A Qualification

As my good friend David has written a critique of Carl Trueman’s comments, and Carl taught me at WTS, I thought that I should go ahead and listen to the whole thing and see if I agreed with David. As these are two very dear brothers in Christ, it behoves me to be extremely careful in what I say. You can listen to the whole thing here. Also, there are a lot of comments on this post that are extremely thoughtful and well worth pondering.

I would say that I agree, by and large, with David’s assessment of the weaknesses of Trueman’s presentation, but that I would want to offer a qualification of it. This qualification is based on what Trueman used to tell me in conversation, and I believe he said it in class as well. He said that we need to have a principled reason for not belonging to the Roman Catholic Church, and that it has to be doctrinal. If we do not have that, then we are living in sinful schism. Schism is a terrible sin. This is why Leithart’s position is, to my mind, completely incoherent. If the differences between Protestantism and Rome are not salvific in nature, then Leithart is living in sin by not being a part of the Roman Catholic Church. Leithart is, in effect, saying that Trent did not anathematize the gospel, a point that Jack Bradley brought up quite ably.

When I use those statements by Trueman that he made before, I come to about the 1 hour 17-25 minute mark, and notice Trueman strongly challenging Leithart on the issues of doctrinal difference between Protestantism and Catholicism. Trueman plainly believes that it is doctrine that separates us from Rome, and that these doctrines that separate us are of a first order nature. They are salvific. They are gospel issues. So, ultimately I believe that Trueman is being inconsistent. He believes that gospel issues separate us from Rome, but he seems willing to admit (or at least refrain from denying) that Rome is a true church. I agree with David that acknowledging RCC baptism is not a sufficient condition for considering Rome a true church (I think that the Southern Presbyterians, particularly Thornwell, got this one right, and that Hodge was inconsistent). For one thing, the Reformers who had been baptized in the Roman Catholic Church, were baptized before Trent happened. No Reformer would have said that Rome had completely apostatized before Trent happened. Now, I firmly believe that Rome is no true church. So Trueman is in the awkward position of denying that Rome has the gospel, and yet of admitting (or not denying) that Rome is part of the true church. I do not think that this position can ultimately stand the test of coherency.

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365 Comments

  1. David Gadbois said,

    May 18, 2014 at 5:46 am

    A few scattered thoughts:

    1. I’m trying not to take sides (well, not strongly, anyway) on the controversy regarding the re-baptism of Roman Catholics. We really ought to keep that issue separate from Rome’s status as a church. Isn’t it logical to answer that ecclesiological question first, instead of trying to make the sacramental issue answer it for us?

    I’m sympathetic to Hodge, but it was simply not necessary for Hodge to predicate his case against re-baptism on the idea that Rome is “in some sense” a church. In combating the error of re-baptism (or supposed error anyway) he went unnecessarily too far in the other direction. This is a common and understandable error that theologians make, but it is nonetheless an error. What is more, his argument posits a distinction between a true church and a visible church, but this distinction is impossible to sustain.

    2. The sad thing about the article and the ensuing public discussion is that Leithart mentioned many things that I hope the evangelicals in that room would positively consider. Infant baptism, weekly communion, liturgical worship, psalmnody, etc. – and he had a good dig against casual dress in the pulpit (i.e. the no-so-veiled swipe at the Seattle “minister” who wears a Mickey Mouse t-shirt). But when that message is mixed with so much error, it simply sows confusion.

    Given BIOLA’s make-up my guess is that nearly everyone in that room was baptistic, dispensationalist, revivalistic, non-liturgical, non-confessional, and either dogmatically or functionally Arminian. What a missed opportunity!

    3. Throughout the public discussion I kept thinking “man, I wish James White was up on that stage, he’d make short work of Leithart’s nonsense.” I realized that that is inadvertently a pretty sad commentary on the state of R&P apologetics that I would reflexively hope that a particularist baptist would jump in to save the day!

  2. Jack Bradley said,

    May 18, 2014 at 11:54 am

    Lane, could you correct one mistake of omission I made in the transcript:

    “. . . I’m not going to acknowledge just those who [are] affirming Reformation.”

  3. greenbaggins said,

    May 18, 2014 at 9:50 pm

    Jack, happy to correct, but I’m not sure exactly where you want me to put that. Could you be a bit more specific, please?

  4. May 19, 2014 at 12:54 am

    The Reformed Churches didn’t re-baptize those baptized in Rome after Trent.

  5. Sjoerd de Boer said,

    May 19, 2014 at 1:43 am

    Lane, of course I do not know what your intentions were when you named this post “A Qualification”. On one hand I recognize a virtue to “Defend and to promote, as much as I am able, the honor and good character of my neighbor” (Q&A 112, HC). On the other hand, if dr. Trueman is to be considered a staunch defender of the Reformation and its confessions (even within the broader, increasingly lesser confessional protestant evangelicalism), then his participation in this conversation with a “PCA flirter with Rome” on his left side and a Wesleyan on his right side cannot be qualified other than utterly weak. Now, if he would have been incompetent, he would have been excused. But dr. Trueman, as witty as he normally is, always analyzing and poking through weaknesses of opponents in his writings and lectures, as he should have felt the pressure of being a spokesman for the legitimacy of Reformed Protestantism, dropped the ball in front of all who were waiting for him to step up and dismantle the atrocities of Leithart’s argumentation to recognize Rome as a body of Christ and therefore having a desire to reform the RCC from within.
    The only one in the room with witty answers came from Sanders, who in response to Leithart said something like this, “You sound like some Lutherans, who say: Rome, can you let us back in, we are not done yet, reforming.”, upon which the public started laughing, most likely understanding how ridiculous Leithart’s position is, especially seen from a historic perspective.

    I felt pretty much like David, when he said in his comment above,

    “Throughout the public discussion I kept thinking “man, I wish James White was up on that stage, he’d make short work of Leithart’s nonsense.”

    I have other issues with Trueman, especially his frequent public ventilations of how he admires and enjoys the fruits of an outspoken unchristian revolutionary culture, expressed especially in British Rock Music (which by association, you cannot separate from their lyrics) of the sixties, which have more to do with the biblical applications of the doctrine of Sanctification, but I never questioned his abilities of discernment in ecclesiastical matters. I really enjoyed his Church History lectures that are available on the internet.
    I hope and pray that critical reviews and comments will result in a (renewed?) zeal for the truth, not only for Trueman, but for all who are committed to the Biblical and Christian Reformed faith in all of life.

  6. Ron said,

    May 19, 2014 at 9:43 am

    So Trueman is in the awkward position of denying that Rome has the gospel, and yet of admitting (or not denying) that Rome is part of the true church. I do not think that this position can ultimately stand the test of coherency.

    To take this one step further… if faith alone is essential to the gospel, then not only does Rome not have the gospel but rather she preaches against the gospel. The only question at this juncture is,can a communion that preaches against the gospel be considered a true church?

  7. Chris Donato said,

    May 19, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    But perhaps this comes down to the distinction that one can be justified by faith without believing in justification by faith (alone), which I hear Trueman saying, as well as many other Reformed folk, from time to time. In other words, in spite of itself, Rome remains a true church, much like Israel remained God’s people, even when it seemed like all was lost.

    And while I appreciate the sentiments you’ve expressed in the second paragraph (unnecessarily perpetuating schism), I think you’ve missed a few steps. One can hold that the differences between Protestantism and Rome are not salvific in nature and yet remain in exile for one important reason: a person must first come to the conviction that the Word and sacraments are invalid in the church they’re currently receiving in. What’s more, even if universal papal jurisdiction were the default position, that still doesn’t warrant the individual to make the jump alone, simply perpetuating the divisive secta una mentality that has wracked Protestantism since its beginning (again, assuming that that person still believes his church administers Word and sacrament faithfully). A parishioner of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church operating under a proper understanding of ecclesial authority will not easily act alone, but will instead trust and obey, seeking first to honor the Christ by honoring his duly appointed ministers, the under-shepherds of our souls.

    Rome may see the administration of my parish’s Word and sacraments as invalid, but that of course doesn’t make it so. Nor does it mean that I must return the “favor.” What it does mean is that Christians everywhere are bound by Christ’s prayer and God’s command for unity, which is itself a doctrine and, indeed, as essential to the gospel as any other basic doctrine of the faith.

  8. Jack Bradley said,

    May 19, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    Lane, it’s not a big deal, since the meaning was still obvious, but here is the entire section, bracketing the original word, which I had omitted and would like to now include:

    Leithart: “Yeah, I would think I would say that I am. . . in the particular context of talking about inter-church relations. If you’re talking about the truth of Reformation principles, I’m not relativizing that. But, if I say, who am I acknowledging as a fellow Christian, and a body of believers that is part of the same Church I’m part of, yeah, I’m not going to acknowledge just those who [are] affirming Reformation. But I want them to affirm Sola Scriptura. I want them to affirm Sola Fide. But that wouldn’t be a standard of brotherhood. . . If Protestants and Catholics are one body, then their errors, and yes, I believe there are errors in the Roman Catholic church, their errors are ours. They are errors of the catholic, of the Church.”

  9. Sean Gerety said,

    May 21, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    Lane, I have been thinking about your comments and I was thinking is it wrong to consider the RCC a true church when the PCA officially affirms that Federal Visionists like Leithart are our “brothers in Christ”? Also, consider this from Sean Lucas:

    I have little doubt that Dr. Leithart is a genuine believer in Jesus. I do not believe that he is a heretic (particularly because, in my understanding as a church historian, heresy would generally be associated with denying key Trinitarian or Christological truths). And I do not believe that simply because one has a high baptismal theology that one is a heretic (if so, then Calvin was wrong to say that the Roman Catholic Church still had true baptism).

    The RCC affirms the so-called “ecumenical creeds” specifically dealing with key Trinitarian and Christological truths, therefore it would seem to follow per Lucas that the RCC is a true church and it’s members, like the Federal Visionists, are our brothers and sisters.

    Could it be that Trueman like Lucas really has no principled reason for not belonging to the Roman Catholic Church?

  10. Roger said,

    May 21, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    But perhaps this comes down to the distinction that one can be justified by faith without believing in justification by faith (alone), which I hear Trueman saying, as well as many other Reformed folk, from time to time.

    If a professed believer in Christ doesn’t believe in justification by faith alone (i.e., before the bar of God’s justice), then he necessarily believes in justification by faith and works, which is clearly a false gospel that condemns all who believe it.

    “These diabolical contrivances made Christ to profit nothing; not that the false apostles denied Christ, or wished him to be entirely set aside, but that they made such a division between his grace and the works of the law as to leave not more than the half of salvation due to Christ. The apostle contends that Christ cannot be divided in this way, and that he ‘profiteth nothing,’ unless he is wholly embraced. And what else do our modern Papists but thrust upon us, in place of circumcision, trifles of their own invention? The tendency of their whole doctrine is to blend the grace of Christ with the merit of works, which is impossible. Whoever wishes to have the half of Christ, loses the whole. And yet the Papists think themselves exceedingly acute when they tell us that they ascribe nothing to works, except through the influence of the grace of Christ, as if this were a different error from what was charged on the Galatians. They did not believe that they had departed from Christ, or relinquished his grace; and yet they lost Christ entirely, when that important part of evangelical doctrine was corrupted.” (John Calvin, Commentary on Galatians 5:2)

  11. Chris Donato said,

    May 21, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    Roger—no Protestant worth his salt will deny that the doctrine of justification by faith and works lived out is false (i.e., if one really believes that part of his salvation is due to his own graceless merit). But mere assensus to a false doctrine (which is not the gospel, properly speaking) cannot bar one from God’s mercy. Indeed, the cognitive content that must be believed and lived out—fiducia—is pretty basic, so St. Paul: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom 10:9).

    I suppose you can argue that thinking you’re justified by faith and (grace-wrought) works is to deny that “Jesus is Lord,” etc., but then why wasn’t Calvin (or the other magisterial Reformers) wrong to say that the Roman Catholic Church still had true baptism (as Lucas quote notes)?

  12. Sean Gerety said,

    May 21, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    Chris, maybe you haven’t been following too closely, but Calvin was writing pre-Trent. Lucas is just wrong and should know better given that he’s supposed to be a prof of Church history (seems none of these church historians have much of a grasp on church history … or the Gospel).

  13. Chris Donato said,

    May 21, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    Okay, I’ll grant it’s sketchy either way to invoke Calvin, Hodge, et al., on this matter. But counting heads is beside the point: the crux, to my mind, is whether or not Trent is in effect a denial of Rom 10:9.

    I am more concerned, however, with answering Lane’s second paragraph in the OP: the supposed incoherence of holding that the RCC is a true church while not (yet) swimming the Tiber.

  14. Mark B said,

    May 21, 2014 at 10:29 pm

    I would make this simple and say that the Reformed are the only true Churches (which may include Anglicans and confessional Lutherans, etcetera). I know that a statement like that will instantly evoke all sorts of invective, but if we consider the marks of the Church confessionally (true preaching of the Word, correct administration of the sacraments, discipline) isn’t that the case?
    I would hope we’ve all met those in the Catholic Church that we would consider Christians (close to half of my Church are former Catholics, btw), and it is demonstrable that much of the true faith is contained in the Catholic Church (like the early creeds) along with the heresy. For that matter, there are many “churches” that are much worse doctrinally than Rome. I would also say that there are Christians in those churches.
    If the topic is the future of Protestantism, as someone who is reformed, I would make the same points that Trueman has made, that it is doctrine that makes it impossible for us to be united to Rome, and that my future is working within the Reformed Churches. I don’t believe that if I say that non reformed churches are in some sense churches it implies that I must give up my church and it’s distinctives. The fact that Rome bears some of the marks of a church doesn’t stop me from pointing out to a Catholic its fatal errors and showing them why they need to come out of Rome.
    FWIW, I do think this conference was rather lame, even if I disagree with some of the expectations raised in these posts.

  15. Roger said,

    May 22, 2014 at 7:31 am

    Roger—no Protestant worth his salt will deny that the doctrine of justification by faith and works lived out is false (i.e., if one really believes that part of his salvation is due to his own graceless merit).

    Chris, the point of dispute isn’t one’s “own graceless merit,” but rather adding works of any kind to faith in the matter of justification before God. Not even the false apostles, who were condemned by Paul for “perverting the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:7), believed in or taught a supposed “graceless merit,” as Calvin makes clear in the quote I provided:

    “These diabolical contrivances made Christ to profit nothing; not that the false apostles denied Christ, or wished him to be entirely set aside, but that they made such a division between his grace and the works of the law as to leave not more than the half of salvation due to Christ. The apostle contends that Christ cannot be divided in this way, and that he ‘profiteth nothing,’ unless he is wholly embraced.”

    Calvin then points out that this is the very same error that has been adopted by the Papists (i.e., Roman Catholics):

    “And what else do our modern Papists but thrust upon us, in place of circumcision, trifles of their own invention? The tendency of their whole doctrine is to blend the grace of Christ with the merit of works, which is impossible. Whoever wishes to have the half of Christ, loses the whole. And yet the Papists think themselves exceedingly acute when they tell us that they ascribe nothing to works, except through the influence of the grace of Christ, as if this were a different error from what was charged on the Galatians. They did not believe that they had departed from Christ, or relinquished his grace; and yet they lost Christ entirely, when that important part of evangelical doctrine was corrupted.”

    But mere assensus to a false doctrine (which is not the gospel, properly speaking) cannot bar one from God’s mercy. Indeed, the cognitive content that must be believed and lived out—fiducia—is pretty basic, so St. Paul: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom 10:9).

    That’s utter nonsense. If one assents to a false doctrine that amounts to a “different gospel” (Galatians 1:6) – such as the Roman Catholic doctrine of justification – then that false belief will most definitely “bar one from God’s mercy.” As Calvin correctly points out:

    The tendency of their whole doctrine is to blend the grace of Christ with the merit of works, which is impossible. Whoever wishes to have the half of Christ, loses the whole.”

    The saving belief mentioned in Romans 10:9 assumes a genuine reliance on Christ alone for one’s justification, which rules out those who assent to the Roman Catholic doctrine of justification (and many others who falsely profess Christ as Lord).

  16. Ted Bigelow said,

    May 23, 2014 at 11:11 am

    Mark B,

    If possible, let’s root “true church” ideology in the sufficiency and clarity of the apostolic writings given to the churches. Were Laodicea and Sardis true churches?

  17. Mark B said,

    May 23, 2014 at 8:52 pm

    @Ted
    Obviously I made that statement in the context of a debate on the future of Protestantism, trying to read modern theological controversy into the brief statements about those churches in Scripture would be anachronistic.

  18. Alan D. Strange said,

    May 24, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    Calvin (1509-64) was not pre-Tridentine (Trent met 1545-63) in the whole of his work. He wrote an “Antidote” to Trent (against its infamous Sixth Session on Justification) in 1547 and just a year before he died, he defended Roman baptism to the National Synod, arguing that “Popish baptism is grounded upon the institution of Christ; because the priests, as perverse as they are, and utterly corrupt, are yet the ordinary ministers of that Church in which they so tyrannically demean themselves.” One may disagree with Calvin here, but don’t paint him as someone unaware of Trent and for that reason continuing to regard Romish baptism as valid. He knew Trent well and still affirmed Romish baptism

    And Hodge’s defense of Romish baptism, in his invocation of the invisible church, is quite sound, in my estimation. He simply makes the point here, as he always does (and as does historic Protestantism), that the church in its essence is invisble. Much more could be said here, but Hodge’s arguments are well worth reading or re-reading.

    Someone also said, perhaps in the earlier post along these lines, that Thornwell soundly defeated Hodge at the 1845 GA. Hodge, as was usually the case (given his health), was not in attendance at that GA and was quite surprised by the decision. Hodge did not believe that the 1845 GA acted with due deliberation on the matter and the record tends to support that. Thornwell’s arguments tend to go in the direction of identifying the true church with the visible church,which ultimately plays into Rome’s hands.

    All that having been said, I stand with my fellow Protestants in opposition to all those who would repent of the Reformation or wish it over. Rome corrupts the gospel: while there is indeed a remnant of truth within her, we need to preach the pure gospel to her and hers for their eternal well-being and to abandon all this talk of common theological cause with Rome. Note that she does nothing to come our way. It is always about us going in her direction. Again, muc more could be said here but Rome continues to view itself as the true church to which all its errant sons must return.

  19. Sean Gerety said,

    May 25, 2014 at 7:32 pm

    Thornwell’s arguments tend to go in the direction of identifying the true church with the visible church,which ultimately plays into Rome’s hands.

    Hardly.

    IMO you need read or reread Thornwell, Unlike Hodge (and it seems virtually every modern P&R prof of church history) Thornwell knew exactly what Romanish baptism was and what it stood for:

    “To baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit is not to pronounce these words as an idle form or a mystical charm, but to acknowledge that solemn compact [the covenant of redemption] which these glorious agents entered, for eternity, for the redemption of the church. It is the faith of the Trinity, much more than the names of its separate Persons, that belongs to the essence of baptism….”

    Frankly, Dr. Strange, I think you have it precisely backwards and it was Hodge the confused the visible church with the invisible, because Thornwell argued:

    “Did baptism become extinct when this innovation [adulteration of the water] was first introduced among the churches that adopted it? My reply is that I know of no sacredness in baptism which should entitle it to be preserved in its integrity when the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper has been confessedly abolished in the Latin Church. Why should baptism be perpetuated entire, and the Supper transmitted with grievous mutilations? Or will it be maintained that the essence of the Supper was still retained when the cup was denied to the laity? Is it more incredible that an outward ordinance should be invalidated than that the precious truths which it was designed to represent should be lost? Is the shell more important the substance? And shall we admit that the cardinal doctrines of the Gospel have been damnably corrupted in the Church of Rome, and yet be afraid to declare that the signs and seals of the covenant have shared the same fate? If Rome is corrupt in doctrine, I see not why she may not be equally corrupt in ordinances, and if she has lost one sacrament, I see not why she may not have lost the other; and as the foundations of her apostasy were laid in the ages immediately succeeding the time of the Apostles, I cannot understand why the loss of the real sacrament of baptism may not have been an early symptom of degeneracy and decay.”

    Then he hammers this point home:

    “We are not to say, a priori, that the Church in the fifth or sixth centuries must have had the true sacrament of baptism, and then infer that such and such corruptions do not invalidate the ordinance. But we are first to ascertain from Scriptures what the true sacrament of baptism is, and then judge the practice of the church in every age by this standard. If its customs have at any time departed from the law and the testimony, let them be condemned; if they have been something essentially different from what God has enjoined, let them be denounced as spurious. **The unbroken transmission of a visible Church in any line of succession is a figment of papists and prelatists.** Conformity with the Scriptures, not ecclesiastical genealogy, is the true touchstone of a sound church; and if our fathers were without the ordinances, and fed upon ashes for bread, let us only be the more thankful for the greater privileges vouchsafed to ourselves. “

  20. Alan D. Strange said,

    May 25, 2014 at 11:07 pm

    Hodge, too, denies apostolic succession in both his assessment of the GA decision on Romish baptism and in the first section of Discussions in Church Polity (Preliminary Principles). He does not fall into that trap and that’s not the basis of his position on Romish baptism.

    Thornwell’s whole approach to the church (as seen in v. 4 of his Works) is to define it quite narrowly (as he does in what Sean quoted: Thornwell is not addressing the invisible church therein) so as to identify the church with Presbyterianism. Hodge rightly responds that the catholicity of the church recognizes that the church is not properly confined to one communion–such is sectarian. Thornwell identifies Presbyterianism with the essence of the church when, in fact, it pertains to the perfection of the church. Hodge argued that Thornwell’s approach tended to unchurch everyone not Presbyterian and that is not a proper definition of the church, which in its essence is invisible.

    But Hodge and Thornwell were both good men who, while disagreeing over lesser matters, agreed that Rome was in error and must be withstood. It was Hodge who was appointed by the General Assembly, though it knew his position on Romish baptism, to write Pius IX and the First Vatican Council (1869-70), explaining the continuing opposition of the Presbyterian Church to Rome. It is sad to see Presbyterians capitulating to Rome (something Hodge certainly never did) instead of propagating the pure gospel.

  21. Sean Gerety said,

    May 27, 2014 at 11:41 am

    It’s absurd to assume that a “church” that denies Christ and his finished work, denies even justification by belief alone, is a true church and that its sacrament of baptism is in any sense Christian baptism.

    As Andy Webb correctly observers:

    If we were to go against the opinion of prior Old School Presbyterians by contending that the baptism of the RCC is valid, most modern Presbyterians would be put in the exceedingly odd position of admitting that they would not receive a member of the RCC into one’s own church by letter of transfer, because they judge them not to be members of a true church, but that they would acknowledge that their baptism, the sign and seal of entrance into the visible church, was valid. In fact, this silly situation would be only heightened by the fact that we specifically do not allow members of the RCC to come to Lord’s Supper because we do not consider them to be members in good standing of an evangelical church. In short in everything we do, we deny the RCC to be a part of the visible church. So to acknowledge their baptism as valid would be impossibly inconsistent – it simply has no possible foundation other than the highly suspect argument, “well the Reformers didn’t repudiate RCC baptism.” http://biblebased.wordpress.com/2008/06/27/are-roman-catholic-baptisms-valid/

  22. Alan D. Strange said,

    May 28, 2014 at 9:53 am

    Bro. Webb makes here and elsewhere points that must be taken seriously. Though I disagree with him about this (and about the necessity of leaving the PCA), he raises matters, particularly about FV, that ought to be carefully considered. I appreciate the stand that he has taken now and historically for the purity of the gospel.

    As part of that gospel stand, I presume that he would heartily affirm, as would all Reformed and Presbyterian, “justification by faith alone,” findng “by belief alone” deficient (WCF 14.2; WLC 72: “…not only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receiveth and resteth upon Christ and his rigtheousness…”). Justifying faith is never less than assent or belief, but it is always more than that–it is a receiving and resting upon Christ that is commonly denominated “trust.”

    We’ve crossed swords on this a few times, Sean. I suppose that you’ll never stop contending for that thin view of what justifying faith entails. I know that I’ll never stop contending for what I believe to the biblical and confessional witness to the nature of justifying faith!

  23. Sean Gerety said,

    May 28, 2014 at 7:42 pm

    Seems like my reply to Alan was removed. Not very sporting, but par for the course.

  24. Reed Here said,

    May 28, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    Sean, don’t know which one of the moderators took the action, but I read your comment. If you would simply critique position rather than person your comments wouldn’t be so moderated.

    Its your own fault friend. Actually quite sporting.

  25. Sean Gerety said,

    May 29, 2014 at 7:27 am

    Since when is it attacking the “person” to simply point out that Dr. Strange continues to read into the Confessional his own definition of faith which the Confession nowhere supports? Beyond that, it’s mind blowing that Strange rejects justification by belief alone.

  26. May 29, 2014 at 9:49 am

    Sean,

    Dr. Strange has presented the classic Reformed definition of saving faith, which has three parts: knowledge (notitia), assent (assensus), and trust (fiducia). Thus assent or belief is only a subset of saving faith. TE Andy Webb has an excellent summary here with a bit more detail. I’m not sure where you get “justification by belief alone” since James tell us that even the demons believe and shudder. (Ja 2:19)

  27. Andrew Duggan said,

    May 29, 2014 at 10:18 am

    Plus Dr Strange was quoting (and citing) Westminster Larger Catechism 72 explicitly. So it is hardly his unique understanding. It is the clearly stated teaching of the Westminster standards. If definition of faith found in WLC 72 is not part of the system of doctrine taught in Holy Scripture, well then…

    Now if we could just everyone to agree with the rest of the Larger Catechism too.

  28. May 29, 2014 at 11:19 am

    Now if we could just everyone to agree with the rest of the Larger Catechism too.

    Amen!

  29. Sean Gerety said,

    May 29, 2014 at 11:36 am

    Bob (and Andrew),

    Just because something is traditional it doesn’t follow that it is also Confessional. This is something Dr. Strange must prove and not just assert as if from on high. The Confession nowhere mentions “fiducia” as a third or saving aspect of faith. The word is found nowhere in the Confession nor can the idea of a three fold division of faith be successfully inferred. The Confession (WLC 72) states that it in not enough to assent to the promise of the Gospel, one must also assent to Christ and his righteousness for the “pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.” After all, Pope Francis and his servant Peter Leithart both believe in the promise of the Gospel just not the means by which that promise might be received.

    What Dr. Strange has done is smuggle his definition into the Confession’s use of a figure of speech and I simply cried foul.

    As already cited in the post some mod here too quickly deleted, justification by faith alone and belief alone mean the same thing, as Dr. W. Gary Crampton explains:

    In the New Testament, there is only one word for belief or faith, pistis, and its verb form is pistein, believe. There is no separate word for faith, and those who wish to say that faith is something different from and superior to belief have no support from Scripture. Gordon Clark once remarked that the Bible’s English translators could have avoided a lot of confusion if they had not used the Latin-based word “faith” and had instead simply used “believe” and “belief” throughout the English Bible, as the writers of the New Testament use pistis and pistein throughout the Greek Bible – http://tinyurl.com/ohncx8u

    Further, your citation of James 2:19 doesn’t make your point, but rather makes mine as the passage has to do with the belief in monotheism. Besides, even Lane has admitted on this blog, the addition of “fiducia” or “trust” in the traditional definition adds ambiguity to an understanding of faith and it’s my point that this is precisely what the FV men have exploited with tremendous success. The Scriptures are clear: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

  30. May 29, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    Sean,

    Understand your point but respectfully disagree. WCF 14.2 includes this sentence (all following bolds are mine):

    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.

    I read “resting upon Christ alone” as fiducia. It is certainly more than simply assent or belief. Similarly, WSC 86 answers:

    Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel.

    Again, the “rest upon him alone” which to me is the fiducia element in saving faith. And returning to WLC 72, it reads in its entirety:

    Justifying faith is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and Word of God, whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself and all other creatures to recover him out of his lost condition, not only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receiveth and resteth upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.

    Yet again, we see “resteth upon Christ”, implying fiducia. Granted, the standards don’t use the word trust explicitly, but surely “resting upon Christ” is just another way of saying “trusting in Christ.” Assent/believing is also covered in the previous phrase “not only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel”, the wording clearly stating that assent/belief is not sufficient unto saving faith.

    On your other point, I don’t see how the 3-part saving faith definition provides any “in” to FV. FV undermines the whole idea of salvation by faith alone by incorporating lifetime “covenant faithfulness” as evaluated at a mythical “final justification” into salvation. FV’s substitution of “faithfulness” for “faith” and then further substituting our faithfulness for God’s in salvation cuts the heart out of the gospel. I don’t see the definition of faith itself as an issue.

  31. Sjoerd de Boer said,

    May 29, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    I think we are well off the topic of this post, but since it has drifted to the definition of faith and the “Van Til – Clark controversy”, let me quote for Sean Gerety Heidelberger Catechism, LD 7, Q&A 21,

    “What is true faith? 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”

    I expect mr. Gerety to answer that this is not his confession, to which I would respond that this Reformed Confession was adopted by most reformed churches, about 80 years before the Westminster Standards saw daylight and it seems to me that nothing indicates that the divines attacked the HC on the point of “faith”. Why? Maybe because the “great light” dr. Clark was not born yet to make clear that even the Reformation erred since Augustine?

    Reformed people who follow(-ed) after Clark in this matter, might show much zeal for the truth, but I always wonder why they want to keep the “heart” out of faith.

  32. Sean Gerety said,

    May 29, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    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.

    I read “resting upon Christ alone” as fiducia. It is certainly more than simply assent or belief.

    You can read it that way, but that’s not what it means. You are imposing a traditional definition of faith on a figure of speech. You’re just assuming “resting upon Christ alone” is some third element that completes faith and make it saving. But that’s not what the passage says. Further, if fiducia is translated as trust, then in good English to assent to a proposition is to trust that it is true. And to trust a proposition is true is to believe that it is true. Belief and trust are synonyms which is why defining faith as a combination of understanding, assent and trust is ambiguous at best. Logically it is tautological.

    But, believe what you want. Hopefully you’ll at least grant per the above that faith and belief are both derived from the same Greek word in Scripture. That’s half the battle as Dr. Strange thinks faith is qualitatively different from belief when Scripture makes no such distinction.

    Again, the “rest upon him alone” which to me is the fiducia element in saving faith. And returning to WLC 72, it reads in its entirety:
    Justifying faith is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and Word of God, whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself and all other creatures to recover him out of his lost condition, not only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receiveth and resteth upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.

    Yet again, we see “resteth upon Christ”, implying fiducia. Granted, the standards don’t use the word trust explicitly, but surely “resting upon Christ” is just another way of saying “trusting in Christ.”

    The implication doesn’t follow. But, you’re right, “resting upon Christ” is just another way of saying “trusting in Christ” or “believing in Christ” for that matter. You could rephrase the passage to say it’s not enough to trust in the promise of the gospel, you must also trust in Christ and his righteousness for all the reasons the Confession gives. You could use “belief” as well and convey the exact same meaning. That’s how synonyms work. :) Belief is an assent to an understood proposition and saving belief is an assent not only to the promise of the gospel, i.e., forgiveness of sin, eternal bliss in heaven, etc., but also belief in Christ alone and his righteousness imputed to us as the means by which the promise may be received.

    Assent/believing is also covered in the previous phrase “not only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel”, the wording clearly stating that assent/belief is not sufficient unto saving faith.

    Again, you need to pay attention to what is being assented to. The distinction the Confession is making is not psychological, but doctrinal. Again, papists and Federal Visonists all assent to the truth of the promise of the gospel. The just don’t believe the Gospel for they deny Christ and his righteousness alone as the means by which the promise of the gospel is received. For them the “fiducial” element is volitional. It is to “keep the demands of the covenant.”

    On your other point, I don’t see how the 3-part saving faith definition provides any “in” to FV. FV undermines the whole idea of salvation by faith alone by incorporating lifetime “covenant faithfulness” as evaluated at a mythical “final justification” into salvation. FV’s substitution of “faithfulness” for “faith” and then further substituting our faithfulness for God’s in salvation cuts the heart out of the gospel. I don’t see the definition of faith itself as an issue.

    I realize you don’t see it Bob, but make no mistake the FV men do. As James Jordan howled not that long ago on this blog:

    Some men remain in the PCA because God has told them they have a duty to help the 7000 who have not yet bowed the knee to antichrist. They hatred of the Kingship of Jesus, which characterizes so much of the PCA, is with fighting. The Reformed faith is that faith includes fiducia, and this is still worth fighting for, regardless of how many antinominian blogs hate it.

    You may not agree with me, but I hope you can see now from the perspective of the FV this fight is precisely over the “fiducial” aspect of saving faith and for them this third element isn’t tautological or ambiguous at all. For them the fiducial element of saving faith is to do as you are told, to be faithful, to work. You might also recall Wilson tying Lane up in knots over the idea of the obedience of faith. It’s the same issue.

    Consider James Jordan again:

    A baby’s trust in his mother’s arms becomes the primary analogy for faith, as Jesus taught. As we grow, our understanding matures, and we expect mature faith to have lots of notitia and assensus; but fiducia is the foundation. It’s the Clark controversy with feet on it.

    On justification, during the Shepherd controversy at WTS, it was shown time and again that Calvin and Bucer and various Scottish Seceders (part of Shepherd’s background, with the Covenanters) and Dutch theologians had all said exactly the same thing. The faculty and the OPC both examined and exonerated Shepherd. There’s no doubt but that Shepherd’s doctrine of justification is the Reformed traditional doctrine. But it is not the American evangelical doctrine, and that’s why the more broadly evangelical (largely Southern) bloc in the presbyterian churches could not fathom it.

    … I think excitement about being Reformed is grossly sectarian. Jesus did not die to make me Reformed, and going around tooting a Reformed horn compromises the gospel, in my opinion. My theological understanding is thoroughly Reformed; within that broad stream. But I’m not of Paul, Apollos, or Reformed. And if that’s part of what’s offensive about the FV, so be it.

    Instead of learning from these resent battles, it seems many have missed what it was all about to begin with. It is precisely because of the ambiguity over what this “fiducial” element that allowed these FV men to say without blushing that they too believe in justification by faith, even faith alone.

  33. Roger said,

    May 29, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    What’s the significant difference between “accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification” and “believing in Christ alone for justification” or “assenting to the promise of justification in Christ alone for justification?” If I truly “believe” that I’m justified solely on the basis of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, am I not saved? If I genuinely “assent” to the promise of Scripture that I’m justified solely on the basis of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, am I not saved? Aren’t all of these terms merely synonyms for “trusting” in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection for one’s justification before God? It sure seems that way to me!

    “The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls,[1] is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts…” (WCF 14.1)

    [1] HEB 10:39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.

    “By this faith, a Christian believes to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word…embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come.[8] 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.[9]” (WCF 14.2)

    [8] HEB 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 1TI 4:8 For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.

    [9] JOH 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name. ACT 16:31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. GAL 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. ACT 15:11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.

  34. Roger said,

    May 29, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    By the way, I’m hardly a “Clarkian,” as Sean can attest to. But they sure seem to be correct on this point…

  35. Alan D. Strange said,

    May 29, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    These attempts to evade the force of WLC 72 “not only assenteth to the truth…but receiveth and resteth upon Christ” are simply unconvincing to any reasonable reader. Assent to the truth is what the church before the Reformation called “unformed faith,” to which “caritas” was added to make “formed faith.” This is the sort of error that Rome and some FV continue to make.

    The Reformers said that where the medieval church added “caritas,” the Reformers would add “fiducia,” highlighting that faith involves not only belief of and in the propositional truth of the gospel but also an entrusting of oneself (receiving and resting upon Christ) to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    In other words, saving faith is not only propositional but personal. Both must be present for true saving faith and that is what the language additional to “not only assenteth” intends to signify. This is the view of all the Reformers of the 16th and 17th centuries. None of them held to an “assent alone” position, but all believed that saving faith involves trusting Christ alone, resting in who He was and what He did for us, in the totality of His person.

    To fight this is not to fight Rome but to fight the Reformation. An “assent alone” position simply is not Reformed in any proper sense of the word. We can go on to argue whether “assent alone” is biblical (obviously, I don’t think so). One may think that the Reformation got this wrong, but then one can’t really claim to be Reformed. We can examine all the relevant biblical passages, and that has been done in a variety of places, but I don’t think that this blog countenances something contrary both to the Reformed Confessions and to the Reformed theologians down to this day.

    All this is to say that Sean and others may wish to contend for their “assent alone” position and act as if they are being faithful to the Reformation, but they’re not. They would do better simply to argue on the basis of their biblical interpretation, because such a position is simply not the Reformation’s position. And if the Reformation could not rightly define justifying faith, I am not certain what it did get right. If mere intellectual assent is true justifying faith (a position denied by all the Reformers and the Reformed Confessions), then the Reformation badly erred in its understanding of such and the church has never been truly and properly Reformed.

  36. Ron said,

    May 29, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    Is it possible to move from what has been called propositional faith to what has been referred to as personal faith simply by adding a personal proposition to be believed? Might an impotent, mere historical faith look like: I believe that Jesus (true evangelical doctrine) died for sinners. Whereas personal, saving faith incorporates: He died for *me*.

    I must say that when one struggles with assurance I don’t so much encourage them to trust more but rather to believe all the gospel contemplates: God is holy and just; we are sinful; God is merciful; He has provided a substitute, etc. Usually when I hear people speaking of trust, either they sound as though they are speaking of belief in the personal sense or else they are speaking as though faith entails a work. I only hear the former here, which makes me wonder whether “trust” is agreed upon virtue of the personal proposition that moves justifying faith beyond the mere assent to the historical work of the cross. In other words, the third un-agreed upon element of faith seems to entail truly believing an additional proposition that makes the gospel personal and not strictly historical.

  37. Alan D. Strange said,

    May 29, 2014 at 10:27 pm

    I’m not willing, Ron, to concede that the third element is un-agreed upon if we are speaking in terms of the historic Reformed (if not to say Protestant) faith. It may be disputed by a handful, but not by those who profess the historic Reformed faith. We believe biblically, confessionally, and theologically that what is called “receiving and resting upon Christ” is that which is also described by “trusting in Him.”

    In all cases, we are applying metaphorical language. The new birth is a metaphor. “Coming to Christ” is a metaphor. It’s all descriptive of a spiritual reality (trust in Christ) that is difficult to describe but it’s more than simply, as you rightly put it, “mere assent to the historical work of the cross.” It is an appropriating of that work personally so that one not only believes in the historical redemption accomplished but also that this work is for me and I cast myself wholly and unreservedly upon Him as my only hope of salvation.

    The important thing here is that we recognize that we are talking about something beyond assent to a proposition that Christ died for sinners to the affirmation that Christ is my only hope and I trust Him and Him alone. I agree that it is hard to put this last part into words, but that is what Scripture does in so much of the language that it uses (“eats and drinks of me:” hard to explain precisely what it means but those who have done it understand it and understand that, though imperfect, “trust” seems to capture this personal element that is additional to propositional assent).

  38. Roger said,

    May 30, 2014 at 3:31 am

    37. It is an appropriating of that work personally so that one not only believes in the historical redemption accomplished but also that this work is for me and I cast myself wholly and unreservedly upon Him as my only hope of salvation.

    Alan, isn’t that precisely the distinction that Sean has been making, and with which you supposedly disagree?

    “Belief is an assent to an understood proposition and saving belief is an assent not only to the promise of the gospel, i.e., forgiveness of sin, eternal bliss in heaven, etc., but also belief in Christ alone and his righteousness imputed to us as the means by which the promise may be received.”

    The important thing here is that we recognize that we are talking about something beyond assent to a proposition that Christ died for sinners to the affirmation that Christ is my only hope and I trust Him and Him alone.

    What’s the significant difference between the “affirmation” that Christ is my only hope and I trust Him and Him alone for my justification, and “assent to the proposition” that Christ is my only hope and I trust Him and Him alone for my justification? I fail to see it. No one is arguing that mere assent to the proposition “that Christ died for sinners” in general saves anyone. Even lost Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that!

    I agree that it is hard to put this last part into words, but that is what Scripture does in so much of the language that it uses (“eats and drinks of me:” hard to explain precisely what it means but those who have done it understand it and understand that, though imperfect, “trust” seems to capture this personal element that is additional to propositional assent.

    It’s only “hard to put this last part into words” if you fail to recognize that “believing” or “trusting” in Christ is synonymous with “assenting” to the proposition “that Christ is my only hope and I trust Him and Him alone” for my justification in God’s sight.

  39. Denson Dube said,

    May 30, 2014 at 7:29 am

    Dr Strange,
    I agree that ” …we are applying metaphorical language…”. But I have to disagree when you say this is because “It’s all descriptive of a spiritual reality that is difficult to describe”. That is a strange use of language. Metaphors are of no help if what is being described is not known, for then, they are metaphors of “we know not what”. It is when we know the literal truth that we are able to identify metaphors as such. “Trust in Christ” refers to the bundle of gospel propositions understood and believed. Jesus used, “believe me”, “believe my words”, etc etc. That is what “trust in Christ” is. ” .. a spiritual reality that is difficult to describe” is pseudo-pious bunk. Whatever happened to the reformed perspicuity of scripture?

  40. Alan D. Strange said,

    May 30, 2014 at 8:44 am

    I am not the one departing from the historic Reformed definition of “faith” (which I believe to be biblical) and will not have the tables thus turned in this way, Roger. Sean and I are not in agreement as he consistently wishes to reduce the faith to assent (belief) and then charge the rest of us in the Reformed world with opening the door for FV by our affirmation of fiducia.

    I would argue that, in fact, this intellectualized faith is the sort of thing that sometimes inspires a counter-reaction that lands in FV and Rome. Even as WLC 72 makes it clear that more than assent is involved in saving faith, WLC 73 (over against FV, about which I’ve written and spoken extensively) makes it clear that faith is the sole instrument in our justification and not faith and its concomitants or faith and its fruits. These two questions taken together cure all “faith reduced to assent” and “faith beefed up to include accompanying graces and fruits” errors and teach us both the true nature of justifying faith (which includes “receiving and resting”) and excludes all other graces and good works.

    We need to embrace the full biblical witness here (just as we need to respecting the person of Christ, falling into neither Nestorianism nor monophysitism) as to what faith is: it is not merely assent and it is not something that contains within its essential operation something other than whole-hearted trust in Christ This is the Reformational witness and I stand joyfully and entirely on it and with it.

  41. Ron said,

    May 30, 2014 at 9:26 am

    Hi Alan,

    I don’t believe you disagreed with what I wrote. Which is to say, I *trust* you didn’t. :)

    I would say that this un-agreed element of trust is actually agreed upon if “belief alone” entails believing God’s promise in Christ as it pertains to the believer personally. It seems to me that assent typically refers to the non-personal things that must be believed whereas trust is typically indexed to the personal things that must be believed. So, what you referred to on the Puritan Board in April regarding an historical faith seems to transition into personal, saving faith once one adds to that historical belief “Christ died for me personally.”

    So, I think herein lies the problem. We don’t typically refer to believing the non-historical, personal proposition “Christ died for me” as mere assent, hence the possible jealousy for the word “trust.” But surely, if assent implies truly believing then that which must be assented to for justification to obtain must include those things that make the historical personal. Conversely, if assent doesn’t imply truly believing then those who merely assent to the historical better believe those things too! With Roger, when I truly believe a testimony don’t I trust it is true? The only question I would have is whether assent means believe. If it does, then what does it mean for me truly to believe without trusting that which I believe?

    I can’t spend much more time on this as I’m away on vacation.

    Reed, if you’re reading along, I thought the DeYoung book was tremendous. One small disagreement though at the bottom of pages 73 and 74.

  42. Sean Gerety said,

    May 30, 2014 at 11:55 am

    In other words, saving faith is not only propositional but personal. Both must be present for true saving faith and that is what the language additional to “not only assenteth” intends to signify. This is the view of all the Reformers of the 16th and 17th centuries. None of them held to an “assent alone” position, but all believed that saving faith involves trusting Christ alone, resting in who He was and what He did for us, in the totality of His person.

    Again, completely apart from how the Reformed have historically understood faith, the fact remains that the Confessional distinction being drawn in WLC 72 is doctrinal not psychological. The distinction is not “assent plus,” but what it is that is being assented to (i.e, it’s not enough just to believe A, one must also believe B too in order to be saved).

    In addition, I don’t deny that the Reformed have historically and traditionally held to a threefold definition. My point is that the traditional position is incoherent and adds a level of ambiguity to the definition of faith which has allowed heretics like Leithart, Wilson and Jordan to drive a truck through. Dr. Strange’s defense of the traditional definition should be evidence enough, particularly when he writes:

    The important thing here is that we recognize that we are talking about something beyond assent to a proposition that Christ died for sinners to the affirmation that Christ is my only hope and I trust Him and Him alone. *I agree that it is hard to put this last part into words,* but that is what Scripture does in so much of the language that it uses (“eats and drinks of me:” hard to explain precisely what it means but those who have done it understand it and understand that, though imperfect, “trust” seems to capture this personal element that is additional to propositional assent).

    Notice, Dr. Strange says the “important thing is that we recognize that we are talking about something beyond assent to a proposition,” but he doesn’t say what this “important thing” is! He admits that the addition of “trust” is “imperfect,” but doesn’t seem to realize that it is just a synonym for belief (as Ron and Roger have pointed out repeatedly above). Even more damning, and as Gordon Clark pointed out years ago, fiducia comes from the same root as fides “Hence this popular analysis reduces to the obviously absurd definition that faith consists of understanding, assent, and faith. “

    Beyond that, and as should be obvious, the proposition “Christ died for sinners” and “Christ is my only hope and I trust Him and Him alone” are two different propositions. There is nothing beyond assent, only different propositions that someone may or may not assent to. Any definition that cannot be expressed in literal language conveys no precise meaning, which is precisely my point. Figures of speech are easily misunderstood and in many cases seriously abused. (I do find it alarming that Dr. Strange finds figures like “eats and drinks of me” hard to explain precisely. Has he never had to defend and explain such figures of speech against the claims of Lutherans and Romanists?)

    We can examine all the relevant biblical passages, and that has been done in a variety of places, but I don’t think that this blog countenances something contrary both to the Reformed Confessions and to the Reformed theologians down to this day.

    This is a red herring. As already demonstrated there is nothing in the Confession that logically requires much less mandates assent to the threefold definition of faith which Dr. Strange admits cannot be explained precisely, defined in literal language, and is something he admits is “imperfect.” What Dr. Strange cannot grasp is that this imperfection has become a dangerous weakness which has been evidenced in spades in the sorry battle against the FV.

    Besides, it should be clear from the verses already adduced by Roger above, there is nothing in Scripture that supports Dr. Strange’s peculiar and unaccounted for separation of faith and belief. These words are used completely interchangeably in Scripture, regardless of the translation, which makes sense since there is only pistis and its verb form pisteuoo in the Greek. But, while the Latin “faith” is generally preferred only because Latin was the language of “the church,” it is not very useful in English or in Latin since it lacks a verb form.

    I recommend anyone interested in clearly and precisely understanding the difference between faith and saving faith read Clark’s volume What Is Saving Faith (currently on sale for about $5).

    While I admit that Vantillians and Clarkians have very important and even insurmountable differences, this should not be one of them.

  43. Andrew Duggan said,

    May 30, 2014 at 11:57 am

    I think that some are still missing the essential personal aspect here. It’s receiving and resting in Christ as a person that is necessary. It’s not about the proposition Christ died for me personal, but the receiving and resting (trusting) in the person of Christ personal. Its a personal relationship kind of trust. This is not sourced in the believer, but is the gift of God, and not of works. It has to be the kind of faith that makes us sing with the Psalmist in Psalm 73, “Whom have I in heaven but thee, none else on earth I long to know.”

  44. Roger said,

    May 30, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    39. I am not the one departing from the historic Reformed definition of “faith” (which I believe to be biblical) and will not have the tables thus turned in this way, Roger. Sean and I are not in agreement as he consistently wishes to reduce the faith to assent (belief)…

    So you’re “not in agreement” with Sean’s statement that “belief in Christ alone and his righteousness imputed to us” is sufficient for our justification before God? In what sense is that different from “trusting” or “receiving and resting upon Christ” in your view?

    While you’re at it, perhaps you can address the several pointed questions that I asked in my earlier post that have so far gone unanswered:

    What’s the significant difference between “accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification” and “believing in Christ alone for justification” or “assenting to the promise of justification in Christ alone for justification?”

    If I truly “believe” that I’m justified solely on the basis of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, am I not saved?

    If I genuinely “assent” to the promise of Scripture that I’m justified solely on the basis of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, am I not saved?

    Aren’t all of these terms merely synonyms for “trusting” in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection for one’s justification before God?

    With all due respect, merely repeating that justifying faith includes “receiving and resting” upon Christ hardly answers those questions.

  45. Roger said,

    May 31, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    43. I think that some are still missing the essential personal aspect here. It’s receiving and resting in Christ as a person that is necessary. It’s not about the proposition Christ died for me personal, but the receiving and resting (trusting) in the person of Christ personal. Its a personal relationship kind of trust.

    Andrew, how does one go about “receiving and resting (trusting) in the person of Christ” if not by genuinely “believing” what is said about Him in Scripture? There is no other way, period. Scripture makes it quite clear that “receiving,” “believing,” “trusting,” and “coming” to Jesus are synonymous terms for truly assenting to the salvific propositional truths that it teaches about Him:

    “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name…” (John 1:12)

    “Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things [i.e., salvific propositional truths] that you may be saved… And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. I do not receive honor from men. But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God? Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (John 5:34-47)

    “For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them, but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest…” (Hebrews 4:2-3)

    Belief of the gospel – the truth about Christ and His meritorious work on our behalf – nothing more and nothing less, is what separates the saved from the damned.

    “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16-17)

  46. Alan D. Strange said,

    May 31, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    And simply repeating that every word that can be applied to “faith” is necessarily a synonym for an intellectual activity rather than highligthing in the multiplicity of verbs (“come,” “receive,” “rest,” “trust”) a non-intellectual aspect to faith is unconvincing.

    Why do you insist that faith is a purely intellectual exercise in assent and not also something that the Reformers sought to capture with “trust,” a reliance and dependence upon the person of Christ himself (believing and resting in Him, not simply something about HIm), as Br. Duggan has rightly pointed out?

    Part of the issue here is that there are those who profess to believe in Him, even confessing orthodoxy, whose fruit betrays that confession. This means that their faith is purely theoretical speculative knowledge, as one said, and not true trust in the person of Christ, which is always accompanied by other graces and the fruit of good works (WLC 73). WLC 72 is clear that assent alone is insufficient. Is there something frightening about the Reformed insistence that justifying faith is more than an intellectual exercise? Again, this is not merely my contention but that of the historic Reformed faith.

  47. Mark B said,

    May 31, 2014 at 10:32 pm

    As a more general observation, I have to echo Dr Strange’s sentiment a bit here. While defending Justification by Faith Alone is essential, a good part of the NT epistles are calls to Christians to increase in sanctification; some of the accusations/assumptions floating around on the web during this little dustup over sanctification with TGC are unwarranted. A solid Biblical, Reformed exposition of Sanctification should not draw immediate accusations/assumptions of legalism or works righteousness, etcetera.

  48. Sean Gerety said,

    June 1, 2014 at 11:07 am

    And simply repeating that every word that can be applied to “faith” is necessarily a synonym for an intellectual activity rather than highligthing in the multiplicity of verbs (“come,” “receive,” “rest,” “trust”) a non-intellectual aspect to faith is unconvincing.

    You beg the question Alan. If you think there is something “non-intellectual” about saving belief it is you who needs to demonstrate what that “non-intellectual” thing is.

    Instead Roger adduces multiple passages of Scripture that use belief, receive and rest interchangeably. You think the figures “receive” and “rest” mean something more, but you are clearly at a loss to explain what that is. The only thing you can do is repeatedly assert yours is the historic and traditional Reformed position. OK. So what? What you need to show is how the historic and traditional Reformed position is also true.

    Until you do that, the question remains: How can the central doctrine of the faith, even justification by belief alone (a biblical phrase you even reject), be successfully defended against the FV dogs when people like you have no idea what faith and saving faith entails? In fact, JBFA hasn’t been defended at all and the FV men have all be exonerated by their presbyteries and the GA by its silence and refusal to act. Everyone of these men who openly deny the very heart of the gospel remain pastors in good standing, even Peter Leithart who continues to thumb his nose at the PCA with impunity.

    Instead of any argument attempting to prove your position even from Scripture, you just rest on Reformed tradition as if it too were an
    infallible source of knowledge and truth. Not very Protestant.

    Why do you insist that faith is a purely intellectual exercise in assent and not also something that the Reformers sought to capture with “trust,” a reliance and dependence upon the person of Christ himself (believing and resting in Him, not simply something about HIm), as Br. Duggan has rightly pointed out?

    I can’t speak for Roger, but I will say that according to Scripture belief is all there is. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved–you and your household.” Nothing more is needed. The Reformers may have sought to capture your mysterious something more with “trust,” but like you they failed because trust and belief are synonyms and using the Latin fiducia may tickle some uncritical ears, but it adds precisely *nothing* to explain what faith is.

    The fact is, when it comes to an understanding of faith and saving faith most Reformed pastors have failed miserably and, almost to a man, have fallen into the trap of speaking utter nonsense. An example of this is the story of the chair. Over the years I’ve heard more than one Reformed pastor use the tired illustration that faith is like believing that a chair will hold your weight, but saving faith is when you actually sit in it.

    Gordon Clark in his brilliant study of John’s prologue, The Johannine Logos, provides another illustration about a bank:

    Preachers often use an illustration such as this: You may believe that a bank is sound by having read its financial statement, but you do not and cannot trust it until you deposit your money there. Making the deposit is faith. So, these preachers conclude, belief in Christ is not enough, no matter how much you read the Bible and believe that it is true. In addition to believing you must also trust Christ. That is [saving] faith.

    Of course, Clark doesn’t rest there, instead he strips away the layers of error surrounding all these typical but misleading descriptions of saving faith:

    The psychological illusion arises from the fact that the two cases are not parallel. In the case of the bank, there is the factor of depositing money. I have some dollar bills to be deposited: I go and deposit them in Bank X and not in Bank Y. Therefore I trust Bank X and not trust Bank Y. But such is not the case. The reason I deposit money in this bank and not another is simply that my financial condition is far from warranting two bank accounts. I believe that Bank Y is quite as sound as Bank X. Both have competent administrators . . . I choose Bank X, not because I trust it more, but simply because it is nearer my home. This is a matter of convenience – not faith. What is more, in the bank illustration there is a physical factor – depositing bills or checks; whereas in saving faith there is no such factor. Thus arises the illusion. Those who use such illustrations import into a spiritual situation something, a physical motion, that cannot be imported into it. There is nothing in the spiritual situation analogous to depositing the currency. There is believing only: nothing but the internal mental act itself. To suppose that there is, is both a materialistic confusion and an inadmissible alteration of the Scriptural requirement.

    I understand your dislike, if not hatred, of all things Clark, but you really need to do yourself a favor and put your prejudice aside and listen to him here. He really was an incredible blessing to the church, it’s just a shame that more people don’t seem to know it.

    Part of the issue here is that there are those who profess to believe in Him, even confessing orthodoxy, whose fruit betrays that confession. This means that their faith is purely theoretical speculative knowledge, as one said, and not true trust in the person of Christ, which is always accompanied by other graces and the fruit of good works (WLC 73). WLC 72 is clear that assent alone is insufficient.

    First, as already demonstrated, WLC 72 doesn’t support your position nor does it require assent to a threefold definition of faith . Second, while no one denies the reality of hypocrites who profess to believe but who really do not, WLC 73 is the explicit denial that there is anything else besides belief alone in Christ alone that is necessary to make belief saving or that completes faith, much less the fruit of faith. “Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces which do always accompany it, or of good works that are the fruits of it, nor as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for his justification; but only as it is an instrument by which he receives and applies Christ and his righteousness.” Notice too, that even the act of believing (the grace of faith) doesn’t justify a sinner, but is the instrument by which the sinner “receives and applies Christ and his righteousness” by which we are saved. There’s that word receives again and it should be clear to everyone that there is nothing else beyond belief. Belief alone is the alone instrument by which Christ’s alien righteousness is imputed to us and by which we are justified.

    You say something more that is needed, but you have yet to explain what that is! No offense, but I think that is an incredibly damning indictment of your position.

    Is there something frightening about the Reformed insistence that justifying faith is more than an intellectual exercise?

    It’s not frightening at all and prior to the rise of the FV I think this all would have been an interesting if not secondary debate. The fact is the Reformed tradition was wrong to add some nebulous and undefined third element that is believed to complete faith or make it saving. At best fiducia adds an unnecessary level of ambiguity to our understanding of what faith is; at worst it has allowed the FV men to assert JBFA while categorically denying it leaving otherwise good Reformed men impotent when it comes to even clearly identify where the heart of the FV error lies.

    Again, this is not merely my contention but that of the historic Reformed faith.

    Time to correct tradition.

  49. Sean Gerety said,

    June 1, 2014 at 11:09 am

    Sorry, I didn’t correctly close one of my blockquotes above.

  50. Andrew Duggan said,

    June 1, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    Sean, That you take exception to WLC 72 seems to be well established at this point. However it is entirely dishonest to claim to be “reformed” if you do take exception to WLC 72. WLC 72 is “What is justifying faith?” not “What is justifying ‘belief’”. Those non intellectual aspects of faith are laid out pretty clearly in WLC 72. However, attempting to redefine the terms in a way that destroys the meaning of those words does you no more good that it does the FV guys. The catechism’s own words say that “not only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel“.

    If assent is all that one can produce then he doesn’t, per WLC 72, possess justifying faith. It’s that simple. That’s what WLC 72 teaches. There is no other honest way to understand “not only assenteth…”.

    The scriptures rightly say “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” or as the NASB has it “believe in the Lord Jesus…” The trouble is you redefine on/in to mean “about”. If you believe in the Lord Jesus you will be saved, but as WLC 72 clearly states if you only believe “about” the Lord Jesus, even if everything you believe “about” is right, you still don’t possess justifying faith.

    One must believe in/on the person of Jesus Christ, not just propositions about him. Jesus Christ is not a proposition! He is the one person of God the Son, and a full and complete man with body and soul in two distinct natures, but one real person. He is Christ the LORD. It’s the personal trust in the person of Christ that is essential here. As WLC 72 teaches, “about” just doesn’t cut it.

  51. Alan D. Strange said,

    June 1, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    There are a plethora of Scriptures that suggest that justifying faith is more than assent alone. That I’ve chosen simply to stand on the Westminnster Standards and the historic Reformed faith is indeed true: I seek to make the point that to depart from that is to depart from the Reformation. I would never dream to suggest, Sean, that you don’t think that Scripture supports your position. I simply have chosen not to argue Scripture but to point out that you depart from the Westminster Standards and the historic Reformed faith.

    You are the one–no one else–pushing your point by insisting on reducing JBFA to JBBA. You are the one who is provocative and singular in insisting on this idiosyncratic formula. No Reformer, not a single one, would agree with that, because not a single one would reduce faith to belief. WLC 72 one more time: “Q. 72. What is justifying faith? A. Justifying faith is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and Word of God, whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself and all other creatures to recover him out of his lost condition, not only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receiveth and resteth upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.”

    Justifying faith does indeed involve “assenting to the truth” i.e., belief in a proposition, namely, the promise of the gospel to save all that believe (pointedly in the saving work of Christ). The Catechism is quite clear that it involves “not only” this, however, but also involves receiving and resting upon the person of Christ. It is quite clear in studying the language of the catechism here that the divines use the the standard language of the time to indicate something more than merely assent; they employ language that would indicate “trust.”

    I am willing to not be a stickler and insist on the word “trust” because the catechism does not use that word. But to try to turn the catechism on its head and say that when it says “not only assents” to the promise of the gospel but receives and rests upon Christ that it means “not only believes…but believes” as if the second thing being said is synonymous with the first; this is an untenable way of reading a confessional document. Unlike the Scriptures, which may contain many synonyms, the Standards are a human-formulated document seeking doctrinal precision in expression. It makes no sense to argue that what the Catechism is saying there simply means “belief” when the Catechism is at obvious pains to say that what comprises justifying faith is something more than merely belief: not something less, but something more.

    What is that more? It is receiving and resting upon Christ. That is something more than merely assenting to the truth of the gospel. Now you fault me for not being able to say what it is. Here is what it is (and I’ve said this several times): It’s not just believing in the truth, it’s a personal coming to, leaning upon, receiving and resting upon Christ. There’s your definition. It’s not a work. It’s not an accompanying grace (WLC 73). It’s what it means to believe in and on Christ and to give oneself wholeheartedly to Him. This is not irrational. This is not undescribable. (It is, as is all divine truth, incomprehensible, known as the creature knows and not as the Creator knows.) I call upon all here to witness its truth and to affirm that justifying faith is more than mere belief. It’s receiving and resting upon Christ as one’s only hope and life.

    You can paint this as irrational if you will but you are simply painting WLC 72 that way, because it cannot bear the construction that you put upon it. “Not only assenteth” ends up in your hands as “only assenteth.” You disagree with the Westminster divines. I do not.

  52. Alan D. Strange said,

    June 1, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    I started my comment above and got interrputed, so I did not see Andrew’s until just now. I agree entirely with what he is saying.

  53. Sean Gerety said,

    June 1, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    Sean, That you take exception to WLC 72 seems to be well established at this point. However it is entirely dishonest to claim to be “reformed” if you do take exception to WLC 72.

    Andrew, I’m not sure what thread you think you’re following, but I have taken no exception to WLC 72 in the slightest.

    If assent is all that one can produce then he doesn’t, per WLC 72, possess justifying faith. It’s that simple. That’s what WLC 72 teaches. There is no other honest way to understand “not only assenteth…”.

    Again, how many times do I need to explain WLC 72. I completely agree that assent to the promise of the gospel is not enough to save anyone. In order to be saved one must also believe in Christ and his righteousness for the pardon of sin and as the means by which we are accounted as righteous in the sight of God for salvation. As I’ve said probably a dozen times already, the distinction the Confession is drawing is not psychological as you and Dr. Strange suppose, but doctrinal. Not sure why this is hard for you to understand, but I do understand why some would try to crudely impose the traditional threefold definition of faith on the Confession as it has no support either linguistically, logically, or biblically. The best you or anyone can say is that it is “tradition,” but I haven’t denied that either.

    The scriptures rightly say “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” or as the NASB has it “believe in the Lord Jesus…” The trouble is you redefine on/in to mean “about”.

    I haven’t done anything of the sort Andrew. Many people believe many things about Jesus Christ and many things that are true yet are still lost. In order to be saved one must believe in Jesus Christ alone and his righteousness imputed to us as the means by which we are justified before God. Above and after repeated questioning by Roger Dr. Strange seems to deny this. Do you deny this too Andrew?

  54. Sean Gerety said,

    June 1, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    Sean, That you take exception to WLC 72 seems to be well established at this point. However it is entirely dishonest to claim to be “reformed” if you do take exception to WLC 72.

    Andrew, I’m not sure what thread you think you’re following, but I have taken no exception to WLC 72 in the slightest.

    If assent is all that one can produce then he doesn’t, per WLC 72, possess justifying faith. It’s that simple. That’s what WLC 72 teaches. There is no other honest way to understand “not only assenteth…”.

    Again, how many times do I need to explain WLC 72. I completely agree that assent to the promise of the gospel is not enough to save anyone. In order to be saved one must also believe in Christ and his righteousness for the pardon of sin and as the means by which we are accounted as righteous in the sight of God for salvation. As I’ve said probably a dozen times already, the distinction the Confession is drawing is not psychological as you and Dr. Strange suppose, but doctrinal. Not sure why this is hard for you to understand, but I do understand why some would try to crudely impose the traditional threefold definition of faith on the Confession as it has no support either linguistically, logically, or biblically. The best you or anyone can say is that it is “tradition,” but I haven’t denied that either.

    The scriptures rightly say “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” or as the NASB has it “believe in the Lord Jesus…” The trouble is you redefine on/in to mean “about”.

    I haven’t done anything of the sort Andrew. Many people believe many things about Jesus Christ and many things that are true yet are still lost. In order to be saved one must believe in Jesus Christ alone and his righteousness imputed to us as the means by which we are justified before God. Above and after repeated questioning by Roger Dr. Strange seems to deny this. Do you deny this too Andrew?

  55. Alan D. Strange said,

    June 1, 2014 at 10:31 pm

    Of course, I believe that in order to be saved one must believe in the truth of the promise of the gospel (that Christ alone saves) and one must actually receive and rest upon Christ and His righteousness (trust in Christ alone as my Savior and only hope before a righteous God).

    You say that I seem to deny something, but it is you, Sean, who have denied the second element. I do not deny what WLC 72 teaches. I affirm what it teaches and affirm that we are justified by Christ alone through the instrument of faith alone.

  56. Ron said,

    June 2, 2014 at 2:25 am

    It’s not just believing in the truth, it’s a personal coming to, leaning upon, receiving and resting upon Christ. There’s your definition. It’s not a work. It’s not an accompanying grace (WLC 73). It’s what it means to believe in and on Christ and to give oneself wholeheartedly to Him.

    Alan,

    I have no issues with your formulations. I am quite comfortable with them. That being said, I still must wonder whether you and Sean are talking past each other with respect to doctrine. (I am not talking about how that doctrine is best formulated and put forth, or even how it was put forth by the Divines, but rather what the doctrine essentially entails.)

    In your quote above you note that saving faith is not just believing but also coming to, leaning upon, etc. In that sense you seem to distinguish believing from resting upon Christ, etc. In other words, the totality of saving faith entails believing plus resting, etc. However, you then close that section by saying that resting upon Christ, etc. is “what it means to believe,” which would seem to suggest either that leaning and resting upon Christ is to be included in how we are to define belief, which I think is Sean’s point.

    I have other issues with defining faith as belief, as I note here. Notwithstanding, aside from those I still don’t see how you and Sean are that far apart with respect to faith in this present context given what you wrote above.

  57. Ron said,

    June 2, 2014 at 2:28 am

    It’s not just believing in the truth, it’s a personal coming to, leaning upon, receiving and resting upon Christ. There’s your definition. It’s not a work. It’s not an accompanying grace (WLC 73). It’s what it means to believe in and on Christ and to give oneself wholeheartedly to Him.

    Alan,

    I have no issues with your formulations. I am quite comfortable with them. That being said, I still must wonder whether you and Sean are talking past each other with respect to doctrine. (I am not talking about how that doctrine is best formulated and put forth, or even how it was put forth by the Divines, but rather what the doctrine essentially entails.)

    In your quote above you note that saving faith is not just believing but also coming to, leaning upon, etc. In that sense you seem to distinguish believing from resting upon Christ, etc. In other words, the totality of saving faith entails believing plus resting, etc. However, you then close that section by saying that resting upon Christ, etc. is “what it means to believe,” which would seem to suggest that leaning and resting upon Christ is to be included in how we are to define belief, which I think is Sean’s point.

    I have other issues with defining faith as belief, as I note here. Notwithstanding, aside from those I still don’t see how you and Sean are that far apart with respect to faith in this present context given what you wrote above.

  58. Denson Dube said,

    June 2, 2014 at 4:09 am

    Ron/Alan,
    The New Testament was written in Greek. The word “pistis” is/was translated to Latin, “Fides”, from which “Faith” is derived.

    “Fides is a Latin word encompassing the concepts of honesty, uprightness, and trustworthiness. Fides is also a Roman personification of good faith, with a temple on the Capitoline. As a legal term, fides refers to honoring the terms of the agreement.”

    “pistis”(~ 300 times in the NT) is “belief” and is translated “faith”. It has a verb “pistou”(~ 350 times in the NT), which is “believe”. Faith has no verb form as Sean has already pointed out. The Bible says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved”. Jesus said, “He that believes has eternal life”. Jn. 6:29 reads, “This is the work of God, That you believe on Him Whom He hath sent”. “You do not believe because you are not my sheep”
    If Jesus was not reformed, so be it.

    Article 21 of the 39 Articles of the Church of England titled, “Of the Authority of General Councils”
    “….they may err, and sometimes have erred, even in things pertaining unto God. Wherefore things ordained by them as necessary to salvation have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be declared(proved) that they be taken out of holy Scripture.”

    Chapter 31 paragraph 4 of the Westminster Confession of Faith titled Of Synods and Councils.
    “All synods or councils, since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred. Therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith, or practice; but to be used as a help in both.”

  59. Denson Dube said,

    June 2, 2014 at 5:35 am

    If I may add, the Latin ‘Fides’ in its original common usage is not what the NT means by “pistis” and so the translation “faith” is not accurate. It should be “belief”. No wonder this has become a treasure trove for those who take pride in confusion and obscurantism.

    http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/lawgovernmentpolitic1/g/113010-fides.htm

    and http://www.csun.edu/~hcfll004/fides.html

  60. Roger said,

    June 2, 2014 at 8:09 am

    46. And simply repeating that every word that can be applied to “faith” is necessarily a synonym for an intellectual activity rather than highligthing in the multiplicity of verbs (“come,” “receive,” “rest,” “trust”) a non-intellectual aspect to faith is unconvincing.

    Alan, I’ve cited numerous verses that use terms such as “coming,” “receiving,” “resting,” and “trusting” in Christ interchangeably with “believing” in Christ. So far you’ve cited zero scriptures to support your unsubstantiated claim that they represent some sort of “non-intellectual aspect to faith” – whatever that means, since faith itself is a purely mental act.

    Why do you insist that faith is a purely intellectual exercise in assent and not also something that the Reformers sought to capture with “trust,” a reliance and dependence upon the person of Christ himself (believing and resting in Him, not simply something about Him), as Dr. Duggan has rightly pointed out?

    Because Scripture doesn’t make this type of artificial distinction between believing “in Christ” and merely believing “something about Christ” that you are trying to make. We believe (or trust or rest) in Christ by believing the salvific truths revealed about Him in Scripture (i.e., the gospel):

    “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you – unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures…” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)

    If we truly believe God’s testimony about the saving work of His Son on our behalf, then we are justified and declared righteous in His sight:

    “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes [i.e., the gospel], for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it [i.e., the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16-17)

    “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” (Romans 10:9-11)

    Part of the issue here is that there are those who profess to believe in Him, even confessing orthodoxy, whose fruit betrays that confession. This means that their faith is purely theoretical speculative knowledge, as one said, and not true trust in the person of Christ, which is always accompanied by other graces and the fruit of good works (WLC 73).

    No, it simply means that they’re hypocrites who don’t truly believe the gospel that they outwardly profess to believe. I’ve met all kinds of people who claim to believe the gospel, but when pressed on specifics reveal an utter hatred for the true gospel of Christ. It wasn’t that they were missing some “hard to explain” psychological element in addition to simple belief alone, but that they believed a false gospel that can’t save (e.g., the Judaizers in Galatia).

    Is there something frightening about the Reformed insistence that justifying faith is more than an intellectual exercise?

    No, but I believe that the insistence that justifying faith “is more than” simple belief in Christ and His work of redemption on our behalf is unbiblical and destructive of the gospel for the reasons I just gave.

  61. Ron said,

    June 2, 2014 at 8:57 am

    Denson,

    Not sure why you addressed me given that it seems to me that one of two things is occurring, both of which are semantic in nature.

    As I pointed out in my previous post, Alan is saying one of two things. Either faith includes belief plus resting (which is to distinguish faith from resting), or else bound up in the definition of belief is not just assent but resting, etc. too. If the former, which is what Alan more consistently has maintained, then Sean and he could very well agree over what is necessary for faith to obtain and are parsing it out differently with respect to how encompassing belief is. (This need not be a redundancy or tautological on Alan’s part as long as he subtracts resting from Sean’s definition of belief while also leaving at least one other component as an attribute of belief that can be distinguished from resting. Sean might be waiting for that clarification). If the latter, then they still would agree on what is necessary for faith to obtain, but in this (latter) case Alan’s tagging of belief would be very much like Sean’s. So much so, It was somewhat surprising to me when Alan indexed resting, trusting, etc. to belief.

  62. Sean Gerety said,

    June 2, 2014 at 10:19 am

    (This need not be a redundancy or tautological on Alan’s part as long as he subtracts resting from Sean’s definition of belief while also leaving at least one other component as an attribute of belief that can be distinguished from resting. Sean might be waiting for that clarification).

    That’s just it Ron, Alan has nothing and admits that the addition of “trust” as the sine-qua-non of saving faith is “imperfect” and is something that defies definition. Alan says he’s not even a stickler for “trust,” but does that mean he’s not a stickler for “fiducia” too? Alan is reduced to meaningless figures of speech that can be bent and shaped in every direction (see the FV). Alan can’t distinguish belief from receiving and resting for the simple fact that the latter is a figure of speech describing the former. He can only assert while claiming history is on his side that “justifying faith is something more than merely belief: not something less, but something more.” He never explains exactly what in addition to belief alone is necessary in order for a sinner to be saved.

    Then, when pressed, he asserts:

    What is that more? It is receiving and resting upon Christ. That is something more than merely assenting to the truth of the gospel. Now you fault me for not being able to say what it is.

    Think about this Ron. When asked to explain what this additional element is Alan’s only response is to repeat the same figure of speech he has been asked to define. Further, according to Alan someone can believe the Gospel, believe that Christ alone died for his sins and is his only righteousness, and still be lost. As Denson points out the Scriptures say “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved” and Jesus said, “He that believes has eternal life”. Alan Strange says this isn’t enough and “justifying faith is something more than merely belief.”

    Frankly, this is scandalous (a word I don’t use often). Here we have a situation where they key term in the doctrine on which the church stands or falls cannot be clearly defined so as to be unambiguously understood. No wonder Leithart, Wilson, Meyers, Wilkins (remember him), and the other FV men have kept TRs (the only ones who even cared about the FV insurgency or the gospel) chasing their tails all these many years. Even worse, here we have a pastor and professor openly contradicting the words of Lord Jesus Christ. He rejects justification by belief alone and insists that belief alone is not enough, yet he’s at a loss to clearly explain what more is needed in order for a sinner to be saved. I think you’d agree Ron this is a gaping hole that needs to be filled.

    Gordon Clark exposed this sad situation and dangerous weakness in the foundation of the historic Reformed faith and proposed a simple solution to plug this hole. But, because it was a position first advanced by Gordon Clark, being a pastor in the OPC Dr. Strange with knee-jerk predictability rejects Clark’s solution out of hand along with justification by belief alone.

  63. Denson Dube said,

    June 2, 2014 at 10:49 am

    Ron,
    Pardon me for picking on you, but you provided a link which I went to. I thought the article is not an example of lucidity, but a sad demonstration of the unnecessary confusion caused by the mis-translation of pistis into Latin(fides — wrong word) then an English derivative of the Latin(faith). Then faith is said to be different from belief. The new testament has some where up to 300 instances of pistis. If so, the few cases of “drinking”, “eating”, “resting” “new birth” etc are metaphors of pistis. They are not something in addition to pistis.

  64. Ron said,

    June 2, 2014 at 11:22 am

    Denson,

    You’re not picking at me at all.You’re picking on a straw man as the post is not addressing your point. What I linked you too was a post that demonstrates how faith is distinguished from belief in the Confession – “by this faith one believes…” But If faith and belief are synonyms in chapter 14, which is not a Latin text, then we’re left with “by this faith one has faith.”

    Presumably you have justifying faith, but you are not believing when you are sleeping yet you do have justifying faith while sleeping. In the like manner, you also have the grace of repentance but while your sleeping you’re not turning from sin. So, it’s not hard to understand that the Confession distinguishes faith from the “acts of faith,” which entails believing according to the gift of faith. One believes in Christ by exercising the gift of faith. That faith and belief are used interchangeably in Scripture texts does not imply that Chapter 14 of the standards does not define let alone distinguish the two. Again, if we make them to be synonyms in the Confession we end up with an unintelligible statement of doctrine.

  65. Sean Gerety said,

    June 2, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    Ron, you wrote:

    The Confession does not teach that by this faith a Christian is enabled to have faith, for that would be unintelligible. Rather, the Confession teaches that by this faith – saving faith – God enables his elect to believe.

    A much more natural reading of the Confession is to assume the Divines are using faith and belief interchangeably simply because, as previously discussed, there is no verb form for the word “faith.” That explains why they use the word “believe” to describe what saving faith consists of. They frankly don’t have any other way to explain the “grace of faith.”

    Similarly, I hardly think it would have been unintelligible if they used the phrase “the grace of belief” instead so that WCF 14:1 reads: “The grace of belief, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the word: by which also, and by the administration of the sacraments, and prayer, it is increased and strengthened.”

    Makes sense to me. :)

  66. Sean Gerety said,

    June 2, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    Ron, you wrote:

    The Confession does not teach that by this faith a Christian is enabled to have faith, for that would be unintelligible. Rather, the Confession teaches that by this faith – saving faith – God enables his elect to believe.

    A much more natural reading of the Confession is to assume the Divines are using faith and belief interchangeably simply because, as previously discussed, there is no verb form for the word “faith.” That explains why they use the word “believe” to describe what saving faith consists of. They frankly don’t have any other way to explain the “grace of faith.”

    Similarly, I hardly think it would have been unintelligible if they used the phrase “the grace of belief” instead so that WCF 14:1 reads: “The grace of belief, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the word: by which also, and by the administration of the sacraments, and prayer, it is increased and strengthened.”

    Makes sense to me. :)

  67. Andrew Duggan said,

    June 2, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    Sean,

    Your question cannot be answered as asked because it is not proper. It is based on twisting of the plain meaning of the words and teaching of the Scriptures and WLC72. Like Alan, I afirm that one must assent to the truth of the Gospel to be saved, but while necessary, it is not suffiencent. Justyfing faith requires receiving and resting on the person of Jesus Chrust. It is a shame that you have allowed your extra biblical philosphy to cloud these essential spiritual aspects of justifying faith.

    You continue subsitute “about” for in/on, even while using the terms “in/on”, and thereby reducing the gospel to nothing more than assent to propositions about Jesus Christ and his work, as apposed to actually beliving in and on him in his personal person.

  68. Ron said,

    June 2, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    Sean,

    I do believe we are at an impasse but I, also, believe I have the plain meaning of words on my side. :)

    By way of analogy, I would say that faith is to belief as mind is to understanding or knowledge. We have one gift of faith, which over time through the sanctifying process results in believing more Scriptural truth. Similarly we have one mind, which over time results in our understanding more things. In common parlance, beliefs and understanding pertain to particular things. We might have many varying beliefs and understand much, but saving faith and the faculty of reason is rationed one per person. We might say that one’s mind is expanding or that a man is growing in his faith, but what we are really saying is that the one understands more things than before, and that his particular justified true-beliefs are increasing in number. Notwithstanding, one mind and one gift of faith is all we are endowed with I would think.

    Cheers

  69. Sean Gerety said,

    June 2, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    I do believe we are at an impasse but I, also, believe I have the plain meaning of words on my side. :)

    I noticed you studiously avoided my point that there is no verb form for the word faith. That’s because the verb used in the Confession and in Scripture is believe. Consequently, I have the plain meaning of the words are on my side. :)

  70. Sean Gerety said,

    June 2, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    Like Alan, I afirm that one must assent to the truth of the Gospel to be saved, but while necessary, it is not suffiencent.

    Got it Andrew. Believing the gospel alone saves no one. It’s merely a precursor, and initial step, to I don’t know what. Consequently, Paul and Silas were clearly wrong when they told the jailer that to be saved he must “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved–you and your household.” They must have left out that important bit that neither you or Alan can express in literal language much less clearly define. Also, Jesus must have left that bit out too when he command the eleven to go into all the world and preach the gospel telling them that “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

    Really, Andrew, you need to stop falsely accusing me by trying to put words in my mouth. WCL 72 nor the Scriptures teach a threefold definition of faith, much less that faith and belief are in any sense qualitatively different. In Scripture the word that can be translated faith or belief is the same word, pistis. This isn’t a matter of “extra-biblical philosophy”; it’s a simple matter etymology and linguistics.

  71. Ron said,

    June 2, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    Sean,

    It’s hard to discern what you think you are objecting to by announcing your observation that faith has no verb form. Under closer examination I think it becomes apparent that your distinction is irrelevant to my blog post because faith is not the noun form of any particular belief that we might consider! That’s the material point, but it would seem you are missing the meat and potatoes. For instance, when you run you are doing exactly that which the noun form contemplates. We might say that the abstract occurs – or that which the noun contemplates happens.That sort of thing is not even remotely analogous to the Confession when it addresses a single abstract faith being exercised in the believing of various, individuated propositions. Surely, in chapter 14 the Confession lists specific categories of things that are to be believed (promises, threatenings, commands), which by there very nature defy being the verb form of the general noun (whether belief or faith), which doesn’t contemplate any particular proposition that is to be believed! So, again, that faith has no verb form would appear to miss the point that by this faith (singular) we believe (many things) because the noun is not contemplating any single belief in particular!

  72. Sean Gerety said,

    June 2, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear Ron. What I object to is your idea that faith is being distinguished from belief in WCF 14:1. The section is defining what the “grace of faith” is and is not distinguishing it from saving faith “whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls,” Your argument rests on the idea that saying in WCF 14:2 “by this faith a Christian is enabled to have faith” is unintelligible. The only reason it is unintelligible is that the sentence needs a verb and there is no verb for faith.

    In any case, some posts above you equated belief and faith even if you’re attempting to distinguish it here in your blog post. I’m more than happy to let it drop because I’m still trying to figure out why Alan and Andrew think that if someone believes the gospel they still might be lost even though Jesus and Paul both say the exact opposite. To me that is a much more serious problem.

  73. Ron said,

    June 2, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    Sounds good, Sean.

  74. Ron said,

    June 2, 2014 at 10:49 pm

    I should probably close by saying that your discussion with Alan pertains to what faith entails when it is exercised. Does faith exercised entail belief alone is one question. Another question is whether belief entails trust, etc. or whether trust is something that goes beyond belief.

    Although chapter 14 teaches that by faith one believes many things, it goes on to unpack what belief entails, zeroing in on that principle act of exercising faith in Christ as He is offered in the gospel. I think that natural reading of chapter 14 is clear that accepting, receiving and resting (call that set “trust”) are components of believing and not something added to the principle act of faith, which is belief in Christ.

    So, I agree with you, Sean, that trusting Christ is wrapped up in belief. In agreement, Alan does note that resting upon Christ is believing or at least essential to it. So, I hope this agreement between you both can get fleshed out a bit more.

  75. Sean Gerety said,

    June 3, 2014 at 11:03 am

    I agree Ron. As you point out Dr. Strange maintains that faith entails more than just “mere belief,” but yet seems at a loss to explain what that “more” is. He says there are “a plethora of Scriptures that suggest that justifying faith is more than assent alone,” but then fails to produce even one example. He says ”he simply have chosen not to argue Scripture.” He asserts that my use of justification by belief alone is to depart “from the Westminster Standards and the historic Reformed faith,” serious charges, but then is unable to demonstrate that the Standards require an assent to the threefold definition of faith consisting of understanding, assent and trust (notitia, assensus and fiducia for those impressed by all things Latin) or even that the Scripture define faith this way.

    In addition, Alan says:

    Unlike the Scriptures, which may contain many synonyms, the Standards are a human-formulated document seeking doctrinal precision in expression. It makes no sense to argue that what the Catechism is saying there simply means “belief” when the Catechism is at obvious pains to say that what comprises justifying faith is something more than merely belief: not something less, but something more.

    So where is his precision in explaining what this mysterious addition to belief is? Alan grants that he will “not be a stickler and insist on the word ‘trust’ because the catechism does not use that word. “ So what happened to fiducia which he previously said meant “trust”? How is this not imposing his preferred definition on the Confession? He says it’s “obvious” that the Confession writers mean more by “receive and rest,” but it’s not obvious to me and to a number of other commentators above. Alan begs the question and I think even he will admit at this point that to “receive and rest” lacks “doctrinal precision in expression.”

    Frankly, and what makes far more sense, is that like the Scriptures already adduced by Roger and others, the Confession writers were using the same figurative biblical expressions signifying belief. I think Alan might also agree that the all writers, and not just the writers of the Confession, are limited by the use of the word “faith” only because there is no corresponding verb form which requires the use of the word “believe” or maybe even figures like “receive and rest” in order to be remotely intelligible and avoid unnecessary linguistic redundancies.

    But this is where things get bizarre. Alan writes concerning the addition to belief alone in Christ alone:

    What is that more? It is receiving and resting upon Christ. That is something more than merely assenting to the truth of the gospel. Now you fault me for not being able to say what it is. Here is what it is (and I’ve said this several times): It’s not just believing in the truth, it’s a personal coming to, leaning upon, receiving and resting upon Christ.

    Here’s the big payoff. This is what I’ve been waiting for. But what do I get? Alan simply explains the figures of “receiving and resting” by using more figures of speech like “coming to” and “leaning upon” explaining nothing. Clearly no one this side of heaven can physically “come to” or “lean upon” Jesus. So what do these figures of speech mean? Receiving and resting of course. And so the merry-go-round continues.

    I have to say, this is really a deplorable situation when Reformed men, even leaders in the church, deny justification by belief alone, insist that faith means more than belief (even though both words are translated from the same Greek word “pistis” in Scripture), and then try to get everyone to run in circles when asked to explain themselves.

    Can anyone at this point (Bob Mattes) even wonder why the FV men have won the day when men, even pastors and professors, can’t even explain what faith is.

  76. Ron said,

    June 3, 2014 at 11:34 am

    I agree Ron. As you point out Dr. Strange maintains that faith entails more than just “mere belief,” but yet seems at a loss to explain what that “more” is.

    I’m confident that what he’s saying, Sean, is that mere belief (i.e. a belief that is not accompanied by resting, etc.) cannot save. One must trust in Christ, which is what it means to truly believe. So, again, I’m pretty sure you guys agree on the what must obtain for Christ to be appropriated through faith alone.

  77. Sean Gerety said,

    June 3, 2014 at 11:39 am

    You might be right Ron, but then I haven’t accused Dr. Strange with departing from the Westminster Standards and the historic Reformed faith.

  78. Andrew Duggan said,

    June 3, 2014 at 11:51 am

    Sean, It (what faith is) has been explained to you multiple times. Again you equate belief with assent only. That you, despite your glorying in logic, cannot see the logical implications and conclusions of the statements you make doesn’t excuse you from those implications. I have not falsly accused you of anything. I have encouraged you to move beyond mere assent to the truth of the Gospel and believe in and on the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is your only hope. What you are missing is the Spiritual. That is not revealed by flesh and blood but only by the Person of the Spirit of Christ and then only to those that are Christ’s, and only in the time and circumstances of the Holy Spirit’s choosing.

    If you had even a passing knowledge of the Psalms you would in no wise question that trust is a necessary aspect of justifying faith.

    Obtain a Psalter, for example the 1973 RPCNA psalter (known as the red/brown) Psalter, and sing thought it entirely several times, and open your heart to what Christ would have for you — to trust Him.

  79. Ron said,

    June 3, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    Andrew,

    That is hardly helpful. At the very least, you write:

    I have encouraged you to move beyond mere assent to the truth of the Gospel and believe in and on the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    You are referring to the content of faith, which pertains to notitia, something that has not been a point of contention in this discussion. The content of Sean’s confession is not in question here and neither is his affirmation of the need to trust and rest. The question is whether the conviction that obtains with assent when coupled with true content includes trust and rest. Even if it doesn’t, then Sean’s formulation is wrong, which does not imply that he denies what one must do to be saved.

  80. Andrew Duggan said,

    June 3, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    Ron,

    You confuse content with the object. That is not a distinction without a difference. The object of faith must be the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, not propositiions about the Lord Jesus Christ. There are propositions one must assent to in order for the object of one’s faith to be the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, but one can assent and still not have the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ as the object of their faith.

    The object of justifying faith is the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, not propositions about him. So, I’m not talking at all about notitia, but rather spiritual trusting in the person of Christ.

  81. Alan D. Strange said,

    June 3, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    Ron:

    You comment on my remarks in #57 (above), particularly this: “It’s what it means to believe in and on Christ and to give oneself wholeheartedly to Him.” I do not therein reduce things to assent, but affirm assent plus that personal “receiving and resting upon” that Andrew has also repeatedly accented. That’s the significance of the conjunction “and.”

    I also don’t think that when Andrew says what he does in #79 that he is referring to notitia. His emphasis on “believe in and on the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ” is an assertion of the necessity of assent and trust. I do not think Andrew is wrong is what he is pressing.

    And yes, to Roger and Sean, I have chosen not to address the Scriptures with respect to this (not because it’s not terribly important and not because I am not a Protestant), but because I chose simply to highlight the confessional (catechetical, largely) issue here when Sean “forced” the matter by by adducing JBBA instead of JBFA. He knows that that’s provocative and not the historic nomenclature. Thus I called him on it and we’ve ended where we usually do in this discussion.

    I am at the URCNA Synod as OPC fraternal delegate and thus can only marginally attend to these discussions. Blessings, brothers.

  82. Sean Gerety said,

    June 3, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    Well, Andrew, we don’t know anything about the person of the Lord Jesus Christ apart from those propositions about him that we find throughout the Scripture. The way you talk you make it sound like coming to faith in Christ is a Charismatic or even a mystic experience.

    So, again, and just to be clear, is it your view that one can clearly understand and assent to the message of the gospel, believe that Jesus died for them and three days later rose from the dead and that by His righteousness alone imputed to them they are accounted as righteous before the judgement throne, yet “still not have the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ as the object of their faith”? What sort of nonsense is this? Further, what is “spiritual trusting” as opposed to just ordinary trusting? How does “spiritual” modify “trust”?

    It seems to me the more you say the more incoherent your responses become. But maybe you just need to calm down, emote less, and express yourself more clearly.

  83. Sean Gerety said,

    June 3, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    I chose simply to highlight the confessional (catechetical, largely) issue here when Sean “forced” the matter by by adducing JBBA instead of JBFA.

    Let’s be honest here Alan, you’re the one who forced the matter simply because you cannot seem to grasp that JBBA and JBFA mean exactly the same thing and you have done absolutely nothing to prove otherwise.

  84. Roger said,

    June 3, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    81. I also don’t think that when Andrew says what he does in #79 that he is referring to notitia. His emphasis on “believe in and on the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ” is an assertion of the necessity of assent and trust. I do not think Andrew is wrong is what he is pressing.

    I still don’t understand this so-called distinction between “assenting” to the saving propositions about Christ and “trusting” in the Person of Christ. How does one go about “trusting” in Christ other than by “believing” or “assenting” to the saving propositions revealed about Him in Scripture (e.g., “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,” etc.)? Is there some other way to know Jesus as one’s personal Savior that I’m unaware of? If I truly “believe” or “assent” to the propositions that Jesus is the divine Son of God who died for my sins, who was raised for my justification, and who alone reconciles me to God for all eternity, am I not ipso facto “trusting” in the Person of Christ and justified in God’s sight? Talk about making the simple gospel confusing!!!

  85. Roger said,

    June 3, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    82. Well, Andrew, we don’t know anything about the person of the Lord Jesus Christ apart from those propositions about him that we find throughout the Scripture. The way you talk you make it sound like coming to faith in Christ is a Charismatic or even a mystic experience.

    Sorry, Sean, but I didn’t read your last post until after I’d already posted mine. We’re making essentially the same point, I believe. By the way, it’s nice to be on the same side of an argument for once!!! ;-)

  86. Sean Gerety said,

    June 3, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    @ Roger. Ditto. :)

  87. Roger said,

    June 3, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    This sounds about right to me:

    “We shall now have a full definition of faith if we say that it is a firm and sure knowledge of the divine favor toward us, founded on the truth of a free promise in Christ, and revealed to our minds, and sealed on our hearts, by the Holy Spirit.” (John Calvin, Institutes, 3.2.7)

  88. Ron said,

    June 3, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    You confuse content with the object. That is not a distinction without a difference. The object of faith must be the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, not propositiions about the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Andrew,

    You “encouraged [Sean] to move beyond mere assent to the truth of the Gospel and believe in and on the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Germane to this discussion is knowledge of content, assent to and emotional reliance upon the aforementioned knowledge. So, naturally when you say that Sean needs to move beyond assent and “believe in and on the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ,” I might naturally infer content given this context.

    But, if you want to make this a matter of believing non-propositions, well I’m sure Sean would like to accommodate this demand if you would only produce a non-proposition that Sean should believe. Are you prepared to enter into such an exchange, especially given the pervasive and massive equivocation that plagues most sorts in these kinds of discussions? People reason that God is not a proposition… We believe God… Therefore, we believe non-propositions. Indeed, God is not a proposition, so when I believe God, am I believing a proposition? Well, in one sense no and in another sense yes. What God tells me I believe, so in that sense I believe a proposition – for what he tells me is propositional. But technically speaking “God” is not a proposition so in another sense, when I believe “God,” I’m not believing a proposition. Given how well we’ve tried to understand another person’s position up to now, I have little hope for a fruitful discussion regarding propositional knowledge, which would require defining terms and granting the judgment of charity.

    In any case, do you really think that Sean is not trusting in Christ? “Christ” is not a proposition, but what informs Sean of Christ’s person and saving work is propositional in nature. That goes for you too. So, again, in one sense we believe a non-proposition – Christ, but in another sense we don’t. Then there’s the matter of that which informs our understanding of “Christ” is propositional. (Sean was waiting for me to say that!) Then we might digress some more to distinguishing the matter of knowing that as opposed to knowing how. If I know all the propositions regarding a perfect golf swing, do I know how to play golf better than one who doesn’t? Or is there another subtle equivocation going on there as too? Sure there is, but John Frame seemed to miss it in his new systematic (though I think he used running an offense and being a quarterback).

    In any case, what I suspect is that you are imposing Christ the non-proposition onto Sean’s view that we can only believe truths that are propositional. (Let me preempt that if you introduce Christ as truth, you will only be introducing another layer of equivocation.)

    So, by grace I believe Jesus’ words. I believe whatever he says. I believe his promises. In a word, I believe Jesus! And although a title or name cannot be a set of propositions, what truth can I believe that is not propositional in nature? That we have a relationship with Jesus or experience Jesus doesn’t mean that we believe a non-propositional truth regarding Jesus, or does it? To only believe propositions does not mean that we don’t believe someone who is not a proposition, or does it? Have you made inquiry of these things where Sean is concerned or is your jury out?

    There are propositions one must assent to in order for the object of one’s faith to be the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, but one can assent and still not have the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ as the object of their faith.

    Yes, if assent does not include receiving Christ, then indeed you are correct. But now it sounds like you’re not interested in judging Sean according to what he believes. Rather, it would seem that you only want to impose your definition of assent into his use of the word “assent” and then charge him of not acknowledging that one must receive Christ because receiving Christ is not part of your definition of assent. This is either a grave oversight on your part or a serious matter of conscience. In either case, I detect fault on your part.

  89. Ron said,

    June 3, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    Alan,

    Your paragraphs are addressed in order:

    1. I understand. I’m good with that, but I only see a semantic difference given that both you and Sean affirm personal receiving and resting. Nuff said.

    2. Regarding Andrew, indeed, he made it clear he wasn’t wanting to suggest notitia. But, I just learned he wasn’t referring to the necessity of trust either. We both must have misread him. He was referring to Jesus being a person and not a rationalistic set of propositions.

    3. I am real fine with you not going to Scripture and that not doing so doesn’t make you non-Protestant. Good one!

    4. May the Lord bless your efforts at the synod.

    Always a pleasure,

    Ron

  90. Andrew Duggan said,

    June 3, 2014 at 5:06 pm

    Roger,

    When you wrote “to the saving propositions”, that exposes the issue nicely. There is no such thing as “saving propositions”. It is entirely improper especially in light of this current discussion to use such language. Propositions don’t save, Christ saves.

    Sean,

    When you wrote “The way you talk you make it sound like coming to faith in Christ is a Charismatic or even a mystic experience.” That also was helpful in exposing the weakness of your argument. I would not use the terms charismatic or even mystic, but coming to faith in Christ, which happens during effectual calling is work of God the Holy Spirit.

    One can assent to the truth of the Gospel, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in effectual calling. The devils “believe” but tremble, (Jas 2:19) because they don’t (and can’t) trust the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    So you are now, it seems, taking exception to WLC 67 and WSC 31, which reads

    Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.

    Ron,

    Alan did not misread me. I was including trust, I’m not making this up as I go along. ;-)

  91. Ron said,

    June 3, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    The necessity of distinguishing resting from belief – although saving belief always includes resting:

    Belief in a much distilled gospel message (like Jesus died for sinners) need not be accompanied by salvation. I think both sides would agree that an unbeliever can believe many gospel truths but not be saved because of not believing some other gospel truth or truths, if not also outright denying some gospel truth(s). Short of trying to list everything that must be believed and with more difficulty not denied, we do well to flesh out not only whether one believes in Christ but also whether they have received Christ personally and are resting in Him. If there’s no rest at all, we do well to probe further regarding beliefs and even concealed rejections of orthodox truth.

    One can believe that Jesus died for his sins because he believes that Jesus died for everyone’s sins (and it can even be true with respect to one of God’s elect), and by basic syllogistic reasoning one might conclude that Jesus died for him too. Notwithstanding, such belief could be countered by some other belief or rejection of some essential truth. Sadly, how many Reformed churches don’t ask one to confess the Trinity as a condition for a credible profession of faith? Can one who believes in Jesus yet deny the Spirit be saved?

    So, one who truly believes to the saving of his soul also rests in Christ. But it’s equally true that one can believe that Jesus died for him (say on Mom’s authority alone, but not God’s), yet not possess saving faith. They would believe but have no rest. In summary, believing is not necessarily accompanied by resting, though I’d say believing everything and rejecting nothing orthodox is always accompanied by rest. So, although rest accompanies saving belief, it doesn’t accompany all belief, even unjustified yet true-belief as in the case of an out of season belief of one of God’ elect for whom Christ died. Accordingly, I would think that resting must be teased out along with personally receiving Christ unless we can pin down n at least everything that cannot be denied by a true believer.

  92. Sean Gerety said,

    June 3, 2014 at 7:34 pm

    One can assent to the truth of the Gospel, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in effectual calling. The devils “believe” but tremble, (Jas 2:19) because they don’t (and can’t) trust the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    I don’t see any biblical warrant for that at all. I can’t even find warrant for that in the Confession either, for WCF 1:5 states that belief in the truth of Scripture “is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the word in our hearts. But you say someone can believe the Scriptures and the truth of the gospel “apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in effectual calling.” Seems to me the Confession says otherwise.

    As for devils believing and trembling James 2:19 has to do with monotheism, not the gospel. I don’t recall ever claiming that the belief that God is one saves anyone. Looks like you’re back at square one.

    There is no such thing as “saving propositions”. It is entirely improper especially in light of this current discussion to use such language. Propositions don’t save, Christ saves.

    Really? Then why did Paul in Romans say that the gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”: Further, Jesus said that the very words or doctrines he spoke “are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63). Sounds like some more of those saving propositions to me. Besides, did you forget about Peter who said to Jesus; “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.” But you say propositions don’t save. Very odd.

  93. Ron said,

    June 3, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    Andrew,

    When did it become an abberant view that the gospel saves? Scripture even teaches that baptism saves. Let’s not pit the Word against the Word who became flesh. Or aren’t we born again by the incorruptible word of God since Jesus saves?

  94. Andrew Duggan said,

    June 4, 2014 at 8:21 am

    Sean and Ron,

    That’s because you’ve flattened belief to assent. Sean twists my words.

    I wrote:

    One can assent to the truth of the Gospel, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in effectual calling.

    and he changed it to

    But you say someone can believe the Scriptures and the truth of the gospel “apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in effectual calling.

    He changes assent to believe, while slyly holding off on the quotes until the 2nd clause. You know quite well that those who subscribe to WLC72 can’t do that. You can’t proceed without deceit.

    For someone who glories in logic, aren’t you ashamed to have to use straw men based on deceit to support your dubious claims?

    “Believe”, you keep using that word, I do not think it means you you think it means.

    It comes as no surprise that you deny the work of God the Holy Spirit, because what use could you have of Him when faith in Jesus Christ is reduced to superficial intellectualism. Having a form of godliness you deny the power thereof. Oh what you’re missing, and refuse to acknowledge.

    I’ll leave you with this, you can twist words and rage on to your heart’s content.

    Please repent. Please trust in the person of the Lord Jesus. He only can save.

  95. Roger said,

    June 4, 2014 at 8:34 am

    90. Roger, When you wrote “to the saving propositions”, that exposes the issue nicely. There is no such thing as “saving propositions”. It is entirely improper especially in light of this current discussion to use such language. Propositions don’t save, Christ saves.

    Yes, “Christ saves,” when He applies His redemptive work to us by causing us to believe the saving propositions of the gospel.

    But we must here observe the connection between the word [i.e., the gospel] and faith. It is such that faith is not to be separated from the word, and that the word separated from faith can confer no good; not indeed that the efficacy or power of the word depends on us; for were the whole world false, he who cannot lie would still never cease to be true, but the word never puts forth its power in us except when faith gives it an entrance. It is indeed the power of God unto salvation, but only to those who believe. (Romans 1:16.) There is in it revealed the righteousness of God, but it is from faith to faith. Thus it is that the word of God [i.e., the gospel] is always efficacious and saving to men, when viewed in itself or in its own nature; but no fruit will be found except by those who believe. (Calvin’s Commentary on Hebrews 4:2)

  96. Roger said,

    June 4, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    Ron wrote,

    88. So, by grace I believe Jesus’ words. I believe whatever he says. I believe his promises. In a word, I believe Jesus!

    That gets to the heart of the matter for me. I don’t see how one can “trust the Person of Christ” except by believing His words or promises in the gospel message. He hasn’t revealed Himself in any other way. If I truly “believe” or “assent” to the scriptural propositions about the Person and Redemptive work of Christ on my behalf (i.e., apart from any of my own merits or works of obedience to God’s commands), then how can I possibly not be justified in God’s sight? As I asked Alan earlier, and have still not gotten a reply…

    If I truly “believe” or “assent” to the propositions that Jesus is the divine Son of God who died for my sins, who was raised for my justification, and who alone reconciles me to God for all eternity, am I not ipso facto “trusting” in the Person of Christ and justified in God’s sight?

  97. Sean Gerety said,

    June 4, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    Spot on Roger. I think perhaps part of the problem might be that neither Alan or Andrew have any idea what the world belief means. They go on and on about tradition,but I’m convinced they don’t understand the English language. Per Websters belief is “a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing.” Belief is also “a conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenon especially when based on examination of evidence.” Similarly, Websters defines faith as “a strong belief or trust in someone or something.” And, finally, assent means “to agree to something especially after thoughtful consideration.”

  98. Sean Gerety said,

    June 4, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    He changes assent to believe, while slyly holding off on the quotes until the 2nd clause. You know quite well that those who subscribe to WLC72 can’t do that. You can’t proceed without deceit.

    Andrew, you protest too much. It is you and Alan who maintain that belief in the gospel saves no one and that something more, something neither you or Alan can explain much less define, is needed. You both maintain, against all logic and Scripture that faith entails more than belief, yet both faith and belief are acceptable translations of the same exact same word in Scripture. Belief just happens to be a much better translation of pistis than faith for reasons already given.

    It is you who seek to deceive by not defining your terms clearly and unequivocally.

    I have defined belief/faith as an assent to and understood proposition and saving belief/faith as an assent to the propositions of the Gospel. Since you don’t seem to understand what the word means, and as I mentioned above, to give assent is to agree to something especially after thoughtful consideration. Further, as already explained WLC72 does not support your ambiguous traditional threefold definition of faith, nor does the catechism add some nonsensical “spiritual trust” that magically makes belief/faith saving.

    You are the one who is adding an unbiblical addition to the biblical requirement, therefore it follows that you are the one who needs to repent, not me. Don’t get me wrong, I have many things that I need to repent of only this, thankfully, isn’t one of them.

    FWIW it boggles my mind that we all can’t agree on such a simple and easily understood point. A point, I might add, that is a matter of life and death. IMO that part of the problem is that too many Reformed men are more wed to tradition than the truth. It used to be that plain speaking was a Puritan ideal. Now it seems that speaking confusing nonsense and talking in circles is the high water mark of Reformed piety.

  99. Ron Henzel said,

    June 5, 2014 at 6:40 am

    Sean,

    What you are espousing here sounds an awful lot like the 18th-century heresy of Sandemanianism.

  100. Sean Gerety said,

    June 5, 2014 at 8:14 am

    Ron, do you deny justification by belief alone?

  101. Ron Henzel said,

    June 5, 2014 at 8:22 am

    Sean,

    I deny justification by mental assent alone. Browsing through your comments it seems to me that you load and unload your definition of the word “belief” with whatever freight you want at any given time in order to score whatever rhetorical points you’re going for. Let’s stick with “mental assent,” or simply “assent.” That is the historic term used in these kinds of discussions, and it is what most people comprehend by the mere term “belief.”

    As the noted Clarkian Robert L. Reymond wrote:

    “According to Scripture, ‘saving faith’ is comprised of three constituent elements: knowledge (notitia), assent (assensus), and trust (fiducia).”

    [A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 726.]

    And then he provides a 3-page exposition of this thesis citing Warfield, Murray, and Clark. But this definition was already abundantly established in the theology of the Reformation long before any of these men were born.

  102. Sean Gerety said,

    June 5, 2014 at 8:28 am

    While I’m waiting for your answer to my simple question Ron (for both Andrew and Alan have repeatedly denied that a man is justified by belief alone despite all the biblical evidence against them), do you really think this is the first time some clever critic has raised the specter of Robert Sandeman in order to end debate? As far as red herrings go, this one is particularly lame. See:

    http://godshammer.wordpress.com/2009/02/12/gordon-clark-vs-the-bogeymen/.

  103. Reed here said,

    June 5, 2014 at 9:29 am

    Sean, Ron answered your question.

  104. Ron Henzel said,

    June 5, 2014 at 9:49 am

    Sean,

    You’re just plain out of your depth here. You do not know what you are talking about. I am embarrassed for you and refuse to further waste my time on your silliness.

  105. Sean Gerety said,

    June 5, 2014 at 9:49 am

    Thanks Reed. He answered my question just as I was posting. But let’s look at that answer. Ron H said:

    I deny justification by mental assent alone . . . Let’s stick with “mental assent,” or simply “assent.” That is the historic term used in these kinds of discussions, and it is what most people comprehend by the mere term “belief.”

    Ron H. denies justification by belief alone. Ron H. denies the Gospel.

    BTW, I’m actually glad he brought up that tired Sandamen canard, because I had forgotten how good Dr. Robbins’ response was to similar critics of Clark’s definition of faith. For example, when Robbins correctly argues that Clark’s critics try “to make the effectiveness of saving faith depend on something inside the sinner, rather than on the objective work of Christ….” That’s really what this debate comes down to and why Alan can’t seem to speak in plain English and can only define figures of speech with more figures of speech and why Andrew resorts to flowery meaningless religious sounding phrases like “spiritual trust” that is supposed to be beyond belief. Yet, the Scriptures do not teach that our justification is “beyond belief,” either figuratively or literally. The Scriptures teach; “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.”

  106. Alan D. Strange said,

    June 5, 2014 at 10:21 am

    “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” is synecdochal for the whole act of faith. The Bible says many other things (come to Christ, receive Christ, rest upon Christ, etc.) that you insist to be synonymous (simply another way of saying “believe”) and the Reformers (and Reformed Confessions) see as the element called “trust,” which is something more than mere assent.

    I’ve chosen to stay away from the charges of rationalism, Sandemanianism, and the like because in the past they’ve not advanced the discussion. I come to this discussion now and again, I suppose, like Charlie Brown hoping that Lucy will let me kick the football this time. But no. You remain in the place that you’ve always been.

    I differed with Dr. Clark about matters, but have no problem acknowledging his brilliance (and in his own different way that of Dr. Robbins). I appreciate Br. Henzel’s reminder of Dr. Reymond’s definition, who was himself a notable Clarkian. You seem to see yourself as the self-appointed keeper of Clark’s flame. I think that he deserves a little better, particularly in light of your assertion with respect to Ron H. that he “denies the gospel.”

    No, Sean, we are not denying the gospel, which is the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. “Believe on Him: is the exhortation, together with repentance, that arises out of the gospel. The gospel itself is the work of Christ on our behalf. That you say that Ron denies that really shows how disqualified you are for and in this discussion.

  107. Ron Henzel said,

    June 5, 2014 at 10:42 am

    Sean,

    I guess I’ll just have to waste some more time here.

    You keep on harping about “plain English” and the like, and yet Merriam-Webster includes trust in its definition of belief when it provides the following on its web site: “a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing.” So your apparent assumption (based on what you wrote in response to me) that belief is mere mental assent, even in English, is nonsense. And anyone who can read Hebrews 11 in English translation and come away thinking that all that is being spoken of there is mere mental assent is obviously missing the point.

    You are playing a verbal shell game. “Belief” and “faith” are not separate words in the Greek New Testament. Only one time is πίστις (pistis) translated “belief” in any of the standard translations, and that is when the phrase πίστει ἀληθείας,is translated along the lines of “belief in the truth” (KJV, RV, ASV, RSV, NIV, ESV), even though it is equally capable of being translated as “faith in the truth” (Geneva, NASB, etc.). You are simply reading your already-distorted definition of “belief” into the Greek word for “faith,” and allowing it to infect your definition of the verb “believe” (πιστεύω).

    I was not trying to be clever when I brought Sandemanianism into this discussion; it was simply the first thing that came to my mind when I read your comments. But now that it turns out that for several years you’ve known of others who have same thing I just said, I think it’s safe to assume that the following old adage kicks in at this point: “If one person calls you a jackass, you can feel free to shrug it off. But if a dozen people call you a jackass, it’s time to consider getting fitted for a saddle.” If lots of Reformed people are seeing Sandemanianism in your definition and you just shrug it off, the problem is likely with you. And as far as I’m concerned, it’s way beyond likely.

    Meanwhile, your willingness to go around accusing people of denying the Gospel not only does nothing to allay suspicions of heresy in your definition, it also demonstrates a schismatic spirit. But I’m fairly confident that I’m not the first person to tell you this.

  108. Sean Gerety said,

    June 5, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    I guess I’ll just have to waste some more time here.

    Don’t do us any favors Ron.

    You keep on harping about “plain English” and the like, and yet Merriam-Webster includes trust in its definition of belief when it provides the following on its web site: “a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing.” So your apparent assumption (based on what you wrote in response to me) that belief is mere mental assent, even in English, is nonsense. And anyone who can read Hebrews 11 in English translation and come away thinking that all that is being spoken of there is mere mental assent is obviously missing the point.

    OK, and assent is “to agree to something especially after thoughtful consideration” or “to agree to a statement, proposal, etc; acceptance. “ Further, adding “mere” to assent (or belief for that matter) is a weasel word and is simply an attempt to poison the well for there is nothing “mere” about it. To believe something is to assent to an understood proposition, but as you should be able to see even from MW that the addition of “trust” as the third element completing saving faith or belief adds precisely nothing to our understanding of what faith or belief is because trust is already entailed in the definition of faith or belief. To believe or to have faith in someone is to trust what they say and to trust someone is to have faith in or believe what they say is true.

    You are playing a verbal shell game. “Belief” and “faith” are not separate words in the Greek New Testament. Only one time is πίστις (pistis) translated “belief” in any of the standard translations, and that is when the phrase πίστει ἀληθείας,is translated along the lines of “belief in the truth” (KJV, RV, ASV, RSV, NIV, ESV), even though it is equally capable of being translated as “faith in the truth” (Geneva, NASB, etc.). .

    Uh, hello. Earth to Ron. I’m not playing a verbal shell game at all, but that is exactly what my opponents here are doing even if you haven’t figured it out.

    What you say above is what I’ve been saying all along; belief and faith are not separate words in the Greek NT. I have been saying they are different etymological derivations of the exact same Greek word since this thread began. Further, I added that belief is a better word simply because there is no verb form for faith. Yet, it is Alan Strange (and others here) who say that faith is more than and different from belief and is why Alan routinely and forcefully objects to my use of the phrase “justification by belief alone” and is what got this whole ball rolling in the first place.

    I was not trying to be clever when I brought Sandemanianism into this discussion; it was simply the first thing that came to my mind when I read your comments. But now that it turns out that for several years you’ve known of others who have same thing I just said, I think it’s safe to assume that the following old adage kicks in at this point: “If one person calls you a jackass, you can feel free to shrug it off. But if a dozen people call you a jackass, it’s time to consider getting fitted for a saddle.”

    That’s fine Ron and you could even have a point and I’m sure you’re not the only one here who thinks I’m a jackass, but one would also think those calling themselves Reformed would know that ad populum is a fallacy too. What needs to be demonstrated is not that Clark’s definition of faith as the combination of understanding and assent (which is at least two parts of the traditional definition) is in agreement with Sandaman (as if that alone were enough to end debate), but whether or not Clark’s definition is in agreement with Scripture.

    Meanwhile, your willingness to go around accusing people of denying the Gospel not only does nothing to allay suspicions of heresy in your definition it also demonstrates a schismatic spirit. But I’m fairly confident that I’m not the first person to tell you this.

    Because I don’t bow to incoherence and nonsense I must be demonstrating a schismatic spirit. Sycophancy not truth is the heart of the Reformed faith. Got it Ron.

    As for accusing you of denying the Gospel, let’s flesh that out because you seem confused.

    First, you note above that belief and faith are not separate words in the Greek NT, but rather are both translations of the single word “pistis.” Great, we agree.

    Therefore, it follows necessarily that if someone were to say we are justified by faith alone or we are justified by belief alone they would be expressing the exact same biblical doctrine, even the heart of the Gospel.

    Next, you said that assent is the “historic term used in these kinds of discussions, and it is what most people comprehend by the mere term ‘belief’” thereby correctly equating the mere term “belief” with mere term “assent.”

    Then you said: “I deny justification by mental assent alone .”

    Consequently, and as should be painfully if not embarrassingly obvious, you are denying justification by belief alone which is the heart of the Gospel.

  109. Ron Henzel said,

    June 5, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    Sean,

    Here is one of the central errors that skews all of your thinking on this—you wrote:

    “To believe something is to assent to an understood proposition.”

    We are not commanded to simply “believe something.” We are commanded to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, not in “an understood proposition.” Jesus Christ is not “an understood proposition.” Your definition is not only absurdly reductive of the word “faith,” but also of the person of Christ Himself.

  110. Sean Gerety said,

    June 5, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    Sorry Ron, but the only things we can know about Jesus Christ are found in the propositions of Scripture alone. I don’t know how else you think we might come to know him? Besides, only propositions are either true or false.

  111. Sean Gerety said,

    June 5, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    Besides, Ron, I don’t know why you have an issue with me when it’s Dr. Strange who has vehemently disagreed with you and that “belief” and “faith” are from the same word in the Greek New Testament. He said belief and faith are qualitatively different animals entirely and that we are not justified by belief alone. Perhaps you have more in common with this jackass than you realize.

  112. Ron said,

    June 5, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    Ron,

    When I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ I am believing that Jesus is my Savior and my God. I am believing that Jesus satisfied God’s justice and received the wrath I deserved. I believe that He removed the middle ground of enmity that stood between me and God. I believe He reconciled God to me and me to God. Yet in all of this, when I believe in Jesus as my only hope in this life and the life to come I don’t know what I am believing that is not propositional; yet I’m sure I’m saved. So, my sincere question is how is it not to create a false dichotomy when we place propositional belief against believing in the person of Christ and his work on our behalf? Indeed, Jesus is not a proposition because persons (and names for that matter) aren’t propositions. But what can we believe about a person, even as it pertains to personal, intimate belief, that is not propositional?

  113. Sean Gerety said,

    June 5, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    I hope I was clear in #111 that the jackass I was referring to is me not Dr. Strange. :)

  114. Ron said,

    June 5, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    Quite, Sean. I, also, got a good chuckle out of it.

  115. Roger said,

    June 5, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    Sean wrote,

    105. For example, when Robbins correctly argues that Clark’s critics try “to make the effectiveness of saving faith depend on something inside the sinner, rather than on the objective work of Christ….” That’s really what this debate comes down to…

    Yep!

    108. To believe or to have faith in someone is to trust what they say and to trust someone is to have faith in or believe what they say is true.

    This is a blatantly obvious point that has been conveniently ignored throughout this debate. For example, no one has even attempted to answer the simple question that I’ve already asked twice to no avail:

    If I truly “believe” or “assent” to the [gospel] propositions that Jesus is the divine Son of God who died for my sins, who was raised for my justification, and who alone reconciles me to God for all eternity, am I not ipso facto “trusting” in the Person of Christ and justified in God’s sight?

    As Sean correctly points out in post #110, “the only things we can know about Jesus Christ are found in the propositions of Scripture alone…” The only way an individual can “trust the Person of Christ” is by believing His words or promises in the gospel message. He hasn’t revealed Himself in any other way.

    What needs to be demonstrated is not that Clark’s definition of faith as the combination of understanding and assent (which is at least two parts of the traditional definition) is in agreement with Sandaman (as if that alone were enough to end debate), but whether or not Clark’s definition is in agreement with Scripture.

    Bingo! When did Sola Scriptura stop being a maxim for Protestants?

  116. Roger said,

    June 5, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    Ron wrote,

    So, my sincere question is how is it not to create a false dichotomy when we place propositional belief against believing in the person of Christ and his work on our behalf? Indeed, Jesus is not a proposition because persons (and names for that matter) aren’t propositions. But what can we believe about a person, even as it pertains to personal, intimate belief, that is not propositional?

    Excellent post! This is indeed the crux of the issue…

  117. Ron said,

    June 5, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    I think the confusion, Roger, is over the idea that what we believe when believe a who is always a proposition.

  118. Ron said,

    June 5, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    I think the confusion, Roger, is over the idea that what we believe when believe a who is always a proposition.

  119. Don said,

    June 6, 2014 at 12:43 am

    Having read all the vitriol and freely flowing accusations of heresy here, I think I understand the problem: While everyone seems to agree that “belief” and “faith” are not different words in Greek, some commenters seem to be arguing that they are exactly equivalent in English. Others are pointing out the varying degrees of, let’s say, adherence or commitment that the words connotate.

    All I’ll say further is that wishing a word was defined in a certain way is not the same as it actually having that definition.

  120. Ron Henzel said,

    June 6, 2014 at 5:52 am

    Sean,

    For the record: I neither called you a jackass nor compared you to one. To imply that I did is to twist my words.

    Meanwhile, you wrote:

    “…trust is already entailed in the definition of faith or belief.”

    If trust is already entailed in your definition of faith or belief, why have you so strenuously objected to trust being posited as an aspect of saving faith?

  121. Roger said,

    June 6, 2014 at 7:33 am

    120. Meanwhile, [Sean] wrote:

    “…trust is already entailed in the definition of faith or belief.”

    If trust is already entailed in your definition of faith or belief, why have you so strenuously objected to trust being posited as an aspect of saving faith?

    I’m pretty sure Sean is objecting to the addition of “trust” defined as a nebulous psychological state being “the third element completing saving faith or belief” rather than as a synonym for faith or belief. He went on to explain what he meant in the very next sentence: “To believe or to have faith in someone is to trust what they say and to trust someone is to have faith in or believe what they say is true.”

    That’s absolutely correct. As I pointed out in an earlier post, the only way an individual can “trust the Person of Christ” is by believing His words or promises (i.e., propositions) in the gospel message. He hasn’t revealed Himself in any other way. And as Sean correctly pointed out in post #110, “the only things we can know about Jesus Christ are found in the propositions of Scripture alone…”

  122. Sean Gerety said,

    June 6, 2014 at 10:10 am

    If trust is already entailed in your definition of faith or belief, why have you so strenuously objected to trust being posited as an aspect of saving faith?

    I can’t do better than what Roger wrote in #121. But, it is more than that; otherwise I would hardly be so strenuous in my objections.

    I hope you will agree that justification by belief alone is the heart of the gospel. Yet, if men here, and in the very dimly lit dwindling Reformed world, have little or no idea what JBBA consists of, how can they successfully defend the Gospel when this doctrine is under attack? Well, the fact is, they can’t and they have failed miserably most recently in the fight against the men of the Federal Vision.

    One of the central reasons for that failure has been the inability to unambiguously understand the alone instrument by which we are justified.
    There are many examples on how completely weak and confused Reformed men are concerning the nature of faith and saving faith. This thread alone to include your comments makes my point.

    Alan has repeatedly attacked me for saying JBBA instead of JBFA. You attacked me for not recognizing that both faith and belief are translations of the same word and mean the same thing, when it was Alan who doesn’t recognize this simple point. In the link I provided above Dr. Robbins corrects the shoddy scholarship and impenetrable nonsense of Douglas Barnes and Geoff Thomas who think the so-called “fiducial” element that completes saving faith is a “heartfelt emotion.” Andy Webb in a piece Bob Mattes linked above follows suit and insists; “Fiducia … mingles the emotion of love with trust, inclination, and agreement.” In every case these men teach the effectiveness of saving faith depends on “something inside the sinner, rather than on the objective work of Christ.”

    Further, these men can’t even agree on what that “something inside the sinner” is! Some say fiducia means trust and this completes faith making it saving adding precisely nothing to our understanding of what saving faith is. Others think it’s some sort of emotion and others have no idea at all what this third element consists of. Andrew says it’s “spiritual trusting, whatever that means. Alan says it is to “receive and rest” which means to “come to” or “lean upon” Jesus, without ever explaining what any of these figures of speech mean.

    Giving the central importance faith is to the Gospel, you’d think we’d all be on the same page when we’re far from it.

    Yet, the FV men are unified. They have a clear and unambiguous use for “fiducia.” In fact, they agree that this whole fight is a fight over “fiducia” and they are the ones who have the correct historic Reformed understanding of what that entails.

    Consider what Peter Leithart says concerning saving faith:

    Faith is allegiance to the Son, taking His side in the great war that is human history. Faith is keeping faith, being loyal to the troth that is plighted in our marriage to the Son. (The Baptized Body, 85)

    Jeff Meyers echoing Leithart says:

    To describe saving faith as “personally loyal faith,” as the JFVP does, simply draws out the “volitional element” (fiducia) in classic Reformed definitions of saving faith. Saving faith has three marks in most Reformed theological treatments: 1) knowledge (notitia), assent (assensus), and trust (fiducia).

    Meyers added this on the Wrightsaid Yahoo group:

    It seems pretty clear to me that the first word of the decalogue (not commandments) has to do with trusting Yahweh alone. The language of “having” or “possessing” no other god is marriage language. Israel, the bride, is to cling to Yahweh, her Husband and Lord, in faithfulness. What is this but salvation by faith? How is that wrong?

    Norman Shepherd said:

    The faith he [Abraham] had was reckoned to his account as righteousness. Faith and the obedience flowing from faith are of piece with one another and together they constitute the righteousness of Abraham.

    And,

    We must not set faith and faithfulness over against each other as antithetical and mutually exclusive principles of gospel and law when it comes to the justification of a sinner before almighty God. (A Faith that Is Never Alone, p. 72).

    Finally, this gem from James Jordan is worth repeating:

    Some men remain in the PCA because God has told them they have a duty to help the 7000 who have not yet bowed the knee to antichrist. They hatred of the Kingship of Jesus, which characterizes so much of the PCA, is with[sic] fighting. The Reformed faith is that faith includes fiducia, and this is still worth fighting for, regardless of how many antinominian blogs hate it.

    Well before there was a Federal Vision Gordon Clark sought to fill this gaping hole in the historic Reformed faith in What is Saving Faith. Sadly, even at this late date, few have taken the time to listen to Clark or have been so wed to this questionable and confused Reformed tradition they have failed to recognize they are adding to the biblical requirement in justification which is by belief alone.

  123. Jack Bradley said,

    June 6, 2014 at 11:40 am

    Sean,

    Apparently, these late Greats were both FV! Who knew?!

    John Murray, Collected Writings, Vol. 2, p. 220f:

    “As regeneration is the fountain of faith and faith is the logical precondition of justification, we can never think of justification apart from regeneration. . . Faith works itself out by love. The faith that does not work is not the faith that justifies: ‘Shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works’ (James 2:18).

    Robert Strimple, Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, Lecture 23, 101 minute mark:

    “What is James’ answer to the question, “who has faith?” “who is justified?” His answer is that it is not the one who has a mere profession of faith. . . just a bare profession of faith. . . the demons would qualify on that basis. But it is the one who has a living faith in God. And a living faith is one that reveals itself—here’s where the element of demonstration comes in—by the works that it produces, the works which are its inevitable fruit and concomitant. . . sometimes when we say ‘fruit’ we get into this business of saying, ‘faith here, and then later, fruit.’ And so you still have a time when faith is all by itself. And so faith stands alone. I want to get rid of that idea, with the Westminster Confession of Faith again. . . Because those works are the fruit and concomitant of faith. That is, they go along with faith, so that whenever the faith is there, the works are there. They don’t come in at some later point, so that there was a time when ‘all I had was faith.’ They are faith’s fruit and concomitant.

    . . . True pistis, faith, has that element of entrustment: fiducia. . . That the demons don’t have. And that the false teachers that James is opposing don’t have. . . Bare faith—that doesn’t justify anybody. . . This [fiducia] faith is never without works.

    . . . Abraham was justified by a living faith, not a dead faith. Abraham was justified by a faith that works by love. . . It seems to me that is the way we must read verse 21 [of James 2] “justified by works”. “Works” is a code word in the context, meaning living faith, as opposed to dead faith, which is what a bare faith is.

    Note well, that this does not now mean that we are to be justified by works after all. No. Faith alone justifies, because it is faith that receives and rests upon Christ and His righteousness alone for justification. But, as Paul says in Galatians 5:6, and James says in chapter 2, and the Westminster Confession of Faith says in chapter 11, paragraph 2: “This faith, which is the alone instrument of justification” as the WCF puts it, is not, and never is, alone. And that’s what James is teaching, in very arresting fashion, in James 2, beginning in verse 14. It is a living faith, a faith that works by love.

    . . . Institutes 3.11.20: I think very well put, very important section, where Calvin writes, and I quote: ‘Indeed we confess, with Paul, that no other faith justifies, but faith working through love. But it’—by ‘it’ he means faith—‘does not take its power to justify from that working of love. Indeed, it justifies in no other way but in that it leads us to fellowship with the righteousness of Christ.’

    . . . It doesn’t justify because it works, it justifies because it’s faith. But a living faith is always one that works by love. Faith without works is dead. It is really no faith, of course.

    . . . Faith is unto justification not because of anything it does, but because it is my looking to Christ only, resting in Christ. But it’s that very faith that always works by love. . . It’s living.

  124. Don said,

    June 6, 2014 at 11:53 am

    Sean,
    Dictionary.com’s fifth definition of believe: “to suppose or assume; understand.” Would you say that we are saved by supposing that Jesus died for us? Does that make for a strong enough belief? No? That’s why words like trust and assurance are necessary. You can say that they are entailed in your definition of belief or faith, but they may not be in everyone’s.
    You can claim all day long that belief and faith are the same word in Greek, Latin, Swahili, and Finnish (for all I know) but you’re writing in English. On an issue such as JBFA, you need to be very clear by what you mean by “faith.” Because, for example, if you say we’re saved by JBBA and someone thinks you mean some sort of mental assent to a proposition, then you are putting someone’s eternal destiny in danger by the imprecision of the English language. Lest you think that would never happen, a Hindu could easily agree with the idea that Jesus died for him, while remaining a Hindu and continuing to worship Hindu idols. (Some) Hindus have no problem with the idea of someone being simultaneously Hindu and Christian. Here’s the key: it doesn’t matter whether that position appears incoherent to you. What matters is that you need to be able to clearly explain why that belief is not a saving faith.
    I’m slightly shocked and rather saddened that you appear quite willing to accuse people of denying the Gospel because you are unable or unwilling to acknowledge that there is more than one definition to the English word “belief.”

  125. Ron said,

    June 6, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    Lest you think that would never happen, a Hindu could easily agree with the idea that Jesus died for him, while remaining a Hindu and continuing to worship Hindu idols.

    Don,

    It’s comments like this that only cloud the issue and consequently don’t advance the discussion. At the very least, for your comment to have any relevance whatsoever to your opponents’ position, then a Hindu agreeing “with the idea that Jesus died for him,” would have to be equivalent to the Hindu believing that Jesus actually died for him. Otherwise, you’re not addressing the opposing view but rather a straw man. So, I’ll assume you want to be relevant and, therefore, take your comment to mean something more relevant sounding: “a Hindu could easily believe that Jesus died for his sins, while remaining a Hindu and continuing to worship Hindu idols.”

    Now, of course, if the Hindu had a false belief of who Jesus is, or an un-biblical view of the need for atonement and what that entails, then such a faith could not save. But that’s not because the person hadn’t trusted in Jesus but rather because the content of the belief would be false.

    Now then, if the Hindu truly believed only sound doctrine and denied nothing that was true regarding the gospel and his need for salvation, and with that mindset believed in Jesus as His personal Savior, then why wouldn’t he be saved? If you say because he hadn’t trusted in Jesus, then we”re full circle and all you’ve done is asserted a scenario and labeled it an argument.

  126. Sean Gerety said,

    June 6, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    Jack Bradley, a man who identifies himself as “a staunch defender of Leithart” makes my point. The Strimple citation is particularly bad.

  127. Sjoerd de Boer said,

    June 6, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    If I understand Sean Gerety c.s. well, he, John Robbins and Gordon Clark would have enormous problems with the common Reformed sentiments of faith, conversion and regeneration expressed in the Canons of Dort which are not at all different than the Westminster Standards in these matters. As a matter of fact, many times John Robbins has spoken out against any heartfelt experience and called it Romish Mysticism. It would not surprise me that they are also vehemently against the “Scriptural Experiential Preaching” which theologians like Joel Beeke is promoting by way of publishing more Puritan writers.

    Canons of Dort, 3rd and 4th head of doctrine, art. 11-14

    11. Moreover, when God carries out this good pleasure in the elect, or works true conversion in them, God not only sees to it that the gospel is proclaimed to them outwardly, and enlightens their minds powerfully by the Holy Spirit so that they may rightly understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God, but, by the effective operation of the same regenerating Spirit, God also penetrates into the inmost being, opens the closed heart, softens the hard heart, and circumcises the heart that is uncircumcised. God infuses new qualities into the will, making the dead will alive, the evil one good, the unwilling one willing, and the stubborn one compliant. God activates and strengthens the will so that, like a good tree, it may be enabled to produce the fruits of good deeds.

    12. And this is the regeneration, the new creation, the raising from the dead, and the making alive so clearly proclaimed in the Scriptures, which God works in us without our help. But this certainly does not happen only by outward teaching, by moral persuasion, or by such a way of working that, after God’s work is done, it remains in human power whether or not to be reborn or converted. Rather, it is an entirely supernatural work, one that is at the same time most powerful and most pleasing, a marvelous, hidden, and inexpressible work, which is not less than or inferior in power to that of creation or of raising the dead, as Scripture (inspired by the author of this work) teaches. As a result, all those in whose hearts God works in this marvelous way are certainly, unfailingly, and effectively reborn and do actually believe. And then the will, now renewed, is not only activated and motivated by God, but in being activated by God is also itself active. For this reason, people t­hemselves, by that grace which they have received, are also rightly said to believe and to repent.

    13. In this life believers cannot fully understand the way this work occurs; meanwhile, they rest content with knowing and experiencing that, by this grace of God, they do believe with the heart and love their Savior.

    14. In this way, therefore, faith is a gift of God, not in the sense that it is offered by God for people to choose, but that it is in actual fact bestowed on them, breathed and infused into them. Nor is it a gift in the sense that God bestows only the potential to believe, but then awaits assent—the act of believing—by human choice; rather, it is a gift in the sense that God who works both willing and acting and, indeed, works all things in all people and produces in them both the will to believe and the belief itself.

  128. Sean Gerety said,

    June 6, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    Sjoerd, not exactly sure why you think I would take issue with the Canons of Dort because I don’t at all. In fact, 14 is absolutely spot on particularly:

    Nor is it a gift in the sense that God bestows only the potential to believe, but then awaits assent—the act of believing—by human choice; rather, it is a gift in the sense that God who works both willing and acting and, indeed, works all things in all people and produces in them both the will to believe and the belief itself.

    Assent, the act of believing is precisely what I have been contending for. And, if you’re not sure whether you understand Dr. Clark correctly then you should read him.

  129. Reed Here said,

    June 6, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    Sean, no hawking.

    Invite people to discuss this further at your site. Then feel free to offer to sell them anything you want.

  130. Reed Here said,

    June 6, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    Does the Bible distinguish between believing “about” Jesus. and believing “in”Jesus, believing “on” Jesus, and believing “(blank)” Jesus?

  131. Sean Gerety said,

    June 6, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    Reed, what do you mean “sell them”? I’m not selling anyone anything. I recommended the same book in about 3 separate links above. BTW, I don’t work or have any affiliation with Trinity Foundation, so I don’t appreciate the accusation that I’m “hawking” anything.

  132. Roger said,

    June 6, 2014 at 11:31 pm

    I actually had to laugh when I read Sjoerd’s post. In an effort to refute Sean he cited the Canons of Dort, which not only plainly states that “faith is a gift of God,” but specifically defines saving faith as “assent—the act of believing.” It seems like I’ve heard that somewhere before… ;-) So much for the Reformed “tradition” being unified in contradicting Clark’s position!

  133. roberty bob said,

    June 7, 2014 at 12:30 am

    With such good Reformed men all tied up in knots over the definition of saving faith, what can you now say to assure your own children?

  134. Don said,

    June 7, 2014 at 12:38 am

    Ron,
    You’re entirely correct that I’m asserting a scenario. It’s a scenario in which an ill-defined “belief” is unable to save. But some people (including some Hindus I knew personally) think that belief is good enough. It does them no good to tell them that “belief” and “faith” are the same word in Greek. But if someone is unwilling to tell them that a saving faith means trusting in Jesus and putting all your hope in Him, not merely an acknowledgement that he was crucified, buried, and resurrected, then how will they recognize the difference between a saving and a non-saving faith?

  135. Ron Henzel said,

    June 7, 2014 at 7:30 am

    Sean,

    You wrote:

    To believe or to have faith in someone is to trust what they say and to trust someone is to have faith in or believe what they say is true.

    Well, at least you acknowledge that trust is inherent in faith, but your statement here is only partially true. To believe or have faith in someone is not only believing that what they say is true, but having confidence in them personally, including confidence in their overall reliability, not only in what they say but in what they do.

    While it is true that we can trust that Jesus is being truthful when He says, for example, “whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (Jn 6:37), believing in Jesus at this point is clearly more than believing the proposition that He uttered. It is possible to believe the proposition without believing in the Person. It is possible to believe that what Jesus says here is true, but still not believe in Jesus, and make no response to it. It is possible to posit the truthfulness of Jn 6:37, even as the demons do, and still not come to Him. Such belief is not saving faith.

    Sometimes the mental assent component of saving faith comes to the forefront, as when we believe in the statement, “Christ died for our sins,” (1 Cor. 15:3). But even such assent assumes that we are not only trusting that this statement is true, but also trusting that Christ was actually capable and willing to do this for us. In other words: in order for this to be more than a statement of what Christ intended to do by submitting to crucifixion, we must be able to trust Him personally as the Son of God. So it is more than belief in the proposition.

    As far as the various definitions of fiducia that have been floated, and which you have quoted (and I am grateful to you for providing them here!), I would say that (a) adding the word “spiritual” to “trust” does nothing to elucidate the meaning of the word theologically; (b) there is no emotional component in fiducia; (c) all the Federal Visionists who try to attach the meaning of “loyalty” to fiducia are blowing smoke out of an unsightly region of their anatomies. They are confusing the word fiducia with either fides or fidelitas (pietas, can also sometimes mean “loyalty”). Or they could simply be ignorantly equating fiducia with our English usage of “fiduciary.”

    Like πίστις (pistis), fides can mean either “faith” or “faithfulness” depending on the context. “Loyalty” would be an extension of the “faithfulness” idea, especially with respect to fides. But the Reformers, who knew Latin a lot better than Leithart, Meyers, Shepherd, or Jordan, and were careful to avoid Romanist connotations, deliberately did not choose fides when listing the components of saving faith, but rather fiducia, which simply means “trust.” The Federal Visionists have blundered here.

    I share your concern that the effectiveness of saving faith must never be understood as depending on something inside the sinner, rather than on the objective work of Christ. In other words, the faith that saves does so not because of its inherent qualities, but because of the inherent qualities of the person, nature, and work of Christ. Thus, ultimately, faith in itself does not actually save, but Christ saves. Understanding all of this, trust cannot be understood as any quality in us that contributes to our salvation. Thus the trust that receives the free gift is not an emotion, or an act of allegiance or loyalty, but an aspect of the empty hands of faith.

  136. Ron Henzel said,

    June 7, 2014 at 8:17 am

    Roger,

    You wrote:

    the Canons of Dort…not only plainly states that “faith is a gift of God,” but specifically defines saving faith as “assent—the act of believing.

    That is not a definition of a saving faith, but a description of the position being refuted. It is not defining faith, but assent, and is not describing what faith is, but what it is not:

    Nor is it a gift in the sense that God bestows only the potential to believe, but then awaits assent—the act of believing—by human choice…

    No matter how many times it is dismissed, the previously-quoted portions of the Standards more than adequately establish that our confession included trust in its definition of saving faith:

    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.

    [WCF 14.2]

    Justifying faith…not only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receiveth and resteth upon Christ and his righteousness…

    [WLC 72]

    It is certainly clear enough from these statements that saving faith is more than mental assent. But it is also clear that “resting upon Christ” is a reference to trust. It was a common expression for precisely that idea among the Puritans.

  137. Ron said,

    June 7, 2014 at 8:27 am

    Don,

    I won’t venture a guess as to why you didn’t address my post. But since you didn’t this is all the response that is warranted.

  138. Ron said,

    June 7, 2014 at 8:43 am

    Ron,

    Much of what you wrote regarding trust seems to speak to additional content that must be believed. When you say not only must we believe x but that we must also trust y, is to beg the question of whether believing in y to trust y. In other words, it only shifts the question to another point of content that must be received and relied upon.

  139. Ron Henzel said,

    June 7, 2014 at 9:03 am

    Ron,

    You wrote:

    “In other words, it only shifts the question to another point of content that must be received and relied upon.”

    And I would answer that the phrase “relied upon” is simply another way of saying “trusted,” which means that, once again, trust is an aspect of faith.

  140. Ron said,

    June 7, 2014 at 9:06 am

    Pls bear with me. Laid up in bed with severe back issues and typing with thumb. Please pray too if you would.
    I’ll correct a typo…

    Much of what you wrote regarding trust seems to speak to additional content that must be believed. When you say not only must we believe x but that we must also trust y, is to beg the question of whether believing in y is to trust y. In other words, it only shifts the question to another point of content that must be received and relied upon.

    New stuff: what Sean is arguing is that belief is or includes trust. I would say that belief gives way to trust as our convictions grow. As our beliefs get stronger our reliance upon what or whom we believe upon grows proportionally. And although when one savingly believes there is always an element of reliance or trust present, I’m open to whether reliance is part of belief, but we all agree it’s part of faith. To my original point, however, to introduce a new proposition like Christ being capable of saving, we need to anticipate the question of whether trust in y can be reduced to belief in y.

  141. Ron Henzel said,

    June 7, 2014 at 9:09 am

    Ron,

    As I re-read your comment (138), I’m not sure that I did it justice. I would add that to believe something about x implies trusting x. If I believe that Christ (x) died for my sins (y), then in propositional terms you could say that I am believing “x+y.” But in order to truly do that, I must trust Christ (x) personally.

  142. Ron Henzel said,

    June 7, 2014 at 9:16 am

    Ron,

    Regarding the new stuff in your comment 139: I have been understanding Sean as saying that belief assumes trust but does not include it.

    The longer this goes on, the more it strikes me as one of those “quarrels about words” that Paul warns us away from (1 Tim. 6:4).

  143. Ron said,

    June 7, 2014 at 10:05 am

    I agree, there seems to be a semantic difference in play, but I’m also reluctant to trivialize given all the anathemas that are flying about. :(

  144. Sean Gerety said,

    June 7, 2014 at 11:20 am

    Well, at least you acknowledge that trust is inherent in faith, but your statement here is only partially true. To believe or have faith in someone is not only believing that what they say is true, but having confidence in them personally, including confidence in their overall reliability, not only in what they say but in what they do.

    While it is true that we can trust that Jesus is being truthful when He says, for example, “whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (Jn 6:37), believing in Jesus at this point is clearly more than believing the proposition that He uttered. It is possible to believe the proposition without believing in the Person. It is possible to believe that what Jesus says here is true, but still not believe in Jesus, and make no response to it. It is possible to posit the truthfulness of Jn 6:37, even as the demons do, and still not come to Him. Such belief is not saving faith.

    [snip]

    Also, for the record, not only do I *not* work for the Trinity Foundation, I have never made a single penny off of any article or book I’ve written for them (not that there are many anyway). My debt to the Trinity Foundation is that without the efforts of John Robbins and now his son-in-law, Tom Juodaitis, the work of Gordon Clark would be virtually unknown and completely unavailable (something that would make Vantillians no doubt very happy).

    But, yes, it is possible to believe the proposition “whoever comes to me I will never cast out” and still be lost, obviously to include demons. Not sure what that’s supposed to prove, but I hardly think John 6:37 is a very good summary of the Gospel message. Frankly, the first clause of the verse isn’t the Gospel either; “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me….” However, I don’t think anyone would say that the Father has given the Son demons, although speaking for myself, some of us have come pretty close.

    Perhaps this from What is Saving Faith in response to H.H. Price will be helpful (Reed can tell you where you can get a copy):

    “To believe-in a certain value, virtue for example, is to believe-that virtue is a value. The logic, the analysis, the nature of ‘All a is b’ remains identical no matter what values are assigned to the two variables.”

    Clark’s discussion here is interesting because secularist Price thinks that such reductions leave out the “warmth” he thinks is characteristic of believe-in statements and thinks “trust” better captures what it means to believe-in stating; “Trusting is not a merely cognitive attitude.” To this Clark replies:

    “One need not reject his statement as false. Rather it is misapplied. No belief is merely a cognitive attitude. After spending so many pages on Newman’s Grammar of Assent, Price should have considered the possibility that every belief is a volitional attitude, or volitional act. As such it has no bearing on the reducibility or irreducibility of in to that.

    Sometimes the mental assent component of saving faith comes to the forefront, as when we believe in the statement, “Christ died for our sins,” (1 Cor. 15:3). But even such assent assumes that we are not only trusting that this statement is true, but also trusting that Christ was actually capable and willing to do this for us. In other words: in order for this to be more than a statement of what Christ intended to do by submitting to crucifixion, we must be able to trust Him personally as the Son of God. So it is more than belief in the proposition.

    Unless someone is a hypocrite, as the bible does draw a contrast between the head and the lips and never the head and the heart as so many uninformed pastors assume, if someone believes that “Christ died for their sins” then to say they trust “Christ died for their sins” is to say the exact same thing. Unless I’m missing something, using trust instead of belief didn’t change, modify or add anything.

    If your point is that someone may believe that the bible teaches that Christ died for our sins and believe that proposition is true and not be saved I have no argument. Perhaps he doesn’t think of himself as a sinner or thinks it is true that this is what the bible teaches but doesn’t believe the bible is true. In any case it could be any number of possibilities, but I still don’t see how replacing belief with trust adds anything to “mental assent.” The difference as I see it between faith and saving faith lies in the propositions believed.

    As far as the various definitions of fiducia that have been floated, and which you have quoted (and I am grateful to you for providing them here!), I would say that (a) adding the word “spiritual” to “trust” does nothing to elucidate the meaning of the word theologically; (b) there is no emotional component in fiducia; (c) all the Federal Visionists who try to attach the meaning of “loyalty” to fiducia are blowing smoke out of an unsightly region of their anatomies. They are confusing the word fiducia with either fides or fidelitas (pietas, can also sometimes mean “loyalty”). Or they could simply be ignorantly equating fiducia with our English usage of “fiduciary.”

    Like πίστις (pistis), fides can mean either “faith” or “faithfulness” depending on the context. “Loyalty” would be an extension of the “faithfulness” idea, especially with respect to fides. But the Reformers, who knew Latin a lot better than Leithart, Meyers, Shepherd, or Jordan, and were careful to avoid Romanist connotations, deliberately did not choose fides when listing the components of saving faith, but rather fiducia, which simply means “trust.” The Federal Visionists have blundered here.

    I share your concern that the effectiveness of saving faith must never be understood as depending on something inside the sinner, rather than on the objective work of Christ. In other words, the faith that saves does so not because of its inherent qualities, but because of the inherent qualities of the person, nature, and work of Christ. Thus, ultimately, faith in itself does not actually save, but Christ saves. Understanding all of this, trust cannot be understood as any quality in us that contributes to our salvation. Thus the trust that receives the free gift is not an emotion, or an act of allegiance or loyalty, but an aspect of the empty hands of faith.

    Spot on. I just re-posted the entire section because I was confident that we agree on a lot more than we disagree. :)

  145. Andrew Duggan said,

    June 7, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    Ron @140

    The problem is that the trust you guys are agreeing to is not really in the Lord Jesus Christ, but rather in your own intellectual capacity to understand and agree, and to judge the veracity of propositions you are assenting to. So that trust is absolutely worthless, and is not part of justifying faith. That boils down to that you don’t believe even the truth of what he says because He says it, but because you trust in your own innate faculties.

    Therefore such trust is not receiving and resting on the Lord Jesus, but rather resting in yourselves. Big difference, it is the difference between eternal life and eternal death.

  146. Roger said,

    June 7, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    Ron Henzel wrote,

    136. Roger…That is not a definition of a saving faith, but a description of the position being refuted. It is not defining faith, but assent, and is not describing what faith is, but what it is not:

    Nor is it a gift in the sense that God bestows only the potential to believe, but then awaits assent—the act of believing—by human choice…

    No, it’s only refuting the position that the gift of saving faith is merely “the potential to believe” that must then await the libertarian free-will decision of “human choice” in order to be exercised. “Nor is it a gift in the sense that God bestows only the potential to believe, but then awaits assent—the act of believing—by human choice.” Rather, “it is a gift in the sense that God who works both willing and acting and, indeed, works all things in all people and produces in them both the will to believe and the belief itself.” This “belief itself,” produced by God in the elect, is clearly “assent—the act of believing” according to the clear context of the paragraph.

    14. In this way, therefore, faith is a gift of God, not in the sense that it is offered by God for people to choose, but that it is in actual fact bestowed on them, breathed and infused into them. Nor is it a gift in the sense that God bestows only the potential to believe, but then awaits assent—the act of believing—by human choice; rather, it is a gift in the sense that God who works both willing and acting and, indeed, works all things in all people and produces in them both the will to believe and the belief itself.

  147. Ron said,

    June 7, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    Andrew,

    Thanks for sharing your well thought out opinions.

  148. roberty bob said,

    June 7, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    Seriously now, dads . . . you are proclaiming the gospel of our salvation to your nine-year-old son. Your son asks you what it means to have true faith. What do you say to him . . . in words that he can understand?

    Let’s start, say, with Acts 16:31 . . . the straightforward “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved . . . .”

    How complicated can you make it for your nine-year-old?

  149. Reed Here said,

    June 7, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    Sean, Lane’s guidelines include no public complaining about a moderator’s actions. Instead you are urged to take it up with them first. I know you know this.

    I’ve snipped out the part of your comment where you both: 1) complain about my editing of your comment, and 2) restate the edited comment.

    Both are clear violations of Lane’s rules. You know that. Stop.

  150. Reed Here said,

    June 7, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    Sean: the proper response is not to complain again publicly. Instead, it would be to ask to contact me privately, off-blog, and discuss the matter.

    Again you know this. Please do so if you wish.

  151. Sean Gerety said,

    June 7, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    OK, so how do I get your email address and Lane’s? I can’t find anywhere on this blog so it’s kind of tough to respond privately.

  152. Ron said,

    June 7, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    every belief is a volitional attitude, or volitional act.

    Sean,

    Maybe we might discuss this over email, or not at all, as what I’m to say really isn’t that germane to this current debate, but I’ll mention here for consideration. Also, given Andrew’s reckless remark I’m now ready to call it quits.

    My iPhone is in front of me, but I wouldn’t say my belief is volitional since I find nothing discursive about it. It’s mental to be sure and volitional acts (i.e. intentions that proceed from deliberation) proceed from such primitive beliefs, but narrowly considered I wouldn’t label anything so immediate and non-discursive as volitional. Yet I do believe that many beliefs can be relegated to the sphere of volition.

    As you know, Clark was jealous to guard against dividing the intellect from the will (Religion, Reason and Revelation); yet I’d argue that beliefs that don’t proceed from immediate intent are not best catalogued as volitional, though both types of beliefs are, of course, mental. So, for example, I choose to believe the best about Jones, but I don’t *choose* to believe I see Jones when I do. In the like manner, and I believe I go against Clark here as well, although I can choose to think logically, not all logical thoughts are volitional given that our nature i.e. our “DNA” that includes the law of non-contradiction isn’t chosen, let alone our a priori beliefs. Now again, maybe this is semantic too, but I would think that intent and reason (even if subconscious) is key to volitional acts of belief. Clark, I believe, tries to save himself when positing a choice is made even if it’s not to behave illogically and I’d infer not to deny Jones’s existence upon sight. I get that, but I think it incorporates a rather strained taxonomy that is unnecessary. So, what I possibly disagree with are terms and not relevant distinctions so much.

    But to a bigger point, trying to get partisan parties to agree on anything is not easy, especially on matters that are as nuanced as this and where all opinions can be offered at the click of a mouse. Too much noise and not enough signal.

    I’m grateful for Clark. I enjoy him immensely and have come to recognize that even Bahnsen borrowed from him from time to time. When reading Clark I’ve often thought, “hey, Bahnsen said that!” Then I had V8. Also, no theologian or philosopher has made me laugh out loud more than Clark. Not by a long shot. His wit was unsurpassed.

    Though you and I don’t always agree, and I suppose that’s because our discussions are most often esoteric, please keep up the good work, and keep challenging the status-quo. But do it respectfully, especially to gentlemen. Nuff said. :)

    Email me if anyone comes up with the mental analogue to sitting in the proverbial chair. :)

    The meds are just now kicking in, which I’ll claim for any incoherence. :) The pain is a large price to pay for only three pars and a double bogey on the back.

    Best wishes,

    Ron

  153. Reed Here said,

    June 7, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    Sean, Ron forwarded your request. I am drafting a response to you now and will send it shortly. Wishing you peace.

  154. Ron said,

    June 7, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    RB,

    Best question on the thread.

    “I love to tell the story!” All this past month, in fact, the gospel has been the center of our theological devotion and study.

    In summary, I begin with God’s holiness and our sinfulness. I develop from God’s word that He is just and, therefore, cannot give sin a pass. I speak about his wrath and how it needs to be propitiated, just like his justice must be satisfied. We look at Scripture regarding our inability to satisfy the demands of the law: so now there are two problems – we have all this sin because we transgress the law by nature and choice, and we have zero righteousness according to our conformity to the law. Even if we could somehow get rid of our sin, we still need an alien righteousness. Then, I show them the wisdom of God, the profundity of the cross. How God can be just yet also the justifier of those who come to him in faith! We discuss the cross – imputation of sin to Christ and God’s fury and wrath against His Son. I proclaim how God has solved the problem by offering up the Savior upon the cross. He has provided the only way for peace with God and the forgiveness and full payment for sin – yet without compromising His perfect righteousness. After the content of the gospel is articulated the best I can by grace and we’re all up to speed once again, we simply give thanks for what he has done. In the case of children who have not yet “closed” with Christ, I plead with them to believe in Jesus’ finished work alone on their behalf and to receive his gift of everlasting life. No more, no less. No chairs to transfer trust onto, just embrace Christ for this life and the life to come as he offered in the gospel. I speak of believe, believe, believe… I might add to the list of what must believed depending upon circumstances. When people are struggling with earning something, I might focus on Christ’s active obedience and perfect righteousness. If someone struggles with doubt, we focus on promises. If one struggles with the canon, I focus on Jesus’ intent to build His church upon the apostles and Christ and that now that foundation has been laid, we must have the canon because God is sovereign over history.

    Not sure if that’s what your after, Brother.

  155. roberty bob said,

    June 7, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    Thanks for you enthusiastic response to my question, Ron.

    While many Scripture texts on faith could be referenced, I targeted Acts 16:31 because it is one that puts the entire gospel in a nutshell. God declares his Son — and puts him forth — as Jesus (the one who saves his people from their sins), as the Christ (the Spirit-annointed and empowered one), and as the LORD (having all authority in heaven and on earth).

    As a dad preaching to / discipling my son, I would explain why this world needs such a person as this Lord Jesus Christ, and why God gave or sent him to us as he did.[covering the same ground more or less that Ron goes over in #154]. I would tell my son in the first place that it is necessary to believe THAT God’s only begotten Son IS our Lord Jesus Christ. Such believing would be Faith’s Assent.

    It is interesting, however, that in Acts 16, which tells of Paul’s ministry in Philippi, Lydia refers to herself as a believer IN the Lord (vs.15); and then later Paul entreats the jailer to believe IN the Lord Jesus Christ (vs.31). Such believing would be Faith’s Trust. I would tell my son that our Lord Jesus Christ is worthy of his trust because he has proven himself to be the Savior, the Christ, the Lord who God declared him to be. In fact, there is NO OTHER to be trusted!

    Believe IN the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved! That’s God’s Gospel Promise. What a blessed assurance it is!

  156. Ron said,

    June 7, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    And what a great thought that Is to close on. Blessings to you, your household and especiallly that precious nine year old of yours!

  157. Sean Gerety said,

    June 7, 2014 at 11:16 pm

    No chairs to transfer trust onto….

    If that were only the norm. As it is, it is tough to speak of “believe, believe, believe” when seminary profs and pastors all say simple belief is not enough and RB’s straightforward plea to his son, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” actually saves no one … or so we are told.

    Hope and pray your back is on the mend quickly, Ron D.

  158. Ron said,

    June 8, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    Thanks, Sean. Feeling much better each day. I was constrained to participate in worship via live internet coverage for which I am grateful.

    All,

    With this thread seemingly coming to a close, I’d like to repeat that I think everyone embraces the same elements of faith but are placing them under different categories. My major focus in this thread was to that end, try to point out when people might have been talking by each other.

    That being said, my post #152 might touch upon the main issue of disagreement. There is surely a volitional aspect to justifying faith, which includes the intention not to just believe but to always believe, which I think is best implied by the word trust. To believe and trust a proposition is the same thing. As well, to believe a person and to trust a person when he or she says x is also the same thing. We spent a lot of time on that idea. What wasn’t fleshed out as much was that the connotation of believing a person typically address something specific the person says. Whereas trusting a person typically conveys believing everything that person will ever say. Hence the usefulness of trust. Again though, that’s wrapped up in what some have indexed to belief alone; so again it comes down to the tagging of terms.

    Then, also, there is the first time surrendering of the soul, which I don’t think lends itself that well to the idea of assent or belief because it entails a giving up on oneself. Now, of course, Sean with Clark might include these volitional aspects under belief. But as far as I can tell, surrendering, not being propositional in nature, must be the byproduct or in some way accompany belief but cannot be a belief. One can believe he’s surrendered but that’s not what it is to be surrendered. Yet, I would think, we all agree that a first time volitional surrendering, the giving up of oneself to God’s mercy, is not a work and is not part of sanctification or regeneration but rather a component of faith.

    Now then, I do *encourage* people to believe, believe, believe and that’s pretty much it. But, having said that, I would be remiss if I didn’t add that I also *ask* them whether they have surrendered to Christ and have intentions to follow Him all their days? If they haven’t surrendered or have not resolved to follow the Savior as their Lord, then I would argue that there is something they are not truly believing since unbelievers always suppress truth (don’t believe!) in unrighteousness. That’s a biblical principle that is presupposed in Clark’s focus upon belief.

    Finally, surrendering and intentions are not external works, yet they are present when one savingly believes. Now then, if what is stated in #152 is true, that not all beliefs are volitional, then I think it is best not to collapse the volitional aspect of faith into assensus. We can rightly say that God-granted belief in Christ is sufficient to save, but when it is present so is sufficient theological content (notitia) as well as that volitional aspect of faith that includes surrender.

    I sincerely hope this doesn’t prolong the discussion.

  159. Ron said,

    June 8, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    I’m not a Star Trek fan in the least, but I sure split the infinitive a lot!

  160. Sean Gerety said,

    June 9, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    With this thread seemingly coming to a close, I’d like to repeat that I think everyone embraces the same elements of faith but are placing them under different categories.

    Not surprisingly, my overview of the debate is not quite as rosy. I think the situation is abysmal which is why I reject the traditional formulation of saving faith as the combination of understanding (notitia), assensus (assent) and trust (fiducia). The threefold definition is indefensible as anecdotally evidenced by its many defenders here. The level of confusion over the biblical requirement concerning the alone instrument by which we are justified is appalling.

    For example, after insinuating that a denial of the traditional formulation of faith is heresy, Ron Henzel states that “mental assent,” or simply “assent,” “is what most people comprehend by the mere term “belief.’” No argument here. Then he rightly notes that belief and faith are translations of the same word pistis found throughout the Greek NT. Therefore, it would follow, assuming the laws logic still apply, that belief as the alone instrument in justification is all that is required. Yet, we have seminary professors like Dr. Strange objecting in the strongest terms to JBBA being used as the equivalent to JBFA, despite “Roberty Bob’s” plea to his 9 year old son; “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved . . . .” Strange and others protest that belief alone saves no one and something more is needed, but they’re at a loss to explain exactly what that might be resorting to figurative language to explain even more figurative language. Others cited above claim that some sort of emotion is the key that completes saving faith and if you don’t have the proper emotional response you can’t be saved making the effectiveness of saving faith dependent on something inside the sinner, rather than on the objective work of Christ. It’s absurd.

    In his piece, “What Is Saving Faith,” Gordon Clark observes:

    The Latin language has not been an unexceptionable advantage to theology. Dikaioo was translated justus-facere; and thus the New Testament word for acquit or pronounce righteous was taken to mean make righteous. The result was a theory of infused grace that obscured the method of salvation until the time of Luther and the Reformation. So too it would have been better if the King James Version had omitted the word faith and emphasized the root meaning of belief.

    Because fides or faith permits, though it does not necessitate, a non-intellectual interpretation, the liberals today want us to have “faith” in a god who is unknowable and silent because he is impotent to give us any information to believe. This Latin anti-intellectualism, permitted by the noun fides, undermines all good news and makes Gospel information useless. Although the theologians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries would have repudiated twentieth-century anti-intellectualism, their Latin heritage adversely affected some of their views. Before this earlier material is discussed, however, we must turn once again to the text in order to see precisely what is the effect of believing certain propositions. [for a Clark’s discussion of the text , see http://tinyurl.com/qeuofen%5D

    Meanwhile, Federal Visionists, who have smuggled works into saving faith through the meaningless and ambiguous traditional addition of fiducia, remain safely ensconced in the PCA as they continue to lead others to Rome.

  161. Don said,

    June 9, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    Sean still seems to be under the impression that “faith” and “belief” are exact synonyms in English. Oh well.

  162. Phil D. said,

    June 9, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    [Jesus speaking, Matthew 13] “Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

    It sure sounds like there is more than just mental assent going on in the one who has persevering, saving faith, and nothing but with the others.

  163. Andrew Duggan said,

    June 9, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    Even if the FV is using trust to smuggle works into faith, they don’t do so legitimately nor necessarily from the definition of what trust is.

    While rhetorically trying to blame the FV on the trust aspect of faith as though it were a necessary implication, even Gerety is forced to tip his hand that is not really case by use of the word “smuggle”.

    The problem is that reducing faith to assent only is just as erroneous as the FV, and just as deadly. The FV may add works to faith, but those who insist contrary to WLC 72 that assent is enough, and although the catechism explains exactly is needed beyond assent, disembowel faith so that is nothing more than a shallow exercise in agreeing to propositions. The Gerety definition may entail trust, but that trust is in one’s own intellect and not in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and, as WLC 72 clearly teaches, that’s not justifying faith.

    In the end the FV teaches people to trust in themselves, that they are righteous, and Gerety teaches people to trust in themselves that they are smart enough to assent to the propositions regarding the substitutionary atonement. Neither is good news.

  164. Sean Gerety said,

    June 9, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    The problem is that reducing faith to assent only is just as erroneous as the FV, and just as deadly.

    Of course, it’s not “assent only,” but understanding too. I hardly seen why salvation by belief alone is “deadly,” but then I don’t know what your mystical “spiritual trusting” is either.

    The FV may add works to faith, but those who insist contrary to WLC 72 that assent is enough, and although the catechism explains exactly is needed beyond assent, disembowel faith so that is nothing more than a shallow exercise in agreeing to propositions.

    As has already been demonstrated, WLC 72 doesn’t teach anything in addition to assent. That’s a figment of your imagination Andrew and the result of people like Dr. Strange who have attempted to impose the traditional definition onto the Confession. You forget, even Dr. Strange has previously conceded that he wasn’t going to insist on the word “trust” because “the catechism does not use that word.” It doesn’t use the word “fiducia” either, but rather than read the Confession without your tradition laden blinders, you men artificially impose this idea on the Confessional figure of speech which is to “receive and rest.”

    In the end the FV teaches people to trust in themselves, that they are righteous, and Gerety teaches people to trust in themselves that they are smart enough to assent to the propositions regarding the substitutionary atonement.

    In addition to imposing your threefold definition of faith on the Confession, do you also deny the perspicuity of the Scripture? I didn’t think it required a particularly sharp intellect to believe the Gospel. I thought even a nine year old could understand it? Your problem is that you don’t think believing the Gospel saves anyone. Yet, the Confession states that “those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.”

  165. Ron said,

    June 9, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    I think there needs to be a bit more charity on the matter. As Dabney noted regarding this doctrine, “our own divines are more divided.”

    I might as well add that going to “belief” passages in the Bible will always be inadequate to settle this matter because Scripture is not intended as a polemic for metaphysics; otherwise we’d have to conclude a doctrine of libertarian freedom based upon Romans seven (e.g. I do what I don’t want to do). Naturally, we should not expect the Bible’s insistence to “believe” to inform us on whether we should distinguish the intellect from the will or whether faith is simple or complex, any more than we should look to Romans 7 for a detailed analysis on the workings of the will.

    The theology of saving faith contemplates recreated intentions and a subdued faculty of choice, which are best classified as ontological states of affairs that are not beliefs; yet they are essential properties of saving faith. As I’ve noted already, I don’t see how the term belief can do justice to (envelop if you will) the subdued will from which newly formed holy aspirations and beliefs proceed. So, again, the ontological state of the surrendered soul, fashioned in regeneration, though not a belief is undoubtedly part of man’s faith.

    No longer to believe in one’s own good works and to believe in the righteousness of another might only be accomplished through the means of the subdued will and surrendered soul, but those assents are not themselves those newly created states of affairs nor need they be discursive and volitional assents (any more than believing Jones is in front of me requires discursive reasoning or the will). Notwithstanding, those states of affairs, and in some cases the faculty of volition, from which beliefs proceed are to be included under the notion of faith, though distinguished from the beliefs they produce. All that to say, I find a great need to identify this ontological and volitional component of faith, and that it is best distinguished from belief – though both are enveloped by the gift of faith, the recreated propensity to believe all the Bible teaches.

  166. Ron said,

    June 9, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    Your problem is that you don’t think believing the Gospel saves anyone.

    And that speaks to one of the major problems both sides are having. That God-given belief saves does not mean that there aren’t other components of faith that must accompany belief when salvation obtains. We can’t just go to “belief” passages to prove “belief alone” lest it is also permissible to argue that belief alone precludes regeneration or even notitia.

  167. roberty bob said,

    June 9, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    ” . . . what will the outcome be for those who do not OBEY the gospel of God?” — I Peter 4:17

    believe / believe in / trust in the Lord and do good / obey the gospel / love / love me / love the Lord your God / know the Lord

    All of these acts are called for. When you narrow it down to one thing, are you necessarily ruling out all the other things? Does the command to “believe!” rule out or exclude these other called for acts, which in their respective contexts are necessary, or required, for one to be saved?

  168. Ron said,

    June 9, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    RB,

    Not all necessary conditions are causes. Good works are reciprocal responses to grace but not the cause of salvation.

  169. roberty bob said,

    June 9, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    So, the cause of salvation is . . . . _______________.

    And the necessary conditions for salvation are . . . .______________ , ______________ , ________________ , and ______________ .

    Keep the nine year old in mind here.

  170. Sean Gerety said,

    June 9, 2014 at 8:04 pm

    That God-given belief saves does not mean that there aren’t other components of faith that must accompany belief when salvation obtains.

    As you know Ron, I’ve never suggested that regeneration did not precede saving belief (I didn’t think I was in a discussion with Arminians) or that “notitia” wasn’t involved.. What has been under discussion is the instrument by which we are saved. What is bizarre, is that even when those thing are granted, like understanding must precede assent (for you cannot assent to that which you don’t understand), or that belief is the immediate work of the Holy Spirit (no one can believe without Him), some still insist belief alone in Christ alone is not the alone instrument of justification and that something more in addition to simple belief is needed.

    Andrew is almost beside himself above saying that salvation by belief alone is “dangerous” and that I’m somehow advocating that people believe in themselves instead of the finished work of Christ on their behalf. He even compares me to the FV dogs, yet he fails to note that the FV men share his view that we are justified by something *more* than belief alone; even if he can’t explain what that something more is. He and others insist that “faith” encompasses more than belief even though Scriptures only have “pistis” (translated belief or faith) and it’s verb form “pisteou” (translated believe as faith has no verb form). Now, they can pack “faith” with whatever they want, but they still must account for the Scriptures and what they have argued has no biblical warrant whatsoever as Roger so ably demonstrated on multiple occasions above. Now, I can understand why some men don’t want to listen to me, and perhaps why even some refuse to listen to Gordon Clark, but they should listen to the Scripture.

    The point is a lot of mischief has been done under the guise of “faith.” Clark mentions the liberals of his day above and everyone agrees the FV men are up to no good. The problem is even the “good guys” don’t understand faith and saving faith and have been unable to defend it. They have failed in what the PCA magazine ByFaith called “the issue of this generation.” That’s why it’s time to stop acting like a bunch of reflexive and unthinking papists and put an end to the tradition that maintains faith is a combination of understanding, assent and trust. As Clark complained over thirty years ago:

    The crux of the difficulty with the popular analysis of faith into notitia (understanding), assensus (assent), and fiducia (trust), is that fiducia comes from the same root as fides (faith). 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.

  171. Ron said,

    June 9, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    As you know Ron, I’ve never suggested that regeneration did not precede saving belief (I didn’t think I was in a discussion with Arminians) or that “notitia” wasn’t involved.. What has been under discussion is the instrument by which we are saved.

    Sean,

    Sure, I appreciate that. My point was that we may not point to “belief” as recorded in Scripture, even if the import were assent and nothing else, and draw the conclusion thereby that there is nothing else involved behind the scenes so to speak. Believe and be saved cannot be used to preclude fiducia any more than it can be used to preclude notitia. So, those sorts of texts are really non-starters for me.

    Andrew is almost beside himself…

    Then I would suggest moving on.That anyone would assert that you or anyone else here is adding trusting in one’s own intellect to the message of the gospel is a sure sign of at least not paying attention.

  172. Andrew Duggan said,

    June 9, 2014 at 8:50 pm

    Reed et al, I apologize if the tone of what follows is harsh, but please consider the serious spiritual danger that Gerety is pushing.

    ————-

    I’m hardly beside myself. I’m sorry for you, though really that you are so very lost.

    Since you didn’t like it the first time, how about now?

    The problem is that reducing faith to “assent and understanding” only is just as erroneous as the FV, and just as deadly, but then you knew that understanding is obviously a prerequisite for assent. Can you even put two words together without mendacity? So wise but never coming to an understanding of the truth because you trust in yourself that you are smart. Always directing towards yourself and your own abilities and always away from the Lord Jesus Christ. Belief doesn’t save. Christ saves.

    Again you sell as truth that which is false.

    even though Scriptures only have “pistis” (translated belief or faith) and it’s verb form “pisteou” (translated believe as faith has no verb form).

    Those are Greek words. The Scriptures of the Old Testament were not written in Greek. So to say “only” therefore is either to lie or be so entirely ignorant that nothing you say is worthy of serious consideration. I would have given you the benefit of the doubt, that you were ignorant, but given your track record above it’s not realistic.

    To suggest that WLC72 doesn’t require anything beyond assent is, after all that has passed above, simply to lie. WLC72 says “not only assenteth”.

    Repent.

  173. Ron said,

    June 9, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    Belief doesn’t save. Christ saves.

    Come now, Andrew. You are arguing for a specific definition of faith that appropriates Christ’s salvation. Call it “Faith*.” Now what if Sean wrote, “Faith* doesn’t save, Christ saves.” Now how helpful is that?

  174. Andrew Duggan said,

    June 9, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    Ron, Just as helpful. Faith doesn’t save, Jesus saves, so important is that fact that is his name. We are not saved by our act of faith or believing, but Jesus Christ the LORD saved the elect, and they by the working of His Holy Spirit are given the faith he requires of us to be united to him, and thus be partakers of salvation.

    We are the beneficiaries of salvation but Christ is the author and finisher of it, and the object of it.. It is about the person of the LORD Jesus Christ. Faith, which is the gift of God is only the instrument of justification not the cause. We acquire the salvation that Christ has done by God’s gift of faith (including trusting in the person of Christ)

    You’re still missing the necessary spiritual personal trust in the Person of the LORD Jesus Christ. Beyond understanding and agreeing to the ideas, there is the absolutely necessity of trust in the Person of Christ. It’s spiritual.

  175. roberty bob said,

    June 9, 2014 at 10:58 pm

    Hear! Hear! For by grace you have been saved through faith; this is not of yourself, it is the gift of God.

  176. Ron said,

    June 9, 2014 at 11:05 pm

    I trust no Clarkian will claim victory in this discussion on the basis of such disjunctions. All Sean can claim against you is a no-show to this discussion.

    You’re not doing the cause of trust much good, Andrew, but I do admire your zeal.

  177. Sjoerd de Boer said,

    June 10, 2014 at 2:44 am

    I agree with Andrew when he says in #172:

    “The problem is that reducing faith to “assent and understanding” only is just as erroneous as the FV, and just as deadly,….”

    Sean keeps going on avoiding the clear spiritual tone of not only the Westminster Confession, but also of other reformed confessions like Canons of Dort and the Heidelberger Catechism which I have set out above. He points only to the elements that can be rationalized. Everything that falls outside the realm of (human) logic is tagged mystical and/or irrational. They (I include here the late John Robbins and many I personally know from the past) seem to either reject or approach with much suspicion such irrational subjects like those of the supernatural, experience, trust, love, emotions, mysteries etc. that are unavoidably connected with the Scriptures themselves and the realities in the life of a true believer.

    Now, I am the first to acknowledge the devastating dangers of unbiblical mysticism and experientialism and it takes constant examination of the Scriptures to rightly discern between truth and falsehood so as not to deceive ourselves. Also, when we speak of trusting in Christ as our Redeemer, we have to examine ourselves if we really trust in Him or in our trust, just as we cannot have faith in our faith or in our faithfulness (FV), since even true faith it is only an instrument.

    However, and I am afraid that here lies the problem in the whole discussion, while my faith rests only and wholly on the OBJECT of Christ’s propitiation for us, SUBJECTIVELY I recognize a heartfelt trust in Christ’s finished work that He did this not only for others (the elect) but also for ME!

    In my opinion we cannot discuss this subjective part or element of faith apart from a proper definition of regeneration, since also our will to assent and trust is involved.

    Dr. W.H. Velema in Concise Reformed Dogmatics, p.594, 595

    “We call attention to the relationship between faith and life (John20:31). To have faith means to receive life in receiving the promises of the gospel. This is how through faith we are born again. We must abandon the idea that faith consists of a number of independent elements and that by merely combining these one could capture the essence of faith.
    Faith is ultimately an act of the heart that involves our entire being, including our intellect, our will, and our emotions. The concept of faith becomes clouded when only one or two of these psychic attributes are thought to be the seat of faith. We believe with our hearts. Through faith we gain a relationship with God, who reveals himself to us through his promise……
    Rationalists are satisfied with the Word of God (however they may define it). Mystics (of whatever type of affiliation) rely on God apart from his Word. This is in essence spiritualism. The Reformed tradition sees the Word of God as well as the God of the Word as the “object” of faith. Rational understanding is insufficient. Neither is it possible to have a relationship with God apart from knowledge of his Word…”

  178. Roger said,

    June 10, 2014 at 5:49 am

    Sean wrote,

    170. What is bizarre, is that even when those thing are granted, like understanding must precede assent (for you cannot assent to that which you don’t understand), or that belief is the immediate work of the Holy Spirit (no one can believe without Him), some still insist belief alone in Christ alone is not the alone instrument of justification and that something more in addition to simple belief is needed.

    Bizarre indeed… And despite our sharp disagreement over another point of doctrine, I have to commend you for holding your ground here and not giving an inch over the purity of the gospel!

  179. Roger said,

    June 10, 2014 at 5:55 am

    Andrew wrote,

    174. You’re still missing the necessary spiritual personal trust in the Person of the LORD Jesus Christ. Beyond understanding and agreeing to the ideas, there is the absolutely necessity of trust in the Person of Christ. It’s spiritual.

    Since this false disjunction between believing the gospel propositions about Christ and personal trust in Christ has been repeated ad nauseam here (even though Sean and I have refuted it several times now), I’ll let Vincent Cheung put it to rest once for all. If you’re able to refute his argument, then please do so and enlighten us all. If not, then please stop parroting this nonsense over and over again as if it proves something…

    ASSENT is intellectual agreement to the understood propositions. Although anyone may gain some understanding of the gospel message, not everyone will agree with it. It is easy for a person to explain the biblical teaching on the resurrection of Christ, but whether the hearer will agree that it really occurred is a different matter. The evil disposition of the unregenerate mind prevents a person from assenting to the gospel regardless of the preacher’s persuasiveness. Therefore, one must first be regenerated by God, so as to gain a
    new disposition that is favorable to the gospel, after which he will readily assent to the gospel.

    Since many theologians think that the non-elect can truly assent to the gospel without “personal trust” in Christ, they also argue that knowledge and assent are insufficient to save. Rather, one must add to knowledge and assent the third element of TRUST, which they define as a personal and relational reliance on the person of Christ. Whereas trust entails commitment, somehow assent does not. They say that although the objects of knowledge and assent are propositions, the object of trust must be a person, namely, Christ. That is, saving faith believes in Christ as a person, and not only a set of propositions.

    Although not all theologians distinguish faith into these three elements, many of them define it in ways that amount to claiming that saving faith must move from the intellectual to the relational, the propositional to the personal, and from assent to trust. To them, assent corresponds to a “believe that” faith, while trust is a “believe in” faith. Assent believes that certain things about Christ are true, but trust goes beyond that to believe in the person of Christ. Faith is belief in a person, not facts about the person. They point to passages demanding a faith that believes in the gospel. For example, Acts 16:31 says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved,” and 1 John 3:23 says, “This is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ.”

    However, there are conclusive reasons to reject this distinction between assent and trust, and instead to affirm that faith consists only of knowledge and assent.

    First, the Bible does not exclusively use the “believe in” type of language when referring to faith. For example, Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). The verse demands that one who comes to God must assent to two propositions. He must believe that (1) “God exists,” and that (2) “God rewards those who earnestly seek him.” The writer says that this kind of faith can “please God,” and that “the ancients were commended for” having it (v. 2).

    Second, the New Testament indicates that to believe in Christ means to believe that certain propositions are true:

    For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. (1 Corinthians 15:3-5)

    Third, an analysis of language demonstrates that believing in (or “trust”) a person is nothing other than shorthand for believing that (or “assent”) certain propositions about him are true.

    There are at least two ways to understand the question, “Do you believe in the devil?” It may be asking whether one believes that the devil exists, or whether he believes that the devil is worthy of worship. That is, the question implies one of the two propositions, and asks a person to affirm or deny it. A Christian would affirm the first and deny the second. However, unless the context of the conversation establishes the meaning of the question, or unless the person makes an assumption as to the meaning of the question, it is impossible to tell which of the two propositions is intended.

    If D = “the devil,” e = “exists,” and w = “worthy of worship,” then “I believe in D” may mean either “I believe that De” or “I believe that Dw.” Either way, “I believe in D” must represent either of the two “believe that” statements, and thus it is nothing more than shorthand for one of them. By itself, the meaning is undefined.

    Likewise, the meaning of “I believe in God” is undefined unless it is reduced to one or more “believe that” propositions. In the context of Hebrews 11:6, if G = “God,” e = “exists,” and r = “rewarder,” then “I believe in G” appears to have three possible meanings:

    1. “I believe that Ge”
    2. “I believe that Gr”
    3. “I believe that Ge + Gr”

    Hebrews 11:6 calls for a faith that affirms (3).36 It is certainly a “believe that” kind of faith, but no one can please God without it. Also, note that to believe in X may imply a “believe that” faith in multiple propositions. In Hebrews 11:6, to have faith means to believe that Ge + Gr.

    Therefore, we conclude that “I believe in X” is shorthand for “I believe that X1 + X2 + X3…Xn.” This means that to believe or have faith in something or someone is to believe or have faith that certain propositions about that something or someone are true. To have faith in God and in Christ is precisely to believe something about them – to have a “believe that” faith. Some people might consider it more pious or intimate to say that faith must go beyond the intellectual and that faith is belief or trust in a person instead of assent to propositions, but this idea of faith is meaningless. A faith that does not “believe that” certain propositions are true does not believe anything at all; the content of this so-called faith is undefined. There is, in fact, no faith.

    36 It would seem that a person cannot believe that God is one who rewards those who seek him without first believing that God exists. Therefore, it is impossible to affirm (2) by itself, unless the meaning is that God would be one who rewards those who seek him if (1) was true. (Vincent Cheung, Systematic Theology, pg. 194-196)

  180. Roger said,

    June 10, 2014 at 6:32 am

    As Cheung conclusively proves, this false disjunction between personal “belief” of the gospel propositions and personal “trust” in Christ is at best nonsense. At worse, as Sean has pointed out, it’s a means of corrupting the gospel message by smuggling in one’s personal “faithfulness” as an element of fiducia, as the FV proponents have done. I see no upside to it all…

  181. Andrew Duggan said,

    June 10, 2014 at 9:02 am

    Roger @179.

    In his paragraph beginning with “First, the Bible does not exclusively use the “believe in” type of language.” Cheung makes the error that because the Scriptures do often speak of “believe that”, that there is all there is to it. No one denies that one must assent to the truth of the Gospel, i.e., “believe that”… He is making a convenient, but improper reduction.

    See “not exclusively” does not mean “never”. Other ridiculous fellows could use the same logic in reverse and say that because the scriptures don’t exclusively use the “believe that” language that assent is not a necessary part of belief. Absurd, but in the spiritual sense no more than what you’re proposing via Cheung.

    Just because the scriptures often use synecdoche doesn’t mean they are eliminating the full sense of what is entailed. So just because the Apostles may use the language of the “believe that” doesn’t necessarily prove assent to propositions is all there is required.

    Having made that blunder he then drives to a false conclusion.

    Lets take a quick run through just the first 20% of the Psalter.

    Psalm 2:13 Kiss the Son lest he be angry and ye perish from the way when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.
    Psalm 5:11 But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice:…
    Psalm 7:1 O LORD my God in thee do I put my trust:
    Psalm 9:10 And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou O LORD has not forsaken them that seek thee.
    Psalm 11:1 In the LORD put I my trust: how say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain?
    Psalm 13:5 But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.
    Psalm 16:1 Preserve me O God: for in thee do I put my trust.
    Psalm 18:2 The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer: my God, my strength, in whom I will trust: my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.
    Psalm 21:7 For the king trusteth in the LORD and through the mercy of the most High he shall not be moved.
    Psalm 22:4 Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted and thou didst deliver them.
    Psalm 22:5 They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee and were not confounded.
    Psalm 22:7,8 All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head saying: He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.
    Psalm 22:9 But that art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts.
    Psalm 25:2 O my God I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me.
    Psalm 25:20 O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee.
    Psalm 26:1 Judge me O LORD for I have walked in mine integrity: I have trusted also in the LORD therefore I shall not slide.
    Psalm 28:7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth, and with my song I will praise him.

    Spiritual personal trust in the LORD Jesus Christ is essential to the message of the Psalms, and therefore to the Scriptures as a whole.

  182. Ron said,

    June 10, 2014 at 10:19 am

    Since this false disjunction between believing the gospel propositions about Christ and personal trust in Christ has been repeated ad nauseam here…

    Hi Roger,

    So there is no confusion, the implicit false junction (and question begging) I recently referred to was that of pitting “Christ saves,” which has to do with his work on our behalf, against the means by which his saving work is appropriated, the focus of this discussion. I, also, lament over what you just pointed out.

    Whereas trust entails commitment, somehow assent does not.

    I find this rather equivocal. As I’ve noted elsewhere even alongside you, trust and believe can by synonyms. Notwithstanding, and as I’ve also pointed out, trust (more commonly) is used to connote confidence in or reliance upon. In those more common cases, to trust isto commit. In those cases, trust is to exercise volition, which is not a necessary condition for non-discursive assent, which is not limited to a priori beliefs (e.g. Jones standing in front of me). That’s just one reason to keep assent separate from the volitional aspect of faith.

    Secondly, what I find more subtly equivocal is Vincent’s use of the word “entails” in this way. This gets rather interesting.That trust “entails” commitment can imply that trust is an essential property of commitment. That’s how it’s being employed here. However, entails has another use. Getting to Paris entails getting on a plane. In that second sense, entails is not used to define another term but rather to explicate a necessary condition for a state of affairs to obtain. Entails can offer a causal occasion by which something else occurs – getting to Paris entails getting on a plane; it can also suggest a non-causal necessary condition pertaining to a state of affairs: If I’m justified, then I have good works.In that sense, being in a state of justification entails having good works.

    So, even allowing for the premise (p*) “nobody can assent to the gospel without being saved” – to argue that assent is “sufficient” for salvation is not very interesting because it does not achieve the goal of showing that assent is to rely upon Christ. Even granting p* all we may conclude is that those who assent to the gospel do also rely upon Christ, but that is far from showing that assent is to trust in Christ. The point being, that true assent “entails” a state of commitment does not imply that commitment is a property of assent.

    Given that all beliefs are not volitional, and commitment is not an essential property of belief (though it is a necessary state of affairs whenever God grants regenerative belief), trust must be distinguished from God-given assent, though like notitia can never be separated from it when saving faith obtains.

    Now again, I have no reason to doubt that you affirm that a believer must rely upon Christ to be saved and that you are doing so.

  183. Sean Gerety said,

    June 10, 2014 at 11:16 am

    Sure, I appreciate that. My point was that we may not point to “belief” as recorded in Scripture, even if the import were assent and nothing else, and draw the conclusion thereby that there is nothing else involved behind the scenes so to speak. Believe and be saved cannot be used to preclude fiducia any more than it can be used to preclude notitia. So, those sorts of texts are really non-starters for me.

    For the sake of argument Ron, even if I were to grant that belief as recorded in Scripture is somehow inconclusive, Henzel’s point remains and that “mental assent” is what most people understand by the “belief.” I suppose people could pack the word “belief” with similar anti-intellectual nonsense to make a Romanist (who thinks faith is beyond reason) and a liberal (who thinks God is unknowable and faith is an existential encounter or even a sense of dread) all very happy, but for now the equation is:

    Belief = understanding (notitia) + assent (assensus)

    vs

    Faith = understanding (notitia) + assent (assensus) + trust (fiducia meaning everything from a warm and fuzzy feeling, to Andrew’s “spiritual trusting,” to personal loyalty and a bunch of other nonsense in between).

    Frankly, if belief is understood as the combination of understanding and assent, it is impossible to add a bunch of anti-intellectual nonsense to its definition. Adding “fiducia” as that which completes “faith” opens the door to an almost endless stream of manipulation and nonsense some more destructive than others.

    Consequently, when TEs, REs, seminary profs, not to mention pew-ons like me, are fed so many contradictory and incoherent additions that are all suppose to make simple belief saving, when the FV men come along all claiming to affirm JBFA many people, even if only out of charity, are hard pressed to object. After all, and as already mentioned, even Jeff Meyers agrees that saving faith is more than belief alone and includes “fiducia.”

    It’s really a very bad situation and one that could be easily rectified if people would only see that the Reformed tradition concerning the nature of faith has been misleading and the “language of the church,” Latin, has once again not served the church very well. Fiducia at its most innocuous is only guilty of adding a level of ambiguity and confusion to our understanding of saving faith, at worst it has been the means by which the entire Gospel has been gutted.

  184. Ron said,

    June 10, 2014 at 11:54 am

    Frankly, if belief is understood as the combination of understanding and assent, it is impossible to add a bunch of anti-intellectual nonsense to its definition.

    But Sean, preventing bad practice by restricting a definition is not typically how we arrive at valid terminology. I realize you realize this.:)

    Adding “fiducia” as that which completes “faith” opens the door to an almost endless stream of manipulation and nonsense some more destructive than others.

    Yes, and by preaching grace we open the door to an endless stream of moral license… just as infant baptism has resulted in Christian nominalism.

  185. Sean Gerety said,

    June 10, 2014 at 11:58 am

    Sjoerd writes:

    However, and I am afraid that here lies the problem in the whole discussion, while my faith rests only and wholly on the OBJECT of Christ’s propitiation for us, SUBJECTIVELY I recognize a heartfelt trust in Christ’s finished work that He did this not only for others (the elect) but also for ME!

    Let me see if I follow. Belief in Christ alone according to the Gospel alone saves no one, one must also have a “heartfelt trust,” a feeling or an emotion of some sort in order to be saved. Therefore, it follows that the difference between heaven and hell, life and death depends on whether someone emotes in the proper way. If I’m not misunderstanding you Sjoerd, for you and Andrew salvation ultimately depends on you. How is this even remotely Reformed or even Christian?

    Further, what exactly does this “heartfelt trust” consist of so that I can know whether or not I’m having it? Is it a feeling of absolute dependence as Schleiermacher said or just a generally warm and sunny disposition or something else entirely? . Also, I don’t know about you, but since my emotions seem to come and go, if I have this feeling (yet to be explained) by which I’m saved one day, this “heartfelt trust” as you call it, what if I don’t have it the next? Could I be saved today and lost the next? Sounds Arminian to me.

  186. Sean Gerety said,

    June 10, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    Yes, and by preaching grace we open the door to an endless stream of moral license… just as infant baptism has resulted in Christian nominalism.

    Which is all the more reason why we need to be clear and unambiguous in how we define our terms. I’m sure you would agree this is even more important when we’re discussing the very heart of the Gospel, even justification by belief alone. Define or discard.

  187. Sjoerd de Boer said,

    June 10, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    Sean, I am just reading your comment 185 during my short lunch time. I hope I will come back to your questions, probably late tonight.

    But this I can say and assure you right away. I know the Canons of Dort too well to know that I am absolute not an Arminian (you should know that as well), I am against Schleiermacher’s ideas and theology and I am very much opposing FV, just as you are, although you might oppose it from a different point of view.

  188. DM said,

    June 10, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    This justification by belief alone mantra is not the Gospel because believing the Bible will save no one. Only if you have faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ can you have any hope of salvation. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.

  189. DM said,

    June 10, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    I am guessing that Sjoerd de Boer is Dutch or from ZA, so perhaps an afscheiding or doleantie background? The reformers, the puritans in Britain and America as well as the Dutch in the nadere reformatie practiced experimental theology, which was opposed to any notion of justification by mere mental assent. Hardly arminian. Why would we need preachers if “justification by belief” were true?

  190. Roger said,

    June 11, 2014 at 6:42 am

    Andrew wrote,

    181. In his paragraph beginning with “First, the Bible does not exclusively use the “believe in” type of language.” Cheung makes the error that because the Scriptures do often speak of “believe that”, that there is all there is to it. No one denies that one must assent to the truth of the Gospel, i.e., “believe that”… He is making a convenient, but improper reduction.

    Cheung isn’t “making a convenient, but improper reduction” at all, because he’s not relying solely upon this first point in order to draw the conclusion of his argument. What you have done is conveniently ignored points two and three of his argument in order to set up and knock down a straw man. Brilliant!

    Cheung goes on to say:

    Second, the New Testament indicates that to believe in Christ means to believe that certain propositions are true:

    For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. (1 Corinthians 15:3-5)

    Cheung is absolutely correct here, for the Apostle Paul explicitly states that we are saved by believing these gospel propositions about the person and work of Christ on our behalf!

    “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word [the gospel propositions] which I preached to you – unless you believed [the gospel propositions] in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:1-2)

    If Paul is telling the truth here (that we are saved by believing the gospel propositions “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures”), then it necessarily follows that Cheung is correct when he says that “the New Testament indicates that to believe in Christ [for salvation] means to believe that certain propositions are true.”

    Cheung continues:

    Third, an analysis of language demonstrates that believing in (or “trust”) a person is nothing other than shorthand for believing that (or “assent”) certain propositions about him are true.

    Again, you simply ignored Cheung’s detailed analysis below, which demonstrates the truthfulness of this third point of his argument. Could it possibly be because you can’t refute what he says?

    There are at least two ways to understand the question, “Do you believe in the devil?” It may be asking whether one believes that the devil exists, or whether he believes that the devil is worthy of worship. That is, the question implies one of the two propositions, and asks a person to affirm or deny it. A Christian would affirm the first and deny the second. However, unless the context of the conversation establishes the meaning of the question, or unless the person makes an assumption as to the meaning of the question, it is impossible to tell which of the two propositions is intended.

    If D = “the devil,” e = “exists,” and w = “worthy of worship,” then “I believe in D” may mean either “I believe that De” or “I believe that Dw.” Either way, “I believe in D” must represent either of the two “believe that” statements, and thus it is nothing more than shorthand for one of them. By itself, the meaning is undefined.

    Likewise, the meaning of “I believe in God” is undefined unless it is reduced to one or more “believe that” propositions. In the context of Hebrews 11:6, if G = “God,” e = “exists,” and r = “rewarder,” then “I believe in G” appears to have three possible meanings:

    1. “I believe that Ge”
    2. “I believe that Gr”
    3. “I believe that Ge + Gr”

    Hebrews 11:6 calls for a faith that affirms (3). It is certainly a “believe that” kind of faith, but no one can please God without it. Also, note that to believe in X may imply a “believe that” faith in multiple propositions. In Hebrews 11:6, to have faith means to believe that Ge + Gr.

    Finally, Cheung concludes his argument drawn from points 1, 2, and 3 above. You can’t simply ignore two-thirds of his argument and then declare victory! Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way in “Real Ville.”

    Therefore, we conclude that “I believe in X” is shorthand for “I believe that X1 + X2 + X3…Xn.” This means that to believe or have faith in something or someone is to believe or have faith that certain propositions about that something or someone are true. To have faith in God and in Christ is precisely to believe something about them – to have a “believe that” faith.

    Cheung’s conclusion here is spot on. Trusting or “believing in” Christ for salvation means “believing that” He is the divine Son of God who died for our sins and was raised for our justification (i.e., voluntarily assenting to the understood propositions of the gospel about the Person and work of Christ on our behalf), nothing more and nothing less.

    “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you [in propositions] the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes [the preached propositions about forgiveness of sins in Christ] is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses… So when the Jews went out of the synagogue, the Gentiles begged that these words [propositional truths of the gospel] might be preached to them the next Sabbath… On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God [propositional truths of the gospel]. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things [propositional truths of the gospel] spoken by Paul. Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, ‘It was necessary that the word of God [propositional truths of the gospel] should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it [the propositional truths of the gospel], and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles…’ Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed [the propositional truths of the gospel]. And the word of the Lord [the propositional truths of the gospel] was being spread throughout all the region.” (Acts 13:38-49)

  191. Ron Henzel said,

    June 11, 2014 at 6:45 am

    Here, indeed, is the chief hinge on which faith turns: that we do not regard the promises of mercy that God offers as true only outside ourselves, but not at all in us; rather that we make them ours by inwardly embracing them. Hence, at last is born that confidence which Paul elsewhere calls “peace” [Romans 5:1], unless someone may prefer to derive peace from it. Now it is an assurance that renders the conscience calm and peaceful before God’s judgment. Without it the conscience must be harried by disturbed alarm, and almost torn to pieces; unless perhaps, forgetting God and self, it for the moment sleeps. And truly for the moment, for it does not long enjoy that miserable forgetfulness without the memory of divine judgment repeatedly coming back and very violently rending it. Briefly, he alone is truly a believer who, convinced by a firm conviction that God is a kindly, and well-disposed Father toward him, promises himself all things on the basis of his generosity; who, relying upon the promises of divine benevolence toward him, lays hold on an undoubted expectation of salvation. As the apostle points out in these words: “If we hold our confidence and glorying in hope, firm even to the end” [Hebrews 3:7, cf. Vg.]. Thus, he considers that no one hopes well in the Lord except him who confidently glories in the inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom. No man is a believer, I say, except him who, leaning upon the assurance of his salvation, confidently triumphs over the devil and death; as we are taught from that masterly summation of Paul: I have confessed that “neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come…can separate us from the love of God which embraces us in Christ Jesus” [Rom. 8:38-39 p.]. Thus, in the same manner, the apostle does not consider the eyes of our minds well illumined, except as we discern what the hope of the eternal inheritance is to which we have been called [Ephesians 1:18]. And everywhere he so teaches as to intimate that we cannot otherwise well comprehend the goodness of God unless we gather from it the fruit of great assurance.

    [John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 3.2.16, Ford Lewis Battles, translator, (Philadelphia, PA, USA: The Westminster Press, 1960) 1:561-562.]

  192. Roger said,

    June 11, 2014 at 7:50 am

    Ron wrote,

    182. As I’ve noted elsewhere even alongside you, trust and believe can by synonyms. Notwithstanding, and as I’ve also pointed out, trust (more commonly) is used to connote confidence in or reliance upon. In those more common cases, to trust is to commit. In those cases, trust is to exercise volition, which is not a necessary condition for non-discursive assent, which is not limited to a priori beliefs (e.g. Jones standing in front of me). That’s just one reason to keep assent separate from the volitional aspect of faith.

    While not all instances of assent may be volitional, assenting to the propositions of the gospel is indeed a volitional act, for it is a response to the command to repent and believe the gospel (to refuse to assent is also a volitional act that incurs guilt). So unless one can involuntarily assent to a divine command (which doesn’t seem possible to me), then assenting to the propositions of the gospel is a voluntary act by its very nature.

    The point being, that true assent “entails” a state of commitment does not imply that commitment is a property of assent.

    If assenting to the propositions of the gospel is by its very nature a voluntary act of obedience to God’s command (as I argued above), then “commitment” (as an “exercise of volition”) is indeed a property of assent to the gospel.

  193. Roger said,

    June 11, 2014 at 8:23 am

    @ Ron, 191. I certainly agree and give a hearty Amen to everything Calvin said in the quotation you provided. And, while I can’t speak for Sean, I’m pretty sure that he would as well…

  194. Andrew Duggan said,

    June 11, 2014 at 8:48 am

    Roger, no he had a three legged stool. All I did was point out that one particular leg was not sound the rest of it collapsed under its own weight. Therefore I didn’t need to deal with the rest of it since his argument cannot be right because of the improper reduction.

    And just because he repeats his improper reduction when he says: “Second, the New Testament indicates that to believe in Christ means to believe that certain propositions are true” doesn’t make it any more true. I as demonstrated previously just because the Scriptures sometimes use the short hand of believing that for the full sense of faith in Christ doesn’t mean they reducing trust in Christ to understanding and assent to propositions about Christ. Synecdoche.

    There was a lot of additional notitia that was revealed in the coming of Christ, and so the NT writers require assent to all the newly revealed data. The personal trust in God and in the Redeemer was so thoroughly presented in the OT especially the Psalms that the NT writes expected that to already be known. Now we know a lot more about him with whom we have to do, and so their speaking often but not exclusively about “believing that” doesn’t mean they meant that’s all one had to do salvation.

    Two dimensional thinkers obviously would have trouble understanding that.

  195. Sean Gerety said,

    June 11, 2014 at 11:34 am

    And, while I can’t speak for Sean, I’m pretty sure that he would as well…

    I think Calvin might be confusing assurance with saving faith, not that the two are completely unrelated. Not to get too wide afield, but it’s a little hard for me to square Calvin’s comment, ”No man is a believer, I say, except him who, leaning upon the assurance of his salvation, confidently triumphs over the devil and death,” with what the Confession states regarding assurance, specifically in WCF 18.4. Besides, we’re not talking about perseverance either and I think the Christian life is often wrought with struggles even those which shake us the very core of our belief and even our “assurance of salvation.”

    Calvin does say things which I can completely agree with and without any reservation, like:

    This, then, is the true knowledge of Christ, if we receive him as he is offered by the Father: namely, clothed with his gospel. For just as he has been appointed as the goal of our faith, so we cannot take the right road to him unless the gospel goes before us.

    You would think this would put to rest those who claim believing in Christ is something we do apart from or in addition to believing the message of the gospel. I know a lot of people who say they believe in Jesus and with all the emotion Andrew and Sjoerd could want, but deny his Gospel. A little further on Calvin says; “faith is a knowledge of the divine benevolence toward us and a sure persuasion of its truth.” Sounds very much like assent to me. In fact, earlier in the chapter he refutes those who say that “faith is ‘formed’ when pious inclination is added to assent” by quickly adding, “For even assent rests upon such pious inclination — at least such assent as is revealed in the Scriptures!”

    Clark’s section on Calvin in What is Saving Faith is helpful and includes a discussion of this section from the Institutes and Cavlin’s refutation of the Romanist idea of “formed” and “unformed” faith including this:

    For example, in III,ii, 8, he [Calvin] says, “they [the Schoolmen] maintain faith to be a mere assent, with which every despiser of God may receive as true whatever is contained in the Scriptures.” Now, maybe some brash Schoolman or stupid monk said this; but it is not the post-tridentine official position. In the twentieth century Catholic Encyclopedia, faith is stated to be “fiducial assent.” Nor is it clear that a despiser of God can receive as true whatever – some things no doubt, but everything? – is contained in Scripture.

    Isn’t this exactly what we’re being accused of and that if saving faith is the assent to the understood propositions of the Gospel that means that “every despiser of God may receive as true whatever is contained in the Scriptures.” This seems to be the heart of their objection and that if we’re justified by belief alone therefore the reprobate can come to saving faith even apart from the work of the Spirit, but this doesn’t follow from anything I’ve said, you’ve said, or Clark has said. FWIW I think our opponents are more interested in fighting straw men.

  196. Sean Gerety said,

    June 11, 2014 at 11:42 am

    And, while I can’t speak for Sean, I’m pretty sure that he would as well…

    I think Calvin might be confusing assurance with saving faith, not that the two are completely unrelated. Not to get too wide afield, but it’s a little hard for me to square Calvin’s comment, ”No man is a believer, I say, except him who, leaning upon the assurance of his salvation, confidently triumphs over the devil and death,” with what the Confession states regarding assurance, specifically in WCF 18.4. Besides, we’re not talking about perseverance either and I think the Christian life is often wrought with struggles even those which shake us the very core of our belief and even our “assurance of salvation.”

    Calvin does say things which I can completely agree with and without any reservation, like:

    This, then, is the true knowledge of Christ, if we receive him as he is offered by the Father: namely, clothed with his gospel. For just as he has been appointed as the goal of our faith, so we cannot take the right road to him unless the gospel goes before us.

    You would think this would put to rest those who claim believing in Christ is something we do apart from or in addition to believing the message of the gospel. I know a lot of people who say they believe in Jesus and with all the emotion Andrew and Sjoerd could want, but deny his Gospel. A little further on Calvin says; “faith is a knowledge of the divine benevolence toward us and a sure persuasion of its truth.” Sounds very much like assent to me. In fact, earlier in the chapter he refutes those who say that “faith is ‘formed’ when pious inclination is added to assent” by quickly adding, “For even assent rests upon such pious inclination — at least such assent as is revealed in the Scriptures!”

    Clark’s section on Calvin in What is Saving Faith is helpful and includes a discussion of this section from the Institutes and Cavlin’s refutation of the Romanist idea of “formed” and “unformed” faith including this:

    For example, in III,ii, 8, he [Calvin] says, “they [the Schoolmen] maintain faith to be a mere assent, with which every despiser of God may receive as true whatever is contained in the Scriptures.” Now, maybe some brash Schoolman or stupid monk said this; but it is not the post-tridentine official position. In the twentieth century Catholic Encyclopedia, faith is stated to be “fiducial assent.” Nor is it clear that a despiser of God can receive as true whatever – some things no doubt, but everything? – is contained in Scripture.

    Isn’t this exactly what we’re being accused of and that if saving faith is the assent to the understood propositions of the Gospel that means that “every despiser of God may receive as true whatever is contained in the Scriptures.” This seems to be the heart of their objection and that if we’re justified by belief alone therefore the reprobate can come to saving faith even apart from the work of the Spirit, but this doesn’t follow from anything I’ve said, you’ve said, or Clark has said. FWIW I think our opponents are more interested in fighting straw men.

  197. Sean Gerety said,

    June 11, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    DM writes:

    Why would we need preachers if “justification by belief” were true?

    While this is probably the silliest objection yet, perhaps Paul can help clarify:

    “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”

    Can’t believe what you haven’t heard DM. I don’t even understand your other post #188 as it seems hopelessly self-contradictory.

  198. Ron said,

    June 11, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    While not all instances of assent may be volitional, assenting to the propositions of the gospel is indeed a volitional act, for it is a response to the command to repent and believe the gospel (to refuse to assent is also a volitional act that incurs guilt).

    Roger,

    Not all favorable responses to the gospel follow a command to believe, as I argue here. By grace one can be sick of her sin and throw herself upon God’s mercy in Christ without ever hearing even a whisper of a command to do so. There is no sign of obedience with respect to the publican who could not look up toward heaven as he cried out for mercy. With some we just have compassion, making a difference.

    So unless one can involuntarily assent to a divine command (which doesn’t seem possible to me), then assenting to the propositions of the gospel is a voluntary act by its very nature.

    I don’t think you want to go there either. You’ve been arguing all along that if one believes the proposition “Jesus died for my sins,” he will be saved. The historical gospel and how it applies to one personally is indeed contained in propositions. However, commands are neither propositional nor are they the gospel. We can’t believe commands because “I command x” is neither true nor false. We can understand commands, but we cannot believe them. Once the command is reworked into an if-then covenant-proposition, it’s no longer a command but I’ll grant you that obedience can be in view. But that begs the question whether one can only come to Christ as an act of obedience.

    If assenting to the propositions of the gospel is by its very nature a voluntary act of obedience to God’s command (as I argued above), then “commitment” (as an “exercise of volition”) is indeed a property of assent to the gospel.

    Even if I were to grant that a command can be propositional (or we rework the command into an if-then proposition) it’s inadequate to assert that assenting to one proposition coupled with a volitional commitment implies that the latter is an essential property of the former. Please don’t just dismiss the rigor that is required to draw such a conclusion. To assume otherwise is not only is classic question begging It, also redefines assent. Commitment is not a belief, so it is best distinguished from assent. The very idea of commitment contemplates intent to act, whereas belief pertains to what is thought to be true or false. We commit based upon what we believe, which clearly demonstrates that commitment is not belief and, therefore, must be distinguished from belief. To call commitment a “property” of belief employs a rather strained, broad brush taxonomy.

  199. Roger said,

    June 11, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    Andrew wrote,

    194. Roger, no he had a three legged stool. All I did was point out that one particular leg was not sound the rest of it collapsed under its own weight. Therefore I didn’t need to deal with the rest of it since his argument cannot be right because of the improper reduction.

    Well, since only an argument can be sound or unsound, and since Cheung’s first point was merely the first premise of his argument, you obviously have no clue what you’re talking about. This is what Cheung actually wrote:

    First, the Bible does not exclusively use the “believe in” type of language when referring to faith. For example, Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). The verse demands that one who comes to God must assent to two propositions. He must believe that (1) “God exists,” and that (2) “God rewards those who earnestly seek him.” The writer says that this kind of faith can “please God,” and that “the ancients were commended for” having it (v. 2).

    Since this first premise of Cheung’s argument is absolutely true, it’s impossible that the rest of his argument “was not sound” or “collapsed under its own weight” because of it, as you falsely claim.

    And just because he repeats his improper reduction when he says: “Second, the New Testament indicates that to believe in Christ means to believe that certain propositions are true” doesn’t make it any more true.

    At least you consistently misrepresent your opponents! I’ll give you that much! Rather than repeating “his improper reduction,” Cheung cites a passage of Scripture that clearly proves his second premise (i.e., 1 Cor. 15:1-4). The Apostle Paul explicitly states that we “are saved” (v. 2) by believing or assenting to the simple propositions of the gospel (vs. 3-4). As I mentioned in my previous post:

    If Paul is telling the truth here (that we are saved by believing the gospel propositions “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures”), then it necessarily follows that Cheung is correct when he says that “the New Testament indicates that to believe in Christ [for salvation] means to believe that certain propositions are true.”

    The personal trust in God and in the Redeemer was so thoroughly presented in the OT especially the Psalms that the NT writes expected that to already be known. Now we know a lot more about him with whom we have to do, and so their speaking often but not exclusively about “believing that” doesn’t mean they meant that’s all one had to do salvation.

    Pointing out that “trust in God and in the Redeemer was so thoroughly presented in the OT especially the Psalms” doesn’t even touch the third premise of Cheung’s argument – that “an analysis of language demonstrates that believing in (or “trust”) a person is nothing other than shorthand for believing that (or “assent”) certain propositions about him are true.” Once again, you’ve completely failed to interact with his argument! Shall we go for broke and make it three times? Or will you finally swallow some pride and admit that you can’t honestly deal with Cheung’s argument or refute it?

  200. roberty bob said,

    June 11, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    Yes, I believe the God exists. Yes, I also believe that God rewards those who earnestly seek him. So, am saved because I believe these two truths about God? Or am I saved because I am one who comes to God, who earnestly seeks God, while believing these two truths about God?

    If the coming to God and earnestly seeking him are necessary, then that goes a step beyond the mere assent to the two propositions. Doesn’t it?

  201. Ron Henzel said,

    June 11, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    Sean,

    You wrote:

    I think Calvin might be confusing assurance with saving faith…

    Why am I not surprised that you would correct Calvin (albeit tentatively)?

    :-)

  202. Sean Gerety said,

    June 11, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    I suppose if Calvin were the last word we wouldn’t be having this discussion and Reformed men wouldn’t be so helplessly confused and say so many contradictory things concerning the nature of faith and saving faith. Which doesn’t diminish in the slightest my debt to Calvin as without him we’d all probably be papists or atheists (which may be a redundancy). :)

  203. roberty bob said,

    June 11, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    In which case the Heildelberg Catechism awaits the same correction for adding “also a deep-rooted assurance . . . ” to “a knowledge and conviction that everything God reveals in His Word is true” [Q/A 21].

  204. roberty bob said,

    June 11, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    And then there is the Belgic Confession which speaks of a true faith that embraces Jesus Christ with all of his merits . . . and no longer looks for anything apart from him.

    The Belgic Confession portrays true faith along the lines of an exclusive LOVE!

    Are we having fun yet?

  205. Roger said,

    June 12, 2014 at 4:24 am

    Ron wrote,

    198. I don’t think you want to go there either. You’ve been arguing all along that if one believes the proposition “Jesus died for my sins,” he will be saved. The historical gospel and how it applies to one personally is indeed contained in propositions. However, commands are neither propositional nor are they the gospel. We can’t believe commands because “I command x” is neither true nor false. We can understand commands, but we cannot believe them.

    I agree, and simply misspoke when I wrote, “involuntarily assent to a divine command.” What I meant to say was…

    “So unless one can involuntarily obey a divine command (which doesn’t seem possible to me), then assenting to the propositions of the gospel is a voluntary act by its very nature.”

    As far as your other points are concerned, even if we discount Jesus’ explicit command for all men to “repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15), I believe that Vincent Cheung is correct when he writes:

    Without God’s work of regeneration in which he changes the disposition and volition of man, no one can or will truly assent to the biblical propositions about God and Christ. Our definition indicates that faith has a volitional element, in that it is a voluntary assent to the gospel. The will of the unregenerate man cannot assent to the gospel, but a person who has been regenerated by God has also been made willing to believe in Jesus Christ; God has changed his will. Therefore, God does not “compel” a person to faith in the sense of forcing him to believe what he consciously refuses to accept, but God “compels” a change in the person’s will by regeneration so that his assent to the gospel is indeed voluntary. That is, faith is voluntary in the sense that the elect person indeed decides to accept the gospel, but he only does this because God causes him to so decide. Without God’s power to “compel” or to change the will, no one would decide to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    (Systematic Theology, pg. 197-198).

  206. Jason Loh said,

    June 12, 2014 at 4:31 am

    As a Lutheran, I’d say that Calvin got it right about assurance being of the “essence” of faith.

    For Luther, assurance and faith are one and the same. Faith is assurance and assurance is faith. This is simply because faith is extra nos in that “it” looks outwards, outside of itself and towards the Word understood here not as the written Word but the preached Word.

    The Christian is not assured by anything within herself but is assured by the promise of God thereby which promise is immutable, unthwartable and efficacious.

    Faith for Luther, therefore, is unreflective and intensely material (instead of mental).

    “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17)

    Faith comes from the outside and is produced by the external Word of God as proclaimed to the hearer. The definition of “faith” therefore is to be understood not in a linguistic sense (i.e. philosophical) but theological context (i.e. liturgical and sacramental practices of the church of which proclamation of the gospel is the heart).

    Thus, faith is not something that we do even by sheer divine grace alone and ever so passively and hence monergism. But faith is something done to us.

    Precisely because Luther understood the divine work of grace as extra nos that there is no room for any infusion of faith. Rather faith can only be so and is entirely imputed as righteousness as per St Paul in Romans 4:22. Faith is simply the flip-side of the divine righteousness of the Crucified One.

    In the absolution, i.e. pronouncement of the forgiveness of sins, Christ is poured into our ears. And thus so, faith imputed and if imputed then created ex nihilo (i.e. out of nothing) by the sheer re-creative power of God the Father Almighty through the Word in the Spirit.
    .
    Hence, for Luther, we are the object and Jesus Christ is the Subject. Faith is the new Adam in union and communion with Jesus Christ. Faith is the God-Man reclaiming us by the proclamation of the gospel in word and sacraments. Faith is simply the fundamental and basic orientation of the creature towards the Creator. Faith is the opposite of the Augustinian incurvatus in se, i.e. in reference to the old Adam who is curved in on himself – self-centered and hence unbelief and pride. Faith presupposes and implies creatureliness or humanness in which the Creator alone is divine and God — so that the relationship is always (both now and forevermore) one of an “I-it-Thou” relationship where the “it” stands for the material — sheer physicality.

    As such, all the three elements of faith, i.e. i.e. knowledge, assent and trust are inverted by Luther in his definition of faith. Instead, faith is (conceptually) synonymous precisely because it is (practically) simultaneous with the proclamation of the external Word in its oral and sacramental forms. Faith, therefore, is not something we apply to ourselves and is the application of the external Word upon us (extra nos).

    “Fides ut intelligam”

    I believe in order to understand. One is reborn/ born again as a trusting creature first, and then to assent and finally understand in that logical sequence. This means that faith as trust in something tangible and material and concrete set within the context-specific time and place of the living present — i.e. the “for you” (and you alone) of the proclamation of the gospel stands by itself to the exclusion and in primacy and precedence over the other two elements.

    The logic of faith therefore is not a human or philosophical one but intensely and exclusively foolishness to the Greeks — the very logic of the cross — of judgment and justification one and the same time.

    Faith therefore is intensely experiential and existential — life and death and death and life …. conflict with the devil, world and flesh. Faith takes place in the midst of fleeing from the hidden God who is against you and towards the revealed God who is for you. Such a fleeing which is a passive one that defies all human conception of progress and movement can only take place in the context of the preaching of law and gospel — the latter of which is a word from the revealed God, a promise made in tangible form. Both law and gospel precisely because these are not philosophical categories but intensely existential modes of experience and living on this side of the eschaton cannot be synthesised into a higher whole by sheer exercise of logic. Rather, one can only trust in the external word does what it says and says what it does.

    In short, for Luther, faith is not mental assent (like in Roman theology) and (which must then be supplemented and therefore) does not include volition and excludes or is not to be confused with love (caritas). For God is not the Aristotelian telos or Plato’s highest good or supreme ideal to which we aspire (i.e. the Roman analogia entis or analogy being) but the very opposite of God truly and really changing (not) His (essence which is unknowable but) Person in relationship to us by surrendering Himself to us, becoming one of us and giving of Himself, holding nothing back.

    As the Nicene Creed says, Jesus Christ came down for our salvation (gospel).

  207. Ron Henzel said,

    June 12, 2014 at 7:35 am

    Faith As Intellectual Assent

    In the Christian church, however, the view that saw faith as intellectual assent to revealed truth soon became dominant. Very common is the definition of faith as the “voluntary assent of the soul,” or as “drawing the soul toward agreement past the methods of logic.” Augustine offers the same definition: “believing is knowledge with assent,” “what is believing unless it is to agree to that which is said is true,” and “faith is the virtue by which the things that are unseen are believed.” Scholastic theology usually began its study of the nature of faith with the description of Hebrews 11:1 and the last mentioned definition of Augustine. Thomas says that the object of faith is God and other things “except insofar as they have some other order toward God.” The ground of faith consists solely in the fact that “something has been revealed by God,” and its author is God alone. The Vatican Council [I] described faith as “a supernatural virtue by which, with the inspiration and help of God’s grace, we believe that what he has revealed is true, not because its intrinsic truth is perceived by the natural light of reason, but because of the authority of God himself who reveals, and who can neither deceive nor be deceived.” Faith, in Roman Catholic thought, is a firm and certain assent to the truths of revelation on the basis of the authority of God in Scripture and the church.

    In practice, this view of faith had very harmful consequences. In the first place, faith actually became mere intellectual assent to a mysterious doctrine far surpassing reason, either explicitly to all its different dogmas or implicitly to certain necessary dogmas. Given this view, the distinction between this faith and the “historical faith” assumed by Protestants is not possible and was, accordingly, decisively rejected by Roman Catholic theology. Rome does not have anything other than “historical faith.” From this it then followed that this faith, if it was no more than intellectual assent, could not possibly be sufficient for salvation. It had to be augmented by another virtue in the will, namely love, and so becomes a “formed faith” (fides formata. As a result, faith loses its central place in the Christian life. It is degraded to one of the seven “preparations” for the “infused grace” of “justification”; and the point of gravity then shifts to love, i.e., good works. Finally, it could scarcely be maintained that faith in the above sense was a fruit of “internal grace” as Augustine understood it. The confession that faith is a gift of God was weakened. The “assistance” and “inspiration” mentioned by the Vatican Council [I] is frequently restricted in Catholic theology to the gift of common grace or even to the gift of natural powers. Believing was all the more meritorious to the degree that it was a free personal act of a human being and consisted more in the acceptance of the incomprehensible “mysteries of faith,” in a “sacrifice of the intellect.”

    The Reformation modified this Roman Catholic view of faith in all respects. It restored the religious nature of πιστις. In the first place, it made a fundamental distinction between “historical faith” and “saving faith.” In some cases historical faith might indeed precede saving faith and be of great value as such; but it was and remained essentially different from saving faith. All the Reformers were of the opinion that saving faith consisted if not exclusively then certainly also in knowledge. Not one of them allowed faith to be reduced to an unconscious feeling or mental state. But the knowledge that was an element in saving faith was certainly very different in kind from that of historical faith. The latter might later on be of benefit to saving faith; but it changed thereby in character and began to live by a new principles. Faith, in the thinking of the Reformers, therefore again acquired a spiritual-religious nature of its own, distinguished not in degree but in essence from every other faith in life and in science, indeed even from historical faith. Such a faith could not, of course, stem from the same principle from which all other belief arises among human beings. The Reformation was unanimous in confessing that saving faith is a gift of God. It was not the product of natural human powers, nor of common grace, but of the special grace of the Holy Spirit; it was an activity of the new born-again person and therefore also sufficient for salvation. In Roman Catholicism faith plays a merely preparatory role, and correctly so, because basically it is nothing more than historical faith. But in Reformation theology it regained the central place it occupies in the New Testament; it does not have to be augmented by love; it is sufficient to obtain a share in all the benefits of salvation. Those who believe in that way are not in the vestibule but in the very sanctuary of Christian truth. They are incorporated into Christ, participants in all his benefits, heirs of eternal life. It was hard, however, given this deep view of saving faith, correctly to describe its nature and to reproduce it in clear language. The theology of the Reformation at all times struggled with this issue. With respect to the question in what the real nature of faith consists, the answers have been radically divergent. It has been defined as “knowing,” “agreeing,” “trusting,” taking refuge in,” etc. by just one of these terms or all of them together. Later, in the doctrine of faith, we will examine all this in greater detail. This much is certain: faith in Reformation theology was not a matter of knowing a number of doctrinal truths but consisted in the soul’s union with the person of Christ according to the Scriptures and with Scripture as the word of Christ. Saving faith was again religious through and through. Its object was the grace of God in Christ; its foundation the witness of God in his Word; its author the Holy Spirit. In every respect it was religiously determined.

    [Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 1, “Prolegomena,” John Bolt, ed., John Vriend, trans., (Grand Rapids, MI, USA: Baker Academic, 2003), 571-573.]

  208. Ron Henzel said,

    June 12, 2014 at 7:36 am

    Knowledge and Trust

    …Upon reflection, however, the view of faith presented by the Reformation prompted a variety of questions. At the very outset, there was the relationship between “knowing” and “trusting,” general and special faith. The Heidelberg Catechism simply put the two side by side, connecting them only by “not only but also.” Simply from a psychological perspective alone, this juxtaposition was problematic, for how could one and the same virtue be simultaneously rooted in two faculties? The usual reply to this question was that the intellect and the will did not differ in reality but only in reason, and that, even if they did differ in reality, there are qualities—such as philosophy, original sin, the image of God—that are rooted in more than one faculty. This reply can hardly be considered satisfactory, for in its first part it proves too much and would erase all distinction between the intellectual and the ethical virtues. In the second part , it makes comparisons that do not hold water, since original sin is not an isolated quality or disposition but the sum total of sinful corruption in human nature as a whole. Many theologians, therefore, continued to feel the difficulty and tried to propose another solution. Some of them, aligning themselves with Calvin, described faith only by the word “knowledge” or “cognition.” By this they meant not the knowledge (scientia) that is acquired by logical demonstration and not even a purely theoretical knowledge but rather a knowledge of the practical human intellect that has been effected by the Holy Spirit and consists in the conviction (“being persuaded”) that Christ is one’s Savior.

    But this description seemed to others to be much too intellectual and not clearly enough distinguished from the Roman Catholic view. They therefore took a very different direction, indeed accepting that knowledge (notitia or cognitio) is a prerequisite for faith, but insisting that saving faith consists in trust and is rooted in the will. By far the majority, however, took the middle road, regarding faith not as one, simply disposition but as a composite created by aggregation, which cannot be described by one single act but includes numerous acts belonging to different faculties. But this position also failed to bring satisfaction, for if faith embraces several distinct acts, the question at once arises: What are they and how many are there? In the early period theologians usually spoke of two: knowing and trusting. But Melanchthon had already listed three: knowledge (notitial), assent (assensus), and trust (fiducia), and though many stopped there, others went further and listed many more. Turretin, for example, speaks of seven acts of faith: knowledge, theoretical assent, fiducial and practical assent, taking refuge in Christ, reception of Christ or adhesion to him, reflexive act, consolation and confidence. Witsius even has nine: knowledge, assent, love, hunger and thirst for Christ, reception of Christ, resting on Christ, surrender to Christ, reflexive act, and trust. These various acts of faith are then again reduced to a number of classes, mainly three: the preceding acts (knowledge, theoretical assent, the humbling and denial of the self, and so forth); concomitant acts (practical assent, the yearning for Christ, taking refuge in Christ, apprehension of Christ, and so forth); and subsequent acts (vivifying, soothing, confirming, and fructifying grace).

    [Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 4, “Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation,” John Bolt, ed., John Vriend, trans., (Grand Rapids, MI, USA: Baker Academic, 2003), 112-113.]

  209. Ron said,

    June 12, 2014 at 8:56 am

    Hi Roger,

    I won’t blame Vincent for not being relevant to my post to you, but what you posted back to me doesn’t seem to address what I wrote.

    Without God’s work of regeneration in which he changes the disposition and volition of man, no one can or will truly assent to the biblical propositions about God and Christ.

    Allowing for the premise that assent cannot occur apart from saving faith, yes, regeneration must change man’s disposition and volition – which is to say the intents of the heart and the will. Nonetheless, he has not shown that assent is volitional, even granting that assent might only occur when the volition is changed. Again, that we volitional commit to only that which we believe or believe in should indicate that belief and the volitional aspect of faith are not identical.

    Our definition indicates that faith has a volitional element, in that it is a voluntary assent to the gospel.

    Again, that faith has a volitional aspect does not imply that assent is faith (or even that assent through regeneration is always volitional).

    The will of the unregenerate man cannot assent to the gospel, but a person who has been regenerated by God has also been made willing to believe in Jesus Christ; God has changed his will.

    Even if we allow (again) that an unregenerate man cannot assent to the gospel, it is indeed true that regenerate men have their will changed. Yet this does not inform us whether assent is volitional or should be equated to faith.

    Therefore, God does not “compel” a person to faith in the sense of forcing him to believe what he consciously refuses to accept, but God “compels” a change in the person’s will by regeneration so that his assent to the gospel is indeed voluntary.

    Yes, men come willingly into the kingdom. But I fail to see how this implies that assent is volitional faith.

    That is, faith is voluntary in the sense that the elect person indeed decides to accept the gospel, but he only does this because God causes him to so decide. Without God’s power to “compel” or to change the will, no one would decide to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    In all of this he hasn’t shown how assent encompasses the volitional aspect of faith. He at best aims to show that when there is assent there is also trust and where there is faith the volition has changed.

    Probably good to give it rest?

  210. Sean Gerety said,

    June 12, 2014 at 10:05 am

    Ron H. have you given up argument and now resort to cut and past and argumentum ad verecundiam?

  211. Ron Henzel said,

    June 12, 2014 at 10:09 am

    Sean,

    I have given up on argument no more than you have given up on leveling fallacious charges—usually by implication—at your opponents. You need to tone down your aggressively belligerent cynicism.

  212. roberty bob said,

    June 12, 2014 at 10:21 am

    Turretin lists seven acts of faith; Witsius lists nine. Why would that be? It is because God through the Holy Scriptures woos us to Himself in various ways, provoking in us a range of responses which all fit within the definition of faith. I pointed this out in #167 — a simple observation that was in keeping with the views of our esteemed Reformed fathers. By the way, by means of these biblically-provided acts [of faith], we can evangelize our children and neighbors by proclaiming the wonders of God’s grace — urging them to believe / believe in / trust / embrace / surrender / know / etc.

    Give it a rest? Indeed. You wear yourselves out trying to boil saving faith down to its bare essence.

  213. Roger said,

    June 13, 2014 at 4:08 am

    Ron wrote,

    209. In all of this [Cheung] hasn’t shown how assent encompasses the volitional aspect of faith.

    Huh? Cheung defines saving faith or trust in Christ as “voluntary assent to the gospel.” So, according to Cheung, there is no “volitional aspect of faith” that’s distinct from voluntary assent to the propositions of the gospel (faith/trust/assent/belief are all synonyms). I agree with him.

    [Cheung] at best aims to show that when there is assent there is also trust and where there is faith the volition has changed.

    No, he demonstrates that saving faith or trust in Christ is voluntary assent to the propositions of the gospel. Cheung writes:

    Third, an analysis of language demonstrates that believing in (or “trust”) a person is nothing other than shorthand for believing that (or “assent”) certain propositions about him are true… Therefore, we conclude that “I believe in X” is shorthand for “I believe that X1 + X2 + X3…Xn.” This means that to believe or have faith in something or someone is to believe or have faith that certain propositions about that something or someone are true. To have faith in God and in Christ is precisely to believe something about them – to have a “believe that” faith.

    As I mentioned before, Cheung’s conclusion here is spot on. Trusting or “believing in” Christ for salvation means nothing more and nothing less than “believing that” He is the divine Son of God who died for our sins and was raised for our justification (i.e., voluntarily assenting to the understood propositions of the gospel about the Person and work of Christ on our behalf).

    Moreover, when “Turretin lists seven acts of faith; Witsius lists nine” and others here insist upon three (is anyone confused yet?), isn’t it about time we got back to “the simplicity that is in Christ” (1 Cor 11:3) and define saving faith as simply believing the propositions of the gospel to be true and personally applicable to oneself as a helpless sinner in need of reconciliation with God?

  214. Alan D. Strange said,

    June 13, 2014 at 6:45 am

    As I said much earlier in this conversation, this reduction of saving faith to propositional belief is a rejection of the Reformation and her theologians, as in 213 above.

    I thought that the Reformation was a recovery of “the simplicity that is in Christ” with respect to the gospel. But apparently not. The saving faith, described in WCF 14, especially at 14.2, and also as we’ve set it forth from the Catechisms (and now in her leading theologians: Turretin was the textbook for both Dabney and Hodge, among others), lacks the requisite simplicity presumably.

    That what is at the heart of saving faith requires rich metaphorical description and cannot be rationistically reduced to “propositional belief” seems galling to some, but that is the Reformed faith. Maybe you think the Bible teaches something far more “simple.” That’s what Arius, on the one hand, and Eutyches, on the other, thought about the person of Christ. But their Christianity (teaching that Christ was not truly God or Christ was not truly man) was not orthodoxy, the latter teaching something more full: Christ was God and man in one person, a profound mystery (even as was that of the blessed Holy Undivided Trinity), not amenable to rationalistic reduction. Such attempts to rationalistically reduce the faith have always ended unhappily for their promoters.

    Saving faith is not simply propositonal belief but is what Andrew, Ron Henzel, our Dutch brethren, and others herein have described it as, consonant with the Word of God as understood in the Reformation: a receiving and resting upon Christ, a coming to Christ, a personal trust in Christ, a leaning upon Christ that means that one looks away from all that one is and has and does and looks to Christ and Him alone, hoping, resting and trusting in no other. That is the response to the good news of the person and work of Christ that the Reformation sought (together with repentance and the fruits of faith) and that all gospel preachers call for today. This is what is means when we preach faith in Christ and call all our hearers to trust in Him and Him alone.

  215. Ron Henzel said,

    June 13, 2014 at 8:40 am

    Thank you, Dr. Strange. Not only is this reductionism a step backward toward Rome, but it is a subtle abandonment of the Reformation practice of seeking the meaning of the original languages in which Scripture is written. Some of the arguments that have been advanced here in opposition to the Reformation view are sophomoric when they touch on this all-important aspect. To even an intermediate student of Greek, they are untenable on their surface. The ideas of trust and confidence are so bound up in the meaning of πίστις (“faith”) that they are implied even when the word’s primary referent is the content of what is to be believed.

    For the purpose of this discussion, the following summary of πίστις covers all the bases found in BAGD in more concise form

    πίστις, εως, ἡ faith, trust, commitment—1. as a characteristic or quality faithfulness, reliability, loyalty, commitment Mt 23:23; Ro 3:3; Gal 5:22; Tit 2:10.—2. that which evokes confidence, solemn promise, oath 1 Ti 5:12 ; proof, pledge Ac 17:31; τὴν π. τετήρηκα I have honored my obligation 2 Ti 4:7.—3. trust, confidence, faith in the active sense = ‘believing,’ esp. of relation to God and Christ Mt 9:2; Mk 11:22; Lk 18:42; Ac 14:9; 26:18; Ro 4:5, 9, 11–13; Gal 2:16; Eph 1:15; Col 2:12; Hb 12:2; Js 1:6; 1 Pt 1:21. Faith as commitment, Christianity Lk 18:8; Ro 1:5, 8; 1 Cor 2:5; 13:13; 2 Cor 1:24; Gal 3 passim; Js 1:3; 1 Pt 1:9. Conviction Ro 14:22f. Faith defined Hb 11:1.—4. That which is believed, body of faith or belief, doctrine Gal 1:23; Jd 3, 20; cf. 1 Ti 1:19.

    [F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker, Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, 2nd ed., (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1983), 159-160.]

    The third definition here is a cornerstone of the Gospel, and impossible to reduce to mere mental assent.

  216. Alan D. Strange said,

    June 13, 2014 at 9:05 am

    Quite right, Br. Henzel. It’s important to understand that this reductionism is, across the board, a serious error, and not any sort of proper affirmation of the “simplicity that is in Christ.”

    The “simplicity that is in Christ” is not simplistic. This is the error of many who depart from orthodox doctrine. It must be resisted with respect to the Trinity, the Incarnation, divine sovereignty and human responsibility, and with respect to the definition of saving faith.

    I believe that a careful reading of both testaments (and attention to the sort of linguistic issues that you highlight) will bear this out. But my point, as a church historian, has been particularly to maintain that those who give this thin definition of faith depart from the historic confessions and catechisms of the Reformation as well as the theologians of the Reformation. Whatever one is who maintains such, he is clearly not Reformed in his doctrine.

  217. Ron said,

    June 13, 2014 at 10:07 am

    Roger,

    Post #198 distilled your question begging. The only interaction you offered to that particular post was correcting something you implied regarding commands being propositional. You then offered a quote by Vincent, which did not address my post (and not surprisingly since that was not Vincent’s goal).

    As I’ve pointed out already many beliefs, whether a priori or a posteriori, are neither discursive nor volitional Yet your position requires you to depart from this basic, rather uncontroversial understanding of assent by making a special category for assent that pertains only to gospel propositions. Your position requires this because assent does not always “entail” volition. It’s not hard to imagine why your position dies a death of a rather strange and unnecessary tagging of terms. The simple solution is that those volitional internal-acts of faith that are necessary for salvation are best indexed to something other than assent since it is not a universal truth that a property of assent is volition. Yet even granting this special pleading of yours, there’s also the equivocal nature of what it means to “entail” a property. Saving assent “entails” regeneration. Should we then consider regeneration a property of saving faith?

    This sums up your question begging quite well:

    If assenting to the propositions of the gospel is by its very nature a voluntary act of obedience to God’s command (as I argued above), then “commitment” (as an “exercise of volition”) is indeed a property of assent to the gospel.

    As I already pointed out, saving faith can obtain apart from heading, let alone ever hearing(!), a command. But even aside from that, all you’ve done is defined assent as volitional and then pointed to your definition both to begin and end your case.

    As I’ve said all along, you do include the correct components of faith but this bundling of terms is confused.

  218. Sean Gerety said,

    June 13, 2014 at 11:07 am

    As I said much earlier in this conversation, this reduction of saving faith to propositional belief is a rejection of the Reformation and her theologians, as in 213 above.

    Not sure what you are talking about Dr. Strange, as the citations from Bavinck above make plain that the Reformed “at all times struggled with this issue” and “with respect to the question in what the real nature of faith consists, the answers have been radically divergent.” Your posts and the post by your other less able supporters like Ron H, Andrew, Sjoerd, prove Bavinck’s point and mine; the Reformed have been historically hopelessly confused and contradictory when it comes to the nature of faith and saving faith.

    Further, this desire of yours and other to add to simple faith in the truth of the Gospel alone some sort of non-propositional element has ended in all sorts of nonsense if not outright mysticism and even mischief. This explains your complete inability to put into words what saving faith is if only to define what it is you mean.

    What is even more bizarre is that you take this inability to define what faith and saving faith is as a mark of Reformed piety. Then we have Sjoerd and Andrew claiming that what completes faith is some sort of undefined and nebulous “heartfelt” emotion that must be infused within us and it is this that makes faith saving. Faith is not just the means by which we apprehend what Christ has accomplished for us completely outside of us and by which His perfect righteousness is imputed to us and our sin imputed to Him. You men have more in common with Soren Kierkegaard and his “infinite passion” than with the master logician John Calvin.

    Case in point:

    That what is at the heart of saving faith requires rich metaphorical description and cannot be rationistically reduced to “propositional belief” seems galling to some, but that is the Reformed faith.

    It’s not galling at all, it is appalling that some are so irrational not to recognize that only propositions are either true or false and metaphors that cannot be explained in propositional language convey no truth at all. They’re figures of speech signifying nothing, which explains why you can only resort to more metaphorical language when describing other metaphors.

    Instead of Christianity being a rational religion that presents to the mind a logically consistent system, or what the Confession writers called the “consent of all the parts,” for you the Reformed religion has more in common with Zen and saving faith with mouthing the mystical “OM.” Instead of being ashamed by your inability to clearly define the faith by which we are saved, you are proud. This explains why men in the PCA have failed so miserably in defending the Gospel against the FV dogs when men like you can’t even define what saving faith is and even deny justification by belief alone when all of Scripture stands in opposition to you proclaiming; “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” Metaphors not required.

    So in your impotence to show that justifying faith is something more than justification by belief alone, in Christ alone, according to the Gospel alone, you resort to abusive ad hominem comparing your opponents to “Arius, on the one hand, and Eutyches, on the other” simply because some of us are not willing to swallow pious sounding platitudes and nonsense phrases signify nothing.

    Saving faith is not simply propositonal belief but is what Andrew, Ron Henzel, our Dutch brethren, and others herein have described it as, consonant with the Word of God as understood in the Reformation: a receiving and resting upon Christ,

    The Confession writers were neither irrational nor mystics and their use of “receive and rest” is not some cryptic metaphor that defies human understanding and clear definition as has been repeatedly explained to you. But instead of taking correction even in light of the many passages of Scripture Roger has adduced above showing that these exact figures of speech are used throughout Scripture signifying belief, you march on as if the Scriptures were silent and could not have possibly informed the Divines at Westminster to employ the same metaphorical language to describe belief. Amazing.

  219. Denson Dube said,

    June 13, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    Alan,
    The definition of faith or belief you view as reductionist was due to Augustine. To believe is to “think with assent”, Augustine said. The object of belief is a proposition, since propositions and only propositions can be true or false. The object defined may be expressed with metaphors, such as “leaning on Christ”, “trusting in Christ”, “standing on the rock” etc etc. but all these are not definitions of faith/belief but refer to the definition, which is “thinking with assent”. Secondly, it is to miss the essence of faith or belief when we turn our attention to the subjective act of beliving rather than the object of that faith or belief which is the propositions believed. It is those propositios about salvation that earn them the metaphors “standing on the rock”, expressing their reliability et etc. To look for something more than intellectual assent to the word of God is to look for something beyond the revealed truth into the murky world of subjectivity and is to be literally beyond belief.

  220. Alan D. Strange said,

    June 13, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    Denson,

    I recognize, as noted in my second post on this subject (above), that Augustine defined “unformed faith” as knowledge and assent, adding that “love” (caritas; in other words, good works) is what gave faith its form. But the Reformation rejected this definition, arguing that saving faith was knowledge, assent and trust, with the last being that which made it, particularly, saving faith.

    Sean and some others have made a minor career seeking to refute this Reformational definition of faith. I am simply pointing this out to all, because I think that this intellectualized definition of faith is a significant departure from the teaching of the Reformation on the matter and rather deadly for our faith.

    If we were to embrace such an intellectualized view of faith, it would lead in its own way to the sort of formalism that FV (with its overly-obejctive approach) does and tend to the ossification of the Reformed faith within a matter of years. Faith, unlike the liberal contention, may not be shorn of intellectual (propositional) content and reduced merely to a “feeling of dependence” (as with Schleiermacher); neither, on the other hand, ought the propositional to eclipse the personal and the need for trusting in and coming to the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Sean, and others, may mock all they like. The faith has survived mockery for years and will survive the mockery of those who would intellectualize it. The faith has an important intellectual component to it, but may never be reduced to such. To do so is to render the faith a formalisitic, externalized system, stripped of the dynamic of the Spirit, the one who gives and increases our faith through the appointed means of grace.

  221. Roger said,

    June 13, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    Alan wrote,

    214. As I said much earlier in this conversation, this reduction of saving faith to propositional belief is a rejection of the Reformation and her theologians, as in 213 above.

    Then I suppose John Calvin himself must have rejected the Reformation and her theologians, as he clearly taught that “a full definition” of saving faith is the propositional belief “of a free promise in Christ!”

    “We shall now have a full definition of faith if we say that it is a firm and sure knowledge of the divine favor toward us, founded on the truth of a free promise in Christ, and revealed to our minds, and sealed on our hearts, by the Holy Spirit.” (Institutes, 3.2.7)

    Saving faith is not simply propositonal belief but is what Andrew, Ron Henzel, our Dutch brethren, and others herein have described it as, consonant with the Word of God as understood in the Reformation: a receiving and resting upon Christ, a coming to Christ, a personal trust in Christ, a leaning upon Christ that means that one looks away from all that one is and has and does and looks to Christ and Him alone, hoping, resting and trusting in no other.

    And what do these metaphors such as “receiving and resting” or “coming to” or “leaning upon” Christ literally represent, Alan? You still haven’t answered this simple and most basic question, but have rather reasserted the same undefined figures of speech over and over again ad nauseam. I’ll tell you what they represent, since it’s apparently beyond your ability to explain – sincerely believing that the propositions about Christ and His redemptive work in the gospel are true and personally applicable to oneself as a helpless sinner in need of reconciliation with God (1 Cor. 15:1-4), nothing more (e.g., Gal. 1:6-9) and nothing less (e.g., 1 Cor. 15:14-18)! There is no other way to “know” or “trust” Christ as one’s Savior.

  222. Roger said,

    June 13, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    Ron wrote,

    215. For the purpose of this discussion, the following summary of πίστις covers all the bases found in BAGD in more concise form

    πίστις, εως, ἡ…—3. trust, confidence, faith in the active sense = ‘believing,’ esp. of relation to God and Christ…

    Yeah, that pretty much proves the point that Sean and I have been making all along – that terms such as “trust,” “confidence,” and “faith” are equivalent to “believing” the propositional truths of the gospel in “relation to God and Christ.”

  223. Don said,

    June 13, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    Roger 221,
    So your Calvin quote is supposed to demonstrate that faith is a propositional belief. It seems to me you might be missing the end of his definition, “sealed on our hearts.” That does not seem to me to be part of a mere “assent to a proposition.”

  224. Ron Henzel said,

    June 13, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    Dr. Strange,

    Thank you very much for your most recent comment. Anyone who can twist the receiving and resting upon Christ into mere mental assent, as has been done here, has no real interest in the Gospel of Christ but is at war with both it and the Reformed formulation of it.

    As you have abundantly established, the Westminster Divines were countering precisely the same soul-damning heresy that is being deceitfully propagated in this comment thread when it wrote, “Justifying faith …not only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receiveth and resteth upon Christ and his righteousness,” (WLC 72)—viz., a return to the mere temporal or historical faith of Rome.

    It is sad to see such apostasy. Thank you for standing for the truth of the Gospel against those who would rob us of it.

  225. Ron Henzel said,

    June 13, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    Roger,

    You quoted me as follows:

    215. For the purpose of this discussion, the following summary of πίστις covers all the bases found in BAGD in more concise form

    πίστις, εως, ἡ…—3. trust, confidence, faith in the active sense = ‘believing,’ esp. of relation to God and Christ…

    And then you wrote:

    Yeah, that pretty much proves the point that Sean and I have been making all along – that terms such as “trust,” “confidence,” and “faith” are equivalent to “believing” the propositional truths of the gospel in “relation to God and Christ.”

    That is not what the definition says. You have to deceptively insert the phrase “the propositional truths” into the definition to make it say that. Let’s see how that works with the verses that the lexicon cites for this definition:

    Matthew 9:2: “And when Jesus saw their mental assent, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”

    Mark 11:22: And Jesus answered them, “Have mental assent in God.

    Luke 18:42: And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your mental assent has made you well.”

    Acts 14:9: He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had mental assent to be made well.

    Acts 26:18: to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by mental assent in me.’

    Romans 4:5: And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his mental assent is counted as righteousness,

    Romans 4:9: Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that mental assent was counted to Abraham as righteousness.

    Romans 4:11-13: He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by mental assent while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the mental assent that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of mental assent.

    Galatians 2:16: yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through mental assent in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by mental assent in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

    Ephesians 1:15: For this reason, because I have heard of your mental assent in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints.

    Colossians 2:12: having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through mental assent in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

    1 Peter 1:21: who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your mental assent and hope are in God.

    If you are so blinded by your demonic doctrine that you cannot see how it destroys the truth of Scripture in these verses, then nothing I can say will persuade you. It will only come out of you through much prayer and fasting.

  226. Sean Gerety said,

    June 13, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    Ron, I fear you are becoming unhinged brother.

    Above you said that mental assent (not sure what the mental adds to assent as only minds or souls can give assent) is what most people comprehend by the term “belief.”

    So, let’s look at those verses again with the preferred term of most people:

    Matthew 9:2: “And when Jesus saw their belief he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”

    Mark 11:22: And Jesus answered them, “Have belief in God.

    Luke 18:42: And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your belief has made you well.”

    Acts 14:9: He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had belief to be made well.

    Acts 26:18: to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by belief in me.’

    Romans 4:5: And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his belief is counted as righteousness,

    Romans 4:9: Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that belief was counted to Abraham as righteousness.

    Romans 4:11-13: He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by belief while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the belief that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of belief.

    Galatians 2:16: yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through belief in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by belief in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

    Ephesians 1:15: For this reason, because I have heard of your belief in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints.

    Colossians 2:12: having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through belief in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

    1 Peter 1:21: who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your belief and hope are in God.

    Sounds right to me. You have a problem with that Ron?

    BTW, the only thing demonic are those who say that belief alone is insufficient to save sinners.

  227. Alan D. Strange said,

    June 13, 2014 at 10:44 pm

    Ron Henzel continues to testify to the faith. These naysayers to the Reformation twist the Scriptures, the Standards, and the theologians. Not a single Reformer defined faith as mental assent: This is what they were fighting against in Rome’s definition of faith.

    Calvin and Bavinck have been shown here specifically to refute such (and there are even clearer passages in their writings that do so), as do the Westminster Standards (and the Three Forms of Unity). And yet, in the face of all of this evidence that saving faith cannot be reduced to mental assent, some continue to insist not only that faith may thus be reduced but that these naysayers also have the support of Calvin, Bavinck and others in this, when clearly those men testify to the opposite. It is truly amazing.

    And Sean calls Ron H. unhinged. And says that the assertion that “belief alone is insufficient to save sinners” is demonic. Demonic. The affirmation of the necessity of trust as defined in the Reformation is called “demonic.” That is an astounding attack on the Reformed faith. As I said, the truth marches on in spite of its being belittled and mocked. We’ve been repeatedly accused of mysticism: that’s the Spirit without the Word. I heartily affirm, however, the Spirit working in, through, and with the Word. But the Word without the Spirit is rationalism and it leaves one, as it always does, high and dry, full of ridicule but little else (and the constant drumbeat of “you haven’t answered my question” as if that’s the issue–answering questions on terms set down by rationalists).

    We have defined trust countless times as that personal belief in, that receiving and resting upon, that coming to Christ. One last time: it certainly involves knowledge and assent but also this, WCF 14.2–”By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God himself speaking therein; and acteth differently upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come. 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.”

    Yes, belief is central to faith, but the principal acts are not simply believing but accepting, receiving and resting upon Christ, Christ in the fullness of His person and work, Christ as He is freely offered in the gospel. It’s not simply mental assent. The Confession and Catechisms are clear on this. I would argue that someone who differs here differs with the system of doctrine contained in the Scriptures (and the Standards) and strikes at the vitals of religion. Such teaching is a departure from the historic Reformed faith. It is unsound and to be rejected. Let the reader understand and be warned not to embrace such teaching.

  228. Ron said,

    June 14, 2014 at 12:08 am

    Anyone who can twist the receiving and resting upon Christ into mere mental assent, as has been done here, has no real interest in the Gospel of Christ but is at war with both it and the Reformed formulation of it.

    Ron,

    Is there no significant distinction to be drawn between one who would posit assent alone apart from receiving and resting in Christ alone, and another who would include receiving and resting in their definition of assent? The latter is undoubtedly a confused position but really, Ron, do those that espouse such things while affirming trust, receiving and rest (albeit under the unhappy label of “assent”) have no interest in Christ?

    There has been outright reckless behavior from both sides, both in analyses and an apparent eagerness to pronounce curses. I suspect in both cases the former is driving the latter. Regardless, it’s shameful.

  229. Sean Gerety said,

    June 14, 2014 at 12:12 am

    Such teaching is a departure from the historic Reformed faith. It is unsound and to be rejected. Let the reader understand and be warned not to embrace such teaching.

    Talk about hysterics. But, yes, please do. Let the reader understand and be warned not to embrace such teaching. The teaching which denies justification by belief alone; the heart of the Gospel.

    Let them be warned not to embrace Dr. Strange’s appeal to “mystery” and his false assertions that to clearly define faith so that that it might be unequivocally understood is like trying to plumb the depths of “Trinity, the Incarnation, divine sovereignty and human responsibility,” as if these doctrines too defied “human” logic and explanation.

    Let them understand and be warned that Dr. Strange isn’t defending the historic Reformed faith at all; he’s defending the religion of the Dark Ages.

    I will tell you that when I first read Gordon Clark’s volume, Faith and Saving Faith, I found his simple solution to the question what is saving faith positively liberating. No longer was my faith in Christ tied to the ebb and flow of my emotions, but rather it was directly tied to the immutable truths of Scripture. Which makes sense since our justification doesn’t rest on anything in us anyway, despite Alan’s claims to the contrary.

    Dr. Clark was a man whose pedigree, credentials and standing in the historic Reformed faith was head and shoulders above what Dr. Strange could possibly hope for in ten lifetimes, but yet he thinks Clark’s view of saving faith, the view I advocate and defend, “is a departure from the historic Reformed faith.” Give me a break.

    For we know that “a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by belief in Jesus Christ.” Do not listen to those who would tell you otherwise or add to belief alone as if it were not enough. Such men are not to be trusted.

  230. Ron Henzel said,

    June 14, 2014 at 4:45 am

    Ron,

    To the extent that Sean has reverted back to Romish mental assent in lieu of biblical faith, which inevitably reduces faith to mere preparation for justification instead of the instrument of justification itself, to that extent Sean has abandoned the Gospel and has no interest in Christ. He is now playing a verbal shell game, trying to trick us by using “belief” when all he really means is “assent.”

    I understand Sean’s rage. It is the rage of all false teachers, heretics, and apostates. He would have us genuflect at the altar of Gordon Clark, in order to bring us into spiritual bondage to himself, all the while accusing us of having our own altars, when all we have is Scripture and the Holy Spirit. Like Diotrephes, he lusts for preeminence, and seeks to throw people out of Christ’s church with his pronouncements that they deny the Gospel, when all the while he is denying it. In this, he is a true son of John W. Robbins.

    Despite his errors, I have been told that Dr. Clark was a good man. But when he ventured into the subject we are now discussing, he embarrassed himself. I have read his writing on this. To be charitable, he was not at the top of his game. He ignored (or displayed an ignorance of) the original languages and the discipline of semantics, resorting instead to faulty philosophical premises and informal fallacies to declare something that was universally contradicted by the theologians of the Reformation and their spiritual descendants: that faith can be reduced to belief in a proposition, i.e., assent.

  231. Ron said,

    June 14, 2014 at 9:29 am

    Ron,

    I find your response to be a fine representation of this discussion. Or am to surmise from your non-response that you draw no relevant distinction between (i) those who confess trust in Christ alone, yet are confused over assent, from (ii) those who reject trust as having any part of faith?

    I can’t imagine that even a dysfunctional session would make the pronouncements that have been tossed around here so freely. At the very least, that one is not apt to teach on faith does not make what he confesses on the subject sufficient to reject his profession of faith. Both sides of this discussion can be grateful for that given the respective internal critiques of the opposing positions that have been put forth.

    In my weakness I am tempted to include at lesst some apology for the severity of this post, but as I fix my gaze back upon Christ I cannot. I shudder when I think of what is occurring here, especially where ordained servants are concerned. The office demands a different standard of accountability.

  232. Ron said,

    June 14, 2014 at 10:09 am

    The teaching which denies justification by belief alone; the heart of the Gospel.

    Your turn, Sean.

    Either your issue is with formulation alone, or else you deny the substance of that which you propose. Not to include certain components of faith under the category of assent is not the same thing as denying those components or adding to them. Now please refrain from building a fence around the wall. That you believe that x can lead to y doesn’t mean that x is sufficient for y.

  233. Sean Gerety said,

    June 14, 2014 at 10:31 am

    Ron H. You really have become unhinged. You really need to calm down.

    This whole debate has been based on the supposition that salvation is not by belief alone.

    It’s absurd. Who would have thought that a bunch of so-called “Reformed” men would get so riled up against those who maintain that salvation IS by belief alone. Now I’m a false teacher for saying belief is all you need. It really is crazy.

    What this comes down to is that men here prefer the Latin “faith” simply because they want to include a non-propositional, non-intellectual, psychological, emotional, what some call “spiritual,” element into what makes ordinary faith “saving.”

    You viciously attack me claiming that I’m out of my depth when you are the one who is the most confused of all. You are the one who said above that “adding the word ‘spiritual’ to ‘trust’ does nothing to elucidate the meaning of the word theologically.” Yet, Dr. Strange is the one who said there are no words at all that “can elucidate the meaning of the word theologically.” Trust, which in ordinary English is a synonym for belief or faith, is left dangling in the wind signifying nothing and that’s the way he wants it.

    Yet, per a piece I linked above for your benefit where Dr. Robbins demolishes a similar piece of nonsense being advanced by Douglas Barnes, Dr Robbins shows that unlike Dr. Strange, Gordon Clark had a very clear and unambiguous understanding of the word “trust”:

    Barnes asserts: “Clark simply has no place in his system for trust.” Well, Clark has no place in his system for undefined terms, and if trust remains undefined, then there is no place in Christian theology for it. But Barnes apparently did not read page 76 of What Is Saving Faith?: “If anyone wish to say the children [of Matthew 18:6 and Mark 9:42] trusted in him, well and good; to trust is to believe that good will follow.” Here Clark defined “trust” as belief of a proposition in the future tense, in this case, the proposition “good will follow.” To trust a person is to believe the proposition, “he always tells the truth.” To trust God is to believe the proposition: “God will be good to me forever.” Or as Paul put it more eloquently in Romans 8: “For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” But an undefined psychological state called “trust” has no place in the Gospel or in Biblical theology. http://tinyurl.com/pz85qxw

    You said that “there is no emotional component in fiducia,” yet you can’t seem to see that a psychological and even an emotional component is exactly what this non-propositional, non-intellectual, fiducial component requires. You said you share my concern that “the effectiveness of saving faith must never be understood as depending on something inside the sinner, rather than on the objective work of Christ.” Yet ironically, and tragically, that is exactly what you are doing.

    You complain; “He’s now playing a verbal shell game, trying to trick us by using ‘belief’ when all he really means is ‘assent,” when it was you who said (and correctly I might add) that belief is what most people think of when then think of “mental assent.” This is why Dr. Strange is also beside himself and has attacked me repeatedly for using the perfectly fine and biblical phrase, justification by belief alone.

    For you and Dr. Strange “belief” and “faith” are two qualitatively different animals with the latter wrapped in the mystery of paradox and darkness and where there are no words and figures of speech can convey no meaning. For you the idea of faith is an allusion pointing to some mystical Kantian reality beyond all reason.

    In every single example you gave above the word is pistis which can be properly translated as either belief or faith. It’s not a “verbal shell game,” is what the word means. Do you deny that?

    What Strange and you oppose is understanding, which is why you insist on some undefined and indefinable “non-propositional” element which completes faith. That’s Romanish. Besides, it is you who shares with Rome the notion that faith is a “fiducial assent.”

    I ask you to think about what you are saying. You are opposing salvation by belief alone and you have fooled yourself into thinking you are opposing me.

  234. Ron said,

    June 14, 2014 at 11:56 am

    Sean,

    Believers know whom they have believed and are persuaded the he is able to keep that which they have committed unto him against that day. Unlike unbelievers, believers don’t establish their own righteousness but rather they submit to the righteousness of God. The idea of Faith contemplates a cleaving to Christ that includes a disposition of soul that would sell all things and suffer for him. Faith includes yielding to Christ and resting in him.

    All of these metaphysical acts properly pertain to faith but cannot be classified under assenting to propositions lest we violate what it means to assent and / or the meaning of proposition.

  235. Ron said,

    June 14, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    every single example you gave above the word is pistis which can be properly translated as either belief or faith

    Sean,

    That belief and faith may be used interchangeably does not logically imply that belief can be reduced to assent and by extension to faith in those cases.

    I suppose it’s possible that not until you acknowledge to yourself that assent to truth must be distinguished from non-propositional volition will you be able to locate your fallacy of reason.

    Take heed that you are responsible to make sense of your position even if those you disagree with most cannot precisely pinpoint your mistakes.

  236. Ron said,

    June 14, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    Correction to my previous post:

    every single example you gave above the word is pistis which can be properly translated as either belief or faith

    Sean,

    That belief and faith may be used interchangeably does not logically imply that belief can be reduced assent in those cases and by extension that faith can be reduced to assent.

    I suppose it’s possible that not until you acknowledge to yourself that assent to truth must be distinguished from non-propositional volition will you be able to locate your fallacy of reason.

    Take heed that you are responsible to make sense of your position even if those you disagree with most cannot precisely pinpoint your mistakes.

  237. Ron Henzel said,

    June 14, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    Ron,

    In comment 105, Sean wrote:

    Ron H. denies justification by belief alone. Ron H. denies the Gospel.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I only recall Dr. Strange expressing any objection to this. And now that I question Sean’s basic grasp of the Gospel as he repeatedly attacks it, I am “dysfunctional?”

    Which group do you count Sean as being in?:

    (i) those who confess trust in Christ alone, yet are confused over assent, from (ii) those who reject trust as having any part of faith

    The man is not “confused.” He has planted his feet squarely in group ii, he knows exactly why it is incompatible with the Reformed presentation of the Gospel (because it is merely the faith of demons, the scourge of Romanism, cannot save, and we have told him this repeatedly), and is waging vicious war against those who oppose his view. This is the kind of behavior we see in the false teachers about whom we are forcefully warned in the New Testament.

    According to Acts 8:13, Simon the Sorcerer “believed” and was “baptized.” This was obviously a judgment of charity,and not a reflection of the actual state of his soul. Just a few verses later Peter told him, “You have neither part nor lot in this matter.” The judgment of charity was withdrawn. Being an apostle, Peter could withdraw it with more authority than I can, but I withdraw mine for Sean nonetheless.

    Given his view, as a PCA elder, I could not allow him to be accepted into membership in my church. (Could you, in my position?) Now, while I am certain that I would have little or no trouble convincing my Session that his membership would be disastrous for the peace and purity of our congregation, my own personal view is that he not only denies justification by faith, but is at war with the doctrine. Once I expressed that to my Session (and, of course, they would be free to read whatever he wrote on this subject and draw their own conclusions), I cannot help but think at least some of them would see a problem with credibility of Sean’s profession of faith. Just sayin’.

  238. Ron said,

    June 14, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    And now that I question Sean’s basic grasp of the Gospel as he repeatedly attacks it, I am “dysfunctional?”

    Ron,

    Questioning Sean’s grasp of the gospel would be one thing. Saying that “Sean has abandoned the Gospel and has no interest in Christ” is quite another. It’s the pronouncement I find concerning. Had you only questioned his basic grasp of the gospel I would not have responded as I have.

    He has planted his feet squarely in group ii

    I think Sean’s words betray this portrayal.

    For review, I’ve defined groups 1 and 2 thusly: “(i) those who confess trust in Christ alone, yet are confused over assent, from (ii) those who reject trust as having any part of faith.” I believe Sean is in group 1, whereas you place him in group two, as one who denies trust as being part of faith. (Bold text emphasis below is not in the original.)

    I posted Sean: “I’m confident that what [Alan is] saying, Sean, is that mere belief (i.e. a belief that is not accompanied by resting, etc.) cannot save. One must trust in Christ, which is what it means to truly believe. So, again, I’m pretty sure you guys agree on what must obtain for Christ to be appropriated through faith alone.”

    Sean responded with: “You might be right Ron, but then I haven’t accused Dr. Strange with departing from the Westminster Standards and the historic Reformed faith.”

    Sean, also, wrote: “I think perhaps part of the problem might be that neither Alan or Andrew have any idea what the world belief means… Per Websters belief is ‘a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing’… Similarly, Websters defines faith as ‘a strong belief or trust in someone or something…’”

    So, as I see it, Sean includes trust in the mix. Or as he has put it, “’resting upon Christ’ is just another way of saying ‘trusting in Christ’ or ‘believing in Christ’ for that matter.”

    You’re brother’s is not with trust but with making room for the volitional element to be hijacked to outward obedience. When lamenting over FV in this thread, Sean wrote: “For them the fiducial element of saving faith is to do as you are told, to be faithful, to work. You might also recall Wilson tying Lane up in knots over the idea of the obedience of faith. It’s the same issue.” That’s why Sean recoils at not indexing trust to belief (i.e. breaking trust out as something separate), which was the impetus for my observation that he’s building a fence around the wall by letting what he believes to be an unfortunate practice or abuse define our terms.

    Again Sean: “To believe something is to assent to an understood proposition, but as you should be able to see even from MW that the addition of ‘trust’ as the third element completing saving faith or belief adds precisely nothing to our understanding of what faith or belief is because trust is already entailed in the definition of faith or belief.”

    You wrote:

    Browsing through your comments it seems to me that you load and unload your definition of the word “belief” with whatever freight you want at any given time in order to score whatever rhetorical points you’re going for. Let’s stick with “mental assent,” or simply “assent.” That is the historic term used in these kinds of discussions, and it is what most people comprehend by the mere term “belief.”

    Your rhetoric style aside, :) I think that’s a reasonable pursuit, Ron. Assent does not have the same volitional connotation as trust, whereas belief can carry that connotation but not necessarily.

  239. Alan D. Strange said,

    June 14, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    Ron, nicely done in 234. But, contra 235, I think that Sean’s errors have been successfully pinpointed multiple times.

    As Ron H. correctly asserted in 237, Sean is not confused over assent (he does not fold all that trust stands for into it), but rather rejects trust (properly defined) as having any part of faith.

    I respect you, Ron, and your desire to salvage this discussion so that Sean does not appear as wrong about saving faith as I read him to be. But Sean is wrong in his reduction of faith to mental assent. This is what he does, plainly and simply, though he may occasionally appear to do otherwise.

    I got called away from this post and see, Ron, what you say now in 238, all of which I appreciate, but still stand by my contention that for Sean “trust” is a synonym for assent, made clearer as he continued to be pressed on the matter. I grant that earlier he seemed to include “trust” in “faith” and “belief” but repeatedly when on to assert that it was all “assent.”

    Sean rejects the teaching that faith “not only assents” but “receives and rests upon Christ,” redefining the Confession’s language of “receive and rest” also to indicate mental assent. By belief alone he means mental assent alone. No amount of hopeful reconstruction can make him mean something else. I wish that he thought, otherwise, but, sadly, he doesn’t. I bear no ill will toward Sean, I am sorry that he rejects the teaching of the Reformation on this matter. I have written with vehemence in defence of the truth but no personal acrimony whatsoever toward Sean or any other in this discussion. I have sought to defend the truth (as I believe that Sean believes he has, albeit wrongly).

  240. Reed Here said,

    June 14, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    Folks, I’m going to begin at this point on insisting on the following:

    > Discuss positions not persons.
    > Avoid mocking both persons and positions.

    As long as you abide by these feel free to make charges as to what you think is the necessary dangerous inference of the other person’s position.

    I will do the best I can to moderate carefully. Yet if you weave what are otherwise fair interactions with mockery, do not take offense when you disagree with how I edit your comments.

    You profess to believe in Christ? Show it by your comportment in your posts.

  241. Reed Here said,

    June 14, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    Also, I suggest that Dr. Strange’s comportment in no. 239 is a good example of disagreeing agreeably. I urge you to consider the evidences of the Spirit’s work that mark his gentle-manliness.

  242. Ron said,

    June 14, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    Alan,

    We are very close on this and I’m delighted that we are beginning to touch the matter with a pin. Please walk with me maybe one last time…

    Clark in his analyses of personality strove to protect the unity of the person. In doing so he asserted most plainly that intellectual assent is an act of volition. Now clearly this is inadequate because many of man’s assents bypass the will. However, by collapsing volition into intellectual assent in this way, there is no indication that Clark was trying to rid man of volitional trust. Rather, he was jealous to maintain volition under another mental activity. Although I have engaged Roger a bit on this Clark-conundrum, I’ve only recently put these matters to Sean.

    But Sean is wrong in his reduction of faith to mental assent. This is what he does, plainly and simply, though he may occasionally appear to do otherwise.

    Yes, I believe Sean is wrong to reduce faith to mental assent. I can’t stress that enough I suppose. However, the question is whether in doing so he denies trust. I have not been able to conclude with you that Sean’s reduction fairly accuses him of denying the volitional aspect of trust contained in faith. For one thing, Clark maintained volition and Clark informs much of Sean’s thinking. (I don’t mean to suggest Sean slavishly follows Clark.) Secondly, Sean echoes Clark by indexing trust to assent, which for Clark was not an attempt to rid faith of trust but rather to collapse trust into assent. Surely this reduction problematic if the metaphysical acts of faith along with the recreated disposition cannot be properly grouped under assent without violating the import of propositional truth – which does not envelop the ontology of commitment; submission; cleaving; recreated-disposition; yielding; resting, etc., which are yet properties of faith. (The recreated disposition differs in that it’s not an act of faith but rather an ontological aspect of faith.)

    for Sean “trust” is a synonym for assent, made clearer as he continued to be pressed on the matter.

    Yes, but for Sean assent is also a synonym for trust. In other words, I do not need to strain to find him collapsing trust into assent while maintaining trust under assent. I’m taking the Ninth Commandment very seriously here, as I’m sure we all are.

    I grant that earlier he seemed to include “trust” in “faith” and “belief” but repeatedly when on to assert that it was all “assent.”

    I don’t see those as mutually exclusive positions given all I’ve just said. Indeed, I find this to be a very strained taxonomy of terms that Sean employs, but given his mentor’s philosophy on this matter and Sean’s strong impetus to protect volition from works of merit, with little effort I can find not only the components of faith firmly intact but also an understandable motive for such a formulation. But that shouldn’t detract from my severe objection to this formulation and my desire to see him abandon it, or at least no longer promote it as stridently as he does.

    An additional concern of mine for Sean and those who are impressed by this formulation is that when one equivocates over terms in this way, it’s not long before they begin believing not according to their strained definitions but according to what those words mean in their prima facie import. (There are significant pastor implications here.) So, although Sean and others might on paper affirm trust while collapsing it into assent – surely assent, properly defined, does not connote trust. So, the next step is to believe in the doctrine of assent alone,properly defined, which is a damning doctrine. I am cognizant that this subtle deception can exist and I’m on the look-out for it given my affection toward those I know who hold to this tagging of terms.

  243. Reed Here said,

    June 14, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    Well said Ron.

  244. Ron said,

    June 14, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    Hear hear, Read Here! :)

  245. Ron said,

    June 14, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    Thanks, but my hear hear was to what you said earlier! :)

  246. Reed Here said,

    June 14, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    Lol!

  247. Alan D. Strange said,

    June 14, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    It’s helpful to put it as you have, Ron (at 242). I’ve seen the same thing all along in this discussion: a formal admission of the presence of trust in some fashion (though inadequately developed) in the act of faith, but ultimately a reducing, when pressed, to assent alone, to a defintion that cannot bear the weight of the fullness of the Reformation’s doctrine of saving faith.

    What you say in your last paragraph at 242 is what I fear to be the holding of those who thus thinly define faith. Whatever they may say along the way, faith, whether called belief, assent, or even trust, means simply “believing propositional truth.”

    That is simply not the definition of saving faith of the Reformed Standards and Reformed theologians. And I stand with them because such reductionism leaves us with a kind of historical faith that is not saving. I hope that your best construction of them is right and that my fear is unwarranted, but as a watchman I must warn against what I take to be, at base, a serious departure from the Reformed understanding of saving faith.

  248. Reed Here said,

    June 14, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    Sorry Sean, your last comment was way too long. Lane prefers that rather than make extended insertions of other materials, you instead provide a link to where folks can find it elsewhere.

    As well, your tone was a bit too contentious. I recognize you have strong disagreements with Dr. Strange’s position. Please try to express your disagreement more particularly toward the positions and less stridently in tone.

    Thanks.

  249. Ron said,

    June 14, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    Thanks, Alan. From Reed’s post it would appear that much cutting and pasting was intended for at least your review. In any case, I believe there is enough in just these last several posts to affirm this and deny that in an economy of words with minimal reference to other arguments. A side has been cleared out for Sean or anyone else to take it to the net.

    My wife wishes everyone a Happy Father’s Day. Maybe a moratorium is in order? :)

  250. Alan D. Strange said,

    June 15, 2014 at 12:08 am

    Sean did not post Dr. Robbins’ response to my fairly lengthy review of Dr. Clark’s book a decade ago (in the Mid-America Journal of Theology) for my sake. I read the letter of Dr. Robbins back at the time and was as unpersuaded by his arguments as he was by my review. I assume he posted it so that others might read it.

    I appreciate, and echo, your wife’s good wishes as well as your’s for a moratorium. A good Lord’s Day to you all.

  251. Sean Gerety said,

    June 15, 2014 at 9:35 am

    Alan, I don’t think a moratorium is in order at all, despite the best intentions of Reed’s wife as I don’t think it is at all just for you to be let off the hook so easily after the grave and serious charges you’ve leveled not only against me, but those like me who embrace clear light of reason and the unambiguous (and ubiquitous) teachings of Scripture and reject the darkness of “mystery” and metaphors without meaning that you champion.

    Clark, a man who has been systematically maligned by you (the OPC has a long shameful tradition so I guess you’re par for the course) said “trust is to believe that good will follow.” Clark defined “trust” as belief of a proposition in the future tense. That is a perfectly acceptable non-contradictory and intelligible sense in which the word “trust” can be understood. Trust is also plainly a synonymy for belief.

    So when I say…

    1) I trust in Jesus Christ.

    . or

    2) I believe in Jesus Christ.

    … I have just expressed the exact same idea and conveyed the exact same meaning because 1 & 2 are the exact same proposition.

    Despite your repeated claims to the contrary (which are scandalous coming from a professor in a purportedly Reformed seminary) belief alone is the alone instrument by which sinners are saved. Romans 4:5, “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his belief is counted as righteousness” [#226].

    Yet, because I point out this glaring, obvious, and simple fact and that adding “trust” to “understanding” and “assent” is an unnecessary addition that adds only ambiguity and confusion to faith’s definition and to our understanding of what faith is, we have Ron Henzel going berserk calling me a false teacher, a heretic, an apostate, and has even compared me to “Simon the Sorcerer.” Oh brother. He’s so full of himself and his position in the church that he even thinks he speaks for the Apostle Peter by “withdrawing” his “judgement of charity” towards me (as if he has even once expressed any charity at all toward me).

    As for me, I appreciate this opportunity to expose this fraud being perpetuated by well place and positioned men like you who think their word alone. and like Ron H on their authority alone, is the Word of God which ends all argument.

    Therefore, since you have so far refuse to answer Roger’s simple question I’ll ask it again:

    “And what do these metaphors such as “receiving and resting” or “coming to” or “leaning upon” Christ literally represent, Alan? You still haven’t answered this simple and most basic question, but have rather reasserted the same undefined figures of speech over and over again ad nauseam. I’ll tell you what they represent, since it’s apparently beyond your ability to explain – sincerely believing that the propositions about Christ and His redemptive work in the gospel are true and personally applicable to oneself as a helpless sinner in need of reconciliation with God (1 Cor. 15:1-4), nothing more (e.g., Gal. 1:6-9) and nothing less (e.g., 1 Cor. 15:14-18)! There is no other way to “know” or “trust” Christ as one’s Savior.”

    Finally, as for Robbins letter, he never posted it anywhere. I have. But I can fully understand why you would refuse to let it be published. You didn’t want it published because his arguments against you are unanswerable, where is something you have demonstrated here repeatedly. But, instead of acting like the wise man by receiving Dr. Robbins gracious rebuke, you have doubled down in your abusive attacks along with the rest of the scoffers.

  252. Sean Gerety said,

    June 15, 2014 at 9:40 am

    Sorry, Reed, I guess it was Ron calling for a moratorium, not your wife. My apologies. And, hopefully I wasn’t too strident above. I really do hope and pray that Alan one day changes his mind and stops playing word games and with the rest of the Reformed world confesses justification by belief alone

  253. Alan D. Strange said,

    June 15, 2014 at 10:03 am

    These metaphors literally represent the effects of the new birth, Sean. When one is “born from above” or “regenerated” (John 3 and elsewhere), conversion occurs, in which one exercises faith and repentance. The faith thus exercised is spoken of richly and variously in Scripture, involving the whole inner man (understanding, will, and affections), in which the one exercising faith believes the truth of the gospel and trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ.

    This trusting in and of Christ involves a personal relationship with Him analagous to what we have with others about whom we have not only propositional knowledge but a personal relationship. The intellect, in other words, is not the only thing involved in such a relationship but the soul in all its aspects or faculties. Because our trust is in Him for the salvation of our souls and because of His nature as God, that personal relationship is of a more profound nature than any that we have with any mere humans with whom we have personal relations. There is something profound and mysterious about the personal relationships that we have with each other. Since faith is the “glue” of our relationship with God, that whereby (as His gift) we lay hold of Him, and Him of us, it is hardly surprising that it will have at its heart something quite wondferful that requires metaphorical and defies precise description.

    I realize that you regard this as irrational. But it’s at the heart of our faith, even as is the Trinity and the Incarnation. Faith involves all our inner man, as renewed, clinging to Him who is the Lover of our souls.

  254. Sean Gerety said,

    June 15, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    First things last:

    I realize that you regard this as irrational. But it’s at the heart of our faith, even as is the Trinity and the Incarnation.

    Thank you for your reply, Alan. First, the Trinity and the Incarnation are not irrational doctrines, although from what you’ve been saying I’m guessing they are in your faith; the same faith where C. Van Til said God is both One Person and Three Persons and where God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility remain suspended in an impenetrable paradox that cannot be reconciled at the bar of human reason this side of heaven — and even there it’s doubtful.

    Therefore, if I’m understanding you now, to “receive and rest” are the effects regeneration. But, where have I argued that assent to the truth of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness is not an effect of the new birth? Only those born again can come to saving belief in Christ. Have I ever said otherwise? Saving belief is the gift of God.

    Moreover, I think you will agree saying; “These metaphors literally represent the effects of the new birth” does nothing explain what these effects like “receive and rest” actually mean. It is just a clever way of evading the question.

    What we want to know is what does the specific metaphor “receive and rest” mean if it doesn’t mean assent; and not that it is a literal effect of something else which we all grant.

    This trusting in and of Christ involves a personal relationship with Him analagous to what we have with others about whom we have not only propositional knowledge but a personal relationship.

    How is the first clause above changed even in the slightest if we were to say, “This believing in and of Christ involves a personal relationship with Him analagous to what we have with others..” How does the use of the word “trusting” alter its meaning?

    Also, why would you think that “propositional knowledge” (I didn’t know there was any other kind) precludes a “personal relationship”? That seems very queer as every personal relationship is based on propositions about the people to whom we relate. Some propositions might define that relationship, like “he is my son,” but that isn’t something non-propositional. Now, I certainly have strong and affectionate feelings toward my son (and daughters), but it appears you want to incorporate “feelings” into what makes faith saving, rather than resting on the objective truth of Christ’s work outside of us (see, I can use figures like “resting” too).

    Because our trust is in Him for the salvation of our souls and because of His nature as God, that personal relationship is of a more profound nature than any that we have with any mere humans with whom we have personal relations.

    I don’t disagree with this at all. But, I’ll ask again, since you’ve made such strong objections to my use of the phrase, justification by belief alone, how is anything you’ve just said altered or changed if instead of “our trust” I were to replace it “our belief”? How is: “Because our belief is in Him for the salvation of our souls … is of a more profound nature than any that we have with any mere humans with whom we have personal relation” wrong? How does it not capture precisely what you’ve just said?

    Since faith is the “glue” of our relationship with God, that whereby (as His gift) we lay hold of Him, and Him of us, it is hardly surprising that it will have at its heart something quite wondferful that requires metaphorical and defies precise description.

    Again, why is saying, “Since belief is the ‘glue’ of our relationship with God, that whereby (as His gift) we lay hold of Him, and Him of us,” etc., wrong and fails to capture the truth of the relationship you describe in a way that only “trust” can convey? Honestly, I don’t see it and you haven’t explained what the difference is.

    The only difference I can see, and as you’ve expressed here again, is that the word “trust” in your mind evokes metaphorical and even at times flowery language that defies precise description or even literal definition. I mean, it sounds pious an all, but I don’t question your personal piety. I question your ability and willingness to define terms clearly and unambiguously, specifically terms that cut to the very heart of the gospel even justification and imputation.

    Look, I don’t mind using the word “trust” in lieu of “belief” or even “faith,” but you’ve failed to demonstrate that to trust means something more than to believe which is what you claimed umpteen posts ago. After all this time, I would have liked to have seen something more concrete in the way of an argument.

    In spite of all this, I hope you have a very nice father’s day and enjoy the rest of the Lord’s day.

  255. Alan D. Strange said,

    June 15, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    My answer was not meant to suggest, Sean, that you denied that faith (and repentance) were effects of the new birth. I simply wanted to explain a bit more about what I saw saving faith to be. Contrariwise, you suggest that I am generally unclear and ambiguous on terms, “even justification and imputation.” I’ve not discussed such at all and I am not unclear or ambiguous on these forensic matters.

    You are asking, where you come from philosophically, for something “concrete?” Really? What do you mean by concrete? More abstract reasoning? I have nothing against abstract reasoning but what is this concrete thing that you want and where have you ever provided it?

    I’ve not bothered to point all of these sorts of problems from your posts (such are regularly there) and then continue to allege, “you’ve not answered my questions!” when we both know perfectly well what the other is talking about–we differ, and I will continue to stand with the Reformed witness to the definition of saving faith.

    I’ve defined faith multiple times: it’s knowledge, assent, and trust. You are willing to acknowledge trust if it’s not something really different from assent, and I argue, with the Reformers and the Reformed Standards, that trust is that reliance of the inner man (in understanding, will, and affections) in and on Him Who is Truth. You cannot and will not agree with this. This is not abstruse, but a child can grasp it. Many have. You continue to allege unclarity. But you get exactly what I’m saying (even as I do you) and disagree with it. You allege that I’ve asserted but not proved anything. I don’t believe you’ve proved anything either, except that you disagree with the Reformation on this. I know that that galls you, Sean, but it’s the simple truth, obvious to all candid readers.

    I know why I am not giving up in this conversation, Sean: I believe that I am defending the faith as a watchman in Israel. Perhaps you will never agree. But others who read it may and I feel bound not to yield on this point. What is your reason for not quitting in this discussion?

  256. Ron Henzel said,

    June 15, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    Dr. Strange,

    I’m curious: as a professor of church history, are you aware of any time that “the Reformed world” has confessed “justification by belief alone?” There even seems to be a rumor floating around here that the standard Reformed position right now is justification by assent to a proposition. If true this comes as quite a shock, as I was not aware that the entire Reformed world consisted of the followers of Gordon H. Clark.

  257. Alan D. Strange said,

    June 15, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    Let’s see, Ron (at 256)…ah, no, I don’t know of anytime in which “the Reformed world” has confessed such a reductionistic view of the alone instrument of justification, protestations to the contrary notwithstanding.

    This, of course, has been my point all along. And the most bizarre air of unreality hangs over this whole conversation from those who maintain such. A tiny group isn’t simply maintaining that it’s gotten right what all the rest of us in the Reformed faith have missed, they maintain–at the same time, all alleged logical rigor notwithstanding–that their position really is the Reformed position (though it really isn’t).

    I am glad that you are not quitting, either. As long as this conversation continues, I can never cede it to the side denying the Reformation’s understanding of justifying and saving faith. There’s too much at stake: everything. As a preacher, and a Christian, I seek to point folk to Christ and trust in Him. I don’t want them resting simply in “I assent to a proposition.” And neither does WLC 72. Nor the Holy Scriptures. We must contend for the faith and never stop.

  258. Reed Here said,

    June 15, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    Dr. Strange, thank you for your clear, straightforward, and unambiguous answers to Sean’s challenges.

    Sean, your position does indeed seem reductionistic. So much so that your repetitive questioning comes across as nothing more than badgering.

    I’m not inferring anything as to why you sound this way. I’m simply observing that if we we in a civil court, with you as an attorney questioning Dr. Strange on the stand, I could easily see the judge sustaining an objection against you.

    The question has been answered. Your paradigm insists it is not sufficient. Oh well. Move on.

  259. Ron said,

    June 15, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    What we want to know is what does the specific metaphor “receive and rest” mean if it doesn’t mean assent;

    Sean,

    To receive and rest in Christ is to take personal possession of his life and perfect righteousness, abandon confidence in oneself while relying upon him alone in life and death. To take possession, surrender and to place one’s confidence in another are not propositional assents. One doesn’t believe possession, believe surrender and believe confidence. They are non-propositional spiritual realities, which God imparts as part of faith. They are volitional because they are a matter of the will. You might dare to call these “volitional assents,” whatever that might mean, but then you will have given up on propositional assent alone.

  260. Andrew Duggan said,

    June 15, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    Alan,

    I greatly appreciate your defending as a watchman of Israel. You’re right It must not be ceded that justifying faith is only understanding and assent to propositions about Christ and his work, or as Ron Henzel, put it well, justification by assent to a proposition.

    And as you say in 257, there is no time such a reduction has been allowed, and have consistently maintained the reformed doctrine of justifying faith.

    Having been warned continually, not heeding the warning places all the responsibility on those who ignore the warning. Ezk 33.

    In every iteration, it comes down to the Spirit wrought (since it is God’s gift to each of us) personal relationship trust we each must have in the person of Jesus Christ.

    As Hebrews 3 and 4 explains from Psalm 95, it was because of unbelief they could not enter God’s rest. Does anyone really think the Israelites who had seen His working (the plagues, the differentiation between the Egyptians and the Israelites, the parting of the Red Sea, the drowning of Pharaoh’s army, the thunder, lightning, and darkness on Mt Sinai, voice of God when He “spake all these words saying…”,the pillar of cloud/fire, the water from the rock) didn’t assent to the the propositions? Psalm 95:9 says they “saw”, and so is it that they didn’t assent to it? Did they not assent to the truth that the land was a good land flowing with milk and honey? They refused to enter the land, enter God’s rest because they didn’t believe Him, not because they didn’t assent to any proposition. Assent they had, trust they lacked.

    They did assent that God promised it, they didn’t trust Him who made the promise. They assented, but didn’t trust, so he swore in His wrath that in to His rest they should not go.

    Therefore as Hebrews warns us not to be like the Israelites who hardened their hearts, but to trust in Him the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, and thereby enter into His Rest that personally secured for His people in His death and especially His resurrection.

    To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness.

  261. Sean Gerety said,

    June 15, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    Contrariwise, you suggest that I am generally unclear and ambiguous on terms, “even justification and imputation.” I’ve not discussed such at all and I am not unclear or ambiguous on these forensic matters.

    That wasn’t what I was suggesting, if you would reread what I wrote. Where you are unclear and ambiguous is in your definition of faith, which in your mind is more than belief. Isn’t that what we have been discussing all these many posts? What you are unclear and ambiguous about is the alone instrument by which justification and imputation is appropriated.

    You are asking, where you come from philosophically, for something “concrete?” Really? What do you mean by concrete? More abstract reasoning? I have nothing against abstract reasoning but what is this concrete thing that you want and where have you ever provided it?

    There is nothing “abstract” about defining terms clearly, nor is there anything “abstract” about explaining what it means to “receive and rest” in literal terms, something you are both unable and willing to do. The Confession has no problem in doing this and explains the figures “receive and rest” in terms of *assent.*

    I’ve not bothered to point all of these sorts of problems from your posts (such are regularly there) and then continue to allege, “you’ve not answered my questions!” when we both know perfectly well what the other is talking about–we differ, and I will continue to stand with the Reformed witness to the definition of saving faith.

    The only thing you’ve done is to evade a direct question and have yet again provided a non-answer. Now it seems all you can do is grandstand. I have never denied you stand with tradition, what you call “the Reformed witness”; that same witness that Bavinck said has provided answers to the nature of saving faith that “have been radically divergent.” You act as if the Reformed have at all times and everywhere spoken with one voice on this question, but that is simply false.

    I’ve defined faith multiple times: it’s knowledge, assent, and trust. You are willing to acknowledge trust if it’s not something really different from assent, and I argue, with the Reformers and the Reformed Standards, that trust is that reliance of the inner man (in understanding, will, and affections) in and on Him Who is Truth.

    And, I have explained to you and demonstrated many times now, the addition of “trust” does not add anything to the definition of faith, but it does allow you to bring in a nebulous undefined psychological element – some unexplained disposition that must be present within the person — that is required before a sinner might be saved.

    What you require is something *in addition to* the apprehension of the objective finished work of Christ alone completely outside of us and anything that might be wrought in us. This I do reject as should every Reformed believer. You confuse the result or fruit of faith with faith itself, which is the only reason why you attempt to distinguish faith from belief, even when the Scriptures make no such distinction.

    I know why I am not giving up in this conversation, Sean: I believe that I am defending the faith as a watchman in Israel. Perhaps you will never agree. But others who read it may and I feel bound not to yield on this point. What is your reason for not quitting in this discussion?

    [snip]

    Off to go enjoy a father’s day dinner with my wonderful wife and kids.

  262. Reed Here said,

    June 15, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    Sean, I deleted your whole last paragraph. You interwove attack of a position with attack of a person. Sorry, not allowed.

  263. Alan D. Strange said,

    June 15, 2014 at 10:49 pm

    I’ve made it clear from the beginning, Sean, that I do not confuse the fruit of faith with faith itself. per WLC 73. I simply insist that faith be understood not as assent alone (WLC 72).

    And Bavinck was not saying otherwise (from Ron H. in 207). He was, if you read 207-8, making it clear that none of the Reformers reduced faith to intellectual assent and all agreed that there was a something more that was variously described. I’ve called it trust here but do not insist on that, only that it involves a personal relationship with Christ.

    Here is the link to my review of Clark’s work on saving faith: http://www.midamerica.edu/resources/journal/15/reviews.pdf. (scroll down to Clark alphabetically). This review shows that Robbins understood a personal relationship with Christ as merely assenting to true propositions about him and that Clark explicitly differed in his definition of faith from John Calvin, Thomas Manton, John Owen, Charles
    Hodge, B. B. Warfield, J. H. Bavinck, and Louis Berkhof, inter alii. I maintain that Robbins and Clark differed with WLC 72. This is why, among other reasons, I’ve said that this is a departure from the Reformation definition of faith.

  264. Roger said,

    June 16, 2014 at 12:30 am

    Ron wrote,

    259. One doesn’t believe possession, believe surrender and believe confidence. They are non-propositional spiritual realities, which God imparts as part of faith. They are volitional because they are a matter of the will.

    So, saving “faith” now consists of six parts: knowledge, assent, trust, possession, surrender, and confidence. Got it! That sure clears things up! Why not make it seven (like Turretin) or eight or nine (like Witsius)? Why are you being so skimpy with only six?

    By the way, belief (or assent) itself is a “matter of the will,” as it is the result of God’s renewing our enslaved will and causing us to willingly believe the propositions of the gospel. The fact that you can’t see this simple fact is beyond belief (pardon the pun)!

  265. Roger said,

    June 16, 2014 at 12:34 am

    Up to this point in the debate, no one has answered this simple question:

    If I truly “believe” or “assent” to the propositions of the gospel – that Jesus is the divine Son of God who died for my sins, who was raised for my justification, and whose imputed righteousness alone reconciles me to God for all eternity, am I not ipso facto “trusting” in the Person of Christ and justified in God’s sight?

    Who will be so bold as to condemn me for “believing” or “assenting” to the proposition that Christ alone is my righteousness in God’s sight? Which one of you so-called “elders” and “doctors” of the Reformed faith will openly repudiate the gospel on a public blog?

  266. Roger said,

    June 16, 2014 at 12:51 am

    Moreover, no one has even attempted to refute this unassailable point so far?

    The New Testament indicates that to believe in Christ means to believe that certain propositions are true:

    For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. (1 Corinthians 15:3-5) (Vincent Cheung, Systematic Theology, pg. 195)

  267. Roger said,

    June 16, 2014 at 1:01 am

    Or this point:

    An analysis of language demonstrates that believing in (or “trust”) a person is nothing other than shorthand for believing that (or “assent”) certain propositions about him are true.

    There are at least two ways to understand the question, “Do you believe in the devil?” It may be asking whether one believes that the devil exists, or whether he believes that the devil is worthy of worship. That is, the question implies one of the two propositions, and asks a person to affirm or deny it. A Christian would affirm the first and deny the second. However, unless the context of the conversation establishes the meaning of the question, or unless the person makes an assumption as to the meaning of the question, it is impossible to tell which of the two propositions is intended.

    If D = “the devil,” e = “exists,” and w = “worthy of worship,” then “I believe in D” may mean either “I believe that De” or “I believe that Dw.” Either way, “I believe in D” must represent either of the two “believe that” statements, and thus it is nothing more than shorthand for one of them. By itself, the meaning is undefined.

    Likewise, the meaning of “I believe in God” is undefined unless it is reduced to one or more “believe that” propositions. In the context of Hebrews 11:6, if G = “God,” e = “exists,” and r = “rewarder,” then “I believe in G” appears to have three possible meanings:

    1. “I believe that Ge”
    2. “I believe that Gr”
    3. “I believe that Ge + Gr”

    Hebrews 11:6 calls for a faith that affirms (3). It is certainly a “believe that” kind of faith, but no one can please God without it. Also, note that to believe in X may imply a “believe that” faith in multiple propositions. In Hebrews 11:6, to have faith means to believe that Ge + Gr.

    Therefore, we conclude that “I believe in X” is shorthand for “I believe that X1 + X2 + X3…Xn.” This means that to believe or have faith in something or someone is to believe or have faith that certain propositions about that something or someone are true. To have faith in God and in Christ is precisely to believe something about them – to have a “believe that” faith. Some people might consider it more pious or intimate to say that faith must go beyond the intellectual and that faith is belief or trust in a person instead of assent to propositions, but this idea of faith is meaningless [Amen!]. A faith that does not “believe that” certain propositions are true does not believe anything at all; the content of this so-called faith is undefined. There is, in fact, no faith.

    (Vincent Cheung, Systematic Theology, pg. 195-196)

  268. Sjoerd de Boer said,

    June 16, 2014 at 2:33 am

    In addition to dr. Strange’s concluding statement:

    “This is why, among other reasons, I’ve said that this is a departure from the Reformation definition of faith.”

    I would like to point out what is at stake when theologians teach and pastors preach from such a position as Clark, which I recognize to be practically the same as those who in The Netherlands followed dr. K Schilder in 1944 and caused a church split in establishing The Reformed Churches (Liberated) (Gereformeerde Kerken Vrijgemaakt). As one coming straight from the line of the Reformed Churches under the Cross (1834) I had many discussions like the one above with disciples of Schilder c.s. I remember one person in particular who was born and raised under such teaching of mere intellectual assent to the propositions of faith. He was a “staunch defender of the truth”. He (as many in his denomination) did not even recognize other reformed believers (like me) as brothers in Christ. Years later I met the same brother, brokenhearted confessing that Christ was never preached to him and that he was left misleading himself and others until he came under a Scriptural experiential preaching that the Lord used to open his heart and regenerated him to “not only acknowledge to hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in His Word, but also an assured confidence, which the Holy Ghost worked by the Gospel in his heart”

    All I want to say is that this discussion ought in my humble opinion (as a layman) not to be considered merely theological within bounds of the Reformed faith, but is one with eternal consequences. It truly puzzles me when people say to fully subscribe to certain Reformed confessions and on one hand seem to cling onto and keep pushing some parts and on the other hands completely seem to ignore other parts of their confession.

    That brings me in closing to the original topic of the discussion of the future of Protestantism. Where it is very important to debate the FV and its consequential move toward the RCC, its seems to me that a massive practical denial/dismissal of what the WCF teaches about the Lord’s Day and Scriptural Worship within the PCA and other presbyterian denominations is totally overlooked that THAT will be crucial for the future of Protestantism. Voltaire remarked in so many words (my opinion rightly) “If we want to get rid of Christianity, we must undermine and take away the Sabbath Day.”

    That might be another topic, but if there would be a time to address it, it would be in these days.

  269. Alan D. Strange said,

    June 16, 2014 at 6:47 am

    Roger,

    All that you cite here of Cheung has been answered and perhaps this should have been said long ago (I’ve thought of much that i’ve declined to write): Cheung asserts that faith is purely intellectual and that assent to propositions exhausts its meaning, but he does not prove it. All he proves is that faith has a clear and unmistakable intellectual aspect. Saving faith is indeed based upon knowing and believing the truths of the gospel. There is abundant Scripture to prove this.

    There is also abundant Scripture to prove that saving faith is trust in a person, a notion that Cheung calls “meaningless.”Andrew Duggan, for instance, has offered such. You keep saying that we refuse to answer and ignore your offers of proof. No, we don’t. We’ve both looked at what you’ve said and argued biblically that knowledge and assent are necessary but not sufficient. You continue to insist that it is sufficient and characterize our attempts to demonstrate that something additional, something often called “trust,” is needed as nonsense and meaningless.

    As Reed has noted, this tactic, in a court of law, would be called “badgering the witness.” We’ve answered but you don’t like our answer so you keep coming back at us with the same question. And the answer again is that the propositions of the gospel are a necessary part of saving faith but saving faith requires more: it requires trust in Christ. We’ve offered lots to back that up, even though my intention originally was simply to show that your position departs from the historic Reformed definition of faith so that such a position has no right to present itself as a Reformed one but is, in fact, a rejection of the Reformed Standards and the Reformed theologians.

    Because you assert that what we say is meaningless does not mean that it is and because you assert that you’ve proved your point does not mean that you have. Assertion is not proof. I think that I’ve proven that you depart from the Reformed understanding of saving faith and I think that others have proven that you depart from the Scrptures on this as well. We continue to differ. I get that. Stop acting as if, however, what you’ve maintained has not been addressed. It has not been addressed to your satisfaction. It is fundamentally untrue, Roger, to keep insisting that we’ve not addressed your question, however. We have and we differ. I am sure that we agree that we can’t both be right.

  270. Reed here said,

    June 16, 2014 at 7:57 am

    Roger, I agree with Dr. Strange. Y’all have been answered. It’s o.k. To not like the answers. It kind of denies discussion to refuse the answers.

  271. Denson Dube said,

    June 16, 2014 at 8:20 am

    Alan,
    What is to “trust” someone?

  272. Ron said,

    June 16, 2014 at 8:51 am

    So, saving “faith” now consists of six parts: knowledge, assent, trust, possession, surrender, and confidence. Got it! That sure clears things up! Why not make it seven (like Turretin) or eight or nine (like Witsius)? Why are you being so skimpy with only six?

    Roger,

    To put it mildly, a little humility might suit you better. Not sure why you missed the context but I was not addressing the three elements of faith but rather Sean’s question pertaining to the Confession: “What we want to know is what does the specific metaphor ‘receive and rest’ mean if it doesn’t mean assent.”

    By the way, belief (or assent) itself is a “matter of the will,” as it is the result of God’s renewing our enslaved will and causing us to willingly believe the propositions of the gospel.

    It has been ignored that assent is not a sufficient condition for an engagement of the will. Does a child will to believe his mother is feeding him? Does the unbeliever will to believe that God exists, or does he know this by nature? Certainly we don’t will to believe those things we know by nature or those things that we believe through the occasion of the senses. We don’t choose to believe that we smell popcorn on a boardwalk or see the ocean of in the distance. This is just one reason why assent is insufficient to depict a saving faith that engages the will.

    When this was first pointed out you tried to say that saving faith is always in response to a command, which was showed to be inadequate since many come to the Savior apart heeding a command. The best you can do now is say that the belief that accompanies salvation is a “matter of the will,” but that is way too imprecise for this discussion. That God renews the enslaved will and causes us to believe the gospel, as you rightly contend, is not mutually exclusive to the position you’re to be engaging. You’ve argued nothing by this false disjunction. That the will is engaged in salvation does not provide any philosophically cogent ground to collapse the metaphysical acts of the will into assent. That God granted belief is a sufficient condition for the exercise of saving faith, which includes the engagement of the will, does not logically imply that assent is ever a property of the will, even when salvation is in view. All you’ve done is beg the question in broad, snarky strokes. Since it is not a universal truth that assent engages the will it is inadequate to conclude that assent alone saves. It is inadequate because saving faith is exercised in accordance with what it assents to! The true believer rests in the Savior he assents to, which is why we must distinguish propositional assent not just from the metaphysical actions of the will but from the dispositions of the soul.There are the non-propositional engagements of the will that cannot adequately be classified under assent, lest you are left with the non-sequitur of willful assent to non-propositions to describe the soul that gives up upon itself and rests in the perfection of another.

    The fact that you can’t see this simple fact is beyond belief (pardon the pun)!

    I’m happy to leave you and your flippant remarks to your elders.

  273. Ron said,

    June 16, 2014 at 8:56 am

    Alan et al.,

    I have to be leaving these discussions. I would only bring to mind that these confused ones represent a large sample of the group. In other words, although they are vocal, there numbers are few. They are not a serious movement in the least. Use your time wisely! :)

  274. Alan D. Strange said,

    June 16, 2014 at 9:15 am

    Denson, to trust Christ is to commit oneself to Him, to receive and rest upon Him, to believe in Him–all of these things together. It is unlike trusting a human in that no other person is divine and my Savior. The trust that we have in Christ is both like and unlike the trust that we have in other humans. The like part is believing them and believing in them (having confidence or “faith” in them). The unlike part is that no mere human is the one to whom I am to come and in whom I am to rest. That pertains to Christ alone.

    And Ron, I hope you are right (that the numbers are few) and I think that you are. My desire is that they should stay small and that they may not lure others with their appearance of logical cogency. Just as mysticism is a pitfall, so is rationalism, peprhaps particularly for the Reformed, and I intend to oppose it and warn others against it.

  275. Reed Here said,

    June 16, 2014 at 9:20 am

    Dr. Strange, if WordPress had a like button, that last paragraph would get a big thumbs up.

  276. Sean Gerety said,

    June 16, 2014 at 9:31 am

    Since Reed Here continues to censor my posts, I’m out. [snip]

  277. Reed Here said,

    June 16, 2014 at 9:38 am

    Sean, do you take seriously the 5th Commandment?

    You have been repeatedly admonished about Lane’s blog rules about complaining on-blog about a moderator’s actions. Your repeated refusal to abide by Lane’s ruling here is sin against him and me.

    I’ve offered advice on how to make your comments, strongly worded at that, without violating another of the blog rules. You refuse to abide by that. In this last comment you simply double-down on it.

    If you had asked I would have been more than willing to offer some suggestions about how to express yourself without simply being offensive toward brothers in the faith. You demonstrate a recalcitrance attitude. Yes, I know the significance of that word. I pray you do as well, for I write as one brother to another.

    I will continue to put extra work in to moderate your comments. I ask you to pray a bit more before lashing out again.

  278. Sean Gerety said,

    June 16, 2014 at 9:59 am

    Nothing I wrote was and that you censored was in violation of the 5th.

    But, that’s OK Reed, I have plenty of material from you and others here, both off and on list, for a nice series of posts on my own blog. Thanks.

  279. Reed Here said,

    June 16, 2014 at 10:58 am

    Sean, sigh. You and I both agree that we will be known by our fruits. May God have mercy on us both.

    For the record, your labeling of my actions as censoring is unjust and bearing false witness against me. I know you will disagree. I really don’t care anymore.

  280. Don said,

    June 16, 2014 at 11:25 am

    Yeah, but “censorship” gives a much deeper visceral response than “exercise of editorial control.”

  281. Reed Here said,

    June 16, 2014 at 11:40 am

    Don: yes.

  282. Ron said,

    June 16, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    This Greenbaggins blog entry was intended to flesh out middle ground. I think that in some ways it generated more light than heat, relatively speaking that is. We are a passionate bunch after all! I like this particular post most of all. Way to go, Jeff!

    Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity!

  283. Ron said,

    June 16, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    It was this part of Jeff’s post that made my day: “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.”

  284. Alan D. Strange said,

    June 16, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    Ron:

    I’ve always sought to be charitable to Dr. Clark, though I sharply disagreed with him about the nature of saving faith. I think that this is in evidence in my review of his book on the same: http://www.midamerica.edu/resources/journal/15/reviews.pdf.

    My charity, however, did not mean that I regarded his position on the subject as within confessional bounds (nor can I think that a man of Dr. Clark’s striking intellect was unable to describe “what’s really taking place in his heart”). I categorically reject that this is also a Clark/Van Tilian dispute. A multitude of Reformed folk who are not Van Tilian would never construct faith as did Dr. Clark. In fact, Dr. Clark was not rejecting Van Til here but the historic Reformed position. I say all of this in response to what some of Jeff C. said (in the link), which I find, in his commendable desire to be irenic, to be inaccurate at points.

    I do not find this to be, in any respect, an academic debate, but a most important debate about a most important issue. I can agree that Clarkians may be confused about the matter, but I cannot permit them to intellectualize the faith and not object. Such intellectualized faith is deadly to the body ecclesiastic. I think that Dr. Clark made a serious error when, in arguing against a de-intellectualized faith (with which concern I agree), he went to the other extreme and argued for an intellectualized faith that undercut the historic Reformed understanding of the true nature of saving faith.

  285. Ron said,

    June 16, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    Hi Alan,

    I hope I didn’t imply that I thought you found Clark to be within the bounds of the Confession in what he wrote. I, also, appreciate that in Clark’s particular case what he wrote was a great indicator of what he thought given, as you suggest, his acuteness of mind. I have my own views of what Clark meant as it relates to the will and mental assent (having read his analyses of the person), which I won’t bother to rehearse here other than to say I find his formulation of faith unsatisfactory for reasons I’ve already noted.

    My single point was as Jeff noted; if the other is wrong it doesn’t mean they don’t have saving faith and we ought not to be declaring anathemas over the internet. Consequently, we should seek to preserve the unity of the Spirit, which has not been the case in this thread I’m afraid. Significant differences don’t give liberty for want of charity. I actually meant to cut and paste both those sentiments of Jeff’s, with which I trust you still agree having remarked favorably upon Jeff’s comment, which I intentionally did not include. I took your “wisdom” remark to pertain only to those points, but not necessarily to the other things he indicated. I appreciate the opportunity to clarify, appreciating that you might not have been so much trying to correct something I thought but rather also to clarify your own position in light of things Jeff intimated.

    Finally, I couldn’t agree more that this has nothing to do with Van Til.

  286. Alan D. Strange said,

    June 16, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    Ron:

    I didn’t think that you meant something different than you affirm immediately above. I simply wanted to make things clear for all readers.

    And with respect to your penultimate paragraph: I do not seek to judge persons in these exchanges but to deal on the basis of truth, seeking to ascertain on the basis of God’s Word, whether teachings are true or false. Or, in this case specifically, whether positions are in or out of accord with the teaching of the Reformation and its confessions/catechisms.

    None of us are saved by our faith, but by our Lord, who gives us such so that we may lay hold of Christ. The smallest amount of true faith is saving (sufficent to move mountains), because the object is Him who lived and died for us. Our knowledge, assent, and trust may be–and always are–quite imperfect. Thanks be to God that we have a perfect Savior, who saves us even though our faith in Him is weak and often faltering.

  287. Denson Dube said,

    June 17, 2014 at 7:27 am

    Alan,
    Referring to 274.
    Here is the [dictionary .. Oxford] definition of trust:

    1. Believe in the reliability, truth, or ability of:

    2. Have faith or confidence in …

    3. Acceptance of the truth of a statement [without evidence or investigation]

    I have left out what I think are not relevant meanings in this discussion.

    According to the dictionary, to trust [someone] is to belief[in], to have faith [in], to have confidence [in], to accept the truth of statements [about someone].

    Trust, belief, faith, confidence in, acceptance of the truth of a statement, are synonyms according to the dictionary,

    metaphor; plural noun: metaphors

    (1) a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable.

    (2) a thing regarded as representative or symbolic of something else, especially something abstract.

    synonyms: figure of speech, image, trope, analogy, comparison, symbol, word painting/picture etc etc

    Metaphors are meant to augment the primary meaning of a word by offering word pictures which clarify and enhance its meaning. They are not meant to obfuscate, or to mask confusion. You seem to make no distinction between a word and its metaphors. Why is that?
    Further you have said repeatedly that you use metaphors to express things you do not understand. If you do not understand something, how is it possible to have a metaphor for it? Metaphors must be appropriate to the word at hand and this only possible if one understands what they are talking about.
    Your use of language and grasp of concepts leaves a lot to be desired.

  288. Alan D. Strange said,

    June 17, 2014 at 7:45 am

    Denson:

    Note your question, my reply, and your response. You have in no significant measure interacted with what I said. You apparently have no interest or intention in doing so. This is why you and your friends’ “you’ve not answered my question” tactic is puerile and tiresome.

    I’ve never said anything remotely like “I use metaphors to express things that I don’t understand.” I have not claimed that I don’t understand saving faith, assent, trust, or any of these things. I have said that I don’t comprehend all involved in trust, even as I don’t comprehend the Trinity and the Incarnation. This, by the way, is what the Westminster Standards say at several points: we can know God, but we can’t comprehend Him. Deny that and you depart from the Reformed faith.

    I am answering you more sharply than usual here because these exchanges seem fruitless. None of you fellows seem capable of dialog and I do believe Ron that you all represent a vocal few. I certainly hope so and pray that this sophomoric rationalism will give way to sound biblical engagement that recognizes the profundity of the Word of God.

  289. Reed Here said,

    June 17, 2014 at 11:16 am

    Now to a practical consideration:

    Our community where I live is FILLED with folks who claim a “personal relationship with Jesus.” They have well learned all the basic propositional truths required: 1) they are sinners with no hope, 2) Jesus is the God-man whose perfect life-death-resurrection provides atonement and new life, 3) the Spirit cause a person to be born again so that the person believes in Jesus.

    I.e.,, they’ve got all the propositional truth down. They believe it is true. They’ve made their profession of faith/belief (to adopt the Clarkian term favored so far). They believe IN Jesus, claiming justification-by-belief-alone with absolute consistency with the definition of saving faith offered by our Clarkian friends here.

    Yet the lives of my professing-belief-in-Christ neighbors are for the most part morally bankrupt. They have their set list of “Thou shall Not, maintained with Pharisaical assiduity. And they the overwhelming host of the rest of their lives remains unexamined by the light of Scripture. They are standard God-fearing Southerners in church every Sunday, praising Jesus for saving them parking space Monday through Saturday. Their faith is trite, trivial and triumphant over just about nothing Jesus actually cares about. “You shall know them by their fruit,” leaves only two options in their case: 1) either Jesus is not real, 2) their belief is worthless!

    All the insistence that belief (assent) alone is sufficient for the Biblical definition of faith flies in the face of the Bible’s own testimony. Sure, work Turretin-like or Clark-like or Van Til-like to distinguish, differentiate, to properly order and relate, but in the end this insistence on belief (assent) alone is NOT what the Bible teaches.

    And so I, listening as a pastor who sympathizes with the desire to add nothing of self to the faith that saves us, frankly just do not find any value in listening to what Dr. Strange has rightly described as sophomoric arguing.

    I recognize the sincerity of y’all who are stridently pushing against the Reformed knowledge-assent-trust trinity definition of saving faith. I even appreciate your concern. But you’re kicking against the goads of Scripture, and your arguments are worthless in ministering to self-deceived people.

    Strong words, but please note I’ve not attacked any of you personally. It is your arguments that are worthless. I recognize and value Christ in you.

  290. Ron said,

    June 17, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    It’s worse than I thought. Below is a summary as I see it.

    It is possible to assent to a proposition without trusting in it. I can assent to “the trains will run on time” without trusting in the timeliness of trains. Assent clearly differs from trust in this regard. Trust in this context is not synonymous with assent or belief but rather implies reliance. Now although I think it’s absurd to assert that assent is sufficient for salvation, to grant the premise does not undermine the relevant semantic distinction between trust as reliance and assent to a proposition or set of propositions.

    If Clarkians want to maintain that assent and trust are synonymous with respect to faith, then they deny the implication of reliance upon Christ for salvation because, as just shown, reliance has a different import than assent even though reliance (i.e. trust) is necessarily present whenever salvation obtains in the presence of assent. The other option is for Clarkians not to call assent synonymous with trust but rather to collapse the meaning of trust into assent based upon the alleged sufficiency of assent to save. That approach would at least maintain reliance as distinct from trust, yet while embarrassingly conflating their distinct meanings under one term, assent. My reading of Clark leads me to believe he indeed made the latter blunder. My reading of Clarkians here has of late given me reason to pause and now think that they actually are speaking of mere assent, the former and more dreadful error that would disregard biblical reliance upon Christ altogether.

    In summary, even if assent were sufficient for salvation and, therefore, always accompanied by trust in Christ, trust as reliance may not be swallowed up in its definition and if it’s disregarded altogether, then all that’s left is mere assent apart from reliance upon the Savior’s work.

  291. Reed Here said,

    June 17, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    Helpful Ron.

  292. Denson Dube said,

    June 18, 2014 at 7:09 am

    Alan/Reed/Ron,
    There are many other underlying issues that, for reasons of time and other constraints, cannot be brought to bear upon this discussion. For instance, I have suspicions that you are labouring under a sophomoric(to use your term) and unbiblical anthropology. Your use of the term “mere assent” gives me those strong suspicions. The bible is clear that no one can believe(assent to) the Gospel unless it is granted to them from above. Belief of(assent to) the Gospel is impossible, without God’s foreordination. Your view of “mere assent”, but betrays a profound ignorance of salvation.
    On the other hand, in justification, we are declared righteous on the basis of the alien righteousness of the son of God, imputed to the sinner upon “mere assent” to the gospel. The confession is clear, not even evangelical graces contribute to the sinner’s justification. But you carry on about “commitment” etc etc You obviously fancy yourselves possessed of religious pedigree and merit to impress God with. The reformers stressed upon the emptiness of faith. Commitment and other graces are fruits of justification, not the cause of. I am afraid what you believe is “another gospel”. The apostle says examine yourselves if you be in the faith.

  293. Alan D. Strange said,

    June 18, 2014 at 7:50 am

    Denson,

    I agree that saving faith is properly empty (and so did the Reformers): it is utterly extraspective, looking away from all that we are and have and do (or imagine that we can do) to Christ and to Him alone.

    Now the Reformers regarded that last bit (looking away from ourselves to Christ) not as simply assent (WLC 72, “not only assenteth”) but as involving trust, commitment, or the like.You are quite right (as WLC 73 teaches) that other graces (like repentance) accompany it (that’s the right language: other graces are not the fruits of justification, they accompany it: good works are said to be the fruits of justification, WLC 73) and are not properly part of justifying faith.

    But that utter abandonement of any hope in the self and a receiving and resting upon Christ is not an accompanying grace or fruit of justifying faith but is the very heart of such and what it means savingly to believe on and trust in Christ.

    You are quite right, Denson, to argue that justifying faith comes with empty hand to Christ. That, my friend, is trust, and that is what we are vying for here, something that not only assents but receives and rests upon Christ alone for justification (as clearly defined in WLC 70).

  294. Reed Here said,

    June 18, 2014 at 11:00 am

    Denson, would it help if we used the phrase “assent alone”? I here Clarkians arguing that saving faith = assent alone. Am I wrong?

    [edited]

    We agree 100% that assent is be differentiated into two types, that which experiences salvation and that which does not. What we do not agree on is whether or not faith = assent alone.

    For the sake of the discussion here, can we agree to suspend this difference momentarily? Use the term faith instead. Identify it with belief as well. Let’s call it faith/belief for discussion. Let’s do so not to ignore or berate one another. Let’s instead do so with the intention of securing at least further understanding, and possibly persuasion of the other.

    If you are with me, proceeding (add moment: all of a sudden I feel like I’m Jeff Cagle):

    We agree that saving faith/belief is solely and exclusively the gift of God, wrought by Him in the person. We agree that assent assent is a function of faith/belief. We agree with you that there is a difference between what can be called human faith/belief and saving faith/belief. (More on this below.)

    [At this point, let me acknowledge, that it sounds as if Clarkians maintain that assent is the sole function of faith/belief. Acknowledged, but for the sake of clarity on our differences, please allow “a” function for the time being.]

    We agree that this assent function of faith/belief is essential; it is the necessary instrument for reception of salvation. We also agree that this assent function of faith/belief is non-meritorious; it’s functioning is simply what faith is intended to do. E.g., the function of drinking in necessary to relieve thirst, but the drinking does not earn the relieving. The function of assenting in faith/belief is simply what it does; it has no meritorious effect.

    In other words, we agree with you up to this point. This may be why you are hearing some comments from us sound like we’re not answering you. You are pushing against barriers in our understanding that are not there. Hence, since we agree, we don’t see the need to even interact, let alone push back.

    Where we disagree is whether or not assent is the only function of faith/belief. We believe the Bible includes trust as a function of faith/belief. (I’m assuming here that we’ve immaterial differences over the function of knowledge in faith). Simply put, we believe that faith/belief includes these two functions: assent and trust. Clarkians (appear to) believe that faith/belief has only one function: assent.

    [It may be that y’all believe that assent has the quality of trust, but that is not a separate function of faith/belief. More below on this.]

    Going with this distinction, with you we most likely agree that the demons’ faith/belief (James 2:19) is different from saving faith/belief due at least to the source of the faith/belief. For them the source is not God, but their own selves. Destined for reprobation, they were not given saving faith/belief. We both agree that the demons assent to the propositions. We both agree that this is insufficient.

    The question is: what is missing? Is it just the source that is the problem? While we agree with you that the source is a problem, we disagree that this is the only problem. We would go on to say that there is a functional problem as well. The demons, with clearer assent than men, nevertheless do not trust in God. They trust in themselves. This is inferred through the point of James’ reference to them, namely that saving faith/belief evidences itself in works born of God, the fruits of saving faith/belief.

    That this is it a problem of trust is born out from John’s interaction in his gospel between human faith/belief vs. saving faith/belief. A seam-theme (i.o.w., it holds the other themes of the gospel together), the difference is inferred as early as John 1:10-13, and clearly expressed in John 2:23-25. Note that the men (generic) believing (pistis) in Jesus, did so on the basis of his miracles (sign-works). On this account Jesus was not believing (pistis) in their profession of faith/belief. The inference is that their faith/belief was not saving faith/belief.

    Indeed this is born out in the broad group of disciples’ response to Jesus’ sermon in John 6. As you probably know, expressing faith/belief in Jesus in John 2:23 was to affirm some sort of disciple relationship with Jesus. Thus the generic mass group John 6 are called “disciples” because they have expressed faith/belief in Jesus. Their response of walking away, of abandoning their faith/belief demonstrates that this was just human faith/belief, since a quality of saving faith/belief is permanence.

    Note the context. They were expecting Jesus to perform a miracle, to literally bring bread/manna from heaven like Moses did. Instead what they got was a metaphor, eating/drinking Jesus as bread/wine. They weren’t turned off by the suggestion of cannibalism; they were turned off by a metaphor their faith/belief could not trust in.

    To be sure, they did not assent to the metaphor. This is not, however, based on simple misunderstanding. The text demonstrates they understood Jesus was offering himself to them in a manner analogous to, but distinct from physical eating/drinking. They understood they were being asked to do more than assent to what Jesus was saying. They were being asked to trust him. This is clear from the response of the disciples, voiced through Peter, “You have the words of life.” (John 6:68-69). Peter’s was saving faith/belief.

    Now I admit that in view could only be a difference in assent in faith/belief between the disciples who left vs. the disciples who stayed. But Jesus’ follow up response to Peter removes that from consideration. (John 6:70-71) In bringing into view that ALL twelve disciples assented to Peter’s statement, Jesus observes that nevertheless one of them, Judas, was only assenting. He was not trusting in Jesus.

    Again, how do I know that the difference in view is not difference in assent, but a difference in trust? I look to the response of both disciples to their betrayal of Jesus. Both betrayed Jesus. Judas’ response to kill himself evidences that his was not saving faith/belief. He did not trust in Jesus. Peter’s response of repentance (John 21:15, ff.) evidences that he trusted in Jesus.

    More passages could be adduced, but I mention these as they are common in this debate between us.

    I acknowledge that you can claim I am simply asserting that trust in Jesus is a necessary function of saving faith/belief. But can you agree with me that there is something qualitatively and distinctly different between the faith/belief the disciples who walked away in John 6 and Judas, vs. the eleven disciples, notably Peter, who maintained faith/belief? Does it suffice to say that in view is nothing more than a quality of their assent? Clearly the passages are NOT focusing on the quality of the assent in view. Yes, the issue of source is in view (God vs. man), but also in view in a personal quality, a relational quality. This is called trust: reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence. (From Dictionary.com; a helpful starting point but by no means exhaustive of the Bible’s definition-by-description of trust.)

    3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.

    4 Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. 5 They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. 6 They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. 7 They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. 8 Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.

    9 O Israel, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield. 10 O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield. 11 You who fear the LORD, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield. 12 The LORD has remembered us; he will bless us; he will bless the house of Israel; he will bless the house of Aaron; 13 he will bless those who fear the LORD, both the small and the great. (Ps 115:3-13)

    It may be that you affirm that saving faith/belief = assent includes the quality of trust. If so, then we agree at a fundamental level. Our difference is actually with reference to the relationship between assent and trust.

    Do you want to maintain that trust is not an essential function of faith/belief? If so, then I think you see our problem with that. Assent alone is mere assent. It is NOT equal to faith/belief. Rather it is a function faith/belief.

    Thanks for the interaction.

  295. Ron said,

    June 18, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    Denson,

    The material point is that although trust can be used as a synonym for belief, in this discussion trust means something different, reliance upon. Reliance upon Christ is contingent upon assent, but it is distinguishable from assent. Moreover, the Clarkian alleged assertion of the sufficiency of assent to save is irrelevant to the point because it’s not mutually exclusive to this distinction.

    Sadly, you’ve not even collapsed trust into assent, but rather you’ve altogether rid faith of trust. Your recent post doesn’t interact with these specific objections to your position.

  296. Denson Dube said,

    June 18, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    Hi Alan/Reed,
    Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him as righteousness.
    The context shows that Abraham did no more than assent to a promise God had given him and was justified. Abraham is perhaps the clearest instance of “assent alone” in justification. God says belief/(to think with assent) alone is sufficient. The fact that you would stretch and strain the meaning of words that are synonyms, as has been demonstrated countless times, points to a fundamental confusion as to the very means of justification. A lot of mischief is done to the faith of many when they are told they probably do not measure up, and fall short of any of Alan’s poetic flurry of verbiage(commitment etc etc), even if unwittingly. Nothing is required of the pertinent sinner other than to accept(accent to) the promise of the gospel.

  297. Ron said,

    June 18, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    Alan / Reed,

    As I wrote two posts ago; it’s worse than I thought. It’s just as Alan thought. Very sad.

  298. Roger said,

    June 18, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    The material point is that although trust can be used as a synonym for belief, in this discussion trust means something different, reliance upon. Reliance upon Christ is contingent upon assent, but it is distinguishable from assent

    .

    According to the dictionary, “reliance” is also a synonym for “trust” and “belief.” Therefore, “reliance upon” Christ for salvation means the same thing as willingly “believing” or “trusting” or “assenting” to the propositions of the gospel.

    “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures…” (1 Cor. 15:1-4)

    By willingly “believing” or “trusting” or “assenting” to the propositions of the gospel I am ipso facto “relying upon” Christ for salvation. The terms are synonymous. If they are not, then the Apostle Paul was lying when he said that we are saved by simply believing the gospel!

  299. Ron said,

    June 18, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    Roger,

    If you want “assent” in this discussion to mean agreeing to the truth of a proposition, then it’s best not to allow it to mean something else in the same discussion lest you equivocate. Assent as such has nothing to do with reliance, proven by the uncontroversial fact the most propositions we assent to are not relied upon. So, again, to call trust a synonym for assent is to negate reliance upon Christ, which is apparently the Clarkian agenda.

  300. Reed Here said,

    June 18, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    Denson, you’ve missed the point of Abraham’s belief entirely.

  301. Reed Here said,

    June 18, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    Roger, respectfully you’re equivocating.

  302. Jason Loh said,

    June 18, 2014 at 5:56 pm

    I’m wondering if a promise can be a proposition or a declarative sentence to which the appropriate response is assent?

    Assent and consent are two different things. And as Ron pointed out, assent and reliance are two different things.

    A proposition is either true or false and therefore stands by its own intrinsic quality of veracity or falsity. This means that when we assent to a proposition, we are simultaneously justifying it as true. And if justified true belief, then a promise does not apply in relation to assent.

    Justified true belief also entails that we are justified in believing the proposition. By extension, we are self-justified when believe the proposition since it is our belief or assent.

    That means that we are self-justified in order to be justified.

    A promise is neither true nor false since it lacks that intrinsic quality. Its truthfulness depends on something external, namely not the assent of the hearer but the performance of the promisor.

    Simultaneously, a promise is an external word that does something to the hearer in that it elicits trust as the orientation or location or standing that results in hope, expectation and anticipation.

    In the Clarkian account of faith, we bind ourselves to the propositions and thus share in the mind of Christ.

    When God promises to us, on the other hand. He binds Himself to performing the promise. Where we are, i.e. located, is where the promise is done to us there and then. It involves the entire person as being (“to be”) externalised into the word — sharing the same “form” with the word in its oral and sacramental forms.

    Here Luther rejects Aristotelian logic of the law of non-contradiction, excluded middle and identity as philosophy that is not of gospel of the word of the cross. IOW, the joyous exchange is the opposite of Aristotelian logic.

    However, contrary to Aristotle’s intentions but using his theory of sensation and perception, we and “object” of our sense and perception become one with one critical exception, i.e. we do not internalise the “object” rather we are passive objects that are externalised into the Subject of our hearing, sight, taste, and touch (and smell).

    The external word of the promise then does not declare a self-evident or pre-existing reality as in a declarative sentence ala Aristotle but re-creates out of nothing.

    The word functioning as the sign is the reality itself.

  303. Reed Here said,

    June 18, 2014 at 6:03 pm

    Jason, i.o.w., Abraham was not justified because of assent to the truth of God’s promise. He was justified because he trusted in the God who made the promise.

  304. Jason Loh said,

    June 18, 2014 at 6:13 pm

    Aristotelian logic is good only if the first premise (and the conclusion — the Alpha & the Omega) is Christ alone which takes on different dimensions such as the cross alone or the gospel alone. I remain an admirer of Clark — he was a great philosopher, academician, scholar and apologist. I still virtually all of his books. But as a theologian, he had unorthodox ideas.

    His of-quoted axiom that the Bible alone is the Word of God is abstract and general. And he has never produced any work of significant attraction that contains all or some of the logical deductions from the axiom as his theological magnum opus — other than mere appeal to the WCF,

    Instead of an abstract, general and hence universal theological principle serving as axiom, Luther proposed that the proclamation of the gospel or the sermon in its oral and sacramental forms constitute the first premise for theological reflection. IOW, the 1st order discourse of “I-it-Thou” personal pronouns of divine promise that shares the same logical (not physical) status and univocity with divine revelation — and hence the analogy of works (not being) becomes the basis for 2nd order discourse of theological construction.

    Clark’s translation of Logos as logic or reason belies his (Neo-)Platonism. Adhering to sola scriptura would instead encourage us to understand Logos as Word-Deed or Speech-Act, i.e. performative Word. This is because Christ’s person is His work and His work is His person. He is Saviour/ Preacher, not teacher. Clark’s definition implicitly means that epistemology “trumps” soteriology” or confuses both. Thus, the boundary between philosophy and theology is blurred with unorthodox consequences.

  305. Jason Loh said,

    June 18, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    Reed,

    Yes, yes. The way I look at it is that contrary to the intention of Clarkians there is an element of self-justification in their definition of faith — since assent to a proposition must include justified true belief. I mean as someone who’s read Clark and still profit from his writings, that’s what Clark said and wrote and of course he got it from Plato.

  306. Don said,

    June 18, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    Recently, and unrelated to this conversation I suppose, biblioblogger Jim West posted this very relevant quote from Luther:

    On June 16 there was an examination of candidates for ordination at which the proposition put for debate was: “Faith justifies; faith is a work; therefore works justify.” He [Martin Luther] responded, “Faith justifies not as a work, or as a quality, or as knowledge, but as assent of the will and firm confidence in the mercy of God. For if faith were only knowledge, then the devil would certainly be saved because he possesses the greatest knowledge of God and of all the works and wonders of God from the creation of the world. Accordingly faith must be understood otherwise than as knowledge. In part, however, it is assent.”*

    ______________________
    *Luther’s works, (Vol. 54, pp. 359–360).

  307. Jason said,

    June 18, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    Yes, there are instances of the young Luther stating that faith is assent. But that is of course not the end of the story.

    Since faith for Luther is in the context of the oral word and sacraments. This is why for Luther, infants can have faith.

    Please read Luther’s preface to Romans …

    “Faith, however, is a divine work in us. It changes us and makes us to be born anew of God (John 1); it kills the old Adam and makes altogether different men, in heart and spirit and mind and powers, and brings with it the Holy Ghost. ”

    “Faith is a living, daring confidence on God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man would stake his life on it a thousand times.”

    Of course for Luther, when he says a divine work “in” us, he does not mean infused. That would be foreign to his thinking. The succeeding sentence, i.e. the killing of the old Adam (i.e. the destruction of the entire person) would clarify that.

  308. Ron said,

    June 18, 2014 at 7:49 pm

    This reliance by Clarkians upon family dictionaries to find synonyms in a philosophical discussion is proving to be hazardous. In analytic philosophy assent is a mental act that need not be volitional; whereas trust as it pertains to the Reformed view and this discussion is volitional in nature. Immediately we find that these terms are not philosophically speaking synonyms. If that weren’t enough, assent pertains to accepting the truth of a proposition, whereas how one might respond in light of assent (e.g. trust) is commonly classified under the philosophical heading of disposition. Why this is relevant is because whereas trust and other dispositions can evidence assent, dispositions need not accompany assent since assents can be mundane, occur without reflection and, also, be perceived to be inconsequential. (This is why disposition is considered to be a poor indicator of the presence of assent. IOW, and as an example, if I don’t possess a disposition of surprise having been shown wrong about an assent does not imply that I did not indeed assent. Again, we assent to many things we don’t hold tightly.)

    In sum, assent merely pertains to accepting something as true, even possibly with no reflection, whereas trust (or non-trust) pertains to the degree of relevance a person might assign to the “assented to” proposition. They are anything but synonymous.

  309. Jason Loh said,

    June 18, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    Luther and Gordon Clark would be at odds with each other since Luther despised logic as the “devil’s whore” when it was used as a way of salvation. Salvation was neither rational or irrational but belonging to a 3rd category, “supra-rational.”

    Luther was a master dialectician — something that the late Dr Clark would not have been able to accept since God’s incomprehensibility means that we cannot co-ordinate His alien work in the law with His proper work in the gospel. Luther did not believe in systematic theology whereby reason or logic is “monarchical,” i.e. logic allows us to have a bird’s eye view of truth. For Luther, at least, that would be a theology of glory where logic enables God’s being and acts to be transparent.

    Instead, for Luther, truth comes in many forms. Aristotle’s laws of non-contradiction, excluded middle and identity was to be rejected for salvation as incompatible with simul iustus et peccator. It is the difference between Aristotle’s “substance” ontology and Luther’s “relational ontology” where our identity is to be found extra nos, i.e. outside of us.

  310. Jason Loh said,

    June 18, 2014 at 9:57 pm

    Yes, the young Luther has stated faith as assent.

    Nonetheless, Luther’s view of faith has to be understood in the context of his understanding of word and sacraments. This is why Luther said that infants can have faith (which is incompatible with mental assent).

    Please read Luther’s Preface to Romans too where faith is something done to us (and in the context of word and sacraments as the Catechisms make clear e.g. in relation to baptism) …

    “Faith, however, is a divine work in us. It changes us and makes us to be born anew of God (John 1); it kills the old Adam and makes altogether different men, in heart and spirit and mind and powers, and brings with it the Holy Ghost.”

    The “in” does not mean infusion since the next sentence makes clear that what is in mind is the death of the old Adam i.e., the destruction of entire person.

  311. Ron said,

    June 18, 2014 at 9:58 pm

    Luther was no philosopher and his rhetoric is riddled with false dilemmas. Clark wasn’t nearly as given to imprecise constructions as Martin, but he too was anything but an analytic philosopher.

  312. Jason Loh said,

    June 18, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    Luther was a philosopher who influenced by Okham (via moderna). His rhetoric was not riddled with false dilemmas but desgined precisely to communicate Christ as in delivering Christ to the hearer.

    Luther’s theology is too radical.

  313. Ron said,

    June 18, 2014 at 10:29 pm

    …Salvation was neither rational or irrational but belonging to a 3rd category, “supra-rational.”

    Jason,

    This is a perfect example of a false dilemma. That God is just and the justifier is perfectly logical. That the gospel must be revealed to be known doesn’t undermine it being logical. That it can be revealed and know presupposes it is logical. That something cannot be constructed by unaided reason doesn’t make it non-logical.

  314. Don said,

    June 19, 2014 at 12:03 am

    Jason,

    Yes, there are instances of the young Luther stating that faith is assent. But that is of course not the end of the story.

    I think that’s the point of the quote in 306.

  315. Roger said,

    June 19, 2014 at 12:29 am

    Ron wrote,

    299. If you want “assent” in this discussion to mean agreeing to the truth of a proposition, then it’s best not to allow it to mean something else in the same discussion lest you equivocate.

    I’m hardly equivocating. If I “assent” or “agree to the truth” of the proposition that Christ alone (through His obedience to the law and death on the cross for my sins) justifies me before God apart from any of my own works of obedience, then I am by definition “trusting” or “relying” upon Christ as my Savior. The fact that you want to convolute and undermine the gospel like this is appalling indeed!

    Assent as such has nothing to do with reliance, proven by the uncontroversial fact the most propositions we assent to are not relied upon.

    Who cares about “most” propositions? We aren’t talking about “most” propositions here, which have zero relevance to our eternal destiny; we are talking about assenting to the propositions of the gospel of Christ “by which…[we] are saved” (1 Cor. 15:2)! Stop dancing around the issue and answer my question directly: Are we saved (i.e., justified) by “believing” or “assenting” to the propositions of the gospel or not? Paul says that we are. What say you? Do you agree with Alan that simple belief of the gospel is insufficient for salvation, and that something more is necessary?

    blockquote>So, again, to call trust a synonym for assent is to negate reliance upon Christ, which is apparently the Clarkian agenda.

    Again, if I “assent” or “agree to the truth” of the proposition that Christ alone (through His obedience to the law and death on the cross for my sins) justifies me before God apart from any of my own works of obedience, then I am by definition “trusting” or “relying” upon Christ as my Savior. This isn’t rocket science, and no one needs a doctorate in philosophy to understand what the simple term “believe” means. You guys are really too much (and you accuse me of arrogance)! By the way, I’m hardly a Clarkian, as I disagree with him on an essential doctrine of the faith, as you well know.

  316. Jason Loh said,

    June 19, 2014 at 12:30 am

    Ron,

    Ah … I see what you mean. OK, now I understand where you’re coming from.

    For Luther, the reason why the gospel is not logical is simply because it’s sheer foolishness. Luther moved away from an understanding of the gospel as making the legal scheme work. He was alone in this (figuratively speaking) since the later Philip Melanchthon and Lutheran Orthodoxy reverted to Aristotle.

    For Luther, the gospel is mystical in sense that it’s an encounter with the crucified and risen Christ in the proclamation of the word and sacraments. Therefore, our knowledge of God and its limits are only limited to what we experience in the preaching of law and gospel as well as in our respective vocations and stations in life.

    But yes, the gospel is not mystical as in mysticism. Therefore, the gospel has its own logic that operates according to human logic but nonetheless transcends it at the same time — divine and human one and the same time.

  317. Roger said,

    June 19, 2014 at 12:32 am

    Ron wrote,

    299. If you want “assent” in this discussion to mean agreeing to the truth of a proposition, then it’s best not to allow it to mean something else in the same discussion lest you equivocate.

    I’m hardly equivocating. If I “assent” or “agree to the truth” of the proposition that Christ alone (through His obedience to the law and death on the cross for my sins) justifies me before God apart from any of my own works of obedience, then I am by definition “trusting” or “relying” upon Christ as my Savior. The fact that you want to convolute and undermine the gospel like this is appalling indeed!

    Assent as such has nothing to do with reliance, proven by the uncontroversial fact the most propositions we assent to are not relied upon.

    Who cares about “most” propositions? We aren’t talking about “most” propositions here, which have zero relevance to our eternal destiny; we are talking about assenting to the propositions of the gospel of Christ “by which…[we] are saved” (1 Cor. 15:2)! Stop dancing around the issue and answer my question directly: Are we saved (i.e., justified) by “believing” or “assenting” to the propositions of the gospel or not? Paul says that we are. What say you? Do you agree with Alan that simple belief of the gospel is insufficient for salvation, and that something more is necessary?

    So, again, to call trust a synonym for assent is to negate reliance upon Christ, which is apparently the Clarkian agenda.

    Again, if I “assent” or “agree to the truth” of the proposition that Christ alone (through His obedience to the law and death on the cross for my sins) justifies me before God apart from any of my own works of obedience, then I am by definition “trusting” or “relying” upon Christ as my Savior. This isn’t rocket science, and no one needs a doctorate in philosophy to understand what the simple term “believe” means. You guys are really too much (and you accuse me of arrogance)! By the way, I’m hardly a Clarkian, as I disagree with him on an essential doctrine of the faith, as you well know.

  318. Roger said,

    June 19, 2014 at 1:29 am

    Since some of you have absurdly insisted that “assent” to the gospel is non-volitional, I should have said…

    If I willingly “assent” or “agree to the truth” of the proposition that Christ alone (through His obedience to the law and death on the cross for my sins) justifies me before God apart from any of my own works of obedience, then I am by definition “trusting” or “relying” upon Christ as my Savior. The fact that you want to convolute and undermine the gospel like this is appalling indeed!

  319. Roger said,

    June 19, 2014 at 1:30 am

    302. Assent and consent are two different things…

    Consent: “1. to give assent or permission (to do something); agree” (World English Dictionary)

    No wonder you guys are confused…

  320. Ron said,

    June 19, 2014 at 5:35 am

    Jason,

    I read your post.

    Best wishes,

    Ron

  321. Ron said,

    June 19, 2014 at 5:39 am

    Reed and Alan,

    Given the lack of argumentation for their own position and dearth of interaction with opposing arguments, I’m not sure how I might further contribute under these strictures, at least in any meaningful way. At the risk of trivializing such a dire state of affairs, I do believe I can find at least some occasion for cheer. Based upon how unashamedly these non-responses have been paraded about, maybe we might find comfort in the fact that these men are only rejecting what they have proven so well not to have understood.

  322. Jason Loh said,

    June 19, 2014 at 6:51 am

    Ron is right to highlight that assent is non-volitional. This is so since this belongs to Aristotle’s “speculative reason” of choosing abstract or universal truths. Ron mentions analytic philosophy which maintains the distinction between theoretical and practical reason. As someone who’s lectured in a couple of classes on legal positivism of Joseph Raz (as part of analytic jurisprudence), theoretical reason and Clarkian mental assent are the same, i.e. assent to the truths of propositions.

    Practical reason or synderesis (synteresis) is reason that is faced with a moral choice requiring volition. For Raz, a doctor’s prescription is an example of practical reason. Practical reason would be closer to Ron’s definition of faith with two critical exceptions. Ron’s synteresis here is not the cause of justification but the effect of regeneration; and trust is not an action or work at all but simply the human response to grace in the form of reliance, confidence and dependence. This response or faith is, therefore, properly speaking a disposition or attitude.

  323. Reed here said,

    June 19, 2014 at 7:07 am

    Denson, your last comment accused others of the sin of fraud, and then belittled them with mockery. Since this violates Lane’s blog rules, I deleted it.

    Please amend your comments.

  324. Jason Loh said,

    June 19, 2014 at 7:27 am

    Speaking as a Lutheran, there is a danger of analysing faith in its own right, i.e. where “it” is part of regenerated human “nature” or “essence.” (As a Lutheran who does not subscribe to Lutheran Orthodoxy, faith is synonymous to person, i.e., the new Adam in Christ — faith is the new Adam cleaving and clinging to Jesus in His word & sacraments).

    The triad of notitia, assentia and fiducia are enough or sufficient as a definition of faith because faith should take leave of “itself” and look outwards and extraspectivelly (as Dr Strange) has highlighted.

    The Clarkian definition would shift the burden to the Christian in that there must be self-awareness that one believes (since belief is assent to a specific set of propositions which presupposes and implies intellectual understanding).

    But by moving beyond assent and towards trust, the triad allows the Christian to just simply rest on Christ’s finished work no matter how it does not necessarily translate into propositions. IOW, trust does not rely on knowing and assenting to propositions, i.e. itself. Thus, the Clarkian definition (as a solution to mysticism) has just simply shifted the problem from emotion to cognition within the same psychological faculty — a notch higher in the “faculty ladder” but still remaining in the introspective mode.

    Fiducia should mean that the introspective mode is broken out for the Christian to go to Jesus Christ under the preaching of the word and the administration of the sacraments as signs and seals of the grace of the gospel (for the Reformed). The word of God in the form of proposition are important and hence assent (but also trust in subject of scripture, namely the Person of Jesus Christ). However, so are the word of God in the form of locution where the response is never assent but trust over against the contradiction of experience — hence not just confession of faith and of hope but also lament and despair.

  325. Reed Here said,

    June 19, 2014 at 10:43 am

    Denson, I didn’t see a specific answer this this question I asked you (no. 294):

    Do you want to maintain that trust is not an essential function of faith/belief?

    I think it is fair to say that this gets to a dividing line between us. If your interest in interacting here is to persuade the correctness of your position, it would be most helpful if you answered such focused questions. After all, I did respond explicitly at length to your and other Clarkian’s assertions. I.e., I did actually answer your questions.

    Maybe quid pro quo?

  326. Denson Dube said,

    June 20, 2014 at 10:17 am

    Reed,
    I have already said that trust is a synonym to assent to the truth. So I do not reject trust, or other synonyms of belief. What I reject is the surreptitious smuggling into the Gospel by redefining terms which you are engaged in.

  327. Ron Henzel said,

    June 20, 2014 at 10:21 am

    If trust is a synonym for assent to the truth, then there can be no objection to the statement that saving faith includes trust.

  328. Ron said,

    June 20, 2014 at 10:28 am

    Do you want to maintain that trust is not an essential function of faith/belief?

    Reed,

    That really is the million dollar question. And by trust you don’t mean merely assent to the truth of something, but rather willful reliance upon the truth due to a favorable disposition toward it.

    I’ve offered below what I believe to be the main points of discussion that have brought us to this place.

    1. If that sort of trust (i.e. reliance) is part of faith, then it should not be collapsed under assent since assent can connote something void of willful reliance. (Equivocation)

    2. If trust is not part of faith, then where does it belong, under sanctification? Or can the believer not trust at all? (Apostasy)

    3. Finally, it’s irrelevant whether assent to the truth of a the gospel always results in justification for even if we were to grant such a concession for argument sake, it would not undermine the proposed necessity of trust as that component which compliments assent and completes faith. (False Disjunction)

    4. Trust is not a work since (a) it is a matter of internal disposition and intent and (b) occurs at the moment of conversion when the Holy Spirit does its holy rape of the soul and the sinner’s heart is subdued by grace.

    5. In summary, trust cannot be classified under assent without massive equivocation. Trust cannot be rid from faith without apostasy. Trust cannot be considered superfluous on the basis of assent without arguing by false disjunction.

    I believe that these points, though possibly not as distilled as here, have been made throughout the thread. If that is true, then I really have no reason to believe that this post will be helpful in gaining agreement. But far from being useless, I offer it so that in the future someone might simply respond with, “you haven’t addressed point n from post 328.

  329. Ron said,

    June 20, 2014 at 10:43 am

    If trust is a synonym for assent to the truth, then there can be no objection to the statement that saving faith includes trust.

    Ron,

    Early on I operated under this supposition, which is why I was trying to find middle ground between Sean and Alan. Then later others stepped in (dug in is more like it) and it seemed to me that since this point of yours was not granted with ease but rather opposed with anathemas, it was best to operate under the supposition that this “synonym” was not aimed to protect the import of trust as reliance upon Christ, but rather it was intended to reduce trust to mental assent to propositions, which does not in any technical manner carry with it the import of that favorable disposition that relies upon another. At best it falls under category 1 above and at worst it falls under category 2. I’m agnostic as to whether those who oppose the traditional view are even in agreement with each other.

  330. Reed Here said,

    June 20, 2014 at 11:03 am

    Denson, while I’d ask you to consider Ron D. and Ron H.’s objections to equating assent with trust, for the sake of conversation between us, I’ll not interact with them at this point.

    First, thank you for speaking clearly and straightforwardly. I did not see your previous affirmation of this point. Thank you for bearing with me and repeating. It helps me not assume something incorrect, and end up just messing up our conversation.

    With this position in place, then, am I correct that you are saying that to assent to something includes the function of trust (reliance) upon that something?

    If so, then how is the demon’s assent to be differentiated from the Christians? James clearly offers his observation in 2:19 as an example to tell the Christian that assent alone is insufficient.

    Are you maintaining that there are two different kinds of assent:

    1) one born of man himself in which the trust function of assent is self-directed, and
    2) one born of God in which the trust function of assent is Christ-directed?

    BTW, if you agree that assent/faith/belief includes a trust function, then aren’t you guilty of the smuggling you’ve accused us of?

    If you deny assent includes a trust function, then what exactly is the difference between the demons’ assent and yours?

  331. Andrew Duggan said,

    June 20, 2014 at 11:05 am

    Ron D,
    You wrote

    but rather willful reliance upon the truth due to a favorable disposition toward it.

    This is still problematic. WLC 72. says ” but receiveth and resteth upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin”

    It won’t do to receive and rest in “truth”, but we must receive and rest in the person of Christ. Not even receiving and resting in truth about Christ will suffice, but only receiving and resting in the person (and work) but primarily in the person of Christ Jesus.

  332. Ron said,

    June 20, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    Andrew,

    With all due respect, I don’t think you’re trying very hard and it’s that sort of thing that has marred this entire discussion and made you, frankly, a poor spokesman for trust. Context informs that I was speaking in terms of reliance as a metaphysical action with an eye toward universal application, which applies to reliance according to any assent to perceived truth. Would you be more satisfied if I had written “The Truth”? (John 14:6)

    What I wrote you in #88 bears repeating.”Indeed, God is not a proposition, so when I believe God, am I believing a proposition? Well, in one sense no and in another sense yes. What God tells me I believe, so in that sense I believe a proposition – for what he tells me is propositional. But technically speaking “God” is not a proposition so in another sense, when I believe “God,” I’m not believing a proposition. Given how well we’ve tried to understand another person’s position up to now, I have little hope for a fruitful discussion regarding propositional knowledge, which would require defining terms and granting the judgment of charity.”

  333. Ron said,

    June 20, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    And consider what I just wrote to Ron, Andrew:

    Early on I operated under this supposition, which is why I was trying to find middle ground between Sean and Alan. Then later others stepped in (dug in is more like it) and it seemed to me that since this point of yours was not granted with ease but rather opposed with anathemas, it was best to operate under the supposition that this “synonym” was not aimed to protect the import of trust as reliance upon Christ, but rather it was intended to reduce trust to mental assent to propositions, which does not in any technical manner carry with it the import of that favorable disposition that relies upon another….

  334. Ron Henzel said,

    June 20, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    Perhaps I should have asked this earlier, but could you all look back at my comment 215 where I provide the lexical definition of the word πίστις (pistis), which is translated “faith” in the New Testament, and can someone point out to me where it is ever said to refer to “assent?” Am I missing something here? Because I can’t see how “assent” is ever the word’s meaning.

  335. Andrew Duggan said,

    June 20, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    Ron D,

    Yes I would have been more satisfied if you had referred to “the Truth” with the reference to John 14:6. The Clarkians reduce truth to propositions, and you despite everything else you said let them do so with the lower case “t” truth.

    Yes I am being picky, but this is an essential point which cannot be ceded or yielded in even the very least.

  336. Ron said,

    June 20, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    Hi Ron,

    I suppose the response is somewhat transitive. Faith translates to belief and belief reduces to assent, therefore, faith is assent. Of course this construct is equivocal and begs too many crucial questions. At the very least, we are to be discussing willful belief but many beliefs bypass the will whereas in the exercise of faith the will is actively engaged. Moreover, in saving faith assent is according to a regenerate disposition that looks favorably upon Christ, whereas this sort of disposition is not an essential property of assent, even though it always accompanies assent in the true believer.

    I hope that helps. :)

  337. Ron said,

    June 20, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    Andrew,

    I receive that and appreciate your point. Please receive my sincere apology for being so severe.

  338. Ron said,

    June 20, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    I have already said that trust is a synonym to assent to the truth. So I do not reject trust, or other synonyms of belief. What I reject is the surreptitious smuggling into the Gospel by redefining terms which you are engaged in.

    Denson,

    Please digest this carefully. It really does get to the heart of the matter. Your response will indicate whether you are serious about discussing these matters.

    1. I may say that I trust that the trains are on time in NYC today. All that means is I assent to the proposition. In such instances trust is a synonym for assent.

    2. Although I assent to that proposition regarding trains, I have no dog in the race. I do not rely upon that to which I assent. I do not “trust” in the timeliness of the trains this morning in NYC in the sense that I don’t rely upon the truth of the proposition to which I assent. I hope you can see that “trust” takes on a different meaning than assent in this regard. Trust in this sense of reliance upon is not a synonym for assent.

    Accordingly, when you say that trust is synonymous to assent all you are affirming is #1 from this post, which is not to affirm #2, that reliance upon Christ is necessary for salvation. In fact, you would be most implicitly denying trust as defined this way. So, in order to affirm trust as relying upon Christ you’ll have to concede that trust is more than assent since trust in this sense is not an essential property of assent.

    It’s at this point that someone will point out that assent brings forth salvation, suggesting that there’s nothing else needed to be saved. In which case I refer you back to point 3 from post 328: “Finally, it’s irrelevant whether assent to the truth of a the gospel always results in justification for even if we were to grant such a concession for argument sake, it would not undermine the proposed necessity of trust as that component which compliments assent and completes faith. (False Disjunction)”

  339. Ron said,

    June 20, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    Reed,

    Would you consider taking a look at my post to Denson? I’m afraid that getting into a discussion of demons believing, although there can be great value in that, it might get us off this pursuit regarding trust being synonymous with assent. I’d like to zero in on this matter of whether trust is being rid from faith or whether it’s being considered under assent. I think my recent post to Denson might bring that point to head.

    Also, I’m going to continue to use the word “assent” since it has a more precise technical meaning than belief. It’s been observed by some in this thread that different kinds of freight can be trucked by exchanging assent for belief and visa versa. I’m not saying that anyone is intentionally switching terms as a matter of slight of hand. I’m just pointing out that it’s confusing to mix the terms as has been done from time to time.

    Thanks for your consideration.

  340. Andrew Duggan said,

    June 20, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    Ron D,

    I found your choice of and use (twice) of receive interesting.

    That said…

    I didn’t take offense at any severity (or what you said about me). You were simply being clear and honest in your assessment of me, which still has not changed, and not likley to either. I much prefer honesty. To be held in open derision is perferable to be treated with disingenuous respect (due or not), so no harm to me anyway.

    Thanks!

  341. Andrew Duggan said,

    June 20, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    Yikes, make that preferable instead of perferable.

  342. Ron said,

    June 20, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    I found your choice of and use (twice) of receive interesting.

    In other words, not just understand and assent but understand and assent with a favorable disposition. :)

  343. Reed here said,

    June 20, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    Ron, I bow to your lead. Denson, care to respond to Ron?

  344. Ron said,

    June 20, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    Reed,
    Reed,

    I appreciate your eagerness to get to Manton and James. You’re wanting to gnaw on the bark whereas I’m still looking around to see if I’m in the same forest as everyone else.

  345. Reed Here said,

    June 20, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    Just call me Woody, ;)

  346. Roger said,

    June 21, 2014 at 2:01 am

    338. Although I assent to that proposition regarding trains, I have no dog in the race. I do not rely upon that to which I assent. I do not “trust” in the timeliness of the trains this morning in NYC in the sense that I don’t rely upon the truth of the proposition to which I assent. I hope you can see that “trust” takes on a different meaning than assent in this regard. Trust in this sense of reliance upon is not a synonym for assent.

    That’s only because of the irrelevant nature of the proposition regarding the timeliness of trains to one’s personal wellbeing. It makes no significant difference whether one believes or assents to it or not. But if we change the proposition to “I believe that this train will safely transport me to my destination,” then by assenting to that proposition I am in fact trusting or relying upon the operational integrity of a particular train to safely get me to my destination, otherwise I wouldn’t purchase a ticket and board it (the outward work that proves my inward assent to be genuine).

    Therefore trust in the sense of reliance is indeed a synonym for assent when the proposition pertains to one’s personal wellbeing…and even more so when it pertains to one’s eternal destiny, such as the gospel of Christ! As I’ve said before, if I willingly “assent” or “agree to the truth” of the proposition that Christ’s righteousness alone (through His obedience to the law and death on the cross for my sins) justifies me before God apart from any of my own works of obedience, then I am ipso facto “trusting” or “relying” upon Christ as my Savior.

    “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16-17)

    “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe… These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor. 1:21; 2:13-14)

  347. Ron said,

    June 21, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    Roger,

    Excellent post! I am exceedingly grateful for it. Believe it or not, I’ve been waiting for this distinction to be clearly articulated. I considered preempting it but decided against it because I didn’t think it would be nearly as effective as responding to an actual post that tries to make this point of yours.

    That’s only because of the irrelevant nature of the proposition regarding the timeliness of trains to one’s personal wellbeing. It makes no significant difference whether one believes or assents to it or not.

    You are correct. You rightly observe that if the operational integrity of trains is irrelevant to a person, then that person who assents to the timeliness of trains does not rely upon his assent. One thing we can establish by this observation is that trust as defined as “reliance upon” is not an essential property of the word assent; nor is it a synonym for the word assent. That is a good and necessary inference given your concession. Those who do not trust in the timeliness of trains can assent to the proposition, which implies that trust is neither an essential property of assent let alone its synonym.

    Now then, to fit the propositional assent (as you have) to one who relies upon trains cannot, without equivocation, change the essential properties of the word “assent,” let alone turn the word “trust” into a synonym for “assent.” States of affairs do not dictate the meaning of words in discussions such as this. We are to evaluate paradigms with our definitions already in place. But, as I’ll try to show below, to call trust and assent synonyms, even in a discussion limited to saving faith, is to undermine the essential meaning of those words in any discussion.

    Trust always presupposes assent, which alone should demonstrate that it is not the same thing as assent. We trust in things and persons according to what we assent to be true, which demonstrates they have distinct meanings (and are not, therefore, synonyms). Mental assent, on the other hand, is restricted to the sphere of propositional agreement, which is always logically prior to reliance upon the perceived truth, or Truth, that is contemplated by the propositions. In summary, reliance is not the identical to the mental affirmation of a proposition (for it presupposes it), and assent is not identical to the reliance upon those things that are assented to (though reliance necessary follows such assent in saving faith).

    But if we change the proposition to “I believe that this train will safely transport me to my destination,” then by assenting to that proposition I am in fact trusting or relying upon the operational integrity of a particular train to safely get me to my destination, otherwise I wouldn’t purchase a ticket and board it (the outward work that proves my inward assent to be genuine).

    To assent to “the train will safely transport me to my destination” simply means that one agrees with the truth claim of the proposition. No more, no less. Indeed, other activities can follow from such an assent, but those activities in-and-of themselves are not the mental activity of assent. That one purchases the ticket can reasonably establish that he assents to propositions regarding the reliability of trains, but it also demonstrates that he relies upon the assented-to proposition. Consequently, neither of those premises is philosophically sufficient to establish that trust is synonymous with assent (and that assent is synonymous with trust). All you’ve established is that trust can accompany (or if you please, always accompanies) assent when the assent is personal.

    So, yes, you wouldn’t purchase a ticket if you didn’t assent to and rely upon the relevant propositions, but that hardly demonstrates that assent is synonymous with trust. It only demonstrates that assent and trust can go together when the propositions under consideration are relevant to the person. So, to trust in Christ presupposes assent, but that is precisely why assent must be distinguished from assent and not collapsed into its definition. Moreover, that the mental activity of assent is followed by reliance upon Christ when God grants faith serves to demonstrate the need to distinguish, not conflate, the meaning of assent and trust.

  348. Ron said,

    June 21, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    Minor typo corrections in this one:

    Roger,

    Excellent post! I am exceedingly grateful for it. Believe it or not, I’ve been waiting for this distinction to be clearly articulated. I considered preempting it but decided against it because I didn’t think it would be nearly as effective as responding to an actual post that tries to make this point of yours.

    That’s only because of the irrelevant nature of the proposition regarding the timeliness of trains to one’s personal wellbeing. It makes no significant difference whether one believes or assents to it or not.

    You are correct. You rightly observe that if the operational integrity of trains is irrelevant to a person, then that person who assents to the timeliness of trains does not rely upon his assent. One thing we can establish by this observation is that trust as defined as “reliance upon” is not an essential property of the word assent; nor is it a synonym for the word assent. That is a good and necessary inference given your concession. Those who do not trust in the timeliness of trains can assent to the proposition, which implies that trust is neither an essential property of assent let alone its synonym.

    Now then, to fit the propositional assent (as you have) to one who relies upon trains cannot, without equivocation, change the essential properties of the word “assent,” let alone turn the word “trust” into a synonym for “assent.” States of affairs do not dictate the meaning of words in discussions such as this. We are to evaluate paradigms with our definitions already in place. But, as I’ll try to show below, to call trust and assent synonyms, even in a discussion limited to saving faith, is to undermine the essential meaning of those words in any discussion.

    Trust always presupposes assent, which alone should demonstrate that it is not the same thing as assent. We trust in things and persons according to what we assent to be true, which demonstrates they have distinct meanings (and are not, therefore, synonyms). Mental assent, on the other hand, is restricted to the sphere of propositional agreement, which is always logically prior to reliance upon the perceived truth, or Truth, that is contemplated by the propositions. In summary, reliance is not identical to the mental affirmation of a proposition (for it presupposes it), and assent is not identical to the reliance upon those things that are assented to (though reliance necessary follows such assent in saving faith).

    But if we change the proposition to “I believe that this train will safely transport me to my destination,” then by assenting to that proposition I am in fact trusting or relying upon the operational integrity of a particular train to safely get me to my destination, otherwise I wouldn’t purchase a ticket and board it (the outward work that proves my inward assent to be genuine).

    To assent to “the train will safely transport me to my destination” simply means that one agrees with the truth claim of the proposition. No more, no less. Indeed, other activities can follow from such an assent, but those activities in-and-of themselves are not the mental activity of assent. That one purchases the ticket can reasonably establish that he assents to propositions regarding the reliability of trains, but it also demonstrates that he relies upon the assented-to proposition. Consequently, neither of those premises is philosophically sufficient to establish that trust is synonymous with assent (and that assent is synonymous with trust). All you’ve established is that trust can accompany (or if you please, always accompanies) assent when the assent is personal.

    So, yes, you wouldn’t purchase a ticket if you didn’t assent to and rely upon the relevant propositions, but that hardly demonstrates that assent is synonymous with trust. It only demonstrates that assent and trust can go together when the propositions under consideration are relevant to the person. So, to trust in Christ presupposes assent, but that is precisely why assent must be distinguished from trust and not collapsed into its definition. Moreover, that the mental activity of assent is followed by reliance upon Christ when God grants faith serves to demonstrate the need to distinguish, not conflate, the meaning of assent and trust.

  349. Tim Harris said,

    June 21, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    Say you are abducted by gangsters, and tied up in the basement. One of them says, “we’re going to kill you in any case tomorrow, but need to keep you alive in the meantime in case the people we are demanding ransom from want to hear your voice.” You believe what they say — indeed, it is not hard to imagine believing *everything* they tell you — yet you have not an ounce of trust in them. Yet this has everything to do with your “personal well-being.”

    Suppose someone you trust implicitly — your mother, your wife — has also been abducted with you, and she keeps saying “don’t worry, we will be rescued.” You don’t believe a word of it, yet you trust her totally. Indeed, her naivete flows from the same substratum of goodness which is the foundation for the trust, and is thus endearing, though incredible.

    I think this example is sufficient to show that “belief” and “trust” are semantically quite independent, and indeed one is not even a subset of the other.

  350. Ron said,

    June 21, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    To take your point to the superlative, Jesus did not entrust himself unto his enemies not only because he believed the truth about them but rather because he knew all men. Even the most justified true-belief that is relevant to one’s well being need not be accompanied by trust but rather can be accompanied by distrust,

  351. Roger said,

    June 21, 2014 at 5:50 pm

    Ron wrote,

    348. You rightly observe that if the operational integrity of trains is irrelevant to a person, then that person who assents to the timeliness of trains does not rely upon his assent.

    Yes, within the context of that particular proposition belief or assent is not synonymous with reliance, for there is nothing in the proposition that pertains to one’s personal wellbeing. But within the context of a proposition that does pertain to one’s personal wellbeing, then reliance is indeed synonymous with belief or assent. I cannot “believe” or “assent” or “agree to the truth” of the proposition that “this train will safely get me to my desired destination” without “relying upon” the operational integrity of the train at the same time. So within the context of that particular proposition the terms are indeed synonymous.

    One thing we can establish by this observation is that trust as defined as “reliance upon” is not an essential property of the word assent; nor is it a synonym for the word assent.

    I disagree. To “believe” or “assent” or “agree to the truth” of a proposition very well may be a synonym for “reliance upon” depending on the content of the proposition in question, as I’ve pointed out above. Moreover, even the thesaurus lists these terms as being synonymous with one another:

    Synonyms for believe: verb; trust, rely on…be certain of…be convinced of…give credence to…have faith in…place confidence in…

    This is what it means to “believe” the propositions of the gospel “by which also [we] are saved” (1 Cor. 15:2), nothing more and nothing less. As I’ve said before, if I “believe” or “assent” to the proposition that Christ alone (through His obedience to the law and death on the cross for my sins) justifies me before God apart from any of my own works of obedience, then I am ipso facto “trusting” or “relying” upon Christ as my Savior. Within this context the terms are indeed synonymous.

    That’s all I have time to post for right now. I’ll try to address a few more of your specific points later on when I have more time…

  352. Ron said,

    June 21, 2014 at 6:19 pm

    I’ll try to address a few more of your specific points later on when I have more time…

    Address a “few more” of my points? Your last post didn’t address any of my points. All you’ve done is republish your thesis. Maybe we might begin with the essential properties of an argument and a rejoinder. :)

  353. Ron said,

    June 21, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    Ernest T. Bass once said, “I don’t chew my cabbage twice.” I’m not even wise enough to follow the self-discipline of an ignorant and unruly mountain man. For I’ve been repeating myself for days on end. Somebody slap me.

  354. Roger said,

    June 22, 2014 at 12:53 am

    Ron, you really need to get over yourself! You are hardly as brilliant as you seem to think you are. The thesaurus directly states that “trust, rely on…be certain of…be convinced of…give credence to…have faith in…place confidence in…” etc. are synonyms for “believe.” Am I to “believe” (i.e., assent, trust, or rely upon) what you say or what the thesaurus says is true?

    And since I’m obviously beyond stupid in your estimation, if simply “believing” the propositions of the gospel (1 Cor. 15:2) is not sufficient for my justification in God’s sight, then please explain in simple terms what else is necessary? Was Paul lying here? If I am not ipso facto “trusting” or “relying upon” Christ as my Savior by “believing” or “assenting to” the proposition that Christ alone (through His obedience to the law and death on the cross for my sins) justifies me before God apart from any of my own works of obedience, then what else do I need to do? Speak plainly! Stop mincing words! Am I justified before God by simply “believing” or “assenting to” the propositions of the gospel or not?

  355. Reed here said,

    June 22, 2014 at 8:17 am

    Roger, incorporate Tim’s points in no. 349 in your description of assent. You’ve already added “personal interest” as a qualifier.

  356. Ron said,

    June 22, 2014 at 9:04 am

    In non-gospel cases:

    Assent does not imply trust since one assents to many things he doesn’t rely upon.

    Trust is not synonymous with assent since trust presupposes assent and, therefore, must be distinguished from it.

    In gospel cases (you say):

    Assent means trust and trust means assent.

    Therefore, trust no longer presupposes assent because the two words are identical in meaning. We no longer trust in what we assent to because given the identical meaning of trust and assent all we’d be saying is we trust in what we trust. Similarly, we would no longer say that we trust in what we assent to because that would merely mean we assent to that which we assent. So, should I trust in Christ for my salvation? No, just assent. Should I then assent? No, just trust. Do one and you do the other. Same thing.

    Aside from the arbitrariness and inconsistencies of such a construct, what intrigues me most is that typically we bring our definitions of words to discussions, but with the gospel I guess we’re not suppose to do that, otherwise we’d end up with those useful distinctions between trust and assent that are employed in non-gospel discourse. But, if as you suggest the context of the gospel is to define our terms for us, thereby requiring us not to distinguish assent from trust but to equate the two, then how can we begin to determine the context so that our words might even be defined? Since the meaning of words must now await the context from which they can be derived, it would seem that you can’t know the context or the terms. After all, how can we understand context without predefined terms?!

    You are hardly as brilliant as you seem to think you are.

    Nice try, Roger. Accuse me of thinking more of myself because I’ve pointed out that you have yet to interact with the proposed refutation of your position. The reason you are so obviously mismatched in this discussion is not a matter of wits but simply because you took the wrong side of the issue. A child can see the arbitrary equivocation that is taking place.

  357. Reed Here said,

    June 22, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    Good distinguishing Ron.

  358. Denson Dube said,

    June 23, 2014 at 3:44 am

    Reed/Ron,
    Apologies for my lack of response, but I was down with a bad flue and never sat down at the computer(It’s winter in the Southern Hemisphere)

    First, your question about devils assenting to the truth: The Gospel is not directed to devils. None of the promises of the gospel are made to devils. The bible says “hell was created for the devil and demons”. That is part of what they believe about God. When Jesus confronted demons they asked if he had come to torture them. That is an indication of what sort of propositions they believe about God.

    As to Ron’s
    1. I may say that I trust that the trains are on time in NYC today. All that means is I assent to the proposition. In such instances trust is a synonym for assent.

    2. Although I assent to that proposition regarding trains, I have no dog in the race. I do not rely upon that to which I assent. I do not “trust” in the timeliness of the trains this morning in NYC in the sense that I don’t rely upon the truth of the proposition to which I assent. I hope you can see that “trust” takes on a different meaning than assent in this regard. Trust in this sense of reliance upon is not a synonym for assent.

    Believing that 1+1=2 will not get you reconciled to God. It is not merely the truth of the propositions, but the content, nature or subject of the propositions. What makes gospel propositions saving is that the one who promised said “He that believes shall be saved”. it is not something inside you, but the promises themselves. It is “what” you believe rather than “how” you believe, that saves. There is hardly any analysis of faith in the bible. Jesus said if you have faith as a mustard seed, The mastard seed is tiny. The fundamental error you are all making is looking inside yourselves, for some virtue, commitment (Alan) hard work or whatever.

    To believe God means to believe what He says or what is said about Him. That is all it means.

  359. Roger said,

    June 23, 2014 at 7:52 am

    Ron wrote,

    356. Accuse me of thinking more of myself because I’ve pointed out that you have yet to interact with the proposed refutation of your position.

    Ron, I’ve accused you of thinking too highly of yourself because of your repetitive condescending comments towards me in this and other debates, and because of the convenient straw man that you have constructed out of my position in order to make yourself appear intellectually superior.

    The reason you are so obviously mismatched in this discussion is not a matter of wits but simply because you took the wrong side of the issue.

    I’m “so obviously mismatched in this discussion” only in your overly arrogant imagination.

    A child can see the arbitrary equivocation that is taking place.

    Yes, even a “child can see” my irrationality… I bet an “imbecile” can see it too! What was I ever thinking for saying that you need to get over yourself? Silly me…You’re obviously not lording your perceived intellectual superiority over anyone!

    As far as the so-called “arbitrary equivocation” of my argument is concerned, it only appears to be an equivocation because of your blatant mischaracterization of what I’ve written. In reality, I’ve carefully defined my terms throughout this debate:

    BELIEF/ASSENT = Intellectual agreement to understood propositions.

    TRUST/RELIANCE = Belief that certain propositions about something or someone are true.

    I even approvingly quoted Vincent Cheung saying basically the same thing:

    “Third, an analysis of language demonstrates that believing in (or ‘trust’) a person is nothing other than shorthand for believing that (or ‘assent’) certain propositions about him are true.”

    The simple fact is that the concept of trust or reliance does not apply to all propositions, but only to certain propositions. For example, believing the proposition that “the bridge is large” is no doubt an act of assent, but it is an act of assent that does not imply “trust” because the concept of trust does not apply. “Large” is not a concept that can be trusted in or relied upon within the context of the proposition.

    On the other hand, believing the proposition that “the bridge is safe to cross” does imply “trust” because within the context of the proposition the concept of safety necessarily implies either trust or distrust. If you “believe” that the bridge is safe to cross, then you ispo facto “trust” that it is structurally sound and safe to cross. And if you do not “believe” that the bridge is safe to cross, then you ispo facto do not “trust” that it is structurally sound and safe to cross.

    This means that “trusting” in the safety of a particular bridge is not a distinct psychological act in addition to “believing” (which is the error that I have been opposing); it’s simply shorthand (or synonymous) for believing the proposition that “the bridge is safe to cross.” In other words, it’s the distinct content of the believed proposition that makes the difference, not the subjective psychological state of the person believing.

    This is also why the thesaurus explicitly states that “trust, rely on…be certain of…be convinced of…give credence to…have faith in…place confidence in…” etc. are synonyms for “believe” within certain contexts. Again, am I to “believe” (i.e., assent, trust, or rely upon) what you say or what the thesaurus says is true here? Sorry, Ron, but despite your self-imputed brilliance, I think I’ll stick with the thesaurus on this one!

    And, now, perhaps you can answer the simple question that I’ve asked several times in this debate and you’ve simply dodged:

    If simply “believing” the propositions of the gospel (1 Cor. 15:2) is not sufficient for my justification in God’s sight, then please explain in simple terms what else is necessary? Was Paul lying here? If I am not ipso facto “trusting” or “relying upon” Christ as my Savior by “believing” or “assenting to” the proposition that Christ alone (through His obedience to the law and death on the cross for my sins) justifies me before God apart from any of my own works of obedience, then what else do I need to do? Speak plainly! Am I justified before God by simply “believing” or “assenting to” the propositions of the gospel or not?

  360. Ron said,

    June 23, 2014 at 8:33 am

    Maybe someone else would like to respond to these non-responses. Eventually it gets a bit too tedious having to repeatedly respond to posts that only reassert the position but don’t deal with the rebuttal(s). Add false accusations on top of that and any glimmer of motive to labor more is extinguished. If this position was held by more than a relative few and growing in number then things might be different.

  361. Reed here said,

    June 23, 2014 at 8:36 am

    Roger, wouldn’t have simply been more in keeping with Christlikeness to just say, “Ron saying a even a child could understand it,” is condescending?

    I’m going to edited any further rants. Instead old ranting ask a moderator to step in if your own kind word doesn’t turn your brother’s heart.

    Ron, I know you can appreciate Roger’s point, as I also know he read what you meant differently than intended. Please ignore his ranting (thus time).

    Roger, I expect Ron is expressing exasperation with y’all for what seems to us to be non interaction with specific queries. I know I’ve given up for that reason. The responses from y’all Clarkians demonstrate it is not discussion but something else you are interested in.

  362. Reed here said,

    June 23, 2014 at 8:43 am

    Roger, this is silly. The psychological reasoning you go into, and you insist on plain answers from us?!

    You’ve now defined either two kinds of assent (with/without trust) or a second characteristic added to assent (trust). You yourself DO NOT believe belief = assent alone!

    Why are you badgering? It us clear you must equivocate. You’re the one nor speaking plainly.

    When I tell someone faith involves trusting Jesus they’re not going to aak me to explain that in any simpler terms. They know it does not mean believing propositions about Jesus are really, really, REALLY true! They know it means they can trust Him.

  363. Tim Harris said,

    June 23, 2014 at 8:45 am

    Let’s get one thing clear up front: a thesaurus is hardly an authority for synonyms. A thesaurus is only a memory-jogger for finding a word within a fairly wide semantic range, that is “on the tip of one’s tongue.” It should not be used for replacement. Ask any 11th grade English teacher.

  364. Ron said,

    June 23, 2014 at 8:52 am

    Reed,

    I guess I should respond. If I was implying that Roger has the intellect of a child, then that would be wrong of me. But that’s not what occurred by any stretch. I responded to Roger’s first accusation that I thought I was more brilliant than I am. I pointed out that this utter mismatch is due to Roger having taken the wrong side of the issue. It’s his strong commitment to certain presuppositions that prohibit him from seeing what a child can see.The problem is not that he thinks like a child, or that I said he thinks like a child. No, the problem lies elsewhere. Unbiblical and irrational axioms eventually reduce people to absurdity, even most glaringly. In this case, the absurdity that even a child can see is the equivocal nature of this espoused position. So, it’s not that I implied that Roger thinks like a child. No, Roger thinks like a man of sound intelligence that is debilitated by his axioms.

  365. Chris C said,

    June 23, 2014 at 9:57 am

    If anyone makes it down this far in this tortuous affair, I have posted several sermons by James Durham from his work on Isaiah 53 on the nature of saving faith. Preached within a few years of the Westminster Assembly, they show typical Puritan understanding of the nature of saving faith. A PDF of the Durham is at the first link; raw text is on my PB blog in the second link (no formatting)

    http://www.naphtali.com/articles/james-durham/

    http://www.puritanboard.com/blogs/naphtalipress/who-hath-believed-our-report-isa-53-1-james-durham-nature-faith-912/


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