Notes – Two Stage Faith? & More


~ The following are some notes that I am taking from Tom Schreiner’s book, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ.  I am taking notes from pages 550-551 of Chapter 15, Faith and Obedience.  I take these notes because I do not understand what is going on here and will return to the issue.

“The deficiency of the faith is illustrated in the two-stage healing in Mark (Mark 8:22-26). The placement of the account is crucial because it occurs right before Peter acclaimed Jesus as the Christ (Mark 8:27-30) and Jesus’ subsequent clarification that he woulds suffer and die as the Messiah. The two-stage healing does not indicate that Jesus lacked the ability to heal instantaneously, for nowhere else is a process of healing needed.  The two stages in the healing symbolize the faith of the disciples.  They grasped that Jesus is the Messiah but failed to see that He is the suffering Messiah.  Hence, growth in faith was needed so that they would not merely acclaim Jesus as Messiah, but also grasp that He is the Messiah that suffers and dies to atone for sin.  Furthermore, the account of the healing of the epileptic boy (Mark 9:14-29 par.) suggests that faith is imperfect in this life and needs to grow. The father confessed his belief but solicited Jesus to help his unbelief (Mark 9:24). Such a request implicitly represents an acknowledgement of Jesus’ deity, for only God can increase one’s faith.  It also reflects the truth that human faith is inherently weak and unstable, needing assistance from God to grow.” END

Things I do not understand:

(1) What is the connection between the disciples failure to see Jesus as the Suffering Messiah and a second stage of healing needing to be effected? (It seems a bit arbitrary.)
(2) Could there be other situations where n-stages of healing are needed since the disciples understanding of who Jesus is, is so defective?
(3) It seems that Schreiner is suggesting that growth in faith was needed so that the disciples could grasp that Jesus was to be a suffering Messiah who dies to atone for sin.
(3.1) So growth in faith is needed so that there is a resultant growth in knowledge? I thought that perhaps it could be the reverse, viz. growth in knowledge is needed so that there could be a resultant growth in faith. Could that be the case?
(3.2) Moreover it makes more sense to say that faith piggybacks on knowledge than to say that knowledge piggybacks on faith. No?
(3.3) Perhaps what we really need to do is step back and ask ourselves what is the relationship between faith and knowledge?
(3.3.1) A gazillion questions can be asked here: Does faith involve knowledge or is faith a form of knowledge? Are there different forms of faith? Can one know that he knows something? The philosophers would say no. Can one know that they have faith or are exercising faith? Can one have faith in faith? Etc. (All this has been a very serious issue for me. My reasons for going to grad school in Computer Science was saying “I have faith that this will work out so I will go.” I.e. I knew that I had faith.)
(4) What is imperfect faith? Is faith as small as a mustard seed imperfect because it is small?
(5) What is “human faith”?
(5.1) What does it mean to say that human faith is inherently weak?
(5.1.1) Is/Can faith as small as a mustard seed be inherently weak?
(5.2) What does it mean to say that human faith is inherently unstable?
(5.2.1) Is/Can faith as small as a mustard seed be inherently unstable

 ~ My tentative feeble 2 Cents Worth on how I think faith works.


So imagine this – you need to get some reading done in your room and all that is needed for you to do that is a 50W bulb. Well lucky for you, you have a 3-way light bulb.  Now if you turn your lamp on and the first setting is 50W, then you are set. That is all you need. The 50W is sufficient to get your reading done. However, if you keep turning to 100W and 150W thats even better.

(A) In my understanding faith works like that. First you either have faith or you do not. If you merely just have it, then what you have is Mustard Seed faith, which btw is a beautiful thing! Once you have it it can be either remain at the Mustard seed level or it can grow.  The results will be the same, but having more will be much better psychologically.

(B) Now if you have faith, you either have genuine faith or you do not have it at all.  You either have a light bulb that works or does not work. There is no such thing as a imperfect or weak or unstable light bulb that only sort of works. The bulb either works or it does not. (*I am not discussing fluorescent lights in this analogy.)

(C) I believe contra Schriener that the two-stage healing did NOT require for them grow in faith, such that a lack of growth resulted in a lack of healing. Rather I think that what is going on is that the disciples needed to turn a second light bulb on. For the first stage they needed one light bulb and for the second they needed another.

~ Something similar is going on with Peter walking on water.

~ All this may sound like I am splitting hairs. I am not. I came at all this by getting burned in trials.

(D) Finally, it seems to me that Schriener’s explanation of the 2-stage healing and of the healing of the epileptic boy may be wrong on account of certain modal concepts (necessity, actuality, possibility), but this stuff is hard to understand and I am still working out my thoughts here.