L Berkhof Systematic Theology
In the old testament. Evidently the New Testament writers, in stressing faith as the fundamental principle of the religious life, were not conscious of shifting ground and of departing from the Old Testament representation. They regard Abraham as the type of all true believers (Rom 4; Gal 3; Heb 11; Jam 2), and those who are of faith as the true sons of Abraham (Rom 2:29,29; 4:12,16; Gal 3:9). Faith is never treated as a novelty of the new covenant, nor is any distinction drawn between the faith of the two covenants. There is a sense of continuity, and the proclamation of faith is regarded as the same in both dispensations, Joh 5:46; 12:38,39; Hab 2:4; Rom 1:17; 10:16; Gal 3:11; Heb 10:38. In both Testaments faith is the same radical self-commitment to God, not merely as the highest good of the soul, but as the gracious Saviour of the sinner. The only difference that is apparent, is due to the progressive work of redemption, and this is more or less evident even within the confines of the Old Testament itself.
In the patriarchal period. In the earlier portions of the Old Testament there is but little in the line of abstract statement respecting the way of salvation. The essence of the religion of the patriarchs is exhibited to us in action. The promise of God is in the foreground, and the case of Abraham is designed to set forth the idea that the proper response to it as that of faith. The whole life of Noah was determined by trust in God and in His promises, but it is especially Abraham that is set before us as the typical believer, who commits himself to God with unwavering trust in His promises and is justified by faith.
In the period of the law. The giving of the law did not effect a fundamental change in the religion of Israel, but merely introduced a change in its external form. The law was not substituted for the promise; neither was faith supplanted by works. Many of the Israelites, indeed, looked upon the law in a purely legalistic spirit and sought to base their claim to salvation on a scrupulous fulfilment of it as a body of external precepts. But int the case of those who understood its real nature, who felt the inwardness and spirituality of the law, it served to deepen the sense of sin and to sharpen the conviction that salvation could be expected only from the grace of God. The essence of real piety was ever-increasingly seen to consist in a confident trust in the God of salvation. While the Old Testament clearly stresses the fear of the Lord, a large number relying on Him, fixing the heart on Him, and cleaving to Him - make it abundantly evident that this fear is not a craven but a child-like, reverent fear, and emphasize the necessity of that loving self-commitment to God which is the essence of saving faith. Even in the period of the law faith is distinctly soteriological, looking to the Messianic salvation. It is a trusting in the God of salvation, and a firm reliance on His promises for the future.
In the Epistle to the Hebrews. The writer of Hebrews also regards Christ as the proper object of saving faith, and teaches that there is no righteousness except through faith, 10:38; 11:77. But the danger against which the writer of this letter had to guard was not that of falling from faith into works, but rather that of falling from faith into despair. He speaks of faith as "the assurance of things hoped for, the convictions of things not seen," 11:1. He exhorts the readers to an attitude of faith, which will enable them to rise from the seen to the unseen, from the present to the future, from the temporal to the eternal, and which will enable the, to be patient in the midst of sufferings.
Faith in General.
The word "faith" is not exclusively a religious and theological term. It is often used as a general and non-religious sense, and even so has more than one connotation.
The following uses of the term deserve particular attention. It may denote:
1. Faith as little more than mere opinion. The word "faith" is sometimes used in a rather loose and popular sense, to denote a persuasion of the truth, which is stronger than mere opinion, and yet weaker than knowledge. Even Locke defined faith as "the assent of the mind to propositions which are probably, but not certainly, true." In popular language we often say of that of which we are not absolutely sure, but which we at the same time feel constrained to recognize as true: "I believe that, but I am not sure of it." Consequently some philosophers have found the distinguishing characteristic of faith in the lesser degree of certainty, which it yields - Locke, Hume, Kant, and others.
2. Faith as immediate certainty. In connection with science faith is often spoke of as immediate certainty. There is a certainty, which man obtains by means of perception, experience, and logical deduction, but there is also an intuitive certainty. In every science there are axioms that cannot be demonstrated and intuitive convictions that are not acquired by perception or logical deduction.. In both cases now mentioned faith is regarded exclusively as an activity of the intellect.