Greg Boyd: What Faith Is

Certainty-seekers need to hear what Greg Boyd offers in his book Benefit of the Doubt, where he defines what “faith” means. Faith, first, needs to be distinguished from what most mean by “belief.” Belief is a “mental conviction that something is true.” I believe so, the lady says, when asked if the that car is hers. On the other hand, faith is “a commitment to trust and to be trustworthy in a relationship with another person” (113).

I believe the earth is round. Greg is married to Shelley because he trusts or has faith in Shelley. Marriage is the Bible’s primary analogy to faith; it is a covenant-based set of commitments and involves fidelity. Contracts are legal arrangements; covenants implicate the people. Covenants imply trust.

Here’s the problem: many have a court-of-law theology in which faith is little more than a contractual arrangement. He thinks the impetus for this kind of theology could be Tertullian, a lawyer. (Another lawyer, Calvin, also framed some theology in contractual ways.) The atonement is the loophole in some of these legal framings. The Bible has some legal frameworks, but that framework, Boyd is arguing, is framed by a larger relational-covenantal framework.

When faith gets entered into this legal-only framework only faith ceases being what faith is supposed to be; it becomes belief. The question is “do you believe that…” instead of “do you trust God?”

Boyd, then, believes in “marriage salvation.” We commit ourselves to God on the cross and become covenanted to God and God to us. And we commit ourselves to fidelity.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.


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