Jeffrey Meyers – Faith is Faithfulness

“Personally, I would like to see us out from under the straightjacket of the Westminster standards.” — Jeff Meyers

One of the most troubling aspects of the entire FV movement, and arguably the reason why their false doctrines continue to spread like cancer, is their inclusion of obedience as a necessary element of saving faith. First, the definition of justification given by the Westminster Confession (XI.1) specifically excludes all acts of obedience, evangelical or otherwise, as having any role at all in the biblical doctrine of justification. They’re off the table. Even the act of believing itself is excluded. The indisputable point separating Geneva and Rome, or, more specifically, life and death, is that the justification of sinners is something accomplished completely outside of and apart from anything that might be wrought in them. Justification will certainly result in sanctification, but sanctification has no part in justification. Or, to put it another way, we are not justified because we are sanctified, we are sanctified because we are justified.

Second, in discussing the role of belief in justification the Confession stresses its utter and complete passivity. Belief, which is “the alone instrument of justification,” is that which receives and rests on “Christ and his righteousness” completely outside of anything that may or will ever occur within us. To incorporate obedience as an element of belief is to deny Christ’s finished work completely apart from us. It is the tacit admission that Christ’s work, His obedience, is not enough and that we need to do our part. What seems to throw a lot of seminary types is that the Confession writers in explaining justifying belief used the figure of speech of receiving and resting. The Larger Catechism (LC 72) defines saving belief as that which “not only assents to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receives and rests upon Christ and his righteousness….” Foolishly these seminary types assert that saving faith is more than an assent to a set of propositions, or, more specifically, assent to an understood message.  I even had one cemeterian say to me that the contrast between assent and “receiving and resting” proves, or so he claimed, that the three fold formulation of saving faith consisting of a combination of notitia, assensus and fiducia is confessional.   Not only is there no one to one correspondence between the terms used in the Confession and the traditional formulation, but more importantly the contrast the Confession is making is not between ordinary belief and something more. Rather the contrast the Confession makes is between the propositions believed.

Notice, the Confession states that saving belief is not only an assent to “the truth of the promise of the gospel,” that’s because the promise of the gospel (i.e., that you’ll go to heaven, be eternally blessed, that you’ll be redeemed, be adopted by God as your Father, that all your sins will be payed for, etc.) cannot save you. To be saved you must also believe in (assent to) the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. As John Robbins rightly pointed out years ago and in a response to Alan Strange; “Psychology was not on the minds of the Westminster Assembly, but making clear what truths had to be believed in order to be saved was.”

Further, when the Confession states that belief “is not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love,” it is not including these other things as additional elements that make belief saving. Rather, the Confession is merely recognizing those things which accompany or result from saving faith. To confuse or conflate these things is to confuse and conflate justification with sanctification and destroy the Gospel in the process.

If you’ve been following this series you will recall that for PCA FV pastor Jeffrey Meyers, “A person is righteous when he does what the covenant requires of him.” Meyers affirms this idea again as a signer of the Federal Vision Profession of Faith which states:

We deny that the faith which is the sole instrument of justification can be understood as anything other than the only kind of faith which God gives, which is to say, a living, active, and personally loyal faith. Justifying faith encompasses the elements of assent, knowledge, and living trust in accordance with the age and maturity of the believer.” (JFVP, p. 6, emphasis mine)

Meyers language of personal loyalty and our fulfilling imagined covenantal requirements is confusing faith with faithfulness and the fruits of faith with faith itself.   This confusion is bad enough when it comes from the pens of Federal Visionists, but I expect it. What I don’t expect is for this twisted understanding of saving faith that incorporates works to be affirmed and embraced by those in the Missouri Presbytery. This is disturbing not because here we have another PCA presbytery that does not understand the Gospel or the role belief plays in the appropriation of the finished work of Christ completely outside of anything that might be wrought in us, but because a large number of those exonerating Meyers are either former or current Covenant Seminary professors. I mean, you might expect ordinary run-of-the-mill Joe-Schmoe presbyters to be bamboozled by Meyers’ FV shuffle, but here we have men in charge of training up future PCA ministers and theologians and they don’t even get it. Instead they write:

A careful and charitable reading of this denial, in the context in which it was written, would conclude that the phrase “living trust” in the second sentence is an explication of the phrase “personally loyal faith” in the first sentence. TE Meyers has explained and defended the phrase “personally loyal faith” this way:

“The statement from the JFVP only talks about what kind of faith is true faith, that is, saving faith. To say that the kind of faith that justifies is a “living, active, and personally loyal faith” is simply to define genuine faith over against false or superficial belief. The Scriptures often warn against superficial, historical, or merely intellectual faith” (Matt. 7:26; 13:12; Acts 26:27, 28; James 2:19). (JJM Response, p. 98, lines 9-13)

We find this explanation to be a reasonable exposition of the phrase “personally loyal faith”to which the signers of the LOC object. Moreover, taken together with all the statements on justification by faith alone in the JFVP, the committee finds nothing in the phrase that contradicts the Westminster Standards; rather, it seems to convey the meaning of the closing phrases of WCF XI.2: “… and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.”

Notice, in their exoneration of Meyers the men of the MOP affirm the kind of faith that saves is one that works. This is a complete repudiation of the WCF which states that the kind of faith that saves is kind that receives and rests on “Christ and his righteousness” apart from or any work that may result from it. Like Meyers, the men of the MOP confuse and conflate the works done as a result of saving faith, i.e., those things which accompany or result from saving faith, with faith itself.  Even their ignorance of the Scriptures is astounding as they falsely affirm with Meyers that the Scriptures warn against “merely intellectual faith,” but the Scriptures do no such thing. Contra the MOP, what the Scriptures teach is if you “confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart [your mind] that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved” and “whoever believes in him will not be disappointed.” When the jailer asked Paul what he must do to be saved, Paul didn’t say be baptized and live faithfully in obedience to the demands of the covenant. Paul didn’t say if you want to be righteous you need to be personally loyal and do what is required. Instead he said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.” Nothing else is needed and those who say otherwise are liars. And, while I don’t want to take up more space here demonstrating the MOP’s sloppy mishandling of Scripture, suffice it to say that belief is a supremely intellectual act (the addition of “merely” is a weasel word) and there is no other kind.

Notice too, that the MOP affirms with Meyers and the Federal Vision Profession of Faith that  the phrase “personally loyal faith” merely conveys “the meaning found in the closing phrases of WCF XI.2: ‘… and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.’”   Like Meyers the MOP trips over a simple figure of speech and through it include works, works done by love mind you, as the dividing line between a living and a dead faith.  The problem is to have dead faith is to have no saving faith at all.  It is the feigned faith of hypocrites and the self-deceived.  It is the difference between believing in the promise of the Gospel with the Gospel itself.   Calvin explains it this way:

Of course, most people believe that there is a God, and they consider that the gospel history and the remaining parts of the Scripture are true . . . There are, also, those who go beyond this, holding the Word of God to be an indisputable oracle; they do not utterly neglect his precepts, and are somewhat moved by his threats and promises. To such persons an ascription of faith is made, but by misapplication, because they do not impugn the Word of God with open impiety, or refuse or despise it, but rather pretend a certain show of obedience.

But this shadow or image of faith, as it is of no importance, does not deserve to be called faith, but will soon be seen more fully how far removed from the solid reality of faith it is, yet nothing prevents this from being briefly indicated now. It is said that even Simon Magus believed [Acts 8:13], who a little later nevertheless betrayed his unbelief [Acts 8:18]. When he is said to have had faith attributed to him, we do not understand the statement as do some, who hold that he pretended in words a faith that he did not have in his heart. Rather, we consider that, conquered by the majesty of the gospel, he showed a certain sort of faith, and thus recognized Christ to be the author of life and salvation, so that he willingly enlisted under him. In the same way, in the Gospel of Luke they are said to believe for a while [Luke 8:13], in whom the seed of the Word is choked before it bears fruit, or immediately withers and dies even before it takes any root [Luke 8:6-7].

We do not doubt that such persons, prompted by some taste of the Word, greedily seize upon it, and begin to feel its divine power; so that they impose a false show of faith not only upon the eyes of men but even upon their own minds. For they persuade themselves that the reverence that they show to the Word of God is very piety itself, because they count it no impiety unless there is open and admitted reproach or contempt of his Word. Whatever sort of assent that is, it does not at all penetrate to the heart itself, there to remain fixed. And although it seems sometimes to put down roots, they are not living roots. The human heart has so many crannies where vanity hides, so many holes where falsehood lurks, is so decked out with deceiving hypocrisy, that it often dupes itself. Yet let those who boast of such shadow-shapes of faith understand that in this respect they are no better than the devils! (Institutes 3.2)

For Calvin the difference between a living and dead faith are the propositions believed.  Calvin nowhere denies that even Simon Magus had faith, but only insofar as he “recognized Christ to be the author of life and salvation, so that he willingly enlisted under him.”  The problem is Simon Magus did not believe in the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.  He did not believe the Gospel and did not receive and rest in Christ alone as his righteousness.  Personal loyalty is not something when added to belief transforms simple belief into something more, something saving.   Quite the reverse.  Nor does personal loyalty complete the definition of saving faith.  That  is Romanism. In The Cause of God and Truth the Baptist theologian, John Gill, explains dead faith this way (notice too that Gill anticipates the FV’s view of perseverance) :

And whereas it is said, that the only distinction between a living and dead faith is, that the one is attended with, the other is without good works; and that the only difference between a temporary and saving faith, is this, that the one continues, and the other does not: it may be replied, that though good works are an evidence of a living faith, yet the life of faith does not consist in works, but in special acts of it on its proper object, Christ; and a temporary faith is only an assent to the truth of some propositions concerning Christ; but is not as saving faith, a going out unto him, depending on him, and believing in him, for the salvation of the soul. 396-397

And, concerning the idea of faith working by love,  in his commentary on Galatians 5:6 Calvin observes:

There would be no difficulty in this passage, were it not for the dishonest manner in which it has been tortured by the Papists [and by Federal Visionists and their enablers – SG] to uphold the righteousness of works. When they attempt to refute our doctrine, that we are justified by faith alone, they take this line of argument. If the faith which justifies us be that “which worketh by love,” then faith alone does not justify. I answer, they do not comprehend their own silly talk; still less do they comprehend our statements. It is not our doctrine that the faith which justifies is alone; we maintain that it is invariably accompanied by good works; only we contend that faith alone is sufficient for justification. The Papists themselves are accustomed to tear faith after a murderous fashion, sometimes presenting it out of all shape and unaccompanied by love, and at other times, in its true character. We, again, refuse to admit that, in any case, faith can be separated from the Spirit of regeneration; but when the question comes to be in what manner we are justified, we then set aside all works. . . . When you are engaged in discussing the question of justification, beware of allowing any mention to be made of love or of works, but resolutely adhere to the exclusive particle. Paul does not here treat of justification, or assign any part of the praise of it to love. Had he done so, the same argument would prove that circumcision and ceremonies [or baptism for that matter – SG], at a former period, had some share in justifying a sinner. As in Christ Jesus he commends faith accompanied by love, so before the coming of Christ ceremonies were required. But this has nothing to do with obtaining righteousness, as the Papists themselves allow; and neither must it be supposed that love possesses any such influence.

Which brings us to our continued examination of the “full corpus” of Jeffrey Meyers where he again confuses faith with faithfulness and the Law with the Gospel. Concerning the First Commandment Meyers writes:

Israel, the bride, is to cling to Yahweh, her Husband and Lord, in faithfulness. What is this but salvation by faith? How is that wrong?

While I would like to think the Covenant Seminary men of the Missouri Presbytery would be able to tell Meyers how he is wrong, they’ve pretty much shattered that hope with their investigative report. Below is post #2918 from the Wrightsaid Yahoo group.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

From: Jeff Meyers
Date: Wed Jan 7, 2004 11:45 am
Subject: Re: Re: New lecture uploaded to Wrightsaid

On Jan 7, 2004, at 3:18 PM, Christopher A Hutchinson wrote:

Peter,

My point is that your comments are one more example of crying “foul,”  on this list, when elbows fly both ways.

Your brother, Chris Hutchinson, te, pca

P.S. It would also help Christian unity if you would not bash an  entire countryb with uncharitable and unproven generalizations.

First of all, who are you talking to Chris? Peter Leithart? How and where did he “bash and entire country with uncharitable and unproven generalizations”? I think you’re seriously confused, brother. I believe you meant NT Wright’s comments, not Peters.

Your objection to crying “foul” must refer to NT Wright’s words, which you quote:

Speaking as one of those who is regularly thus carpet-bombed, what I find frustrating is the refusal of the  traditionalists to do three things:…. second, to engage in the actual exegetical debates upon which the whole thing turns, instead of simply repeating a Lutheran or similar line as though that settled matters;

You didn’t read carefully enough. These are not Peter’s words, but NTW’s.

And who appointed you as the Piety Police Officer for this list. Why not engage the arguments and issues and not be so worried about everyone’s “tone.” It gets a little tiresome.

As one who would happily call myself a traditionalist (although a third  stringer at best), I argued on this list a few weeks ago that Jim  Jordan was simply wrong when he stated that justification by faith is clear in the Ten Commandments. No one answered back, so I assume that I win  that exegetical debate.

Well, it could be that no one thought your arguments were worth answering. It seems pretty clear to me that the first word of the decalogue (not commandments) has to do with trusting Yahweh alone. The language of “having” or “possessing” no other god is marriage language.

Israel, the bride, is to cling to Yahweh, her Husband and Lord, in faithfulness. What is this but salvation by faith? How is that wrong?

Second, I showed the list that early Reformed confessions set forth a clear law-gospel contrast. Again, no one argued back, so I assume that I win that historical debate.

NT Wright’s point is that these confessions could be (and probably are) wrong. His argument is that the Lutheran law-gospel dichotomy is not particularly helpful in exegeting passages in Paul (to put it mildly).

I’m always amazed (and apparently so is NTW) at how Reformed scholars and pastors who profess to believe in sola scriptura have become so ultra traditional in recent years. Roman Catholics are half as fanatical about their tradition as Westminster Confession Presbyterians. Face the facts: 16th and 17th century theological formulations were wrong about many things. It’s time we grow up and make the necessary changes. This will mean that we Presbyterians will have to give up our security blankets and grow up a little. Even if I don’t agree with Wright on everything he says about justification, at least he is moving us forward and showing us places where we need to reform our tradition.

JJM

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92 Comments on “Jeffrey Meyers – Faith is Faithfulness”

  1. Gus gianello Says:

    Excellent. There is the convergence of a lot of bad ideas to create a perfect storm of heresy. The psycologizing of faith is one of them. It should also be noted that psychology has to do with emotions and faith is not a psychological act, though it has psychological implications. Faith is an intellectual act. Psychology is NOT epistemology. When I believe in anything I have established the the proposition itself as knowledge–it is justified true belief. The Westminster divines were logicians as well. Therefore the distinction between true faith and false faith was asserted in terms of which kind of knowledge was saving. Saving knowledge was belief in the imputation of christs righteousness. All other kinds of knowledge, such as knowledge of one God, the inspiration of Scripture, the divinity of Christ were not saving. Ever roman catholic believes Jesus is the son of God. Recitation of the Nicene creed is part of Roman worship. The Westminster Standards are not only logical and systemically internally coherent, they are also an anti-Romanist polemic. To refuse to read them in that light is to misconstrue them.
    Saving faith is an intellectual act of epistemic significance. Adding anything to saving faith itself is to confuse faith with it’s fruit. Bec. we believe in the imputation of Christ’s righteousness all other things follow—love, obedience, etc. The moment saving faith is defined as faithfulness we have psychologized it and it ceases to be intellectual assent

  2. lawyertheologian Says:

    It should not be too surprising that the MOP misunderstands Meyers and “confuse and conflate the works done as a result of saving faith, i.e., those things which accompany or result from saving faith, with faith itself.” For it is not only “seminary types [who]assert that saving faith is more than an assent to a set of propositions, or, more specifically, assent to an understood message,” but most ministers and elders within the OPC and PCA. The idea of faith being defined as assensus, notia, and fiducia, and the idea of trust being what makes the belief saving is the predominant view of Christians. Sean (and John Robbins) have shown that ministers’ (such as Dr. Allan Strange’s) appeal to the Westminster Standards are mistaken. The MOP though takes it a step further, by accepting “personal loyal faith” to be equal to a trust, a “receiving and resting” up Christ and, again, conflating/confusing/equating works accompanying/resulting from saving faith with saving faith itself.

    BTW, given the more clear, explicit statements regarding the Confessions and the law-gospel distinction, it seems like the MOP simply looked to find some Christian/Reformed language to latch onto in order to exonerate Meyers.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    “Great is my faithfulness, O God my Father,
    There are some shadows of turning in me,
    But all I have needed my hand hath provided,
    Great is my faithfulness, it’s mostly ’bout me.”


  4. […] is what TE Meyers has taught for years. In a post from the Wrightsaid group, re-posted yesterday at God’s Hammer, TE Meyers wrote: It seems pretty clear to me that the first word of the decalogue (not […]

  5. David Taylor Says:

    “…“Great is my faithfulness, O God my Father,
    There are some shadows of turning in me,
    But all I have needed my hand hath provided,
    Great is my faithfulness, it’s mostly ’bout me.”

    This is excellent!

  6. Steve Matthews Says:

    Here’s a quote from the preface of Peter Leithart’s Against Christianity that I thought was interesting,

    “Thanks to Jim Jordan, the director of Biblical Horizons, for publishing that original aritcle. Jim also read through the entire manuscript and made many suggestions. Jeff Meyers was also kind enought to read through the manuscript and offer his advice.”

    As they say, “birds of a feather…”

  7. bsuden Says:

    As they say, “birds of a feather. . . apostasize together.
    Again this is all getting so blatant, it is turning into a theological gong show. Mr. Horn, in response to a post by RS Clark, really put his hoof in his mouth. The gentleman couldn’t be more obviously under the judgement of God if he came right out and said so. Yet how many more will agree with him?

     My flesh trembleth for fear of thee; and I am afraid of thy judgments. Psalms 119:119,120

  8. Hugh McCann Says:

    Well-stated, Sean, about the difference between assenting to gospel promises and the gospel itself.

    The ‘receiving and resting upon Christ and his righteousness’ is our believing the gospel.

    Another standard saith: ‘Q.21. What is true faith?
    A. True faith is not only a certain knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in his word, but also an assured confidence, which the Holy Ghost works by the gospel in my heart; that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sin, everlasting righteousness and salvation, are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.’

    ‘…the Confession states that saving belief is not only an assent to “the truth of the promise of the gospel,” that’s because the promise of the gospel (i.e., that you’ll go to heaven, be eternally blessed, that you’ll be redeemed, be adopted by God as your Father, that all your sins will be payed for, etc.) cannot save you. To be saved you must also believe in (assent to) the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.’

    Of course, assent must be given to the gospel itself, given us in 1 Cor 15:3f: Christ’s death, burial, & resurrection FOR OUR SINS.

  9. Hugh McCann Says:

    My FAITH IS resting in Christ’s FAITHFULNESS.

    Or, as the songwriter said,

    My hope is built of nothing less
    than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
    I dare not trust the sweetest frame;
    I wholly lean on Jesus’ name!

  10. Denson Dube Says:

    The Reformers, this much were clear about, that the justification of a sinner is through the merits of another, imputed gratuitously by God to the sinner upon belief of the Gospel, and that this belief is itself a work of grace, a gift from God, and is not the sinner´s own effort, lest anyone should boast! They contrasted belief alone and meritorious works as Paul does in Romans and Galatians!

    Their expressions describing salvic faith, “resting upon, taking hold of, putting one´s confidence in, ..“ etc etc, must be read in the light of the above clear expressions of justification. By “resting“ for instance, they meant to emphasise that one does not work, but depends on the work of another.

    Faculty psychology, especially the head and heart variety, and the slicing and dicing of faith into notitia, assensus and fiducia, brought confusion into what is a clear and simple idea, which the reformers understood very well. How they failed to detect their own confusion and inconsistency is amazing given their general clarity of thought in the way they treated the Word of God. This serves also for an illustration why we will always go wrong if we seek to conform the word of God to man´s ideas. If Justification by faith alone is such a simple idea, why drag in ideas that obfuscate the simplicity and clarity of that idea? Clark must be commended for bringing clarity and sanity once more into justification by belief alone, in his book, What is saving faith?


  11. […] is what TE Meyers has taught for years. In a post from the Wrightsaid group, re-posted yesterday at God’s Hammer, TE Meyers wrote: It seems pretty clear to me that the first word of the decalogue (not […]


  12. Amen! Dennis. Clark’s book, as usual, clears away all the dross and confusion. Unfortunately, Christians and Christian leaders refuse to acknowledge what ought to be so clear from Scripture: all faith is assent to propositions.

    “Their expressions describing salvic faith, “resting upon, taking hold of, putting one´s confidence in, ..“ etc etc, must be read in the light of the above clear expressions of justification. By “resting“ for instance, they meant to emphasise that one does not work, but depends on the work of another. ”

    Absolutely. Similarly, I wouldn’t deny that to believe in Jesus is to trust Him for your salvation, thought faith/belief does not equal trust.

    Wes, at his blog, also shows how trust does not equal loyalty.

    It makes me wonder at the MOP to not be able to discern this, to exonerate Meyers. But then again, being in the PCA doesn’t necessarily make it truly Reformed or Christian.


  13. Correction: It is Jeff Duncan’s blog I was referring to that is linked in this thread.


  14. Oops. And it is Denson, not Dennis.

  15. Sean Gerety Says:

    I wouldn’t deny that to believe in Jesus is to trust Him for your salvation, thought faith/belief does not equal trust.

    Actually, belief and trust are the same thing. They’re synonyms. I would refer you to John Robbins’ piece (or a dictionary), “R.C. Sproul on Saving Faith.”

    SPROUL: It’s an intellectual awareness. You can’t have faith in nothing; there has to be content to the faith. You have to believe something or trust someone.

    ROBBINS: Notice that Sproul here uses the verbs “believe” and “trust” interchangeably, as synonyms. This is both good English and sound theology. 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.

  16. Hugh McCann Says:

    From Denson: ‘Their [the Reformers’] expressions describing salvic faith, “resting upon, taking hold of, putting one´s confidence in, ..“ etc etc, must be read in the light of the above clear expressions of justification. By “resting“ for instance, they meant to emphasise that one does not work, but depends on the work of another.’

    Amen. Conversely, “There is no peace {rest?}, saith my God, to the wicked.” (Isa. 57:21.)

    God’s elect among the papists and FV-ers will hunger and thirst for the righteousness they believed to have been infused into them, yet daily shown to be so wanting. Too, they will pine for rest/ peace.

    For in one working FOR one’s salvation, he finds nothing but disquiet and unrest: “But the wicked are like the raging sea, that cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.” (v.20).

    Not until one gives up his striving to be just before God, and instead sees that Christ is all-sufficient, will one come to the rest our Savior so graciously promises in Matt. 11:28ff ~ “Come to me, all those laboring and being burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, because I am meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest to your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”

    Cf. Jer. 6:16 ~ So says the LORD, “Stand by the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you shall find rest for your souls.” But they said, “We will not walk in it.”

    Those refusing the LORD’s Way will be broken by his rod of iron.

  17. Hugh McCann Says:

    “Actually, belief and trust are the same thing.”
    Amen and amen!

    Away with the silly tripartite definition of faith!

    Knowledge (understanding) of and assent to 1 Cor. 15:3f. is salvific. Amen.

  18. Sean Gerety Says:

    I agree Hugh, but even if people are wed to the tripartite definition they should at least be able to see that what Meyers & Co. are talking about is something that is qualitatively different. The problem is the defenders of the traditional formulation have traditionally been unable to do anything, much less explain, this supposed “fiducial” element of saving faith. Some have attributed assurance to saving faith, others have asserted emotions, specifically the emotion of love, is the “fiducial” ingredient that makes ordinary belief saving. When Clark wrote What is Saving Faith he was dealing with Christians who were, at worse, being ambiguous.

    The FVers do not have that problem and have been unambiguous about what the fiducial element consists of and that is our obedience.

  19. Hugh McCann Says:

    ‘…even if people are wed to the tripartite definition they should at least be able to see that what Meyers & Co. are talking about is something that is qualitatively different.’

    Amen; and some (like Sproul Sr.) seem to.

    ‘The problem is the defenders of the traditional formulation have traditionally been unable to do anything, much less explain, this supposed “fiducial” element of saving faith.’

    Right. As y’all have repeatedly pointed out, it’s a silly tautology. Hence, every tripartiter has to mess it up w/ that 3rd element.

    I am of the opinion that this too is right: “True faith is not only a certain knowledge {UNDERSTANDING?}, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in his word, but also an assured confidence, which the Holy Ghost works by the gospel in my heart; that not only to others, but to me also {ASSENT?}, remission of sin, everlasting righteousness and salvation, are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.” (Heidelberg Cat. #21)

    “…FOR OUR SINS.”

  20. LJ Says:

    Would someone please tell me if there’s a difference between John MacArthurite “Lordship Salvation” and the Fed Vision heresy?

    Doesn’t “Lordship Salvation” theory hold that one is not saved unless they exhibit the Lordship of Christ in their lives? Of course the term “saved” is often ambiguous; some mean justification and some mean the entire ordo salutis. But usually they mean justification (I think).

    Anyway, they sound a lot alike to me.

    LJ

  21. Hugh McCann Says:

    Uh-oh, LJ, thou hast opened one big can o’ worms!

  22. LJ Says:

    Hugh,
    I should have known better since that can was swelled up a bit. But don’t they seem similar?

    Of course, we are (I think) once again dealing with the age-old distinction between justification and sanctification, right? Between Rome and Geneva? But I hear over and over again from reformed folks that one cannot take Jesus as Savior and not as Lord. I have often replied that the “Lordship” of Christ is bound up in the definition of his person. Jesus is Lord and for one to say “I take Jesus as Savior and not as Lord” would be a nonsense statement; they have apprehended the wrong Jesus.

    LJ

  23. Eileen Says:

    Because John MacArthur needs someone untrained in theology to speak for him, let me assert that it is not remotely possible that JMac is FV. He’s some distance removed from FV on the ecclesiology continuity spectrum, and his reformed soteriology bona-fides are pretty well-established, AFAIK.

    JMac’s Lordship view was expressed in opposition to Zane Hodges’ view that allows for the existence of a “carnal” Christian–one who is truly regenerate but who, for a season which might be quite long, shows no signs of being regenerate and no evidence of ongoing sanctification.

    JMac’s view, as I understand it, is that if there are no evident effects of salvation (fruit in keeping with righteousness or sanctification) in the life of a professing believer, then the professor is likely merely a professor and is not actually regenerate at all. I think that JMac’s view is consistent with Reformed soteriology, but I might be mistaken.

    To be fair and to put the decades-old issue in context, Zane Hodges was concerned about grace being transformed into legalism (works were being smuggled into grace.) JMac was concerned about “easy believeism.” Having read both of their materials at the time in an attempt to get at the root of the issue, I often felt they were talking past one another because they were concerned about two very important but very different errors. In other words, I don’t think, based on his life, that Zane Hodges was antinomian unless that word is reserved by some particular theological nomenclature. Neither do I think the JMac is in any way a legalist.

    2c worth from a non-theologian…

  24. Eileen Says:

    Anonymous Hymn Reviser,

    Exceedingly well done–so authentically FV that one might suspect you really are FV ;o)


  25. LJ,

    Yes, there is some similarity with MacArthur’s Lordship Salvation (not his phrase) and the FVers. However, MacArthur simply attempts to identify the true believers as being those who submit to Christ as Lord. Of course, rather than, as it were, putting people on probation, or trying to discern a positive(ly) Christian character, his main point is to assert that those who claim to be Christians, but don’t submit to the Lordship of Christ, that is, continue to live in sin, are not. But the reason is not that they don’t have some emotional element of trust,as MacArthur claims, but, as Robbins pointed out in a Review, they don’t actually understand and believe/assent to the gospel.


  26. Eileen,

    I wouldn’t give Zane Hodges too much credit. He seemed to revel in the novel, possibly to distinguish himself as a theologian. I’d say he was more clearly wrong on the issue.

  27. Eileen Says:

    Lawyer Theologian,

    I do give Zane Hodges credit for the life he led which clearly showed the fruit of regeneration, and I don’t have any evidence that his main purpose in the controversy was to distinguish himself. The facts of his life argue against that, in my view. I agree more JMac’s take on justification, but I don’t think it is helpful to dismiss the concerns of either party to a controversy nor to ignore the historical context in which the controversy occurred which, in this case, was the late 70’s-80’s.

    I’d have to dig through some boxes to find the relevant books, but I’m not recalling anything that JMac said at the time or says now that was/is similar to FV soteriology or ecclesiology. He’s a somewhat dispensational adamant credobaptist, which is about 180 from FV.

    I don’t understand your comment to LJ, probably because of my lack of background in some of what you referenced. Could you put the cookies on a little lower shelf for me and explain how JMac is similar to FV? I want to understand how his view differs materially from the Reformed view and I’m obviously missing something ;o)

  28. LJ Says:

    Eileen, LT,

    I’m not that familiar with Z. Hodges. I know some claim he is an antinomian. JMac I am more familiar with since I’m out here in the land of fruits and nuts (California) and he’s quite popular locally.

    It appears to me that “fruit inspection” at whatever level inevitably noses its way into some form of works righteousness. Whether it’s creating some dichotomy in Lord/Savior, e.g., You can’t have Jesus as Savior without having him as Lord, or attempting to make room for the carnal Christian, it always ends up affecting the doctrine of justification negatively, adding works to saving belief.

    That is not to say that someone who is justified is not always sanctified, but that given the history of the church and how the doctrine of justification keeps getting assailed it is man’s fallen nature to always ADD WORKS TO JUSTIFICATION in one way or another. Fruit inspection is at least one of the ways the attack on justification has historically worked out and the MacArthurites are notorious fruit inspectors. They don’t drink, smoke, or chew nor run with them that do. We had a dilly of a time getting real wine served in the Lord’s Supper at our church due to some within our congregation having been influenced by the MacArthurite pietistic teetotalism. Real wine? Heaven forbid! You’d think we’re all a bunch of drunks now.

    Anyhow, they seemed similar upon my superficial inspection of their fruit.

    LJ

  29. Sean Gerety Says:

    I think like John Piper, MacArthur has not always been very consistent concerning his teaching on justification. See:

    http://www.trinityfoundation.org/PDF/098a-TheGospelAccordingtoJohnMacArthur.pdf

    OTOH Phil Johnson who was probably the ghost writer of The Gospel According to Jesus claimed a number of years ago that JMac wrote a retraction, see the postscript to JR’s article.

  30. Hugh McCann Says:

    Also pertinent is one of the finest by John Robbins: “Justification and Judgment” (2001).

    Opening tidbit:

    “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in Heaven. Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness!’ -Matthew 7:21-23

    “This passage of Scripture is widely misunderstood. The Baptist John MacArthur, the Christian Reformed Norman Shepherd, and Pope John Paul II all misunderstand the passage, and they misunderstand it in essentially the same way. They all-Baptist, Reformed, and Romanist-appeal to verse 21 for the same reason: It seems to teach salvation by doing, rather than by mere believing. After all, Jesus does say that it is only those who do the will of his Father who will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

    “In his book, _The Gospel According to Jesus_, John MacArthur cites this passage and asserts: Real faith is as concerned with doing the will of God as it is with affirming the facts of true doctrine (189). Real faith, saving faith, according to MacArthur, is as much about doing as it is about believing, for Jesus brought a message of works (79)…”

    http://www.trinityfoundation.org/PDF/193a-JustificationJudgment.pdf

  31. Eileen Says:

    LJ,

    My sympathies for having to live with the fruits and nuts ;o)

    Honestly, I don’t think that the JMac version of fruit inspection, as you put it, is materially different than the Reformed view, at least as I understand it. That is, fruit is the inevitable result of a regenerate life, but the fruit does not contribute in any way to the regeneration. In other words, a dead fruit tree does not produce fruit, but a living fruit tree will produce fruit *as a necessary consequence* of being both living and a fruit tree. The “free grace” or Zane Hodges view, as I understand it, is that fruit is not a *necessary* consequence, although I think that they would say that it is an *expected* consequence.

    I think it is also helpful to consider that this debate took place historically between dispensational theologians who, by definition, take a different view of the law from the Reformed confessions. The debate took place before the “Reformed resurgence” when the overwhelmingly dominant viewpoint in evangelicalism was functionally Arminian and Left Behind dispensational. So, to discuss the soteriological viewpoints of two dispensational theologians using Reformed filters runs the risk of generating some confusion about what is actually being said. In fact, one might argue that this debate presaged the Reformed resurgence which, as we know, is a basket of viewpoints united by soteriology but distinguished according to secondary and even tertiary issues.

    Again, I may be forgetting some aspects of the debate or misunderstanding the points you and LT are making.

  32. LJ Says:

    Eileen,

    Ha, I didn’t need much sympathy when it was 85 degrees here while the rest of (what we fly over) was colder than a well diggers … toes.

    At any rate, thanks for the input. However, even taking into consideration JMac’s retraction at the end of the Trinity Review article, he has not been very helpful in regards to justification. I’m going to have to agree with JRob regarding JMac. Additionally, the pietistic strain of MacArthurism as it relates to our sanctification is a little troublesome. I did have the pleasure of meeting him at a venue once upon a time and he was very gracious and friendly (however, I didn’t ask him to meet me for a beer!). Maybe his ghostwriter has done him no favors, eh?

    LJ

  33. Hugh McCann Says:

    LJ has it: “Jesus IS Lord.”

    Regardless of Hodges’ or anyone else’s spin…

  34. Eileen Says:

    I should have also mentioned that another huge difference between JMac and FV is perseverance. JMac is, and always has been, firm on that point. He doesn’t have room for temporary election of any kind. AFAIK, the only TULIP petal he’s ever been wobbly on is L, and I think he’s firm on that one now.

    In any case, I think that JMac is a distraction from focusing on the clear and present danger of the FV wolves who are posing as Reformed pastors.

    Some of these justification/sanctification issues have been recently discussed pretty exhaustively at White Horse Inn, Heidelblog, TeamPyro and probably other places, too, for those who are really interested. I admit I’ve not read them, but some of you might find them helpful since these discussions are taking place now instead of 30 years ago and include the perspectives of various schools of reformed soteriological thought.

  35. Eileen Says:

    LJ,
    You have a point about the weather, although as a survivor of Southern Snowmageddon, I accuse you of attempting to provoke me to envy ;o) There are a lot of fruits and nuts in Florida, too, where I grew up, so maybe it’s the sunshine!

    Hugh,
    Agreed! Jesus is Lord, whether anyone acknowledges it or not. In fairness, I don’t think Zane Hodges would have said otherwise then, and certainly he would not say so now that he has seen Him face to face! I eagerly await the day when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

  36. LJ Says:

    Snowmageddon … now that’s funny!

  37. Eileen Says:

    Well, it wasn’t funny to all the Romanists and FVers who were stranded at Hartsfield when all the flights to and from Purgatory were cancelled. And I don’t mean the ski resort…

  38. David Reece Says:

    A late addition to the JMac discussion,

    I think there is a significant distinction that needs to be made between the Reformed view of assurance and the JMac view of assurance.

    JMac would tell you to look at your own works to determine if you are really in the faith.

    The Reformed view is that Assurance is a work of the Spirit that comes from being sure the Gospel is true. One may doubt that one understands the Gospel if one is in unrepentant sin, but this is not the same as examining one’s works to look for enough fruit to be assured.

  39. Eileen Says:

    David,

    It’s never too late until the thread is closed ;o)

    I really think everyone who is interested should take a look at the White Horse Inn and Heidelblog and Teampyro sites and read the posts and comments. Honestly, I don’t think Dr. Horton teaches what Frank Turk says he teaches, and I don’t think that JMac believes that one should look to one’s own works to “determine” if one is really in the faith, since that would mean that works are “determinative.” I think he would say that we should examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith, and I think he would say that any good works which are found are to be considered the fruit of the Spirit and not of ourselves, and that if no fruit is found at all, that we should suspect that we are not in the faith. In other words, fruit is an indication but not an element of real faith. Which seems pretty much the same to me as the reformed view which you articulated and which I think is the correct view. But again, I might be missing something.

    Does anyone really believe that JMac is a threat to the gospel? If so, is the threat as great as that of FV? JMac subscribes to the doctrinal statement of T4G which is also signed by R.C. Sproul, and he’s also a member of ACE. I’m just trying to keep things in the right perspective…

  40. Denson Dube Says:

    The Reformers used literal language(so does the New Testament) such as, justification, sanctification, repentance, scripture alone, (if you don´t mind) supralapsarianism and creedal statements to express their beliefs and God´s message.

    The language used nowadays by the professed church, which relies excessively on metaphor, such as, ¨open your hut and let Geezus in¨, ¨the new beth¨, ¨surrender to Geezus¨, ¨commitment to Geezus¨, ¨cum to Geezus¨, ¨relation sheep¨, ¨luv¨, ¨hed and hut¨ and the ¨sinus prayer¨ mantra, betrays its spiritual bankruptcy and unfamiliarity with the message of the Bible.
    These phrases, often used without due care and attention to their Biblical content become a lethal concoction of deceptive placebos. For, without the literal meaning of these phrases clear in the mind of the hearers, no message from God has been conveyed to them and there fore no genuine biblical salvic faith birthed in their minds.
    This form of spiritual deception may yet prove to be, in my view, more subtle and more lethal than the FV in that it presents a ¨harmless and innocent¨ face to those it dupes giving them a false sense of security, unaware of their true status before God. The FV men are obvious heretical zombies except to the obstinately blind!

  41. Hugh McCann Says:

    Prayin’ the ¨sinus prayer¨ to ¨Geezus¨.

    Classic, DD!

  42. lawyertheologian Says:

    David,

    Doesn’t the WCF also refer to looking to one’s works as evidence/assurance that one is in the faith (“the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made,” XVIII,2)?

    I agree that for the most part we are to look at our fruits as a negative test showing that one is not in the faith, rather than ammounting enough positive fruit/evidence to show that one is positively in the faith.

    Eileen,

    MacArthur does confuse/conflate faith with its fruit because he seems to not be satisfied with faith being defined as something that is solely intellectual. Again, for him it seems that no one is a Christian, or should be accepted as a Christian, until or unless he shows sufficient fruit that he is a Christian. And thus Christianity becomes defined not as a belief in the 66 books of the Bible as the Word of God, but as a positive moral lifestyle. But this idea seems to have permeated all of Christianity, even the Reformed denominations. For even in my OPC, where one is accepted and added to the Church based on a credible confession of faith, my pastor asserts that is not based on that alone, but also a matching lifestyle.

  43. Sean Gerety Says:

    Not exactly sure why looking at how a person lives is a problem when trying to ascertain the sincerity of their profession of faith? Seems to me James was concerned with that very thing.

  44. LJ Says:

    I am very sympathetic with Pastors, leaders in the Church, who are concerned that Believers not think that salvation is license to sin. We should all be fruit inspectors, starting with ourselves, in that regard.

    However, my objection is with the terminology that is often used. The requirement that you may not take Jesus as Savior only, but also as Lord seems unnecessary if the Christian has apprehended the Christ of Scripture who is the Lord Jesus Christ.

    The credible profession of faith should include the Lordship of Christ. I don’t think, however, that this is something that I would bring up to the Session. I suspect I may be a little too sensitive to the insidious nature of the FV within the OPC and the type of pietism that is common today within churches like JMac’s.

    I appreciate everyone’s comments and Hugh warned that it might be a can of worms. But I think the comments have been edifying.

    LJ

  45. lawyertheologian Says:

    No amount of positive evidence/fruit can show that a person is in the faith. But the opposite is true: a sufficient amount of negative evidence can show that one is not in the faith. Thus, if one fails to show love, but simply says “I wish you well,” as James says, how is the love of God manifest in that person? Or as the epistle of John puts it, “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” Rather, it is evident that no change based on saving faith has occurred in that person’s life. Similarly, John says that if hate remains in a person’s life, he has not come to know God. 1 John 4:8. So yes, James is concerned with (as is John) discerning those who are not Christian, who claim that they are. But our acceptance of one another as brethren is based on a credible profession( i.e.,a clear, articulation of the gospel)of faith. One might consider the case of Paul with the Jerusalem church. They wouldn’t accept him at first. But when they did, it wasn’t based on some positive moral behavior, but on the fact that he preached Jesus. Acts 9:26-30.

  46. lawyertheologian Says:

    “However, my objection is with the terminology that is often used. The requirement that you may not take Jesus as Savior only, but also as Lord seems unnecessary if the Christian has apprehended the Christ of Scripture who is the Lord Jesus Christ.”

    Yes, But that was the gospel being preached, that one simply believe in Jesus as Savior. Thus,as
    Robbins showed, the real issue was not that such did not have true faith, that is, did not truly believe, but that WHAT they were believing (and being preached) was not the true gospel. See again, http://www.trinityfoundation.org/PDF/098a-TheGospelAccordingtoJohnMacArthur.pdf

  47. lawyertheologian Says:

    “I am very sympathetic with Pastors, leaders in the Church, who are concerned that Believers not think that salvation is license to sin.”

    How could any true Christian think that being saved is a license to sin? Seems to me like an unnecessary concern. I am more concerned that Pastors,leaders in the Church are accepting persons as Believers who think that salvation is a license to sin. Again, that sounds like accepting persons as Believers who think that Christ is their Savior but not their Lord.

  48. LJ Says:

    LT (lawyertheologian),

    I agree with all you’re saying. However, isn’t it true that the Christian life, i.e., sanctification, is a life of continuing repentance brought about through the preaching of the Word by the power of the Spirit? It is my understanding, and I think elucidated in the WCF (I don’t have access to a copy here at work or I think I could cite the section), that our faith is sometimes weak, sometimes strong, and while the true believer certainly knows better, even he may fall into grievous sins; one such sin might be licentiousness.

    LJ

  49. lawyertheologian Says:

    Licentiousness is not a particular sin, but a total disregard for moral law, a total lack of moral restraint.

    BTW, the Westminster Standards are available at the OPC website. http://opc.org/confessions.html

  50. lawyertheologian Says:

    If/when the case against Meyers is appealed to the GA, can the MOP be up against charges that its views are against the WCF, with the possibility however slim that they be removed from the PCA?

  51. Eileen Says:

    LT and LJ,

    You raise some good points. I agree that the gospel message must include that Jesus is Lord and Savior, and I agree that it may not always be clearly proclaimed. Also, professing believers, in my opinion, are just fooling themselves if they think that Jesus can be their Savior without being their Lord. But I also know that I am sometimes a *practical* rebel, even though I claim Him as Lord.

    WRT to JMac, I don’t think it is correct to put him in the same category as Meyers who is clearly articulating another gospel which is no gospel at all.

    WRT Zane Hodges, my life will never show forth the fruit which his sacrificial work did among the least.

    My objective was to provide some historical context in an effort to help us make sure we are thinking through categories and distinctions carefully and not making enemies out of those who are our allies in the battle against FV. Not sure how successful I’ve been, but you all have given me some things to think about as I work through some issues.


  52. Just my two cents… I think Eileen has made many wise statements with regard to analyzing the Hodges “Free Grace” vs. MacArthur “Lordship” debate. It is always important to understand the author’s theological context, and also to understand what doctrine he is writing against.

    That being said, I do see some similarities between the FV & “Lordship” definitions of saving faith. Terms like “living, obedient faith” are commonly heard from Lordshipmen. It is not enough to understand and assent to the propositions of the gospel; only if that belief results in works is it considered salvific. In this way, there can be some overlap and similarities. Any errors in the Lordshipmen camp on this issue should be vigorously argued. IMO, this is part of the reason why Piper is unable to identify Wilson as a false teacher.

    On the other hand, we cannot equate LS with FV. They’re coming from two totally different angles, and they did not arise out of similar circumstances at all.

    Not to open up a whole ‘nuther can o’ worms, but at this point I think the traditional Reformed view of James 2:14-26 is flawed, and opens up the door for the confusion of LS and FV. I’d appreciate feedback on this article: http://bible.org/article/faith-demons-james-219. I don’t agree with everything in it, but I think the main point about a proper understanding of James’ purpose is on target. Sean, if you think this distracts from the main issue, feel free to edit this paragraph out of my comment.

  53. Sean Gerety Says:

    I just tried the link and it didn’t work.

  54. Jim Butler Says:

    Sean,

    I like your use of “the left foot of fellowship” at Greenbaggins 😉

    I hope Lane won’t extend it your way.

    jim

  55. Sean Gerety Says:

    Thanks Jim. I hope so too. I thought I was being respectful, although he has extended it my way once before. This was my first attempt venturing back. I’ll tell you, even questioning the faulty assumptions of well respected Van Tillians like Strange is precarious business. The last time I saw Lane’s left foot was for questioning John Muether’s repeated and baseless attacks on Clark.

    Of course, Keister is pretty typical. Van Tillian Scott Clark banned me from his blog as well for raising similar questions concerning Muether’s recent revisionism of the Clark/Van Til controversy. IMO these guys are very sensitive on anything related to Gordon Clark that challenges the party line, probably because their careers depend on it.

  56. Jim Butler Says:

    I’ve often thought a book or blog entry or article ought to be written: “Why No Love for Gordon Clark?”

    Keep up the good fight, Sean.

    jim

  57. LJ Says:

    I would change the wording of membership vows and leave out the redundant(?) “you (must) take Jesus as Savior, and you (must) take him (also) as Lord.” The statement I would prefer is simply “You must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” The prospective new member could then be asked, beforehand in examination, if they think believing is license to live like hell? If the answer is in any way that justification is not accompanied by sanctification, a Christian life, then the prospective member needs further instruction.

    Also, the wording in the declaration of pardon “if you have trusted (trust is always preferred over believed) SINCERELY in Christ for salvation, then I declare to you what the Scriptures declare: Your sins are forgiven.” I’ve noticed that the adjectives qualifying trust, belief, or faith have begun to expand, e.g., “genuine,” “unfeigned,” “heartfelt,”etc., fill in your favorite adjective. The point, apparently, is that belief is not enough. I’m really not guessing on this since I know that some within our church hold to the belief is insufficient view, citing the age-old James argument, etc.

    I don’t know if I’m making a mountain out of a mole hill here, but knowing the history within the OPC about what is saving faith, and the influence of MacArthurite “don’t drink, smoke, or chew; nor run with them that do” pietism, and add to that the ongoing FV covenant faithfulness that (really) saves you and, well, I guess my ears are tuned to a careful scrutiny of the words used, and I hear things, bumps in the night.

    Maybe I’m hearing too much and reading into it and should just chill out. I kind of started this line of FV and LS and MacArthur, etc., and I very much appreciate everyone’s comments and criticisms. Now if someone will tell me I’m hearing too much and/or reading into the things I hear I’ll chill out and go back to sleep.

    LJ

  58. Hugh McCann Says:

    LJ, When you’re up again, check out
    http://www.trinityfoundation.org/PDF/193a-JustificationJudgment.pdf

    It’s by Robbins (John, not Marty or Anthony) on Matt 7:21ff. He said in part:
    “In his book, _The Gospel According to Jesus_, John MacArthur cites this passage and asserts: Real faith is as concerned with doing the will of God as it is with affirming the facts of true doctrine (189). Real faith, saving faith, according to MacArthur, is as much about doing as it is about believing, for Jesus brought a message of works (79)…”

  59. LJ Says:

    Thanks Hugh,
    I read that TR when it first came out; been subscribing since, I think, 1994. Apologies to JMac fans, I’ve never been one: subcalvinist, premill, dispensational, pietistic, baptist, with a strain of neo-orthodox mystery and apparent paradox confusion thrown in.

  60. Eileen Says:

    LJ,

    >>>believing is license to live like hell.

    But, that *feels* so right, so it must be true!

    The distinction between “trust” and “believe” is helpful. I don’t think JMac is a moralist, but I see how some might think so, and I do think moralism is a danger we must acknowledge. Some folks confuse moralistic behavior with sanctified behavior–both sheep and shepherds can make this error.

    I think you are trying to define with some precision what is being taught, and that is a good thing to do. In other words, if you smell smoke, you should not ignore it. Likewise, there is a difference between your neighbor grilling some steaks and an electrical fire in your basement. It pays to check it out and also to know the difference–which is why discussions like these can be helpful because there are different perspectives brought to the issues.

  61. LJ Says:

    Hi Eileen,
    I appreciate your thoughts.

    You wrote: The distinction between “trust” and “believe” is helpful.

    What is that distinction again?

    LJ

  62. Hugh McCann Says:

    “Actually, belief and trust are the same thing.” ~ S. Gerety, Feb 23, 2011 @ 10:32 AM, right here in this thread!

    We’d just add, “So’s faith. Faith=belief=trust.”

  63. LJ Says:

    Hi Sean,
    Yes I got it and now maybe our friend Eileen can refer back to the thread and get it.

    I must have read “Faith and Saving Faith” 10 times over the years. The first time I read it I thought I understood and agreed with what GHC wrote. But I kept getting challenged by other Christians, Pastors, Elders, philosophers, and they would cause me to doubt my understanding. So I’d read it again and understand it, clearly, all over again and know that GHC had made a very important point, a point that needed to be made and one, especially, the contemporary church needed to understand and receive as correction. But it keeps coming back, time and again, ad nauseum, and seems to be a sticking point that can’t get unstuck. I think it is a much bigger issue than many thinking Christians realize.

    Hopefully, our friend Eileen will take this opportunity to sharpen her views regarding what is faith and saving faith.

    God speed Eileen!!

    Cheers,
    LJ

  64. LJ Says:

    Eileen stimulated my senses with:

    “… grilling some steaks …”

    So now, thanks to Eileen, under beautiful Southern California blue skys, a grilling I shall go!!!!!!!!

    LJ

  65. LJ Says:

    Hugh,
    Woops, sorry, the correction actually came from you referring to what Sean had written. I sometimes get confused reading the copies in my Outlook email inbox and what was posted in the thread.

    I’m a much better griller than poster!

  66. Hugh McCann Says:

    My FAITH IS resting on Christ, whose FAITHFULNESS is credited to me.

    Or, His faithfulness is credited to me via my faith alone.

    Happy BBQ, LJ!

  67. Hugh McCann Says:

    As Gerety & Robbins have said numerous times, it’s not the 3-part faith deal that’s so much the prob (tho’ that is), but misundestanding the propositions to be believed!

    When MacArthur says that saving faith is more than mental assent, he fails (like many) to clarify the gospel propositions, i.e. 1 Cor. 15:3f.

    To him, saving faith is “more than just understanding the facts and mentally acquiescing” (TGATJ, p. 31). {It begs the question, “Acquiescing to which proposition(s)?”}

    Non-Lordship guys don’t disagree with this part of MacDaddy. Ernest Pickering wrote in his review of Mac’s _Gospel Acc. to Jesus_:

    “We do not know any fundamental preachers of the gospel who would disagree with that statement. We never have heard any reputable gospel preacher ever teach otherwise.” He then cites the old Scofield Bible & The Ryrie Study Bible as evidence.

    The issue is simply, “Is believing God’s good news sufficient for salvation?”

  68. Eileen Says:

    LJ,

    I thought I was agreeing with you, which is what I intended, and I thought I got it, but I guess I didn’t. Maybe it was the late night last night or maybe it’s because I’m obtuse or untrained in the finer points of theology and philosophy or both ;o) In any case, I appreciate the discussion and the perspectives offered. Enjoy the steaks!

  69. David Reece Says:

    In case anybody doubts that John Piper is a works righteousness guy:

    http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/gods-love-is-the-cause-and-result-of-ours

  70. lawyertheologian Says:

    How is that supposed to show that Piper is a works righteousness guy?

    I suggest you check this out. Ask Pastor John: What do you believe about justification by faith alone?

  71. lawyertheologian Says:

    Again, Piper has written the best book against N.T. Wright and NPP “The Future of Justification” in which he clearly articulates the imputation of Christ’s righteousness which Wright denies.

  72. lawyertheologian Says:

    I just came across a quote from Gordon Clark’s doctoral dissertation on Aristotle that I’d like to share with fellow Scripturalists:

    “It has already been argued that not every proposition can be demonstrated because there must be a starting point of demonstration, which, if it is the start, cannot have been previously demonstrated. These starting points are propositions which are true, first, immediate, MORE KNOWABLE THAN, and the cause of, the conclusion.”

    Ancient Philosophy, p.197.

    The starting point, the axiom of Christianity, the Bible (alone) is the Word of God, is knowable to the Christian, more knowable than, prior to, and the cause of the conclusions (David was king of Israel, Christ died for our sins, Jesus will come again, etc.).

  73. Denson Dube Says:

    Pat,
    “How is that supposed to show that Piper is a works righteousness guy?”
    God’s love for us is not “caused” by our love for Him as Piper misreeads those passages. The bible says God loved us while we were yet sinners, God haters. We love Him because He first loved us, and called us to Himself to love Him. He continues to love us as His work of love in loving Him.

  74. lawyertheologian Says:

    Denson,

    You need to read a little more slowly and carfully. Piper mentions two ideas regarding God’s love for us. You are only dealing with his first one.

  75. Denson Dube Says:

    Pat said,
    http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/ask-pastor-john/what-do-you-believe-about-justification-by-faith-alone

    The link says,

    John Piper holds to the historic, Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone, which can be summarized in the following four points:

    1) The sole ground of our justification is the righteousness of God, expressed in the alien, imputed, active obedience of Christ, climaxing in his sin-bearing, substitutionary death.

    2) Faith alone is the sole means of justification. In other words, it is faith only, and not our deeds in any way (whether the external manifestation or the internal God-glorifying motive behind them), that connect us savingly to Jesus Christ.

    3) Faith is distinct from its fruit, the obedience of faith, yet faith is of such a nature that it must and will produce love for people and a life of genuine, though imperfect, holiness in this world. Therefore, as the Westminster Confession of Faith (11.2) says, the faith that alone justifies (as the instrument which unites us to Christ, not as the ground or content of our justifying righteousness) is never alone;

    4) Therefore, this reality of forensic righteousness, which is imputed to us on the first act of saving faith (as the seed of subsequent persevering faith), is different from transformative sanctification, which is imparted by the work of the Holy Spirit through faith in future grace.

    Piper’s summary could use some improvement.
    I would restate (1) & (2) as
    (1)The sole ground of justification of a sinner, is the righteousness of God, namely, Christ’s active obedience in keeping all of God’s Law and passive obedience in His substitutionary death on the cross for the sin of the elect.
    (2)Justification is God’s act of imputing His righteousness to a sinner, upon belief of the Gospel alone. But, justification is NOT a quid pro quo for faith or belief or any work by the sinner, for by the works of the law, no flesh shall be saved.
    (3) contains a contradiction. If justification is by faith alone and the fruits of faith play no role in justification, then it is a contradiction to go on to say justifying faith is not alone. The fruits of justifying faith fall under sanctification and do not deserve mention on justification.
    (4)There is no “subsequent” faith called, persevering faith. In faith or belief, it is “what” is believed, the object of belief, which is God’s promise, rather than the act of believing itself, which is the focus, the determining factor. No amount of believing will make one saved or persevere if there is no promise of salvation or perserverance. The act of faith itself is one, simply the mind taking the divine promise as true.
    Sanctification is NOT imparted by the Work of the Holy Spirit through faith in “future grace”. Just what is “future grace”? Sanctification is through belief of the truth, the word of God. It is what the Bible calls growing in grace which is growth in knowledge of God in His Word. John 17:17 — Sanctify them by the truth. Thy word is truth. II Peter 3:16-17 — But grow in grace and knowledge of our Saviour Jesus Christ. One could quote more passages, but none of these mention Piper’s novelty, “future grace”.

  76. Denson Dube Says:

    OOps! II Peter 3: 17 – 18.


  77. NOT a Piper fan, by any stretch… but when I read that article that David posted, I didn’t see any works-righteousness in it. It looked to me like he was using an ambiguity to grab attention, then explaining the difference between God’s unearned gracious love, and the pleasure He finds in conforming us to Christ’s image.

    There’s plenty of other stuff to convict Piper, such as this: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/special/justification_june09.pdf (look at Piper’s section on “Future Justification”)

  78. LJ Says:

    Hi Eileen,

    You wrote: I thought I was agreeing with you, which is what I intended

    I suspect we are very much in agreement! The idea is to sharpen and keep sharpening, thus the quote from Sean.

    Blessings,
    LJ

  79. lawyertheologian Says:

    Denson:”I would restate (1) & (2) as
    (1)The sole ground of justification of a sinner, is the righteousness of God, namely, Christ’s active obedience in keeping all of God’s Law and passive obedience in His substitutionary death on the cross for the sin of the elect.
    (2)Justification is God’s act of imputing His righteousness to a sinner, upon belief of the Gospel alone. But, justification is NOT a quid pro quo for faith or belief or any work by the sinner, for by the works of the law, no flesh shall be saved.

    Even if yours is better stated, Piper’s statements are not wrong.

    Denson: “(3) contains a contradiction. If justification is by faith alone and the fruits of faith play no role in justification, then it is a contradiction to go on to say justifying faith is not alone. The fruits of justifying faith fall under sanctification and do not deserve mention on justification.”

    I don’t see any contradiction. JF

  80. lawyertheologian Says:

    is not alone, not as the basis of justification, but simply alone in the believing person’s life. That is what the WCF says.

    Patrick T:” There’s plenty of other stuff to convict Piper,”

    Convict? Piper may have misstated some things, but the evidence is clear that his view of JBFA is that of the true gospel.

  81. LJ Says:

    Hi Hugh,

    You wrote: The issue is simply, “Is believing God’s good news sufficient for salvation?”

    Is “salvation” synonomous with “justification?” It seems that sometimes the term “salvation” is used, especially by reformed folks, narrowly to mean “justification.” Then some other person, not so reformed, will use it more broadly to imply the entire “ordo salutis” including, but not limited to, sanctification. Often these folks cannot tell you what justification is, but they think they know what salvation is.

    Have you found this to be a problem or confusion that is worth noting? Or is it even a confusion or a problem? If one believes the gospel he is justified (obviously), but since he is effectually called through regeneration, adopted, given the Spirit, etc., he cannot then not continue believing and be sanctified, right? So believing the gospel, the good news, is the means by which sinners are saved from beginning to end; of course we will continue to believe the good news even in glory …

    I think I’m answering my own question (if I can even remember what it is now!): is salvation synonomous with justification?

    Inquisitively yours,
    LJ

  82. lawyertheologian Says:

    Patrick T:”There’s plenty of other stuff to convict Piper, such as this: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/special/justification_june09.pdf (look at Piper’s section on “Future Justification”)”

    Incidentally, the stuff written is the author’s understanding of Piper, and not something quoted from Piper. And the author only mentions Piper’s book “The Future of Justification.” Yet there is nothing in this book regarding Piper’s view of future justification.


  83. lawyertheologian, regardless of whether or not Piper penned the pertinent paragraph, it accurately reflects his view. Further, if I were in Piper’s prominent position, and some young journalist had written that about me, rest assured that I’d raise cain about such a gross libel.

    I’d say “the evidence is clear” that Piper is one confused dude, particularly since he believes Doug Wilson preaches the gospel. Also see Robbins’ review of “Future Grace,” which Piper has never retracted. Yes, I know Piper has said some excellent things about JBFA. But he’s also said some bad things. So yeah, I’d say it’s enough to “convict” him of being unreliable and confused, at best.

  84. lawyertheologian Says:

    lawyertheologian, regardless of whether or not Piper penned the pertinent paragraph, it accurately reflects his view.

    Says you? I wouldn’t base my understanding of Piper on second hand witnesses.

    Further, if I were in Piper’s prominent position, and some young journalist had written that about me, rest assured that I’d raise cain about such a gross libel.

    Well, first of all it wouldn’t be libel if it were an honest attempt to present someone’s view without attempting to lower his esteem in the relevant community (if the writer had said that Piper is a false teacher, that be another story- which one who has posted here has done). Second, I doubt Piper really can be bothererd to run around correcting every misconstruing of what he has said or written.

    I’d say “the evidence is clear” that Piper is one confused dude, particularly since he believes Doug Wilson preaches the gospel.

    Again, confused does not equal heretical, nor preaching a justification by works. And maybe he is unreliable and confused on some things, but his articulation of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness is not.

  85. lawyertheologian Says:

    BTW, you might want to look at Piper’s more recent explanation of future grace.

    http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/ask-pastor-john/what-do-you-mean-by-future-grace

    Note especially at the end: “So future grace is God’s power, provision, mercy, and wisdom—everything we need—in order to do what he wants us to do five minutes, five weeks, five months, five years, and five thousand years from now.”

    I see nothing objectionable in this.

  86. Denson Dube Says:

    Pat,
    “I’d say “the evidence is clear” that Piper is one confused dude, particularly since he believes Doug Wilson preaches the gospel. Also see Robbins’ review of “Future Grace,” which Piper has never retracted. Yes, I know Piper has said some excellent things about JBFA. But he’s also said some bad things. So yeah, I’d say it’s enough to “convict” him of being unreliable and confused, at best.”

    Amen!!! Look at this.
    “This final judgment accords with our works. That
    is, the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives will be brought forward as the evidence and confirmation of true faith and union with Christ. Without that validating transformation, there will be no future salvation.”

    Matt quotes Christ as having said: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?” (Matthew 7:22) Our justification depends on Christ’s finished work of redemption alone, which is in the past, and none of our works, pre or post justification. Christ’s obedience and sacrifice alone is the ground of our justification.

  87. lawyertheologian Says:

    Amen!!! Look at this.
    “This final judgment accords with our works. That
    is, the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives will be brought forward as the evidence and confirmation of true faith and union with Christ. Without that validating transformation, there will be no future salvation.”

    Again,he does not say our justification will be based on our works, but accords with our works, that we are those who have truly believed and been transformed and sanctified. Without such, one doesn’t have true faith. Granted, we are not to look at or within ourselves to determine whether we are in the faith (other than having a clear understanding and belief of the gospel), for such can deceive us, and such will not be “brought forward as the evidence and confirmation of true faith.” For that is not the issue of our acceptance, but the fact of our election, that Christ did live and die for us.

    Again, such confusion, such inaccuracy/error is not heresy.

  88. Hugh McCann Says:

    Hey, LJ,

    While salvation includes more than justification, it’s not less, and the terms certainly do get conflated at times. We need distinctions and definitions, for sure.

    I used the word salvation since Paul said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be SAVED, and thy house.” (Acts 16:31, AV.)

    Also, pertinent to your query: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be SAVED. For with the heart one believes and is JUSTIFIED, and with the mouth one confesses and is SAVED.” (Rom. 10:9f, ESV.)

    Hugh

  89. Hugh McCann Says:

    My 2 cents on the Piper controversy.

    The book is not closed. That is, how one finishes is huge.

    But, Piper is tumbling in the estimation of many of us as he welcomes and lauds the likes of Wilson and Warren.

    Our gripe with the likes of Carpenter, Collier & Bain (a most scary law firm?!) is their penchant for finding & damning sloppy quotes. Such quotes could indicate unbelief, or just as easily, a boo-boo.

    All Piper’s works should be reviewed (thank you, Lawyer T!). If there is genuine confusion and contradiction, one hopes he’d repent & recant when called on them.

  90. Sean Gerety Says:

    Thank you gentlemen, but I think this thread has been beat to death.


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