JUSTIFICATION BY BELIEF

The following is a post from Ron DiGiacomo, expressing some reflections on the recent discussion here on the nature of faith. Is it assent alone, or assent + trust?


It has recently been argued by some that we are justified by belief alone and that receiving and resting in Christ unpacks what it is to believe. In other words, receiving and resting in Christ is considered a figure of speech by which belief in Christ can be defined. Trusting in Christ does not complete justifying belief because trusting is synonymous with believing. Accordingly, to add receiving and resting in Christ to belief is either (i) redundant, (ii) strips belief of part of its meaning, needlessly placing it somewhere else, or (iii) to add something additional to the instrumental cause of justification. The first deviation would be a matter of muddled thinking, but the gospel would remain intact although jumbled. The second would be purely a matter of semantics. Whereas the third construct would undermine the grace by which we are saved, appropriated by belief alone.

Those who promote the belief alone view are sometimes met with tedious rejoinders such as the false dichotomy “we’re saved by Christ not propositional belief.” Notwithstanding, more serious objections have been raised by Teaching and Ruling Elders against the belief alone position because of the group’s insistence upon equating belief with assent. This is where things get a bit dicey. Most of the things we assent to, whether a priori or a posteriori, are not volitional. One does not will to believe that God exists any more than a child chooses to believe he is being fed by his mother. These are mental assents that are not discursive; they are immediate and without reflection. The will is bypassed. However, the gospel always engages the will as the unbeliever counts the cost and by grace abandons all hope in himself while looking to Christ alone, finding rest in Him. Accordingly, it is inadequate to reduce justifying faith to belief alone when belief is reduced to assent without remainder.

It is at this point someone will assert that assent is synonymous with resting in or relying upon Christ. In this context is it is opined that to assent to Christ dying on the cross for my sins is to trust the proposition is true. Albeit the premise is true, this observation turns on a subtle equivocation over the word trust. Indeed, to trust a proposition is true is no different than to assent to its truth. So, in that sense trust and assent are synonyms. However, to trust that something is true is not the same thing as to trust in that something. The latter idea of trust carries the meaning of reliance upon, whereas the former use of trust merely conveys an intellectual assent that might or might not be accompanied by the reliance sort of trust. Accordingly, to argue that trust and assent are synonyms in this way is to implicitly deny the need to willfully trust upon Christ alone for salvation!

As a last ditch effort some have argued that it is impossible to assent to the truth of the gospel without justification following. They draw a distinction between (i) assent in non-spiritual matters (allowing for assent to obtain without trust) and (ii) assent with respect to the gospel (suggesting that assent is inseparable to trust, even its equivalent). They reason that true assent to the gospel is only granted at conversion. Therefore, assent is trust because the two are inseparable where the gospel is concerned. Rather than debate the premise, it’s much easier to concede it for argument’s sake in order to save time in refuting the conclusion that assent is trust. Even if assent were a sufficient condition for pardon in Christ that would not mean that assent equates to trust any more than assent is regeneration. It would merely mean that when assent is present pardon obtains, just like when pardon obtains regeneration is present. Since when may a sufficient condition be equated with the relevant components that comprise the state of affairs within which the condition operates?!

In sum, assent 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. Assent is a mental act that need not be accompanied by volition; whereas trust in Christ is always volitional in nature. Assent always pertains to accepting the truth of a proposition, whereas how one might respond in light of assent (e.g. trust, rest, exuberance, etc.) is commonly classified under the philosophical heading of disposition (which is not propositional assent). Whereas trust and other dispositions can evidence assent, dispositions need not accompany any given assent since assents can be mundane, occur without reflection and, also, be subjectively perceived as inconsequential. (This is why philosophers consider disposition to be a poor indicator of the presence of assent.)

If assent and trust were synonyms under the gospel, then either they both would mean cognitive conviction or else volitional reliance. Conviction of truth (assent) could never give way to reliance upon truth (trust).  If assent and trust mean the same thing, then either we cannot rely upon our convictions or else we can only rely upon things that don’t convince us. Conviction without reliance leaves no room for trusting in Christ; whereas reliance without conviction paves the way to trusting in Christ while not assenting to the gospel.

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298 Comments

  1. Ryan said,

    July 30, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    I am open to both sides of this discussion, but to play devil’s advocate:

    “If assent and trust were synonyms under the gospel, then either they both would mean cognitive conviction or else volitional reliance. Conviction of truth (assent) could never give way to reliance upon truth (trust)”.

    Couldn’t one say that in the case of believing the gospel, the element of trust is just a species of assent, viz. assent to the proposition that the gospel is applicable to oneself, or that because I believe both that the gospel saves those who assent to its applicability to themselves and that I assent to its applicability to myself, I will be saved, or that in believing each of these, I am evidently relying upon Christ’s work, etc.?

    I think the better route to take is the one you take elsewhere: that what you mean by “trust” is not fully captured by assent, and the component that isn’t captured is also necessary for justification. Thus:

    “[Non-volitional] mental assents… are not discursive; they are immediate and without reflection. The will is bypassed.”

    And:

    “In sum, assent 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. Assent is a mental act that need not be accompanied by volition; whereas trust in Christ is always volitional in nature.”

    You are arguing that assent must be volitional, and because some things to which we assent are accompanied by our volition and some aren’t, the fact that the gospel requires our volition implies mere assent to the gospel et. al. doesn’t capture the meaning of trust. Right?

    But I honestly don’t understand how any act of assent could be non-volitional. Following Gordon Clark’s argument in Today’s Evangelism: Counterfeit or Genuine? (pgs. 83-85), assent is always an act of will because assent always requires understanding and understanding always requires a particular choice of meaning. In your examples, what things like “God,” “mother,” “fed,” “exists” mean. Already, then, we would have it that any act of assent is volitional.

    [I'm not arguing that the will always precedes thought, though, as where our choices of alternatives in meaning at root come from suggests the intellect is as fundamental as the will - the point is just that it seems to me you can't have one without the other, so just as assent would be volitional, acts of will would be intellectual.]

  2. Ron said,

    July 30, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    Hi Ryan,

    You write:

    Couldn’t one say that in the case of believing the gospel, the element of trust is just a species of assent, viz. assent to the proposition that the gospel is applicable to oneself, or that because I believe both that the gospel saves those who assent to its applicability to themselves and that I assent to its applicability to myself, I will be saved, or that in believing each of these, I am evidently relying upon Christ’s work, etc.?

    I’ll assume we agree that for trust to be a species, or class, of assent then it must include the essential property of affirming the truth of a proposition. In other words, trust would have to differ in one respect being only a species of assent while not differing in the essential property of affirming the truth of a proposition. That said, it would seem that the difference you have in mind might be the assented to proposition, in this case the personal proposition that Christ died for me. (A lot of time was spent on that in another thread and I think the belief alone crowd were not being understood by all, but I thought there position was rather clear. They were defending that they were not merely speaking of the historical gospel but also assent to the gospel as it applies to one personally.) In any case, if I’m correct that your difference is bound up in the personal proposition, then I would say that I find no trust upon the Second Person who is contemplated by the personal proposition – when we consider only the assent portion of faith. I’m not suggesting that the element of trust would not be present. In fact, I can’t imagine it not being there when gospel propositions are affirmed on the authority of God apart from denying any critical Christian truth. And, when one doesn’t trust in Christ I’m quite sure he’s not assenting to something core. Pastorally this has grave implications. If one has no rest, I don’t encourage them to trust more but rather I would probe into what is being believed about their sin and God’s provision in Christ. Trust is not what I would exhort one to but rather I’d encourage belief, belief, belief. Just the same, I can’t deny that when saving belief is present, so is trust – but not merely trust of the assent to proposition variety but rather reliance upon the Person the gospel propositions contemplate. The rub is that I don’t locate trust in the mental activity of assent narrowly and properly considered simply because of how assent is defined both historically in this discussion and philosophically. I don’t believe we may allow assent to take on a different meaning in the realm of spiritual things. Maybe that’s why I so often believe my disagreement with Sean is semantic. I can’t speak to all others who’ve participated alongside him given that this discussion is shrouded in preconceived terms and sometimes highly emotional and charged exchanges. Present party guilty as well.

    I think the better route to take is the one you take elsewhere: that what you mean by “trust” is not fully captured by assent, and the component that isn’t captured is also necessary for justification.

    I thought that was what I was doing. I must be missing something, seriously.

    You are arguing that assent must be volitional, and because some things to which we assent are accompanied by our volition and some aren’t, the fact that the gospel requires our volition implies mere assent to the gospel et. al. doesn’t capture the meaning of trust. Right?

    Did you make a typo? I don’t believe assent must be volitional.

    But I honestly don’t understand how any act of assent could be non-volitional. Following Gordon Clark’s argument in Today’s Evangelism: Counterfeit or Genuine? (pgs. 83-85), assent is always an act of will because assent always requires understanding and understanding always requires a particular choice of meaning. In your examples, what things like “God,” “mother,” “fed,” “exists” mean. Already, then, we would have it that any act of assent is volitional.

    I don’t agree that belief presupposes a working knowledge of language. If we say a 3 month old believes her mother is feeding her it is we who are using words to describe the child’s beliefs, but certainly her belief is not a matter of choice between the meanings of words, is it? Arguments from inferred animal cognition aside, I would argue that babies believe certain things given their rational behavior and natural intuitions that replicate adults yet prior to understanding words as do adults. Even when they begin to assent to meanings of sounds, I think it’s to undermine the plain meaning of volition to suggest that they are actually choosing one meaning over another.

    [I'm not arguing that the will always precedes thought, though, as where our choices of alternatives in meaning at root come from suggests the intellect is as fundamental as the will - the point is just that it seems to me you can't have one without the other, so just as assent would be volitional, acts of will would be intellectual.]

    Indeed, I agree that the intellect is as fundamental as the will in that both are mental faculties with which men are endowed. You say that we can’t have one without the other. If what you mean is that we can’t have the faculty of choice without the mental potential to assent, then I can go along with that at least in the natural order of things. I can’t speak to man’s mind with respect to comas, etc. Notwithstanding, I don’t know how you get from those agreements to the conclusion that assent is volitional.

  3. Ron said,

    July 30, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    Ryan,

    My blockquote at the bottom placed my response into your comment section.This should be correct.

    Couldn’t one say that in the case of believing the gospel, the element of trust is just a species of assent, viz. assent to the proposition that the gospel is applicable to oneself, or that because I believe both that the gospel saves those who assent to its applicability to themselves and that I assent to its applicability to myself, I will be saved, or that in believing each of these, I am evidently relying upon Christ’s work, etc.?

    I’ll assume we agree that for trust to be a species, or class, of assent then it must include the essential property of affirming the truth of a proposition. In other words, trust would have to differ in one respect being only a species of assent while not differing in the essential property of affirming the truth of a proposition. That said, it would seem that the difference you have in mind might be the assented to proposition, in this case the personal proposition that Christ died for me. (A lot of time was spent on that in another thread and I think the belief alone crowd were not being understood by all, but I thought there position was rather clear. They were defending that they were not merely speaking of the historical gospel but also assent to the gospel as it applies to one personally.) In any case, if I’m correct that your difference is bound up in the personal proposition, then I would say that I find no trust upon the Second Person who is contemplated by the personal proposition – when we consider only the assent portion of faith. I’m not suggesting that the element of trust would not be present. In fact, I can’t imagine it not being there when gospel propositions are affirmed on the authority of God apart from denying any critical Christian truth. And, when one doesn’t trust in Christ I’m quite sure he’s not assenting to something core. Pastorally this has grave implications. If one has no rest, I don’t encourage them to trust more but rather I would probe into what is being believed about their sin and God’s provision in Christ. Trust is not what I would exhort one to but rather I’d encourage belief, belief, belief. Just the same, I can’t deny that when saving belief is present, so is trust – but not merely trust of the assent to proposition variety but rather reliance upon the Person the gospel propositions contemplate. The rub is that I don’t locate trust in the mental activity of assent narrowly and properly considered simply because of how assent is defined both historically in this discussion and philosophically. I don’t believe we may allow assent to take on a different meaning in the realm of spiritual things. Maybe that’s why I so often believe my disagreement with Sean is semantic. I can’t speak to all others who’ve participated alongside him given that this discussion is shrouded in preconceived terms and sometimes highly emotional and charged exchanges. Present party guilty as well.

    I think the better route to take is the one you take elsewhere: that what you mean by “trust” is not fully captured by assent, and the component that isn’t captured is also necessary for justification.

    I thought that was what I was doing. I must be missing something, seriously.

    You are arguing that assent must be volitional, and because some things to which we assent are accompanied by our volition and some aren’t, the fact that the gospel requires our volition implies mere assent to the gospel et. al. doesn’t capture the meaning of trust. Right?

    Did you make a typo? I don’t believe assent must be volitional.

    But I honestly don’t understand how any act of assent could be non-volitional. Following Gordon Clark’s argument in Today’s Evangelism: Counterfeit or Genuine? (pgs. 83-85), assent is always an act of will because assent always requires understanding and understanding always requires a particular choice of meaning. In your examples, what things like “God,” “mother,” “fed,” “exists” mean. Already, then, we would have it that any act of assent is volitional.

    I don’t agree that belief presupposes a working knowledge of language. If we say a 3 month old believes her mother is feeding her it is we who are using words to describe the child’s beliefs, but certainly her belief is not a matter of choice between the meanings of words, is it? Arguments from inferred animal cognition aside, I would argue that babies believe certain things given their rational behavior and natural intuitions that replicate adults yet prior to understanding words as do adults. Even when they begin to assent to meanings of sounds, I think it’s to undermine the plain meaning of volition to suggest that they are actually choosing one meaning over another.

    [I'm not arguing that the will always precedes thought, though, as where our choices of alternatives in meaning at root come from suggests the intellect is as fundamental as the will - the point is just that it seems to me you can't have one without the other, so just as assent would be volitional, acts of will would be intellectual.]

    Indeed, I agree that the intellect is as fundamental as the will in that both are mental faculties with which men are endowed. You say that we can’t have one without the other. If what you mean is that we can’t have the faculty of choice without the mental potential to assent, then I can go along with that at least in the natural order of things. I can’t speak to man’s mind with respect to comas, etc. Notwithstanding, I don’t know how you get from those agreements to the conclusion that assent is volitional.

  4. Ryan said,

    July 30, 2014 at 5:51 pm

    “I thought that was what I was doing. I must be missing something, seriously.”

    Quick point before I get to the gist of your reply: you were, in general, doing that. My point in response to the last paragraph was that if assent and trust really are synonymous, then it’s not an either/or between cognitive conviction or volitional reliance. Unless that’s not an internal critique and you’re stating at the outset cognitive conviction is different from volitional reliance? But in that case, there’s no reason for the “mere assent” crowd to see a problem with choosing the former over the latter while explaining that cognitive conviction can entail volitional reliance in a different sense than however you define it… I can see why this is an easy topic for people to talk past each other.

    “In any case, if I’m correct that your difference is bound up in the personal proposition, then I would say that I find no trust upon the Second Person who is contemplated by the personal proposition – when we consider only the assent portion of faith.”

    Clarkians like Sean would reply that persons just are propositions, so they wouldn’t have a problem with this until you challenged them on that. I have challenged this idea elsewhere, but at any rate, since I don’t think persons just are propositions, I understand what you mean.

    But if I were a member of the mere assent crowd (I’m undecided) and held the belief (as I do) that persons are not just propositions, I still might think that one could harmonize those positions by also recognizing that when we accept propositions as true, we’re also accepting that there were truthmakers or corresponding, non-propositional realities who or which make those propositions true. But it could still be the mere assent which saves or justifies. Does that make sense? Or am I at least being clear?

    “Did you make a typo? I don’t believe assent must be volitional.”

    I meant: “You are arguing that assent [to the gospel] must be volitional…”

    “If we say a 3 month old believes her mother is feeding her it is we who are using words to describe the child’s beliefs, but certainly her belief is not a matter of choice between the meanings of words, is it?”

    I don’t know what you mean when you say that. I don’t say things like that unless I’m joking. I don’t have a theory about the cognitive development of infants, but I thought we were assuming “that for trust to be a species, or class, of assent then it must include the essential property of affirming the truth of a proposition.”

  5. Ron said,

    July 30, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    My point in response to the last paragraph was that if assent and trust really are synonymous, then it’s not an either/or between cognitive conviction or volitional reliance.

    Ryan,

    That’s only if you import two different definitions into two different words, but if we do that then we’re left with no possibility of assenting to something that we don’t rely upon since assent would include trust according to this hybrid definition. However, it’s commonly understood and was even conceded that at least in non-gospel matters one can assent to propositions without trusting in them. That suggests that if trust and assent are synonyms, then they can’t mean conviction of truth and reliance upon truth since some perceived truths are admittedly not relied upon. So, I took turns and treated trust and assent as having the same singular definition. I let them both mean conviction and then allowed them to mean reliance upon. I thought that was pretty fair to do.

    when we accept propositions as true, we’re also accepting that there were truthmakers or corresponding, non-propositional realities who or which make those propositions true. But it could still be the mere assent which saves or justifies. Does that make sense? Or am I at least being clear?

    I’m not prepared to say that all who accept a proposition as true also believe in a truth-maker for the proposition. But to your main point, I’m not sure what you mean by “it could still be the mere assent” that justifies. We’re trying to tease out whether the faith that justifies includes reliance-trust and if so, how can that be cataloged under assent when so many assents aren’t relied upon? Moreover, all also agree that assensus by definition is conviction, not trust, so to call assent and trust synonyms becomes even a bit more passing strange. Therefore, the only way they can be synonyms is if by “trust” they mean mere assent to the truth of a proposition, but then that would mean that they don’t have in mind reliance upon the Person of Christ when they speak of trust.This takes us back to paragraph 3 in the original post:

    It is at this point someone will assert that assent is synonymous with resting in or relying upon Christ. In this context is it is opined that to assent to Christ dying on the cross for my sins is to trust the proposition is true. Albeit the premise is true, this observation turns on a subtle equivocation over the word trust. Indeed, to trust a proposition is true is no different than to assent to its truth. So, in that sense trust and assent are synonyms. However, to trust that something is true is not the same thing as to trust in that something. The latter idea of trust carries the meaning of reliance upon, whereas the former use of trust merely conveys an intellectual assent that might or might not be accompanied by the reliance sort of trust. Accordingly, to argue that trust and assent are synonyms in this way is to implicitly deny the need to willfully trust upon Christ alone for salvation!

    Again, since we don’t rely upon many of our assents, then we must maintain that the terms can only be synonymous if trust means assent and not reliance upon something or someone. Accordingly, it would naturally follow that one can be saved without relying upon Christ as their Savior. However, if rest, reliance, receiving, etc. are not mental assents to propositions yet no saved person is without them, then where shall we place those metaphysical movements (that presuppose assents) if not under faith? I believe when that question has been asked, we seem to either receive the synonym answer or the response I deal with in paragraph 4, which has to do with the sufficient condition of God-granted assent for pardon, which does not speak to the question of the other volitional states of affairs that accompany assent when justification obtains.

    I meant: “You are arguing that assent [to the gospel] must be volitional…”

    I’m saying that when the gift of faith is exercised it is volitional.

  6. Ryan said,

    July 30, 2014 at 10:53 pm

    “However, it’s commonly understood and was even conceded that at least in non-gospel matters one can assent to propositions without trusting in them… all also agree that assensus by definition is conviction”

    Really? I thought the meaning of trust was the whole point in dispute.

    “However, if rest, reliance, receiving, etc. are not mental assents to propositions yet no saved person is without them, then where shall we place those metaphysical movements (that presuppose assents) if not under faith?”

    The key question. I don’t see any reason not to. But is that reason enough?

  7. Ron said,

    July 31, 2014 at 12:45 am

    Ryan,

    Maybe there’s a history here with which you are possibly unacquainted. It was affirmed in a recent marathon thread by a serious “belief alone” proponent that one can assent to trains running on time without trusting in the timeliness of trains due to the “irrelevant nature of the proposition regarding the timeliness of trains to one’s personal wellbeing.” Yet it was also maintained by that same person that when it is believed that a train would safely transport a person to their desired destination, “then by assenting to that proposition” trust or reliance would obtain evidenced by the purchase of a ticket. So as I said, it was indeed “conceded that at least in non-gospel matters one can assent to propositions without trusting in them.” Note well that trust in that context was actually referred to as “relying upon,” which distinguished it from agreeing with the truth of a proposition. I quote, “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!”

    You see (and you do see) why this discussion has been so difficult.

    <The key question. I don’t see any reason not to. But is that reason enough?

    I don’t place these metaphysical movements under the rubric of faith because I have no other place to put them. Rather, I place them there because the Bible speaks of faith in such terms:

    Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

    As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him.

    All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.

    But surely the Bible also speaks in terms of non-volitional assent too as being the whole of faith. I believe William Cunningham summed it up well when he wrote:

    “It can scarcely be disputed that the word faith is used in Scripture in a variety of senses, and more especially that it is employed there in a wider and in a more limited signification, as if it were used sometimes to designate the whole, and at other times some on or more of the parts or elements of which this whole is comprised…. while it is admitted that faith is sometimes used in Scripture in the sense of mere belief or assent to truth… I think it is has been proved by Protestant divines, in opposition to Romanists, that trust or confidence, which is an act of the will, does enter into the ordinary and full idea of scriptural faith; and that the faith by which men are said to be justified, includes in it (and not merely produces) something more than the belief of truths or doctrines,–even trust or confidence in a person,– in Him who has purchased for us all the blessings of redemption…. Scripture represents the faith by which men are justified as including or containing that state of mind which can be described only by such words as trust and confidence…which are described as accepting, embracing, receiving, and resting upon Christ…”

  8. theoldadam said,

    July 31, 2014 at 1:23 am

    Since faith is a gift of God, we really have no role in it. Faith comes by hearing. Who hears? Those who hear it (the gospel).

    The Gospel of John reminds us that “we are not born of the will of man…but of God.”

    We believe…but we sure are lousy believers.

    “Lord, I believe. Help me in my unbelief.”

    If it wasn’t for His work in us…and His work in us, alone…we’d be sunk.

    Thanks.

  9. Steve M said,

    July 31, 2014 at 2:09 am

    Ron
    You have perfected the art of gibberish.

  10. Ron said,

    July 31, 2014 at 9:41 am

    Ron
    You have perfected the art of gibberish.

    Finally a non-equivocal remark from the belief alone camp.

  11. Steve M said,

    July 31, 2014 at 11:25 am

    Perhaps eventually we will get a non-equivocal remark from the belief plus who-knows-what camp.

  12. July 31, 2014 at 11:38 am

    In case it helps, here’s a 10-part series on “What Is True Faith?”

    http://heidelblog.net/2013/10/what-is-true-faith-pt-1/

  13. Ron said,

    July 31, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    We find this definition of belief on Philosophy Pages:

    Affirmation of, or conviction regarding, the truth of a proposition, whether or not one is in possession of evidence adequate to justify a claim that the proposition is known with certainty.

    From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy we find this definition:

    Contemporary analytic philosophers of mind generally use the term “belief” to refer to the attitude we have, roughly, whenever we take something to be the case or regard it as true.

    So, with that understanding of belief (or assent) in mind, let’s proceed by interacting with some recent posts from another site.

    Not sure what the question mark is for Alan? Are you really unsure that trust and believe are synonymous? To use trust and believe interchangeably is good English and sound theology.

    Trust and belief are synonyms when they are defined as “affirmation of, or conviction regarding, the truth of a proposition,” which is to say “whenever we take something to be the case or regard it as true.” This specific definition of trust does not connote reliance upon anything. Reliance, or what might more technically be defined as acceptance, pertains to placing confidence in that which is believed to be true. So, right off the bat we find a distinction between assent and reliance (or trust).

    So, am I to conclude that when the belief alone crowd says that they trust in Christ that they do not mean that they are relying upon Christ but rather that they merely assent to certain propositions about His work, even personally on their behalf? It would seem so:

    One may, for the purposes of clarity (not obfuscation) call belief in gospel propositions trust, resting in Christ, standing on the rock, but these are not additional elements to “mere assent”, but refer to it, with the view of characterizing the propositions assented to, their subject matter.

    That is one of the clearest statements I’ve read from the belief alone crowd. With clarity and eloquence it announces that trust in Christ is not “additional… to ‘mere assent.’” But rather, trusting actually means mere assent! This sentiment is corroborated by another:

    Correct, which is why “trusting” in Jesus is equivalent to “assenting/believing” that He is the incarnate Word of God, that He died for my sins, that He was buried and raised on the third day for my justification, thatmy own works of obedience contribute nothing toward my justification before God, etc.

    The italicized “that” would seem to add emphasis to the same point, that trusting for the belief alone crowd is not additional to mere assent, but rather that trust is mere assent to propositions. In other words, to believe that p is to regard p as true.

    We also find this:

    “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.”

    Although clear enough, by applying the “analogy of quotes” I think we may safely conclude that what is being communicated is that to have faith in what someone says is merely to regard the propositions as true. Such faith does not connote reliance upon those truths for that would be tautological and we we’ve already seen that trust for this crowd means mere assent.

    Putting this all together:

    So, here we are. When the belief alone crowd says trust, they aren’t communicating “reliance” upon Christ along with the traditional Reformed community. Nor are they employing common philosophical distinctions (yet Clark was a philosopher). They simply mean by trust “intellectual assent to propositions.” Yet what still mystifies me is that at other times things like this are said:

    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.

    “Ipso facto” is not typically used tautologically and I’m not going to assume it is here, but I’m constrained to to entertain that it is since the the more appropriate use presents a host of different conundrums for the belief alone crowd.

    If assent and trust are indeed synonymous for regarding something as true, then what is written immediately above conveys: “If I assent then I assent.” Yet if we allow “ipso facto” to be used more commonly (and correctly), then we should be looking for a derived conclusion (or enthymeme) from a fact or series of facts. So, either this uninteresting repetition is being announced: “when I assent I trust because assent means trust” or else a progression of thought is being formulated: “when I assent to something personal I am not merely assenting to the truth of the proposition but rather in addition I am relying upon it. When that occurs, assent no longer means “mere assent” but also means ‘reliance upon.’” But I thought that there was nothing additional being added to mere assent? If the latter is meant, then that would seem to go against much of what has been stated previously. If the former is meant, then there is absolutely no difference between reliance and assent, yet it’s already been acknowledged that not all assents include reliance, which implies that reliance and assent are not identical since assent can take on “additional” meaning.

  14. Steve M said,

    July 31, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    Scott
    Reading your post only raises more questions for me. It doesn’t make the belief plus who-knows-what position more clear.

    “Assent is an aspect of faith but it is not the whole of faith.” Here is a non-ambiguous remark. Of course next one would expect to be informed of what other aspects comprise “the whole of faith”.

    But instead we are told:
    “Unbelievers can know that Jesus was raised from the dead. They can give assent that it really happened. We know from the gospel narratives that, in fact, unbelievers did know and agree to the fact that Jesus had been raised and yet they did not believe.” These “unbelievers” did not believe what? They believed something (i.e. that Christ rose from the dead), yet you call them unbelievers. What exactly must they believe in order to be referred to as believers? If they believed the gospel, would they still be unbelievers? Is it your position that unregenerate men can believe the gospel?

    “True faith rests in God as he has revealed himself in Christ the Word of God incarnate and in the inspired, infallible Word written.” Isn’t it true that God has revealed Christ the Word of God incarnate in the infallible Word written? Isn’t it true that when we give assent to the infallible Word written, we are also giving assent to what God has revealed concerning the Word of God incarnate?

    “When we give assent to the Christian faith, we are giving assent to concrete claims and propositions in Holy Scripture and to the tri-personal God.” Isn’t it also in the infallible Word written that the tri-personal God is revealed? Isn’t it true that when we assent to the infallible Word written that we are assenting to what has been revealed concerning the tri-personal God? I assume that you mean by “the Christian faith” (to which we give assent), the propositions of the sixty-six books of Scripture. What, in addition to assenting to the concrete claims (i.e. propositions) and propositions (seems redundant) in Holy Scripture, are the other aspects, which comprise the “whole of faith”?

  15. Ron said,

    July 31, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    Steve M.,

    You said I’ve spoken gibberish and equivocally. Please put forth examples of such. Don’t just cut and past quotes but actually explain where I’ve been ambiguous or changed the meaning of words and spoken unintelligibly. I’ll try to make amends as appropriate.

    Thank you.

  16. Steve M said,

    July 31, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    Ron

    You will have to excuse me. I am only an average Christian and certainly not someone who would benefit from reading either Gordon Clark or your blog, but I will do my best to comply with your request. However, due to your prolixity, it may take me a while to do so. I assure you that you can rely on me to eventually do so, You can also trust that I will do so. And not only that,but you can rest assured that I will do so. You can believe what I have told you. Sorry if I am a little redundant.

    You’re welcome.

  17. Ron said,

    July 31, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    Cute, Steve.

  18. Stephen Welch said,

    July 31, 2014 at 11:19 pm

    “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.” WCOF Chapter 14 Section 2 On Saving Faith. Anyone want to improve upon this statement?

  19. Ron said,

    August 1, 2014 at 7:50 am

    I agree, Stephen. The problem, however, is that some would tell us that those acts are mere mental assents to propositions and nothing more. To trust in something or someone has been reduced to assenting to a proposition that is personal and relevant to one’s wellbeing. This would be like saying that sorrow is assenting to being grieved or that having fun is to believe that something pleasurable or amusing is occurring.

  20. Ron said,

    August 1, 2014 at 8:26 am

    Much time was spent on pointing out the equivocal foundations of the belief alone crowd. That got nowhere. Maybe it’s time to put forth their distilled version of “trust” and make a few comments about it. I’ll then end with some sundry remarks about Clark as it pertains to this discussion.

    It’s probably best to begin with some recent remarks from this group.

    Denson: One may, for the purposes of clarity (not obfuscation) call belief in gospel propositions trust, resting in Christ, standing on the rock, but these are not additional elements to “mere assent”, but refer to it, with the view of characterizing the propositions assented to, their subject matter.

    Sean: Exactly right Denson. The difference between faith and saving faith are the propositions believed and not some undefined addition to belief that mystically takes place within us that transforms simple belief into “faith” making it saving.

    Hugh: The knowledge+assent+trust hooey betrays a misunderstanding of the propositions (content) of the gospel, not merely what constitutes saving faith. At least, methinks.

    Well, with that as a backdrop, here’s the distilled version of their position…

    Assent always means to regard something as true.

    Trust is a synonym for assent but only when that which is assented to is personally relevant to one’s wellbeing.( One does not assent-trust to propositions that are inconsequential. They can onl assent.)

    When one moves from assent to gospel propositions to trusting in Christ the difference is strictly attributable to additional propositions assented to and nothing more. (Of course they maintain God’s sovereign work of grace.)

    Therefore: Receiving and resting in Christ; relying upon Christ; cleaving to Christ; surrendering to Christ; Coming to Christ; Trusting in Christ, etc. are only mere assents that are no different than assenting to 1+1 = 2 (other than with respect to the seriousness of the proposition in view). In other words, there’s no metaphysical volitional-reliance upon Christ entailed by the act of assent. Indeed there can’t be because assents are purely mental states of affirmation. If there’s anything else going on with the will it can’t be a part of saving faith because saving faith will have nothing of it. It’s all about knowledge + assent and nothing more. We just go from one assent to the next while in the process exchanging some for others. Non-physical and non-meritorious dispositions of commitment and submission are maintained under the idea of mental assent.

    Brief observation:

    It’s not just equivocal but also a downright case of special pleading to define “trust” as a synonym for assent and then on top of that limit its use in this way. I would prefer they just outrightly deny trust rather than suggest that they affirm it. The trust they equate with assent is not the trust of the Reformed tradition for that trust is metaphysical and volitional. It doesn’t mean assent. It presupposes it.

    The right way in light of Clark:

    Beliefs are propositional attitudes that can be distinguished from volitional, metaphysical movements. For instance, choices are mental activities that engage both the intellect and the will. This is more recognizable once we consider that choices involve both judgment and commitment. What one judges to be true can result in a choice to rely upon that which the judgment contemplates, but the intellection of belief need not give way to volition. This is sufficient to demonstrate that belief and volition are not the same things though they often go together. This observation would seem rather uncontroversial. It was presupposed in Edwards’ writings and was taken up by men like R.L. Dabney, A.A. Hodge and even William Cunningham. Yet contra this popular view, Clark believed that it is an illusion (an illusion, mind you!) to think that such acts of intellection differ from volition. Clark went so far to say that belief in a chair is volitional. But if volition presupposes choice, then what choice did Clark have in mind when he made this claim? Does the sane man choose to believe he sees a chair? Does he choose to believe the chair is in view according to his strongest inclination? Are there any competing inclinations or intentions? Prior to belief in the chair does the agent wallow in agnosticism (even for a nanosecond)? ( I can’t make room for logical order in such an absurd theory. It must be temporal.) To raise these questions is to expose the faultiness of the thesis. Error begets error until we finally end up with the absurd. Indeed, a self-deceived man can try to choose to believe a chair is not in view when it plainly is. He might even be said to succeed depending on one’s views of belief as they relate to suppression and self-deception. Notwithstanding, that is nothing akin to immediate, non-discursive mental assents. No, we must maintain that the will is distinct from mental assents because to willis different than to believe.

    We can be grateful that such teachings are nowhere to be found in any denomination or Bible church I know about. Telling?

  21. Hugh McCann said,

    August 1, 2014 at 9:06 am

    @ Stephen (#18): How are “the principal acts of saving faith,” faith?

    In other words, is faith to be defined merely by what it does?

    Is the “definition” not a definition, but a description of what faith does?

    Finally, are not “accepting, receiving, and resting upon” all synonymous?

    Thanks.

  22. Ron said,

    August 1, 2014 at 10:55 am

    This just in:

    Ron seems to think that to assent to some proposition can exclude the will, as if a man were divided into parts.

    Key to the belief alone crowd’s position is Clark’s view that beliefs are chosen – even the belief that “I see a chair.” Let’s run with that…

    1. All assents are chosen
    2. Choices involve competing propositions that are understood
    3. To understand a proposition is to assent that the proposition exists
    4. To assent a to the existence of proposition p requires choice c (from premise 1)
    5. c requires primitive proposition p -1 and assent a -1 (from premises 2 and 3)
    6. a -1 requires c -1 (from premise 1)
    7. c -1 requires p -2 and a -2 (from premises 2 and 3)

    If assents are chosen, then a first choice cannot be made. In the like manner, if the intentions of the heart are chosen, we could never choose. Did Clark believe in the philosophical surd of agent-causation? No, his high-Calvinism, which I share, forbade it. He was just inconsistent due to pet axioms.

    Indeed, previous choices are causally related to future beliefs (and intentions) but come now, are beliefs really chosen? Coming at this from a slightly different angle and allowing for an erroneous premise for argument’s sake, would anyone choose to believe something that they didn’t already assent to being true?!

    Secondly, assent by agreed upon definition is “to regard a proposition as true. “ That choices play a part in the causal nexus that precede many of our beliefs does not change the definition of assent. Accordingly, assent by definition does not include the exercise of the will. Assent is simply “to regard a proposition as true” regardless how the whole person gets there. Consequently, saving faith is not volitional by definition because it simply reduces to: knowledge + assent.

    Lastly, the “trust” that the belief alone crowd adheres to is merely assent to a specific proposition or set of propositions. Trust is a “species” of assent. As such, it is not metaphysical. It’s purely mental and nothing more.

  23. Ron said,

    August 1, 2014 at 11:00 am

    Alan, please pop me an email. I don’t seem to have yours anymore. If you no longer have mine, you can obtain it from the mods.

  24. Stephen Welch said,

    August 1, 2014 at 11:17 am

    I have entered this debate after the fact, so I do not know who said what or what the issue is. It seems to me that in this kind of venue too many on both sides are not really listening (or reading what is printed) and some may not even understand the argument. I certainly appreciate the work of Gordon Clark and was introduced to him in an orthodox Reformed seminary. I do not pretend to understand everything he says, particularly because I was not trained in philosophy. I will say that Clark is very clear that saving faith as WCOF Chapter 14 states is the work of the Spirit upon the elect which enables them to believe to the saving of their souls. The Spirit does work upon their minds through the means of the preached word. One cannot believe in Christ, trust in Christ, or rest in Christ without the Spirit working in them. Clark and those who are proponents of his believe that one must understand a truth i.e. the work of Christ before he can believe. I do not believe that Clark taught an easy believism as some claim. Clark certainly uses categories that I am still trying to understand, but he does not go beyond the simple truths of our confessional standard. It might be helpful if we try and understand some of the categories or at least talk intelligently without resorting to “attack statements” like I have read in some of these statements. I really want to hear what Sean Garety says or even those who claim he denies our confessional standards. After reading some of the comments here I am more confused.

  25. Stephen Welch said,

    August 1, 2014 at 11:25 am

    Ron, in reference to the last comment you made a few minutes ago you state that Clark believes (is this assent or another kind of belief :-) ) that beliefs are chosen and then you lay out his philosophical arguments. Is it problematic to say that beliefs are chosen? I certainly chose to trust in Christ alone after 20 years of being a papist. I do not understand all of the philosophical arguments but he uses the word assent yet you claim he denies this.
    Please elaborate.

  26. Ron said,

    August 1, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    Hi Stephen,

    I wasn’t trying to lay out Clark’s argument for premise 1. I’m not even sure he had one since it would appear pretty axiomatic. That’s not to say he didn’t make a pass at defending it. In any case, I was merely trying to show what I believe to be the implications of the premise that assents are chosen.

    When you “chose to trust in Christ alone,” which assents or beliefs were chosen? I suspect you might say at least this one, “Jesus died for my sins” as opposed to this one, “Jesus did not die for my sins.” Those are two competing propositions. Those propositions existed in the abstract and you understood them. (Knowledge) Because you understood them, you assented to their general meaning as any unbeliever could. In your case, by God’s grace you believed the first one as a regenerate person. (Assent) That belief came to you as a gift from God. You were quickened (made alive) and simply believed that Jesus died for you. The light went on as it were. Or if you prefer, “Thine eye diffused a quickening ray.” This is not to say that you didn’t wrestle, but in the final analyses all of a sudden you were made alive with the whole of faith, which included the gift to believe all that the Bible teaches. Yet not only did God grant salvific belief into your mind (though we do maintain your beliefs are yours), He graciously subdued your stubborn will, causing you to receive and rest in Christ as he is offered in the gospel. You received and rested in concert with your God-granted belief(s). Your conviction of truth gave way to willful trust in the Truth. We might say that saving faith is a “whole-souled movement.” In any case, I find no choosing of beliefs in all of this.

    Clark doesn’t deny assent. So, I’m not sure what this means: “he uses the word assent yet you claim he denies this.”

  27. Stephen Welch said,

    August 1, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    Thanks, Ron. I did not say Clark denied the word assent. In fact in Religion, Reason, and Revelation he does affirm assent. He believed that assent is cognition that is passed into conviction and that fiducia or trust is conviction passed into confidence. He did believe that when the Scripture uses the word heart it is not emotion but the deep self or the intellect. This is perhaps where the difficulty lies. Clark recognized knowledge, assent, and trust but believed that it was intellectual. I do not find this problematic. My former systematic theology professor, Dr. Robert Reymond agreed with Clark on this point. By stating this is does not relegate faith to some empty believism. Dr. Reymond did emphasize that this intellectual trust did include volition because we are called to not only believe but love the Lord.

  28. Hugh McCann said,

    August 1, 2014 at 4:39 pm

    Stephen @ 25 – Respectfully, no one chooses to believe in Christ. Faith is gift imposed upon the elect by a gracious God above.

    You did not choose to believe in Christ; but if you believe, then you were chosen to so believe, and given the knowledge and assent the gospel (1 Cor. 15:3f) necessary unto eternal life.

    15:1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
    2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
    3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
    4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures. . .

  29. Stephen Welch said,

    August 1, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    Ron, sorry, but the last sentence of your comment in # 26, “he uses the word assent yet you claim he denies this” was my statement. I simply stated this because in comment # 22 it seemed like you were saying Clark denied assent. He believed that assent to a proposition was intellectual, but I would argue that he did not believe as some here claim that it was simply a blind leap or empty faith. He clearly held that a person cannot simply believe a truth unless he is elect and the Spirit makes him willing and able to believe. I don’t know anyone who would deny section one in chapter 14 of the Westminster Confession of Faith.

  30. Stephen Welch said,

    August 1, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    Hugh, you and I are on the same page. I realize I cannot choose Christ unless I am made willing by the Spirit. I was simply responding to Ron’s question “When you “chose to trust in Christ alone,” which assents or beliefs were chosen? I had to believe in Christ or recognize that He alone is my only surety. This is what I mean by choose. How can the Scripture say, that whosoever will may come and drink… in a world when no one will or can? The Spirit must make him willing.

  31. Hugh McCann said,

    August 1, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    Thanks, Stephen. Amen.

  32. Ron said,

    August 1, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    Thanks, Ron. I did not say Clark denied the word assent.

    Stephen,

    I understood that the first time. I wrote that “Clark doesn’t deny assent.” By that I was trying to convey that I understand that he didn’t deny assent. That’s why I still don’t understand your assertion that I “claim he denies [assent].” Did I claim that he denies assent, or did I put forth that he denies the traditional meaning of trust?

    You say Clark affirmed trust though he made it out to be purely intellectual.Tell me, while looking at a skunk cabbage does one see a rose simply by calling it one?

    Regarding Reymond, he acknowledged that without the third element of faith there is no faith, just intellectual faith. He even cited James 2:19 (in opposition to Clark). Reymond spoke in terms of volitionally transferring reliance upon Christ (terms Clark opposed); plus nowhere do I find Reymond likening such transfer of trust to a species of assent. If we can make Reymond out to say that trust is just another kind of assent, then I suppose we can say Berkhof thought the same. Having said that, yes, Reymond classified trust as intellectual, but he maintained a distinct volitional aspect of faith, an illusion for Clark. Reymond also spoke in terms of transfer of trust, which Clark mocked. (I share Clark’s disdain for the chair analogy, but transfer works just fine for me in the metaphysical realm.)

    Cheers.

  33. Hugh McCann said,

    August 1, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    “Many theologians say that saving faith has three elements: understanding, acceptance, and trust. Unless all three elements are present, they say, a person does not have saving faith.

    “This is sometimes illustrated by means of a chair. A person can understand that a chair claims to support a person who sits in it. The person can go a step further and accept that claim. That is, he can be convinced that the chair would hold him up if he chose to sit in it. However (so the illustration goes), unless and until a person actually chooses to sit in the chair he will not gain its benefit.

    “Actually sitting in the chair is likened to trusting in Christ for eternal life. One can understand and even accept the claims of Christ concerning the Gospel, yet not be saved because he has not yet personalized the Gospel for himself. Before anyone can obtain the gift of eternal life, he must go beyond understanding and acceptance of Christ’s claims and actually trust Him.”

    From “Saving Faith Is Not Like Sitting in a Chair,” by Bob Wilkin.

  34. theoldadam said,

    August 1, 2014 at 11:55 pm

    Many theologians just do not have a clue…

  35. Brad B said,

    August 2, 2014 at 11:13 am

    Although I read along in the other thread, and I think the point Ron is making stands, there is a metaphysical element that makes meaningful and consistent defining of these terms near impossible.

    It seems to me that the laboring to define saving faith is just an intellectual endeavor anyway. A person who has no ability to trust Christ, cannot really agree, assent, understand…etc. They do not see or hear truth-this is the metaphysical element. The kind of trust that is made evident after saving faith is obtained is not displayed perfectly. I wonder if most of us philosophers and wanna be philoshpher types, who find reasonable justification for belief, are less blessed than those who like a child, just believe God at His word in the first place but dont have to also then, go and prove it.

  36. Ron said,

    August 2, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    The belief alone crowd would like to claim the Larger Catechism is on their side. They don’t merely want to say that their position is in bounds but, also, that the traditional position is out of bounds. Let’s talk about that.

    WLC 72 states:

    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.

    The Q&A teaches that the sinner not only assents to the promise of the gospel but also receives and rests upon the Person and work of Christ for forgiveness and righteousness. That reduction is not in dispute. The interpretation of what those words mean is what is disputed by the belief alone crowd.

    If the Divines thought that assent to personal propositions that pertain to one’s wellbeing means the same thing as trust, receive, rest, etc., then why wouldn’t they have written:

    “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, only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel.”

    More curious than that is why they conveyed the opposite by employing the negative “not only” if they meant to communicate “only”? Had the Divines written “only” rather than “not only” would the Clarkians have objected? I should say not, for that would be a perfect depiction of their position. Then how can they not object to what was actually written since a contrary statement would be most agreeable to them? Moreover, how can a Clarkian affirm WLC 72 and also maintain: “The knowledge+assent+trust hooey betrays a misunderstanding of the propositions (content) of the gospel, not merely what constitutes saving faith.” How does one reconcile the hooey remark with a favorable rendering of the Divines? Are they now affirming apparent contradictions? :)

    I’ve heard a bunch of qualifiers about how assent can take on the meaning of trust in light of personal propositions. Let’s deal with those qualifiers in a bit more detail now.

    Consider a man who rejects a woman’s love along with the gifts that might accompany that love while believing that the woman truly loves him. Is that not possible? Does a person necessarily receive something because he believes it to be true? No, I should say not. Many a person has rejected the loving commitment of another while believing the love was sincere. “Ah,” they will say, “you miss the point.” “When one assents to something personal and also believes that to receive it would be for his wellbeing, then he must then receive it, etc.” Really? What then becomes of suppression of beliefs and just plain stubbornness?

    For instance, a rebellious child can believe in his heart of hearts that his parents love him while simultaneously rejecting that love, even though he believes that to receive that love would be good for him. It is not that the child does not believe his parents love him. Rather, he might have a greater desire to cause his parents pain. Note well that the competing desires are: (i) to receive rest by receiving the parents’ love vs. (ii) receive twisted satisfaction by causing the parents additional pain. To choose the second option over the first does not undermine the premise that the child truly believes that receiving the parent’s love would be beneficial. He can even believe this with a great degree of certainty; yet sadly reject it for a greater desire for self-destruction. (At the very least, any truthful man knows what it is to stubbornly reject something they know would be good for them, like receiving directions when lost.)

    So then, even allowing for the belief alone crowd’s qualifier that trust, receiving and resting are nothing more than species of assent that pertain to personal propositions and one’s wellbeing – we’ve just now seen that receiving does not always accompany assent even when the propositions are personal and beneficial.

    Even though when God grants assent to gospel propositions He also grants the grace to receive and rest in Christ as Savior and Lord, it has just been showed according to the belief alone crowd’s own strictures that assents even when personal and beneficial are distinguishable from receiving and resting in that which is believed to be true. In a word, that two things can go together (or even must go together) doesn’t make them identical.

    To make this a bit more comprehensive I’ll add here that assent by definition does not include the exercise of the will. Assent is simply “to regard a proposition as true” regardless how the whole person gets there. Consequently, the Clarkian view of saving faith is not volitional by definition because it simply reduces to: knowledge + assent, and assent is properly and narrowly defined as regarding something as true (with no view to the will). By adding additional personal propositions to what is assented to does not make room for introducing volition into the mix. That to say, adding propositions cannot turn assent into trust,which is precisely why Clarkians must try to collapse volition into assent as they do.

  37. Ron said,

    August 2, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    The belief alone crowd would like to claim the Larger Catechism is on their side. They don’t merely want to say that their position is in bounds but, also, that the traditional position is out of bounds. Let’s talk about that.

    WLC 72 states:

    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.

    The Q&A teaches that the sinner not only assents to the promise of the gospel but also receives and rests upon the Person and work of Christ for forgiveness and righteousness. That reduction is not in dispute. The interpretation of what those words mean is what is disputed by the belief alone crowd.

    If the Divines thought that assent to personal propositions that pertain to one’s wellbeing means the same thing as trust, receive, rest, etc., then why wouldn’t they have written:

    “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, only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel.”

    More curious than that is why they conveyed the opposite by employing the negative “not only” if they meant to communicate “only”? Had the Divines written “only” rather than “not only” would the Clarkians have objected? I should say not, for that would be a perfect depiction of their position. Then how can they not object to what was actually written since a contrary statement would be most agreeable to them? Moreover, how can a Clarkian affirm WLC 72 and also maintain: “The knowledge+assent+trust hooey betrays a misunderstanding of the propositions (content) of the gospel, not merely what constitutes saving faith.” How does one reconcile the hooey remark with a favorable rendering of the Divines? Are they now affirming apparent contradictions? :)

    I’ve heard a bunch of qualifiers about how assent can take on the meaning of trust in light of personal propositions. Let’s deal with those qualifiers in a bit more detail now.

    Consider a man who rejects a woman’s love along with the gifts that might accompany that love while believing that the woman truly loves him. Is that not possible? Does a person necessarily receive something because he believes it to be true? No, I should say not. Many a person has rejected the loving commitment of another while believing the love was sincere. “Ah,” they will say, “you miss the point.” “When one assents to something personal and also believes that to receive it would be for his wellbeing, then he must then receive it, etc.” Really? What then becomes of suppression of beliefs and just plain stubbornness?

    For instance, a rebellious child can believe in his heart of hearts that his parents love him while simultaneously rejecting that love, even though he believes that to receive that love would be good for him. It is not that the child does not believe his parents love him. Rather, he might have a greater desire to cause his parents pain. Note well that the competing desires are: (i) to receive rest by receiving the parents’ love vs. (ii) receive twisted satisfaction by causing the parents additional pain. To choose the second option over the first does not undermine the premise that the child truly believes that receiving the parent’s love would be beneficial. He can even believe this with a great degree of certainty; yet sadly reject it for a greater desire for self-destruction. (At the very least, any truthful man knows what it is to stubbornly reject something they know would be good for them, like receiving directions when lost.)

    So then, even allowing for the belief alone crowd’s qualifier that trust, receiving and resting are nothing more than species of assent that pertain to personal propositions and one’s wellbeing – we’ve just now seen that receiving does not always accompany assent even when the propositions are personal and beneficial.

    Even though when God grants assent to gospel propositions He also grants the grace to receive and rest in Christ as Savior and Lord, it has just been showed according to the belief alone crowd’s own strictures that assents even when personal and beneficial are distinguishable from receiving and resting in that which is believed to be true. In a word, that two things can go together (or even must go together) doesn’t make them identical.

    To make this a bit more comprehensive I’ll add here that assent by definition does not include the exercise of the will. Assent is simply “to regard a proposition as true” regardless how the whole person gets there. Consequently, the Clarkian view of saving faith is not volitional by definition because it simply reduces to: knowledge + assent, and assent is properly and narrowly defined as regarding something as true (with no view to the will). By adding additional personal propositions to what is assented to does not make room for introducing volition into the mix. That to say, adding propositions cannot turn assent into trust,which is precisely why Clarkians must try to collapse volition into assent as they do.

  38. Hugh McCann said,

    August 2, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    Of course assent and trust are not synonymous.

    Knowledge + assent are synonymous with belief/ faith/ trust.

    Belief, faith, and trust are of course synonyms.

  39. Ron said,

    August 2, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    Hugh,

    With respect to the saving faith, I appreciate that with respect to your tagging of terms assent and trust are only synonymous when a full-orbed gospel knowledge is in place. I’ve honored that stricture in my internal critiques. However, in addition to that qualifier it also came forth from your camp that assent to personal propositions that are deemed beneficial makes assent synonymous to trust in any set of circumstances, evangelical or common. It was that qualifier that was just interacted with and I believe refuted.

    The belief-alone position has died a death of a thousand qualifications, been shown to be internally inconsistent while even being permitted to trade philosophical definitions for esoteric ones. Many of us have played along at every turn in an effort to expose this novel understanding of faith.

  40. Alan D. Strange said,

    August 2, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    Ron:

    Thanks for all your good work here. Sean has not, over on his blog (God’s Hammer), been able to provide a single Westminster Divine or subsequent Reformed theologian (other than Clark and Robbins and that’s the whole point–this is singular to their approach) who holds to their read of WLC 72.

    It is quite clear that WLC 72 and the way that we’ve read that through the years mean that the assent alone crowd are also alone in the way that they read WLC 72. Their read is an idiosyncratic one that means on this point they do not stand with but against the Reformed faith.

    The most disappointing part of this is that those who regard themselves as scripturalists refuse simply to admit “OK we don’t agree with WLC 72, but we think that it doesn’t agree with the Bible.” If they would simply acknowledge that their view is not the confessional one, this would at least help us get past that spurious claim that it is: It is neither what the Divines teach nor what anyone else thinks that the Divines teach.

  41. Hugh McCann said,

    August 2, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    Justification by Trust Alone

    Dr Strange offers a helpful & telling quote:

    It has seemed plain to us all (and thus the animus imponentis* with respect to this in NAPARC churches) that what the Divines meant was that justifying faith not only assents to the truth of the promise of the gospel, that is to say, believes that life is held forth to all who believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ, but also, and in addition to that, actually receive and rest upon Christ himself, which is to say, Christ and his righteousness, that the gospel holds forth. We both believe the truth of the promise of the gospel and trust in the person of Christ.

    So, what is the promise of the gospel? That there is life in who Christ is and what He’s done. Back of that what is the gospel? The doing and dying of the God-man, the active and passive obedience of the theanthropic [divine & human] person, the one mediator between God and man. And the promise of the gospel is that all who trust Him alone have everlasting life. So true justifying faith not only believes that but further (thus the import of “not only”) receives and rests upon Christ and his righteousness.

    It is helpful that Strange differentiates between what the gospel promises, and the gospel proper. One is the sure hope of eternal life and the other, the work (“the doing and dying”) of Christ on behalf of his elect. Confusing these two would be unhelpful.

    WLC 72 saith of saving faith that it “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.”

    It too makes the necessary distinction between the promise and the Promiser (or, the Promised One). So #72 is not differentiating between faith and some sort of “super-faith,” it distinguishes between assenting “to the truth of the promise of the gospel” (that there is eternal life for those who believe the gospel) and assenting to the gospel (Christ died for our sins acc. to the Scriptures, etc., per 1 Cor. 15:3f).

    Which assent I assert (coupled with knowledge/ understanding) is synonymous with the standards’ “accepting, receiving and resting.”

    It should be rather straight-forward that knowledge (or understanding) of + assent to the gospel propositions of 1 Cor. 15:3f constitute saving faith/ belief/ trust.

    Your WCF 14:2 saith: “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.”

    These “acts” or works of faith refer to the assent element of faith.

    Thus, faith/ belief/ trust = knowledge/ understanding + assent to/ acceptance or reception of/ rest upon the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Accepting/ receiving/ resting upon Jesus is to assent to the gospel of 1 Cor. 15:3f.

    ___________________________

    * W. Gary Crampton has a helpful article on this concept as used in the OPC & PCA. We quote in part:

    Like the hermeneutic of trust, the doctrine of the animus imponentis places the words of fallible men in authority over the Word of God. Recent church developments show what great damage this can cause… It is not only significant that the hermeneutic of trust draws attention away from Scripture, but also that it draws attention to something that theologians have called the animus imponentis, or “the intention of the imposing body.” Men of religious academia often use Latin phrases when plain English would suffice, and would make what they are saying much more intelligible to church members. Unfortunately, the use of the Latin may also impart an aura of special authority and significance to words of human wisdom, elevating them to something approaching the status of holy writ when they are nothing of the sort.”
    @ http://www.teachingtheword.org/apps/articles/?articleid=74617&columnid=5772

  42. Hugh McCann said,

    August 2, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    Ron, I am merely trying to point out that not everyone in our “camp” “makes assent synonymous to trust.” (Or belief/ faith.)

  43. Ron said,

    August 2, 2014 at 6:18 pm

    Hugh,

    I could give your point some credence if instead of congratulating each other at every turn somebody actually broke rank and challenged another’s premise within the group. (You do see that sort of thing from the traditional side from time to time.) As it stands, there is a bit more going on here than tacit approval within your ranks. The belief alone constituency walks more lockstep than the FV leadership. Until that stops, I think it’s more than fair to interpret the position in light of what Sean, Roger and Clark have written. Even if you have any substantial disagreement with them, it wouldn’t really matter much since it’s best to deal with one abberant view at a time and their position is now rather well defined.

  44. Ron said,

    August 2, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    Alan,

    Yes, it is obvious that they deny the Westminster standards; yet to come forth and acknowledge that truth comes at too high a price. They would have to admit, once and for all, that they do not stand on the shoulders of the Westminster Divines. They would have to confess without apology that they are at odds with God’s greatest movement in the history of the New Testament church, the Protestant Reformation. Where might they turn to find fellowship over this doctrine they call the gospel?

    I find a bit of hypocrisy here too. What they refuse to do is the very thing they have challenged the Federal Visionists to do. Admit who they are and move on.

  45. theoldadam said,

    August 2, 2014 at 7:05 pm

    I have to say that this is absolutely the best sermon that I have ever heard on the subject of who chooses whom:

    [audio src="http://theoldadam.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/i-believe-that-i-cannot-believe.mp3" /]

    Give it 5 min. and I do believe you’ll finish it.

  46. Ron said,

    August 2, 2014 at 9:51 pm

    This just in…

    It is the Van Tillian system that turns the scriptures into a mass of contradictory statements making it say things it does not, the Clarkian system is not guilty of this. And, I’m convinced this is the core of the problem. The Van Tillian is unwilling to reconcile the statements in scripture and hurls railing accusation on those who do, much like the Lutheran. Both, practically, deny that man is God’s image.

    I might add that Clark in his book ‘What is Saving Faith’ takes some of the most notable Reformed theologians to task for their inconsistent understanding of the word ‘faith.’ I believe Manton, Owen, Hodge, and even Calvin were among them.

    So, the core problem is a professor who manned a classroom for 43 years in Glenside, Pennsylvania in the 1900’s.Yet the problem actually preceded this professor by a clerk to the assembly who was commissioned to write a preface to an edition to the standards; another, an English theologian regarded by many as the greatest theologian among the Puritans; a principal of Old Princeton in the 1800’s; and to top it all off, even a 16th century theologian who is widely regarded by Protestants as the most gifted theologian since the time of the apostles.

    Well, this certainly underscores one point, whether true or not, that even if Clarkianism has it right on faith, it’s at odds with the Protestant tradition. I’m now only left to ask why no seminary professor or pastor has taken upon themselves the mantle of Clark? Am I to believe that God has left this task to Sean and his band of merry men? Or, is it more reasonable to think that the belief alone crowd might have missed something along the way in the Confession, if not also in sacred Scripture.

    Indeed, as Alan remarked elsewhere, as Protestants we’re not afraid to go against counsels and standards (albeit with soberness of mind), but let no one pretend any longer that the Protestant tradition has departed from the Divines.

    Be well warned Clarkians (once again), your reward will be great or you’ll suffer much loss. At the very least, I’d encourage you to pause and reconsider that your numbers are not just few; they’re in single digits. Now we all know that God can do more with less, but do you really think that is what He is doing in church history, reclaiming the gospel through your efforts? How privileged you must feel.

    Now Sean wisely distances himself a bit from “justbybelief’s” (Eric’s) analyses, noting that those stalwarts mostly had it right on faith. Mostly?

    Sean, I’d suggest you settle the boys down a bit. The wheels are coming off on both sides. Pour yourself a stiff one and call it a day.

    Good Lord’s Day to all.

  47. Alan D. Strange said,

    August 2, 2014 at 11:03 pm

    And there are more (than Manton, Owen, Hodge, and Calvin), Ron, if you read Clark’s book.And this is the whole point: whatever it is that the assent-alone crowd believe, it’s not the Reformed faith as we’ve historically known and confessed it. They do not track with the Divines on WLC 72 or all the confessional churches’ reading of WLC 72,

    They have to make their argument from the Bible. And you would think that those who call themselves “scripturalists” wouldn’t mind this, except that this is no minor matter for the Reformation. Since justification was central and crucial to all the Reformers of the 16th century and the Puritans of the 17th, to differ with them on the nature of justifying faith (as set forth in WLC 72) is no small matter. This is not like differing on the sorts of things for which scruples might be allowed in the judicatories of confessional churches. And to try to make this the Clark/Van Til debate is quite remarkable. Of course, Van Til would differ with Clark on this, but so would everyone else, including a whole host of people who would differ with Van Til.

    I could start listing off non Van Tilian office-bearers in the OPC. But I can’t list a single office-bearer who would hold to Clark’s position. I am not saying that they don’t exist (certainly no theologians or pastors) but even famous Clarkians like Henry, Nash, Reymond, and others did not hold to this position. Occasionally, Sean or another of them seek to adduce Augustine, which is nothing short of incredible, since Augustine believed that knowledge and assent constituted unformed faith and was in no sense saving or justifying. Something more was needed to form faith and Aquinas said to have formed (saving) faith, one had to add “caritas” (love) to the unformed faith of mere assent. It’s either not honest or not knowing to claim any of the ancient and medieval church as regarding what they call justifiying faith as being anything more than unformed faith.

    Sean wants to call it counting noses. You can read my reply to that and other things over on his blog (God’s Hammer).

    To all, have a good Lord’s Day!

  48. Ron said,

    August 2, 2014 at 11:33 pm

    Noted, Alan, and I’m current on Sean’s site.

    I am grieved over this entire ordeal. These internal battles are necessary at times but they are emotionally draining and seem to be too frequent.

    I think we all need a rest.

    With you, Good Lord’s Day to all! :)

  49. Jason Loh said,

    August 3, 2014 at 1:49 am

    Hugh McCann,

    Why do you have Luther’s pix for your gravatar when you don’t subscribe to his teachings?

  50. Alan D. Strange said,

    August 3, 2014 at 6:44 am

    I’ve ended things over on Sean’s blog because of other pressing matters (preaching today and leaving very early for vacation tomorrow), but chiefly because he’s at the end of his rope. He’s now demanded that I provide citations proving what everyone (including Clark and Robbins) has already conceded to be true: that the Reformed tradition teaches that justifying faith is not by assent alone but also involves trust.

    We all know how the tradition defines faith; the question is how the innovators define it. My ability to contribute to this discussion, certainly for now, has come to an end, but it seems that if this is where the discussion has come, it’s really quite over. No one disputes what the historic Reformed definition of faith is; the only question is whether Clark’s novel definition corrects the tradition or errs. We maintain that it errs and now we have a bunch of Clarkians saying, “Well, what really is the tradition anyway?”

    I think the point, then, that this debate has arrived at is as close to a concession as we’ll get from these men. I’ll close here with what I did over there: the reminder to us all that Christ alone is our only hope and help and quoting the last words of J. Gresham Machen (in his telegram to John Murray): “so thankful for active obedience of Christ; no hope without it.”

  51. Hugh McCann said,

    August 3, 2014 at 9:25 am

    Jason Loh #49 – not that I owe you (whomever you are) an answer, but

    (1) I like his chutzpah,
    (2) It’s a neat hat,
    (3) I like the stuff he got right.

    Now leave me alone. Thank you.

  52. Jason Loh said,

    August 3, 2014 at 10:22 am

    Hugh McCann,

    Stop kidding yourself.

    Now, let us get one thing straight: The stuff that Luther got right is precisely the stuff that you reject.

    For Luther, faith is not intellectual illumination which is what understanding is for you. IOW, faith equals SIGHT — just that Aristotelian empiricism is replaced with rationalism. IOW, instead of physical experience that furnishes knowledge of the truth, we have intellectual insight.

    This is sheer theology of glory and a form of intellectual elitism paralleling liberalism, and charismaticism.

    Faith is in a simple utterance (in contrast to a proposition or a doctrinal formula) that functions as the performative word so that the promise of the gospel is identical to the gospel itself. The external word does what it says and says what it does.

    The burden therefore shifts back from the hearer to the preacher. Faith as mental assent makes it into law, demand, condition, etc. That’s emphatically not what the Reformation was about.

  53. Hugh McCann said,

    August 3, 2014 at 10:55 am

    OK….. Have a nice day, Jason. :)

  54. Ryan said,

    August 3, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    “…in assenting to what the Father says in His word, I implicitly trust or depend on the Father Himself. But since neither He nor I just are propositions, this requires that what mental state the word “trust” corresponds to is something other than mere assent. I can’t assent to something non-propositional, at least not in the Scripturalist sense. But clearly I can rely or depend on (trust) something non-propositional.”

    http://unapologetica.blogspot.com/2014/08/what-is-saving-faith.html

    Thanks for the discussion, Ron.

  55. Ron said,

    August 3, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    Ryan,

    Your encouraging post brings to mind a parody that has been on my mind but I had been reluctant to post it. I think it has now found an appropriate place in the thread .

    Two men went up to the temple to pray, a mere struggling man and a struggling rationalistic.

    Man 1: “Lord, in my weakness I doubt your promises. Strengthen me as cling to you. As I reach out to you, please take my hand and pull me out of my anguish. Grant me the grace to trust you more. Please cause me to rely upon you day by day for this life and the life to come. I receive your love anew. Cause me, oh Lord, to surrender my affections, will and totality of my being to your service.”

    Man 2: “Lord, in my weakness I doubt your promises as I allow contrary assents to assail me. Strengthen me as I assent. As I strive to assent, please strengthen my assent and save me from my anguish with stronger propositional conviction. Grant me the grace to assent more. Please cause me to assent to your promises day by day for this life and the life to come. I assent to your love anew. Cause me, oh Lord, to assent with my mind alone to what it means to surrender to your service.”

  56. Steve M said,

    August 3, 2014 at 8:45 pm

    Ron
    If that was an attempt at humor, I wouldn’t give up my day job, if I were you.

  57. Ron said,

    August 3, 2014 at 9:30 pm

    Actually, it wasn’t. It was intended to make a point. No Clarkian prays that way. When they get on their knees they affirm the Reformed doctrine of faith, while even acknowledging that they and God are more than just sets of propositions.

  58. Hugh McCann said,

    August 3, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    No we don’t! Plus, we sit in chairs differently.

  59. theoldadam said,

    August 3, 2014 at 9:58 pm

    Luther did get a lot right, didn’t he?

    He said some terrible things, too. But he said an enormous amount of wonderful things. Liberating and freeing things.

    But then again…he was just parroting Paul…was wasn’t (isn’t) much appreciated most of the time.

  60. Ron said,

    August 3, 2014 at 10:41 pm

    Hugh,

    How does a set of propositions, or if you prefer two sets since you probably affirm two-persons, hear and mediate prayer? Secondly, how does an abstraction make atonement for sins?

  61. Hugh McCann said,

    August 3, 2014 at 10:47 pm

    Hi Ron,

    All I know about the divine Persons are their propositions they’ve given me. And perfectly satisfactory these are!

    There’s nothing abstract about God’s auto-biographical testimony.

    Stop denigrating Scripture. It’s unbecoming an RE.

  62. Ron said,

    August 3, 2014 at 11:50 pm

    All I know about the divine Persons are their propositions they’ve given me. And perfectly satisfactory these are!

    Hugh,

    You’ve not answered the questions. How can propositions atone for sins? And, how do propositions hear and mediate prayer? I’m not concerned with your view of what sorts of things can be known.

    To press matters further, because it’s so closely related maybe you might explain how you deduce from the propositions of Scripture that persons are propositions. I can’t seem to deduce that conclusion and I’m quite sure that Scripture doesn’t state that proposition in any single statement.

    There’s nothing abstract about God’s auto-biographical testimony

    The word is not physical or concrete, which would seem to make it abstract. Now of course you might want to call the Word the markings of ink on paper, but that that would mean the Word wouldn’t exist with the passing away of our Bibles. No, we must maintain that the Word is abstract. But that’s got nothing to do with what I asked. I didn’t ask you how something abstract atoned for the sins of the world. I asked you how an abstraction did?

  63. Hugh McCann said,

    August 4, 2014 at 12:02 am

    Ron – How or why (in your opinion) is Christ an abstraction in our system?

    All that’s knowable about God, Christ, atonement, et. al., is from the Bible’s propositions. Surely you agree here.

    Who said a proposition atones, hears or mediates? You accusatorially question me, but I did not say that.

  64. Ron said,

    August 4, 2014 at 12:21 am

    I wrote: No Clarkian prays that way. When they get on their knees they affirm the Reformed doctrine of faith, while even acknowledging that they and God are more than just sets of propositions.

    You responded: No we don’t!

    Hugh,

    You were pretty clear with your concise exclamation that you reject the traditional understanding of the Reformed doctrine of faith and that persons are more than just propositions.

    Are you saying you don’t believe that persons are the propositions they think?

  65. Hugh McCann said,

    August 4, 2014 at 12:38 am

    We don’t “affirm the Reformed doctrine of faith,” if by that you mean the F=K+A+T nonsense. That was also why the silly chair reference.

    (For us, F/B/T=K+A.)

    As for, “while even acknowledging that they and God are more than just sets of propositions,” I don’t even think about such things, since I cannot acknowledge or know God apart from the propositions I read from & about him in his word. Anything beyond what he’s given us there, is unhelpful speculation.

    I can say with you that the divine “persons are more than just propositions,” but whatever that more *is,* is unknowable until glory. And just *how* we’ll know there, I am not given in Writ.

    He is unknowable to us apart from his propositions, right?

    As for, “Are you saying you don’t believe that persons are the propositions they think?”, I don’t understand the question.

  66. Ron said,

    August 4, 2014 at 12:48 am

    I can say with you that the divine “persons are more than just propositions

    Sounds like a good place to stop, other than to add maybe that all persons are more than just propositions. At the very least, propositions don’t think nor are they morally responsible agents created in God’s likeness and renewed in Christ’s image.

    Sleep well.

    Ron

  67. Reed Here said,

    August 4, 2014 at 10:50 am

    Hugh, I’m gonna call an audible on some of your criticisms on Ron. Please remove the mocking tone. It is disrespectful and distracting.

    (And yes, this applies to anyone else. As in, don’t use mockery against the person with whom you are discussing.)

    Thanks.

    Reed, moderator

  68. rfwhite said,

    August 4, 2014 at 11:19 am

    Ron: with regard to belief relative to Jesus’ resurrection, what would you say we can infer from the conspiracy of the chief priests and elders and the Roman guard in Matt 28.11-15? Did they believe in the resurrection of Jesus? If so, did their belief differ from the apostles’ belief? In what way(s)?

  69. Ron said,

    August 4, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    I’m not sure what they thought. While working on the spin they might have been like Scarlet who always wanted to think about things tomorrow. However, had they believed based upon the testimony of flesh and blood and not God (Mt 16:17), not having been taught God (John 6:45), then they would be as lost as the man with the unclean spirit who recognize Jesus for who He was (Mark 1:22, 23).

    Thoughts?

  70. Ron said,

    August 4, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    Dr. White,

    Sorry for rushed post and typos. At rest stop with long trip ahead. On cell device.

  71. Hugh McCann said,

    August 4, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    Reed, Of course.

    Please point out the offending post[s] and I will accordingly repent and recant if need be. Thank you.

  72. Hugh McCann said,

    August 4, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    @ rfWhite #70 – “For our sins” (1 Cor. 15:3, cf. Isa. 53:4-6) is the critical gospel qualifier.

    Demon faith knows that Christ rose, but saving faith knows that the crucifixion and resurrection are for one’s sins (not mankind’s universally) and justification – Rom. 4:25.

  73. Joshua Butcher said,

    August 4, 2014 at 11:05 pm

    The parable of the sower (Luke 8) seems to imply a distinction between assent to a proposition and the dispositional valence (degree of trust) associated with that assent. The first soil seems to lack both assent and trust (they hear, but the devil steals the word before they can believe). The second soil has a positive disposition (“receive the word with joy”) and assents to the word (“believes for awhile”), but lacks one or the other, or both of these in accordance with saving faith. The third soil perhaps assent (perhaps not), but seem to lack positive disposition (“go out and are choked with cares. . .”). The fourth soil hears the word, keeps it (perhaps meaning assent and trust; as the Greek is katecho; hold fast, take possession of), and bears fruit in patience.

    Too much of a stretch?

  74. Ron said,

    August 4, 2014 at 11:16 pm

    Hugh,

    Your post 74 misses wide the mark. It’s not a matter of dispute that when one *knows* that the crucifixion and resurrections are for his personal sins and justification he is saved. The reason being, one can only *know* something that is true. Consequently, anyone who *knows* Jesus died for him must be a true believer.

    Dr. White’s query had to do with whether one can *believe* in Jesus and not be saved. How could you miss this most elementary point if you are indeed qualified to take the historical Reformed tradition to task? (As a side note, it’s hard for me to grasp how one can be true to his Scripturalism and suggest that anyone can know he is saved (as you suggest one can) since personal salvation for the Clarkian cannot be derived from Scripture for the simple reason that one’s personal existence is not a proposition contained in Scripture.)

    I’ll stick my neck out here on a more general observation. You’ve only posted a few times in this thread and your remarks have been careless at best if not a strong indicator that you’re not acquainted with the subject you apparently hold so stridently. First you rejected that persons are more than propositions, then you took that back. You then confused the notion of abstract with that of abstraction, even claiming Scripture was not abstract. Now you’ve confused knowledge with false belief in a discussion pertaining to saving faith.

    I truly feel sorry for you, Hugh. You don’t understand what you’re talking about and in your defense you cannot cite one denomination or confessional standard that agrees with your view of justifying faith.

    The last thing I want to be is severe upon Christian who is so obviously confused and trying to find his way, so please don’t take me as getting back. I’m merely trying to point out to you, for your sake, that you don’t understand anything – not one thing, regarding what this discussion is about. Maybe that’s why you are so quick to make such cutting remarks. This isn’t the first time that this has occurred and it won’t be the last unless you do repent (as you say you’re willing to do if shown wrong). I can only suspect that you lash out as you do because you know you’re in over your head and your confidence is in Clark and his most ardent followers, but that’s just a hunch.

    As I said many posts ago, maybe, just maybe you handful of guys are God’s instrument for this slice of church history. Just maybe the gospel will be rediscovered and reclaimed because of the handful of Clarkians out there. But then again, maybe it’s they who have it wrong. Just realize that you are up against the entire Reformed tradition both past and present.

  75. Ron said,

    August 4, 2014 at 11:20 pm

    Hi Josh,

    I’m really fine with that application. With you, I don’t want to build too much theology on a parable but I’m real fine taking the main point as applying to this discussion. Spot on.

  76. Hugh McCann said,

    August 4, 2014 at 11:24 pm

    @ Reed #69, What are the specific instances of sin in my interactions with Ron? I am missing them in my posts.

    You’ve accused me of mockery. Is not #56 a mocking, degrading, and taunting post?

    Your criteria for judging and choosing a target for criticism are unclear.

    Please rebuke me for specific sins, or else retract your accusation. It may be a false one, sir. In which case, I’d owe you reproof in love.

    Or if anyone else here can tell me where I am sinning in my replies to Ron’s queries, please do so.

    Thank you.

  77. Ron said,

    August 4, 2014 at 11:26 pm

    Consequently, anyone who *knows* Jesus died for him must be a true believer.

    For anyone following along that is not a five point Calvinist, that comment might be a bit confusing. I’m operating from the premise that Jesus only died for the elect. Accordingly, if one *knows* Jesus died for him, then it must be true (since we can only know true things). Secondly, if one *knows* it, then his belief has the justification of God’s witness to him. Therefore, he must also be converted and not just one of God’s elect “awaiting” conversion.

  78. Hugh McCann said,

    August 4, 2014 at 11:28 pm

    Ron, Thanks for replying. I will respond ASAP.

    Can you tell if/ where I have sinned against you in our interactions?

    Reed has accused me of using a “disrespectful,” “mocking tone” with you.

  79. Hugh McCann said,

    August 4, 2014 at 11:29 pm

    We are at last (at least here) in full agreement: I’m operating from the premise that Jesus only died for the elect. Accordingly, if one *knows* Jesus died for him, then it must be true (since we can only know true things). Secondly, if one *knows* it, then his belief has the justification of God’s witness to him. Therefore, he must also be converted and not just one of God’s elect “awaiting” conversion.

  80. Ron said,

    August 4, 2014 at 11:32 pm

    Stop denigrating Scripture. It’s unbecoming an RE.

    Hugh,

    I would suggest Reed had that in mind. I feel bad for you making that remark. You shouldn’t have done it, but my concern runs in two directions. Aside from the obvious, your premise begs the question of whether I’m actually denigrating Scripture. Until you can establish that point, along with the point that Westminster standards and every systematic theology in the Reformed tradition has faith wrong, you might want to tread more carefully, especially given that you are seemingly ill equipped to engage on these matters.

  81. Hugh McCann said,

    August 4, 2014 at 11:54 pm

    TO the Moderators, RE: Ron’s #76.

    Before I post my reply to Ron, I want to know if you, the admins here, agree with his strong assessment.

    In essence, he is calling me incompetent (and perhaps worse), saying that I don’t know what I’m talking about, etc.

    This implies that I ought not to be posting here. I’d like to know what you all think, as one of you has accused me of being disrespectful* and mocking,** and now Ron’s has gone further.

    I am not unreasonable or intentionally ungodly, no matter how stupid or rude I may be perceived to be.

    Thank you,
    Hugh

    * Was Ron being disrespectful in his tone with me? It is a strongly-worded post, but I the moderators might be more objective than am I, being Ron’s target.

    ** I still await Reed’s sharing with me what exactly I’ve said that was disrespectful or mocking in my correspondence with Ron here.

  82. Hugh McCann said,

    August 5, 2014 at 12:17 am

    Thanks, Ron.

    First, I admit confusion over this exchange we’ve had:

    What do you mean in your posts below, where you say ?

    You said in 61: “How does a set of propositions, or if you prefer two sets since you probably affirm two-persons, hear and mediate prayer? Secondly, how does an abstraction make atonement for sins?”

    Then I said in 62: “All I know about the divine Persons are their propositions they’ve given me. And perfectly satisfactory these are!

    “There’s nothing abstract about God’s auto-biographical testimony.

    “Stop denigrating Scripture. It’s unbecoming an RE.”

    —————–
    Then,
    R 63: I didn’t ask you how something abstract atoned for the sins of the world. I asked you how an abstraction did?

    H 64: How or why (in your opinion) is Christ an abstraction in our system?

    R 76: You then confused the notion of abstract with that of abstraction, even claiming Scripture was not abstract.

    Please explain. I hear you saying that we know Christ as more than the propositions we’ve received, and that you were mocking the idea in calling him “a set of propositions.”

    He is only known through the propositions of Scripture; hence, my reproof that you were denigrating the Bible. I am not mocking, O am serious.

    But, how is Jesus (in our system, in your opinion) “an abstraction”?

  83. Hugh McCann said,

    August 5, 2014 at 12:20 am

    Secondly, Ron I am not asserting “that [the] Westminster standards and every systematic theology in the Reformed tradition has faith wrong.”

    You and I disagree over interpreting these, but I am not attacking them.

    Others may have, but I’ve tried to say that we too are in accord with the historical records.

    I must retire for tonight. Thank you for engaging.

  84. theoldadam said,

    August 5, 2014 at 12:29 am

    “Jesus died for the whole world”.

    Read your Bible.

    But not all come to faith. Why not? That’s God’s business.

  85. Ron said,

    August 5, 2014 at 12:30 am

    Hugh,

    Your flurry of comments in the last 24 hours have not addressed the issue at hand; have denied basic Clarkian tenets; have conflicted with your own previous remarks; and conflated belief with knowledge. They’ve been most imprecise at every turn, even undermining your own thoughts and the implication of the Clarkian thesis. This wouldn’t be as big a deal if you weren’t saying that to teach trust in Christ is to denigrate Scripture and bring reproach upon an office I take seriously before God. Because you say the latter, which is no small charge, I do well to point out the former things. If you can’t get your own thoughts in order, then what qualifies you to judge the entire Reformed tradition on what constitutes faith?

    At the very least, please produce an elder or two who think the traditional view on faith is wrong. As far as you should be concerned, I’m not the only one who denigrates Scripture. All ordained servants who are sworn to uphold the Westminster standards are in the same boat. By taking pot shots at me you’re taking pot shots at all Reformed elders who affirm the insufficiency of assent alone. Just read the comments box over at Sean’s blog. As I relayed to a pastor the other day, that alone was the impetus for this guest blog post of mine. This bashing of pastors needs to stop. You have a problem, then fight it out in your presbytery. Begin with your own session who apparently must disagree with you. If you won’t be Reformed on the matter of faith, then be Reformed in your polity.

  86. Ron said,

    August 5, 2014 at 12:31 am

    Sleep well, Hugh.

  87. Ron said,

    August 5, 2014 at 12:37 am

    Hugh,

    I just read 84 and 85. I will only engage you you over the phone on these matters. This forum is just not working for us.

  88. Ron said,

    August 5, 2014 at 8:30 am

    Steve,

    It is apparent that your posts here (other than the one to Scott) are merely an attempt to taunt and not to advance a position, let alone interact with the Reformed view of faith.

    You began with this remark toward me: “You have perfected the art of gibberish.” When I made light of the personal ad hominem slur by noting that it was a rare unequivocal remark, unlike what marked most of what we read in the first thread (noted by more than just myself), you then made the incredulous claim that the defenders of the Reformed position have equivocated in this discussion, calling us the “belief plus who-knows-what camp.” With nothing pertinent to say (let alone truthful) you followed up with a dripping sarcasm in post 16. Then there was your non-argument offered in post 57 and now this latest sarcastic remark.

    I need not voice any inferences from the trail you have left behind.

  89. Ron said,

    August 5, 2014 at 8:41 am

    Hugh,

    You have said on this site that the PCA is not a Reformed communion and have raised the question of whether PCA ministers need to be brought up on charges. You have a bitter habit of going after ordained servants.You might admire Luther, but you have not come in his spirit by a long shot.

    With that as a backdrop, I have no problem exposing your lack of understanding as I have. False accusers are not smoldering wicks.

  90. Ron said,

    August 5, 2014 at 8:42 am

    P.S. The offer always stands to discuss things over the phone.

  91. Reed Here said,

    August 5, 2014 at 8:51 am

    Ron: no. 76, this is not something Hugh particularly asked about, but in response to his request that a moderator assess your comment:

    Language like “I feel sorry for you,” may come across as condescending. I’m not saying you intend that. Indeed, knowing you and watching you mature in your walk with Christ these past years I’d say if anything (and I leave that to your conscience), it most likely is not considering the needs of your discussion partner.

    Thanks for considering my advice here and appropriating it as led by the Lord. Peace and joy brother.

  92. Reed Here said,

    August 5, 2014 at 9:03 am

    Hugh: your plethora of increasing intense requests.

    Ron offered you the one comment that drew my attention most, your denigrating of his office for holding to what is the reformed position on this topic. There was a few other comments where your wording could be read as mocking the person (not allowed) vs. mocking the argument (allowed).

    I’ll not list those instances because to do so would be to submit to your wrong interpretation of my admonition. The use of the cliche, “call and audible,” was an express inference to refereeing a football game. Infractions in a football game are violations of man’s rules, BUT NOT sin. It appears that you have an extremely tender conscience. I was not aware of that. If I was I would have spoken in even gentle, kinder terms.. I was asking you to watch your tone, as you appeared to be crossing the line from dealing with the argument to dealing with the person. I never said you were sinning, nor did I necessarily infer that. Hope this helps.

    As to Ron’s post no. 56, might I ask if you discussed this with Steve McGuire? I’ll be glad to give my opinion on that post after you answer that question. Thanks.

    As to Ron’s post no. 76, as you can see in my immediately previous comment, yes I do think Ron needs to consider how some of his choice of words might be read by you.

    At the same time, if you want me to moderate comments at that level, then I simply need to observe that you have been offering similar comments, maybe not as strongly worded, for quite a while. I suggest you and Ron agree to limit your critique to each other’s arguments and leave out references to the person making the argument. If however you want to continue to move in that direction, as long as you are not denigrating one another, I’ll allow a mild level of inference toward each other.

    I strongly recommend you simply ask Ron to not do so, and promise you won’t.

  93. Ron said,

    August 5, 2014 at 9:03 am

    Reed,

    As God as my witness, I meant that in the spirit of actual sorrow for this man. Say the words “I feel sorry for you” in the most kindest tone you can and believe that was my posture. I have no place in my imagination for ever using that phrase as a dig. Those I’ve interacted with off line on this have a better appreciation for my heart toward some of these guys and the impetus for why I even posted.

    In any case, I now regret my choice of words has given you reason to even say such a thing.

  94. Reed Here said,

    August 5, 2014 at 9:05 am

    Steve McGuire, you are free to engage in debating the topic. You are not allowed to stir the pot between brothers. Cease and desist.

  95. Tim Harris said,

    August 5, 2014 at 9:10 am

    It’s always frustrating dealing with Clarkians cuz you always feel that you are ON THE VERGE of having a discussion with an intelligent human, but it always veers to the ad hominem plus special pleading. There is so much zeal to defend the program that i think there is a fear to explore definitions and concepts. Even starting with what the meaning of ‘is’ is. So in one debate, they say a person “is” a “bundle of propositions,” but then when some of the obvious objections are pointed out, later on will blurt out “of course this presupposes a subject making the propositions.” It does? But then that subject must be the person, and thus can’t actually “be” a bundle of propositions. So then what did it mean to say that a person is a bundle of propositions?

    One wants to “help” them along. “You mean, a person, per se beyond definition, is distinguished from another person by at least one property that differs, and these properties can always be described in propositions, hence, a person’s unique identity can be defined by the specific bundle of propositions that describe his properties.” But they won’t sign up. In this case, they probably feel in their bones that then they would just be stating Leibnitz’ principle of identity in rather convoluted form. So they won’t unpack. Instead, your inability (let us say) to give a definition of “person” that satisfies them convinces them that their slogan must be right, regardless of the problems. Their man said so.

  96. Ron said,

    August 5, 2014 at 9:10 am

    then I simply need to observe that you have been offering similar comments, maybe not as strongly worded, for quite a while

    Not as strongly worded, Reed? Wasn’t it Hugh who claimed the PCA has kissed the whore so long it can’t help but have V.D.?

  97. Reed Here said,

    August 5, 2014 at 9:36 am

    Ron, I did not see that comment, as I’ve not been following the discussion word for word. I’m grateful for your willingness to engage and trust in your wisdom to “carry the load” this time. Accordingly I’ve only been doing a spot check from comment to comment, looking at representative comments from various folks. I certainly haven’t read them all (e.g., the comment made by Steve McGuire to which you refer).

    I was trying to offer a judgment based on two factors:

    1) not having a list of everything Hugh has said, but working off a representative sample, and

    2) consideration of Hugh’s sensitivity (i.e., the tenderness of conscience he has exhibited); if I’d worded it more strongly I think I would be obligated to offer him chapter and verse.

    Accordingly, I’d ask you to please bear with my willingness to be forbearing with Hugh. The example you cite only goes to prove my point. If Hugh is willing to make such harsh comments as that then my effort at gentle admonishment should be all the more heeded.

  98. Reed Here said,

    August 5, 2014 at 9:36 am

    Tim: amen.

  99. Reed Here said,

    August 5, 2014 at 9:51 am

    And Ron, I do apologize for the way those words, “not as strongly worded,” unfairly burden you. That is not my intention.

    The comparison for those words was not ALL Hugh’s and your comments to one another, but only one or two within the last couple dozen. I by no means suggest that I’m describing ALL Y’ALLs words. :)

    Please bear with me here Ron. I’m striving to be forbearing with Hugh in light of his tenderness of conscience. I am hopeful, that even if Hugh disagrees with my assessment or even the quality of it he will nevertheless appreciate that I am in faith striving to be equitable, and that he will respond to you in faith with a bit more kindness and carefulness in his words.

    If however Hugh insists on requiring me to use Solomon’s sword, I expect no push back when it appears that I can be sloppy with chopping. I’m no Solomon and this conversation is not so vaulted in its importance that it will be recorded in Scripture where Solomon’s judgments are, let alone for future debate in some Sunday School classroom.

  100. Hugh McCann said,

    August 5, 2014 at 9:59 am

    Reed @94. Agreed. Thank you.

  101. Hugh McCann said,

    August 5, 2014 at 9:59 am

    Ron – This seems a good suggestion from Reed: I suggest you and Ron agree to limit your critique to each other’s arguments and leave out references to the person making the argument. If however you want to continue to move in that direction, as long as you are not denigrating one another, I’ll allow a mild level of inference toward each other.

    Following his lead, I am here asking you that you and I thus do so. Further, I will not use this forum to denigrate you.

    I see your repeated calls for telephone interaction. At this juncture, I think it unnecessary. We are here debating at this moderated* public forum, where we have at least some level of accountability with men well acquainted with the issues being discussed.

    In any event, I should reply to your #76, above, as it raises a number of theological and personal points.

    Hugh

    * By men generally in agreement with you.

  102. Tim Harris said,

    August 5, 2014 at 10:00 am

    Chapter 14 of WCF titled “of saving faith” is a wonderful and rich piece of work, but unless I am very cross-eyed, there is no attempt at a definition of faith let alone saving faith. Instead, it discusses its cause (section 1), things a Christian does “by this faith” (2), and makes some remarks about quantity (3).

    This, I think, so far from being a flub, is brilliant on the part of the divines. Faith, like personhood itself, is a transcendental concept that cannot be defined directly. It would be like a fish trying to define water. He can make some distinctions (“the thing I bump into is not water”) and he can refute some errors (“no, we fish are not the same as water”) but he can’t “get to the bottom” of it.

    Thinking he could get all the way to the bottom of the matter is the mistake Clark made on this subject, as well as every subject.

    There are two aspects of faith delineated in 14.2 that are, I believe, fatal to Clark’s program. First, it speaks of different genres of discourse, not all of which are propositional. Let me focus just on “commands” to illustrate. The significance of a command cannot be exhausted by a series of true propositions. When the colonel yells “charge!” this is not identical to the conjunction of (1) “the colonel desires that men run up the hill,” (2) “any man not doing what the colonel desires will be court martialled or ridiculed,” (3) “no man wants to be court martialled or ridiculed,” (4) etc etc.

    The Clarkians will immediately scream, “mysticism!” But not at all. Of course we must understand what “charge” means, just as we must, in order to grasp propositions, understand other words. But knowing what something means is not the same as reducing it to a conjunction of propositions.

    The Christian by faith “yields obedience to the commands.” This is something other than grasping propositions. The hill would never be taken if there were no imperative mood.

    The mistake was in taking an elementary concept from Logic 101 — “a proposition is the assertion of a declarative sentence, and is either true or false,” and thinking that that exhausts everything about language let alone personal life.

    I will explain the other shortcoming of Clarkism in view of WCF 14.2 anon.

  103. Reed Here said,

    August 5, 2014 at 10:08 am

    Ron, no. 95, relax brother. I did not read your words that way. Instead I received a couple of requests that I review your words in no. 76. I had read them before and found them rather clear and not unkindly intended, if nevertheless strong. And since Hugh had been attaching personal observations about you in his critiques of your comments, I did not see anything egregious in your comments.

    My caution to you is only that, a caution. It is clear that Hugh and one other read your words to be unfair. Even though I do not, I owe it to them to consider it from their perspective. All I could find on which my conscience could rest was this appearance, and nothing more than that.

    If it helps, consider me to be a worse “offender” in this regard than you. I in no way wanted my words “more strongly” to harm you. I see they did, and so sincere apologize. It was an appearance issue though, nothing more.

    Even less was my suggestion to you. Others read your words “I feel sorry for you,” as sincere concern (me among them). Hugh however, may not. Whether he is wrong or right does not matter. Acknowledging a brother’s concern in such small things is no burden to the truth, only to us. I’m grateful to know you can and will bear it.

    Hope this helps.

  104. Hugh McCann said,

    August 5, 2014 at 10:27 am

    Ron, Responding to your #76,

    Dr. White’s query had to do with whether one can *believe* in Jesus and not be saved.

    One can “believe” in Jesus and not be saved. Demons, Pharisees, and Christ’s crucifiers et. al. prove that point.

    How could you miss this most elementary point if you are indeed qualified to take the historical Reformed tradition to task?

    I did not “miss the point,” Ron, I just took it another step.

    (As a side note, it’s hard for me to grasp how one can be true to his Scripturalism and suggest that anyone can know he is saved (as you suggest one can) since personal salvation for the Clarkian cannot be derived from Scripture for the simple reason that one’s personal existence is not a proposition contained in Scripture.)

    I don’t know how *else* personal salvation (and knowledge thereof) *can* be derived from anywhere *but* Scripture alone.

    I’ll stick my neck out here on a more general observation. You’ve only posted a few times in this thread and your remarks have been careless at best if not a strong indicator that you’re not acquainted with the subject you apparently hold so stridently.

    You’re entitled to your opinion. I disagree, of course.

    First you rejected that persons are more than propositions, then you took that back.

    What I reject (and I apologize for being too terse) is that we can know a person apart from propositions. That’s why I spoke of knowing the person. We only know a person by propositions. And persons can communicate only by way of propositions.

    If you want to maintain and argue that Christ is “more than the propositions” we find in Scripture, then I said, OK. Yes, surely there is more to Jesus (the infinite 2nd Person of the Trinity) than the biblical record. BUT, so what?! Anything beyond Writ is merely unknowable & unverifiable conjecture, and hence, not useful, and easily dangerous.

    You then confused the notion of abstract with that of abstraction, even claiming Scripture was not abstract.

    I admit to being confused here. I have asked for clarification at least twice, and it appears not to be forthcoming. So be it. I meant that Scripture is generally plain, not confusing, to the believer. I’ll have to go back and read what you said about abstraction.

    Now you’ve confused knowledge with false belief in a discussion pertaining to saving faith. I truly feel sorry for you, Hugh. You don’t understand what you’re talking about and in your defense you cannot cite one denomination or confessional standard that agrees with your view of justifying faith.

    Wow.

    The last thing I want to be is severe upon [a] Christian who is so obviously confused and trying to find his way, so please don’t take me as getting back. I’m merely trying to point out to you, for your sake, that you don’t understand anything – not one thing, regarding what this discussion is about.

    Very wow. I “don’t understand anything – not one thing, regarding what this discussion is about”?

    I admit being terse, harsh at times, ignorant of philosophy, and at times confused by the things you say. But I honestly believe your judgment here is erroneous. I may have failed to effectively & graciously communicate my understanding, but you ought to retract this last sentence of yours.

    It may *appear* to you that I am without understanding about anything here being discussed, and your *opinion* is obviously that, but this comes across as a bit imperious to declare that I have NO understanding about “anything – not one thing, regarding what this discussion is about.”

    Maybe that’s why you are so quick to make such cutting remarks. This isn’t the first time that this has occurred and it won’t be the last unless you do repent (as you say you’re willing to do if shown wrong). I can only suspect that you lash out as you do because you know you’re in over your head and your confidence is in Clark and his most ardent followers, but that’s just a hunch.

    I will review our interaction, but I believe that you’re way off base with your criticisms and hunches.

    As I said many posts ago, maybe, just maybe you handful of guys are God’s instrument for this slice of church history. Just maybe the gospel will be rediscovered and reclaimed because of the handful of Clarkians out there. But then again, maybe it’s they who have it wrong. Just realize that you are up against the entire Reformed tradition both past and present.

    I disagree with your last statement. As I’ve said before, I have not attacked the Confession or Larger Catechism here. I have tried to argue that my position is within the pale of the orthodoxy of the standards.

    I think some baggage weighs down many of us on both sides, and that as people are increasingly removed by time from Clark and Van Til and trials and nearly-100-year-old accusations and controversial / contentious personalities (even hero-worship?), we will increasingly come to consensus.

    Finally, of course, ANY tradition (even yours, sir, and mine) needs to be weighed against the word of God, not the other way around. All of us are in danger if we side with “our camp” over God’s testimony.

    Hugh

  105. Ron said,

    August 5, 2014 at 10:36 am

    i think there is a fear to explore definitions and concepts.

    Tim,

    Good insight.

    It’s tragic. The more dogmatic one becomes with his philosophy of “slogans” (as you put it), the less chance he has of ever gaining a working understanding of what he purports. We become simply partisan people when we operate this way. This isn’t just true of Clarkians. I find this with many Van Tillians too. People begin to parrot certain catch phrases and slogans, but when it comes to unpacking what those phrases actually mean, things can get thin and tenuous.

    People can end up marshaling their entire being toward a “righteous” movement that opposes the truth. Sadly, they’re families, in particular their wives, end up suffering the most. So much time is wasted and so many other opportunities are forgone. They keep telling themselves they’re doing it for the Lord; yet the Lord doesn’t seem to give increase. The church doesn’t seem to want to accept these teachings. The conscious is soothed by the misplaced confidence that they’re on the Lord’s errand; yet the subconscious finds no rest because they realize the high improbability that they alone are God’s instrument for the 21st century church.

  106. Ron said,

    August 5, 2014 at 10:41 am

    Reed,

    Real quick; I’m on the run here, but I don’t want you feeling badly about anything. I have no issues. None whatsoever. I sincerely appreciate your concern and desire to put me at ease and parse this out as you have. Please don’t give my conscience another thought. We’re good.

    Ron, I did not see that comment,

    Hah, no wonder. It was from another thread regarding FV! :) I mentioned it in light of the comment that his comments that he’s offered for “quite a while” are possibly not terribly strong.

    Others read your words “I feel sorry for you,” as sincere concern (me among them). Hugh however, may not.

    That’s very nice to hear.

    I realized that Steve didn’t read it as kind, but I can’t bring myself to put much stock in what he says on such matters given his apparent desire to sow discord among the brethren. At the very least, given how confused I must appear to Steve, I would hope that he feels sorry for me (and the rest of us) in a tender, caring sort of way. Given his view of saving faith, he should be counting it all a joy to be sharing in the sufferings of Christ as the entire Reformed community rejects assent alone.

    Peace be with you.

  107. Ron said,

    August 5, 2014 at 10:49 am

    Hi Hugh,

    I think its best to stand by my offer. That’s the only way you can hear the tone of me remarks. I won’t think less of you for not taking me up on it, but I would ask that you not press me to reconsider.

    The ninth commandment entails that under certain circumstances we seek to preserve even our own good name. I trust you can respect this decision.

    In His grace,

    Ron

  108. Reed Here said,

    August 5, 2014 at 11:42 am

    Ron: no. 108. Thanks. No. 107, wise.

  109. rfwhite said,

    August 5, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    71-72-76-106 Ron & Hugh – By referring to the chief priest and elders in Matt 28 and their (inferred) belief in the resurrection, I was just attempting to point to an alternative route to advance the discussion and seek some light on the topic of Ron’s original post. It strikes me that Hugh’s references to the credal assertions in 1 Cor 15:3 and Rom 4.25 are relevant, not least because of the appearance of the possessive pronoun “our” and one’s personal stake in Christ’s death and resurrection.

  110. Ron said,

    August 5, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    Dr. White,

    Paul wrote to the church that Jesus was offered up for our sins. Members of Christ’s body believe that personally. How does this come into play with respect to an unbeliever’s assent to any gospel proposition?

  111. rfwhite said,

    August 5, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    112 Ron: It does not come into play with respect to the unbeliever’s assent. He sees no stake for himself in the death and resurrection of Jesus, though he assents to the historicity of both events.

  112. Ron said,

    August 5, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    Can you lay out the different approach you’re referring to?

  113. rfwhite said,

    August 5, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    114 Ron: I didn’t really have anything formalized to offer and I only had this thread in view. Primarily, I thought it might help to start the discussion not with the believer, but the unbeliever. Matt 28 came to mind, then Hugh linked that to demonic faith. How do we describe the difference between the unbeliever’s/demon’s belief and the believer’s belief when it comes to Jesus’ death and resurrection? What is the difference between the unbeliever’s “Jesus died and came to life again” and the believer’s “Jesus died for our sins and came to life again for our justification”: is the difference quantitative, qualitative, or both? What other categories apply? What is the import of the prepositional phrases “for our sins” or “for our justification” with respect to “assent v. trust”?

  114. Ron said,

    August 5, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    What is the difference between the unbeliever’s “Jesus died and came to life again” and the believer’s “Jesus died for our sins and came to life again for our justification”

    I’m not sure but I would think you meant *my* sins not our sins. That would be more in keeping with the personal proposition. Aside from that, it would appear you want to contrast the unbeliever’s x with the believer’s y. It might be better to stick to both assenting to the same y, “Jesus died for me.” In which case, the difference is the believer’s assent is accompanied by the completion of faith by God granting him to trust upon the Person the proposition contemplates. The unbeliever has not been taught by God but by flesh and blood. He isn’t granted the gift of assent or trust.

  115. rfwhite said,

    August 5, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    116 Ron: Yes, it would involve “my sins.” For clarification, by “our sins” I meant to cite 1 Cor 15:3, which itself is likely an echo of Isa 53, where, as you’d know, the prophet is rehearsing the confession of believers (i.e., the prophet and all others who believe as he does) about the Servant.

    I do appreciate your point about why you speak of “assenting to the same y.” Yet isn’t that precisely the point of the added phrase “for my/our sins”? Or do we want to say that the unbeliever does and can assent to the truth of the proposition(s) embedded in the phrase “for my sins”? I take it that that phrase entails the trust of which you speak. No?

    When you say He isn’t granted the gift of assent … , I would agree: the unbeliever, human or demonic, is not granted the gift of assent to the truth of the proposition that Christ’s death was for my/our sins or to the truth of the proposition that Christ’s resurrection was for my/our justification.

    Are we tracking?

  116. Ryan said,

    August 5, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    I have still been following the conversation and a couple of points which are tangential caught my eye.

    Ron,

    (As a side note, it’s hard for me to grasp how one can be true to his Scripturalism and suggest that anyone can know he is saved (as you suggest one can) since personal salvation for the Clarkian cannot be derived from Scripture for the simple reason that one’s personal existence is not a proposition contained in Scripture.)

    I decided to link to my answer, which is that self-knowledge and Scripturalism are compatible:

    http://unapologetica.blogspot.com/2013/01/scripturalism-and-self-knowledge.html

    Essentially, the idea is that both knowledge via divine revelation and knowledge of oneself must be necessarily possible in order for knowledge of anything to be possible. The two are compatible, so we can construct a reduction to absurdity argument against those who deny the one or the other. I focused on self-knowledge in the above.

    Hugh,

    Yes, surely there is more to Jesus (the infinite 2nd Person of the Trinity) than the biblical record. BUT, so what?! Anything beyond Writ is merely unknowable & unverifiable conjecture, and hence, not useful, and easily dangerous.

    The point, as I take it, is that Jesus is not just more propositions than what is contained in Scripture. He is a non-propositional reality as well. If Jesus metaphysically just is what set of propositions (what He thinks, as Clark has it), then Jesus metaphysically would depend on creation (in Clark’s case, given that Jesus thinks about creation). But clearly, Jesus is not metaphysically dependent on creation. So Jesus can’t metaphysically be a set of propositions. The same goes for the Father and Spirit.

    But in that case, given our faith is placed in God, this underscores the point which I came to realize, that our faith can’t just be propositional. See post 55.

  117. Ron said,

    August 5, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    Ryan,

    That knowledge of anything presupposes self-knowledge does not prove Scripturalism. Indeed one can know Scripture, his own existence and even that he’s saved. The latter two are not derived, but even if they were the propositions needed for the deductions are not contained in Scripture. Lastly, although the law of non-contradiction is employed and presupposed in Scripture, without which Scripture would be unintelligible, how logic works is not taught in Scripture in any propositional sense.

  118. Ryan said,

    August 5, 2014 at 7:06 pm

    That knowledge of anything presupposes self-knowledge does not prove Scripturalism.

    Right. Scripturalism must stand on it’s own two feet, and I attempt to show how it does elsewhere. The above post only tries to show how it can be compatible with self-knowledge.

    Self-knowledge and the law of contradiction don’t have to be explicitly mentioned in Scripture in order for us to be able to know them on Scripturalism. They just need to be compatible with Scripturalism and come with an explanation as to why any view which rejects them – i.e. self-knowledge or the law of non-contradiction – is absurd.

  119. Ron said,

    August 5, 2014 at 7:34 pm

    Ryan,

    I’m not sure what you are calling Scripturalism then. If it’s a philosophy that posits that all we can know are the propositions contained in Scripture and what can be deduced from the same, then you can’t know your exist. You do know you exist. Therefore, Scripturalism is false.

  120. Ron said,

    August 5, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    Dr. White,

    Of course an unbeliever can assent to Jesus having died for his sins without having saving faith. So, at this point I think we must be tracking. Now what? :)

  121. Ron said,

    August 5, 2014 at 7:47 pm

    Ryan,

    Although I reject Scripturalism, I can’t go along with this comment to Hugh as I understand it.

    “If Jesus metaphysically just is what set of propositions (what He thinks, as Clark has it), then Jesus metaphysically would depend on creation (in Clark’s case, given that Jesus thinks about creation).”

    You and I agree that God thinks creation thoughts and we don’t think that this entails creation having a claim on him So, why must Scripturalism bear this burden?

  122. rfwhite said,

    August 5, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    122 Ron: slow this buggy down so even I can understand you. :-)

    117 I asked: do we want to say that the unbeliever does and can assent to the truth of the proposition(s) embedded in the phrase “for my sins”?

    122 You wrote: Of course an unbeliever can assent to Jesus having died for his sins without having saving faith.

    Am I reading you correctly: you do want to maintain that the unbeliever can assent to the truth of the proposition “Christ’s death was for my [our] sins” and lack saving faith? If so, please elaborate.

  123. Ron said,

    August 5, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    Dr.White,

    What is there to elaborate upon? Since false beliefs are commonplace there would seem to be a burden of proof to explain why one cannot believe falsely about the Savior’s work on one’s behalf. But I’ll assume the challenge to move things along. I can think of many scenarios in which such can be the case. An easy one would entail one who believes everything their parents tell him. So they believe this too without any serious reflection, let alone without receiving and resting in Christ. Certainly one can assent without counting the cost, yet still be assenting. Most of our assents work that way.

  124. Ron said,

    August 5, 2014 at 10:16 pm

    Let me try to move this along a bit faster. Wouldn’t Luke 8:13 suggest that one can believe without the belief having any penetrating root to it?

  125. rfwhite said,

    August 5, 2014 at 10:51 pm

    125-26 Ron: seriously, thanks for forbearing … though I’m sympathetic with your thesis, but it seems we’re missing an undisclosed premise or two. Do you mean to say that in the unbeliever who assents to the truth of the proposition ‘Christ’s death was for my sins’ we actually have a denial of the truth of that proposition? As in “seeing they do not see, hearing they do not hear, believing they do not believe”? As in self-deception?

  126. Ron said,

    August 5, 2014 at 10:59 pm

    Dr. White,

    I’m not forbearing. I appreciate the conversation. I’m just going back and forth between some chess games and GB. :)

    Do you mean to say that in the unbeliever who assents to the truth of the proposition ‘Christ’s death was for my sins’ we actually have a denial of the truth of that proposition?

    No, not at all does a false belief imply that the proposition is false. The one who believes apart from salvation could be elect. In such cases, the proposition would actually be true.

  127. Steve M said,

    August 6, 2014 at 12:39 am

    Let me get this straight. An unbeliever assents to the proposition “Christ’s death was for my sins” and Christ did, in fact, die for his sins (i.e. he is one of the elect) and yet his belief is still false even though the proposition he believes is true. OK got it..

  128. Ryan said,

    August 6, 2014 at 1:05 am

    I’m not sure what you are calling Scripturalism then. If it’s a philosophy that posits that all we can know are the propositions contained in Scripture and what can be deduced from the same, then you can’t know your exist. You do know you exist. Therefore, Scripturalism is false.

    I’m saying that it can be deduced from Scripture that unless self-knowledge is necessarily possible, knowledge of anything [else] is impossible. The latter is evidently false, so the former is evidently true. But this is compatible with Scripturalism. Scripture may not say “Ryan” exists, but it can imply that “I,” a regenerate to whom Scripture is addressed, exists.

    You and I agree that God thinks creation thoughts and we don’t think that this entails creation having a claim on him So, why must Scripturalism bear this burden?

    I don’t follow. Scripturalism doesn’t bear this burden. Many Scripturalists, however, in following Clark’s metaphysics [regarding persons] as well as his epistemology, believe persons ontologically just are propositions. Hugh said Jesus is “more” than the propositions revealed to us in Scripture. True. The critical point to the original post, however, is that Jesus is “more” than propositions period.

  129. theoldadam said,

    August 6, 2014 at 1:10 am

    If we Lutherans relied on ‘our belief’ for our salvation…we would surely be lost.

    That’s why we rely on the external Word of Promise…alone.

    We really are radically different than ANY other form of Christianity.

    We have real assurance. And real freedom.

  130. Ron said,

    August 6, 2014 at 8:09 am

    I’m saying that it can be deduced from Scripture that unless self-knowledge is necessarily possible, knowledge of anything [else] is impossible.

    Ryan,

    I’d like to see even that deduced only from propositions contained in Scripture. But in any case, let’s put our focus here:

    Scripture may not say “Ryan” exists, but it can imply that “I,” a regenerate to whom Scripture is addressed, exists.

    I appreciate that the former is not a claim of Scripturalisim. Notwithstanding, I’d like to see how the latter can be derived by propositions contained in Scripture. Somewhere along the line you’re going to have to pump into the equation a proposition nowhere to be found in Scripture that states that you possess a sufficient condition for existence. It’s the “I” portion that will trip you up. But rather than quibble, please put forth the deduction that doesn’t predicate about you or only contains propositions contained in Scripture. At base, the thesis of Scripturalism is self-refuting not being contained or derivable from Scripture. Is “only those propositions contained in Scripture or derivable from propositions contained in Scripture are knowable” a proposition of Scripture? There are no freebies here. We need something rigorous to support these claims.

  131. Ron said,

    August 6, 2014 at 8:34 am

    Sure, Steve. I’ll entertain your sarcastic post.

    Let me get this straight. An unbeliever assents to the proposition “Christ’s death was for my sins” and Christ did, in fact, die for his sins (i.e. he is one of the elect) and yet his belief is still false even though the proposition he believes is true. OK got it..

    If you reject that the non-elect can believe falsely, then why limit your sarcastic remark only to the elect believing falsely? Yet if you accept that non-elect persons can believe falsely, then when why can’t an elect person prior to regeneration believe falsely since his mind is no less darkened and self-serving than one not chosen in Christ? (Ephesians 2:1-2)

    Please tell me you did not intend to draw a distinction between the qualitative assents of the two unregenerate persons.

  132. theoldadam said,

    August 6, 2014 at 9:32 am

    Hello…

    Is this thing on?

  133. rfwhite said,

    August 6, 2014 at 10:01 am

    128 Ron: in seeking to understand your argumentation for your thesis, I’m not clear on how a person assents to the truth of the proposition “Christ’s death was for my sins” and that assent not entail personal appropriation of Christ’s death for one’s sins. In other words, why does that assent — in effect, “Christ died for me” — not entail the trust you’re concerned to affirm? Is it because you see an inherent limitation in what “assent” involves? Or in the proposition itself? Or perhaps you’re seeking to make sense of the assertion “they believe for a while” in Luke 8:13. Can you spell out why assent to truth of the proposition “Christ died for me” does not entail the trust you’re concerned to affirm?

  134. Steve M said,

    August 6, 2014 at 10:32 am

    Ron
    Did I misstate your position? If I did, please accept my apology. Did I get it wrong? What I posted was my understanding of the position you had just stated.

  135. Ron said,

    August 6, 2014 at 10:41 am

    Dr. White,

    First, it’s not my thesis. It’s the Reformed position.

    If one believes the propositions contained in fortune cookies no matter what the proposition is and then comes across one with the gospel proposition in question, would that person be saved? Or are you saying it’s impossible for a person to assent (to what their parents tell them, from our other example) apart from regeneration? Can’t one assent to that gospel proposition without the disposition God grants to all he converts, summarized in the doctrine of repentance?

    Again, many assents are not according to much reflection. Why can’t one casually assent with his mind yet without his will being changed so that he might rely upon the Peron of Christ? Or are you saying with Clark that the will distinction is an illusion?

    Again, we assent to many things apart from a disposition of commitment. Far from being salvation by works; the disposition precedes works and is part of what God does in us in biblical salvation.

  136. Ron said,

    August 6, 2014 at 10:44 am

    Steve,

    An implication of this position (it’s not peculiarly mine) is that men can assent in the flesh. Elect people live in the flesh sometimes a very long time. Accordingly, they too may assent in the flesh prior to being effectually called (just like a non-elect person might).

  137. rfwhite said,

    August 6, 2014 at 10:47 am

    137 Ron: your response tells me we’re talking past each other, and I don’t have time to sort it out further just now. Thanks for the interaction, though.

  138. Steve M said,

    August 6, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    Ron
    So,, as I understand it, you are saying that it is the Reformed position that both the elect and the non-elect can believe the gospel in the flesh (which, in the case of the elect sinner, would mean prior to regeneration), but that belief, by itself, will not result in the justification of either. Is that a fair representation of the Reformed position as you understand it?.

  139. Ryan said,

    August 6, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    Ron,

    I’d like to see how the latter can be derived by propositions contained in Scripture.

    Did you read the post I linked you to in 118?

    Is “only those propositions contained in Scripture or derivable from propositions contained in Scripture are knowable” a proposition of Scripture?

    When understood correctly – i.e. with the following in mind: Scripture alone is the extant extent of God’s revelation; knowledge is roughly restricted to non-accidentally justified true belief; for us, such knowledge could only come from a person who is omniscient – yes.

  140. Ron said,

    August 6, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    Ryan, please put forth a deductive argument using only propositions from Scripture that prove you exist. You need not find your proper name in Scripture.

    Steve, all people who only assent without relying upon Christ are lost. Elect people are capable of this prior to regeneration.

  141. Steve M said,

    August 6, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    Ron
    If you are not interested in answering the question I asked, that is your prerogative. .

  142. Ron said,

    August 6, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    Steve,

    The advantage of answerng in other terms is to establish whether you and I agree on the literal meaning of your own words. Do you detect any difference in my response relative to your query? I don’t but if you do, then there is a breakdown in communication somewhere.

  143. Hugh McCann said,

    August 6, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    Fiducia = reliance, then?

    So, fides = notitia + assensus + fiducia?

  144. Joshua Butcher said,

    August 6, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    “Scripture alone is the extant extent of God’s revelation.”

    Ryan, where do you find this claim explicitly stated by, or deducible from Scripture?

    Also, do you draw a distinction between the content of knowledge and the justification of that content?

  145. Steve M said,

    August 6, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    Ron
    The disadvantage is that it does not answer the question I asked and if you do not wish to do so, that is up to you. However, If you instead answer a question I did not ask, that is simply being disingenuous. If you don’t wish to answer my question, just say so. There is no reason to be so evasive.

  146. Alan D. Strange said,

    August 6, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    Fowler, Steve, and others:

    Remember that the background to the Reformation’s definition of faith (being notitia, assensus, and fiducia) derives from the ancient and medieval church discussion of faith. Various sorts of faith were distinguished and Augustine spoke of notitia and assensus as involved in what he called “unformed faith.” “Formed faith” needed an additional element, it was believed, and only formed faith was saving. Many medievalists (Aquinas is a prominent figure here) said that “caritas” (love) was the completing element that gave unformed faith its shape and made it saving.

    The Reformers had a problem with this because they understood, rightly, that love is properly expressed in good works: obeying God and serving your neighbor. Luther, and Calvin, agreed wholeheartedly, and said that “where they add ‘caritas’ (and thus good works), we say ‘fiducia’” ( trust, reliance, whole-hearted leaning upon and giving oneself unto). Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Knox and the whole company wrote that introducing love (or good works), which is the fruit of justification (see WLC 73), into the very definition of justifying faith, fatally compromises it. However, they were also concerned that faith not be left as “unformed” and thus purely intellectual, in which one merely assents to gospel propositions without resting upon, receiving, and trusting in the person of Christ. They shared the concern of the ancient and medieval church that faith be more than mere assent (and thus added “trust”), yet they did not want to introduce works into faith.

    Of course many Reformed theologians came to speak of this in more than just a three-fold sense, but the point remained that however precisely they constructed faith, all of them, to a man, saw it as involving more than mere assent. Many were content to speak in terms of that additional element being “trust,” though their speaking of more elements than this or using synonyms to describe this is no problem: the point is that they all believe that justifying faith involves something more than mere assent, a volitional element which involves coming to Christ, receiving and resting upon Christ, and like metaphorical language. Some brothers seems to not like the metaphorical language or insist that it means the precise same thing as what they take to be the more literal language (of assent). But the Reformers had no problem with this and no problem with seeing the defining element as being something not easily reduced to rational analysis.

    It is important to note, as Ron has rightly maintained throughout this discussion, that this is not his defintion of faith: it’s the Reformation’s definition. The Reformers and Puritans, both in their many confessions and in their theological treatises, make it clear that they all believe that justifying faith consists of more than notitia and assensus. It consists of fiducia, or like words in place of in addition to fiducia, because justifying faith speaks of something that is utterly extraspective, looking away from all that one is and has and does, abandoning all hope in oneself, and trusting in Christ and Christ alone.Assent does not capture this utter necessity of resting and trusting in Christ. Thus the Reformers insisted that the definition of faith be more than merely assenting to the truth; they insisted that it must also include resting upon and receiving Christ and his work.

    Again, this is not Ron’s project or Ron’s insistence. This is the Reformation and I would encourage all concerned to study Calvin and the Calvinists on this question. We need to understand what it is that we are urging upon people as we set forth the person and work of Christ and proclaim that there is no hope other than trusting in Christ. We don’t mean mere belief. We mean belief that is allied to coming to Christ, receving and resting upon Him alone.

  147. Ron said,

    August 6, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    Steve,

    I’m not being evasive in the least. As I noted, *I* find no difference between your question and my rephrasing of it in my responses. If you do, then we have a communication problem and shouldn’t continue. So, in order to ensure communication tell me whether or not I’ve understood your question by my rephrasing of it in my response. That’s not to be evasive. It’s to be thorough, which I think is quite justified. Nuff said.

  148. Ron said,

    August 6, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    Helpful Alan.

  149. Ron said,

    August 6, 2014 at 6:05 pm

    Steve,

    You wrote: you are saying that it is the Reformed position that both the elect and the non-elect can believe the gospel in the flesh (which, in the case of the elect sinner, would mean prior to regeneration), but that belief, by itself, will not result in the justification of either.

    I responded: Steve, all people who only assent without relying upon Christ are lost. Elect people are capable of this prior to regeneration.

    What is the difference you are detecting that makes you say that I am not interested in answering your question or that I might not have answered it?

  150. Ron said,

    August 6, 2014 at 6:13 pm

    Alan,

    Your post brings to mind that Robert Reymond referenced 1 Corinthians 16, “if anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed” over and against assent alone. Yet he plainly argued for trust.

  151. rfwhite said,

    August 6, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    148 Alan: I’m happy to acknowledge all you say.

  152. Ron said,

    August 6, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    re:139

    Dr.White,

    Thank you for the exchange. We can pick it up whenever, or not at all. Doesn’t have to be here either.

  153. Steve M said,

    August 6, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    Ron
    Actually my question was, “Is that a fair representation of the Reformed position as you understand it?”

    Since you deem it necessary to answer a different question, I must assume your answer is “no”. It is perfectly OK to answer the question however you wish.

    You responded: “Steve, all people who only assent without relying upon Christ are lost. Elect people are capable of this prior to regeneration.”

    The statement I asked my question about had to do with believing the gospel. Your response talks about assent but does not stipulate assent to what. If I assume you are speaking of assenting to the gospel, do you mean believing the gospel? As you understand the Reformed position is assenting to the gospel the same thing as believing the gospel?

  154. Ron said,

    August 6, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    The statement I asked my question about had to do with believing the gospel. Your response talks about assent but does not stipulate assent to what. If I assume you are speaking of assenting to the gospel, do you mean believing the gospel? As you understand the Reformed position is assenting to the gospel the same thing as believing the gospel?

    Steve,

    This is a very telling line of questioning. From the very beginning it was established that assent and belief in propositions are identical without remainder. This was most clearly put forth in post 13 (please look at the very beginning of that post), but even prior to that in another thread it was not in dispute by either side.

    Having said that, no doubt this is more of a Clarkian tagging in that the word belief can carry a bit more meaning than mere assent when used by a non-Clarkian in a non-technical discussion. But throughout this technical discussion they have been used interchangeably and both sides have signed up for those terms However, to avoid confusing lurkers and those who weigh in only occasionally (like yourself), it has been the habit of some of us on the Reformed side of the issue to change the Clarkians wording of belief to assent so that nobody will think that the Clarkian means anything more than “regarding a proposition as true” when he says “belief.”

    I’m not playing gotcha. In fact, I’m glad I employed different terms because by doing so a point of confusion has now been made manifest.

  155. Hugh McCann said,

    August 6, 2014 at 11:57 pm

    OK. So, fiducia = notitia + assensus + fiducia, right?

    (Seriously, “It’s all about knowledge + assent and nothing more.” Amen.)

  156. Steve M said,

    August 7, 2014 at 12:41 am

    Ron
    Once again, “As you understand the Reformed position is assenting to the gospel the same thing as believing the gospel?”

    Apparently the answer is, “yes”.

  157. Ron said,

    August 7, 2014 at 1:07 am

    Steve,

    Yes, but what you just stated there is no more the “Reformed position” than it is the Clarkian position or the Stanford encyclopedia’s position. Assent has been defined as believe and they both mean to regard a proposition as true. It doesn’t matter what the proposition happens to be. So, in this discussion the ONLY position is that assent means belief. That you would call this the “Reformed” position is a bit curious but by all means do proceed.

  158. Ron said,

    August 7, 2014 at 1:22 am

    BTW, that you would say “once again” is misleading given that it was just discovered that you had been employing terms that weren’t properly defined in your own mind, proven by the fact that you thought just a couple of posts ago that I had changed the meaning of one of your posts by substituting assent for belief (when they are in fact synonymous). So, in a very real sense this recent question of yours is not being asked “again” but for the first time because now it should have taken on new meaning for you.

  159. Steve M said,

    August 7, 2014 at 2:21 am

    Ron
    I have asked you two yes or no questions which you have chosen not to answer. You have left me trying to guess your answer. I guessed “no” on the first one, but I am not sure my guess was correct. I guessed “yes” on the second one, but I have no way of knowing whether I am correct.

    One thing I do know. I don’t trust anyone who will not give a straight answer to a to a clear question. There is something dishonest about people like that.

  160. Reed Here said,

    August 7, 2014 at 7:08 am

    Steve M: sounds to me like Ron has been very honest and straightforward. Maybe you are just confused?

    Why not draw out the point you were wanting to make?

  161. Ron said,

    August 7, 2014 at 8:56 am

    Steve,

    In addition to Reed’s remark, the first word in my 159 was “Yes”, which was in direct response to your question: Apparently the answer is, “yes”.

    I can only imagine that you’re a bit surprised by what followed the answer: .”..but what you just stated there is no more the ‘Reformed’ position than it is the Clarkian position or the Stanford encyclopedia’s position. Assent has been defined as believe and they both mean to regard a proposition as true. It doesn’t matter what the proposition happens to be. So, in this discussion the ONLY position is that assent means belief. That you would call this the ‘Reformed’ position is a bit curious but by all means do proceed.”

    That assent means belief in this discussion is not so much a “position” but a definition in terms.This seems to surprise you.

  162. Steve M said,

    August 7, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    My first question: “So,, as I understand it, you are saying that it is the Reformed position that both the elect and the non-elect can believe the gospel in the flesh (which, in the case of the elect sinner, would mean prior to regeneration), but that belief, by itself, will not result in the justification of either. Is that a fair representation of the Reformed position as you understand it?”.

    Ron’s answer: Yes.

    My second question: “As you understand the Reformed position is assenting to the gospel the same thing as believing the gospel?”

    Ron’s answer: Yes.

  163. Reed Here said,

    August 7, 2014 at 4:39 pm

    Steve M: you’re just playing gotcha. If you want to discuss differences, do so. Enough with the childishness.

  164. Ron said,

    August 7, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    Reed,

    I don’t even see the gotcha.

  165. Ron said,

    August 7, 2014 at 6:08 pm

    Seriously, Steve, is there a punchline coming or was that your final curtain call?

  166. Steve M said,

    August 8, 2014 at 1:51 am

    Reed and Ron
    I was simply asking serious questions and expecting to get straight answers. After reading the comments, I determined that my questions had been answered. The process was much more difficult than it needed to be. If simply restating my questions and the answers is playing gotcha, then I’m guilty. I have simply been trying to clarify what the Reformed position is. Apparently that is childish.

  167. Ron said,

    August 8, 2014 at 5:02 am

    Steve,

    I am sincerely glad that your questions have been answered to your satisfaction, now with the correct tagging of terms.

    The process was much more difficult than it needed to be.

    For some reason you are not being forthcoming in all of this. What made things “difficult” is that you did not have a working understanding of the definitions. This unawareness was demonstrated by your insistence that I had answered a different question when all I did was substitute assent for belief. This confusion was finally fleshed out in posts 151 and 156. To have proceeded without my first clearing up this confusion for you would have been to contribute to your confusion. Like it or not, I did you a favor. Go ahead, poke fun at that too. I’m used to it.

    Apparently that is childish

    That remark is what causes me to interpret that you don’t accept 100% responsibility for how “difficult” this process has been. Without that parting jab your other comment (that this was unnecessarily difficult) would have been open to a more agreeable interpretation.

    Again, I’m glad you now understand the Reformed position. At least now you can reject or accept it with your eyes wide open.

  168. Steve M said,

    August 8, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    Ron
    I was merely seeking your opinion regarding the Reformed position, which you and Dr. Strange repeatedly claim to represent. I asked a yes or no question in order to determine what your opinion was. A simple yes or no would have sufficed.

    Now you feel it necessary to demean my understanding of definitions. When I ask you for your definition, it is not because I don’t have one. It is to see if yours and mine are the same. That is something that can only be accomplished with a question.

    Asking you a question is such a painful process that I think I will refrain from doing so in the future.

  169. Ron said,

    August 8, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    A simple yes or no would have sufficed.

    Steve,

    Not so. You didn’t realize that in this discussion assent meant belief. That’s not to demean you. It’s not even to find fault with you. It’s merely to note a relevant fact, which underscores that “a simple yes or no” would not have sufficed given that you were drawing an invalid distinction between assent and belief. Clarification was obviously needed.

    Asking you a question is such a painful process that I think I will refrain from doing so in the future.

    You may make your claims, Steve. What you cannot do is rewrite the thread. Expecting anyone to take your cutting sarcasm is one thing. Expecting anyone to put up with an outright misrepresentation of what occurred is quite another.

    Please take the last word, Steve.

  170. Nick said,

    August 9, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    Slightly off topic, but can someone here address the latest post at the Creed Code Cult blog which argues Romans 1-5 says nothing of Christ’s Active Obedience?

  171. Steve M said,

    August 10, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    Ron
    You asked for examples of your gibberish. I provide a few:

    ”Most of the things we assent to… are not volitional.”

    I assume you mean that most of our assents to various propositions are not volitional rather than that the things (propositions) to which we assent are not volitional. Every assent is a choice between contradictory propositions. When one assents to the proposition “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” one is, at the same time, denying the proposition “It is not true that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” For every proposition there is a contradictory proposition. One is true, one is false, period. There is no middle position. Non-volitional assent is pure gibberish.

    These are mental assents that are not discursive; they are immediate and without reflection.

    If I were to write about a square circle, even though one might know what “square” and “circle” meant, one would be fair to label the combination gibberish. The same must be said for involuntary assent. To put forth “mental assent” as being immediate, non-discursive and without reflection (i.e. not involving thought) is every bit as unintelligible. Assent by its very nature must be voluntary and requires an object (a proposition). A proposition is the meaning of a declarative sentence. Note a proposition is not merely a declarative sentence. It is the meaning of a declarative sentence. If one does not understand the meaning, one is not assenting to the proposition, but rather to some other proposition (one’s own misunderstanding of the meaning). Every proposition implies a mind. Understanding requires thought. The mind understands a proposition and chooses whether to assent to that proposition or to its contradiction. Every assent is a choice between contradictory propositions. The idea that one can assent to both a proposition and its contradiction is pure gibberish. Assenting to a proposition always implies a choice for any rational mind.

    Calvin: 
    “Not to lose ourselves in superfluous questions, let it be enough to know that the intellect is to us, as it were, the guide and ruler of the soul; that the will always follows its beck, and waits for its decision…Moreover, it will be seen in another place (Book 2 c. 2 see. 12-26), how surely the intellect governs the will.”

    ”Indeed, to trust a proposition is true is no different than to assent to its truth.
    However, to trust that something is true is not the same thing as to trust in that something.”

    According to the these statements, trust and assent are both synonyms and not synonyms. When dealing with propositions they are synonyms. When dealing with something that may be either true or false, but is not a proposition, they are not. Trust then somehow becomes something other than a synonym for assent. Unfortunately, the you do not explain what the “something” is that can be true other than a proposition. You admit that assenting to the proposition “Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, was buried and rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures” is the same thing as trusting that that proposition is true. In your view,trusting in the proposition is “not the same thing”. What, exactly, is trusting in a proposition? (please don’t answer with more doubletalk) If the “something” to which you refer is not a proposition, please explain what this something is. Is the first “something” in your sentence the same as the second “something” in that sentence.

    The latter idea of trust carries the meaning of reliance upon, whereas the former use of trust merely conveys an intellectual assent that might or might not be accompanied by the reliance sort of trust.

    If one assents to the proposition “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” purely on the basis that it is found in the Bible and the Bible is the word of God and God does not lie, is one not deeming that proposition reliable? If he trusts that the proposition is true, is he not relying upon it? If there is a reliance sort of trust, there must also be a non-reliance sort of trust. What, exactly, is a non-reliance sort of trust.

    ”assent pertains to accepting something as true, even possibly with no reflection”

    Assent can occur “possibly with no reflection”. There may or may not be thought involved in mental assent. More double-talk.

    ” If assent and trust were synonyms under the gospel”

    Since you admit earlier that trust and assent are synonyms when dealing with propositions, you are now asserting that the gospel is not Good News (i.e. information) communicated through propositions to which one may either assent or dissent. More gibberish.

    “cognitive conviction or else volitional reliance”

    Why can’t conviction be volitional and reliance cognitive? Why can’t one have both conviction of and reliance upon certain truths with both being cognitive and volitional? You do not say.

    ”Conviction of truth (assent) could never give way to reliance upon truth (trust).”

    You here define assent as “conviction of truth” and trust as “reliance upon truth”. You simply state that assent to certain truths “could never give way” to reliance upon those same truths, but do not explain why it could not. Assent to certain truths would certainly result in reliance upon those truths. Truth is always reliable. It is falsehood that cannot be relied upon.

    “If assent and trust mean the same thing”

    He asserts they both that they do mean the same thing and also that they don’t.

    I think I was somewhat justified in asserting that you have perfected the art of gibberish. Perhaps “perfected” was a bit unfair. Maybe “mastered” would have been more accurate.

    I have observed that it is very proud men that are the most sensitive to being mocked and, at the same time, the most oblivious to their own mocking of others.

    Definitions of some of the pertinent terms:

    Gibberish
    noun
    unintelligible or meaningless speech or writing; nonsense.
    Synonyms: nonsense, garbage, balderdash, blather, rubbish

    Assent
    verb
    to agree, as to a proposal; concur
    Assent implies an act involving the understanding or judgment and applies to propositions or opinions

    Conviction
    noun
    a firmly held belief or opinion.
    Synonyms: belief, opinion, view, thought, persuasion, idea, position, stance, article of faith

    Trust
    noun
    firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.
    Synonyms: confidence, belief, faith, certainty, assurance, conviction,credence
    verb
    believe in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of.
    Synonyms: rely on, depend on, bank on, count on, be sure of

    Rely
    verb
    depend on with full trust or confidence.
    Synonyms: depend on, count on, bank on, place reliance on, reckon on

    Belief
    noun
    1. an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists.
    2. trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something.
    Synonyms: faith, trust, reliance, confidence, credence

    Disposition
    noun
    a person’s inherent qualities of mind and character.
    Synonyms: temperament, nature, character, constitution, make up, mentality

    Confidence
    noun
    the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust.
    Synonyms: trust, belief, faith, credence, conviction
    the state of feeling certain about the truth of something.

  172. Ron said,

    August 10, 2014 at 10:21 pm

    Steve,

    I welcomed you to have the last word on the discussion over whether I had been avoiding your questions. I am now going to reply to your most recent post. You may have the last response here too.

    For every proposition there is a contradictory proposition. One is true, one is false, period. There is no middle position. Non-volitional assent is pure gibberish.

    That with every proposition there exists an opposing proposition does not in any deductive or philosophical sense imply that one reflects, deliberates or chooses between the two. You must prove and not just assert this thesis of yours. So, for instance, that all men believe God exists does not imply that they choose to believe between his existence and non-existence. The mere existence of contrary or contradictory propositions does not imply choice, let alone reflection upon the opposing proposition.
    This assertion of yours not only begs the question, it ignore the infinite regress problem of choosing all our assents:

    1. All assents are chosen
    2. Choices involve competing propositions that are understood
    3. To understand a proposition is to assent that the proposition exists
    4. To assent a to the existence of proposition p requires choice c (from premise 1)
    5. c requires primitive proposition p -1 and assent a -1 (from premises 2 and 3)
    6. a -1 requires c -1 (from premise 1)
    7. c -1 requires p -2 and a -2 (from premises 2 and 3) (ad infinitum)

    If assents are chosen, then a first choice cannot be made due to an infinite regress constraint. The reductio can go even further. Even allowing for the faulty premise that beliefs are chosen, moral agents would have to choose the assent that seems best for it to be a rational choice. Accordingly, that which we would desire to “choose” would be the one we would first have to assent to at least on some level. Consequently, an assent to the proposition would have to precede the choice to assent to the proposition lest the choice would not be according to what is deemed true! Again though, I am humoring your here by allowing for the infinite regress conundrum.

    The reason you have run into these problems could be that you don’t appreciate that we have basic a priori beliefs and although deliberation can precede assents, when assents occur they (the assents themselves) are spontaneous. The light goes on as it were. Even if you reject these things, to choose a belief would presuppose prior beliefs about the meaning of the opposing propositions allegedly being chosen between, which would require a choice of those beliefs regarding the meaning of the propositions, ad infinitum. Arminians run into a similar problem with respect to inclination, choice and free will (as Edwards aptly argued).

    A proposition is the meaning of a declarative sentence. Note a proposition is not merely a declarative sentence. It is the meaning of a declarative sentence. If one does not understand the meaning, one is not assenting to the proposition, but rather to some other proposition (one’s own misunderstanding of the meaning). Every proposition implies a mind. Understanding requires thought. The mind understands a proposition and chooses whether to assent to that proposition or to its contradiction. Every assent is a choice between contradictory propositions. The idea that one can assent to both a proposition and its contradiction is pure gibberish. Assenting to a proposition always implies a choice for any rational mind.

    A more careful reading of your paragraph shows us that it reduces to: “All assents to propositions are mental, therefore, they are volitional because the idea of one assenting to contradictory truths is gibberish.” This is your entire position, which is an assertion; it is not an argument. It’s merely your un-argued thesis.

    Assent can occur “possibly with no reflection”. There may or may not be thought involved in mental assent. More double-talk.

    When one thinks a computer is in front of him (or that God exists) obviously thought is involved. That tautological truism does not imply reflection, let alone a volitional decision. You’ve simply begged the question once again but rather than assert that I’m speaking “gibberish” this time, you’ve asserted I using “double-talk.” Other than that your assertions have not changed.

    Since you admit earlier that trust and assent are synonyms when dealing with propositions…

    I will chalk this up to an honest oversight. As I also wrote, “Albeit the premise is true, this observation turns on a subtle equivocation over the word trust. Indeed, to trust a proposition is true is no different than to assent to its truth. So, in that sense trust and assent are synonyms.”

    The context in which I wrote that had to do with the equivocal claim of the Clarkian that they too affirm trust. What I was addressing was that when the Clarkian affirms trust all they are affirming is assent: “I ‘trust” something is true.” The point, as was labored in the original unvarnished section of mine, was that Clarkians are not employing the same meaning of trust that is contained within the Reformed tradition. By changing trust into assent in this way is not to affirm trust in the Reformed sense but rather to deny the distinction the Reformed tradition has always maintained.

    Why can’t conviction be volitional and reliance cognitive?

    First off, by definition assent is specifically defined as regarding something as true (or in your terms here, conviction of the truth). Whether more primitive volitions lead one to those convictions does not change the philosophical definition of assent (as I pointed out from two different philosophical sources). Secondly and more germane is that the very definition of assent in this historical discussion is merely: to regard something as true. (The philosophical definitions I referenced simply underscore the well established taxonomy. To introduce Webster’s type definitions is to turn traditional meanings into a wax nose and to argue equivocally.) So, if we don’t equivocate and if we employ the traditional understanding of terms, assent is not volitional by definition. Assent is a narrow consideration that pertains to regarding something as true. Whether volitions precede or follow any assent does not change the fact that assent only considers a slice of the discussion pertaining to saving faith, which is that portion that contemplates agreement with a proposition. And as has been shown, assents aren’t chosen.

    Regarding the cognitive nature of reliance that has never been a matter of dispute. But I’ll deal with it just the same. If reliance, then assent does not imply: If assent, then reliance.

    You simply state that assent to certain truths “could never give way” to reliance upon those same truths, but do not explain why it could not.

    I believe Reed and Alan have thrown a flag on this sort of badgering the witness. That you don’t like my response doesn’t mean I haven’t offered a reasonable response. I wrote, “If assent and trust were synonyms under the gospel, then either they both would mean cognitive conviction or else volitional reliance.” I then entertained the two possibilities. The first one I entertained was the notion that trust means assent. With that tagging of terms “Conviction of truth (assent) could never give way to reliance upon truth (trust).” The reason being, there would be no meaningful (Reformed) view of trust; we’d be left only with assent upon assent given that the Reformed understanding of trust would have been extinguished and redefined as assent. Then I entertained the other possibility, that assent means trust in the Reformed sense of reliance. Under such a system there would be no room for assent in the Reformed sense since all we’d have is “trust” in the Reformed sense. So, naturally and logically, “Conviction without reliance leaves no room for trusting in Christ” from a Reformed perspective. This is a legitimate reductio given the Clarkian claim of being Reformed.

    Again, please take the last word on this matter too.

  173. Steve M said,

    August 18, 2014 at 11:00 pm

    1. All objects of trust are chosen
    2. Choices involve competing objects of trust that are understood
    3. To understand an object of trust is to trust that the object of trust exists
    4. To trust t in the existence of an object of trust o requires choice c (from premise 1)
    5. c requires primitive object of trust o -1 and trust t -1 (from premises 2 and 3)
    6. t-1 requires c -1 (from premise 1)
    7. c -1 requires o -2 and t -2 (from premises 2 and 3) (ad infinitum)

  174. Ron said,

    August 18, 2014 at 11:55 pm

    Steve,

    As long as you bring up new matters I reserve the right to interact. Your argument above does not deal with my premises, which makes it quit fresh and in play.

    Your use of “trust” in premise 1 means reliance.After all, if what you meant by “trust” was “assent” then you’d be merely putting forth a Clarkian premise – one that I deny is true – that all assents are chosen. Accordingly, you must mean “reliance” if your post is to have any relevance whatsoever.

    Now then, your employment of the second of three uses of “trust” in premise 3 clearly implies assent otherwise your premise makes no sense. Your other two uses of trust in premise 3 means reliance, again if there’s to be any intelligibility in your attempt to make a point. Once we change the second use of trust in premise 3 to assent, things unravel rather quickly.

    1. “All objects of trust are chosen” merely implies that when we trust in someone or something a choice is made. (no problem)
    2. Choices involve competing objects of reliance. (no problem)
    3. To understand and object of trust is to ASSENT that the object of trust exist. (no problem once the equivocal “trust” is replaced with “assent”)
    4. To ASSENT to the existence of an object of trust does NOT require a choice. It’s Clarkians who think all assents are chosen.

    In any case, I showed that your have an infinite regress on your hands. Even if you found an infinite regress on my hands you would not have solved your own dilemma. But as it stands, all you did was put forth a failed effort to show that choices cannot be made lest we end up with an infinite regress. You can be grateful that your argument is unsound. We indeed make choices.

  175. Steve M said,

    August 19, 2014 at 9:44 pm

    “To understand a proposition is to assent that the proposition exists”

    Really?

  176. Ron said,

    August 20, 2014 at 6:23 pm

    Steve,

    The context makes the meaning obvious. To understand the meaning of a statement is to assent to the existence of its meaning. In the like manner, to me human is to be created in God’s likeness. “Is” need not imply “equals.” Steve is male doesn’t imply Steve equals male. The context suggested presupposes.

    Either you don’t understand the discussion or you are being intentionally difficult. In either case, your posts are irrelevant.

  177. Ron said,

    August 20, 2014 at 7:17 pm

    Throughout the thread your contributions have lacked any discernible progression of thought. For sake of time why not post a defense of Clark’s view of the will as being an illusion? Also, please make a defense in light of the infinite regress conundrum of the claim that assents are chosen.

  178. Steve M said,

    August 22, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    Steve: “For every proposition there is a contradictory proposition. One is true, one is false, period. There is no middle position. Non-volitional assent is pure gibberish.”

    Ron: “That with every proposition there exists an opposing proposition does not in any deductive or philosophical sense imply that one reflects, deliberates or chooses between the two.”

    It is unfortunate that you don’t understand the difference between contradictory and “opposing” propositions. Unfortunately that is par for the course with Van Tilians. For instance, Greg Bahnsen thought it was possible to prove ones own position by demonstrating the “impossibility of the contrary”. He did not seem to realize that one can only prove ones own position by demonstrating the impossibility of the contradictory. Contrary and contradictory are not the same thing. Neither are contradictory propositions and “opposing” or “competing propositions” the same thing. Apparently you think they are. When you restate my points, you are not saying what I actually said. Maybe you don’t realize what you are doing. I think you do.

    1. All assents have objects (i.e. propositions)
    2. Choices involve contradictory propositions that are understood
    3. To understand a proposition is to discern the thought (i.e. notion, idea) that is proposed.
    4. To assent to a proposition p requires a choice between p and not p.

    Your position that no assent to any proposition is ever chosen is simply asserted. You have presented no argument for your thesis (oh, excuse me, it is not your thesis it is the Reformed position).

    Thomas Aquinas assumed the impossibility of infinite regress in his argument for the existence of God as the first mover. He never made an argument or proved the impossibility of infinite regress and neither have you. After you do, I might deal with it. Infinite regress is an argument that can be made against the knowledge of any proposition if one accepts justified true belief as a definition of knowledge. So what? Big deal. You are a genius. I just never thought of such a brilliant argument.

    Jonathan Edwards:
    It may be inquired, what the affections of the mind are?
    I answer: The affections are no other than the more vigorous and sensible exercises of the inclination and will of the soul.

    Calvin:
    As there can be no doubt on the matter, we in one word conclude, that they talk absurdly when they maintain that faith is formed by the addition of pious affection as an accessory to assent, since assent itself, such at least as the Scriptures describe, consists in pious affection.

  179. Ron said,

    August 23, 2014 at 9:32 am

    It is unfortunate that you don’t understand the difference between contradictory and “opposing” propositions.

    Steve,

    From the Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophical terms one can find this with little effort: “It will be noted that this statement of the [law of non-contradiction] LNC is an explicitly modal claim about the incompatibility of opposed properties applying to the same object (with the appropriate provisos).”

    But since Clarkians seem to demur when technical terms are employed, I Googled two words “contradictory definition” and up popped this: con•tra•dic•to•ry: mutually opposed or inconsistent.

    Not to shame you, but that I interpreted your use of “contradictory” as equivalent to “opposing” was innocent and most proper. However, I’m willing to humor you if you would care to show the distinction you have in mind between contradictory propositions and opposing propositions. Should you be able to do so – will you please be prepared to make a relevant point according to that distinction? I’m not sure why you wouldn’t have done so along with your objection since you obviously think that something critical is at stake in order for you to accuse me this way:

    When you restate my points, you are not saying what I actually said. Maybe you don’t realize what you are doing. I think you do.

    You should refrain from accusing one of sleight of hand when the definitions are on his side. But, again, please show the distinction you have in mind between contradictory propositions and opposing propositions. I can’t imagine what it might be; it will be interesting to see how this distinction you have in mind will save your position.

    1. All assents have objects (i.e. propositions)
    2. Choices involve contradictory propositions that are understood
    3. To understand a proposition is to discern the thought (i.e. notion, idea) that is proposed.
    4. To assent to a proposition p requires a choice between p and not p.

    Steve, I believe you are intending to argue something here rather than just list things you believe to be true. If so, then I’m sorry to have to point out that your argument is formally invalid. By invalid I mean that the conclusion does not follow from the premises. Of course, I can’t know whether your conclusion is being driven by faulty reasoning or whether your desired conclusion is driving the invalid argument. In either case, that (i) we assent to propositions and (ii) choices involve contradictory propositions that are understood does not imply the conclusion that assents are chosen. Formally, that (i) a is sufficient for p and (ii) c is sufficient for contradictory p’s that are understood and (iii) to understand means d does not imply that a is sufficient for c. You’ve committed a fallacy of transfer. It’s invalid to transfer c from premise 2 to the conclusion as you have. In simplest terms, that we choose between propositions that must first be assented to by way of understanding their meaning does not imply that the assents themselves are chosen. Obviously I can’t know whether invalid reasoning is leading you to unjustified conclusions or whether a desire for a certain conclusion is driving the argument to support it.

    Your position that no assent to any proposition is ever chosen is simply asserted. You have presented no argument for your thesis (oh, excuse me, it is not your thesis it is the Reformed position).

    The argument I offered rests upon the conclusion that for assents to be chosen an infinite regress would have to obtain. If an infinite regress is impossible, then assents cannot be chosen. You might not like the argument, but please refrain from this tactic of badgering the witness.

    Now then, I’m willing to make the point another way, using another reductio of your position. Let’s allow for an infinite regress if that will help advance the discussion. Allowing for the possibility of an infinite regress, how much time would it take for a human to choose any assent? He’d have to be eternal, would he not, in order to exhaust the regress? (Of course the idea of infinite regress is absurd since to reach any point in time and infinite amount of time would have to elapse, which in turn contradicts the very concept of infinity. Accordingly, I am in a sense lisping to speak in terms of the regress being exhausted.)

    Thomas Aquinas assumed the impossibility of infinite regress in his argument for the existence of God as the first mover. He never made an argument or proved the impossibility of infinite regress and neither have you.

    Thomas’ problem was not due to his claim about infinite regress. His problem was that his conclusion “God” exceeded the scope of the premises. But in any case, you are obviously digging over the idea that assents are chosen according to an infinite regress. So, again, how much time would it take you to exhaust any infinite regress so that a choice of an assent might be made?

    Infinite regress is an argument that can be made against the knowledge of any proposition if one accepts justified true belief as a definition of knowledge.

    This line of reasoning is problematic on at least two accounts. If an infinite regress is not possible and if JTB requires and infinite regress, then JTB cannot be adequate to depict knowledge OR we cannot know anything. In a word, by claiming that knowledge is JTB and that it requires an infinite regress does not establish the truth of the possibility of an infinite regress (let alone that JTB requires an infinite regress). I feel a bit constrained to interject that this line of reasoning is most unfortunate coming from a Christian. It is the skeptic who makes this claim against JTB, which goes something like this: “Your justification for your belief needs a justification and so does your justification for your justification, ad infinitum.” A Christian view of knowledge doesn’t have this problem since for the epistemologically self-conscious Christian revelation is the terminus point for the justification of knowledge. It’s hard to believe that you would make room for infinite regress on pagan terms that oppose (or if you prefer “contradict”) an epistemology rooted in Scripture. It actually runs counter to “Scripturalism” too.

    Your employment of Edwards and Calvin in this way is a curious thing. In any case, those quotes you provided aren’t arguments.

  180. Reed Here said,

    August 23, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    Steve M: when using quotes from outside sources, please list reference so others can validate your usage.

    Thanks.

  181. Ron said,

    August 23, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    Reed,

    The quotes are from the early pages of The Religious Affections and Book 3 of the Institutes respectively.

    Obviously my concern is with the infinite regress conundrum. The only answers I’ve gotten have been an invalid argument and the claim that knowledge as defined as justified true belief would have the same infinite regress problem.Yet if the justification for knowledge is grounded in the the authority of Scripture, which discloses an omniscient and good God, then there can be no infinite chain of warrant upon warrant in the realm of one’s justification for belief. Gratefully, we do know things because we aren’t subject to the impossibility of justifying our beliefs ad infinitum.

    The 4 step proof that was provided, of which one of the steps (the third one) was a definition, substantially reduced to a disjointed series of sufficient and necessary conditions couched in if-then propositions: If assent, then propositions. If choice, then propositions. Therefore, if assent, then choice between contradictory propositions. Two sufficient conditions were identified for kinds of propositions; then the first sufficient condition was fallaciously transferred to the place of a sufficient condition for the second sufficient condition. The argument virtue of the transfer fallacy is akin to: if it’s raining the street is wet. If the sewer main breaks the street is wet. If it’s raining, then sewer main is broken. Now of course this will be denied but that is the manner in which the first sufficient condition was transferred.

  182. Ron said,

    August 23, 2014 at 8:16 pm

    A quick summary of the most recent exchange:

    Steve in 175: Choices involve competing objects of trust that are understood

    Steve in 180: Choices involve contradictory propositions that are understood

    Steve in 180: “It is unfortunate that you don’t understand the difference between contradictory and “opposing” propositions.”

    It just occurred to me that Steve might have just recently learned the difference between contraries and contradictories. Opposing propositions do not imply contraries; nor do they imply contradictories; yet he thinks that opposing implies contraries. Context will dictate. For Steve the context should have been obvious that we’re talking about contradictories; yet Steve was fine with employing “competing” in 17. So why call me on using “opposing,” when both contraries and contradictories entail opposing propositions and that he should have understood we’re talking about contradictories when HE employed “competing” (probably when he slavishly followed the form of my infinite regress argument in an effort to make a point.) But again, what is the relevant point in all of this? Is there really a question of whether we should be in agreement that when Steve says “competing” he does *not* mean that both can be false? No, he means, or should mean, that one must be false and the other true. He should be thinking in terms of the law of the excluded middle. I’ve given him that much, but now I’m not quite sure what he understands (now on this matter too).

    In 175 Steve used trust in one premise three times with yet with a different meaning for the second usage. His conclusion turned on this equivocation. When it was pointed out that his conclusion was thereby invalid he didn’t address the fallacy. He just muddied the waters more with another fallacious argument.

    In 180 Steve employed a transfer fallacy in order to come to invalid conclusion that assents are chosen.

    In 180 Steve argued like the pagan skeptics and tried to defend infinite regresses on the alleged premise that JTB entails an infinite regress (presumably of justifications for justifications…) He’d rather make knowledge unintelligible than admit that he’s got an infinite regress problem. It’s truly amazing. Does Steve, presumably a Scripturalist no less, really think his knowledge of Scripture is based upon an infinite regress? That he would argue for chosen assents based upon a premise that would destroy all knowledge is more than a bit passing strange. It’s madness.

    Let it be stated again that relevant deliberations and choices often precede our beliefs, but when we finally believe it’s not a willful choice to believe lest we have an infinite regress. Rather, the light goes on. The belief is formed in us.The reason Clarkians must maintain that beliefs are chosen is because they must collapse the will into assent in order to rid faith of the Reformed sense o trust. Yet they know they must have some sort of willful faith so they make it out to be assent to additional propositions. For them it’s an illusion to distinguish the will from the intellect. Let’s not lose the forest through the trees.

  183. Steve M said,

    August 26, 2014 at 12:18 am

    Jonathan Edwards:
    “1. It may be inquired, what the affections of the mind are?
    I answer: The affections are no other than the more vigorous and sensible exercises of the inclination and will of the soul.”

    Treatise on Religious Affections Part 1 first question

    Calvin:
    “As there can be no doubt on the matter, we in one word conclude, that they talk absurdly when they maintain that faith is formed by the addition of pious affection as an accessory to assent, since assent itself, such at least as the Scriptures describe, consists in pious affection.”
    Institutes of the Christian Religion Chapter 2 Section 8

    “Opposing” vs contradictory:
    The opposite of “All A is B” is “No A is B

    The contradiction of “All A is B” is “Some A is not B

    All dogs have teeth and no dogs have teeth are opposite propositions. They can both be wrong. One is not forced to choose one of these. All dogs have teeth and some dogs do not have teeth are contradictory propositions. One of them must be true and one of them must be false. Every assent is a choice between contradictory thoughts by its very nature.

    Ron writes a so-called argument against any assents being voluntary:
    1. All assents are chosen
    2. Choices involve competing propositions that are understood
    3. To understand a proposition is to assent that the proposition exists
    4. To assent a to the existence of proposition p requires choice c (from premise 1)
    5. c requires primitive proposition p -1 and assent a -1 (from premises 2 and 3)
    6. a -1 requires c -1 (from premise 1)
    7. c -1 requires p -2 and a -2 (from premises 2 and 3) (ad infinitum)

    Steve substitutes “objects of trust” for “assents” and posts without comment:
    1. All objects of trust are chosen
    2. Choices involve competing objects of trust that are understood
    3. To understand an object of trust is to trust that the object of trust exists
    4. To trust t in the existence of an object of trust o requires choice c (from premise 1)
    5. c requires primitive object of trust o -1 and trust t -1 (from premises 2 and 3)
    6. t-1 requires c -1 (from premise 1)
    7. c -1 requires o -2 and t -2 (from premises 2 and 3) (ad infinitum)

    Ron then assumes Steve is making a statement that “Choices involve competing objects of trust that are understood” because Steve parroted his statement with substituted words.

    I do not find Ron’s argument well stated to say the least. I find it hard to believe that Ron thinks I am endorsing his statements.

  184. Tim Harris said,

    August 26, 2014 at 7:31 am

    Steve — the A and N propositions are usually identified as “contraries” not “opposites.” In fact, I don’t find your usage ratified by anyone, based on a quick google search.

    Apart from that, not all discourse, even philosophical discourse, limits its usage of terms to the definitions given in elementary logic textbooks. “Impossibility of the contrary” is simply a turn of phrase meaning “impossibility of the negation or denial.” It’s simply a waste of time to complain, school-marmishly, that a word is used in a different sense than it would be when explaining Aristotle’s square to high school students.

  185. Steve M said,

    August 26, 2014 at 10:13 am

    Tim–
    The opposite of all is not none?
    Isn’t not P the negation of P?
    Isn’t not P the denial of P,/b>?

    Yes the all and none propositions are usually identified (and rightly so) as contraries. This is precisely why the “impossibility of the contrary” does not prove ones own position. Proving that it is impossible that no dogs have teeth does not prove my contention that all dogs have teeth.

    Are you contending that defining one’s terms in discourse (even philosophical discourse) is trivial?

    .

  186. Steve M said,

    August 26, 2014 at 10:14 am

    Oops!

  187. Steve M said,

    August 26, 2014 at 10:17 am

    Tim–
    The opposite of all is not none?
    Isn’t not P the negation of P?
    Isn’t not P the denial of P?

    Yes the all and none propositions are usually identified (and rightly so) as contraries. This is precisely why the “impossibility of the contrary” does not prove ones own position. Proving that it is impossible that no dogs have teeth does not prove my contention that all dogs have teeth.

    Are you contending that defining one’s terms in discourse (even philosophical discourse) is trivial?

    .

  188. Ron said,

    August 26, 2014 at 10:40 am

    Ron writes a so-called argument against any assents being voluntary:

    Steve,

    It’s not a subjective “so-called” argument. It is an argument by definition. It is, also, an argument that you have not addressed. It’s not as though you haven’t succeeded. You haven’t even tried. All you’ve done is badger the witness by saying I’ve offered no argument, even when a formal arguments stares you right in the face. Oddly enough, the conclusion of that argument leaves you with the infinite regress conundrum that you have implicitly embraced, even without embarrassment. After all, (i) you defended the concept of infinite regress with your appeal to Thomas: “He never made an argument or proved the impossibility of infinite regress and neither have you.” (ii) Then you implicitly doubled down on your approval of infinite regress by borrowing from the pagan skeptics that would say that “Infinite regress is an argument that can be made against the knowledge of any proposition if one accepts justified true belief as a definition of knowledge.” Amazing! You would affirm infinite regress at the expense of knowing anything! Frankly, you would do much better to argue against the infinite regress conundrum by at least affirming with the voluntarists that basic beliefs are regress stoppers. But no, you’ve taken an approach foreign to the field of philosophy by implicitly affirming infinite regress in the realm of assent.

    Steve substitutes “objects of trust” for “assents” and posts without comment:

    Ah, but then what was your point if not that all choices involve an infinite regress? At least this would explain why you aligned yourself with pagan skepticism and even claimed that I still need to disprove infinite regress. No, we must maintain that you affirm infinite regress as a consequence of your view that all assents are chosen.

    I do not find Ron’s argument well stated to say the least. I find it hard to believe that Ron thinks I am endorsing his statements.

    Your claim is that because every proposition has a corresponding contradictory proposition that, therefore, a choice is made between two given an assent to one. This theory (false disjunction is more like it) was not only formally reduced to absurdity; it was also informally refuted: I believe the computer is in front of me. Its negation is that it’s not. If I were actually to choose to believe that the computer is in front me, then I would have to choose according to what I already believe to be the case. (To deny this is to say that choices can be counter to beliefs, in which case they’d be irrational movements and not choices.)Yet if I already believe that the computer is in front of me in order that I might choose to believe it, then what shall we make of the alleged choice to believe the computer is in front of me? That would be an illusion! Stated another way, how might I choose to believe something that I don’t already assent to be true so that a rational choice can be made? This basic absurdity serves to underscore that what we choose are not the assents, but rather we choose to rely upon beliefs that are formed in us. The same is true of non-basic beliefs. When one comes to believe that F=M*A or that energy cannot be naturally created or destroyed he doesn’t choose to believe these things (even though philosophical contradictories exist for each proposition). After the research is done (minimally or not) one cannot choose to believe what he already thinks is true.

    Choices, if they are to be rational, have to do with reliance upon that which is already believed. Therein we find just another Clarkian nightmare. Because for the Clarkian the will has been reduced to mere assent to propositions, the possibility of real choice is destroyed. Clarkians don’t like the repercussions of their own position so they must take matters in another direction. They hijack terms is more like it. In order to save the faculty of choice they pretend that all assents are chosen. They haven’t saved the the concept of the faculty of choice, the will. No, they’ve merely turned it into assent. They defend this notion by putting forth the false-disjunction that assent plus contradictory propositions imply a choice between two propositions.

  189. Ron said,

    August 26, 2014 at 10:50 am

    Tim,

    I guess your point was ignored: “Impossibility of the contrary” is simply a turn of phrase meaning “impossibility of the negation or denial.”

    I might add to your point that the phrase speaks of the impossibility of *the* contrary and not the impossibility *a* contrary, which would bolster your point regarding it being a turn of phrase pertaining to negation.

  190. Steve M said,

    August 26, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    Ron
    I didn’t miss the point. Contrary; contradictory; what difference does it make?

  191. Steve M said,

    August 26, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    Ron
    For a point to move along a line from point A to point B, it must first reach the midpoint. Before it can reach the midpoint, it must first reach the 1/4 point. Before it can reach the 1/4 point, it must reach the 1/8 point. Before it reaches the 1/8 point, it must reach the 1/16 point, 1/32,1/64 points, ad infinitum. Therefore, motion can never begin.

  192. Ron said,

    August 26, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    For a point to move along a line from point A to point B, it must first reach the midpoint. Before it can reach the midpoint, it must first reach the 1/4 point. Before it can reach the 1/4 point, it must reach the 1/8 point…Therefore, motion can never begin.

    Steve,

    Your analogy is terribly flawed. First off, there is no regress involved let alone an infinite one. In defining points A and B you’ve marked-off a finite segment, which (being finite) can be traversed over time. That there exists an infinite “amount” of points between finite segment AB is not at all analogous to a defined end-point choice that must because of your Clarkian axiom be preceded by an infinite regress of assents and choices that defies a starting point.

  193. Ron said,

    August 26, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    Ron
    I didn’t miss the point. Contrary; contradictory; what difference does it make?

    Frankly, it’s hard to know what you might possibly mean by such a question given what you’ve demonstrated up until now.

  194. Steve M said,

    August 26, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    Ron
    You claimed I ignored Tim’s point. That question was his point.

  195. Tim Harris said,

    August 26, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    Frankly, my own view is that Zeno’s paradox has not been solved. However, I’m kinda surprised that first Clark and now his followers are so fascinated by it. For me, Zeno shows us that even something so simple as physical motion is shrouded in mystery. How much more, then, doctrines like the Trinity, Incarnation, Providence and Free Will, etc.

  196. Ron said,

    August 26, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    Steve re: 196

    Tim had more than one point. He did *not* make the point that there is no difference between contrary and contradiction.Tim appreciates the difference and it was in that that light he defended Bahnsen’s employment of the shorthand phrase, “impossibility of the contrary” noting that:

    “Impossibility of the contrary” is simply a turn of phrase meaning “impossibility of the negation or denial.”

    So, he was not saying, “what’s the difference?” By you arguing back to him that there is a difference missed that point.

  197. Tim Harris said,

    August 26, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    Right, cuz that’s how ordinary language works. Then, we can STIPULATE a certain precised meaning in a certain context: “I will call A and E propositions ‘contraries’, and observe that have the following truth relationship… blah blah blah.” But then it’s rather pedantic to insist that now the perfectly fine English word “contrary” must always be used that way.

  198. Steve M said,

    August 27, 2014 at 12:46 am

    So Tim is saying that when Bahnsen said contrary he meant contradictory and that was a good thing?

  199. Steve M said,

    August 27, 2014 at 1:15 am

    Ron:
    “First off, there is no regress involved let alone an infinite one. In defining points A and B you’ve marked-off a finite segment, which (being finite) can be traversed over time.”

    We generally measure time by motion. The Earth and the hour hand on my watch both revolve once every 24 hours. Before the Earth and the hour hand on my watch can revolve one full turn, they must first revolve one half turn. Before they can revolve a half turn, they must revolve one quarter turn, etc. ad infinitum. This infinite regress applies to time as well as motion..

  200. Ron said,

    August 27, 2014 at 5:38 am

    Steve,

    It’s truly remarkable how you debate. When fallacies (e.g. invalid arguments; invalid transfer of premises; false analogies, etc.) are pointed out to you either you ignore the associated refutation and take another approach or you ignore the refutation and simply repeat yourself. This time you’ve done the latter.

    Again, your analogy doesn’t work. (re: #194) What you are proposing is not an infinite regress. Infinite regress applies to those propositional claims that require justification upon justification in the backwards direction so that there can be no starting point. You fail this criteria in three ways. In your example of an infinite regress (i) you’ve defined the starting point. (ii) Your analogy entails moving forward from a defined starting point – not regressing backwards. (iii) Nothing in your analogy resembles the truth of a proposition requiring the justification of a previous proposition ad infinitum.

    Steve, that you know how to count backwards and divide by two is a fine thing but it doesn’t make your case.

  201. Tim Harris said,

    August 27, 2014 at 9:50 am

    Also, even the stipulated definitions from Aristotelian logic of contrary and contradictory apply to propositions. How, and in what sense the same terms can or should be applied to worldviews, can be stipulated by a philosopher without accusation of incompetence or trickery. What Bahnsen meant by “impossibility of the contrary” is clear.

  202. Steve M said,

    August 27, 2014 at 10:47 am

    Ron:
    “Steve,
    It’s truly remarkable how you debate.”

    Well, thank you very much.

  203. Steve M said,

    August 28, 2014 at 8:58 am

    I accidentally did not post the entire comment above. Here it is:

    Ron
    You attempt to make an argument for your opponent’s position and then demonstrate that your argument for that opponent’s position leads to an infinite regress. You assume that anything that would lead to an infinite regress is impossible.
    Your argument is poorly worded to the point of being unintelligible and, therefore, impossible to follow. You don’t define choice, so I will help you out by supplying a definition

    Choice: an act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities.

    Your premises are poorly worded and do not seem to necessarily follow one another, but even if you were successful in proving your opponent’s argument (or your faulty representation of it) to be impossible, you would not prove your own position that no “assents” are “chosen” (more accurately that one does not choose any of the propositions to which one assents).

    1. ” All assents are chosen” This is very poorly worded.
    Should be: The propositions to which one assents are chosen (i.e. selected from two or more possibilities).
    One cannot assent to nothing. If to assent is to agree or concur that something is true, there must be something that may be true or false with which to agree or disagree. Truth (or falsity) is a property of propositions only. One may only assent to a proposition. It is not “assents” that are chosen, it is the proposition to which assent is given that is chosen.

    2. ” Choices involve competing propositions that are understood” This is also poorly worded.
    Should be: Understood contradictory propositions necessitate choices (acts of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities).
    One need not choose between “competing” propositions. Neither of the two “competing” propositions may require assent. It is contradictory propositions that necessitate a choice. One must be true and one must be false. That is the nature of contradictory propositions. If these contradictory propositions are understood, then it follows that it must be decided to which one assent is given. One cannot agree or concur with both sides of a contradiction.

    3. “To understand a proposition is to assent that the proposition exists” This premise is ridiculous.
    Should be: To understand a proposition is to discern it’s meaning.

    4. “To assent a to the existence of proposition p requires choice c (from premise 1) Between which two or more possibilities is one deciding? This premise is vague to say the least.
    Should be: To assent a to the meaning of proposition p requires rejecting the meaning of the proposition not p.
    You have not defined choice in premise 1 or anywhere else. Assenting to one proposition p and rejecting its contradiction not p is commonly known as choosing c.

    Premises 5,6 and 7 are pure hogwash. You have not explained why choice requires more than two propositions or particularly why it requires an infinite regress.
    5. c requires primitive proposition p -1 and assent a -1 (from premises 2 and 3)
    6. a -1 requires c -1 (from premise 1)
    7. c -1 requires p -2 and a -2 (from premises 2 and 3)

    You have not demonstrated that “All assents are chosen” (whatever that means) is impossible. Had you succeeded in doing so, you still would not have proven that “No assents are chosen”, these being contrary propositions, not contradictory ones.

  204. Ron said,

    August 28, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    Steve,

    Your fallacies continue to be compounded. In any case, I’ve chased you down your little bunny trails long enough.

  205. Ron said,

    August 28, 2014 at 8:14 pm

    It has been suggested to me by more than one person that I expose Steve’s post a bit.

    You have not demonstrated that “All assents are chosen” (whatever that means) is impossible. Had you succeeded in doing so, you still would not have proven that “No assents are chosen”, these being contrary propositions, not contradictory ones.

    Steve,

    You say that by proving the impossibility that “all assents are chosen” does not ipso facto prove that “no assents are chosen.” Your point is that the negation of “all assents are chosen” still leaves room for the logical possibility that some assents are chosen. Well, we can add to your list of fallacies that of a hasty inference.

    The reductio begins with the false Clarkian axiom that “all assents are chosen.” The argument then proceeds to place under interrogation the universality of the claim by dealing with what is representative of each and every assent from a Clarkian perspective. Happily, given how you’ve represented yourself in this thread, I’m quite confident that you innocently did not realize that you were inflicting upon the major premise the unwarranted interpretation: the set of all assents. I’m equally confident that you have no idea what I just said.

    To interpret the reductio as pertaining to assents as a unit as opposed to each and every assent (i.e. “all assents”) is at best a blunder and at worst dishonest. Again though, I sincerely believe you are merely guilty of the former since I have no reason to believe you know what you’re talking about. Aside from all your mistakes thus far, if you weren’t struggling to keep up then surely, as an honest man, you would have granted this interpretation in order to advance the discussion. Yet you didn’t. Accordingly, I have more evidence to consider you invincibly inept.

    In a word, by “all” the premise obviously means each and every (corroborated by the fact that the proof does not deal with the single set of all assents(!) but rather what is shared by each and every assent that is alleged to be chosen.

    Aside from that bungle there’s still one other (among many more) worth mentioning. To disprove the Clarkian position one does not have to demonstrate, as I did, that “no assents are chosen” (since the Clarkian position is that all assents are chosen virtue of the existence of a contradictory proposition relative to all propositions). So, your claim that even had I showed many exceptions I would not have made my case is an invalid one. What escapes you is that the case I’ve been making to you is that the Clarkian premise, which is a universal claim, is wrong. Accordingly, even one exception, let alone an outright exhaustive refutation, would suffice.

    It has also been suggested I repeat the relevance of all this. Well, Clarkians deny that saving faith engages the will. Sure, they deny this assessment but when we peel back the smelly onion we find that for them volition is collapsed into mere mental assent. To “save” themselves from themselves they opine that all assents are a matter of volition because, they say, to believe x requires a choice not to believe the x’s contradiction. Their proof is that all propositions require an existing contradictory, but how they get from the existence of a logical contradictory proposition to a choice between two contradictory propositions so that one might believe either one remains an undisclosed mystery.

    I won’t rehearse the arguments levied against this philosophical surd, other than to say that not to believe a contradictory of what is believed does not require a willful decision, a choice. At the very least, what are we to make of a priori beliefs?

    Lastly, I’ve never known anyone who affirmed infinite regress in such a discussion as this. Some might affirm basic beliefs as regress stoppers, but even that would undermine the Clarkian axiom given the universality of the claim!

  206. Steve M said,

    August 28, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    Ron
    I suggest you continue to expose my post. The more you write, the better I look.

  207. Tim Harris said,

    August 29, 2014 at 8:52 am

    Maybe we could try to bring this argument back to earth for a moment.

    I’m thinking of C. S. Lewis who described himself as “the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.” Or imagine a judge, who against his deep feelings sets a convict free because the case has not been been, conforming his belief to innocence due to the facts and arguments presented. Here we have two cases where men believe unwillingly.

    Now of course, one could say that both these cases involve the will. Yes they do, but not in respect to the thing believed, but rather, in respect to things like “having integrity as an honest man.”

    So perhaps we can find a compromise here, and say that often, even if there is a voluntary ASPECT to an assent, it is not in respect to the proposition assented to, but rather, obliquely, in respect to a general disposition to know the truth, conform to reality, etc.

  208. Ron said,

    August 29, 2014 at 11:27 am

    Tim,

    Your distinction is a good one. Those types of scenarios involve the will but as you say, “not in respect to the thing believed, but rather, in respect to things like ‘having integrity as an honest man.’”
    (Bold emphasis below has been added.)

    So perhaps we can find a compromise here, and say that often, even if there is a voluntary ASPECT to an assent, it is not in respect to the proposition assented to, but rather, obliquely, in respect to a general disposition to know the truth, conform to reality, etc.

    I don’t see this as a compromise because it’s what we disagree upon. As I wrote in my original post, “This is where things get a bit dicey. Most of the things we assent to, whether a priori or a posteriori, are not volitional. [Implication: some assents have a voluntary “ASPECT.”] One does not will to believe that God exists any more than a child chooses to believe he is being fed by his mother. These are mental assents that are not discursive; they are immediate and without reflection. The will is bypassed…. Assent always pertains to accepting the truth of a proposition, whereas how one might respond in light of assent (e.g. trust, rest, exuberance, etc.) is commonly classified under the philosophical heading of disposition (which is not propositional assent).”

    So, I heartily agree with you that in those cases where “there is a voluntary aspect to an assent, it is not in respect to the proposition assented to, but rather obliquely, in respect to a general disposition to know the truth, conform to reality, etc.”

    Two points: You and I seem to agree that there are cases in which there are no voluntary aspect to assent. We, also, agree that when volition is associated with assent it is not with respect to the propositions assented to. Now notice Steve: “If these contradictory propositions are understood, then it follows that it must be decided to which one assent is given. One cannot agree or concur with both sides of a contradiction.”

    That one cannot agree (equally) with both sides of a contradiction does not logically imply any decision let alone, as you say, a decision “in respect to the proposition assented to.” The Clarkian position is not only that all assents involve some “aspect” of choice but also that the choice pertains to “which [proposition] assent is given.”

    Given the collision course of what you are putting forth relative to the Clarkian position, I find little hope for a compromise (i.e. to find middle ground) unless, of course, we compromise (equivocate over) the meaning of words to accommodate both sides. But what sort of agreement would that be?

    Before one can assent to his mother is feeding him must he really understand the proposition and the associated contradictory proposition? Then and only then the will is engaged so that one might choose to believe what he experiences? Is this how basic beliefs work? Maybe Steve also believes that the child does not believe his mother is feeding him because of cognitive limitations that prohibit understanding the proposition and its negation? Not sure.

    In any case, can one understand the meaning of “God does not exist”? (Doesn’t the negation of God presuppose belief in God after all?) And if one cannot understand ~God, then how would one choose to believe that God does exist (since a choice must entail a contradictory proposition that is understood)? Yet even if one could understand what ~God means, is it really as Steve says, that it is “decided to which one assent is given”? Tabula rasa?

    Again, why do Clarkians take this novel turn? Well, they want to rid saving faith from the traditional Reformed construct that includes volitional (and emotional) reliance upon the Christ. Yet they cannot escape from the truth that the will actually is engaged in saving faith. Consequently, they redefine the idea of volitional faith, relocating it to the sphere of mental assent, in order that the might appear to maintain some connection to Reformed theology on the matter.

  209. Ron said,

    August 29, 2014 at 11:38 am

    One addition in second to last paragraph.

    Tim,

    Your distinction is a good one. Those types of scenarios involve the will but as you say, “not in respect to the thing believed, but rather, in respect to things like ‘having integrity as an honest man.’”
    (Bold emphasis below has been added.)

    So perhaps we can find a compromise here, and say that often, even if there is a voluntary ASPECT to an assent, it is not in respect to the proposition assented to, but rather, obliquely, in respect to a general disposition to know the truth, conform to reality, etc.

    I don’t see this as a compromise because it’s what we disagree upon. As I wrote in my original post, “This is where things get a bit dicey. Most of the things we assent to, whether a priori or a posteriori, are not volitional. [Implication: some assents have a voluntary “ASPECT.”] One does not will to believe that God exists any more than a child chooses to believe he is being fed by his mother. These are mental assents that are not discursive; they are immediate and without reflection. The will is bypassed…. Assent always pertains to accepting the truth of a proposition, whereas how one might respond in light of assent (e.g. trust, rest, exuberance, etc.) is commonly classified under the philosophical heading of disposition (which is not propositional assent).”

    So, I heartily agree with you that in those cases where “there is a voluntary aspect to an assent, it is not in respect to the proposition assented to, but rather obliquely, in respect to a general disposition to know the truth, conform to reality, etc.”

    Two points: You and I seem to agree that there are cases in which there are no voluntary aspect to assent. We, also, agree that when volition is associated with assent it is not with respect to the propositions assented to. Now notice Steve: “If these contradictory propositions are understood, then it follows that it must be decided to which one assent is given. One cannot agree or concur with both sides of a contradiction.”

    That one cannot agree (equally) with both sides of a contradiction does not logically imply any decision let alone, as you say, a decision “in respect to the proposition assented to.” The Clarkian position is not only that all assents involve some “aspect” of choice but also that the choice pertains to “which [proposition] assent is given.”

    Given the collision course of what you are putting forth relative to the Clarkian position, I find little hope for a compromise (i.e. to find middle ground) unless, of course, we compromise (equivocate over) the meaning of words to accommodate both sides. But what sort of agreement would that be?

    Before one can assent to his mother is feeding him must he really understand the proposition and the associated contradictory proposition? Then and only then the will is engaged so that one might choose to believe what he experiences? Is this how basic beliefs work? Maybe Steve also believes that the child does not believe his mother is feeding him because of cognitive limitations that prohibit understanding the proposition and its negation? Not sure.

    In any case, can one understand the meaning of “God does not exist”? (Doesn’t the negation of God presuppose belief in God, even rendering the comprehension of ~God unintelligible?) And if one cannot understand what ~God means, then how would one choose to believe that God does exist (since a choice must entail a contradictory proposition that is understood)? Yet even if one could understand what ~God means, is it really as Steve says, that it is “decided to which one assent is given”? Tabula rasa?

    Again, why do Clarkians take this novel turn? Well, they want to rid saving faith from the traditional Reformed construct that includes volitional (and emotional) reliance upon the Christ. Yet they cannot escape from the truth that the will actually is engaged in saving faith. Consequently, they redefine the idea of volitional faith, relocating it to the sphere of mental assent, in order that the might appear to maintain some connection to Reformed theology on the matter.

  210. De Maria said,

    August 31, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    Ron said:

    One does not will to believe that God exists any more than a child chooses to believe he is being fed by his mother. These are mental assents that are not discursive; they are immediate and without reflection.

    On the contrary, I remember the words I uttered when I came to believe in God. I said to God, “God, if you don’t exist, I need you to exist.”

    Therefore, I willed to believe that God exists against all the evidence that I could see with my own eyes.

    I never said such a thing about my mother when I could see her feeding me. There was no need for me to force myself to believe in someone whom I could see.

  211. Ron said,

    August 31, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    DeMaria,

    Your use of “willed” seems to mean “desired.”

    “I need you to exist….Therefore, I *desired* to believe that God exists.” Yet on the other hand you suggest that you *forced* yourself to believe. The latter would be consistent with your view of grace.

  212. roberty bob said,

    August 31, 2014 at 8:14 pm

    in response to 213, who responds to 212 . . .

    From my vantage point it looks like DeMaria in 212 relates his own experience of “coming to faith” to the definition proffered by Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not.” Thus DeMaria said to God, “I need you to exist.” So, he continues, “Therefore, I willed to believe that God exists against all the evidence that I could see with my own eyes.”

    Of the many stories I’ve heard told by those who have “come to faith,” it is commonplace to learn of those who consciously asserted their will to believe in an unseen God. Not all true believers come to faith easily; some struggle mightily so that the force of will comes into play.

    Are you saying, 213, that it is impossible to enter the Kingdom of Heaven with force . . . lest grace be trampled upon?

  213. Ron said,

    August 31, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    RB,

    My post, which DM responded to, had to do with belief in God’s existence. People are without excuse before God because of His revelation in conscience and the created order. Professing atheists work hard at self-deception. They try to believe that they do not believe that God exists. This is what it is to suppress the truth in unrighteousness. They try to suppress the voice of God. They work hard to escape His presence. But, they cannot because His revelation is clearly seen and comprehended.

    Psalm 19:1-3: The heavens are declare of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day after day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard.

    Psalm 139:7-9: Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.

    Romans 1:19-20: Because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

    Are you saying, 213, that it is impossible to enter the Kingdom of Heaven with force . . . lest grace be trampled upon?

    No, I’m not saying that at all. In fact, when people are effectually called and converted they take the Kingdom of God with great enthusiasm, which resembles a violent entrance. God’s saving grace is not just offered; it works; it’s operative grace, not co-operative grace. But more to the point, yes, the will of man is most definitely engaged. One must not just assent to Christ; one must also do an about face and come to Christ willfully. However, the verse does not teach that people make themselves press into the kingdom of God against their own better judgment or contrary to evidence. It doesn’t even teach that God, by Grace, forces men to come. Rather, God makes men wholly willing to enter into the kingdom of God with great alacrity.

    So, to bring this full circle. All men believe God exists. It is a basic belief that sadly is sometimes suppressed in unrighteousness.

  214. roberty bob said,

    August 31, 2014 at 9:28 pm

    Well said, Ron! Thanks. It’s what I was hoping you’d say.

  215. De Maria said,

    September 1, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    Ron said,
    August 31, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    DeMaria,

    Your use of “willed” seems to mean “desired.”

    No, I meant “willed”.

    “I need you to exist….Therefore, I *desired* to believe that God exists.”

    No. To “desire” is to yearn for or want something which one doesn’t have. I have a “will”. And I forced my will to accept the existence of a God whom I had come to realize that I needed.

    I “desired” God because I “needed” God.

    Yet on the other hand you suggest that you *forced* yourself to believe.

    Its not a suggestion. It is a statement of fact.

    The latter would be consistent with your view of grace.

    You mean that I believe we must make a conscious effort to cooperate with grace? I believe that is consistent with the Word of God:

    Deuteronomy 30:19
    I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:

  216. De Maria said,

    September 1, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    Ron said,
    August 31, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    RB,

    My post, which DM responded to, had to do with belief in God’s existence. People are without excuse before God because of His revelation in conscience and the created order. Professing atheists work hard at self-deception. They try to believe that they do not believe that God exists.

    This is your mere opinion, Ron, but Scripture proves you wrong:

    Psalm 14
    The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good…..

    In other words, the fool has come to believe, in his heart, which means in his soul, that God does not exist. Therefore, he sins without fear.

    Yes, the atheist has deceived himself. But he truly believes that God does not exist, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

    This is what it is to suppress the truth in unrighteousness. They try to suppress the voice of God. They work hard to escape His presence.

    This is true. They give other explanations for all those things. The voice of God in their hearts, the conscience, becomes just their nerves. What did Scrooge call it? A bit of overeating?

    But, they cannot because His revelation is clearly seen and comprehended.

    Again, you deny the Word of God:

    1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

    His revelation is seen, but it can not be comprehended thy those with who live according to the flesh:

    Rom 8:5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
    7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

    Psalm 19:1-3: The heavens are declare of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day after day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard.

    Psalm 139:7-9: Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.

    This is true but has no bearing upon atheists.

    Romans 1:19-20: Because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

    This is true but is speaking about those who worship the creature. In other words, about pagan idol worshippers. If we get a bit more context we see that it also says:

    21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. 24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

    RB asked:

    Are you saying, 213, that it is impossible to enter the Kingdom of Heaven with force . . . lest grace be trampled upon?

    No, I’m not saying that at all. In fact, when people are effectually called and converted they take the Kingdom of God with great enthusiasm, which resembles a violent entrance. God’s saving grace is not just offered; it works; it’s operative grace, not co-operative grace. But more to the point, yes, the will of man is most definitely engaged. One must not just assent to Christ; one must also do an about face and come to Christ willfully. However, the verse does not teach that people make themselves press into the kingdom of God against their own better judgment or contrary to evidence. It doesn’t even teach that God, by Grace, forces men to come. Rather, God makes men wholly willing to enter into the kingdom of God with great alacrity.

    That wasn’t my experience. My experience is that God’s grace came in waves.

    1. The first wave was when I my wife said the words, “We’re gonna have a baby.”

    2. The second wave was when I saw a film about a child who struck herself in the brow to obtain her mom’s affection.

    3. This is about the time when I uttered the words, “If you don’t exist, need you to exist”. I uttered those words because from that film and from the things which were going on in the world, I could not imagine that I could protect my family without God’s favor.

    4. But, after our child was born, I went back to business as usual. Although I now believed in God, you wouldn’t have known it from the way I behaved. More waves of grace were necessary for that.

    So, to bring this full circle. All men believe God exists.

    That is your belief. I know that at one time, I did not believe that God existed. And I met many others who agreed with me. And I believe this is the teaching of Scripture.

    It is a basic belief that sadly is sometimes suppressed in unrighteousness.

    I agree. And that suppression leads to unbelief. That suppression leads to atheism.

  217. De Maria said,

    September 1, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    That didn’t sound right. By, “And I believe this is the teaching of Scripture.” I mean that Scripture teaches that some men do not believe in God. This is why Scripture also says:

    Hebrews 11:6 [Full Chapter]
    But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God

    1. must believe that he is, ….
    2. and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

    In other words, In order to have faith in God,

    1st, one must believe that God exists.
    2nd. one must believe that He is good

    Criteria number 1 would not be necessary unless there were some men in the world who do not believe that God exists. And without #1, you can’t have #2.

  218. Ron said,

    September 1, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    Thanks for sharing.

  219. Steve M said,

    September 10, 2014 at 6:24 pm

    Ron
    Is a “disposition of commitment” the same thing as “the reliance sort of trust” or are these two different things that must be added to belief to make it saving?

  220. Ron said,

    September 11, 2014 at 2:13 am

    Steve,

    No, I would distinguish reliance from the disposition of commitment and classify them under two distinct evangelical graces.They are also distinct from assent in their own right.The disposition of commitment would pertain to a resolve God grants to the sinner in conversion. So, in the grace of repentance God grants a disposition that purposes to walk in the ways of God’s commandments. Repentance entails this disposition. It can be distinguished from saving faith but not separated from it.

    Similarly, there is an encompassing disposition that is part-and-parcel with saving faith. This disposition is not assent either, but when God converts a sinner the subject relies upon (i.e. trusts) in conjunction with assent. Assent gives way to reliance in conversion. The two, assent and reliance, are distinct and make up saving faith. The key is that the former (assent) is not classified under volition whereas the latter (reliance) is voluntary. (The technical term for reliance would be “acceptance” but that term has colloquial baggage so I didn’t use it.)

    So, dispositions, whether in repentance or in faith, are not mental assents. And, the intellection of assent can obtain apart from such dispositions. Notwithstanding, dispositions are real and meaningful; they pertain to the faculty of choice and, therefore, presuppose assent.They are intelligible formations in light of assent but they are distinct and distinguishable from it.

  221. De Maria said,

    September 11, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    Why is there a need for the term, “saving faith” in Reformed theology? It sounds as though you guys are distinguishing between “faith” and “saving faith” because you recognize that you need more than “faith alone” to be saved.

  222. roberty bob said,

    September 11, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    in reply to #222 . . .

    So, we have these evangelical graces that can be distinguished from saving faith, but not separated from it. So, wherever you see saving faith, you see these accompanying graces hanging around.

    So, I’m trying to explain saving faith to my son. And I have to help him to see that his “disposition of commitment” and his “reliance sort of trust” will show up on the scene when “saving faith” appears. Then I have to make it clear to him that these “best friends” of saving faith should never be mistaken for “saving faith himself.” We have to be so careful about mistaken identities here because it would be a terrible thing for my son to shake hands with Mister Disposition of Commitment and with Mr Reliance Sort of Trust if he should fail to embrace Mister Saving Faith!

    DeMaria in #223 asks a compelling question, does he not?

  223. Tim Harris said,

    September 11, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    No, his question in 223 is simply: Chapter 14 of WCF is titled “Saving Faith” but subsequent usage is just “faith.” The title simply delimits the context of the subsequent declarations: it is not talking about a boy’s faith that is father will catch a fish, for example.

    In the Clarkian context, since for them faith = belief, using the adjective distinguishes belief in X (where Clark sorta fills in X, though not exactly) from belief in the Pythagorean Theorem etc.

  224. roberty bob said,

    September 11, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    oops . . . #222

    I’m on my clear screened computer — not the greened-in screen — and discovered that I had misread the post. Never mind #224. #222 rings true with the good teaching I once received.

  225. De Maria said,

    September 11, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    Tim Harris said,
    September 11, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    No, his question in 223 is simply: Chapter 14 of WCF is titled “Saving Faith” but subsequent usage is just “faith.”

    Fair enough. But in this discussion, there is no mention of boys going fishing with their parents. So, why do you delimit the two terms in this discussion? The first part of this thread says:

    JUSTIFICATION BY BELIEF
    July 30, 2014 at 10:55 am (Faith, Justification)

    The following is a post from Ron DiGiacomo, expressing some reflections on the recent discussion here on the nature of faith. Is it assent alone, or assent + trust?

    It has recently been argued by some that we are justified by belief alone ….

    Is faith, believing, or not? It would seem that it is because these statements say the same thing:

    Genesis 15:6 And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

    Romans 4:9 ….for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.

    Therefore, it seems to me that you are, in this discussion, distinguishing between belief (faith) and belief alone (faith alone). And you are making that distinction by using another term, “saving faith” to express the idea which is repugnant to Protestants. That term being “working faith”, i.e. a faith accompanied by works. You are expressing the Catholic idea that a lone faith is a dead faith and that faith, in order to be efficacious, must include good works:

    James 2:22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?

  226. Tim Harris said,

    September 11, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    You have to understand that this thread is specifically addressed to the Clarkians with their “faith is bare belief in the sense of mere assent.” All the ducking and weaving has to do with attacking/defending just that one thing. The Reformed confessions do not ever define faith as mere assent, but Gordon Clark and his followers insist that faith is mere assent and that anyone that says otherwise is an irrationalist.

  227. Steve M said,

    September 11, 2014 at 6:03 pm

    Tim:
    “The Reformed confessions do not ever define faith as mere assent”

    The Westminster Confession does, however, define faith as “the act of believing”. Those opposing Clark’s view in this thread have maintained that faith and belief are two different things. They have said that belief and assent are synonyms. “Mere” assent is mere belief. “Mere” belief accomplishes nothing. This is, according to them, the “Reformed view”.

  228. De Maria said,

    September 11, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    Thanks Tim.

    I will exit stage left.

  229. September 11, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    Faith is not obedience. Trusting Christ alone leads to an obedient life, yet not perfectly.

  230. Hugh McCann said,

    September 11, 2014 at 8:20 pm

    And faith is reckoned as perfect obedience, of course.

  231. Hugh McCann said,

    September 11, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    Faith = trust = belief = knowledge + assent.

    Now, everybody got that? ;)

    Good! :)

  232. Ron said,

    September 12, 2014 at 8:21 am

    The Westminster Confession does, however, define faith as “the act of believing”.

    Hugh,

    I agree that believing is an act of faith, but the Confession does not define faith as such. When the Confession speaks of the “acts” of faith it lists: yielding obedience; trembling; embracing promises; and accepting, receiving and resting in Christ. The Confession lumps obedience with resting, which indicates that it is not so much defining faith but rather addressing the manifestations of faith.

  233. Ron said,

    September 12, 2014 at 8:30 am

    Let me try to frame this for those no acquainted with the discussion.

    Clarkians assert that when the Confession speaks of saving faith as “embracing the promises of God… accepting, receiving and resting upon Christ alone” it is merely discussing assent to propositions. They will tell us that embracing, accepting and receiving are metaphors for mental assent. For instance, Sean has written: “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.” He has also written that “’resting upon Christ” is just another way of saying ‘trusting in Christ’ or ‘believing in Christ’ for that matter.” For the Clarkian, resting in Christ is assenting to propositions and no more.

    It is the opinion of non-Clarkians that the Larger Catechism disagrees with this interpretation and distinguishes assent from resting in Christ. The Catechism explicitly states that justifying faith “not only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receiveth and resteth upon Christ and his righteousness…” In other words, rather than equate assent with the act of receiving and resting, the Catechism speaks of receiving and resting as something other than assent. The Clarkian response is that the Catechism is not disclosing a third component of faith but introducing a second category of propositions that must be regarded as true. For the Clarkian, assenting to the gospel promises and assenting to Christ and His righteousness are two different sorts of things that must be distinguished.

    I trust that’s a fair depiction.

  234. Hugh McCann said,

    September 12, 2014 at 8:45 am

    Hi Ron, #234 is great, but you’re replying to a post by Steve M., not yours truly. But thanks for flattering me.

    I cannot agree that believing is an act of faith, but the Confession does not define faith as such. Does the confession say that? (See next post.)

    This is terrific! ~ When the Confession speaks of the “acts” of faith it lists: yielding obedience; trembling; embracing promises; and accepting, receiving and resting in Christ. The Confession lumps obedience with resting, which indicates that it is not so much defining faith but rather addressing the manifestations of faith.

    If obeying, trembling, embracing, & accepting, do not define, but reveal faith, then do not receiving and resting not define by reveal faith as well?

  235. Ron said,

    September 12, 2014 at 9:11 am

    “you’re replying to a post by Steve M., not yours truly.”

    Hugh,

    Thanks for pointed that out. :)

    “If obeying, trembling, embracing, & accepting, do not define, but reveal faith, then do not receiving and resting not define by reveal faith as well?”

    Not sure that *you* want to go there since you, I would think, equate resting with assent.So, for you to eliminate resting in Christ from faith would be to eliminate assent from faith.

    I, on the other hand, even see the act of belief as that which saving faith produces. “By this faith, one believes….” Technically speaking, I draw a distinction between faith and the act of believing, with the latter being an exercise of faith. When sleeping last night you were in a state of saving faith, but you probably weren’t believing anything. I treat repentance the same way. By”it” [i.e. the gift of repentance] “a sinner…so grieves for, and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God.” The gift of repentance produces the acts of repentance, such as turning from sin. So, in the like manner, although you possessed the gift of repentance last night, you probably were not actively repenting.

  236. Hugh McCann said,

    September 12, 2014 at 9:36 am

    Ron 235, First paragraph – thumbs up! And smiley emoticon for good measure!

    As to the 2nd, The Catechism explicitly states that justifying faith “not only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel [bogus faith], but receiveth and resteth upon Christ and his righteousness [true faith]…”

    The promises of the gospel (eternal life, peace with God, et. al.) are not the gospel of 1 Cor. 15:3f. One certainly doesn’t rest upon the *promises* of the gospel (for Arminians and papists do that), but upon Christ and his work on our behalf: Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And he was buried, and he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.

    One such gospel promise is rest: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

    Peace, too, is promised *in* the gospel, not *as* the gospel: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

    For the Clarkian, assenting to the gospel promises and assenting to Christ and His righteousness are two different sorts of things that must be distinguished. THERE we are! That does appear to be the Westminster catechists’ meaning.

    Again, answer 73 reads: “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.”

    And the proofs for that phrase:

    * Eph. 1:13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

    > Here, trusting and believing are equated.

    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.

    ** John 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:

    > Receiving here is shown to be synonymous with believing.

    Acts 16:31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

    Acts 10:43 To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.

    Zech. 3:8–9 Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the Branch. For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, saith the Lord of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.

    I know that you know your catechism! I am quoting it for the benefit of myself, and convenience of others.

    Hugh

  237. Hugh McCann said,

    September 12, 2014 at 9:45 am

    Ron 237 – I need to correct a typo in my #236:

    “If obeying, trembling, embracing, & accepting, do not define, but reveal faith, then do not receiving and resting not define, but reveal faith as well?” Thanks for copying & pasting me – I’d not caught that.

    Your second point wants a lot of pondering, as I find it a bit inscrutable: “I, on the other hand, even see the act of belief as that which saving faith produces.” Hmmm…

    For the time being, I still hold that faith = belief = trust.

    I love to be “pointed.” ;)

  238. Ron said,

    September 12, 2014 at 11:21 am

    Hugh,

    I agree that the promises of the gospel can be distinguished from the gospel, but even if the Divines had that distinction in mind the lingering question is whether they were intending to equate receiving and resting with assent, or were they wanting to distinguish the two.

    In support of the latter, when the Confession speaks of the personal appropriation of the Savior’s work it does not use terminology that reflects mere agreement (i.e. assent). After all, there are many things that we assent to, even things that pertain to us personally, that are not received as good news let alone rested upon. Assent by definition does not carry these sorts of connotations.

    Secondly, to receive and rest in Christ is to abandon confidence in oneself while relying upon Him alone as our only hope in this life and the life to come. Yet to abandon confidence in oneself in exchange for relying upon the perfect righteousness of another is not to assent to a proposition or set of propositions. One doesn’t believe abandonment and believe rest. Rather, these are metaphysical realities – the volitional aspects of faith, that presuppose both understanding an assent.

    And so here we are, full circle.

    “For the time being, I still hold that faith = belief = trust.”

    Well, maybe after “the time being” passes new ideas might be embraced. :)

  239. Hugh McCann said,

    September 12, 2014 at 11:45 am

    Thanks, Ron @ 240.

    …there are many things that we assent to, even things that pertain to us personally, that are not received as good news let alone rested upon.

    Except, maybe, the good news of Jesus Christ?! Knowing and assenting to 1 Cor. 15:3-4 is to believe, is to be saved.

    And, to abandon confidence in oneself in exchange for relying upon the perfect righteousness of another is not to assent to a proposition or set of propositions.

    Yes it is. Or, why not? That sounds like repentance and faith (Mark 1:15)!

    Assenting to the gospel is to agree that Christ died for our sins, etc. That certainly IS to abandon confidence in oneself in exchange for relying upon the perfect righteousness of another!

  240. Ron said,

    September 12, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    Or, why not?

    Because assent by definition does not pertain to what is technically called “acceptance” (what I’ve called “trust”). A scientist can accept (i.e. rely upon) data without assenting to the truth of it. The data is good enough for him to proceed with scientific inquiry (so he relies upon it). (Clark would agree.) It’s good enough so to speak. Conversely, one can assent to the data and not rely upon it at all. It’s of no interest to him when the rubber hits the road. Thirdly, one can both assent to the data and also rely upon it. In all such scenarios assent is distinct from trust.The Clarkian position is that it’s impossible to assent without relying upon. Well, one cannot truly repent without also having faith but that doesn’t make the two the same thing. Accordingly, the premise that assent is sufficient for salvation does not imply that assent is trust any more than the sufficient condition of union with Christ is the same thing as imputation.

    Moreover, Clarkians either make assent take on additional meaning (to include trust) or else they redefine what it means to trust, reducing it to mere assent to specific propositions. It has become apparent to me (though it was apparent to Alan and others before me) that the latter is the case. So, in response to this I dealt with the ramifications of the position, which I need not repeat here.

  241. Ron said,

    September 12, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    One modification that I don’t want you to call foul on…

    Because assent by definition does not pertain to what is technically called “acceptance” (what I’ve called “trust”). A scientist can accept (i.e. rely upon) data without assenting to the truth of it. The data is good enough for him to proceed with scientific inquiry (so he relies upon it). (Clark would agree.) It’s good enough so to speak. Conversely, one can assent to the data and not rely upon it at all. It’s of no interest to him when the rubber hits the road. Thirdly, one can both assent to the data and also rely upon it. In all such scenarios assent is distinct from trust.The Clarkian position is that it’s impossible to assent without relying upon when it pertains to the gospel. Well, one cannot truly repent without also having faith but that doesn’t make the two the same thing. Accordingly, the premise that assent is sufficient for salvation does not imply that assent is trust any more than the sufficient condition of union with Christ is the same thing as imputation.

    Moreover, Clarkians either make assent take on additional meaning (to include trust) or else they redefine what it means to trust, reducing it to mere assent to specific propositions. It has become apparent to me (though it was apparent to Alan and others before me) that the latter is the case. So, in response to this I dealt with the ramifications of the position, which I need not repeat here.

  242. Hugh McCann said,

    September 12, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    Ron says, …assent by definition does not pertain to what is technically called “acceptance” (what I’ve called “trust”). A scientist can accept (i.e. rely upon) data without assenting to the truth of it. The data is good enough for him to proceed with scientific inquiry (so he relies upon it). (Clark would agree.) It’s good enough so to speak.

    So, Acceptance = Trust = Reliance (“A/T/R”)? So far, so good?

    But such A/T/R does not necessary include assent?

    Conversely, one can assent to the data and not rely upon it at all. It’s of no interest to him when the rubber hits the road.

    Again, assent is not necessary for there to be A/T/R?

    Thirdly, one can both assent to the data and also rely upon it.

    In this case, assent IS a part of A/T/R?

    In all such scenarios assent is distinct from trust.The Clarkian position is that it’s impossible to assent without relying upon when it pertains to the gospel.

    Right, yes, I assent to your last sentence!

  243. Ron said,

    September 12, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    But such A/T/R does not necessary include assent?

    Hugh,

    Include assent? No, it doesn’t. Again, a scientist will often rely upon data that he doesn’t assent to. (Van Fraassen) Once the theory is confirmed in his mind he might have no reason to rely upon it for his research will be complete. In which case, he might no longer rely upon that which he now assents to! :) Also, Clark’s understanding of inductive inference suggests that people rely upon theories that actually cannot be true – which means people rely upon those things they don’t believe.

    In this case, assent IS a part of A/T/R?z

    Part of trust? No, it’s not “part of trust.” When one relies upon the data he assents to, assent doesn’t become “part of” trust. Rather, trust in such cases presupposes assent. In such cases, the person relies upon that which he believes, which need not always be the case.

  244. Ron said,

    September 12, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    Again, a minor correction in the first paragraph aimed to minimize misunderstanding.

    “But such A/T/R does not necessary include assent?”

    Hugh,

    Include assent? No, it doesn’t. Again, a scientist will often rely upon data that he doesn’t assent to. (Van Fraassen) Once the theory is confirmed in his mind he might have no reason to rely upon it for his research will be complete. In which case, he might no longer rely upon that which he now assents to! :) Also, Clark’s understanding of inductive inference suggests that people rely upon theories that actually cannot be true – which means people who embrace this view of induction rely upon those things they don’t believe to be true.

    In this case, assent IS a part of A/T/R?z

    Part of trust? No, it’s not “part of trust.” When one relies upon the data he assents to, assent doesn’t become “part of” trust. Rather, trust in such cases presupposes assent. In such cases, the person relies upon that which he believes, which need not always be the case.

  245. Hugh McCann said,

    September 12, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    Ron @ 246: OK, I think I get you on this. Thanks.

  246. Ron said,

    September 12, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    OK, and you know where to find me… Also, you have my email. Feel free to use it. I think I’d prefer it actually. This thread has run its course.

  247. Ron said,

    September 13, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    Clarkians assert that we’re justified by assent alone. They eliminate from the definition of faith the willful aspect of faith, namely trusting in Christ. They defend their denial by saying things like, “I can’t speak for all ‘Clarkians,’ but I do agree with Clark that assent entails the will.” Moreover, Sean also writes:

    I would think that what precedes a belief, even in the mind of a baby, is a matter of volition. However, you seem to think most of our beliefs spring up magically in our minds from the ether or perhaps are part of our original endowment. But, again, you have no idea how a baby comes to believe anything and I don’t either, but I do know that all assents are volitional.

    Note well, this is critical to the Clarkian position. They won’t go so far as to deny the willful aspect of saving faith so what they must do is smuggle the metaphysics of the will into mental assent.

    All choices are predicated upon at least some degree of rational analyses (even apart from self-awareness of the process) so that a “decision” (or selection) can be made between contradictories. Added to this, we can safely say that willful decisions presuppose assent (albeit unconscious assent in most cases) to the law of identity (lest one can decide between two propositions without distinguishing them). Yet the law of identity is itself a proposition. How, then, can assent to the propositional law of identity be an act of the will if assent to the law of identity is a precondition for any choice to obtain, including the alleged choice to regard the law of identity true? How does one choose the laws of non-contradiction and excluded middle without first assenting to them? At the very least, if assents are chosen then our first choice was void of belief. Yet what does it mean to choose something without belief in anything? Does Calvinism support a blank-slate theory? Does it support doxastic voluntarism? Does Calvinism support choosing our first beliefs without intentions that presuppose beliefs? Does it support the Arminian notion of pure contingency, after all?

    The Reformed position on saving faith is that one doesn’t just intellectually assent to the gospel but rather men also willfully entrust themselves to Christ. Clarkians exchange this act of the will for assent to additional propositions. In doing so they do not affirm willful trust as part of saving faith but rather eliminate it altogether, replacing it with additional assents. In an effort to hold on to some semblance of a willful saving-faith they must posit that all assents are products of the will, which leads to many silly conclusions (as have been fleshed out throughout the thread). In any case, they reason that all assents presuppose non-affirmation of the contradictory of the assented to proposition; they then leap to the conclusion that these mental states of affairs are chosen. In other words, if one believes p* then he must, also, reject ~p*, therefore, a choice is made to assent to p* (or in this other Clarkian’s case: p* itself is chosen). Such reasoning is not deductive. It’s simply garden variety question begging.

  248. Tim Harris said,

    September 14, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    Could we propose that the Clarkian mistake is in confusing the fact that states of affairs can be *described* propositionally, even though they are not a *belief* in a proposition? Any more than my petting a dog is identical to my believing the proposition, “I am petting a dog.”

  249. Ron said,

    September 14, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    Given the intricacy of doctrine I don’t think we can identify *the* Clarkian mistake. However, in this area of saving faith I think the biggest mistake Clarkians make is in not recognizing that one can assent to the promise of the gospel and that Christ died for them personally apart from such beliefs being justified by the voice of God in Scripture and persuasive power of the Spirit. This explains how people who only assent will eventually fall away – for there is no root in them. They do believe for a while, but they have been taught by flesh and blood and not God. Sure, the lost within the church’s pale can play the game until they are eulogized, in which case their lack of interest in Christ won’t be made manifest until the last day when the sons of God are revealed. Now, of course, Clarkians will say that such people never really assented, but there is no reason to believe that people cannot truly assent without having heard from God. In such case, their assent is not a justified belief (in a rigorous epistemic sense)because it’s not based upon the only authority under heaven that can justify such beliefs. Note well, a child can believe the gospel and be saved, but in all such cases the child has been taught by God and believed God on His authority and not on her mother’s or father’s. Children can also assent but without the illumination of the Spirit, having only been taught by their parents.

    Clarkians treat all gospel propositions as being in some special category that cannot possibly be assented to for frothy reasons. But why is this so? Why can’t one assent to the propositions of Scripture based upon the say-so of something other than God’s word?! Such a one would have no assurance of the Spirit and no rational reason to believe that his assent is justified, but people believe things all the time for no good reason. Of course, the reason Clarkians will give for the impossibility of one assenting to the gospel in a lost condition is because of their claim that assent alone saves. Not only does this beg crucial questions, it of course does not do justice to the parable of the sower with respect to those who receive the word with gladness yet fall away.

    By God’s grace I know I’m saved because God’s witness bears witness with mine that I’m a son in Christ. However, this persuasion works in conjunction with my having been taught by God’s word through the illumination of the Spirit. The unsaved cannot know they are saved but they can assent apart from the justification of God’s authoritative word. Again, people believe things all the time that they have no justification for believing.

  250. Ron said,

    September 14, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    Tim,

    Given the intricacy of doctrine I don’t think we can identify *the* Clarkian mistake. However, in this area of saving faith I think the biggest mistake Clarkians make is in not recognizing that one can assent to the promise of the gospel and that Christ died for them personally apart from such beliefs being justified by the voice of God in Scripture and persuasive power of the Spirit. This explains how people who only assent will eventually fall away – for there is no root in them. They do believe for a while, but they have been taught by flesh and blood and not God. Sure, the lost within the church’s pale can play the game until they are eulogized, in which case their lack of interest in Christ won’t be made manifest until the last day when the sons of God are revealed. Now, of course, Clarkians will say that such people never really assented, but there is no reason to believe that people cannot truly assent without having heard from God. In such case, their assent is not a justified belief (in a rigorous epistemic sense)because it’s not based upon the only authority under heaven that can justify such beliefs. Note well, a child can believe the gospel and be saved, but in all such cases the child has been taught by God and believed God on His authority and not on her mother’s or father’s. Children can also assent but without the illumination of the Spirit, having only been taught by their parents.

    Clarkians treat all gospel propositions as being in some special category that cannot possibly be assented to for frothy reasons. But why is this so? Why can’t one assent to the propositions of Scripture based upon the say-so of something other than God’s word?! Such a one would have no assurance of the Spirit and no rational reason to believe that his assent is justified, but people believe things all the time for no good reason. Of course, the reason Clarkians will give for the impossibility of one assenting to the gospel in a lost condition is because of their claim that assent alone saves. Not only does this beg crucial questions, it of course does not do justice to the parable of the sower with respect to those who receive the word with gladness yet fall away.

    By God’s grace I know I’m saved because God’s Spirit bears witness with mine that I’m a son in Christ. However, this persuasion works in conjunction with my having been taught by God’s word through the illumination of the Spirit. The unsaved cannot know they are saved but they can assent apart from the justification of God’s authoritative word. Again, people believe things all the time that they have no justification for believing.

  251. Tim Harris said,

    September 15, 2014 at 9:26 am

    Well Ron now you seem to be shifting the debate from “justified by belief” to “justified by justified belief.” Or again: “justified by belief, provided it is properly implanted.” Which are themselves debatable. But here, the focus should remain on the difference simpliciter between bare belief and full-orbed faith.

    Take this premise:
    P1. All people that assent to the “gospel propositions” are people that trust in Christ.

    The Clarkians affirm, since for them it is a tautology. But others could affirm for other reasons, while sharply distinguishing the content of the subject and predicate. Therefore, it is not *necessary* to show that the set of {proposition affirmers} is non-identical to the set of {faith-havers}. The sets could have identical extension without having the same intension. So your strategy (show that the sets are not identical) would be sufficient to defeat the Clarkist thesis, but it is not necessary. This fact could be causing confusion in some of the readers. Some of them may not agree with the theses put forward in your debate strategy, and so then wonder if they are not Clarkians after all. The same with this new foray into justified belief. The focus, I submit, should instead just be on the simple Clarkian assertion that belief = trust. I think this has been shown to be false via simple thought-experiments.

    Denying that belief=trust is the key to be non-Clarkian, and not, I submit, a complicated theory as to whether “some assent is non-voluntary,” or “belief is not saving when not philosophically justified” or whatever.

  252. Ron said,

    September 15, 2014 at 9:31 am

    Jim,

    Falling away, as I just employed the term, is not falling away from salvation but falling away from professing to know Christ. Having said that, it’s my personal opinion that it is highly unlikely that one has professed Christ without having possessed Christ would openly deny his profession on his death bed. It’s more likely that such a one will double down on Pascal’s Wager than fold the cards. What I do know is that many will say to the Lord on that day “haven’t we done…”

  253. Ron said,

    September 15, 2014 at 9:44 am

    Tim,

    I don’t see this so much as shifting the debate but rather drilling down further in the same debate. Both sides agree that saving faith is the gift of God. Saving faith includes assent. One way assent can be other than a gift is if it is rooted in something other than God’s authoritative revelation. One must ultimately be taught by God even though the medium is a teacher.

    As for the rest of what you wrote, I don’t disagree that this has become confusing. But what you want see the discussion limited to has been put forth many times before. As the discussion progressed it came out that Clarkians want to say we choose our assents, which is an unworkable principle. But yes, some non-Clarkians who don’t grasp that notion could be left scratching their heads regarding their affinity to Clarkianism. That is not good and, therefore, your counsel is wise.

  254. Steve M said,

    September 15, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    ”By God’s grace I know I’m saved because God’s witness (Spirit?) bears witness with mine that I’m a son in Christ. However, this persuasion works in conjunction with my having been taught by God’s word through the illumination of the Spirit.”

    Ron
    I would remind you that people believe things all the time that they have no justification for believing.

  255. Ron said,

    September 15, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    Steve,

    Like my believing you’re a Christian? Come now, Steve. Don’t become more an accuser of the brethren than you already are.

  256. Vincent said,

    September 15, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    When people say Clarkian error, are they referring to Scott Clark?

  257. Ron said,

    September 15, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    Same Vincent whose been stopping by my blog on TAG?

    To your question, no, definitely not. They’re meaning something more akin to this: http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2014/09/thors-hammer.html

  258. Steve M said,

    September 15, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    Ron
    By “a Christian”, do you mean a believer?

  259. Hugh McCann said,

    September 15, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    Vincent @260 – Priceless! <3
    Ans: It oughta: http://godshammer.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/janus-alive-and-well-dr-r-scott-clark-and-the-well-meant-offer-of-the-gospel/

  260. Ron said,

    September 16, 2014 at 1:04 am

    Steve,

    “Believer” isn’t descriptive within a Clarkian framework. It’s a vacuous term. Let me quote Steve Hayes since it fits the occasion:

    Sean [substitute Steve M.] lacks a grasp of idiomatic usage. It’s customary in theological jargon to distinguish between “unbelievers,” “professing believers,” and “true believers.” In idiomatic usage, “unbelievers” aren’t simply people who lack a certain belief. Rather, they lack a certain quality of belief. Same thing with merely professing believers. Sean may dispute that distinction, but for now I’m simply drawing attention to the nature of theological discourse.”

  261. Ron said,

    September 16, 2014 at 9:21 am

    Jim,

    You’ll be happy to know that the quote you referenced is the Clarkian position.

  262. Steve M said,

    September 16, 2014 at 11:58 am

    Jim
    You wrote, “It can be lost leaving only a dead faith”. What can be lost? “Love or Agape” or “initial saving justification”?

  263. Tim Harris said,

    September 16, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    Again, Jim, this is a specific dispute orthogonal to popery. It would be like us trying to wade in and help adjudicate a dispute between the Dominicans and Albigensiens.

  264. Hugh McCann said,

    September 16, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    Jim @ 265 – this started really well!

    Hi Ron,
    You said, “Trusting in Christ does not complete justifying belief because trusting is synonymous with believing. Accordingly, to add receiving and resting in Christ..”
    All of this navel gazing upon the nature of faith has no place in the Gospels, in Paul nor in James.

    After that, not so good. :(

  265. Hugh McCann said,

    September 16, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    Tim @ 268 – Prescient and downright applicable!
    An apt reference, methinks.

  266. Hugh McCann said,

    September 16, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    Jim 273 – Yes it does.
    1. Is sola scriptura a no-go, bro?
    2. Is the pope the head of the church?

  267. Hugh McCann said,

    September 16, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    Jim @ 275, the trouble with arguing with papists, is that they play by different rulebook: “Writ Plus,” thus un-evening the field. So, while we debate the Bible, the Romanist can (surreptitiously or not) bring in presuppositions that are (to us Prots) extra-canonical.

    So, yeah, I do mind a (Roman) Catholic weighing in, but appreciate that you admit your position.

    Thus, your answers are necessarily “yes” to both 1 & 2, above.

    And thus your faith rests not in the Christ alone of the 66 books of the Bible alone, but in the false hope of Rome’s hamster wheel of works-righteousness.

    We’re arguing apples and oranges, Jim.

  268. Tim Harris said,

    September 16, 2014 at 7:55 pm

    Jim @272, yes you’re right — not because of the “black and white,” which I see this thread as as well, but because I count the church in that time period as my church, in common with you. So yes, a later example would have been better.

  269. Hugh McCann said,

    September 17, 2014 at 8:52 am

    Jim @ 279 – No, you’re confused, or intentionally confusing things. The apostle says, deceiving and being deceived.

    The “oranges” are in-house Prot debates wherein we argue our views of Scripture issues (such as the components of faith) for better or for worse via sola scriptura.

    The “apples” you and your ilk interject are the popish presuppositions that include conciliar and papal decrees which, for you all, carry the same weight as sacred Writ. These, we of course abominate.

    Seeing that you are shifty and untrustworthy (proving it most efficiently & deftly in a couple of posts!), I will take my leave of you to rant here as the admins will.

    I do hope, however, that you would repent and believe the gospel; failing that, that you would just leave.

  270. Tim Harris said,

    September 17, 2014 at 9:49 am

    Jim @280. What happened? Giovanni Medici, already made a Cardinal at age 13 while being tutored by the neo-Platonic kabbalists (and perhaps magicians) Ficino and Pico, and now using the name Pope Leo X, diverted his attention from his art collection long enough to excommunicate Luther for preaching the gospel. At that moment, he actually excommunicated the Roman branch, which began to wither, while the German and Scandinavian began to flourish again.

    However, I can still hold out the hope that some Dominicans today are my separated brothers. I also am not required to *assume* they have “fallen into heresy.” They may have, I don’t know enough. That is, even though Trent requires them to deny the gospel, that doesn’t mean that they all actually do deny it — whether due to misinterpretation, ignorance, or whatever.

  271. Cletus van Damme said,

    September 17, 2014 at 11:23 am

    Hugh,

    “but in the false hope of Rome’s hamster wheel of works-righteousness.”

    Are you stuck in a hamster wheel of works-righteousness in your progressive sanctification?

  272. Stephen Welch said,

    September 17, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    This blog was supposed to be a discussion on a specific issue started by Ron and has now turned into a confusing argument over who knows what. Sean Gerety’s post were deleted but Papists are allowed to spread the errors of Rome without any problem. I guess this is no longer a discussion.

  273. Reed Here said,

    September 17, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    Stephen: point taken.

    All, no more rabbit trails off the point of the original post. This is about a distinction within reformed theology. If you are not commenting relevant to that, do not comment.

    Thank you,

    reed, moderator

  274. September 17, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    Moderator. I would like to see Jim banned from this site. He goes around to different Reformed sites specifically to cause problems.

  275. Tim Harris said,

    September 17, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    Well I’d like to throw up the fairness flag for Jim. I think he has been gracious and rule-abiding. re his “failure” to pay attention to the reminder in no. 287, the time stamp (before his posts were deleted) show that he could well have been unaware of 287 when composing his posts. It’s easy to wander off the OP, most of us have done it at one time or another. I was itching to jump all over #285, but will refrain cuz off-OP. Wish someone would start a post on that topic so we could finish it off once and for all.

    Back to the OP: I would only quibble with the claim that this is “a distinction within reformed theology.” That is itself debatable, and I deny. But perhaps we could say, “a debate between different claimants to reformed theology.”

  276. Hugh McCann said,

    September 17, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    Amen, amen, amen & amen to 286-289.

    Cletus @ 284: No, happily.

    Of course, salvation in Christ includes justification sola gratia through sola belief in Christ alone, along with his glorious definitive sanctification, I Cor. 1:30, 6:11.

    The progressive gets worked out, and it has a trajectory (tho’ not quite a 45° angle!) that’ll eventuate in glory: I John 3:2.

  277. Reed Here said,

    September 17, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    Tim, you too. I never singled out Jim or anyone else. I just reminded of the blog rules. Jim singled himself out after the fact, just like you have now, friend.

    And yes, wandering off topic happens easily, which is why I don’t police strictly. But every now and then, a reminder is appropriate. All I was doing, not singling out anyone.

  278. Hugh McCann said,

    September 17, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    Thanks, Jim. No hard feelings at all on my end, though can’t say I enjoyed it.

    Earlier: Your referencing or even quoting the vaunted KJV is not the issue.

    What is dastardly deceptive (“cunning, crafty or Jesuitical”) about Romanism is that it doesn’t hold to sola scripture, but wrests the Scriptures with its aforementioned just-as-inspired-and-authoritative extra-canonical “revelations.”

    You don’t the 66 books as the alone, supreme judge of all controversies.

  279. Hugh McCann said,

    September 17, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    “Accept” or “receive” is the missing (3rd) word in my final sentence of #293.

  280. Reed Here said,

    September 17, 2014 at 4:39 pm

    Uh Hugh, now you – off topic. Unless Jim objects, as he can’t respond, I’ll leave them as a final reply.

    Jim, if you prefer, since I’ve thrown the “off-topic” flag, I can remove the last two comments from Hugh. I’d do so with no animus toward either of you, simply in the interests of fairness as you can’t respond AND abide by my request for no more off-topic comments.

    Let me know, Thx!

  281. Hugh McCann said,

    September 17, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    10-4, Reed there!

  282. Tim Harris said,

    September 21, 2014 at 8:36 am

    I wonder if we could say that a “voluntary assent” is actually just an *hypothesis*. It struck me that by modeling Scripture as an axiom, Clark is doing just that. The structure of an axiomatic system is not so much “this is true” so much as “if A then the rest is true.” I suppose then that inductively one’s degree of belief gains more and more weight or confidence.

    It would be ironic indeed if induction slips back in through the back door as essential to his concept of faith.

  283. Ron said,

    September 21, 2014 at 9:13 pm

    I apologize for all the typos. I believe I’ve rid this post of most of them.

    Sure it’s a hypothesis, just like the self-refuting hypothesis that all we can know is Scripture and that which is deducible from Scripture.

    Key to the Clarkian position is that our assents are chosen. (I won’t get into here why this is key to their position but it is.) This either leads to an infinite regress or else a first choice that is irrational, being void of any beliefs. One Clarkian here took a swipe at defending infinite regress. It was a failure. However, others think they’ve found a regress stopper. I’ll interact with those Clarkians.

    “If beliefs are chosen, then a man’s first belief was obviously an act of his will (i.e., a volitional choice between two or more possibilities of what to believe). There’s no infinite regress.”

    To avoid an infinite regress conundrum entailed by choosing all our assents the first choice of the first assent needs to be void of any assent whatsoever. (This would get rid of the regress but at the cost of making a choice apart from any beliefs, a bigger monstrosity.) Clarkians would have us believe that one can choose what he believes yet without any prior beliefs. Right off the bat one might wonder what might influence such a choice. The Clarkian’s point is that we do not believe anything before that first choice. Rather, we understand the meaning of the propositions in view and then choose which one to believe. (But, wouldn’t I want to choose the one I *believe* serves me best?) So, for Clarkians one can understand something without believing anything. Once again Clarkians try to smuggle in concepts under other headings yet while denying the meaning of the concept. It’s all very confused.

    I wrote:

    “What you don’t grasp is that to understand what p means requires assents, not to p but to things that make understanding p intelligible. Can you understand the meaning of ‘all men are mortal’ without believing that men are not women or that mortal does not mean immortal? So much for having understanding without belief.”

    A Clarkian response:

    “No. But I also cannot believe that men are not women or that mortal does not mean immortal without first understanding what the propositions “men are not women” and “mortal does not mean immortal” mean. Again, we cannot believe (i.e., assent to or agree with) any proposition that we don’t first understand; and when we do believe a proposition, we do so voluntarily. Period. Full stop. End of story. So much for having belief without understanding!”

    Clarkians agree that to understand the meaning of “all men are mortal” one must first believe that men are not women (or better yet, men are not ~men (e.g. women, dogs, buildings, etc.) Also written, which of course is agreeable to me, is that in order to believe that men are not women one must first understand the meaning of “men are not women.” {Again, this is not a matter of dispute, maybe. To assent to proposition p* one must “first” understand the meaning of p* but do we come into this world a blank slate? Or do we come into this human, with certain beliefs and understanding in place, whether propositional, procedural or personal? Belief and understanding can pertain to logical order (hence “first”) whereas choices follow temporally.} Now here’s the rub. This regress will go on for the Clarkian until he comes to an alleged first chosen-belief, and *that* choice will (for the Clarkian position to stand) have to entail understanding without belief.

    What intrigues me possibly most in all of this that with respect to these choices (not the first choice but the other ones) is that Clarkians seem to appreciate that prior beliefs have to be in place in order for there to be intelligible understanding (so that one might allegedly choose to believe the proposition under consideration). Given that the regress stops with a choice void of belief(s), how could the first choice be intelligible (if intelligible understanding of p* presupposes beliefs in m, n and o)? Furthermore, what are we to make of all subsequent choices that are ultimately founded upon a first choice that is, well, uninfluenced?

    A Clarkian writes:

    “One cannot believe (i.e., assent to or agree) that proposition p means something different than proposition ~p unless one first understands what propositions p and ~p mean. We can’t believe (i.e., assent to or agree with) any proposition that we don’t first understand. Period. Full stop. End of story.”

    Clarkians stop the regress by Clarkian fiat. “There’s no infinite regress… Period. Full stop. End of story.” So, whenever that first belief is chosen, no beliefs influence it and no beliefs inform the subject’s understanding. We have understanding of something without belief in anything.

    I would think that the more Christian understanding is that we come into this world with the God-given equipment that allows belief formation, which presupposes understanding. In other words, there are no brute particulars. Accordingly, beliefs presuppose understanding and understanding presupposes beliefs. Clarkians would do well even to read Frame on the abstraction ladder since Clarkains posit that we can understand the *whole* proposition p*, which presupposes beliefs regarding particulars m, n and o. In any case, for those who aren’t tracking (like the Clarkians), understanding and choices cannot be apart from any beliefs lest we choose without believing what the proposition means! I would think a Clarkian would be all over that given that we’re created in the likeness of logic (which includes propositions like the law of identity!), or maybe some of us aren’t? To understand the proposition IS to believe that the proposition means what the proposition conveys!

    Again, this sad ending is merely one of the trajectories of the Clarkian view of faith. They want to be like the rest of the Reformed community by acknowledging some aspect the will in justifying faith. The traditional view is that we trust in accordance with our assents – with trust being something other than assent. However, the Clarkian view is that all we do is assent. So, to sound Reformed what they must do is smuggle trust in under the heading of assent, but in doing so “trust” is reduced (more like redefined) to assent to specific propositions (regarding the future; regarding something personal….) In the process, they’ve gone so far as to say that our assents are chosen, which is very much akin to agent causation and the philosophical surd of pure contingency that we find in sophisticated Arminianism. Clarkians affirm the Arminian notion of doxastic voluntarism.

  284. Vincent said,

    September 22, 2014 at 8:59 am

    Not to derail the thread again, but Tim I have a question on the following which you wrote:

    However, I can still hold out the hope that some Dominicans today are my separated brothers. I also am not required to *assume* they have “fallen into heresy.” They may have, I don’t know enough. That is, even though Trent requires them to deny the gospel, that doesn’t mean that they all actually do deny it — whether due to misinterpretation, ignorance, or whatever.

    Are you admitting that there are true-Christians in the Roman church, not only layman but also monks and theologians? You said something about mininterpretation, is there an orthodox way of understanding Trent, which keeps some of Rome’s theologians from being heretics? Charles Hodge says the following which seems to hint at that:

    ” That the explanations, as given by the Council of Trent, are as stated by Theophilus, designedly two-sided and ambiguous; so that while one class of Romanists take them in a sense consistent with their saving efficacy, others take them in a sense which destroys their value. It is notorious that the thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England are taken in a Calvinistic sense by one class of her theologians; in a semi-Pelagian sense by another class; and in a Romish sense by a third. 3. That the decisions of the Council of Trent, as understood by one class of Romish theologians, are not less at variance with the truth; but not as they are in fact explained by another class of her doctors.”

  285. Tim Harris said,

    September 22, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    Well Jim that’s too bad. I’m sorry to hear it. The Butcher of Souls has indeed left a bloody wake.

    Now, getting back to the OP…

    Ron, i could imagine being convinced by Roger that understanding, not other beliefs, undergirds our basic beliefs. I’m just not sure at this point. But even if I were convinced, it would hardly make me a Clarkian. Would the fact that I had chosen all the beliefs I have about my mother show that therefore I trusted her? Or would it not arguably be the case that the trust was the REASON I chose those beliefs?

    So, this whole debate seems to me like sound and fury signifying… not much.

    I’m also worried that the impression might be given that this is a debate between two equally rationalistic systems, each of which thinks it can “get to the bottom” of the matter (and indeed, of every matter) through definition and syllogism; and that the main difference between these “two schools” is the arcane and abstruse posture of believing or not believing something about the relation of the will and the intellect.

  286. Ron said,

    September 22, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    Ron, i could imagine being convinced by Roger that understanding, not other beliefs, undergirds our basic beliefs.

    Hmmm, for various reasons I don’t buy that. Not for a moment. But I’ll play along. To understand the meaning of anything means to believe that p is p. That’s the point, Tim. The understanding of x is no different than believing that x means x (which is not the same thing as believing x is true). Consequently, if understanding is necessary for choice, then there can be no choice of the first belief because understanding entails belief.

    But even if I were convinced, it would hardly make me a Clarkian.

    This observation of yours, which has been voiced by you in different ways and at sundry times, is getting a bit tiresome. I’m refuting a necessary trajectory of a Clarian position, which does not mean that all who hold to this implication of the Clarkian position are, therefore, Clarkian. Face it. You’re being a bit stubborn, Tim. You want to see the Clarkian position refuted in a more simple fashion, but we’ve done that already. Now I’m dealing with implications of their position. Whether you hold to those implications doesn’t bother me and, frankly, I have reason to believe you don’t.

    I’m also worried that the impression might be given that this is a debate between two equally rationalistic systems, each of which thinks it can “get to the bottom” of the matter (and indeed, of every matter) through definition and syllogism; and that the main difference between these “two schools” is the arcane and abstruse posture of believing or not believing something about the relation of the will and the intellect.

    I’m not terribly concerned about that either. The arguments you wanted to see have been put forth in multiple threads. Feel free to repeat them if you like.

  287. Ron said,

    September 22, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    Tim,

    The more I think about your latest comment the more I simply want to walk away from this discussion. That you don’t think this is a matter of the intellect vs. the will is a strange claim. Clarkians deny the volitional aspect of saving faith, that being trust in Christ. They then point to the intellection of assent to satisfy all the tradition has in mind with respect to willfully receiving and resting in Christ.

    This maneuver of theirs accompanies other deceptions that turn on similar equivocal language. Clarkians will say that understanding is possible apart from belief in anything. BUT, to understand anything is to believe something to be the case. Moreover, to understand in the notitia sense entails the knowledge of the meaning of p*. BUT doesn’t knowledge of propositions presuppose belief in something? So, what is it to understand a proposition apart from believing something is the case? We don’t even have to get into belief of self-existence.

    You can bring this discussion down to earth if you like but it surprises me that you, a chess player no less, do not appreciate the corner they’ve moved into.

  288. Reed Here said,

    September 22, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    Um, no more derailing!

    8~{(

  289. Ron said,

    September 22, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    Reed,

    Surely that wasn’t directed at me, right? :) And, the post right after yours seems to be an example of what you mean, yes? This is what I understand because it is what I believe you mean. :)

  290. Reed Here said,

    September 23, 2014 at 7:58 am

    Ron, you are correct.

    Jim and Vincent, again, stay on topic. As I’ve reminded of this a number of times, no more reminders. Off-topic posts will be deleted.

  291. Ron said,

    September 23, 2014 at 10:00 am

    As you know, Reed, I wouldn’t be terribly bothered if Lane closed the thread. :)

  292. Steve M said,

    September 24, 2014 at 12:46 am

    “to understand anything is to believe something to be the case.”

    So then believing precedes understanding?

  293. Tim Harris said,

    September 24, 2014 at 8:36 am

    Well Steve you should be more precise. Obviously, on any view, a new belief expands one’s understanding. What Ron said more precisely is that in order to believe any P, one must first believe some set of other beliefs, {P1, P2, …}. (not sure if it is a finite or infinite set) I fear though that if Ron’s exposition shows that you have an infinite regress, then it shows that everyone has an infinite regress.

    But maybe we can all be rescued. I’m thinking of Wittgenstein’s

    2.0211 If the world had no substance, then whether a proposition had sense would depend on whether another proposition was true.
    2.0212 It would then be impossible to form a picture of the world (either true or false)

    This is one of his arguments for the existence of “atomic facts” mirrored by atomic propositions.

    So to Ron’s “what is it to understand a proposition apart from believing something is the case?” I think Wittgenstein would answer, the terms of the proposition are not so much beliefs as stipulations. When I say, “the evening star is the morning star” I am not so much “believing” that “evening star” refers to *that* (waving my hand heavenward) so much as stipulating, agreeing, or recognizing that the term “evening star” refers to that object.

    Another way we could go, without the same metaphysical baggage, would be to refute this:
    1. Every word is defined by other words
    2. To use a word one must know its definition
    3. Thus, there is an infinite regress to know any word.
    4. Thus, we cannot speak.

    Somehow, however, the process is bootstrapped. We can speak. And we don’t really need to commit to any particular theory for how this is possible, though discussing the same could be interesting.

  294. Ron said,

    September 24, 2014 at 11:56 am

    It has been fleshed out that a Clarkian axiom is that one can understand a proposition apart from belief. This is self-refuting because the concept of understanding is shorthand for what is entailed by believing the meaning of things. To understand p* requires believing that p* has an identity or distinctiveness that’s different from its denial. Understanding also entails believing that one has interpreted the meaning correctly. In other words, to understand p* is to believe that a particular interpretation of that which denotes p* is correct. (That which denotes p* can be an audible or written statement, something observable, etc.) So, to understand “the moon is made of green cheese” is to believe that it is true that the statement does not convey that “the moon is not made of green cheese.” It, also, requires that one believe that green does not mean something other than green, like pink for instance. Again, to understand a proposition is to believe a distinct interpretation is correct. Consequently, the Clarkian axiom is self-refuting because it reduces to: one can believe the correct meaning of the statement that denotes p* without believing what p* means. Even if the position that I have put forth leads to a dilemma, which I’m quite sure it doesn’t, such could not make the Clarkian position tenable.

    The Clarkian position either leads to an infinite regress or else the chain must begin with an alleged first choice void of any belief, which would be no choice at all since choices are according to beliefs. Both horns are a failure. The position I have put forth simply posits that we do not choose our assents. Rather, our choices are predicated upon our assents, indeed they must be. (This does not mean that choices do not stimulate or quench future beliefs, etc.) This position does not lead to an infinite regress or anything as so silly as choosing according to no belief whatsoever. It merely leads to the position that beliefs are formed in us apart from choosing them. That has been at worst mocked and at best tacitly approved. It’s been said that such a position leads to beliefs popping up out of nowhere “because they’re not chosen.” Do I really have to defend the implications of Calvinism to Clarkians? It would appear so.

    Another way we could go, without the same metaphysical baggage, would be to refute this:
    1. Every word is defined by other words
    2. To use a word one must know its definition
    3. Thus, there is an infinite regress to know any word.
    4. Thus, we cannot speak.

    Somehow, however, the process is bootstrapped. We can speak. And we don’t really need to commit to any particular theory for how this is possible, though discussing the same could be interesting.

    Tim, why is there an infinite regress to know any word? Doesn’t God grant belief in accordance with the equipment we have being created in His likeness (not to mention being recreated in Christ’s image)? Don’t you, a staunch Van Tillian no less, see something here that pertains to the one and the many? Don’t you find anything that rings analogous to the insight of equal ultimacy? Seems to me that you’re looking for something akin to ultimate matter on the one extreme and ultimate being on the other. You’re wanting to abstract understanding the meaning of any one word from understanding the meaning of many words. You’re attempting to abstract a particular from the whole. Should it surprise us that God grants belief in the meaning of one anything in the context of granting us understanding of many things? Again, I believe this approach *you* have taken is atomistic and rationalistic, which is ironic in one sense. Indeed, how God does that is I believe beyond us, but there is no infinite regress.God grants belief. Stop…end of story. Then we choose.

  295. Ron said,

    September 24, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    Tim,

    I wanted to keep my post brief yet useful. I’ve decided to interact with this after all.

    I am not so much “believing” that “evening star” refers to *that* (waving my hand heavenward) so much as stipulating, agreeing, or recognizing that the term “evening star” refers to that object.

    You pit “*believing* that” against “agreeing…that.” But to agree that something is true is believe it is true. This is no less equivocal than burying belief under the rubric of understanding.

  296. Tim Harris said,

    September 24, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    So, we need a pool of words along with a basic grammar all at once, OR we have a many-to-many mutual justification OR we have an infinite regress OR perhaps there is another solution. That is the point. Hence, it seems to me that the Clarkians can rescue their posture by positing an analogous “pool” of basic propositions, sufficient to address the subsequent conundrums of meaning. They could do that with the same warrant that we get our basic vocabulary — perhaps using an Augustinian notion of insitus.

    That’s if you really need to presuppose propositions to “understand” any proposition. I’m not so sure. The comment in #312 is on the wrong track because it is not so much “true” that the constant refers as that that is how it functions, what it is by convention. You *could* “make a proposition” as, “‘dog’ refers to the canine animal” and this is true in English, but kind of trivial. You can use “dog” without having any such proposition in mind.

  297. Ron said,

    September 24, 2014 at 6:23 pm

    You’ve missed the meat and potatoes, Tim. That you think all are stuck with an infinite regress like the latent Arminian-Clarkian who affirms doxastic voluntarism is a sorry state of affairs. If embracing *actual* contradiction is where your Van Tillianism leads you, then I think you need to rethink not just your view of volition and assent but your Van Tillianism as well.

    I’m out.

  298. Tim Harris said,

    September 24, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    Ron, I didn’t say I think we are stuck with an infinite regress. I said that if your argument against volitional assent is sound, then it seems like we would all be stuck with it. OR if there is a way out, then there is also a way out for the Clarkian. That is what I have tried to show. But I don’t think it is sound, and my own view goes in a different direction. However, this thread is not about either me or vantillianism or the relation between me and it. Stick to the matter! (And what “actual contradiction” are you referring to pray tell?)


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