After a recent blog (see here) in which I argued that faith is simply intellectual assent (and in which I referred to a Grace in Focus Magazine article by me and Bill Fiess on trust), I received an excellent question via email. Here is part of the question:
Romans 10:9, which contains the phrase “believe in your heart,” and Romans 10:10, which contains the phrase “with the heart He is believed,” seems to emphasize the heart rather than the mind (intellectual assent). In fact, when Hodges comments on these two passages on page 300 of his commentary on Romans, he states “Of course, the heart is where it all begins,” and “One gets righteousness by the believing response of the heart.” (Emphasis is Hodges’ in both instances.) On page 299, Hodges also states that to be delivered a person “must have faith in his heart” that God raised Christ from the dead.
I realize that you and Fiess were writing in the context of salvation and Hodges was writing in the context of deliverance from wrath, but I don’t understand why the heart is not apposite (appropriate) in defining saving faith but is apposite (appropriate) in the context of deliverance from wrath.
I don’t think Zane and I view faith differently regarding the heart, but let’s discuss this key question.
First, the reader is correct. Faith is faith. Saving faith is not some special variety of faith. Faith that delivers from temporal judgment is not different than faith that the sun is shining. Faith is faith.
Second, in the Bible the heart (kardia) is occasionally used to refer to the inner self where thought and belief occurs.
Of course, heart most often refers in the New Testament to the inner self where feelings and emotions are sourced. But in a context like Rom 10:9-10 dealing with belief, it is persuasion, not feelings or emotions that are in view.
Believing in the heart only occurs in Rom 10:9-10 in the entire New Testament. Acts 8:37 is the only other verse that uses that expression, but it is not found in the Majority of New Testament manuscript and is not Scripture.
Luke 8:12 has the same idea with slightly different wording. Satan “takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.” But clearly there heart is a synonym for mind. (See also Luke 24:25, “slow of heart to believe.”)
There are only three references to believing in the heart in the New Testament: Luke 8:12; 24:25; Rom 10:9-10.
Third, the other New Testament word for the place where belief occurs is mind (nous).
Paul said in 2 Cor 4:4, “whose mind the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.” That is parallel to Luke 8:12 where heart was used, showing that heart and mind are used synonymously in the New Testament.
Acts 28:6 refers to the islanders who “changed their minds and said he was a god.” They had believed that Paul was bitten by a viper because he was a murderer. Now they believed something entirely differently: he is a god.
Romans 12:2, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Clearly there Paul says that transformation comes from our beliefs changing.
Other examples of believing being tied to the mind in the New Testament include Rom 1:28; 15:6; 1 Cor 1:10; 2 Cor 3:14; Phil 1:27; 2:2; 2 Tim 3:8.
Fourth, I think the reader misunderstood what Hodges meant. I just reread his discussion of Rom 10:9-10 and the two quotes he gives. I believe that Hodges is taking heart as internal and mouth as external. When he says, “the heart is where it all begins,” he is talking about deliverance from wrath beginning internally, in what we believe. In order to be delivered from wrath, Hodges says, the Jewish person must first believe in Christ. That is where it (= deliverance from wrath) all begins. Internally. Hodges later says, “To be justified by faith in the heart but to refuse to confess ‘Lord Jesus!’ with the mouth will leave the believer tragically still exposed to God’s temporal anger” (p. 301).
I do not see any suggestion that Hodges is taking faith as anything other than being persuaded. The reason he discusses faith “in the heart” is because that is the terminology Paul used. Go back earlier in his Romans commentary and you will see that he repeatedly says that faith is just being persuaded (e.g., pp. 84, 96-97, 100, 113).
In this blog my primary aim is not to explain what Rom 10:9-10 means. See this article by Dr. John Hart for more details on what Rom 10:9-10 actually means. In summary, the salvation in these two verses is salvation from judgment in this life and the righteousness here is justification. Paul says that righteousness is by faith alone. But deliverance from wrath requires both faith plus confessing the Lord Jesus in a local church. The confession is not one time. This refers to ongoing confession of Christ in your own local assembly.
The bottom line is this: to believe something is to be persuaded it is true. The fact that in three texts the New Testament says that belief occurs in the heart does not in any way change that.