Filling the Breach — Justification By Belief Alone

destroyed churchYou might think the seemingly innocuous phrase “justification by belief alone” would be music to a Christian’s ear. But, you would be wrong.

What you say? Don’t the Scriptures teach; “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”

Didn’t the Apostle John say; “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

And, didn’t our Lord Jesus Christ say; “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.”

Well, yes, but you see according to a majority of Reformed elders in the PCA, OPC and elsewhere belief saves no one.  What you need is faith.

But, wait.  Aren’t the words faith and belief just English translations of the single word pistis in the Greek New Testament?

Indeed they are and in fact while most translators prefer the Latin-based faith, if the word belief were used in its place it would do no violence to the meaning of any verse in Scripture.  Consider the following examples where belief is used in place of faith:

Mark 11:22: And Jesus answered them, “Have belief in God.

Luke 18:42: And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your belief has made you well.”

Acts 26:18: to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by belief in me.’

Romans 4:5: And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his belief is counted as righteousness,

Romans 4:9: Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that belief was counted to Abraham as righteousness.

Romans 4:11-13: He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by belief while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the belief that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of belief.

Galatians 2:16: yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through belief in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by belief in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

Ephesians 1:15: For this reason, because I have heard of your belief in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints.

Colossians 2:12: having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through belief in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

1 Peter 1:21: who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your belief and hope are in God.

The attentive reader would no doubt have noticed in a number of the above examples that the verb form of belief is also used repeatedly and in fact can only be used simply because there is no verb form for the word faith.  For this reason alone you would think that belief would be a preferable translation of pistis to the Latin-based faith.

But, there is another reason why belief is preferable to faith as Gordon Clark explains:

Because fides or faith permits, though it does not necessitate, a non-intellectual interpretation, the liberals today want us to have “faith” in a god who is unknowable and silent because he is impotent to give us any information to believe. This Latin anti-intellectualism, permitted by the noun fides, undermines all good news and makes Gospel information useless. Although the theologians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries would have repudiated twentieth-century anti-intellectualism, their Latin heritage adversely affected some of their views.

Sadly, it’s not just theologians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, or even those wicked modern liberals for that matter, who have been adversely affected by this Latin heritage.  Even purportedly conservative and Reformed theologians of today prefer the Latin-based faith precisely because of the anti-intellectualism “permitted by the noun fides.”

Dr. Alan Strange, who is an OPC minister and full-time professor of church history at Mid-America Reformed Seminary, affirms this anti-intellectualism and accuses those who don’t of departing “from the historic confessions and catechisms of the Reformation as well as the theologians of the Reformation.” In addition, he pronounces anathemas on those who maintain we are justified by belief alone in the propositions of the Gospel alone and accuses them of grave heresy on par with the infamous Arius and Eutyches.  Strange writes:

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

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

For Strange belief in the Gospel message, the Gospel propositions, saves no one.  Rather, sinners are saved through something that defies definition and that can only be expressed in metaphorical language signifying nothing.  That’s because if this “rich metaphorical description” on which he relies, and that is required in addition to mere belief, were to signify some further truth that we are to believe, it could be stated in literal language; i.e., it could be reduced to a “propositional belief.” But Strange can’t and won’t allow that.

Notice too, for Strange the Confessional figure of speech that we are to “receive and rest” on Christ (WLC 72) is explained by even more figures of speech like “coming to” and “leaning upon” that only move the problem further back.  He even includes the idea of “personal trust” as if trust could be anything but personal.  Strange can’t distinguish belief from receiving and receiving simply because the latter is a figure of speech describing the former. He can only assert “justifying faith is something more than merely belief: not something less, but something more.” He never explains exactly what this “something more” is or even why it is necessary in order for a sinner to be saved.

Think about this. When asked to explain what this additional element is, this respected professor of church history can only respond with more figures of speech to explain the one he has been asked to define. Further, according to Strange, someone can believe the Gospel, believe that Christ alone died for his sins and is his only righteousness, and still be lost. Yet, the Scriptures say “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved” and Jesus said, “He that believes has eternal life.” Dr. Strange makes Christ a liar by insisting “justifying faith is something more than merely belief.”

Dr. Strange, along with many like-minded and similarly confused TEs, REs and others who side with him, provide a great example of the profound confusion and darkness that has triumphed in the Presbyterian and Reformed world.  A world where men actually deny salvation by belief alone while thinking they are defending the biblical doctrine of salvation when nothing could be further from the truth.  For these men faith, as opposed to belief, provides the vehicle by which they can attach an intangible and undefinable something-they-know-not-what that must first be wrought in the sinner before they can be saved.  It is not Christ’s work alone completely outside of us that saves, but rather it is some anti-intellectual psychological state of mind that completes mere belief making it saving and this is their doctrine of faith.  Worse, these men, at least those who have a comprehensive theology like Dr. Strange, rest their un-Scriptural doctrine of faith on the equally un-Scriptural epistemology of Cornelius Van Til.

As an example of this, and after proving himself unable to define this additional element to simple belief which alone is able to save sinners, Dr. Strange’s appeal is to “mystery.” Strange maintains that to clearly define faith so that that it might be understood is like trying to plumb the depths of “the Trinity, the Incarnation, divine sovereignty and human responsibility,” as if these doctrines too defied human logic and explanation.  This is pure Van Til.

Men like Dr. Strange aren’t defending the historic Reformed faith; they’re defending the religion of the Dark Ages.

Yet, rather than receiving correction,  Dr. Strange doubled down by asserting: “this intellectualized definition of faith [i.e., Clark’s definition] is a significant departure from the teaching of the Reformation on the matter and rather deadly for our faith.” Deadly to his Vantillian and distorted conception of the Reformed faith perhaps.

This is scandalous. Here we have a situation where they key term in the doctrine on which the church stands or falls cannot be clearly defined so as to be unambiguously understood. No wonder heretics like those of the Federal Vision, to include Peter Leithart,  Doug Wilson, Jeffry Meyers, Steve Wilkins (remember him), and the others, have kept these imagined defenders of justification by faith chasing their tails these many years. Even worse, here we have a pastor and professor openly contradicting the words of the Lord Jesus Christ. He rejects justification by belief alone and insists that belief alone is not enough, yet he’s at a loss to clearly explain what more is needed in order for a sinner to be saved. This is a gaping hole that needs to be filled.

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

In addition to Dr. Clark, the late Dr. Robbins recognized this breach in the foundation of the Reformed faith and spent the final years of his life attempting to repair it.  Recently I struck by the following passage taken from the forward Dr. Robbins wrote for the 2004 edition of Clark’s What is Saving Faith, which is a combination of Clark’s monographs Faith and Saving Faith and The Johannine Logos:

Unintentionally and unwittingly, the defenders of justification by faith alone, by their un-Scriptural doctrine of faith (which makes faith a complex psychological act rather than simple assent to the truth) have created and sustained the theological climate in which those who deny justification by faith alone can flourish.  The defenders of justification by faith alone have asserted that it is not enough to believe the Gospel, for even the demons believe the Gospel, and the demons are lost. Belief is not enough, they say. In order to be saved, one must do more than believe; one must commit, surrender, trust, encounter, relate, or emote.

The deniers of justification by faith alone agree: It is not enough to believe the Gospel in order to be saved. But rather than urging people to perform some further psychological task in addition to belief, they tell them to do good works in order to be saved. Their works (or their baptism) will complete what is lacking in belief alone. In this way, both the defenders and the deniers of justification by faith alone have lost sight of what in fact saves: The perfect, imputed righteousness of Christ completely outside the sinner, and received by the simple instrument of belief alone.

The current controversy over justification has broken out in conservative churches because Christians recognize that the Bible denies justification by works, whether works are regarded as a ground, condition, or an instrument of justification. But what most Christians have not yet recognized is that the common Protestant view of saving faith as something more than belief of the Gospel has fueled and will continue to fuel denials of justification by faith alone so long as it prevails.  Until faith is understood as mere belief – the Bible makes no distinction between the two words – the justification controversy will continue, and those defending justification by faith alone will continue to be embarrassed by their agreement with the deniers of justification, that belief of the Gospel is not enough for salvation.

Dr. Robbins provides a scathing rebuke.  Too bad so few have listened.

But, Dr. Robbins’ rebuke doesn’t stop there.  The addition of some undefinable psychological element to faith, which is clearly absent from the unambiguously and positively intellectual term belief, has allowed these so-called stalwarts and defenders of the faith to rob Christians of the one true source of their assurance.

For those who haven’t read Clark’s examination of  faith simpliciter, of which saving faith is but a subspecies, I highly recommend that you do.  When I first read Clark’s volume I found his simple solution and clear definition to the question what is faith and saving faith positively liberating.  No longer was my faith in Christ tied to the ebb and flow of my emotions or to some unfathomable and mysterious psychological state mind, but rather it was tied directly to the truths of Scripture; the mind of Christ.  Which makes sense since our justification doesn’t rest on anything in us anyway, despite the aggressive and unfounded claims of Dr. Strange and others to the contrary.

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129 Comments on “Filling the Breach — Justification By Belief Alone”

  1. Roger Says:

    “No longer was my faith in Christ tied to the ebb and flow of my emotions or to some unfathomable and mysterious psychological state mind, but rather it was tied directly to the truths of Scripture; the mind of Christ. Which makes sense since our justification doesn’t rest on anything in us anyway, despite the aggressive and unfounded claims of Dr. Strange and others to the contrary.”

    That’s an excellent point, Sean, and gets right to the heart of the matter. Only simple belief of the gospel (i.e., the true propositions of the gospel) keeps our focus on Christ alone as our righteousness. Saying that belief in Christ is not enough – that in “order to be saved, one must do more than believe; one must commit, surrender, trust, encounter, relate, or emote” – shifts the focus away from Christ and inward onto ourselves. How this is essentially any different from Roman Catholicism’s “formed” faith is beyond me. It’s a difference only of degree rather than of kind.

  2. Sean Gerety Says:

    It does seem like formed faith is perilously close to what our friends are saying. I think the difference is they wouldn’t say that acts of charity are what completes faith and is the “fuduical” or trusting element that is needed in addition to simple belief. They almost say it, but when pressed they really are saying nothing. Just a bunch of words that signify nothing.

    But, they do agree with Roman Catholics that whatever it is that makes faith saving is a non-intellectual component. The only difference it seems that the Roman Catholic, unlike Reformed men like Alan Strange, Lane Keister, Reed DePace, Ron Henzel, Ron DiGiacomo and the others at Greebaggins, is that they can explain and define in terms everyone can understand what this non-intellectual component consists of and even looks like.

    For example, here is something from Jim Akin over at Catholic Answers:

    Whether a Catholic rejects the idea of justification by faith alone depends on what sense the term faith is being used in. If it is being used to refer to unformed faith then a Catholic rejects the idea of justification by faith alone (which is the point James is making in James 2:19, as every non-antinomian Evangelical agrees; one is not justified by intellectual belief alone). http://www.ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/SOLAFIDE.HTM

    Sound familiar.

    FWIW I think this from Akin really speaks to John’s comments above. It is embarrassing how much similarity there is between Roman Catholics, Federal Visionists, and the so-called defenders of justification by faith alone.

    To put it another way, if the “good guys” can’t tell us what saving faith consists of, and can only allude to some nebulous state of mind that can only be expressed in figures of speech, whereas Christ’s enemies can explain the meaning of saving faith in clear unambiguous terms, who wins?

  3. Don Freeman Says:

    “For Strange belief in the Gospel message, the Gospel propositions, saves no one. Rather, sinners are saved through something that defies definition and that can only be expressed in metaphorical language signifying nothing. That’s because if this “rich metaphorical description” on which he relies, and that is required in addition to mere belief, were to signify some further truth that we are to believe, it could be stated in literal language; i.e., it could be reduced to a “propositional belief.” But Strange can’t and won’t allow that.”

    “…defies definition…metaphorical language…” I have asked irrationalists to tell me exactly what the metaphorical language means, what exactly I need to do to “rest” and “lean” and “receive” and I always get more metaphors. Useless.

    “When I first read Clark’s volume I found his simple solution and clear definition to the question what is faith and saving faith positively liberating. No longer was my faith in Christ tied to the ebb and flow of my emotions or to some unfathomable and mysterious psychological state mind, but rather it was tied directly to the truths of Scripture; the mind of Christ. Which makes sense since our justification doesn’t rest on anything in us anyway, despite the aggressive and unfounded claims of Dr. Strange and others to the contrary.”

    Same experience here.

  4. Roger Says:

    But, they do agree with Roman Catholics that whatever it is that makes faith saving is a non-intellectual component.

    I agree. That’s why I said it’s a difference only of degree rather than kind.

    It is embarrassing how much similarity there is between Roman Catholics, Federal Visionists, and the so-called defenders of justification by faith alone.

    Precisely!

  5. Sean Gerety Says:

    That’s why I said it’s a difference only of degree rather than kind.

    More like a difference in clarity. ;)

  6. Steve M Says:

    The notion that one can assent to what one does not understand is twisted at best. Understanding is a necessary component of faith (the act of believing). Supposed assent to that which one misunderstands is not assent to the thing itself at all, but to something else. To insist that one holds to justification by faith alone, but to put forward an unintelligible or at very least unclear definition of what “faith” means is disingenuous.

  7. Denson Dube Says:

    The situation we face with the religious educated class who deny the gospel is no different from that faced by Jesus in his day. The Pharisees had so re-defined the meaning of the word of God that when Christ came, the very subject of the scriptures, they did not recognise him but condemned him to death. This is a sobering reminder to us that no-one can believe the Gospel but by the Spirit of God.


  8. Dear Sean:

    Thank you for your excellent post. : – )

    The church (and its theology) reformed and always being reformed according to the Word of God.

    Benjamin

  9. Hugh McCann Says:

    Thumbs up/ “Like”/ well done, Sean.

    I’ll just remind us all of JR’s excellent piece “Justification and Judgment” which well exegetes Matthew 7:21-23, a passage that stumbles Federal Visionaries, Popes, Fundamentalist Dispensationalists, et. al. (Just add to Leithart, Wilson, Meyers & Wilkins, the likes of Shepherd, MacArthur, and the pope.)

    http://trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=117

  10. Hugh McCann Says:

    One typo, Sean (in JR quote): In order to be saved, on must do more than believe; one must commit, surrender, trust, encounter, relate, or emote.


  11. Dear Sean:

    Another point stimulated by your post:

    There is a certain kind of Christian spirituality associated with Gordon Clark’s view.

    It is a spirituality based on believes in the truths or propositions of the Bible.

    I remember Dr. Robbins used the term “Intellectual union”.

    You wrote: “No longer was my faith in Christ tied to the ebb and flow of my emotions or to some unfathomable and mysterious psychological state mind, but rather it was tied directly to the truths of Scripture; the mind of Christ.”

    You wrote that with regards to justification, but it is also true with regards to sanctification and our spiritual life.

    This Christian spirituality based on intellectual union with Christ, in contrast with a Christian spirituality based on experience, is not subject to the ebb and flow of our emotions.

    When we do Bible study and believe more and more Biblical truths, our minds are “structured” by the Biblical truths we believe.

    When adversities come, there is a certain quite confidence that “centered” our mind and our whole being when we believe that God is Sovereign and is in control over everything.

    I believe there is a certain Christian spirituality associated with Clark’s view that awaits further development.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin


  12. A correction:

    When we do Bible study and believe more and more Biblical truths, our minds are “structured” by the Biblical truths we believe.

    should be:

    When we do Bible study and believe more and more Biblical truths, our minds *become* “structured” by the Biblical truths we believe.

    Benjamin

  13. Sean Gerety Says:

    @ Hugh, thanks and thanks for your editing skills as always :)

    @Benjamin. Spot on. Of course, these men think by adding to simple faith (simple in the sense that it doesn’t differ from belief) they’re defending historic Calvinism. That’s nonsense, of course, but the vehemence by which they attack those who disagree with their vacuous and un-Scriptural additions to saving faith is itself quite an experience as I’m sure Roger and Denson will attest to after participating in that debate.

  14. Roger Says:

    Hugh,

    Thanks for the link to John Robbins article “Justification and Judgment.” I read it years ago and had forgotten how good it was!


  15. Dear Sean:

    It is only after reading your remark above that I went to “Green Baggins” and read the debate you, Denson and Roger had with Alan D. Strange and others about “justification by belief alone”.

    The thread is titled “A Qualification” and was started on May 17, 2014.

    Instead of commenting on the substance of the debate, I would like to make some observations on the dialectic between you and Alan D. Strange.

    Before that, some critical comments on the moderation of the thread by Reed Here.

    (Since this is criticisms of the moderation in another Blog, let it be known that I will take full responsibility for the opinions expressed. B.W.)

    1. A moderator should:

    (a) Stay neutral towards the different parties of a discussion.

    (b) To avoid the appearance of conflict of interest, not to participate in a discussion he moderate.

    I think the thread was poorly moderated because Reed Here violated both.

    2. The first exchange between Sean and Reed Here was about some comments by Sean deleted by a moderator: (#23), (#24), and (#25).

    3. The next appearance of Reed Here was in (#103) with the comment: “Sean, Ron answered your question.”

    This was the first time Reed Here violated the maxims to stay neutral and not participate in a discussion he moderate.

    4. The second exchange between Sean and Reed Here occurred in (#128), (#129), (#130), (*131), and (#144).

    The exchange is prompted by Sean suggestion in (#128): “Assent, the act of believing is precisely what I have been contending for. And, if you’re not sure whether you understand Dr. Clark correctly then you should read him.”

    This was a very innocent suggestion.

    The moderation by Reed Here was not neutral (#129): “Sean, no hawking. Invite people to discuss this further at your site. Then feel free to offer to sell them anything you want.”

    This prompted a strong response by Sean (#131): “Reed, what do you mean “sell them”? I’m not selling anyone anything. I recommended the same book in about 3 separate links above. BTW, I don’t work or have any affiliation with Trinity Foundation, so I don’t appreciate the accusation that I’m “hawking” anything.”

    And by Sean again in (#144): “Also, for the record, not only do I *not* work for the Trinity Foundation, I have never made a single penny off of any article or book I’ve written for them (not that there are many anyway). My debt to the Trinity Foundation is that without the efforts of John Robbins and now his son-in-law, Tom Juodaitis, the work of Gordon Clark would be virtually unknown and completely unavailable (something that would make Vantillians no doubt very happy).”

    The question by Reed Here about the substance of the discussion in (#130) is although neutral, a violation of the maxim not to participate in a discussion he moderate.

    5. The third exchange between Sean and Reed Here was about some comments by Sean in (#144) that has been deleted by Reed Here: (#144), (#149), (#150), (#151), and (#153).

    Sean was trying to abide by the rules of the Blog and was accommodating.

    Reed Here (#149): “Sean, Lane’s guidelines include no public complaining about a moderator’s actions. Instead you are urged to take it up with them first. I know you know this.”

    Sean (#151): “OK, so how do I get your email address and Lane’s? I can’t find anywhere on this blog so it’s kind of tough to respond privately.”

    Whatever the merit of “no public complaining about a moderator’s actions”, Reed Here used that to his full advantage when later in the thread he openly sided with Alan D. Strange against Sean.

    6. The next appearance by Reed Here was in (#240) with the following admonition to the thread:

    “Folks, I’m going to begin at this point on insisting on the following: > Discuss positions not persons. > Avoid mocking both persons and positions. As long as you abide by these feel free to make charges as to what you think is the necessary dangerous inference of the other person’s position. I will do the best I can to moderate carefully. Yet if you weave what are otherwise fair interactions with mockery, do not take offense when you disagree with how I edit your comments. You profess to believe in Christ? Show it by your comportment in your posts.”

    By this time, Reed Here has very little credibility as moderator to enforce the Blog rules.

    The bias of Reed Here was apparent when he let (#172) through and he censured Sean.

    7. After (#240), Reed Here seems to lost inhibition in participating in the thread.

    Reed Here (#241): “Also, I suggest that Dr. Strange’s comportment in no. 239 is a good example of disagreeing agreeably. I urge you to consider the evidences of the Spirit’s work that mark his gentle-manliness.”

    Reed Here (#243): “Well said Ron.”

    Reed Here (#246): “Lol!”

    Read Here (#248): “Sorry Sean, your last comment was way too long. Lane prefers that rather than make extended insertions of other materials, you instead provide a link to where folks can find it elsewhere. As well, your tone was a bit too contentious. I recognize you have strong disagreements with Dr. Strange’s position. Please try to express your disagreement more particularly toward the positions and less stridently in tone. Thanks.”

    While Sean was to address Reed Here as moderator privately, Reed Here as moderator can address Sean publicly.

    Please note that by Reed Here comment, it seems that Lane Keister, the Blog owner, was aware of what was going on.

    8. There was a minor misunderstanding about a moratorium: (#249), (250), (#251), and (#252).

    9. In (#258), Reed Here participates again and openly sided with Alan D. Strange:

    “Dr. Strange, thank you for your clear, straightforward, and unambiguous answers to Sean’s challenges. Sean, your position does indeed seem reductionistic. So much so that your repetitive questioning comes across as nothing more than badgering. I’m not inferring anything as to why you sound this way. I’m simply observing that if we we in a civil court, with you as an attorney questioning Dr. Strange on the stand, I could easily see the judge sustaining an objection against you. The question has been answered. Your paradigm insists it is not sufficient. Oh well. Move on.”

    10. In (#262), Reed Here again deleted Sean’s comments: “Sean, I deleted your whole last paragraph. You interwove attack of a position with attack of a person. Sorry, not allowed.”

    11. In the meantime, Reed Here participated in the thread again: (#270) and (#275).

    12. By this time Sean had enough and withdrew from the thread (#276): “Since Reed Here continues to censor my posts, I’m out. [snip]”

    The “[snip]” indicated the even part of Sean’s withdrew comment had been deleted.

    The final exchange between Sean and Reed Here in this thread: (#277), (#278), and (#279).

    13. Conclusion:

    I think Reed Here badly moderated this thread because he violated two basic maxims of a moderator:

    A moderator should:

    (a) Stay neutral towards the different parties of a discussion.

    (b) To avoid the appearance of conflict of interest, not to participate in a discussion he moderate.

    When Reed Here showed the bias he showed, Lane Keister, the blog owner or other moderators should step in.

    Not that a moderator cannot participate in a thread, but when a moderator participate in a thread he should stop being a moderator of that thread.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin Wong

  16. Sean Gerety Says:

    @Benjamin. It’s far worse than you describe as the behind the scene exchanges with not only Reed DePace, but also with Ron Henzel (another mod) and Lane were even uglier. For example, while agreeing that DePace was out of line with his “hawking” comments, Lane did nothing to address the issue. Instead, and I suspect after some encouragement from DePace and Henzel, Lane banned me from posting on his blog claiming that my “emotional maturity is not very high.” He ended his comments to me writing:

    “I am seeking to correct you in as loving a way as I can. I have small hopes that you will receive this well. But know this: my motives are to seek to help you become more mature emotionally. You have dwelt so long in the realms of logic and reason that emotions don’t seem to make much sense to you. But they are God-given just as much as logic and reason are.”

    So, for refusing to accept that we’re justified by the inclusion of some emotional disposition or on account of anything within us at all, I’m banned. I’m actually tempted to share the entire exchange since the emails were hardly private as Lane included all of his moderators even Paige Britton.


  17. Dear Sean:

    1. Church politics is the worst kind of politics.

    When those who preach morality practice politics, there are bounds to be moral failure somewhere.

    Since the Clark-Van Til Controversy when Van Til and his associates placed church politics above the interest of God’s church, Westminster Theological Seminary has been plagued by moral problems.

    From Van Til to Norman Shepherd and Richard Gaffin Jr. to Peter Enns, the failure is not just theological but also moral.

    I have read Mark W. Karlberg’s recent “Master of Deception and Intrigue” (The Trinity Review, May 2014) and it is not a pretty sight.

    Because of their failure to confess their sins, moral failures have not departed from Westminster Theological Seminary.

    To use a Biblical phrase, the iniquities of the father are visiting on the children to the third and fourth generation.

    2. I do not visit “Green Baggins” that often and so am not familiar with who is who in that Blog.

    But judging from what you wrote: Is Reed Here the same person as Reed DePace?

    I just read in “Green Baggins” that DePace’s adviser at Westminster is Richard B. Gaffin Jr., one of the master of deception and intrigue refer to by Karlberg.

    It that is so, then there is a historical continuity to the politics that happened to you recently at “Green Baggins”.

    For the Van Tilians, there is a Biblical way to break the historical chain: confession of sins and so receive God’s forgiveness.

    God’s blessings

    Benjamin

  18. Sean Gerety Says:

    @Benjamin. Yes, Reed DePace is the one and the same. He’s a pastor at First Presbyterian (PCA) in Montgomery, AL.

  19. Hugh McCann Says:

    For the Van Tilians, there is a Biblical way to break the historical chain: confession of sins and so receive God’s forgiveness.

    And, with such a repentance, begin to think rationally. :)


  20. Dear All:

    Some Observations on a Debate between Sean and Alan D. Strange (Part 1)

    1. The following are some observations on the dialectic and rhetoric in a debate between you and Alan D. Strange.

    The debate occurred in the blog “Green Baggins” under the thread “A Qualification” and was started on May 17, 2014.

    There are many participants in the discussion, some of whom made some very interesting points but which I will ignore in order to make this post manageable.

    The thread is quite long; the last entry (#365) is dated June 23, 2014.

    I will review the entries up to (#62), which is the high point of the debate.

    I use “dialectic” in its usual sense of the method of “discourse between two or more people holding different points of view about a subject, who wish to establish the truth of the matter guided by reasoned arguments” (“Dialectic”, Wikipedia).

    I also use “rhetoric” in its usual sense of the art of discourse.

    I understand this is not the first time you engaged Alan D. Strange in a debate.

    Alan D. Strange is Professor of Church History in Mid-America Reformed Seminary.

    2. Some observations about the aims of the debate.

    The topic of debate is whether “justification by belief alone” is logically equivalent to (or even identical with) “justification by faith alone”.

    After reading the debate, I understand that Sean and Alan D. Strange had different aims for the debate.

    Alan D. Strange wants to prove that “justification by belief alone” (a) is not equivalent to “justification by faith alone” and (b) is outside the bound of Reformed theological orthodoxy.

    I will ascribed to Sean the aims of showing that “justification by belief alone” (a) is the Biblical position, (b) is but a different verbal formulation of “justification by faith alone” and therefore equivalent to it, and (c) is within the bound of Reformed theological orthodoxy.

    The debate is an intramural debate between two conservative confessional Calvinists.

    As such, the authorities to appeal to in the debate are, in order:

    (a) the Bible; (b) various Reformed Confessions; and (c) individual theologians.

    3. The debate in this thread was an unexpected development and was sparked by Sean used of the term “justification by belief alone” (#21).

    Alan D. Strange (#22): “We’ve crossed swords on this a few times, Sean. I suppose that you’ll never stop contending for that thin view of what justifying faith entails. I know that I’ll never stop contending for what I believe to the biblical and confessional witness to the nature of justifying faith!”

    In writing “I know that I’ll never stop contending for what I believe to [be] the biblical and confessional witness to the nature of justifying faith!”, Alan D. Strange seems to assume the dialectical burden of making his case from both the Bible and the Reformed Confessions.

    Alan D. Strange has never discharge the burden of making his case from the Bible.

    Later on, Alan D. Strange revised and limit his aim to proving “justification by believe alone” is outside Reformed theological orthodoxy by appealing to traditions only.

    “Traditions”, in this context, means the various Reformed Confessions and theologians.

    In so revised and limit his aim, Alan D. Strange tried to play to his strength which is history.

    But the downside of this was that he had essentially conceded the Biblical case to Sean, which was tantamount to rhetorical suicide.

    By not appealing to the Bible, Alan D. Strange gave the impression he *cannot* made his case from the Bible.

    Sean has hammered on this point many times and rightly so.

    4. Alan D. Strange’s appealed to tradition was from the very beginning (#22):

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

    The phrase “receiveth and resteth upon Christ ” from the Westminster Larger Catechism #72 will turned out to be an important text in this debate.

    Since this debate was an unexpected development in this thread, I do not believe either Sean or Alan D. Strange had a thought out plan or strategy from the beginning.

    The debate was fluid and evolved as it went along.

    At this point, there is no indication that Alan D. Strange wanted to place Sean outside of Reformed theological orthodoxy.

    5. In response to another participant, Sean (#29) has adopted, what turned out to be, a brilliant dialectical strategy to counter Alan D. Strange:

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

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

    Traditions have two components: (a) the Reformed Confessions, and (b) the Reformed theologians.

    Sean’s strategy was to defend the thesis that the three-fold definition of faith is not affirmed by the Reformed Confessions although it may be the opinion of many Reformed theologians.

    This line of dialectic was brilliant: “Just because something is traditional it doesn’t follow that it is also Confessional.”

    Sean later on even conceded that the three-fold definition was the majority opinion of Reformed theologians.

    But at no time did Sean concede that the Reformed Confessions affirmed the three-fold definition.

    This effectively prevented Alan D. Strange from putting Sean outside Reformed theological orthodoxy.

    6. The traditional three-fold definition of faith in Reformed theology:

    Faith = Knowledge + Assent + Trust

    The generic term is “faith”, but the theological interest is “saving faith”.

    There are two ambiguities in the three-fold definition that has plagued Reformed theology down the centuries:

    (a) What is the object of saving faith? A person (i.e. God or Jesus Christ) or truths (i.e. propositions)

    (b) What is “trust”?

    Following Gordon H. Clark, Sean defended a new two-fold definition of faith:

    Faith = Belief = Understanding + Assent.

    More fully, faith is assent to the truth of understood propositions.

    In the two-fold definition, there is no ambiguity about the object of faith: the object of faith is truths or propositions.

    Different faiths are differentiated by the different propositions believed.

    A person possesses saving faith if he believe one or more propositions that constitute the Gospel.

    Sean will defend the thesis that although the two-fold definition is a new development in Reformed theology, it is not something outside Reformed orthodoxy.

    7. Also in (#29), Sean laid the basic Biblical case for the two-fold definition by quoting W. Gary Crompton:

    “As already cited in the post some mod here too quickly deleted, justification by faith alone and belief alone mean the same thing, as Dr. W. Gary Crampton explains: In the New Testament, there is only one word for belief or faith, pistis, and its verb form is pistein, believe. There is no separate word for faith, and those who wish to say that faith is something different from and superior to belief have no support from Scripture. Gordon Clark once remarked that the Bible’s English translators could have avoided a lot of confusion if they had not used the Latin-based word ‘faith’ and had instead simply used ‘believe’ and ‘belief’ throughout the English Bible, as the writers of the New Testament use pistis and pistein throughout the Greek Bible – http://tinyurl.com/ohncx8u

    The case is linguistic in nature.

    8. Alan D. Strange rejoined in (#35).

    It was in (#35) that Alan D. Strange first tried to place Sean outside of Reformed orthodoxy:

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

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

    9. In (#37), Alan D. Strange further explained his position:

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

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

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

    Alan D. Strange conceded that the phrase in Westminster Larger Catechism #72, “receiving and resting upon Christ”, is metaphorical language.

    From then on, Sean never stopped asking Alan D. Strange to explain the metaphor by putting it into literal language.

    Ultimately, Alan D. Strange was not able to do so.

    (To be continued.)


  21. Some Observations on a Debate between Sean and Alan D. Strange (Part 2)

    10. The Westminster Larger Catechism, Question #72 in full:

    Q. 72. What is justifying faith?

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

    11. Alan D. Strange answered others in (#40) and Sean rejoined in (#42).

    Sean did not concede that the Reformed Confessions teach the three-fold definition (#42):

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

    Sean explicitly conceded that the majority of Reformed theologians teach the three-fold definition (#42):

    “In addition, I don’t deny that the Reformed have historically and traditionally held to a threefold definition. My point is that the traditional position is incoherent and adds a level of ambiguity to the definition of faith which has allowed heretics like Leithart, Wilson and Jordan to drive a truck through.”

    Sean position is effectively that although a minority opinion, the new two-fold definition is within Reformed orthodoxy.

    I very much like what Sean has done here.

    One must be honest with oneself and others.

    If the two-fold definition is a new proposal, then say that it is a new proposal.

    There are far too many surreptitious changes in theology going on.

    12. Another good point Sean made in (42):

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

    It is obviously from this debate that there are defects in the three-fold definition of faith.

    The scholarly thing to do is to acknowledge the defects and tried either to repair the defects or to come up with an alternative.

    One need not accept Gordon H. Clark’s two-fold definition; but the scholarly thing to do is to face the defects in the three-fold definition.

    This the history professor was never able to do.

    13. Sean continued in (#42) to hammer on the point about metaphorical language and the Confessions not teaching the three-fold definition.

    Then Sean appeal again to the Bible (#42):

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

    Besides not positively arguing his case from the Bible, another rhetorical mistake Alan D. Strange made was not to rebut Sean’s appeal to the Bible.

    In a debate such as this, where the Bible is the final authority, how can one not negatively rebut one’s opponent’s appeal to the Bible?

    14. Alan D. Strange asserted in (#46) there is a non-intellectual aspect to saving faith and Sean countered in (#48) by asking for an explanation of that non-intellectual aspect is.

    Alan D. Strange in (#46) appealed to the fruit of good works and Sean countered in (#48) with the example the three-fold definition in compatible with the bad apple Federal Vision.

    I can go on and on.

    Throughout the debate, Sean has answered all the substantial points Alan D. Strange raised.

    Alan D. Strange may disagree with Sean’s answers, but he cannot say Sean has evaded any of his questions.

    15. In (#48), Sean also made a point that is crucial to the dialectic and rhetoric of the debate:

    “The only thing you can do is repeatedly assert yours is the historic and traditional Reformed position. OK. So what? What you need to show is how the historic and traditional Reformed position is also true.”

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

    “Time to correct tradition.”

    The history professor tried to stick to his strong point and argue his case historically.

    But the nature of the debate is not just about history and tradition, but about whether either of two incompatible theories of faith and saving faith is true.

    Sean hammered this point repeatedly and it eventually got to Alan D. Strange when he attempted a definition, which was then ridiculed (a rhetorical device) by Sean as defining a metaphor with another metaphor.

    16. I find the next rejoin by Alan D. Strange really disappointing and a cop-out (#51):

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

    This is an explicit statement by Alan D. Strange of his aim and strategy in this debate.

    Given the Bible is the final authority between the participants, this is an untenable strategy.

    And Sean has effectively neutralized Alan D. Strange by conceding that Reformed theologians teach the three-fold theory while the Reformed Confessions did not.

    Sean further argued the Reformed theologians are wrong and the three-fold theory is false.

    This forced Alan D. Strange to move the discussion from history to truth, which he later did in the same post.

    17. The following two paragraphs are very important in the dialectic of this debate in that Alan D. Strange tried to defined “trust”, the third element of the three-fold definition (#51):

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

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

    18. I will skip over some of the posts: (#52), (#53), (#54), and (#55).

    Sean responded to Alan D. Strange’s points in (#62), which I consider to be the high point of the debate between them.

    Sean (#62):

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

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

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

    Alan D. Strange’s theory is couched in metaphor and he can only explain the metaphor with other metaphors.

    Alan D. Strange has failed to explain his theory properly, much less proceed to the next stage to defend the truth of his theory.

    The minimum an honest scholar can do is to acknowledge that this is a defect of the three-fold definition.

    This the history professor was never able to do.

    After this fail venture to explain what “trust” or “receiving and resting upon Christ” means, the history professor retreated back to the realm of history again.

    After (#62), there were many repeat of points already made and not much advanced in discussion between the two.

    In any case, the discussion between them petered out as:

    (a) Alan D. Strange informed the thread (#81): “I am at the URCNA Synod as OPC fraternal delegate and thus can only marginally attend to these discussions. Blessings, brothers.”

    Alan D. Strange did not actively participate again until (#214).

    (b) After repeated run-ins with Reed DePace the moderator, Sean withdrew at (#279).

    19. An evaluation:

    I will evaluate the debate by assessing whether Sean and Alan D. Strange achieve their respective aims or goals for the debate.

    (a) Did Alan D. Strange achieve the aim of showing that “justification by belief alone” is not equivalent to “justification by faith alone”?

    He did not.

    By limiting himself to history and traditions, Alan D. Strange has conceded the Biblical case to Sean.

    (b) Did Alan D. Strange achieve the aim of putting Sean’s view outside the bound of Reformed theological orthodoxy?

    He did not.

    By conceding the majority of Reformed theologians teach the three-fold definition but insisting the Reformed Confessions did not, Sean successfully resisted Alan D. Strange effort to put him outside the bound of Reformed orthodoxy.

    But what is decisive is the inability of Alan D. Strange to define the third element (“trust”) of the three-fold definition in a non-metaphoric way.

    You cannot be outside the bound of you-know-not-what.

    (c) Did Sean achieve the aim of showing “justification by belief alone” is the Biblical position?

    He did.

    Sean made out an initial case and then won by default as Alan D. Strange did not engage the Bible.

    (d) Did Sean achieve the aim of showing “justification by belief alone” is but a different verbal formulation of “justification by faith alone”?

    He did.

    Again, Sean won by default since Alan D. Strange never challenged the linguistic case for translating the Bible.

    (e) Did Sean achieved the aim of showing “justification by belief alone” is within the bound of Reformed theological orthodoxy?

    He did.

    The two-fold definition maybe a minority opinion and a new proposal, but it is within Reformed orthodoxy.

    And so I end my observations on the debate.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin Wong

  22. Sean Gerety Says:

    Wow Benjamin. That is a very thorough debriefing and analysis of what transpired.

    I can’t believe you had either the stomach or the time to wade through that mess.

    Of course, and if you haven’t noticed, Lane has launched a new volley to protect the empty three-fold definition/tradition through the aegis of Ron DiGiacomo, the so-called “Reformed Apologist.” Ron has been a regular poster here as well and often times likes to give the impression that for a theonomist and a Vantilian, he can be quite accommodating to the Scripturalism of Gordon Clark. But, don’t be fooled. As DiGiacomo recently wrote on his blog: “I’d recommend Clark to virtually no one.”

    One small observation though. You wrote:

    One need not accept Gordon H. Clark’s two-fold definition; but the scholarly thing to do is to face the defects in the three-fold definition.

    I don’t think these scholars see the lack of a clear definition in their theory or terms as defect. IMO it’s the heart of their religion. For example, when giving me the left-foot-of-fellowship banning me from posting on his blog, Keister wrote:

    I wonder sometimes if your faith is in reason and logic too much. In your reaction to Van Til, for instance, you reject any and all kinds of mystery in the Christian faith, as if our minds were as capable of understanding everything as God’s own mind. Is there any limit at all to what human reason and logic can attain? Is there a Creator/creature distinction? I’m not sure there is in your thinking. This makes you so sure of your positions that you look down on people who differ from you in almost any way. There is almost no charity at all when you differ from someone. It is what Scott Clark calls the quest for illegitimate religious certainty.

    I think it is important that we understand that for people like Keister, DiGiacomo, Strange, DePace, Henzel and others like them the Christian religion is not a “rational” faith. This comes down to even their view of faith and saving faith. Whereas my view of faith is not in opposition to reason, for the rest over at Greenbaggins it is.

    Strange made this crystal clear when he said defining faith unambiguously, and without restoring to figures of speech that allude to some “religious” reality is beyond the ability of words to explain; it is “impossible.” This is the baggage he sees in the Latin “faith” that is missing from “belief.” This is also why Strange complained that clearly defining faith and saving faith so that it might be unequivocally understood is like attempting to reconcile the Trinity, Incarnation, and God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility (that’s almost verbatim). Like John Frame said when confronted by the “mystery of paradox” and the impenetrable darkness Vantillians see everywhere in the propositions of Scripture, this is where “faith comes in.” This is what Van Til called his “limiting concept.”

    While Vantillians like Keister refuse to see it, this debate has everything to do with the Clark/Van Til controversy and Strange has admitted as much and in words clearer than the ones he used in his failed attempt to define “faith.”

    For Strange and the rest we’re not to believe so that we might understand, we’re to believe knowing full well that understanding is impossible and that’s the way they want it. This self-styled “Watchman of Israel” (which is how Strange referred to himself toward the end of our debate) revels in words that convey no meaning — yet evoke some sort of intuition, emotion, or affection, who knows which — while Christ’s sheep are openly slaughtered by men trained in seminaries just like his and who have one hand in Rome and the other one pointing the way. This is his “Reformed faith” and piety.

    Consequently, what Scott Clark calls “the quest for illegitimate religious certainty,” I call simply the quest for truth. I realize that might sound trite, but truth is clearly a romantic ideal abandoned by modern Vantilian religionists like Strange, Keister, Scott Clark, and others who think they have the corner on the historic Reformed faith when nothing could be further from the truth. Even beyond their failures to discipline even one Federal Visionist, their little sickly corner of the Christian faith is dying right in front of their eyes and they can do nothing to save it because they refuse to abandon Van Til’s bankrupt theory of knowledge and truth. They are the reason why Calvinism today remains in the fetid backwaters of Evangelicalism.


  23. Dear Sean:

    You wrote: “I can’t believe you had either the stomach or the time to wade through that mess.”

    I am at the tail end of my “holidays”. : – )

    In any case, as my posts showed, I really enjoy reading your debate with Alan D. Strange.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  24. Ron Says:

    “I’d recommend Clark to virtually no one.”

    Sean,

    I’d recommend my blog to virtually no one either. Most average Christians can’t aren’t going to muddle through my thoughts (or yours), so how would I expect them to make sense of Gordon Clark’s? Clark was misunderstood by Bahnsen as Crampton has identified. That’s my point with Clark with respect to not commending him to others. I’ve also said on your site I’ve profited from Clark. He’s just too confusing for the average Christian. Good grief, I resonate with Bahnsen over Sprould ten times, but I recommend Sproul many times over than I do Bahnsen.

  25. Hugh McCann Says:

    It’s probably best that you’d recommend your blog to virtually no one, Ron, as it is often quite muddled and pedantic.

    Clark could at times appear to be both, too, but is usually quite clear enough for those with eyes to read and ears to listen to the truth. He does for some us require (and bear) repeated reading.

    The trouble with Clark (as with our sacred Book) is not so much his prolixity as it is his profundity.

    Just as the natural man cannot receive the things of God, neither can inveterate Van Tillians receive Clark’s clarity and scriptural sagacity, choosing to settle instead for confusion.

    Isaiah 8:20 comes to mind – applied to those who contend we know but an approximation, type, shadow of God’s thoughts. I don’t claim that you do, Ron, but too many in your circles do.

  26. Steve M Says:

    Ron: “He’s (Clark is) just too confusing for the average Christian.”.

    I thought we were supposed to embrace confusion with passion.

  27. Hugh McCann Says:

    with passion and censoriousness.

  28. Alan D. Strange Says:

    Here’s something that Sean and I can passionately (I mean rationally) agree upon (in his response to Mr. Wong):

    “I can’t believe you had either the stomach or the time to wade through that mess.”

    That was, Mr. Wong, a rather impressive, albeit misguided (naturally I would think that), tour-de-force.

    Perhaps I should note, Mr. Wong, that you misconceive the role of a moderator on his own site. Green Baggins is Rev. Keister’s site and Rev. DePace is one of several men that he’s invited to “run” the site with him. It’s just like Sean on this site. This is his site and he’s under no obligation to be “neutral,” which I did not understand Clarkians to believe in at any rate. Reed, in other words, is not bound to act as a moderator of a church judicatory, but is free to act as an interlocutor and partisan in any debate (just as Sean, the “moderator” of this site, does).

    BTW, good work, Ron. I commend Ron’s post here: http://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2014/07/30/justification-by-belief/

    I trust (believe?) that all is well with all of you.

  29. Roger Says:

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

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

    “To believe or to have faith in someone is to trust what they say and to trust someone is to have faith in or believe what they say is true.” – Sean Gerety

  30. Roger Says:

    If “assenting” to or “believing” the above gospel propositions does not constitute “trusting” in Jesus for one’s salvation, then I’d love for someone to explain in clear (i.e., non-metaphorical) terms what does constitute “trusting” in Jesus for one’s salvation…


  31. Dear Mr. Strange:

    1. You wrote: “Here’s something that Sean and I can passionately (I mean rationally) agree upon (in his response to Mr. Wong): ‘I can’t believe you had either the stomach or the time to wade through that mess.’ ”

    Besides really enjoying myself reading the debate between you and Sean, I actually learned something from the debate.

    2. You wrote: “That was, Mr. Wong, a rather impressive, albeit misguided (naturally I would think that), tour-de-force.”

    I am very glad that you have not taken me to task for misrepresenting you.

    The perspective of my narration is not neutral either, I agree with Sean; but I tried very hard to be fair in stating your view.

    3. You wrote: “Perhaps I should note, Mr. Wong, that you misconceive the role of a moderator on his own site. Green Baggins is Rev. Keister’s site and Rev. DePace is one of several men that he’s invited to “run” the site with him. It’s just like Sean on this site. This is his site and he’s under no obligation to be “neutral,” which I did not understand Clarkians to believe in at any rate.”

    You are referring to my post with the time stamp (July 29, 2014 at 10:41 am).

    I agree with you that Lane Keister and Reed DePace are under no obligation to be neutral towards the views you and Sean hold.

    There is nothing wrong with Lane Keister and Reed DePace agreeing with you against Sean.

    But that was not what I was referring to when I wrote that a moderator should stay neutral towards the different parties of a discussion.

    It should be very clear what I mean is that a moderator as moderator should stay neutral towards the different parties of a discussion.

    That is, in exercising his role and function as a moderator, a person as moderator should stay neutral towards the different parties of a discussion.

    In part this means in moderating, to apply the blog rules fairly towards all parties and not one-sidely against someone in particular.

    4. You wrote: “Reed, in other words, is not bound to act as a moderator of a church judicatory, but is free to act as an interlocutor and partisan in any debate (just as Sean, the “moderator” of this site, does).”

    I wrote (July 29, 2014 at 10:41 am): “To avoid the appearance of conflict of interest, [a moderator should] not to participate in a discussion he moderate.”

    I agree with you that Reed DePace is not bound to act as a moderator.

    I also agree with you that Reed DePace is free to act as an interlocutor and partisan in any debate.

    But my point is Reed DePace should not act *simultaneously* as a moderator and partisan in the same debate.

    That gave the appearance of a conflict of interest.

    In the case of the debate between you and Sean, my opinion is that Reed DePace was in actual conflict of interest and he also displayed bias in moderating.

    Although I do not visit “Green Baggins” that often, I understand that it is a brand name in Reformed blog sphere.

    I trust that my criticisms in (July 29, 2014 at 10:41 am) do not pertain to the norm of “Green Baggins”.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin Wong

  32. Sean Gerety Says:

    @Roger. My apologies. FWIW I had deleted my comment as you were posting (you must get up really early in the morning) ;)

    I thought I would save some of my remarks for another post. I may even try to untangle some of that impenetrable mess DiGiacomo wrote over at Greenbaggins that Strange commends so highly.

  33. Sean Gerety Says:

    2. You wrote: “That was, Mr. Wong, a rather impressive, albeit misguided (naturally I would think that), tour-de-force.”

    I am very glad that you have not taken me to task for misrepresenting you.

    The perspective of my narration is not neutral either, I agree with Sean; but I tried very hard to be fair in stating your view.

    @Benjamin. Please note that Dr. Strange didn’t say you *misrepresented* him, only that your analysis was *misguided,* precisely because it agreed with me. For the imperious Strange, this puts you outside of the “historic Reformed faith”; the same faith which Strange failed to defend because at this point it is defenseless.

    Ironically, if not tragically, this is something you would think Lane Keister would understand after being made to look like an incompetent and a fool after he gave Doug Wilson a clean bill of health on the heart of the Gospel, even JBFA. As John Robbins points out above, it was precisely because of Lane’s essential agreement with Wilson and the other FV men on the question of saving faith that allowed Wilson to completely confound him (some might want to revisit Lane’s discussion with Wilson on the “obedience of faith”).

    FWIW I sometimes wonder if Lane gets it at all. Frankly, what I think he sees is that by not sucking up to Vantillians like Strange and Scott Clark could only hurt his chances of ever teaching in one of their institutions. He knows what they did to his father’s friend Gordon Clark and those who supported him. Why would Lane be any exception if he jumped ship even on the issue so central as that of saving faith.

  34. Roger Says:

    @Roger. My apologies. FWIW I had deleted my comment as you were posting (you must get up really early in the morning)

    Yeah, I noticed that you had deleted your post after I’d already posted mine… I work the midnight shift and have a lot of downtime when I can read and post online, and I sleep from 1pm to about 8pm during the week.

  35. Denson Dube Says:

    I think one issue that seems to escape Ron and Alan is the relevance of the “nature” or subject of the propositions believed. Believing that the train will arrive as scheduled does not have the same relevance as believing a gospel proposition. But the act of believing itself is the same in both cases, assenting to the truth of the propositions in view.The Gospel is “personal”, because its subject matter is persons; God and man and contains promises, which it says if believed, will grant the penitent sinner eternal life. Belief or not, on train punctuality may not carry any consequences of any relevance. One may, for the purposes of clarity(not obfuscation) call belief in gospel propositions trust, resting in Christ, standing on the rock, but these are not additional elements to “mere assent”, but refer to it, with the view of characterising the propositions assented to, their subject matter.

  36. Sean Gerety Says:

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

    Now, because, as you say, the consequences of saving faith are so eternally profound, as opposed to DiGiacomo’s “Il Duce” like faith in the timeliness of trains, the error (the fallacy) of their argument is that there must be something qualitatively different taking place within the believing subject when he comes to Christ as opposed to going to the train station. FWIW I think it’s an easy mistake to make when you consider things like Paul’s Damascene conversion experience or if you listen to some of those dramatic conversion testimonials. Frankly, I had one of those testimonials and there was a time when I would have agreed with Dr. Strange.

  37. Sean Gerety Says:

    On Greenbaggins and in response to Steve M’s comment that Ron D has “perfected the art of gibberish,” Ron said:

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

    Since I’m banned from commenting on Lane’s blog even when those there are talking about me, I’m curious Ron where have I equivocated? I have gone to great pains in that long exchange to define my terms and to apply them consistently (which is more than I can say for those in thejustification-by-belief-plus crowd).

    I have defined both belief and faith as assent to an understood proposition. Saving faith as assent to the understood propositions of the Gospel. I have defined assent according to its common usage as to agree to something especially after thoughtful consideration. I have defined trust also per its common usage as belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc. Consequently, trust isn’t something different from belief. Trust is a species, a type, of belief as John Robbins explained some time ago in response to R.C. Sproul:

    Belief, that is to say, faith (there is only one word in the New Testament for belief, pistis) and trust are the same; they are synonyms. If you believe what a person says, you trust him. If you trust a person, you believe what he says. If you have faith in him, you believe what he says and trust his words. If you trust a bank, you believe its claims to be safe and secure. Strictly speaking, trust is belief of propositions in the future tense, such as “he will be good to me” or “this bank will keep my money safe.” This is important, because Sproul’s incorrect analysis of saving faith, his splitting it up into three parts, the third part being trust, depends on denying that belief and trust are the same thing. But here he correctly implies they are the same by using the words interchangeably.

    http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=238#sthash.XI2TIVdh.dpuf

    Similarly, Clark said; “to trust is to believe that good will follow” (Faith and Saving Faith, 76). Like Robbins Clark defined “trust” as “belief of a proposition in the future tense, in this case, the proposition ‘good will follow.’”

    The only equivocations I see are coming from you and the rest of the justification-by-belief-plus crowd. Your discussion of “trust” on Greenbaggins is obtuse and strained, and that’s being kind (I hope to get into that discussion in a future post, God willing). Dr. Strange doesn’t even take the time to define any of his terms, instead is content arrogantly pontificating from on high as if his magisterial pronouncements and anathemas are beyond debate. He refused to even define the Confessional figure to “receive and rest” on which his entire smoke-and-mirrors argument rests. Besides, as Clark noted long ago the addition of trust or fiducia which has the same root as fides is tautological and is the equivalent of defining faith as faith. Then there is the hopelessly confused Ron Henzel, who after accusing me of Sandemanianism, denies and affirms, almost in the same sentence, that saving faith consists of some psychological state existing within the mind of the believer. Finally, there is Lane Keister who thinks a proper view of saving faith entails some sort of undefined and undefinable emotional response, thereby confusing the fruits of faith with faith itself. From what I can tell, you guys are the masters of equivocation and confusion.

  38. Roger Says:

    I think one issue that seems to escape Ron and Alan is the relevance of the “nature” or subject of the propositions believed. Believing that the train will arrive as scheduled does not have the same relevance as believing a gospel proposition. But the act of believing itself is the same in both cases, assenting to the truth of the propositions in view. The Gospel is “personal”, because its subject matter is persons; God and man and contains promises, which it says if believed, will grant the penitent sinner eternal life.

    That’s absolutely correct, Denson. Sean also correctly points out that trust is “belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc. Consequently, trust isn’t something different from belief. Trust is a species, a type, of belief…” I tried to make this same distinction during the Green Baggins debate, to no avail. Believing “that Jesus was born in Bethlehem” is not an act of trust due to the nature of the proposition assented to, but believing “that Jesus is my only righteousness before the bar of God’s justice” is an act of trust or reliance due to the nature of the proposition assented to. This really isn’t that difficult to understand!


  39. Dear Hugh:

    You wrote: “The trouble with Clark (as with our sacred Book) is not so much his prolixity as it is his profundity.”

    My experience in reading Gordon Clark’s books is a bit different.

    I find his writings to be clear, concise and to the point.

    Clark always defines his terms and he argues, so you can always follow his train of thoughts.

    On many points in his books on theology such as [The Trinity (1985)] and [Incarnation (1988)], I wish he is more “prolix” and tell his readers more.

    I agree with you about Clark’s profundity.

    Clark writes for the average readers and not the professional philosophers and theologians.

    The simplicity and clarity of his writings sometimes hide their profundity.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  40. Sean Gerety Says:

    @Benjamin. Well said.


  41. Dear Denson and Roger:

    1. As quoted by Roger:

    Denson wrote: “The Gospel is ‘personal’, because its subject matter is persons …”

    2. I agree entirely with what Denson has written.

    But permit me to put the thought in a different context: Gordon Clark’s life-long criticism of empiricism.

    In many species of empiricism, the object of knowledge is object in the world that is external to the mind.

    The object is “present” to the mind through sensation and perception, but the object of knowledge is object in the world.

    This theory is: empiricism + direct realism.

    In the current debate about “justification by belief alone’, those who insist the object of faith is a person are embracing this theory.

    They insisted that the object of knowledge is the person Jesus Christ (i.e. the Jesus Christ that is external to their mind and in the world).

    They may not be conscious of it, but this is a philosophical theory.

    3. In contrast, Clark’s view is that the object of knowledge is truth and all truths are propositional.

    But Clark’s view does not throw the person Jesus Christ out the window.

    As Denson has pointed out, “The Gospel is ‘personal’, because its subject matter is persons …”

    Put another way, in certain propositions that constitute the Gospel, some terms in the propositions are about or refer to the person Jesus Christ.

    When we believe the Gospel, we believe certain truths about the person Jesus Christ.

    The proposition is related to the person Jesus Christ because the term of the proposition is about or refers to the person Jesus Christ.

    In this sense, those of us who believe the object of knowledge is truth or proposition are also related to the person Jesus Christ.

    In assenting to the truth of the Gospel, we stand in a “personal” relation with the person Jesus Christ through the propositions believes.

    Underlying this debate about “justification of belief alone” is a dispute about two different epistemologies.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin


  42. Dear Sean:

    You wrote: “@Benjamin. Well said.”

    You know I am a big fan of Gordon Clark. : – )

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  43. Hugh McCann Says:

    Right, Benjamin. Agreed.

    You and other Clark-ologists are better thinkers (certainly better/ faster typists!) than I.

    Hence, Clark’s profundity is more easily accessible to you than it is to some of the rest of us.

    But I’d rather be a slow Clarkian than a bright Van Tillian,* any day. And for clarity & profundity, the former is easily superior to the latter.

    * I’d be happily wade through the Greenbaggins thread[s] highlighted here, except that the sheer verbiage and queer philosophizing of the pedantic Van Tillians causes their screed to be at best inscrutable, or worse, irrational, & in the worst cases, at times untrue.

  44. Hugh McCann Says:

    Thanks for this of JR’s, Sean:

    BELIEF, that is to say, FAITH (there is only one word in the New Testament for BELIEF, pistes) and TRUST are the same; they are synonyms.

    If you BELIEVE what a person says, you TRUST him.

    If you TRUST a person, you BELIEVE what he says.

    If you have FAITH in him, you BELIEVE what he says and TRUST his words.

    If you TRUST a bank, you BELIEVE its claims to be safe and secure.

    Strictly speaking, TRUST is BELIEF of propositions in the future tense, such as “he will be good to me” or “this bank will keep my money safe.”

    Belief is faith is trust. The trouble here is also over just *what* the propositions *are* that are to be believed, RE: the gospel.

    If one has a crypto-Arminian view, then a tri-fold “super-faith” makes sense. Because in the Arminian view, the atonement covers reprobate folk as well as elect, all of whom need the hypo-Calvinists “steroid faith” to make it effectual.

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

    (“If you trust a bank…” sounds like a pun-type-joke set up!)

  45. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean, let’s hope & pray better things of the Rev. Keister than that he merely parrot the party line (tri-fold faith) in man-fearing mode.

    You remind us of his initial error regarding Mr Wilson of Moscow.

    I’d just remind us how he eventually saw the light, and recanted,* even two years after stating the opposite.

    We hope the same in this situation!

    * http://godshammer.wordpress.com/2010/03/29/lane-keister-doug-wilson-denies-justification-by-faith-alone/


  46. Dear All:

    I am puzzled if the three-fold definition of faith is logically compatible with the theory that the object of faith is a person.

    According to the three-fold theory:

    Faith = Knowledge + Assent + Trust

    But assent can *only* take truth as its object.

    Assent can only be assent to truths.

    And the only known bearer of truth and falsity is a proposition.

    If assent is an essential component to the three-fold definition of faith, then does it not follow the object of faith cannot be a person but must be a proposition?

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  47. Hugh McCann Says:

    Hear, hear, Benjamin.

  48. justbybelief Says:

    Good post, Sean!

    It did not escape my notice that Strange hurls the anathema on Christians, and more importantly, condemns the simplicity of God’s gospel by likening the correct interpretation to the (simplistic) errors of Arius and Eutyches saying, “Such attempts to rationalistically reduce the faith have always ended unhappily for their promoters.” [U]nhappily? Strange’s comments can only have one interpretation given the context.

    It seems to me that there have been others who condemned the gospel and oppose themselves to it, making themselves enemies of God.

    Eric

  49. Steve M Says:

    Benjamin
    I agree that one can only assent to a proposition, but one can assent to a false proposition as well as a true one. Such assent would not be of the saving variety, of course. I think that assent assumes understanding the proposition.


  50. Dear Steve M:

    1. You’re right. : – )

    But two cases:

    (a) One can assent to what one think is true but is in fact false.

    (b) One can assent to the truth that a false proposition is false.

    I should have written assent can only be assent to putative truth.

    2. A suggestion.

    As a matter of rhetoric with the Van Tilians, use the word “truth” instead of “proposition” in situations where either word is appropriate.

    I am not allergic to “proposition”.

    But for the Van Tilians, they can be against “proposition” but they cannot be against “truth”.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin


  51. Dear All:

    There is a very substantial difference between the three-fold theory and two-fold theory of faith when applies to saving faith.

    Faith = Knowledge + Assent + Trust

    Faith = Belief = Understanding + Assent

    In terms of the epistemic demand for faith, the two-fold theory demands much less than the three-fold theory.

    My understanding is that the tradition for knowledge as “Justified True Belief” goes back to Plato although the precise formulation as “Justified True Belief” is only last century.

    In formulating the three-fold theory, how much were our Reformed forbearers influenced by this tradition?

    I understand many Reformed theologians knew their Plato and Aristotle.

    And in applying the three-fold theory to saving faith:

    How much epistemic demand did our Reformed forbearers placed on the term “knowledge”?

    What kind and how much epistemic justification must a person have in order for him to reach knowledge and therefore possess saving faith?

    When applying the two theories to saving faith, the practical difference is tremendous.

    The two-fold theory places a minimal epistemic demand on a person for him to possess saving faith.

    The three-fold theory places substantially more epistemic demand on a person than the two-fold theory in order for him to possess saving faith.

    And the “substantially more” of the three-fold theory, as far as I am able to tell, is an unknown quantity.

    Also, if the three-fold theory is interpreted through the lenses of “Justified True Belief”, the “assent” clause becomes redundant as assent is already included in belief.

    Gordon Clark’s two-fold theory is superior to the three-fold theory in many ways.

    And I believe his theory is also the Biblical one. : – )

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin


  52. Dear Hugh:

    You wrote: “You and other Clark-ologists are better thinkers (certainly better/ faster typists!) than I. Hence, Clark’s profundity is more easily accessible to you than it is to some of the rest of us.”

    Not at all. : – )

    I must have read Gordon Clark’s [Faith and Saving Faith (1983)] four to five times, cover to cover, over the years.

    This book has a profound influence on me.

    I dabble in a little Zen philosophy in my younger days.

    It was [Faith and Saving Faith (1983)] that cured me of Zen.

    In light of the readings of the debate “Justification by Belief Alone” over the past week, I have budgeted some time to re-read [Faith and Saving Faith (1983)] this weekend.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  53. Sean Gerety Says:

    But for the Van Tilians, they can be against “proposition” but they cannot be against “truth”.

    Speaking of truth, I don’t know that this is true. I think Vantillians are very much against truth.

    For example, Vantillians all agree (all except only one that I’ve met in my life) that two contradictory propositions can both be true. Further, they all deny any univocal point of contact between thoughts in God’s mind and those possible to man, even as God has revealed His thoughts to us in Scripture. Scripture only provides us with the analog of God’s actual thoughts. What God actually thinks is *incomprehensible* in the most literal sense and is a “mystery.” This is Lane Keister’s Creator/creature distinction after all, even if it is a complete denial of the biblical doctrine of man.

    Further, while I get your rhetorical point, I don’t think Vantillians equate truth with propositions since, like Dr. Strange and others, they appear to hold to a view of non-propositional truth (an oxymoron if there ever was one) at least implicitly.

    Take Dr. Strange and his belief in this third and absolutely indispensable fiducial element of saving faith that is impossible to define and can only be expressed in figures of speech that defy any literal meaning, yet these figures point to some sort of ephemeral psychological state or emotion that completes faith. It’s like pornography and the US Supreme Court; they may not be able to define it, but they know it when they see it.

    Take also their belief in the separation of persons and propositions. One can believe in a person, yet, I suppose, not believe in the propositions about that person. It is belief in a person, as opposed to a proposition, or, better, a set of propositions, say the Gospel, that is saves. According to Strange and other elders and participants at Greenbaggins, believing in the Gospel doesn’t save anyone (a shocking statement, I know). Belief alone is not enough. You need to do something more (thankfully it’s not circumcision).

    My problem is, I just have no idea what more is needed to be saved and they won’t tell me.

    BTW isn’t this the height of irony, that this third element in faith’s definition, this sine-qua-non that transforms ordinary belief into magic faith which alone can save, cannot be defined or expressed in literal language, yet understanding and assent can be both be defined in unambiguous and literal terms?

  54. Sean Gerety Says:

    Check this out:

    http://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2014/07/30/justification-by-belief/#comment-119797

    Is Ron D a complete sophist or is he just hopelessly confused?

    I don’t see where anyone, much less Clark, arguing that we’re not to trust in Christ, but only that trust is not something in addition be believing in him. I mean, I’ve cited and re-cited Clark’s point that the addition of fiducia or trust is just a tautological addition to the definition of faith and it adds precisely NOTHING to our understanding of what faith IS!

    Ron quotes Roger to this point but doesn’t seem to understand what he is saying. Ron defines trust as reliance, but reliance is the “state of needing someone or something for help,” If you believe the Gospel and believe in Jesus Christ as your savior, are you not believing that you need someone to help you? This is not something IN ADDITION to mere belief; it is simply belief in the very specific set of propositions that make up the Gospel message.

    Besides, as already noted, trust is belief that someone or something is reliable (Websters). Trust is belief. It’s not something qualitatively different or something in addition to belief; IT IS BELIEF. What I suspect is the “justification-by-belief-alone” deniers do not understand assent. I mean, Ron seems to think that to assent to some proposition can exclude the will, as if a man were divided into parts.

  55. Sean Gerety Says:

    BTW, just a reminder, I have to reply to Ron here as Lane has banned me from posting on his blog. Thankfully, I know that Ron reads these posts here, but it’s a stupid way to have to conduct a discussion, or, in this case a debate. But, that’s Christianity today; it’s a club for people with brown noses. ;)

  56. Hugh McCann Says:

    Right on, Sean. Hence, my reference to Isaiah 8:20, above.

    I *do* think, however, that the critical 3rd element in “magic faith” can be expressed in at least the famous metaphor, chair-sitting:

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

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

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

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

  57. Hugh McCann Says:

    “Is Ron D a complete sophist or is he just hopelessly confused?”

    Why is this posed as an either/ or question? Cannot both be true? ;)

  58. Alan D. Strange Says:

    Sean,

    Even with the exhaustive rehearsal of earlier postings, I still seem to miss what you do with all the language of Scripture (“coming to Christ, receiving Him, resting upon Him, leaning on Him,” and the like), the language that we summarize by saying “trust”. If it means nothing in addition to assent, what’s it there for? Why does the Bible employ all these metaphors that so many of us seem to understand perfectly fine but you doggedly insist to be nonsense if they are thought to add something to belief?

    And, further, why does the confession insist that justifying faith “not only assenteth to the truth…but receiveth and resteth?” This is a clear statement that receiving and resting upon Christ is something more than merely assenting.

    Here’s, of course, part of what’s being addressed: the divines recognized that there are false professors who exhibit (at least some measure of) understanding and assent who never trust Christ, made evident by subsequent heresy/apostasy or behavior.

    If you wish to argue that everything that the Bible and the divines put into the category that we call “trust” is properly part of assent/belief (it’s not really true belief without trust) then, as I’ve indicated more than a few times, I have no problem with that. But all that the Bible has to say which we shorthandedly call “trusting Christ” must be affirmed. This is why the Reformers saw “fiducia” as the completing element of “notitia” and “assensus.”

    The Reformers, and divines, all knew too well that one might profess faith but not truly trust Christ. They focused as theologians (which they were–not philosophers–who saw philosophy in the service of theology, not the other way round) on what they saw as necessary and what they sometimes saw as lacking: people who said that they believed the articles of the faith but who did not trust Christ, made manifest ultimately by their lips and lives.

    Sean, if you believe that all that goes under “trust” (“coming to Christ” and the like) is simply part of “assent,” then do we differ? But then you seem to deny in other places that what we call “trust” is really part of assen. I get that Dr. Clark was concerned about the evacuation of the intellectual from faith and the virus of Schleiermacher spreading further. I no less stand with him against such a de-intellectualized faith as do you.

    Faith always involves knowledge. But more than that: it involves a true belief of what is held forth in the promise of the gospel so that the person who thus believes not only assents to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receives and rests upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.

    My interest in not merely to dispute over words but to seek genuine agreement in the gospel. Is our response to the gospel properly anything less than trusting Christ, which is to say, knowing who He is, believing the truth about Him, and receiving and resting upon Him and Him alone?

  59. justbybelief Says:

    Hugh,

    Technically, No. “A sophist is a user of sophisms, i.e., an insincere person trying to confuse or deceive people.”

    There is a difference in 1) being confused or decieved while teaching and intent to confuse or deceive while teaching. The former is ignorant of the deception, the later is not. I think Jesus calls the later hypocrites.

    Eric

  60. justbybelief Says:

    Sorry, Hugh

    Should be:

    There is a difference in 1) being confused or decieved while teaching and 2) intent to confuse or deceive while teaching.

    Eric


  61. Dear Mr. Strange:

    Just to express my hope that you will keep this debate an academic exchange and not to make your view into a test of orthodoxy.

    I hope will you accept Gordon Clark’s view on this matter as a minority view within Reformed theology.

    And I hope you will not try to place Sean outside Reformed theological orthodoxy again.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin Wong

  62. Sean Gerety Says:

    @Ron DiGiacomo. Since I have been so rudely banned from Lane’s blog, if you want to debate me, do it here. Otherwise, I won’t waste any more time responding to you or even try to straighten out some of your obvious confusion of even the simplest terms.

    Besides, I hope to find the time to respond to Alan (which I think we would both agree is more important).

  63. Pht Says:

    It wasn’t addressed to me, but I’ll reply anyways.

    August 1, 2014 at 10:25 am
    Alan D. Strange Says:

    … all the language of Scripture (“coming to Christ, receiving Him, resting upon Him, leaning on Him,” and the like), the language that we summarize by saying “trust”. If it means nothing in addition to assent, what’s it there for? Why does the Bible employ all these metaphors that so many of us seem to understand perfectly fine but you doggedly insist to be nonsense if they are thought to add something to belief?

    The use of synonyms to explain any given thing doesn’t mean there must be something besides that thing associated with it.

    I would think that is obvious.

    If you think this is a problem, than for goodness sakes, what do you do with Paul’s constant use of synonyms and other written devices, in Romans, beating people over the head with a linguistic club, so they finally manage to “get it” that they’re new creatures and no longer slaves to sin?

    Do you do this equally everywhere else it would apply – to every other passage using a different word to mean the same thing?

    Alan D. Strange Says:

    And, further, why does the confession insist that justifying faith “not only assenteth to the truth…but receiveth and resteth?” This is a clear statement that receiving and resting upon Christ is something more than merely assenting.

    Here’s, of course, part of what’s being addressed: the divines recognized that there are false professors who exhibit (at least some measure of) understanding and assent who never trust Christ, made evident by subsequent heresy/apostasy or behavior.

    Besides the obvious comment that extra-biblical authorities are, at best, secondary, because they can and do screw up (witness the problems with some understandings of the apostle’s creed, for example)…

    Is there some valid reason to say that they meant what you think they did?

    What do you do with WLC;Q73?

    Q73: How doth faith justify a sinner in the sight of God?
    A73: Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces which do always [b]accompany[/b] it, or of good works that are the fruits of it,[3] nor as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for his justification;[2] but only as it is an instrument by which he receiveth and applies Christ and his righteousness.[3]

    Here pointing out that what they call “faith” justifies NOT because of the other graces which, of necessity, accompany it – and they point out that it’s not because of the works that are the result of it; they point out that the “faith” itself doesn’t even justify.

    They say that the “faith” is only the instrument by which the sinner receives and applies Christ.

    Yet the attempted definition of “faith” to include something more than understanding and assent to the thing understood would deny this part of the WLC, because it would make “faith” into more than an instrument – it would specifically make faith to include the things the divines specifically precluded.

    How can you possibly add something that isn’t a grace that accompanies faith (receiving, resting, etc), or a work that they say accompanies faith (sanctification, etc, you name it), or, in pure nonsense, try to make faith itself into a justifying work?

    Appealing to the westminster divines on this topic doesn’t help the attempt to add the never-defined third part to “faith.”

    If you wish to argue that everything that the Bible and the divines put into the category that we call “trust” is properly part of assent/belief (it’s not really true belief without trust) then, as I’ve indicated more than a few times, I have no problem with that. But all that the Bible has to say which we shorthandedly call “trusting Christ” must be affirmed. This is why the Reformers saw “fiducia” as the completing element of “notitia” and “assensus.”

    —-

    The Reformers, and divines, all knew too well that one might profess faith but not truly trust Christ. They focused as theologians (which they were–not philosophers–who saw philosophy in the service of theology, not the other way round) on what they saw as necessary and what they sometimes saw as lacking: people who said that they believed the articles of the faith but who did not trust Christ, made manifest ultimately by their lips and lives.

    Given that I’m not sure if you think all of the things you say are nothing more than “trust” in your mind, I’m not going to mess with this one. It seems to be you an attempting to get others to simply accede to your position.

    In fact, I would tend to believe you don’t think these things are “trust” by another name, because of your insistence that they must mean something else, that would add more to the definition of “faith” than belief+assent(assent=trust).

    —-

    Of course people profess false faith. I don’t think that’s contested on either side of this discussion.

    The false profession of those who say they believe is false because of one of two things – either they don’t believe the gospel (witness those who believed in christ when he did miracles, but this belief was not saving – they didn’t believe in christ as savior); or they know what the gospel is, but don’t think it’s true – they don’t assent to it’s truth.

    What confuses the topic is the wrongheaded idea that it’s lack of the other graces that shows they don’t have faith; when it’s their lack of belief in the gospel, or their lack of assenting to the truth of the gospel, that … shows that they don’t have “faith.”

    If you don’t have understanding+assent it is impossible for you to have any of the other graces or fruits. This is why James points out that certain works can evidence faith, but it’s understood that these works AREN’T faith itself; as paul and the others repeatedly pointed out, works don’t save. Thus, any work can NOT be a part of faith.

    Confusing the works with the faith is like confusing a hole with the shovel that dug it.

    Faith always involves knowledge. But more than that: it involves a true belief…

    And what this this “true belief” if it is not assent, if it is not the accompanying graces, if it is not faith itself, if it is not any work?

    Can you even define this? Do you have any idea what you are even saying?

    If you can define it and you know what you mean, than what biblical passages actually teach what you’re saying? either directly or by good and necessary consequence?

    My interest in not merely to dispute over words but to seek genuine agreement in the gospel. Is our response to the gospel properly anything less than trusting Christ, which is to say, knowing who He is, believing the truth about Him, and receiving and resting upon Him and Him alone?

    What is “receiving and resting upon him and him alone” if it ISN’T “trusting Christ,” if it ISN’T “Knowing who he (Christ) is,” and if it ISN’T “Believing the truth about him” …?

  64. Pht Says:

    Pardon, but Instead of saying this:

    What confuses the topic is the wrongheaded idea that it’s lack of the other graces that shows they don’t have faith; when it’s their lack of belief in the gospel, or their lack of assenting to the truth of the gospel, that … shows that they don’t have “faith.”

    I should have said this:

    … that the other missing graces or works must BE a part of saving faith; …

  65. Denson Dube Says:

    Alan,
    But you ignore(or is it deliberate attempt at deception?) the fact that the same Greek word pistis is translated into faith and other phrases that amount to no more than nuances.
    As for professing without believing, it does not come from the Reformers but from the Bible. “These people come to me with their mouths but their hearts are far from me.” Isaiah 29:13 quoted by the Lord in Mathew 15:7 and Mark 7:6. Man believes with the heart(Romans 10:10). Jesus was referring to their lack of belief, not something more than belief.

  66. Alan D. Strange Says:

    I’ve written previously about all of these matters, Pht, including WLC 73, which is not at variance with WLC 72 (trust is not an accompanying grace of faith–evangelical repentance, e.g., is, even as good works are its fruits). I am not interested in reprising all of that here.

    Mr. Wong, I suppose you’ve not read all of this as carefully as you think. I’ve been spoken of in the most contemptuous of terms by those on your side of the aisle, including having my faith in Christ called into question more than once. You are not well-advised to counsel me to be temperate, as if I’ve not been and those on your side have.

    While it is true that I regard Sean as holding, with respect to this, a position that is contrary to Scripture, confession, and the Reformed theologians, I’ve never questioned whether he is a Christian or not. No evidence has been produced to show that JBFA as he puts and defines it is a legitimate but minority position. This is not merely my personal view but the consensus of the Reformed community.

    Having said all that, though, my last post ends up seeking better understanding and rapprochement if possible. Perhaps, Sean, it would be best if you privately contact me (my address is on the seminary website).


  67. Dear Mr. Strange:

    1. You wrote: “Having said all that, though, my last post ends up seeking better understanding and rapprochement if possible.”

    I wrote my previous post because I genuinely appreciate the tone of your last post.

    I can be a very vigorous debater and although I do not do it often, I am not beyond using such rhetorical devices as ridicule and sarcasm.

    I have not use any of those devices against you in my previous post.

    2. You wrote: “Mr. Wong, I suppose you’ve not read all of this as carefully as you think. I’ve been spoken of in the most contemptuous of terms by those on your side of the aisle, including having my faith in Christ called into question more than once. You are not well-advised to counsel me to be temperate, as if I’ve not been and those on your side have.”

    I actually have noticed it.

    Tempers were flared on both sides of the aisle.

    But I cannot be held responsible for what others on my side of the aisle do as you cannot be held responsible for what others on your side of the aisle do.

    Right?

    And I have not attempted to counsel you.

    My use of the word “hope” was deliberate; it expresses something unilateral on my part.

    In any case, in a forum such as this where discussions are egalitarian, I am in no position to offer anyone “counsel”.

    I recently make a “suggestion” to the forum, but not “counsel”.

    3. You wrote: “This is not merely my personal view but the consensus of the Reformed community.”

    There is no “consensus of the Reformed community” if those who agree with Gordon H. Clark are regarded as part of the Reformed community.

    Can you see that this attitude of yours make any discussions between Clarkians and Van Tilians contentious and well nigh impossible?

    It is with hope not to repeat the mistakes of the Clark-Van Til Controversy that I address my last post to you.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin Wong

  68. Sean Gerety Says:

    Alan, you wrote:

    I still seem to miss what you do with all the language of Scripture (“coming to Christ, receiving Him, resting upon Him, leaning on Him,” and the like), the language that we summarize by saying “trust”. If it means nothing in addition to assent, what’s it there for? Why does the Bible employ all these metaphors that so many of us seem to understand perfectly fine but you doggedly insist to be nonsense if they are thought to add something to belief?

    This has been well covered Alan in our last run-in and Roger did a great job explaining exactly what we do “with all that language of Scripture.”

    Here as some of his examples that maybe this time you will take the time to consider:

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

    To receive Christ is to believe in his name (i.e, that He is who He said he was and did what He said He did).

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

    This passage is packed with all the metaphors you could ever want. There’s abiding, receiving and even coming to, yet in all of these examples it is clear that that these metaphors are describing belief. Nothing more than simple belief, the very thing you have so stridently rejected saying it is not enough.

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

    Notice, here, entering God’s rest requires believing the Gospel message, the Gospel propositions, nothing more and nothing less. Here we read of those who heard the word, the message of the Gospel, but because they did not believe it, it did not profit them. A clearer example of Clark’s argument that the difference between faith and saving faith are the propositions believed would be hard to find.

    “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (John 1:12)

    To receive Christ means to believe in him and His Gospel. As you can see there is nothing more than belief; nothing more is required in order to receive and rest on Christ alone and His righteousness.

    Now to the question of trust, which you say is something different and in addition be belief. As I explained to Ron above, trust is belief. It is not something different from belief. Strictly speaking, and as Clark explained years ago, and is something Robbins repeated many times, trust is belief of propositions in the future tense. Trust isn’t something in addition to belief or if in combination with belief somehow makes “faith” which saves.

    To be saved depends on the propositions believed. The Gospel message, the Gospel propositions, are the power of God unto salvation for all who . . . wait for it . . . believe.

    Since you either missed it or skimmed over it above, here is the relevant bit from Dr. Robbins again:

    Belief, that is to say, faith (there is only one word in the New Testament for belief, pistis) and trust are the same; they are synonyms. If you believe what a person says, you trust him. If you trust a person, you believe what he says. If you have faith in him, you believe what he says and trust his words. If you trust a bank, you believe its claims to be safe and secure. Strictly speaking, trust is belief of propositions in the future tense, such as “he will be good to me” or “this bank will keep my money safe.” This is important, because Sproul’s incorrect analysis of saving faith, his splitting it up into three parts, the third part being trust, depends on denying that belief and trust are the same thing. But here he correctly implies they are the same by using the words interchangeably.
    http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=238#sthash.XI2TIVdh.dpuf

    What issues can you possibly have with what John writes above? I realize that your argument, like Sproul’s, depends on denying that belief and trust are the same thing, but why do you separate these terms and try to make trust something qualitatively different?

    And, further, why does the confession insist that justifying faith “not only assenteth to the truth…but receiveth and resteth?” This is a clear statement that receiving and resting upon Christ is something more than merely assenting.

    See what you did? I have to think this was intentional and that by truncating this section while leaving out the immediate context you intend to give the impression that the Confession is asserting that “receiving and resting” is something IN ADDITION to assenting to the truth. But that is not what the Confession says and you know it. Yet, you chose to distort the Confession’s teaching on this critical point in order to support your conclusion that assent to or belief in the truth is not enough. This is a dishonest move and something that doesn’t reflect very well on either you, your position as a professor of church history, or your office.

    Here’s, of course, part of what’s being addressed: the divines recognized that there are false professors who exhibit (at least some measure of) understanding and assent who never trust Christ, made evident by subsequent heresy/apostasy or behavior.

    Now, here we can partially agree. False professors do exhibit some understanding and even assent to many gospel truths, but they don’t believe in “Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.” Simply put, they don’t believe that Christ death is enough for the pardon of sin or that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us by belief alone.

    Romanists and their brothers in the Federal Vision are great and relevant examples of this. Similarly, and as James points out, belief in monotheism doesn’t save either (which is something that could have fooled a lot of Christians given the almost universal polytheism in his day).

    If you wish to argue that everything that the Bible and the divines put into the category that we call “trust” is properly part of assent/belief (it’s not really true belief without trust) then, as I’ve indicated more than a few times, I have no problem with that.

    Of course trust is part of assent/belief, that’s what trust means. As I just explained, trust is *belief* of propositions in the future tense, such as “he will be good to me” or “this bank will keep my money safe.” But , if you don’t like Clark or Robbins, Websters’ defines trust as the *belief* in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. Trust isn’t something in addition to belief. It is belief. If someone believes in Christ, they trust what he says is true. If they trust Christ, they believe what he says is true.

    But all that the Bible has to say which we shorthandedly call “trusting Christ” must be affirmed. This is why the Reformers saw “fiducia” as the completing element of “notitia” and “assensus.”

    And, I affirm that all should trust in Christ. But, again, I don’t see how the addition of fiducia adds anything to faith’s definition? Clark said it’s a tautological addition adding precisely nothing to our understanding of what faith is, i.e., faith simpliciter, and is the equivalent of saying faith is faith. I understand what some of the Reformers were doing and perhaps even why they did it, but this third element adds a level of ambiguity and confusion to faith’s definition that has allowed men like Leithart and Wilson to drive their FV truck through it. It was precisely at this point, this definition of faith, where they were able to completely snow Lane after his year long walk with Wilson through his abysmal book, Reformed is Not Enough.

    The Reformers, and divines, all knew too well that one might profess faith but not truly trust Christ.

    So, what? How does the addition of “fiducia” add to faith’s definition? How does it expose hypocrisy? Couldn’t you also say that one might profess trust in Christ without truly having faith?

    They focused as theologians (which they were–not philosophers–who saw philosophy in the service of theology, not the other way round) on what they saw as necessary and what they sometimes saw as lacking: people who said that they believed the articles of the faith but who did not trust Christ, made manifest ultimately by their lips and lives.

    Yes, hypocrites in the church are a problem. I’m sure Wilkins, Leithart, Meyers, Moon and others have fooled a lot of people and still do. But the problem is not in something missing inside of them that has failed to complete their belief thereby making it saving. The problem with these men lies in the propositions they believe along with the ones they reject like when they call imputation “redundant.” Now, these men certainly understand the articles of faith, specifically those laid down in the Confession, they just don’t assent to them as is obvious from their rotten fruit found in virtually everything they write.

    Sean, if you believe that all that goes under “trust” (“coming to Christ” and the like) is simply part of “assent,” then do we differ? But then you seem to deny in other places that what we call “trust” is really part of assen. I get that Dr. Clark was concerned about the evacuation of the intellectual from faith and the virus of Schleiermacher spreading further. I no less stand with him against such a de-intellectualized faith as do you.

    But, that’s just it Alan, you have affirmed the “de-intellectualization” of faith. You have said that faith is something more and not less than belief and then failed to explain exactly what this “something more” is. Your response has been to explain Confessional figures of speech with more figures of speech and then, when pressed some more, you claim faith is a “mystery” along the lines of the Trinity, the Incarnation, and God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. You have attacked me accusing me of “reductiontionism” even saying: “this intellectualized definition of faith is a significant departure from the teaching of the Reformation on the matter and rather deadly for our faith.”

    So, please, don’t say you stand with Clark against such a de-intellectualized faith when it’s clear you don’t do anything of the sort.

    My interest in not merely to dispute over words but to seek genuine agreement in the gospel.

    FWIW this is not a dispute over words. I hope I’ve made that clear.

  69. Hugh McCann Says:

    You might think the seemingly innocuous phrase “justification by belief alone” would be music to a Christian’s ear. But, you would be wrong.

    Indeed. Sean, you have laid it out repeatedly, most recently, @ 4:41pm, today.

    I call on you now to stop. Cease and desist, per Prov. 9:6-8, 14:6-8*, II John 9-11, Romans 16:17f, & Titus 3:10f.

    You have said more than enough times what is faith/ belief/ trust.
    You laid out what exactly is the gospel.
    You patiently parsed the Confession.
    You even [re-]quote Robbins!
    You explain the Scriptures.

    Yet, you are rejected.
    The truth is rejected.
    You all are mockingly maligned as “the belief-only crowd.”
    That says all one needs to know.

    Pro. 14:6 A scorner seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not: but knowledge is easy unto him that understandeth.
    7 Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge.
    8 The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way: but the folly of fools is deceit.

  70. justbybelief Says:

    “You are not well-advised to counsel me to be temperate, as if I’ve not been[...]”

    Comparing those that hold the Biblical definition of faith–that which is held here–with Arius and Eutyches is anything but “temperate.”

    Do you think we can’t understand what you’re saying?

    “[...]including having my faith in Christ called into question more than once.”

    If someone here were to question your salvation because you’ve condemned the gospel, holding an erroneous definition of ‘faith,’ he’d be in the right. If you’ve erred in your view and haven’t been corrected by those in the ivory tower, are they really the ones who love you? But, if you’ve been rightly rebuked, you ought to repent and consider with more respect those who are helping you to recover yourself.

    Do you believe that Christianity is simply a ‘go along to get along’ religion? Christians are to love truth above all else.

    It is right to dispute error? It is legitimate to condemn those who teach heresy. However, it seems, the only thing condemned in the modern ‘Reformed’ church is someone vigoursly defending truth. Gordon Clark, anyone? How about, John Robbins? According to the last so-called ‘shepherd’ I sat under in the OPC, who, by the way recommended I consider MARS, which I won’t, thought John Robbins to be overly acerbic for his tastes. Robbins may seem harsh to those who hold error but to those who love truth his words are quite comforting. Doesn’t this comport with Paul’s words about the message he preached and its aroma to the living and the dead (II Corinthians 2:15,16)? It’s tough when God’s word rubs our flesh the wrong way, yet it is necessary.

    “Perhaps, Sean, it would be best if you privately contact me (my address is on the seminary website).”

    My hope is that you keep this public, Sean.

    “There is no ‘consensus of the Reformed community’ if those who agree with Gordon H. Clark are regarded as part of the Reformed community.”

    It does not bother me one wit if I’m rejected by the ‘Reformed’ community over the definition of ‘faith.’ Those who believe the gospel will NOT be ashamed, no matter how much abuse has been heaped on them by teachers, so called.

    Eric

  71. Hugh McCann Says:

    Thanks, justby.

    As St Paul says, “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” (2 Tim. 3:13.)

    Seems he saw confusers as necessarily confused.

  72. Hugh McCann Says:

    Eric, Unless you meant a pun, it ought to be “one whit,” not “wit.” :)

    My take is ~per the Scriptures referred to @ 5:13pm~ that the time has long since come for Sean and others to knock the dust off their feet with regard to the likes of the obstinate Strange and pedantic DiGiacomo.

  73. Hugh McCann Says:

    I wonder sometimes if they denigrate reason and logic too much. In their reaction to Clark’s thinking, for instance, they exalt and revel in any and all kinds of mystery in the Christian faith, as if our minds were incapable of understanding anything as God’s own mind. Is there any limit at all to what human reason and logic can attain? Is there a Creator/ creature common knowledge? I’m not sure there is in their thinking. This (irrationalism) makes them so sure of their positions that they look down on people who differ from them in almost any way. There is almost no charity at all when they differ from someone. It is an arrogant rejection of legitimate religious certainty.

    Sean, this is bang-on: I don’t think these scholars see the lack of a clear definition in their theory or terms as defect. IMO it’s the heart of their religion.

    It begs the question, then: “IS THEIR RELIGION CHRISTIANITY?”

  74. Hugh McCann Says:

    The third sentence should read: “Is there any chance at all (in their system) that human reason and logic can attain anything?”

  75. justbybelief Says:

    Thanks, Hugh. I’m kicking the dust off as I type. To wit, I have no part with them.


  76. Dear Sean:

    It was only last month that I transcribed [The Text of a Complaint] and [The Answer] from the Clark-Van Til Controversy for my blog devoted to Gordon Clark.

    (And I thank you again for your earlier permission to do so. : – ) )

    So the issues of the Clark-Van Til Controversy are still quite fresh in my mind.

    Therefore, when I read your recent debate in “The Green Baggins”, I have a strange sense of deja vu.

    The theological issues are different, but using one’s view as a test of orthodoxy and driving the opponent out is the same.

    It is not without reason that in my post of (July 29, 2014 at 5:41 pm), I started out by referring to the Clark-Van Til Controversy.

    It is frightening how “the iniquities of the father are visiting on the children to the third and fourth generation.”

    The historical chain must be broken.

    So when Alan D. Strange posted here and seems conciliatory, I held out some hope.

    With his background as a Presbyterian churchman, I really hope he can rise to the occasion and start the ball on rapprochement rolling.

    I do not expect the Van Tilians to agree with Clark, but they should accept his view as a minority opinion within Reformed theology.

    This may or may not be that occasion.

    But I really hope the historical chain that binds the Van Tilians will eventually be broken.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  77. Alan D. Strange Says:

    Mr. Wong:

    Where I come from, when somone says in open forum to another that he “hopes” the two things that you wish, that’s taken as a polite way of advising. And I am happy to affirm that I have found your tone polite.

    It’s a bit much if I’ve been kicked by your side (which I and others have) to counsel temperateness. It’s more appropriate to say something like, “Granted that you’ve received abuse, I would plead with you to deal with Sean fairly.” But I’ve only ever differed with Sean; I’ve always sought to deal fairly with him.

    I’ve not intended to engage in abusive ad hominem. If I have at any point, I would like it pointed out so that I might seek to repent of such sin. I’ll not seek to detail that from others on your side as I realize that passions run high (all the putative logic notwithstanding) and love ought ever to seek to cover a multitude of sins.

    But more to the point, brother. If you read my post again, my specific reference is to the matter of Sean’s affirmation of JBBA, as he puts it ( I inadvertantly wrote JBFA, I note, in the previous post–sorry!). That’s what is not part of the consensus of the Reformed community. The “assent alone” position has no notable theological support of which I am aware.

    Now I say this to distinguish it more broadly from Dr. Clark’s epistemology, for example, and his rejection of analogical reasoning. There is much with respect to what Dr. Clark holds in that and other respects that, albeit a minority position, is, in my view, within the consensus of Reformed opinion.

    Now I realize that you might say, “Well this is all the same thing. Clark’s position on saving (or justifying faith) is the same as all the rest of his theology and philosophy.”No, I don’t think so and I don’t think, to name a few, that Carl Henry, Ronald Nash, and Robert Reymond would think so. These are men who would agree with Dr. Clark over against Van Til but that does not mean, as I recall, that they adopt this position on faith (I don’t have resources where I am so I can’t cite any).

    All that is to say that, while I am indeed a Van Tilian, I do not here seek to reprise the whole of that debate but to address rather narrowly the question of the precise nature of justifying faith. I do contend that these matters are all unrelated, but they are not the same. One may agree with and appreciate Dr. Clark in areas more central to his thought and differ with him on the nature of saving faith.

    And then there’s this, Sean:

    Strange: “And, further, why does the confession insist that justifying faith “not only assenteth to the truth…but receiveth and resteth?” This is a clear statement that receiving and resting upon Christ is something more than merely assenting.”

    Gerety: “See what you did? I have to think this was intentional and that by truncating this section while leaving out the immediate context you intend to give the impression that the Confession is asserting that “receiving and resting” is something IN ADDITION to assenting to the truth. But that is not what the Confession says and you know it. Yet, you chose to distort the Confession’s teaching on this critical point in order to support your conclusion that assent to or belief in the truth is not enough. This is a dishonest move and something that doesn’t reflect very well on either you, your position as a professor of church history, or your office.”

    I am sorry; I don’t follow you. How am I in any way misrepresenting the WLC? I’ve elsewhere cited the whole of this and carefully explicated it. Sean, I am not misrepresenting the WLC and you’ve alleged but never demonstrated it. And all the commentators that I’ve ever read on this agree with me. Please withdraw such allegations. I am not the one misrepresenting here, sir; you are.

  78. Alan D. Strange Says:

    I am behind in all this (busy day in my office, wedding last evening and so forth), especially having to shuttle between here and Green Baggins (GB).

    Speaking of GB, the reason that I’ve stepped back in this is I’ve wanted to give Sean an opportunity to clarify, lest I’ve misunderstood his position. I fear that it is as Ron D., over on GB, depicts it with regards to trust. Here’s what Ron wrote in #20 over there. Does he accurately represent your position on trust? That’s my question.

    Ron D on GB:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Assent always means to regard something as true.

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

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

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

    Brief observation:

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

    The right way in light of Clark:

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

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

  79. Sean Gerety Says:

    @Benjamin…

    It was only last month that I transcribed [The Text of a Complaint] and [The Answer] from the Clark-Van Til Controversy for my blog devoted to Gordon Clark.

    (And I thank you again for your earlier permission to do so. : – ) )

    Um, you never needed permission. I certainly hope I didn’t give any impression that you did. But, since you did transcribe them, if you have them in Word could you email them to me so I can link them on my sidebar? Charlie Ray transcribed them sometime back, but it was so riddled with typos that I couldn’t use it.

    I do not expect the Van Tilians to agree with Clark, but they should accept his view as a minority opinion within Reformed theology.

    I agree. In fact back on post #42 in that Greebaggins debate I said that while “I admit that Vantillians and Clarkians have very important and even insurmountable differences, this should not be one of them.”

    The sad fact is, and as you can see from this exchange, not only do Vantillians like Strange reject Clark’s Augustinian view of faith, but if you plow through Scott Clark’s 10 part discussion of faith he accuses Clark’s unambiguous and simple definition of “rationalism.” Typical. So, I don’t expect any rapprochement with Vantillians. They have a very clear agenda. The only good news is that there continues to be fewer and fewer of them. :)

  80. Sean Gerety Says:

    It’s a bit much if I’ve been kicked by your side (which I and others have) to counsel temperateness. It’s more appropriate to say something like, “Granted that you’ve received abuse, I would plead with you to deal with Sean fairly.” But I’ve only ever differed with Sean; I’ve always sought to deal fairly with him.

    You haven’t dealt fairly with me in the slightest, unless you consider repeatedly and falsely accusing me, not to mention Drs. Clark and Robbins, of “departing from the historic confessions and catechisms of the Reformation as well as the theologians of the Reformation” as fair. Then, when that wasn’t enough, you placed me on par with the heretics Arius and Eutyches simply because I maintain we are justified by belief alone.

    Then there are your supporters like Ron Henzel, one of the moderators at Greenbaggins, who, after comparing himself to the Apostle Peter, claims some non-existent divine “authority” which he thinks he has and by which he “withdraws” his “judgment of charity” towards me (which itself was a joke) while comparing me to “Simon the Sorcerer” (at least I’ve progress to an actual person rather than him simply implying that I’m a “jackass” who ought to “consider getting fitted for a saddle”).

    Meanwhile, DePace routinely and with Pharisaic self-righteousness censored my posts and accused me of “hawking” books for Trinity Foundation while letting my opponents spew the most vitriolic bile with impunity. Yes, I’m guilty of not always turning the other cheek. Unlike you and the rest of the cabal at Greenbaggins, I confess I am in daily need of more sanctifying grace.

    So, please, Alan, knock of this phony moral high ground act.

  81. Alan D. Strange Says:

    Sean,

    I did not place you on a par with Arius and Eutyches, though I noted that you were engaging in the kind of one-sided reasoning that they were. The comparison was meant to say that we don’t want to give way to rationalism, as that’s a path that has led to heresy in the history of the church. Perhaps it was an infelicitous and unhelpful comparison and I am happy to withdraw it if it squelches dialog and engagement.

    And as far as “departing” from the Reformed Standards and theologians, Sean, that’s hardly untrue and you yourself have demonstrated it time and again in these exchanges. Do you think that you can honestly maintain that your position on all of this is not at variance with the Reformed Confessions as a whole (I think of the 4 vv. RHB set edited by Jim Dennison)? Name one theologian, or denomination, who supports your position.

    And then any fair reader would not assert that you’ve adopted the same tone to me that I have to you, Sean. Look through the exchanges, folks, and see where I’ve poured the vitriol on you, Sean, that you’ve poured on me. This is not a matter of a “phony moral high ground.” It’s simply the case that I’ve not treated you with the opprobrium that you’ve treated me, and continue to treat me.

    It’s one thing to say that I think that you’re wrong (and even that the tendency of such rationalism is quite dangerous); it’s another altogether to respond with the sort of invidious invective that you have to me and others. I do not maintain, Sean, that strong things have not been said against you, but I also believe that you are, almost unfailingly, the one who started it (with respect to this exchange). You bring up JBBA when no one else is even talking about it and attempt to force the point.

    Yes, I freely admit that, apart from Christ, I am and have nothing. I don’t stand on moral high ground but only sinking sand. Christ and his righteousness is my only hope. But you seem, Sean, to lack the ability to be civil. And that’s not name calling, friend, you simply seem to lack it. Why? I don’t claim not to fail in it, but you don’t seem to show it in the most basic of ways. You almost always, after a short time at most, resort to vitriol.

    Sorry to speak to you this way on your own site but you seem incapable of carrying on a civil conversation. That truly puzzles and saddens me.

  82. Sean Gerety Says:

    I am sorry; I don’t follow you. How am I in any way misrepresenting the WLC? I’ve elsewhere cited the whole of this and carefully explicated it. Sean, I am not misrepresenting the WLC and you’ve alleged but never demonstrated it. And all the commentators that I’ve ever read on this agree with me. Please withdraw such allegations. I am not the one misrepresenting here, sir; you are.

    You very much misrepresented the Confession’s teaching when you rhetorically asked; “why does the confession insist that justifying faith ‘not only assenteth to the truth…but receiveth and resteth?'” That’s not what the Confession says. The Confession does not say “not only assenteth to the truth” universally considered or even in terms of the Gospel of Christ and His righteousness alone, and that there is something more than assent/belief that is needed in order to be saved. The Confession states that justifying faith “not only assents to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but ….”

    Where you and I differ, and this is something you know very well, is that you equate “the promise of the gospel” with the Gospel itself with the resulting error that you deny that we are justified by simple belief/faith alone. For you there must be some intangible and psychological addition to belief that gives rise to this three-part compound “faith.” You continually read *into* the Confession your three-fold definition when it isn’t there and you purposely misquote the Confession to give the impression that it supports your position when it does not.

    But, this is something that John Robbins tried to explain to you a long time ago when he wrote:

    There is an elementary confusion in this argument.

    First, Dr. Strange does not tell us what “receiving and resting upon Christ” means; that is, he does not tell us what he thinks saving faith is. Second, he does not tell us how “receiving and resting upon Christ” differs from believing the truths of the Gospel. He has substituted undefined terms for the clear language of both Scripture and the Westminster Standards. In this way, he obscures the truth of justification by faith alone.

    Now I judge Dr. Strange’s misreading of Q. 72 to be a common misunderstanding, caused in part by the omission of relevant words. Here is what Q. 72 says:

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

    Question 72 does indeed have a contrast in mind, but it is not contrasting assent with “receiving and resting,” as Dr. Strange mistakenly supposes. There are two reasons Dr. Strange’s contrast cannot be correct.

    First, “receiving and resting” are figures of speech, and “assenting” is literal language. “Receiving and resting” mean “assenting.” Dr. Strange has made the common theological error of taking a figure of speech as literal. Incidentally, that is why he fails to offer any definition of “receiving and resting” that differentiates them from assent. In fact, they are not different, but metaphorical expressions of the literal word, “assent.”

    The second reason that Q. 72 is not contrasting “assenting” with “receiving and resting” is that the authors of the Westminster Standards have a different contrast in mind. Reading the Standards with subjectivist presuppositions, Dr. Strange supposes they are contrasting differing psychologies of faith (assent vs. receiving and resting), when they are actually contrasting the truths believed. Psychology was not on the minds of the Westminster Assembly, but making clear what truths had to be believed in order to be saved was. Dr. Strange forgets that the word “faith” has two distinct meanings, one objective and one subjective. The Standards are contrasting belief in the “promise of the Gospel,” that is, in the truth of eternal life, with belief in the “righteousness [of Christ] for pardon of sin, and the accepting and accounting of his person righteous.” They are making clear that the sinner must not only believe in (assent to) salvation from sin and eternal life (which they call the “promise of the Gospel”), but that he must also believe in (assent to) the imputed righteousness of Christ in order to be saved. Their concern is that the proper object of faith is believed, not that some undefined and nebulous mental state must be added to belief in order to make it efficacious. Their message is that belief in eternal life and pardon from sin is not saving faith, but to that must be added belief in Christ and his righteousness as the sole means of obtaining eternal life.

    The Westminster Standards clearly teach that the object of faith, Christ and his imputed righteousness, not our subjective mental state, is what saves us. Dr. Strange, like so many today, reads the Westminster Standards with his subjectivist glasses on, and thereby misses and misrepresents what they teach.

  83. Pht Says:

    Alan D. Strange Says:

    August 1, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    I’ve written previously about all of these matters, Pht, including WLC 73, which is not at variance with WLC 72 (trust is not an accompanying grace of faith–evangelical repentance, e.g., is, even as good works are its fruits). I am not interested in reprising all of that here.

    Where did you write on these things? Do you have a link or such on hand?


  84. Dear Mr. Strange:

    1. Just to let you know that although I have been active in discussions in the last week, this might be my last post for the next while.

    Yesterday was my last day of “holiday” and I have to be back at work on my projects the coming Monday.

    2. You wrote: “Where I come from, when somone says in open forum to another that he “hopes” the two things that you wish, that’s taken as a polite way of advising. And I am happy to affirm that I have found your tone polite.”

    I am glad you have found my tone polite. : – )

    I come from a culture where people often communicate indirectly through signals, hints, and even insinuations.

    One often has to read between the lines in order to understand what the other person is saying.

    I may not have succeeded, but I tried very hard to be a straight shooter.

    So when I wrote “hope”, I mean “hope”.

    3. You wrote: “It’s a bit much if I’ve been kicked by your side (which I and others have) to counsel temperateness. It’s more appropriate to say something like, ‘Granted that you’ve received abuse, I would plead with you to deal with Sean fairly.’ But I’ve only ever differed with Sean; I’ve always sought to deal fairly with him.”

    I did not “counsel temperateness”.

    What I “hoped” have very little to do with “temperateness”:

    (a) that you will keep this debate an academic exchange and not to make your view into a test of orthodoxy.

    (b) that you will accept Gordon Clark’s view on this matter as a minority view within Reformed theology.

    (c) that you will not try to place Sean outside Reformed theological orthodoxy again.

    Although I do not have a “thirst for blood”, I enjoy vigorous polemics in a debate.

    Depending on the settings and whom you are debating with, a debate can be many things to many people.

    Since a person enters a debate on his own free decision, those whose egos are easily hurt maybe should stay away from debates?

    “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”, so the maxim goes.

    As I have stated, tempers were flared on both sides of the aisle.

    Was Sean “kicked by the side” by Reed DePace?

    I believe so.

    When you wrote: “It’s more appropriate to say something like, ‘Granted that you’ve received abuse, I would plead with you to deal with Sean fairly.’ But I’ve only ever differed with Sean; I’ve always sought to deal fairly with him.”

    It does not become you.

    It sounds like whining from someone with a damaged ego.

    4. You wrote: “I’ve not intended to engage in abusive ad hominem. If I have at any point, I would like it pointed out so that I might seek to repent of such sin. I’ll not seek to detail that from others on your side as I realize that passions run high (all the putative logic notwithstanding) and love ought ever to seek to cover a multitude of sins.”

    I do appreciate your intention not to engage in abusive ad hominem.

    5. Since this may be my last post for the next while, I will stay away from the substantial issues you raised.

    I do not want to start something I cannot finish.

    6. Mr. Strange, I honestly hope that as a Presbyterian churchman, you can rise to the occasion (and above any abuses you have received) and start the ball on rapprochement rolling between the Clarkian and Van Tilians.

    Take off your Van Tilian hat and put on your scholar hat:

    Is it true that *no* evidence has been produced to show that “justification by believe alone” is a legitimate but minority position?

    Acknowledging Gordon H. Clark’s view on this matter as a minority opinion in Reformed theology will be a big first step in rapprochement.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin Wong

  85. Alan D. Strange Says:

    Thanks, Sean, for recalling what Dr. Robbins wrote. It’s helpful to have that before us.

    But I still maintain that I am not misrepresenting the Divines in any sense. I would like to know what evidence exists for Dr. Robbins’ tortuous reading of the Divines here. Can anyone cite anything in any of the Divine’s writings that would support such a reading? Has a single commentator subsequently read the Divines this way?

    The Westminster Standards, like any confession, are thought to contain few obscurities. Unlike those things in Paul that may be difficult to understand, doctrinal standards seek to put plainly, in summary form, what Scripture teaches.

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

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

    Sean, if you can show me evidence that any Divine believed the interpretation that Dr. Robbins gave of this, or that any theologians or commentators subsequently have believed it, I will reconsider what I’ve said about your interpretation and approach being outside of the Reformed tradition.

  86. pht Says:

    … this was the only thing I could find…

    Alan D. Strange said,

    February 24, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    Wes is correct: the distinction between faith and faithfulness is crucial. Westminster Larger Catechism 73, as has been mentioned, makes this crucial distinction clear.

    However, justifying faith is also not “belief alone.” Westminster is quite clear on this as well: “justifying faith… not only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receiveth and resteth upon Christ and his righteousness” (WLC 72). This which is more than mere assent is what all the Reformers, to a man, called “fiducia”–trust.

    While it is wrong to fatten faith by identifying it with the other evangelical graces that always accompany it, or the fruit that it always produces, as WLC 73 notes, it is also wrong to emaciate it by removing trust and reducing it merely to assent, per WLC 72.

    Faith is knowledge, assent, and trust. We may not respond to the error of identifying faith and faithfulness by defining justifying faith as “belief or assent alone,” absent trust. For more on this see my review of Gordon Clark’s What is Saving Faith? at http://www.midamerica.edu/resources/journal/15/reviews.pdf.

    http://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/fv-faith-faithfulness/

    It’s comment number 24.

  87. Alan D. Strange Says:

    Mr. Wong, you wrote: “Since a person enters a debate on his own free decision, those whose egos are easily hurt maybe should stay away from debates?

    “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”, so the maxim goes.

    As I have stated, tempers were flared on both sides of the aisle.

    Was Sean “kicked by the side” by Reed DePace?

    I believe so.

    When you wrote: “It’s more appropriate to say something like, ‘Granted that you’ve received abuse, I would plead with you to deal with Sean fairly.’ But I’ve only ever differed with Sean; I’ve always sought to deal fairly with him.”

    It does not become you.

    It sounds like whining from someone with a damaged ego.”

    Well, the polite tone was nice while it lasted! You at least waited a while, sir, before becoming personal, but such psychologizing really does not have a part of such exchanges.

    I’ve noted above that Sean often seems unable to be civil. That’s not psychologizing but simply observing what’s evident on the surface. It’s just a matter of fact that the way that Sean and allies have conducted themselves here and elsewhere in this discussion is full of vitriol. I have not engaged you gentlemen in the same way. Who is not able to distinguish the difference? I am not whining, Mr. Wong. I am pointing this out, and now you yourself, an otherwise polite gentleman, have resorted to an odd sort of psychoanalysis of me, really quite peculiar from a follower of Dr. Clark.

  88. pht Says:

    Found a bit more.

    http://www.google.com/search?q=alan+strange+%22wlc+73%22+faith

    Looks like I have a bit of wading to do.

  89. Sean Gerety Says:

    I did not place you on a par with Arius and Eutyches, though I noted that you were engaging in the kind of one-sided reasoning that they were. The comparison was meant to say that we don’t want to give way to rationalism, as that’s a path that has led to heresy in the history of the church. Perhaps it was an infelicitous and unhelpful comparison and I am happy to withdraw it if it squelches dialog and engagement.

    I appreciate that Alan. It was unhelpful as well as being inaccurate.

    And as far as “departing” from the Reformed Standards and theologians, Sean, that’s hardly untrue and you yourself have demonstrated it time and again in these exchanges.

    Actually, I think it’s precisely the reverse Alan and this was something that Benjamin noticed too in his summary of our debate. You have only asserted that I have departed from the Reformed Standard, but you have nowhere demonstrated it and your reading of WLC 72 is hardly tenable. Dr. Robbins called it “impossible.”

    As for Reformed theologians, this isn’t true either as there has been no real consensus on how faith is defined or even if saving faith is a subspecies of faith simpliciter or something different entirely. For example, Andy Webb says that the emotion of love is what completes faith and makes it saving and that this is the “fiducial” element; the sine-qua-non of saving faith. Webb writes:

    Fiducia is the hardest element of saving faith to define because it involves intangibles that may be perceived or apprehended without being fully comprehended. An example of this would be the often quoted example that while Assensus or theoretical agreement refers to an agreement in one’s “head”, Fiducia or practical agreement refers to an agreement in one’s “heart.” Heart in this case obviously does not mean the muscle that pumps blood throughout the body, but rather the human will or soul. Fiducia therefore mingles the emotion of love with trust, inclination, and agreement.

    So for Webb, and I guess you, to be saved one most emote. Again, this grave and very un-Reformed error asserts that there must be some intangible psychological change or feeling within us in order to be saved, and not simply the apprehension of Christ’s finished work alone completely outside of us and for us. This view of saving faith, which is all too common, turns the focus from the object believed toward the subjective state of mind and emotions of the believer. How much of this “emotion of love” is sufficient and that must be mingled with trust, inclination, agreement or whatever in order to be saved? And, how do I know if I’m having this emotion since the Scriptures nowhere defines love as an emotion?

    But, it’s the ambiguity that Webb admits that is entailed in “fiducia” that is the problem. I just can’t believe you can’t see this as a problem! While Webb is busy mingling emotions with who-knows-what, the FV men are not ambiguous at all about what “fiducia” means. For them it means being faithful. For them this is the obedience of faith and not simple belief in the Gospel alone for salvation. They agree with you that something more than belief alone is needed, only where you fumble around in meaningless metaphors and the mystery of darkness, they can actually explain what they mean.

    I do not maintain, Sean, that strong things have not been said against you, but I also believe that you are, almost unfailingly, the one who started it (with respect to this exchange). You bring up JBBA when no one else is even talking about it and attempt to force the point.

    Give me a break Alan. This one is entirely on you. I was involved in a discussion about Thornwell’s view concerning the imagined validity of Roman baptism and because I happened to use the phrase, justification by belief alone, you pounced on me completely out of the blue (see starting at post #21 at Greenbaggins). Even knowing our past disagreements you couldn’t let it slide asserting: “Justifying faith is never less than assent or belief, but it is always more than that–it is a receiving and resting upon Christ that is commonly denominated ‘trust.’” Then you end your comment by proclaiming, “I’ll never stop contending for what I believe to the biblical and confessional witness to the nature of justifying faith!” — as if JFBA is un-biblical and un-confessional when the Scriptures everywhere proclaim, believe the Gospel and you will be saved.

    Sorry to speak to you this way on your own site but you seem incapable of carrying on a civil conversation. That truly puzzles and saddens me.

    I think I have been very civil given the overwhelming abuse I suffered from you and the others at Greenbaggins, even getting the left-foot-of-fellowship from Lane who banned me from commenting on his blog. At times and in the heat of things I realize that I may have crossed the line and could have been more irenic and politic and where I have crossed the line I apologize. I don’t hate you Alan, but I think you are wrong and that your error has already had enormous and deadly consequences for the Church, as witnessed by the recent FV debacle.

    But, it goes both ways Alan as you conveniently gloss over your attacks on me as a dangerous un-Reformed “ratiionalist” simply because I have defined my terms clearly and unambiguously and have applied them consistently. You are just as guilty for making this far more personal than it needs to be. Besides, it truly puzzles and saddens me too that any man calling himself “Reformed” would reject justification by belief alone in light of the clear teachings of Scripture already adduced. It’s as absurd as it is tragic.

  90. justbybelief Says:

    “Because straight is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and [FEW] there be that find it.”

    It is only through the biblical definition of faith, which Clark plumbs from the pages of scripture, that we have a clear understanding of grace.

    “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.”

    I’ve come to the conclusion that ultimately it is the grace of God with which our opponents take issue.

    Through their definitions, or lack thereof, they seek to bring confusion where God has brought clarity. It is no wonder that a wolf will attack a sheep or a false teacher disguise himself to undermine the word of Christ.

    Just as I have seen with Lutheran pastors when they are confronted with the truth, it is the same with many ‘Reformed’ pastors and teachers, they love the praise of men more than that of God. They’d rather embrace a lie than give up their position.

    Eric

  91. Hugh McCann Says:

    Eric, (y)

  92. Alan D. Strange Says:

    Sean, you wrote: “Actually, I think it’s precisely the reverse Alan and this was something that Benjamin noticed too in his summary of our debate. You have only asserted that I have departed from the Reformed Standard, but you have nowhere demonstrated it and your reading of WLC 72 is hardly tenable. Dr. Robbins called it ‘impossible.'”

    Sean,

    No, I have not simply asserted that you’ve departed from the Reformed Standards. I’ve demonstrated it by giving an interpretation of the relevant place (WLC 72) and showing it to be in harmony with the Westminster Divines and Reformed commentators thereupon. I’ve asked you to produce a single divine or commentator who agrees with Dr. Robbins’ interpretation, which I called “tortuous,” because the doctrinal standards are not written to be read in such a convoluted fashion. Doctrinal standards are meant to be read in a clear, straightforward fashion and that’s my (and everyone else’s) way of reading this. Clearly it is a case of special pleading in which you and Dr. Robbins attempted to enlist Westminster in your support but no one else interprets Westminster that way.

    We are not free to call ourselves Reformed and Presbyterian if we interpret the Confessions that pertain to such in a way that is at variance with everyone else within the tradition. The animus imponentis is important here, which is to say, how the church reads her own standards is crucial. I am not free to read the church’s standards at variance from everyone else in the church and say that I am rightly reading them and that everyone else’s read is “hardly tenable” or “impossible.”

    This is the air of unreality, Sean, that hangs over these assertions, coupled with the often-acerbic nature of your defense, and it’s a strange brew indeed. It is indeed you who are at variance with the Standards and other than offering Dr. Robbins’ singular interpretation of WLC 72 (again, who else believes this among theologians and interpreters?), you have simply not done anything to show otherwise.

    Even Mr. Wong concedes this when he admits the following:

    “Is it true that *no* evidence has been produced to show that “justification by believe alone” is a legitimate but minority position?

    Acknowledging Gordon H. Clark’s view on this matter as a minority opinion in Reformed theology will be a big first step in rapprochement.”

    In other words, Mr. Wong concedes that only Dr. Clark’s view is offered as evidence. No Divines are cited (who would take Dr. Robbins’ view of their own writing). No Reformed theologians are adduced. Only a 20th c. Christian philosopher (and his followers) is adduced. And on that basis we are to accord it legitimate status.

    I’ve shown that my interpretation is the standard one among students of the Westminster Divines and of the history of the interpretation of WLC in the churches since the time of its adoption. Dr. Robbins’ view is novel and to call mine “impossible” is to say “I differ with the way that this is constructed in and by the Reformed faith.” As a Protestant I have no problem being told that we’ve misread the Scriptures and arguing from that perspective. But I’m told by you and Dr. Robbins that not only do you differ from my interpretation of WLC 72 (and mine is the standard one) but that this standard interpretation is “impossible.”

    Why not be more candid here and say, “WLC 72 got it wrong and we campaign to correct it on the basis of our correct read of Scripture?” You have to twist WLC 72 to your own ends to agree with it. I simply affirm it as has everyone else, not giving it an odd read, but a simple, clear read.

  93. justbybelief Says:

    Hugh,

    I think you asked me ‘why.’ If so, I must admit that I just couldn’t help myself. Please accept my deepest regrets.

    But again, Isn’t it truly amazing how much the natural man rails against grace.

    Eric

  94. Hugh McCann Says:

    Eric, No, no. I was attempting merely to post the thumbs-up symbol, in agreement with your 11:29am entry.

    “(y)” in Facebook-speak does that.

  95. justbybelief Says:

    ““(y)” in Facebook-speak[...]”

    Uh oh, i’ve been found out! ;-)

    You can say it, Hugh, it was a Freudian slip, I really know what you meant: “Our gospel (God’s, really) has a ‘y’ chromosome theirs does not.”

    Eric

  96. Sean Gerety Says:

    No, I have not simply asserted that you’ve departed from the Reformed Standards. I’ve demonstrated it by giving an interpretation of the relevant place (WLC 72) and showing it to be in harmony with the Westminster Divines and Reformed commentators thereupon.

    1) I have already conceded that the three-fold definition is the majority report among many Reformed commentators. This includes Andy Webb’s discussion of the majority view which you, for some reason, haven’t addressed. I grant yours is the majority view, but as I’ve explained repeatedly it is irrational and equivocal nonsense.

    2) I don’t grant for a second that the Westminster Divines were adding some undefined emotional or psychological element to faith’s definition as you have done. They weren’t adding to simple faith Andy Webb’s nebulous “emotion of love” as that which makes faith saving either. They were saying that belief in the promise of the gospel wasn’t enough; one must also believe in Christ alone as the basis for their pardon of sin and righteousness. You *think* they were expressing the three-fold definition of faith, but if that’s what they were advancing in WLC 72 it is the most cryptic and occult way of expressing this idea imaginable.

    Now, maybe some of them might advance the three fold view in some of their other works, but it’s not found in WLC 72. You can’t infer some “fiducial” third element from their definition of justifying faith because it’s not found in any of their premises. You merely assert that to “receive and rest” is this third element, but then fail to say what that is.

    Frankly, in our previous debate you admit that the word “trust” wasn’t used in the Confession and that you wouldn’t be a “stickler” about it, but being a stickler is exactly what you turned out to be. You simply will not give an inch. It’s very tiresome. You say that my (Clark’s) intellectualizing of faith’s definition is “dangerous,” but you don’t explain how or why? Whereas, I have shown repeatedly how the ambiguity inherent in the threefold definition is dangerous and why the failure to clearly define your terms and in literal language is a threat to Christ’s sheep (not least of which undermining a Christian’s assurance) and how it has been exploited with great success by Christ’s enemies.

    So, unless you have some actual arguments to advance and not just more bald assertions that come across as condescending and self-serving, then I think we’re done.

  97. Alan D. Strange Says:

    You continue, Sean, to evade my question about producing divines or theologians who agree with Dr. Robbins’ tortuous reading of WLC 72. You say that my reading is “hardly tenable,” and recall that Dr. Robbins said that it was “impossible.”

    And then you seek to shift the focus of the argument with me to things that I’ve not said (whatever Andy Webb) said and to throw dust in the jury’s eyes by refusing to read the Westminster Divines in a way that their writings and Assembly debate made it clear that they intended to be read and that the Presbyterian Church since then has read them.

    My view is not simply the majority view, it is the only view recognized as properly interpreting WLC 72. I am camping on this because you refuse to admit that you differ from WLC 72 when all the evidence proves that you do. The only evidence offered to the contrary is a convoluted reading of Dr. Robbins that can nowhere else be found.

    It is rather amazing to take a singular position on something and call it a minority position (and I am not talking about anything here but this matter having to do with justifying faith), when it is, in fact, an idiosyncrasy, an oddity that is seriously at variance with what the article says. Not only does no one take this reading of WLC 72, which you call patent and obvious, but your reading of it stands the catechism question on its head. Clearly, it’s put in the form that it’s in so as to challenge those who would have only an intellectual view of the faith. Much could be shown to show that this is an interest of the Divines (that they speak of an invisible church and give a whole chapter to the “communion of the saints” highlights their concern for the “heart”).

    I’ve engaged you men for some time now, Sean, and given you every opportunity to justify your reading of WLC 72 and you’ve not done so, other than to give a tortuous reading that you acknowledge no else gives, yet you call the standard reading “irrational and equivocal nonsense.”

    This means, that on this vital issue, you regard the Reformed faith (confessions, theologians, preachers, etc) as propounding “irrational and equivocal nonsense” and that you alone (and the few with you) rightly interpret WLC 72, though no one agrees with you.

    Are you prepared to come before the judgment throne and maintain these things as you have in these exhanges? How certain are you that you (and the few with you) are right and all the rest of us are wrong? And I know that you consider this self-serving and condescending. No, it’s not Sean. It’s the truth. And it’s what WLC 72 manifestly teaches though you seek to stand it on its head and rob it of its evident meaning as the Presbyterian churches through the centuries have confessed.


  98. Dear Mr. Strange:

    1. I want to properly end my participation in this thread, but you quote me out of context and contrary to my intentions.

    This forces me to make clarifications which I rather not do.

    2. You wrote:

    “Even Mr. Wong concedes this when he admits the following: ‘Is it true that *no* evidence has been produced to show that “justification by believe alone” is a legitimate but minority position? Acknowledging Gordon H. Clark’s view on this matter as a minority opinion in Reformed theology will be a big first step in rapprochement.’ ”

    The reason why I pose the question:

    “Is it true that *no* evidence has been produced to show that “justification by believe alone” is a legitimate but minority position?”

    is because you wrote in (August 1, 2014 at 1:26 pm):

    “While it is true that I regard Sean as holding, with respect to this, a position that is contrary to Scripture, confession, and the Reformed theologians, I’ve never questioned whether he is a Christian or not. No evidence has been produced to show that JBFA as he puts and defines it is a legitimate but minority position. This is not merely my personal view but the consensus of the Reformed community.”

    I was alluding to your: “No evidence has been produced to show that JBFA as he puts and defines it is a legitimate but minority position.”

    Sean, Denson and Roger have produced a lot of Biblical and others evidence for the “justification by believe alone” view.

    I hope my question, which is in part rhetorical, will lead to you reflect and come to the conclusion that there *are* evidences for the “justification by believe alone” view.

    3. The reason why I consider Gordon Clark’s position a minority position is because, as far as I am able to tell, Van Tilians outnumbered Clarkians.

    The “minority” refers to numbers and nothing more.

    4. You wrote: “In other words, Mr. Wong concedes that only Dr. Clark’s view is offered as evidence.”

    I concede no such thing.

    Mr. Strange, after such a long debate, have you really not reflect on any of the substantial amount of evidence you opponents adduced?

    Your disagreeing with your opponent’s evidence does not mean you opponents thereby have no evidence.

    I sometimes find the way you conduct debate baffling.

    5. A further thought for you to consider.

    John R. Richardson wrote in the Introduction to Gordon Clark’s [What Do Presbyterian Believe? (1965)]:

    “In our day of renewed interest in Biblical theology it is well to remember that the primary rule these servants of Christ [Westminster Divines] laid down for themselves, to guide in all their discussions, was: ‘What any man undertakes to prove as necessary, he shall make good out of Scripture.’ Every member was required to take the following vow, and it is read to all of the members every Monday morning: ‘I do seriously promise and vow, in the presence of Almighty God, that in this Assembly whereof I am a member, I will maintain nothing in point of doctrine but what I believe to be most agreeable to the Word of God; nor in point of discipline, but what may make most for God’s glory and the peace and good of His church.”

    Does it not follow that we can appeal to the Bible, especially the Bible verses the Westminster Divines used as proof-text, to interpret the Westminster Confession and Catechisms?

    Since the Westminster Confession and Catechisms are meant to summarize the Bible, the Bible in turn can be used to determine what the Westminster Confessions and Catechisms mean.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin Wong


  99. Dear Sean:

    You wrote: “Um, you never needed permission. I certainly hope I didn’t give any impression that you did. But, since you did transcribe them, if you have them in Word could you email them to me so I can link them on my sidebar? Charlie Ray transcribed them sometime back, but it was so riddled with typos that I couldn’t use it.”

    The transcription for [The Text of a Complaint]:

    http://notes-on-gordon-h-clark.blogspot.ca/2014/07/document-1944-text-of-complaint.html

    The transcription for [The Answer]:

    http://notes-on-gordon-h-clark.blogspot.ca/2014/07/document-1944-answer.html

    Both WebPages are copy and pastable.

    Please copy and paste the transcriptions into a Word file yourself. : – )

    I really like to see both documents read by more people.

    The performance by Cornelius Van Til and his associates were not inspiring.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin

  100. Alan D. Strange Says:

    Mr. Wong:

    It’s simply not the case that those on your side of the aisle have produced any evidence whatsoever that interpreters of WLC 72, or Reformed theologians more broadly, have adopted a position that is consonant with your side.

    It’s the Reformed confessions and the churches that hold them that define what the Reformed faith is. You and Sean and others may allege that the Reformed faith has gotten it wrong on this point and that WLC 72 has departed from Scripture. It seems to me that that is really the honorable course to take: admit that you differ from WLC 72 and seek to show how the Scriptures teach to the contrary.

    Instead, because those on your side insist that they are Reformed (confessional) on this point, you are forced to a convoluted interpretation of WLC 72. I’ve asked you to produce those that agree with this tortuous reading of WLC 72 and not a single name has been produced, except among those who are coming from having read Dr. Clark here. You’ve been forced to an unnatural reading of WLC 72 and to label those who read it as we all have down through the centuries as being “irrational” and as believing “equivocal nonsense,” having an “impossible” reading of WLC 72.

  101. Sean Gerety Says:

    @ Benjamin. Thanks!


  102. Dear Mr. Strange:

    1. You wrote: “It’s the Reformed confessions and the churches that hold them that define what the Reformed faith is.”

    Westminster Confession of Faith 1.10:

    “The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture”

    I believe the Westminster Confession 1.10 legitimize the dialectic move to appeal to the Bible to settle the interpretation of the Westminster Larger Catechism.

    Sean, Denson and Roger have appeal to the Bible many times over.

    You have yet to rebut their appeal to the Bible.

    The Calvinist thing to do in controversies is to appeal to the Bible.

    The Reformed faith is not defined by the Reformed confessions.

    The Reformed faith is defined by the Bible; the Confessions are only secondary standards.

    This point is elementary to the Reformed faith.

    I am really baffled by your continuous attempt to place Sean outside Reformed theological orthodoxy.

    Can you understand why so many of us are not convinced by you?

    2. My niece gives birth to a baby boy this morning and our families are in celebration.

    I hope I can properly sign off this thread for now.

    Sincerely,

    Benjamin Wong

  103. Hugh McCann Says:

    Justification by Trust Alone

    Dr Strange offers a helpful & telling quote:

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

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

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

    As WLC 72 saith of saving faith that it “not only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receiveth and resteth upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.”

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

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

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

    Your WCF 14:2 saith: “The principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.”

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

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

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

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

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

  104. Sean Gerety Says:

    Are you prepared to come before the judgment throne and maintain these things as you have in these exhanges? How certain are you that you (and the few with you) are right and all the rest of us are wrong?

    FWIW the only tortured reading of WLC 72 is your own. It’s pure speculative fantasy as the words you need to support your thesis are not there. You cannot draw inferences out of thin air and on your own authority proclaim them sound. Robbins’ reading is not only the more natural reading, but it makes perfect sense and he’s not left with meaningless metaphors hanging in air.

    To your questions. Are you prepared to come before the judgment throne and deny justification by belief alone when our Lord unequivocally and without reservation teaches this very thing along with his Apostles? So, I am certain that I am right and the rest of you are wrong, because what I have argued is what the Scriptures teach and that all who believe Jesus’ words, his doctrines, his Gospel, are saved. No emoting or other anti-intellectual existential gymnastics necessary.

    Those who deny salvation by belief alone will have a lot to answer for.

    And I know that you consider this self-serving and condescending.

    :)

  105. Alan D. Strange Says:

    Sean,

    I didn’t say anyone had a tortured reading. I said a tortuous reading. Not the same thing.

    And Mr. Wong, I agree entirely with the appeal to Scripture as the ultimate determiner of controversy and that which properly defines the faith.

    But that’s not the point that I begin to raise some time (even years) back: it was the point that I and the Reformed tradition wrongly read WLC 72 and Dr. Robbins rightly read it. We’ve seen time and again here that Dr. Robbins’ reading is a singular one and my reading is the standard reading of our churches. It’s not simply my reading (as was Dr. Robbins simply his) but my reading is in line with and consonant with historic, confessional Presbyterianism.

    Now if you wish to argue that Presbyterianism has gotten it wrong, then you can’t properly say, at the same time, that WLC 72 is correct and in line with your thinking when you must give WLC a convulted interpretation to arrive at your idiosyncratic reading.

    You all say that WLC 72 supports your position and when it’s pointed out that it does only on a tortuous reading, you then shift the ground of argument and say that you have the Scripture in your favor. I don’t concede that you have the Scripture in your favor, but if you would concede that WLC 72 is not in your favor then we could look at your claims as to whether it should be revised or not.

    Acknowledge that you differ with it, and offer amendment(s), so that the WLC can reflect what you believe the Bible teaches. As it is, it reflects that we (historic confessional Reformed churches)believe the Bible teaches something different than you think that it teaches.

    Warmest congratulations, Mr. Wong, on the birth of your grand-nephew!

  106. justbybelief Says:

    Spiritual sight comes from the Lord alone. Perhaps the Lord will grant those that oppose themselves to His glorious grace, eyes to see.

    If the scriptures state clearly in only one place that a person (human) is justified by belief (assent) alone in Christ alone (and it does), and the scripture cannot be broken, then the scriptures will not violate `themselves,` contradicting this doctrine, in another place. So why do men feel that they should inovate where the scriptures are concerned?

    “Indeed, has God said[...]?”

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

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

    Eric

  107. Sean Gerety Says:

    Acknowledge that you differ with it, and offer amendment(s), so that the WLC can reflect what you believe the Bible teaches.

    The WLC is just fine the way it is written. It is your “tortuous” reading of it that is not. BTW, ad populum is a fallacy and thank you for your correction.

  108. Sean Gerety Says:

    The Van Tillian is unwilling to reconcile the statements in scripture ….

    That’s because the Vantillian thinks the statements in Scripture are irreconcilable. Only God can reconcile his revelation to us, but they don’t know that either.

    As for Manton, Owen and the rest. Yes, they often said contradictory things regarding the nature of faith and saving faith, but if you read carefully Clark’s analysis of Hodge and Calvin in particular, they mostly had it right unlike the modern “Watchmen of Israel.” After all, Calvin called saving faith a “pious assent.” But, then, the Reformers had so many big fish to fry that sometime a careful analysis of some of the details had to wait. Also, IMO the problem is, in part, that Latin has never served the church very well which is why pistis should have been translated belief and not faith.

  109. Alan D. Strange Says:

    Ad populum is a fallacy when seeking to establish the truth of a matter. So we don’t count noses if your claim is merely “assent alone is what the Bible teaches.”

    We do, however, count noses if the claim is that WLC 72 means something different than what the Divines and the Reformed Church has meant by it. AND THIS IS YOUR CLAIM. One does not get to have a singular, tortuous interpretation, then make the claim that that’s clearly the right interpretation, and then say all your fellows in the Reformed faith are wrong.

    It’s a fallacy to keep shifting the ground of the argument back and forth from Scripture to Confession as it suits your purpose. Both original intent and animus imponentis go into confessional interpretation. If you wish to say “the Scriptures teach assent alone, though everyone, including WLC 72, missed it,” then I agree that ad populum would be quite beside the point because you are alleging that we’ve all missed it and you alone got it right. Is that a possibility? Yes, but not in this case (in which none of the assent-alone case has been proven).

    There is nothing at all ad populum, however, about pointing out that you disagree with the authors and the interpreters of the Westminster Standards.

    Ron had it right over on GB at #44.

  110. Sean Gerety Says:

    We do, however, count noses if the claim is that WLC 72 means something different than what the Divines and the Reformed Church has meant by it. AND THIS IS YOUR CLAIM.

    So, Alan, where are ALL the citations from the men who actually penned the WCF and LC 72 stating that to “receive and rest” means something in addition to belief and that saving faith is in fact beyond belief?

    Where did they affirm some non-intellectual disposition or emotion that must be infused in a sinner first before he can be saved?

    Where did one of these men say, like you, that a man is not justified by belief alone and that something more “heartfelt” is needed?

    Given that your wrap yourself in this mythical multitude, you would think by now you would have actually quoted ONE of the Westminster divines explaining exactly what they meant by “receive and rest.” To think after all this time you could have made even Drs. Robbins and Clark, you’re intellectual superiors in every respect, look stupid. And, to think you wouldn’t have to look so stupid yourself defending a claim that you can’t demonstrate. I mean, maybe the divines were as confused as you are and they can’t explain it either, but how did you miss this opportunity?

    One does not get to have a singular, tortuous interpretation, then make the claim that that’s clearly the right interpretation, and then say all your fellows in the Reformed faith are wrong.

    What you need to do Alan, since you are a purported professor of church history, is to provide citations from the actual divines at Westminster proving that Robbins/Clark are wrong. Given the divines have written so much on what they meant by “receive and rest” and that all Reformed men everywhere have always been united in their understanding of faith and saving faith, this must be an easy task. So why haven’t you done it?

    It’s a fallacy to keep shifting the ground of the argument back and forth from Scripture to Confession as it suits your purpose.

    Now you’re just lying. I have been consistent from the beginning, and, frankly, haven’t shifted my ground regarding Scripture or the Confession in the slightest. Unlike most Vantiliians I’ve met in my life, I’m one of the easiest targets you’ll ever find, yet you just can’t seem to shoot straight.

    Besides, I thought the Confession contained the very system of doctrine taught in Scripture? I admit even the divines at Westminster were fallible men and made mistakes (otherwise the Confession would have never been amended), but I’m hard pressed to believe that you need to do something more than believe in Christ alone and His righteousness alone imputed to us in order to be saved. I honestly don’t think the Confession writers were at odds with the the biblical teaching already adduced on this matter above, whereas you are.

    Both original intent and animus imponentis go into confessional interpretation. If you wish to say “the Scriptures teach assent alone, though everyone, including WLC 72, missed it,” then I agree that ad populum would be quite beside the point because you are alleging that we’ve all missed it and you alone got it right.

    What do you mean “we all”? You mean you, Ron D and Doug Wilson’s buddy Lane Keister? When someone attempts to show original intent, they usually quote one of the authors of the actual document in question explaining exactly what they meant. It’s not enough to cite one of our “Dutch brethren” or someone in the Reformed tradition, or the theonomist Ron D, who happens to share your view. You need to prove, and not just pronounce as if from on high and as if we all are to just to bow at your command, that your tortuous interpretation is the correct one and the one the Divines intended. Forgive me for not taking your word on this.

    Is that a possibility? Yes, but not in this case (in which none of the assent-alone case has been proven)

    That’s because the onus is on you Alan. I provided an acceptable reading that not only explains WLC 72 in a way that doesn’t leave their figure of speech hanging in mid-air signifying ______ [you fill in the blank], but one that is also perfectly consonant with the very Scriptures you refuse to deal with.

    There is nothing at all ad populum, however, about pointing out that you disagree with the authors and the interpreters of the Westminster Standards.

    So where are all the Confession’s authors? Can’t they come to your defense? Since I’ve never seen it, I want to see where they explain to “receive and rest” as something in addition to belief and I want to know what that something IS since you, after all this time and all your bloviating and posturing, won’t tell me. You seem to think me quoting Andy Webb above poisons the well, but at least he’s a theologian who is man enough to at least attempt to explain what he means. You don’t even do that much.

  111. Hugh McCann Says:

    Again, Sean, I note that the WLC#72 says that saving faith, “not only assenteth to the truth of the PROMISE OF THE GOSPEL [not the gospel], but receiveth and resteth upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.”

    As Dr. Strange put it: So, what is the PROMISE OF THE GOSPEL?
    Ans. That there is life in who Christ is and what He’s done.

    Then, Back of that WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?
    Ans: The doing and dying of the God-man, the active and passive obedience of the theanthropic person, the one mediator between God and man.

    Then, again: And THE PROMISE OF THE GOSPEL is that all who trust Him alone have everlasting life.

    Finally: So true justifying faith not only believes that but further (thus the import of “not only”) receives and rests upon Christ and his righteousness.

    It’s not -at least in this bit of confessional cogency- about what constitutes faith (that justifying faith has some super additive), it’s WHAT’S believed that is the critical difference.

    Not the elements of faith, but its object.

    The promise of eternal life for believers on the one hand, and the person and work of the promised One on the other.

  112. Sean Gerety Says:

    Not the elements of faith, but its object.

    Great point Hugh. I completely agree that was their focus, but I could be wrong. Perhaps Alan will provide the citations I’ve requested and show that they were not discussing faith’s object at all, but the elements that are supposed to make ordinary faith salvific.

    I know it sounds silly, but the last time I went around with Alan on this topic, someone on Lane’s blog argued that LC 72 must be talking about the threefold definition of faith because it mentions three things; assent, receiving and resting. Not sure which one is supposed to be notitia and which is fiducia, but at least I know which one is assent. ;)

  113. Hugh McCann Says:

    Or, the promise of the gospel = “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”

    While receiving and resting upon Christ and his righteousness is to believe on the Lord Jesus, per 1 Cor. 15:3f.

  114. Jason Loh Says:

    Hugh McCann,

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

    You are aware that you’re opposed to his teachings, so what’s the purpose of the Luther pix?

  115. Roger Says:

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

    That’s precisely what this debate boils down to. 1 Corinthians 15:1-5 makes it quite clear that those who genuinely “believe” the true propositions of the gospel alone are saved – period. If the Westminster divines said otherwise (and I emphasize if because I hardly concede that this has been established by our opponents), then they were wrong – period. Sola Scritura! “As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:9). Keep the faith, Sean, and Hugh, and Denson, and Benjamin (and anyone else whom I may have forgotten to mention)!

    If “assenting” to or “believing” the gospel propositions of 1 Corinthians 15:1-5 does not constitute “trusting” in Jesus for one’s salvation, then I’d love for someone to explain in clear (i.e., non-metaphorical) terms what does constitute “trusting” in Jesus for one’s salvation… I’ve asked this question before, and so far no one has even attempted to answer it. Telling, indeed…

  116. Alan D. Strange Says:

    Sean:

    First of all, please see my comment (#47) over at Green Baggins.

    Secondly, this means that you’ve reached the end of your rope (particularly, calling me a liar). The premise of your whole argument, and of Dr. Clark’s book on saving faith, is that Reformed tradition has gotten this thing wrong and that saving faith does not consist of something in addition to assent alone. It’s not been disputed that this is the Reformed tradition.

    All the magisterial Reformers defined faith the way that you oppose. All the Puritans defined it that way. This is liking asking me to prove that they believed in JBFA and demanding citations. Of course it can be done but does anyone really think it necessary? The desperation in your post regarding this almost makes me feel sorry for you.

    As much as I’d like to stick around for what comes next, I am preaching today (twice) as well as teaching in the CE hour, and am leaving tomorrow morning at 4:00 AM for a week’s vacation. I am sure much fun will be had at my expense and silly things will be said about how I was not forthcoming with a ton of citations. But that’s all whistling in the dark, and I think that everyone really knows that; nonetheless, it will probably still seem amusing (somehow) for some of you to congratulate yourselves that you’ve cornered me, when we all know that you’ve done nothing of the sort.

    You’ve just reached the end of your rope. Thanks for letting me come into your house here for a bit and see what we could do about these things. Why did I do it? To serve you and Him, as possible. What did I expect? I don’t serve as I do expecting any particular result, since that’s not really my business.

    Mine is simply to serve out of gratitude and obedience to the One who loved me and gave Himself for me. Whatever differences any of us might have, He is our only hope. Let me end with something that I think that we can all agree on, from the last words of the great Dr. Machen (in a telegram to John Murray): “so thankful for the active obedience of Christ; no hope without it.”

  117. Hugh McCann Says:

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

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

    Now leave me alone. Thank you.

  118. Hugh McCann Says:

    Roger – thanks for the encouragement. Back atcha.

  119. Sean Gerety Says:

    All the magisterial Reformers defined faith the way that you oppose. All the Puritans defined it that way.

    All? Really? Turretin had seven elements of saving faith. Per your Dutch buddy Bavinck Witsius had nine. Frankly, one needs a schematic just to unpack Ron D’s discussion of this third element. Besides, I didn’t think it was an issue that the majority had three elements? My point is that the third element is at its most benign just a meaningless tautological redundancy that adds nothing to our understanding of what faith is. At worst, it is an addition to simple belief in the truth of the Gospel that falls perilously close to Paul’s anathemas in his letter to the Galatians and it robs Christians of their confidence and assurance they have in Christ. It turns our focus from Christ and his finished work to something within us and that is, by definition, dangerous.

    Plus, while probably not quite “magisterial,” I think you must concede that Andy Webb was exactly right when he said; “Fiducia is the hardest element of saving faith to define because it involves intangibles that may be perceived or apprehended without being fully comprehended.”

    Something that may be “perceived or apprehended without being fully comprehended” is the poster-boy for ambiguity. I know you don’t think ambiguity or a lack of a clear definition on the doctrine by which the church stands or falls is a problem, because for you the Christian faith is a morass of apparent contradictions and impenetrable and irresolvable mysteries, but, to me, it’s a grave weakness in the very foundation of the Reformed faith. Plus, recent history has demonstrated exactly why, yet men like you refuse to learn from history (and you know what Santayana said).

    I am sure much fun will be had at my expense and silly things will be said about how I was not forthcoming with a ton of citations. But that’s all whistling in the dark, and I think that everyone really knows that

    Seriously, Alan. I don’t know that. I just happen to believe with Hugh that LC 72 is discussing the objects of justifying faith, not its elements. And, I wasn’t trying to “corner” you. I’m just calling your bluff.

    Have a nice Lord’s day and a great vacation.

  120. justbybelief Says:

    I think it’s absolutely telling and even ‘Strange’ that this seminary professor is putting more emphasis on assent advocate’s not being within Reformed standards than whether our understanding of belief is faulty.

    In my mind this gives him the excuse to avoid the whole issue and not come to terms with what the Bible actually says.

    Lord have mercy on his hearers today. Hopefully he avoids any definition of the word ‘faith.’

    By the way, Hugh, great photo. I used to love R.C.’s book ‘Faith Alone,’ but thank God I read Clark.

    Eric

  121. Hugh McCann Says:

    Amen, Eric. As Crampton said:

    “Like the hermeneutic of trust, the doctrine of the animus imponentis places the words of fallible men in authority over the Word of God. Recent church developments show what great damage this can cause…

    “It is not only significant that the hermeneutic of trust draws attention away from Scripture, but also that it draws attention to something that theologians have called the animus imponentis, or ‘the intention of the imposing body.’ Men of religious academia often use Latin phrases when plain English would suffice, and would make what they are saying much more intelligible to church members.

    “Unfortunately, the use of the Latin may also impart an aura of special authority and significance to words of human wisdom, elevating them to something approaching the status of holy writ when they are nothing of the sort.”

    http://www.teachingtheword.org/apps/articles/?articleid=74617&columnid=5772

  122. justbybelief Says:

    Hugh, do you know where M. Horton is in all of this, and, for that matter, the URCNA?

    Eric

  123. Hugh McCann Says:

    In a 2010 interview, Mike said: “The Reformers rightly saw that faith consists of three parts: knowledge, assent and trust.”

  124. justbybelief Says:

    Also thanks for the above link, Hugh, which carried me to the previous three parts by Elliot and the below quote being from the
    second part.

    Second, notice that the primary focus of the hermeneutic of trust is not on correctly interpreting the words of Scripture at all. It focuses instead on interpreting the words of the church’s confessional standards, and on construing them in ways that are elastic enough to permit diverging doctrinal views under one big confessional tent.

    I guess the only thing that stands firm in all of this is the willingly compromised ecclesiastics. Also, by using latin, instead of Greek and English, it elevates them in their arrogance and moves forward the new priesthood with its elitist underpinnigs.

  125. justbybelief Says:

    Wow, no wonder Clark wrote the book ‘What is Saving Faith!’ Horton is a perfect example of why he did so. A mass of conflicting impulses, indeed.

    Original:

    That unit is a woman.
    A mass of conflicting impulses.
    — Spock and Nomad, “The Changeling,” stardate 3541.9

    Revised:

    That unit is a protestant theologian.
    A mass of conflicting impulses.
    –anonymous, 21st century.

  126. Sean Gerety Says:

    I’ve decided to close this thread. I thought it was a dead horse worth beating, but probably not. Heartfelt thanks to Dr. Strange for duking it out. I think it’s fair to say that we both care passionately about our respective positions. However, if he or anyone can produce something from one of the Confession’s actual authors that demonstrates that LC 72 has the elements and not the object of justifying faith in mind, it would be greatly appreciated.


  127. […] Filling the Breach – Justification By Belief Alone […]


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