Trust and Belief

Sean Gerety has posted a thoughtful short essay on saving faith and trust. I thought I would respond to it here and see what people thought about this.

First of all, I think two problems are evident. On the one hand, when looking at the Clarkian position, the tendency has been to say that Clark believes in salvation by intellectual assent alone. This is not what Clark is saying. Clark most definitely includes a personal appropriation of the truth of the Gospel when he talks about saving faith.

On the other side, when people look at the three-fold definition of knowledge, assent, and trust, that last word is ambiguous. What is trust? Is it a once-for-all entrustment of the soul to God? Or is it a lifelong loyalty to the covenant? Here is where the rubber hits the road. It becomes a little bit more complicated once we introduce the distinction between justification and sanctification into the picture.

I would say that if we use the word “trust” in relation to justifying faith (faith as related to justification specifically), we absolutely have to eliminate any thought of life-long loyalty from the discussion, because then we would be justified by loyalty, which obviously includes works of loyalty. So, if we use the word “trust,” then we have to limit it to the once-for-all entrustment of the soul to God.

Now, let us relate this once-for-all entrustment of the soul to God, on the one hand, to belief in a personal appropriation of the Gospel, on the other hand. Are they not really the same thing? The former is what most Reformed theologians have said. Clark has said it in the latter way. Might they not actually be the same thing? At this moment in time, I am more inclined to favor the personal appropriation language of belief to describe the third element of faith, precisely since, as Sean has pointed out, the word “trust” is so ambiguous.

To conclude, when Clark/Gerety et al say “justification by belief alone” they are not talking about just knowledge, or even just assent. They are also including in that a personal appropriation of that truth to the sinner. I do not see a whopping difference between that and what others have said concerning trust. Are you not placing your trust in God when you come to the belief that God’s Gospel applies to you personally? Maybe the two orthodox sides are not so different after all.

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171 Comments

  1. David Reece said,

    March 20, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    First, a substantial point, I understand that you are trying to create unity, but I do not think that it is enough to simply say that we are all saying the same thing. The way one says something is important.

    The difference is that one side (Clark, Robbins, Gerety) is clear while the other side (Strange and company) is either not clear or heretical. Clarity encourages edification. Unclear explanations encourage confusion and allow room for heresy.

    Second, a point of clarification, you said, “On the one hand, when looking at the Clarkian position, the tendency has been to say that Clark believes in salvation by intellectual assent alone. This is not what Clark is saying. Clark most definitely includes a personal appropriation of the truth of the Gospel when he talks about saving faith.”

    I would like to agree with your last sentence that, “Clark most definitely includes a personal appropriation of the truth of the Gospel when he talks about saving faith.” However, I disagree that this means that Clark does not think that justification is through intellectual assent alone.

    As a card carrying Clarkian I most vigorously assert that justification (and salvation as a whole) is through the instrument of intellectual assent alone. Belief is intellectual assent to propositions. I can agree that saving faith is “a personal appropriation of the truth of the Gospel” because “a personal appropriation of the truth of the Gospel” is simply intellectually assenting to the truth of the Gospel propositions.

    A “personal appropriation of the truth of the Gospel” is simply assenting to additional propositions. I do not understand why you are so opposed to accepting that justification is through intellectual assent to divinely revealed propositions alone. I think you actually do agree, but you seem to hate the language of it.

    You continue by saying, “To conclude, when Clark/Gerety et al say ‘justification by belief alone’ they are not talking about just knowledge, or even just assent. They are also including in that a personal appropriation of that truth to the sinner.” You have made a false disjunction here again. Clark does mean that justification is by assent to propositions alone, and he means that one of the propositions to assent to is that the gospel applies to me as an individual. The “personal appropriation of that truth to the sinner” is simply the assenting of the individual to an additional proposition.

  2. Ryan said,

    March 20, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    “Now, let us relate this once-for-all entrustment of the soul to God, on the one hand, to belief in a personal appropriation of the Gospel, on the other hand. Are they not really the same thing?”

    Could you tease out in what way either or both of these descriptions differ from belief in the propositions of the gospel?

  3. Ryan said,

    March 20, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    And by “belief” I mean “intellectual assent.” Sorry about that.

  4. March 20, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    I appreciate the spirit of this post, Pastor. I was going to comment, but David already said everything I was thinking.

  5. greenbaggins said,

    March 20, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    BOQ The difference is that one side (Clark, Robbins, Gerety) is clear while the other side (Strange and company) is either not clear or heretical. EOQ

    I would be very hesitant indeed to lump Strange and company in the category of not clear or heretical, especially the latter category. The three-fold description of faith as knowledge, assent, and trust has the support of numerous (I would probably say the majority of) Reformed scholars going back all the way to the Reformation. Now, is it possible they aren’t clear? Sure. But this particular formulation is not heretical. It has to be qualified carefully so that it is not misunderstood.

    As to the substance of your post, I am trying to wrap my head around why I feel uncomfortable saying that saving faith is only intellectual assent to propositions. I guess one thing that should be brought up here is that demons intellectually assent to the proposition that there is one God (James 2:19). And yet their faith does not save them (rather obviously so!). So something has to be different from their intellectual assent to our intellectual assent. Would you Clarkians just say that the demons don’t believe enough propositions about Jesus (this would be my hunch)? Or is there a different kind of component to faith? If it is bare intellectual assent, then to what is it necessary to assent in order to be saved? We would, I’m sure, agree that merely saying that we believe in one God would not be enough for salvation, since Muslims and Jews believe that, too. So, what is the “over the edge” proposition that tips one into the camp of saved versus those who are not saved?

  6. greenbaggins said,

    March 20, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    Let me add to this by saying that God-given faith does establish a relationship. That relationship, instead of being characterized by wrath, is now characterized by grace. Can that relationship be reduced to propositions? I’m having a hard time seeing how that could be done.

  7. Sean Gerety said,

    March 20, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    Since the comments so far have been from some very like minded individuals :) I should probably shut up and wait for the critics to jump in. However, and unless I’m missing something, and to reiterate what seems to be the unanimous concern so far, but isn’t “a personal appropriation of the truth of the Gospel” just a description of assent, specifically the assent to the truth of the Gospel?

    If not, then what’s the difference?

    If there is no difference, then I would agree that the “two orthodox sides are not that different at all,” only the other side likes to carry around unnecessary baggage that some not so friendly to JBFA can hop a ride on.

    Websters defines assent as; “to agree to something especially after thoughtful consideration : concur.”

    While some like to deprecate assent as something that is “mere,” superficial or flippant, as one can see from this definition that includes “thoughtful consideration” there is nothing mere about assent.

    Could it be that the problem with Clark’s critics is that they just don’t understand what assent is?

    FWIW I think what most have difficulty with in Clark is that for him faith, specifically saving faith, is an intellectual act and that his critics want to include things like emotions. Clark wrote:

    If one go back to the Westminster divines, to Calvin, even to Aquinas, and especially to Augustine, he will find that human nature is regularly divided into intellect and will. The point is important because faith in Christ is not an emotion but a volition. One does not feel for Christ, he decides for Christ. The Scripture says, Jesus himself said, “Except you repent, you shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). Note very carefully that repentance is a change of mind. Its root is the word noeō, “to think.” The noun nous is the intellect. And faith, by which one is justified, is a belief, a voluntary assent to an understood proposition.. – The Logos

    Also, in What is Saving Faith? he writes:

    The crux of the difficulty with the popular analysis of faith in to notitia (understanding), assensus (assent), and fiducia (trust), is that fiducia comes from the same root as fides (faith). The Latin fide is not a good synonym for the Greek pisteuoo [I give a number of examples on my blog and people can see for themselves]. Hence this popular analysis reduces to the obviously absurd definition that faith consists of understanding, assent, and faith. Something better than this tautology must be found.

  8. Sean Gerety said,

    March 20, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    Re James and demons, does belief in monotheism save anyone? Last I checked there are many monotheists who are hell bound.

  9. Sean Gerety said,

    March 20, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    So, what is the “over the edge” proposition that tips one into the camp of saved versus those who are not saved?

    Those who believe the gospel and those who don’t. As Clark would say the problem with unbelievers is that they don’t believe. :)

  10. Bob said,

    March 20, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    “So, what is the “over the edge” proposition that tips one into the camp of saved versus those who are not saved?”

    How about God’s election?

  11. David Reece said,

    March 20, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    greenbaggins said in #5, “Would you Clarkians just say that the demons don’t believe enough propositions about Jesus (this would be my hunch)?”

    Good hunch. Yes, the Demons have a belief in monotheism attributed to them, but they are not said to believe the Gospel, and it is impossible for demons to believe the Gospel since Christ did not die for them.

    greenbaggins said in #5, “Or is there a different kind of component to faith?”

    No. There is no different component. Faith is belief. Belief is assent to propositions as being true.

    greenbaggins said in #5, “If it is bare intellectual assent, then to what is it necessary to assent in order to be saved? We would, I’m sure, agree that merely saying that we believe in one God would not be enough for salvation, since Muslims and Jews believe that, too. So, what is the “over the edge” proposition that tips one into the camp of saved versus those who are not saved?”

    The “over the edge” propositions in the mind of the elect person would be propositions that make up the Gospel of Jesus Christ proper.

    Bod mentioned in #7 that God’s election was the proposition that tips one “over the edge”. This is true since election is a proposition in the mind of God, but the propositions (plural) that are together saving faith are the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the narrow sense.

    greenbaggins said in #6, “Let me add to this by saying that God-given faith does establish a relationship. That relationship, instead of being characterized by wrath, is now characterized by grace. Can that relationship be reduced to propositions? I’m having a hard time seeing how that could be done.”

    god given faith does establish a relationship, but what is a relationship? A relationship is the way in which two things are related. The way in which things are related (or in reference to one another) is a propositional thing. It is legal, intellectual, covenantal connection. These are things of words, of propositions. Words are not trivial things. In the beginning was the Word.

    The relationship is the way in which god thinks of use. He looks upon us with demerited favor rather than merited hatred. Grace is an act of God’s mind, and so is wrath. In god’s mind he says, “I choose to love you” (election). In God’s mind He imputes your sin to Christ and Christ righteousness to you, “Your sin is gone, and Christ’s righteousness is now your righteousness” (justification). In God’s mind he says, “You are my son” (adoption).

    Is this not true?

  12. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 20, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    David R (#8): Faith is belief. Belief is assent to propositions as being true.

    This is a useful clarification. The question to address is not whether faith is the same as belief; clearly, those are used synonymously in English to translate the πιστις word group.

    The question is whether faith/belief/πιστις is “assent to propositions as being true.”

    And here, I wonder about sayings of Jesus like, “You believe in God; believe also in Me.”

    Or “To them He gave the right to become the sons of God, even to those who believed in His name.”

    It seems to occur often in the Gospels that we have πιστευομαι εις + something other than a proposition — such as a person, or a name, or a miracle.

    David, is that just a fluke of language, a periphrastic way of saying “believe in a set of propositions about me”?

    Or is it indicative that the πιστις word group is not completely described by “assent to propositions”?

    And how do you know?

  13. David Gadbois said,

    March 20, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    I think the Clarkians get tripped up since there are volitional elements in both assensus and the “fiducia” elements of saving faith, such that they think they can collapse the one into the other. But resting and receiving (“assured confidence” per the Heidelberg Catechism) is something more than simply knowing and assenting that something is true. That comes as obvious to anyone who is not bogged down by the idiosyncratic Clarkian philosophy.

    I think they underestimate the irrational disjunctions that sin introduces to the intellectual, ethical, and volitional faculties of man. Unbelievers can still be convicted that the Gospel and its promises are true yet, since they do not desire Christ or his blessings, and indeed hate them, they reject it. So the intellectual conviction does not necessarily yield volitional commitment.

  14. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 20, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    Excuse me, I should have said πιστευω rather than πιστευομαι.

  15. Ryan said,

    March 20, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    David, how would you respond to this:

    The argument that I wish to offer is this: If faith consists of three elements – knowledge, assent (or belief), and trust – and if a person does not have faith unless all three elements are present, then unregenerate persons may understand and believe-assent to–the truth. In fact, those who advocate the three-element view insist that unregenerate persons may understand and believe the truth – their prime example of such persons is demons. But if unregenerate persons may believe the truth, then the natural man can indeed receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are not foolishness unto him, contrary to 1 Corinthians 2 and dozens of other verses. Belief – and the whole of salvation – is not a gift of God. Natural men can do their own believing, thank you very much.

    John Robbins

  16. David Gadbois said,

    March 20, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    But if unregenerate persons may believe the truth, then the natural man can indeed receive the things of the Spirit of God

    Ah, “receive”. Knowing and receiving are two different things.

    And isn’t it obvious from the context that the Scripture is referring to man’s ethical disposition, not intellectual, when it talks about his inability to believe the Gospel? Doesn’t Romans 1 teach us that man can know something to be true yet suppress it in unrighteousness?

  17. Ryan said,

    March 20, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    David,

    I think that misses the point. Neither Robbins nor Clark nor “Clarkians” equate belief with knowledge. We agree the unbeliever can know the gospel – but they suppress it due to their nature. That is, they cannot believe (assent to) it.

    To be sure, assent includes understanding and knowing the gospel, but assent is more than that. Assent is regarding the understood and known propositions as true. It seems to me that you think one who regards the cross as foolishness can nevertheless assent to it, which I don’t think makes much sense.

  18. David Gadbois said,

    March 20, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    We agree the unbeliever can know the gospel

    That is not sufficient to get you out of the problem. Can the unbeliever know that the gospel is *true*? The knowledge spoken of in Romans 1 is not just referring to mere comprehension, as if the knowledge were on par with understanding a nice story in a novel.

    It seems to me that you think one who regards the cross as foolishness can nevertheless assent to it

    But that is a shift in language. “Assent to the cross” is far more loaded than “assent that it is true.”

    And it certainly makes sense, indeed common sense, that someone might know something to be true yet find it undesirable or foolish in the face of alternatives. Unbelievers, in other words, may know that the Gospel promises are true yet simply find it undesirable or inferior to the alternative of self-love.

  19. Ryan said,

    March 20, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    David,

    Can the unbeliever know that the gospel is *true*? The knowledge spoken of in Romans 1 is not just referring to mere comprehension, as if the knowledge were on par with understanding a nice story in a novel.

    I would say no, and I would like to see by what process of reasoning you came to the conclusion someone who suppresses the truth of a proposition can simultaneously be said to regard the proposition as true. “What may be known” may be “manifest,” but that doesn’t mean they know in the sense you mean in the above, right?

    But that is a shift in language. “Assent to the cross” is far more loaded than “assent that it is true.”

    I think you are playing semantics. It’s pretty clear what Paul means:

    1 Corinthians 1:18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

    It is a message – a proposition – that is regarded as foolish by those who are perishing. It is the message of the cross which saves. He is talking about the gospel. And to your point, there is a pretty clear distinction between regarding a proposition itself to be foolishness and regarding repercussions of belief in a proposition as undesirable.

  20. Ron said,

    March 20, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    Neither Robbins nor Clark nor “Clarkians” equate belief with knowledge. We agree the unbeliever can know the gospel – but they suppress it due to their nature. That is, they cannot believe (assent to) it.

    Ryan,

    I think I understand what you’re trying to say but maybe you should refine your terms. Your words communicate that one can know x without believing x, yet if belief that x is a component of knowledge of x, which it is, then it is false without further qualification that one can know x without believing x. Given what I think you are trying to say, there must be some component of saving belief that must be missing from the belief that one can have when he knows the gospel unsavingly.

    Also, as a general comment not directed at anyone in particular, the non-elect can never know that Jesus died for their sins since we can only know that which is true. That’s something that all five-pointers can agree upon.

  21. Ryan said,

    March 20, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    Ron,

    I think my recent comment to David (first paragraph) clarifies my position. I was thinking in terms of knowledge of what a proposition means rather than knowledge that a proposition is true.

  22. Ron said,

    March 20, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    Ryan,

    Yes, I see that in your most recent post. That’s what I was getting at. Very good.

  23. Ron said,

    March 20, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    Ryan,

    Certainly you agree that two people can believe the same proposition is true yet be moved differently by the proposition. My neighbor and I can know that her husband is coming home from the war, yet I will not be moved to meet him at the airport yet wild horses couldn’t keep her from meeting him. For whatever reason, my strongest inclination would not be to act on what I believe to be true. Accordingly, on what basis do you reject David’s observation:

    “that someone might know something to be true yet find it undesirable or foolish in the face of alternatives. Unbelievers, in other words, may know that the Gospel promises are true yet simply find it undesirable or inferior to the alternative of self-love.”

    Do you reject this on strictly exegetical grounds?

  24. Ron said,

    March 20, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    I think you are playing semantics. It’s pretty clear what Paul means:

    1 Corinthians 1:18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

    It is a message – a proposition – that is regarded as foolish by those who are perishing. It is the message of the cross which saves. He is talking about the gospel. And to your point, there is a pretty clear distinction between regarding a proposition itself to be foolishness and regarding repercussions of belief in a proposition as undesirable.

    Ryan,

    Your position presupposes that one cannot know a particular kind of truth (the gospel) while regarding it as foolishness. Yet it is not a universal truth that two people cannot regard the same proposition as true yet not be moved the same way. Accordingly, you must show by sound exegesis why gospel propositions are different in this regard (i.e. why they cannot be believed, even for a time, apart from salvation).

    As David already pointed out, sin makes men irrational, and philosophically speaking, irrationality comports with (a) believing I can have eternal life if I call upon the name of the Lord and (b) deceiving myself into believing that the alternative of coming to Christ is not so bad.

    I trust you don’t deny that one can regard something as true yet not be moved. And I hope you would affirm that sin brings forth irrationality. Therefore, that it is impossible for one to assent to the truth of the gospel yet not be saved by that belief must be shown exegetically, not philosophically.

    With that said, I don’t know that we should alter the message of “believe” into a message of “trust”. So often when I hear people speak about transferring trust, the message sounds very works oriented. The call is to believe and by God’s grace, the belief will be saving and not mere assent.

    I’m going to be out of pocket this week, so I would like that David handle any of the mess I may have created! :)

  25. Andrew McCallum said,

    March 20, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    Sean Gerety said in the link Lane provided:

    I have always believed that it is the Federal Vision’s clever twist of the imagined third or fiducial element of saving faith (translated “trust”) is what has allowed them to drive their FV truck through the P&R world with little or no opposition even today.

    I would agree that this third aspect of the traditional understanding of faith could be twisted to say something that it was never meant to say, but this abuse surely should not be a reason to deny this aspect of faith. In this third element of faith we are trying to emphasize the fact that faith does not just affect the mind but the heart as well. The seeming denial of the volitional nature of faith by stating that faith is just intellectual assent is just what we are trying to avoid.

  26. Ryan said,

    March 20, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    Ron,

    I agree with the idea people who believe the same proposition can be moved to act differently. But I don’t see how it pertains to Robbins’ point. Paul distinguishes between two types of individuals: those to whom the message of the cross is foolishness or stumbling block and those to whom it is the power of God. Moreover, in the wisdom of God the world by its wisdom did not know God. There is a contrast between the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of God. The former entails the idea that the latter is foolish and vice versa. The world doesn’t know Him, so it makes sense that they regard His wisdom, who is also wisdom for believers, as foolishness (1:27-30).

    So I guess my belief that belief refers to understanding and assent alone is grounded exegetically, though I am no scholar, but I don’t think it would be logical anyways to assert that a proposition which one regards as foolish can simultaneously be regarded as true. How one can think a proposition is both foolish and true is in question, not whether one can know a proposition is true and then choose to ignore that. Your illustration has to do with possible outcomes of one’s belief in a proposition, and I think that is a separate issue.

    But to clarify or anticipate possible questions and confusion, in the case of saving faith, I think Clarkians would say that assent to the gospel is a sort of knowledge which cannot fail to produce good works &c. The outcome of such knowledge – sanctification – is inevitable. Some may be moved to act differently, but it would be within a restricted sphere. What I mean is that while one may progress in sanctification while another is temporally backsliding, all believers are heading towards the same end: glorification. Similarly, if you and the wife of a soldier both irrevocably believed or assented to the proposition that the soldier is a friend, while the wife may believe something different from you that will induce her to rush to him immediately, I would think both of you will eventually seek him out. Does that make sense?

    Perhaps I am speaking out of turn, so if any other “Clarkians” would chime in, that would be helpful.

  27. Ryan said,

    March 20, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    Ron,

    As David already pointed out, sin makes men irrational, and philosophically speaking, irrationality comports with (a) believing I can have eternal life if I call upon the name of the Lord and (b) deceiving myself into believing that the alternative of coming to Christ is not so bad.

    On the contrary, I agree with Clark when he writes:

    “…all sinning is the result of fallacious thinking. Sometimes the fallacy does not lie on the surface. Evil men can run through a long series of valid syllogisms. But away back somewhere they have had a wrong thought. The Scriptures teach that out of the heart, or mind, come all the issues of life; as a man thinks, so is he.” – The Pastoral Epistles, pg. 208

  28. Joshua Butcher said,

    March 21, 2011 at 12:58 am

    In distinguishing the different “movements” associated with two separate individuals assenting to the truth of a proposition, I think an important element of the equation has been omitted.

    Propositions do not exist in isolation, and the components of faith include “understanding,” or a particular grasp of the meaning of a proposition in relation to its appropriate complex of propositions. Let me illustrate, using Ron’s example of his neighbor:

    Ron and his neighbor both believe and assent to the proposition “Victor [the name I'll give to the husband of Ron's neighbor] will be coming home tonight.” The reason that Ron is not moved to pick up Victor, whereas his neighbor is moved, is because they have a different set of propositions governing their understanding of the proposition to which they both assent to as true. Ron does not assent to the proposition, “I must pick up Victor from the airport,” because it does not apply to him as Victor’s neighbor, whereas his neighbor does assent to that proposition, because she is Victor’s wife–the one responsible to pick him up. Their understanding of the complex of propositions making up the particular circumstance–insofar as it relates to their responsibility–is different, therefore they respond differently to the truth to which they both assent.

    Unbelievers may assent to some Biblical claims concerning Christ, but they can never assent to those claims with the same understanding as the believer, which of course raises the question of whether they know the truths of the gospel, while knowing particular truths about Christ. What is, I think, undeniable concerning the truths of Scripture to which unbelievers assent is that they never constitute SAVING faith. This places us smack dab in the middle of “what is saving faith?” to which, as far as Clark is concerned, is an unanswerable question, as the Bible does not say or imply how many, or which of the several propositions concerning Christ are the minimum criteria for regeneration. The Spirit moves when and where and how it will, unbeknown to the understanding of men.

    That is not to say that certain propositions cannot be marked out as those which must be affirmed in order to know what the Bible teaches, or what is salvation, or even what must be considered a credible profession, but rather the complex of propositions, which in particular constitute saving faith is unrevealed, in Clark’s view.

    The addition of “trust” to the components of “understanding” and “assent” is superfluous when “assent” is taken as a volitional act. Knowledge is transformative, which several NT texts indicate plainly (I will collect some if anyone asks for evidence to the fact), and therefore assenting to an understanding of truth necessitates a life that is governed accordingly (however imperfectly, depending upon how clearly and comprehensively the truth is understood and how presently it is kept conscious, or made habitual), that is, how a life is entrusted to that knowledge.

  29. Joshua Butcher said,

    March 21, 2011 at 1:00 am

    “believe and assent” should read “believe, or assent”

  30. Andrew McCallum said,

    March 21, 2011 at 4:03 am

    The addition of “trust” to the components of “understanding” and “assent” is superfluous when “assent” is taken as a volitional act. Knowledge is transformative, which several NT texts indicate plainly (I will collect some if anyone asks for evidence to the fact), and therefore assenting to an understanding of truth necessitates a life that is governed accordingly…

    Ryan,

    I think you get to the heart of the matter with this statement. You do not need to quote any of the passages to prove you point because we already know them (i.e. Rom 10:9) and are in agreement. Such passages say that we have to believe in our heart and not just give intellectual assent. But as I see it, this is the question before us – can we have knowledge of salvation that is non-transformative? To that I would answer “yes.” Now I think that you want to say that if someone has true knowledge of the relevant propositions concerning salvation that there will be an outworking of this knowledge in their wills. I see no exegetical reason to affirm this. We can test people concerning the intellectual content of true saving faith and they may get a 100% of this test and yet their hearts remain unmoved. To which I suppose you and Clark and so on would say then they really don’t have complete knowledge. At this point I think the debate often devolves into what is true knowledge which to me is not that helpful. The point we would like to make by emphasizing the third element of faith is that true faith transcends mere intellectual perception and transforms the heart. I’m glad to hear you say that knowledge of salvation is transformative and I hope that you understand that the traditional formulation of faith is meant exactly to emphasize this truth It would seem to me that, assuming Clark and Gerety agree with you here, their formulation of faith as mere intellectual assent obscures this important point.

  31. Ron said,

    March 21, 2011 at 5:56 am

    Ron wrote: As David already pointed out, sin makes men irrational, and philosophically speaking, irrationality comports with (a) believing I can have eternal life if I call upon the name of the Lord and (b) deceiving myself into believing that the alternative of coming to Christ is not so bad.

    Ryan replied: On the contrary, I agree with Clark when he writes:

    “…all sinning is the result of fallacious thinking. Sometimes the fallacy does not lie on the surface. Evil men can run through a long series of valid syllogisms. But away back somewhere they have had a wrong thought. The Scriptures teach that out of the heart, or mind, come all the issues of life; as a man thinks, so is he.” – The Pastoral Epistles, pg. 208

    Ryan,

    If you don’t mind, I’m going to pass on the Clark quote because I don’t want to get into what I believe would be a futile exercise of trying to interpret one who is not here to make elaborations. Don’t get me wrong – I have no problem with the Clark quote but I don’t think I have much chance of getting you to agree with my interpretation. I think I have a better chance of interacting with your direct remarks and comparing Scripture with Scripture. We both have the mind of Christ, not the mind of Clark so I think we’re better off dealing with each other’s articulations and the voice of God.

    Paul distinguishes between two types of individuals: those to whom the message of the cross is foolishness or stumbling block and those to whom it is the power of God.

    Yes, and nothing in the statement implies that one cannot know x is true while also finding x foolish. Your thesis is that if one truly knew x was true, he would no longer find x foolish but that needs be defended and not just asserted and re-asserted. Two people can believe that if they go to a U.S. casino to play roulette, the odds of winning a play on black would be 47.37%, leaving the house with an edge of 5.26%. One can consider the game foolish and the other not. Leaving other propositions aside like the so-called “entertainment” factor, one can simply suppress what he believes to be the odds against him. Any fallacy of reason due to sin that would make one think he will most likely win while believing and suppressing that he won’t most likely win need not be attributed to a lack of belief of the propositions pertaining to the odds. It can be due to one giving frothy considerations undue weight in order to suppress a belief. There is such a thing as self-deception, which presupposes belief in propositions. After all, without belief there can be no suppression.

    In a word, you have offered no reason why one cannot find the proposition true that he is under the wrath of God (Romans 1), or that Christ is the only name under heaven given among men by which they must be saved (Acts 4:12) yet simply “suppress” the truth in unrighteousness. NOTE: If you’d be willing to say that while one is suppressing a belief he is not actually believing what he is suppressing, then the disagreement between us is not so far apart. We’d just be disagreeing over terms having to do with suppressed beliefs. But if we agree on that, then this thread would close too soon and that alone makes me believe that our issue must be elsewhere. :)

    I don’t think it would be logical anyways to assert that a proposition which one regards as foolish can simultaneously be regarded as true.

    I comprehend the thesis. I just find it somewhat “foolish”. :) Not really… I just don’t find it persuasive.

    As a side point, I find this rationalistic thesis rather Arminian because it seems to imply that one only needs more understanding of the facts in order to believe the facts, rather than a new disposition toward the facts that he already believes to be true. I appreciate that you will index the the greater understanding to the transformative power of the Holy Spirit, which makes the thesis comport with regeneration preceding faith, a major axiom of Calvinism. Just the same, the issue for you seems to be that God must change the intellect and not the disposition.

    Have a good week!

    Ron

  32. Roger du Barry said,

    March 21, 2011 at 6:54 am

    Sanemanianism. That is the word some of you are looking for.

  33. paigebritton said,

    March 21, 2011 at 7:00 am

    Hey, all,
    A couple of comments from Sean Gerety got hung up in the spam overnight, and they are now present in the thread way back at #7-9, if you’d like to interact with them.
    pb

  34. Joshua Butcher said,

    March 21, 2011 at 7:13 am

    Andrew #27,

    “True knowledge” redundant. One cannot know something falsely. Further, you haven’t established that “believing in your heart” is anything different from “intellectual assent.” The Bible uses the term “heart” in various senses, including aspects of assent and volition (only very rarely feeling). I clearly pointed out in my previous post that “assent” can be considered volitional, and therefore perfectly synonymous with “belief,” as a component of faith.

    While you find the emphasis upon “trust” as a third element to faith, believing that understanding and assent alone are not enough, I find the emphasis upon trust to contain a subtle anti-intellectualism that can easily slip into requiring some experiential basis as the ground for, rather than the result of, saving faith.

    Ron’s emphasis upon self-deception supports my claim, when considering what I added to his previous example of his neighbor. A simple proposition, “believe on the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved,” stands in relation to the whole complex of other propositions concerning who Christ is, and what is His work. Since we do not know precisely what combination of propositions constitutes saving faith, we cannot say that the unbeliever “knows” the gospel as it concerns salvation, for if he knew salvation, he would possess salvation. John 17:3 – eternal life is knowing the Only True God, and the Christ whom He has sent.

  35. Roger du Barry said,

    March 21, 2011 at 7:25 am

    Sandemanianism.

  36. Sean Gerety said,

    March 21, 2011 at 8:31 am

    @Andrew #25

    I would agree that this third aspect of the traditional understanding of faith could be twisted to say something that it was never meant to say, but this abuse surely should not be a reason to deny this aspect of faith. In this third element of faith we are trying to emphasize the fact that faith does not just affect the mind but the heart as well. The seeming denial of the volitional nature of faith by stating that faith is just intellectual assent is just what we are trying to avoid.

    Andrew touches on another piece of evangelical confusion that enemies of the faith routinely exploit and another hole Clark sought to fill and that is the imagined gap between the heart and the head. The heart and the mind in Scripture are the same thing. Interestingly, this was one of the aspects of Clark’s book What is Saving Faith? that Dr. Strange agreed with (I don’t know how anyone could not given the sheer weight and number of biblical passages Clark uses in support of his argument) writing:

    There are a number of other things that we can appreciate in this work. Clark insists that there is no divorce between the written and living Word (p. 143), that the head/heart dichotomy is false (pp. 61-2),and that even many evangelicals have bought into the evacuation of
    intellectual content from truth, regarding truth simply as “encounter” (p. 125). Thus he offers a necessary critique of and corrective to romanticism, neo-orthodoxy, existentialism and various forms of post-modernism which argue that truth is personal and not propositional.

    Amen Dr. Strange. :)

  37. Ron said,

    March 21, 2011 at 8:44 am

    “…if you and the wife of a soldier both irrevocably believed or assented to the proposition that the soldier is a friend, while the wife may believe something different from you that will induce her to rush to him immediately, I would think both of you will eventually seek him out. Does that make sense?”

    Ryan,

    I think I grasp your point. Walk with me and see if I do. First, as you appreciate, I am not persuaded that salvation must accompany believing that Jesus saves those who believe in him as Savior and Lord. Given the soldier analogy in view, believing the soldier is coming home is equivalent to believing that Jesus saves those who believe in him. As I pointed out, belief in the soldier is not sufficient to bring change. What you then added to that proposition is that the soldier is a friend and that being a friend, a response “to seek him out” would be in order at some time. Now you might want to draw an analogy to Jesus being a friend to sinners and in turn include that proposition in set of gospel propositions that must be believed. But then I can turn around and point out that the person while in a season of delay in seeking out his friend has not yet sought out his friend -yet all the time he would indeed be believing that the friend has come home. Consequently, it is not universally true that believing alone (even while believing the additional proposition that there is friendship) is in and of itself a sufficient condition for a change in behavior. Consequently, if your thesis is correct about belief and gospel, I don’t see how it can be a universal, philosophical truism.

    Also, believing that Jesus is a friend to elect sinners is not the same thing as believing that he is my friend. Yet even if a reprobate believes that Jesus is his personal friend, the person’s belief could be based upon the Arminian evangelist’s say-so as opposed to believing it on God’s witness of the Spirit. So, as I see it we have a couple of points that need to be fleshed out a bit more. First, I think we disagree on the part suppression of the truth plays into the mix (the casino analogy), and then we have to distinguish belief in the objective proposition that Jesus died for sinners from the proposition that Jesus died for me. With the latter case, we must allow for unwarranted beliefs that have no authoritative backing. In the end, I think people can believe that Jesus died for sinners and even died for them yet without being saved. I know that nobody can know Jesus died for him without it being true.

    Cheers,

    Ron

  38. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 21, 2011 at 9:40 am

    Two questions:

    (1) Why does Rom 10.9-10 locate the center of belief in the heart rather than the mind?

    This might be universal in the NT — I can’t think of an instance where we “believe with our minds”; it always seems to be believing in one’s heart.

    (2) In the parable of the sower and seed, those who are “rocky soil” are said to “believe for a time”:

    Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.

    Is their “belief” qualitatively, or quantitatively different from saving faith?

  39. Andrew McCallum said,

    March 21, 2011 at 9:52 am

    Sean (re 36),

    What I am trying to address is whether there are volitional aspects to saving faith. Ryan said “yes” and so my response to him was that it seems then that Clark was confusing the matter by stating that faith was just intellectual assent. People read Clark and immediately assume that he is saying something that he apparently was not trying to convey. It’s ironic that there was no confusion until Clark confused the matter in an attempt to clarify.

    And we have no problem explaining the FV error without help from Clark.

  40. Sean Gerety said,

    March 21, 2011 at 9:57 am

    @ #12 Jeff Cagle writes:

    It seems to occur often in the Gospels that we have πιστευομαι εις + something other than a proposition — such as a person, or a name, or a miracle.

    I think it is impossible to believe in a person without believing in propositions about that person. I would think that is what believing in a person means! It seems that was also the position of J. Gresham Machen who wrote:

    It is impossible to have faith in a person without having knowledge of the person. In the classic treatment of faith in the Epistle to the Hebrews, there is a verse that goes to the very root of the matter. “He that cometh to God,” the author says, “must believe that he is, and the he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). Religion is here made to depend absolutely upon doctrine; the one who comes to God must not only believe *in* a person, but he must also believer *that* something is true; faith is here declared to involve acceptance of a proposition. It is impossible, according to the Epistle to the Hebrews, to have faith in a person without accepting with the mind the facts about the person. – Faith in God.

    Machen also said:

    Faith is indeed intellectual; it involves an apprehension of certain things as facts; and vain is the modern effort to divorce faith from knowledge. But although faith is intellectual, it is not only intellectual. You cannot have faith without having knowledge; but you will not have faith if you have only knowledge.

    Further, John Robbins wrote in his intro to What is Saving Faith?

    Some deny that Christian faith is knowledge, asserting that it is a personal encounter, or a personal relationship, or membership in a covenant community. They say that those who think we are saved by knowledge, such as the Apostle Peter, are Gnostics.

    One of these miscreants has published a book in which he maintains that “Christianity is Gnostic.” To quote from an advertisement for (and endorsement of) his book in Douglas Wilson’s magazine Credenda/Agenda, “The Bible never mentions Christianity. It does not preach Christianity, nor
    does it encourage us to preach Christianity. Paul did not preach Christianity, nor did any of the other apostles…. The Bible speaks of Christians and of the Church, but Christianity is Gnostic…. we must stand against Christianity.” The author of this book, Peter Leithart, is “Senior Fellow of Theology and Literature” at New Saint Andrews College in Moscow, Idaho. His boss is Douglas Wilson, author of many cunningly devised fables. Leithart is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church of America.

    Hopefully this should also put to rest the idea that a person can be saved apart from knowledge and that one can believe in a person without believing certain propositions about that person. It seems that Machen and Clark had a lot in common. The only point of clarification I think Clark might make would be an epistemological one and that the distinction Machen is making would be better explained as a distinction between understanding (which Machen calls knowledge) and belief (which includes both understanding and assent). For example, in college I read Marx and Engels and I think I had a pretty good understanding of the Communist Manifesto. However I did not assent to their theory of economic determinism, so thankfully I never became a communist (instead I believed the bible and became a capitalist :).

    Also, Clark makes the point somewhere (I don’t recall at the moment, but it’s probably in What is Saving Faith?) that the persecutor Saul understood the Christian faith probably better than most first century Christians which is why he hated them so. However, after his conversion he now believed what he only formally understood.

  41. greenbaggins said,

    March 21, 2011 at 10:10 am

    Gerety, no one is saying that a person can be saved without knowledge of the person. I would go further in saying that no one can be saved without believing in propositional truth. I don’t believe the question here is whether that is necessary. I would hope all would agree that it is. The question is whether that is sufficient. I am very much trying to think through all these issues at the moment.

  42. Hugh McCann said,

    March 21, 2011 at 10:15 am

    Paul said in 1 Cor 15:1-4, ” But, brothers, I reveal to you the gospel which I preached to you, which you also received, in which you also stand, by which you also are being kept safe [saved], if you hold fast the Word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.

    “For I delivered to you in the first place what I also received, that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised the third day, according to the Scriptures.”

    The issue is first the propositions learned and assented to, and these include the death and resurrection of Christ “for our sins,” something no demon or unregenerate man can give assent to.

    False professors of the faith may delude themselves and others that they believe the true gospel, but those who fall away from such a profession cannot believe the gospel.

    They believe that God loves all men, and thus, them as well.

    They believe that Christ died for all men, thereby misunderstanding the “our” in “for our sins” to mean those of all mankind.

    They believe that one must DO something beyond simply believing the gospel (or more accurately, their distorted version of it), and pray to receive Jesus, ask him into their heart, make a decision, etc. in order to be saved.

    Such at least destroys assurance and is ultimately a damning works-righteousness.

    Reece & Gerety above are helpful. Read them. As well as the thread referenced in the post above.

  43. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 21, 2011 at 10:19 am

    Sean, thanks for #41. One more question and I’m done:

    You have established that faith “involves” or “includes” believing propositions about a person.

    But isn’t your position that faith *is nothing more than* believing propositions? So how do you get from Machen to there. For he says “the one who comes to God must not only believe *in* a person, but he must also believer *that* something is true; faith is here declared to involve acceptance of a proposition.”

    The “not only … but also” language seems to indicate two different things here, not one.

    That’s all, and thanks in advance.

  44. Hugh McCann said,

    March 21, 2011 at 10:20 am

    Knowledge/Understanding + Assent = Faith/Belief/Trust.

    Why are belief, faith, and trust not seen as synonymous by so many?

  45. greenbaggins said,

    March 21, 2011 at 10:28 am

    Okay, now I’m confused. Hugh seems to be advocating what I said in the post. But other Clarkians seem to be saying that saving faith is knowledge/intellectual assent alone, and that trust is not included. Which is it?

  46. Hugh McCann said,

    March 21, 2011 at 10:40 am

    Hey, GreenB,

    Thanks for this thread!

    Faith=Belief=Trust.

    Faith is synonymous with trust.

  47. Sean Gerety said,

    March 21, 2011 at 10:41 am

    @ Andrew #40.

    Since I ended up in the spam filter maybe you missed #7, but to the question of volition Clark wrote:

    If one go back to the Westminster divines, to Calvin, even to Aquinas, and especially to Augustine, he will find that human nature is regularly divided into intellect and will. The point is important because faith in Christ is not an emotion but a volition. One does not feel for Christ, he decides for Christ. The Scripture says, Jesus himself said, “Except you repent, you shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). Note very carefully that repentance is a change of mind. Its root is the word noeō, “to think.” The noun nous is the intellect. And faith, by which one is justified, is a belief, a voluntary assent to an understood proposition.. – The Logos

    Clark nowhere denies that saving belief is a volition, but a volition is an act of the intellect. Minds choose this or that and only minds can change which is repentance.

    Also, you say “we have no problem explaining the FV error without help from Clark.” That maybe so, but the awareness in the P&R community that faith has been redefined in such a way by the FV as to include works is almost non-existent. Maybe you can explain this phenomenon some other way, but with perhaps the exception of White’s piece “Sola Fides or Sola Fidelity?” the FV men have been extremely successful in making others believe they are Reformed men who hold to JBFA. Pay attention next time when one of the FV men tie their examiners in knots over the question of what constituents a “living faith.”

    What might be the most recent example of the *ineffectiveness* of your side in identifying this fiducial slight of hand of the Federal Visionists is found in the MOP’s report exonerating Jeffrey Meyers where they conclude:

    The second item the signers omitted was the last half of the denial paragraph. The full denial in the JVFP reads as follows:

    “We deny that the faith which is the sole instrument of justification can be understood as anything other than the only kind of faith which God gives, which is to say, a living, active, and personally loyal faith. Justifying faith encompasses the elements of assent, knowledge, and living trust in accordance with the age and maturity of the believer.” (JFVP, p. 6) [emphasis not in the original]

    A careful and charitable reading of this denial, in the context in which it was written, would conclude that the phrase “living trust” in the second sentence is an explication of the phrase “personally loyal faith” in the first sentence. TE Meyers has explained and defended the phrase “personally loyal faith” this way:

    “The statement from the JFVP only talks about what kind of faith is true faith, that is, saving faith. To say that the kind of faith that justifies is a “living, active, and personally loyal faith” is simply to define genuine faith over against false or superficial belief. The Scriptures often warn against superficial, historical, or merely intellectual faith (Matt. 7:26; 13:12; Acts 26:27, 28; James 2:19).” (JJM Response, p. 98, lines 9–13)

    We find this explanation to be a reasonable exposition of the phrase “personally loyal faith” to which the signers of the LOC object. Moreover, taken together with all the statements on justification by faith alone in the JFVP, the committee finds nothing in the phrase that contradicts the Westminster Standards; rather, it seems to convey the meaning of the closing phrases of WCF XI.2: “. . . and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.”

    I’d say the above analysis, assuming that the entire MO presbytery are not themselves all Federal Visionists, results from a complete misunderstanding of the nature of saving faith and how faith is defined, a problem Gordon Clark sought to correct years before there was even an FV to deal with.

    So, while it’s not impossible to hold the traditional 3 fold tautological definition of saving faith and recognize precisely how, to use Kesiter’s phrase, the FV have been able “drive a truck through” the word “trust,” my only point is that this deception would have been immediately identified years ago if Reformed men had paid closer attention to Clark. Perhaps you’re the exception Andrew, but it seems to me we very much need Clark.

  48. Sean Gerety said,

    March 21, 2011 at 10:47 am

    @Jeff #44 At least per my reading of Machen it seems he explaining what believing in a person means and that is believing in propositions about the person. The former can’t exist without the latter. Elsewhere Machen writes:

    “Was it a “simple faith,” in the modern sense which divorces faith from knowledge and supposes that a man can have “simple faith” in a person of whom he knows nothing or about whom he holds opinions that make faith in him absurd? Not at all.”

  49. David Gray said,

    March 21, 2011 at 10:50 am

    >I would go further in saying that no one can be saved without believing in propositional truth.

    The WCF would indicate otherwise (salvation of elect infants who I think we can agree don’t articulate propositional truth).

  50. Sean Gerety said,

    March 21, 2011 at 10:52 am

    Lane, maybe you answered this already and I missed it, or perhaps it’s because I’m easily mistaken for spam (I don’t mind, for whatever reason your post on my combox ended up in my spam filter too. Must be some sort of Clark/Van Til conspiracy ;-), but isn’t “a personal appropriation of the truth of the Gospel” just a description of assent? If not, then what’s the difference? I don’t see that there is any difference, but maybe I’m missing something?

  51. Ryan said,

    March 21, 2011 at 11:30 am

    Andrew,

    What I am trying to address is whether there are volitional aspects to saving faith. Ryan said “yes”…

    Where did I say that? Your post #30 was addressed to the wrong person. You were quoting Joshua, not me.

  52. Ryan said,

    March 21, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    Ron,

    In your casino example, I would simply say that you are describing an impossible hypothetical. If my arguments thus far are mere assertions as you seem to think, ascribing assent to a proposition one thinks is foolish by means of an example is hardly better. I don’t think I can put my reasons for believing the idea that one can regard a proposition as foolish and true is nonsense any clearer than I have, at least with respect to commentary on 1 Corinthians. God’s wisdom is regarded as foolishness by the world. God’s wisdom is most clearly manifested in the message of the cross. The wisdom of the world naturally regards the message of the cross as foolishness. Yet somehow they can know it is true? That’s like saying the sneering individuals in Acts 17:32 actually could have assented to the message of the cross. Sorry, that just doesn’t make sense to me.

    NOTE: If you’d be willing to say that while one is suppressing a belief he is not actually believing what he is suppressing, then the disagreement between us is not so far apart.

    That’s right. In fact, I did say (or at least imply) that in my response to David’s citation of Romans 1, a passage which you seem to think I have overlooked (cf. post 19).

    I don’t really like analogies because they usually break down and people start to talk past each other. Hopefully that won’t happen here:

    But then I can turn around and point out that the person while in a season of delay in seeking out his friend has not yet sought out his friend -yet all the time he would indeed be believing that the friend has come home. Consequently, it is not universally true that believing alone (even while believing the additional proposition that there is friendship) is in and of itself a sufficient condition for a change in behavior.

    True. The change in behavior follows from regeneration. Saving faith is always accompanied by regeneration, right? While belief changes our objective relation to God, regeneration changes our subjective relation to God. We want to come to Him. We want to hear, study, know His word. I could therefore posit some analogy to regeneration such that the fact I believe the soldier is my friend, since it connotes regeneration, means that I will inevitably learn a proposition which will incline me to go see him. And no, I would not argue that going to the friend and going to Christ are similar, or your criticism would be correct. I was not attempting to imply anything about friendship between Jesus and sinners.

    we have to distinguish belief in the objective proposition that Jesus died for sinners from the proposition that Jesus died for me. With the latter case, we must allow for unwarranted beliefs that have no authoritative backing.

    I agree with this but not with this, at least not if one correctly understands the relevant Scriptural concepts:

    In the end, I think people can believe that Jesus died for sinners and even died for them yet without being saved.

  53. Andrew McCallum said,

    March 21, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    Ryan – Yes, #30 should have been addressed to Joshua.

  54. Hugh McCann said,

    March 21, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    Rev Keister,

    You write: ‘On the other side, when people look at the three-fold definition of knowledge, assent, and trust, that last word is ambiguous.’
    I say: >>More than ambiguous, it seems unhelpfully redundant and unnecessarily tautological to say that faith includes trust.

    ‘What is trust?’
    >>Trust=Faith=Believing=Knowledge+Assent.

    ‘Is it a once-for-all entrustment [sic] of the soul to God?’
    >>Yes, or as you say, “a personal appropriation of the truth of the Gospel,” or, as we’d say, knowledge + intellectual assent alone (since these constitute faith/trust).

    ‘Or is it a lifelong loyalty to the covenant?’
    >>Only if that’s understood as imputed “lifelong loyalty to the cov’t” (‘LLC’). Jesus’ LLC is given us freely in the gospel as we believe the latter: See the great HC #s 1 (of course), 21, 60, 61. Too glorious not to quote at length:

    21~ “What is true faith? A:True faith is not only a certain knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in his word, but also an assured confidence… that… to me also, remission of sin, everlasting righteousness and salvation, are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.”

    60~ “How are you righteous before God? A: Only by a true faith in Jesus Christ; so that… God, without any merit of mine, but only of mere grace, grants and imputes to me, the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ; even so, as if I never had had, nor committed any sin: yea, as if I had fully accomplished all that obedience which Christ has accomplished for me; inasmuch as I embrace such benefit with a believing heart.”

    61~ “Why do you say that you are righteous by faith alone? A: Not that I am acceptable to God, on account of the worthiness of my faith; but because only the satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, is my righteousness before God; and that I cannot receive and apply the same to myself any other way than by faith only.”

    Back to RLK: ‘Now, let us relate this once-for-all entrustment [sic] of the soul to God, on the one hand, to belief in a personal appropriation of the Gospel, on the other hand. Are they not really the same thing? The former is what most Reformed theologians have said. Clark has said it in the latter way. Might they not actually be the same thing?’
    >>Sounds like!

    ‘At this moment in time, I am more inclined to favor the personal appropriation language of belief to describe the third element of faith, precisely since, as Sean has pointed out, the word “trust” is so ambiguous.
    >>We’re saying that since trust=faith, then “the personal appropriation,” or the “once-for-all entrusting of the soul to God,” etc., are not the 3rd element, but rather, the whole enchilada. That is, the P-A, the O-F-A-E = faith/trust (which is K+A).

    ‘To conclude, when Clark/Gerety et al say “justification by belief alone” they are not talking about just knowledge, or even just assent.’
    >>Right! We’re talking about just knowledge PLUS assent!

    ‘They are also including in that a personal appropriation of that truth to the sinner.’
    >>Not “including,” but saying as you do above that K+A= “a personal appropriation [of the gospel],” or, the “entrusting of the soul to God [in the gospel].”

    ‘I do not see a whopping difference between that and what others have said concerning trust. Are you not placing your trust in God when you come to the belief that God’s Gospel applies to you personally?’
    >>Yes! Yea!

    ‘Maybe the two orthodox sides are not so different after all.’
    >>Not if we’re both orthodox, no.
    >>Again, thanks for this!
    >>Hugh

  55. Cris Dickason said,

    March 21, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    #12 Jeff: Thanks for this (correction in 14 noted).

    There has to be something that transcends “propositions” for the propositions are from and about a person, The Person of God. We believe in or into the Christ, we trust our lives to Christ. I’m thinking along the lines of being raised in Christ, seated in the heavenly places in Christ. We have union with Christ, not union with propositions. Expressed in or by propositions, but union with the person, Jesus Christ.

    -=Cris=-

  56. Hugh McCann said,

    March 21, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    Cris,

    Not to be overly terse or rude, but so what?

    All we can know on this side about Jesus or anyone or anything else is what God has chosen to reveal. And what can we can know of that revelation comes through evident scriptural propositions and those rightly deduced from Scripture.

    What he has not chosen to reveal on this side may be greatly revealed in the eternal state, but again, so what?

    To quote David R. (#1, above) ~ “Belief is intellectual assent to propositions.” And, “…justification is through intellectual assent to divinely revealed propositions alone.”

  57. Ryan said,

    March 21, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Chris,

    We have union with Christ, not union with propositions. Expressed in or by propositions, but union with the person, Jesus Christ.

    Who is Jesus Christ? Who are we? In his response to Nash, Clark argued that if persons are not propositions, no one could know anyone else, including God. He could not know us, and we could not know Him. Knowledge [of truth] is propositional (Clark and His Critics, pgs. 148-149).

  58. Ron said,

    March 21, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    In your casino example, I would simply say that you are describing an impossible hypothetical.

    Ryan,

    If my casino example is not impossible, then your position is not universal. Now then, for my position to be impossible would entail that one cannot believe that the odds are against him while still believing that he’s going to get lucky and win. The way that both contrary propostions can be maintained is through willful, self-deception, which you seem to allow for in your last post to me.

    Thanks for the exchange.

    RD

  59. Ryan said,

    March 21, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    Ron,

    Now then, for my position to be impossible would entail that one cannot believe that the odds are against him while still believing that he’s going to get lucky and win.

    That presupposes said person regards betting against the odds is foolish. You’re begging the question.

  60. Ron said,

    March 21, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    Slow down, Ryan, you’re missing the point. The person making the wager thinks he’s going to win on luck but also is smart enough to understand and believe that the odds are against him winning. In order to gamble he suppresses what he believes about probability and manipulates himself into giving undo wait to his competing desire to win on luck. He deceives himself into thinking he will win when his more rational self believes he probably won’t. There is nothing being begged here. I’m just describing self-deception.

  61. Ryan said,

    March 21, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    In order to gamble he suppresses what he believes about probability…

    Does he though? You said earlier:

    If you’d be willing to say that while one is suppressing a belief he is not actually believing what he is suppressing, then the disagreement between us is not so far apart.

    I agreed with that. But now you seem to be saying that one suppresses what he actually believes. In any case, I still think you are conflating belief that the odds are against me with the belief that it is foolish to bet if the odds are against me. I don’t know how to break it down any simpler than that.

  62. Ron said,

    March 21, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    Ryan,

    My statements have been most clear. Maybe somebody else can spare the time to break them down for you.

    BR,

    Ron

  63. Ryan said,

    March 21, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    Why do we always fight, Ron? :)

    Have a good day.

  64. Ron said,

    March 21, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    No prob here……….ron

  65. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 21, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    Ryan (#57): Clark argued that if persons are not propositions, no one could know anyone else, including God. He could not know us, and we could not know Him. Knowledge [of truth] is propositional

    I remember reading this statement somewhere before and being impressed with the power of a single axiom to lead us into seeming absurdity.

    The axiom is “Knowledge is propositional”, which seems to be at the heart of the Clarkian school of thought.

    The seeming absurdity is “persons are propositions.” Perhaps I don’t understand what a “proposition” is to Clark, but I cannot fathom the notion we are ontologically composed of thoughts, that body and soul, our essence is “proposition.”

    And when I consider the word “know” in Scripture, it very rarely fits the definition “propositional knowledge.” When Adam “knew” his wife (Gen 4.1), it wasn’t propositionally.

    Adam: “Move over, my dear: it is time for me to contemplate the relationship of your axioms to their conclusions” — that’s miles away from the Song of Solomon-like event that led to the birth of Cain!

    Of course, the simplest way to remove the absurdity would be to deny the axiom.

    So to the Clarkians: I am skeptical that when Scripture uses the word “know”, it always means “to know propositionally.” You seem to have an exegetical and systematic burden of proof to meet, one that must come from Scripture and not reason alone. Lead us not into absurdity!

  66. Cris Dickason said,

    March 21, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    Hugh @ 56 and Ryan @ 57:

    OK, I didn’t give unpack fully what I was aiming at. I’ve no doubt this will still prove less than satisfying, but I’ll try again.

    What we read in Scripture is pisteuw eis or other prepositions, pisteuw en or pisteuw epi. There is an object, nay, a Person in whom, upon whom we believe.

    Yes, we have reveleation delivered in and with propositional truth, but we don’t embrace brute propositions; we embrace Christ, we trust Christ. The goal or end of a covenant is to establish communion, the covenant relationship. Thus the faith/believeing/trust language of Scripture, right in its very propositional prepositions helps us to see mere intellectual assent or acknowledgement is a necessary component of the full meaning this faith/believng language.

    Hugh: I would appeal to the same Lord’s Day 1 (and LD 7) of the Heidelberg that you did. I want to make plain that in the end: God’s special revelation, now found only in the Scriptures, is concerning His Son; and it is the Son who is given to us in our salvation. The Son is the foundation and source of all the benefits we have in him, because we first have him, as we are received by him and united to him.

    Gents: I just don’t live, exercise faith or “do” theology in a “Clarkian” box. So while I think I can appreciate what Clark wants to defend against Nash, but I really don’t care for something like a reduction to “If persons are not propositions, no one could know anyone else…”

  67. Ryan said,

    March 21, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    Jeff,

    I certainly don’t deny “to know” may have more than one connotation. But I also think each meaning must be intelligible. I was speaking of knowledge in relation to truth. But if you think persons aren’t propositions, perhaps you can tell me who God is or who you are such that it can be said God knows you and you know God. I’m always willing to learn.

  68. Joshua Butcher said,

    March 21, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    Clark argued that our knowledge of person is propositional. We only know what a person is, or who a person in particular is by virtue of the propositions that define that person. It isn’t a metaphysical statement. It isn’t saying that the ontology of man is a complex of propositions. It is saying that what we know, or better, whatever we know, we know by virtue of propositions.

  69. Ryan said,

    March 21, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    Actually, Clark’s views may have changed over time. Compare:

    Professor Nash appeals to non-propositional truth. So have some others. But no one has ever told me what this phrase means. No one has ever presented evidence to show that there is such a thing. Repetition may weary my readers, but once again, “David” is neither true nor knowable; “David was King of Israel” is. The word truth can be used only metaphorically or incorrectly when applied to anything other than a proposition.

    Clark and His Critics

    Several romantically inclined students, and a few professors as well, have complained that “this makes your wife merely a set of propositions.” Well, so it does. This suits me, for I am a set of propositions too. And those who complain are as they think.

    The Trinity

    I’m confused. If David is a set of propositions, and God knows all propositions, God knows David. Perhaps Clark was speaking about “David” abstractly in the first quote, disassociating him from the relevant predicates, but it would be nice if Sean or someone else could jump in and explain personhood.

  70. Hugh McCann said,

    March 21, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    Cris,

    “I would appeal to the same Lord’s Day 1 (and LD 7) of the Heidelberg that you did. I want to make plain that in the end: God’s special revelation, now found only in the Scriptures, is concerning His Son; and it is the Son who is given to us in our salvation. The Son is the foundation and source of all the benefits we have in him, because we first have him, as we are received by him and united to him.”

    Right on! LD 7, #21: What is true faith? Answer: True faith is not only a certain knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in his word, but also an assured confidence, which the Holy Spirit works by the gospel in my heart; that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sin, everlasting righteousness and salvation, are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.

    And *I* want to make plain that God’s special revelation, concerning His Son, is only known through propositional truth, i.e. his word.

    We have no more and no less “of him” than we have in the word. That is all (completely suffificent, but limited to our 66 books) God has given us to know him and equip us for life & godliness (2 Tim 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:3).

    To learn and assent to (i.e. believe/trust) the propositions of Scripture concerning our LORD & his Christ IS TO KNOW GOD. There is no knowledge of God on this side beyond the word, its propositions.

  71. Hugh McCann said,

    March 21, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    “Sufficient,” rather.

  72. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 21, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    Joshua (#68):

    That makes much more sense. Thank you.

    Ryan (#67): But if you think persons aren’t propositions, perhaps you can tell me who God is or who you are such that it can be said God knows you and you know God.

    I could describe God — propositionally, of course :) — but my description would not be God himself, but merely a description. So the propositions about God are not God himself.

    For what it’s worth, I prefer your first quote to the second, which seems to conflate objects (“my wife”) with propositions about those objects, which are language.

    Philosophers have worked fairly hard at separating symbols from semantics — that is, the English sentence “This is my wife” from the actual wife standing before you — and Clark seems to want to undo it all at a stroke in the second quote.

    I think Joshua B is on the right track: Our knowledge of persons either includes, or consists of, propositional knowledge. But that doesn’t mean that persons themselves are metaphysically composed of propositions. That would be very, very odd.

  73. Ryan said,

    March 21, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    Jeff and Joshua,

    Does that mean you hold to a correspondence theory of truth?

  74. March 21, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    Ryan,

    I’m closer to an identity theory of truth, that states propositions determine facts rather than correspond to them. I just don’t really think Clark can be tied down to the conclusion that propositions are the metaphysical reality of persons in addition to being the epistemic content of persons.

  75. Ryan said,

    March 21, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    With due respect to Joshua’s beliefs regarding Clark’s ontology, the more I read, the more it seems Clark consistently taught persons are [sets of] propositions:

    Holmes’ final contentions are that my system is “as thorough-going a metaphysical Idealism as one could imagine,” and that Idealism entails the disastrous conclusion that God is a set of propositions.

    In adducing the latter objection Holmes does me the honor of classifying me with Augustine. This has long been a standard objection to the great Bishop of Hippo, and will probably be repeated against anyone who asserts that God is truth. Men too must be “sets of propositions,” for Augustine makes the continuance of memory, which is simply our knowledge, the test of immortality…

  76. Cris Dickason said,

    March 21, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    So, one last time, because all this is going to turn into is repetition. Through God’s propositional self-revelation we know God, the Triune God, the persons of the Father, Son and Spirit, we know Him, not just propositions about him. We know him as a person, not merely as propositions. We do not know him comprehensively or exhaustively, be we know him truly. And then just reread Jeff’s post at 65. Then read # 66, then this. Then read #65, then # 66, then this one… Lather, rinse, repeat.

  77. Hugh McCann said,

    March 21, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    Thanks, Cris, I guess.

    If knowledge isn’t propositional, then what IS it?

    We’re agreed here: “Through God’s propositional self-revelation we know God, the Triune God, the persons of the Father, Son and Spirit…”

    And here: “We do not know him comprehensively or exhaustively, be we know him truly.”

    But these are sad absurdities: “…we know Him, not just propositions about him.”

    All we can know of Christ here & now are propositions about him (his word!).

    And, “We know him as a person, not merely as propositions.” What other way IS there to know someone than through propositions?

    And this is meaningless, though pious-&-profound-sounding: “…we don’t embrace brute propositions; we embrace Christ, we trust Christ.” What Christ do you have or find beyond the Bible?!

    Again, if knowledge isn’t propositional, then what IS it?

  78. March 22, 2011 at 12:33 am

    “That comes as obvious to anyone who is not bogged down by the idiosyncratic Clarkian philosophy.” *rolls eyes*

    Roger, http://godshammer.wordpress.com/2009/02/12/gordon-clark-vs-the-bogeymen/. I think that’s the post you’re looking for.

  79. Ron said,

    March 22, 2011 at 6:51 am

    Patrick,

    Thanks for linking that thread. I looked for it the other day only breifly though and didn’t find it.

  80. Ron said,

    March 22, 2011 at 6:52 am

    i before e… :)

  81. Ron said,

    March 22, 2011 at 7:06 am

    Re James and demons, does belief in monotheism save anyone? Last I checked there are many monotheists who are hell bound.

    On that post on Sean’s site I address the above sentiment in brief. I disagree with Sean who posted the above snippet on this thread.

    What is James’ point but that faith without works is dead? His point is not that such do not have faith but that they don’t have saving faith. Can such a faith save? No, but if the problem is that more propositions are necessary to believed, then James’ criticism loses its punch. The point is that one can be orthodox in his faith (believe all the right things!) and not have a faith that saves, which can be manifested by having no works. Sean and others would like to take James in another direction by pointing out that nobody is saved by believing incomplete gospel propositions (monotheism), but such an esoteric view undermines James’ very point, which simply is that one can believe the truth (God is one being a representation of that truth) yet not be saved and consequently not have good works, the fruit of saving faith. The issue in James is not the content of what is being believed but rather the quality of the faith that is possess.

  82. March 22, 2011 at 7:21 am

    Ron, some questions to ponder…

    Why do we assume the interlocutor stops talking before verse 20 instead of continuing through 19? Especially since every other interlocutor passage in the NT is concluded by the original speaker directly addressing them (as James does when he says “you fool”)?

    Why do we assume “dead” = “non-saving”?

    Why do we assume that the passage refers to eternal salvation and not deliverance from material need, as in the examples of the naked and hungry person?

    Why do we assume that James refers to justification before God?

    How can an unsaved, unregenerate person understand and believe the gospel?

  83. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 22, 2011 at 7:29 am

    Ryan (#73): Do I hold to a correspondence theory of truth?

    I’m probably closer to coherecism with a strong empiricist and pragmatist strain; but since I hold to the truth of Scripture as a central belief, those are not adequate descriptors either.

    As a matter of theology, I don’t think Scripture requires this or that theory of truth. Any man-generated theory of truth will be looking through a glass darkly and cannot claim to be “what the Bible teaches about truth.” Scripture does not lay out an explicit theory that we must adhere to as a matter of faith, right?

  84. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 22, 2011 at 7:34 am

    But yes, I do believe that the word “truth” in its proper sense means “corresponding to reality as God sees it.”

    The coherecism comes into play when considering how we as humans construct our knowledge, whether from Scripture or from the world around us.

  85. Ron said,

    March 22, 2011 at 7:47 am

    Patrick,

    James’ exhibit-A is Abraham being justified by faith, which is why I know that pardon and alien righteousness is in view and not deliverance from “material need.”

    I assume dead faith is not saving faith is because James is contrasting a faith that vindicates itself by its works and a faith that doesn’t.

    Back to my original point though – we know that James’ is using “God is one” as a summary of beliefs if for no other reason than “God is one” is not a characteristic that would cause demons to tremble. Accordingly, God is one must be pregnant with other propositions and simply representative of the gospel truth. Patrick, the point is that many people believe things casually, even flippantly. We believe things without real conviction all the time; nonetheless belief is present. We live our lives believing many things that don’t transform us in any substantial way. I’d argue that most of our beliefs are like that in fact. I’m simply looking for a reason to believe that one cannot casually believe the gospel in that same casual way.

    Busy day today…

    Ron

  86. paigebritton said,

    March 22, 2011 at 8:36 am

    Hugh wrote (#77):
    All we can know of Christ here & now are propositions about him (his word!).

    And Joshua wrote awhile back (#34):
    While you find the emphasis upon “trust” as a third element to faith, believing that understanding and assent alone are not enough, I find the emphasis upon trust to contain a subtle anti-intellectualism that can easily slip into requiring some experiential basis as the ground for, rather than the result of, saving faith.

    I appreciate the caution Joshua offers here, but I want to question the assumption that our knowledge of Jesus excludes the experiential, or (as Hugh put it) can only involve propositions via the Word. Here’s my thought: when I get to know a person in face-to-face “real time,” I am gathering information about him at least as much by experience as by propositions. The “experience” element involves impressions that lead to conclusions about trustworthiness, and those impressions simply aren’t reducible to propositions, being more complex (e.g., patterns of behavior or what we call “personality” and “character”).

    This is easy to see, I think, in face-to-face “real time” encounters — but I think it also occurs through text and word, which is relevant to our knowledge of Jesus: e.g., I have never personally met Lane, Reed, or Jeff, but through the medium of print (and in Reed’s case, recorded sermons) I have gathered both propositional data and experiential impressions of my brothers, so that I can distinguish them from one another and everybody else I know, and make judgment calls about their trustworthiness.

    Since we believe preaching and the Word of God to be God’s active speech, aren’t we likewise gaining both propositional data and experiential impressions of the living Christ through these media? This is not the “experiential” element that Joshua was criticizing, which is often in evangelical circles completely divorced from the text of Scripture; but it is also more than what Hugh would seem to allow re. our knowledge of Christ. And since experiential knowledge of a living person’s character is related to our evaluation of that person’s trustworthiness, I am inclined towards “trust” being a distinct part of our saving knowledge of the Savior.

    FWIW!
    pb

  87. Cris Dickason said,

    March 22, 2011 at 8:58 am

    @77 Whoa, Hugh. Did I accuse anyone of cold, abstract, formal logic-ism? No. Your accusation of absurdity and pious-sounding meaningless words is mere name-calling. The Christ we have in faith is “behind the Bible” or behind the propositions of the Bible in the sense that this Christ is a “he” that speaks and reveals himself through the Bible; to pedantically use your idiom, the Christ speaks the propositions of the Bible. But he is a Person speaking and revealing. And we are united to him in faith, we are brought from covenant-breaking status to the status of covenant-keepers, children of God. Exodus 6:7 “I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God” There’s no promise that says “I will be your propositions.”

    Last time I checked the Westminster Standards, we (Presbyterians) confess, from Scripture, that God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. Further, There are three persons in the Godhead; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory. Gods is not a propositional algorithm, generating propositions like some eternal random text generating engine.

    If you can’t understand – or will not understand – that propositions are uttered by persons, I can’t help you. You are like a man made of propositions, seeking to climb out of a sea of propositions on a ladder of propositions. Good luck with that.

  88. March 22, 2011 at 9:03 am

    Paige,

    I don’t think that the propositional nature of truth excludes the experiential, but is rather the basis for it. Experiences are complex, and we don’t tend to investigate the import of all that we take it, but it is nonetheless the case that the elements of experience are reducible to propositions that determine their meaning. That we don’t spend time breaking down experiences into all of the propositions determining them does not entail that experiences are separate from, more than, or otherwise exclusive of propositions. Nor am I saying that we ought to attempt to reduce all experiences into propositional expressions–aside from being tedious, it is hardly of value, as most propositions would be trivial (e.g. There is a light on in the room, the light is fluorescent, the light is bright, etc.). Truth must be propositional, for only propositions can be understood as true or false.

  89. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 22, 2011 at 9:41 am

    Nerd stuff follows, with a theological payoff at the end.

    Joshua (#88):

    I don’t think that the propositional nature of truth excludes the experiential, but is rather the basis for it.

    Can we nibble around the edges of this for a moment?

    (1) Think about how children –anyone! — acquires language. Do they acquire it propositionally? Or experientially? Surely the latter.

    Is it not the case, then, that the experiential is the basis for the propositional?

    You are able to read this post because you have acquired, through experience, a conceptual framework for English: vocabulary, grammar, syntax, semantics. No?

    (2) Propositional truth is the way in which we express our thoughts about the world. But unless we want to claim identity between our thoughts and the way the world really is — which would be a bold claim, indeed! — then we have to concede that truth itself is not propositional; rather, our expression of truth is propositional. We run the danger here of confusing our own thoughts with the truth! Properly speaking, only God’s thoughts can be called True Truth.

    (3) Above, Ryan appealed to Clark (#69): Professor Nash appeals to non-propositional truth. So have some others. But no one has ever told me what this phrase means. No one has ever presented evidence to show that there is such a thing.

    I believe that some knowledge is intuitive, following Pascal. And here is the evidence:

    * In geometry, certain basic concepts are left undefined: a point, a line, a plane. We build the whole edifice of geometry (a masterpiece of propositional thought!) on top of intuitively understood concepts.

    The intuitive is the basis for the propositional.

    * Logic itself is intuitive. Why do we know that A –> B, A, therefore B always gives correct results? We cannot explain this without being either circular or else appealing to intuition: It Just Is.

    The intuitive is, once again, the basis for the propositional.

    * Many skills are known intuitively.

    Yo-Yo Ma knows how to play the cello. But his knowledge of cello-playing was not acquired nor is it expressed propositionally, unless he is one of those rare music nerds who breaks it all down into physics. No, most musicians play by a combination of finger memory (developed intuition), aural memory (developed or innate intuition), and artistic “feel.”

    There is no question that knowing how to play the cello is “knowledge.” There is also no question that it is not propositional knowledge.

    Now.

    Here’s the payoff: I believe that when the various Confessions speak of faith, they are speaking of propositional knowledge in combination with something else.

    Thus the Heidelberg #21: True faith is not only a certain knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in his word, but also an assured confidence, which the Holy Ghost works by the gospel in my heart; that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sin, everlasting righteousness and salvation, are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.

    There are two components expressed here: “certain knowledge where by I hold for truth …”, which corresponds to “knowledge” and “assent”; and also “an assured confidence”, which corresponds to “trust”, a matter not merely of head but of heart.

    Thus the Belgic 22: We believe that for us to acquire the true knowledge of this great mystery the Holy Spirit kindles in our hearts a true faith that embraces Jesus Christ, with all his merits, and makes him its own, and no longer looks for anything apart from him.

    This is less clear, but consistent with the idea of confidence and not knowledge alone.

    Thus the WCoF 14: The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts…

    Notice that the organ of faith is the heart, not the understanding, just as in Scripture.

    …By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word…

    Ah. Here, we have propositional knowledge.

    …But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.

    And here we have something else, something volitional that corresponds to “trust.”

    The short of it is that we have two choices.

    (1) We can expand the normal meaning of “assent” to include “confidence”, fiducia. This what Clark and followers have done (IMO) without acknowledging it. Faith to y’all is nothing more than “assent” because “assent” includes “confidence.”

    Perfectly good concept; confusing use of language. I think this may have been the point of Lane’s post.

    (2) OR, in the standard Reformed model, we can say that faith is broader than knowledge and assent only, and includes an element of “confident reception” of the promises in God’s word.

    This is what the fiducia part of notitia, assensus, fiducia is all about.

  90. Sean Gerety said,

    March 22, 2011 at 10:30 am

    Just wondering if this thread will ever get back to whether or not trust is an additional element of saving faith, or, when defined as Lane has above, whether it’s just a description of belief and is no addition at all?

    Probably not.

    However, I think what little discussion there has been demonstrates my point and that the confusion over what faith is and how it should be defined presents an alarming weakness in the bulwark of the Reformed system right at the very heart of the Gospel and is a point that Christ’s enemies have been able to exploit with extraordinary success.

    I grant that as Reformed believers there are always going to be things that we will never agree on (at least on this earth), but you would think we could all agree on a definition of faith that is 1) univocal and unambiguous whether applied to saving faith or faith that my shoes are tied, and, 2) that allows us to all know what we’re talking about when we say we’re justified by it.

    Even if we can’t agree on a definition of faith, I’d like to think we can all agree that it’s a pretty sad state of affairs when people who should know better think that faith and belief are qualitatively different things despite both being translations of the same Greek word pistis (and evidently don’t realize that the Latin fides provides no good translation of the verb form pisteuo). It’s also sad when those who do hold to the traditional three fold definition can’t even agree on what that third element is. One person says it’s an emotion. One says it’s a personal appropriation that suspiciously sounds to me like a description of assent. Another says “any definition of faith that merely intellectualizes faith” is in error even if he doesn’t say what that error is but quickly adds that “any position that de-intellectualizes faith” is also in error. Almost all say that trust is different from belief, but they don’t explain how and instead resort on figurative metaphors like “resting.”

    Can there be any doubt that Lane is exactly right when he says the difficulty lies preciesly in this third and supposedly essential element of saving faith and is why people, specifically Christ’s enemies, have been able to “drive trucks through it”? I would suggest that it’s not that trust is ambiguous, although it has been defined ambiguously and contradictorily by those traditionalists, but that is only because in the context of justification trust is simply a synonym for belief which is properly defined as an assent to an understood proposition. Of course, that is what Gordon Clark argues in What is Saving Faith? But, is it so impossible for Van Tilians, Evidentialists or whoever else my be posting here to consider that perhaps on this issue Clark might be right? I for one do not see this is a Van Til/Clark issue at all or even remotely related to epistemology (even if that’s what most seem interested in discussing).

    Anyway, since this thread has gone off into perhaps interesting but irrelevant rabbit trail this will be my last comment. Although, I do want to say I appreciate Lane’s attempt at bridge building.

  91. Hugh McCann said,

    March 22, 2011 at 11:09 am

    Re: Jeff’s comment 89:

    …“trust”, a matter not merely of head but of heart.
    …the organ of faith is the heart, not the understanding, just as in Scripture.
    >>BUT in Writ, heart & understanding (or mind) are not different components, but speak of THE SAME THING.

    …By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word… Ah. Here, we have propositional knowledge.
    >>YUP!

    …But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace. And here we have something else, something volitional that corresponds to “trust.”
    >>YEA! This is saving belief/trust: learning of and “accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone”!

    (1) We can expand the normal meaning of “assent” to include “confidence”, fiducia. This what Clark and followers have done (IMO) without acknowledging it. Faith to y’all is nothing more than “assent” because “assent” includes “confidence.”
    >>FAITH to ‘us all’ is more than assent, it is knowledge/understanding + assent. I can joyfully assent to the proposition that faith includes confidence. ;)

    (2) OR, in the standard Reformed model, we can say that faith is broader than knowledge and assent only, and includes an element of “confident reception” of the promises in God’s word. This is what the fiducia part of notitia, assensus, fiducia is all about.
    >>AGAIN, this is about synonyms vs. components. We say fiducia, faith/trust/belief in, confident reception of, accepting, receiving, resting upon are synonymous. We cannot assert that fiducia=notitia+assensus+fiducia!

  92. Hugh McCann said,

    March 22, 2011 at 11:29 am

    Cris (comment 87),

    I appreciate and concur with most of what you have written, but we disagree about the proposition thing, obviously.

    “mere name-calling”? ~ I am calling absurd the notion that one can know more of Christ and his person than propositions. If that assertion is sinful or in violation of this blog’s rules, I await notification, and will recant. If I have offended you, please forgive me.

    Of course there is more of Christ than we have revealed in Scripture (as John’s gospel implies, 20:30, 21:25), but all we can know of him is propositionally revealed.

    To share tit for tat: If you can’t understand – or will not understand – that persons utter propositions, and can only thereby intelligibly communicate, I can’t help you. You are like a man made of persons, seeking to climb out of a sea of personalities on a ladder of personhood.

    {Of course Christ is THE Person we adore and by whom we all have access to the Father: THE Ladder by whom we ascend heavenward.}

    Since there is no such thing as luck, I will wish you God’s blessing instead. Thanks for the iron-sharpening!

  93. Ron said,

    March 22, 2011 at 11:46 am

    …By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word…

    Ah. Here, we have propositional knowledge.

    …But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.

    Jeff – the Confession in those quotes distinguishes faith from belief. By this faith, one believes. It also distinguishes faith from the acts of faith. This makes room for the acceptable position that the seed of faith is indeed faith. It also makes room for the position that if one who had saving faith falls into a state of medical unconsciousness, he doesn’t lose the faith he once had. Faith, in other words, is not always being exercised. When a converted soul sleeps he does not exercise faith though he has justifying faith.

    Many rightly acknowledge that regenerate wrought faith can be present within those incapable of comprehending the gospel. Unfortunately, too many who correctly affirm the seed of faith can be present in infants deny that such can be justified through that seed of faith because they posit that faith must be exercised in gospel propositions for it to be the instrumental cause of justification. They forget that justification is by faith so that it might be by grace. Unwittingly, they make justification out to be not by faith alone but by exercised faith alone.

    Now for those who would affirm that infants baptized into Christ are indeed justified but apart from the unexercised seed of faith or any faith seed at all, then what occurs upon the exercise of faith or the first time implantation of faith? Does one become re-justified? Or are only infants who die in infancy pardoned for their sins prior to exercising faith or apart from any faith at all, and all other regenerate infants are simply united to Christ through regeneration but not yet justified?

    Does one have faith before it is exercised in belief? Yes, because it is by this faith one believes… Does one have faith when he is sleeping? Must faith be in a perpetual state of work for one to remain in a state of “justified”? Must a baby exercise faith by believing gospel propositions in order for him to be justified – pardoned in Christ(!) by that faith?

  94. March 22, 2011 at 11:53 am

    To Jeff #88

    Re: (1) – how children learn is irrelevant to whether what they learn is grounded upon propositions. My argument is not about how one comes to know, but what it is that one knows. One knows propositions.

    Re: (2) – You seem confused as to what it is I am stating. I’m not talking about the way the world is, but rather, about the content of our knowledge of the world. You also seemed confused about what you think is truth. On the one hand, you say the truth is not the propositions expressive of our thought, but on the other hand, you say the truth is the expression of God’s thought. What is thought if it is not the expression of propositions true or false in nature?

    Re: (3) – If you think, as you seem to argue here, that truth is an intuition, I think you are both begging the question and failing to define what is an intuition. I’m not even going to go here until you explain what you mean.

    As for the payoff, there is no disputing that the Reformers talk about a three-fold aspect of faith. The point is whether or not the third aspect of “trust” is a meaningful distinction.

  95. PDuggie said,

    March 22, 2011 at 11:54 am

    “because then we would be justified by loyalty, which obviously includes works of loyalty”

    WHY? who says it includes the works of loyalty? Wouldn’t we say someone demonstrates their loyalty BY their works of loyalty. but that the loyalty itself is not the works (same distinction we make about faith and works of faith).

    Why can’t loyalty be something metaphysical, instantiated in no particular work of loyalty, but arising, emergent, from the whole of the life?

    And even if that isn’t satisfactory, why does it have to be obvious that loyalty includes works of loyalty.

    Why can’t we say, that faith includes loyalty, but the loyalty of faith is not what God regards when he considers it in justification?

  96. Ron said,

    March 22, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    In anticipation of some passionate objections – to quote verses that when taken alone might imply that justifying faith always entails belief in propositions. The simple response is that of those who can believe gospel propositions, belief is part-and-parcel with faith. Faith and the exercise of faith are inexorably tied to together in the case of those capable of embracing Christ as he is offered in the gospel. Accordingly, the verbal call to repentance and faith, which is only given to those who can understand, should and must be couched in such a way as to elicit a response even though faith is first effectually granted, accomplishing justification. At the very least, to deny that the seed of faith is faith and if it is faith, then it is justifying faith, then one must also maintain that one can be regenerate and consequently united to the risen Christ yet not pardoned in Him.

  97. Hugh McCann said,

    March 22, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Ron,

    Simply, FAITH=BELIEF=TRUST. (Please, get a dictionary!)

    And please tell us you’re not a Presbyterian or Reformed elder somewhere…

  98. Hugh McCann said,

    March 22, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    Uh-oh: “Ruling Elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church”

    Never mind.

  99. Chase said,

    March 22, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Ron (#85),

    You said, “We live our lives believing many things that don’t transform us in any substantial way. I’d argue that most of our beliefs are like that in fact. I’m simply looking for a reason to believe that one cannot casually believe the gospel in that same casual way.”

    Man must be transformed before he can have faith. Natural man must be regenerated and given the gift of faith to be able to believe the propositions of the gospel, and outside of this, he is incapable of believing (1 Cor. 2:14). It seems clear that people who profess faith, but show no signs of it, do not have faith in the gospel at all. They may understand it, and hypocritically claim it as true, but they do not actually believe it. Perhaps this is what James is referring to, for how can a dead faith be any faith at all?

    I think your worry would be justified under Arminianism, but I assume we would both agree that man cannot create faith in themselves. Believing in the gospel flippantly and casually is not possible, unless of course one is temporarily backsliding.

  100. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 22, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    Sean (#90): In my own oblique way, that’s exactly what I’m driving at. See the two options outlined at the end of 89.

    Ron (#93): Observed. I agree with you that those incapable of the outward call by the Word are regenerated by the Spirit, and it seems overwhelmingly likely that this regeneration includes some kind of seed faith.

    Joshua (#94): Brother, I think we are probably too far apart to get understanding without hijacking the thread. Perhaps another time and/or venue? As food for thought: How does someone with perfect pitch know that *beeeep* is an A?

    And how do you know that the outside frame of this web-page is olive-green-ish?

  101. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 22, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    PDuggie (#95): “because then we would be justified by loyalty, which obviously includes works of loyalty”

    WHY? who says it includes the works of loyalty? Wouldn’t we say someone demonstrates their loyalty BY their works of loyalty. but that the loyalty itself is not the works (same distinction we make about faith and works of faith).

    Why can’t loyalty be something metaphysical, instantiated in no particular work of loyalty, but arising, emergent, from the whole of the life?

    Excellent! Down to the nub of it. The crucial difference between saving faith and loyalty is not that one is a quality, but the other is works.

    Rather, the difference is that saving faith is receptive and loyalty is a virtue.

    If loyalty ⊂ faith, then God would justify us through a virtue on our part, would justify us for being loyal to Him.

    But we know that God justifies us not for anything wrought in us, but by Christ’s virtue (or righteousness) alone, received by faith. “But the principal acts of saving faith are…”

    So why then does loyalty always accompany saving faith? Because (taking loyalty to be a form of love) it is a fruit of the Spirit wrought in us when we are given the Spirit of adoption — a benefit of salvation that is received by faith.

    So loyalty is received by faith, and is not a component of it.

    Or to put another way: How would loyalty function as an instrument of justification? Not receptively, but givingly: I give Christ my fealty. And he justifies me because of that? That line of thought shows the problem.

  102. Sean Gerety said,

    March 22, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    Sean (#90): In my own oblique way, that’s exactly what I’m driving at. See the two options outlined at the end of 89.

    1) You’re wrong and Clark did not include “confidence” into his idea of assent. My guess is you should read his book. I provided a definition of assent from Websters which I think should suffice. Confidence is perhaps better associated with the doctrine of assurance, but I do agree that many include assurance as an element of saving faith even though the WCF keeps it as a separate doctrine and I think rightly.

    2) A “confident reception of the promises in God’s word” is again just a repeat of the idea of assurance. Plus, I don’t know what sort of confident reception the father had when he cried, “Lord I believe, help thou mine unbelief.”

    Confidence is a psychological state of mind and Clark was keen to avoid psychology from entering his definition of faith. If you include such things then IMO you are admitting that what saves us includes that which is also wrought in us, and that I don’t accept (although the FV men will be happy to).

    However, you say “This is what the fiducia part of notitia, assensus, fiducia is all about.” Well, ok, then it will join the long list of possible and contradictory options those wed to the traditional definition love so much. :)

  103. David Gadbois said,

    March 22, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Jeff said I believe that some knowledge is intuitive, following Pascal. And here is the evidence

    Indeed, all of general revelation is non-propositional. One can form propositions about it, but that is not how it is actually revealed to us. God did not give us this revelation in a spoken or written form.

    Philosophers explain these different kinds of non-propositional knowledge in various ways – empirical knowledge, intuitive knowledge, knowledge by acquaintance, and so forth. All we need know as good students of Scripture is that God does indeed reveal Himself, ourselves, and the world to us outside of the confines of propositional Scripture.

  104. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 22, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    Sean (#102): and Clark did not include “confidence” into his idea of assent.

    Well, that is interesting. For Clark does equate assent with faith, right? And the Belgic Confession does include confidence in its definition of saving faith.

    So I would conclude that one cannot be a card-carrying Clarkian and a good faith subscriber to the Belgic at the same time. No?

    Well, thanks for the interactions. Pax.

  105. March 22, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    Ron, I understand James to be speaking about a justification by works (before men), in distinction to justification by faith before God. I translate 2:24 as “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not only by faith.” Even if you don’t agree with my translation, you still have to get around that James says that we are “justified” by “works.” If you think that this justification is before God, then James simply contradicts Paul.

    “I assume dead faith is not saving faith is because James is contrasting a faith that vindicates itself by its works and a faith that doesn’t.”

    This begs the question.

    “Back to my original point though – we know that James’ is using “God is one” as a summary of beliefs if for no other reason than “God is one” is not a characteristic that would cause demons to tremble.”

    No, we don’t know any such thing, especially since you ignored my question about the quotation of the interlocutor. I don’t believe James is even the speaker of “You believe God is one,” etc. If I’m right, I think we’d agree that it would be dangerous to base a doctrine of justification & faith on the words of someone the Apostle calls a “foolish man,” no?

    You also ignored my question, “How can an unsaved, unregenerate person understand and believe the gospel?”

    When you completely sidestep crucial questions, as if they were never asked, it sounds like you’re not interested in actual discussion. I understand you’re busy though.

  106. Hugh McCann said,

    March 22, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    Jeff (104),
    From my 91:”FAITH to ‘us all’ is more than assent, it is knowledge/ understanding + assent. I can joyfully assent to the proposition that faith includes confidence. ;)”
    Now, I may be a bad, non-card-carrying Clarkian, but that’s hows I sees it.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Patrick (105),
    You’re an infinitely more optimistic man than I, Gunga Din!
    Unpacking the gibberish of 93 & 96 is a monumental undertaking!
    “When you completely sidestep crucial questions, as if they were never asked, it sounds like you’re not interested in actual discussion.” BINGO.
    Hint: He’s a “Ruling Elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church”! ‘Nuff said.

  107. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 22, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    Hugh: I thought that might be the case, since you were quoting the Belgic up there. Take #104 as somewhat tongue-in-cheek, with a serious point behind it.

    P.S. Ron is a sharp cookie, and he usually hits on the major issues. A little slack?

  108. March 22, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    Jeff #100

    We can stow it for now, but I still think you are misreading what I’m trying to say. I’m not concerned with HOW one comes to know (e.g. we aren’t debating empiricism vs. idealism), but rather WHAT knowledge/truth consists of. I’m not concerned with the process of acquisition, but what is being acquired.

  109. Ron said,

    March 22, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    Ron, I understand James to be speaking about a justification by works (before men), in distinction to justification by faith before God.

    Patrick,

    I don’t think it is either-or but rather both. James is jealous to guard that faith without works is dead. Just like wisdom is justified (i.e. vindicated) in her children, it is no less true that in James’ wisdom literature he speaks of the one who is vindicated before our eyes by works. But James is not merely suggesting that one is vindicated by his works. He is arguing that saving faith must be accompanied by such works. In other words, his discourse is not void of the concept of justification by faith alone, which you seem to suggest. Rather, his doctrine of vindicating works presupposes saving faith. He is arguing for the type of faith that justifies – a faith that has works as its fruit.

    You also ignored my question, “How can an unsaved, unregenerate person understand and believe the gospel?”

    Let me try to answer “how” in this way now. At the very least, it’s easy to grasp that people believe things all the time yet without suitable warrant given the magnitude of the claim. How can one believe in the Easter Bunny? You do acknowledge of course that some people do believe in the Eater Bunny. Well, one can believe the story of the Resurrection with the same warrant as they believe the story of Easter Bunny. The child’s mother told the story. Yes, people believe not only false things but even true things on the say-so of fallible people. Added to that, not all true facts that are believed are accompanied by sources that would make the belief rise to the level of knowledge. Had Simon, Son of Jonah, believed who Jesus truly was based upon “flesh and blood” instead of God’s revelation, he would not have been “blessed” – nor would his belief constitute a “knowledge of the truth” nonetheless, he would have possessed belief in the truth. Even if Harold Camping’s belief about the particular Day of Judgment ends up proving to be precise – his belief is still unjustified because it has not been revealed to him by God . Nonetheless, he still would have belief in the truth. In the like manner, one might believe in the Resurrection of Christ for man’s justification before God – all based upon the same source that led one to believe in the Easter Bunny. If such a “revelation” of Christ only comes from “flesh and blood” (and not God) – although it can believed just like story of the Easter Bunny, no salvation would accompany the belief. So, just like one can believe in a secular Easter story about a bunny based upon an unreliable source for such things, one can also believe an historical fact about Jesus along with the true interpretation of the fact yet without having heard from God on the matter. People believe many things – some true, some false, and for the wrong reasons. It seems to me that you’re only willing to let people believe false things without suitable warrant but not true, sacred things. Until you show me why the distinction, I have to consider your strictures arbitrary. Such beliefs that don’t come from God will in time show themselves as having no root, but as the parable teaches, some can believe for a while.

    When you completely sidestep crucial questions, as if they were never asked, it sounds like you’re not interested in actual discussion. I understand you’re busy though.

    Oh, quite to the contrary, I’m very interested in discussion. For some reason I’m just not succeeding in having a good one with you it, but I do believe I have sincerely tried.

    In the final analyses, it seems to me that the burden of proof is on you to show why the fact about Jesus’ vicarious life and death on behalf of sinners defies unsaving belief that is not granted by God through the regenerating work of the Spirit. At the very least, why can one believe in the Easter Bunny upon his mother’s say-so alone but not in Jesus? Finally, please appreciate that if one hears the story of Jesus from his parent it can be accompanied by God’s illuminating grace, but when it is not, the same story can still be believed. That belief, however, would not be “a knowledge of the truth”.

  110. Ron said,

    March 22, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    I almost forgot you, Hugh. I definitely don’t want to leave you out of the discussion. :)

    Do regenerate infants have justifying faith? If no, then either (a) they are justified without faith or (b) they are not justified though regenerate. If (a), then you deny that justification is always by faith alone. If (b), then you affirm that one can be under God’s wrath while united by the Spirit to the risen, ascended Christ.

    I prefer to think that the moment one is regenerate he is engrafted into Christ and enjoys definitive sanctification, justification and adoption. As well, when one is regenerate, the whole person is recreated in Christ and given the gifts of repentance and faith.

    Simply, FAITH=BELIEF=TRUST. (Please, get a dictionary!)

    Earlier, following the Confession, I drew a distinction between the gift of faith and the principle acts of faith. WCF: “But the principle acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting [i.e. trusting] upon Christ alone…” My point was that the gift of faith (the propensity to believe) is distinguished from the exercise of that faith in believing certain gospel propositions. In corroboration of that point, I also offered that the Confession states: “By this faith, a Christian believes to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word…” Not only do the standards distinguish faith from the acts of faith, it also employs that very idea when it teaches that through the exercise of the gift of faith, one believes gospel propositions. Now if faith, as you say, is to be equated with belief without remainder, then we may read the confession this way: ” “by this belief we believe.” Or “by this faith, we have faith.” I think the Confession has something else in mind, like the gift of faith is exercised in belief, which entails accepting, receiving and resting in Christ. Now you may not like that, but at the very least let’s not suggest anything so trite as that all we need to do is look up terms in a dictionary to settle the matter.

  111. March 22, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    Ron, with all due respect,

    “He is arguing for the type of faith that justifies – a faith that has works as its fruit.”

    It’s simply not in the passage. He clearly says that man is justified by works. Now, either the justification is different from Paul’s, or the two contradict. I choose the former, since I’m partial to logical answers.

    Egg-laying rabbits aside, the gospel is revealed in Scripture, written by the Holy Spirit. If someone believes the propositions of the gospel, it is because he either read it in Scripture or it was told to him *from* Scripture. Belief comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. There is only one source of revelation that contains the gospel. It is not a man-made tale of jellybean baskets.

    “Oh, quite to the contrary, I’m very interested in discussion. For some reason I’m just not succeeding in having a good one with you it, but I do believe I have sincerely tried.”

    Still no comment on the interlocutor quote though. I am gracious; I accept answers of “I don’t know,” or “I’ll get back to you.” I just don’t like crucial parts of my arguments being ignored.

    “In the final analyses, it seems to me that the burden of proof is on you to show why the fact about Jesus’ vicarious life and death on behalf of sinners defies unsaving belief that is not granted by God through the regenerating work of the Spirit.”

    Could you please rephrase that? I didn’t understand.

    “At the very least, why can one believe in the Easter Bunny upon his mother’s say-so alone but not in Jesus?”

    Because our knowledge of Jesus comes from God’s revealed Scripture. When my mother first communicated the gospel to me, she did so by relating the propositions found in Scripture, authored by the Holy Spirit. The gospel cannot be separated from Scripture; the Easter Bunny cannot be compared.

    “Finally, please appreciate that if one hears the story of Jesus from his parent it can be accompanied by God’s illuminating grace, but when it is not, the same story can still be believed. That belief, however, would not be ‘a knowledge of the truth’.”

    Is Scripture a means of grace or isn’t it? And no, unregenerate man cannot even understand, let alone believe, the full gospel of Jesus Christ. 1 Cor. 2:14.

  112. Ron said,

    March 22, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    Uh-oh: “Ruling Elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church” Never mind.

    He’s a “Ruling Elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church”! ‘Nuff said.

    Hugh,

    Although you’ve given me no reason to believe you can receive this, I would caution you on the manner in which you speak about a Reformed denomination like the OPC. I am not addressing the manner in which you speak to me or about me, although that too is worthy of consideration for your sake if nothing else. I am strictly addressing the manner in which you find my supposed abhorant theology most fitting for the OPC.

  113. Vern Crisler said,

    March 22, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    Clarkians do not believe in Jesus, or have faith in Jesus. They only have faith in propositions about Jesus. John Robbins criticized the view that “regards faith as trust in or commitment to a person, rather than belief of a proposition.”

    How can you trust a proposition? All you can do is assent to it or disbelieve it. The incoherence of the Clarkian epistemology results in an intellectualist construction of justification by faith. I see no reason to make peace with such an arid theology or epistemology — even if some Clarkians do oppose the Federal Vision.

    Therefore, I’m doubtful about Lane’s attempt at reconciliation.

  114. Doug Sowers said,

    March 22, 2011 at 11:42 pm

    Hi Ron :)

    I really liked #110. I think we resonated. You infered we might be able to talk privatley sometime, how can I get in touch with you?

    Blessings

    Doug

  115. Ron said,

    March 22, 2011 at 11:46 pm

    He clearly says that man is justified by works. Now, either the justification is different from Paul’s, or the two contradict. I choose the former, since I’m partial to logical answers.

    I’m sorry if I am not deemed logical in your eyes but there’s not much more I can do on that front. I showed how the justification James has in mind is a vindication, which is different than how Paul employed the term, yet the two are reconcilable. Even if this very common Reformed interpretation doesn’t suit you, it’s certainly coherent.

    Egg-laying rabbits aside, the gospel is revealed in Scripture, written by the Holy Spirit.

    Yes. The gospel is also relayed by mothers to daughters. If the daughter believes on her mother’s say so, then she is not learning the gospel from God but from man. But let me make it even easier by taking the messenger out of the equation. A superstitious programmer could be so inclined to believe anything that a computer program types based upon arbitrary numeric inputs that are indexed to letters in the alphabet. Well, if you put monkeys in a room long enough at typewriters, they’ll type the works of Shakespeare. Certainly a random program can generate John 3:16. Now you have a statement that corresponds with gospel truth, which can be believed due to a commitment to a fortune cookie mentality. The random program that generated the verse has not read Scripture nor been told anything from Scripture.

    Belief comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. There is only one source of revelation that contains the gospel. It is not a man-made tale of jellybean baskets.

    Patrick, you’re simply not interacting with the arguments that have been put before you. You’re simply assuming your thesis and then pointing to it to justify it.

    Still no comment on the interlocutor quote though. I am gracious; I accept answers of “I don’t know,” or “I’ll get back to you.” I just don’t like crucial parts of my arguments being ignored.

    I’ve given you a very logical interpretation of James that is probably the most popular Reformed interpretation I know, which I so happen to embrace. Man is vindicated by his works and pardoned by faith alone. You may not like the exegesis, but please don’t say it’s entails a logical contradiction unless you are prepared to show the fallacy.

    I stated: “At the very least, why can one believe in the Easter Bunny upon his mother’s say-so alone but not in Jesus?”

    You replied: Because our knowledge of Jesus comes from God’s revealed Scripture. When my mother first communicated the gospel to me, she did so by relating the propositions found in Scripture, authored by the Holy Spirit. The gospel cannot be separated from Scripture; the Easter Bunny cannot be compared.

    Patrick, you continue to confuse the original source of the verse (Scripture) from the authority upon which the child might believe the verse, the messenger – in this case the mother. Because you are not grasping that category distinction, I took the messenger out of the equation and introduced a source that has no knowledge of Scripture, a computer.

    Is Scripture a means of grace or isn’t it?

    Scripture will accomplish God’s purposes. Some receive grace and others receive justice. But once again, you’ve offered no argument to defend your thesis that a child cannot believe that Jesus died for sinners on her mother’s say-so without God granting saving faith. I’m even willing to say that she can assent to the propositions on God’s say so without saving faith, so let’s not forget that.

    This is getting absolutely nowhere. I could wish Clark was still around to straighten out most Clarkians.

  116. Ron said,

    March 22, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    Doug 115 – hit my blog with your email and I won’t publish the post. We can go from there.

  117. Chase said,

    March 22, 2011 at 11:51 pm

    Vern,

    Could you tell me exactly how you believe in something that isn’t propositional? How do you even know anything about the person of Christ outside of propositions? As my salvation apparently hinges on this, I thought I would ask.

    You said, “How can you trust a proposition? All you can do is assent to it or disbelieve it.”

    That’s the point. Claiming to both trust and believe in something is tautologous. If I believe something is true, then I trust it. If I trust something, then I believe it to be true. The words are synonymous.

  118. Hugh McCann said,

    March 23, 2011 at 12:04 am

    Vern (114): You say,’They only have faith in propositions about Jesus.’ & ‘How can you trust a proposition?’

    Those propositions are God’s holy Scriptures. If you’re demeaning the word of God here, then I agree that Lane’s attempt at reconciliation is a fool’s errand.

  119. Ron said,

    March 23, 2011 at 12:39 am

    “If I believe something is true, then I trust it.”

    Chase,

    Cool name by the way… You’re equivocating. That you believe a trampoline will hold you if you jump out of a two story window does not mean you jump into it (entrust yourself to the trampoline). One can just have a fear of jumping but has run enough tests (e.g. dropping heavy weights) to determine the trampoline’s integrity. Now please don’t tell us that when one who has run such tests and has seen others jump out the window runs scared that he loses his belief about the trampoline’s ability to break a fall. Certainly you can imagine someone in such a situation encouraging others to jump yet without wanting to see them fall to their death. Belief in the trampoline need not be accompanied by trust in it. Obviously there can be belief without trust, for instance when irrational fear is present. The belief need not be accompanied by trust for the simple reason that trust implies a transfer of commitment, whereas belief need not. Moreover, one might not even perceive himself as being in any real danger; so believing what the trampoline can do for you does not imply entrusting yourself to the trampoline. One can see the trampoline at Dick’s for instance, and believe it will hold him without jumping on it. Once again, belief without trust.

    If you turn back around and say that “trust” means: trust it will hold you if you jump into it – then that’s no different than “belief”, but you’d also be referring to a belief that is not accompanied by any altered behavior whatsoever, which would be equivocal given the context of this discussion. It would be a belief of no consequence – no transfer of trust in oneself self to Christ alone. For your point to be valid – if the words are synonymous in the manner in which you suggest, then I would think that belief and trust would both have to equate to reliance, but you first must believe in that which you rely – i.e. transfer your trust to, otherwise there’d be no reason to trust!

  120. Chase said,

    March 23, 2011 at 1:18 am

    Ron,

    Your example of a trampoline does not work unless you make works a part of faith. Belief is a spiritual and mental situation, not a physical one, and there is no component act of trust that I can make other than simply believing the propositions of the gospel. Belief is all that there is, and reliance upon Christ alone would be synonymous with believing the propositions of verses such as Jn. 3:18, 6:37, 14:6, etc. Good works will come from faith as a fruit, but they are not part of faith. Using a physical illustration only confuses the issue.

  121. March 23, 2011 at 1:26 am

    Ron,

    “Patrick, you’re simply not interacting with the arguments that have been put before you. You’re simply assuming your thesis and then pointing to it to justify it.”

    Back atcha buddy. This is just a joke.

  122. March 23, 2011 at 1:31 am

    Pastor Lane, I just want to reiterate that I appreciate the spirit of your post, and I pray that more Christians on both sides of this absurdly misconstrued debate will adopt a more irenic attitude conducive to logical discussion.

  123. paigebritton said,

    March 23, 2011 at 6:33 am

    Chase wrote,
    Belief is all that there is, and reliance upon Christ alone would be synonymous with believing the propositions of verses such as Jn. 3:18, 6:37, 14:6, etc.

    Would it be too much to summarize the Clarkian position like this:

    Since a person can be reduced to propositions, then “trust” may be reduced to “belief” (i.e., “belief in propositions”).

    And the alternate view (does it have a name?) like this:

    Since a person cannot be reduced to propositions, then “trust” is something more than just “belief” (i.e., “belief in propositions”).

    I’m sure these are clumsy attempts, but I am thinking that the more robust Reformational threefold definition of “faith” maybe hinges on a different conception of what it means to know a person — that is to say, do we only know a person by way of propositions, or do we also know (as Jeff put it) intuitively (or, as I put it earlier, by experience and cumulative impressions about character)? The latter way of knowing raises “trust” from mere “assent to propositions” to the relational stance of resting in a person’s trustworthy character (in this case, Christ’s and God’s).

  124. Ron said,

    March 23, 2011 at 7:37 am

    Belief is a spiritual and mental situation, not a physical one, and there is no component act of trust that I can make other than simply believing the propositions of the gospel. Belief is all that there is, and reliance upon Christ alone would be synonymous with believing the propositions of verses such as Jn. 3:18, 6:37, 14:6, etc. Good works will come from faith as a fruit, but they are not part of faith. Using a physical illustration only confuses the issue.

    Chase,

    Your “physical” and “mental” distinctions only serve to accuse you. We’re talking about what “trust” entails, i.e. reliance, and as I showed, belief can be void of reliance. If reliance is not present in the “physical” sense, then we have no reason to believe it is there in the “spiritual” sense because true entrusting brings for what you called “good works”. In other words, the lack of the physical reliance upon the trampoline only serves to demonstrates a lack of mental reliance upon the trampoline; yet belief that the trampoline is worthy to be trusted is yet still present. Accordingly, belief is not a sufficient condition for trust, which only shows that your tagging of terms is arbitrary and even esoteric. Finally, if one can believe a trampoline is reliable and worthy to be trusted without every actually trusting the trampoline, then we have no reason to believe without further argumentation that one cannot believe that Jesus is worthy to be trusted without actually entrusting oneself to him in a spiritual mental, spiritual sense.

  125. Ron said,

    March 23, 2011 at 7:59 am

    do we only know a person by way of propositions, or do we also know (as Jeff put it) intuitively (or, as I put it earlier, by experience and cumulative impressions about character)?

    Paige, David’s point as well, that GR comes to us in non-propositional form, is a good one. The other side will likely maintain, should they even agree with David’s assertion, is that although GR comes to us in that way, we must formulate it into propositional form in order to understand it, which of course is absurd since any attempt to formulate GR into propositional form would presuppose that it is already understood while still yet non-propositional. Certainly we must strive to articulate GR from propositional formulations, but that which we’d be trying to communicate entails a knowledge of God that is communicated to us apart from propositional language, David’s and Vern’s point. At the end of the day, if anyone wants to say that God communicates GR to us in propositional form, then GR is not GR at all but rather Special Revelation!

  126. paigebritton said,

    March 23, 2011 at 8:29 am

    Ron-
    I’m not actually talking about GR: I am referring to the ways we may know a person, even the Person of Christ, through text and word (SR), even as we may know a living person in face-to-face “real time” — IOW, our knowing is both by way of propositions and by way of experience/impressions/intuition about character (which cannot be reduced to propositions). (I introduced this idea in #86, FWIW.)

    I am now wondering whether leaving off “trust” from the definition of “faith” (because trust is thought to be equated with belief) comes about for Clarkians because persons can be reduced to propositions, while others would say that because persons are not reducible to propositions, “trust” is a valid third category to describe what is meant by “saving faith” — i.e., trust is the relational stance of rest in the trustworthy character of God and Christ, which is known not merely through propositions but by way of experience/intuition/impressions — and these gathered from SR.

    I am assuming, and perhaps I am wrong, that by “saving faith” we mean “faith in [the person of] Christ,” and not just “faith that the propositions of the gospel are true, and true for me.”

  127. Sean Gerety said,

    March 23, 2011 at 8:31 am

    #113 Vern writes

    Clarkians do not believe in Jesus, or have faith in Jesus.

    Lane, is this type of trash really acceptable?

  128. greenbaggins said,

    March 23, 2011 at 9:24 am

    Hugh, you are stepping WAY over the line in denouncing an OPC elder the way you have here. Ron is an honored guest here and you will not treat him that way again. Hugh, Ron’s positions on infant faith, etc., are well within the parameters of Reformed, confessional doctrine.

    Vern, your comment on Clarkians is also out of line. I have known many Clarkians (my father was Clark’s best friend, incidentally, and he is an avid Clarkian himself). I assure you that Clarkians do indeed believe in Jesus Christ. To them, to believe the proposition “Believe in Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” is all the same thing as believing in Jesus Christ Himself. They do not put a wedge between those two things as Van Tillians tend to do. According to your paradigm, they don’t believe in Jesus, but according to their own paradigm, they do.

  129. David Gray said,

    March 23, 2011 at 9:50 am

    >Vern, your comment on Clarkians is also out of line. I have known many Clarkians (my father was Clark’s best friend, incidentally, and he is an avid Clarkian himself). I assure you that Clarkians do indeed believe in Jesus Christ.

    Sort of like Wilson affirms sola fide?

    Seems to me he is drawing out the rational consequences of their belief system. But as you observe they believe in Jesus anyway. Human beings have a great capacity for believing things which are inconsistent. Just like Wilson may regarding the law/gospel distinction and sola fide.

  130. Hugh McCann said,

    March 23, 2011 at 10:25 am

    Since we’re discussing faith alone, this seems pertinent from Scott Clark: ‘Sola Fides is not Sola Fide’ @ http://heidelblog.wordpress.com/2008/08/27/sola-fides-is-not-sola-fide/

  131. Hugh McCann said,

    March 23, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Lane (128), Re: ‘Hugh, you are stepping WAY over the line in denouncing an OPC elder the way you have here. Ron is an honored guest here and you will not treat him that way again. Hugh, Ron’s positions on infant faith, etc., are well within the parameters of Reformed, confessional doctrine.’

    I appreciate your tact & concern here. This is your ‘house,’ and we must abide by your rules. Thank you for letting me post here.

    As for my disrespectul attitude toward Ron’s terribly convoluted writing, I acknowledge that. My issue is that given his confusion, I was disheartened to learn that he is ordained.

    Please write me, if you wish to discuss this in emails.

    P.S. Why do you & Ron keep mentioning babies? I haven’t interacted with that at all. Perhaps I’m being mistaken for someone else?

  132. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 23, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    The issue of infant faith is tangentially related to this. Those who hold that regenerated infants can have faith (raises hand) also must hold that the traditional definition of faith can have exceptions.

    (To my mind, this is more likely than that a completely different ordo salutis applies to elect infants dying in infancy, not to mention a completely different definition of “regeneration.”)

    Clearly, infant faith would be very much at odds with Clarkian faith, in the sense that infants are incapable of propositional knowledge of anything. Unless, perhaps, God grants them special non-linguistic propositional knowledge? The mind boggles!

    Anyways, that’s where I think the subject came up (David #49, Ron #93).

  133. Chase said,

    March 23, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    paigebritton (#123),

    Our definitions of what constitutes a person probably does have something to do with it. But like I said, I think that we would rely on Christ’s trustworthy character by believing the scriptural propositions that speak of his trustworthy character (Jn. 6:37). So I don’t think that is a problem for the Clarkian position.

    Ron (#124),

    You said, “We’re talking about what “trust” entails, i.e. reliance, and as I showed, belief can be void of reliance.”

    And I see no reason that this reliance is not present through believing the relevant propositions of scripture.

    You said, “Finally, if one can believe a trampoline is reliable and worthy to be trusted without every actually trusting the trampoline, then we have no reason to believe without further argumentation that one cannot believe that Jesus is worthy to be trusted without actually entrusting oneself to him in a spiritual mental, spiritual sense.”

    How can I entrust myself to someone in a spiritual sense? Why is this not done through believing the relevant propositions of scripture? If I believe that Christ is trustworthy, that he is the only way to salvation, etc. as well as the gospel, and that I am saved because of him, how am I not trusting him? If I did not trust him for my salvation, then I would not believe those propositions, because my belief for salvation would be in something else.

  134. Sean Gerety said,

    March 23, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    Jeff, all men are born with aprioi propositions that are part of their natural endowment by virtue of being creatures made in God’s image (i.e., having the law written on their hearts and all that). Also, while infant faith or lack thereof is somewhat of an irrelevant issue (fwiw, and I could be wrong, but I don’t think Robbins and Clark even agree on this) simply because we know very little about what an infant even in the womb can know and believe (John for example “leaped for joy” in his mother’s womb at the sound of Mary’s greeting in Luke 1:44, so he evidently was cognizant of lot more in the womb than we normally attribute to even drooling newborns).

    So, whether or not you think infants can believe this or that really has no bearing, much less is at odds, with “Clarkian” faith (whatever that’s supposed to be). Besides, implied in your post is the false notion that langauge is necessarily learned, which I would think would make it hard to account for things like Babel, Pentecost or the fact that Adam who spoke with God evidently did so from the moment he was created (or at least very shortly thereafter). Further, words are, as Clark argued, “arbitrary signs the mind uses to tag thoughts,” whereas propositions are the meanings of declarative sentences (not the sentences themselves). I tend to think you’re confusing the two.

  135. David Gray said,

    March 23, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    >You misspelled ‘principal’ as ‘principle.’ A dictionary really is a good thing!

    So is a sense of propportion.

  136. Hugh McCann said,

    March 23, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    I was being redundant for effect in #135 above, but misused the Latin terms.

    A friend has corrected me; I should have written, “Fides= Notitia+ Assensus+ Fides” for effect.

    To again reference G.H. Clark on Manton (see #7, above ):

    ‘…fiducia comes from the same root as fides (faith). The Latin fide is not a good synonym for the Greek pisteuoo. Hence this popular analysis reduces to the obviously absurd definition that faith consists of understanding, assent, and faith. Something better than this tautology must be found.’

  137. Hugh McCann said,

    March 23, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    Lane,

    Forgive me writing you this way, but I cannot find your email address.

    Can you delineate what is to you sinful attack and what is allowable disagreement? Is all criticism disallowed?

    Mr Giacomo makes mistakes – are we not allowed to rebuke each other?

    Email me if you prefer.

  138. greenbaggins said,

    March 23, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    Hugh, can you really not see how the quoted statement might be offensive to Ron? You have expressed disdain for him (your exact word). This disdain extends not only to Ron, but to his entire denomination for ordaining him. Then you claim that his position does not befit an RE. And after that, you claim not to have attacked him?? If you cannot see this, then you have a somewhat underdeveloped imagination that cannot put itself into the shoes of another man.

  139. Ron said,

    March 23, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    And I see no reason that this reliance is not present through believing the relevant propositions of scripture.

    Chase,

    Reliance can be present alongside belief. Belief, however, is not a sufficient condition for reliance, which I’ll try to show you again. Certainly you must appreciate that one can believe x is true without relying upon x. A wayward child can believe that her father will help her yet not receive her father’s help; rest in her father’s help; or entrust herself to her father’s help. Nonetheless, she can certainly believe her father would help anytime she calls upon him to do so. I can believe that the concierge at the front desk would help me find a good restaurant tonight, but that belief is not sufficient for me to rely upon his knowledge of the area. That is because belief does not imply reliance. Now of course reliance can accompany belief, like in your salvation and mine, but belief alone that Jesus saves sinners does not imply resting, receiving, trusting etc. You need to show why gospel propositions defy this common experience, that believing x is true is not a sufficient condition for relying upon x. I have showed in various ways that one can believe x without an accompanying reliance upon x. I’m able to do that because it is not a universal principle that belief is a sufficient condition for reliance. Your claim is that if one believes a proposition from Scripture, or at least a gospel proposition, then reliance upon what the proposition contemplates is necessary. I’m asking you to defend that from Scripture since common experience does not comport with the axiom. My request is reasonable given that all of life speaks to the contrary. Now in an effort to fill in the rest – yes, belief is indeed necessary for reliance; so where there is reliance, belief is right there too. But let’s not confuse that relationship with other.

    How can I entrust myself to someone in a spiritual sense? Why is this not done through believing the relevant propositions of scripture?

    If you don’t understand how one can entrust himself to another in a spiritual sense, then why would you suggest in your next statement that believing relevant propositions accomplishes such reliance?

    If I believe that Christ is trustworthy, that he is the only way to salvation, etc. as well as the gospel, and that I am saved because of him, how am I not trusting him?

    If you are saved, which I assume you are, then you have indeed trusted Jesus (and believed gospel propositions). That, however, doesn’t logically imply that all who believe gospel propositions are saved. To think otherwise is to assert the consequent, which GHC would point out to you as well. That salvation is always accompanied by belief does not imply that belief is always accompanied by salvation.

    If I did not trust him for my salvation, then I would not believe those propositions, because my belief for salvation would be in something else.

    It is of course very possible (and quite likely) that one believes for his salvation something other than Jesus is Lord etc. Such a person would be unsaved. That truism, however, doesn’t logically imply that one cannot unsavingly believe gospel propositions are true. The disjunction is false because the premises are not mutually exclusive.

  140. Hugh McCann said,

    March 23, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    Lane,

    It’s not so much his position I am criticizing, but his style, b/c it is less than clear. I understand that the excerpt you quote is offensive, but what of the rest of my points:

    His misuse of language & his misspellings are not helpful. Are they off limits for criticism?

    His vague threat was bizarre. Did I address that inappropriately?

    That’s why I am asking what is allowable in criticizing another at your blog.

  141. greenbaggins said,

    March 23, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    The problem is that you are not just critiquing his style. You are attacking everything he stands for, and his entire denomination. If style was all you were critiquing, then why drag his entire denomination into it? If you cannot improve in this area, then you will be banned. You need to develop some discernment. You need to ask yourself how your comments are going to come across to someone else before you post, not after. You have still not apologized to Ron, even after you acknowledged that your comments might have caused offense. As to spelling, that’s nitpicking. This is a blog, not a dictionary. But you need to address this to Ron off-line. I will give you his email address to your email address.

  142. Chase said,

    March 23, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    Ron,

    You said, “If you don’t understand how one can entrust himself to another in a spiritual sense, then why would you suggest in your next statement that believing relevant propositions accomplishes such reliance? ”

    I should clarify my question: “How can I entrust myself to someone in a spiritual sense outside of believing the propositions of the gospel?” I apologize for being unclear.

    You said, “I’m asking you to defend that from Scripture since common experience does not comport with the axiom. My request is reasonable given that all of life speaks to the contrary.”

    Your request is reasonable, but we are dealing with a supernatural situation. Belief in the gospel is not an everyday, physical situation. It is not trusting your father to help you out; it is not jumping on a trampoline. It is a gift from God, spiritually discerned, that man is incapable of having outside of regeneration. You state that “salvation is always accompanied by belief does not imply that belief is always accompanied by salvation.” I would argue that if someone believes the correct propositions, then they are saved. There is nothing else necessary. Anyone who falls away, such as an apostate who was taught the gospel as a child, never actually believed the gospel at all. They might have understood it, but as it is spiritually discerned, they could never have assented to it. What they claim about their belief, or what common experience tells us, is irrelevant, because scripture tells us that the reprobate are incapable of believing (Jn. 6:44, 65; 10:26; Ro. 3:11; 1 Cor. 2:14). As such, there is no disjunction between belief and trust or reliance. It is all present in belief, which is given only by God. I think this fundamental disagreement is why we cannot resolve this issue. We are talking past each other.

    Also, I don’t see how that is asserting the consequent. It is valid per modus ponens.

    If X believes the gospel, then X is saved. (Jn. 3:16, 18; Acts 10:43; 16:31, etc.)
    X believes the gospel.
    Therefore, X is saved.

  143. Vern Crisler said,

    March 23, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    Lane, I provided the quote from Robbins. Don’t you take him at his word? Personally, I don’t think we can make excuses for Clarkians anymore. If they aren’t heretics already, it won’t be long before they, or at least their followers, become heretics. Aren’t some of them now defending Nestorianism? Most heresies have their origin in rationalism.

  144. Vern Crisler said,

    March 23, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    BTW, a little unfair to bring your father into this. It puts me in the position of attacking family, i.e., personalizing. However, I’m really only talking about those who draw Clarkian premises to their logical conclusions, not to those who believe rightly, in spite of their Clarkianism.

  145. Ron said,

    March 23, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    I should clarify my question: “How can I entrust myself to someone in a spiritual sense outside of believing the propositions of the gospel?” I apologize for being unclear.

    Chase,

    No need to apologize. I’m unclear apparently most of the time. Just ask Hugh! :-)

    You can’t entrust yourself without believing. I agree, but what I’m looking for is a defense of the thesis that belief in a proposition establishes trust. You seem to concede that your position is not a universal axiom – i.e. that it doesn’t apply to the non-spiritual realm. I just want to know why this position is axiomatic with respect to gospel propositions. To simply assert that God grants saving faith is not to argue that one cannot assent to the fact that Jesus died for sinners. I keep repeating that but you haven’t seemed to want to argue in defense of your thesis. The question is not whether God grants saving faith but whether assent alone is saving faith. Moreover, that assent is necessary for saving faith does not imply that assent alone saves.

    Your request is reasonable, but we are dealing with a supernatural situation.

    What I’m establishing by experience is a burden of proof. We all know that people don’t always trust in those things they deem true. You take exception to that common observation in matters of the supernatural. That’s fine, but then I would expect an exegetical defense from the supernatural book we call the Bible. To simply point out to me that saving faith is a gift from God is not to argue that people cannot assent to gospel propositions apart from saving faith.

    Belief in the gospel is not an everyday, physical situation. It is not trusting your father to help you out; it is not jumping on a trampoline. It is a gift from God, spiritually discerned, that man is incapable of having outside of regeneration.

    Yes, saving faith is a gift from God. Notwithstanding, that biblical truth does not establish the conclusion that all who believe the set of gospel propositions are endowed with saving faith.

    I would argue that if someone believes the correct propositions, then they are saved.

    I placed “argue” in bold because, and please take this in the spirit it is intended, I have not seen an argument to that end. All I have seen is the same assertion repeated over and over again.

    There is nothing else necessary. Anyone who falls away, such as an apostate who was taught the gospel as a child, never actually believed the gospel at all.

    They didn’t believe unto salvation – that is correct. I’m waiting for you to establish that they could not have assented to the truth that Jesus died for sinners etc.

    They might have understood it, but as it is spiritually discerned, they could never have assented to it.

    Again, why can’t one assent to the fact that Jesus indeed saves sinners, yet in their sin and rebellion despise the truth of the fact? Your answer has been: for had they assented, then they would be saved. But that is to assume your position by definition and then point to your definition in order to prove your position. There’s something very vicious about that circle. :)

    What they claim about their belief, or what common experience tells us, is irrelevant, because scripture tells us that the reprobate are incapable of believing (Jn. 6:44, 65; 10:26; Ro. 3:11; 1 Cor. 2:14).

    Reprobates are incapable of believing to the saving of their souls, but that begs the question of whether they can assent to the truth that Jesus died for sinners.

    Also, I don’t see how that is asserting the consequent. It is valid per modus ponens.
    If X believes the gospel, then X is saved. (Jn. 3:16, 18; Acts 10:43; 16:31, etc.)
    X believes the gospel.
    Therefore, X is saved.

    The reason I thought you were asserting the consequent before was because I was giving you the benefit of the doubt that you were not blatantly begging the question. Your above syllogism, though valid in form, begs the question of this discussion because it doesn’t aim to argue that assent to biblical propositions is a sufficient condition for saving faith. All you’re doing above is defining “belief” as saving without addressing whether mere belief in the truth of propositions entails receiving etc.

    Shall we agree to disagree? :)

    Best wishes,

    Ron

  146. Sean Gerety said,

    March 23, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    Per 144

    I’m really only talking about those who draw Clarkian premises to their logical conclusions

    And that logical conclusion is “Clarkians do not believe in Jesus, or have faith in Jesus.”

    Vern has been grinding this same blunt ax against Robbins for decades after Robbins demonstrated Vern’s sheer buffoonery on the old Yahoo Clark list (which was really an anti-Clark list later to become the Van Til list).

    Vern here demonstrates once again that Marc Carpenter is no match for him after consigning Clark and Robbins to hell as “smoking sons of Satan.”

    Lane, again I’ll ask, is this sort of trash acceptable?

    I understand you taking issue with some of Hugh’s comments, but come on. FWIW I’m starting to wonder whether your post is an attempt at bridge building or a set up?

  147. Vern Crisler said,

    March 23, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    Hmm, I don’t recall Robbins ever demonstrating that, but I know Sean likes to repeat it. In fact, I recall Robbins having to reformulate his Scripturalist doctrine, realizing finally that it was self-referentially incoherent (as is the revised version as well).

    Past practise is a predictor of future behavior. Lane, you (and others) have had to ban Sean before, and it’s likely you’ll have to do it again. The man is full of venom and bile, and he has been as far back as I can remember — against Van Til and anyone else who questioned the value of Clarkian or Scripturalist epistemology. This attitude seems to be a general characteristic of Clarkians, though I’m not sure why. (Maybe it’s just a characteristic of those Clarkians who post on internet forums.)

    Sean has been promoting the horrible intellectualist version of justification by belief alone for some time now. It is just as extreme in its own way as that of the Federal Vision.

  148. Ron said,

    March 23, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    Chase,

    Given what has been transpiring on this thread (and what has not been transpiring on this thread), I’d prefer to take any further discussion with you off line and out of view. I’m not inclined to further discussion but if you would like to continue, I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have of me. I have no more I care to ask. I think you’re the last one who might have unfinished business with me. I can be reached at my Blog and then we can exchange emails if you like. I would, of course, treat any exchange we might have as between us and not for public consumption.

    Kindly intended,

    Ron

  149. Alan D. Strange said,

    March 23, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    With respect to Vern’s last sentence (in #148), the reason that I originally (in the earlier post that evoked Sean’s “Strange” response) argued against an intellectualized faith being promoted in that context (one in which the FV error of “faith as faithfulness” was being treated) was that the way to correct an error is not to make the opposite error . For example, the antidote to the error that Christ has only one nature (monophysitism) is not to declare that He is two persons (Nestorianism). Rather, it is the orthodox formularly hammered out at Chalcedon (451) that He is one person in two natures.

    Similarly the cure for FV “faithfulness” is not Clarkian “assentism.” The report of not just the Reformers but Protestantism (Luther agreed) as a whole is what has here by some been pilloried and castigated, but we affirm as that which is taught in Scripture and affirmed in our Confessions: True, saving faith consists of something more (though never anything less than) assent to the truth. Assent to the truth is necessary but not sufficient. There must be that which is spoken of throughout God’s Word and which is captured in all the confessional statements that speak of that which is more than assent.

    This is not an error that we can allow to wax because we want their support againt the errors of FV. The historic confessional churches have opposed Sandemanianism and we must continue to do so.

  150. March 23, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    Chase #142

    Your request is reasonable, but we are dealing with a supernatural situation. Belief in the gospel is not an everyday, physical situation. It is not trusting your father to help you out; it is not jumping on a trampoline. It is a gift from God, spiritually discerned, that man is incapable of having outside of regeneration.

    I know Ron has bowed out, and you may continue with him elsewhere, but I thought it might be helpful to offer two-cents on what you’ve written here.

    Drawing a distinction between “supernatural” and “physical” propositions becomes meaningless when the propositions are true. All truth is grounded in the mind of God, therefore all true propositions are “supernatural” in nature, even seemingly trivial ones like, “It is true that I typed this sentence using a laptop keyboard.” This is not to say that all truth is equally important, but simply that all truth begins, continues, and ends in God, so the quality of any true proposition is divine in its origin, and it is God alone who dispenses, or impresses, truth upon the mind.

    What Ron is driving at is not what kind of proposition is being offered, but upon what authority it is accepted and submitted to so as to effect action. If I believe the proposition “God saved me,” on the authority of my mother rather than upon the testimony of the Spirit, then my assent is grounded on the authority of man and not on the authority of God. Perhaps you grasp thi as Ron’s point and simply reject it, but it seemed to me that you weren’t quite tracking him.

    If it helps, great, but if not, let it pass you by.

  151. Vern Crisler said,

    March 23, 2011 at 11:48 pm

    Agree in all points, Alan. Christ is the referent of all those propositions in the Bible that speak of him. We therefore believe in those propositions IN ORDER that we might trust in the Person.

  152. Chase said,

    March 24, 2011 at 12:51 am

    Ron (#146, 149),

    I misunderstood some of your objections before, but I think I understand them now. I am fine with allowing the discussion to expire, and will take some time to mull over what you have said. Thank you for the discussion and God bless.

    This thread is a bit heated, isn’t it?

  153. March 24, 2011 at 2:32 am

    Vern, can’t you acknowledge that for Clark, belief in the propositions of God’s Word *is* trusting in the Person of Christ? Clark had no problem saying that he trusted in Christ. What he argued against was people taking “trust in Christ” and making it mean all sorts of different(!) things, including some vague form of emotional attachment, faithfulness (a la today’s FV), etc.

    FWIW, if one reviews the thread thus far, there is far more venom from your lips than Sean’s. Has civility become a hopeless dream?

  154. Alan D. Strange said,

    March 24, 2011 at 6:43 am

    Over at God’s Hammer, Mr. McCann continues to lament what he alleges to be a lack of definition of that third element (“trust”) on the part of the faithful. I acknowledge that I did not endeavor in #150 (above) to define it: so much of Scripture does when it speaks of coming to Christ, looking to God, crying out to Him, leaning upon Him, etc. Most saints understand intuitively what is meant by what the Puritan often called “closing with Christ.” We know what it is and means but struggle for the words to define and describe it

    Yes, the Scripture employs a host of metaphors, I would contend, for this third element, just as much as it does for what we call regeneration. What happens precisely, we could say, in the new birth? Our Lord Himself likens it to an action created by the unseen wind. Is it literally a birth? Of course not.

    The new birth, the renewal of the inner man, that proceeds faith and repentance, is quite mysterious and Christ uses the metaphor of birth to speak of the process, but we would not wish to press the metaphor too hard and quickly end in confusion (as did Nicodemus). As our Lord said in John 3:10–“Are you the teacher of Israel and do not know these things?”

    The gentleman mentions I Cor. 15:3ff: A beautiful short statement of the gospel. Christ came, and in His active and passive obedience, was our substitute. That is the ground of my salvation. My response to the gospel–Spirit-wrought and God-given–is to exercise faith in His person and work and to repent. My justification is secure because of His work and is appropriated by a faith that looks away from all that I have and am and can do to Him and to Him alone. My faithfulness is never in view (it’s pathetic with reference to itself) but only His work on my behalf.

    His work propitiates God’s wrath and expiates my guilt. Seeing my sin and need, by His Spirit, I come to Him, I cling to Him, I hope in Him, I trust Him, as Ron and others have set forth with a host of other metaphors and pictures. I have no problem calling this simply “believing in Him,” as the Scriptures often do, if that includes, as our dear host initially attributed to Bro. Clark, a “personal appropriation” of the truth of the gospel. But if that is purposely excluded as part of “faith”, as it has been by some here, I oppose such with all my being. BTW, I would never assume that one may wrongly conceive of saving faith as excluding what I am defining here but nevertheless be in the exercise of it.

    Some seem, in rationalist fashion, to score our approach for failing to provide a schematics for “trust.” You cannot provide such for the new birth, or, for that matter, for the Blessed, Holy undivided Trinity or for the Incarnation of our Lord. To dismiss as “pious prattle” all talk of the new birth, trust, and so forth is not spiritually healthy and evidences a serious cynicism.

    I think that the surfeit of sarcasm and scepticism about “trust” is deadly and is close to trampling holy things underfoot. The heart of our faith is never comprhended by us as it is by God alone. Christianity is not irrational, but it is not “merely rational” either. It is supernatural and suprarational. We can and do reason within the faith but the faith cannot be reduced to a schematic design and the insistence that it can and must–or else it is irrational–simply misses true Christianity. But I also do not believe that because one insists on reducing the faith to merely rational human comprehensibility that he really successfully does so.

  155. Sean Gerety said,

    March 24, 2011 at 7:11 am

    @#147

    Vern, Dr. Robbins completely cleaned your clock. Good thing you have a selective memory. I wouldn’t want reality to intrude on your delusion.

    Again, to maintain that those who follow Clark position to it’s “logical conclusion” or that Clark or Robbins do not believe in Jesus is really beyond the pale. Frankly, it’s moronic. But, seeing that Vern is a good Van Tillian of course there is no 3 strikes rule against him. Not surprised. I’ve learned a long time ago how this par for the course when you’re playing with Van Tillians.

  156. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 24, 2011 at 7:51 am

    Gentlemen (Sean and Vern in particular): The original Clark and van Til controversy has been declared by at least one observer to be “talking past one another.” I think a lot more light than heat can be had, IF you assume that this is the case.

    Vern, is it *really* likely that Sean simply “believes in propositions about Jesus”? Or is it more likely that he doesn’t know how to describe what’s really going on in his heart?

    Sean, is it really the case that van Tillians want to add works to the gospel? Or is more likely that they see in the traditional Reformed definition of faith (which does include “trust”, or “confidence” as the Belgic has it), an important component that ordinary uses of the word “assent” do not encompass?

    Even if the other is wrong, it doesn’t mean that the other is “moronic” or “does not have faith in Jesus” (think about that for a moment — you’re declaring the salvific state of someone over the ‘Net?! Not even a doctor would diagnose over the ‘Net…).

    I mean, I hate to play the “let’s all get along” card … except that the eschatological unity of the Church *is* an article of the faith, after all (Eph. 4). So let’s all make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, perhaps … as a matter of faithfulness to Christ.

    Back to the originally schedule disputation … :)

  157. Alan D. Strange said,

    March 24, 2011 at 8:15 am

    I think Mr. Cagle offers words of wisdom. I have never pronounced upon the eternal destiny of particular persons, either in the FV or Clark camp (or the orthodox, for that matter). None of us should.

    What we debate here and elsewhere is the truth of the gospel. It is not up to us to determine what is minimally acceptable unless we are sitting on a session hearing a profession of faith. There we make a judgment as to credibility and even then it is a judgment (I trust) of charity. Elders examining can never know the ultimate destiny of a soul, even one we excommunicate. We may say we have no good hope for someone: always a sad thing. But ultimately we rest things in the Lord’s hand, who disposes as He sees fit, knowing who His elect are.

    How thankful we can be to have good hope for many, who do give a clear profession of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

  158. Sean Gerety said,

    March 24, 2011 at 8:31 am

    Jeff, you wrote: “Sean, is it really the case that van Tillians want to add works to the gospel?”

    And I’ve said or suggest that where?

    If you’re going to play the peacemaker at least make an attempt to understand what both sides are saying.

    But I see Vern is now comparing Clark’s unambiguous and biblical definition of faith with the Federal Vision. And how is that not moronic?

    Of course, you miss the point Jeff. My objection is not that Vern is Vern, I expect that, what I would like to see is whether Lane would like to at least pretend he is even remotely balanced and fair in his moderation of those who post here. I understand his bias for Van Tillian, but this is ridiculous.

    As for the originally scheduled disputation, I plan on taking up Dr. Strange’s reply above on my own blog.

  159. David Gray said,

    March 24, 2011 at 8:39 am

    >But I see Vern is now comparing Clark’s unambiguous and biblical definition of faith with the Federal Vision. And how is that not moronic?

    Arguably some Clarkians are more problematic than some FV.

  160. Doug Sowers said,

    March 24, 2011 at 8:49 am

    Sean, what is your blog, just so I can track it?

    Thanks in advance

  161. Vern Crisler said,

    March 24, 2011 at 8:49 am

    Sean, would you provide an example of how Robbins cleaned my clock? As I pointed out, Robbins had to undergo a major revision of his Scripturalist view (under my and Sudduth and others criticisms).

    Now let’s see. Do you believe in Jesus or do you believe only in propositions about Jesus? Can you answer that without evasion? Do you regard Jesus as a Person, or do you regard him as a set of propositions? Please answer truthfully and without evasion, and without attacking the question, or the persons asking the question.

    Clark said with respect to the claim, “‘Faith is not belief in a proposition, but trust in a person.’ Though this may sound very pious, it is nonetheless destructive of Christianity.” (Saving Faith)

    How about faith is belief in a proposition AND trust in a Person? Can you affirm that Sean, without evasion, or insulting the person who asks the questions?

  162. Sean Gerety said,

    March 24, 2011 at 8:57 am

    Hi Doug. If you click on my name above it will take you right there.

  163. David Gadbois said,

    March 24, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Ron said Reliance can be present alongside belief. Belief, however, is not a sufficient condition for reliance, which I’ll try to show you again. Certainly you must appreciate that one can believe x is true without relying upon x. A wayward child can believe that her father will help her yet not receive her father’s help; rest in her father’s help; or entrust herself to her father’s help.

    That’s an excellent way of putting it, Ron. I think the Clarkians need to fix up their doctrine of sin before they can understand their error.

  164. Cris Dickason said,

    March 24, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    @136 – Linguistic / Historical Reality check.

    To again reference G.H. Clark on Manton (see #7, above ):
    ‘…fiducia comes from the same root as fides (faith). The Latin fide is not a good synonym for the Greek pisteuoo. Hence this popular analysis reduces to the obviously absurd definition that faith consists of understanding, assent, and faith. Something better than this tautology must be found.’

    Of course fide in not a good synonym for pisteuo, one’s a Latin noun, the other a Greek verb. But to correct the grammatical and get at the offered argument: Latin fides (noun) is claimed to be a bad translation choice for Greek pistis (noun). This is more than a little humorous.

    Try and sell this to Jerome (editor/translator of the Vulgate), try and tell that to all those contemporaries of the Apostles and later generations who quite naturally saw fides/pistis as equivalents (contexts being equal). Notice that the Vulgate consistently uses credo (verb) for pisteuo. Perhaps you’re familiar, 1st word of the Apostles Creed, “I believe” (1st two words in English).

    Basic point is, you can’t complain about or change the documented semantic ranges and equivalents of the past.

    -=Cris=-
    Linguistics & History @ CSUF / Divinty @ WTS

  165. Brad B said,

    March 24, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    It seems like a few of the conversations are seeing the same things about trust/reliance from different ways, one in a descriptive way, and one as a prescriptive way. True reliance is a description of true belief notwithstanding ones intellectual understanding of propositions about Jesus. I think that without faith, no one can please God[for good reason], and that faith comes prior to true belief and then faith seeks understanding.

    Some[most, really] brothers and sisters in the Lord I know demonstrate love for God, the church, the brethern, show all the signs of genuine faith and repentance and trust while having only a minimal intellectual apprehending of doctrine. I on the other hand seem to require that the Spirit of God instruct me to some depth of intellectual apprehending and logical consistency of doctrine before I demonstrate true belief/reliance.

    Is one state better than another? I often wish my own disposition didn’t require such rigorous inspection to obey in faith and I wonder if God isn’t more pleased with simple obedience in trust that is without full intellectual disclosure. BTW, I know that growing in knowledge of the true things about Jesus leads to maturity is easily demonstrated in scripture so I’m not trying to minimize the importance of it. I just think some of the elect will not ever demonstrate intellectual accounting of doctrine but their heart will show understanding as they obey in faith.

    I’m not sure that this is right on topic, but faith is not bourne out the same for everyone and some charity might be wise.

  166. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 24, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    Sean (#158): Jeff, you wrote: “Sean, is it really the case that van Tillians want to add works to the gospel?”

    And I’ve said or suggest that where?

    You’re right that you don’t say it outright. But you suggest that van Tillians, or more broadly, those holding the three-fold definition, are culpable for the FV:

    Sean #47: So, while it’s not impossible to hold the traditional 3 fold tautological definition of saving faith and recognize precisely how, to use Kesiter’s phrase, the FV have been able “drive a truck through” the word “trust,” my only point is that this deception would have been immediately identified years ago if Reformed men had paid closer attention to Clark.

    and have made similar comments in the past.

    Hey, if I misread you, then great — I withdraw the point.

    But if you have ears to hear, then: The debate over “which faith is the right faith” easily devolves into charges of heresy simply because of the subject matter. Go gently.

  167. greenbaggins said,

    March 25, 2011 at 10:11 am

    I am now ready to scream out bloody murder, since both sides think I am being unfair in my moderator practices. Will people please stop trying to read into my motives for doing things on my blog?

  168. Dean B said,

    March 25, 2011 at 10:58 am

    Pastor Keister

    Isn’t it a sign of a good sermon when two people accuse you of opposite heresies?

  169. greenbaggins said,

    March 25, 2011 at 11:05 am

    Dean, thanks for that. You made me smile. :-)

  170. Vern Crisler said,

    March 25, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    Make sure you record it Lane, and put it on You Tube. ;-)

  171. Hugh McCann said,

    April 21, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    I today again saw “A Note on Faith” (c. 1989) by the late John Robbins: http://godshammer.wordpress.com/2011/04/21/a-note-on-faith-by-john-robbins/

    It appears pertinent.


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