Faith and the Principium of Theology

The following quote can be found in my Westminster class notes[pp. 4-5] found here and particularly the ST 101 – Introduction to Systematic Theology notes. As a reminder, come the end of the semester those notes will be replaced with new notes from different classes sometime in January. Blessings.


The historic conviction of the Church, clarified at the Reformation, is that the self-revelation of God is the only norm for understanding who God is – Sola Scriptura – Scripture alone.  We may not veil from ourselves that in terms of the commitment to the principium, there are only two alternatives: (1) Affirm our principium, embracing it in faith; faith that can only come by the hearing of Christ (Rom. 10:17), or (2) Reject our principium in unbelief.  We cannot from a neutral standpoint prove that the Bible is God’s word.  We cannot prove Scripture in an a priori or a posteriori, inductive or deductive way.  How do we prove that God spoke through prophets and through his Son?  We can speak convincingly only as we speak from faith to faith.  To seek to demonstrate your principium, or your ultimate norm is to show you do not understand your principium.  This veils from ourselves that we have a different or more ultimate principium.  This does not mean that it is a waste of time to reflect on our principium, nor to give reasons why we hold to our foundational norm.  We can give reasons for holding our principium, but such efforts are meaningful only in the circle of faith; only among those who believe.

Faith is not a principle of subjectivity; it is not my own subject-centeredness.  What we need to break out of is the mindset that my reason gives me my objectivity and my faith is my subjectivity.  Faith is a gift from God; more specifically, faith is the result of the Sovereign working of the Spirit of God.  Considering faith as a gift of God, is in one important sense, has nothing of its own: “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 4).  Faith is what it is only in relation to its object- – Jesus Christ.  Faith’s object and focus is in Jesus Christ.  Faith depends upon this object; focused and bound to this object; faith is radically “extra-spective” or looking away from itself.  Faith is focused on the Word of God and the saving relationship in Christ.  Without Christ faith has nothing.  Rom. 10:17- “Faith comes by hearing and hearing from the Word of Christ.”  Eph. 3:19- “As believers we may be filled up with all the fullness of God.” Christ dwells in our hearts through faith.  Because faith in itself is nothing, it possesses everything. 1 Cor. 3:22- “All things are yours.”  By faith, we are better than our faith.  “We are shut up to the circle of the Spirit’s working.”  It is not that faith is subjective; we cannot set up reason as objective and faith is subjective.  

From these observations, it is plain that to insist on the unbreakable correlation between faith and revelation, or that theology is the truth of faith, to insist on this is not a sacrificing of the Church to subjectivism.  Error has come into the Church through misdirected appeals to feelings and faulty uses of reason, and religious sentiment and tradition.  It is because of this that the Church has not stayed faithful to the Word of God.  Faith, no matter how partial or imperfect, it holds fast and unerringly to Christ and His Word.  This is the true, distinguishing essence of faith.  John 10:27- “My sheep hear my voice.”  Faith is drawn to the Word of God.  Belief in the inerrancy of Scripture is not a necessary component, it is an intricate and normal component of saving faith.


I hope you can see that our dependence here at upon the Spirit/word/faith paradigm is not something we cooked up, but something we were taught over and over – first in the Scriptures and then at school. All we are doing is carrying this torch in the 21 century in order to share the same light with others.

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