In a recent blog you can see here, entitled “Might a Fuzzy View of Faith Lead to a Lack of Assurance,” I suggested that faith is simply being persuaded or convinced that something is true. Saving faith is being convinced that the Lord Jesus was telling the truth when He said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47).
As part of that discussion I indicated that faith is not a decision. The evidence either persuades us or it does not. We cannot choose to believe something.
A friend of mine named Roger posted a comment. Among other things, he challenged my suggestion that faith is not a decision:
I do think the will is involved, at least on a rudimentary level. One can choose (will) to seriously investigate and consider the evidence, prior to being convinced of the truth of the evidence. Or one can choose to ignore the evidence, regardless of the strength of that evidence. The final step may well be “passive,” but that does not, in my opinion, mean the will is nowhere involved.
I agree with what Roger says there, though I would strengthen the last sentence a bit.
As an aside, the author whose writings I was discussing in my prior blog said nothing about faith often requiring a willingness to look at the evidence. Indeed, he was not focusing on evidence. He was suggesting that people can simply choose to believe.
John 5:39-40 clearly shows that willingness to believe is often essential for the legalist: “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” See also Matt 23:37-39 and Acts 13:46.
Having said that, one cannot believe something which he is convinced is not true without new evidence coming into play. Could you choose to believe that you are Napoleon? No. That is contrary to the evidence. Could you choose to believe that Reagan is President? No. That is contrary to the evidence. Could you choose to believe that Jesus was born in Jerusalem? No. Again, the evidence is against that. No amount of openness to the evidence would lead to faith in cases which are clearly contrary to fact.
When Saul met the risen Lord Jesus Christ face to face on the road to Damascus, new evidence standing right in front of him convinced him that Jesus is indeed the risen Messiah who guarantees everlasting life to those who believe in Him.
When the two disciples on the road to Emmaus heard an exposition of Old Testament prophecies about the death and resurrection of Messiah, they were restored to faith that Jesus indeed was and is the Messiah. They lost that faith when He was put to death (Luke 24:21). Their faith that Jesus is indeed the Messiah was restored when Jesus opened the Scriptures to them (Luke 24:27, 32). New evidence. (Or old evidence that they had never understood before that day.)
When the evidence clearly shows something to be true, the question is whether we are aware of the evidence. If you do not believe, for example, that Donald Trump is the President, do some looking online. Within five minutes you will have sufficient evidence. If you do not believe that Jesus gives everlasting life which can never be lost to the one who simply believes in Him for that life, then prayerfully check out John’s Gospel, especially verses like John 1:12-13; 3:14-18; 5:24; 6:35, 47; 11:25-27 (see also Acts 16:30-31; Rom 4:4-5; Gal 2:16; 3:6-14; Eph 2:8-9; 1 John 5:9-13; Rev 22:17). The evidence is clear.
So if you are talking with a loved one or friend who thinks that the faith-alone message is silly and can’t be right, since in his mind it would promote ungodliness, then you can read John 5:39-40 to him. Ask him if he is willing to come to Christ. In John’s Gospel coming to Christ means believing in Him (see John 6:35). If he is willing, you might ask him to pray about it over the next week as he reads John’s Gospel. You could whet his appetite by showing him a few verses right then (e.g., John 3:16; 5:24; 6:35).
If the issue is belief, then share the truth and leave the results up to God. It really takes pressure off of us to know that it is God’s Word that does the persuading, not us. We simply share God’s testimony concerning His Son (1 John 5:9-13).
One final note. I take great comfort in the fact that someone who is not open to the promise of everlasting life today may well be open to it in the future. My witness to the truth of Christ’s promise is joined with the witness of others who have already spoken with this person. At some point the evidence can and will convince them if they are willing to come to Christ.