, believing means believing. Synonyms for believing are being convinced or persuaded that something is true. To believe in Him is to be convinced that He is the Christ, the Son of God, who guarantees everlasting life to all who believe in Him for that life.