What is saving faith? This question is the heart of the Christian religion. In order to understand the relationship between a holy God and sinful humanity this question must be answered correctly. For many, the answer to this question seems to be an easy one. Saving faith is found solely in the person and work of Jesus Christ. In essence, one simply needs to make a decision for Christ. Yet is that all there is to faith? Is it really as simple as trusting in Jesus, walking an aisle, say a prayer? Is there more to it? This is what John Piper discusses in his new book What is Saving Faith?: Reflections on Receiving Christ as a Treasure (Crossway 2022).
In What is Saving Faith?, Piper confronts the notion that saving faith is a simplistic one-time decision. He argues that faith has been boiled down to a decision a person makes for Christ. In the book, he lays out what he argues is the biblical model for saving faith. For Piper, saving faith is no less than a decision to follow Christ, however it is much more. Piper defines saving faith as follows, “Saving faith is the God-given act of the human heart receiving, as its supreme treasure, Jesus Christ with all that God did for us and is for us in him” (pg. 216). Although he does not provide his definition until the end, all throughout the book he argues from this definition that saving faith is not only a change of mind, but is also a change of our affections. If a person simply makes a cognitive decision to follow Christ but does not have deep affection for Christ, Piper would argue that they do not possess saving faith.
Piper’s working definition of saving faith makes complete sense. Salvation is not merely a cold transaction between two parties, but is a covenant relationship. This relationship must include affection for the one who has made it possible. There are those who like to stay away from the language of affection regarding salvation, because it appears to allow for emotionalism. Yet emotionalism is not the biblical model. Emotionalism says that salvation is based on feeling close to God, which can change moment by moment. Affection on the other hand is not mere emotions, but deep desire for God because of who he is, not simply for what he has done. There is a difference, and that difference must be made. Another point that Piper makes is that affection too, like emotions can fluctuate. For this reason salvation is not based on affection, but affection is a sign or fruit of salvation. Someone who says they know God without affection for God, may not truly be saved.
As in any book, sermon, or article, Piper bases all of his arguments in scripture. This is a priority, so as to make sure that he is standing firm on the only source that matters, God’s word. In addition, however, Piper supports his biblical arguments with other pastors and theologians throughout church history. This is an important part of his writings because not only does he want to make sure he is standing on a biblical foundation, but that his interpretation of the Bible is orthodox. This comes by noting what others have said on this subject. For these reasons, Piper’s arguments on the biblical teaching on saving faith are very refreshing and compelling.
In many ways What is Saving Faith? is the culmination of John Piper‘s life’s work. He has been beating this drum for the majority of his public ministry. For Piper, salvation is not merely the desire to escape eternal punishment, but is a deep desire for God himself. A faith that does not have affection for God, is a faith that wants God more for what he can do rather than for who he is. What is Saving Faith? is a refreshing and wonderful resource that dives deep into a biblical theology of salvation. This book is not merely for those who would be considered fans of John Piper, it is for those who desire assurance of true saving faith.
Editor’s note: This review transformed into more of an article, but nonetheless the book discussed was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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