Multipolar or Bust: The Emerging World and “the Burden of America”

Right or wrong, for good or bad, the United States is losing it’s status as pre-eminent global power-projector. One-part internal rot and one part failed excursions afforded the rise of a series of emergent forces, state and non-state alike. Pax Americana fading, the stunted nationlooks to make herself great again — indeed President Trump has said as much.

And emerging heavy–weight (China, Russia, India) and middle–weight (Pakistan, Turkey, Brazil) nations, increasingly belligerent, defy the status quo like no time since before the Peace of Westphalia; each delineating their version of how the world should look.

Hurtling headlong into a novel multipolarity brings many an incident and altercation to bear. How we manoeuvre through and around these interchanges will shape the Kingdom to come. One expects rather division of the globe into regions, each with a dominant power — the United States in the Americas, China in Asia, Russia in Eurasia, Israel in the Middle East, etc.

Much of this world order will be determined by how the waning empire reacts to new challengers; how new challengers bridge-up to imperial authority. To that end it seems likely America will bear some of the coming insult, relegating her to regional power status rather than the retention of global hegemony.

How might that happen to an otherwise universally formidable nation? Two immediate responses come to mind: economic and military. But the former rests heavily on the latter such that military power determines the ultimate outcome. (Of course one cannot have military power without economic success. The two are interwoven). How then might American military authority be challenged?

The nuclear threat against America, for the first time since the end of the Cold War, stands large before us. No longer something to be dismissed out of hand, for the first time in living memory many Americans ought genuinely to consider contingency plans against a nuclear strike scenario. Indeed both coasts—centred in New York and LA—emerge prime as targets.

In spite of news that should assuage our fears¹, we recall 1 Thessalonians 5:3:

For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.

John Bolton thinks North Korea is trying to “sucker the U.S. into relaxing sanctions”:

The only thing they’re trying to do is get us to abandon the pressure that we’re putting on them and hopefully forswear the possible use of military force, which nobody wants but nobody wants North Korea with nuclear weapons, either. That’s what this is about.³

That sounds not too far off the mark. But, in responding to the North Korean nuclear threat, the U.S is running out of options. As powerful as the U.S. is—and it is powerful—it is by no means impenetrable [4]:

The US has a total of 44 interceptors stationed in Alaska and California that could be used if North Korea shot at America, experts tell me. In May, the US had its biggest success yet when it tested the missile defense system under realistic conditions: Rockets launched from California destroyed the incoming mock ICBM in midair.

While much of biblical eschatology is written in the style of a synecdoche—”global” references pointing rather to the epicentre of Israel, and the surrounding Middle East—one cannot escape the reality of reverberations across the globe. As part of the Armageddon Protocol, a nuclear strike on America—indeed within the space of a couple of years—is not out of the question.

And that’s just North Korea

Don’t be alarmist: sure. Be optimistic? Great. But also be realistic. Residents’ contingency plans should be considered.

References
  1. Kim Jong un meets with S. Korean diplomats for first time in landmark meeting in Pyongyang – Liberty Unyielding, 5 March 2018
  2. Trump agrees to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Joe Tacopino – New York Post8 March 2018
  3. North Korean nukes could reach entire U.S. within months, Greg Corombos – World Net Daily, 9 March 2018
  4. The US is running out of options to stop North Korea: What can Trump do?
    , Alex Ward – Vox,  30 November 2017
  5. This Missile Could Reach California.But Can North Korea Use It With a Nuclear Weapon?, William Broad, Mika Grondahl, Josh Keller, Alicia Parlapiano, Anjali Singhvi and Karen Yourish – New York Times, 3Which US cities could North Korea’s ballistic missile hit? – DW
Further Reading

Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. 20 He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly.

Bring Back the Sabbath


Sandor Ferenczi, a disciple of Freud’s, once identified a disorder he called Sunday neurosis. Every Sunday (or, in the case of a Jewish patient, every Saturday), the Sunday neurotic developed a headache or a stomachache or an attack of depression. After ruling out purely physiological causes, including the rich food served at Sunday dinners, Ferenczi figured out what was bothering his patients. They were suffering from the Sabbath.

On that weekly holiday observed by all ”present-day civilized humanity” (Ferenczi was writing in 1919, when Sunday was still sacred, even in Budapest, his very cosmopolitan hometown), not only did drudgery give way to festivity, family gatherings and occasionally worship, but the machinery of self-censorship shut down, too, stilling the eternal inner murmur of self-reproach. The Sunday neurotic, rather than enjoying his respite, became distraught; he feared that impulses repressed only with great effort might be unleashed. He induced pain or mental anguish to pre-empt the feeling of being out of control.

About a decade ago I developed a full-blown weekend disorder of my own. Perhaps because I am Jewish, it came on Friday nights. My mood would darken until, by Saturday afternoon, I’d be unresponsive and morose. My normal routine, which involved brunch with friends and swapping tales of misadventure in the relentless quest for romance and professional success, made me feel impossibly restless. I started spending Saturdays by myself. After a while I got lonely and did something that, as a teenager profoundly put off by her religious education, I could never have imagined wanting to do. I began dropping in on a nearby synagogue.

It was a small building in Brooklyn, self-consciously built nearly a century ago to look European; it had once served as a set in an inadvertently hilarious movie in which Melanie Griffith plays a police officer who goes undercover in a Hasidic community. I sat in the back of this Disneyfied sanctuary and discovered that I had no interest in praying, which I hardly remembered how to do. What I wanted to do was listen to the hymns, which offered the uncanny comfort of songs heard in childhood.

It was only much later, after I joined the synagogue and changed my life in a million other unforeseen ways, that I developed a theory about my condition. If Ferenczi’s patients had suffered from the Sabbath, I was suffering from the lack thereof. In the Darwinian world of the New York 20-something, everything — even socializing, reading or exercising — felt like work or the pursuit of work by other means. Had I been able to consult Ferenczi, I believe he would have told me that I was experiencing the painful inklings of sanity. For in the 84 years since Ferenczi identified his syndrome, which bears a striking resemblance to what is now called workaholism, it has become the norm, and the Sabbath, the one day in seven dedicated to rest by divine command, has become the holiday Americans are most likely never to take.

It can be startling to realize just how integral the Sabbath once was to American time. When we tell our children stories about the first pilgrims landing on our shores, we talk rather vaguely about their quest for religious freedom. We leave out that this freedom was needed in large part so that the Puritans could obey the Fourth Commandment — ”Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” — with a zealotry that had deeply alienated their countrymen back home. We all have heard of the Puritan ”blue laws,” named, supposedly, for the color of paper they were printed on. They required attendance at church but punished anyone who got there with unseemly haste or on too showy a horse. They forbade unnecessary visiting, except in emergencies, and smoking and sports. Unlike Orthodox Jews, who though strict about the Sabbath are nonetheless encouraged to drink and have marital sex on Friday night, the ascetic Puritans frowned on any kind of drinking or sex on Sunday. In at least one documented instance, the ”lewd and unseemly behavior” of kissing your wife on your doorstep upon returning home from a journey of three years was punished by a spell in the stocks. From sunset Saturday to sunset Sunday, the most pious Sabbatarians (usually clergymen) wouldn’t shave, have their rooms swept or beds made or allow food to be prepared or dishes washed. They ate only what had been cooked in advance and devoted all time not spent in church to reading Scripture.

Even after Puritanism lost its hold on American culture, the American Sunday was observed with unusual strictness. In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville observed with some surprise that few Americans were ”permitted to go on a hunt, to dance or even to play an instrument on Sunday.” As recently as 125 years ago, you would have been hard pressed to find a museum or library open on Sunday. Eighty years ago, football was considered too vulgar to be played on Sunday. Oldsters remember standing in line at the bank on Fridays to get cash for the weekend; youngsters assume they can withdraw at will. Anyone older than 30 can remember living with the expectation that most stores would be closed on Sunday; the expectation now is that they will be open, and we’re miffed when they aren’t.

”The Lonely Days Were Sundays” is the title of a book about growing up Jewish in the churchgoing South. The lonely Sunday has been replaced by the overscheduled Sunday — soccer Sunday, Little League Sunday, yoga-class Sunday, catch-up-around-the-house Sunday. Americans still go to church, of course, but only in between chores, sporting events and shopping expeditions. (You can now find A.T.M. machines inside megachurches; congregants don’t have to waste a minute between services and the mall.)

The eclipse of the Sabbath is just one small part of the larger erosion of social time, with its former generally agreed-upon rhythms of labor and repose. ”After hours” has become a strictly personal concept, since the 24-hour convenience store, gas station, pharmacy, supermarket, movie theater, diner, factory and bar all allow us to work, shop, dine and be entertained at any time of day or night. We greet each shift of an activity from weekday to evening or weekend as proof of American cultural superiority; we knock over the barriers between us and the perpetual motion machine that is the marketplace with the glee you might expect of insomniacs who had been chained for too long to their beds.

The lingering traces of Sabbatarianism seem comically vestigial, like the fetal tail: the New York blue law that won’t let you buy beer till after noon on Sunday; Broadway stages that go dark on Sunday nights; work rules requiring us to show up at our offices Monday through Friday, even though many of us do our best work at night or on weekends (and, as you know if you’ve seen the movie ”Office Space,” putting in face time at the office is often a cover for doing less).

Customs exist because they answer a need; when they disappear, that need must be met in some other way. There is ample evidence that our relationship to work is out of whack. Economists, psychologists and sociologists have charted our ballooning work hours; the increase in time devoted to competitive shopping; the commercialization of leisure that turns fun into work and requires military-scale budgeting and logistics and emotionally draining interactions with service personnel. Personally, I think the alarm about these matters is often overblown. Most people, with the possible exception of parents of 13-year-olds, have the wherewithal to avoid the mall if they want to, and anyone who seeks to relax in a theme park or on a packaged tour deserves what he gets. So I won’t weary you with cautionary tales about what our work-addicted culture can do to you, psychologically and physiologically, because, for one thing, it’s completely within your power to hold it at bay, and for another, you don’t want to anyway. Ours is a society that pegs status to overachievement; we can’t help admiring workaholics. Let me argue, instead, on behalf of an institution that has kept workaholism in reasonable check for thousands of years.

Most people mistakenly believe that all you have to do to stop working is not work. The inventors of the Sabbath understood that it was a much more complicated undertaking. You cannot downshift casually and easily, the way you might slip into bed at the end of a long day. As the Cat in the Hat says, ”It is fun to have fun but you have to know how.” This is why the Puritan and Jewish Sabbaths were so exactingly intentional, requiring extensive advance preparation — at the very least a scrubbed house, a full larder and a bath. The rules did not exist to torture the faithful. They were meant to communicate the insight that interrupting the ceaseless round of striving requires a surprisingly strenuous act of will, one that has to be bolstered by habit as well as by social sanction.

Take the Puritan Sunday. It would be excruciating to us, and yet the restrictions were not pointless. They made of the day something rare and otherworldly, a realization of the Puritan vision of a city on the hill. ”Sweet to the Pilgrims and to their descendants was the hush of their calm Saturday night and their still, tranquil Sabbath,” wrote the 19th-century historian Alice Morse Earle, who shared with more famous authors, like Harriet Beecher Stowe and Nathaniel Hawthorne, a qualified nostalgia for the preindustrial Sabbath. ”No work, no play, no idle strolling was known; no sign of human life or motion was seen except the necessary care of the patient cattle and other dumb beasts, the orderly and quiet going to and from the meeting, and at the nooning, a visit to the churchyard to stand by the side of the silent dead.” Anyone who has experienced the eerie serenity of the ultra-Orthodox sections of Jerusalem or Brooklyn on Saturdays would be in a position to conjure a Puritan Sunday.

Sabbath in Jerusalem, 1950 [Wikimedia Commons]

Americans, of course, no longer cherish obedience as a virtue. We have become individualists, even libertarians. We will no longer put up with being told how to dispose of our free time. But our unwillingness to suffer constraint shouldn’t blind us to the possibility that Sabbath discipline may have real benefits. For one thing, it reflects a paradoxical insight: only a Sabbath that you have to work for will appear worth keeping, just as, in psychoanalysis, a patient will value only those sessions for which he pays. Anything gotten for nothing will be treated as such. After all, as in therapy, the good that comes from the Sabbath is mostly intangible. We don’t produce anything when we don’t work. 

So counterintuitive is the idea of organized nonproductivity, given the force and universality of the human urge to make things, that you can’t believe anyone ever managed to lift his head from his workbench or plow long enough to think of it. To the first-century Stoic philosopher Seneca, the Sabbath was absurd, a way for Rome’s backward Jewish subjects to waste ”almost a seventh of their life in inactivity.” But when (or if), perhaps a millennium earlier, the Jews took over an old Mesopotamian day of taboo and transformed it into one of holy rest, they brought into the world not just the Sabbath but something just as precious, and surprisingly closely linked. They invented the idea of social equality.

The Israelite Sabbath institutionalized an astonishing, hitherto undreamed-of notion: that every single creature has the right to rest, not just the rich and the privileged. Covered under the Fourth Commandment are women, slaves, strangers and, improbably, animals. The verse in Deuteronomy that elaborates on this aspect of the Sabbath repeats, twice, that slaves were not to work, as if to drive home what must have been very hard to understand in the ancient world. The Jews were meant to perceive the Sabbath not only as a way to honor God but also as the central vehicle of their liberation theology, a weekly reminder of their escape from their servitude in Egypt.

In other words, we have the Sabbath to thank for labor legislation and for our belief that it is wrong for employers to drive their employees until they drop from exhaustion. So what do we do, today, with this remarkable heritage, which in the last century expanded to a generous two days, rather than just one? Much more than our ancestors could ever have imagined, and much, much less. We relax on the run and, in rare bursts of free time, we recreate. We choose from a dizzying array of leisure options and pursue them with an exemplary degree of professionalism and perfectionism. We rush our children from activity to activity, their days a blur of tight connections.

And yet there are important ways in which even our impressive recreational creativity fails to reproduce the benefits of the Sabbath. Few elective activities will ever rise to a status higher than work in our minds, and therefore cannot be relied upon to counterbalance our neurotic drive to achieve. Most of us will jettison plans to go skiing if a deadline looms near. We will assign a high priority to a non-work-related hobby only if we have committed to it in some public manner, as we do when we join a volleyball team or a choir. (Oddly, one of the few times a parent can truly relax is when lingering on the sidelines of a child’s baseball or soccer game; there is nothing like being forced to be somewhere and do very little for an hour and a half to declench the muscles of the mind.)

And not even our group leisure activities can do for us what Sabbath rituals could once be counted on to do. Religious rituals do not exist simply to promote togetherness. They’re theater. They are designed to convey to us a certain story about who we are without our even quite noticing that they are doing so. (One defining feature of religious rituals, in fact, is that we often perform them for years before we come to understand what they mean; this is why ministers and rabbis are famously unsympathetic when congregants complain that worship services or holiday rites feel meaningless.) The story told by the Sabbath is that of creation: we rest because God rested on the seventh day. What leads from God to humankind is the notion of imitatio Dei: the imitation of God. In other words, we rest in order to honor the divine in us, to remind ourselves that there is more to us than just what we do during the week.

Talk of God may disturb the secular, so they might prefer to frame the Sabbath in the more neutral context of aesthetics. The Sabbath provides two things essential to anyone who wishes to lift himself out of the banality of mercantile culture: time to contemplate and distance from everyday demands. The Sabbath is to the week what the line break is to poetic language. It is the silence that forces you to return to what came before to find its meaning.

After joining that synagogue in Brooklyn, I began to incorporate into my life the most elemental rudiments of a traditional Jewish Sabbath: lighting the candles and eating at home on Friday night; going to religious services on Saturday morning; sleeping or reading or going to a museum in the afternoon. Orthodox Jews will scoff when they read of my subminimal level of observance; my secular friends think I’ve become a fanatic. Sticking to these few rituals, however, is the hardest and least unconscious thing I’ve ever done. I fail to keep the Sabbath more than I succeed, probably because I started trying to do it not as a result of some redemptive revelation, such as might occur to a character in a Russian novel, but experimentally, out of curiosity, and in a social vacuum — by myself, rather than in a group or family setting. I didn’t know how else to attain the self-possession that eluded me, the sense of owing nothing to anybody except perhaps God. The conventional weekend felt claustrophobic. Silent, solitary contemplation was not sustainable. The ceremonies performed by my ancestors for the past two millenniums had at least the virtue of having been previously tested and found to be effective.

Do I think everyone else should observe a Sabbath? I believe it would be good for them, and even better for me, since the more widespread the ritual, the more likely I am to observe it. It is much easier to keep the Sabbath, for instance, when your family does, too, though getting children to agree to do anything their friends don’t do may prove insurmountable. (The greatest benefit of this may be that it makes a habit of unstructured family intimacy, without which parents must resort to so-called quality time, which tends to leave everyone feeling self-conscious.)

For hundreds of years it was firmly believed that only a Sabbath enforced through social legislation would keep society from sliding into a kind of unwitting slavery, protecting the vulnerable from the powerful and quashing the punitive obsessive-compulsive who lurks within us all. One of the bitterest public policy debates in 19th-century America, in fact, was over whether offering postal service and opening public institutions on Sundays would harm our national character and lead directly to barbarism.

If the Sabbath you choose to observe isn’t a religious one, you should nonetheless be religiously disciplined in your approach to it, observing it every week, not just when it’s convenient. I confess, though, that I have a hard time imagining a Sabbath divorced from religion: who would make the effort to honor the godly part of himself if he didn’t believe in a deity, no matter how ecumenical? It’s just as difficult to envision the Sabbath surviving the current speeding-up of everything without some generally enforced slowdown. The great religions lasted as long as they did because they were able to make their rituals part of everyone’s life.

But social legislation mandating Sunday (or Saturday) closings is no longer viable. Besides, it seems arrogant to tell someone what keeping the Sabbath would do for him, because it’s impossible to know how a ritual will affect a person until he has performed it. ”Holy days, rituals, liturgies — all are like musical notations which, in themselves, cannot convey the nuances and textures of live performance,” the historian Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi has written.

Whenever I dream of living in a society with a greater respect for its Sabbatarian past — a fantasy I entertain only with anxiety, since Sabbatarians have a long history of going too far — I think of something two rabbis said. Rabbi Judah Loew of Prague, best known for his tales of the golem, pointed out that the story of Creation was written in such a way that each day, each new creation, is seen as a step toward a completion that occurred on the Sabbath. What was Creation’s climactic culmination? The act of stopping. Why should God have considered it so important to stop? Rabbi Elijah of Vilna put it this way: God stopped to show us that what we create becomes meaningful to us only once we stop creating it and start to think about why we did so. The implication is clear. We could let the world wind us up and set us to marching, like mechanical dolls that go and go until they fall over, because they don’t have a mechanism that allows them to pause. But that would make us less than human. We have to remember to stop because we have to stop to remember.


Nice article, to which I would add as a caveat:

“My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” [John 5:17]

Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. [Eph 5:16]

Further Reading

Yom Teruah (Trumpets): The Day That No Man Knows

No man knoweth the day or hour … but we DO know that it will be one of two days on which the new moon first appears to herald the Feast of Trumpets — the “Day that no man knows”.

Some say this is a once-in-human-history astronomical alignment. Professor Christopher M. Graney counters it has occurred four times in the past one thousand years.

What we need is someone to do a astronomical observation of not just Revelation 12:1-2 but combined with verses 6-12 also. As many have rightly said, “where is the dragon?”.

The Heavens Declare has, with a slightly different slant, done just that. There are also YouTube videos that have attempted it, but unsatisfactorily to my mind.

At God in a Nutshell, they claim that:

It turns out that there’s something hiding in Virgo, which is being censored by Skymap, partially censored by Google Sky, but perhaps unintentionally left buried (and uncensored) in an old nasa.gov archive.

I don’t know about that. It’s one thing to be able to discern the sky and the mazzaroth (astronomical constellations); it’s entirely something else to start seeing the sketched face of a dragon with gnarly teeth on Infrared Astronomical Satellite.

What I do know is that the “Day that No Man Knows” is obviously another Messianic veiled reference to his return,rather than the long-held view of a prohibition against date setting.

Time for children of the light to act accordingly and overcome the darkness of this world. That means you.


Reading

Featured Image: Our day in the light of prophecy and providence (1921), Spicer, William Ambrose [Wikimedia Commons]

A Messianic Hebraism: How to Know that which “No Man Knoweth”

Two short videos (3 minutes each) to see with your eyes, hear with your ears; and know “of that Day and Hour”.

But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.

Video 1

15 For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. 16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. 17 For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.

Video 2

But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that Day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light and the children of the day; we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

Do the math, children of the light.

11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.

Quoted scripture
Extended Discussion
Featured Image

Bushbabies

Save Our Souls

What Must I Do to Be Saved?

From John F. Walvoord

If God has provided a wonderful salvation through Christ as revealed in the Bible, how can anyone be sure that he has received Christ and is the beneficiary of this marvelous grace of God?

The question of what one must do to be saved was asked long ago by the Philippian jailor in Acts 16:30. Paul and Silas had been beaten and thrown into prison in Philippi, with their feet fastened in the stocks. In this painful condition they could not sleep, so they sang praises to God. Scripture records that at midnight, as they were praying, there was an earthquake that broke them loose from their bonds and opened the prison doors. The jailor, rushing out and seeing the doors opened, assumed that the prisoners had fled. Because the law demanded that a jailor who lost prisoners should be put to death, he was about to commit suicide when Paul called out to him to do himself no harm because they were still all there. In response to this information, Scripture records that the jailor, after calling for some lights, fell down before Paul, trembling and pleading, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). Paul and Silas both immediately responded as recorded in Acts 16:31, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” As a result of the jailor’s conversion, his entire house also believed and was saved, and he took Paul out of the jail, washed his wounds and had fellowship with him. But how can one living today be assured that he is saved?

In discussing God’s wonderful plan of salvation in Ephesians 2:8-10, the apostle Paul sums it up in three verses, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

By Grace

The most important aspect of salvation is mentioned in the first part of Ephesians 2:8 where it states that we are saved “by grace.” The word grace has various meanings, but as it relates to salvation it speaks of kindness bestowed on one who does not deserve it. In other words, grace pours favor on those who do not deserve favor. In grace, the question is not whether or not a person deserves favor or blessing, but only whether he has been judged to qualify for such favor.

An examination of scriptural texts brings out how prominent this is in our Christian faith. In Romans 3:24 Paul says that Christians “are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” In other words, because Christ paid the price and provided redemption, it is now possible for a Christian to receive grace, or favor, that he does not deserve. In Ephesians 1:7-8 the apostle speaks of the riches of grace in Christ when he says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished upon us with all wisdom and understanding.” In every instance where grace is mentioned, it is entirely due to God’s favor, not human works.

Through Faith

According to Ephesians 2:8, grace is received by those who exercise faith in Jesus Christ. This introduces, however, a very practical question as to what is meant by faith. It is rather obvious for any careful observer of the church today that there are many who have made some outward profession of faith in Christ who never have been born again and show no evidence that they are saved. How then can one know whether he has put his faith in Christ or not? According to James 2:19, “Even the devils believe that-and shudder.” From these passages it is clear that there is saving faith and faith that does not save.

Convicting Work of the Holy Spirit

True faith in Christ is preceded by the work of the Spirit as Jesus Himself described in John 16:7-11:

But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

Before a person can intelligently believe in Christ, he has to be aware of the guilt of his sin. He also must face the fact that God is righteous and that He judges sin. This is further defined in verse 9, “in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me.” An unsaved person needs to realize that while he is a sinner, as all men are sinners, this constitutes only a part of his condemnation before God. The one sin that prevents him from entering into grace and favor with God is the sin of unbelief. Accordingly, he must realize that salvation is by faith alone. He also needs instruction on the matter of righteousness. Scriptures reveal various kinds of righteousness, for instance, the false righteousness of human works. Scripture makes clear that any human works that we offer, even if they are good, do not qualify us for salvation. Isaiah 64:6 says, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” What the sinner needs to learn is that nothing short of the righteousness of God will allow him to be saved.

Judgment is also defined as referring to the fact that sin was judged when Christ died on the cross, and Satan was condemned and now awaits the execution of God’s judgment. Obviously, many who are saved do not completely understand this doctrine, but, nevertheless, under compulsion of the Holy Spirit, turn to Christ in faith in order to be saved. The three aspects of the Spirit’s convicting the unsaved are (1) that a person seeking salvation must understand the nature of sin in contrast to the righteousness of God, (2) that God provides a righteousness which is by faith and is not earned or deserved, and (3) that God has judged sin in Christ on the cross, including the condemnation of Satan. As we enter into salvation through faith in Christ, Christ becomes our sin-bearer. As John the Baptist expressed it, Jesus Christ is the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

Salvation is from the Lord

When one considers all the facts relating to salvation and the preparatory work of the Spirit before one can be saved, it becomes obvious that simply assenting to the fact of the gospel and believing mentally that Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world does not result in salvation and is not really what can be called “saving faith.”

In the nature of faith, it is also important to realize that it must come from the whole man, that is, from his intellect, sensibility, and will. There has to be some mental understanding of what the gospel is in order to be saved, and the sinner coming to Christ should enter into the fact that it requires more than assent—it requires an act of the whole person. This may involve not only the mind but the feelings, or sensibility, and, most of all, it involves the will, for faith is actually a step authorized by our will. The English word belief comes somewhat short of what is anticipated in the Bible, which is more accurately expressed as trust, or committing oneself to faith in Christ.

This is illustrated by the use of an elevator. A person may believe that the elevator is in good working order and would take him to the top floor of the building if he chose to get on board; but as long as he is outside the elevator, his belief that the elevator would take him to the top floor does not do him any good. Faith would mean that he stepped in the elevator and put his weight into it and committed himself to its mechanical perfections. Likewise, there is more than mere assent in the matter of believing in Christ. Saving faith involves the work of the Spirit as well as the whole person—intellect, sensibility, and will. Because a person is dead spiritually, it also requires a work of God to draw him to Christ. Christ expressed it this way: “No one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him” (John 6:65).

Accordingly, in Scripture faith in Christ is an act of the whole person. It involves the work of the Spirit in the conviction of sin and righteousness and judgment, and it involves God’s providing special enablement to one who is spiritually dead to believe in Christ. This is what the Bible defines as “saving faith.”

While in our limitations it is not possible to understand completely what happens when a person trusts in Christ, the Scriptures are clear that it requires not only our action, but an act of God to bring it to consummation. Yet, the Scriptures make it plain that it is not faith plus works but faith that produces works that results in the salvation of an individual. The Father must draw the seeking sinner to Him for Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44). Accordingly, on the divine side there must be an activity of God in drawing the sinner to Himself; there must be the convicting work of the Spirit; and then the individual, empowered by God, must respond by an act of his will to put his trust in Christ as his Savior.

In Ephesians 2:8 Paul goes on to say, “This [is] not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Theologians have argued about what the word “this” refers to, and some have taken the position that “this” refers to faith. In other words, God must give faith or a person will not believe. But the Bible is not saying that faith is the gift of God in the sense of God doing the believing, but that the whole plan of salvation is the gift of God. Though some have tried to make “this” refer to faith, the word “this” is in the neuter gender, and faith is in the feminine gender. If “this” referred to faith, it would also have to be feminine. God does not believe for us. Instead, God enables a person who is spiritually dead to believe. The result is that faith is an act of the will of people made possible by the work of God.

Therefore, the whole work of salvation—by grace through faith and all the other elements that enter into salvation—is a work of God. Jonah 2:9 states, “Salvation comes from the LORD.” A similar thought is provided in Revelation 7:10 where the multitude of the saved in heaven cry out with the song, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

Not by Works

In an effort to distinguish true faith from mere assent, some have found it necessary to add requirements to the single requirement of faith for salvation. In keeping with this goal, they have required a person who wants to be saved to accept the lordship of Christ and to promise to serve the Lord from then on. This has been made a prerequisite to faith. This view is contradicted in Scripture where works follow faith but do not precede it. That is why in Ephesians 2:9 the apostle Paul makes it very explicit when he says, “Not by works so that no one can boast.” He goes on to say that we have to be renewed to do good works, “for we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10).

If it is difficult for Christians always to be fully yielded to the Lord and acknowledge Christ as the Master and Lord of our lives, how much more difficult and impossible is it for a person who is unsaved to take such a step before he is born again and before he is saved. The scriptural approach is rather to recognize that there is superficial faith—mere assent—which does not bring salvation, and even Satan recognizes the facts about Jesus Christ and believes them but is not saved. On the other hand, where salvation is dealt with in Scripture, faith is the sole requirement for salvation, but it is faith in which all the elements combine, that is, it is an act of the human will and the human mind and the human capacity for emotion. It also includes a work of the Father who draws the sinner to Himself, and a work of the Holy Spirit in bringing conviction of sin, and righteousness, and judgment. In other words, it is faith alone, but it is the kind of faith that saves. It is real faith and real commitment to Jesus Christ as Savior.

Once a person is saved and has recognized the deity of Christ, then, as his Christian life unfolds, he is confronted with the task of living as a Christian ought to live. This, of course, is exactly what the Bible indicates. As stated in Ephesians 2:8-10, salvation is not by works, but salvation produces works; and when the individual is a new creature in Christ, he then is able to do things that are well pleasing to God in time and eternity. Therefore, one should not minimize the necessity for real faith as compared to mere mental assent; salvation requires real faith. Nor should one require works as a condition for salvation or as a requirement for faith before faith is exercised. Rather, once a person is saved, or born again, he then has the capacity to serve the Lord and, as stated in Romans 12:1-2, he is urged to present his body as a living sacrifice to fulfill the perfect will of God.

Featured Image: SOS, Carlos Rosas, flickr