C. M. writes,
I listened to your podcast about belief not being a personal response. It confused me because I thought choosing to believe something is a personal response. For example, I choose to believe in Christ as my Savior and believe that is my personal response to the gospel. Based on that definition, I would side with Lewis Sperry Chafer. What is your definition of a personal response?
I don’t recall the Bible ever saying that faith is a personal response.
A personal response is any action a person takes in response to something or someone.
If someone sends me a wedding invitation with an RSVP card enclosed, a personal response is to mail the card back, having indicated whether I am coming or not. After all, RSVP is French for respond, if you please.
If an elephant is charging at me, a personal response would be to climb a tree. Or try to run.
If I get an email telling me that I’ve inherited $10 million and that I just need to send $5,000 to pay for the legal fees in Nigeria to release the funds to me, a personal response is to delete the email.
Jesus said, “he who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). What would you mean if you said that your faith in Christ is a personal response?
Wayne Grudem wrote a book in response to Free Grace Theology. He has a chapter on faith. He repeatedly says in that chapter that faith is a personal response. His preferred expression is “a personal encounter with Christ” (Free Grace Theology: 5 Ways It Diminishes the Gospel, pp. 106, 108, 118). What Grudem means by “a personal encounter with Christ” is turning from your sinful ways and starting to follow Jesus (p. 106). It requires “total commitment to the one who is trusted” (p. 110).
Others, like C. M., understand “a personal response” to mean choosing to believe in Christ as my Savior.
As C. M. may realize, I do not believe that faith is a choice. We do not choose to believe in Christ as our Savior. We can’t choose to believe anything. If I said that the moon is made of dark chocolate, you could not choose to believe that, for you know the evidence shows it is not. If I said that Ronald Reagan is our current President, you could not choose to believe that. You can only believe what you are convinced is true.
Continued unbelief can be a choice. If someone hears the promise of John 3:16 and thinks, “That is too good to be true,” and then dismisses the idea as out of hand and doesn’t give it another thought, he is choosing to remain in unbelief. However, he might linger on the idea and not dismiss it as out of hand. He might pray about it. He might start asking questions. Maybe he would find a Bible-teaching church to attend so that he might learn more. As he seeks, he will find. That is, at some point, he will become convinced.
Is saving faith a personal response to the Lord Jesus Christ? It is, if by that you mean believing Him for what He promises, everlasting life. Not commitment, turning from sins, or obedience. Just being persuaded that what He promised in verses like John 3:16 is true is in fact a saving personal response. Of course, once I’m born again, I can continue to respond to John 3:16 by sharing that message of everlasting life with my family and friends.
What is your personal response to my blog? Do you believe it or disbelieve it? Do you share it with others?