Story Faith Blindness – part 7 of series on blindness and deception
Someone can hear the story of the gospel, fashion in their own strength their imagination of the story, remember the story, and think: “I believe — I have faith”.
That person has believed in a story faith but their heart and nature has not changed. Their spirit is not reborn. That person will always be striving to masquerade or perform Christianity in their own strength.
I learned the phrase “story faith” from William Tyndale. He writes about it in several places. Here is an excerpt from his prologue to Romans (link) —
Faith is not man’s opinion and dream, as some imagine, and form their own ideas when they hear the story of the gospel. The cause is that when they hear the gospel or glad tidings, they fashion by their own strength certain imaginations and thoughts in their hearts, saying, I have heard the gospel; I remember the story; lo I believe! And this they count true faith – which nevertheless, since it is but man’s imagination and assumption, does not profit. Neither do good works or lasting amendment of life follow.
But true faith is a thing wrought by the Holy Spirit in us, which changes us, transforms our nature, begets us anew in God, and makes us the children of God [John 1:12]. A faith that is genuine kills the old Adam, and makes us altogether new in the heart, mind, will, desire, and in all our affections and powers of the soul, and brings the Holy Spirit with her.
Faith is a living and steadfast trust in the favour of God, whereby we commit ourselves altogether unto God. And that trust is so surely grounded and sticks so fast in our hearts that a man would not once doubt of it, though he should die a thousand times for it. And such trust wrought by the Holy Spirit through faith makes a person glad, joyful, cheerful, and true-hearted, toward God and toward all creatures.
Therefore take heed to yourself. Beware of your own suppositions and imaginations, which to judge of faith and good works will seem wise, but are blind, and of all things most unwise. Pray God that he will assent to work faith in your heart, or you will remain evermore faithless, however much you surmise, imagine, strengthen your resolve, wrestle with yourself or do what you will or can.
Having a story faith ≈ blindness
Story faith assents to and remembers the historical story of record of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. It mentally assents to the proposition that he died for all sin on our behalf. But believing a story faith does not change the heart; it does not transform the natural man’s birth poison — original sin. Nor does it lead to assurance of forgiveness.
The heart that wants to ‘do life’ without regard for God’s loving and good design — the heart that is spiritually dead despite the fact that it is physically pumping blood around lung-breathing flesh — that heart will never be transformed from spiritual death to spiritual life by believing in a story faith.
Story faith is cold. True faith is a feeling faith.
Emotions, feelings, affections, heartfelt responses of compassion for the oppressed — and heartfelt dislike of falsehood and wrongdoing — are intrinsic to true faith.
Tyndale contrasts story faith with true faith:
For the reasons and similitudes of man’s wisdom make no faith, but wavering and uncertainty opinions only. One draws in this way his argument, another draws that. And of whatever principle you prove black, another proves white, and so am I ever uncertain, as if you tell me of a thing done in a far land and another tell me the contrary, I know not what to believe.
But faith is wrought by the power of God, that is, when God’s word is preached, the Spirit enters thine heart and maketh thy soul feel it and maketh thee so sure of it, that neither adversity, nor persecution, nor death, neither yet all the pains of hell could yet once prevail against thee or move thee from the sure rock of God’s word, that thou shoulds’t not believe that which God hath sworn.
– William Tyndale “The Obedience of the Christian Man” p 165 (Penguin Classics 2000.) [Punctuation in quotes from Tyndale has been altered to make it easier for modern readers]
Tyndale denounced the Roman church’s insistence on auricular confession: the doctrine that a person must confess their sins into the ear of a priest. Here is Tyndale speaking of the role of feeling (emotion) in confession:
When a man feels that his heart consents unto the law of God, and feels himself meek, patient, courteous and merciful to his neighbour, altered and fashioned like unto Christ, why should he doubt that God forgive him, though he never cram his sin into the priest’s ear?
(ibid p 118)
Tyndale talks about how the natural man can be taught to behave ‘morally’ but that only intensifies the vice of self-glory. The natural man can be motivated by fear, praise or profit. But when people in their own strength try to conform to or impersonate morality, they become more prideful.
That you may perceive and feel the thing in thine heart and not be a vain sophister disputing about words without perceiving, mark this:
The root of all evil the greatest damnation and most terrible wrath and vengeance of God that we are in is natural blindness.
We are all out of the right way, every man his ways: one judges this best, another that to be best. Now is worldly wit [cleverness] nothing else but craft and subtlety to obtain that which we judge falsely to be best. As I err in my wit, so err I in my will. When I judge that to be evil which in deed is good, then I hate that which is good.
Now; when we say every man has free will, to what him lusteth [what he desires], I say verily that men do what they lust. Notwithstanding, to follow lusts is not freedom, but captivity and bondage. If God opens any man’s wits to make him feel in his heart that lusts and appetites are damnable, and gives him power to hate and resist them, then is he free even with the freedom wherewith Christ makes free, and has power to do the will of God.
You may hereby perceive that all that is done in the world (before the spirit of God come and gives us light) is damnable sin, and the more glorious the more damnable: so that that which the world counts most glorious is more damnable, in the sight of God, than that which the whore, the thief and the murderer do.
With blind reasons of worldly wisdom may you change the minds of youth and make them give themselves to what you will either for fear, for praise or for profit: and yet you do but change them from one vice to another, as the persuasions of her friends made Lucrece chaste. (In Roman legend, Lucrece gloried in her chastity. Having suffered rape by Tarquin she took her own life.)
Lucrece believed if she were a good housewife and chaste, that she should be most glorious, and that all the world would give her honour and praise her. She sought her own glory in her chastity and not God’s. When she had lost her chastity, then she counted herself abominable in the sight of all men, and for very pain and thought which she had, not that she had displeased God, but that she had lost her honour, slew herself.
Look how great her pain and sorrow was for the loss of her chastity, so great was her glory and rejoicing therein and so much despised she them that were otherwise and pitied them not. Which pride God more abhors than the whoredom of any whore.
Of like pride are all the moral virtues of Aristotle, Plato and Socrates, and all the doctrines of the philosophers the very gods of our school men.
[school men = legalists/ false teachers/ false christians/ scholars who debated about topics like how many angels could fit on the head of a pin]
(ibid, p 44-5, minimally updated)
The apostle Peter talks about the blindness of those who think they are following Christ but are not fleeing the corruption of worldly lust. It is a blindness they bring on themselves, by their own hypocrisy.
Grace be with you, and peace be multiplied in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who has called us by virtue and glory, by the means whereof are given to us excellent and most great promises, so that by the help of them you may be partakers of the divine nature, in that you flee the corruption of worldly lust.
And give all diligence to this. To your faith add virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, to patience godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, to brotherly kindness love. For if these things be among you and abound, they will make you so that you will neither be idle nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(v9) But he who lacks these things is blind, and gropes for the way with his hands, and has forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
Therefore, brethren, give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure. For if you do such things, you shall never err.
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
(from the hymn “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord”)
Bible versions used in this series
New Testament: NMB (New Matthew Bible); notes from the NMB are in grey italicised text.
Psalms: Myles Coverdale’s translation as per the 1662 Book of Common Prayer
Old Testament other than Psalms: NKJ (New King James).
Other parts in this series
Part 2: Blindness from original sin
Part 6: Blindness as a judgment from God
Part 7: is this post