The previous article explained why belief in God can be warranted and be reasonable. Now we turn to the question why the specifically Christian belief can have warrant. The Christian faith states that human beings suppress and distort belief in God. But it also states that God Himself has provided a remedy for this problem. The damage caused by sin is repaired. This remedy implies that a belief can be formed in us, which does not only take away the unbelief because of sin, but also gives us a renewed belief in God and in His message of salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ. This is the message of the gospel that invites us to faith in Jesus Christ. This faith includes belief in Jesus Christ as the Saviour who restores the relationship with God based on His life, suffering, death and resurrection. How do we obtain this belief and why would this belief have warrant? In this case, the mechanism by which this belief is formed operates as follows and is comprised of three steps:
- God has given us the Bible which explains the way we can come to know God and are saved from our sin and guilt. Paul states this in his letter to Timothy: “… and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:15-16).
- God has also given us His Holy Spirit who works in us. Jesus had promised this in John 14:26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things…” (See also 1 Corinthians 2:12-13 and Ephesians 1:17).
- This work of the Holy Spirit entails giving us faith in Jesus Christ as explained in the gospel. Paul expresses this as follows: “These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.” And “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:10, 12). Elsewhere he states: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8; see also Philippians 1:29). This faith includes not only belief in these things as a purely mental, cognitive matter, but it also implies trust and confidence that we are accepted with God and that our sins have been forgiven based on what Jesus Christ has done for us.
According to Alvin Plantinga, the generation of this faith, encompassing belief and trust in the message of the gospel, also acts as a mental mechanism in the way as explained in the previous article. It can also meet the criteria for warrant: it is a process that functions properly because it is operated and designed by God for this purpose. Also, it operates in the right environment because this message is exactly what we need in our sinful condition. It is also aimed at forming true belief; it requires the message of the gospel to be true. This is a crucial condition, and this links us back to the first article in this series offering arguments for the truth of the Christian faith. Our faith in the great message of the gospel of Jesus Christ can therefore claim to have warrant. Please take a bit of time to meditate on these matters. Can you see how this can help you in your faith?
At the end of these three articles we can now see why the apostle Paul could reply to his interrogators that the message he proclaimed consists of true and rational words. In the first article, I have briefly argued why he could claim its truth. In the next two articles I have argued, based on the work of Alvin Plantinga, why the Christian faith can be warranted. This relates to Paul’s claim that these words are also rational. He uses a word in Greek which literally refers to a sound mind. This can be related to Plantinga’s concept of the proper function of the mechanism which results in the formation of true belief in God and in his Son Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit who gives us this faith, makes our minds sound. The claim that Paul made some 2,000 years ago still appears to be highly relevant in the 21st century. What is your response to this claim?