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So what is “faith” and how do we overcome reductionism? 

(By the way, one of the best treatments of “salvation and mission reductionism” is Darrell Guder’s, The Continuing Conversion of the Church — see http://www.amazon.com/Continuing-Conversion-Church-Gospel-Culture/dp/080284703X/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid= 1345901494&sr=1-2&keywords=darrell+guder).

Broadly and generally speaking — and permit me to overgeneralize a bit for sake of the point — the church historically has recognized four components that constitute what faith is (or, what “saving faith” is).  Responding to various challenges through history, at any given time or era it seems one of these gets accentuated over the others.  But, at root, four characteristics of “faith” can be identified:

            Cognition (or “mind”) = what one understands

            Volition (or “will”)       = to what one commits/submits

            Affection (or “heart”) = what one desires

            Action (or “strength” or “hands & feet”) = what one does

I’d correlate “faith” with the greatest commandment — to love God with all one’s mind, with all one’s soul, with all one’s heart, and all one’s strength; see Deut. 6:5, synthesized with Matt. 22:37. “Saving faith” is doing that, or at least committing oneself to doing that, over the course of one’s lifetime.

I think a “constellation of components” conceptualization of faith such as this does a lot to overcome biblical tensions, and to foster a more holistic view of what the goal of the gospel message is, and what the point of conversion is. Such a conceptualization also helps overcome false dichotomies and helps fuse the gospel themes of Kingdom with the gospel themes of personal justification.

There are lots of directions the discussion could take from here (some of which I’ll try to take up in future blog posts), with lots of clarifications and qualifications needed, I’m sure.  But there’s the basic framework of what I’d propose “faith” is.  As a starting point, what do you think so far?


Todd Mangum is the Academic Dean and Professor of Theology at Biblical.  He is ordained by the Southern Baptist Convention.  Todd is the author of The Dispensational-Covenantal Rift, and of several articles seeking to bridge divides among Bible-believing Christians. He is married to Linda and they have three sons.  See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/todd-mangum

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