Assurance and Knowledge

Having assurance of one’s salvation is not the same as knowing that one is saved.  I am not really sure why this is difficult for some people to grasp, but even some calling themselves “Scripturalists” have a hard time telling the difference.

So for those still confused, assurance of salvation means to be free from doubt.  It is to  possess a confidence derived from the promises of God and the finished work of Christ outside of ourselves revealed in the Gospel. Assurance is a blessing God gives to those who “truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity” and who endeavor “to walk in all good assuranceconscience before him.” The Westminster Confession states that even though “hypocrites, and other unregenerate men, may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favour of God and estate of salvation,” genuine biblical assurance is “founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made, the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God:  which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption.”  Notice, assurance is not something deduced by “good and necessary” from Scripture.  While assurance is “founded upon the divine truth,” it is an inference that is arrived at inductively as we seek to faithfully follow the Lord through the power of the Holy Spirit working within us both to will and to do God’s good pleasure.  If our election were a necessary inference from Scripture I hardly think Paul would command believers to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” and to “test yourselves to see if you are in the faith.” If our eternal state were a necessary inference deducible from Scripture Paul should have said; “deduce yourself and know you are in the faith.”  As for Philippians 2:12 it would be meaningless (unless you’re a Pelagian , Armianian, or Roman Catholic) as there wouldn’t be anything to work out. As Calvin said concerning this verse; “For distrust of ourselves leads us to lean more confidently upon the mercy of God”; the one true source of Christian assurance.

A quick look at my online dictionary lists the following definitions for assurance:

1. a positive declaration intended to give confidence: He received assurances of support for the project.

2. promise or pledge; guaranty; surety: He gave his assurance that the job would be done.

3. full confidence; freedom from doubt; certainty: to act in the assurance of success.

4. freedom from timidity; self-confidence; belief in one’s abilities: She acted with speed and assurance.

5. presumptuous boldness; impudence.

While some calling themselves Christians, even while denying such non negotiables as justification by belief alone or the Triunity of God, arguably may have assurance in the fifth sense, it should be obvious that the idea of knowledge defined as true opinion with an account of its truth is nowhere to be found.  Knowledge is not listed as a synonym for assurance in any sense, yet, for some bizarre reason, people keep equating the two.

I suspect in some cases confusion arises from ambiguity surrounding what it means to know.  Speaking colloquially people routinely claim to know all sorts of things for which they cannot account. In this sense knowledge might be defined in terms of having a general understanding of some topic, an acquaintance with someone or something, or simply believing something is true.  For example, I might say I know how to bake a cake or that Barrack Obama is the president of the United States. I believe both of these propositions to be true (although the cake thing might be a stretch), but since these are things for which I cannot account I would not call them knowledge in the epistemic sense.

As mentioned in a previous blog piece, if it’s admitted that we cannot know who God’s elect are, the same would seem to apply to us even when we look in the mirror.  Epistemology is concerned with answering the question; How do you know?  While we can say we know we are saved in a colloquial or evidential sense, we can’t say we know in an epistemological or Scripturalist sense.  That’s because for Scripturalist knowledge consists of either the explicit propositions of Scripture or deductions from Scripture.  Scripture alone provides both the content and account for knowledge.  It may be true that a person may evidence genuine saving faith, but this is the result of an induction and something Sessions regularly struggle with when considering people for church membership.  Questions like; is their profession of faith sincere? Or, do they even understand the Gospel and do their lives reflect someone “endeavoring” to walk in obedience before the Lord? What is alarming is when those who claim to understand the distinction between knowledge in the colloquial and epistemic sense claim that their knowledge of their own blessed and eternal state is in the latter sense rather than the former.  It’s alarming because such claims smack of spiritual pride and as Gordon Clark rightly observed: “It may be suggested for sober consideration whether or not those who are most easily assured of salvation are least likely to be saved.   Or, as Paul put it; “let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.”

In addition, the Confession stresses that assurance does not belong to the essence of belief and that “a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it.” Gordon Clark in What Do Presbyterians Believe explains that assurance is a fruit or consequence of true belief:

But the assurance spoken of in the Confession is a result of faith in Jesus Christ. It is an assurance that can be found only in those who love Him in sincerity and who endeavor to walk in all good conscience before Him. The Pharisees were no doubt very sure of themselves. Their great sin was spiritual pride. The assurance of grace, however, accompanies humility and a sense of unworthiness. The distinction is clear to anyone who wishes to see it . . . . In general one must be extremely cautious, not merely in asserting that faith and assurance are inseparable, but in making any universal statement of the psychology of Christians. The New Testament records a number of conversions, and psychologically they were all different, in fact very different. The New Testament and church history as well give abundant evidence of the infinite variety of Christian experience.

Not only because of particular sins and temptations, but also because of differences of temperament, of upbringing, of education, and of the cultural and historic conditions of one’s age, no one pattern of experience fits everybody. Some are too fearful of presumption, others are not fearful enough. Elijah went to heaven in a fiery chariot, but Jeremiah may have died in despondency. Assurance of salvation, like other blessings, does not come to all Christians; but it is a part of the fullness of God’s grace which we may legitimately and consistently hope to enjoy.

According to Clark and the WCF assurance is a matter of psychology, not epistemology.

Unfortunately, that didn’t prevent a discussion from raging on a Facebook “Clark” page with Ryan Hedrich leading the opposition insisting that knowledge of his own eternally blessed state was a necessary inference from Scripture; this in spite his rejection of the biblical doctrine of God and the Trinity.  A number of years ago a similarly contentious debate broke out on the Yahoo Scripturalist group that ended up driving the group to a grinding halt.  At that time those playing the role of Hedrich were Pat “The Lawyer Theologian” Sciacca and Reinhard Srajer. This debate occurred in 2006 and while Dr. Robbins did not participate in much of the discussion, he did offer this:

Folks,

It seems that when a discussion gets underway on this list some members prefer to return to the question of whether one can now know one is saved. Then follows all sorts of confusion that would take days to sort out, probably to no one’s satisfaction. So no progress is made.

First, the issue is not skepticism. Even if a sinner cannot know (in the proper sense of the word) that he is saved — and so far no one has shown that he can — Scripturalism furnishes us with many truths when all other methods fail, and so skepticism is avoided.

Second, knowledge requires explicit statements in Scripture or deductions from Scripture. It is not the same as assurance or certitude or certainty.

Third, opinions may be true or false. (It is absurd to say that some propositions are neither true nor false.) So Jack’s (a hypothetical person) opinion that he is saved may indeed be true, but no one has yet shown how he can deduce it from Scripture. Those who think he can so deduce it must show how it can be so deduced — but don’t try it here for at least a year.

Fourth, Jack’s failure is not due to any doubt about Scripture (and it is impossible to doubt a proposition one believes — one either assents or one does not) but solely to the problem of self-knowledge. He knows the major premise, All believers are saved. He opines the minor premise, I am a believer. Therefore the conclusion, I am saved, can rise no higher than opinion.

Finally, the question is not how does one know one knows? but how does one know? Scripturalism says, one knows only by explicit statements in or valid inferences from Scripture.

Now, gentlemen, move on to another topic.

JR

Sadly, that did not satisfy Sciacca or Srajer, who rather than moving on proceeded to essentially destroy the entire discussion group.  I have no doubt that if Dr. Robbins were alive today Hedrich would not move on either. Hedrich remains steadfast insisting that he knows he is regenerate and the proposition “I am regenerate” is an object of knowledge in the strict or epistemic sense.  Even more bizarre, while Hedrich claims to knows he is regenerate, he only opines that he is “Ryan Hedrich.”  Huh?  So when someone asked him where is he found in Scripture or deduced from it so that he might know he is regenerate, Hedrich replied:

I don’t have to provide an explicit reference, especially given I have never argued that I can communicate my self-knowledge to you or vice versa. It’s simply good and necessary consequence. If I were not regenerate, then I would not be able to know anything: by reductio ad absurdem, I must be regenerate.

Remember, this “reducito” so-called is coming from a young man who denies the Trinity, maintains that the Father alone is the “one true God” to the exclusion of the Son and the Spirit,  and who militantly denies that Jesus Christ is the self-existent God himself.  That said, I do agree that his “reducito” is absurd because I should think someone could know on the basis of divine revelation that David was King of Israel while denying that a person is justified by belief alone, through Christ alone, and by grace alone.  I don’t see how it follows that regeneration is a prerequisite for any knowledge whatsoever even on Scripturalist terms.  Regeneration is a necessary precondition for someone to come to believe in the one true God and Savior Jesus Christ, something it would seem Hedrich lacks (at least according to the evidence).

Notice too, that for Hedrich the presumed knowledge of his own regeneration, his own election, is incommunicable, yet he asserts it is a “good and necessary consequence.”  But “good and necessary consequence” from what?  His bellybutton? He certainly hasn’t deduced his eternal blessed state from the Scriptures otherwise it would a truth he could readily communicate to others.  Instead, he irrationally appeals to occult knowledge that he alone posses. To put it another way, Hedrich begs the question.

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70 Comments on “Assurance and Knowledge”


  1. If justification by faith alone is insufficient to know that one is saved, then by all means become a Roman Catholic or an Arminian. Sanctification and assurance flow out of the basis of justification by the righteousness of Christ, not merely by the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. Saving faith is assenting to the knowledge of the law and Gospel as it is revealed in Holy Scripture. The warning passages do not negate the doctrine of justification by faith alone nor does it negate the basis for that justifying faith: the active and passive obedience of Christ and Christ alone. To suggest that sanctification is a basis for assurance implies that merits or good works play some part in salvation, which they do not. Good works testify to other men that we have a credible profession of faith and nothing more. Coram deo the only justification is the foreign or alien righteousness of Christ. Ultimately, then, assurance comes from Christ’s obedience to the law, not from our obedience. Any assurance we have from sanctification or obedience is nothing unless it is founded on the righteousness of Christ.

    BTW, I didn’t know the Scripturalists were organized into a formal denomination with a confessional statement which requires subscription?

    I certainly don’t agree with everything Clark said. I was recently listening to his question and answer session after his talk on contemporary issues of the Bible. He said that he did believe there is a minimum of doctrinal propositions necessary for saving faith but that saving faith involves an inductively growth in knowledge throughout one’s life. Of course the latter part is true. But if there is no minimal doctrine by which one can know or have assurance of salvation, then it would follow that new believers cannot know if they have sufficient knowledge for saving faith. I guess implicit faith applied for G. H. Clark since he denied that those ignorant of the Reformed views were necessarily lost. He leaves undefined whether or not Roman Catholics and other heretics are lost on the basis of their false doctrines. The PCA and other “Reformed” denominations these days say that Catholics are saved–even if they practice idolatry and teach a false gospel of merits.


  2. The issue here is that false doctrine is a good indicator of false knowledge and a false conversion. The only way to know this is by requiring a strict subscription to the Reformed doctrinal standards, namely the Westminster Standards, Three Forms of Unity, or the Anglican Formularies, et. al.


  3. Correction: Clark said that he did “not” believe there is a minimum of doctrinal propositions necessary for assurance of salvation. You never arrive there.

  4. medees1 Says:

    Sean,

    You said, “I don’t see how it follows that regeneration is a prerequisite for any knowledge whatsoever even on Scripturalist terms.”

    I heartily agree, but if knowledge requires justification, how, according to your view, can an unregenerate justify their belief to have this knowledge?

  5. medees1 Says:

    @ Charlie,

    “The only way to know this is by requiring a strict subscription to the Reformed doctrinal standards, namely the Westminster Standards, Three Forms of Unity, or the Anglican Formularies, et. al.”

    Are you being facetious here?

  6. Sean Gerety Says:

    medees1,

    What knowledge are you referring to?

  7. medees1 Says:

    Sean,

    Ah! I think I see where you are coming from. For I take you now to mean that they can have some knowledge in a non-epistemic sense like the baking of a cake. But then why even say it? I’m not defending anybody, but Ryan denies that very same knowledge to the unregenerate like you do. He calls it philosophic knowledge.

    Perhaps, if you wish, you can interact with his P1-P5 argument and identify which premise is false, because it’s certainly valid. I take issue with P4 (which is his definition of Scripturalism), but I would have thought you also would need to accept P4 and hence the conclusion.

    The argument can be found here: http://unapologetica.blogspot.com/2013/01/scripturalism-and-self-knowledge.html

    Maybe this would help me understand you better. Can an unregenerate have epistemic knowledge that David was the king of Israel, if they base their assent on the inspiration of the OT? An orthodox Jew for example.

  8. Sean Gerety Says:

    I do, that’s why a Jew is more culpable for their rejection of the Messiah as they were entrusted with the ‘oracles of God’ and stand condemned according to the law and the prophets.

  9. medees1 Says:

    @ Sean

    Amen and great way of saying it! Would a Gentile who holds to the reliability of the Bible for historical events, but not necessarily the doctrinal import of such events, have epistemic knowledge that David was the King of Israel?


  10. No, I’m not being facetious about the Reformed confessions. I’m not a Baptist. I believe in strict subscription to the doctrinal standards with no exceptions.

  11. medees1 Says:

    @ Charlie

    I mean not to cast disdain upon the fine summary of important doctrinal issues contained in the standards you mentioned, but what I do take issue with is saying that it takes adherence to those fallible, editable, uninspired texts to know anything, especially whether or not you hold to false doctrine. Note that I’m not saying they are not helpful for such a determination, but undeniably not necessary.

    You say you believe in strict subscription to Reformed confessions. Well and good, but for what purpose? I’d say in order to be properly Reformed, Presbyterian, etc. But to know or have assurance of salvation… really?

    Or am I misunderstanding what you are saying? Oh, and I know that this’ll really be disturbing, but even though I’m a baptist I’ve heard the same argument from some of my Reformed baptist buddies, but replacing your standards with theirs.

  12. Ron Says:

    Sean,

    Indeed, assurance and knowledge is not the same thing.
    Also, although induction is involved in purchasing a Bible, when a person reads Scripture he can know the propositions contained therein. Accordingly, induction can be part of the process that leads up to knowledge but induction would not be the cause of knowledge. I’ve said nothing controversial I trust. I also concur that personal election is not a good and necessary inference from Scripture. Again, nothing controversial there either I trust.

    You wrote: “While assurance is ‘founded upon the divine truth,’ it is an inference that is arrived at inductively as we seek to faithfully follow the Lord through the power of the Holy Spirit working within us both to will and to do God’s good pleasure.”

    I agree with you that the personal assurance that one may attain unto is not deducible from Scripture. But that would not imply that it is therefore an inductive inference. God revealed things to men not contained in Scripture so I would simply add that it’s not only Scripture per se that we can know but rather we can know anything God reveals to the mind. (I’ll get back to that point later.)

    I would suggest that the assurance the Confession speaks of includes but it is not limited to a robust infallible assurance. And although true assurance, as you note, is “founded upon the divine truth,” I would also add it can involve induction in the process (like when we pick up a book we believe is the Bible etc.). I would further argue that although true assurance of salvation when granted by God is not the same thing as knowledge of the proposition “I am saved” I would say that it nonetheless implies and presupposes knowledge of the proposition. That’s where we would disagree I think. I would argue that the assurance is an assurance of personal salvation, i.e. of the proposition I am saved. The assurance God grants is a justification of the truth of the proposition and consequently for the belief in the proposition.

    The Confession states that such assurance is not a “bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope; but an infallible assurance of faith, founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made, the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God; which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption.”

    The justification for the true belief of personal salvation is not an inductive inference but as the Confession states “the testimony of the Spirit”. Please note: The Spirit can justify to the spirit in man that he is saved. The Confession does not teach that the Spirit testifies that salt always dissolves in water. So, from a Confessional standpoint I would draw a sharp distinction between inductive inference and the Spirit’s testimony that one is saved.

    One last thing I’d like to mention is that the propositions contained in Scripture were knowable to those who penned them prior to them being penned. In other words, it wasn’t merely the written word that was knowable but rather God’s revelation of the propositions. Similarly, I would liken the knowledge of salvation to such a level of revelation – in that God is pleased to grant to many of his children infallible assurance that is not mere conjecture or a probable inference.

    At the very least, IF God were to implant in the mind in conjunction with the promises contained in Scripture that one is saved then one would indeed know that he is saved. In such cases there would be a belief in the truth that is justified by the internal work of the Spirit. In such cases, the elements necessary for knowledge would obtain – belief, truth and the highest degree of warrant, namely God’s testimony of the truth. I think that is what the Confession teaches. Man can have infallible assurance granted by God that it is true that he, the man, is saved. Indeed, assurance is not the same thing as knowledge of salvation but one can be assured that it is indeed true that he is saved. Given such a justification, I’d have to call that knowledge of salvation of which one can be infallibly assured.

  13. Pht Says:

    To stir the assurance pot a bit more:

    Others urge this captious objection: that this doctrine of election places a fatal obstacle between the anxious sinner and saving faith. They ask, How can I exercise a sincere, appropriating faith, unless I have ascertained that I am elected? For the reprobate soul is not entitled to believe that Christ died for him, and as his salvation is impossible, the truest faith could not save him even if he felt it. But how can man ascertain God’s secret purpose of election toward him?

    This cavil expressly falsifies God’s teachings concerning salvation by faith. As concerning his election the sinner is neither commanded nor invited to embrace as the object of his faith the proposition “I am elected.” There is no such command in the Bible. The proposition he is invited and commanded to embrace is this: ” Whosoever believes shall be saved.” (Rom. 9:11.) God has told this caviler expressly, “Secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to you and your children, that ye may do all the words of this law.” (Deut. 29:29.) Let us not cavil, but obey. God’s promises also assure us “that whosoever cometh unto God through Christ, he will in no wise cast off” (John 6:37). So that it is impossible that any sinner really wishing to be saved can be kept from salvation by uncertainty about his own election. When we add that God’s decree in no wise infringes man’s free agency, our answer is complete. Confession, Chapter III., Section 1., by this decree, “No violence is offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.

    http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/dabney/5points.htm

  14. Sean Gerety Says:

    Indeed, assurance and knowledge is not the same thing.

    Maybe we should stop here. :)

    Again, nothing controversial there either I trust.

    Uh, but, but … I’ll let it pass.

    I would further argue that although true assurance of salvation when granted by God is not the same thing as knowledge of the proposition “I am saved” I would say that it nonetheless implies and presupposes knowledge of the proposition. That’s where we would disagree I think.

    Only propositions can be true or false, the question is how do you account for the proposition “I am saved”? Since you grant that it is nowhere found in Scripture, and since induction (with the exception of a complete induction) is always false (at least the form of the argument is not the same as the form of the conclusion so that you cannot know if the conclusion is true), how do you account for the proposition “I am saved”? Well, a person might say, I love the brethren, I study my bible, I try to live a life that honors God in all I do, think or say, and I certainly believe that I am saved (which must be the Spirit’s witness — or at least I think it is), but how does this demonstrate the proposition, I am saved? I’m not saying these things may not evidence that we are indeed children of God to ourselves and perhaps even to others, but believing something is true is not the same as knowing it is true. Knowledge requires an account.

    I would argue that the assurance is an assurance of personal salvation, i.e. of the proposition I am saved.

    I guess I would argue that the assurance is an assurance in propositions like the Lord is faithful and that God has set forth Jesus Christ to be a propitiation through faith in his blood. Stuff like that. :)

    The Confession states that such assurance is not a “bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope; but an infallible assurance of faith, founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made, the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God; which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption.”

    The justification for the true belief of personal salvation is not an inductive inference but as the Confession states “the testimony of the Spirit”. Please note: The Spirit can justify to the spirit in man that he is saved. The Confession does not teach that the Spirit testifies that salt always dissolves in water. So, from a Confessional standpoint I would draw a sharp distinction between inductive inference and the Spirit’s testimony that one is saved.

    This is kind of Charismatic of you Ron. ;) I would argue that the Spirit does not give us new propositions but causes us to believe and rest on the ” divine truth of the promises of salvation.” That’s because the Spirit “will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak….” The inward evidence certainly can contribute to our confidence that we are children of God, but I have to think much of that inward evidence (at least the stuff I see in myself) should humble us and drive us outside of ourselves and to Christ instead.

    I have to think as a elder you’ve come across people who evidenced true faith in the promises of salvation even Jesus Christ, even claim with the utmost confidence that they are saved, only to later defect to Rome or perhaps become a Hare Krisha (Ok, maybe if Suddth was in your church he wouldn’t have ended up in orange robes chanting under a tree). I’m sure you were justified in believing X was a Christian only to be disappointed later on.

    One last thing I’d like to mention is that the propositions contained in Scripture were knowable to those who penned them prior to them being penned. In other words, it wasn’t merely the written word that was knowable but rather God’s revelation of the propositions.

    Well, of course. A proposition is the meaning of a declarative sentence, it’s not ink marks on a page. But those former ways have now ceased, or so says the Confession.

    Similarly, I would liken the knowledge of salvation to such a level of revelation – in that God is pleased to grant to many of his children infallible assurance that is not mere conjecture or a probable inference.

    With Clark I think assurance is a matter of Christian psychology and is certainly a Spirit wrought confidence, but to call it knowledge seems to me to beg the question or to equivocated on the word knowledge. Maybe it’s knowledge in a Plantigna or RE sense, but then it seems to me many things the RE folks claim to know regularly turn out to be false, so I can hardly commend their method.

    At the very least, IF God were to implant in the mind in conjunction with the promises contained in Scripture that one is saved then one would indeed know that he is saved.

    Again, I would say we can know we’re saved in an evidential or colloquial sense, it’s just a bit more tricky to claim it is knowledge in the epistemological sense.

    In such cases there would be a belief in the truth that is justified by the internal work of the Spirit. In such cases, the elements necessary for knowledge would obtain – belief, truth and the highest degree of warrant, namely God’s testimony of the truth.

    Yet, the Scriptures tell us to test ourselves, to have no confidence in the flesh, to press on to maturity, etc.

    I think that is what the Confession teaches. Man can have infallible assurance granted by God that it is true that he, the man, is saved.

    I guess I don’t see why knowing one is saved, assuming this is possible apart from extra-biblical revelation, is even a necessary element of assurance? As for infallible assurance, I agree with Clark who said;

    “I must confess I do not like the word infallible in this context. The Pope claims infallibility, but if this is a false claim, it seems strange that it can be asserted of a thousand or a million Protestants. One of the older divines, whose name I have forgotten, illustrated infallibility by the knowledge of a ship captain’s guiding his ship into a harbor. Though the captain was ignorant of many things, and mistaken about many others, he infallibly knew the channel. But is it not possible, as it actually happened in 1983 when a naval vessel struck a sand bar in San Francisco Bay, that a storm could have close the previous channel? Scripture is infallible; nothing else is. We all can and we all do make mistakes.” Sanctification, 35-36.

  15. Ron Says:

    Yes, “Only propositions can be true or false.”

    The question is how do you account for the proposition “I am saved”?

    The proposition exists. The only question is whether it’s true. I account for the truth of the proposition as it pertains to my salvation by the testimony of the Spirit working with the promise of God that whosever believes in Him… The confidence of the truth of the proposition is merely strengthened in sanctification.

    I’m not saying these things may not evidence that we are indeed children of God to ourselves and perhaps even to others, but believing something is true is not the same as knowing it is true. Knowledge requires an account.

    The “account” of which you speak is I believe the Spirit’s justification to me of the true belief. Of course this works in conjunction with the promises of Scripture, sanctification etc.

    This is kind of Charismatic of you Ron. I would argue that the Spirit does not give us new propositions but causes us to believe and rest on the ” divine truth of the promises of salvation.”

    God is logic (and holy, and love, and just…) Man is created in the likeness of God and recreated in Christ’s image. BUT, the Bible does not employ every instance of the laws of logic. So, to deduce doctrine from Scripture so to arrive at new propositions like “God is triune” presupposes a proposition not contained in Scripture. That proposition being: logic always works, or logic is universal and invariant. Otherwise I’m forced to make an inductive inference about logic and, therefore, doctrine, based upon finite experience. In contrast to that, I would suggest that I indeed know the universality and unchanging nature of the laws of logic but I can’t know this based upon the limited uses of logic in Scripture. Rather, the proposition: “the law of contradiction is universal and unchanging” is something God must witness to my mind otherwise it reduces to an inductive inference.

    In the like manner, in “God’s Hammer: The Bible And Its Critics” when Clark spoke of the “Bible” he was speaking of the Protestant Bible. He went so far as to liken man’s acceptance of the Bible as the word of God with the revelation from Heaven that Peter received when he confessed Jesus is the Christ. Clark belabors the point that the Spirit produced this conviction in Peter’s mind. In this Augustinian fashion he clearly was not speaking of induction or knowledge in a colloquial sense; he was speaking epistemologically, yet he concluded with “So too when anyone accepts the Bible as the word of God.” Yet the proposition “the Bible is the word of God” is not deducible from “all Scripture is God breathed.” It is deducible from Jesus intent to build his church on the word of God and having the power to do it, but to deduce the true church – the one that would possess the Bible, would seem to involve propositions not contained in Scripture.

    That’s because the Spirit “will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak….” The inward evidence certainly can contribute to our confidence that we are children of God, but I have to think much of that inward evidence (at least the stuff I see in myself) should humble us and drive us outside of ourselves and to Christ instead.

    I don’t see this inward confidence as being at odds with knowledge nor should such knowledge not drive us to Christ.

    I have to think as a elder you’ve come across people who evidenced true faith in the promises of salvation even Jesus Christ, even claim with the utmost confidence that they are saved, only to later defect to Rome or perhaps become a Hare Krisha (Ok, maybe if Suddth was in your church he wouldn’t have ended up in orange robes chanting under a tree). I’m sure you were justified in believing X was a Christian only to be disappointed later on.

    I think I can do the most good here in winning you on this particular point. All the time I believed they were saved I wasn’t in a position to know they were saved. In other words, that one can know he is saved does not imply that he can know that others are saved. Secondly, that one can know he is saved does not imply that that some will not deceive others into thinking they are saved when they are not. That some went out from us does not prove to me that one cannot know he is saved. It only shows that they were not really of us.

    Again, I would say we can know we’re saved in an evidential or colloquial sense, it’s just a bit more tricky to claim it is knowledge in the epistemological sense.

    I guess that would need to be fleshed out a bit more for me.

    Let me just close with this. If it is true that I am saved and assuming I believe it, the only question is whether God can grant me divine justification for believing I am saved. My position is he can do this and indeed does do this for his people. It would seem that your position is that God cannot, or at least does not, grant people the knowledge of their salvation.

    Yet, the Scriptures tell us to test ourselves, to have no confidence in the flesh, to press on to maturity, etc.

    Yes and the one who is saved will do just that. I don’t see knowledge of one’s salvation as being at odds with pressing on to maturity in Christ. In fact, I think a knowledge of one’s salvation – by the grace of God and enabling of the Spirit – helps induce such humble behavior.

    Please take the last word on the matter. And thank you for the kind exchange.

    Ron


  16. medees1, no one–espeically me–believes the Reformed confessions are infallible. But they are binding doctrine insofar as they draw their most certain warrant from the infallible and inerrant and fully inspired Scriptures. If we cannot use the Reformed confessions and the ecumenical creeds to expose heresy and we must reinvent the wheel every time some heretic raises his ugly head, then we spend time defending what the Reformed churches have already determined to be Scriptural. Do I need to defend the exposition of Scripture in defense of the trinity every time some heretic disagrees with the trinity? No. Why not? Because the trinity is a given. Do I defend the trinity from Scripture? Of course. But treating the Reformed confessions as if they are optional is to concede to the Anabaptists that creeds and confessions are illegitimate expressions of what the Scriptures in fact teach. If so, then what basis do we have to complaining about the Federal Vision or the New Perspectives on Paul? Scripture? Heretics always twist Scripture out of context so when we appeal to Scripture we can also appeal to what the Reformed churches and the apostolic doctrine from the time of Christ has always been. Cranmer, for example, argued from Scripture and the church fathers to refute the doctrine of transubstantiation and essentially proved that the church father supported the Calvinist and Zwinglian view of the Lord’s supper. Tradition–even Reformed tradition–is always secondary and subservient to Scripture. But that is a far cry from rejecting a common confession of what the Scriptures teach. Even Scripturalists have a certain consensus amongst themselves and if anyone transgresses against that consensus they are legitimately questioned as to whether or not they are genuinely following Gordon H. Clark’s theology.

    Charlie


  17. I can’t “know” the secret decrees of God. I can’t “know” absolutely that I am elect. But I can be rationally justified in making the propositional conclusion that I am one of God’s elect based on the fact that I know the general summary of the Scriptures in the Reformed confession and the ecumenical creeds and that I fully assent to, believe, and subscribe to those propositional truth claims and doctrines. I can also affirm that I agree with the proposition that there is some testimony to the church that I not only agree with doctrinal assertions of orthodoxy but that I endeavor to pray and ask for God’s grace to grow in the process of sanctification and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ–although good works merit nothing from God even after conversion. Gratitude is the only acceptable motivation for good works. Since God promises to keep me to the end, I see no reason to doubt that God has unconditionally elected me to salvation and that despite my many moral and doctrinal failures along the way, God will see me through to the end. Jesus is the author and finisher of my faith and my perseverance. He preserves me from falling. (Jude 1:24-25; Hebrews 12:2; 2 Corinthians 1:20). Of course, when someone violates a known doctrinal proposition that is considered to be a Scripturally binding essential to saving faith, that person is rightly called a heretic or a divisive person. The same can be said of someone who is blatantly either a legalist or an antinomian who thinks grace is a license to sin willfully and deliberately. The doctrine of reprobation applies to those who rebel against the law and the gospel.


  18. The Bible says that we can know that we have eternal life, btw. I will accept that proposition. Eternal insecurity is not an option. GH Clark’s commentary on the WCF asserts the doctrine of eternal security in the section on justification by faith I believe. I listen to the book while I’m walking and I clearly remember him making a remark about that. I don’t have the book handy at the moment, though. (1 John 5:13).

  19. Sean Gerety Says:

    The proposition exists. The only question is whether it’s true. I account for the truth of the proposition as it pertains to my salvation by the testimony of the Spirit working with the promise of God that whosever believes in Him…

    …. The “account” of which you speak is I believe the Spirit’s justification to me of the true belief. Of course this works in conjunction with the promises of Scripture, sanctification etc.

    You’re right, the only question is whether the proposition is true. I have no doubt it exists in your mind, but does it exist in God’s mind? Your argument is basically the same claim to self knowledge made by many who should have no confidence whatsoever that they are saved. I’m sure Sudduth thought his belief in his own eternal and blessed state was “warranted,” even when he was publically attacking John Robbins and Clark’s Scripturalism. Reading Sudduth’s “spiritual journey” on his blog he clearly believed he was a Christian. I’m quite sure Doug Wilson and Peter Leithart think they’re saved men too and that the proposition “I am saved” is true for them in spite of their rejection of salvation by belief alone and imputation.

    What disturbs me is that these claims to private knowledge, more precisely private revelation, cannot be accounted for. You say you “account” for the proposition, but I’m left just having to take your word for it. How is this not simply begging the question?

    I may look at your life, your sanctification, and the things you say, but while the evidence supports your claim that you’re saved, I’ve been wrong before. Not that I don’t believe you when you say you’re saved, but what about someone who provides the same “account” even claiming the “testimony of the Spirit” as you have but denies that God is Trinity? Ryan Hedrich says he knows he is saved and provides an account much like your own, but one would think his recent foray into semi-Arianism and Unitarianism would make his “account” suspect and the fruit of spiritual pride. I’m not saying that Hedrich is not saved, but I certainly have no reason to believe that he is. It is my hope that despite his backsliding and apparent defection from the faith that he is not “utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life of faith,” but how do I know? I do know that he is busy polluting the minds of any number of people into rejecting the Triunity of God and the essential co-equality of the Divine Person. Besides, as Clark says above; “It may be suggested for sober consideration whether or not those who are most easily assured of salvation are least likely to be saved.” I couldn’t agree more.

    I’m going to skip your argument re logic as I think Scripture does provide the account for the proposition “logic is universal and invariant,” but for brevity I would refer you to Clark discussion “God and Logic” and simply add that Logic is God (to the chagrin of Van Tillians who go bonkers over Clark’s famous translation of John 1:1), God is also the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

    In this Augustinian fashion he clearly was not speaking of induction or knowledge in a colloquial sense; he was speaking epistemologically, yet he concluded with “So too when anyone accepts the Bible as the word of God.” Yet the proposition “the Bible is the word of God” is not deducible from “all Scripture is God breathed.” It is deducible from Jesus intent to build his church on the word of God and having the power to do it, but to deduce the true church – the one that would possess the Bible, would seem to involve propositions not contained in Scripture.

    You’re right and the Bible is the word of God is not deducible from anything, as it is the axiom of Scripture itself. Axioms are chosen, not proven and the axiom of Christianity is no different. Further, while there are many evidences that the Bible is the word of God, “our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth, and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the word in our hearts.” Now, unless I’m misunderstanding you, it would seem you are arguing that the Spirit’s immediate work causing our assent to the truth that the Bible is the word of God is the same as believing the proposition “I am saved.” The problem as I see it is that the proposition “I am saved” is not a work of the Spirit “bearing witness by and with the word in our hearts” but is in fact an extra-biblical revelation. I think we agree that saying “I am saved” is neither set down in the axiom of Scripture nor is it deducible from Scripture as, for example, is the Trinity.

    I guess that would need to be fleshed out a bit more for me.

    I’m not really sure how to flesh this out more than I already have, including this long quote I provided in my previous blog post:

    What account shall be given of everyday “knowledge” that common sense thinks is silly to doubt? Don’t I know when I am hungry? Can’t I use road maps to drive to Boston to Los Angeles? Indeed, how can I know what the Bible says without reading its pages with my own eyes? It was one secular philosopher criticizing another, who said that knowledge is a fact and that any theory that did not account for it should be abandoned. But all such criticisms miss the point. The status of common opinion is not fixed until a theory has been accepted. One may admit that a number of propositions commonly believed are true; but no one can deny that many such are false. The problem is to elaborate a method by which the two classes can be distinguished. Plato too granted a place to opinion as distinct from knowledge; he even admitted that in some circumstances opinion was as useful as knowledge with a capital K. But to dispose of the whole matter by an appeal to road maps that we can see with our own eyes is to ignore everything said above about Aristotle. An Introduction to Christian Philosophy, 90.

    Further, I have already said I believe a lot of things are true for which I cannot account and with George Coghill I maintain “all knowledge has to be truth, but it is not the case that all truth has to be knowledge.” I also maintain with Clark and Plato that “in some circumstances opinion [is] as useful as knowledge with a capital K.” The questions really comes down to the method by which you can tell the one from the other.

    Let me just close with this. If it is true that I am saved and assuming I believe it, the only question is whether God can grant me divine justification for believing I am saved. My position is he can do this and indeed does do this for his people. It would seem that your position is that God cannot, or at least does not, grant people the knowledge of their salvation.

    I don’t really think we’re that far apart and I do agree that God can and does grant divine justification for believing that you are saved, only that apart from additional revelation I can’t account for the proposition “Ron is saved” any more than you can. Further, you don’t seem to take into account total depravity and self-deception. My position is God can and does assure his children that they are saved, but this assurance rests on the truth revealed in Scripture and on doctrines like the perseverance of the saints not to mention a proper understand of regeneration and election. For example, and for this reason, I think biblical assurance is impossible for Arminians and based on their doctrines any assurance they may express is nothing more than presumption.

  20. Denson Dube Says:

    Hi to all,
    I am not sure what the difficulty is in separating assurance from knowledge. Assurance can be falsey founded, while knowledge is possesion of truth.
    Saddam Hussein, from his public utterances, seemed assured he would give the coalition forces what he called “the mother of all battles”. His assurance as it turned out was mistaken.
    Some Moslem young man seem assured they will get 70 virgins if they blow themselves up. Since the Bible is true, and explicitly states that there is no sex in the here after, their assurance of sex orgies in the here after is falsely founded.
    I suppose western nations can be generally viewed as having held to assurance of economic prosperity in perpetuity, but recent events have proved that assurance falsely founded.

    There are things God has not revealed to us and therefore cannot be known … until he reveals them. One of these is “a revelation of the sons of God”, which is still future. Only God knows the number of the elect who is in that list.Therefore, assurance of salvation is not equivalent to knowledge of one’s salvation, yet.

  21. Steve M Says:

    Sean
    Excellent post and discussion.

  22. Ryan Says:

    Denson said,

    “I am not sure what the difficulty is in separating assurance from knowledge.”

    The difficulty rather appears to be in separating real assurance from false assurance. I have heard no explanation from anyone who denies self-knowledge as to how we can have the former.

    Sean is fond of quoting Clark as saying, “It may be suggested for sober consideration whether or not those who are most easily assured of salvation are least likely to be saved.” While a good thought, the previous sentences of that paragraph are just as interesting: “It is clear therefore that there is a feeling of assurance that is not real assurance. Just because a person believes that he is saved is an insufficient reason for thinking that he is saved.”

    What is real assurance? If belief is insufficient, then what else is there but knowledge? Well, that is precisely what Clark proceeds to defend, citing numerous passages in 1 John (among others) with great effect: “We know that we know the Lord by keeping his commandments.” Anyone so inclined can read the full context to see Clark is quite clearly affirming one can know (yes, in an epistemic sense) that he is saved:

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/GHClark_List1/message/2445


  23. Your argument is basically the same claim to self knowledge made by many who should have no confidence whatsoever that they are saved.

    No, the “knowledge” is based on the rational content of biblical revelation and propositional truth. Your view seems to be Van Tilian because you say that it is “prying into God’s secret being” to say that anyone can know they are saved.

    While it is true that there are many who claim to be saved who are not, we can easily discern whether or not their truth claim is valid or not based on the doctrinal propositions to which they assent. If someone denies Jesus is both God and man or they deny the trinity or they deny justification by faith alone, it is easy to see that they have made a false profession of faith.

    Being rationally justified in believing that one is saved is a valid proposition because Scripture makes the proposition (Romans 4). If, otoh, no one can reasonably claim to be saved or “know” in any valid way at all that they are saved, then the end result is that you are agreeing with Rome.

    An “infallible assurance,” is the language used in the WCF. That’s not eternal insecurity. Vain speculations about whether or not God keeps His promises are just that. I see no reason for any believer to doubt their conversion nor should a congregation doubt its members are elect unless the congregation is not rightly preaching and administering the sacraments and therefore has no clue what constitutes a “valid” profession of faith based on doctrinal considerations and the person’s commitment to grow in grace and knowledge. (2 Peter 3:18).


  24. Ryan Hedrich says he knows he is saved and provides an account much like your own, but one would think his recent foray into semi-Arianism and Unitarianism would make his “account” suspect and the fruit of spiritual pride. I’m not saying that Hedrich is not saved, but I certainly have no reason to believe that he is.

    And why not? Because of the secondary authority of a Reformed confession or do you reinvent the wheel with each and every doctrinal aberration?

    It seems to me that the Anabaptist view is that creeds and confessions have no authority. But then they have their own unwritten creeds like, “There is no creed but the Bible.” Of course, the Bible has to be interpreted. The magisterial Reformers didn’t reject creeds and confessions–they wrote them. But the difference with Rome is that Rome declares “tradition” and “creeds” to be inspired and infallible on the same level as Scripture. The Reformers rejected that view but at the same time did no reject the authority of creeds and confessions as a secondary authority with Scripture as the primary authority. Rejecting the confessions only takes longer to differentiate between truth and heresy. Church synods can and do err, as the Leithart and Myers trials show. But a longstanding Reformed confession like the Westminster Standards of 1647 or the Dutch Three Forms of Unity have stood the test of time. I see no reason to accept some’s claim to be saved when they have rejected the biblical doctrine of the trinity as is deduced from Scripture by the Reformed churches and the Lutheran churches.

    As for someone living in gross immorality, they can claim no assurance because the third use of the law requires the Christian to live by faith and to show gratitude to God by an imperfect obedience.

    While I cannot say that everyone who is apparently elect today will sustain conviction or proposition, it is likewise true that the person could in the future repent. God alone ultimately knows who is saved and elect. But as long as we have faith that assents to the essential doctrines as outlined in a valid Reformed confession I see no reason to doubt a person’s salvation–even if they are struggling with moral issues in their lives. It’s one thing to say it’s ok to be gay and quite another to know it is sinful and struggle with the temptation to sin. The elect may long struggle with sin but they can in the end receive an “infallible assurance.”

    As I said, Scripture says that we can have a “valid” knowledge that we have eternal life. If not, why bother making a profession of faith in the first place? Why examine ourselves prior to taking communion? It’s not a matter of being in one minute and out the next but rather making sure that we have confessed our sins and properly prepared ourselves for communion. Law is followed by gospel promises. (2 Corinthians 1:20).

    It’s one thing to struggle with covetousness and greed and another to say that those sins are just fine.

    The problem as I see it is always self-righteousness. God could have let me continue on in my false religion of Pentecostal Arminianism. Instead God granted me the grace of regeneration and showed me the truth of His sovereignty.

    Peace,

    Charlie

  25. Denson Dube Says:

    Hi Charlie,
    Could you supply the premises and how from them it follows that a particular individual, Charlie is saved?

  26. Sean Gerety Says:

    No, the “knowledge” is based on the rational content of biblical revelation and propositional truth. Your view seems to be Van Tilian because you say that it is “prying into God’s secret being” to say that anyone can know they are saved.

    Uh, no, knowledge is a true belief with an account of its truth. If Scripture provides both the content and account and if my salvific state is not deducible from Scripture then I have three choices (there may be more, but these are the only ones I can think of right now): 1) don’t confuse assurance with knowledge, 2) define knowledge differently in order to elevate opinion to the level of knowledge, 3) argue for another source of knowledge in addition and equal to Scripture.

    As you can probably tell, I choose option 1.

    While it is true that there are many who claim to be saved who are not, we can easily discern whether or not their truth claim is valid or not based on the doctrinal propositions to which they assent.

    Maybe yes, maybe no. Hedrich denies both the Trinity and the doctrine of God, yet I’m still willing to hold out hope that God will cause him to come to his senses and he will repent of his Christ denying errors. Sudduth fooled many people for years that he was a Christian and I suspect he fooled himself. What about Stellman? I’m sure he thought he really did believe in JBFA and sola Scriptura until he didn’t. If you knew he was an unbelieving hypocrite why didn’t you tell me if only to save me the embarrassment of sending him money for his failed prosecution of Leithart … not to mention encouraging others on this blog to contribute to the cause. If only I had your insights into the souls of men I could have avoided this public humiliation.

    Being rationally justified in believing that one is saved is a valid proposition because Scripture makes the proposition (Romans 4).

    Romans 4 nowhere tells me if Charlie Ray is a saved man any more than it tells me that I am. It tells me how Abraham was justified before God, but I’m not Abraham although I hope that I am one of his seed. Romans 4 tells me how a person is justified before God, not that I’m one of those persons.

    If, otoh, no one can reasonably claim to be saved or “know” in any valid way at all that they are saved, then the end result is that you are agreeing with Rome.

    That doesn’t follow and I don’t know why you put know in quotes? Haven’t I defined what I mean by knowledge? Haven’t I also differentiated the sense in which the word “know” might be used in regards to epistemology verse in a colloquial or evidential sense? Further, where have I denied that assurance is possible? For that matter, where have I denied anything per WCF 18?

    I maintain that Christians may be assured of God’s grace and salvation, but being assured of God’s grace and salvation is a state of mind. With the Confession I maintain that assurance is not part of the “essence of faith.” Assurance is a matter of Christian psychology not epistemology (at least not a Scripturalist or biblical epistemology).

    An “infallible assurance,” is the language used in the WCF. That’s not eternal insecurity.

    With Clark above, I think it was probably a poor choice of words and easily misunderstood. But, I think Clark’s point was so good I’ll repeat it here:

    I must confess I do not like the word infallible in this context. The Pope claims infallibility, but if this is a false claim, it seems strange that it can be asserted of a thousand or a million Protestants. One of the older divines, whose name I have forgotten, illustrated infallibility by the knowledge of a ship captain’s guiding his ship into a harbor. Though the captain was ignorant of many things, and mistaken about many others, he infallibly knew the channel. But is it not possible, as it actually happened in 1983 when a naval vessel struck a sand bar in San Francisco Bay, that a storm could have close the previous channel? Scripture is infallible; nothing else is. We all can and we all do make mistakes.” Sanctification, 35-36.

    FWIW the way I understand the phrase “infallible assurance of faith” is an unshakable confidence in “the divine truth of the promises of salvation.” For example the faith of many of those martyred for Christ’s sake who were singing God’s praises from the gallows. Guido De Bres comes to mind.

  27. Sean Gerety Says:

    As I said, Scripture says that we can have a “valid” knowledge that we have eternal life.

    The question is not validity Charlie, but soundness. I’ve already said in my earlier blog piece on this topic that the following argument is valid:

    Whosoever believes in the Son has eternal life

    x believes in the Son

    x has eternal life.

    The question remains how do you account for the minor premise apart from revelation? Some people say this is a truth God has revealed to them or it’s a matter of private or “subjective” knowledge that is incommunicable to others (see Hedrich or Sam on the other thread), but this is just an admission that they cannot provide any account at all.

  28. Sam Says:

    Sean: “Jeremiah 17 tells us that the mind of man ‘is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?’”

    Sam: Sean, how do you know you’re not deceived in thinking that a believer cannot know that he is saved?

  29. Sam Says:

    And can you provide an “account”?

  30. Steve M Says:

    Sam,
    To quote what a great man once said:
    “Silliness is not commendable. Foolishness is to be driven out of children and shameful in grown men.”

  31. Sean Gerety Says:

    Hedrich writes:

    Sean is fond of quoting Clark as saying, “It may be suggested for sober consideration whether or not those who are most easily assured of salvation are least likely to be saved.” While a good thought, the previous sentences of that paragraph are just as interesting: “It is clear therefore that there is a feeling of assurance that is not real assurance. Just because a person believes that he is saved is an insufficient reason for thinking that he is saved.”

    What is real assurance? If belief is insufficient, then what else is there but knowledge? Well, that is precisely what Clark proceeds to defend, citing numerous passages in 1 John (among others) with great effect: “We know that we know the Lord by keeping his commandments.” Anyone so inclined can read the full context to see Clark is quite clearly affirming one can know (yes, in an epistemic sense) that he is saved:

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/GHClark_List1/message/2445

    What is really bizarre and why I know Hedrich has totally lost it, the link he provides above where Karel transcribed a section on assurance from Clark’s Evangelism Today makes my point regarding assurance (which shouldn’t be strange since my point was Clark’s point all along). Clark writes regarding the WCF and the idea of “infallible assurance':

    First, the infallibility mentioned is not ours, as if we are infallible. The infallibility belongs to the promises of God. There is no hint here that we rise to the level of the inspired authors of the Bible. This would be a reversal to the Romish position that a supernatural revelation is necessary. All that is necessary is the Scripture. The second point at which a misunderstanding may occur is the reference to the Spirit witnessing with our spirits. Here too, the same idea is involved. The Spirit witnesses with our spirits as we study the Bible. He does not witness to our spirits, as if giving an additional revelation. Aside from these two matters, the Westminster Confession is clear.

    That is exactly what I’ve been saying in various ways all along, yet Hedrich bizarrely cites this passage as if it refutes what I’ve been saying. This is really kookie stuff and it reminds me of a recent encounter I had with Hedrich’s deranged master, Drake Shelton. Shelton wrote a piece recently quoting people like Leo Davis and John Kelly in an attempt to refute me when in fact the quotes he provided were all in total agreement with me. I mean, I’m happy when stuff like this happens, but I really have to wonder about the mental state of those who do things like this. How blind he must be.

    Ryan Hedrich has left the building.

  32. Sean Gerety Says:

    Sam: Sean, how do you know you’re not deceived in thinking that a believer cannot know that he is saved?

    I suppose I could be deceived or I could just be plain wrong, but so far you haven’t provided any argument demonstrating that I am.


  33. Sean, I’ve already explained that I do not believe that taking any one proposition out of the context of Scripture as a whole constitutes saving faith. G. H. Clark rightly points out that propositions must fit into a larger systematic understanding. That system for Reformed believers are the doctrinal standards outlined in the Westminster Standards or the Three Forms of Unity or some other legitimately Reformed confession. If you’re saying that the one verse, namely 1 John 5:13, proves that believing one proposition is “saving faith,” then you’re correct. But saving faith begins at a rudimentary level and continues to grow in knowledge throughout the Christian life.

    Thus, the issue here is not whether or not we can know someone is a Christian or not. Obviously, Mormons and Roman Catholics are not in possession of saving faith because their official confessions of faith are heretical.

    The issue you’re bring up is essentially the issue of apostasy. The Scriptures deal with that in 1 John 2:19; Acts 20:30. Those who commit apostasy didn’t lose their election. They were never of us. Although we don’t know who will commit apostasy, we can be justified in believing a person has saving faith (and by implication that they are elect) until that person proves otherwise by leaving the faith once delivered to the saints. (Jude 1:3-4). Experience is never a basis for believing anything. Reason itself ends in skepticism and irrationalism unless it is grounded in the axiom that Scripture is the Word of God. Reason flows out of Scripture, not out of your experiences with those who commit apostasy. And it might appear that someone has committed apostasy only to later repent and come back to the fold. Perhaps that is the case with Ryan? God only knows.

    While it is true that even Sean Gerety might commit apostasy in the future should it be revealed that God has decreed you to reprobation, at this point in time it does not yet appear that you are an apostate. It would appear that you are a believer, that you have saving faith, and that I have no reason to doubt that you are therefore elect. That could change, as you rightly point out. We are not God and we do not know His secret will or His eternal decrees (Deuteronomy 29:29). But we do know His promises, namely that He promises to save those who believe the propositions essential to saving faith, including the doctrine of total inability to please God and that only Christ’s righteousness (active and passive obedience) imputed to the believer can withstand the judgment. He literally is our substitute on both accounts. If we stand in our own righteousness, we have no standing and hell awaits us. (2 Corinthians 5:21).

    Even knowledge itself is not self-justifying but an instrument in God’s hands whereby He applies the objective imputation of righteousness to us. To doubt the doctrines of grace because of a few apostates is therefore an invalid inference. (2 Corinthians 1:20).


  34. Some people say this is a truth God has revealed to them or it’s a matter of private or “subjective” knowledge that is incommunicable to others (see Hedrich or Sam on the other thread), but this is just an admission that they cannot provide any account at all.

    But this is not the Reformed view. The magisterial Reformers completely rejected subjectivism and the Anabaptist emphasis on person experience as the method of interpreting Scripture. Scripture is to be interpreted objectively as a church. The Pentecostals read their experiences into the text to justify aberrant exegesis. The Reformed view is that the text must speak for itself.

    Anabaptists in general reject creeds and confessions as a check on their solo interpretations which could be in error. Logical and rational revelation in Scripture can be deduced into systematic confessions, which is what the Westminster Confession is–a systematic organizing of many of the essential propositions of Scripture. Of course, the polity portions may not be strictly Scriptural.

    Some who have divorced will justify it by saying, “God told me to get a divorce.” But is that a valid deduction to drawn from Scripture? Or is it a self-righteous proposition meant to justify a subjective personal decision? In the same way a person who denies the trinity has wrongly inferred from Scripture what cannot be logically and rightly deduced. The Trinity is a non-negotiable essential proposition which is rightly deduced from Scripture. We might disagree on some of the details but when someone goes beyond the parameters of the orthodox doctrine it is not wrong to infer that they are no longer Christians.


  35. Calvin on assurance and election:

    For there is not a more effectual means of building up faith than the giving our open ears to the election of God, which the Holy Spirit seals upon our heart while we hear, shewing us that it stands in the eternal and immutable goodwill of God towards us; and that, therefore, it cannot be moved or altered by any storms of the world, by any assaults of Satan, by any changes, or by any fluctuations or weaknesses of the flesh. For our salvation is then sure to us, when we find the cause of it in the breast of God. Thus, when we lay hold of life in Christ, made manifest to our faith, the same faith being still our leader and guide, our sight is permitted to penetrate much farther, and to see from what source that life proceeded. Our confidence of salvation is rooted in Christ, and rests on the promises of the Gospel. But it is no weak prop to our confidence, when we are brought to believe in Christ, to hear that all was originally given to us of God, and that we were as much ordained to faith in Christ before the foundation of the world, as we were chosen to the inheritance of eternal life in Christ.

    Hence, therefore, arises the impregnable and insubvertible security of the saints. The Father, who gave us to the Son as His peculiar treasure, is stronger than all who oppose us; and He will not suffer us to be plucked out of His hand. What a cause for humility then in the saints of God when they see such a difference of condition made in those who are, by nature, all alike! Wherever the sons of God turn their eyes, they behold such wonderful instances of blindness, ignorance and insensibility, as fill them with horror; while they, in the midst of such darkness, have received Divine illumination, and know it, and feel it, to be so. How (say they) is it that some, under the clear light, continue in darkness and blindness? Who makes this difference? One thing they know by their own experience, that whereas their eyes were also once closed, they are now opened. Another thing is also certain, that those who willingly remain ignorant of any difference between them and others, have never yet learned to render unto God the glory due to Him for making that difference. –John Calvin, Calvin’s Calvinism.

    From: Calvin’s Calvinism, Section I


  36. And if you’re looking for a confessional statement to support the proposition that unconditional election and predestination is a source of comfort for the believer, the 39 Articles make that proposition based on Scripture:

    Article XVII

    Of Predestination and Election

    Predestination to life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby, before the foundations of the world were laid, He hath constantly decreed by His counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom He hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation as vessels made to honour. Wherefore they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God be called according to God’s purpose by His Spirit working in due season; they through grace obey the calling; they be justified freely; they be made sons of God by adoption; they be made like the image of His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ; they walk religiously in good works; and at length by God’s mercy they attain to everlasting felicity.

    As the godly consideration of Predestination and our Election in Christ is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh and their earthly members and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal salvation to be enjoyed through Christ, as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God: so for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God’s Predestination is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the devil doth thrust them either into desperation or into wretchlessness of most unclean living no less perilous than desperation.

    Furthermore, we must receive God’s promises in such wise as they be generally set forth in Holy Scripture; and in our doings that will of God is to be followed which we have expressly declared unto us in the word of God.

    Notice that this statement is not just about being sanctified but it clearly affirms knowledge as a basis for this security: “. . . and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things . . . [and] establish and confirm their faith of eternal salvation to be enjoyed through Christ . . .”

    No formal statement or confession of faith is perfect but I find great comfort in knowing that God will keep me to the end and that He has indeed promised to do so. I have no reason to doubt that, especially when I have assented to the authority of Scripture and to the orthodox exposition of the Scriptures as it is expressed in the ecumenical creeds and the Reformed standards.

    Not even church membership is essential to saving faith since many congregations and denominations are now apostate and no longer believe the Reformed standards.

    Charlie


  37. It should also be pointed out that the WCF 18:2 says that the assurance itself is infallible “because” it is founded on the promises of Scripture. Scripture is infallible but so is our assurance as we agree with Scripture:

    This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion, grounded upon a fallible hope;1 but an infallible assurance of faith, founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation,2 the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made,3 the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God:4 which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption.5

    In other words, the Westminster Divines are saying it is both a knowledge of Scripture and the divine truth of God’s promises of salvation and an inward witness of the Holy Spirit. Of course, outward witnesses such as a valid profession of faith as recognized by a congregation of faithful (believing) men where the Gospel is rightly preached and the sacraments are duly administered is also a part in that assurance….

    Charlie

  38. Sam Says:

    Sean: “I suppose I could be deceived or I could just be plain wrong, but so far you haven’t provided any argument demonstrating that I am.”

    Sam: This is the force of Romans 8:15. You want a syllogism which concludes “I know I am a saved man.” Yet you cannot give a syllogism which concludes “Sean knows he is not deceived” or even with “Sean knows the Bible to be true.” Your position is completely abstract and applies to no persons. Yet only persons can know.


  39. Maybe yes, maybe no. Hedrich denies both the Trinity and the doctrine of God, yet I’m still willing to hold out hope that God will cause him to come to his senses and he will repent of his Christ denying errors. Sudduth fooled many people for years that he was a Christian and I suspect he fooled himself. What about Stellman? I’m sure he thought he really did believe in JBFA and sola Scriptura until he didn’t. If you knew he was an unbelieving hypocrite why didn’t you tell me if only to save me the embarrassment of sending him money for his failed prosecution of Leithart

    I did tell you that Stellman was a closet papist. Maybe I didn’t say it loud enough:)

    As for Hedrich, he did at one time assent to the truth. You’re pointing out his departure from the truth. So my point stands. Heretics are discovered by a standard for doctrine, namely Scripture (Sola Scriptura) and a secondary confession (Westminster Standards, etc.). I don’t believe I have ever said that there is no such thing as apostasy or temporary faith. Scripture clearly says there is. But that is different from saying that there is no basis for knowing if we are saved or not. Obviously, as long as we continue in the orthodox doctrines we can have knowledge that we are in the faith. Those who depart from that are not considered saved unless they repent and return to the faith (Jude 1:3-4).

    I read Stellman’s blog and even accused him in the comments section of being sympathetic to the Federal Vision AND the Called to Communion page. I’m no prophet. But I can use reason to draw inferences from the subtle hints there. Basically, it is my contention that Stellman was chosen to prosecute because the NW Presbytery wanted someone sympathetic to Leithart to do it. Do you think they would have chosen Sean Gerety to do it (assuming you were part of that presbytery?). To appoint Jason Stellman to prosecute Leithart is like appointing Hilary Clinton to prosecute President Clinton’s impeachment. It made more sense to appoint Ken Starr.


  40. Saying that saving faith is fallible or changeable is in contradiction to the WCF. It is also in contradiction to Scripture. Those who have temporary faith never had it. They only appeared to believe for a time. The parable of the 4 soils comes to mind here. (Matthew 13:1-23). It was not “given to them” in the first place:

    He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. (Matthew 13:11 NKJ)

  41. Sean Gerety Says:

    I’m not really sure what you’re going on about Charlie? If knowledge is defined as true opinion with an account of its truth, and if you accept Clark’s account for knowledge as resting on the presupposition of Scripture alone and it’s many inferences, then any proposition that is not either set down in Scripture or deducible from Scripture cannot be knowledge. They are opinions.

    Now many people do not accept Clark’s presuppositionalism and think knowledge comes through sensation, science, on the basis of warrant (i.e., beliefs “produced by cognitive faculties functioning properly – subject to no malfunctioning – in a cognitive environment congenial for those faculties, according to a design plan successfully aimed at truth”), or any number other alternatives.

    Further, I am not saying that you can’t tell someone who is apostate from a true believer based on the doctrines they profess, but even then it’s not black and white and we sometimes make mistakes like I did by giving money to Stellman. As Clark said; “The infallibility belongs to the promises of God. There is no hint here that we rise to the level of the inspired authors of the Bible.” Ok, Sam and Hedrich are the exceptions. ;-P

  42. Sam Says:

    It is the promise of God that His Spirit testifies to our spirit.

  43. Sean Gerety Says:

    @Sam. I see you still haven’t figured out what an argument is.

  44. Sam Says:

    Let God be true and every man a liar.

  45. Steve M Says:

    Sam: ” Yet only persons can know.”

    What do you mean by “persons” and what do you mean by “know”?

  46. Sam Says:

    Steve,

    Is your question a serious one?


  47. . . . if you accept Clark’s account for knowledge as resting on the presupposition of Scripture alone and it’s many inferences, then any proposition that is not either set down in Scripture or deducible from Scripture cannot be knowledge. They are opinions.

    Yes, exactly. Since Calvin and Cranmer both thought that the believer can have assurance because of the doctrine of unconditional election and both deduced their view from Scripture, it follows that the proposition that we can know we are elect is deducible from Scripture. Calvin and Cranmer were not perfect but they do show that this is a doctrine of knowledge that is deduced from Scripture.

    Well, no. Apostasy is an entirely different proposition from election. Simply because you’re drawing the inference that salvation is uncertain does not make your view Scriptural. Simply because Scripture affirms that apostasy sometimes happens and that some folks have temporary faith does not negate the fact that those who continue in the faith are elect and have no reason to doubt it. You, otoh, seem to place more value on your prideful assertion that salvation is a crap shoot. Are you sure you’re not sliding back into Arminianism?

    Besides, Clark said many things in his writings. Taking one quote out of context does not refute the fact that he also believed in eternal security.


  48. For there is not a more effectual means of building up faith than the giving our open ears to the election of God, which the Holy Spirit seals upon our heart while we hear, shewing us that it stands in the eternal and immutable goodwill of God towards us; and that, therefore, it cannot be moved or altered by any storms of the world, by any assaults of Satan, by any changes, or by any fluctuations or weaknesses of the flesh. For our salvation is then sure to us, when we find the cause of it in the breast of God. — John Calvin

    Calvin’s Calvinism, Section I

    G. H. Clark also said that lots of people, including Arminians, are saved with a imperfect knowledge. I disagree since I believe Arminianism is no better than the papist idolatry. No one who is an Arminian is a Christian.

    It might be that your old Arminianism is creeping in, Sean.

    Charlie

  49. Denson Dube Says:

    Charlie,
    “It might be that your old Arminianism is creeping in, Sean.”
    Charlie, Charlie, Charlie! Calm down.
    Knowledge and assurance are not the same thing. Ask any 5 year old! :-)

  50. Steve M Says:

    Sam: Steve
    Is your question a serious one?

    Is yours?

  51. Sean Gerety Says:

    Since Calvin and Cranmer both thought that the believer can have assurance because of the doctrine of unconditional election and both deduced their view from Scripture, it follows that the proposition that we can know we are elect is deducible from Scripture.

    This doesn’t follow. If you can know you are one of God’s elect then let’s see the deduction? I want to see how you arrived at “Charlie Ray is God’s elect.”

    Besides, Clark said many things in his writings. Taking one quote out of context does not refute the fact that he also believed in eternal security.

    I never said Clark didn’t believe in eternal security. On the contrary. If you read the above quote again you’ll see that it is only on the basis of eternal security can anyone have any assurance at all.

    FWIW I really don’t think you’ve been following what has been said or what Clark said.


  52. If you can know that you are saved based on Scripture, it logically follows that you are elect. If you are not saved, you are not elect. If you can’t know you are elect, you cannot know that you are saved either since ultimately you could commit apostasy before your demise.

    Secondly, saving faith is an “assent” to the doctrinal propositions of Scripture. Since Scripture proposes that those who are saved are saved because of a prior election, then it is not a matter of personal experience but a matter of assenting to the doctrine of election as it is taught in Scripture.

    There are many prooftexts that show that those who believe do so because of their prior election. Those who fall away were never in possession of the truth but were only temporary believers. In short, only after someone falls away may we doubt that they are elect. While they are believers who assent to the truth there is no reason to doubt that they have saving faith or that they are elect or that they will persevere by God’s grace to the end.

    As Calvin said, assurance comes from the doctrine of unconditional election. The fact that I came to believe the doctrines of grace is the evidence that I have a valid profession of faith and therefore that I am one of God’s elect. The unregenerate are unable to believe.

    Those who teach against the security of knowing that the elect can know they are saved and therefore one of God’s elect have introduced the doctrine of insecurity, not security.

    Of course, when someone falls into grievous sins they are to be disciplined and they cannot have any infallible assurance while they are in that backslidden state. The same applies to anyone who denies one of the cardinal or essential doctrines in regards to the ecumenical creeds and the essential doctrines for justification, etc. I regard all five solas of the Reformation as cardinal doctrines as well. To deny any one point of the five solas or even the five points of Calvinism is to call into question whether or not a person has saving faith.

    Finally, Clark himself said that sanctification takes place through “knowledge.” If knowledge is impossible, why would Clark say that? (John 17:17).

    It follows that the logical revelation of God is itself a set of propositions that can be systematized and believed as “knowledge.”

    Of course, it could turn out that Clark’s axiom is wrong and there is no God. Other than that if you concede that Scripture is the Word of God and is logical revelation, then it follows that I can know I’m elect–not on the basis of experience but on the basis of the proposition in Scripture that I believe because God caused me to believe and that everyone who believes is promised salvation. Election is unconditional. That some turn away into apostasy does not justify taking what can only be called a pragmatic version of the Arminian view of “conditional” election, simply because you do not know God’s secret decrees. We can only know what God reveals, namely that salvation is a free gift.

    He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. (Matthew 13:11 NKJ)


  53. Likewise, Paul seems to “know” that “we” are chosen in Him before the foundation of the world:

    just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, (Ephesians 1:4 NKJ)


  54. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, (Ephesians 1:11 NKJ)

    Looks like Paul says that we can know we are elect. We are predestined to believe.


  55. The fundamental errors of modern evangelists are: (1) They teach neither the total depravity of man nor the sovereignty of God, but free will; (2) they do not teach God’s unconditional election of some to salvation and others to damnation – instead they preach a weak and stupid god who waits to see who will believe and who will not believe; (3) they do not teach that Christ died only for his people and saves only his people – instead they teach that Christ died for all men and offers salvation freely and sincerely to all; (4) they do not teach the omnipotence of the Holy Spirit, but tell men that they can exercise faith or not, as they will; and (5) they do not teach the perseverance of believers – instead they tell men that they can be saved at breakfast and lost at lunch, or, alternatively, that they can believe once for a moment, but perhaps never again, and nevertheless end up in Heaven. Modern evangelists do not know and do not preach the Gospel. Neither does John MacArthur, judging from this book.

    The Gospel According to John MacArthur, by John Robbins.


  56. Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; (Colossians 3:12 NKJ)
    Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. (2 Timothy 2:10 NKJ)
    Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness, (Titus 1:1 NKJ)
    Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied. (1 Peter 1:1-2 NKJ)
    She who is in Babylon, elect together with you, greets you; and so does Mark my son. (1 Peter 5:13 NKJ)

    Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. (Romans 8:33 NKJ)

    Scripture seems to uphold the idea that we can call believers “elect” or “chosen.” Therefore, your contention that election is “unknowable” is not biblical. While it is true that we don’t know God’s secret decrees (Dt. 29:29), we believe that those who have saving faith are also God’s elect unless and until proven otherwise. That extends to one’s own faith as well.

    Charlie

  57. Sean Gerety Says:

    @Charlie. You wrote:

    If you can know that you are saved based on Scripture, it logically follows that you are elect.

    OK, fair enough, but how do you know you are saved? You haven’t deduced yourself from Scripture, so how did you arrive at this knowledge of your election? You beg the question.

    Above, John Robbins wrote:

    “First, the issue is not skepticism. Even if a sinner cannot know (in the proper sense of the word) that he is saved — and so far no one has shown that he can — Scripturalism furnishes us with many truths when all other methods fail, and so skepticism is avoided.

    Second, knowledge requires explicit statements in Scripture or deductions from Scripture. It is not the same as assurance or certitude or certainty.

    Third, opinions may be true or false. (It is absurd to say that some propositions are neither true nor false.) So Jack’s (a hypothetical person) opinion that he is saved may indeed be true, but no one has yet shown how he can deduce it from Scripture. Those who think he can so deduce it must show how it can be so deduced”

    Robbins denied we can know we are saved and you haven’t shown how it may be deduced. The best you seem to offer is that someone is probably saved.

    If you can’t know you are elect, you cannot know that you are saved either since ultimately you could commit apostasy before your demise.

    That’s right. Which is why Paul said; “let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” If I could know that I am elect then there could be no threat of falling because we know that none of God’s elect will be lost and Paul’s warning would be meaningless.

    There are many prooftexts that show that those who believe do so because of their prior election. Those who fall away were never in possession of the truth but were only temporary believers.

    Someone can have a temporary faith that lasts a lifetime. We can know that all the elect are saved, but the Scriptures don’t tell us who the elect are. Not sure why this is difficult.

    In short, only after someone falls away may we doubt that they are elect. While they are believers who assent to the truth there is no reason to doubt that they have saving faith or that they are elect or that they will persevere by God’s grace to the end.

    Having no reason to doubt something is true is not the same as knowing something is true.

    As Calvin said, assurance comes from the doctrine of unconditional election.

    I agree, but assurance is not knowledge and doesn’t give rise to knowledge. Knowledge may give rise to assurance, just not the other way around. If we could know we are God’s elect then why does the Confession say ” a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it…”? A true believe could simply deduce his election from Scripture.

    The fact that I came to believe the doctrines of grace is the evidence that I have a valid profession of faith and therefore that I am one of God’s elect. The unregenerate are unable to believe.

    Right, but you can’t validly infer from the evidence the truth of the conclusion; “I am one of God’s elect.” You didn’t arrive at that proposition from Scripture and you admit that you came to that conclusion based on the “evidence,” but elsewhere you admit that the evidence can be wrong. As you say above, one could “commit apostasy” before their demise.

    Those who teach against the security of knowing that the elect can know they are saved and therefore one of God’s elect have introduced the doctrine of insecurity, not security.

    That doesn’t follow. Clark and Robbins never taught that one can know they are saved.

    Finally, Clark himself said that sanctification takes place through “knowledge.” If knowledge is impossible, why would Clark say that? (John 17:17).

    I take this as more evidence that you have not followed anything I’ve said (and I’d like to be wrong about the evidence). I have never said that knowledge is impossible. Quite the opposite. I have only said that the proposition “I am one of God’s elect,” while possibly true, is not a proposition deducible from Scripture. It’s an opinion we may arrive at from the evidence. It’s the result of an inductive argument which is something which can only be probably true.


  58. Ulrich Zwingli:

    We see that the first thing is God’s deliberation or purpose or election, second his predestination or marking out, third his calling, fourth justification. Since then all these are of God, and faith hardly holds the fourth place, how is it that we say that salvation comes of faith, since wherever faith is there also is justification, or rather, each person’s salvation has before been so determined and foreordained with God that it is impossible that one so elected can be condemned? But by a light blow of synecdoche* what seems insoluble dissolves. For faith is used for the election of God, the predestination or calling, which all precede faith, but in the same order. So if you say: God’s election, predestination or marking out, calling, beatifies, you will ever say right. Why? Because the harmonious order and connections of these are such that you may use one of these without the other and yet not exclude the others; especially is this the case when you take faith, which is inferior and posterior to election, predestination or calling. Since then the justification which is of faith closely follows calling, we see with no trouble that salvation is attributed to faith because they who have faith are called, elected and foreordained.

    Zwingli: Election

  59. Ryan Says:

    “If I could know that I am elect then there could be no threat of falling because we know that none of God’s elect will be lost and Paul’s warning would be meaningless.”

    //I can know that I myself am elect without knowing anyone else is. Paul names specific elect individuals in his letters. Why should my knowing that I am elect be any more of a problem than the fact these individuals could know that they were elect even during their own lifetimes?//

    http://unapologetica.blogspot.com/2013/02/knowledge-and-assurance.html

    Your argument is true only if you collapse the visible church into the invisible church. As Paul was writing to the Corinthians when he said that, that obviously wasn’t the case.

  60. Sean Gerety Says:

    I can know that I myself am elect without knowing anyone else is.

    Begging the question. Knowledge requires an account. At least so said Clark and Robbins. But, then, you’re no Scripturalist.

    Actually, I’m hard pressed to call you a Christian given your rejection of the Triune God of Scripture.

    Paul names specific elect individuals in his letters. Why should my knowing that I am elect be any more of a problem than the fact these individuals could know that they were elect even during their own lifetimes?

    Because Paul never mentioned you.

    Your argument is true only if you collapse the visible church into the invisible church.

    Hardly. Just because I can’t know who the members of the invisible church are it doesn’t mean that God doesn’t. But, then, what makes you think you’re even a member of the visible church? Given your rejection of Jesus Christ as the one true God I hardly think you stand with “all those throughout the world that profess the true religion.”

  61. Ryan Says:

    “Begging the question. Knowledge requires an account. At least so said Clark and Robbins. But, then, you’re no Scripturalist.”

    Of course it requires an account. In fact, I think philosophical knowledge requires a more stringent account than you seem to, given that you think unregenerates can “know” (though I guess it depends on the sense you intend). But none of this requires that I am able to communicate that account to “you.” I can’t even know you exist outside my mind. So what? How does that affect my own reflexive knowledge?

    Suppose God revealed to both of us that we both are Christians. That’s sufficient for knowledge. However, we would still grow in knowledge, right? Now, would we be able to prove to one another that we actually believed some inference incidental to the gospel? No. My knowledge of what you actually believe must still come through divine revelation and vice versa. Does that mean I would be unable to provide an account for why that belief is knowable? Nope. Similarly, I have shown that at the present time, beliefs about oneself and particularly one’s regenerate status are knowable. That doesn’t imply you can know that I actually believe any of what I’ve argued, but it’s still an account for self-knowledge.

    “Actually, I’m hard pressed to call you a Christian given your rejection of the Triune God of Scripture.”

    Likewise.

    “Because Paul never mentioned you.”

    He doesn’t mention my alleged name, true. That has nothing to do with the fact that the warnings he gave would still have meaning:

    “Hardly. Just because I can’t know who the members of the invisible church are it doesn’t mean that God doesn’t.”

    Exactly my point. Warnings are applied to the visible church. If I can know I am in the invisible church, how does that render the warnings “meaningless”? Surely we must not be so modest as to lie; if we know something, there is no shame in saying so. In fact, we ought to say so.

    “But, then, what makes you think you’re even a member of the visible church? Given your rejection of Jesus Christ as the one true God I hardly think you stand with “all those throughout the world that profess the true religion.””

    Given your inability to provide me with even one passage which calls Jesus the “one true God,” let alone answer my counter-arguments, your skepticism doesn’t bother me.


  62. I have only said that the proposition “I am one of God’s elect,” while possibly true, is not a proposition deducible from Scripture. It’s an opinion we may arrive at from the evidence. It’s the result of an inductive argument which is something which can only be probably true.

    I can say that anyone who rejects the Trinity is not saved and therefore not elect. For those who appear to be saved are considered by faith and logical proposition to be also elect unless and until they prove otherwise.

    Although we cannot know God’s secret decrees, we do know that those who believe and persevere to the end show themselves to be elect. Unless someone falls away somewhere along that way, there is no reason to doubt that they are elect. Ryan and Shelton, being obviously in conflict with the Scriptures and the doctrine of the Trinity, which is deduced from the Scriptures in the Westminster Standards, are not elect from all outward indications since they reject the objective propositional doctrine of the Trinity. Maybe they will repent in the future? Only God can grant them the grace of repentance (Acts 11:18).

    Furthermore, to question the doctrine of unconditional election as if it were not deducible from Scripture or that a person cannot believe they are elect based on their assent to the doctrines of the Christian faith, including unconditional election, is to question the security of the believer based in the righteousness of Christ (active and passive) as that is applied through the means of faith alone. The golden chain of salvation begins with unconditional election in the Ordo Salutis and in the Canons of Dort, by the way.

    The problem here is that if you cannot know you are elect based on logical deductions from Scripture, (knowledge as we know it as univocally revealed in Scripture), then you can’t know you are saved either–not unless you have already entered the pearly gates. Knowing one is saved is possible here and now, not in the final justification at the judgment (N.T. Wright) or the final vindication of good works in the judgment (Piper).

    I might add that you’re basing your proposition that election is unknowable on the empirical experience you had with Jason Stellman, Ryan Huldrich (?) and Drake Shelton. That’s not a good basis for a doctrinal proposition.


  63. Robbins denied we can know we are saved and you haven’t shown how it may be deduced.

    Then logically it follows that Robbins was a skeptic and not a believer. Scripture proposes that the elect can know they are elect and saved by their assenting to the doctrines of the Bible. Why would Clark write on the topic of saving faith and why would Clark affirm that Arminians are saved if he thought that salvation is ultimately unknowable whatsoever?

    I would agree that we as creatures are limited to what we can know from Scripture but Scripture nowhere teaches that salvation is skeptical or probable. That’s the neo-orthodox view that makes salvation merely a probability.

    I disagree with Clark on his view that the ignorant are saved for the same reason. If there is no minimal or essential doctrine for salvation, then there is only implicit faith, not saving faith. Salvation, according to the Fundamentals (1920s), upheld the virgin conception and birth, the inerrancy of Scripture, the deity of Christ, the resurrection, etc. The ecumenical creeds uphold other essentials like the Trinity, etc. And let’s not forget that Rome outlawed the Gospel in the canons of the Council of Trent. It would appear that the Gospel includes certain essentials like the five solas of the Reformation. Saving faith requires that a person have at least a basic understanding of essential doctrine. Arminians do not teach the Gospel because ultimately their view means that salvation is by works: you save yourself by giving yourself faith and keeping yourself saved to the end.

    Charlie


  64. Scripturalism furnishes us with many truths when all other methods fail, and so skepticism is avoided.

    Robbins is not saying that we cannot know we are saved. He obviously does believe we can know. But what he said was we cannot know “in a proper sense….” The distinction here is between absolute knowledge and deductive knowledge. God alone knows directly or intuitively. Clark said that, by the way. Our knowledge is always derived from logical propositions drawn from Scripture and then applied to general revelation. The beginning axiom is that Scripture alone provides the basis for knowledge. Skepticism is therefore avoided–even when it comes to the doctrine of unconditional election.


  65. Having no reason to doubt something is true is not the same as knowing something is true.

    So you have no basis for knowing anything is true, including Scripture. But Clark seems to have said that the axiom is that Scripture is the Word of God and that axiom alone makes knowledge possible. If you’re saying that knowledge is impossible, then you don’t really believe Clark’s axiom.


  66. If we could know we are God’s elect then why does the Confession say ” a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it…”? A true believe could simply deduce his election from Scripture.

    So you’re saying that “experience” is the proposition of the Confession? I would say that the doctrine of election is deducible from Scripture and that one can deduce one’s own election (saving faith) from the proposition in Scripture that believers are elect. Why else would Paul call believers “elect”? He didn’t say “probably” elect. He called them “elect.” The problem with the Confession is that it places some level assurance in works as they are empirically experienced. Thanks for pointing this out.

    Also, if the Holy Spirit has to confirm the Scriptures to be the Word of God in the hearts (minds) of men, this is an experience as well. Even Clark must admit that even rational thought processes are on some level experienced by the mind. So it is self-refuting to rule out the mind while upholding logic. The mind has to process logic and propositions.

    Just as I can deduce that Scripture is the Word of God by what it contains, so I can deduce election and its application by the same means.

    The Larger Catechism says:

    Question 4

    How doth it appear that the scriptures are of the word of God?
    The scriptures manifest themselves to be the word of God, by their majesty (Hos. 8:12, 1 Cor. 2:6–7,13, Ps. 119:18,129) and purity; (Ps. 12:6, Ps. 119:140) by the consent of all the parts, (Acts 10:43, Acts 26:22) and the scope of the whole, which is to give all glory to God; (Rom. 3:19,27) by their light and power to convince and convert sinners, to comfort and build up believers unto salvation: (Acts 18:28, Heb. 4:12, James 1:18, Ps. 19:7–9, Rom. 15:4, Acts 20:32) but the Spirit of God bearing witness by and with the scriptures in the heart of man, is alone able fully to persuade it that they are the very word of God. (John 16:13–14, 1 John 2:20,27, John 20:31).

    The Westminster Larger Catechism: With Scripture Proofs. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996).

    I cannot know the Bible is the Word of God. I assume that as an axiom. But at the same time I can deduce from Scripture–and reasonably so–that the Bible is the Word of God. I do so by believing first and then accepting the proofs after presupposing the axiom.

    It might even be said that unconditional election is an axiom based on Scripture. It can therefore be deduced after accepting the axiom that believers are elect. Likewise, those who reject the cardinal doctrines of the faith (Jude 1:3-4) can be deduced to be reprobates unless they repent.

    As far as intuitive knowledge or direct knowledge, you’re correct. But insofar as we can know as creatures we have only Scripture and the axioms of Scripture. Personally, I think you’re taking Robbins out of context and siding with skepticism too much. Robbins says that skepticism is avoided because of Scripture, not that Scripture does not solve the problem of skepticism.


  67. Someone can have a temporary faith that lasts a lifetime. We can know that all the elect are saved, but the Scriptures don’t tell us who the elect are. Not sure why this is difficult.

    The doctrine of apostasy does not justify skepticism, though:) You’re basing your skepticism on your personal experience, not the propositions of Scripture or any axiom. You can’t have it both ways. If knowledge gives rise to assurance, then knowledge can deduce salvation from Scripture–albeit not intuitive knowledge of God’s secret decrees, it is a deducible knowledge nevertheless. I don’t know why it is so difficult for you to admit that both Scripture and the Reformers called believers “elect”. :)


  68. Actually, I’m hard pressed to call you a Christian given your rejection of the Triune God of Scripture.

    Are you skeptical that Ryan is a heretic when it is fairly obvious from his disagreement with orthodox and essential doctrine that he is no longer a Christian? Is a modalist a Christian or a Mormon or a Roman Catholic?

    Maybe there’s a “wideness in God’s mercy” or “implicit faith”?

  69. Sean Gerety Says:

    Ryan Hedrich writes:

    “But, then, what makes you think you’re even a member of the visible church? Given your rejection of Jesus Christ as the one true God I hardly think you stand with “all those throughout the world that profess the true religion.””

    Given your inability to provide me with even one passage which calls Jesus the “one true God,” let alone answer my counter-arguments, your skepticism doesn’t bother me.

    Since last November when I first learned of your rejection of the God of Scripture, I’ve given you a number of passages which all attest and confirm that Jesus is God and co-equal with the Father. You’re “counter-arguments” are just Arian retreads that demonstrate you have more in common with Jehovah Witnesses than Christians.

    For example, 1 John 5:20 is explicit:

    “And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.

    Concerning this passage you wrote:

    …it is quite clear that Jesus is not the Son of an abstract essence. So there too, God refers to the Father.

    And here is your argument once again confirming your rejection that God is a Trinity:

    Is Jesus the Son of a set of attributes or the Father? The latter, obviously – note the relative personal pronouns “him” and “his.” Accordingly, “him who is true” is the Father. Perichoresis enables us to be in the Father; we are one with the Father because we are one with He who is in the Father. This is the natural interpretation. The Father is also mentioned as “God” in the prior two verses:

    1 John 5:18 We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.
    19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

    Your exegesis is Arian. But, to further demonstrate your rejection of the Christian faith, I provided the following from Calvin on FB concerning 1 John 5:20::

    This is the true God. Though the Arians have attempted to elude this passage, and some agree with them at this day, yet we have here a remarkable testimony to the divinity of Christ. The Arians apply this passage to the Father, as though the Apostle should again repeat that he is the true God. But nothing could be more frigid than such a repetition. It has already twice testified that the true God is he who has been made known to us in Christ, why should he again add, This is the true God? It applies, indeed, most suitably to Christ; for after having taught us that Christ is the guide by whose hand we are led to God, he now, by way of amplifying, affirms that Christ is that God, lest we should think that we are to seek further; and he confirms this view by what is added, and eternal life. It is doubtless the same that is spoken of, as being the true God and eternal life. I pass by this, that the relative outov usually refers to the last person. I say, then, that Christ is properly called eternal life; and that this mode of speaking perpetually occurs in John, no one can deny. The meaning is, that when we have Christ, we enjoy the true and eternal God, for nowhere else is he to be sought; and, secondly, that we become thus partakers of eternal life, because it is offered to us in Christ though hid in the Father. The origin of life is, indeed, the Father; but the fountain from which we are to draw it, is Christ.

    Not surprisingly Calvin destroys your “counter-arguments” as does Gill who wrote:

    This is the true God and eternal life; that is, the Son of God, who is the immediate antecedent to the relative “this”; he is the true God, with his Father and the Spirit, in distinction from all false, fictitious, or nominal deities; and such as are only by office, or in an improper and figurative sense: Christ is truly and really God, as appears from all the perfections of deity, the fulness of the Godhead being in him; from the divine works of creation and providence being ascribed to him; and from the divine worship that is given him; as well as from the names and titles he goes by, and particularly that of Jehovah, which is incommunicable to a creature; and he is called “eternal life”, because it is in him; and he is the giver of it to his people; and that itself will chiefly consist in the enjoyment and vision of him, and in conformity to him.

    Of course, and as you’ll recall from our FB exchange, Clark too schools you even if you’re too blind in your apostasy to see:

    To be in God and to be in Christ are the same thing. Even further, this one, Jesus Christ, is the true God. Jehovah’ Witnesses make a lot — of nonsense — out of the absence of the article in John 1:1; but what can they do with this, article and all: Jesus Christ is the True God.

    BTW and since this is my blog, I’m giving myself the last word. If anyone is interested in your rebuttal they can search out your blog or simply Google: “Unitarianism.” :)


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