While I was on vacation, Jared had posted on the topic of whether or not faith is a gift. Rather than share at great length in the comments, I’m sharing what I wrote on the subject last summer, which drew some good comments I felt.
The essence is that I don’t mind calling faith a gift, but I would want to nuance it a bit more, so much so that if faith is not called a gift, I’m not concerned too much. Of course, many in that camp would do so for all the wrong reasons, it seems to me.
One of the questions that comes up often in discussions of the nature of conversion has to do with faith. Is faith a gift?
8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
-Ephesians 2:8-10, ESV
What is the gift of God? Is it faith? Is it God’s grace? Is it the kwan of our salvation?
Exegetes will disagree, but many in my camp want to affirm that faith is a gift and others want to object, to strenuously object.
What if instead of seeing faith as a gift, one sees regeneration as a gift?
And if one sees regeneration as God’s gracious gift of:
-giving eyes to see and ears to hear
-making them born again, before which they cannot even see the kingdom (let alone see the kingdom, like the kingdom, and choose the kingdom) (John 3:3-6)
-making those who are dead alive (Eph 2:1-3)
-opening hearts to believe (Acts 16:14)
-drawing them to Christ, because they cannot come otherwise (John 6:44)
-changing their hearts (Ezek 36:26-27) so that they no longer love the darkness and hate the light, but now they love the Light of the World (John 8:12) and believe in Him and are justified freely by His grace
Then really the gift is not so much faith, but the ability to see and thereby trust the object of faith, Jesus the Christ.
Really, I think gets more to the biblical understanding of things with regard to God’s gift. It also explains the nature of the will in the process of conversion. God does not violate the will of the person, for the will of the person is such that he/she always does what he/she wants. In that sense, the will is free (cf. Edwards’, Freedom of the Will). But, likewise, this faculty of choosing we call the will is such that a person must do what he/she wants. That’s why the will is said to be in bondage (cf. Luther’s, Bondage of the Will) for the unconverted person. That person is bound by a sinful heart to always and only do in accord with loving the darkness and hating the light (John 3:19-20).
But, after regeneration folks have new hearts and through new eyes Jesus is seen rightly and since they now have hearts disposed to love the light, they come to Him, believing on Him for salvation.
Everyone has faith in something or someone, but the unregenerate do not really have Christ available as an option because the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing and faith seems unreasonable.
Their hearts will never incline them to do what seems logically for us who are being saved, but it’s foolish to look for logic in the chambers of the human heart … before it’s renewed. They don’t believe because they don’t want to. They will never want to until Christ appears as trustworthy to them, which cannot happen apart from divine grace. This is the gift of regeneration.
Regeneration is a change of heart, wrought by the Holy Spirit, who brings to life the dead in trespasses and sins enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the Word of God, and renewing their whole nature, so that they love and practice holiness. It is a work of God’s free and special grace alone, apart from which humanity is powerless to positively respond to God.
-Statement of Faith, Providence Church