Monday, December 11

Thinking About Faith Alone and Christ Alone, Part 4

This is the fourth post in a series of posts considering the relationship between sole fide and solus Christus. The first post in this series considered what it means that Christ's work is the grounds for our salvation, and that faith is the means by which we receive salvation. The second post looked at the unique suitability of faith as the instrument through which the benefits of Christ's work is received. Next up, in the third post, we looked at one incorrect way of thinking about faith's role in the process of salvation that moved faith out of the realm of means only and right over into the realm of grounds for salvation. In this post, I'm going to look at another statement I saw recently that also makes faith out to be grounds, instead of just the means, of salvation.

What's that statement? Here you go: The only unforgivable sin is unbelief.

You've probably heard someone say that; perhaps you've even said it yourself. This is another of those statements that is often said without much thought. I understand the point that is usually being made: unbelief that persists until the end of life will certainly result in condemnation, and absolutely anyone who truly believes will be forgiven all their sins. That's a good point to make, but this statement is not the way to make it, because it leads to a conclusion that those who make the statement probably aren't considering.

What makes a sin forgivable? What provides the grounds for any sin to be forgiven? Yep, that's the solus Christus thing again: the grounds for forgiveness of sin exist in Christ's work. Any sin covered by Christ's death is a forgivable sin. If unbelief is unforgivable, then Christ's death didn't cover the sin of unbelief. If unbelief is the only unforgivable sin, then unbelief is the only type of sin not covered by Christ's death.

If that is so, then how is the past sin of unbelief covered for any believer? Why is that sin not counted against a believer? Do we somehow make up for our past unbelief by our present belief? If you take the statement "the only unforgivable sin is unbelief" at face value, I'm afraid this is where it leads: the past sin of unbelief is forgiven on the grounds of present belief.

That makes faith not simply the instrument of salvation, but grounds for it as well. It isn't the sole grounds for salvation, since Christ's work is the grounds for the forgiveness of all other sins but unbelief; but it is grounds for salvation along with Christ's work. Taken to its logical conclusion, the idea that unbelief is the only unforgivable sin makes our faith the partial grounds for salvation. And of course, grounds are nothing more or less than the merit or demerit upon which something is obtained, so this idea makes faith a work by which, together with Christ's work, salvation is merited.

I have a couple more statements about faith's role in the process of salvation that I want to inspect when I can get to them, but things are getting busy. I'll post on them sometime, but don't wait with baited breath.

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