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A common soteriological view among Evangelical Christians (such as myself) is that we are saved by grace, through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). However, this belief is usually accompanied by a belief that the inevitable effect of salvation is a life that bears fruit, and gradually conforms to Christ (sanctification).

1 John 3:9 (NIV)
9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.

Matthew 7:18 (NIV)
18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.

James 2:17-19 (NIV)
17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
   Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

James 2:24 (NIV)
24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

It seems clear, especially from James, that genuine saving faith is accompanied by works. Of course, since we are not saved by works, we conclude that these works are the fruit of our salvation, and not the cause of it. In other words, we are first saved by grace through our genuine saving faith, and works result.

So it seems that it is possible to have a faith that is non-genuine, or non-saving, and thus does not lead to the bearing of fruit. My question centers around what the difference between these two types of faith is.

I'm interested in non-Calvinist viewpoints, because I believe that I understand the Calvinist one.

I think a Calvinist's answer to this problem would be that it is God who initiates the salvation process in the elect, and saving faith is the result. Non-Calvinists would hold that God initiates the salvation process for everyone and draws all men to him, but we must choose Him. So it is in the non-Calvinist viewpoint that the question arises: If there is such thing as a non-saving faith, or non-genuine "choosing", what characterizes saving faith?

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Related (not dupe tho): christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/6960/… –  Thomas Shields Apr 2 '12 at 18:20
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6 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I think the short answer that's easiest to give to another person is that if you really believe the message the Christ brought to mankind, it will change you, and that change will show in your actions. Not that you must do change your behavior to attain salvation, but that coming to believe what saves us by faith cannot but change your behavior.

By contrast, it is very easy to say that one believes something, whether or not it is true. The profession of belief is important, but when one declares a belief and that belief is not reflected in their behavior, it is suspect.

Perhaps I'm arguing semantics here, but I think it's meaningful that James says "You say you believe there is one God," as opposed to, say, "You say you believe Jesus Christ is the Messiah who died for your sins." I think James is pointing out that simply believing in the existence of God is a baseline, not the endpoint of faith. If that's the case, then such a belief isn't nearly as formative of behavior as belief that one is a sinner who can be forgiven. James seems to be saying faith should manifest action because real faith is in something transforming.

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Thanks, interesting. So it sounds like you are saying that the non-saving faith means an external faith, that is possibly for show. But James seems to argue that people can legitimately believe (as the demons do) but have some saving quality missing. –  Eric Apr 2 '12 at 18:17
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Perhaps I'm arguing semantics here, but I think it's meaningful that James says "You say you believe there is one God," as opposed to, say, "You say you believe Jesus Christ is the Messiah who died for your sins." I think James is pointing out that simply believing in the existence of God is a baseline, not the endpoint of faith. If that's the case, then such a belief isn't nearly as formative of behavior as belief that one is a sinner who can be forgiven. James seems to be saying faith should manifest action because real faith is in something transforming. –  asfallows Apr 2 '12 at 18:31
    
Good point, thanks. –  Eric Apr 2 '12 at 18:36
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Eric,

If I have this right, your question was: "If there is such thing as a non-saving faith, or non-genuine "choosing", what characterizes saving faith?"

First, I must confess I'm probably more Calvinistic than not. But, I believe there is most certainly a none saving faith, so no "IF" here...

I open by giving an example, The Rich Young Ruler of Mark 10:17-27. This man absolutely believed in God the Father. No one could say he didn't believe for he had since his youth kept all the commandments, so he had faith! He believed in God and his need for salvation and he was working it out by his obedience to the commandments of God.

Jesus' answers, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Jesus knew this mans heart and knew the thing that was holding up "Saving Faith" and it was his possessions.

@bruce r mills was right "Saving Faith" is when we as believers work out our own salvation with fear and trembling by emptying ourselves, giving up our temporal securities (which by the way are illusions of safety & security), surrendering the things we perceive make us happy or keep us safe and walk in faith and trust God has our best in mind (which is a fearful thing). Because the next verse is Phil 2:13 "for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." Many believers are under the impression this is still their life to live and it is not... It is the Masters to do with as he pleases.

What's the difference between "non-saving faith" and "saving faith"? One thing, selling all you have surrendering your desires to that of the Masters... Reaching up grabbing the Master hand and walking into the unknown realizing it's all about the Masters plan and your life is his not yours. So, our part to sell everything and follow the Master.

Our Lord Jesus was the greatest example, for Paul writes earlier in Philippians 2 the example of our Lord is laid out... "5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." He surrendered the wealth of heaven to be obedient to the father.

He left the riches of heaven to become flesh. But, then he went on to really give the examples of a life of faith... to selflessly serve (ex. Washing of the feet of the disciples), then he gave the two great commandments, which bare witness of a "Faith that Saves" Mark 12:29-30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Faith that saves lives by these rules of engagement and the fruit of faith becomes evidence as we walk into the unknown with the Master who knows all!!

I hope I didn't break in forum rules.

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Welcome to the site. Glad you decided to participate. You did okay on the forum rule, however, I wouldn't get used to using the word forum because this site is designed on a strict question and answer format. I got the sense that the question wanted an Evangelical viewpoint. I think you represented that, however, some sources backing up what you have said would be great. Overall, it's an okay answer, so +1. I would like to encourage you to post again soon with an answer on a different question or with your own question. –  fredsbend Dec 22 '13 at 1:38
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i think what @asfallows said is right.
In addition and my answer as a non-calvinist:
i see "saving faith" as an approach to convert someone. Which christians must.

First, have faith to become saved. Then follow up with repenting, baptism, and going to chruch.

Which order of procedure is right?

Like @asfallows, i'm not quoting because this is still a debate between denominations.
So just follow your doctrine. Maybe one day we-all christians will have the same doctrine again.

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Those who have a ”saving faith” are those who are ”clean”. Everyone is invited to the wedding feast, both good and evil, but those who get to stay are those who have put on the ”wedding garments”.

Quote from Bible.Org Article

The outcome of this man’s situation informs us of the true meaning of the symbolism. We have to say that the proper attire would correspond to all that Jesus said was required for entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven--true repentance for sin and faith in Christ, and then a commitment to love and obey the Lord as evidence of saving faith. In Jesus’ day many people certainly wanted to enter the kingdom, but when Jesus started telling them to come to him and take his yoke upon them and learn of him, they went away. And in the day of judgment many will claim to have done good deeds, but Jesus will turn them away because they will not have dealt properly with the basic issue of salvation--they will not be prepared properly and spiritually to be received by the King at the wedding of the Son.

Imagine going to a meeting called by the new sheriff in town where he lays out the rules: no guns allowed. You check your shooting irons in at the town entrance and reclaim them when you leave. You are ”clean”.

Imagine being found later with a Derringer tucked in your boots. Its the pokey for you, or may be worse.

Everybody followed the rules, except Judas. He wasn't clean. Turned out badly for him: he became a vessel of dishonour, fit for ignoble use. IOW, the role you play is decided by your reaction to the Word Jesus teaches you, and your decision to obey or not, to be righteous or evil.

John 6:70 NET Jesus replied, “Didn’t I choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is the devil?”

John 13:10 NET Jesus replied, “The one who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not every one of you.”

John 15:3 NET You are clean already because of the word that I have spoken to you.

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Got a reference for this? How do you make a connection between faith and being clean? This illustration doesn't seem to make it any clearer what the nature of saving faith is nor how one gets it. What Christians teach about faith this way? –  Caleb Nov 17 '12 at 17:51
    
Hi Caleb, I have edited the post to answer your queries. Thank you for your ministry and service here on the site. –  Footwasher Nov 19 '12 at 16:53
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I have read the Bible from cover to cover 9 times in the last 10 1/2 years... It is a study Bible in the NKJV format, written by John MacArthur... While I don't 100% agree with every note that John MacArthur makes...I believe the very act of salvation is a mystery that each person must work out on their own...

The Apostle Paul tells us this, in...Philippians 2:12... Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; (NKJV)

John MacArthur has written at least 4 versions of study Bibles, and over 80 books... I was amazed at his statement in the following video, that he wasn't even sure as to how his own salvation came about... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4mleum3jZ1E

I believe sinners must be drawn in by God first...John 6:44... No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. (NKJV)

At this point they have to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the gospel of Christ must be understood and obeyed to be graced by God with salvation...

I spent a day writing on this necessity to become a Christian in the following link...

http://brmfam.wordpress.com/2012/10/20/gods-group-thoughts-for-10202012-gods-grace-through-obedience-to-the-gospel-of-christ/

I also write a daily devotion on Facebook on a page called..."Gods group"

Hope this helps...

bruce r mills

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Hi bruce! I encourage you to read our FAQ since we are a little different than many of the Christian forums out there. In fact, we prefer to call ourselves a Question and Answer (Q&A) site and strictly adhere to answerable questions and factual answers. The above answer isn't at all what we are interested in and its almost certain to be deleted momentarily. I'm sorry for the confusion. –  Jon Ericson Nov 12 '12 at 19:05
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Hello and welcome to Christianity.SE. As Jon notes, I think you may have misunderstood what is going on passions around here. Most notably, this content does not answer the question being raised. Furthermore, we aren't looking for truth on issues one way or another, we're interested in what Christianity beloved believes. If anything you've answered almost the opposite of the question because you and MaCarthur are coming from a fairly reformed view of salvation. In question here is what the other view is. –  Caleb Nov 12 '12 at 19:37
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faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Doesn't this seem to say that since true faith is accompanied by action, and faith unaccompanied by action is dead, that the dead faith isn't really faith at all?

From your comment on asfallows's answer:

But James seems to argue that people can legitimately believe (as the demons do) but have some saving quality missing

I hate to quote myself, but it's quite relevant, I promise. (plus, what's the difference between quoting myself and just re-saying it?)

Typically faith is split into three categories: knowledge, assent, commitment. Most modern day Americans have knowledge (that is, most know of the gospel of Christ, or at least have heard of Jesus). Many believe that He died for their sins. But as James says, "even the demons believe!" Not so many, perhaps, actually trust God for their salvation. It is one thing to think that Jesus died for you, pray a prayer, and move on. It is another to live one's whole life utterly devoted to God, in light of Christ's death and wholly dependent upon that death for Salvation.

In my opinion, then (from what I've been taught in my PCA church), non-saving faith isn't really faith at all. I suppose you could say it's 2/3 faith, but as James says, it's still dead.

So unless we really, truly believe that Jesus died for us and live for him, we've never really had faith in the first place.

In a sort of strange extension of Paul's "dead" analogy in Ephesians 2, I guess you could say that the dead faith is like hooking a dead guy up to a robot. You can make the dead guy look sort of alive; you can put the gospel right in front of his nose and move him around. But unless he actually comes back to life, he won't be saved. (does that analogy even make sense?)

In Sum,

if God hasn't given the person a new "heart of flesh", it's not saving faith.

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Thanks - so in other words, saving faith involves genuine commitment? –  Eric Apr 2 '12 at 20:24
    
@Eric yes, but more fundamentally, rebirth and a new "heart of flesh" –  Thomas Shields Apr 2 '12 at 20:27
    
Regarding your edit, what is a "heart of flesh"? Is that a Biblical reference? Also, the summary seems to be a tautology, if "heart of flesh" is used in the way I think it is. It seems to be saying, "If God hasn't saved the person, it's not a saving faith." That would be my definition of saving faith as well, but I'm curious about the human requirement for salvation (rebirth and new heart are performed by God on a person who has met the human requirement) –  Eric Apr 3 '12 at 15:53
    
@Eric you say rebirth is performed by God on a person who has met the human requirement - I'd disagree. Think about rebirth. It means you're being born again. We were dead (Ephesians 2:1), now we're alive. But dead people can't do anything. God has to start the process. Once he gives us a new heart, it is evidenced by "confessing with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing in our heart that God raised him from the dead" (biblegateway.com/passage/…) –  Thomas Shields Apr 3 '12 at 16:25
    
Also, see my edit for the link to the "heart of flesh" verse –  Thomas Shields Apr 3 '12 at 16:25
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