John Frame: Faith and the Old Mind’s Faulty Reasoning

In this excerpt from Christianity Considered: A Guide for Skeptics and Seekers, author John M. Frame reminds us that salvation comes from trusting what God says about Jesus—and this is only possible with what Frame calls “a new mind.”

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Why did Jesus, the Son of God, become man? He came to die in our place, to die the death we should have died because we had sinned against God:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:8–10)

Good works, we see here, are a result of the gift, not a cause of it. We who receive the gift are “created in Christ,” so that we can perform good works. If we cannot earn salvation by good works, how does salvation come to us? The Bible answers, by faith, as above in Ephesians 2:8. Faith is simple trust. It is expecting God to keep his promise:

For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. … In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. (Rom 4:13–25)

God promised Abraham a son, who in turn would beget more children, eventually as many as the sand of the sea; and God would bless them all for the sake of Abraham. That seemed too much for Abraham to believe. How could he have even one son when he was over 100 years old and his wife Sarah was beyond her childbearing years? But Abraham in the end believed God’s promises, not the apparent contrary evidence. He is our model of a new mind. God has promised us also an impossible blessing: that God will forgive our sin through the death of Jesus. All we need to do is believe. One of the best-known verses in the Bible is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Salvation comes from trusting what God says about Jesus.

You see how Scripture contrasts Abraham’s faith with our conventional judgments of probabilities. The old mind could never expect that Abraham could have a son with his wife. The old mind would simply reject the possibility. Saving faith is possible only to the new mind. The new mind says that God is fully able to save sinners through the death of Jesus. We don’t understand how it can be. But his word promises this salvation, and nothing is more dependable than God’s word. If modern man has problems with the idea of blood atonement (making us right with him through the violent death of his Son), then God is fully able to deal with those problems.

Faith in Christ does not come through the reasoning of the old mind. Rather, faith in Christ comes through a different kind of wisdom, what I have been calling a new mind, what Paul calls the mind of Christ:

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. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor 2:6–16)

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Christianity Considered is a powerful book for Christians looking for a better understanding of the faith as well as skeptical readers seeking to understand the intellectual tradition that has done much to shape the modern world.

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