William Ralph Inge.

Faith and its psychology online

. (page 2 of 21)
Online LibraryWilliam Ralph IngeFaith and its psychology → online text (page 2 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

sophy leads him to single out the unchangeableness of God
almost exclusively as the ground and object of Faith.
* A. B. Davidson, The Theology of the Old Testament, p. 280.


There is not a great deal about Faith in his writings : what
there is, is chiefly with reference to the standard case of
Abraham's Faith. c Abraham,' he says, ' saw into the
unfixedness and unsettledness of material being, when he
recognised the unfaltering stability which attends true
being, and to which he is said to have completely trusted.'
' He anchored himself firmly and unchangeably on true
being alone.' ' The only thing stable is Faith toward
God, or toward true being.' l Philo's ' Faith ' is thus a
steady reliance on the eternal and unchangeable ideas of
truth and righteousness, which lie behind the fleeting shows
of phenomenal existence. The active sense has fairly
established itself, but Faith for Philo differs rather widely
from the Christian virtue hi that it is the prize 2 and not
the starting-point of the race, standing at the end, not at
the beginning, of the religious life.

Sanday and Head] am 3 have a valuable note on the use
of the word Faith in the apocryphal literature. In the
Psalms of Solomon it is attributed to the Messiah Himself ;
in the other books it is characteristic of his subjects. Thus
4 Esdras vi. 28, ' florebit fides et vincetur corruptela ' ;
vii. 34, ' veritas stabit et fides convalescet.' In the
Apocalypse of Baruch we have, ' incredulis tormentum
ignis reservatum.' In other places we have ' Faith and
works ' in combination, indicating that the discussion of
their relative merits did not originate in the Christian

We now come to the New Testament. I think that for
our purposes it will be most convenient to take the Synoptic
Gospels first, as a record of our Lord's actual teaching
about, and attitude towards, Faith ; the Pauline con-
ception of Faith next ; the Epistle to the Hebrews third ;

Cf. E. A. Abbott, Johannine Vocabulary.
* Philo, De Praem. et Poen., ii. p. 412, 5i5a/cri/CT/ \pi)<r&iJ,evo$ dyoery irpbs

* On Romans i. 17.


and the Johannine interpretation of our Lord's teaching
last. This order is not intended to imply any disparage-
ment of the Fourth Gospel as a historical document ; but
St. John certainly wrote for his own generation, and it is
possible to speak of a Johannine doctrine of Faith, which
must not be taken out of its chronological place.

The Triple Tradition does not agree in any saying of
Christ containing the verb Trto-reuav ; and in the use of the
substantive TTIO-TIS the only verbatim agreement is ' thy
faith hath saved thee,' of the woman with the issue of
blood. Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that our Lord
spoke of ' Faith ' and ' believing ' hi the technical religious
sense which is characteristic of the New Testament as a
whole. There seems to be no objection on linguistic
grounds. Not only did the Hebrew word acquire an
active meaning in Rabbinical literature, but hi the Aramaic
dialect (according to Lightfoot on Galatians, p. 154), an
active form had been developed. How far this language
was original with Him, it is difficult to say. It is extremely
probable that the words were often on the lips of the simple
folk in Palestine who ' waited for the kingdom of God.' We
have seen that all was ready for the richer doctrine of Faith
which was part of Christ's message. The devout country
people among whom He was brought up had not much to
learn about confidence in God, about conviction of the
reality of the unseen, or about patient waiting for the
consolation of Israel.

In the Synoptic Gospels, Faith generally means con-
fidence in Christ's power to perform some particular thing.
It would be superfluous to enumerate the cases in which
Faith is mentioned as the condition of miracles of healing.
In these instances, Faith is simply the psychological state
which alone makes the patient susceptible to cures of this
kind. There are, however, many passages, especially if
we add the uses of the verb TTHTTCVCIV to those of the sub-
stantive, in which the wider sense of trustful self-surrender


to Christ, or to God, is clearly indicated. There is only
one place in the Synoptics, I think (Matt, xxiii. 23), in
which TTio-rt? means ' integrity ' ; and so strong have its
theological associations already become, that it is never
used of man's faith in man. When it has an object, that
object is in the genitive, as St. Mark xi. 22, * have faith in
God ' ; not with a preposition (lv, ets, TT/DOS, eVt) as in the
Epistles. But in the large majority of cases, it is used
absolutely. When ' Faith ' is primarily expectation of a
miracle, a deeper thought is sometimes present. In the
case of the paralytic, remission of sins precedes the physical
cure (Matt. ix. 1-8) : and in Luke vii. 50 the characteristic
words, ' thy Faith hath saved thee,' are used of forgiveness
only, when there has been no miracle. Our Lord must
have spoken much of the moral force of Faith, of what is
now sometimes called the dynamic of religion. In the
figurative and even hyperbolical language which He often
used in popular teaching, He said that Faith, though no
larger than a grain of mustard-seed, can remove mountains
(Matt. xvii. 20), a phrase which became familiar to Chris-
tians (1 Cor. xiii. 2) at a very early date. Cf. also Mark
ix. 23 : 'If thou canst believe, all things are possible to
him that believeth. 5 That this Faith ought to be but is
not always an abiding state is shown by the words to
Peter (Luke xxii. 32), ' I have prayed for thee, that thy
Faith fail not.' There are some who ' for a while believe,
but in time of temptation fall away ' (Matt. xiii. 20). In
Matt. xvi. 17, ' These signs shall follow them that believe,'
we have an approximation to the use of the participle as a
designation of the Christian society, ' the believers,' which
we find in the Acts. 1

One passage in the Synoptists seems to me to stand quite
alone Luke xviii. 8, * When the Son of Man cometh, shall

1 It is worth while also to call attention to Matt, xxiii. 23. 'justice, mercy
and faith.' Cf. Micah ri. 8 of which these words may be a reminiscence.
The third virtue, Faith, is added by Christ.


He find Faith ' (or, the Faith) ' on the earth ? * I am unable
to understand these words except in the sense that though
God will avenge his saints ' speedily * (see the preceding
verse), yet the time will appear so long before the second
coming that the love of many will have waxed cold.
' Faith,' or * the Faith,* will hardly be found on the earth.
1 must confess that the words sound more like an expres-
sion of the discouragement which we know to have been
felt by the second and third generations of Christians, when
' hope deferred ' of the irapovo-ia was ' making the heart
sick,' than what we should have expected to have from
the lips of our Lord. If the words are authentic, we must
take ' Faith ' (with the best orthodox commentators) in
the less natural sense of ' the necessary Faith,' or * the
Faith that perseveres in prayer/

To sum up : * Faith,' and ' to believe,' in the Synoptic
Gospels, means a spirit of simple receptiveness towards the
Messiah and His message, a state of mind which, unlike
the righteousness of the Pharisees, requires no previous
course of discipline in meritorious actions. ' Faith ' is the
primary motion of the human spirit when brought into
contact with Divine truth and goodness. Its fruits are
loyal self-devotion, even unto death, complete renunciation
of all earthly ties, in so far as these could come between
the disciple and his Master, untiring energy in service, and
an enthusiastic temper, full of love, joy, and peace. This
is really the whole content of Faith, as preached by Jesus
to the simple folk whom He gathered round Him in Galilee.

We next turn to St. Paul's Epistles. I do not wish to
discuss the more technical theological problems connected
with the Pauline doctrine of Faith, but only to determine
what the word means for him. One of the most significant
passages is Gal. iii. 23, TT/O& TOV rrjv irio-Tiv, 'before
the coming of [the] Faith.' This expression proves that
the Christians felt their ' Faith ' to be something new in
the world ; as new as their ' Love,' for which they required


an almost new word in the Greek language, their ' Hope,'
which the pagans conspicuously lacked (Eph. ii. 12), and
their 'Joy,' which no man could take from them. The
coming of Christ was the coming of [the] Faith. The Acts
of the Apostles shows that the disciples soon began to call
themselves ' Believers ' ; it was one of the earliest names
of the Christian society. 1 Whether, as Lightfoot suggests, 2
the name indicates ' The Trusty ' as well as ' The Trustful,'
is uncertain ; the active meaning certainly predominates.
The name was familiar to friends and foes in the time of
Minucius Felix, who shows that it had been Latinised
' pistorum prsecipuus et postremus philosophus ' 3 since
1 credulus ' was impossible. The pagans in the time of
Celsus employed it as an opprobrious term for their oppon-
ents. In other places St. Paul uses ' the Faith ' almost as ,
equivalent to the whole body of Christian doctrine and '
practice (Gal. i. 23 ; vi. 10, TOVS OIKCIOVS rrjs irurrea>s=
the Church ; Rom. xii. 3, 6 ; Eph. iv. 1 3.)

The coming of Christ was the beginning of the dispensa-
tion of Faith, and the new virtue had found a name both
in Greek and Aramaic. For the Jews, a bridge was found
in the text about ' faithful Abraham,' which, as we have
seen, was made to support a heavy superstructure of
doctrine even by Philo, and was discussed with equal
eagerness in the Rabbinical schools. 4 The meaning of
Faith was being defined by controversy, and the concept
was as yet so fluid that St. Paul and St. James can flatly
contradict each other in words without differing much in

St. Paul's theology, we are now beginning to see, must
be interpreted by what we know of his personal religious
experiences, which he naturally expounds by the help of
current theological ideas and conceptions. Put very

1 Harnack, Expansion of Christianity, ii. 6.
a Lightfoot, Galatians, p. 157.

There is a play on words here, between pistus and pistor. See the con-
text, Octavius, 14. Lightfoot, Galatians, p. 159.


shortly, his doctrine of justification by Faith was arrived
at somewhat in this way. Jewish thought knew of two,
and only two, roads to salvation. One was by natural
descent from Abraham. This belief was discredited for
various reasons. It was unethical ; it was falsified by
history ; and it was contradicted by religious experience.
The other was by righteousness. This St. Paul had tried
and found wanting. Justifying righteousness was un-
attainable ; the verdict against the claimant was a fore-
gone conclusion. The good news of the Gospel was the
assurance of a free pardon to all who would ' believe.'
God will reckon their ' Faith ' as righteousness. Remem-
bering the other and older theory as to the title to salvation,
descent from Abraham, he represents this saving grace also
as ' adoption ' to sonship, through faith in Christ Jesus
(Gal. iii. 26). The true Israel, then, are the adopted ' chil-
dren of Abraham,' and their faith in Christ is accepted
instead of the impossible requirement of legal righteousness.
The Christian, therefore, has a double title to salvation :
he is a son and heir by adoption, and, by the free grace of
God through Christ, he is accounted to have fulfilled the
law of righteousness. The one condition is ' Faith.' Now
what is this Faith ? Not the mere fiducia (subjective
assurance) of Lutheranism, even if this theory can support
itself plausibly by certain expressions in St. Paul's writings.
We^must remember that at this time Faith involved the
open acceptance of Christianity, adhesion, in the face of
the world, to a persecuted sect. St. Paul never even con-
templated an inner state of confidence in God's mercies
through Christ that did not exhibit itself in this overt,
decisive, initial step. * If thou shalt confess with thy
mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thine heart that
God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be
saved.' l And assuredly Faith included also a changed life

1 Rom. x. 9.


as a member of the new society. 1 In short, we must
beware of forgetting the very different terms on which a
subjective confidence in the merits of Christ's death may
be held now and in St. Paul's time. What St. Paul dreads,
and protests against in his Epistles to the Romans and
Galatians, is a baptized Pharisaism which would remain in
all essentials pre-Christian. He is determined that Faith
shall not lose its new active meaning, as a decisive moral
act of trust ; he dreads that it may become again Jewish
and passive, a mere fidelity to the terms of a covenant.
He is fighting for the new content of the word Faith, as a
Christian virtue. But it is as a Christian virtue bound
up inextricably with the other Christian virtues, and
especially with Love, which is its proper activity or
tvepyeia (Gal. v. 6), that he claims such importance
for it.

This consideration, that ' Faith ' in St. Paul includes not
only subjective trust in Christ's promises, but all that such
trust necessarily led to, in an honest and consistent man,
at that time, that is, that it included public relinquish-
ment of paganism or Judaism, and adhesion to the Chris-
tian Church at a time when the Christians were regarded
as the scum of the earth (1 Cor. iv. 13), will help us to
understand, in particular, what Faith in the atoning blood
of Christ meant for St. Paul. I will not now discuss the
sacrificial aspect of Christ's death. But it is right to insist
that the key to the whole of St. Paul's Christology is the
doctrine of the mystical union of the believer with his Lord,
which is for him the necessary fulfilment of the life of^
Faith. To understand the Pauline doctrine of justifica-
tion by Faith as summed up in such ideas as ' resting in
the finished work of the Redeemer,' or any other detach-
ment of Christ for us from Christ in us, is an unfortunate

1 Dobschiitz (Christian Life in the Primitive Church, p. 368 seq.) has justly
emphasised the remarkable standard of moral purity which was demanded
and, on the whole, attained in the primitive Church.


mistake. The ' whole process of Christ ' must be re-
enacted in the experience of the believer, and the culmina-
tion of the whole is spiritual crucifixion and resurrection.
' The new and significant peculiarity,' says Pfleiderer, 1
' in Paul's conception of Faith, is the mystical union with
Christ, the self-identification with Christ in a fellow-
ship of life and death. In this unreserved, self-forgetting
surrender of the whole man to the Saviour, in which
the revelation of the Divine love, as well as the embodi-
ment of the ideal for man, is beheld as a personal life,
the believer feels himself to be ' a new creature. . . . That
is expressed in the fine saying : " It is no longer I that live,
but Christ that liveth in me ; and the life that I now live
in the flesh I live hi the Faith of the Son of God, who loved
me and gave Himself for me." Life in the Faith means the
same as " Christ liveth in me." '

In Romans xiv., Faith is represented as a graduated pro-
gress in the mind of Christ. ' Weakness in the Faith '
shows itself by anxiety to keep formal rules, by super-
stition, in fact. ' Faith to eat all things ' is a strong Faith.
So in Colossians, feasts and fast-days are ' shadows of things
to come.' This chapter contains also the declaration
(v. 23), * whatever is not of Faith, is sin ' ; which has been
taken out of its context and made to support the conten-
tion that ' the virtues of the heathen were splendid vices,'
or that ' all works done before Justification are sinful.'
St. Paul, however, appears only to mean that in matters
of abstinence or indulgence we ought to have a clear
conscience. The half - superstitious man is likely to
wound his conscience, whether he keeps his fast or
breaks it. J

In the well-known words, ' We walk by Faith, not by

sight ' (2 Cor. v. 7), St. Paul means, as the context shows,

that the form (crSos) of the exalted Christ is hidden from

us. Faith is the condition of our present life (Sid

i Primitive Christianity, vol. i. p. 347.


, as ' seeing face to face * will be our condition
in the future life. Then Faith will not be abolished, but
will become eternal (1 Cor. xiii. 13).

Faith, for St. Paul, blends with hope, and is almost
identified with it (Rom. xv. 13 ; iv. 18-21 ; viii. 24). Hope
adds joy and peace to believing ; it has a moral basis, and
may even be identified with the Christ in us (Col. i. 27).

One other important aspect of Faith in St. Paul's
Epistles must be mentioned before we pass on to the
Epistle to the Hebrews. In Faith, as St. Paul understands
it, lie the roots both of new ethical power and of a deeper
knowledge of God. 1 Practical and theoretical Christianity
are both contained hi it. The Christian stands fast in the \
Faith (1 Cor. xvi. 13), but also grows in Faith, and attains
the stature of the perfect man by coming ' unto the unity
of the Faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God '
(Eph. iv. 13). Behind the Rabbinical subtleties, which we
find here and there in St. Paul's Epistles, we can trace
plainly enough a sublime and profound conception of
Faith, which may well be our guide in our coming

The Author of the Epistle to the Hebrews has done for
Faith what St. Paul has done for Love in 1 Cor. xiii. The
eleventh chapter of the Epistle is a hymn in honour of
Faith. It begins with the famous definition eo-rtv Se owns

eATTi^o/xevcov VTrooracris, irpay^ariov eAey^os ov @\7rofJ.V<i)V.

' Now Faith is the assurance of [or, the giving substance to]
things hoped for, the proving [or, test] of objects not
seen.' (R.V.) IIrris has here no article. This is signifi-
cant ; for in this Epistle Faith is not the Christian Faith,
but a psychological faculty. In this sense it is as wide as
the human mind, and even Rahab may be adduced as
an example of it. The meaning both of vTroo-rao-is and of
!Aeyx os i s disputed. For the former, the Revised Version
gives the preference to ' assurance/ a meaning which is

i Pfleiderer, ibid., p. 350.


also assigned to it, probably rightly, in iii. 14, ' We are
become partakers of Christ if we hold fast the beginning of
our confidence (rrjv dp\^v rrj^ vTroo-raVews) firm unto the
end.' The Greek Fathers say that 17 d/o^ rfjs vTroo-rao-ews
is Faith, as the ' beginning of our true nature,' that which
causes us to become what we in truth are. 1 (The paradox
is indicated by the tenses yeyovaptv, edvTrep KO.T do- \uinev.)
This is a very interesting interpretation, and the thought
is a fine one ; but since the use of vTrdo-rao-is in the sense
of ' assurance ' or ' resolution ' is well established in later
Greek, it seems more natural to take it so in this place.
But we are not therefore obliged to take vTroo-rao-is as
1 assurance ' in ch. xi. 1. In i. 3 it has the meaning of
1 substance ' or ' reality ' ; and all through the Epistle the
distinction between heaven and earth, between spirit and
flesh, is conceived Platonically as that between substance
and shadow, truth and appearance, pattern and copy.
Moreover, the passages quoted to justify the translation
'assurance' do not convince me that the unquestioned
late-Greek meaning, ' firm endurance,' ' steadfastness,' is
sufficient authority for translating e\7ri{ofjievuv iVoo-Tao-ts
' assurance with regard to what is hoped for.' Such an
explanation seems not to have occurred to any com-
mentator before Luther, and the Greek Fathers are not
lightly to be set aside in such a case. Chrysostom's
note is : ' For whereas things that are matters of hope
seem to be unsubstantial, Faith gives them substance ;
or rather, does not give it, but is itself their being. For
instance, the resurrection has not taken place, and is not
in substance, but Faith gives it reality (v^Lo-r^o-iv) in our
soul.' If we take it so, the writer says that Faith gives
substance, or reality, to things which we hope for, but
which have not yet taken place. It does so by raising us
above the categories of time into those of eternity, so that,

i The reader should consult Bishop Westcott's edition'of the Epittle to ih*
Hebrews for a fuller discussion of this passage.


even as Faith shows us that Christ offered Himself to God
' through an eternal Spirit ' (ix. 14), in the world of timeless
reality, so to the eye of Faith the future is as real as the
present. "EAcyx 05 must correspond in meaning to
v;roo-Ta<ris, and probably means * proof,' ' test,' that which
establishes (or rejects) the reality of unseen objects. Thus
the full meaning of this noble definition I cannot agree
with Westcott's inference from the order eo-rtv 8e Trams
that ' the object of the writer is not to give a formal
definition ' is that Faith is the faculty which makes real
to us the future and the unseen, and moreover enables us,
in this region, to discern the true from the false. ' Things
which in the succession of time are still hoped for, have
a true existence in the eternal order ; and this existence
Faith brings home to the believer as a real fact.' (West-
cott.) When we remember that Plato distinguishes know-
ledge (yi/wo-ts) from opinion (3ou), as being concerned
with reality and not with appearance, we may say that
this Epistle claims for Faith the rank of potential Gnosis,
instead of allying it with opinion, as the classical usage of
TTICTTIS tended to do.

Dr. Du Bose is in substantial agreement. * Beneath or
behind the things that are seen and are temporal there is
an Eternal Unseen. What is it ? The Word of God. If
that answer is not true, there is no object or function of
Faith, and no religion. Suppose it to be true, and that not
only is the Word of God as the reality of things the true ob-
jective matter of Faith, but that Faith is the true subjec-
tive apprehension and possession of that objective reality,
does the fact without us produce the intuition of it within
us ; or is the intuition itself the proper prius and reality ?
Does liypostasis mean objective substance or subjective
assurance ? I ask simply to bring out this fact, that in
the divine and absolute religion of Jesus Christ Faith and
fact are treated as having been made one, as being now
identical. Faith is not only assurance ; it is the present



18 FAITH [cir

possession, the very substance and reality of its object.
Assurance is substance, Faith is fact, promise is fulfilment,
hope is possession and fruition all not so much through
any inexplicable virtue in Faith itself, as because Faith is
the laying hold of and uniting itself with that Word of
God which is at once the substance of all reality and the
light of all truth.' l

This notable chapter contains other important dicta
about Faith. ' Without Faith it is impossible to please
Him ; for he that cometh to God must believe that He is,
and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek
Him* (v. 6). Faith demands the existence of its Object ;
[ God is a fact, not an ideal. Faith also demands that its
Object shall be active that God shall be experienced, and
not merely thought of as existing. Again, Faith is ex-
plained to be ' a seeing of the invisible ' (v. 27). ' The
invisible ' is God, as the gender shows. Faith is seeing
God during our earthly pilgrimage. Augustine's comment
is true and fine. ' Errabant quidem adhuc et patriam
quaerebant ; sed duce Christo errare non poterant. Via
illis fuit visio Dei. 1 2

The doctrine of Faith hi this Epistle is not at variance
with that of St. Paul, but it is liberated from the Rabbinical
form which is the result of St. Paul's Jewish education.
The idea that Faith consists in accepting the free gift of
the righteousness of God, has no place in this Epistle.
On the other hand, the notion of Faith as exalting us above
the trammels of our life in time, enabling us to view history
as a whole, and to assume a heroic attitude in face of tem-
poral sufferings by regarding events sub specie ceternitatis,
is peculiar to this Epistle, and is a most inspiring thought.
It has affinities to Philo's conception of Faith, and is, no

2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Online LibraryWilliam Ralph IngeFaith and its psychology → online text (page 2 of 21)