Why the PCA is a Safe-Haven for the Federal Vision Heresy

Posted May 22, 2016 by Sean Gerety
Categories: Heresies

rotten-fruitMy friend, Pastor Richard Bacon, recently shared an interesting blog piece written by Rev. Clayton Spronk, lamenting the fact that the PCA is now a Federal Vision safe haven. Spronk is a little off on one thing and that Peter Leithart, after being refused a transfer into a less than FV friendly PCA presbytery, has since retreated to Doug Wilson’s faux Christian denomination, the CREC.  You can read Spronk’s, “Why the PCA is a Safe-Haven for the Federal Vision Heresy,” here.

Not discussed in the piece, and something that has become a sore spot for me, is the central reason why the PCA is now a safe-have for the FV. The PCA lost the fight against this blatant heresy for a simple reason; the failure to understand the nature of faith and saving faith. Men like PCA pastors Andy Webb, Lane Keister, and the other so-called “TRs” (Truly Reformed), deny, along with all of the FV men, that faith is simple belief and that saving faith is the simple belief in the propositions of the Gospel. They say the faith that saves is something more than mere belief, but whatever this “more” is, it’s ambiguous. The FV men too, particularly James Jordan, have maintained the fight over the FV is not primarily dealing with questions concerning the covenant, although that certainly is part of it, it is over “fiducia,” the imagined third element of saving faith that is supposed to make ordinary faith “saving.”

This how Jordan, whom some have dubbed the Godfather of the FV, explained the fight over the FV back in 2008:

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

Again, the reason why the fight against the FV men was lost in the PCA is because the “good guys” are blindly wed to the traditional and artificial division of saving faith as a complex consisting of  notitia, assensus and fiducia. Or, in ordinary English; understanding, assent and trust. The problem lies precisely with that the last element, fiducia, because it adds an impenetrable layer of ambiguity to faith’s definition rendering the alone instrument in salvation meaningless. Not that there is anything impenetrable or meaningless about “trust,” only that to trust someone is to have faith, is to believe, that what they say is true.  Trust is belief in the future tense, and, as such, adds nothing to an understanding of what faith is.  It is to simply define the word with itself.  Or, as Gordon Clark once said, it’s a tautology.  Now, if that is all it was it would just hardly raise an eyebrow.  But, those defenders of this threefold division of saving faith, both inside and outside of FV, never stop there. Consider this from PCA pastor Andy Webb, an early opponent of the FV; “Fiducia is the hardest element of saving faith to define…. Fiducia therefore mingles the emotion of love with trust, inclination, and agreement.” Now, that’s a definition that is so confused, anti-Scriptural, and hostile to a clear understanding of the nature of faith that no human could possibly understand it. It is a flight into mysticism and is a view of faith completely divorced from reason. But, that is what these men desire more than they ever seriously wanted to eradicate the FV from the PCA. They want a Christianity that is beyond reason, which for many, has become the hallmark of neo-Reformed piety.

For men like Webb, it’s the experience within that matters, not the object on which the mind or soul apprehends outside of itself. Websters defines trust as the belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc. Notice, there is no mention any mingling of the “emotion of love” in addition to trust, much less inclination or agreement (the last of which is just the restatement of the second element of faith or assent). That’s because in the minds of many to clearly and unambiguously define terms, even terms as central to the Christian system as “faith,” is to be guilty of “rationalism.”  Yet, despite their impotence in defending the faith, these men continue to wrap themselves in the confused and contradictory tradition that plays right into the hands of the very heretics they claim to oppose. After all, Christians are believers, not faith-ers. It is the Greek, not the Latin, that determines the meaning of the words of Scripture. Not surprisingly, these same TRs are the ones who will viciously attack anyone who uses seemingly innocuous phrases like “justification by belief alone” (try it sometime and you’ll see what I mean). In spite of all this, they continue to wonder why the PCA is now a safe haven for the Federal Vision.

As John Robbins explained writing in the introduction to Gordon Clark’s, What is Saving Faith:

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.

While it is too late for the PCA, Christians everywhere should be thankful for the rotten fruit of the FV for it exposed, more than anything before it, a long hidden weakness in the foundation of the historic Protestant system of belief. Sadly, those hopelessly wed to tradition in opposition to God’s Word, and who make up the failed leadership in the PCA, have been the last to learn from their mistake.

The Sins of Nations

Posted February 14, 2016 by Sean Gerety
Categories: Politics

cigar-c-cMany people think the worst and most pressing sin confronting our nation today is abortion.  After all, well over 54 million babies have been slaughtered since abortion on demand was first declared the “the law of the land” by the Supreme Court in 1973. Today we see videos of the butchers at Planned Parenthood wining and dining while discussing the price of fetal body parts to be sold for medical research that would have made the Nazis proud.  As grizzly and inhuman as wholesale legalized abortion is, the fact that abortion is legal doesn’t mean that a single baby must die.  A moral God fearing people would simply refuse to murder their own children.  Besides, the government isn’t lining up pregnant women forcing them to undergo abortions at gun point … at least not yet.

While that day may come (who knows maybe “global warming” will be the pretext to forced slaughter), the biggest sin is the one the Federal Government perpetrates right under our noses through the manipulation of our monetary system by means of the private bankers at the Federal Reserve.  This is all done with the blessings, albeit without the oversight, of our elected officials and in violation of our Constitution.  It is fraud on a mass scale and one that steals the wealth of everyone except the well-connected few who have mastered the game and who profit immensely at the expense of the widow, the poor and the rest of us schlubs.  Ron Paul rightly called the devaluation of our dollars (what some mistake for inflation through rising prices for goods and services) a “hidden tax.” To think we once fought a war over taxation without representation, today we willingly accept the surreptitious theft of our personal wealth simply because we don’t see it on our bank ledger.  While correcting this problem may require taking up arms again, the problem is most people simply do not know the extent of the fraud being perpetrated against them. Frankly, I can hardly grasp the extent of it and have only in recent years been trying to catch up.  I always thought critics of the Federal Reserve were conspiracy wack jobs who were waiting to be fitted for their tinfoil hats.  Besides, the Federal Government can always blame the rising prices at your local supermarket on tsunamis, earthquakes, e-coli outbreaks, or one of the endless wars in the Middle East. Every economic bubble that bursts can always be blamed on something else. They’ll never admit that any economic ill is the result of “quantitative easing”  or some other Fed created monetary distortion.  That would let the genie out of the bag and reveal that The Great And Powerful Oz is just the gray haired old Jewish lady now in charge of the Federal Reserve.

Thankfully Steve Matthews has started to pull back the curtain in the recent issue of Trinity Review with his piece: “The Fed, Fiat Currency, and Feckless Keynesian Economics.”  Matthews provides thumbnail sketches exposing the biggest fraud in history and its causes.   Here are Matthews’ big three:

Central Banking … “the Fed is and has been since its creation the premier crony capitalist institution in the US. It was a way of allowing the bankers to privatize their profits while socializing their risks.”

Fiat Currency … “The ability to counterfeit a currency allows central banks and those closely connected to them to essentially strip mine the assets of a nation and concentrate wealth in the hands of a few very wealthy, well-connected individuals. After all, those hundreds of billions and trillions of dollars created by the Fed end up first in the hands of the too-big-to-fail banks, who can then take that money and buy stocks, bonds, and real estate before the rise in prices created by all that new money kicks in.”

Keynesian Economics  … “Keynes denied that free market principles applied to wage rates. And because he believed wages would not fall in response to lower demand from the marketplace, he concluded that the economies of the industrialized nations were stuck in a vicious cycle of workers demanding more money than businesses were willing to pay, thus causing the extended depression experienced in the West during the 1930s. In order to break this cycle, Keynes proposed that governments needed to stimulate their economies by spending money that private business refused to spend.”

Concerning the last point on Keynesian economics, when you factor in the evils of a central bank with their ability to print money out of thin air, the way Keynesian economists accomplish paying workers less than businesses are willing to pay is by simply devaluing the currency.  That bit of evil Machiavellian brilliance was something I first came across in Brian Doherty’s review of Nickholas Wapshott’s book: Keynes/Hayek: The Clash That Defined Modern Economies in Reason magazine.  Doherty writes:

In a 1930s context of very powerful unions, Keynes thought it was politically impossible to achieve the nominal wage reductions necessary to clear the market for labor—that is, to let wages fall so that hiring would be cheaper and unemployment thereby reduced. He instead promoted inflation as a means to trick labor into taking lower real wages.

Of course, by “inflation” Doherty means the end result of the Fed simply printing more money and the deception continues.  But, the real question is when will Christians realize that they have a responsibility to expose the sins of nations, even those nations like the United States that create money out of thin air.

Faith is Assent

Posted January 23, 2016 by Sean Gerety
Categories: Uncategorized

As mentioned in previous posts, there are those at Whitefield Theological Seminary who are teaching their impressionable students that Gordon Clark held to the traditional threefold definition of saving faith; i.e., the tautological and meaningless combo of notitia, assensus and fiducia.  The argument being advanced by those at Whitefield, and most militantly by its students, is that John Robbins and The Trinity Foundation surreptitiously altered Clark’s book, Faith and Saving Faith.  This calculated and even orchestrated attempt to smear the good name of the late John Robbins and the ongoing work of the Trinity Foundation is scurrilous, sinful and stupid.  While I’ve shared part of a transcript from a lecture Clark gave in 1977 defending his view that faith is assent and that the addition of fiducia or trust to faith’s definition adds precisely zero to any understanding of what faith is, I also thought it would be helpful for some to actually hear Clark in his own words.  While there is considerably more in this question and answer session that is relevant and helpful, and I would recommend people download and listen to the complete lecture, The Defense of Christian Presuppositions in Light of Non-Christian Presuppositions, I just want people to hear how emphatic and insistent Clark is in his defense of faith, all faith, as the combination of understanding and assent.

Perhaps listening to Clark’s answers here will also help confused Van Tillians like Steve Hays who thinks because Clark rightly points out that true assent can never be hypocritical that Michael “Hare Krishna” Sudduth must have been a Christian and sincerely believed the Gospel before his so-called “de-conversion” into abject paganism. As I attempted to explain in my reply to Hays, but probably didn’t do a very good job of it (see Revenge of the Magic Lizard People), Hays’ argument doesn’t follow.  I suspect he knows it too, but his whole mission at Triablogue and as John Frame’s dutiful underling, has been to discredit Gordon Clark at every opportunity. While I have no doubt that Sudduth at one time did assent to many of the truths of Christianity, I have no reason to believe that Sudduth ever assented to the truths of the Gospel specifically justification by belief alone and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.  As John Robbins explains in his piece, Why Heretics Win Battles (which further exposes the false teachers of the Federal Vision like Doug Wilson and Rich Lusk):

Westminster Larger Catechism Question 72 is usually misread by people looking for some esoteric and complicated definition of saving faith as something more than understanding of and assent to the Gospel. What the Catechism actually teaches is that one must not only assent to the truth of the promise of the Gospel, but also to the righteousness of Christ imputed to believers:

“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 accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.”

The Catechism is concerned to make clear what truths one has to believe in order to be saved. It is not discussing the psychology of the act of believing, still less is it disparaging assent to the truth of the Gospel.

Among other things, this Catechetical and Biblical definition of justifying faith asserts what Wilson et al. deny: that sinners are saved by believing the doctrine of justification by faith alone. That is precisely what the Larger Catechism asserts. If the Catechism is correct, Lusk is lost.

Also important to note is that no Reformed Confession, and certainly not the Westminster Confession, defines “faith” by asserting that it consists of three components, notitia, assensus, and fiducia. When professed Reformed theologians lapse into that misleading Latin model, they sound like they are exegeting the Vulgate, not the Greek New Testament.

Clark too makes a distinction between understanding and assent.  Elsewhere Clark talks of lecturing convincingly on Spinoza for hours while claiming a solid grasp of his system, but, he notes, he didn’t believe a word of it; he didn’t assent to it. I don’t see why Sudduth couldn’t have aped Christianity as to have fooled both Steve Hays and John Robbins and he most assuredly did, but that is hardly a mark against Clark.  Sudduth obviously fooled a lot of people before coming out of the orange closet wearing finger bells growing a topknot (which I guess is quite fashionable now with all those silly “man buns”).

Gordon Clark Primer

Posted January 22, 2016 by Sean Gerety
Categories: Gordon Clark, Van Til

The following is a very good lecture on the epistemology of Gordon Clark by Dr. Cal Beisner.  He also has a few comments on the Clark/Van Til controversy.  A couple of people posted it on the Facebook Clark discussion page, but I thought I’d share it here too.  The actual lecture begins at 12:17 and that’s where I have it starting. But if you want to go back to the beginning you can learn all about Cal’s “Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.”

Whitefield Follies

Posted January 16, 2016 by Sean Gerety
Categories: Gordon Clark, Theology


Something is rotten at Whitefield Seminary.  There are a number of current and former students all claiming that the views expressed in Gordon Clark’s monograph, Faith and Saving Faith (re-released along with The Johannine Logos as What Is Saving Faith?)  are not Clark’s views of faith and saving faith, but rather are the views of the late John Robbins.  Jason Peterson, who I believe is a current student at Whitefield (he booted me from his Facebook group so fast as to make my nose bleed so I didn’t get the chance to confirm if he’s currently enrolled) posted the following:

I had a question earlier concerning a comment that I made about the trinity foundation:
“Which of the Trinity Foundation’s resources should we avoid?”


First, Gordon Clark’s book, Saving Faith, was edited to express Robbins’ view that faith is merely intellectual assent rather than Calvin’s view (which Clark agreed with).

Second, John Robbins’ misrepresented Bahnsen on theonomy and was rather rude during their dialogue.

Third, John Robbins’ book on Ayn Rand is a rather uncharitable representation of Objectivism.

Most of what I have read on the Trinity Foundation website is good stuff. Hopefully the Trinity Foundation will release the original manuscripts of Clark’s works one day. The Gordon Clark Foundation, however has quite a bit of his works. I’d say that if you see something that looks strange, to cross reference the article on the Trinity Foundation with a related article on the Gordon Clark Foundation. One other consideration that must be kept in mind however, concerning the Gordon Clark Foundation’s unpublished works of Clark is that Clark might have changed his mind on some topics at a later date. Interpreting Clark’s thought is going to be really tricky unless the unedited version of Clark’s published works are released.

Leaving aside Petersen’s other comments regarding the imagined “rude” behavior of John Robbins in his “dialog” with Greg Bahnsen and his supposed “uncharitable representation of Objectivism” (is there a charitable representation of Rand’s Objectivism?), Petersen’s charge regarding F&SF is without merit as demonstrated in my previous post. But the question is, where is Petersen getting these ideas?

Recently I have been contacted by a number of current and former Whitefield students all telling me that Ken Talbot, the president of Whitefield, told them that Clark held to the traditional threefold definition of faith (that mystical stew of notitia, assensus and fiducia) and that it was John Robbins’ view of faith, not Clark’s, that we find in the book published under Clark’s name.

Make no mistake, that is a serious charge. I have tried contacting Talbot asking him to either confirm or deny the claims made by his students, but I have yet to hear back from him.  Suffice it to say anyone making that claim, whether it is Talbot or another professors at Whitefield, is just being silly to the point of absurdity. Clark unambiguously rejected the traditional threefold definition of saving faith and instead properly defined faith as understanding with assent.  Consider the following reply Clark gave in a lecture cited in my last post:

This student correctly saw what I was saying: that faith was a matter of assent. And not understanding by itself, but understanding plus assent….

… And I prefer John Calvin who talks about assent itself being pious. It is not something else added to the assent that is pious, the assent itself is pious. And so believing, and I really prefer the word believing, because the word faith is Latin, and I don’t like Latin, I like the Greek pistueo. And belief is assent. It is assent to an understood proposition … Now, the trouble, I think in contemporary civilization is, at least for the last couple centuries, is that some people have begun to think that assent is merely something verbal that you say out loud but perhaps you don’t mean. Of course, that is not assent, that is hypocrisy. But assent in its theological meaning is simply the fact that to believe you accept this proposition. As the Scripture says, you believe that Christ is Lord, you believe that he rose from the dead, and if you believe those things you are saved. That’s it. Now, I’ll repeat it, now the reason I don’t like that threefold analysis of faith is that the third part of it is just the word that you asked the definition for. And hence the addition of the word fiducia doesn’t add anything to your understanding of it.

What is particularly bizarre is that the transcript of this lecture is available at Ken Talbot’s own website, The Clark Foundation. Further, the date and place listed on that the transcript is;  “Believer’s Chapel Tape Ministry, 1977.” Assuming the date is correct, Clark was defending his view of faith as the intellectual assent to an understood proposition for nearly a decade prior to the publication of F&SF. Even if the date is not correct, it should be obvious to everyone except the most intellectually handicapped that Clark unequivocally rejected the traditional threefold definition of saving faith. A man is justified by belief alone.

In addition, the first edition of F&SF, the one that I own, was published by John Robbins and the Trinity Foundation in 1983 two years prior to Clark’s passing, which is more than enough time for Clark to have publicly protested and demanded Robbins correct any editorial altering of his views.  It’s not like Clark had become some dotty old invalid drooling in the corner in 1983.  Clark was hard at work up until the time Lord took him home when he had virtually completed a far more controversial work, his theologically earth shattering; The Incarnation.

There is more, but since some others have already picked up the gauntlet, and frankly have done an even better job than I have exposing some of the errors emanating from Whitefield, I thought I would share them here.

The first is a piece by Carlos Montijo and Tim Shaughnessy titled: “The Marks of a ‘True’ Clarkian.” The piece deals with both the absurd claim that Clark didn’t actually write F&SF and that Clark didn’t differentiate knowledge from opinion or true belief.  To put it another way, some at Whitefiled argue that Clark did not require an account for knowledge. That’s almost as silly and misguided as saying that Clark didn’t write F&SF. Haven’t the students at Whitefield, or at least their professors, read Clark’s Introduction to Christian Philosophy?

The second piece is by Luke Miner at Scripturalism.com titled; “Clark on Saving Faith in 1961.”  This second piece is important in continuing to establish a timeline because it demonstrates that throughout his long career, Clark consistently defended the idea that faith is understanding with assent and that saving faith is assent to the understood propositions of the Gospel.

Faith Is Understanding With Assent

Posted January 10, 2016 by Sean Gerety
Categories: Gordon Clark, Theology

clark01As someone who has shed considerable spiritual blood defending and advocating for Gordon Clark’s simple and biblical definition of faith as an assent to an understood proposition (for example see here, here, here, here and here for starters), I was shocked this past week to learn that there are people coming out of Whitefield Seminary who are under the impression that John Robbins altered Clark’s understanding of faith in his monograph, Faith  And Saving Faith (later reissued as part of What Is Saving Faith).   For example, one Whitefield student, Jason Petersen, posted on a Whitefield Facebook page that calls itself, “Clarkian Apologetics: Institute for Philosophical Thought”:

Gordon Clark’s book, [Faith and] Saving Faith, was edited to express Robbins’ view that faith is merely intellectual assent rather than Calvin’s view (which Clark agreed with).”

Jason Petersen is one of the list moderators and as soon as I asked Petersen to support his charge, while at the same time showing him why he was wrong, I was booted from the group. While I’m no stranger to the left foot of fellowship, normally it’s from blog sites and discussion boards run by Van Tillians who are more interested in protecting Van Til’s anti-Confessional P&R hegemony. However, these were self-professed Clarkians.  I guess with friends like these….

To be fair, evidently the group has a rule against disagreeing with, much less challenging, any one of the moderators. For what it’s worth, I don’t think I ever actually joined the group and I suspect my friend, Hugh McCann (who has a habit putting me on FB lists I had no intention of joining), signed me up. Regardless, I would never be a part of any discussion group that doesn’t allow discussion.  Besides, I think FB is generally a horrible forum for theological discussions of any kind and is much better suited for cute puppy videos … and who doesn’t love cute puppy videos.

While I plan to get more into this odd bit of funny business coming out of this little Whitefield sponsored group, I thought I would share part of a transcript from a Clark audio lecture that can be found at John Robbin’s Trinity Foundation website: A Defense of Christian Presuppositions in the Light of Non­-Christian Presuppositions. Interestingly, the transcript of that lecture can be found at The Gordon Clark Foundation website run by Ken Talbot and Whitefield Seminary. Don’t get me wrong, I was initially thrilled to learn about The Gordon Clark Foundation.  I was also thrilled to learn of the Scripturalism site run by C.Jay Engel and Luke Miner out of California. The more the merrier. I was also thrilled to learn over the years that Whitefield uses some of Clark’s works as source material.  Every seminary should. After all, Gary Crampton (a long time contribution to the Trinity Foundation) is on their Administrative Board and from what I can tell from their promotional materials, teaches New Testament, Theology, and Apologetics at the seminary.

Moreover, I don’t care if Crampton or Talbot disagree with Clark and hold to the irrational and nonsensical traditional threefold definition, most do, but for anyone to suggest that Clark shared their view and that Robbins somehow altered the text of F&SF as to change Clark’s simple and unambiguous definition of saving faith reflects very badly on the character of those making that charge. I can’t really blame Jason Petersen however, but I’m happy to blame his teachers at Whitfield if they are in any way responsible for this nasty bit of misinformation.

So, to correct any misunderstanding of what Clark actually taught regarding the nature of faith and saving faith, the following is the Q & A portion from the above mentioned lecture.  It should be more than enough to demonstrate that the view of faith expressed in Faith And Saving Faith is very much that of Gordon Clark:


Questioner 4: Yes sir. What is the barrier between this intellectual understanding and assent. Is it a barrier to man’s mind? Is it an inherent defect in man’s mind, is it a suppression of righteousness or a combination of both?

The question is what is the difference between understanding and assent.

Questioner 4: What is the barrier that prevents a man from moving from understanding to assent?

Oh, What is the barrier that prevents a man from moving from understanding to assent? Well, of course, it is sin.

Questioner 4: But in what respect does sin affect the mind of man? Does man inherently defective or does he simply not like what he is told, or both?

Sin affects people in various ways. To different degrees. And there isn’t any general statements you can make. But I’ll give you some. For example, not everybody commits murder. Even worse criminals don’t do it except on Saturday night. There are, you know. they have different ways of doing this. But one of the effects of sin, is the inability to correctly add up your columns on your income tax blanks. You make a mistake in arithmetic. That’s due to original sin. It might not be the worst sin in the world, but it is a common one. And we have this effect of sin in our lives. And so we make mistakes in arithmetic. Now when it comes to the gospel, men have very good opinions of themselves. They don’t think they need salvation. They have, well some people think they’re all going to go to heaven anyhow. And so they’re not much interested in what you have to say. But this differs from person to person. Of course, the basic effect of sin is to make a person at enmity with the gospel, with God. But it manifests itself in various ways. It is not necessarily a defect, not a defect in human nature as such. And it certainly not a defect in arithmetic. We may make mistakes in arithmetic but that doesn’t mean arithmetic is mistaken. The effect of sin in various human lives differs from person to person. But there is a general reluctance to accept grace. And to admit that you need to be saved. Does that answer your question or doesn’t it? Not quite. Well, ask it over again.

Questioner 4: Well, I understand perfectly as far as sin does affect the mind. My question is simply is how does it affect the mind? Is unregenerate man able to reason up to brink of faith, to understand cognitively all the aspects of the gospel in its fullest sense and the problem is he doesn’t come to faith simply because he doesn’t like the implications of what he sees? Or does he not really have a full cognitive awareness of what the gospel is? Does he have a 98% understanding of it?

Did everybody hear all this long question? I don’t mind you asking a second time and making it long, I just want everybody to hear the question. I can hardly repeat it. But you’re again asking why a man doesn’t accept the gospel. Doesn’t he understand it, or so on. Again, it varies from person to person. I think the person in the first century of our era after the death and resurrection of Christ, the one person who understood the doctrines of Christianity better than anybody else was the persecutor Saul. He had a better Christian theology in his understanding than any of the Christians had. That’s why he was so mad, that is why he wanted to persecute them. There was no defect in his understanding. If you want defects in understanding why you better look to the apostles. Or some of that at any rate. Or the other Christians. But Paul understood the implications of the gospel. He hated it. Then Christ met him on the road to Damascus and changed his mind. That’s change of mind, metanoia, that’s repentance. But not everybody is as brilliant as the apostle Paul and they have various difficulties. Does someone else wish to. Yes sir.

Questioner 5: Yes sir, you ordered faith, and I think Sam’s question was in the same area, if you define faith as notitia, assentia, and fiducia. I think you’re saying the essence of faith is assentia, assent, agreement with fact.

Yes I am.

Questioner 5. Ok. How about fiducia? How does that enter into your definition of faith?

It doesn’t. And I’ll tell you why. The word fiducia is the same root as the word faith, fides. Repeat the question I thought everybody heard.

Moderator: Pronounce the Latin word correctly. It is assensus and not assentia.

Yes, its assensus. The gentleman’s question was if you define faith as notitia, assensus, fiducia quae, et fiducia or something like that, what do you do with fiducia? This student correctly saw what I was saying: that faith was a matter of assent. And not understanding by itself, but understanding plus assent. Then he wants to know about fiducia. Now fiducia is the same root as fides, and what has happened is this. A person has asked you to define faith, and you say faith is understanding, assent, and faith. Well, that doesn’t add anything at all. You’re simply repeating the word for which you previous asked for the definition. And I prefer John Calvin who talks about assent itself being pious. It is not something else added to the assent that is pious, the assent itself is pious. And so believing, and I really prefer the word believing, because the word faith is Latin, and I don’t like Latin, I like the Greek pistueo. And belief is assent. It is assent to an understood proposition. And it is a voluntary assent to something you understand and being voluntary and the nature of assent it is nothing hypocritical. It must be sincere, that is what assent is. Now, the trouble, I think in contemporary civilization is, at least for the last couple centuries, is that some people have begun to think that assent is merely something verbal that you say out loud but perhaps you don’t mean. Of course, that is not assent, that is hypocrisy. But assent in its theological meaning is simply the fact that to believe you accept this proposition. As the Scripture says, you believe that Christ is Lord, you believe that he rose from the dead, and if you believe those things you are saved. That’s it. Now, I’ll repeat it, now the reason I don’t like that threefold analysis of faith is that the third part of it is just the word that you asked the definition for. And hence the addition of the word fiducia doesn’t add anything to your understanding of it. You want to make some rejoinder to that? Oh, I don’t mind, you know, I love a brawl. 

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Revenge of the Magic Lizard People

Posted December 27, 2015 by Sean Gerety
Categories: Theology, Van Til

revenge of the magic lizard people

Steve “Shapeshifter” Hays has responded in much the way I knew he would, which makes him a pretty predictable shapeshifter.  Like all Van Tillians, especially those who are perpetually impressed with their own cleverness, even one who tells us there is “extrabiblical evidence” for the possible existence of shapeshifters (can Big Foot be far behind), Hays spends the bulk of his reply venting his infected spleen on all things even remotely related to the late Gordon Clark.  He begins by citing the opening lines of the Westminster Confession of Faith:

Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable…

Notice that that’s an appeal to natural revelation, including empirical evidence for God’s existence. So it’s actually a Clarkian like Sean who rejects WCF 1. But Sean is too dim to realize that he just contradicted himself.

Hays starts out his reply by simply lying.  This makes sense since he believes in the probable existence of shapeshifters.  One lying spirit deserves another.  But, perhaps lying is too strong and I want to be charitable.  I could say he’s just ignorant of Clark’s thoroughly biblical philosophy, but that would suggest Steve isn’t as smart as he thinks he is and I don’t want to insult him.  First, neither Clark nor Robbins nor any Scripturalist I’ve ever met has any problems with the opening words of WCF 1; they simply refuse to impose empirical presuppositions on the text as Hays so foolishly has done.  Instead, Clark writes in the opening pages of What Do Presbyterians Believe (which evidently would exclude Hays):

Is it not possible that knowledge of God is innate? May we not have been born with an intuition of God, and with this *a priori* equipment we see the glory of God upon the heavens? In this way we would not be forced to the peculiar position that the Apostle Paul was giving his advance approval to the Aristotelian intricacies of Thomas Aquinas.

… In the act of creation God implanted in man knowledge of His existence.  Romans 1:32 and 2:15 seem to indicate that God also implanted some knowledge of morality. We are born with this knowledge; it is not manufactured out of sensory experience.

Not even Romans 1:14-20, the main prooftext to the WCF’s opening clause, supports Hays’ belief in the “empirical evidence for God’s existence.”  The passage instead supports Clark’s view of the natural endowment in man created in God’s image.  As Paul explains, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”  First, Hays errs by not including man as one of the things that “have been made” and thinks he can see with the eyes in his head what Paul tells us is invisible. Second, this innate intuition of God is something God shows man and is not something man infers from observing the “empirical evidence.”  Like most things, Hays has it precisely backwards.

The point conveniently ignored by Hays is that the Confession doesn’t begin with the “empirical evidence for God’s existence” at all.  In fact, the “empirical evidence for God’s existence” is completely absent from the entire Confession.  Rather, the Confession begins, in good Clarkian fashion, by positing the truth of the Holy Scriptures and then inferring God from them; along with the entire system of doctrine outlined in the Confession.  More importantly, the evidence for the truth of Scripture highlighted in the first chapter of the Confession has nothing to do with what can be inferred by the so-called “empirical evidence,” rather the Divines assert the complete logical harmony of all that the Scriptures teach.  As Clark explains:

If, nonetheless, it can be shown that the Bible — in spite of having been written by more than thirty-five authors over a period of fifteen hundred years — is logically consistent, then the unbeliever would have to regard it as a most remarkable accident . . . Logical consistency, therefore, is evidence of inspiration.  — God’s Hammer, 16.

Since Van Tillians reject the logical consent of all the parts and maintain instead that all Scripture ends in a morass of “apparent contradictions” to which men must bow, they logically reject the WCF 1 and are non-Confessional from the get go.  Or, to put it another way, their belief in biblical paradox, which are very real contradictions for us even if, or so we’re told, for God not so much, is the complete rejection of one of central evidences the Confession sites to support belief in the truth of God’s inerrant and non-contradictory Word.  Starting from their faulty and destructive view of Scripture the Van Tillian ends up with any number of contradictory doctrines from God being both One Person and Three Persons (a heterodox belief advanced by Van Til and most recently defended by paradox monger James Anderson)  to a contradictory understanding of the Gospel call where God simultaneously desires and does not desire the salvation of all men.  For the Van Tillian beginning with their defective paradoxical view of Scripture the irretraceable web of what R. Scott Clark calls the “mystery of paradox” is all encompassing.  It is the root of their faith and piety.

In the comment section of Hays’ post, one of his regular and most loyal defenders, a man who goes by the name “Annoyed Pinoy” wrote; “I don’t see why God couldn’t use apparent paradoxes to sift the elect and non-elect. Where does Scripture teach that there are no apparent contradictions in the teaching of Scripture?”  Notice, according to this confused soul,  the categorical and Confessional rejection of biblical paradoxes that are impervious to logical harmonization at the bar of human reason makes one a reprobate; one of the non-elect.  Of course, the Scriptures do teach there are no “apparent contradictions in the teachings of Scripture,” for our Lord said; “The Scriptures cannot be broken” and the Confession similarly asserts the meaning of God’s word is not manifold, but one.  If the Van Tillians were actually faithful to the Confession they would affirm that that all claims to “apparent contradictions” in Scripture falls squarely in the lap of interpreter who has failed to rightly divide God’s Word. They would recognize biblical paradoxes as red flags demanding they recheck their premises as they continue to study the Scriptures.  But, instead these proud Van Tillians place the responsibility for their intellectual and exegetical failures squarely at God’s feet while piously claiming that “a paradox remains for us, though by faith we are confident that there is no paradox for God.”  In their arrogance Van Tillians like Pinoy (who describes himself on his website as a “Filipino … Baptistic … Charismatic … Van Tillian”) think that acceptance of irresolvable paradoxes in Scripture is what separates “the elect and the non-elect.”

Further, too, the Confession rejects the Van Tillian theory of analogy and their denial of any univocal point of contact between God’s thoughts and man’s even in the propositions of Scripture.  As Paul said concerning revelation of Scripture “we have the mind of Christ.”  Besides, can anyone seriously imagine the Divines at Westminster contemplating the possible existence of the magic lizard people and using WCF 1 to justify their lunacy? Hays can, because he continues:

I assume “magic lizard people” is an allusion to M. Scott Peck’s report about two of his demonically possessed patients who manifested a serpentine or reptilian appearance during exorcism.

Actually, I was informed that the magic lizard people, which is not original to me, is an allusion to the old TV series, V.  I never watched V and am more familiar with the flying monkey man tormenting William Shatner in the Twilight Zone.

From there Hays switches to defending his favorably citing of Michael “Hare Krisha” Sudduth and his lifelong fascination with the occult even while still pretending to be a Christian.  But, even here, Hays uses this as an attempt to attack Gordon Clark (Hays may actually be a shapeshifter as he seems to be a one trick pony):

How does a Clarkian like Sean distinguish real belief in Jesus from feigned belief in Jesus? Didn’t Sean’s idol, Gordon Clark say “Assent can never be hypocritical, for it is the voluntary act of according belief to a given proposition” (Today’s Evangelism: Counterfeit or Genuine?), 69.

That one is easy and the question itself belies Hays rejection of the Reformed doctrine of perseverance of the saints and a proper understanding of the Confessional doctrine of saving faith. Whether someone holds to the traditional and tautological threefold definition of saving faith, or Clark’s biblical two-fold alternative, it’s not always easy to tell the true believer from the feigned variety.  So this question has really nothing to do with Clark at all. However, we do know that Jesus said of those given to Him by the Father; “I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” That includes Sudduth’s demonic Lord Krishna.  Or, as John would say; “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.”

It’s not always easy to tell those “who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit” from God’s real children for whom Christ died.  Hypocrites are everywhere, which is why the Confession makes the distinction between those who not only assent to the truth of the promise of the gospel with those who also assent to the imputation of Christ and his righteousness for the pardon of sin and by which we are accounted as righteousness.  So, while hindsight might be 20/20, the signs of Sudduth’s sure apostasy have been a long time coming.  I started suspecting it many years ago when he first took a job at a Roman Catholic university.  John Robbins was understandably critical of Sudduth’s decision and from what I understand privately counseled Sudduth against taking the job.  Something Sudduth didn’t receive very well.  I remember Suddth publicly flying off the handle years ago on a Yahoo Clark discussion group at Robbins. It was like watching an insolent teenager lashing out at his father who had taken away his car keys.  I just thought it was bizarre for someone who was even published in Trinity Review and who had won the Clark Prize in Apologetics to take such offense at the suggestion that he shouldn’t use his talents in the service of the pope and the Roman church/state.

Interestingly, Hays claims to have seen the writing on the wall too after Sudduth’s public rejection of the one true Lord Jesus Christ.  Hays writes:

To my knowledge, Michael has never been biblically oriented. His Christian faith has always been more philosophically oriented. Now, there’s nothing wrong with philosophical theology. But Christianity is ultimately based on historic revelation. Unless your faith is moored in Scripture, you’re adrift.

Hays also suspects that one reason for Sudduth’s defection from the good things of God in favor of his new found love for some Hindu demon stems from his lifelong fascination with the occult.  Hays explains; “I think he’s been under some degree of occultic bondage for most of his life. Never able to shake free of that.”  Sudduth, despite his religiosity and feigned belief in Jesus Christ, even once identifying himself as a Protestant and a “Reformed” Epistemologist, was never a really a Christian; never really born again.  No one can be in Christ and freed by the power of the Holy Spirit yet remain in bondage to the occult.  Either Sudduth was a liar when he claimed to be a Christian, or Jesus was a liar and Sudduth’s demonic Lord Krishna did in fact snatch him from Christ’s hand.  You can’t have it both ways.

So, yes, I am critical of Hays favorably quoting Sudduth, a man who subjected the name of Jesus Christ to public ridicule and shame.  Hays’ defense: “I quote Sudduth’s experience of living in a haunted house.”  Oh, brother.  It also seems Hays does think the Amityville Horror is real too, writing:

There’s a difference between the horror film and the alleged experience on which it was loosely based. I haven’t studied that in-depth. But why does Sean react to reports of occult entities with the same knee-jerk derision and disbelief as an atheist? Evil spirits are part of the biblical worldview. Therefore, it wouldn’t be surprising if some people encounter evil spirits. Sean is a functional atheist.

I have to laugh at this one.  My friend who first pointed me to Hays’ examination of the reality of the magic lizard people said; “If you want to troll him, tell him you think the Amityville Horror was fake and see if he calls you an atheist.”  There you have it.  When I shared Hays’ remarks with my friend he said; “If denial of magic lizards is functional atheism, is belief in lizards a necessary proposition of orthodoxy?”  It seems for Hays it is.

Now, it’s not all complete lunacy and lizard people.  Hays did provide some clarification regarding his favorably quoting Sudduth:

No, I wouldn’t say Sudduth’s experience provides evidence of shapeshifters. Rather, that provides evidence for the existence of occult entities (of which shapeshifters might be a subset).

Of course, Sudduth’s experience provides no evidence at all.  According to Sudduth the “paranormal occurrences” he claims to have experienced are traced back to 1969 “the year resident Walter Callahan Sr. committed suicide in the home.”   This poor delusional soul believes Walther was coming back to spook him and his former wife.  Now, I have no problem saying that Sudduth has a long history of flirting with demons and demonic forces, he does, but the dead do not roam the earth and what Sudduth experienced, and evidently continues to experience, supplies no evidence whatsoever for “postmortem survival.”  With the possible exception of the transfiguration, Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus should have been enough to settle that question even for someone who once pretended to be a Christian.  What Sudduth claims to be valid evidence for life after death, Jesus said is impossible (Luke 16:26). As for the magic lizard people, Hays needs to keep on trying. Who knows, maybe one day I will see Hays and Suddth both dressed in orange playing bells and banging drums while begging for change in the San Francisco airport. Happy hunting.


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