- How Jesus’ Not Having Faith In God Affirms His Deity
- Further Thoughts On the Question of Jesus’ Faith in God
- Responding to Dale Tuggy on Jesus and Faith
I got a bit of pushback from Dule Tuggy, professor of philosophy at SUNY Fredonia, on my posts about Jesus and faith. Dr. Tuggy’s series on my posts begins here. His view is that although Jesus is never spoken of as having faith, nevertheless he demonstrated faith:
I’ll stick to this point: the gospels don’t need to say that Jesus had faith in God, because they clearly portray Jesus’s faith in God.
Before I respond to that, let’s jump ahead to the third post in his series, where he summarizes my argument (quite accurately, thanks!):
3. Jesus doesn’t have faith in God.
4. Any thoroughly good being other than God has faith in God.
5. Jesus is thoroughly good.
2. Jesus is not other than God; Jesus is God himself. (3,4,5)
This too is a valid argument.
(The numbering makes sense in context there; do not be bothered by it.) His response to that is,
1. God doesn’t have faith.
6. Jesus had faith.
7. Therefore, Jesus isn’t God (Jesus and God are not numerically identical). (1, 6)
(“Numerically identical” is technical language in philosophy for “really exactly the same person, thing, etc.”)
This helps us to know what we’re working on here. There is some controversy out there among evangelical scholars over whether Jesus had faith. I deal with that in a brief comment below. This is not that controversy, for Dr. Tuggy seems to be in fundamental disagreement over the deity of Christ.
Let’s start by reminding ourselves of some scriptural facts. Jesus speaks of faith in the second or third person about 41 times in the Gospels. That is, he uses the word “faith” 41 times in the course of instructing others about faith, or discussing their faith or their lack thereof. He never speaks of his own faith.
Dr. Tuggy says that’s because he doesn’t need to speak of it; his faith is evident in what he does. But why then does Paul, who also evidences his faith clearly by what he does, speak of his own faith at least 18 times?
Again, both Jesus and Paul urge others to have faith, but only Paul urges them to imitate his faith (2 Tim. 3:11). That verse is instructive, for its characteristics are all but one displayed by Jesus and mentioned as such by the Gospel writers or by Paul. (I am listing just one example verse for each.)
Teaching: Matt. 4:23
Conduct: (this is not a virtue in itself, but a broad general term for “manner of life”—too broad to comment on in this context)
Patience: 1 Tim. 1:16
Love: Eph. 5:25
Steadfastness: Heb. 12:1-3 (same Greek word)
Faith: No references anywhere
So the NT clearly comments on, and specifically names, many of Jesus’ virtues. If Dr. Tuggy is right, and the reason Jesus’ faith is not named as such is just because it was so clearly displayed, it seems remarkable that these other virtues of Jesus were named as such. Weren’t his teachings, his love, and his endurance obvious from his behavior, too?
I return again to the point that there is something exceptional about the way the NT writers keep the idea of faith separate from the person Jesus. Jesus taught faith, love, endurance, forgiveness, kindness, and more. Why would he be clearly named as practicing all these virtues but one–the one that he emphasized more than any other but love?
Dr. Tuggy has not taken this adequately into account. Yes, Jesus acted as a man who trusted in God, but references to his having faith are very conspicuously absent. Dr. Tuggy cannot explain that simply by saying that Jesus’ actions demonstrated he was a man of faith. He needs to explain why, of all the virtues Jesus taught, this one is handled so differently by the NT writers.
I believe the best explanation is that Jesus, as the second Person of the Trinity, lived in a trusting relationship with the other Persons of the Trinity; that his trust was real; that this trust was, however, so radically different that the NT writers avoided naming it as “faith’; and that that difference is easily explainable in terms of faith being an attitude toward what is not seen (Heb. 11:1), whereas for Jesus, his relationship with the Father and the Spirit was one of perfect awareness, communion, and contact, in accordance with his being that second Person of the Trinity.
Finally as a postscript, regarding the controversy over whether Romans 3:22 and Romans 3:26 are referring to Jesus’ faith: I am unqualified to speak about the meaning of the Greek. The fact that it’s disputable is enough to conclude that there is no clear, unambiguous reference to Jesus’ faith anywhere in the Bible. And regardless of one’s interpretation of those verses, there remains nothing in the Gospels about Jesus’ faith, where one would expect to find a writer speaking of it, and very little anywhere else. My argument is based on the remarkable lack of any reference (at all) to Jesus’ faith in the Bible [except in one ambiguous, disputable passage in Romans]. Remove the parenthesis and add the bracketed portion, and there’s still an argument there.