When You’re Strange

Dr. Alan Strange is an assistant pastor in the OPC and an associate professor of church history at Mid America Reformed Seminary.   He also teaches a classes in applied apologetics.  Back in 2004 he wrote an unfavorable review of Gordon Clark’s What is Saving Faith that appeared in Mid America Journal of Theology and later in the OPC’s New Horizons magazine.  Admittedly, and given the OPC’s long and sad history of hostility toward Dr. Clark and Scripturalists in general, it would have been surprising for any OPC pastor to write a favorable review of even one of Clark’s books, assuming such a review could even get published.  Unfortunately, Dr. Strange’s review contained no surprises.

After his review appeared in New Horizons a friend of mine alerted me to the piece and after reading it I fired off a response to the editor that they refused to publish.  Interestingly, and unbeknownst to me at the time, John Robbins also sent a response to the Mid America Journal of Theology and later to New Horizons, both of whom refused to publish Dr. Robbins’ response.  Having since published Dr. Robbins response to Alan Strange and my own here, my interest today is related to a recent encounter I had with Dr. Strange over at Lane Keister’s Greenbaggins blog.   I had commented on a repost of Wes White’s insightful piece, “Sola Fide or Sola Fidelity?,” and made the following comment which didn’t sit well with Dr. Strange:

…Peter Liethart complains in The Baptized Body that “For some, the central problem with the Federal Vision is that it denies justification by faith, which no one has ever done….” But no one I know of has ever said that any of these men deny justification by faith. The pope doesn’t even deny justification by faith. What they deny is justification by belief alone. The supposed *fiducial* element, what Meyers calls an active, living, obedient faith is what keeps us in the covenant. This is why Wes White says they’ve replace sola fide with sola fidelity. He’s right.

Without reading any further, can anyone guess what the offending statement was in the above paragraph that required an associate professor of church history at Mid America Reformed Seminary to jump in to correct me?  Well, if you can’t don’t feel bad.  It took me a little while to figure out what my offense was.  Evidently my transgression of Reformed orthodoxy was that I used the phrase “belief alone” and “faith alone” interchangeably.  Dr. Strange explained:

Because Mr. Gerety threw in the “belief alone” comment, however, as that which is definitive of justifying faith, I thought that it was helpul[sic] to point out that the remedy to the problem of identifying faith and faithfulness is not to strip faith of trust.

Now think about this for a moment.  For Dr. Strange “belief alone” is something qualitatively different from  “faith alone.”  Evidently, and according to Strange, we are justified by faith alone, just not by belief alone.  In his mind belief alone lacks trust whereas faith alone includes trust.  However, in ordinary English belief and trust are synonyms.  Even more destructive to his argument (and something you would think an associate seminary professor would have already known) is that there is only one word in Scripture that is translated as both “faith” and “belief” and that is the Greek word pistis.

Dr. W. Gary Crampton observers:

In the New Testament, there is only one word for belief or faith, pistis, and its verb form is pistein, believe. There is no separate word for faith, and those who wish to say that faith is something different from and superior to belief have no support from Scripture. Gordon Clark once remarked that the Bible’s English translators could have avoided a lot of confusion if they had not used the Latin-based word “faith” and had instead simply used “believe” and “belief” throughout the English Bible, as the writers of the New Testament use pistis and pistein throughout the Greek Bible.  Faith in Hebrews 11

Some examples of pistis in Scripture are:

(Mat 8:10 KJV)  When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great pistis [faith], no, not in Israel.

(Mat 9:2 KJV)  And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their pistis [faith] said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.

(Mark 10:52 KJV)  And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy pistis [faith] hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.

(Acts 6:5 KJV)  And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of pistis [faith] and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch:

(1 Tim 3:13 KJV)  For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the pistis [faith] which is in Christ Jesus.

(Heb 11:24 KJV)  By pistis [faith] Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;

(2 Th 2:13 KJV)  But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and pistis [belief] of the truth:

Notice that in the King James version pistis is translated as both faith and belief interchangeably.  Some examples of the verb form of pistis or pisteuo (i.e., to have faith in) are:

(Acts 19:4 KJV)  Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should pisteuō [believe] on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.

(John 17:21 KJV)  That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may pisteuo [believe]  that thou hast sent me.

(Rom 10:9 KJV)  That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt pisteuo [believe] in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

(Acts 16:31 KJV)  And they said, Pisteuo [Believe] on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

(Acts 15:11 KJV)  But we pisteuo [believe] that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.

(Luke 8:12 KJV)  Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should pisteuo [believe] and be saved.

There are literally dozens of similar examples, but it should be clear that faith and belief are simply translations of the same singular Greek word pistis.  There is no separate word that  translates “faith” and another “belief.”  Arguably the dominance of the Latin “faith” in most translations is due to the influence of the Latin Vulgate in the early church (or what Dr. Robbins called the “Latin mistranslation”).  Regardless, faith and belief are translations of the same word in Scripture and have the same meaning.  Even in ordinary English to have faith in someone is to believe what they say and to believe in someone is to have faith in what they say.  Faith and belief are synonyms in ordinary English, evidently just not in the rarefied English of seminary profs and the pastors they produce.

At this point thinking I was starting to overstay my welcome, and seeing that  Lane Keister decided to jump in to reassure his readers that he was in agreement with Dr. Strange, I wrote:

Before I get the left-foot of fellowship again from this blog, let me just add re the relationship between the traditional understanding of faith and the FV, Lane wrote in an earlier piece here at Greenbaggins:

“‘Trust,’ especially gets difficult here, because people drive trucks through this word, and this is usually where ‘faithfulness’ gets sneaked in the back door.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Now, this is where things got interesting, at least for me, as Lane replied:

Yup, Sean. I stand by that comment entirely. But wouldn’t you agree that it is possible to hold to a three-fold definition and 1. not be a heretic, and 2. not support the FV by doing so? Couldn’t you say this even if you disagreed with said position?

To which I replied:

Of course Lane. I’m surprised you would even say that. I don’t think the three fold definition is in itself heretical, just imprecise. Which is why, as you say, people have been able to drive a truck through it. I believe it is this imprecision which has led to the kind of assault on the doctrine of [justification by faith alone]that we’re now dealing with and seems to go on without end. I truly believe that had more people paid attention to Clark’s argument in What is Saving Faith? a lot of where we are today, where presbytery after presbytery have exonerated known Federal Visionists (and in some cases more than once), could have been avoided. Maybe that’s wishful thinking, but maybe not.

But ask yourself, why have we been imprecise on what we mean by faith which is, after all, the alone instrument in justification? Why instead of defining our terms clearly using literal language, when it comes to defining what this third element of saving faith is we resort to figures of speech and simply repeat the word “trust” over and over as Dr. Strange has done. . . .  Notice too . . . what got this ball rolling was the fact that I “threw in the ‘belief alone’ comment.” For Dr. Strange belief alone and faith alone are not the same thing at all, but, again, in ordinary English belief and trust are synonyms.

As Dr. Robbins observed and in response to something R.C. Sproul had written (and, FWIW, Robbins thought Sproul was a hero for his actions on the floor of the GA during the FV/NPP report debate), belief and trust are the same thing:

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.

From my perspective, one of the hardest things in this fight against the real heretics of the FV is getting people to see how these FV men have been equating faith with faithfulness as the “fiducial” element of saving faith and how it has allowed them to even profess [justification by faith alone] through redefinition. I suspect it is hard for many to see how the traditional formulation has been abused simply because they believe saving faith is something more than a simple belief, precisely what they can’t really say, but that is hardly reason for labeling men like Meyers, Wilson and Leithart heretics for maintaining (I’d say playing fast and loose with) the “fiducial” element of saving faith.

It should be noted that while Lane thankfully and by God grace finally came to recognize that Doug Wilson and the rest of the signers of the Federal Vision Statement of Faith, Jeffrey Meyers and Peter Leithart included, were in fact denying the central truths of the Gospel, specifically the doctrine of justification by faith alone, it was the Law/Gospel distinction that finally caused him to see what those of us have been arguing now for years.  However, ̄ if he and others had paid closer attention to the gaping hole in the traditional understanding of faith and saving faith, the same hole “people drive trucks through,” I pisteuo that the recognition of the deadly heresy of the Federal Vision would have been immediate.  I have always believed that it is the Federal Vision’s clever twist of the imagined third or fiducial element of saving faith (translated “trust”)  is what has allowed them to drive their FV truck through the P&R world with little or no opposition even today.  It is also what has allowed them to even affirm justification by faith alone through redefinition.

When he was still with us John Robbins tried to fill that hole again in 2004 with the republication of Clark’s Faith and Saving Faith in the volume,  What is Saving Faith? that also includes the monograph, The Johannine Logos.   Unfortunately, it is clear from my brief encounter with Alan Strange that the gap in the Reformed understanding of faith and saving faith is as big as ever.   So, while Dr. Strange might think belief alone is not “definitive of justifying faith”  (it is), and believes “the remedy to the problem of identifying faith and faithfulness is not to strip faith of trust,”  I suspect the hole created by this traditional (as opposed to biblical) understanding of saving faith is what countless P&R men fall into when trying to judge those accused of teaching the Federal Vision false gospel.

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158 Comments on “When You’re Strange”

  1. LJ Says:

    Sean,
    Thank you for this post. It helps provide just a little more context to the whole FV, faith, faithfulness, saving faith, etc., discussion.

    Over the years I must have given away at least 15 copies of “Faith & Saving Faith” to my brethren. And I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that I’ve begged, cajoled, demanded that church leaders I’ve known over the years READ THE BOOK, often to no avail; a few do, most don’t.

    Is it that hard to read or is it just too difficult a paradigm-shift? Very frustrating.

    To this day, I doubt a month goes by that I don’t hear from some knowing church person some version of the “even the devils believe” canard that James taught belief is “just not enough” you must also … fill in the blank.

    At any rate thanks, again, for a great post. Keep up the fight!

    LJ

  2. lawyertheologian Says:

    It is all the more strange that Strange distinguishes faith from belief when considering that the WCF appears to use these terms synonymously. In XI, 1, it refers to faith as the act of believing. One might argue that belief in Scripture is more than assent; but surely not that faith is more than belief. But the word “belief” in common parlance simply means assent, whereas the word “faith”, being a religious word, allows one to conjure up mystical ideas.

  3. Sean Gerety Says:

    LJ I can’t fathom why anyone would find F&SF either difficult or controversial. I found it positively liberating. I guess I had a lot of cobwebs in my thinking that needed cleaning. 8o)

  4. lawyertheologian Says:

    The fact that F&SF challenges the traditional view of faith makes it controversial. It is difficult in the sense that one finds it hard to give up the traditional view.

  5. Steve M Says:

    Sean

    Strange is not alone in remaining vague when it comes to definitions. This seems to be a common thread among those who find certain teachings of Scripture distasteful. The same ones who will deny they are advocates of justification by faith and works will none the less import an element of works into their definition of faith. If works are an ingredient of faith (justifying faith), then justification by faith alone does not differ at all from justification by faith and works.

    When pressed hard enough many times these fiducia=trust=something other than belief folks will let the cat out of the bag and equate the something else to works. In this respect the FV crowd is actually the more honest group, if there is such thing as proclaiming falsehood honestly. At least they proclaim it openly.

  6. lawyertheologian Says:

    Dr. Strange wasn’t vague in his definitions. He just didn’t give any.

    Nor should we lump him in with FV advocates. Nor also is it the case that (all)those who hold to the traditional view of faith equate the fiducia/trust/something else to works, though some might appear to do so.

  7. Jim Butler Says:

    I’ve often thought it strange that people who affirm justification by faith alone have a problem with stating justification by belief alone.

    jim

  8. Sean Gerety Says:

    Patrick, who is lumping Dr. Strange in with FV advocates? I certainly haven’t and neither has anyone here.

  9. Steve M Says:

    LT

    When someone distiguishes belief and trust but does not explain the difference, I consider that being vague. Maybe giving no definition is superior to giving a vague definition, but Strange is criticizing a rather clear definition by Clark and I don’t know how to characterize his criticism if he is offering no alternative definition. Is he saying Clark’s definition is wrong but I don’t have one?

    I am generalizing about those who support the “traditional” notitia/assensus/fiducia explanation (definiton) of justifying faith, but I am speaking from personal experience when I say that the fiducia part usually includes an element of works (though often diguised).

  10. lawyertheologian Says:

    Well, to say that the fiducia part includes an element of works makes the traditional view of faith heretical, similar to FV, which does the same.

  11. Sean Gerety Says:

    That is the point isn’t it Patrick. If one includes works or obedience in their definition of saving faith in those cases it is heretical whether your call it FV, Romanism or something else entirely. That’s why concerning the this third debatable element of faith Lane Keister said “people have been able to drive a truck through it.” However, no one has said, or even suggested (much less me), that Dr. Strange, Lane Keister, or any other defender of tradition has done anything of the sort.

  12. lawyertheologian Says:

    “Strange is not alone in remaining vague when it comes to definitions. This seems to be a common thread among those who find certain teachings of Scripture distasteful.”

    Maybe Steve didn’t intend to suggest that Dr. Strange finds certain teachings of Scripture distasteful, that simply that he was vague like others are vague, but one might take it that way.


  13. (aka The Other Patrick)

    If I were to list the top most influential books in my life other than Scripture, Faith & Saving Faith would be at the top, followed by God & Evil: The Problem Solved. “Positively liberating,” indeed!

  14. Hugh McCann Says:

    “Strange, Vague, & Distasteful” sum up the recalcitrant mean madness of the uber-traditionalists.

    Yet, there are none so blind as those who will not see…

    This exposes their folly, & destroys their pretensions: ‘Now think about this for a moment. For Dr. Strange “belief alone” is something qualitatively different from “faith alone.” Evidently, and according to Strange, we are justified by faith alone, just not by belief alone. In his mind belief alone lacks trust whereas faith alone includes trust. However, in ordinary English belief and trust are synonyms. Even more destructive to his argument (and something you would think an associate seminary professor would have already known), is that there is only one word in Scripture that is translated as both “faith” and “belief” and that is the Greek word pistis.’

    Next question, please.

    Again I say please see http://www.trinityfoundation.org/PDF/193a-JustificationJudgment.pdf

  15. Hugh McCann Says:

    S.V.D. II ~

    Pursuant to our thread, see also Clark’s 1979 essay, ‘Saving Faith’* from which:

    ‘”Bare assent,” says {‘marrow-man’ Thomas} Manton, “to the articles of religion doth not infer true faith. True faith uniteth to Christ, it is conversant about his person.” Two factors seem to be confused in Manton’s mind: the psychology and the propositions. Does this quotation mean that saving faith, in addition to belief in monotheism, must also include the Chalcedonian Christology? Certainly an assent to Chalcedon, however “bare,” is “conversant about his person.” Or does Manton’s statement mean that the devils themselves subscribe to Chalcedon, and that “conversant” is a psychological element in addition to assent? It would seem so because otherwise no contrast could be made between “assent to the articles of religion” and “conversant about his person.”

    ‘Faith “is not only assensus axiomati, an assent to a Gospel maxim or proposition; you are not justified by that, but by being one with Christ. It was the mistake of the former age to make the promise, rather than the person of Christ, to be the formal object of faith.” The mention of the person of Christ is pious language. Similar expressions are common today. One slogan is, “No creed but Christ.” Another expression, with variations from person to person, is, “Faith is not belief in a proposition, but trust in a person.”

    ‘Though this may sound very pious, it is nonetheless destructive of Christianity. Back in the twenties, before the Methodist Church became totally apostate, a liberal in their General Conference opposed theological precision by some phrase centering on Christ, such as, Christ is all we need. A certain pastor, a remnant of the evangelical wing of the church, had the courage to take the floor and ask the pointed question, “which Christ?”

    ‘…The Christian or Biblical answer is the Creed of Chalcedon. A person can be identified only by a set of propositions.

    ‘This is what Manton refers to as “the mistake of the former age.” Thomas Manton was a Puritan of the seventeenth century, and when he speaks of “the former age,” he is not referring to apostate Romanism, but to the Reformers themselves. Hence he is a witness that they defined faith as an assent to the promise of the Gospel. By the same token, he wishes to introduce some other element into faith in addition to this act of will. What is it? He answers, “There is not only assent in faith, but consent; not only an assent to the truth of the word, but a consent to take Christ….True believing is not an act of the understanding only, but a work of all the heart.”

    ‘A careful study of these words and of the complete context in Manton, plus a comparison with the Scripture, should conclude that Manton is confused…’*

    And, ‘The crux of the difficulty with the popular analysis of faith into notitia (understanding), assensus (assent), and fiducia (trust), is that fiducia comes from the same root as fides (faith). Hence this popular analysis reduces to the obviously absurd definition that faith consists of understanding, assent, and faith. Something better than this tautology must be found.’

    * http://www.trinityfoundation.org/PDF/009a-SavingFaith.pdf

  16. lawyertheologian Says:

    “When pressed hard enough many times these fiducia=trust=something other than belief folks will let the cat out of the bag and equate the something else to works. In this respect the FV crowd is actually the more honest group, if there is such thing as proclaiming falsehood honestly. At least they proclaim it openly.”

    Thus, generally speaking, traditional view advocates are equally heretics as FV advocates, and less the honest ones. This does indeed lump together Dr. Strange and all traditional view advocates with FV advocates.

  17. Hugh McCann Says:

    Dr. Strange is NOT being “helpul”!

  18. lawyertheologian Says:

    Hugh,

    You’re preaching to the choir.

    No one here is disputing the correctness of Clark and the incorrectness of Dr.Strange and the traditional view of faith.

  19. Sean Gerety Says:

    This choir member loves it. Besides, there are a lot of non-choir members who read this blog. So keep preaching brother. 🙂

  20. Hugh McCann Says:

    LT, We all need encouragement in the truth. Paul preached the gospel to those who’d heard it, Italians and Greeks. As the hymn says, “Those who know it best, seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest.”

    Clark is edifying and clear, unlike the shell-&-pea gamesters in the ostensibly evangelical Presbyterian churches. Just enjoy the quotes, spoilsport, or skim ’em and leave ’em.

    Sean quotes at length Crampton, Robbins, himself, and a 400 year old translation of a most ancient text. If reiteration of truth is tiresome, why do read this blog?! Ha!

    Hey! Aren’t you an OP elder? Then you’ve got some work to do there, man! Get to it!

  21. lawyertheologian Says:

    Hugh,

    The question is what is the purpose of this post? I could quote from Clark, Robbins, the Scriptures, etc. but for what purpose? What are we discussing? Clark’s book “Faith and Saving Faith?” Yes. I just thought that the value and correctness of this book has been discussed here before (and the subject of the post) and was not the subject of this thread. But sure I appreciate what it says, and if there are others here who haven’t see these quotes before, then great for them.

    No, I’m not an OP elder.

  22. Hugh McCann Says:

    LT, if you’re a mere OPC member, never mind. Leave it to the professional pastor-types; they invariably know better, and are holier than pew-warmers.

    But your Orthodox Presbyterian denomination abominates Clark, and what you above profess to believe.

  23. Hugh McCann Says:

    AS LT says, “traditional view advocates are equally heretics as FV advocates, and less the honest ones. This does indeed lump together Dr. Strange and all traditional view advocates with FV advocates.”

    Robbins would cheer, “Here, here!” 🙂

    He said of Mt 7:21 (LT, stop reading!), “Does Jesus teach legalism? Here I am using the word legalism in its proper sense: the notion that one can obtain, in whole or in part, salvation by doing, rather than by mere belief. The Pope, Shepherd, and MacArthur all appeal to this verse because they all believe that Jesus does in fact teach salvation by doing here – that he here denies the sufficiency of belief alone for salvation. The central problem in verse 21 is the meaning of Jesus’ phrase: he who does the will of my Father in Heaven. The Pope, MacArthur, and Shepherd all appeal to this verse because they believe that that phrase means works. But that interpretation, of course, implies that the Bible contradicts itself.” http://www.trinityfoundation.org/PDF/193a-JustificationJudgment.pdf

    And Steve M. is onto something here: “If works are an ingredient of faith (justifying faith), then justification by faith alone does not differ at all from justification by faith and works.”

    And LT is getting it: “to say that the fiducia part includes an element of works makes the traditional view of faith heretical, similar to FV, which does the same.”

    Both the tri-fold fiduciarians and the Federal Visionaries hold that bi-partite fides isn’t sufficient.

    The latter, by outright adding works, the former by including “REAL trust” as a necessary element to understanding & assent. What is this silliness, if not a self-righteous work of some sort?

  24. Sean Gerety Says:

    I would disagree that “the traditional view advocates are equally heretics as FV advocates” as most traditionalists are – at worst — simply guilty of defining a word with itself and for throwing around assorted pious sounding but meaningless vagaries. I can’t imagine Clark or Robbins suggesting that Manton, Calvin, Ownen, Hodge or some of the others Clark examines in his book were “equally heretics as FV advocates.” OTOH, by defining “trust” in terms of obedience the FV men have avoided the tautological charge Clark levels at the confused and ambiguous traditional understanding of saving faith. So I would want to maintain that distinction.

    The danger, and hence the hole that has allowed the FV to drive their truck through the entire Reformed world, is that by incorporating some nebulous psychological element that is supposed to complete saving belief (traditionalist preferring the Latin “faith” of course) is the tacit affirmation that something must occur in us, or be wrought in us, in order for a person to be justified. Things like assurance or an emotion, even the “emotion of love” (as Andy Webb says), are all things that are supposed to occur in us to one degree or another and have often been included in the traditional understanding of saving faith. But, justification is something that occurred completely outside of us some 2,000 years ago on a cross. Justification will certainly result in a change in us, and may even result in our assurance and certainly will bring about acts of love (emotions not withstanding), but believing the message of the Christ’s finished work on behalf of those for whom He died is what saves sinners, not any subsequent change that might occur within them.

    As Clark rightly argued, what separates faith and saving faith are the propositions believed and not some psychological addition that is supposed to complete saving faith.

  25. lawyertheologian Says:

    Well said Sean.

  26. Steve M Says:

    Sean

    I would agree the difference being saving and non-saving faith is the object of the faith not some element of the faith itself. This is precisely the point. To hold that some special element or ingredient of the faith is what makes it saving (or justifying) is to lose sight of the object of faith (truth). One is not saved by believing what is false.

    Eve believed Satan. Had she believed God instead would there have been some different element in that belief? I don’t think so. The difference would be in the object of her faith. God is truth itself and Satan is a liar and the father of lies.

    But it is terribly important that we know what faith is because, unless we do, we can not know what justification by faith alone means. I think this is a rather important doctrine.

  27. Hugh McCann Says:

    To the tune “People are Strange” by the Doors:

    Alan is Strange,
    His doctrine is stranger;
    Assent’s insufficient
    When it’s alone.

    You must be faithful
    If you’re to be righteous;
    Federal Vision
    Leads you to Hell.

    {No, I didn’t write this!}

  28. Hugh McCann Says:

    We agree Sean, that the garage (hangar) door was opened by sloppy theologians who should have known better. The FV truckers easily drove in, no ramming needed.

    The confused tri-partiters (semi-scripturalists) have no real defense against FV, and hence, the downing of the PCA & OPC.

    ‘…by incorporating some nebulous psychological element that is supposed to complete saving belief… is the tacit affirmation that something must occur in us, or be wrought in us {or be done BY us?}, in order for a person to be justified.’

    That sounds pretty deadly!

  29. LJ Says:

    Steve M:
    >Eve believed Satan. Had she believed God instead would there have been some different element in that belief?<

    What a great point. I never thought of it from that perspective.

    LJ

  30. Steve M Says:

    I have heard faith defined as (total?) submission to the Lordship of Christ by one Reformed Baptist apologist. This same person will argue vociferously for justification by faith alone. If one so defines faith, how can that person argue against justification by works?

    This definition would have Paul saying, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who totally submits to the Lordship of Christ”.

    I am not arguing against totally submitting to the Lordship of Christ, but I think this definition of faith is a distortion of the Gospel. If my salvation depends on the level of my submission to the Lordship of Christ, then I am in trouble because God’s requirement (and rightly so) is perfection and my submission is certainly not perfect (or even very close). I do keep trying, but I am not counting on my submission to save me. I am relying on the imputed righteousness of Christ (which is perfect).

    This apologist trivializes believing the
    gospel as simply “”tipping ones hat” to the truth.

    Again I assert that it is extremely important to define faith correctly.

  31. lawyertheologian Says:

    Hugh,

    Clever and entertaining tune.

    Steve M,

    Are you sure he wasn’t simply describing faith and not defining it? One could also say that faith, that is, biblical saving faith, is a title deed of things hoped for, a conviction of unseen things, but that would not say what the essence of faith or believing is.

  32. lawyertheologian Says:

    Hugh: “The confused tri-partiters (semi-scripturalists) have no real defense against FV, and hence, the downing of the PCA & OPC.”

    Really? It seems to me that they still have a ready defense and have argued effectively against FV (and NPP). After all, trust (fiducia) is not the same as loyalty or faithfulness.

  33. Sean Gerety Says:

    Let me “really” right back at ya. The awareness in the P&R community that faith has been redefined in such a way by the FV is almost non-existent. With perhaps the exception of White’s piece “Sola Fides or Sola Fidelity?” the FV men have been extremely successful in making others believe they are Reformed men who hold to JBFA. Pay attention next time when one of the FV men tie their examiners in knots over the question of what constituents a “living faith.”

    What might be the most recent example of many of the “ready defense” and effectiveness in identifying the fiducial slight of hand of the Federal Visionists, is found in the MOP’s report exonerating Jeffrey Meyers where they conclude:

    The second item the signers omitted was the last half of the denial paragraph. The full denial in the JVFP reads as follows:

    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 not in the original]

    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.”

    I’d say the above analysis, assuming that the entire investigative committee are not themselves Federal Visionists, results from a complete misunderstanding of the nature of saving faith or how it should be defined, a problem Gordon Clark sought to correct years before there was even an FV to deal with.

    So, while it’s not impossible to hold the traditional 3 fold tautological definition of saving faith and recognize precisely how, to use Kesiter’s phrase, the FV have been able “drive a truck through” the word “trust,” my only point is that this deception would have been immediately identified years ago if Reformed men had paid closer attention to Clark.

  34. lawyertheologian Says:

    Well, this deception (defining faith as loyalty)appears to be only fairly recent,at least in an explicit way. The FV movement wouldn’t have been “immediately” identified based on a proper definition of faith. And yes, even without it, the PCA, the OPC and all those who hold to the traditionalist view of faith still have a defense to the FV, and have expressed it in their Reports against it.

  35. Sean Gerety Says:

    Fairly recent? OK, I suppose in geological time the the exposure of the whole Shepherd controversy is “fairly recent,” but the fact is the vast majority of TEs and REs still don’t get it or can see how the FV have been able to include works as the third element of saving faith. Frankly, neither Dr. Strange or Lane Keister seem to get it (you don’t have to go back very far on the Greenbaggins blog to see Lane rope-a-doped by Wilson over the “aliveness” of faith in justification). The MOP report cited above attests to that fact, but then I realize that citations of official decisions by the courts of the PCA are useless against the opinions of the “lawyertheologian.”

  36. Steve M Says:

    Since we are on the subject of the 3 fold definition I think the following is pertinent.

    Below is an excerpt from a discussion I had with TurretinFan on his blog. He was quite generous with his time to discuss the subject of saving faith at length with me. I am only showing the part discussing the three Latin terms.

    I asked:
    “Are we are not saved by believing the Gospel? By that I mean hearing the news (information) and understanding it to be true.”

    TurretinFan answered:
    That’s only a part of it. Let me provide two ways of trying to analyze the subject:

    1) notitia, assensus, and fiducia

    These Latin words are used to express the three aspects of faith. The first is notitia, which means knowledge of the truth. The second is assensus, which means acknowledging that the truth is true. The third, fiducia, is explained by Turretin in this way:

    The third act is fiducial and practical assent or a persuasion of the practical intellect by which we judge the gospel to be not only true, but also good and therefore most worthy of our love and desire; also the promises of grace to be most certain concerning the remission of sins and the bestowal of salvation upon all believers and penitents and so also upon me if I shall believe and repent.

    2) One more practical analogy:
    One practical analogy I’ve heard is the analogy of the difference between:

    notitia: hearing that a chair can support your weight

    assensus: acknowledging that it is true that the chair can support your weight

    fiducia: relying on the chair to support your weight

    I think there may be some weaknesses in this analogy, but perhaps it will help to convey what I’ve been trying to say.

    The comments you have been presenting are very similar to those that Gordon Clark expressed. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with his work, but I consider him one of the best philosophers of the last century. I’ve been enjoying the discussion, and I hope it has been or will be of some use to you as well as to me.

    TurretinFan
    ————————————————–

    TF

    Yes, I am very familiar with Clark. I have read many of his books. I have read many authors on this subject (What is faith?)

    Clark defines faith as intellectual assent to understood propositions and saving faith as intellectual assent to certain propositions from Scripture regarding the atonement (this is a summary from my memory only).

    Charles Hodge also defines faith. He says in his Systematic Theology, Volume III:
    “Faith may, therefore (because the only satisfying foundation for the persuasion of the truths of the Bible is the testimony of God), be defined to be the persuasion of the truth founded on testimony. The faith of the Christian is the persuasion of the truth of the facts and doctrines recorded in the Scriptures on the testimony of God.”

    To believe the Scriptures on the testimony of God requires the presupposition that the Bible is the word of God. That “the Bible is the word of God” must be the logical starting point seems obvious to me for without Scripture we don’t know who God is.

    I have found that very few authors actually give a definition of faith or saving faith. Most rather tell what it “looks like” or some such thing.

    You mention three Latin words although I don’t know what these have to do with the Greek words pistis (faith) or pisteuo (believe) found in Scripture. Fiducia is found 9 times in the Latin Vulgate NT, but is always a translation of the word parresia (freedom of speech, confidence). Notitia is only found once (Rom. 1:28) and Assensus is not found at all.

    notitia: hearing that a chair can support your weight
    assensus: acknowledging that it is true that the chair can support your weight
    fiducia: relying on the chair to support your weight

    You are saying that believing the Gospel is only part of it? The other part is illustrated by “relying on the chair to support your weight”. Are you saying that the act of sitting in the chair is the only way that God knows whether or not I believe it will support my weight? Or are you saying that it is the only way you know whether I believe it will support my weight?

    As I understand your definition of faith it includes “sitting in the chair”. Your definition of faith seems to me to include an element of works. Paul definitely distinguishes faith from works. A definition of faith that includes an element of works makes “justification by faith alone” no different from “justification by faith and works”.

    Believing the gospel either saves us or it is only part of what is necessary for our salvation. When Paul describes the gospel as the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, I think he is clearly siding with the first position.

    Steve M

    This was my last comment on the blog and TurretinFan did not respond to it.

  37. LJ Says:

    Steve M:

    Now I’m relying on memory, but didn’t Clark state that much of the confusion was attributing a physical act,e.g., sitting in a chair or taking the medicine, with what is purely a psychological act, e.g., belief?

    LJ

  38. LJ Says:

    I cannot find in F&SF where Clark made the distinction between a purely mental act, i.e., belief, and the physical act of sitting in a chair, depositing money in the bank, taking the medicine, all purported to be acts of Fiducia or the “something else” needed in saving faith. Maybe it’s in “Today’s Evangelism” which I cannot find – probably lent it out and it wasn’t returned (hate it when that happens!).

    If saving faith is belief or assent to known (saving) propositions, then assent or belief is all that is required and by adding the analogy of a physical act to the purely psychological act of assent turns saving faith into fiducial work.

    Clark says it much better – I wish I could find that book!

    LJ

  39. lawyertheologian Says:

    LJ, let me help you.

    Yes, it is in “Today’s Evangelism” p. 72. The illustration is to that of depositing money in a bank.

    “You read the financial report, you decide that the bank is sound; you then deposit money in it. But this latter physical action has no counterpart in a purely mental, internal, non-physical situation. We hear the Gospel message. We believe it. What else is there to do? If we confess that Jesus is Lord, are we saved? Of course, good works are to follow: but those who insist on fiducia as something in addition to assent do not locate faith in these external good works. Faith is completely mental. It is not physical.”

  40. Max Says:

    We can bring this all down to a very simple level by doing the following: Contrast belief from faith. I here define belief as intellectual assent as in when one agrees that something is true. Faith, on the other hand, implies trust and hope in whatever it is we agree about–in this case the person of Christ, what he did, what he said, etc. So if we have faith we are of God. Simply believing doesn’t tell us that much. This is why the likes of Zane Hodges could never accurately portray the Christian religion. It involved so much more than mere intellectual assent. For centuries Westerners gave assent to all kinds of Christian truths. However, not all of these people believed in the sense that I outlined. This whole problem is what sparked the Lordship controversey in the first place. And to the degree that that side of the debate has made the proper distinction that I just did, I agree wholeheartedly with them.

  41. Hugh McCann Says:

    Max,

    Dude, please. Read at least the article and above posts before weighing in. You’re in over your head.

    As you’ll learn here, Faith=Belief=Trust: These words are synonymous. To understand where Sean Gerety and most of us here get our definition for faith, please see

    http://www.trinityfoundation.org/PDF/009a-SavingFaith.pdf

    For the briefest of intros, see my posts of March 18 @ 10:46 & 10:56am, above.

    If you’re just peppering this site with scattered buckshot, but are unwilling to do the legwork necessary to get up to speed, you’ll find yourself left in the dust.

    I am a recovering Anglican, and can understand your take on Wright, but there’s more to orthodox Christianity than merely defending the creed, etc.

    Please email me if you want to discuss any of this beyond the scope this thread: HUGHMC5 at HOTMAIL.COM

    Hugh

  42. LJ Says:

    Thanks LT!

    I just dislocated my shoulder patting myself on the back for having at least a partial memory of what Clark wrote. Apparently senility has been staved off for at least a season.

    Attributing physical acts to what is solely mental is quite common in evangelistic preaching within the contemporary church. But “those who insist on fiducia as something in addition to assent do not (or should not!) locate faith in these external good works. Faith is completely mental. It is not physical.”

    As I stated, “Clark says it much better.” But I still wish I could find my book.

    It seems like this subject is pretty much exhausted for most Clarkians. But Max has some catching up to do. I’m out.

    LJ


  43. Steve M,

    I think TurretinFan’s response illustrates the inherent confusion in holding to Justification by Faith alone, and the tripartite definition of faith. I agree with your analysis of the “chair” analogy. However, check out what he says regarding “fiducia” in his first example (emphasis mine):

    “The third act is fiducial and practical ASSENT or a persuasion of the practical intellect by which we judge the gospel to be not only true, but also good and therefore most worthy of our love and desire; also the promises of grace to be most certain concerning the remission of sins and the bestowal of salvation upon all believers and penitents and so also upon me if I shall believe and repent.”

    So, 1. Hear and understand the propositions of the gospel (Notitia). 2. Believe the propositions of the gospel of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection (Assensus). 3. Believe that the gospel applies to you, and is good (Fiducia).

    It’s exactly as Clark observed: often, ‘fiducia’ is simply just belief of more propositions! Some people are simply too devoted to extra-biblical tradition to embrace the simple clarity of the Scriptural ‘pisteuo’.

    Just to be clear, I’m not arguing with you at all, just observing. Keep fighting the good fight 🙂

  44. Steve M Says:

    Patrick

    His first definition of fiducia was from Turretin and I don’t take issue with that definition. I don’t think it actually adds anything to understanding and assenting to the Gospel. The things Turretin is saying are additional to believing the Gospel, I consider to be part of the Gospel. For whom Christ died is part of the Gospel. To believe the Gospel (good news) is true implies the things that Turretin speaks of.

    I am not used to people not arguing with me. My experience is that almost no one agrees with most of my positions. This blog is a breath of fresh air for me.

  45. Hugh McCann Says:

    Man, Steve, I hope you’re on the right track, because I agree with you and appreciate that you’re so clear in expressing yourself (a huge bonus). Keep it up.

    While not all N/A/F* men are legalists, I believe the tri-partite faith thing AT BEST dampens assurance.

    At worst, it then leads to some other ground than faith in Christ alone for assurance of justification.

    Give me the Heidelberg over WSC any day. (Sorry, guys.)

    * Notitia/Assensus/Fiducia

  46. Steve M Says:

    Hugh

    I don’t know all N/A/F men. I am sure that many of them do not see themselves as legalists, but I think for some reason most of them prefer vagueness to perspicuity and if they spoke with greater clarity, their inconsistency would be more apparent.

  47. David Reece Says:

    I agree with the claim that three part faith definitions are confusing at best and heretical at worst.

    Hugh McCann, I like Heidelberg, but the fan fair for the “Apostles’ Creed” is over the top in it don’t you think? Do you like it more than just the Shorter Catechism or the entire set of Westminster Standards?

  48. Hugh McCann Says:

    Hey, David,

    Creedal fanfare too much in HC (all Christendom), granted.

    All WS are great, HC is just more personable and assurance-filled.

  49. greenbaggins Says:

    Patrick, I can agree with your three-fold definition. Sean and I may actually be closer than people think we are. A lot of the confusion results from ambiguity in the word “trust.” Trust can be a once for all entrustment of the soul into the hands of God, or it can be a life-long reliance on the trustworthiness of someone else. For me, I think that belief that the gospel applies to me is the same thing as the once-for-all entrustment of the soul into the hands of the Father. The two are actually the same thing. Sometimes we Van Tillians can get a little uneasy about “belief alone,” but that usually happens when we limit the definition of belief to intellectual understanding only. It seems clear to me that neither Clark nor Gerety has done that, but rather defined belief as including an element of personal appropriation. I find this a rather comfortable place to leave things, for I am just as uncomfortable nowadays using the word “trust,” because of all the problems it has in the FV controversy. If it is properly qualified, it can be helpful. But saying “believing that the gospel applies to me” is just as helpful. What say you, Sean?


  50. […] Gerety has posted a thoughtful short essay on saving faith and trust. I thought I would respond to it here and see what people thought about […]

  51. David Reece Says:

    heh, fanfare … thanks

    I like the Assurance emphasis as well.

  52. Chase Says:

    A response has been posted:

    http://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2011/03/20/trust-and-belief/

    It appears that Lane realizes the faultiness of using “trust” as an element of saving faith, but his explanation of the third element of faith as “the once-for-all entrustment of the soul to God” seems tautologous. Is believing the Gospel not an entrustment of the soul to God? He notes that Clarkians “are also including in [belief] a personal appropriation of that truth to the sinner,” so why not adopt our simpler, clearer definition, which he recognizes as “not so different after all” from his own position?

  53. Sean Gerety Says:

    What say you, Sean?

    I think we may actually be closer than people think we are. I won’t tell if you don’t. 🙂

  54. Neil of Tucson Says:

    I am a Reformed Baptist by conviction (but not affiliation right now), yet also a Clarkian, and I am very grateful to have obtained his works from TF. In keeping with this thread subject, today I heard the pastor of the church we attend (but to which we do not belong) declare that saving faith is more than mere “mental assent,” and I had to groan, having heard this cliche many times before, & from other preachers. What to do? Past experience has taught me that he does not take any sort of correction seriously, whether about his conduct or teaching, and regardless of how polite my approach.

    Now to his credit, while preaching through Romans, he has evidently embraced the Sovereignty of God, which is remarkable in light of his church & seminary background. But he, & others before, seems uninterested in any ideas not originating in private study, & I am puzzled that men who so often preach of the necessity of Gospel repentance seem unable to admit even the possibility that they could be wrong about anything. I suspect such clerical hubris is a cultural phenomenon which transcends confessional boundaries.

    So be aware that one does not have to have attended a Reformed seminary to hear this talk about assensus etc. It seems to be an axiom of popular Christianity; it is just taken for granted, like “it’s not a religion, but a relationship.”

  55. Fal Says:

    Hi everyone, this is my first time posting at this blog. My question is in regards to greenbaggins comment that “Sometimes we Van Tillians can get a little uneasy about “belief alone,” but that usually happens when we limit the definition of belief to intellectual understanding” Are there people out there who actually define belief as intellectual understanding? Is that an issue that I’m unaware of?

  56. David Taylor Says:

    “…Are there people out there who actually define belief as intellectual understanding? Is that an issue that I’m unaware of?…”

    Such a question is not specific enough to be given a clear answer. What is meant by the term ‘intellectual’? What is meant by the term ‘understanding’? How do YOU define ‘belief’?

    Since belief itself is a synonym of the word ‘faith’, the definition is identical – ‘volitional assent to an understood proposition’. It must of necessity be ‘intellectual’ – it cannot be physical!

    Moreover, ‘understanding’ is an intellectual activity. Only a behaviorist would claim otherwise (do your fingernails ‘understand’ anything?). Hence, belief is most certainly an intellectual understanding.

    In fact, the word ‘intellectual’ is a redundant term in this issue. It is absolutely unnecessary.

    Your question seems to be ‘surely people don’t equate belief with understanding’! And how this question is answered depends on how you define ‘understanding’. I seriously doubt that you believe anything you do not understand! You may not understand EVERYTHING about that which you believe, but you must understand SOMETHING about it, no?

  57. Sean Gerety Says:

    David, I could be wrong but I think Fal was agreeing that no one, least of all Clark, has defined belief as understanding (intellectual is just an unnecessary redundancy because, as you say, understanding is a purely intellectual act). For example, I understand any number of things that I don’t believe. Anyway, I think that was Fal’s only point.

  58. David Taylor Says:

    Sean – I thought so too. However, belief includes understanding, and the way Fal stated it, there was no indication of what may be missing. Many many people divorce belief, or faith, or trust, from the intellect. Wanted to make sure this wasn’t the case. It isn’t an emotion. Nor is it a mystic experience.

    It may well be that Greenbaggins, when he makes the comment “…including an element of personal appropriation…” is restating Clark’s definition with less clarity, but the words “personal appropriation” are too vague to be useful. The fact that Van Tillians can get a little uneasy when they hear the words ‘belief alone’ indicates that the tendency for the Van Tillian is to ignore the definition of ‘belief’ at times. There is NEVER a time when belief can be defined without the concept of volitional assent, and to ‘feel uneasy’ when the word is used reveals a lack of intellectual stamina.

    (I am merely assuming this is the ‘personal appropriation’ of which Greenbaggins wrote), because to ignore the definition of the word empties it of meaning.

  59. David Taylor Says:

    By the way, as I look at what I write, it appears to be a criticism of Fal’s comment – it was not. He pointed out the fallacy of Greenbaggin’s ‘uneasy’ feeling, and I was expanding his notions a bit… Sorry Fal!!!! It’s not you, it’s me, and when I say it’s me, I mean, of course, that it’s you….

  60. Sean Gerety Says:

    IMO that “personal approbation” is just a description of assent and Lane doesn’t realize it. Or, if he means something else entirely, I’m not sure what that could be? At least he didn’t say “heart felt” or “whole souled” or something along those lines. I would have given up all hope at that point. =8-()

    In any case, I think Lane is very close to Clark here. However, if the extra baggage has some additional meaning that I’m not getting I hope he clarifies what he means because I agree with you it’s pretty vague. However, from his piece I gather he does mean assent as we would understand it, just not as how traditionalists understand assent. They seem to confuse assent with understanding and often use both terms interchangeably.

    OTOH I have no idea why this issue is difficult for many? Maybe it’s the tradition of saving faith consisting of 3 parts that’s the hang up even if no one can seem to explain, much less agree (with the exception of the FVers), what this 3rd part is supposed to be and how it’s supposed to complete saving faith.

    Yet, I think just this debate (particularly on Lane’s blog) makes my point and that as a group of Reformed men interested in defending the gospel we can’t even agree on a definition of faith so that it’s 1) univocal and unambiguous whether applied to saving faith or faith that my shoes are tied, and, 2) so that we all know what we’re talking about when we say we’re justified by it. Now, as Scripturalists I think we can agree, but then we’ve had the benefit of reading Clark’s What is Saving Faith?

  61. Hugh McCann Says:

    They can’t see & say that faith, belief, and trust are synonymous.

    They unwittingly disturb assurance and some veer into FV-dom and like works-righteousnesses.

  62. Sean Gerety Says:

    Good point. Dr. Strange draws a distinction, where there is none in Scripture, between faith and belief. Others try and draw a distinction between belief and trust when there isn’t one unless you’re a Federal Visionists. To believe someone is to trust in what they say and to trust someone is to believe what they say.

    In my thesaurus a synonym for trust is faith. Then if you go to belief it lists faith again as a synonym. Interestingly, under faith it lists devotion, piety, and religion as synonyms and trust and belief are nowhere to be found. And round and round we go.

    Again, one of the reasons I said Clark’s book was liberating above is that it finally allowed me to get off the merry-go-round. I found it liberating for other reasons as well, but that’s a good one.

  63. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean & Co.,

    Clark cited the marrowy Manton in his F&SF critique of 3-fold faith.

    I think the early Reformers (Tyndale, Calvin, Luther, Dathenus, et. al.) might have taken exception to the tri-part tautological “trust” thingy, as they were battling first-hand the great harlot.

    Any thoughts? Anyone have any sources to send me to on this?

    Thanks.

  64. Fal Says:

    David, I agree in that saying “intellectual understanding” is a redundancy. I was just repeating the above post. I was wondering if anyone limits the definition of belief to understanding. If so that would be a big problem. As Sean was saying you can understand a number of things and not believe them. I don’t know of anyone who equates belief with understanding so the problem of saying “in belief alone” goes away. unless Im missing something. Sean, im so glad im off the merry-go-round too.

  65. Fal Says:

    I meant “belief alone”

  66. lawyertheologian Says:

    Hugh: “I think the early Reformers (Tyndale, Calvin, Luther, Dathenus, et. al.) might have taken exception to the tri-part tautological “trust” thingy, as they were battling first-hand the great harlot.”

    Well, Clark shows that Calvin’s view was consistent with his view: “In his Commentary on John 3:33 Calvin wrote, “… To believe the gospel is nothing else than assent to the truths which God has revealed.” F&SF, p.112.

    Of course, the main issue that Calvin and the early Reformers had with the RCC is its view of implicit faith. But there may have been some mischaracterization of assent also. And this may be where Christian get hung up even today: the idea that understanding and acknowledging what the Bible says equals faith. Again, understanding does not equal faith. Many intelligent people understand a lot of what the Bible says (without being regenerated). And the reason they are not saved is not because they lack an emotional committment, but because they havn’t been granted the knowledge of the truth, so they don’t believe. Intelligence doesn’t save anyone, but neither does intelligence and a feeling. Nor is it a matter of the whole person placing their trust in Jesus. For humans are essential mind beings, image bearers of God, who must have their minds changed in order to be saved.

  67. Hugh McCann Says:

    Thanks, Pat. I think too that Calvin & Co. would have less trouble with the language[s] than we do today.

    BTW: Have you read Brain Schwertley’s 2006 piece on your OPC’s committee report on justification & FV? It’s a good reminder of how gutless and loveless the OPC & PCA are today, and how failing reformation, the failing churches need to be fled from.

    http://www.reformedonline.com/view/reformedonline/The%20Current%20Crisis%20in%20the%20OPC%20and%20PCA.htm#_ftn1

  68. LJ Says:

    I often hear something like this in church, “All those who sincerely believe are saved.”

    Is it possible to (in)sincerely believe? Isn’t believing, ipso facto, sincere? I think it is and when I hear the adjectives added, one after another, I find my fidelity lacking.

    Someone may have addressed this earlier. If so, would you kindly address it again because I’m finding it very difficult to believe insincerely. I may believe a false gospel, I may be deceived, but I believe sincerely.

    Have you noticed that many who use the various adjectives, e.g., unfeigned, sincere, genuine, heartfelt, etc., really mean unhypocritical. But a hypocrit intends to deceive and that really has nothing to do with the character of belief, and has everything to do with the character of the believer.

    But when we address the character of a professing believer, or how he behaves, we have moved away from (justifying) belief and into the realm of sanctification. So I’m going to stand by my original proposition that belief is, ipso facto, sincere.

    LJ


  69. Good point on the sincereity of belief, LJ!

    Sean, thanks SO much for getting the Doors stuck in my head every time I get an email notification about a new comment on this thread! 😛

  70. lawyertheologian Says:

    Hugh,

    The link you gave doesn’t work.

  71. Hugh McCann Says:

    LT Pat,

    Hmm, works on Explorer.

    Try searching by title: “The Gospel Crisis in the OPC and PCA.”

  72. lawyertheologian Says:

    Ok, Hugh, I found the article.

    I don’t agree with its conclusion, that, as you say “the failing churches need to be fled from.”

  73. Steve M Says:

    LJ

    Everyone (sincerely) believes something. I agree that “insincere” belief is not belief at all.

  74. LJ Says:

    Steve M:

    Good. I hoped you would agree. Now, do you also think degrees of belief are possible for men? Are statements like “I almost believe that” or “I don’t quite believe that yet,” while probably colloquialisms, statements that reflect a legitimate partial belief? Can a partial belief be explained?

    We would all probably agree that belief is not psychologically possible for an omniscient God if belief is defined as most dictionaries, i.e.,

    1: a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing
    2: something believed; especially : a tenet or body of tenets held by a group
    3: conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenon especially when based on examination of evidence

    So, is there such thing as degrees of belief, for man at least?

    LJ

  75. Steve M Says:

    LJ

    I don’t want to answer a question with a question, but are there different degrees of truth? I don’t believe so. Whatever is not completely true is false. That is the law of the excluded middle. In essence there are only true propositions and those that are not true. Any proposition is either true or false. When we believe a proposition, we understand it to be true. If we understand it to be anything other than true, we understand it to be false.

    I don’t think this leaves room for degrees of belief. I think when the Bible speaks of growing in faith that it is speaking of believing a greater number of true propositions (learning more scriptural truth) together with their logical implications.


  76. Question: Can the meaning of the following sentence be considered a proposition?

    “My wife is probably in the other room.”

    Interested in your thoughts, all.

  77. Hugh McCann Says:

    Over at Greenbaggins, things are strange!

    Alan Strange gives us under ‘Trust & Belief’ (comment 150):

    ‘Assent to the truth is necessary but not sufficient. There must be that which is spoken of throughout God’s Word and which is captured in all the confessional statements that speak of that which is more than assent.’

    ‘Strange’ doesn’t begin to describe this.

    I’m sorry, Sean & Lane. Reconciliation is hopeless.

    What the tri-parters CAN’T or WON’T get is that it’s not assent that is deficient, it’s their confused ‘gospel.’

    They can’t affirm that assent to 1 Cor. 15:3f is salvific.

    They bang on about ambiguous ‘truth’ or ‘gospel propositions,’ but don’t get specific about 1 Cor. 15:3f.

    Their pious prattle is pitiful and (again I say) destructive of at least assurance, if not salvation. No wonder the FV fleet slipped in so smoothly, Sean!

  78. David Taylor Says:

    Hi Patrick! Very off-the-cuff here (in the middle of other tasks, so little thought put into this, but:

    “…..Question: Can the meaning of the following sentence be considered a proposition?…..”

    The ‘meaning’ of *any* sentence is a proposition!

    “…“My wife is probably in the other room.”…”

    My first guess would be that the proposition is a statement of your lack of knowledge as to where she really is…

  79. Steve M Says:

    Patrick

    You don’t seem to understand that truth is probability (that is for an evidentialist).


  80. David T., Not to be picky, but questions and commands are sentences, but their meanings are not propositions. “My wife is probably in the other room” is declarative, but I was wondering how the word “probably” affected it.

    Steve M., not sure what you’re getting at.


  81. David T., do you mean that my the proposition expressed by “My wife is probably in the other room” could be more clearly expressed as, “I suspect that my wife is in the other room”?

    or

    “I assent to the possible nature of the reality of my wife’s presence in the other room”?

    (Not that that last one is much “clearer” ;))

  82. lawyertheologian Says:

    Question: Can the meaning of the following sentence be considered a proposition?

    “My wife is probably in the other room.”

    No Pat, it is not a proposition, for it does not assert something to be true. Words like probably, maybe, might indicate that one is also asserting that something might be false. This is no different than saying that it is either true or false that your wife is in the other room. Asserting the laws of logic is not the subject of truth; is simply saying that every statement must be true or false. Another way to put it is that by including the word probably, one is asseting both the positive and the negative; one is both claiming that “my wife is in the other room” and my wife is NOT in the other room.” BTW, probability of truth is always 50/50. One might think something more likely to be true than false, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is either true or false, just one’s subjective view. Also, it is possible to take such claims as merely the subjective thought of the one speaking. That is, one might intend simply “I think that, I believe that, etc.” In which case, there is a proposition regarding the person’s thinking.

  83. Denson Dube Says:

    Hi Pat,
    “No Pat, it is not a proposition, for it does not assert something to be true. Words like probably, maybe, might indicate that one is also asserting that something might be false. This is no different than saying that it is either true or false that your wife is in the other room. Asserting the laws of logic is not the subject of truth; is simply saying that every statement must be true or false”

    It is certainly a proposition. “Every proposition is either true or false.” is true and therefore a proposition. This is a proposition about propositions. Otherwise we would not know anything about propositions!

  84. David Taylor Says:

    Patrick –

    A question is not a proposition (nor is a command), but if there is any meaning at all, it must be a proposition (meaning = definition).

    Both a question and a command are not STATED as propositions (they do not have the *form* of a proposition) but if they have any meaning at all, that must be stated as a proposition, otherwise, is it meaningless. Your sentence, while not STATED as a proposition, does not mean it is meaningless (although, I hope to show that it may well be…)

    Would you agree that you mean something when you say: “My wife is probably in the other room”? If so, what is that meaning?

    You give two examples: “…I suspect that my wife is in the other room…”?

    or

    “I assent to the possible nature of the reality of my wife’s presence in the other room”?

    Neither are stated as propositions, but the meaning is still hidden: usually such a statement is made based upon an entire set of propositions – things like “Some times are times when my wife is in the kitchen,” “Some of the time my wife is not in this room”, and so on. From there you move to a conclusion (which must also be stated as a proposition.

    However, if you are unaware of your wife’s actual location, and you try to find a way to make a statement about this without revealing a lack of knowledge, you can use the term ‘probably’ (which is in reality a meaningless term – it is a statement of the ratio of 1/infinity). Hence, my guess is that the meaning of the sentence “My wife is probably in the kitchen’ is something like “I do not know where my wife is.”

    Again, I repeat: if a sentence has a meaning, that meaning must, of necessity, be a proposition. If there is no proposition, the sentence is meaningless.

    If the sentence is meaningless……

  85. LJ Says:

    David Taylor:

    Thank you for your well stated explanation.

    Going back to my original question regarding degrees of belief: do you agree with Steve M that there cannot be degrees of belief?

    I suspect there cannot be since, in the case of saving belief (faith), in order to be justified one must believe certain saving propositions which, by definition, must be true and cannot be false; they cannot be almost true or maybe true, but true.

    LJ

  86. LJ Says:

    Hi Hugh,

    You wrote: I’m sorry, Sean & Lane. Reconciliation is hopeless.

    I’ve run into the same problem with some at my church. Some have awakened to the nonsense of the tripartite tautology but some, sadly, have already drunk the cool-aid and need to be resurrected.

    I knew from way back this was an important issue and got almost looked-down-your-nose treatment when I protested. But, admittedly, I didn’t really really see the insidious nature of this until Sean and others, like you, connected the dots with FV.

    What an issue!

    LJ

  87. David Taylor Says:

    LJ –

    No, I do not think there are degrees of belief – either you assent to a proposition, or you do not.

    Systems of belief are constructed of many propositions, and it is possible to assent to some of these propositions without assenting to all (either deliberately or through ignorance). This can present some real problems for you later on if you intend to intend to stick with this particular system of thought!

    Because a system of thought is based upon many propositions, people tend to view the entire system as some sort of ‘super-proposition’, to which they mistakenly think they beleive ‘in degrees’ when in reality they are simply not assenting to every proposition offered.

    Of course, this may well be because not all of the available propositions have been revealed to them (they are not aware of all of them) and hence are sometimes stuck having to choose sets of propositions upon which there is no prior argument. This can be good or bad – depending upon the source of the knowledge.

    The source of information for Christianity is unique – it is given by revelation from the source of all knowledge, hence, to disbelieve any of it is to call God a liar. Christianity is a system of thought.

    Belief by degrees is impossible, understanding a system of thought by degrees is a mark of being human (a linear, finite mind growing).

  88. lawyertheologian Says:

    You’re right Denson, but the proposition then is trivial. It amounts to “Either my wife is in the other room or she is not” or “My wife is in the other room, but maybe not.” BTW, how we know about propositions, that they are either true or false, comes from Scripture, which speaks by way of propositions, indicating that our mind’s way of thinking, that is, applying the rules of logic, is correct.

  89. lawyertheologian Says:

    “Again, I repeat: if a sentence has a meaning, that meaning must, of necessity, be a proposition. If there is no proposition, the sentence is meaningless.”

    A proposition is the meaning of a DECLARATIVE sentence. “Logic” Gordon Clark, p.30, 138 .

  90. LJ Says:

    David,

    Thanks again.

    So my initial statement that God does not believe, given the common dictionary definition of belief, is true and the notion of degrees of belief in man is nonsense. It is as I suspected.

    Thanks to all who helped clarify my questions.

    LJ

  91. Matthew C Says:

    Excellent discussion, people. It’s so reassuring to see people defending Gordon Clark’s sane and meaningful view of faith against the waffle that surrounds talk about faith today.

  92. David Taylor Says:

    Just a note of clarity: inserting the word ‘either’ into a proposition (either this is true or that is true) is a statement of the law of the excluded middle. As a proposition, it is one of the three basic laws of logic. It can be stated as a proposition (“All propositions are either-true-or-false”) and hence be stated as a true proposition, but its meaning is found is the disjunction of the two propositions forming it. It’s a unique proposition.

    LJ – could you expound upon what you mean by “God does not believe.” Surely God volitionally assents to all the truth He knows…

  93. LJ Says:

    David,

    Yes, I’ll try to elaborate. Here’s what I wrote in my original post:

    We would all probably agree that belief is not psychologically possible for an omniscient God if belief is defined as most dictionaries, i.e.,

    1: a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing
    2: something believed; especially : a tenet or body of tenets held by a group
    3: conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenon especially when based on examination of evidence

    Given any of the three definition above, I didn’t see how “belief” could be predicated of God. But now that you force me to look at it again I’m not so sure. For instance, Number 1 could be:

    God has a state of mind that trusts or is confident that the Christ died for the sins of His people.

    And if Number 1 works, well, possibly Number 2 also.

    But Number 3, given its empirical implications, probably won’t work.

    What ‘ya think?

    LJ

  94. Chase Says:

    Hugh,

    You said, “[Tri-parters] can’t affirm that assent to 1 Cor. 15:3f is salvific.”

    Is assent to those verses really enough? Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe that belief is an assent to propositions, but how does this apply to people that, for example, believe in their works for salvation (Mt. 7:21-23)? As these people were not saved, were there extra propositions that they needed to believe, such as Gal. 2:16, or did they simply not believe the propositions of 1 Cor. 15:3ff to begin with? I am inclined to think it is the latter option (perhaps v. 3, “how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures,” would exclude works), but I thought I would ask for your opinion.

  95. David Taylor Says:

    For LJ: belief, defined in most dictionaries tends to dissemble the meaning of the term (due to worldy philosophical bias) – the definitions tend to define too much (add extra phrases) or not enough.

    However, consider this:

    D1) “…a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing…”

    There is no reason that God does not, nor cannot, place ‘trust’ or ‘confidence’ in Himself (see Heb 6:13)

    As for D3 (“…conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenon especially when based on examination of evidence…”) I hold to the idea that evidence can be revealed data, not necessarily empirical (although the common way to define ‘evidence’ is empirical). In any event, God’s understanding is part of His being, not derived, is a little harder to ‘reconcile’ with the definition, although the evidence to God IS His mind…

    *****

    For Chase: I’d argue that it isn’t that they don’t believe the propositions, but that they beleive or assent to the concept that the propositions are false. When a sinful man knows the truth he suppresses it.

  96. LJ Says:

    David: Thanks for your comments. I agree with all you have said and appreciate the clarifications. I took “evidence” as narrowly empirical.

    Is there any “revealed data” that is not in the scriptures?

    LJ

  97. David Taylor Says:

    LJ:

    “…Is there any “revealed data” that is not in the scriptures?…”

    No, there is not.

  98. John Says:

    <They bang on about ambiguous ‘truth’ or ‘gospel propositions,’ but don’t get specific about 1 Cor. 15:3f.

    Hugh: The verse you are referencing says that Jesus died for our sins. Somebody who is not converted cannot *know* that to be true but that does not mean they cannot believe that it is true. I went through the GreenBaggins posts very carefully and saw that you like to make *sweeping* statements but do not like to get into much detail. I just thought I would point that out to you since you complain in your post I quoted back to you that “they” do not get into details.

  99. David Taylor Says:

    “….The verse you are referencing says that Jesus died for our sins. Somebody who is not converted cannot *know* that to be true but that does not mean they cannot believe that it is true….”

    I do not skip over details, and I am more than willing to take this on. This is one of the ‘strangest’ things I’ve read. Of course, there is very little detail attached to the sentence, so maybe if a little detail was added, the irrationality, and almost complete emptiness of the sentence might be lessened.

    Somebody who is not a believer (that is, not converted) is most certainly one who will NOT (and CAN NOT) believe this to be true. In fact, this is the EXACT reason they are called…..

    ….wait for it….

    ….”un”believers!

    Belief is volitional assent to an UNDERSTOOD (that is, ‘known’) proposition. (Do you have a better definition?)

    “…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures…” is the proposition: “Jesus is the one who died for our sins”

    You argue that a person who is not converted cannot ‘know’ this is true – but can believe that it is…?

    This is especially relevant when one thinks of what GOD says about this:

    “…For the message of the cross (Jesus died for us) is foolishness to those who are perishing, [that is, the unconverted) but to us who are being saved it is the power of God….”

    What EXACTLY (the details, please) do the unbelievers, who are unable to *know* the proposition is true, but believe that it is – actually believe?

    If they can’t know it is true, how can they believe it is true?

    The Bible is very clear. Wait – make that even more clear: GOD is very clear:

    “…For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness…”

    “Suppress the *TRUTH*” – which cannot be done unless it is known. Oh, my friend – the unbeliever KNOWS the proposition “Jesus is the one who died for our sins.” They KNOW it to be true, because they know God is true. But they WILL NOT, and CAN NOT believe it.

    And may I add one more thing: Just because they know the proposition to be true – that Jesus died for us, this in no way indicated that He died for THEM. The proposition may be even more correctly stated “Jesus is the one who died for His people”

    And this, they also are unable and unwilling to believe.

  100. Hugh McCann Says:

    David T.~ ‘Just because they [unbelievers] know the proposition to be true – that Jesus died for us, this in no way indicated that He died for THEM.’

    Other than atheists and rank liberals, the ersatz ‘Evangelical’ unbelievers either believe Christ died for all mankind and saves ’em all (Universalists), or at least makes it possible for all to be saved (Arminians).

    They do not, cannot, and will not know or believe that he died for their sins, since they are not a part of the ‘us’ of 1 Cor. 15:3f.

  101. Hugh McCann Says:

    John, Thank you for the point-out. The specificity I see lacking in the tri-parters is in the area of the gospel: the exact propositions to be believed in order to be saved.

    Instead of getting that the issue is which propositions are we to trust, they have to concoct very pious-sounding hooey about faith being comprised of knowledge/understanding + assent + REALLY believing/ relying/ trusting, etc.).

    I think Clark & Robbins & Gerety have written enough with enough clarity for those with eyes to see.

  102. Hugh McCann Says:

    Chase, See my reply to John, just above. Also, I said, “[Tri-parters] can’t affirm that assent to 1 Cor. 15:3f is salvific.”

    You ask, ‘Is assent to those verses really enough? Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe that belief is an assent to propositions, but how does this apply to people that, for example, believe in their works for salvation (Mt. 7:21-23)? As these people were not saved, were there extra propositions that they needed to believe, such as Gal. 2:16, or did they simply not believe the propositions of 1 Cor. 15:3ff to begin with? I am inclined to think it is the latter option (perhaps v. 3, “how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures,” would exclude works), but I thought I would ask for your opinion.’

    I agree that you’re on the right track, and the tour de force on this is Robbins’ piece, “Justification and Judgment’ @ http://www.trinityfoundation.org/PDF/193a-JustificationJudgment.pdf


  103. Thanks for your replies all. David’s response prompts me to ask another question… why is it assumed that the “other room” is the kitchen? LOL 😛

  104. David Taylor Says:

    Hugh –

    Here is where I disagree:

    “….They do not, cannot, and will not know or believe that he died for their sins, since they are not a part of the ‘us’ of 1 Cor. 15:3f…..”

    I believe that they DO know, they CAN know (and, most certainly ‘will’ know (playing with the words)) that He died for our sins. That is a clear and plain statement – all they have to do is hear it once or twice and they know it – they can repeat it right back to you.

    The issue is that they are unable to BELIEVE what they KNOW. It isn’t that they don’t know. We tell it to them, they can read the Bible, it is on the airwaves, etc. They DO KNOW (hence my quote from Romans 1, which points out that even without the Scriptures, man has been created with a knowledge of right and wrong, and infers that further revelation from God – Scripture or truth – will also be suppressed in unrighteousness) – they just cannot believe.


  105. Robbins pointed out somewhere (Church Effeminate, maybe?) that knowledge implies belief. One can *understand* and not believe, but one cannot *know* without believing.

  106. Sean Gerety Says:

    David, you said Belief is volitional assent to an UNDERSTOOD proposition. Just wondering what is a non-volitional assent? I’ve been a little preoccupied and haven’t been following, but isn’t “volitional assent” a redundancy?

  107. LJ Says:

    Strange changes:

    Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
    Turn and face the strange ch-ch-changes
    Don’t tell them to grow up and out of it
    Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
    Turn and face the strange ch-ch-changes
    Where’s your shame, you’ve left us up to our necks in it
    Time may change me, but you can’t trace time … (David Bowie, not relation to Jim)

  108. lawyertheologian Says:

    “The issue is that they are unable to BELIEVE what they KNOW. It isn’t that they don’t know. We tell it to them, they can read the Bible, it is on the airwaves, etc. They DO KNOW (hence my quote from Romans 1, which points out that even without the Scriptures, man has been created with a knowledge of right and wrong, and infers that further revelation from God – Scripture or truth – will also be suppressed in unrighteousness) – they just cannot believe.”

    Men have a knowledge of God’s law, that is, their beliefs regarding right and wrong is correct. But men do not know that the Bible is the Word of God apart from God making that known to them. It is not that man cannot believe the propositions of the Scripture to be true, though they know them to be true. That is illogical. Men can believe any of the propositions of the Bible to be true without knowing them to be true. A man can believe that David was king of Israel without knowing it to be true. That is, the reason for believing that must be based on a believe/knowledge that the Bible is the Word of God. Knowledge implies belief, but belief does not imply knowledge.

  109. Ron Says:

    Patrick wrote: “Robbins pointed out somewhere (Church Effeminate, maybe?) that knowledge implies belief. One can *understand* and not believe, but one cannot *know* without believing.”

    That is very true. Belief is a necessary condition for knowledge.

    David Taylor wrote: “I believe that they DO know, they CAN know (and, most certainly ‘will’ know (playing with the words)) that He died for our sins. That is a clear and plain statement – all they have to do is hear it once or twice and they know it – they can repeat it right back to you. The issue is that they are unable to BELIEVE what they KNOW. It isn’t that they don’t know. We tell it to them, they can read the Bible, it is on the airwaves, etc.”

    Given what I believe to be David’s position, he is probably wanting to say that they know that the proposition exists – hence one’s ability to parrot back the words. I don’t think he wants to be saying that they know the proposition is true. Obviously, as Patrick pointed out, if one knows the proposition is true, then belief must also be present (because belief is a subset of knowledge).

    David’s also stated this: They DO KNOW (hence my quote from Romans 1, which points out that even without the Scriptures, man has been created with a knowledge of right and wrong, and infers that further revelation from God – Scripture or truth – will also be suppressed in unrighteousness) – they just cannot believe.”

    I find it odd that David would appeal to Romans 1 to make his point. Romans 1 clearly teaches that men know God in judgment and suppress the truth of what they know in unrighteousness. That means they also believe God exists, since one cannot know without belief. The knowledge all men have of God is not merely knowledge that there exists a proposition that God exists (going out on the airwaves as it were). Rather, it’s a knowledge that God does exist. In other words, knowledge of the proposition is not the same thing as knowledge that the proposition is true.

    I would think up to that point, Sean and those with Sean would agree.

  110. David Taylor Says:

    “…David, you said Belief is volitional assent to an UNDERSTOOD proposition. Just wondering what is a non-volitional assent? I’ve been a little preoccupied and haven’t been following, but isn’t “volitional assent” a redundancy?…”

    It certainly is, especially to anyone who recognizes that faith is an intellectual process. I often converse with people who hold that faith is an emotional response (heart ‘knowledge’), and I use the term to combat that. Assent is an act of willing, rather than some sort of emotion. Clark used it somewhere – pg 105, and I have gotten into the habit of stating it that way!

  111. David Taylor Says:

    For LT

    You allude to some interesting definitions here, for example: what exactly is knowledge? I define it as a true proposition held within a mind (an opinion is any other proposition.) I define faith (or belief) as assent to the TRUTH of that proposition (see Sean – no redundancy). Thus, this next statement raises some eyebrows:

    “…Men have a knowledge of God’s law, that is, their beliefs regarding right and wrong is correct. But men do not know that the Bible is the Word of God apart from God making that known to them…”

    The Bible *states* that it is the Word of God. This is a specific proposition that can be held within ANY human mind – once it is understood. It is also TRUE. I would imagine that you have even made the statement once or twice to unbelievers. This SPECIFIC proposition – if the person to whom you spoke can understand the words ‘God’, “Bible’, ‘is’, and ‘Word’ – is therefore is an UNDERSTOOD proposition within the mind of the unbeliever.

    The question is not whether their mind now contains a true proposition – but whether or not they BELIEVE it is true. The difference is FAITH (belief), not knowledge.

    “…It is not that man cannot believe the propositions of the Scripture to be true, though they know them to be true. That is illogical….”

    This is only illogical on the part of a believer if you confuse belief and knowledge:

    Knowledge is a true proposition held within a mind.
    Belief is assent to an understood proposition (regardless of its truth).

    Moreover, it IS illogical that sinful man would know that something is true, and refuse to believe it. This is the ESSENCE of why they are called fools (“The fool has said in his heart, there is no God”). But the insanity is on their part, not mine. Romans 1 is quite clear:

    “…For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made [for example, every unbeliever], even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, ___but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools___…”

    Knowledge consists of true propositions, regardless of whether they are believed. Belief does not create knowledge, nor does it make anything true. Hence, even the propositions involving judgment, which all men have, or the proposition that God exists (again, which all men have) exist in all men’s minds – and is denied.

    By the way, the quote from Robbins is not exactly taken in context – and even if it were, I would disagree. Knowledge consists of *true* propositions (a single unit of knowledge is a single proposition), believed or not. Understanding consists of a series of propositions – normally it is a conclusion to an argument. Otherwise, the terms understanding and knowledge would be synonyms. We are talking about a single proposition, and if it can be contained within the mind or not – and believed to be true (or, believed to be false).

    I might even point out that it is the *understanding* that is darkened: the noetic effects of sin guarantee that the issue is one of the misuse of logic – the syllogism used are faulty – either entirely constructed of false propositions, or a mix of true and false – or in errors of form. And the problem of sin guarantees that even if the syllogism is correct, the fallen mind will not accept the conclusion (thus the biblical title of “FOOLS”). God must change the person into a believer for this to occur.

  112. David Taylor Says:

    For Ron:

    The problem with fallen man is not lack of the truth – as if all they have to do is hear it and all will be made right – the problem is that it is denied when it is heard. Thus, in response to:

    “…Given what I believe to be David’s position, he is probably wanting to say that they know that the proposition exists – hence one’s ability to parrot back the words. I don’t think he wants to be saying that they know the proposition is true…”

    To know that the proposition exists is an entirely different proposition – I can state THAT proposition for you if you’d like! I know that lots of propositions exist – some that I may never know. No, I am saying that they know THAT PARTICULAR PROPOSITION. It is easy for anyone in the world to have THAT proposition in their minds. The proposition is the SAME, regardless of whether it is believed to be true, or denied.

    Finally:

    “…In other words, knowledge of the proposition is not the same thing as knowledge that the proposition is true…”

    This statement in no way argues for or against either position! Very true: I have knowledge of propositions that I may never hear (for example, how many proposition exist in God’s mind that we will never know? They exist nonetheless.) Furthermore, there are some propositions that I know and also hold to be true. In fact, knowledge that a proposition is true could well be stated as an entirely different proposition from the one believed.

  113. lawyertheologian Says:

    David: “knowledge is a true proposition held within a mind.”

    One must be able to give account as to WHY the proposition is true in order for it to be knowledge. As Clark points out, a schoolboy can guess the correct answer on an exam. One would not say that he
    had knowledge. Similarly, believing a proposition to be true, which is indeed true, doesn’t make it knowledge. Many believe various propositions for reasons other than the Bible is the Word of God. Thus, they do no KNOW those propositions to be true (and they readily admit it).

    “Moreover, it IS illogical that sinful man would know that something is true, and refuse to believe it.”

    It is more than illogical,it is impossible. One can’t disbelieve what he knows, and thus believes to be true. No one denies that “Every proposition is either true or false.” Romans 1 speaks of a knowledge of God that amounts to having an idea of God that is true. Man does not know that his idea of God is true. That knowledge can only come from the Scriptures being revealed as true to a man.

    “Knowledge consists of true propositions, regardless of whether they are believed.”

    You’re confusing knowledge with truth, which does not depend on anyone believing it. BTW, men believe in God. But some deny that they do. That is not impossible, though it is illogical.

    “The Bible *states* that it is the Word of God. This is a specific proposition that can be held within ANY human mind – once it is understood. It is also TRUE. I would imagine that you have even made the statement once or twice to unbelievers. This SPECIFIC proposition – if the person to whom you spoke can understand the words ‘God’, “Bible’, ‘is’, and ‘Word’ – is therefore is an UNDERSTOOD proposition within the mind of the unbeliever. ”

    Again, understanding what the Bible says is not knowledge. One can’t claim to know what one believes to be false. Again, knowledge implies belief, but belief doesn’t imply knowledge. And knowledge isn’t simply believing something that is true.

  114. Ron Says:

    “One must be able to give account as to WHY the proposition is true in order for it to be knowledge.”

    LT,

    Indeed, Scripture is the justification of all knowledge but those who don’t have the Scriptures still know God exists and that it’s wrong to lie etc., which is why all men are culpable before him. Apart from Scripture, one cannot justify what they know, or their rational inferences, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have God’s internal witness to the mind for the absolute truths they believe in conscience (yet suppress in their sin). Suppression of the truth presupposes knowledge of the truth, which comes directly from God in conscience. Again though, man cannot justify even that knowledge he has apart from Scripture.


  115. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t taking Robbins out of context. I remember him saying that someone could be told that 2+2=4, and they can understand it, but if they don’t believe it, they can hardly be said to “know” it.

  116. Sean Gerety Says:

    That doesn’t follow. Knowledge is justified true belief. If men apart from Scripture cannot justify what they know then they can’t be said to know anything. The idea of knowing in Romans 1 has a different meaning or else you’re just equivocating on the work to know.

  117. lawyertheologian Says:

    Ron,

    I would distinguish those true ideas man has of God from knowledge.

    Man understands that he has thoughts of God and of what is right and wrong and believes those thoughts. But he does not know these to be true. He is responsible based on having the ideas.

    Suppression of the truth is possible without knowledge. One can deny that one believes something but not that one knows something.

    If man can’t justify those ideas/beliefs he has apart from God, he doesn’t know them to be true.

  118. lawyertheologian Says:

    Exactly Sean. We look to Scripture to say that men know something, but we only know that they know based on Scripture. They don’t know that. That is, we know that they believe true thoughts, because the Scriptures say so. Again, apart from the Scriptures, man cannot know that any of his thoughts are true.

  119. Ron Says:

    Knowledge is justified true belief. If men apart from Scripture cannot justify what they know then they can’t be said to know anything.

    Sean,

    Having a justification for a true belief and being able to give one are two different things. With respect to Romans 1, they cannot justify the “justified true belief” they have, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t justified in their true belief.. All men have a justified true belief about God and that justification is God’s immediate revelation of himself to the mind. That’s justification enough – it comes directly from God. Scripture, however, is needed not to justify the true belief that God exists, but rather Scripture is needed to justify the revelational knowledge one has of God. Man has justified true belief – he just doesn’t have a justification of that justified true belief until he comes into contact with Special Revelation. Man has innate knowledge that he can’t begin to justify apart from Special Revelation.

    The idea of knowing in Romans 1 has a different meaning or else you’re just equivocating on the work to know.

    I think you’re building your interpretation of the clear word “know” in Romans 1 based upon a view that God’s general revelation of himself is not a justification for a true belief. Men know it’s wrong to murder because God reveals that to men, but apart from special revelation, Scripture, they can’t even justify what they know about that most primitive moral absolute.

  120. Ron Says:

    I’m pretty sure I wasn’t taking Robbins out of context. I remember him saying that someone could be told that 2+2=4, and they can understand it, but if they don’t believe it, they can hardly be said to “know” it.

    Patrick, whether JR said it or not, it’s true. Belief is necessary for knowledge and knowledge is sufficient for belief. If knowledge, then belief.

  121. Ryan Says:

    Sean,

    Speaking of the definition of knowledge, I was wondering whether or not it is the case one can “know” his first principle. Clark said knowledge is the possession of truth. Robbins said that knowledge is a true opinion with an account of its truth. All Scripturalists would agree that one’s first principle is not deduced, but given the self-attestation of a first principle, does it not follow that there is an account for it, viz. within the system derived from it?

    We would not use that to say our first principle is therefore necessarily true, but I believe Clark viewed self-attestation as a necessary condition for the justification of believing a particular first principle. If I recall correctly (I don’t own the book), Clark said something to this effect in one of the first few chapters of God’s Hammer. He mentioned that the fact the Bible claims to be breathed out by God would not be a proof of it, but that it would prevent a claim that one’s first principle is arbitrary.

  122. David Taylor Says:

    You know, LT, we may be talking past each other, equivocating on terms.

    I define knowledge as a true proposition held in the mind. An opinion is any other proposition held in the mind. In fact, I would even say that any proposition held in the mind is an opinion until it is known to be true – but that is only from the human side of things: the fact is true, whether I know it or not. It is true because it is God’s thought.

    You write that one must give account as to WHY a proposition is true in order for it to be knowledge.

    My question here is simple – from where does this statement arise? *Why* must one give an account of something before it becomes knowledge? I certainly understand that one must UNDERSTAND a proposition in order to BELIEVE it – but I see no Biblical basis for making the claim that my definition of knowledge is false.

    Clark did indeed point out that a schoolboy can indeed guess a correct question on a exam – in fact, anyone can randomly pick answers on a test, get some right, and never even read the question. As I said, I am defining ‘knowledge’ at a very specific level, and I think a large part of this discussion is based upon differing definitions – for example, the boy might guess a correct answer (remember when Socrates ‘proved’ that geometry was ‘innate’?) and yet not have even a rudimentary grasp of the concepts of the subject. In this case, knowledge is used to allude to a BODY of thought. But I use knowledge in a tighter sense.

    You wrote:

    “…Similarly, believing a proposition to be true, which is indeed true, doesn’t make it knowledge…”

    Why not? Belief has nothing to do with knowledge, so I am wondering why *this* isn’t knowledge. Surely, a person must at least have the proposition in their mind in order to believe it is true; and on top of that you point out that THE PROPOSITION IS TRUE. If a true proposition is held in the mind, and believed to be true – in what way could this be denied to be knowledge?

    “…Many believe various propositions for reasons other than the Bible is the Word of God….”

    Not sure what that means! I assume it is a reference to the axiom of Christianity. However,

    “…Thus, they do not KNOW those propositions to be true (and they readily admit it)….”

    The question of whether they KNOW these to be true is not the same as saying this is knowledge. That is an entirely different proposition (it addresses the content of their mind, or the subject of knowledge). In fact, I’d like to throw another wrench into the machine. It seems to me that people assume that the problem with sin is unbelief, which I deny. Sin is the suppression of truth. It is the deliberate denial of what people KNOW is true. It is outright rebellion, not confusion and ignorance.

    God causes the Christian to believe things that he did not believe (for example, “Jesus died for me”). But there is no justification to make the claim that every sin is unbelief: people do not murder because they don’t believe it is wrong. They KNOW (have the proposition within them) that it IS wrong, and they do it *anyway*. The same goes for pretty much anything.

    I think what you are saying is that people cannot have knowledge unless they acknowledge that the Bible is true. However, I disagree here as well. The Scripture is the only revealed source of truth, and it is the only place where man can *verify* that anything is true. But this does not mean that knowledge does not exist elsewhere. Unbelievers know that x + x = 2x even though they do not admit that this is from God. What I am trying to say is that it is ill-gotten gain, stolen, robbed, or illegitimately appropriated, and that their epistemology is such that they cannot make any of these claims without appealing to Scripture. And as fallen men they will not (and cannot) do so.

    “…It is more than illogical,it is impossible. One can’t disbelieve what he knows, and thus believes to be true. No one denies that “Every proposition is either true or false.” Romans 1 speaks of a knowledge of God that amounts to having an idea of God that is true. Man does not know that his idea of God is true. That knowledge can only come from the Scriptures being revealed as true to a man…”

    Again, you are using too many vague strokes. Man DOES know that his knowledge of God is true! He SUPPRESSES this truth (which means that he must acknowledge it in the first place) and yet Paul writes:

    “…who, KNOWING (i.e., KNOWLEDGE) the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death…”

    and

    “…for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law WRITTEN IN THEIR HEARTS, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them…”

    They KNOW (have KNOWLEDGE) that what they do is right or wrong – and they then turn and “…also approve of those who practice them….” They do NOT derive this ‘knowledge’ from Scripture, and yet it is within them!

    I wrote: “Knowledge consists of true propositions, regardless of whether they are believed.”

    To which you replied:

    “…You’re confusing knowledge with truth, which does not depend on anyone believing it. BTW, men believe in God. But some deny that they do. That is not impossible, though it is illogical….”

    I do not say that it is impossible, I say that it is foolish (call it irrational!) In any event, no, I am not confusing knowledge with truth: but truth is a function of logic, it is a characteristic of propositions, and since knowledge ONLY consists of propositions, they are interrelated. As Robbins writes, “…Knowledge is, by definition, knowledge of the truth. We do not say that a person “knows” that 2 plus 2 is 5. We may say he thinks it, but he does not know it. It would be better to say that he opines it…”

    And yet you say that not only is knowledge true, but one must also believe it to be true before it can be knowledge. From whence?

    And, I wrote:

    “The Bible *states* that it is the Word of God. This is a specific proposition that can be held within ANY human mind – once it is understood. It is also TRUE….This SPECIFIC proposition – if the person to whom you spoke can understand the words ‘God’, “Bible’, ‘is’, and ‘Word’ – is therefore is an UNDERSTOOD proposition within the mind of the unbeliever…”

    You seem to object:

    “…Again, understanding what the Bible says is not knowledge…”

    Yes, understanding what the Bible says IS knowledge. Or would you say that the fact that I claim I know that Jesus walked on the water is not knowledge? I understand EXACTLY what the Bible is saying there! If ‘understanding what the Bible says’ is not knowledge, then what is?

    I would also like to point out again that I define understanding more broadly than knowledge: understanding that Jesus walked on the water means that I know what “Jesus”, “walked”, “on”, and “water” all mean – this is an entire set of propositions. All of those propositions are single units of knowledge, combined into another single unit of knowledge: “Jesus walked on the water.”

    You object:

    “…One can’t claim to know what one believes to be false…”

    I said NOTHING about faith. I said that the proposition “The Bible is the Word of God” is a true proposition, just as 2 + 2 = 4 is a true proposition, and that BOTH can be held within the mind. Both are knowledge, placed in our minds by Christ (John 1:9).

    You are quite right that no one can claim to know what one believes to be false. But I never alluded to what someone CLAIMS. I am alluding to the fact that the proposition “The Bible is the Word of God” is in fact a TRUE statement, is a part of knowledge, and that it is held in the minds of many people – and that some of them DENY it. It doesn’t make the fact false, nor does it negate the fact that the Bible says that they KNOW this – and applaud others who also deny it along with them.

    Again, knowledge implies belief, but belief doesn’t imply knowledge.

    Finally:

    “…And knowledge isn’t simply believing something that is true…”

    No, but one cannot have knowledge of something false. It must be true, whether believed or not. Men are condemned because they have KNOWLEDGE and do what they can to fight against it. Belief has little to do with it.

  123. Sean Gerety Says:

    Ron, you’re still equivocating. What you confuse with knowledge, Calvin called an innate sense of the divine. If one “cannot justify what they know” then the don’t have knowledge except perhaps in the Van Tillian world where A is both A and non A simultaneously.

  124. Sean Gerety Says:

    Oh, and Ron, if you don’t like your posts being moderated, don’t post here.

  125. Sean Gerety Says:

    Ron, I see your last post on Greenbaggins was deleted.

  126. Steve M Says:

    Patrick
    Earlier you posed a question.

    Question: Can the meaning of the following sentence be considered a proposition?
    “My wife is probably in the other room.”

    I commented sarcastically:
    Patrick
    You don’t seem to understand that truth is probability (that is for an evidentialist).

    You replied:
    Steve M., not sure what you’re getting at.

    Patrick

    For God, who is truth itself, there is no such thing as probability. There is only certainty.

    The meaning of the sentence, “My wife is probably in the next room.” would be a proposition. Probability, however, dwells in the mind of a creature. The meaning of the sentence would therefore be, “I think there is a greater chance that my wife is in the next room than that she is not.’ This proposition is either true or false regardless of whether the speaker’s wife is in the next room, because it deals only with what is he is thinking.

    The position that truth is probability is one that Clark accused certain people of holding although they would not admit to it. I believe he was referring to Sproul and some other evidentialists. It is in one of his recorded lectures although I can’t remember which one.

    I realize this response is a bit late and much has been discussed in the meantime, but I finally had the opportunity, so I thought I would make a stab at an explanation.

  127. Ron Says:

    Ron, you’re still equivocating. What you confuse with knowledge, Calvin called an innate sense of the divine. If one “cannot justify what they know” then the don’t have knowledge except perhaps in the Van Tillian world where A is both A and non A simultaneously.

    Sean,

    You define knowledge as justified true belief. That means that one knows x when he believes x with justification, which in the Clark sense of justification is always maximal warrant (revelation or deducible from revelation). True justification is what turns mere belief into knowledge. (Clark, in my estimation, takes Gettier considerations off the table, though I don’t see that you do.) Aside from that, Scripture teaches that all men know God: “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”

    Although Scripture is needed to justify all knowledge, it is obviously not a necessary condition for believing truth with maximum warrant – i.e. for having knowledge. To have knowledge and to justify knowledge are distinguishable features, which touches upon the I-E debate. Why can’t God grant knowledge of himself (reveal himself) to all men without all men having access to an external justification for the internal justification of the true belief they possess of God? Certainly there is a relative distinction between knowing something and being able to speak about the justification for that which is known. The justification must be there for the belief, but there need not be a justification for that justification of the true belief. Romans 1 clearly teaches that God manifests himself to all men, but given that the manifestation is found in general revelation, the justification for the justified true belief is external to the individual, in that it’s not internal to his reasoning process. God need not provide that for the internal witness to be present. The justification of the true belief is internal – it’s the witness of God, but not the justification of the JTB, which is Scripture.

    As I said earlier, the reason man is culpable (i.e. “without excuse”) is because he knows the God he rejects. That’s what Scripture teaches. They are without excuse because they rejected the God they know.

  128. Ron Says:

    Ron,

    I would distinguish those true ideas man has of God from knowledge.

    Man understands that he has thoughts of God and of what is right and wrong and believes those thoughts. But he does not know these to be true. He is responsible based on having the ideas.

    Suppression of the truth is possible without knowledge. One can deny that one believes something but not that one knows something.

    If man can’t justify those ideas/beliefs he has apart from God, he doesn’t know them to be true.

    LT,

    My difference with you might be semantic only. See my 12:07 post to Sean.


  129. Steve M., thanks. I thought it may have been sarcasm, but I didn’t get the reference so I wasn’t sure.

  130. Sean Gerety Says:

    I get it now Ron. You confuse the misnamed Reformed Epistemology with actual epistemology hence for you “Scripture is needed to justify all knowledge” and not needed to justify all knowledge.

    You clearly seem to distinguished having a true belief from having the account plus the true belief, you just call them the same thing; knowledge. You even impose your RE anti-epistemology on Scripture and because you see the word “know” in Scripture you reflexively call that knowledge in the epistemic sense. I suppose when we read in Isaiah 1:3 and that the ox knows its owner, And the donkey its master’s crib, that God through his prophet must have had maximal warrant in mind, right? Of course, in serious epistemology, just not in RE, adding the subjectivist phrases “maximum warrant” doesn’t make a true belief knowledge. Which perhaps explains why you write;

    “The justification must be there for the belief, but there need not be a justification for that justification of the true belief.”

    I have to think only a Van Tillian would think this isn’t nonsense.

    Further, the reason man is culpable (i.e. “without excuse”) is because he has true beliefs about God that he rejects. That’s what Scripture teaches. They are without excuse because they rejected the truth of God within them and for which they cannot account and instead suppress. This is what renders all men without excuse. But two can play the emphasis game:

    “And even as they refused to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up unto a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, hateful to God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, unmerciful: who, knowing the ordinance of God, that they that practise such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but also consent with them that practise them.”

    Again, it would seem Paul is using the idea of knowledge in two different senses in Romans 1 and evidently your RE and Van Tillianism has allow you to conflate and confuse the two. Calvin could identify the different senses, clearly you cannot.

  131. Ron Says:

    Further, the reason man is culpable (i.e. “without excuse”) is because he has true beliefs about God that he rejects.

    Sean, another thing if you don’t mind – you say man doesn’t have innate knowledge of God yet man believes truth regarding God because God directly implants revelation of himself to the mind of man. Why isn’t that revelation from God suitable justification of the true belief man possesses that is based upon that revelation? Why isn’t God’s revelation a justification for the belief of that revelation?

    Your only recourse, it would seem, would be to say that man is not really justified in believing the truth of God’s existence based upon God’s implantation of himself into the mind of man. But if man isn’t justified in his true belief, then you really don’t believe in “justified true belief”. What you hold to is “justified, justified true belief.”

  132. Hugh McCann Says:

    From RDG>> Patrick, whether JR said it or not, it’s true. Belief is necessary for knowledge and knowledge is sufficient for belief. If knowledge, then belief.

    From LC>> ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

    ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

    ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’

    Alice was too much puzzled to say anything; so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. ‘They’ve a temper, some of them — particularly verbs: they’re the proudest — adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs — however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!’

    ‘Would you tell me please,’ said Alice, ‘what that means?’

    ‘Now you talk like a reasonable child,’ said Humpty Dumpty, looking very much pleased. ‘I meant by “impenetrability” that we’ve had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you’d mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don’t mean to stop here all the rest of your life.’

    ‘That’s a great deal to make one word mean,’ Alice said in a thoughtful tone.

    ‘When I make a word do a lot of work like that,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘I always pay it extra.’

    ‘Oh!’ said Alice. She was too much puzzled to make any other remark.

  133. Ron Says:

    You wrote, Sean:

    If one “cannot justify what they know” they don’t have knowledge

    Sean,

    Even if one cannot justify what he knows, how could he not have knowledge? Doesn’t the statement presuppose that such a one does indeed have knowledge and what he lacks is a justification for the knowledge, which is not to be confused with the justification for the revealed truth be believes?

  134. Hugh McCann Says:

    From SG>> Ron, you’re still equivocating. What you confuse with knowledge, Calvin called an innate sense of the divine. If one “cannot justify what they know” then the don’t have knowledge except perhaps in the Van Tillian world where A is both A and non A simultaneously.

    And>> You clearly seem to distinguished [sic] having a true belief from having the account plus the true belief, you just call them the same thing; knowledge.
    …Again, it would seem Paul is using the idea of knowledge in two different senses in Romans 1 and evidently your RE and Van Tillianism has allow you to conflate and confuse the two. Calvin could identify the different senses, clearly you cannot.

    From St Paul>> Romans 1:19ff ~ For what can be KNOWN about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been CLEARLY PERCEIVED, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they KNEW God, they did not honor him as God.

    And>> Galatians 4:9 ~ But now that you have come to KNOW God, or rather to BE KNOWN by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?

    The LORD knoweth them that are his. {2 Tim. 1:19}

  135. Sean Gerety Says:

    Ron, first, I don’t mind saying that men have innate knowledge of God as long as one makes clear, at least in a discussion of epistemology, the sense in which the word “knowledge” is being used and that would be in the colloquial as opposed to the epistemic sense.

    Second, men do possess the truth of God having the law written on their hearts,etc, but they suppress that truth and instead of worshiping God they create their own gods in order to believe in and worship. Remember what Calvin called the mind of man?

    Third, in the very passage you cite to support your view that all men have knowledge of God in the epistemic or rather RE sense, Paul says that men by nature refuse “to have God in their knowledge” and that because of this “God gave them up unto a reprobate mind.”

    Forth, if knowledge in the strict epistemological sense is justified true belief (and I realize that for devotees of RE this is not the case as they substitute an account of the truth with the much smaller hurdle of warrant), then apart from an account of how one knows something they cannot be said to possess knowledge. This is why Calvin said all men have a sensus divinitatis of God. Concerning this sense or awareness of God RE guru and Natural Theologian, Michael Sudduth notes in an outline:

    A. Calvin’s Grounds for the Sensus Divinitatis Thesis

    1.Simple Observation: Belief in God seems to be Universal

    2.The diversity of religious practices and beliefs all presuppose some basic conception of divinity or a Supreme power in the Universe.

    3. Those who are impious and object to the existence of God nonetheless have in their minds an idea of such a being, so even they are aware of God.

    B. Function of the Sensus Divinitatis
    The function of such an awareness of God is to render humans without excuse before God. They cannot plead ignorance when it comes to divine judgment on their lives. Hence, this knowledge of God possessed by people by nature is closely related to distinctly moral and theological concerns.

    Now, while Sudduth and you may want to equate this awareness with knowledge and pronounce it justified in accordance with the subjective standard of maximal warrant or whatever else, and I realize that both RE and NT do just that (NT of course taking things considerably farther than, say, where Plantinga would want to go), the Scriptures teach that the truth of God that men have innately is something they suppress in unrighteousness. Now, if that suppression of the truth accounts as knowledge to you, I guess we can’t really go any further. Of course, rather than this innate awareness of God leading to knowledge, Calvin argued:

    I have said that religion ought not to be separated from knowledge; but I call that knowledge, not what is innate in man, or what is by diligence acquired, but that which is delivered to us by the Law and the Prophets.

    In addition, Paul tells us in First Corinthians; “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God….” But if we were to follow you it would seem that according to Paul men both know and not know God.

    You said, “Scripture is the justification of all knowledge” and if you stopped there we would not disagree. In fact, you’d be a Scripturalist. What I find interesting in this brief exchange (and I promise you it’s going to remain brief) is that Evidentialists, assorted Empiricists, Natural Theologians, along with so-called Reformed Epistemologists all appeal to Romans 1 in support of their unbiblical epistemologies that all make claims to knowledge apart from Scripture.

  136. lawyertheologian Says:

    Good stuff Sean, especially the last quote by Calvin. Glad to see we’re on the same page on this. I’ve wondered if Scripturalists, including Clark and Robbins, have been clear on the distinction between what is commonly called innate knowledge and knowledge from the Scriptures/specific revelation. Calvin is quite clear, again, as your last quote shows.

  137. David Taylor Says:

    Sean, I disagree with LT, and I am a little dismayed by the data being revealed on this blog! I love the place and have always enjoyed the reading, but this has been disturbing! In all of the discussion, I’ve seen no one define what they mean by the word knowledge. At best, I’ve seen an attempt at a “description”, and yet without knowing what the word means (how is it being used) – and a definition of the accompanying phrases, how is there any way of determining whether or not anything is being said at all! Or, if the completely different arguments are being uttered!

    I find myself siding with Ron in much of this debate, and I believe it is correct and far more Scriptural than what you have offered! On the other hand, I am not so proud as to not say that if I can be shown, via direct Scriptural data, that 1) I am wrong, and 2) what the truth is, I am aching to change my mind. I love the truth far more than my pride.

    You write that you don’t mind saying that men have an innate knowledge of God – and then you say that this term is used ‘colloquially’ in Romans 1. It appears that the reason you say this is ‘colloquial’ is because of Calvin’s very vague (nearly useless) identification of ‘Sensus Divinitatis’. To correctly call this colloquial, it would be necessary to show that Paul intends it to be colloquial, and I do not see this at all.

    Paul writes: “…For although they *knew* God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened…”

    The word translated ‘knew’ is “GR. gnontes” – which means ‘understand’ (or, using some rather lazy modern definitions: “to know and be influenced by the personal relation between the person knowing and the object known”.) Jesus used it in Matt 7:23 (“I never knew you”). While Jesus never ‘knew’ them, they certainly know God (Paul is very clear). Used in the positive sense, Jesus said “I am the good shepherd; I *know* my sheep and my sheep know me”.

    Normally, one who takes the title ‘Scripturalist’ is adept at showing that one cannot ‘personally know’ a person without ‘knowing’ specific propositions about them. Hence, it is obvious that men have specific propositions about God that leave them ‘without excuse’. This MUST be termed ‘knowledge,’ for these propositions are true and are in their minds – and those SAME propositions are in God’s mind!

    They *suppress* this truth – but it has to be acknowledged as truth in order for it to be suppressed. Moreover, this, as Gordon Clark points out, is CONSCIOUS suppression, because there is no such thing as an ‘unconscious’ knowledge.

    When you write that “…men do possess the truth of God, having the law written on their hearts, etc…” but deny this is ‘knowledge’ – what else can it be, opinion? What else is there? Truth is an opinion? 0_0

    You also write that “…in the very passage you cite to support your view that all men have knowledge of God in the epistemic or rather RE sense, Paul says that men by nature refuse “to have God in their knowledge” and that because of this “God gave them up unto a reprobate mind…”

    …as if the fact that God delivered them to reprobate thinking somehow negates the idea that they know God. Just because He has given them over to their sinful suppression of the truth does not mean that they no longer *know* that truth! In Rom 1:21, the term ‘knew’ (as in, “..for although they knew God..”), the word is in the Aorist tense (as in always present, always active). It is not in past tense, although it certainly happened in the past…and today…and will tomorrow…

    “…Forth, if knowledge in the strict epistemological sense is justified true belief (and I realize that for devotees of RE this is not the case as they substitute an account of the truth with the much smaller hurdle of warrant), then apart from an account of how one knows something they cannot be said to possess knowledge…”

    My question in this area is the same as always: how do you derive the definition that knowledge is ‘justified true belief’ as opposed to knowledge being a true proposition held in a mind (God’s or otherwise)? It is quite easy to account for knowledge in the fallen mind – man is God’s image. That accounts for ALL knowledge, and no other clarifications are necessary. Sin is not ignorance (that is, lack of knowledge) – it is deliberate rejection of what is KNOWN to be right.

    Moreover, is not the fact that it exists within God’s mind the very justification you need for it to be knowledge?

    As for Calvin’s Sensus Divinitatis Thesis, and at least Sudduth’s rendering of it: (Calvin’s definition is virtually irrelevant)

    “…Now, while Sudduth and you may want to equate this awareness with knowledge and pronounce it justified in accordance with the subjective standard of maximal warrant or whatever else, and I realize that both RE and NT do just that (NT of course taking things considerably farther than, say, where Plantinga would want to go), the Scriptures teach that the truth of God that men have innately is something they suppress in unrighteousness. Now, if that suppression of the truth accounts as knowledge to you, I guess we can’t really go any further…”

    It is not the suppression of truth that is accounted as knowledge! I doubt anyone would fall for that, nor use such an irrational definition! The knowledge is that which man WORKS AT SUPPRESSING – but cannot, no matter how he tries. He is WITHOUT excuse, God sees through all the vanity and bluffing – in fact, Paul even shows that this knowledge still exists (suppressing the truth does not equate to destroying or removing it) – when he says, in Rom 2: “…since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them…”

    God’s wrath is “…because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed….” not ignorance, or lack of knowledge. Men know EXACTLY what they are doing, and they work very hard at keeping the truth at bay.

    The argument (rather spacious) is that there is a difference between ‘innate awareness’ and ‘knowledge’ – which appears to me equivalent to the idea that ‘trust’ and ‘faith’ differ.

    “…In addition, Paul tells us in First Corinthians; “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God….” But if we were to follow you it would seem that according to Paul men both know and not know God…”

    No! You miss the point of that passage, and THEN come to a conclusion!

    Your argument to show the foolishness of Ron’s thought:

    1) Paul writes that men know God
    2) Paul writes than men do not know God
    Therefore men know and don’t know God.

    Paul says ‘the world does not know God *through it’s wisdom*’ – which is further explained in the rest of 1 Cor. 1. Paul’s thrust is to make sure we do not adopt anti-christian philosophies, to merge Belial and Christ. The only way this passage is relevant to the conversation at hand is to make sure that we are not implementing the wisdom of man along with the wisdom of God! It does not say man does not *have* a knowledge of God. It says that man cannot DERIVE a knowledge of God!

    The real argument:

    1) Paul writes that men are created with the knowledge of God.
    2) Paul writes that men cannot gain a knowledge of God on their own.

    Therefore, the knowledge man has of God is FROM God and not by man’s wisdom.

    Scripture IS the justification of all knowledge: Scripture is God’s mind, and we have some of it here on earth with us. *Nothing* can be verified as true (that is, justified) without reference to the mind of God. But this in no way means that unless a person believes Scripture to be true, he cannot have knowledge. Instead – any thought that he has must be JUDGED by what Scripture declares. Otherwise, Scripturalists will fall into the same pit that captured the Van Tillians: There is no correlation between what MAN knows and what God knows. There IS a correlation: man is God’s image!

    This cannot equate to a vaguely Pythagorean definition of knowledge as ‘what Structuralists believe’! Knowledge MUST be derived from Scripture, no? And anyone who thinks the same thoughts as God IS in coherence with Scripture (even if the irrationally refuse to admit it!)

    The danger I see is a very slippery slope into a form of gnosticism, and I don’t want to see that happen!

  138. Hugh McCann Says:

    David,

    I’m sure it’s much more complex, but I’ve taken the types as (& I think you’re saying this, too):

    (1) A universal, natural knowledge man has of God (unsavingly, of course, and which he suppresses in unrighteousness). He is blind, per 1 Cor. 2:14 et. al.~ ‘The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.’

    He certainly does not know Christ: vv 7f~ It is ‘a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.’

    JESUS IS THE LADDER TO GOD. HE IS ALL THE GNOSIS & SOPHIA WE NEED!

    (2) Yet it appears from Romans 1:21 that they also have a knowledge that God is, that he exists (a la the demons’ ‘knowledge of God’ in James 2:19?), but not that he is their loving heavenly Father, reconciling them unto himself, and freely giving them all things, etc. (I’m thinking of our blessings found in Rom. 8 & Eph. 1), since he isn’t & hasn’t.

    So they know there is a God, suppress that much, and cannot know him as their Father.

  139. Ron Says:

    So they know there is a God, suppress that much, and cannot know him as their Father.

    Hugh, so they do “know” God without Scripture. Men know, they just cannot justify their knowledge apart from Scripture.

  140. David Reece Says:

    David Taylor,

    So, am I correct in saying that 1) you reject the Scripturalist claim that knowledge is belief in true propositions that can be demonstrated from Scripture?

    Would I also be correct in saying that 2) you think that knowledge is any belief in true propositions regardless of the ability of the one believing the true propositions to demonstrate the propositions to be explicitly or implicitly contained in Scripture?

  141. Sean Gerety Says:

    @David Taylor. I’m sorry you’re dismayed, but I’m also surprised that you would object to defining knowledge, particularly in a discussion of epistemology, as JTB. Have you not read Intro to Christian Philosophy or even Thales to Dewey? How about Van Til? If you’d like I can cite him and virtually anyone else serious about epistemology who defines knowledge in exactly the same way.

    On the old Yahoo anti-Clark list, John Robbins wrote:

    The attack on “giving an account” of one’s claimed knowledge is a direct attack on epistemology itself, for the epistemological question is “How do you know?” Any attempt to stamp the feet and yell “I just know,” no matter how famous (Plantinga) or how clever (Sudduth) deserves no hearing.

    I have long distinguished having a true belief from having the account plus the true belief, which constitutes knowledge.

    And, (although there are many more like quotes), here is any exchange Dr. Robbins had with another of RE’s students who also denied that knowledge required an account but instead only needed warrant.

    >Both you and Clark, when citing Scripture, >implicitly rely on your perceptual skills to get it
    >right –“ to get the right props. But Clark’s >jump from undermining theories to undermining the >epistemic reliability of perception itself >undermines his own ability to know what’s written

    This, of course, is false, Jim. Not only false, it is the very petitio that Clark addressed in his reply to Mavrodes. Until you can provide an account of how this epistemological magic happens, no one has any reason or any obligation to believe you. Simply asserting it to be the case may be good enough for RE, but it is not good enough for serious thought.

    (As an aside, let me remind you of what GHC thought of one of RE’s parents: “How could [Charles] Hodge have forgotten so much Scripture? The answer to this question, as it appears to me, is that he was controlled epistemologically by the Scottish ‘Common Sense’ philosophy. He felt compelled to adjust divine revelation to one of the most incompetent types of philosophy in the history of the subject” [Incarnation, 41]).
    JR

    Finally, you ask; “how do you derive the definition that knowledge is ‘justified true belief’ as opposed to knowledge being a true proposition held in a mind (God’s or otherwise)?” There are many propositions that are held by men (myself included) that I assume are true, but without an account (and for Scripturalists that would be the account given by God in Scripture) how would you know they are true?

  142. Denson Dube Says:

    Just one more.
    So called “historical information” or “historical facts” about one Jesus of Nazareth(or the nineteenth century ‘Historical Jesus’) do not save. It is the meaning of these events which is the Gospel. Jesus was crucified with two bad guys, but only Christ’s death atoned for our sins. When Peter replied to Jesus, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God”, Jesus assured Peter that it had been revealed to him by the Father. The meaning of historic events is properly the subject of knowledge and this meaning is in the mind of God, who is the creator and end of all things, and those God chooses to reveal them to. It is impossible to deduce the meaning of historical events by merely observing them and speculating. This, together with other ad hominem arguments, completely discomfits empiricists conclusively.

  143. Denson Dube Says:

    So called “historical information” or “historical facts” about one Jesus of Nazareth(or the nineteenth century ‘Historical Jesus’) do not save. It is the meaning of these events which is the Gospel. Jesus was crucified with two bad guys, but only Christ’s death atoned for our sins. When Peter replied to Jesus, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God”, Jesus assured Peter that it had been revealed to him by the Father. The meaning of historic events is properly the subject of knowledge and this meaning is in the mind of God, who is the creator and end of all things, and those God chooses to reveal His mind to. It is impossible to deduce the meaning of historical events by merely observing them and speculating. This, together with other ad hominem arguments, makes empiricism impossible. It is consenting to the propositions about the meaning of the life and death of Jesus Christ, as revealed in scripture that is salvic faith and knowledge.

  144. Denson Dube Says:

    I was still editing — happens quite often.

  145. Ron Says:

    Sean wrote to DT: I’m sorry you’re dismayed, but I’m also surprised that you would object to defining knowledge, particularly in a discussion of epistemology, as JTB.

    Sean,

    The position is that the person who has never come in contact with Scripture has a true belief about God, and the justification for him having that belief is God’s revelation of himself to the mind. What man lacks is the ability to justify that innate knowledge of God; nonetheless he possesses justified true belief.

    Tell me, is the man’s belief in God not justified or not true? Is it arbitrary? Is it false? If it is at least reasonable and true, then what makes it reasonable if not the justification he gets from God himself?

    Have you not read Intro to Christian Philosophy or even Thales to Dewey? How about Van Til?

    That you would invoke CVT seems a bit strange since he obviously believed that all men know God in an epistemological sense.

    Good Lord’s Day.

    Ron

  146. Sean Gerety Says:

    Ron writes:

    What man lacks is the ability to justify that innate knowledge of God; nonetheless he possesses justified true belief.

    If man cannot justify the innate knowledge of God within him (and apart from Scripture we could know nothing about the apriori in man and even what we do know is limited), then he does not have knowledge in the sense of a JUSTIFIED true belief. You agree with this then assert that man “possess justified true belief.” Spoken like a Van Tillian.

    Tell me, is the man’s belief in God not justified or not true?

    Why is this difficult for you and evidently for David? Have I denied that men have true beliefs about God; truths which by nature man suppresses and refuses to retain in his knowledge? But, if he can’t ACCOUNT for theses truths about God within him so as to JUSTIFY them, then he can’t be said to have knowledge in the sense of JTB.

    That you would invoke CVT seems a bit strange since he obviously believed that all men know God in an epistemological sense.

    Van Til said a lot of confusing things, and, yes, he also said that science is a means to knowledge in the epistemological sense as well, something Clark correctly denied. FWIW VT’s discussion of Romans 1 in his Intro to Systematics is positively obtuse. While there are things here and there I wholeheartedly agree with, other things not so much. For example:

    The actual situation is therefore always a mixture of truth with error. Being “without God in the world” the natural man yet knows God, and, in spite of himself, to some extent recognizes God. By virtue of their creation in God’s image, by virtue of the ineradicable sense of deity within them and by virtue of God’s restraining general grace, those who hate God, yet in a restricted sense know God, and do good.

    While I deny completely that the natural man apart from the belief in Christ and his finished work does good in any sense (as even the plowing of the wicked is sin), I agree completely that all men have an “ineradicable sense of deity within them” and “to some extent recognizes God.”

    Beyond Romans 1, or perhaps because of it, VT also said “The argument for the existence of God and for the truth of Christianity is objectively valid … The argument may be poorly stated, and may never be adequately stated. But in itself the argument is absolutely sound.” My point in invoking VT is not that anyone should follow him, but rather that he defined knowledge in the epistemological sense as a “justified true belief” and not in RE terms of warrant, which is something considerably less (which is why RE functions to allow Christians to appear rational to their atheistic counterparts in Yale and Harvard).

    Since I’m already repeating myself (I only jumped back in to address David’s dismay),I will repeat Calvin’s words from his commentary on Jeremiah; “I call that knowledge, not what is innate in man, or what is by diligence acquired, but that which is delivered to us by the Law and the Prophets.”

    Good Lord’s Day.

    You too. Unfortunately, I’m stuck home with my son who has strep throat. =:-0

  147. Ron Says:

    Sean,

    I’m very sorry to hear about your son. I do hope it passes soon.

    I’ll make a couple of more observations and unless you ask something of me, I’ll let you have the last word, and than you for allowing me to post my thoughts.

    You wrote: “Have I denied that men have true beliefs about God; truths which by nature man suppresses and refuses to retain in his knowledge?”

    No you haven’t denied that and I agree with the first part without question but not the second part as voiced. By way of review, you say that natural man, not born from above, suppresses the truth of God, with which I agree. I, also, say he suppresses a knowledge of the truth, which you deny. We both agree that man has true beliefs, though he tries to suppress them.

    I also agree that natural man cannot as you put it: “ACCOUNT” for theses truths about God within him so as to JUSTIFY them…” But, are the true beliefs he cannot justify irrational beliefs? No, they’re not irrational, with which I think you would agree. What is irrational is the intention to try to suppress the beliefs. But why is it irrational to suppress these truths? It cannot only be because the beliefs are in something true. After all, it would be irrational for one to believe in something true unless there is a basis upon which to have such a belief. In other words, it’s only irrational for a man to suppress truth when he has a rational basis for believing the truth in question. What is the basis for man to believe the truth that God exists? Is it an inductive inference? No, it’s more than that. It has nothing to do with discursive reasoning at all. It’s not even by deduction that man comes in contact with God, but it’s through direct revelation.

    So, in sum, I believe man is irrational to reject the truth of God precisely because he has great reason not to reject God. I call that basis, or reason, man’s justification for believing in God. You seem to be saying that he should not reject God because to reject God is to reject truth. My simple response to that is that one needs a reason, a basis, a justification for the truth before it should be accepted as truth. The reason man should bend the knee to God is because man knows this God by direct revelation, the ultimate justification. These beliefs are based upon something and that something is none other than God’s witness of himself to the mind of man. I wish to call that a justification for the true belief, but with you I agree that is not a justification for the “justification of the true belief”. At the end of the day, you and I believe that man has good reason to believe in the God he tries to reject. I call that reason a justification, though with you agree whole heartedly that it is a justification that man cannot begin to articulate apart from Scripture alone.

    Grace and peace,

    Ron

  148. Sean Gerety Says:

    Good place to end it.

    Grace and peace to you too Ron.

  149. David Taylor Says:

    For David Reece:

    “…So, am I correct in saying that 1) you reject the Scripturalist claim that knowledge is belief in true propositions that can be demonstrated from Scripture?…”

    I’m asking for the actual DEFINITION of knowledge, not a statement of belief. A Scripturalist can make any sort of claim – the fact that one assumes the mantle ‘scripturalist’ does not equate this person with God’s knowledge. The claim must be scriptural (and, by this virtue alone, must be rational, since Christ is Logic.)

    Moreover, I never rejected the claim that knowledge ie belief in true propositions that can be demonstrated from Scripture – either explicitly, or implicitly. What I am saying is that fallen man has knowledge as well as the saved: the believer has much more, but that is degree, not kind. ANY knowledge that ANY person has can ONLY be demonstrated from Scripture, either explicitly or implicitly. The fact that the unbeliever refuses both to acknowledge the source of the truth, and in fact will even act in direct opposition to it, is irrelevant, *with regard to the definition of knowledge*. What one does with the truth demonstrates the standing a person has with God.

    And second:

    “…Would I also be correct in saying that 2) you think that knowledge is any belief in true propositions regardless of the ability of the one believing the true propositions to demonstrate the propositions to be explicitly or implicitly contained in Scripture?…”

    No, I do NOT think knowledge is “any belief in true proposition” – and this statement reveals that either I am not stating things as clearly as I thought, or else they are not being read. Or, they are understood and purposefully twisted. I do not define knowledge in relation to belief at all.

    I define a single element of knowledge as a true proposition held in the mind. For example, “x + x = 2x”, or “God is the one who will judge my actions.” These are SINGLE units of knowledge. They are true, regardless of whether I believe them to be true or not – and as for the second proposition – this one exists in every human mind by virtue of the fact that the human mind is the image of God.

    Moreover: if you are in any way a rational human being – that is, you have at least a fundamental ability to use the most basic forms of logic – you can easily demonstrate a proposition to be explicitly or implicitly contained in Scripture – regardless of your standing with God. All you need is a slight familiarity with the Bible. For example: “…Miriam was the sister of Aaron…” (Ex 15:20) This can be demonstrated by reading that passage. It is knowledge, because:

    1) It is true (that is, it exists in the mind of God)
    2) It is a proposition.
    3) It exists in the mind of the person making the demonstration.

    One does not need to believe the proposition for it to be knowledge. Believing something to be true in no way makes it true: it is regardless of your assent. It is knowledge because GOD places it in your mind:

    “…That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world…” (John 1:9)

    Light = knowledge.

    On top of this, I am convinced that in spite of themselves, there are people who are Christians that are just not capable of “…ability…to demonstrate the propositions to be explicitly or implicitly contained in Scripture?…” They may be very immature, but they are believers nonetheless. I find it (again) slightly disturbing to think that the qualification for a Christian seems to be ‘one who is firmly trained in logic” (thus able to *demonstrate* the *propositions* to be explicitly or implicitly contained in Scripture!) I know Christians who can’t even tell you what a proposition is!

  150. Sean Gerety Says:

    David writes:

    I’m asking for the actual DEFINITION of knowledge, not a statement of belief….

    Why do you continue to beat this dead horse? The ACTUAL definition of knowledge has been given – actually if you read Ron’s last post and mine in comparison you’ll find two different definitions you can choose from. If you include your definition (if you want to call it that) and light = knowledge that will give you three to choose from.

    Clark/Robbins/me/my PHIL 101 professor/every philosopher in history pre the anti-epistemology of RE have all defined knowledge as (pay attention this is a definition) justified true belief, or, if you prefer, true belief with an account of its truth. Without such an account one may have a true belief but why call it knowledge?

    Moreover, I never rejected the claim that knowledge ie belief in true propositions that can be demonstrated from Scripture – either explicitly, or implicitly.

    That’s true, you haven’t denied that, instead you have affirmed that all men possess knowledge quite apart from the account provided in Scripture.

    Clark argued the problem with non-Christian philosophies is they fail to account for any knowledge at all. Empiricism never gets started and science, which is often presumed by both believer and nonbeliever as a means to knowledge at least of the natural world, is a tissue of fallacies which renders its conclusions neither true nor justified. Concerning science Clark said; “Instead of being the sole gateway to all knowledge, science is not a way to any knowledge.”

    Similarly, rationalistic theories of knowledge also collapse for their failure to account for universal propositions including the laws of logic on which all such theories are based. Clark went so far as to say that the inability to show the universality of the laws of logic was the downfall of all non-Christian philosophy. Every philosophy throughout history with the exception of Clark’s Scripturalism has failed to attain any knowledge at all. Actually, Scripturalism is, in its simplest, the demonstration of Paul’s maxim that “the world through its wisdom did not know God….”

    What I am saying is that fallen man has knowledge as well as the saved: the believer has much more, but that is degree, not kind.

    That is certainly what you’re saying, just not what Clark was saying or Robbins for that matter. Again, read Clark’s Intro to Christian Phil. Read Thales to Dewey. Read the three R’s. Read Three Types of Religious Philosophy.

    Don’t get me wrong, you like Ron are entitled to whatever definition of knowledge you like, just don’t confuse it with Clark’s.

  151. Hugh McCann Says:

    A dandy note from John Robbins on faith:

    http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=83

    The traditional analysis of faith and saving faith into three components – knowledge, notitia; assent, assensus; and trust, fiducia – has been shown to be false by Clark in his books The Johannine Logos and Faith and Saving Faith. Faith consists of two elements, knowledge (understanding) and belief (assent). His arguments are presented at length in his books, and I shall not repeat them here.

    There is another argument against the traditional three-element view of faith that I do not believe Clark presents. It also is conclusive, and one would hope that theology and theologians a century from now – especially if Christ returns before then – recognize the error of the three-element view of faith.

    The argument that I wish to offer is this: If faith consists of three elements – knowledge, assent (or belief), and trust – and if a person does not have faith unless all three elements are present, then unregenerate persons may understand and believe-assent to–the truth. In fact, those who advocate the three-element view insist that unregenerate persons may understand and believe the truth – their prime example of such persons is demons. But if unregenerate persons may believe the truth, then the natural man can indeed receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are not foolishness unto him, contrary to 1 Corinthians 2 and dozens of other verses. Belief – and the whole of salvation – is not a gift of God. Natural men can do their own believing, thank you very much.

    The three-element view of faith leads straight to a contradiction – faithless believers – and therefore must be false.

    When a Sunday school teacher was espousing the three-element view of faith and supporting the analysis from his own experience, he said that when young, he knew what the Bible said about sin and salvation; he believed that what it said was true; but he still did not have faith and was not a Christian because he did not trust Christ. That view, of course, destroys the Biblical order of salvation (ordo salutis) for in the Biblical order, regeneration precedes belief. When questioned about this, the Sunday school teacher began talking about regeneration by stages and referred to the miracle of the blind man receiving his sight by stages – first seeing men as trees.

    This, of course, is equally unbiblical – regeneration is instantaneous, not a process, and it occurs once, not several times or in stages. Faith – belief – is an effect of regeneration; the regenerate mind must believe the saving propositions; the unregenerate mind cannot believe the saving propositions. What occurs in stages is sanctification, not regeneration, and that is what the miracle of the blind man illustrates.

    In conclusion, the three-element view of saving faith cannot be true because it implies a logical contradiction, faithless believers; and because it violates the Biblical doctrine that regeneration must precede belief. The teaching of the Bible is clear: “Repent and believe the Gospel” (Mark 1:15); “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23); “The devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved” (Luke 8:12); “But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in his name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13); “But you do not believe, because you are not of my sheep, as I said to you” (John 10:26); “Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they should see with their eyes and understand with their heart, lest they should turn….” (John 12:39-40); “by him everyone who believes is justified from all things” (Acts 13:39); “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31); “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved…. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on him will not be put to shame.’” (Romans 10:9,11)

    Not only have the theologians failed to understand what the Gospel is, teaching that Christ died for all men and desires the salvation of all, they have failed to understand what saving faith is, turning it into something that a person must “work up” within himself, rather than a gift of God. It has been a long time since true Christianity has been preached widely in America – too long. May God raise up men whose minds and voices are true and clear.

    September/October 1989

  152. Ethan Says:

    I’ve seen the difference between “belief” and “trust” as the difference between a propositional belief and a personal trust. That is, that if you “believe” God, that means you believe what he says; but if you “trust” Him, you trust that He will save you (which He hasn’t explicitly said in His word; the names of the elect are not written in the Bible).

    The way I see “faith in Jesus Christ” is that you trust Jesus Christ to save you, and not in your own merits.

    BTW: Doesn’t God command us to believe? Isn’t belief thus obedience to God?

  153. Hugh McCann Says:

    Ethan, Welcome!

    This is AA for recovering fiducialists,
    balm for the knowledge/assent/REALLYTRUST rash,
    healing water for the parched tri-partitic.

    It’s not depth of
    conviction,
    feeling,
    enthusiasm,
    “trust,”
    abandon,
    surrender,
    or delight.

    It’s all about the propositions believed.

  154. Steve M Says:

    Ethan

    Assuming that we both know what a proposition is, would you be so kind as to define what a person is so that we might better understand your comment.

  155. Hugh McCann Says:

    Ethan,

    Check out this great article, “Saving Faith” from a 1979 Trinity Review. Quoting:

    ‘The crux of the difficulty with the popular analysis of faith into notitia (understanding), assensus (assent), and fiducia (trust), is that fiducia comes from the same root as fides (faith). Hence this popular analysis reduces to the obviously absurd definition that faith consists of understanding, assent, and faith. Something better than this tautology must be found.’

    http://www.trinityfoundation.org/PDF/009a-SavingFaith.pdf

  156. Ethan Says:

    I meant that faith was relying on the person and work of Christ alone for salvation and not simply believing that Jesus Christ died for the elect.

    Thus, by “proposition” I meant Scripture, and by “person” (Three persons) I meant God Himself, the author of the Scriptures. We do not simply believe that the Scriptures are inerrant for no reason. We do so because we trust their Author, God.

    (I have to agree though, that belief doesn’t take place without trust; I think that is very valid; if you believe God’s word, it means that you think God is trustworthy, and you trust Him).

  157. Steve M Says:

    Ethan

    As I understand it, you are saying that first we trust God and afterwards because of that trust we come to believe the Scriptures are inerrant. My question is: prior to reading the Scriptures, how do we know we can trust God and what god is it that we trust.

    “by “proposition” I meant Scripture, and by “person” (Three persons) I meant God Himself”

    Scripture is propositional revelation to be sure, but you have not defined person. By person you meant God himself whom you indicate is three persons, but that does not explain what you think constitutes a person. Does a person consist of his thoughts? Does God’s word express God’s thoughts?

    You seem to be representing God as a person and three persons in the same sentence. Is it your view that God is both one person and three person or am I misunderstanding you? If that is your view please define what you mean by person. In fact, please define person anyway.

  158. markmcculley Says:

    And if the OPC changes its doctrine, one way to do so is to add a proof text to the catechism a couple years before the denominational Report comes out which appeals to that proof-text. Think big—go from Romans 2:6 all the way to Romans 2:13

    “An elderly couple in Kinnaird’s congregation brought charges against him for teaching justification by faith and works. The session found him guilty. He appealed to his presbytery, which upheld the guilty verdict. So he appealed to the OPC General Assembly. The General Assembly determined that the session and presbytery had erred in convicting him. A main point in the GA’s decision to overturn the prior verdicts was that Kinnaird’s language was in keeping with the OPC’s standards – specifically WLC 90’s reference to Romans 2:13, which had just been added two years earlier. “There is strong evidence that it is ALLOWABLE in the OPC to interpret Romans 2:13 (as Mr. Kinnaird does) as a description of something that will be done to the righteous at the day of judgment.” (GA Advisory Committee)
    https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2016/10/24/opc-report-on-republication-background/


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