Gordon Clark vs. the Bogeyman

bogeymanA suggestion was made recently that Gordon Clark’s definition of faith as assent to understood propositions – and saving faith as assent to understood biblical propositions — smacks of  Sandemanianism.  Yet, the real anti-Christian mischief, as we shall see,  is done by those who maintain the traditional tri-fold definition of faith as a combination of understanding, assent and trust (which sounds so much more religions  and authoritative when said in Latin; i.e., notitia, assensus and fiducia).   Well, a number of years ago Banner of Truth Trust (the same people who butchered A.W. Pink’s Sovereignty of God) published a hatchet piece by some guy named Doug Barnes who tried, unsuccessfully, to link Clark with Sandeman.  They also published a piece by Geoff Thomas making the same, albeit, less sustained charge.  To Banner’s credit, they at least had the decency to publish a letter by Dr. Robbins setting the record straight (something I can’t say about the OPC rag, New Horizons, which refused to publish letters by both Dr. Robbins and I responding to a similarly distorted review of Clark’s, What is Saving Faith? by Alan Strange) .  Here is Dr. Robbins reply to Messrs. Barnes and Thomas in full:

_____________

John Robbins, Ph. D.

Recently The Banner of Truth published two essays [this one above and the one entitled Sandemanianism at the Westminster Conference, dated 17/12/2004, ed] linking the names of Robert Sandeman, the 18th-century Scots preacher, and Gordon Clark, the 20th-century American theologian and philosopher. This is most unfortunate, for several reasons.

First, neither author of these essays, Douglas Barnes and Geoff Thomas, is qualified to make this comparison. At the time of their writing, neither had read the relevant works of Robert Sandeman, and one of them had not even read Gordon Clark’s book What Is Saving Faith? (Whether they have tried to do their homework since they wrote, I do not know.) Despite not having read Dr. Clark’s book, Thomas dismisses Clark’s view as “the erroneous teaching of the late Gordon Clark.” When I was a college professor, any student who made such claims, not having read the sources, would have flunked the course. Apparently seminary graduates and ministers are not expected observe even minimum standards of scholarship.

Second, these authors, Thomas and Barnes, have used Sandeman as a bogeyman to scare people away from reading Dr. Clark. In so doing, they have not only dragged a red herring through the discussion of Clark’s views, but they have libeled Dr. Clark.

Third, the authors of these essays, both seminary-trained men, both claiming to be Reformed, ought to know that the question is not, Does Clark agree with Sandeman, but, Does Clark agree with Scripture? For all Protestants that is the question to ask. To ask the question, Does Clark agree with Sandeman, and to answer it, Yes, he does, not having read Sandeman (or even Clark), is less than honest and worse than unscholarly. The long-term effect is even more serious: Such a question introduces into readers’ minds a standard other than Scripture for evaluating theological opinions. Tradition, regarded as either negative or positive, becomes the standard, and the Protestant rule of faith is eclipsed.

Let us turn to the body of Barnes’ essay. In his opening paragraph he describes Clark’s view: “For Clark, faith was none other than intellectual assent. Believe the proper things about God and Christ, and you were saved. Misunderstand, and all is lost. No heartfelt emotion or trust is needed…or even involved.”

In his essay, Barnes does not define the word “trust,” making it distinct from assent (which is crucial to his argument), so the reader must guess what he means. Unlike Dr. Clark’s careful definition of terms in What Is Saving Faith? Barnes makes undefined terms central to his argument. The result is that Barnes, quite literally, doesn’t know what he is talking about.

When he uses the phrase “heartfelt emotion or trust” that seems to be about as close as he comes to defining “trust.” Trust is a “heartfelt emotion.” Which emotion Barnes does not say. Perhaps it is a feeling of absolute dependence, as the German Liberal Schleiermacher said. (Barnes uses the phrase “trusting reliance,” which makes him sound like Schleiermacher.) Whatever it is, this heartfelt emotion, Barnes says, is what makes belief saving, for Barnes denies that believing the truth (see the quotation above) saves anyone. To be saved, one must also feel an emotion. But neither Christ nor the Apostles ever demanded that sinners have an emotional experience; they demanded that they believe the truth.

Barnes flatly asserts: “Faith alone is not belief alone.” Faith and belief are two different things in Barnes’ soteriology. It follows, does it not, that when Christ said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life,” that he was misleading Nicodemus? And when the Apostle Paul said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved” he was misleading the jailer? One might quote scores of similar verses, but these two will do to show how far Barnes is from Christian soteriology. According to the Scriptures, belief of the Gospel, and only belief of the Gospel, saves.

This point deserves some emphasis, for in his emotional zeal to charge Clark with error, Barnes attacks, repeatedly and emphatically, the notion that belief of the Gospel saves the sinner. This is a frontal attack on the Gospel itself.

In denying that belief of the Gospel saves, Barnes has apparently been misled by the Latin fides, a word not found in Scripture. Barnes refers to the “traditional threefold definition of faith as notitia (understanding), assensus (assent) and fiducia (trust).” He correctly describes this definition as “traditional,” but he fails to show that it is Biblical. And that is what he must show, if we are to accept his argument.

Contrary to Barnes’ preoccupation with Latin terms, Dr. Clark disposed of the misleading Latin definition by showing it to be tautologous, and then he examined the Greek terms of the New Testament, demonstrating by the meticulous exegesis of scores of verses exactly what the Holy Spirit meant by the words “believe” and “belief”: Belief is assent to a proposition. For example, John 4:50: “The man believed the word that Jesus had spoken to him.” John 2:22: “They believed the Scripture.” John 9:18: “But the Jews did not believe…that he had been blind.” And so on. Saving faith is not belief of any stray proposition, such as “he was born blind,” but belief of the propositions of the Gospel.

Furthermore, saving belief is a species of the genus belief, and unless one knows what belief is, one cannot understand what saving belief is. What distinguishes saving belief/faith from generic belief/faith is not some additional subjective psychological factor, as Barnes asserts, but the object, the propositions, believed. It is not our subjective emotional state that saves us, but the objective truth. Saving belief is belief of the Gospel truth. Barnes’ subjectivism is subversive of Christianity.

Barnes asserts: “Clark simply has no place in his system for trust.” Well, Clark has no place in his system for undefined terms, and if trust remains undefined, then there is no place in Christian theology for it. But Barnes apparently did not read page 76 of What Is Saving Faith?: “If anyone wish to say the children [of Matthew 18:6 and Mark 9:42] trusted in him, well and good; to trust is to believe that good will follow.” Here Clark defined “trust” as belief of a proposition in the future tense, in this case, the proposition “good will follow.” To trust a person is to believe the proposition, “he always tells the truth.” To trust God is to believe the proposition: “God will be good to me forever.” Or as Paul put it more eloquently in Romans 8: “For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” But an undefined psychological state called “trust” has no place in the Gospel or in Biblical theology.

Barnes next misquotes and misinterprets the Westminster Confession: “Westminster Confession of Faith 14.2 declares that saving faith involves not merely believing God’s word and accepting Christ’s claims, but also ‘receiving and resting upon Christ alone for all that salvation entails.'”

Once again, Barnes’ un-Biblical view of faith leads him to assert that “believing God’s word and accepting Christ’s claims” is inadequate for salvation because it is different from “receiving and resting upon Christ alone.” When one recalls that Christ’s claims include this one, “No one comes to the Father but by me,” it is obvious that Barnes’ alleged distinction collapses. Believing Christ’s claims is ipso facto “receiving and resting on Christ alone.”

Here is what 14.2 actually says: “By this faith, a Christian believes to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God himself speaking therein; and [he] acts differently upon that which each particular passage thereof contains, yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life and that which is to come. But 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.”

A careful reading of this paragraph shows that the Westminster Assembly first asserted that the Christian believes to be true whatever Scripture says, simply because God says it; and then Assembly identified the “principal acts of saving faith” as belief of the Scriptural propositions about Christ. Barnes imagines a contrast between belief (which he says does not save) and an emotional experience, but there is none in the Confession. It is all belief, all intellectual assent, and the contrast in 14.2 is between believing all the propositions of Scripture, and the “principal acts of saving faith,” which is believing the specific propositions about Christ.

Barnes makes a similar blunder with regard to the Larger Catechism, which in question 72 is not burdened with drawing a distinction between “assent” (a literal term) and “receiving and resting” (figurative terms), but with making clear that it is not merely the promise of the Gospel (eternal life) that the sinner believes, but also the doctrine of the imputed righteousness of Christ as the sole basis for pardon and salvation. Because of his subjectivist bias, Barnes misreads both these passages in the Westminster Standards, trying to make the effectiveness of saving faith depend on something inside the sinner, rather than on the objective work of Christ.

Barnes’ bias leads to his misreading of the Belgic Confession as well. He quotes Article 23, which contradicts his views: “We do not presume to trust anything in ourselves [that includes emotions] or any of our merits, ‘relying and resting upon the obedience of Christ crucified alone, which becomes ours when we believe in him.'” Admitting that this statement teaches “intellectual belief,” Barnes asserts that “relying and resting” involves “something more.” What this “something more” is, Barnes does not say. He asserts this because “Belgic 23 concludes that such a response to God [that is belief] frees one’s conscience ‘of fear, terror, and dread’ — emotions which rather clearly transcend the intellect!”

This is a most bizarre argument. First, Barnes told us that heartfelt emotion was necessary for salvation; now he claims the Belgic Confession supports him, even when it says that belief of the Gospel ends emotions!

Second, Barnes asserts that emotions “transcend the intellect,” a statement that betrays his fundamentally Antichristian and secular psychology. Barnes has absorbed more Freud that he cares to admit. He simply does not understand that emotions are reactions to beliefs, and that beliefs are more fundamental than emotions. That is why, as the Belgic Confession says, belief of the Gospel frees the sinner from these emotions.

Barnes’ appeal to the Heidelberg Catechism rests on the same subjectivist misreading of the document. Answer 21 is concerned to state first a general principle (“all that God has revealed to us in his word”) and then the specific propositions of the Gospel. Like 14.2 of the Westminster Confession, it does not use the word “trust.”

Barnes also cites several confused statements from a number of theologians. One of the benefits of reading Dr. Clark’s book is that he shows how the theologians speak out of both sides of their mouths, contradicting on one page what they had asserted on the page before. Clark easily can and does cite a Reformed tradition supporting his views, just as Barnes cites a tradition supporting his view. Such quotes settle nothing. Only Scripture is decisive, and Scripture says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.” To go beyond this, to assert that belief is not enough, is to deny the Gospel.

Therefore, when Barnes concludes, “Belief alone is not enough,” he denies the Gospel. And when he cites as a reason for this “inescapable conclusion” that man’s “intellect is just as polluted and helpless as his conscience and emotions,” one can only conclude that he has not understood anything in Dr. Clark’s book. His essay is merely an emotional rant against Clark.

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89 Comments on “Gordon Clark vs. the Bogeyman”

  1. speigel Says:

    I find it odd that some Reformed people reject Clark’s definition of saving faith because they know people who profess to assent to the Gospel and the Bible but still reject it. First, who is to say their profession of assent is true? Don’t we deny that the non-believer is telling the truth when he says that he doesn’t know God? We proclaim that he does indeed know God. Second, the non-believer probably meant that he understands the Gospel and the Bible but does not believe it. People confuse the concepts of understanding with believing. I find it odd that these critics would use experience, when it’s convenient to them, to guide their definition of Biblical terminology. They believe the unbeliever but not the Bible, let alone someone who defended the Bible.

    I’ve also never seen anyone define saving faith based on its Greek term. They always go to the Latin terms. They act as if the Greek term doesn’t exist.

    I also notice some have a problem with Clark’s definition because there seems to be no space for the will. How dense are people that they cannot see that assent must mean voluntary assent and thereby related to the will? Clark makes this explicitly clear in his book.

    Some assert that Robbins is a bad scholar. I doubt that. I haven’t seen any reason to call into question any of Robbins’ works where he quotes from others. But these critics seem to spew things from their mouths without doing their own homework. From what I’ve seen, many people who disagree with Clark have never even read Clark, and thereby greatly misunderstand him.

    In the end, even if Clark’s definition is wrong, the critics never show from the Bible how or why the definition is wrong. They bring all their (humanly) weapons except “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Eph 6:17. And when some dead theologians agree with Clark on some points of saving faith, the critics throw them out as well. I can only guess that much of the disagreement stems from some party spirit against Clark. That, they need to get over with.

  2. Gus Gianello Says:

    Robbins says
    ——————————————

    Furthermore, saving belief is a species of the genus belief, and unless one knows what belief is, one cannot understand what saving belief is. What distinguishes saving belief/faith from generic belief/faith is not some additional subjective psychological factor, as Barnes asserts, but the object, the propositions, believed. It is not our subjective emotional state that saves us, but the objective truth. Saving belief is belief of the Gospel truth. Barnes’ subjectivism is subversive of Christianity.
    —————————————–
    This insight alone is well worth considering. It shows that those who hold a psychological view of faith are really nominalists who deny that the mind can actually apprehend by direct revelation of the Spirit, the objects of knowledge. They do not believe that reality is propositional, and therefore are not only nominalists, but empiricists at best and mystics at worse.

    This whole issue has ontological implications not just epistemological. If the epistemic value of reality is not propositional then we do not “live and move and have our being in Him” as the apostle Paul famously quotes the once-write Greek poet.

    Put simply, if faith is saving faith because of an added internal, psychological and mystical element then it is not belief as such, but apprehension of mystical realities, and therefore transcends rational thought. Therefore rational thought is not described as the apperception of objects of knowledge, but the naming of empty categories, which can only be felt not explained and assented to. Is this Hydra not the fountain of every obsenity that calls itself “evangelical” or “reformed” in the present dark times?

    Gus Gianello

  3. Jimmy Ellis Says:

    Great article. Thanks for bringing it back up for us.

    Robbins indicates that linking Clark with Sandeman (and Sandemanianism) is libelous. What would you say are the distinctions between Clark and the Sandemanians??

  4. Roger Mann Says:

    What would you say are the distinctions between Clark and the Sandemanians??

    Assuming the definition of Sandamanianism given on Theopedia is correct, I’d say there is no distinction between Clark’s view and Sandeman’s view:

    To the Sandemanians, the nature of saving faith reduces to mere intellectual assent to a fact or proposition. This is illustrated rather clearly in the following quote. “In a series of letters to James Hervey, the author of Theron and Aspasia, he [Sandeman] maintained that justifying faith is a simple assent to the divine testimony concerning Jesus Christ, differing in no way in its character from belief in any ordinary testimony.”

    Of course, as Dr. Robbins pointed out, the real “question is not, Does Clark agree with Sandeman, but, Does Clark agree with Scripture? For all Protestants that is the question to ask.” And the answer to that question is, without a doubt, Yes.

  5. Jimmy Ellis Says:

    Robbins reference to the link with Sandeman as libelous, using him as a bogeyman, suggested to me there was a difference. You, Roger, say apparently not. I’d like Sean’s take on it.

  6. Sean Gerety Says:

    While I’m confident speaking about Clark, as for Sandemanianism, no so much. However, I suspect the libel John had in mind has more to do with your previous post on the other thread which, I assume correctly, equated Sandemanianism with some of the peculiarities of the non-Lordship nonsense. Who knows, maybe even Sandeman is being libeled by the association? I just don’t know enough about the man. However, to the question of libel, Tom Ascol writes:

    Modern proponents of “non-Lordship salvation” have simply resurrected the errors of Glas, Sandeman, and McLean. Not only do they fail to distinguish between saving faith on the one hand, and faith which is merely temporary (Luke 8:13), vain (1 Cor. 15:2), or dead (James 2:17, 26) on the other, but they also regard any effort to do so as illegitimate (cases like that of Simon Magus notwithstanding — Acts 8:13, 18-24).

    I don’t see where Clark or Robbins ever failed to distinguish between faith and dead faith or failed to make any of the other distinctions Ascol mentions. Admittedly, neither Clark or Robbins confused the evidences of genuine belief with belief itself, which seems to be the opposite but widely accepted error. Justification by faith alone apprehends and accepts what another has done completely outside of ourselves and on our behalf, rather than focusing on some psychological or emotional experience that might occur within us, which, we are told, is the sine qua non of saving faith — and which, at best, promotes navel watching and nonsense, at worst, outright heresy.

  7. Jimmy Ellis Says:

    Thanks for the Ascol quote. Your comments are helpful and provide the distinction I was looking for.

    Scripture seems to clearly indicate such a thing as “non-saving faith” (as per your Ascol quote), which the Non-Lordship proponents do not usually admit — nor, I suppose, the Sandemanians. I wanted to get clear the fact that Clark’s view acknowledges such. Thanks.

  8. Roger Mann Says:

    I think it’s important to emphasize that while Clark’s view acknowledges such a thing as “non-saving faith,” he meant something quite different than most Reformed theologians mean by this term (i.e., a faith that is lacking the mystical element of fiducia). Correct me if I’m wrong, Sean, but Clark argued that “non-saving faith” consists of believing non-saving propositions about Christ. For example, Jesus addressed “those Jews who believed Him” (John 8:31) in a well known passage of Scripture. Yet what they believed regarding Christ were clearly non-saving propositions, for the Lord Himself went on to say:

    “My word has no place in you.” — John 8:37

    “Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.” — John 8:43-44

    “But because I tell you the truth, you do not believe Me. Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell you the truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears God’s words: therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.” — John 8:45-47

    This is a good example of the “temporary,” “vain,” or “dead” faith referred to in Scripture. These Jews most certainly didn’t “believe” or assent to the saving propositions Christ taught about Himself — with only the mystical element of fiducia being absent.

  9. Jimmy Ellis Says:

    I see your point, Roger. And it is a valuable clarification you make. Thanks.

  10. Jimmy Ellis Says:

    This leads me to a question about assurance. The Non-Lordship guys maintain that our assurance is purely objective — based solely on the promises of God. The Reformed guys countered saying that our assurance is both objective and subjective.

    The subjective element seen in “the Spirit Himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God,” Romans 8:16.

    Does Clark see a subjective element to our assurance?

  11. Sean Gerety Says:

    Roger that – no argument here either 🙂 And, good choice of verses too as they really hammer home the point.

    As I mentioned earlier on the other post, I think the faith of the Romanist or those faux Presbyterian Federal Visionaries are apt examples. These folks certainly believe in a “Jesus,” just not the Jesus of Scripture. If they believed in the Jesus of Scripture they wouldn’t believe that their so-called “faithful obedience” was necessary for their so-called “final justification.” As you suggest, it’s not as if they need to emoted correctly or work harder polishing their ongoing “covenantal faithfulness.” They need to repent — which is a purely mental act — of their dead belief in a useless Christ.

    But, and FWIW, I really don’t know what “most Reformed theologians mean” by dead faith? After watching Keister play ring-around-the-rosie with Wilson at Greenbaggins over the question of the “aliveness” of faith, I’m convinced they really have no idea what they’re even talking about. And this is tragic. If they would simply define what faith IS according to Scripture, they would grasp what the figure “dead faith” was intended to convey. More importantly, they would see that what Wilson means by a living or a dead faith is positively anti-Christian, and, when applied to his FV soteriology, pure poison.

    Frankly, if these men paid closer attention to Clark, and didn’t simply dismiss him like obedient brain-washed Vantilian drones, I’m convinced there would be no Federal Vision spreading like cancer in purportedly “conservative” Christian denominations. It would have been dealt with long ago.

  12. Gus Gianello Says:

    Its amazing to me how literally the FV guys take “dead faith”. It is after all only a metaphor. Faith is only saving faith if alive. Read the whole verse, faith is “dead” like the body is dead without the spirit. It only has an appearance of life. In other words, “dead faith” is no faith at all, like a body is no proof of life without the spirit.

    That being the case, the FVers strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. They contort their theology of faith to supposedly fit the Epistle of James and totally pervert it so it contradicts Paul in Romans.

    Gus

  13. Sean Gerety Says:

    Its amazing to me how literally the FV guys take “dead faith”. It is after all only a metaphor.

    What’s more amazing is that Christ’s appointed shepherds, and those who see themselves as standing in the breach, are content to merely swap metaphors rather than nailing these dogs to the wall and send them running.

    That being the case, the FVers strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.

    And who can blame them? They’re attacking the bulwark at its weakest points. I actually admire them for so carefully crafting their attack.

  14. Eric Broch Says:

    I was listening to one of John Robbin’s lectures on apologetics on the Trinity Foundation web site. Without trying to find the lecture again, though I think it was one of the first four, I will try to summarize John’s comments from it. If anyone has heard the lecture and finds error with my summary please let me know.

    Here goes:

    Basically, people think that defining saving faith as assent to certain understood biblical propositions is easy-believism, but since, according to the Bible, no one can believe except whom God causes to believe, like Peter, assent is IMPOSSIBLE, and; therefore, not EASY at all to the natural man. Again, if assent is impossible to the natural man, it cannot be accomplished by him with any ease.

    That’s it!

    I would conclude that those whom God has chosen and made alive through the preaching of the gospel cannot but believe, that is, it is impossible that they stay in unbelief and that they will belief as naturally, if you’ll excuse the expression, as they breathe.

    Further, IMHO the term ‘easy’ implies some kind of ‘labor’ or ‘work’ by us. If one thinks of faith as some kind of work, Norman Shepherd, then there has to be some level of difficulty associated with it. Since they can not allow heaven to be gained easily, that is, they aren’t entering so they prevent you from entering, some sort of religious ‘rigor’ must be assigned, whether the rigor be defined by the nebulous word ‘trust’ pawned off on us by the unknowing whereby they cause the elect to SCRAPE their psyches raw with introspection, or the good ole fashioned rigor of faith plus works, or faith as a work. The label easy-believism, the denial of assent only, is used by the modern pharisee to lay a stumbling block before the elect. It is a tool of Satan.

    From experience, all I remember was resisting the gospel until it just dawned on me that it was true. I don’t remember any ‘effort’ in believing it, at all. I’m glad of it, if there were any effort I might have had room to boast.

    Does it surprise anybody that there are those in the reformed community, even of great status, that stumble over the gracious GIFT of the gospel?

    Eric

  15. Roger Mann Says:

    Does Clark see a subjective element to our assurance?

    Yes. Commenting on the Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter XVIII, “Of Assurance of Grace and Salvation,” Clark wrote the following:

    Some men, perhaps most, vainly deceive themselves with a false assurance that they are worthy of heaven. Because of this others jump to the conclusion that assurance is impossible. Since, however, it has already been shown that the Scripture teaches the assurance of grace and salvation, the remaining question is how we may attain that assurance.

    To begin to distinguish between presumption and true assurance, one may begin by noting the title of the chapter — Assurance and Grace. The unregenerate are not assured of grace: they believe that they are good enough to deserve heaven. But the assurance spoken of in the Confession is a result of faith in Jesus Christ. It is an assurance that can be found only in those who love him in sincerity and who endeavor to walk in all good conscience before him. The Pharisees were no doubt very sure of themselves. Their great sin was spiritual pride. The assurance of grace, however, accompanies humility and a sense of unworthiness. The distinction is clear to anyone who wishes to see it.

    I John 2:3; 3:14,19,24, and 5:13 tell us how we may obtain assurance of salvation. Do we love the brethren? Are we humble or proud? Cf. I Cor. 15:9,10; Gal. 6:14. Do we teach transgressors the way of the Lord? Cf. Ps. 51:12,13; II Pet. 1:5. (What Do Presbyterians Believe, p. 178 )

  16. Roger Mann Says:

    But, and FWIW, I really don’t know what “most Reformed theologians mean” by dead faith?

    They mean a faith that consists of notitia and assensus but is lacking the critical element of fiducia. Come on, Sean, it’s as clear as mud! 🙂

    After watching Keister play ring-around-the-rosie with Wilson at Greenbaggins over the question of the “aliveness” of faith, I’m convinced they really have no idea what they’re even talking about.

    An “alive” faith is the opposite of a “dead” faith! Where’s the confusion!? 🙂

    By the way, I meant to put the last two smiley faces there… The close of my last post should have looked like this: (What Do Presbyterians Believe, p. 178 )

  17. Tim Harris Says:

    I keep going back to Speigel’s opening remark, “I find it odd that some Reformed people reject Clark’s definition of saving faith because they know people who profess to assent to the Gospel and the Bible but still reject it. First, who is to say their profession of assent is true?”

    I have heard of a man that apostatized and claimed to still believe every word of the Bible, and that he would go to hell for all eternity, but desired to pursue his lusts even more. I don’t see any propositional contradiction that forces us to say that his “profession of assent” was not true. So I’m curious where the Clarkian would identify that such a man lacked “saving faith.” (It would, I suppose have to do with the application of certain propositions to himself, but then, those propositions would not be part of Scripture, or?)

  18. Sean Gerety Says:

    I have heard of a man that apostatized and claimed to still believe every word of the Bible, and that he would go to hell for all eternity, but desired to pursue his lusts even more. I don’t see any propositional contradiction that forces us to say that his “profession of assent” was not true.

    You are kidding, right Tim?

    I honestly can’t believe you’re offering this up as a serious objection to Clark’s definition and his solution to the traditional tautological irrationalism of the trifold definition of faith?

    FWIW I can think of any number of reasons NOT TO believe such a man or think his “profession of assent” was true. Men claim to believe any number of things which may be false. I guess I’m just not that gullible. Evidently neither were James or John. Have you forgotten Jame’s discussion of the feigned faith of the hypocrite? What about 1 John, 2:19 in particular; “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.”

    I could think of any number of other biblical reasons for not believing this man’s professed faith, but the above should suffice.

  19. Tim Harris Says:

    Well Sean, on the traditional definition of faith, we can definitely say that that man (who had been in the OPC in So. Cal.) did not have faith, but on Clark’s definition, where is the contradiction? That is, he claimed to believe that Jesus walked on earth, did the things attributed to him, was crucified and raised from the dead, that he would stand before God on the Judgment Day and be condemned to hell, and all this was worth it to him for license to pursue his lusts here and now. You can say “that is irrational” and of course it is; sin is irrational. But I’m wondering: does it follow from Clark’s view that there must be at least one proposition in Scripture that that man does not believe to be true, despite his profession? Could anyone guess which proposition?

  20. Sean Gerety Says:

    Well Sean, on the traditional definition of faith, we can definitely say that that man (who had been in the OPC in So. Cal.) did not have faith, but on Clark’s definition, where is the contradiction?

    This is becoming all too typical of your posts here Tim. You make assertions for which you don’t demonstrate or defend. So, tell me, how does the addition of fiducia (define please) added to understanding and assent demonstrate that Mr. So.Cal did not have faith whereas Clark’s definition fails to obtain? You seem to be under some strange notion that defining belief as Clark does somehow precludes the fruit or evidence of belief.

    Say your apostate claimed to still trust every word of the Bible, love Jesus Christ with all his heart and soul, yet still would prefer to do all those sinful things you accuse him of and he admits to? How does the addition of trust change anything?

    I would say the difference between the definition advanced by Clark as opposed to traditionalists who are impressed by Latin is this: Clark position protects the doctrine of justification by belief alone whereas the tri-fold definition, apart from being vague and tautological, logically lead to a denial of justification by belief alone.

    Admittedly, the Federal Vision and their brothers in Rome have worked the implications of all this out a bit more than the averaged confused Reformed seminarian. Besides, and as Clark has repeatedly demonstrated, the Scriptural dichotomy is not between head and heart (as so many wrong headed emotion loving pastors would have us believe), since biblically they’re the same thing, but rather between the head and the tongue.

  21. Gus Gianello Says:

    I dont get it. What is so difficult to understand? Just because he said he believes these propositions he does–even though his actions belie his profession? I am not a seminarian, but even I can understand what a hypocrite is. The Pharisees said they believed in Moses. Jesus responded, “No you don’t because if you did, you would believe in Me, since it was Moses that testified of me..”(John) Is that so hard to understand.

    Sorry I cant say it in Latin, but I can say it in Italian if that will help.

  22. Tim Harris Says:

    Gus — true; but “profession” in the sense you imply would be something like “I Mr SoCal trust in Jesus for my righteousness,” but (a) such a proposition is not contained in Scripture, and (b) such a proposition is NOT one that Mr SoCal “professed.” His “profession” was abstract belief in propositions concerning reality, including God– but a God he wanted nothing to do with. Sean — the addition of “trust” would add a personal appropriation which would be contradicted by the man’s lack of desire to live in conformity with that profession, his indifference to going to hell, and so forth. I concede that that “trust” can be described by a series of propositions, but (a) the object of such propositions would appear to be some act or posture of the soul in “resting” on the Person described by the propositions in Scripture, and (b) those propositions are not themselves in Scripture nor implied by Scripture.

  23. Sean Gerety Says:

    Tim is trying to argue that Mr. So. Cal understands and assents to the gospel, and since the traditional def seemingly includes good works (or so it would seem per Tim’s argument), and seeing Mr. So. Cal lacks good works, therefore it follows he doesn’t have faith. Whereas, since Clark’s definition does not include works Mr. So.Cal. has not contradicted Clark’s definition, therefore he must have saving faith. Or, as Tim put it, “I don’t see any propositional contradiction that forces us to say that his “profession of assent” was not true.”

    On the contrary, it would seem the man did not truly assent to the propositions of the Gospel, despite his profession, for if he did he wouldn’t say he’d rather “go to hell for all eternity” in order to indulge his lusts. Based on his profession he would much rather pursue his lusts then follow Christ and is more than willing to pay the price for it. Unless he changes his mind, i.e., repents, he just might get his wish. Therefore, even apart from his lack of good works which would evidence assent, this is at least one “propositional contradiction that forces us to say that his “profession of assent” was not true.”

    His lack of assent is evidenced by his lack of repentance and professed desire to live in sin. I’d say his profession lacks understanding too, since he clearly doesn’t understand the dangers of sin or its price.

  24. Sean Gerety Says:

    the addition of “trust” would add a personal appropriation which would be contradicted by the man’s lack of desire to live in conformity with that profession

    If a man trusts someone he believes what he says. You need to define what you mean by trust which is something IN ADDITION TO BELIEF that is supposed to make belief saving. This you haven’t done.

    As Robbins points out in his answer to 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.

    I’d say the same criticism applies to you as well Tim. You’re merely equivocating on the word trust as if just saying the word signified something more than belief.

    his indifference to going to hell, and so forth. I concede that that “trust” can be described by a series of propositions, but (a) the object of such propositions would appear to be some act or posture of the soul in “resting” on the Person described by the propositions in Scripture, and (b) those propositions are not themselves in Scripture nor implied by Scripture.

    And I would argue his indifference to going to hell, etc, reveals his lack of belief.

  25. Tim Harris Says:

    Well, saying that trust signifies something more than belief is not equivocation, it’s just definition. But I’m not putting a dog into this belief vs trust contest, I’m simply trying to understand how Clark would answer the objection we have been discussing. What specific proposition contained in Scripture does Mr. SoCal necessarily deny if he is willing to go to hell rather than give up his lusts? Can you state the proposition clearly? It seems to me that the exhortations that set hell before the listener presuppose that the listener will be motivated to avoid it, providing an inducement to such action as will prevent that outcome. So it is shocking to meet someone like SoCal that consciously says, “I have weighed the alternatives and made my choice” and “I believe the whole scheme of judgment and salvation presented in the Bible is true, it’s just not for me.”

    However, in a way, isn’t he simply giving clear expression to the position of all the lost?

    When you say “his profession lacks understanding too, since he clearly doesn’t understand the dangers of sin or its price” I’m not sure we know that. You seem to think that understanding the dangers of sin and its price would necessarily bring about repentance, but do we know that? Sin is irrational. The sinful mind chooses things that are crazy; but not necessarily because of a failure to understand a proposition.

    The problem might be cast as a high preference for the present over the future. This seems to be a problem of the will, not the intellect. Clark allows for the will by slipping in the qualifier “voluntary” assent, but I’ve never quite understood what involuntary assent would be.

  26. Sean Gerety Says:

    Well, saying that trust signifies something more than belief is not equivocation, it’s just definition.

    It would be “just definition” Tim if you provided one. You haven’t.

    Instead you seem to be suggesting that trust = works, hence the lack of works per Mr. So.Cal and his professed desire to sin = no faith. FWIW this is the subterfuge of the Federal Visionists. The Romanist is a lot less, well, suggestive.

    But I’m not putting a dog into this belief vs trust contest,

    You already have Tim. You say that trust “signifies” something more than belief, but without a clear definition of what this is your use of the word trust signifies precisely nothing, which was Clark’s point all along. Now, if you do want to include works as a concomitant ingredient that makes belief salvific, then you’re not signifying nothing, but rather are advancing a serious departure from the Christian faith.

    I’m simply trying to understand how Clark would answer the objection we have been discussing.

    And I think I’ve answered how I think Clark would answer your objection, pretty much the same way as many of those who add the word *trust* to their definition of faith — yet who can provide no definitive definition of what *trust* is suppose to mean in context. We’re to assume it means something more than belief, but what exactly no one, except the Romanist and Federal Visionist, seems willing to say. That’s not entirely true. For example, PCA Pastor Andy Webb claims the needed element in addition to belief is the emotion of love. But, you say you don’t even want to put a dog into the contest. That really doesn’t help, now does it?

    So it is shocking to meet someone like SoCal that consciously says, “I have weighed the alternatives and made my choice” and “I believe the whole scheme of judgment and salvation presented in the Bible is true, it’s just not for me.”

    However, in a way, isn’t he simply giving clear expression to the position of all the lost?

    Any number of folks will say the Bible is true, just not for me, but when push comes to shove it is painfully clear that they don’t really understand it after all. I come across people like that all the time, not as often in Church admittedly, and I imagine even less often before a Church Session (which might be the shocking part of the story). But that’s really a matter of location. Perhaps he does understand the Bible and just rejects it. His actions, as Gus points out, certainly belie a conscious rejection. Of course, it is always possible that despite his bravado, he actually is a believer and is longing to play the role of the prodigal?

    OTOH you too may be reading too much into Mr. So.Cal’s so-called profession of faith? As Clark writes; “Faith, by definition, is assent to understood propositions. Not all cases of assent, even assent to Biblical propositions, are saving faith; but all saving faith is assent to one or more Biblical propositions.”

    Beyond that, and before I get tied down to and definitive position with Mr. So. Cal, I’m not all that willing to pronounce the man “lost,” although I would justly fear for his soul.

    The problem might be cast as a high preference for the present over the future. This seems to be a problem of the will, not the intellect. Clark allows for the will by slipping in the qualifier “voluntary” assent, but I’ve never quite understood what involuntary assent would be.

    Do you have a citation? That would be helpful since the only one I could find is where Clark makes exactly your point in response to his study of Manton:

    ”Thou doest well,” quotes Manton, “it is an approbation of such assent so far as it is good and not rested in.” Again Manton has described the act as voluntary assent. Naturally, all assent must be voluntary. But what also needs to be noted here are the words “rested in.” When we say we resting-or should not rest in-this or that, do we mean that in addition to notitia and assensus there is some other psychological element in saving faith called “resting”? Or does it mean that saving faith, rather than being psychologically different, must be an assent to other propositions in addition to monotheism? The latter seems to be the case, whether or not Manton meant it so. We should not “rest in,” i.e. be satisfied with, the single proposition, “There is but one God.” This proposition even the devils accept. But for salvation men must not only accept the monotheistic proposition, but also other propositions relating to the Atonement.

  27. Roger Mann Says:

    This is the biblical description of someone like Mr. SoCal, and it should settle the debate once for all:

    “To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.” (Titus 1:15-16)

    People like Mr. SoCal aren’t lacking some sort of mystical quality of fiducia in their “belief” — they are simply “unbelieving” men who falsely “profess to know God.”

  28. speigel Says:

    @Tim: I think Sean and others have shown that your example of Mr. SoCal does not stand as an objection to Clark’s definition of faith. It just shows that men would rather believe other men than God. But I am glad that there are those who still proclaim “Let God be true though every one were a liar.”

    Also, according to Clark, trust is case of belief or assent, assent already includes trust, and trust is a subdivision of assent. Clark has made this clear in several of his writings. For example, refer to his Today’s Evangelism and What is Saving Faith?

    It is very tiring (and very sad) that the many who argue against Clark’s definition continue to bring the same (and very wrong) assertion that Clark has got ridden of trust. No, he just put it in a logical place.

  29. Tim Harris Says:

    First, Sean — you have indeed caught me in a long-standing error. I really thought “voluntary” was part of Clark’s definition. And I can’t claim a “senior moment,” as I read Clark’s book many years ago, and have mis-read or mis-remembered for lo these many years. So, thank you for that correction.

    However, the correction of the definition only increases my perplexity. Thus, Roger, Mr. SoCal presumably also agrees that Titus 1:15-16 is a true statement, and even one that describes himself, Mr. SoCal. And let’s all grant that “in works they deny [he denies] Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work” — but the “denial” seems to be something other than “denying the truth of some statement of Scripture.”

    I even agree that PROBABLY Mr SoCal actually does deny some truth taught in Scripture, despite his profession. (Then again, we all probably do at this point in our sanctification, despite our regeneration.)

    I am trying to find the exact point at which we disagree. I am inclined to find the point of Mr SoCal’s depravity somewhere other than denying some proposition in Scripture. The important thing, I say, is that he hates and loathes the God that he claims to believe is accurately described by Scripture, and which, for all I know, he really does so believe. Whereas you seem to be forced to say that there is at least one proposition of Scripture that he does not believe, even though you can’t cite (or as yet haven’t cited) what that proposition must necessarily be.

    We all agree, I think, that SoCal lacks the proposition, “I, SoCal, rest in Jesus alone as my righteousness” — but that is not a proposition contained in Scripture. Am I still missing something?

  30. Sean Gerety Says:

    you have indeed caught me in a long-standing error. I really thought “voluntary” was part of Clark’s definition. And I can’t claim a “senior moment,” as I read Clark’s book many years ago, and have mis-read or mis-remembered for lo these many years. So, thank you for that correction.

    Not a problem. It didn’t sound right. Clark is a very economical writer/thinker and is not generally prone to redundancies.

    Whereas you seem to be forced to say that there is at least one proposition of Scripture that he does not believe, even though you can’t cite (or as yet haven’t cited) what that proposition must necessarily be.

    If you’ve been following carefully, I’m not forced to say anything of the sort. You might remember from your reading of Clark that just as he rejected the idea that there is a minimum number of propositions one must believe in order to be saved (which is why he objected to the very idea expressed in the title of “Mere Christianity”), I’m not forced to say that Mr. SoCal is a reprobate despite his obvious hardness of heart (mind). I would certainly fear for his soul and if I were on his session I would vote to bar him from membership and the Lord’s table.

    We all agree, I think, that SoCal lacks the proposition, “I, SoCal, rest in Jesus alone as my righteousness” — but that is not a proposition contained in Scripture. Am I still missing something?

    Perhaps, but this is a good example of why assurance is not to be confused with knowledge. It’s also why no one can be assured of Mr. SoCal’s eternal state, least of all Mr. SoCal.

  31. speigel Says:

    @Sean: I’ve been thinking about the doctrine of assurance which I admittedly haven’t studied much on. When you say “assurance is not to be confused with knowledge” are you saying that assurance is not based on knowledge? Or that assurance is not the same as knowledge as in assurance is not knowledge? Can one have knowledge of one’s salvation? Thanks.

  32. Sean Gerety Says:

    I would agree that our assurance is based on our knowledge of Christ and His finished work alone, completely outside of ourselves. However, assurance is a state of mind. As Clark points out (don’t have the reference at present) many people are assured of a great number of things which may not be true. How many times have you heard someone say, “Sure, I’m going to heaven. After all, I’m a good person.”

    Let me put it this way; Sean’s salvation is neither a deliverance of Scripture nor is it a necessary inference from any biblical proposition. So, unless you want to advance some sort of two-source theory of knowledge I don’t see how we can know, in the epistemic sense, that we are in fact saved persons? How would you account for it? I do know many well meaning Christians who (wrongly) site Romans 8:16 claiming this as the basis for some private revelation concerning their own blessed state, or even the blessed state of another, and, even though it well may be true, I hardly think this is sufficient to be called “knowledge.” Just their confident assertion and claim to the Holy Spirit isn’t enough. If it were then I guess we should accept as true everyone who claims the Holy Spirit testified concerning something or other to them, despite its absence from Scripture. Besides, if our own blessedness were an objection of knowledge, then why the imperatives in Scripture to test ourselves to see if we are in fact “in the faith”?

    Also, if assurance were expressive of the same noetic state as knowledge, then why would the WCF assert that “assurance can be shaken”? Did the Holy Spirit fail in those cases? I don’t think so.

  33. speigel Says:

    @Sean: Are you saying that one cannot know (as in have justified true belief) that one is saved? and that assurance is not knowledge? Thanks.

  34. Sean Gerety Says:

    I thought I was clear, but, yes.

  35. Sean Gerety Says:

    Let me just add, and not to give you short shrift, if we don’t know who they elect are, and we don’t, and the elect are by definition saved persons, then it would follow that we don’t know who are saved persons. Which, I would think, is why we look for evidence of a true and sincere faith.

  36. Gus Gianello Says:

    Sean,
    I hope you do not mind my getting involved in this very interesting discussion. Correct me, by all means, if I mistep.

    Salvation is not metaphysical, its not ontological, its not legal and its not political. It is epistemological. We are saved by belief in new (that is, revealed) knowledge. John 17. Since no one’s name is in the Bible they cannot know they are saved. (We can know that Paul of Tarsus was saved and is elect because his name is in the Bible). This is where assurance comes in, which is not knowledge but opinion. Opinion is not bad, it can be right, we just cannot know if we are right. But we can deduce from “good and necessary consequence” that whoever fits the logical description of being a Christian has reason for his assurance, and it is a good opinion. To opine is to arrive at a thesis which is only probable and NOT certain. But, it can be highly probable, with absolutely no certitude attached.

    Therefore assurance is a state of mind created by the thorough and valid deductive process which takes into consideration only Scripture texts to arrive at a highly probable conclusion of your spiritual estate.

    The early presbyterian churches hit upon I believe, the valid criteria for allowing a person membership in the local congregation. I do not believe that they did so as a result of a valid systemic approach, but because they arrived at the right conclusion without the right arguments.

    Early presbyterianism would examine a person for membership by determining whether he/she had a “credible profession of faith”. Credible in this context means believable. Thereby, they did not try to weed out the unregenerate from the regenerate. The process was never meant to meet the Baptist ideal of a visible church of only the regenerate. They took Jesus warning about pulling out the wheat with the tares seriously. The way they dealt with unregenerate people who slipped thru the cracks was to practice consistent church discipline. When preaching failed to correct congregational sin, then negative church discipline would take place. And where the three step disciplinary proceedure failed, the individual was excommunicated. Excommunication was NEVER seen as punishment, but as discipline of last resort, and was always meant as a form of last result rehabilitative justice. Even after excommunication, the intent was to win the individual back as demonstrated in 1 Cor 5 with 2 Cor 7.

    Assurance is self assessment, and church membership is group assessment. Both of them approximate the true status of the individual, since both of them deal with biblically formed opinion and NOT knowledge.

    Gus Gianello

    PS. If any of you are interested in receiving a free e-newsletter written from an explicitly Scripturalist perspective, I am publishing one as of April. Just send me an email at dr.gus.gianello AT rogers DOT com

    Thanks

  37. speigel Says:

    Thank you both for the replies.

    @Sean: How would you explain Romans 8:16 then if others are wrongly interpreting it?

    Clark in his book, the Holy Spirit page 54, says this:

    “The first of these verses [Romans 8:13-17] indicates that through the Spirit we become able to mortify the deeds of the body. The reason is that those who are led by the Spirit are the sons of God. We have received the Spirit of adoption, and by the Spirit we may know that we are the children of God. Hence it is the Spirit who, to say the least, stimulates our filial devotion to the Father.”

    How is Clark using the word “know” here? Is it in the colloquial sense and therefore Clark means “opines”? Or is it in the justified true belief sense?

    In addition, Clark does note that there is such a thing false assurance (he called it presumption) and true assurance. I have yet to recollect how he differentiates the two.

    Finally, how does WCF deal with assurance? It states that not everyone attains assurance, though all should seek it. Assurance may be shaken or even lost, but WCF still calls this assurance and “infallible assurance.” What does WCF mean by infallible assurance?

    Thanks.

  38. speigel Says:

    I meant to say that the WCF calls assurance “an infallible assurance.”

    @Gus: If my name was written in the Bible, how would I know it meant me and not someone else who has the same name as me?

  39. Sean Gerety Says:

    First, Gus, it’s not a good idea to put your email address up on blogs (or anywhere). At the very least in order to avoid spammers. So I put in the “dot” above.

    Speigel, I apologize, but I think I lent out my copy of What Do Presbyterians Believe. So someone might check, but I recall Clark mentioning that he didn’t think “infallible” in context of assurance was the best choice of words and briefly explains why. The way I’ve always understood the word was more in the sense of an “unshakable conviction” or unwavering confidence. You’ll notice that the means to this unwavering or infallible assurance is founded not on some inference from Scripture concerning our own salvific state, but in the promises of God, the inward evidence “of of those graces unto which these promises are made,” and the testimony of the Spirit.

    Conversely, and at least for Clark, knowledge consists of those things set down in Scripture and their necessary inferences. As much as I would like to think the proposition, “Sean Gerety is my saved child,” is a deliverance of Scripture, it simply is not. Maybe I missed the verse or even the passage where I might infer this?

    Again, I’m not saying assurance isn’t possible, but that it is a conviction, a state of mind, and not an object of knowledge.

  40. speigel Says:

    @Sean: I just checked What Do Presbyterians Believe? Clark doesn’t refer to the term “infallible assurance.”

    You may be right that the use of “infallible” may have been poor word choice. Since infallible modifies assurance, it seems to say that the assurance is infallible. Perhaps WCF meant to say that assurance rests on infallible ground such as the hope or promise set forth in the gospel. (But if assurance rests on infallible ground, is the assurance then not also infallible?)

    Is assurance only a state of mind? Is it also a belief in the proposition that one is saved? Or is this latter belief something else than a state of mind?

    Again, I wonder how I should interpret Clark when he references Romans 8:13-17 and says that we know that we are the children of God. Should I suppose that Clark meant that we “opine” that we are the children of God?

    P.S. I’m not sure how busy you are and how tired you may be from answering my questions. I, therefore, don’t want to be a burden to you. If you rather point me to some books, I would be more than happy to check them out. Thanks again for your patience.

  41. Sean Gerety Says:

    I’m always happy to discuss Clark and Scripturalism. So no problem. 🙂

    Again, people regularly use the word “to know” in different senses which are determined by the context it’s used. I think it’s a mistake, and a bit knee jerk, to think that every time Clark or anyone else uses the word “to know” that it’s designed to convey the same meaning every time. Clark’s critics routinely do this and then pride themselves in thinking they’ve demonstrated some “glaring contradiction” in Clark’s philosophy. “See, Clark says he knows something that is neither set down or inferred from Scripture.” Insert chest thump here.

    Of course the ox knows it’s master and Adam knew Eve and she conceived. When someone says; “I know I’m God’s child” they’re expressing their assurance in their own salvific state. But knowledge, if we’re going to call it that, requires an account.

    By contrast assurance is defined, at least by Websters, as the state of being assured: as a: security b: a being certain in the mind c: confidence of mind or manner : easy freedom from self-doubt or uncertainty…. So, even per Clark’s exegesis of Romans 8 it is clear that he’s taking about a state of mind that comes from the work of the Spirit in our lives. Clark is talking about assurance, not knowledge.

    Finally, I don’t believe that assurance comes from “the proposition that one is saved,” simply because I have no idea where or how one would arrive at this proposition? Unlike the thief on the cross I don’t have the Lord telling me that I will be with Him in paradise. My own personal election has not been revealed, but I like to think from time to time that I can see evidence of the Spirit’s operations in my life as per Romans 8 above. OTOH if on that great and terrible day the Lord were to turn to me and say; “Begone, I never knew you” what could I say? Eternal damnation is all I deserve. From where could I deduce my own election in order to prove the Lord wrong?

  42. speigel Says:

    @Sean: Thanks for your time, Sean. I appreciate you taking time to answer some of my questions. I’m sure I’ll have more in the future. For now, I’ll be reflecting on much of what you’ve said.


  43. I would like to pick up on a few things that might have been left undone. I appreciate Tim’s line of questioning and I’d like to address what I believed to be a misunderstanding.

    ———
    Tim wrote: “What specific proposition contained in Scripture does Mr. SoCal necessarily deny if he is willing to go to hell rather than give up his lusts? Can you state the proposition clearly?”
    ———

    The discussion seemed to turn on the premise that if one cannot know which proposition the sinner is not believing that therefore the sinner could be believing all propositions and just saying to himself “salvation is just not something I’m interested in but I do believe all Jesus says…” From that objection I think the discussion proceeded upon a false a premise that needed to be satisfied. In defense of Clark, I would say that one doesn’t need to know *which* proposition is being denied in order to know *that* a proposition is being denied. I’m not sure that was plainly pointed out in defense of Clark’s position. A session would only need to infer that some major propositional tenet of Scripture is being denied in order for one to live a life like Mr. SoCal. In other words, the heathen’s lifestyle proves *that* a proposition is being denied. The incongruent lifestyle of the hypocrite doesn’t need to determine for us *which* proposition is being denied. Accordingly, not being able to pin-point the denied proposition does not prove Clark’s position false.

    —————
    Tim wrote: “You seem to think that understanding the dangers of sin and its price would necessarily bring about repentance, but do we know that? Sin is irrational. The sinful mind chooses things that are crazy; but not necessarily because of a failure to understand a proposition.”
    —————–

    Actually, we know from Romans 1 that belief in the dangers of sin will not by itself bring about repentance. I would also suggest that when one sins he is believing a lie at the moment – that he will be better off feeding his flesh than his spirit while also suppressing a belief that this is not so. At the very least, we should agree that when one sins he is believing the Devil and to believe the Devil is not to believe God (and gospel propositions). Accordingly, sin requires unbelief in what is true. And a heathen lifestyle presupposes unbelief in major gospel tenets that speak to the deliverance from the *power* of sin.

    Certainly Clark allowed for man to hold to contradictory beliefs through a suppression of truth. He allowed for irrational beliefs and self-deception in other words. Obviously Scripture has a place for “I believe – but help my unbelief.” These distinctions I believe to be compatible with Clark, but it might be good to discuss these things. My thought is that man cannot believe X and ~X equally at the same time. Given suppression of X, ~X is believed at the moment. Accordingly, contradictory beliefs must be seen as believing one thing at a moment and its denial at another moment but never believing both equally at the same time. So, when a saint sins, he is believing some lie(s) at the moment (he has been deceived by himself, the Devil or both) but not believing those lies later when not sinning. To be believing a lie about sin is not to be believing gospel propositions.

    Ron

  44. Hugh McCann Says:

    One proposition of Scripture that non-elect men & angels cannot believe is found in 1 Cor. 15:3f ~

    “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died FOR OUR SINS in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”

    Close-but-no-cigar UNsaving faiths mess up the person and/ or work of Christ for his people.

    Thus, the all important word is OUR in the text above.

    If he died for everyone’s sins in the world, then we’d be lost, for we’d need to do something to add to and finish Christ’s work for us. Paul repudiates this everywhere in his writings.

    No, Christ laid down his life for his sheep, his elect, his people given him by the Father. Believing on his finished work on OUR behalf, we are justified.

    Yours,
    Hugh


  45. Hi Hugh,

    If your point is based strictly upon the biblical doctrine of Limited Atonement then your point can only be that a non-elect person cannot *know* that Jesus died for his sins, for there would be no internal witness of the Spirit that such was indeed true. It would indeed not be true, so he couldn’t know it as true, but can he *believe* it as true without warrant is the question.

    The question your post raises pertains to the sorts of beliefs that can be maintained yet without warrant. One can believe things that are false, like Elvis lives. One can also believe things that are true yet without suitable warrant; for instance, one could believe that it’s approximately 1:00 p.m. when such is the case but the belief could be based upon a clock that had broken 12 hours prior. The question is whether one can irrationally believe that Jesus died for his sins.

    Best,

    Ron

  46. Hugh McCann Says:

    Dear Ron,

    Amen & amen.

    “The question is whether one can irrationally [*w/o true faith*] believe that Jesus died for his sins.”

    I think the answer here is, ‘Yes.’ Don’t Arminians and others who dabble in Christian-like religious societies all hear and believe such a thing?

    To wit, a Lutheran (LCMS) pastor with whom I discussed the atonement, when asked how he knew God loved him, how he could know that Jesus died for his sins, said that “Jesus died for everybody, and I’m part of the everybody.”

    He apparently believed that God loves all men in the world, and that Christ died for them all.

    Of course he had no answer for election or atonement. I asked how he could be saved if it’s by grace alone, while Christ’s death doesn’t secure anyone’s salvation. But you all know all this.

    So can one ‘believe’ that Jesus died for his sins, and still for to hell?

    Those described above don’t believe he died for ALL their sins, not really. They believe that belief (or at least the initial turning/yielding, etc.) is the part for which they are responsible. They’d have to say that Christ died for all sins except unbelief (or turning, etc.) Owen masterfully took care of this error of theirs.

    Yours,
    Hugh


  47. Dear Hugh,

    You wrote: “Those described above don’t believe he died for ALL their sins, not really. They believe that belief (or at least the initial turning/yielding, etc.) is the part for which they are responsible. They’d have to say that Christ died for all sins except unbelief (or turning, etc.) Owen masterfully took care of this error of theirs.”
    ——–

    Yes, but the question remains whether one can believe that Christ died for all his sins without remainder yet believe it without apart from the gift of saving faith. What is the distinguishing factor, in other words, between a saving belief and a faith that does not save? We’ve already established that men can believe many things without justification. Can belief in the propositions of the gospel fall into such a category? I’m not suggesting that those with saving faith do not have assurance available to them; they most certainly do but that is due to the witness of the Spirit that he gives to those in Christ. Obviously the person who believes yet is lost has no such witness of the Spirit, but can he believe the propositions of the gospel in some way?

    Warmly in Christ,

    Ron

  48. Hugh McCann Says:

    Hey Ron,

    First: “Yes, but the question remains whether one can believe that Christ died for all his sins without remainder yet believe it without apart from the gift of saving faith.”

    > I don’t see how one could.

    2nd: “What is the distinguishing factor, in other words, between a saving belief and a faith that does not save?”

    > The propositions believed, as above. Saving faith believes the true gospel; false faith believes some other ‘gospel’ (which is not another).

    3rd: “We’ve already established that men can believe many things without justification. Can belief in the propositions of the gospel fall into such a category?”

    > No, believing the gospel (its propositions) is necessarily salvific, acc. to Paul.

    4th: “I’m not suggesting that those with saving faith do not have assurance available to them; they most certainly do but that is due to the witness of the Spirit that he gives to those in Christ.”

    > Amen! ‘Tis part and parcel of the gift of the Ghost!

    5th: “Obviously the person who believes yet is lost has no such witness of the Spirit,”

    > Amen – no assurance, except a false security based upon his own work in addition to Christ’s: maybe a grace-enabled ‘faith,’ a heart-felt prayer of consecration, an earnest ‘accepting’ of some ‘Jesus,’ etc., but all synergistic at the end of the day, and damning.

    6th: “but can he believe the propositions of the gospel in some way?”

    > No, sir; his ‘faith’ is false, he does not believe the gospel of 1 Cor 15:3f, he believes that God is one, that God loves all men, that Christ died for everyone, and that his own repentance, prayer, faith, etc. gave him access to this ‘christ,’ ‘election’ unto his perceived ‘salvation,’ etc.

    Yours,
    Hugh


  49. Hi Hugh,

    I know the thesis. I’m simply looking for the defense. Your position is that although one can believe in Santa for a while and then stop, one cannot believe in Jesus for a while and then stop. In the former case, the belief in Santa would have been unjustified but still been belief just the same. Regarding the latter case, it has not been shown that one cannot believe all the propositions of the gospel on some other basis than having heard from God, which I am suggesting would be to *believe* yet without justification. Unjustified beliefs are held all the time, even for superstitious reasons – so why not the same with respect to gospel propositions? Moreover, there are often beliefs that don’t rise to the level of absolute persuasion and that latter level of belief might be a component of salvific belief, but notwithstanding it has yet to be shown that beliefs in gospel propositions that aren’t quite so strong (and consequently not saving) cannot possibly exist. I know the asserted thesis; I’m simply looking for the argument that supports it.

    Thanks,

    Ron

  50. Hugh McCann Says:

    >> Dear Ron,
    >> Reply below:

    I know the thesis. I’m simply looking for the defense. Your position is that although one can believe in Santa for a while and then stop, one cannot believe in Jesus for a while and then stop.

    >> Yes, “the gifts and calling of God are w/o repentance” (on his part!) ~ Rom. 11:29 (‘irrevocable,’ ESV).

    In the former case, the belief in Santa would have been unjustified but still been belief just the same.

    >> Yes, the same elements are in unsaving faith: Knowledge & assent. In this case, knowledge of the Santa myth (his North Pole address, reindeer, sleigh, gift-giving, etc.) and assent that it is true.

    >> In the case of bogus Christianity, knowledge of and assent to the myths that God loves all men, that Christ died for everyone, and that one’s own grace-enabled repentance, prayer, faith, etc. give one regeneration and salvation.

    Regarding the latter case, it has not been shown that one cannot believe all the propositions of the gospel on some other basis than having heard from God, which I am suggesting would be to *believe* yet without justification.

    >> Does the Bible anywhere say that one can “believe all the propositions of the gospel on some other basis than having heard from God,” or that one can “*believe* [the true gospel] yet without justification”?

    >> Such would make the Holy Spirit a liar, since many texts indicate that whoever believes on the name of the Son of God will be saved.

    John 3:16b …whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
    3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned
    3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life
    Acts 13:38f …through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.

    Unjustified beliefs are held all the time, even for superstitious reasons – so why not the same with respect to gospel propositions?

    >> B/c the Spirit regenerates the elect to believe unto the saving of their souls.

    Moreover, there are often beliefs that don’t rise to the level of absolute persuasion and that latter level of belief might be a component of salvific belief, but notwithstanding it has yet to be shown that beliefs in gospel propositions that aren’t quite so strong (and consequently not saving) cannot possibly exist.

    >> It is NOT the strength of the convictions, it is the propositions believed (whether true gospel or false) that determine one’s justification (in the instrumental sense; ultimately it’s God who chooses to save whom he will).

    I know the asserted thesis; I’m simply looking for the argument that supports it.

    >> I hope these are helpful. I’m not sure I am being helpful.

    Hugh


  51. “Santa myth…”

    But… but… *tear*

    *lip wobble*

    *sob*

  52. Hugh McCann Says:

    🙂

    myth-busters strike again!

  53. Hugh McCann Says:

    As we giggle over the Santa thing, it’s a mighty fearful thing to think of those deceived souls believing they’re saved (or possibly or probably saved) because they did something in response to a hackneyed presentation of the gospel!

    I am reminded of “Justification and Judgment” on Matt. 7:21ff. http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=117

    Lotta tears and lip-wobblin’ in the last day from “Christians” who believed the Galatian lie.


  54. Hugh stated: Yes, the same elements are in unsaving faith: Knowledge & assent. In this case, knowledge of the Santa myth (his North Pole address, reindeer, sleigh, gift-giving, etc.) and assent that it is true.

    Ron replies: If the element of knowledge is in unsaving faith, then belief must be present because belief is a component of knowledge. You have now moved the belief of Santa into a category of knowledge of a Santa *myth*, which is different than a belief about Santa.That’s to open up a whole can of worms that would get this matter way side tracked. I suggest we pursue this matter on what is below if that’s O.K. with you.

    Hugh wrote: Does the Bible anywhere say that one can “believe all the propositions of the gospel on some other basis than having heard from God,” or that one can “*believe* [the true gospel] yet without justification”?

    Ron replies: The Bible doesn’t tell me that children can believe in Santa Clause yet some do. Accordingly, that the Bible doesn’t say X doesn’t imply only ~X. Consequently, any appeal to what the Bible does not say on this matter doesn’t bolster the dogmatic claim.

    Your position is that one can believe anything imaginable in their unsaved state except for one thing, the propositions of the gospel. Yet you should agree that if those propositions were simply imagined apart from having heard from God on the matter, the beliefs would be as fanciful as the belief in unicorns. They’d be unjustified beliefs in other words. Accordingly, we should not expect salvation to be accompanied by such beliefs because for at least one reason, the belief would not be based upon the authority of God. (Now of course God can place his authority on his truth spoken by others, but we may also assume he doesn’t always nor needs to.) Again, I haven not seen an argument why one cannot believe in an unjustified way.

    Hugh States: Such would make the Holy Spirit a liar, since many texts indicate that whoever believes on the name of the Son of God will be saved.
    Ron Replies: This begs the question of what it means to “believe” and what propositions are contained in “on the name of the Son of God.” All the other quoting of Scripture equally begs these questions too. Please, don’t think that you have argued something about the meaning of belief simply by citing texts with the word “belief” in them.
    Ron stated: Unjustified beliefs are held all the time, even for superstitious reasons – so why not the same with respect to gospel propositions?
    Hugh replied: B/c the Spirit regenerates the elect to believe unto the saving of their souls.
    Ron replies: That the Spirit regenerates the elect and causes them to believe does not mean that men cannot hold those same beliefs in an unwarranted sense to the damnation of their souls. Your response does not address the distinction of saving belief and fanciful belief. Again, it’s just question begging I’m afraid.

    Hugh states: It is NOT the strength of the convictions, it is the propositions believed (whether true gospel or false) that determine one’s justification (in the instrumental sense; ultimately it’s God who chooses to save whom he will).
    Ron: Yes, that is your thesis. I get that. Unfortunately for your position, people draw beliefs thousands of times per day but without any impact on their lives. I believe my daughter is in the other room but I wouldn’t bet my life on it. Many people believe that Jesus died for their sins in the same uninformed and casual way. I would suggest that such a belief is not saving.

    We’ve probably beaten this enough. I don’t see that you’re addressing the issue in an adequate way so let’s put it away for we’ve both had ample time to make our respective points. No hard feelings I trust!

    Grace and Peace,

    Ron

  55. brandon Says:

    Hi Ron,

    Can you clarify something for me?

    Yet you should agree that if those propositions were simply imagined apart from having heard from God on the matter, the beliefs would be as fanciful as the belief in unicorns.

    When you say “apart from having heard from God” are you referring to someone hearing/reading the Word, or are you referring to regeneration?

    I believe my daughter is in the other room but I wouldn’t bet my life on it.

    Just from this example, and I understand this is the root of the issue, it seems to me you really do not believe your daughter is in the other room. You simply think she is. Let me ask you this: Why do you believe/think she is in the other room?

    Or perhaps another way to illustrate it is to change the proposition: Instead of “I believe my daughter is in the other room” it is “God said my daughter is in the other room, therefore I believe my daughter is in the other room.”

    I honestly do think the difference between saving and unsaving faith is still in the propositions believed. Does someone who believes Christ died for them believe that Christ died and rose again according to the Scriptures? Perhaps they have a completely different idea in mind as to what it means to die for someone’s sin, an idea that is unbiblical. Therefore they are not believing the gospel.

    Is this anything in the right direction, or am I missing the point?

  56. brandon Says:

    And I will say that what I just said above is a very practical outworking of this issue. I’ve spent the last few months meeting with some representatives of a cult. They claim to be orthodox. They insist they believe the gospel: that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again. We could leave it at that and say they believe the gospel. But when we pressed further, we found out they have an entirely different Christ in mind (ie not the Second Person, but the entire Triune God became flesh).

    I understand you’re not denying that’s possible – but I also think that is the answer to the supposed believer who is damned.


  57. Dear Brandon,

    In this context when I refer to “having heard from God” I certainly am not speaking of regeneration. I would say that regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit by which God irrevocably recreates man in his entire nature, which is the new birth, and is always accompanied by a new and holy disposition from which through providence future inclinations and necessarily subsequent actions follow that are in accordance with God’s precepts. Hearing from God (in the way I using the term in this gospel context) follows regeneration, but I am not in any way trying to equate “hearing from God” with regeneration. Nor am I intending to convey by the phrase someone merely “hearing/reading the Word”. One can hear and read without understanding, let alone saving belief, and I am trying to communicate – *in this context* – that “hearing from God” always results in saving belief. Let me also add that I affirm that hearing and reading are only occasions by which God may choose to implant thoughts into the mind. Accordingly, hearing and reading are not sufficient for, let alone to be equated to, God implanting his thoughts into the mind, let alone saving beliefs.

    I mentioned that I believed my daughter to be in the other room but that I wouldn’t bet my life on it. In response you suggested that I didn’t really believe her to be in the other room but that I only thought it to be true. It would seem by your distinction that one does not truly *believe* things that cannot be known as true. In other words, your position would seem to entail that if one cannot know his daughter is in the other room, then he cannot believe she is; he can only “think” she is you seem to want to suggest, but that would seem to equate belief with knowledge, which I don’t think you want to do. In sum, what is the difference between thinking something is true and believing it is true?

    You asked why I thought she was in the other room. The reason I thought she was in the other room is because I heard her go in the other room and did not hear her leave. Added to that, I believe it to be my experience that if I don’t hear someone leave a room that I heard them go into, in most cases they have remained in the room I heard them go in. My house is a comfortable size but not a mansion.

    Best wishes,

    Ron

  58. brandon Says:

    I’ll let those more qualified try to answer you on a more technical level. I don’t think my attempt to answer will get us very far 🙂 Thank you for your desire to address these questions seriously – I searched far and wide when I first read Clark’s book and wasn’t able to find interaction at this level.

    I’m curious what you believe 1 Cor 2:14-16 means.


  59. Brandon,

    Great question and I must tread humbly here. The natural man does not receive the things of the Lord, and we also must do justice to the parable of the sower where we find that some receive the word with gladness for a while. Those two verses do not contradict each other and it is our task to reconcile their meaning. I think I’m safe in saying that ultimately the natural man does not receive the things of the Lord, but for a time he can. Ultimately he will depart from the ways of the Lord. Again, we must do justice to all of Scripture. Receiving, however, is not the same as believing but in order to receive with joy, even only for a time, something must be believed.

    I have no doubt too that the gospel takes on new meaning upon true conversion. The change in understanding is a step-change to be sure. I can’t emphasize that enough. By grace what was once foolishness becomes wisdom! Notwithstanding, I don’t find the gospel propositions (Jesus died for our sins and rose again for our justification) to be the wisdom of God. Rather, and please hear me out (so many boards would twist my words). When I read that the gospel is God’s wisdom I take that to mean that God in Christ was able to show grace, love, and mercy alongside justice, hatred and wrath. That wisdom could have been the logical impetus for God’s gospel, and that wisdom can be said *about* the gospel, but that wisdom must be distinguished from the gospel: the death and resurrection of Christ. Now of course many will like to extend the set of gospel propositions to the profundity of the cross (i.e. its wisdom), but I would suggest that such theological propositional-insights are not in and of themselves the gospel. I would further suggest that when one savingly believes in the substitutionary atonement he is not doing so because of an understanding of God’s *wisdom* in saving sinners. Rather, the sinner is simply coming for refuge through saving faith.

    So then, when I believe that Colonel Brandon is coming home from Iraq, I do so as much as his wife. My belief – in the same propositions regarding *that* fact – can be the same as his wife’s; yet she will be waiting at the airport with great anticipation whereas I might be found at home watching the Phillies. Why the different response? (Obviously she believes other propositions such as their history together, marriage, prospects for the future etc… Let us call that the *context* in which she believes the fact of the return of her husband.) The good news is her husband is coming home and on that message she acts. The Philly fan has the same belief but within another *context*; the fact of Col. Brandon’s return is the same; it is believed; but the good news does not move the stranger in the same way; hence a different response comes forth, though both believe the same proposition. The *context* which is *not* the good news, is different. The *context* would be analogous to the soil in parable of the sower. Although the seed-message is broadcasted and assented to by more than the one in whom it finds root, it takes root only in one type of soil and from there brings forth fruit. I would suggest that the *context* is God impressing upon the mind (Scripture calls the heart) of his elect at the time of their visitation their dire need of salvation; hence a different quality of belief follows. In those who are not elected unto salvation, their belief is casual, a mere assent as it were to all the gospel facts. The context is not the message that is believed.

    In a word, what the intellect accepts as true is not a sufficient condition for the inclination of the will. The inclination of the will is activated not merely by an additional fact but rather by an additional fact within a context the fact is presented.

    Finally, it might be said in this sort of discussion that to believe “God is one” is not to believe the gospel, but such an interpretation of James would be to undermine his point. And since I saw it alluded to above by another I’ll address it briefly. Is James’ point between saving faith and non-saving faith a matter of gospel propositions? In other words, is James’ point merely that those who are not saved only believe that “God is one” but don’t believe the good news of Jesus Christ? I should say not. If his argument has any force at all it is because some believe the truth of the gospel (“God is one” being a part and representative of that truth) but without having true salvation. Can such a faith save? No, but we are not led to believe that the solution lies in more propositions to be believed. Such an interpretation would take down James’ argument. After all, James’ was arguing against the sufficiency of an intellectual faith. Again, what the intellect accepts as true is not a sufficient condition for the inclination of the will.

    Brothers, I don’t know how much more time I can spend on this. I am becoming certain that I am not capable of expressing these matters much better than I have.

    Finally, please know I abhor the substitution of commitment of life for the gospel message; yet I do believe that those who savingly believe will commit their lives to Christ.

    Unworthy but His,

    Ron


  60. If I might offer some clarification on the “daughter in the next room” problem.

    Brandon, regarding your distinction between “believing” a proposition to be true and “thinking” a proposition to be true:

    Two propositions:
    p1: My daughter is in the next room.
    p2: It is likely that my daughter is in the next room.

    Would it be more accurate to say that Ron believes p2 in this case? And that this belief is the same “type” or “level” of belief as if he had believed p1? Thus, the difference in his level of assurance is due to the propositions believed, not to the strength of belief.

  61. brandon Says:

    Thanks Patrick. That’s more of what I was trying to communicate.


  62. Dear Patrick,

    Quickly… I find your point to be a distinction without a relevant difference with respect to this matter; yet I can make sense of your distinction.

    Let’s review the bidding. I did not *know* whether my daughter was in the next room; yet I did know that she either was or was not. Obviously no probability (or likeliness) of outcome comes to bear on the truth of her whereabouts. Probability (or likeliness) only comes to bear upon the legitimate veracity of the assurance of one’s belief regarding what is true. Accordingly, to have believed (short of knowing) that she was (p1) and to have believed it was likely she was (p2) are in some sense equivalent since any assurance of such beliefs that do not rise to the level of knowledge are at best probabilistic – i.e., less than 1. In that sense p1 and p2 are equivalent. Now I do appreciate a distinction between saying one believes something is likely true and believes something is true. The latter conveys greater confidence, but is that Brandon’s point? Is his point that to assent to the gospel with just slightly more than 50% confidence cannot be saving? How about 90% confidence? I already noted that absolute assurance only belongs to the converted, but that is not the contention. The contention is that the non-elect cannot assent to the gospel.

    With further respect to your post, all things I don’t know but believe to be true I also believe to be likely true. But not all things I believe likely true would I say I believe to be true, but that is only because to say I believe something is true is to communicate a probability significantly higher than 50%; whereas to say I believe something is likely true is to communicate that I think that thing is more probable than not (or greater than 50% chance of being true).

    With that said, I don’t see that you clarified Brandon’s distinction between believing X is true and thinking X is true as it pertains to this discussion. Thinking X is true, for Brandon, can at best mean in the realm of saving belief that such a belief doesn’t have the veracity to be saving. However, a stronger belief with greater justification (such as a more obedient lifestyle) makes no relevant difference in the realm of belief that falls short of saving belief. After all, what is to believe rather than just to think it is probable that my daughter is in the next room? At best, the distinction has to do with the confidence of the belief, but in the realm of those who are not elect that confidence will always be less than what God grants. Again, that is not the contention.

    If we take belief in the gospel to entail knowledge, then as I said earlier, no non-Christian knows Jesus died for his sins because one cannot know something false. Accordingly, the unbeliever’s belief that Jesus died for his sins is automatically thrown into a category that has a probability of less than 1 of being fully justified in conscience (since it doesn’t entail the witness of the Spirit); whether the evidence is merely likely or much more probable (due to say greater works of charity) is a distinction without a difference.

    Blessings,

    Ron

  63. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sundry responses:

    RG: . . . people draw beliefs thousands of times per day but without any impact on their lives. I believe my daughter is in the other room but I wouldn’t bet my life on it. Many people believe that Jesus died for their sins in the same uninformed and casual way. I would suggest that such a belief is not saving.

    HM: Right, the *propositions believed* impact us ~ it’s not our zeal or commitment that make the beliefs effectual. It’s the validity of the propositions and the attendant efficacy of the Holy Spirit enlightening our understanding.

    You believe your daughter is in the other room, but wouldn’t bet your life on it. Well. People not trusting Christ alone for their salvation are also not “betting their lives on it,” b/c they think something more is needed. They are not trusting that Jesus died for their sins.
    —–

    BA: I honestly do think the difference between saving and unsaving faith is still in the propositions believed. Does someone who believes Christ died for them believe that Christ died and rose again according to the Scriptures? Perhaps they have a completely different idea in mind as to what it means to die for someone’s sin, an idea that is unbiblical. Therefore they are not believing the gospel.

    HM: Hear, hear.
    —–

    RG: I mentioned that I believed my daughter to be in the other room but that I wouldn’t bet my life on it. In response you suggested that I didn’t really believe her to be in the other room but that I only thought it to be true. It would seem by your distinction that one does not truly *believe* things that cannot be known as true. In other words, your position would seem to entail that if one cannot know his daughter is in the other room, then he cannot believe she is; he can only “think” she is you seem to want to suggest, but that would seem to equate belief with knowledge, which I don’t think you want to do. In sum, what is the difference between thinking something is true and believing it is true?

    HM: The difference is in the ASSENT to the proposition, “My daughter is in the other room.” One truly believing this and one “thinking it may be” the case both have heard (have knowledge of) the assertion that daughter is in the next room. The former assents to it that it is so, the latter does not; he is unsure.
    —–

    RG: You asked why I thought she was in the other room. The reason I thought she was in the other room is because I heard her go in the other room and did not hear her leave. Added to that, I believe it to be my experience that if I don’t hear someone leave a room that I heard them go into, in most cases they have remained in the room I heard them go in. My house is a comfortable size but not a mansion.

    HM: We are talking here about believing a physical fact through empirical verification. In the case of the gospel, this is impossible, since Christ’s death and resurrection are received only from Scripture’s testimony, not experience.
    —–

    PM: If I might offer some clarification on the “daughter in the next room” problem.
    Brandon, regarding your distinction between “believing” a proposition to be true and “thinking” a proposition to be true:
    Two propositions:
    p1: My daughter is in the next room.
    p2: It is likely that my daughter is in the next room.
    Would it be more accurate to say that Ron believes p2 in this case? And that this belief is the same “type” or “level” of belief as if he had believed p1? Thus, the difference in his level of assurance is due to the propositions believed, not to the strength of belief.

    HM: This seems right, Patrick. What’s getting us (potentially) confused are the WAY in which we ascertain the daughter’s location and the ASSURANCE we have of the fact. To say that “it is likely,” “I think,” “I believe” (or “I hope”) all (in common parlance) usually indicate some degree uncertainty.
    —–

    RG: …Now I do appreciate a distinction between saying one believes something is likely true and believes something is true. The latter conveys greater confidence, but is that Brandon’s point? Is his point that to assent to the gospel with just slightly more than 50% confidence cannot be saving? How about 90% confidence? I already noted that absolute assurance only belongs to the converted, but that is not the contention. The contention is that the non-elect cannot assent to the gospel.

    HM: Right. Brandon said, “I honestly do think the difference between saving and unsaving faith is still in the propositions believed. Does someone who believes Christ died for them believe that Christ died and rose again according to the Scriptures? Perhaps they have a completely different idea in mind as to what it means to die for someone’s sin, an idea that is unbiblical. Therefore they are not believing the gospel.”

    HM: The non-elect cannot and thus do not assent to the gospel. They may at times have some, fleeting assurance that they are in God’s good graces, but such is based in part on a false gospel (universal atonement, conditional election, etc.), and in part on their own works: prayer, yieldedness, decision, attending Mass, etc.
    —–

    RG: …If we take belief in the gospel to entail knowledge, then as I said earlier, no non-Christian knows Jesus died for his sins because one cannot know something false.

    HM: Amen and amen!
    —–

  64. Hugh McCann Says:

    RON,

    Hugh stated: Yes, the same elements are in unsaving faith: Knowledge & assent. In this case, knowledge of the Santa myth (his North Pole address, reindeer, sleigh, gift-giving, etc.) and assent that it is true.

    Ron replies: If the element of knowledge is in unsaving faith, then belief must be present because belief is a component of knowledge. You have now moved the belief of Santa into a category of knowledge of a Santa *myth*, which is different than a belief about Santa. That’s to open up a whole can of worms that would get this matter way side tracked. I suggest we pursue this matter on what is below if that’s O.K. with you.

    HM: No, “belief is [NOT] a component of knowledge”! As I said above, we are talking about knowledge of an assertion or, more simply, a statement such as these we’ve been using: “Christ died for our sins.” “My daughter is in the next room.” “Santa Claus lives @ the North Pole and delivers toys on Christmas Eve.”

    Knowledge is a component of belief. Knowledge + assent = belief/ faith/ trust.
    >>>>

    Hugh wrote: Does the Bible anywhere say that one can “believe all the propositions of the gospel on some other basis than having heard from God,” or that one can “*believe* [the true gospel] yet without justification”?

    Ron replies: The Bible doesn’t tell me that children can believe in Santa Clause yet some do. Accordingly, that the Bible doesn’t say X doesn’t imply only ~X. Consequently, any appeal to what the Bible does not say on this matter doesn’t bolster the dogmatic claim.

    Your position is that one can believe anything imaginable in their unsaved state except for one thing, the propositions of the gospel. Yet you should agree that if those propositions were simply imagined apart from having heard from God on the matter, the beliefs would be as fanciful as the belief in unicorns. They’d be unjustified beliefs in other words. Accordingly, we should not expect salvation to be accompanied by such beliefs because for at least one reason, the belief would not be based upon the authority of God. (Now of course God can place his authority on his truth spoken by others, but we may also assume he doesn’t always nor needs to.) Again, I have not seen an argument why one cannot believe in an unjustified way.

    HM: You did not address my question, Ron: ‘Does the Bible anywhere say that one can “believe all the propositions of the gospel on some other basis than having heard from God,” or that one can “*believe* [the true gospel] yet without justification”?’

    You are asking someone can believe the gospel and go to hell. I have cited verses that indicate no, one cannot. As an elder in Christ’s church, sir, you ought be able to cite SOMETHING from Scripture to bolster your ideas. Please do so if you can.

    To address you directly and line upon line:

    “Your position is that one can believe anything imaginable in their unsaved state except for one thing, the propositions of the gospel.”

    HM: Absolutely.

    “Yet you should agree that if those propositions were simply imagined apart from having heard from God on the matter, the beliefs would be as fanciful as the belief in unicorns. They’d be unjustified beliefs in other words. Accordingly, we should not expect salvation to be accompanied by such beliefs because for at least one reason, the belief would not be based upon the authority of God. (Now of course God can place his authority on his truth spoken by others, but we may also assume he doesn’t always nor needs to.)”

    HM: The propositions DIFFER, Ron. Why is this so hard for you to get?! The elect believe unto the saving of their souls that Christ died for them personally, as part of his elect bride. The papist, the Arminian, the cultist, if they think on the atonement at all, believe that Christ died for all mankind, and leaves the rest of the saving up to each and every one of us. Again, “OUR” is critical in “Christ died for our sins.” We know he died savingly for his elect. The reprobate professors do not, they believe in a universal atonement, and election conditioned upon their acceptance of Christ, prayers, other works, etc.
    “Again, I have not seen an argument why one cannot believe in an unjustified way.”

    HM: One cannot believe true gospel “in an unjustified way,” b/c the Bible says repeatedly that he that believeth shall be saved. Read John’s gospel.
    >>>>

    Hugh States: Such would make the Holy Spirit a liar, since many texts indicate that whoever believes on the name of the Son of God will be saved.

    Ron Replies: This begs the question of what it means to “believe” and what propositions are contained in “on the name of the Son of God.” All the other quoting of Scripture equally begs these questions too. Please, don’t think that you have argued something about the meaning of belief simply by citing texts with the word “belief” in them.

    HM: What is the gospel, Ron?
    >>>>

    Ron stated: Unjustified beliefs are held all the time, even for superstitious reasons – so why not the same with respect to gospel propositions?

    Hugh replied: B/c the Spirit regenerates the elect to believe unto the saving of their souls.

    Ron replies: That the Spirit regenerates the elect and causes them to believe does not mean that men cannot hold those same beliefs in an unwarranted sense to the damnation of their souls.

    HM: I believe the Bible flatly contradicts this assertion, Ron.

    Ron (cont.): Your response does not address the distinction of saving belief and fanciful belief. Again, it’s just question begging I’m afraid.

    HM: What we’ve been saying: Saving belief is knowledge of and assent to the gospel of 1 Cor. 15:3f; fanciful belief is trusting in anything else for salvation. What is so confusing about this?
    >>>>

    Hugh states: It is NOT the strength of the convictions, it is the propositions believed (whether true gospel or false) that determine one’s justification (in the instrumental sense; ultimately it’s God who chooses to save whom he will).

    Ron: Yes, that is your thesis. I get that.

    HM: And you continue to reject it? If so, why? It’s biblical!

    Ron (cont.): Unfortunately for your position, people draw beliefs thousands of times per day but without any impact on their lives. I believe my daughter is in the other room but I wouldn’t bet my life on it. Many people believe that Jesus died for their sins in the same uninformed and casual way. I would suggest that such a belief is not saving.

    HM: Please define “uninformed and casual.” Does one need be “informed and formal”?

    We agree one needs to hear the right gospel (be informed).

    I’m saying that assenting to that is sufficient.

    You are saying that something “uncasual” is needed? Zeal, real commitment, really strong feelings about it? A “formal faith”? I am uncertain what you mean.

    Ron (cont.): We’ve probably beaten this enough. I don’t see that you’re addressing the issue in an adequate way so let’s put it away for we’ve both had ample time to make our respective points. No hard feelings I trust! Grace and Peace, Ron

    HM: No hard feelings, but I think that BA, PM & I have done our best. You seem confused about this, quite unclear, and lacking scriptural support. Again I ask, Ron, what is the gospel?! I fear you may be unable to carry out your duties of Titus 1:9.

    Yours for Christ,
    Hugh


  65. Hugh States: You believe your daughter is in the other room, but wouldn’t bet your life on it. Well. People not trusting Christ alone for their salvation are also not “betting their lives on it,” b/c they think something more is needed. They are not trusting that Jesus died for their sins.

    Ron Replies: By “trusting” you must mean “assenting” lest you’ve gotten off track. Assuming you mean “assenting” (since that’s the matter we’re to be talking about) your conclusion does not follow logically from the premises. Your conclusion is that the unsaved cannot assent to the propositions of the gospel. Your argument that is intended to support that conclusion is that if they did assent the gospel propositions they would truly assent (i.e. bet their lives on it), but since they’re unsaved they are not betting their lives on it (they are not truly assenting); therefore, they did not assent. That would seem to be a rather tight circle your arguing within.

    Hugh States: The difference is in the ASSENT to the proposition, “My daughter is in the other room.” One truly believing this and one “thinking it may be” the case both have heard (have knowledge of) the assertion that daughter is in the next room. The former assents to it that it is so, the latter does not; he is unsure.

    Ron Replies: Again, unless you are going to equate belief with knowledge, your distinction of “thinking X is true” and “believing X true” does not relieve you of the tension that both may entail uncertainty (i.e. being unsure). The only difference in your philosophy is that the one who “believes X is true” as opposed to simply “thinking X is true is the degree of assurance. However, if you wish to equate belief with knowledge, then you’ve changed the subject matter entirely because one cannot know that Jesus died for his sins based upon Scriptural propositions *alone* and what we’re to be discussing is assent to what the Bible teaches.

    Hugh States: We are talking here about believing a physical fact through empirical verification. In the case of the gospel, this is impossible, since Christ’s death and resurrection are received only from Scripture’s testimony, not experience.

    Ron: I’m not sure you want to get into a discussion on empirical verification. In any case, indeed it is true as you say that the gospel is a matter of Scripture-revelation, but that observation alone does not advance your argument. If it does, then please put it in a syllogism for me.

    Hugh Stated: Perhaps they have a completely different idea in mind as to what it means to die for someone’s sin, an idea that is unbiblical. Therefore they are not believing the gospel.”

    Ron Replies: “Perhaps” you’re right, but raising the question does not equate to forming an argument. And your conclusion certainly exceeds the scope of the single premise. All you have said is that maybe they have an unbiblical view of the gospel, in which case they are not believing the gospel. That, my brother, is hardly a valid argument.

    Hugh States: The non-elect cannot and thus do not assent to the gospel. They may at times have some, fleeting assurance that they are in God’s good graces, but such is based in part on a false gospel (universal atonement, conditional election, etc.), and in part on their own works: prayer, yieldedness, decision, attending Mass, etc.

    Ron States: Yes Hugh, I do gasp the thesis. A logical argument what I was looking for. I’ll even go so far as to say that your conclusion might even be correct. You simply haven’t argued it with any valid formulation.

    Please take the last word my brother.

    In His grace,

    Ron


  66. Hugh,

    I would suggest you stop writing as I think your embarrassing yourself.

    You wrote: “No, “belief is [NOT] a component of knowledge”!

    This statement indicates that you do not yet grasp rudimentary foundations of this discussion. Belief is a necessary condition for knowledge, lest one can know something he doesn’t believe!

    This too is a very unfortunate statement of yours: “Knowledge is a component of belief.” If what you say is true, then it would follow that whenever one believes something to be true, it must be true (because only something true can be known).

    This too is a sorry statement of yours: “Knowledge + assent = belief/ faith/ trust.”

    Such a statement implies that assent is not a necessary condition for knowledge (since you are adding assent to knowledge, suggesting assent is not a necessary condition for knowledge), which means one can know Jesus lives without assenting to it!

    You really should give this a rest as nobody in any camp of thinkers would affirm these propositions of yours.

    Ron

  67. Hugh McCann Says:

    Ron, Before I get too embarrassed, I’d challenge you run all this horrid theology of mine past your pastor, if you would. Let him decide who he’s embarrassed for. You say,

    Hugh,
    I would suggest you stop writing as I think your embarrassing yourself.
    >>>> Guess I’m too thick and too much of an exhibitionist. {I think you meant to write, “you’re.”}

    NEXT:
    You wrote: “No, “belief is [NOT] a component of knowledge”!
    This statement indicates that you do not yet grasp rudimentary foundations of this discussion. Belief is a necessary condition for knowledge, lest one can know something he doesn’t believe!
    >>>> ‘Knowledge’ is meant as knowledge of the proposition/ assertion/ statement, not assent to or disagreement with it. So we know (are aware of, can intellectually understand) certain assertions/ propositions w/o assenting that they are true or not. Again, our daughter next door, Santa, Jesus’ death and resurrection FOR US.

    NEXT:
    This too is a very unfortunate statement of yours: “Knowledge is a component of belief.” If what you say is true, then it would follow that whenever one believes something to be true, it must be true (because only something true can be known).
    >>>> Are you asserting that knowledge is not a component of belief? I dare ya, Ron, show our sorry correspondence to your TE; let him judge ‘twixt us.

    NEXT:
    This too is a sorry statement of yours: “Knowledge + assent = belief/ faith/ trust.”
    >>>> Very sorry here, I am. This is Reformed theology, DiGiacomo. Who ordained you as an elder? I want his badge number! We’re taking away his decoder ring right away! Bad elder, bad elder!

    NEXT:
    Such a statement implies that assent is not a necessary condition for knowledge (since you are adding assent to knowledge, suggesting assent is not a necessary condition for knowledge), which means one can know Jesus lives without assenting to it!
    >>>> You’re (or if you prefer your) using knowledge as in belief in/ trust/ faith. That’s a valid use in other contexts, but don’t you know the Reformed (biblical) formula? As I am using it, I simply means awareness of the proposition(s).

    NEXT:
    You really should give this a rest as nobody in any camp of thinkers would affirm these propositions of yours.
    Ron
    >>>> Yeah, just me & my R.C. (Sproul) and about all the rest of Reformed Christendom…
    Duh,
    Hugh
    …..

  68. speigel Says:

    I was under the impression that Clarkians defined knowledge as justified true belief (JTB). I am sure that Gerety has made this very explicit when writing against some Van Tillian (or Plantinga-ian) notion of knowledge. If so, then belief is a “component” of knowledge and not the other way around. One has knowledge if one is justified in believing in a true proposition.

    Did I read wrong?


  69. Hi Speigel,

    No, you missed nothing. You read it right. I would only add that with Clark (and myself and many others) the justification in view must be of maximal warrant. I am justified for instance in believing many things but not all justifications rise to the level of maximal warrant. In fact most beliefs that are justified pertain to rational inference and not knowledge. Clark would argue that knowledge is due to a maximal justification, as I argue here:

    http://reformedapologist.blogspot.com/2007/12/vincent-cheung-meets-triabloguer.html

    I believe you and Sean made comments on that thread.

    Best,

    Ron

  70. speigel Says:

    Ron:

    Thanks for some confirmation. Hugh’s last post was unexpected and inconsistent with Clark’s own view. Though I understand that consistency is hard to come by here.


  71. Speigel,

    Hugh is now trying to get us to swallow that Reformed thought uses these terms in this fashion: Knowledge in such discussions pertains to the knowledge of the existence of the proposition (and not the truth value of the proposition), and that such knowledge logically precedes assenting to the truth or disbelieving the truth of the proposition that is known to exist. First of all, no Reformed theologian or philosopher I’ve read ever states such an obvious proposition – that in order for one to believe or disbelieve X he must first be “acquainted” with X – i.e. “know” that X exists as a proposition. But let’s see where that gets us – using Hugh’s new construct and novel terminology.

    He wrote: “Knowledge + assent = belief/ faith/ trust.”

    That would mean for Hugh that given a knowledge that the proposition X exists, when one assents to the proposition he, therefore, believes the proposition is true. No we already knew that Hugh equates assent to belief, which he equates with faith and trust as well. Accordingly, it’s a bit superfluous to introduce knowledge into the equation in the way he would now like to employ the term. After all, it is a bit tautological to say that one must be aware of X (i.e. know of the proposition) in order to assent (or disbelieve) X!

    What is conspicuously absent in all of Hugh’s remarks is any epistemology. He now would like to consign knowledge strictly to the knowledge of the *existence* of the proposition (e.g. unicorns exist) as opposed to the knowledge of the truth value of what the statement contemplates. And to boot, he wants to say that this is the Reformed use of terms. He even now wants to call into question my qualifications for the office of elder on such an esoteric use of terms as his. Has he no restraint? Aside from all that silliness, he has simply begged crucial questions pertaining to the distinctions between thinking X is true and believing X is true, while avoiding the challenge before him to distinguish knowledge from assent. You see Sir, what he was to explain is how one can assent to (yet not know as true) any imaginable proposition (less one, the gospel) yet not be able to assent to as true (while not knowing it as true) the gospel. The answers I’ve received have been circular and begged crucial questions. Then when it occurred to me that Hugh was very possibly, and unwittingly, equating assent to the gospel with knowledge of personal salvation, I then pointed out that the gospel propositions are only found in Scripture whereas the propositions pertaining to assurance exceed Scripture, making any correlation fallacious. I also pointed out that without justification men assent to many true propositions – which he grants, yet without suggesting that such men do not understand the propositions properly. Accordingly, if one may understand the meaning of propositions being assented to yet still assent without justification, then it is incumbent upon Hugh to disclose how the truth of the gospel may not be possibly assented to without justification by an unconverted person. His exception to the gospel appears arbitrary and dubious given his allowance for men to assent to other propositions without warrant. To simply assert that assent = belief is to beg the question, and it is not to reconcile his gospel strictures with his allowance for men to assent to other true propositions in a fanciful, unjustified way without bringing into question their comprehension of those propositions! He certainly doesn’t say that if they are unjustified then they don’t really assent to the propositions after all; yet that is his ONLY answer for the unconverted man and his alleged assent to the gospel.

    Best wishes,

    Ron

  72. Hugh McCann Says:

    Ron, Re: your post of Aug 13 @ 2:04pm:

    Hugh States: You believe your daughter is in the other room, but wouldn’t bet your life on it. Well. People not trusting Christ alone for their salvation are also not “betting their lives on it,” b/c they think something more is needed. They are not trusting that Jesus died for their sins.

    Ron Replies: By “trusting” you must mean “assenting” lest you’ve gotten off track. Assuming you mean “assenting” (since that’s the matter we’re to be talking about) your conclusion does not follow logically from the premises.

    >>> No. I am saying: Trust/ faith/ belief = Knowledge + assent. I am not equating assent with trust. I am equating Knowledge + assent with trust (or faith/ belief).

    Ron (cont.) Your conclusion is that the unsaved cannot assent to the propositions of the gospel. Your argument that is intended to support that conclusion is that if they did assent the gospel propositions they would truly assent (i.e. bet their lives on it), but since they’re unsaved they are not betting their lives on it (they are not truly assenting); therefore, they did not assent. That would seem to be a rather tight circle your arguing within.

    >>> The reprobate non-elect do not and cannot assent to the gospel. They can know (intellectually apprehend) its propositions (1 Cor 15:3f), but not assent to them, instead thinking that Christ died for all men, leaving it up to them to finish the job of their redemption.

    NEXT:
    Hugh States: The difference is in the ASSENT to the proposition, “My daughter is in the other room.” One truly believing this and one “thinking it may be” the case both have heard (have knowledge of) the assertion that daughter is in the next room. The former assents to it that it is so, the latter does not; he is unsure.

    Ron Replies: Again, unless you are going to equate belief with knowledge, your distinction of “thinking X is true” and “believing X true” does not relieve you of the tension that both may entail uncertainty (i.e. being unsure). The only difference in your philosophy is that the one who “believes X is true” as opposed to simply “thinking X is true is the degree of assurance. However, if you wish to equate belief with knowledge, then you’ve changed the subject matter entirely because one cannot know that Jesus died for his sins based upon Scriptural propositions *alone* and what we’re to be discussing is assent to what the Bible teaches.

    >>> I am equating belief (or trust/ faith) with knowledge + assent. Knowledge here does not mean certainty, conviction, or assurance. It simply means understanding & awareness of the proposition(s) to be believed.

    >>> Are you equating knowledge with belief (faith/ trust)? That may be a big part of our disagreements, differing definitions for (at least) the word “knowledge.”

    >>> It’s not a matter of “the degree of assurance,” it’s a matter of understanding and embracing (knowing and assenting to) the gospel: That Christ died to save his people/ sheep, from their sins, not in order to make salvation possible for any and all who ‘freely choose.’

    NEXT:
    Hugh States: We are talking here about believing a physical fact through empirical verification. In the case of the gospel, this is impossible, since Christ’s death and resurrection are received only from Scripture’s testimony, not experience.

    Ron: I’m not sure you want to get into a discussion on empirical verification. In any case, indeed it is true as you say that the gospel is a matter of Scripture-revelation, but that observation alone does not advance your argument. If it does, then please put it in a syllogism for me.

    >>> Right on both counts: I do not want to discuss empirical verification (we’re having enough trouble communicating as it is!), and I too don’t see how it is germane to my assertions.

    NEXT:
    Hugh Stated: Perhaps they have a completely different idea in mind as to what it means to die for someone’s sin, an idea that is unbiblical. Therefore they are not believing the gospel.”

    Ron Replies: “Perhaps” you’re right, but raising the question does not equate to forming an argument. And your conclusion certainly exceeds the scope of the single premise. All you have said is that maybe they have an unbiblical view of the gospel, in which case they are not believing the gospel. That, my brother, is hardly a valid argument.

    >>> Actually, Brandon wrote that. That’s from a quote I made of him. Hence the “Brandon said” & quotation marks…

    >>> I DO believe that the Arminian/ papist view of the gospel is this unbiblical idea of Christ death: That he died for all men, so that anyone who exercised their free will could possibly be saved.

    NEXT:
    Hugh States: The non-elect cannot and thus do not assent to the gospel. They may at times have some, fleeting assurance that they are in God’s good graces, but such is based in part on a false gospel (universal atonement, conditional election, etc.), and in part on their own works: prayer, yieldedness, decision, attending Mass, etc.

    Ron States: Yes Hugh, I do gasp the thesis. A logical argument what I was looking for. I’ll even go so far as to say that your conclusion might even be correct. You simply haven’t argued it with any valid formulation.
    Please take the last word my brother.

    >>> Oops, was I not to respond?
    >>> I am at a loss. What we have here is a failure to communicate. {insert Strother Martin icon here.} It may be due to my inarticulateness, or yours; my stupidity or yours; or some combo of these.
    >>> Hugh

  73. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean writeth above:

    “…the real anti-Christian mischief, as we shall see, is done by those who maintain the traditional tri-fold definition of faith as a combination of understanding, assent and trust (which sounds so much more religions and authoritative when said in Latin; i.e., notitia, assensus and fiducia).”

    I should’ve written “Understanding” instead of “Knowledge” ~ then we’d all be happy and live peaceably! 😉

    Hugh

  74. Hugh McCann Says:

    Ron, to your Aug 14 @ 2:20am post:

    1) “Assent = Belief”? {{No, no, no!}}

    2) {{ASSENT ≠ BELIEF/ TRUST/ FAITH}}

    3) {{Assent does NOT equal belief.}}

    Am I clear here?

    Here it is!: UNDERSTANDING in such discussions pertains to the UNDERSTANDING of the existence of the proposition (and not the truth value of the proposition), and that such UNDERSTANDING logically precedes assenting to the truth or disbelieving the truth of the proposition that is known to exist. . . {{Yes, yes, yes!}}

    {{Hugh should have written, “UNDERSTANDING + assent = belief/ faith/ trust.” There we are. :)}}

    That would mean for Hugh that given an UNDERSTANDING that the proposition X exists, when one assents to the proposition he, therefore, believes the proposition is true. {{Yea!}}

    No we already knew that Hugh equates assent to belief, which he equates with faith and trust as well.
    {{No he doesn’t! He equates U + A = B/F/T.}}

    Accordingly, if one may understand the meaning of propositions being assented to yet still assent without justification,
    {{Hugh never said the non-elect assent to the true gospel proposition(s), just that they can know/ UNDERSTAND such propositions.}}

    then it is incumbent upon Hugh to disclose how the truth of the gospel may not be possibly assented to without justification by an unconverted person.
    {{Right. He never said that, so this is moot.}}

    His exception to the gospel appears arbitrary and dubious given his allowance for men to assent to other propositions without warrant. To simply assert that assent = belief is to beg the question, {{which Hugh never did!}}

    and it is not to reconcile his gospel strictures with his allowance for men to assent to other true propositions in a fanciful, unjustified way without bringing into question their comprehension of those propositions! He certainly doesn’t say that if they are unjustified then they don’t really assent to the propositions after all; yet that is his ONLY answer for the unconverted man and his alleged assent to the gospel.
    {{Since you, Ron, claim I am so terribly off-kilter here, present your stuff. And take it, as I challenged you, to your Pastor, or better, the whole session.}}
    Hugh

  75. brandonadams Says:

    Hi Ron,

    I haven’t had time to keep up with the conversation, but I did just want to comment on a couple of things from your response to me above. And I have to admit that because I’m a bit of a simpleton on these philosophical issues and I don’t trust myself, I need to keep the conversation as close to Scripture as possible so I can follow.

    I think I’m safe in saying that ultimately the natural man does not receive the things of the Lord, but for a time he can. Ultimately he will depart from the ways of the Lord.

    So the difference here would be perseverance?

    Receiving, however, is not the same as believing but in order to receive with joy, even only for a time, something must be believed.

    Right, but the point of contention for me is “What is believed?” ie “What do they find joy in?” I think the parable of the sower has to do with people’s reaction to the preaching of the gospel. Some will be offended, some will stick around and be open to hearing it (“receive it”). But will any of them find joy in the gospel? No, they will find joy perhaps in the preaching of the gospel and what goes along with it, such as Simon the Magician.

    I have no doubt too that the gospel takes on new meaning upon true conversion.

    Precisely. But the gospel only has one meaning, therefore it is not understood until conversion.

    I don’t find the gospel propositions (Jesus died for our sins and rose again for our justification) to be the wisdom of God. Rather, and please hear me out (so many boards would twist my words). When I read that the gospel is God’s wisdom I take that to mean that God in Christ was able to show grace, love, and mercy alongside justice, hatred and wrath….I would further suggest that when one savingly believes in the substitutionary atonement he is not doing so because of an understanding of God’s *wisdom* in saving sinners. Rather, the sinner is simply coming for refuge through saving faith.

    I’m having a hard time following you here. I suppose you’re saying that 1 Cor 2:14-16, strictly speaking, doesn’t have anything to do with saving faith? That it is something that the elect come to understand after regeneration and after saving faith?

    I’m not sure I understand how you can separate understanding the wisdom of God, as you have described it (showing grace, mercy, and love alongside justice, hatred, and wrath) with believing in Christ’s substitutionary atonement. You say the sinner is simply fleeing for refuge – but refuge from whom and refuge in whom? I don’t grasp how one can understand they need to flee God’s wrath by coming for refuge to Christ’s mercy, while at the same time not understanding that God bestows grace, love, and mercy alongside his justice, hatred, and wrath.

    Furthermore, it seems your point in separating saving faith (“coming for refuge”) from the wisdom of God is to argue that the unregenerate can flee to the cross for refuge. Is that correct?

    My belief – in the same propositions regarding *that* fact – can be the same as his wife’s; yet she will be waiting at the airport with great anticipation whereas I might be found at home watching the Phillies

    Might I humbly suggest that your analogies are actually not getting us anywhere, but are instead greatly confusing the issue. The difference in your example is the relationship to Colonel Brandon, whereas every sinner’s relationship to God is the same. And that relationship is obviously part of the gospel. Furthermore, the difference can easily be expressed in the proposition believed: Colonel Brandon’s wife believes her husband is coming home from Iraq. Ron believes some guy named Brandon is coming home from Iraq. If we want to stick with your analogy – believing the gospel means the wife believes her husband is coming home – not just some guy.

    The Philly fan has the same belief but within another *context*; the fact of Col. Brandon’s return is the same; it is believed; but the good news does not move the stranger in the same way; hence a different response comes forth, though both believe the same proposition

    But notice what you are arguing. The difference is in propositions believed, not in the strength of that belief. The additional context changes the proposition believed. Isn’t your whole point to argue that the proposition is the exact same, but there are varying strengths of belief?

    I would suggest that the *context* is God impressing upon the mind (Scripture calls the heart) of his elect at the time of their visitation their dire need of salvation; hence a different quality of belief follows.

    But this does not work in your analogy. In order for Philly fan to care, he would have to believe different propositions that would then change the original proposition (or at least clarify it).

    In those who are not elected unto salvation, their belief is casual, a mere assent as it were to all the gospel facts. The context is not the message that is believed.

    What are the gospel facts? As I have already said, the gospel facts are that Christ died and rose again, according to the Scriptures. Thus no one can believe the gospel facts without believing everything it entails (the *context* that you say is impressed upon the minds of the regenerate).

    In a word, what the intellect accepts as true is not a sufficient condition for the inclination of the will

    In your example, the same proposition was not believed. The difference was in the propositions. It is unbiblical to try to separate Christ’s atonement from what the Bible says Christ’s atonement means. Believing that some guy named Jesus died up on a cross 2000 years ago and then was alive again is not the same thing as believing the gospel. Properly understanding the gospel (which is required in order to assent to it) requires one to understand their state as a sinner before a God of justice and also to understand that Christ is God and was sent by the Father to satisfy His justice.

    As for James 2 – your opinion overturns what James expressly says.

    After all, James’ was arguing against the sufficiency of an intellectual faith.

    That’s called begging the question, isn’t it?

    Thank you for taking the time to address this in depth. Like I said, the only other response I’ve come across is a one or two sentence appeal to tradition. I can’t say I agree with your reasoning, but I appreciate the effort.

    -Brandon


  76. Hugh,

    I strongly suspect my pastor and each member of the session would bow his head, shake it from side to side and mutter to themselves “poor, poor, Hugh.” I’ll do as you ask but I’ll only relay back to you any negative comments about my position.

    So long.

    Ron

  77. Hugh McCann Says:

    Ron,

    Yes, please tell me nothing should the session have any positive feedback. That’d only encourage me.

    And please don’t clarify things I’ve asked about, nor explain when explanations are requested, nor answer questions put to you.

    If I was so wrong for so long, why didn’t you correct me, and teach me the way of God more perfectly? Some elder. You all are supposed to be teachers, clarifying the deep things of God, not making them more obscure and indistinct!

    For an RE of an OPC, you were terribly unclear in your presentation and evasive in giving the gospel & other answers. Tsk, tsk to you too, pal.

    I have tried to be biblical and clarifying as I saw my errors and poor communication. You have responded with the strangest stuff I’ve seen lately. Not merely in content, but in presentation. (Why did you choose not to quote the Bible?)

    What DO you believe about the gospel & our (subjective) faith? You never made it clear. I guess that tells us something indirectly.

    I will sign off, b/c I know you want THE last word, and since you are an RE, fine.

    Hugh

  78. Hugh McCann Says:

    Ron,

    I misread your post. I appreciate your willingness to relate any negative comments the session may have on your stuff.

    Forgive me my haste and snide attitude there. (“Yes, please tell me nothing should the session have any positive feedback.”)

    Hugh


  79. Ron,

    I misread your post. I appreciate your willingness to relate any negative comments the session may have on your stuff.

    Forgive me my haste and snide attitude there. (“Yes, please tell me nothing should the session have any positive feedback.”)

    ———–

    Hugh,

    No problem whatsoever. I would only ask you to consider that you had to correct yourself on one of your major points having to do with the term “knowledge”. You spoke in haste on that matter too. Frankly, you’ve been imprecise on many other matters too, most of which I’ve made assumptions about for time sake and have not brought them to your attention. But again, I receive your most recent post in the spirit I believe it is intended.

    Lord bless,

    Ron


  80. Brandon,

    I haven’t worked through you post. I’ll give further consideration to it later. I’m going to blog on the matter in the near future so I might consider your thoughts on my blog. I’d be happy to discuss this matter with anybody over the phone.

    In His grace,

    Ron

  81. Hugh McCann Says:

    Thanks Ron.

    Sean wrote me: “Belief is a component of knowledge. Knowledge is true belief with an account of its truth.”

    I shoulda used this word “understanding” for “knowledge.”

    I’d only previously seen & heard the formula, Knowledge + Assent = Faith. (From Horton, Sproul, et. al.)

    Now you’re saying that true belief = knowledge. OK. St. Augie said, “I believe, in order to understand; and I understand, the better to believe.”

    Sean & Ron are telling me that Understanding + Assent = Knowledge/ True Belief. I wish someone had earlier explained that.

    I messed up in not seeing how you all use “Understanding” as the first component in faith.

    I maintain still my other assertions.

    Thank you,
    Hugh

  82. Hugh McCann Says:

    Actually I meant to write: I’d only previously seen & heard the formula, Knowledge + Assent + “Trust” = Faith. (From Horton, Sproul, et. al.)

    (I am trying to catch these manifold errors!)

    I reject that tautology as did GHC & JR (& SG). We like Knowledge + Assent = Faith.

    Again, it’s the the proposition believed, not the zeal of the believer that makes the diff.

    Hugh


  83. Hugh,

    That’s all fine and well but when you went into your diatribe about my qualifications for the office of elder it was based upon what you now assert to be a previous misunderstanding on your part. That would appear a bit reckless on your part. Secondly, with respect to what you are now saying it’s hard for me to be confident that you’ve internalized your new position since it would appear to be based upon what you are now, at this very moment, hearing from others. After all, you just wrote: “Sean & Ron are telling me that Understanding + Assent = Knowledge/ True Belief. I wish someone had earlier explained that.”

    BR,

    Ron

  84. Hugh McCann Says:

    Dear Ron,

    I concede that my diatribe about your qualifications for the office of elder was PARTLY based upon what I now assert to be a previous misunderstanding on my part. Even, dare I say, a lack of knowledge? 😉

    Reckless? Perhaps. But at least I tried to understand your position, and help you understand my position. Your cryptic, non-Scripture stuff is crazy.

    See my diatribe of Aug 14 at 5:11 pm.

    Hugh


  85. Ron,

    I was addressing Brandon; I wasn’t even joining in the argument. Brandon had made what I viewed as an unclear statement, and I wanted to make sure I understood what he meant, and perhaps offer a better wording.

    His original wording made it sound like there are “intensity levels” or something when it comes to belief (weak vs. strong belief). My clarification showed that assent is assent is assent, and that what differs is not the “degree of assent,” but the propositions assented to. This is an important clarification, and Brandon seemed to agree that this was closer to what he was trying to convey.

    Thus, my comment served its purpose. Sorry if it did not clear anything up for you, but that wasn’t exactly my goal in the first place.

  86. LJ Says:

    I’m not even close to being able to keep up with you guys on the blog, but I appreciate very much the dialogue. I was just sent something from a friend that is on Youtube regarding Sandemanianism:

    I note that the criticism’s are just repeated over and over.

    LJ

  87. LJ Says:

    Sean, I realize this is an old thread but I’m going through the WCF with some men in my church (OPC) and the tripartite shibboleth came up from our Intern who is right out of Seminary. Didn’t someone, either here or in another thread, show that the traditional tripartite formula is at least partially responsible for the Federal Vision heresy?

    If you can some help would be appreciated.

    LJ

  88. Sean Gerety Says:

    I think you’re right and the tradition three-fold definition of saving faith has contributed to directly to the rise of the FV heresy. This was the central reason John Robbins put out the combined volume of What Is Saving Faith to help people see how the tautological three fold definition has been used to smuggle in works of obedience as the fiducial element of what makes ordinary faith saving. I know I’ve made that case repeatedly, I believe most recently in a reply to Alan Strange (see for example: https://godshammer.wordpress.com/2011/03/17/when-youre-strange/ )


  89. Which is (of course) not to say all those who hold a tripartite understanding of saving faith are therefore FV, but rather their erring philosophy has colored their exegesis and theology such that it leaves a hole “big enough for FV men [and overzealous Lordshipmen] to drive a truck through.”


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