A Note on Faith – By John Robbins

Hugh McCann posted the follow short piece by John Robbins in one of my comment boxes.  I thought I’d reprint it here as well.  Thanks Hugh.

The traditional analysis of faith and saving faith into three components – knowledge, notitia; assent, assensus; and trust, fiducia - has been shown to be false by Clark in his books The Johannine Logos and Faith and Saving Faith. Faith consists of two elements, knowledge (understanding) and belief (assent). His arguments are presented at length in his books, and I shall not repeat them here.

 There is another argument against the traditional three-element view of faith that I do not believe Clark presents. It also is conclusive, and one would hope that theology and theologians a century from now – especially if Christ returns before then – recognize the error of the three-element view of faith.

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

The three-element view of faith leads straight to a contradiction – faithless believers – and therefore must be false.

When a Sunday school teacher was espousing the three-element view of faith and supporting the analysis from his own experience, he said that when young, he knew what the Bible said about sin and salvation; he believed that what it said was true; but he still did not have faith and was not a Christian because he did not trust Christ. That view, of course, destroys the Biblical order of salvation (ordo salutis) for in the Biblical order, regeneration precedes belief. When questioned about this, the Sunday school teacher began talking about regeneration by stages and referred to the miracle of the blind man receiving his sight by stages – first seeing men as trees.

This, of course, is equally unbiblical – regeneration is instantaneous, not a process, and it occurs once, not several times or in stages. Faith – belief – is an effect of regeneration; the regenerate mind must believe the saving propositions; the unregenerate mind cannot believe the saving propositions. What occurs in stages is sanctification, not regeneration, and that is what the miracle of the blind man illustrates.

In conclusion, the three-element view of saving faith cannot be true because it implies a logical contradiction, faithless believers; and because it violates the Biblical doctrine that regeneration must precede belief. The teaching of the Bible is clear: “Repent and believe the Gospel” (Mark 1:15); “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23); “The devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved” (Luke 8:12); “But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in his name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13); “But you do not believe, because you are not of my sheep, as I said to you” (John 10:26); “Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they should see with their eyes and understand with their heart, lest they should turn….” (John 12:39-40); “by him everyone who believes is justified from all things” (Acts 13:39); “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31); “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved…. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on him will not be put to shame.’” (Romans 10:9,11)

Not only have the theologians failed to understand what the Gospel is, teaching that Christ died for all men and desires the salvation of all, they have failed to understand what saving faith is, turning it into something that a person must “work up” within himself, rather than a gift of God. It has been a long time since true Christianity has been preached widely in America – too long. May God raise up men whose minds and voices are true and clear.  The Trinity Review – September/October 1989

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67 Comments on “A Note on Faith – By John Robbins”

  1. Hugh McCann Says:

    You’re welcome, Sean!

    And again, the thing that trips up the tri-partite traditionalista is the content of the gospel more than the number of the constituent parts of saving faith.

    We hope GreenBaggins and Dr Stange and many in the OPC, PCA, and elsewhere might read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest Dr Robbins’ above words!

    The gospel is not about an indeterminate god or an indefinite atonement by an undefined christ for an undetermined number of people!

    It’s simply 1 Cor. 15:3f ~ ‘For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures…’

    A blessed ‘Good Friday’ to all!

  2. Steve M Says:

    I am a little confused because while I totally agree that faith (which I believe is a synonym for belief) consists of only two parts (understanding and assent), I cannot equate belief with assent alone as the above appears to do. I will be the last person to disagree with John Robbins (even though he is no longer here to set me straight), but I have listened to enough of his material to be convinced that he equated faith and belief, not belief and assent. I hope I am not being too picky here, but this subject is very near and dear to my heart(mind).

    I believe that faith is simply the noun form of the verb believe(as is belief) and that both are the combination of understanding and assent. Calvin clearly recognized only two faculties of the soul(i.e. mind, spirit, heart): the understanding(intellect) and the will(volition). The soul consists of that which understands and that which chooses. Both are represented in Clark’s definition of faith. Intellectual assent to understood propositions involves both faculties. Adding a third element is ambiguous at best.

    “In fact, those who advocate the three-element view insist that unregenerate persons may understand and believe the truth – their prime example of such persons is demons.” It is completely true that those who advocate the three-element view love to resort to the so-called believing demons in support of their view. But isn’t it also quite obvious that believing the Gospel would be of no benefit to a demon because Christ did not die for demons. Christ laid down his life for his sheep.

    Jesus Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, he was buried and rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures. That is the Gospel. Believing it does not save demons, because they are not part of the “our” for whose sins Christ died. It is amazing to me that those (such as R C Sproul) who drag out the believing demons argument are unaware that it is believing the Gospel that saves. Even if demons were to believe all of scripture to be true (and I doubt that) they would not believe that Christ died for them, because the Bible says no such thing.

  3. Sean Gerety Says:

    Steve, I’m not sure exactly what your objection is and perhaps you’re missing the point of JR’s little argument? The three fold definition is contradictory hence self refuting. Faithless believers, which is what we would have if the three fold definition were sound is an absurdity; a contradiction in terms.

    FWIW I once had a similar conversation with an assistant pastor at a PCA church in which I was a member. It wasn’t concerning the definition of faith, but rather that all that was required for a man to be saved is to simply believe the Gospel message. He told me that if I believed that then I was probably lost.

  4. Steve M Says:

    My point is that belief includes both understanding and assent. I not only understand, but totally agree with JR’s argument. There can be no “faithless believers” precisely because faith and belief are synonyms. Those who advocate a three-element view of faith usually try to distinguish faith from belief. JR routinely substituted the word belief for the word faith when he advocated the doctrine of “justification by belief alone”. This phrase raised the hackles of those who insisted on distinguishing the two words.

    My only “objection” or confusion was the sentence “Faith consists of two elements, knowledge (understanding) and belief (assent).” as it did not seem to square with JR who usually equated faith and belief. Making belief an element of faith is not something I think JR would do other than as a slip-up.

    I did not intend to give the impression that I disagreed with his argument. I rather wanted to add to it with my observations regarding the believing demons argument.

    Those who advocate the three-element view of faith almost always employ both the “faithless believers” and the “believing demons” arguments.

  5. Hugh McCann Says:

    Steve (& Sean),

    JR wrote, “The argument that I wish to offer is this: If faith consists of three elements – knowledge, assent (or belief), and trust – and if a person does not have faith unless all three elements are present, then unregenerate persons may understand and believe-assent to–the truth.”

    Yet we might have expected John to write: “If faith consists of three elements – knowledge, assent, and trust (or belief)– …”

    >>Here’s Clark: “The crux of the difficulty with the popular analysis of faith into notitia (understanding), assensus (assent), and fiducia (trust), is that fiducia comes from the same root as fides (faith). Hence this popular analysis reduces to the obviously absurd definition that faith consists of understanding, assent, and faith. Something better than this tautology must be found.” {http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=10}

    >>Robbins wrote in his intro to F&SF: “Long before neo-orthodox theologians thought of saying that faith is an encounter with a divine person rather than assent to a proposition, preachers who ought to have known better taught that faith is trust in a person, not belief in a creed.”

    But also, “Further, ‘trust in a person’ is a meaningless phrase unless it means assenting to certain propositions about a person…”

    “The difference between Judas Iscariot and the other disciples is not that they had a ‘personal relationship’ with Jesus and he did not, but that they believed -that is, assented to certain propositions about Jesus- while Judas did not believe those propositions.”

    “In the pages that follow [in Faith and Saving Faith], Dr. Clark defends the view that faith is assent to a proposition, and that saving faith is assent to propositions found in the Bible.”
    {http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=53}

    >>Could JR here (“faith is assent to a proposition, etc.”) be using assent in a shorthand way, since assent implies knowledge of that which is assented to?

    >>JR also said, “Faith is assent to the solution that God has provided in Christ Jesus.”
    (‘How Can a Just God Forgive a Sinful Man?’)
    {http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=169}

    >>In ‘The Gospel According to John MacArthur’, JR relates, “In his commentary on John 3:33, John Calvin wrote: ‘To believe the Gospel is nothing else than to assent to the truths that God has revealed.'”

    “Real faith is believing, period. It is not doing. It is assenting to known truths.”

    “If I have faith in Christ, I assent to true statements – the Gospel — about him. If I assent to true statements — the Gospel – about him, I have faith in him. If I trust a bank, I assent to certain statements about the bank.”
    {http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=193}

    >>From these, it appears that Robbins meant that FAITH = knowledge & assent. But also that assent & belief are synonymous.

    I have said repeatedly that faith & belief & trust are synonymous, thinking that is how GHC & JR said it. But I may have erred. I need to rethink this.

    Thank you, Steve, for catching this.

  6. Hugh McCann Says:

    Goodness! He did it three times:

    Faith consists of two elements, knowledge (understanding) and BELIEF (ASSENT)…

    The argument that I wish to offer is this: If faith consists of three elements – knowledge, ASSENT (OR BELIEF), and trust – and if a person does not have faith unless all three elements are present, then unregenerate persons may understand and BELIEVE -ASSENT TO– the truth.

  7. Sean Gerety Says:

    Hi Steve. JR’s argument is not strictly that there can be no faithless believers because faith and belief are synonymous, although that’s certainly part of it. The wording may not be as clear as it could be or as clear as I would normally expect from Robbins, but I don’t think it detracts from his argument.

    All tripartite traditionalists (at least all that I’ve ever met) would agree that knowledge and assent constitutes belief, but belief alone is not enough to save a man. In order to be saved they also need to trust. The well worn analogy that I’ve heard multiple times and in various forms is that you may believe this chair will hold your weight, but until you actually sit in it you are not really trusting that it will.

    Consequently, I think Robbins’ conclusion follows necessarily from the traditionalist’s premises and that “the three-element view of saving faith cannot be true because it implies a logical contradiction, faithless believers [or unbelieving believers if you prefer - SG]; and because it violates the Biblical doctrine that regeneration must precede belief.”

  8. Hugh McCann Says:

    Very helpful in “getting” John Robbins’ ideas on this are his ‘The Gospel According to John MacArthur’ (Apr-Jun 1993)& ‘Justification and Judgment’ (Nov-Dec 2001). Both at http://www.trinityfoundation.org, Review Archives.

    I want to throw in one more quote of JR’s:

    “According to Scripture, faith and belief are the same (pistis), and saving faith is assent to the truth of the Gospel – nothing more and nothing less.” (‘R.C. Sproul on Saving Faith’) {http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=238}

  9. Steve M Says:

    Sean

    I believe that faith, belief and trust are all basically the same thing. I agree that those who attempt to add “trust” as a third element of faith separate from understanding and assent make the word either unintelligible or a code word for works as in the example of the chair.

    I pointed out to Turretin Fan (a tripartite traditionalist) on his blog that his example of the chair amounted to the addition of an element of works to his definition of faith. He never responded.

    I agree that Robbin’s conclusion follows necessarily from the traditionalist’s premises. These people do think that the unregenerate can believe the Gospel and still remain lost. I agree that this contradicts Scripture.

    These same people speak of “temporary faith” as one of four types of faith. Their four types are historical faith, faith in miracles, temporary faith and saving faith. Temporary faith they ascribe to the unregenerate.

    I am interested in your thoughts on this idea of temporary faith. I don’t want to get off-subject, but the definition of faith is an extremely important subject to me. I would like to add that no one has enlightened me more on this subject than John Robbins (not forgetting Clark).

  10. Steve M Says:

    Hugh

    You asked, “Could JR here (“faith is assent to a proposition, etc.”) be using assent in a shorthand way, since assent implies knowledge of that which is assented to?”

    I think he is because he was always quite clear in defining a proposition as “the meaning of a declarative sentence”. When one assents to a proposition understanding is implied in his definition.

  11. Hugh McCann Says:

    This is really confusing, and I am so glad Steve caught it (how’d I miss it?!):

    “Faith consists of two elements, knowledge (understanding) and belief (assent)…”

    I have always thought that belief, faith, & trust were synonyms.

    JR & GHC are saying that faith & trust are certainly synonyms, but JR also tells us that belief = assent.

    Would he then say that Knowledge (understanding) + Belief (assent) = faith = trust?

  12. Sean Gerety Says:

    I am interested in your thoughts on this idea of temporary faith. I don’t want to get off-subject,

    My thoughts on temp faith are not very original. I think people will often believe in the promise of the Gospel, and, for a time, like the idea of being a “Christian” for any number of reasons (they like to be viewed as upstanding citizens, want to go to heaven, are attracted to the Christian lifestyle, etc.) without actually believing in Christ as their righteousness. So what people take as “temporary faith” is simply a difference in the propositions believed. John put it this way in reference to LC 72:

    The Standards are contrasting belief in the “promise of the Gospel,” that is, in the truth of eternal life, with belief in the “righteousness [of Christ] for pardon of sin, and the accepting and accounting of his person righteous.” They are making clear that the sinner must not only believe in (assent to) salvation from sin and eternal life (which they call the “promise of the Gospel”), but that he must also believe in (assent to) the imputed righteousness of Christ in order to be saved. Their concern is that the proper object of faith is believed, not that some undefined and nebulous mental state must be added to belief in order to make it efficacious. Their message is that belief in eternal life and pardon from sin is not saving faith, but to that must be added belief in Christ and his righteousness as the sole means of obtaining eternal life.

    Remember, it was the Apostle John who said; “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.”

  13. Hugh McCann Says:

    Well Steve, a rabbiting we will go:
    (FOUND ONLINE)

    It is crucial to grasp Perkins’s doctrine of the temporary faith of the reprobate. While a rigid predestinarianism was not new to English theology, Perkins’s doctrine and use of the notion of temporary faith — the central idea in Whether a Man — was. Whether a Man actually begins with the assumption of the inalterable decree of reprobation. Its comprehensive title is given as a warning to professing Christians to examine themselves lest they happen to possess but a temporary faith — a lofty position to which the reprobate, though doomed from the start, may attain. In his preface Perkins cites the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:4-15) and urges his readers to consider that a man ‘may seeme both unto himselfe and to the Church of God to bee a true professour of the Gospel, and yet indeede be none’. One may have the ‘certaine fruites’ that a true child of God has, be ‘perswaded in a generall and confused manner’, and still be unregenerate because of a definite number of such are so predestined from eternity. Whether a Man opens with ‘Certaine Propositions declaring how farre a man may goe in the profession of the Gospell, and yet be a wicked man and a Reprobate’. (R. T. Kendall, “Calvin And English Calvinism To 1649,” 6-7)

  14. Hugh McCann Says:

    CALVIN (1):

    11. This property our Lord showed to belong to the external word, when, in the parable, he compared it to seed (Mt. 13:4; Luke 8:15). For as the seed, when it falls on a deserted and neglected part of the field, can do nothing but die, but when thrown into ground properly laboured and cultivated, will yield a hundred-fold; so the word of God, when addressed to any stubborn spirit, will remain without fruit, as if thrown upon the barren waste, but when it meets with a soul which the hand of the heavenly Spirit has subdued, will be most fruitful. But if the case of the seed and of the word is the same, and from the seed corn can grow and increase, and attain to maturity, why may not faith also take its beginning, increase, and completion from the word? Both things are admirably explained by Paul in different passages. For when he would remind the Corinthians how God had given effect to his labours, he boasts that he possessed the ministry of the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:4); just as if his preaching were inseparably connected with the power of the Holy Spirit, in inwardly enlightening the mind, and stimulating it.

    {Inst. 4:14:11}

  15. Hugh McCann Says:

    And that troublesome passage in his Commentaries:

    Calvin on Matt. 13:20 ~ “But he that received the seed thrown into stony places.”

    This class differs from the former; for temporary faith, being a sort of vegetation of the seed, promises at first some fruit; but their hearts are not so properly and thoroughly subdued, as to have the softness necessary for their continued nourishment.

    We see too many of this class in our own day, who eagerly embrace the Gospel, and shortly afterwards fall off; for they have not the lively affection that is necessary to give them firmness and perseverance.

    Let every one then examine himself thoroughly, that the alacrity which gives out a bright flame may not quickly go out, as the saying is, like a fire of tow; for if the word does not fully penetrate the whole heart, and strike its roots deep, faith will want the supply of moisture that is necessary for perseverance.

    Great commendation is due, no doubt, to that promptitude, which receives the word of God with joy, and without delay, as soon as it is published; but let us learn, that nothing has been done, till faith acquires true firmness, that it may not wither in the first blade.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  16. Hugh McCann Says:

    That should read Calvin’s commentary on Matthew 13:18-23/ Mark 4:13-20/ Luke 8:11-15.

    He’s talking about Luke 8:13 above ~ “For they that are on the rock are those who, when they have heard, receive the word with joy: but these have not roots, who for a time believe, and in the time of temptation fall away.”


  17. What the unregenerate believe, on a temporary basis, is surely not the gospel, though they may think that is what they are believing.

  18. Steve M Says:

    I take issue with those who espouse four types of faith. I maintain that everyone believes something. The object of belief(that is faith) can be either true or false. The object of knowledge must be true or it is not knowledge at all. There is not a difference in the faith itself between faith in what is true and faith in what is false. The difference lies in the object of faith. Those who attempt to make some element of the faith the significant factor rather than its object err in my opinion.

    We are saved by believing the truth. Those who are lost inevitably believe what is false. Making “historical faith” a separate category of faith from saving faith ignores the fact that we are saved by believing something that happened in the past(in history) completely outside of ourselves. I think temporary faith is only the appearance of faith just as the stoney ground appears to be good soil, but the soil is only on the surface.

    LT has it right and, of course, Sean’s quote from Robbins is also correct (thank you Sean I had not read his comments on this subject before).

    This subject used to trouble me because I had difficulty dealing with some of the arguments, but I am now becoming more and more certain that the idea of temporary faith(at least as put forward by some) is not at all Biblical.

  19. Hugh McCann Says:

    I’m wondering how we’re to take Calvin’s comments above in light of Steve’s prescient note: “Those who attempt to make some element of the faith the significant factor rather than its object err in my opinion.”

    Calvin said, “…temporary faith, being a sort of vegetation of the seed, promises at first some fruit; but THEIR HEARTS ARE NOT SO PROPERLY AND THOROUGHLY SUBDUED, as to have the softness necessary for their continued nourishment.

    “[Those who fall away] …have not THE LIVELY AFFECTION that is necessary to give them firmness and perseverance.

    “…if the word does not FULLY PENETRATE THE WHOLE HEART, and strike its roots deep, faith will want the supply of moisture that is necessary for perseverance.

    “…nothing has been done, TILL FAITH ACQUIRES TRUE FIRMNESS, that it may not wither in the first blade.”

  20. Hugh McCann Says:

    FOI ~ Larger Catechism ~

    Question 72: What is justifying faith?

    Answer: 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 assents to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receives and rests 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.

    Question 73: How does faith justify a sinner in the sight of God?

    Answer: Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces which do always accompany it, or of good works that are the fruits of it, nor as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for his justification; but only as it is an instrument by which he receives and applies Christ and his righteousness.

    ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

    Positively, JR writes “…the sinner …must also believe in (assent to) the imputed righteousness of Christ in order to be saved.

    “Their concern is that the proper object of faith is believed…”

    “… must be added belief in Christ and his righteousness as the sole means of obtaining eternal life.”
    ~ ~ ~

    Negatively, JR writes: “…the sinner must not only believe in (assent to) salvation from sin and eternal life (which they call the “promise of the Gospel”)…

    “Their concern is …not that some undefined and nebulous mental state must be added to belief in order to make it efficacious.

    “Their message is that belief in eternal life and pardon from sin is not saving faith…”

  21. David Reece Says:

    Steve, Hugh,

    Hugh already mentioned this, but I want to make it clear.

    John Robbins and Gordon Clark argued that assent was belief because assent implies understanding as Hugh already said.

    Thus, justification is by assent to the true propositions of the Gospel.

    Assent = Belief = Faith = Trust

    Assent = understanding proposition ‘X’ + thinking that proposition ‘X’ is true

    I think you resolved this, but I also thought you might not have been totally clear. I am sorry I have not provided any citation to demonstrate the point, but I think you will see (and have already mentioned) that assent implies/assumes understanding since assent to a proposition is impossible without a proposition in the understanding to assent to.

  22. David Reece Says:

    Definitions are always tautological, but the point of a definition is to clarify with more familiar or agreed upon terms.

  23. Hugh McCann Says:

    David R.,

    Thank you! I was NOT totally clear, and this is clarifying. Thanks too, for being diplomatic. :)

    “John Robbins and Gordon Clark argued that assent was belief because assent implies understanding as Hugh already said.”
    +Right – but I still wish Robbins hadn’t said it that
    way!

    “Thus, justification is by assent to the true propositions of the Gospel.”
    +Agreed, most happily & thankfully!

    “Assent = Belief = Faith = Trust”
    +Again, that’s what JR said, but I wish he hadn’t only b/c we’re accusing the tripartite fideists of tautology (w/ their Faith = Knowledge + Assent + Trust), while JR says above that Faith = Assent (which = Knowledge + Assent)!

    “Assent = understanding proposition ‘X’ + thinking that proposition ‘X’ is true”
    +Right, that’s JR’s implication.*

    “…assent implies/assumes understanding since assent to a proposition is impossible without a proposition in the understanding to assent to.”
    +Granted, but as you say, “Definitions are always tautological, but the point of a definition is to clarify with more familiar or agreed upon terms.”

    +And, hence, one could wish that Robbins had not used shorthand here, as we are already vilified as being reductionistic by the 3-part fideists!

    * I think of Romans 10:17 ~ That faith comes by hearing, hearing the word of God. The hearing thus being the propositions understood (known, learned), WITH assent thereto being the finishing of faith.

    Again, at the risk of wretched redundancy, I believe that (know & assent to) the problem is more fundamentally with the tri-parters understanding of the GOSPEL first, and secondarily, with the constituent elements of our subjective faith (believing).

  24. David Reece Says:

    Hugh,

    you may be correct about your point regarding the tri-parters, but I would further add that their epistemologies are why they do not understand the gospel as clearly as they could. I don’t really expect disagreement here, but I really do think we need to do something to organize as Scripturalists. My pastor just gave a sermon this Sunday in the evening service about the definition of faith, and I really think I need to leave.

    I want to work towards organizing a church that requires its officers to subscribe to a more clearly Scripturalist position and leaves no room for Federal Visionists, Shepardites, and NPPers to hide. I realize that the Westminster Standards are great compared to every other council document, but we should call a council of Scripturalists and argue things out and organize.

    After some preliminary discussions we would probably split along Baptist and Presbyterian lines, but that initial interaction could help provide some useful insights for both groups. Then we could could form separate churches and begin the work of calling people out of the destroyed “Reformed” churches and preaching the Gospel promiscuously to others as well.

    If we are going to make any progress I think we need to start by freeing ourselves of these failed institutions and organizing our own.

  25. Hugh McCann Says:

    David,

    “…you may be correct about your point regarding the tri-parters, but I would further add that their epistemologies are why they do not understand the gospel as clearly as they could.”

    It’s all of a piece, and I am incompetent to chart whither the horse and whither the cart.

    But it appears that our diffs ARE beyond the parts of faith.


  26. David,

    You don’t leave a church unless it shows itself not to be a true church.

    Your idea is cultic, sectarianism. We need to promote peace and unity within the Church, not separate based on superior understanding.

  27. Denson Dube Says:

    Hi David,
    “I really do think we need to do something to organize as Scripturalists”
    You’re the man! I also believe it’s about time. Enough, conversing with people who simply do not want to hear the truth.
    Most so called reformed churches are really deformed. They are anti-intellectual(irrational and anti truth) and proud of it. It is becoming foolhardy and irrational to expect that these churches will be transformed into the faithfull bride of Christ except by a supernatural intervention from the Spirit of God. As a matter of faithfulness to God’s call and his word, we need to move on! As Paul said to Festus, “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.” If God has mercifully and graciously granted us faith in his Word, as unworthy sinners, let us be faithful to that heavenly vision as the apostle Paul was. In the letter to the Hebrews it says we must look to those who have gone before us whose faith we must imitate. If we can submit to disobedient and unfaithful churches who have no fear of God, can we do worse by coming out and building churches that seek to serve God in humility and submition to His Word in the fear of God? In what sense is submission to disobedient and rebellious churches a spiritual virtue? Is it not the Bible itself that says evil campanions corrupt good character? How can two walk together unless they be agreed? Should we be unequally yorked together with unbelievers?
    Even if one attends a congregation that does not explicitly support overt error, but the silence against heresy is defeaning. These are people who are not clearly convinced in their minds of the truth of the Gospel and thus refuse to condemn error since “everyone is entitled to their own opinion”. The quote is from an Anglican priest I was chatting to a while back(I am an Anglican.)
    So, yes I would say let us seek God in prayer and move on.

  28. Hugh McCann Says:

    Patrick,

    True, “You don’t leave a church unless it shows itself not to be a true church.”

    But the OPC/PCA nexus is failing. Maybe not necessarily time to bail, but perhaps close?

    Having been both Episcopalian (no excuse for staying there) and under care in the PCA (exhorting much in OPCs), I can say that while most Anglicans are more institutionally depraved than some Prebsies, the latter are approaching their PCUSA counterparts in INEFFECTIVENESS AND EFFEMINACY.

    Please see “The Gospel Crisis in the OPC and PCA” by Brian Schwertley online. And the OPC-indicting works Sean mentions at the new Gaffin post, “Missing the Mark,” particularly Elliot’s tome, _Christianity and Neo-Liberalism_.

    I took issue with RE Elliot’s leaving the OPC, but then, he was in the fray and not I. I thought he could have fought longer for a denom that to my thinking wasn’t yet irreparable. He saw differently, and followed his conscience.

    The writing (not just his) appears to long have been on the wall.

  29. Denson Dube Says:

    Hi Pat,
    “You don’t leave a church unless it shows itself not to be a true church.”
    This is cultic nonsense! We are free to leave and attend any congregation we please, where we are most happy. No one is forced to attend a church just because it is a so called “true” church. We are not owned by a church but God alone.

    “Your idea is cultic, sectarianism.”
    Indeed, yours is. You want to bind people’s consciences with your sheperding nonsense!

    “We need to promote peace and unity within the Church, not separate based on superior understanding”
    How does teaching nonsense and heresy promote peace of the church? This is cultic hogwash!
    The fact that you may fancy yourself as attending a good church(and I doubt you do) does not follow that David does nor many of us here. Just what is “superior understanding”? The issue is disobedience to the revealed word of God. The truth that God gave us to understand is from Him. Understanding it is not a crime much less being obedient to it!
    In any case what gives you the idea that you know everyone’s circumstance on this forum? How do you know that David is “cultic” and not desperately in need for christian fellowship?

  30. Hugh McCann Says:

    “We need to promote peace and unity within the Church, not separate based on superior understanding.”

    Glad Luther & Calvin & co. disagreed with this!


  31. “We need to promote peace and unity within the Church, not separate based on superior understanding.”

    “Glad Luther & Calvin & co. disagreed with this!”

    No, they did not. They didn’t separate based on superior understanding, but on proper understanding. They separated from an apostate church, which is no true Church.

    Denson, I was referring to leaving a true church and forming your own. That is cultic, sectarianism. Of course, you can pick from all true churches which one to attend.

    Unless David was claiming his church’s view of faith is anti-Christian, and thus showing itself not to be a true church, there is no biblical basis for separating from it. Having a superior understanding of the nature/meaning of faith is not a proper basis for separation, nor is Scripturalism epistemology a proper basis for founding a new church. That is cultic, sectarianism (separating and distinguishing ourselves). We need to work within the Church to influence it to think more clearly and consistently.

    “Most so called reformed churches are really deformed. They are anti-intellectual(irrational and anti truth) and proud of it. It is becoming foolhardy and irrational to expect that these churches will be transformed into the faithfull bride of Christ except by a supernatural intervention from the Spirit of God.”

    This and most if not all of what Denson posted implies non true churches. By all means, separate from them.

  32. Sean Gerety Says:

    Maybe folks should check out the Evangelical Reformed Presbyterian Church.

    http://www.erpchurch.org/about/Beginnings.html


  33. Seems like a good denomination. But again, it is unbiblical to separate and start such based on preferences, or a wish to be better, more biblical, etc. Again, unless you are claiming that the OPC and PCA (and any other true church/ denomination) is no longer showing the marks of a true church, it is unbiblical to separate from them. The Church should pursue peace and unity.

  34. Sean Gerety Says:

    “Again, unless you are claiming that the OPC and PCA (and any other true church/ denomination) is no longer showing the marks of a true church”

    It seems to me that is preciesly what people have been saying.


  35. “Again, unless you are claiming that the OPC and PCA (and any other true church/ denomination) is no longer showing the marks of a true church”

    “It seems to me that is preciesly what people have been saying.”

    Really? David’s claim was that his pastor had a wrong definition of faith. That hardly seems like an apostate/false church. And again, the discussion was about the tripartite definition of faith, which hardly seems heretical; it is not the content of the faith, at least not traditionally, that is at issue, although some here think that all or most today who are tripartites have a faulty or erroneous view of the gospel. And again, neither the PCA nor the OPC hold to a different gospel, nor refuse to apply discipline when clearly called for. Nor would or should anyone think a particular congregation within these denominations are not true church gatherings, based on their connection to their denomination.

  36. Sean Gerety Says:

    Patrick, I had in mind Hugh’s posts above and you’re wrong, the PCA and OPC courts do permit false gospels to be preached alongside the one true Gospel. In the OPC the GA made it clear that the teaching of a gospel premised on faith and works is within confessional bounds with their precedent in the Kinnaird case. And to date in the PCA FV/NPP pastors have all been protected and exonerated (in some cases more than once) by their presbyteries. Admittedly, we’ve yet had any case like the Kinnaird case make it to the GA level in the PCA, at least none that I can think of.

  37. LJ Says:

    There is much in the history of the OPC I think is awful, e.g., Van Tilianism, the Clark controversy, common grace, well-meant offerism, etc., etc.

    There is much in the OPC currently that is awful, e.g., limp-wristed handling of FV/NPP stuff, continued Van Tilianism, common grace, etc.

    Finally, there are very likely some OPC congregations that have acquiesced to unbiblical teachings and are heading down the road to apostasy, but already APOSTATE(?), I’m not so sure. Possibly I have too broad a view as to what is a true church versus an apostate Church. I’m still learning having joined the OPC (our first Presbyterian church) only three years ago. Our Church, not the OPC, has been a tremendous blessing.

    So I am sure of one thing: It is that there are individual congregations within the OPC that DO NOT cater to FV/NPP or rank Van Tilianism (even though some favor him) and hold, as carefully as is humanly possible, to the Westminster Standards. I’m a member of one of those OPC congregations.

    I’m sure the denomination Sean pointed to is a good one, but there are none in California …

    http://www.erpchurch.org/Congregations/Congregations.htm

    Even if we chose to leave the OPC and join it (which we don’t).

    LJ

  38. Steve M Says:

    A wrong definition of faith is, by no means, a trivial matter. In fact, definitions play a major role in understanding any doctrine of scripture. Those who hold themselves out as teachers who offer wrong or even vague and unintelligible definitions of key words in Biblical doctrines are not fit to be teachers. Denominations that allow them to do so are not furthering the cause of Christ.

    If the Apostle Paul were around today, I wonder how long He would tolerate some of the teaching that is going on in what try to pass for reformed churches?

    My guess is that he would be labelled “vitriolic loose cannon”.


  39. “Patrick, I had in mind Hugh’s posts above and you’re wrong, the PCA and OPC courts do permit false gospels to be preached alongside the one true Gospel.”

    I did not aver the opposite, but it is clear by their Constitutional Standards that they officially preach/stand by the true gospel. They may have acted at times inconsistent with their stated views, but that does not make them heretical. I do not understand what you mean by “Hugh’s posts above” or what relevance that might be.

    “In the OPC the GA made it clear that the teaching of a gospel premised on faith and works is within confessional bounds with their precedent in the Kinnaird case.”

    I do recall the Kinnaird case. The GA’s position was not quite as you characterize it. The GA and/or the OPC were not at all happy with Kinnaird and his confusing teaching. Yes, they failed to judge his teaching as heretical, but one cannot deduce from this that they positively affirm his teaching. And in the end the OPC (as well as the PCA) have it made it quite clear that Federal Vision teachings are not within their constitutional standards by their published report on Federal Vision.

    You are simply wrong to think that the OPC and the PCA lack the marks of a true church. Their official view (and this is all that matters) of the gospel is not heretical, nor do they condone heretical practices(the PCUSA is another story) nor are they officially (again, all that matters)against disciplining those who are in error in doctrine or practice (and of course their view of the administration of the sacraments is proper).


  40. “A wrong definition of faith is, by no means, a trivial matter. In fact, definitions play a major role in understanding any doctrine of scripture.”

    The MEANING of biblical terms is what is essential, not how one defines them. Yes, a wrong UNDERSTANDING of faith is not a minor thing, but faith is not a doctrine of scripture. Again, what is more important is the content of saving faith, that is, the gospel.

    “Those who hold themselves out as teachers who offer wrong or even vague and unintelligible definitions of key words in Biblical doctrines are not fit to be teachers.”

    I agree.

    “Denominations that allow them to do so are not furthering the cause of Christ.”

    No, they’re not. but that doesn’t make them false churches.

  41. Sean Gerety Says:

    Pat, as always, you’re full of, well, bunk (see, I’m being nice). The GA’s position in the Kinnaird case is exactly as I characterized it. Second, one of the marks of a true church is discipline, specifically of the doctrinal kind which both the OPC and PCA are particularly lacking.

    Frankly, you’re a man who would argue the color of dung in a cow patch. I really don’t understand why anyone bothers to discuss anything with you, myself included. I must be a masochist.


  42. Sean, you continue to refuse to learn from me.

    The GA’s position was not at all you characterize it. They did not come out and say Federal Vision teaching, teaches a faith and works for justification, and such is consistent with our Standards, which is your characterization.

    Yes, discipline is a mark of a true church. For if a church fails to discipline false teachers, one would have to think that they accept/believe the teachings of those false teachers. That makes no sense here, unless we are to think that these denominations are dishonest in claiming to believe the Wesminster Standards. And as I said,” nor are they officially (again, all that matters)against disciplining those who are in error in doctrine.” Now the fact that they failed to do so in several cases does NOT mark them out as not a true church. That’s jumping to an unwarranted conclusion. Again, they do not say that a faith and works justification is biblical or something they would tolerate. And they have come to discern that that is exactly what the Federal Vision/NPP amounts to. Again, that should have put the matter to rest. Your obtuseness in this matter is really incredible. What more can these denominations do to make clear their views than what they have done? So what they did not come out and call the teachers of Federal Vision/NPP heretics. They are clearly against it, not espousers of it (the teachings related to these movements). BTW, do you really think or question the salvation of those who lead the OPC and PCA? Do you really think these denominations are no more Christian than the PCUSA or the RCC?


  43. BTW, the marks of a true church go together. A church doesn’t have two marks and miss the third one. We recognize a true church by noticing the marks (all of them) (this is similar to a true Christian). False churches lack all the marks. Again, the congregations within the PCA and OPC teach the true gospel. And no one would or should think that the these denominations are proclaiming a false gospel. There is simply no warrant for thinking so; for their Standards indicate that they believe and teach the true gospel.

  44. Steve M Says:

    “The MEANING of biblical terms is what is essential, not how one defines them.”

    Well I have been set straight. Until now, I was under the misconception that definitions were usually given for the purpose of shedding light on the MEANING of terms(biblical or not). I now understand that the MEANING of biblical terms can be arrived at without defining them in any way.

    Really why make such a big deal out of the MEANING of biblical terms. It is so divisive. Church discipline is also very divisive. Why quibble about the MEANING of biblical terms. “Can’t we all just get along”(Rodney King).

    “Yes, a wrong UNDERSTANDING of faith is not a minor thing, but faith is not a doctrine of scripture. Again, what is more important is the content of saving faith, that is, the gospel.”

    Yes, I agree that no single word is a doctrine of scripture, but doctrines of scripture(including what constitutes the gospel) are composed of words. How one defines these words has everything to do with what doctrines one believes. Of course, it really doesn’t what believe MEANS, so why define it?

    Thanks for setting me straight LT

  45. Hugh McCann Says:

    Steve,

    You’ve been Dumptied again:

    ‘When I use a word,’ Patrick said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

    ‘The question is,’ said Steve, whether you CAN make words mean so many different things.’

    ‘The question is,’ said Patrick, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’

    Steve was too much puzzled to say anything; so after a minute Patrick began again…

  46. Steve M Says:

    Hugh

    It is clear to me now. I’ve been Dumptied. I thought I was being dumped on. Either way I’ll try not to forget to bring my shovel when Patrick opines.


  47. “The MEANING of biblical terms is what is essential, not how one defines them.”

    “Well I have been set straight. Until now, I was under the misconception that definitions were usually given for the purpose of shedding light on the MEANING of terms(biblical or not). I now understand that the MEANING of biblical terms can be arrived at without defining them in any way.”

    No, that is not the case, nor is it at all what I am saying. If one understands the meaning of a term, one can give a definition of it. Definitions are for the purpose of indicating the meaning. But different definitions may fulfill that purpose. For instance, my definition of faith might not use the word “assent,” but my meaning could still be the same as one that does. So for the sake of clarity, MEANING is more precisely the issue, not definitions.

    Steve:”Yes, I agree that no single word is a doctrine of scripture, but doctrines of scripture(including what constitutes the gospel) are composed of words. How one defines these words has everything to do with what doctrines one believes.”

    Not completely. Again, the tripartite definition of saving faith does not determine what the content of saving faith is.

  48. Steve M Says:

    “the tripartite definition of saving faith does not determine what the content of saving faith is.”

    If you will define what you mean by “determine” and “content”, I might understand the point you are trying to make.

  49. Hugh McCann Says:

    Steve,

    I imagine by ‘content’ that LT means the propositions of the gospel, i.e. 1st Cor 15:3f ~

    …that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures…


  50. Yes, Hugh, that’s what is meant by “content.” By “determine” I mean “establish or fix.”

    But what I should have said is that the definition of saving faith does not determine the doctrine of jugstification by faith.

  51. Hugh McCann Says:

    One more attempt to exegete LT:

    SM: A wrong definition of faith is, by no means, a trivial matter. In fact, definitions play a major role in understanding any doctrine of scripture.

    LT: The MEANING of biblical terms is what is essential, not how one defines them. Yes, a wrong UNDERSTANDING of faith is not a minor thing, but faith is not a doctrine of scripture. Again, what is more important is the content of saving faith, that is, the gospel.

    HM: Steve, maybe LT means that ‘a wrong UNDERSTANDING of [the constituent elements of] faith is not a minor thing, but [the constituent elements of] faith is not a doctrine of scripture.’???

    As he says, ‘the content of saving faith, that is, the gospel’ is more important.

    I certainly agree that the propositions of the gospel are more important that the constituent elements of saving faith.

    But you are no less correct, too, that we should rightly define (& number!) faith’s elements.

  52. Hugh McCann Says:

    1. SG: In the OPC the GA made it clear that the teaching of a gospel premised on faith and works is within confessional bounds with their precedent in the Kinnaird case.
    LT: I do recall the Kinnaird case. The GA’s position was not quite as you characterize it. The GA and/or the OPC were not at all happy with Kinnaird and his confusing teaching.

    HM: Did they stamp their widdle feets, too?

    2. LT: Yes, they failed to judge his teaching as heretical,

    HM: Oops. Strike One.

    3. LT: but one cannot deduce from this that they positively affirm his teaching.

    HM: A religious leader once said that those not with him were against him. Silence implies complicity.

    4. LT: And in the end the OPC (as well as the PCA) have it made it quite clear that Federal Vision teachings are not within their constitutional standards by their published report on Federal Vision.

    HM: And they’re doing WHAT about it?!!! C’mon, Patrick, they are gutless wonders parading endless paperwork & issuing toothless ‘findings’ that amount to NOTHING without rebukes, denunciations, sanctions, depositions, etc. Stop defending the ineffectual & effeminate, the tolerant & the tentative. Just my opinion, of course!

    5. LT: You [Sean] are simply wrong to think that the OPC and the PCA lack the marks of a true church.

    HM: Toleration of heresy and heretics (AFTER having said mildly that ‘the Federal Vision teachings are not within our constitutional standards’) appears to be pretty darned close to losing a true mark: Discipline.

    6. LT: Their official view (and this is all that matters) of the gospel is not heretical, nor do they condone heretical practices (the PCUSA is another story) nor are they officially (again, all that matters) against disciplining those who are in error in doctrine or practice (and of course their view of the administration of the sacraments is proper).

    HM: This wants an answer. And an answer it shall have! See next post.

    7. LT: Yes, discipline is a mark of a true church. For if a church fails to discipline false teachers, one would have to think that they accept/believe the teachings of those false teachers. That makes no sense here, unless we are to think that these denominations are dishonest in claiming to believe the Westminster Standards.

    HM: Fine, but it DOES indicate that they are unwilling or incapable of good housekeeping: Cleaning up the dirt! They are not taking eradicating the sinful heresy, nor disciplining the heretics, they merely indicate that they don’t agree with the heresy, they don’t ‘accept/believe’ it, or ‘condone’ it, or are even ‘officially against disciplining’! Neato! Then why not discipline. Talk is cheap and saying you affirm orthodoxy and discipline, but then refuse & fail to defend that orthodoxy by administering discipline is (here it comes, wait for it): HYPOCRISY. I will go on record to claim that the OPC & PCA elders are hypocritical b/c they affirm orthodox theology, and yet have repeatedly proven that they are unwilling to & incapable of disciplining the false teachers in their respective midsts.

    More to come…

  53. Hugh McCann Says:

    2nd post to LT:

    HM: Out of your own mouth (or keyboard) you condemn your church, counselor. OK, here goes (added emphases in CAPS):

    LT: The GA and/or the OPC were NOT AT ALL HAPPY with Kinnaird and his confusing teaching…
    LT: Their OFFICIAL view (and this is all that matters) of the gospel is not heretical…
    LT: …if a church fails to discipline false teachers, one would have to think that they accept/believe the teachings of those false teachers. That makes no sense here, unless we are to think that these denominations are dishonest in CLAIMING TO BELIEVE the Westminster Standards.
    LT: And as I said,” nor are they OFFICIALLY (again, all that matters) against disciplining those who are in error in doctrine.” Now the fact that they failed to do so in several cases does NOT mark them out as not a true church. That’s jumping to an unwarranted conclusion.
    LT: Again, THEY DO NOT SAY that a faith and works justification is biblical or something they would tolerate. And they have come to discern that that is exactly what the Federal Vision/NPP amounts to. Again, that should have put the matter to rest. Your obtuseness in this matter is really incredible. What more can these denominations do to make clear their views than what they have done?

    HM: De-leaven your lump, Patrick! Or flee. You don’t say you’ll tolerate it, but neither do your OP elders prosecute against it.

    It’s like physicians finding a deadly disease in their hospital, identifying it, naming people who are infecting others with it, and even registering their dislike of it in papers & talks given at conferences, and yet doing nothing to eradicate the plague.

    Or, to take your profession: Imagine a barrister (or judge or peace officer) knowing and affirming the law, naming some who are known infractors, publishing personal agreement with the law & disagreement with the violators thereof, and yet doing nothing to bring the criminals (suspects) to justice.

    Doing nothing beyond voicing disagreement with the bad guys ~ that’s PCA & OPC ‘leadership.’

    LT: So what THEY DID NOT COME OUT and call the teachers of Federal Vision/NPP heretics.
    HM: ‘Oh, heaven forbid we lower ourselves to such base name-calling and mud-slinging! These ARE brethren (& “fathers”*), after all. Just b/c Jesus and Paul did it, doesn’t mean we should!’

    LT: They are CLEARLY AGAINST IT, not espousers of it (the teachings related to these movements). BTW, do you really think or question the salvation of those who lead the OPC and PCA? Do you really think these denominations are no more Christian than the PCUSA or the RCC?
    HM: Look at the trajectory & history of the Episcopal Church.** I seriously question the integrity and biblicality (biblical fidelity) of those who lead the OPC & PCA. Speaking against it w/o sanctions is worse than useless – it is hypocritical!

    LT: the congregations within the PCA and OPC TEACH THE TRUE GOSPEL. And no one would or should think that the these denominations are proclaiming a false gospel. There is simply no warrant for thinking so; for their Standards indicate that THEY BELIEVE AND TEACH THE TRUE GOSPEL.
    HM: I agree that on paper the PCA & OPC believe and teach the truth, and that probably most therein DO believe and teach the true gospel.

    But they are unwilling to DEFEND it. That is where your elders are failing. [Just one man's opinion, of course.]

    Should discipline fail, personal separation is the last biblical step. ‘Come out from among them’ (2 Cor. 6:14ff) and all that:
    a) Romans 16:17f ~ Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.
    b) 1 Thes. 5:14f ~ And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
    c) 1 Tim. 5:19f ~ Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.
    *{Instead, they kiss each another’s bottom and call their brethren ‘Father,’ contra Christ’s command of Matt. 23:9.}
    d) Titus 3:9ff ~ But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.
    __________________________________

    ** The various names of U.S. Episcopalianism are indicative of its changing theology: first, the Protestant Epis. Church in the USA (PECUSA) then the Epis. Church USA (ECUSA) and now just The Episcopal Church (TEC). More important has been its slide into apostasy. In short, good men did nothing.

    It began with tepid denunciations of error (with no sanctions), then milder disagreements with error, then the embrace of error (‘toleration’), and most recently the exaltation of error (elevating a sodomite to the bishopric).

    It will finish (please note, they’re not yet there) in the institutionalization of error as the official standards are rewritten.

    Up until this Century, conservatives in TEC have argued that the 39 Articles and other orthodox formulations are still in the Book of Common Prayer. Hence, they could stay in, minister, earn a living, and collect pensions, etc. Cardinal Christian doctrines were not OFFICIALLY denied.

    Thus, ON PAPER –JUST AS IN THE OPC & PCA– the Episcopal Church is orthodox Christianity.

    In reality, however, it is a mini-Babylon: She has become a dwelling place for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast {Rev. 18:2}. But she has an orthodox confession of faith!

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


  54. Hugh,

    Your lengthy (wordy)posts don’t overcome the fact that failure to discipline in a single or few cases doesn’t make a church not true. Is it that inconceivable to you that a true church could act the way the OPC and PCA have acted? Or again, do you really think it is reasonable to claim that the OPC and PCA believe and teach what the FV ers and NPP ers teach. If not, then end of discussion. They are true churches because what they claim in their writings to believe, namely the Westminster Standards.

    You also fail to recognnize the disctinction between a particular congregation and the denomination in exercising discipline. One could and should leave a congregation that fails to prevent hereretical teaching being put forward. No one is claiming that we need not deal with the leaven that is among us, when discovered. BTW, this distinction wouldn’t be necessary in congregational/individual church autonomy polity practice, which I adhere to.

    But you guys are just so gung ho about separation from the OPC and PCA that you will never listen to a different take. You harp over the same old thing while the truth is so clearly staring you in the face.

    And I probably shouldn’t even waste my time trying to help you to see things aright, since Sean deletes just about every other comment I try to post.

  55. Sean Gerety Says:

    You also fail to recognnize the disctinction between a particular congregation and the denomination in exercising discipline

    And you fail to recognize the Lord’s admonition that we should not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.

    Also, if you don’t want “just about every other comment” you try to post deleted, don’t post here.

  56. Hugh McCann Says:

    LT, Being as terse as possible:

    Your lengthy (wordy)posts don’t overcome the fact that failure to discipline in a single or few cases doesn’t make a church not true.
    >> True enough. Didn’t say they did, though. But they do show a disregard for the church’s peace & safety at a critical point: Gospel Defense.

    Is it that inconceivable to you that a true church could act the way the OPC and PCA have acted?
    >> Nope. Again, I said they are churches in decline, like their liberal counterparts 50-100 years ago.

    Or again, do you really think it is reasonable to claim that the OPC and PCA believe and teach what the FV ers and NPP ers teach.
    >> Sloppy, Patrick. Did you read my posts? I never said this, either. Of course the Westminster standards don’t teach heresy (the Presbies’ paper tigers), but the churches tolerate what the Fvers and NPPers teach, and then fail to discipline!

    If not, then end of discussion. They are true churches because what they claim in their writings to believe, namely the Westminster Standards.
    >> Okay, but in grave danger.

    You also fail to recognnize the disctinction between a particular congregation and the denomination in exercising discipline.
    >> Whoa, Nelly! Who’s sounding cultic now? The denom (general assembly) has failed the churches.

    One could and should leave a congregation that fails to prevent hereretical teaching being put forward.
    >> Those church leaders who fail to prosecute heretics are in sin. They don’t need to be teaching heresy, just tolerating it to disqualify themselves.

    No one is claiming that we need not deal with the leaven that is among us, when discovered.
    >> Excellent!

    BTW, this distinction wouldn’t be necessary in congregational/individual church autonomy polity practice, which I adhere to.
    >> You’re not a very presbyterian Presbyterian, then. Neither am I, but neither do I defend these churches or their polity.

    But you guys are just so gung ho about separation from the OPC and PCA that you will never listen to a different take.
    >> What? Tolerating false teachers in one’s midst?!

    You harp over the same old thing while the truth is so clearly staring you in the face.
    >> Which truth would be….

    And I probably shouldn’t even waste my time trying to help you to see things aright, since Sean deletes just about every other comment I try to post.
    >> Maybe 50% of ‘em are garbage? Dunno, just guessing.

  57. Hugh McCann Says:

    Patrick,
    Please email me if you want to continue arguing.
    hughmc5 AT hotmail DOT com


  58. A further distinction – Pat Sciacca (lawyertheologian) is not the same as Patrick T. McWilliams (sovereignlogos).

    I know of at least one person that thought we were the same, so just in case anyone else thought that, well, now you know.

    Carry on.

  59. Steve M Says:

    From Hugh:

    “Steve, I imagine by ‘content’ that LT means the propositions of the gospel, i.e. 1st Cor 15:3f ~

    …that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures…

    From LT:

    “Yes, Hugh, that’s what is meant by “content.” By “determine” I mean “establish or fix.” But what I should have said is that the definition of saving faith does not determine the doctrine of jugstification by faith.”

    >>The Gospel is the object (not the content) of saving faith. The proper definition of faith is part of the doctrine of justification by faith (alone) just as the definitions of the other major terms such as “justification” and “alone”. If I claim to believe the doctrine of justification by faith alone, but define faith so as to include in it an element of works or as Horatius Bonar says “make works an ingredient of faith”, I destroy the doctrine.

    LT:

    “The MEANING of biblical terms is what is essential, not how one defines them.”

    It is impossible for someone to understand the meaning of a biblical term without a definition in mind. If you have non-propositional thoughts, please express them without using propositions. It will save me from having to respond. Since a proposition is the meaning of a declarative sentence, a declarative sentence with no meaning does not qualify as a proposition. For a declarative sentence to have meaning its terms must be defined at least in someone’s mind and then it will only have meaning to one in whose mind it has been defined.

    LT:

    “The definition of saving faith does not (establish or fix) the doctrine of justification by faith”

    I don’t know who would argue that a definition of a word establishes a doctrine, but that is not what the discussion was about. The discussion was about whether anyone can understand what a doctrine MEANS without definitions of the major terms (whether stated or in ones mind).

    Asssenting to the propositions of Paul ( 1st Cor 15:3f ~
    …that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures…) is saving faith or something else is required. It has to be one or the other.

  60. Hugh McCann Says:

    In LT’s, “the tripartite definition of saving faith does not determine what the content of saving faith is,” “content” means the propositions of the gospel, i.e. 1 Cor 15:3f.

    I understand this to mean the content (saving propositions) of The Faith that saves.

    But do you mean the constituent components (knowledge & assent) are the content of saving faith, Steve, when you write, “The Gospel is the object (not the content) of saving faith.”

    This too is true. I can agree to this as well: “Asssenting to the propositions of Paul (1 Cor 15:3f) is saving faith or something else is required. It has to be one or the other.”

    Good, helpful distinctions! Thanks, men. I am confident my friends will correct me if I have misread them!

    P.S. Is ‘jugstification by faith’ hopeful bottle-blowing in a hillbilly band?

  61. Steve M Says:

    The Bible uses the word we translate as faith in two ways. One signifies belief or the act of believing. The other signifies the propositions believed as in “the faith”.

    It seems to me that the above Note on Faith was discussing the former rather than the latter sense of the word.

  62. Denson Dube Says:

    Hugh, Steve,
    Stop the hair splitting, opinionated ungracious villians! We are not saved by Doctrine!
    Just open your huts and let G’s ass in!

  63. Steve M Says:

    Denson

    I’m glad you said, “villians” and not “VanTilians”!

  64. Hugh McCann Says:

    “Just open your huts and let G’s ass in!”

    Whazzat? Whom be ‘G’?

  65. Denson Dube Says:

    Hi Hugh,
    Without content, how can anybody know what it means? I deny that a contentless “Jesus” saves and hence prefer to call it “g’s ass” or “geeze us”. It’s the grosspell not the Gospel!

  66. Steve M Says:

    John Robbins from “The Gospel According to John MacArthur”:

    “A great deal of time and energy has been wasted for centuries by theologians trying to distinguish between various types of faith. They erred in thinking that what makes some faith saving and some faith not saving is a difference in the act of believing. They still had not freed themselves from the soteriological subjectivism of Roman Catholicism. They still had not understood the soteriological objectivism of the Gospel. There is nothing in the faith – the act of believing – itself that saves us. The only difference between saving belief and non-saving belief is the propositions believed – the object of faith. Saving faith is not saving because of some subjective difference in us or in our faith. Saving faith is saving only because of its object. The difference between saving and non-saving faith is objective, not subjective.”

  67. Hugh McCann Says:

    Well done, Steve. Thanks.

    Thank God for ‘the soteriological objectivism of the Gospel.’ No hope without it!

    Glory!


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