The relationship between faith and desire

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by Zac Wyse, Jun 8, 2009.

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  1. Zac Wyse

    Zac Wyse Puritan Board Freshman

    Lately, I've been trying to deepen my understanding of the nature of regeneration, faith, justification, and sanctification. I understand that Protestants have understood faith as consisting of knowledge, assent, and trust. My confusion comes as I am attempting to understand the place of one's desires in all of this. Here are the two options I've been considering:

    1. I used to believe that I must first desire Christ before I can perform an act of the will to accept/choose him. I reasoned that, since desires precede and direct the will, making the will a slave to one's desires, the desires must be changed for an act of faith to take place. Therefore, the desire for Christ would precedes true faith.

    2. Recently, I've become persuaded that #1 is incorrect. I think it's more accurate to see faith as a mindset, i.e., one's inner orientation that remains constant rather than a momentary "decision" we are continually making. #1 makes faith seem more like a work, as well. As you can see, this affects my understanding of regeneration and sanctification. Does regeneration primarily act upon my mind and "inward orientation" or do I begin to desire Christ, whom I lack knowledge of, and which knowledge I can neither assent to nor trust? How can I desire (which seems to be the same as "love") Christ if I have not yet been justified (Luke 7:36-50) and how can I desire One whom I do not yet trust is worthy of desire? Here's one more way of putting it. First, the preacher proclaims the free offer of the gospel. Second, the unbeliever hears it (knowledge). The Spirit then confirms the truth of the free offer of the gospel (assent), which results in the inescapable conclusion that the hearer trusts that, not only is it objectively true but HE'S MINE (trust)! This results in deep gratitude and joy that wells up inside the justified sinner (sanctified desires). Therefore, desires for Christ are the fruit of faith.

    I'd love some help on this one. I don't know if my reasoning is correct or not. Obviously, this affects my understanding of the precise role of regeneration, justification, and sanctification. It also seems that it would affect the way I present the gospel to non-Christians, too.
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2009
  2. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Note: please incorporate your signature according to board policy. Click the link in my signature for instructions if you need them to update your profile.

    In answer to your inquiry:

    You may have answered your own question, in a way. If you try to make the whole matter of Christianity purely analytic, you will constantly run into frustrations, as human experience can only be approximated by our descriptions. There are logical relations, there are historic relations, there are legal relations between all the factors of God's work for and in us unto personal salvation.

    I would put the notion of "desire" right into the aspect of faith called "trust". These are concepts that have to do with engagement of the will. To rightly exercise faith we must have simple knowledge, we must agree to the truth of it (and that truth is an intrinsic "good"), and we must agree that it is "for me." When you put those things together, I think you cannot avoid "desire."

    The "feeling" of desire is something that often follows actions. Think how often you have "done the right thing" even when it did not "feel desirable" to do so. And yet, to have done so was better than not to have done so. If truly persuaded this was true and thus proper, then the feeling should follow.

    There is no "fakery" in doing what is right or true despite the "mental state" or disposition that is out of step with it. Of course, to do what is right for a base motive is not commendable of itself; however NOT to do right, and that in accord with one's base motives, is objectively WORSE. From a new base of inwrought sanctity, new desires will now impel new obedience--but again, not always felt in anticipation of later actions.

    But in the end, our desires cannot always be trusted. They are affected by the circumstances more than we realize, even when we work against that tendency, or strive to correct our desire according to knowledge. Desire follows (or accompanies) action; it does not precede it in any ultimate sense. If we wait to "do right" until we feel like it, or feel good enough, we will miss the boat.

    Trust is the actual resting of faith on its object. And if you are resting on Christ, you will discover he is desirable.
  3. smhbbag

    smhbbag Puritan Board Senior

    I think the very end of your point #2 is pretty good way of putting it.

    Remember, though, that logical order does not always reveal itself in observed chronological order. In many cases, all of those steps can happen in an extremely short period of time, faster than the naked eye can perceive it :)

    Leaving out the other steps you cover, I cannot find any reason to separate (in any person's case) the difference between desires and faith in a chronological sense at all. If one has faith, he does desire Christ....if he does not yet desire Christ, he does not yet have faith. Likewise, one cannot rightly desire Christ before faith. There may indeed be a logical order to it, but they are simultaneous events.
  4. Zac Wyse

    Zac Wyse Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks for your replies! One of the reasons I can see this being an important distinction is that it informs us where to go when we (or a brother/sister we're speaking to), are finding it difficult to rejoice in the gospel and consider Christ to be worthy of praise. One route (#1) would seem to imply that the direct source of these desires is the new birth while the other (#2) makes justification a sort of "launching pad" to love for Christ.

    Contra_Mundum (thanks for pointing out my missing sig.!), when you said, "I would put the notion of "desire" right into the aspect of faith called "trust"', are you saying that desires logically succeed faith (implied by your following thoughts) or that they arise prior to trust?

    Could anyone comment on the two notions of faith I mentioned: in #1 I described it as a choice/decision that the sinner makes "to accept/receive" Jesus Christ. Would it be more accurate to look at faith as a mindset/inner-orientation (#2) ? Has #1 been handed down by revivalists?
  5. WaywardNowHome

    WaywardNowHome Puritan Board Freshman

    All I can say is that, if you haven't already, you should really look into the doctrine of regeneration (and all the related doctrines as well, such as total depravity). I don't necessarily know whether or not the Scriptures teach a necessary logical order regarding faith and desire, but I am absolutely positive that regeneration must precede both faith and desire.

    I would submit that faith and desire are not logically dependent on each other; both are logically dependent on regeneration and both come forth from regeneration.
  6. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Saving faith is the apprehension of Christ as my Redeemer. It is spiritual sight. Seeing reality.

    "Wanting what is spiritually desirable" is a new-man factor.
  7. JBaldwin

    JBaldwin Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Wouldn't regeneration include desire? Why would I come to Christ if I don't want to? And why would I want to unless God had already changed my heart before accepting Christ?
  8. WaywardNowHome

    WaywardNowHome Puritan Board Freshman

    That's my point. Regeneration is the recreation of a man, giving him both new desires for Christ (leading to true repentance) and allowing for the required trust in the finished work of Christ (leading to true belief).

    Regeneration leads to desire.
    Regeneration leads to faith.
    Desire does not lead to faith, nor does faith lead to desire. They are simultaneous, not one dependent on the other.
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