The four kinds of faith are well-known to us. We have all heard of saving faith, historical faith, temporal faith, and miraculous faith. It is our purpose in this essay, not to discuss these four kinds of faith in detail, but to emphasize the relation which exists between them. And we expect to point out that, proceeding from saving faith, we can speak of a historical, temporal, and miraculous faith in a sound, Scriptural sense of the word. It is possible, we believe, to view these three kinds of faith as rooted in saving faith and as having therefore a sound, spiritual content.
First of all, however, what is meant as such by these four different kinds of faith? Saving faith, I am sure, in the light of the nature of this essay, needs no further elucidation. It is the living bond, essentially and also revealing itself as such, uniting us with the living God through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Historical faith is an objective acquiescence or agreement with the truth as revealed in the Word of God, without necessarily being rooted in the love of God. This historical faith does not merely imply agreement with the historical portions of the Word of God, but with the truths as contained in the Scriptures, also with regard to sin and grace. Temporal faith refers to the phenomenon that one is touched in his emotion, or (and) in his mind and will, whereby that person apparently embraces the Christ with spiritual fervor and enthusiasm, tastes the gifts of the Holy Spirit, is enlightened by the Spirit of the Word and of the Church of God, tastes the powers of the world to come, without necessarily implying a change in the heart or in his inner life. The word “temporal” in the expression “temporal faith” does not mean that this faith, in distinction from the historical and miraculous faith, is essentially temporal or temporary. The other kinds of faith are also temporary. This faith, however, refers to a faith whereby a person is affected in his emotion, mind, or will. It is called “temporal faith” because it is brief, temporary. It would undoubtedly be more proper to speak of temporary faith rather than of temporal faith, inasmuch as “temporal” refers to time but “temporary” refers to that which is but for a moment, is clear from, the parable of the Sower upon which, among other portions of Holy Writ, it is based. The joy which characterizes this temporal faith, is only for a moment in distinction from the real Christian joy which is eternal. Miraculous faith we may define as the assurance or certainty that God will perform a miracle either through me or another or in my behalf. Whenever we think of miraculous faith we divorce it from a true, saving faith. We think of it as a faith without a change of the heart, the mind, or the will. As such it excludes the Christ and merely refers to a persuasion that the Lord will perform a miracle either through one or in my behalf.
The relation between these four kinds of faith is, of course, determined by the relation in which saving faith stands to the other three. For the sake of clarity let us view these four kinds of faith as being present in one individual. If such an individual has saving faith his temporal, historical, and miraculous faith will necessarily be altogether different than if saving faith were absent. However, whether a person has saving faith or not, a definite relation will exist between the four kinds of faith.
Historical faith, without saving faith, is, of course, nothing else than an objective acquiescence or agreement with the truths of the Word of God. However, we must bear in mind that there is a definite relation between this historical faith on the one hand and the unbelief of the sinner. The one vitally affects the other. If it be true that one cannot believe without having heard and that saving faith cannot be exercised therefore except in the sphere of the truth, it is equally true that the exercise of unbelief is impossible except in the sphere of historical faith. And, according to Scripture, a person’s unbelief will reveal itself ever increasingly in the measure that, his historical faith becomes fuller and richer. If therefore on the one hand a person’s historical faith renders his unbelief inexcusable, his unbelief will come to a more complete manifestation in the measure that he knows about the Scriptures.
Temporal faith is a persuasion of the truths of religion which is accompanied with some promptings of the conscience and a stirring of the affections, of the mind and of the will. Temporal faith, in distinction from saving faith, is, of course, not rooted in a regenerate heart. It differs from historical faith in the personal interest it shows in the truth and in the reaction of the feelings upon it. Besides the parable of the Sower of the Seed inalso speaks of this temporal faith. Great difficulty may be experienced in the attempt to distinguish it from true saving faith, although the child of God can certainly possess the personal assurance that his saving faith is genuine. It is possible, however, that they who possess this temporal faith may believe that they have the true faith. All temporal faith is not necessarily hypocritical. We may safely say, I am sure, that temporal faith, as divorced from the true saving faith, is grounded in the emotional life and seeks personal enjoyment rather than the glory of the living God. He who possesses this temporal faith is self-centered. Man, then, from an intellectual point of view, is fascinated by the glories of the kingdom of Heaven. He accepts these facts of the Scriptures so that temporal faith is possible only on the basis of an historical acquiescence or agreement with the Word of God. And is it not a fact that, from the viewpoint of misery and suffering and death, the House with its many mansions can fascinate man’s natural intellect and emotions! God’s Kingdom promises relief, does it not, from all sorrow and woes. It holds before us an eternal bliss and happiness. However, this temporal faith seeks not the glory of God but merely the satisfaction of man. It will therefore disappear when tested by the fires of affliction and persecution.
Miraculous’ faith may be either active or passive. In the former sense it implies a persuasion wrought in the mind of a person that God will perform a miracle by him or through him. In the latter sense it is a persuasion that a miracle will be performed in our behalf. This miraculous faith, as generally known among us (think of faith-healing for example) is exclusively carnal, earthly, man-centered. The miracles performed are always to the advantage of the “believing”, and that in the earthly sense of the word. And this lies in the nature of the case. Divorced from saving faith it, too, centers in man and trusts in a God who will work miraculously to man’s advantage.
I believe, however, that we can also view these four kinds of faith as inseparably connected in a positive, spiritual sense of the word. We can speak of a temporal, historical, and miraculous faith in a, good sense, as rooted in a true, saving faith, and governed by it, I need not dwell at length on saving faith. It is the spiritual bond uniting us with God in Christ, through which the child of God receives and experiences the blessed fullness and glories of salvation in Christ Jesus.
The relation between this saving faith and historical faith is self-evident. The exercise of the one without the other is impossible. It is true, of course, that a mere external knowledge of the Scriptures does not necessarily guarantee a saving faith. This we know and it speaks for itself. But it is also a fact that a saving faith without the knowledge of the Scriptures is quite impossible. The Spirit, to be sure, works irresistibly in the hearts of the people of God. But He works in our hearts and operates in our consciousness only through and in connection with the revealed Word of God in the Bible. A mystical operation of the Spirit as divorced from the Scriptures does not exist. We cannot consciously believe and trust in One Whom we do not know. However, this relation between saving and historical faith implies more. It is not only true that we can taste the fullness of Christ only through the Scriptures, but it is also a fact that a continuous study of the Word of God is necessary for our growth in saving faith. Through the Scriptures we become ever greater sinners and the Christ must ever loom correspondingly larger and more glorious.
We can also speak of a temporal faith as rooted in a true, saving faith. It is probably true that the Holland speaking peoples are not generally emotionally inclined. And this undoubtedly has its advantages. Emotion can be a dangerous menace. To know whom we have believed must and indeed does transcend the emotion. Yet, on the other hand, emotionalism in a good sense can hardly be denied. Does our salvation not involve us in the possession of something which far transcends all human understanding? How amazing it is to be delivered, for God’s own Name’s sake, out of the depths of eternal despair into the unspeakably glorious liberty of the people of God! Does it not touch our deepest emotion to be able to say that “unto me, the chiefest of sinners, grace has been shown”, the grace of fellowship with the alone blessed God? The true, saving faith is certainly not a dead intellectualism.
Finally, what is the relation between a true, saving faith and miraculous faith? It can hardly be denied that Scripture speaks repeatedly of a miraculous faith. The heroes of faith, passing before us in review in Hebrews 11, certainly revealed their unwavering confidence in the “miraculous” power of God. Throughout that chapter we read of those Old Testament children of God and of their faith in that which human ear and eye could not reveal unto them. They held fast to the Invisible and to that which is invisible. It is this thought which receives the emphasis repeatedly in that beautiful chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews. The birth of Isaac out of the dead Sarah (and the same is recorded of Samson), the collapse of the walls of Jericho through the faith of the children of Israel, etc., speak loudly of the faith of God’s people in the living God who, through them, would perform the miraculous. Faith, God’s gift unto His people, exactly because it is trust and confidence in the living God is, throughout Hebrews 11, the means through which God repeatedly saves His own. This does not mean, we understand, that God, through them, would perform miraculously in their earthly and carnal behalf. It does mean, however, that rooted in their true, saving faith, they revealed a steadfast confidence that God would finish His work in them, fulfill His promise unto them, and miraculously lead them into His eternal salvation, and that notwithstanding the apparently contradictory appearance of all things. Moreover, how can it be otherwise! For the grace of God is that power of the love of God even as it leads us, through curse and death into everlasting glory. Saving faith must necessarily be a miraculous faith. It is true that we are saved in principle. But we are still in the body of this death, surrounded on every hand by the earthly and the sinful. Seemingly all things are against us. We are heirs of eternal life and, behold, we die. We are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven but to the dust we must return. Saved by grace, the child of God, because of his true, saving faith, looks forward to its eternal completion and believingly embraces the promise of God, that He will miraculously lead him through all things into the eternal and glorious liberty of the children of God.