There are two interesting postmortems on the PCA from two different perspectives.  The first is “How the FV Won the PCA” by Lane Keister. The second is a counterpoint by a a former PCA pastor, Lee Johnson, from Lincoln, NE.  While both provide interesting and valuable insights into what went wrong, I tend to think Lee’s analysis, perhaps without some of the conspiratorial overtones, is probably more accurate only because his perspective is broader.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I think the Big Tenters in the PCA, those who make up the mushy middle and who all aspire to be Tim Keller, don’t care one whit about Leithart, Meyers, Moon, Lawrence, or the Federal Vision, or any of those things.  These squabbles are an annoyance and even an embarrassment. They care about inclusion, making women officers, and being “missional.”  And, that last item is key, because as Paul Elliot explains, to be “missional” means to be “focused on ‘saving’ people by bettering their moral, psychological, and material circumstances, far more than the redemption of their souls from the wrath of God.”

To the Big Tenters conservative-confessionalists, or simply “TRs,” are men who seemingly revel in doctrinal minutia and infighting; neither of which helps to attract new members and doesn’t grow the church. They are a nuisance. Plus, even if these fights were justified, it’s just dirty laundry. From their perspective the Federal Vision is a fight among conservatives and voting to let the Leithart and Meyers decisions to stand was a good way to either 1) drive the conservative-confessionalists-anti-woman-officer types from the denomination, or, 2) emasculate them to the point where they learn to behave while they’re being ignored, which is exactly what happened at the last General Assembly. My guess is the answer is both with one small twist. While the FVers have come up through the Vantillian, über-militant, post-millennial, theonomistic wing of the church, they have incorporated much of N.T. Wright’s “New Perspectives on Paul” which, if nothing else, is what it means to be “missional.”  It’s the social gospel recast. As the old saying goes, politics makes strange bedfellows and the FV men are, ironically, the Big Tenter’s natural allies.

And, on the topic of politics, you have to give credit where credit is due and the FV men were smart.  As Lane explains:

[The FV men] actively courted the evangelical middle of the PCA. They tried very hard (and successfully) to convince the evangelical middle that the FV issues were not gospel issues, but peripheral issues. This was done by the cherry-picking out-of-context quoting of the Reformed fathers that tried to make the case that the FV was within the Reformed tradition (whatever that means!). Once that was done, the evangellyfish … middle completely flipped sides. If it is a gospel issue, the middle generally votes with the confessionalists. However, if they are not convinced that it is a gospel issue, they will vote to keep the peace (whatever that means! There is FAR less peace in the PCA now than there was, say, 8 years ago.

There is no question that the FV men are skilled at obscuring their teaching so that what is warmed over Romanism comes out sounding positively Reformed.  However, the majority of the blame for not making the FV a “gospel issue” falls squarely on the TRs.  After all, what is the average “evangellyfish” supposed to think when after a year of online debate Lane gave Doug Wilson, the poster-boy of the FV and their chief spokesman, a clean bill of health on justification by faith alone and imputation.  At the time Lane wrote:

My problem with Wilson lies in this: although Wilson says many things that are Reformed in a positive sense, he is not willing to reject the errors of the other FV proponents. Personally, I am willing to believe that Wilson holds to justification by faith alone, although he is too ambiguous on the aliveness of faith and its place in justification. He does hold to imputation. But he will not distance himself from any error of the FV, no matter how egregious. That is why, if Wilson were to apply for admission into the Presbytery of which I am a part, I could not vote to approve his transfer of credentials. What I have sought to show is that it is not enough to affirm the truth. One must also reject the errors.

Thankfully, God has granted Lane repentance and he has since come to see that the reason Wilson doesn’t distance himself from the more egregious errors of the FV is because he shares them.  However, I can’t help wonder if Lane’s about-face was a case of too little, too late.  But, the problem runs deeper as the TR wing, even to this day, doesn’t  really see the FV as a “gospel issue.”   For example, Bob Mattes, who with Lane is genuinely one of the good guys, recently wrote:

The issue with FV isn’t that they aren’t Christians . . .The issue is that FV adherents have no business being officers in the PCA. Period. That’s the issue.

Of course, that is not the issue and has never been the issue.  The FV men are not Christians.  Those who deny justification by belief alone and imputation are not Christians except in the most nominal sense. These are men who have no business being officers in any Christian church regardless of the denomination.  These men are Roman Catholic in everything except Rome’s most flagrant departures from historic Christianity.  If the issue really is that “FV adherents have no business being officers in the PCA,” then I can hardly see how the FV could be a “gospel issue.”  A sectarian issue, perhaps, but hardly a matter of life and death.

Sadly, the FV victory was sealed the day the heralded PCA FV/NPP study report was adopted. That’s because in that report, which clearly demonstrates that the FV and NPP both strike at the vitals of the faith, even justification by belief alone and imputation, begins by proclaiming:

The committee … affirms that we view NPP and FV proponents in the PCA as brothers in Christ.

Someone can hold to justification based on works done through faith, something FV proponents claim contributes to our “final justification,” and call the doctrine of imputation, the heart of the Gospel and the “great exchange,” redundant as Peter Leithart has, yet according to the official PCA study report these men are still our “brothers in Christ.”  This was a fatal mistake.

But, it doesn’t stop there.  Sean Lucas, who was one of the purportedly “TR” committee members responsible for drafting the PCA FV/NPP report wrote (interestingly enough on Jason Stellman’s blog prior to Stellman converting to Romanism):

I have little doubt that Dr. Leithart is a genuine believer in Jesus. I do not believe that he is a heretic (particularly because, in my understanding as a church historian, heresy would generally be associated with denying key Trinitarian or Christological truths).  And I do not believe that simply because one has a high baptismal theology that one is a heretic (if so, then Calvin was wrong to say that the Roman Catholic Church still had true baptism).

The issue here (and really the only issue here) is whether someone can teach in ways that are contrary to the essentials of the Standards of the PCA and still remain a minister in good standing in that church. The case that has been made is that Dr. Leithart has significant differences with the Standards on issues such as covenant, election, justification, and perseverance‑‑all issues that are essential to the system. One could hold his views and still belong to other branches of the Christian church; the real question is whether one can hold his views and be a minister in this branch of the Christian church.

Think about this for a moment. One can have “significant differences” concerning the doctrine of justification as expressed in the Westminster Standards, a doctrine that is repeated in every other Protestant and Reformed Confession and one that faithfully echoes the clarion call of the Reformation, yet still be a “genuine believer in Jesus.”  This is amazing.  According to Lucas, Leithart can safely hold his views on justification and imputation and “still belong to other branches of the Christian church,” just not the PCA.  Since Lucas failed to mention which branches those might be, I can only think of two; the Roman Catholic state/church and the FV  “Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches” (CREC), but both of those are only pretend branches of the Christian church. I wonder if church historian Lucas can tell the difference.

Consequently, if the “good guys,” the TRs, can’t seem to identify a “gospel issue” when it’s punching them in the face, can there be any wonder why the mushy middle in the PCA failed to see the FV as a “gospel issue”? Frankly, if justification by belief alone and imputation are not “gospel issues,” there are no gospel issues.

Also, I want to stress the above use of “belief alone” rather than “faith alone” and not because there is any difference between the two, linguistically or logically, but in the minds of even many TRs like Allan Strange, the difference is huge.  These men argue, even against the clear teaching of our Lord (see Mark 1:15), that believing the Gospel is not enough to save anyone.  Saving faith requires more.  What more exactly these men are hard pressed to say.  Some say that the central  fiducial element that completes faith and makes it saving is love. Of course, love is a volition and as Jesus said; “If you love me keep my commandments.”  So, to view saving faith as something that is completed by love is hardly different from even the most crass Federal Visionists, even James Jordan.  Others simply equivocate and say that in addition belief there must be trust without ever demonstrating how trusting someone is in any way different from believing them.  As John Robbins explains:

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.”

The failure to understand biblical saving faith and confusing it with the traditional three-fold definition, which is not biblical and where saving faith is defined as a combination of understanding, assent and trust (or notitiaassensus, and fiducia), played right into the hands of the FV.  That’s because while most Reformed men have little grasp of the real difference between faith and saving faith, the FV men maintain that to trust is to obey and it is obedience to the unspecified “demands of the covenant” that is integral to saving faith and is the key to justification.

I hope as these much needed postmortems continue that those in the PCA, particularly those who fought the good fight, will take the time to also perhaps assess mistakes they may have made if only to ensure they don’t make them again.  Let us pray.

Explore posts in the same categories: Heresies

77 Comments on “PCA POSTMORTEM”

  1. Hugh McCann Says:

    PCA, RIP, indeed! 😦

  2. Hugh McCann Says:

    Many issues here, it seems.

    Just to pick up on B. Mattes’s and S. Gerety’s ideas on THE issue – it seems that *very* few men in the PCA (any?!) can say anything like

    “The FV men are holding to damnable error”

    much less, “they’re propagating damnable error”

    much, much less, “they’re not fit to govern the church”

    much, much, much less, “they’re not Christians”

  3. Lauren Says:

    So now that the “FV has won the PCA”, what is Lane going to do about it? He admits to being in a denomination that teaches a false gospel. That makes him part of the problem. The FV becomes his doctrine as long as he remains in the PCA as a teaching elder.

  4. greenbaggins Says:

    Lauren, I do not intend to stay in the denomination. But I am a Presbyterian, and that means that when I leave, I leave in a Presbyterian way. Please do not judge me on this point yet.

  5. Lauren Kuo Says:

    What should one answer when asked by another about visiting a PCA church? Let’s see…well, the elders are teaching a false gospel but they are Christians but according to the denomination, they are just teaching contrary to the Standards but many believe that their teaching is only a broader but acceptable interpretation of the Westminster while others see it as a return to Rome. So…enter at your own risk.

    Never saw such a mixed up garbly gook song and dance as to what the gospel truly is. The PCA sadly has lost all the respect and integrity and credibility it once had.

  6. Hugh McCann Says:

    Too late, Lane.

    Thou hast been weighed in the balances and found wanting by Mrs Kuo.

  7. Hugh McCann Says:

    Lane asked: “So how did the FV win the PCA?”

    John Robbins “answered” this over eight years ago:

    This failure of the critics to defend the Gospel properly seems to stem from two causes: misguided loyalty to the Neolegalists, and ignorance of what the Bible teaches. One critic describes his relationship to the Neolegalists in these words: “I speak/write with nothing but the deepest affection and appreciation for each of the men who will be attending the colloquium.” Nothing but affection and appreciation? How about a little skepticism, if not suspicion? How about a little of Paul’s willingness to speak sharply to Peter? Or, perhaps more to the point, a little of Paul’s zeal in cursing false teachers?

    …Why does this PCA pastor fail to defend the faith? “Because I value these brothers [Jordan, Leithart, Schlissel, Wilson, Wilkins, Lusk, & Barach] so highly, it is very difficult for me to write a disagreeable word against them.” Not only does he value them too highly, he values the Gospel too little. This critic allowed his personal relationships to cloud his judgment for twenty years, and he is still doing so. That is one reason this heresy has spread so widely in the churches.

    Another reason this heresy has spread so widely is this critic’s (as well as others’) ignorance of what the Bible teaches on these matters. Even after this critic quotes James Jordan explicitly denying regeneration, he says “James Jordan’s humility and scholarship are both beyond question…. I have no intention of assaulting Jordan, but I would like to humbly point out several areas of advice or disagreement where he could (perhaps) hone his arguments.”

    Contrast these words with those of Paul when he confronted Peter “to his face before them all,” merely for hypocrisy. Peter was a much greater man than James Jordan, and his error was less serious than James Jordan’s. This pastor’s response is pathetic – and sinful. It is thinking like this that has allowed these heresies to spread and flourish in the churches.

    The PCA became a spiritual whore-house because too many who knew better (?) befriended the FV pimps.

  8. Lauren Kuo Says:

    Lane, I do not judge you; I know the struggles you have faced from reading your blog and having been in the battle ourselves. Having read your latest blogpost, I really did want to know how you and so many others who have fought the good fight move forward in your ministry of the gospel. So please forgive me if I came across as being judgmental or a little snarky.

    I am not exactly sure what you mean by leaving in a Presbyterian way but I can assure you from our own experience that God is faithful and gracious and full of mercy to those who love and stand fast to the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ.

  9. Lauren Says:

    My favorite preacher and theologian J.C. Ryle wrote: “Surely the dumb dog and the sleeping shepherd are the best allies of the wolf, the thief, and the robber!” It would appear that the FV didn’t win the PCA; they succeeded in devouring, vandalizing, and robbing the PCA.

    Like Isaac and his servants (Genesis 26), it also seems from the two blogposts that it is time for those elders who would stand for the truth to leave the “big tenters and sleeping shepherds” and go dig another well.

  10. justbybelief Says:

    Lauren, don’t back off! You have every right to make a biblical judgement (which is lost on Hugh for some reason).

    These are the men who condemned, and still do, people like you and your husband, who left the PCA, a number of years ago, and me, who left almost two decades ago because we had God-given discernment, which they were clearly lacking. One has to wonder whether they will always be ‘Johnny come lately’ in the discernment department.

    These are the ones who forgo pointed questions for position’s sake.

    Hugh makes a statement like this

    The PCA became a spiritual whore-house because too many who knew better (?) befriended the FV pimps.

    and at the same time condemns you for asking this legitmate question

    So now that the “FV has won the PCA”, what is Lane going to do about it? He admits to being in a denomination that teaches a false gospel. That makes him part of the problem. The FV becomes his doctrine as long as he remains in the PCA as a teaching elder.

    of a man who remains in fellowship with heretics. This is a question that Hugh should have asked.


  11. Sean Gerety Says:

    For the record, I do have a lot of respect for Lane and Bob Mattes along with Wes White. These men, more than virtually anyone, have done a lot of heavy lifting and have stuck their necks out during this fight. It’s easy for me to armchair quarterback and I think Lane would agree that mistakes were made and even continue to be made. I just think I may have come across as overly critical when I’m not.

  12. Lauren Says:

    As a Christian we are called to the same roles as Christ – prophet, priest, and king. We have to be discerning in determining which role to play and to what degree according to the circumstances. It’s time to come alongside some of these guys in our priestly role as encouragers and not beat them down with “I told you so’s”. Lane has chosen to leave the denomination; that is a hard and difficult step to take, especially with a young family and having invested years of ministry in the lives of so many people in the pews and governing bodies in the PCA. I disagreed with Lane on a lot of points – so much so that I got kicked off his blog. But I could read his heart between the lines and know he was really trying to do right by the Gospel. It’s time to offer forgiveness, gratitude, and mercy to these battle-worn soldiers who were willing to fight on the front lines. Thank you, Lane.

  13. Gus Gianello Says:

    To Lane and others,

    As someone who knew Jim Jordan, Ray Sutton, and Greg Bahnsen, there is a clear reason why Greg Bahnsen died unexpectedly–God’s judgement. To keep him from going into the dangerous heresy that Jim Jordan did and that Rushdoony died espousing. This is my opinion based on the interaction I had with him and others. As someone who was a Christian Reconstructionist and a Theonomist and VanTillian I abandoned those positions when I started reading Clark and Robbins. When the reasons for condemning Van Til and Reconstruction were clear in my mind I began to reread the Reconstructionist literature and their errors are so obvious. It is not just the affirmation of Van Til’s arguments concerning the nature of saving knowledge as analogical–which puts him in the same class as Aquinas and Barth–and the addition of the “insights” of Wright, but it is their affirmation of Barth’s doctrine of monocovenantalism. Monocovenantalism denies the covenant of works and the foundation of legal liability based in Adam. That denial led to a denial of the visible/invisible church paradigm which led to the objectification of the covenant of grace, denying its intrinisically internal and particularistic character. I agree with most of the southern Presbyterian theologians, that the Old Testament covenants are NOT a recapitulation of the Covenant of Works, but progressive revelations and developments of the Covenant of Grace. That the law in Exo. 20 was a recapitulation of the law given to Adam within the context of Redemption, and that therefore, the law must ALWAYS be approached through faith. In the Covenant of Grace we must always acknowledge that the saving grace of God is sovereignly adminstered through the sacrifice of Christ, and that therefore we are passive in its inclusion, though cooperating with the grace of God in our own sanctification. Monergism in our regeneration, but synergism in our sanctification.

    The FV are MORE that just closet Romanists, they and the Romanists and any other ecclesiastical body which adheres to the visibility of grace only are legalists. They take exactly the same position as the Pharisees and Judaizers who believed that being the natural seed of Abraham meant they were saved. Proof of that salvation was the visible sign of circumcision. The Covenant of Grace has both a visible/invisible and and outward/inward aspect–both must be affirmed, neither denied. If we deny the visible we do not baptize our children, and if we deny the inward we believe that sacraments save.

    Within the context of covenant properly understood salvation MUST BE by mental assent to a given proposition alone because the covenant is an unconditional suzerainty type covenant where Jesus Christ the Sacrifice (NOT testator) took our legal liability upon himself and rendered the “perfect, personal and perpetual obedience” that was originally required from Adam. To deny this is to deny that the covenant is sovereignly administered and that we are wholly passive therein.

    Therefore,when these heretics started speaking ambiguously and vacillating on the Westminster standards, when their writing showed there denial of the Westminster Principle, as Clark called it, awareness should have become very conscious and acutely painful to all the TRs in the PCA. Jordan’s writings clearly deny the Westminster principle, which anybody can confirm by reading him. Read Jordan, Sutton, Rushdoony and Bahnsen and they ALL give thanks for Van Til–the fount of many heresies. And therefore deny the Westminster Principle.

    Better to repent later, rather than never. I do not need to judge or condemn any minister in the PCA–God will judge them or chastise them, depending on their covenant status. Love covers a multitude of sins. BUT they will have to live with the fact that they deceived a multitude, that they led Christian fathers and mothers to tolerate evil, that in their vacillation they created a beach head for the Devil, who hates genuine covenant doctrine. They now have a responsibility, not only to leave, but to leave in a Presbyterian manner–which means that if they are pastors, they should try to take as many of their church members with them as possible. Sessions, presbyteries and Synods of the PCA have no legitimate authority and therefore they cannot bind men or women against doing that which is not immoral. It is not immoral to lead sheep away from shepherding wolves. As the LC makes clear in its exposition of the fifth commandment, if church members are required to honour them, then they are required to protect church members. “Come ye out from among them, says the Lord, and teach not the unclean thing.”–II Cor. 6

    Dr. Gus Gianello

    PS. Salvation is by mental assent to the given propositions of the Gospel ALONE

  14. Lauren Says:

    So when Lane talks about leaving the “Presbyterian way”, does that mean convincing the session and congregation to leave with him?

  15. Thanks for making the Gospel so clear, Sean. My rector was recently fired by the liberals. But even he is too willing to call Anglo-Catholics “brothers”. I call them what they are: false teachers who lead people to hell. I would never join an Anglo-Catholic church or any church that belongs to an Anglo-Catholic or liberal denomination again.

    The options here in Orlando are limited. The Orthodox Presbyterian Church or St. Andrews Chapel? That’s about it.

    And thanks to you, Gus, for your comment as well. It has taken me a long time to see through Mike Horton, R. Scott Clark and the other fake Calvinists over at Westminster, California. Horton’s systematic theology reads like something Donald Bloesch could have written.

  16. Lauren Says:

    I appreciate your comment and thoroughness and especially your perspective, Gus. Isn’t salvation more than a mental assent? Jesus says we need a spiritual rebirth (John 3). Becoming a new creature is a whole lot more than mental assent. Also, I get a little queasy when I read your pronouncement of God’s judgment on certain individuals. Don’t you think you are stepping over the line a little into what is only God’s territory or domain?

  17. Sean Gerety Says:

    Lauren, I would hope you would agree that to be justified requires nothing more than believing the Gospel. Of course, without the new birth (regeneration) no one can believe the Gospel for the natural mind is hostile toward God. But it’s the mind that is hostile and it’s the mind that has to change (repent). That said, belief is assent to an understood proposition. Saving faith is assent to the understood propositions of the Gospel.

    Just curious, have you read Gordon Clark’s What Is Saving Faith?

  18. Gus Gianello Says:

    You can not give mental assent without regeneration. Giving mental assent to the propositions of the Gospel requires regeneration. Eph. 2:8-11. The new birth IS believing in Christ. You can no more separate saving faith–ie. mental assent–from the new birth, than you can separate breathing from living. As to judging, I dont know what you are referring to specifically. Can you tell me what makes you queasy? You can hardly be accused of “crossing the line” if you cant even see it.


  19. Sean Gerety Says:

    @Gus. Can’t you logically separate the act of believing from regeneration? I mean, in regeneration we are altogether passive, but in believing God doesn’t believe for us, does He?

  20. Gus Gianello Says:

    The two are DISTINCT not separate. The new birth results in faith, and logically precedes it. In regeneration we are passive and in justification by faith we are active, BUT mental assent is implanted as a habitus in the heart, Eph. 2;8-10. Believing in Christ, is supernatural, and is a gift from God. This is why regeneration historically has had two meanings, the narrower and the broader. Calvin defined regeneration as that process that included effectual (inward) call, faith, justification, repentance, and adoption–if i remember correctly. He might even have included sanctification. That’s why the WCF has no chapter on regeneration, only a chapter on the “Effectual Call”. The ordo salutis is a declaration of the logical ordo of the effectual call, or all that genuine regeneration implies. See Thomas Boston’s “Human nature in its four fold state.”

    PS. Though God doesn’t believe for us, the faith we believe with He gives to us. His grace produces our faith, and our faith is a reflex demonstrating the presence of His grace.

    God Bless

  21. Sean Gerety Says:

    I think we’re saying the same thing as distinct is a synonym of separate and is one its definitions.

  22. Hugh McCann Says:

    Isn’t faith (‘assent to the understood propositions of the Gospel’) not something we do, but something divinely & monergistically, unilaterally embedded in our spiritual hard-drive, our nous/ mind?

    Otherwise, were faith/ belief/ trust something we do, it’d be a act on our part, akin to a work, no?

    And that’d put faith at odds with St Paul. It’d be more Arminian than Pauline, no?

  23. Sean Gerety Says:

    That doesn’t follow. Besides,I hardly think the WCF not to mention Gordon Clark are Arminian. Monergism has to do with regeneration, not the act of believing. Haven’t we been around this bush before Hugh?.

  24. Hugh McCann Says:

    Proabably we have. But all the authorities in the world (or Reformed church world) cannot make faith a work. That contradicts Paul. Maybe they got sloppy here.

    Please show me what they say and argue your points.

    Back to mine: How can faith be a work?

    Since knowledge & assent are passively received –not something we do– why not faith?

  25. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean, Why do use the phrase, “act of believing”?

    How can faith be a work? Even a Spirit-enabled work?

  26. Hugh McCann Says:

    As to my first question – here it is: Those whom God effectually calls, He also freely justifies …not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, THE ACT OF BELIEVING, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, THEY RECEIVING AND RESTING on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God. (WCF XI, Justification)

    These are problematic these days.

    This is much better: XIV. Of Saving Faith.

    I. The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word, by which also, and by the administration of the sacraments, and prayer, it is increased and strengthened.

    II. By this faith, a Christian believes to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God Himself speaking therein; and acts differently upon that which each particular passage thereof contains; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come. But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.

    III. This faith is different in degrees, weak or strong; may be often and many ways assailed, and weakened, but gets the victory: growing up in many to the attainment of a full assurance, through Christ, who is both the author and finisher of our faith.

  27. Hugh McCann Says:

    But this too can easily lead to troubles:

    But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.

    WHY did these guys so define (or describe) saving faith?

    ‘Accepting, receiving, and resting’ – the second is biblical language – John 1:12. It is synonymous with believing. The others are problematic.

    In this age beyond declension, we need all the more to be careful to define things biblically – no matter how well previous generations did things. Arminianism, decisional regeneration, revivalism and other hooey have scandalized Presbyterianism. These are perversions of the WCF faith, but it all happened by degrees. Whether Finney, the PCUSA, or the PCA.

    May the standards lead folks to the Scriptures and the Savior, rather than the other way around.

  28. Sean Gerety Says:

    Proabably we have. But all the authorities in the world (or Reformed church world) cannot make faith a work. That contradicts Paul. Maybe they got sloppy here.

    There is no contradiction and perhaps the sloppy thinking is your own. I know in Monty Collier’s case that certainly was the case.

    Belief is, without question, the most important, evangelical obedience as the Confession rightly states. How can it be otherwise. God commands all men everywhere to believe the Gospel. To so believe is to obey God’s command. To not understand the difference (or as Gus would say the “distinction”) between regeneration which is entirely monergisitc and the *act of believing* is fall prey to another FV trick and their twisting of Paul’s phrase “the obedience of faith.”


    http://tinyurl.com/ktlp4fm and


  29. justbybelief Says:

    Phillipians 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

    Ephesians 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

    Charles Hodge on Ephesians 2:8,9

    Vs. 8, 9. These verses confirm the preceding declaration. The manifestation of the grace of God is the great end of redemption. This is plain, for salvation is entirely of grace. Ye are saved by grace; ye are saved by faith and not by works; and even faith is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. We have then here a manifold assertion, affirmative and negative, of the gratuitous nature of salvation. It is not only said in general, ‘ye are saved by grace,’ but further that salvation is by faith, i. e. by simply receiving or apprehending the offered blessing. From the very nature of faith, as an act of assent and trust, it excludes the idea of merit. If by faith, it is of grace; if of works, it is of debt; as the apostle argues in Rom. 4, 4. 5. Faith, therefore, is the mere causa apprehendens, the simple act of accepting, and not the ground on which salvation is bestowed. Not of works. The apostle says works, without qualification or limitation. It is not, therefore, ceremonial, as distinguished from good works; or legal, as distinguished from evangelical or gracious works; but works of all kinds as distinguished from faith, which are excluded. Salvation is in no sense, and in no degree, of works; for to him that worketh the reward is a matter of debt. But salvation is of grace and therefore not of works lest any man should boast. That the guilty should stand before God with self-complacency, and refer his salvation in any measure to his own merit, is so abhorrent to all right feeling that Paul assumes it (Rom. 4, 2) as an intuitive truth, that no man can boast before God. And to all who have any proper sense of the holiness of God and of the evil of sin, it is an intuition; and therefore a gratuitous salvation, a salvation which excludes with 119 works all ground of boasting, is the only salvation suited to the relation of guilty men to God.

  30. hughmc5 Says:

    Sean, Thanks. Though in both “The Obedience of Faith” (Nov ’07), & “Lane’s Puzzle” (June ’08) ~ “The obedience of faith therefore is to do as we are commanded and that is to believe the gospel.”

    Again, that nasty word “do” pops up!

    With regard to equating “the obedience of faith” with “doing the law”?

    Only insofar as “doing the law” = “doing [all] the law” = believing the gospel! Thus, faith = keeping all the law perfectly!

    I agree about being aware of FV & other legalistic traps. Wilson drank some BAD homemade hooch or something when he said: “deeds without faith is works. Deeds done in faith is obedience.[sic]”

  31. Sean Gerety Says:

    I think some of the confusion is that while by believing we are utterly passive and are “simply receiving or apprehending the offered blessing,” and God is acting immediately on our minds enabling us to do so, believing is not monergistic since our minds and God’s enabling are both involved.

    See R.C. Sproul:

    Regeneration, which precedes faith, the act of believing, is monergistic. This is why we can and should draw a distinction between regeneration and the instrument of faith in justification.

  32. hughmc5 Says:

    Thank you, Sean. Agreed in the main.

    Saith R.C.S. ~ “Monergistic regeneration is exclusively a divine act. Man does not have the creative power God has. To quicken a person who is spiritually dead is something only God can do. A corpse cannot revive itself. It cannot even assist in the effort.” [Good; fine.]

    But ~ “It [the aforementioned spiritual ‘corpse’]
    can only respond after receiving new life.
    Not only can it respond then,
    it most certainly will respond.
    In regeneration the soul of man is utterly passive
    until it has been made alive.
    It offers no help in reviving itself,
    though once revived it is empowered to act and respond.”

    “Act & respond” – very icky, these. Why is faith a work? It becomes a sanctified, God-glorifying work under the monergistic, calvinist system, but it’s still something we “do.”

    “The soul of man is utterly passive until it has been made alive” to “act & respond,” to “do” something: Believe?

    Hmm. Still wondering about this.

  33. Denson Dube Says:

    When Jesus said to Necodemus, “You must be born again”, he was correcting a popular Pharisaic false belief that being born of Jewish parents put one in favour with God. Elsewhere, John the Baptist said to the Pharisees, “Do not think to yourselves you have Abraham as your father”. The Pharisees taught, and the Jews had come to hold the false belief that Abrahamic ancestry made one a child of the kingdom of God. Jesus did not mince his words when dealing with this popular false belief.; “Abraham is not your father. If Abraham was your father, you would believe me. You are of your father the devil”, he thundered.
    The Apostle Paul did not let up. “One is not a Jew outwardly, but inwardly. Circumcision is not of the flesh but of the heart, in the spirit.” And further Romans 9:6-8 “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: 7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.”
    John 1:12-13 ” But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
    Being “born again”, in the biblical context was used to refute the errors of Pharisaic Judaism. These are metaphors or ad hominem arguments in which the language of the errorist is used to refute their error. The literal meaning of these metaphors is found in the Pauline epistles. The new birth is justification, reconciliation with God, forgiveness etc etc.

  34. Sean Gerety Says:

    I don’t know what you’re wondering about Hugh. Regeneration has one (mono) actor; i.e., God. Once regenerated man in cooperation with the enabling and illuminating work of the Spirit receives and rests on Christ and His finished work alone as his righteousness.

  35. Lauren Kuo Says:

    I really appreciate all the insights; they have been very helpful. Didn’t know POST MORTEM would take such a turn.

  36. Since God is the ultimate cause of everything we think and do, it seems to me that the use of the word “synergistic” by the late Dr. Gordon H. Clark cannot mean the same thing the Arminians mean by that term. Even our acts and thoughts are caused by God. Clark’s book on Predestination proves that point well enough. That is not to say that we are not moral agents nor that we do not make genuine choices.

    But since faith is itself a gift (Ephesian 2:8-9), we have no room to boast even about our believing.

    Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. (John 6:29 KJV)

  37. Read Dr. Clark’s commentary on Ephesians 2:8-9, pp. 58-59.

  38. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean: “Once regenerated, man in cooperation with the enabling and illuminating work of the Spirit receives and rests on Christ and His finished work alone as his righteousness.”

    Man cooperates to believe?

    So is faith is a synergistic, Spirit-enabled work?

  39. Pht Says:

    Hugh McCann Says:

    August 25, 2013 at 1:32 am

    Sean: “Once regenerated, man in cooperation with the enabling and illuminating work of the Spirit receives and rests on Christ and His finished work alone as his righteousness.”

    Man cooperates to believe?

    So is faith is a synergistic, Spirit-enabled work?

    Per Ephesians 2; belief+assent is a GIFT from God; it is wholly from him – we did not make it; a good and necessary consequence of this is that we CAN NOT take credit for this belief. It’ is credited to God.

    We only exercise it; and clearly we MUST – the command is uniformly addressed to the individual persons to “BELIEVE” – (not “generate the belief in and from yourself”) – that is, the person must exercise their mental understanding and assent to that understanding. God does not “do” our understanding and assent.

    It is wholly and utterly monergistic in it’s origination – (Origin totally from GOD). It is us who than “use” this belief that is wholly a gift of God; as God has commanded us to.

  40. Sean Gerety Says:

    Saving faith is a gift of God, but if we are the ones who exercise it and grow in it,then it can’t be MONO-gistic or else it would mean God believes for us rather than enables or causes us to believe. See the Sproul link above.

    Synergism and monergism correctly relate to two competing views or regeneration, which for Calvinists, rightly precedes saving faith or belief. While I don’t want this to degenerate into another Monty Collier debacle, I think it’s important to define our terms and apply them correctly. ..

  41. Lauren Kuo Says:

    We were once dead in our sins but made alive in Christ. We respond to God in faith because of the new nature of life that is in us. Paul said in Galatians that he no longer lives but Christ lives in him by faith. So we can give mental assent to the things of God because it is actually the life of Christ in us giving assent.

    This illustration is a little lame but kind of fits my simple mind. A bird can fly because it was given wings and feathers; a fish can swim because it was given fins and scales. A fish can’t fly because it was not given the nature of a bird; a bird can’t swim because it was not given the nature of a fish. The bird can’t take credit for flying anymore than the fish can take credit for swimming. In the same way, we cannot respond to God in faith until He gives us His nature through regeneration. And, we can’t take credit for having the ability to respond to God or giving mental assent because that ability was given to us and became a “spiritually natural” response to the new nature within us.

    Sorry guys, I am a school teacher and can’t use all those big words and terms. I’ve been in the business of simplifying concepts for nearly 40 years – 🙂

  42. justbybelief Says:

    Please consider Galatians 3:12

    And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.

    Properly, faith is not a work of the law. Wasn’t the law originally for those not in need of a mediator? Now, as for Israel, its primary purpose is to show fallen man that he’s in need of one?

    The doctrine of ‘faith’ is foreign to the natural man, however, the law was written on the mind from our original creation and resides in every human being to this day.

    So, faith is not a work of law because the law was for man in an unmediated state. Faith, particularly, the object of faith, Christ, is for men in a fallen state.

    Though we do believe, it is not properly a work of the law.

    I’m open for comments on this one.


  43. Roger Says:

    Eric wrote,

    “Properly, faith is not a work of the law… Though we do believe, it is not properly a work of the law.”

    That’s the key to understanding why believing the gospel isn’t a meritorious work that contributes to our justification, even though it’s a “command” of God that we obey:

    “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as he gave us commandment.” – 1 John 3:23

    “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent.” – Acts 17:30

    Saying that believing the gospel is not a meritorious work because God enables and causes us to believe (e.g., as the result of monergistic regeneration) doesn’t really solve the dilemma, for it is God Himself who enables and causes us to obey all of His commandments:

    “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” – Philippians 2:13

    Rather, the reason belief of the gospel is not a meritorious work is because it’s not a command that’s given within the context of the covenant of works. Eternal life is promised only upon perfect obedience to the commands of the moral law under the stipulations of the covenant of works. In principle this applies not only to Adam, but to all men who are born as his seed under the same covenant. Scripture plainly teaches that unwavering obedience to the law merits eternal life.

    “You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the Lord.” – Leviticus 18:5

    “For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.” – Romans 10:5 (cf. Galatians 3:11)

    “For not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified.” – Romans 2:13

    “Now behold, one came and said to [Jesus], ‘Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?’ So He said to him…‘if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.’” – Matthew 19:16-17

    “And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death.” – Romans 7:10

    Belief in the gospel, on the other hand, while certainly a “command,” is not meritorious in the sense that perfectly obeying the “commandments” of the law would be. It’s an “evangelical obedience” that’s completely distinct from the requirements of the law under the covenant of works. Indeed, it’s wholly passive in the sense that it only “receives and rests” in Christ’s righteousness that was merited for us by perfectly obeying the law in our stead (both active and passive).

  44. Sean Gerety Says:

    Of course, Roger (and welcome back) I agree, but the FV men say all works are non-meritorious in that works done through faith are not works. Had Adam obeyed during his probation it wouldn’t have been works, it would have been by God’s grace alone though faith alone. Of course, then Jesus’ works too aren’t “works” and His life and death merit nothing too.

    Anyway, it’s easy to see how of men like Wilson, Leithart, Meyers, and the rest of them could trip up so many.

  45. justbybelief Says:

    Had Adam obeyed during his probation it wouldn’t have been works, it would have been by God’s grace alone though faith alone. Of course, then Jesus’ works too aren’t “works” and His life and death merit nothing too.

    Wow! The FV is really a Christ-less system of religion.

  46. Tim H Says:

    Yes, I gotta say, Sean, your insight at comment @7:36 is brilliant. The FV isn’t Christian even in the broad sense of the term. Even popery honors Christ more.

  47. Hugh McCann Says:

    Faith is a non-law, passive work?

    Fascinating, as Mr Spock would say…

    I’m still not convinced my understanding of faith as being information imprinted on my soul’s hard-drive is beyond the pale of orthodoxy, or even God’s own truth.

    We appear to be differing is whether faith is a non-meritorius, passive, non-law work, or not a work AT ALL.

  48. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean, You said: “Regeneration has one (mono) actor; i.e., God.”

    Of course we’re agreed.

    Then, “Once regenerated man in cooperation with the enabling and illuminating work of the Spirit receives and rests on Christ and His finished work alone as his righteousness.”

    Here we disagree, but your statement is as clear as day that our believing is a synergistic work we do. I heartily disagree.

    You said: “While I don’t want this to degenerate into another Monty Collier debacle, I think it’s important to define our terms and apply them correctly.”

    Dunno want the debacle was (and don’t need to), but I don’t want one, either! Agreed on your last sentence.

    Thank you.

  49. Steve M Says:

    Is receiving working? I received a gift once. It was no work at all, I suppose one could say I “did” something.

    Is resting working? I find it difficult to rest and work at the same time, but maybe that’s just me. I suppose that resting could be called “doing” something also.

  50. justbybelief Says:

    If God raises someone from the dead, undeniably, that person WILL start breathing. Spiritually, if God raises someone from the dead, that person will believe the message (means) that God used to raise him. A person will act in accordance with their nature. I’m not sure I like the word ‘synergism’ because it seems to me to imply that I’m working with God to bring about a certain greater end when in fact the belief I have (and exercise) is a gift from beginning to end.

    I remember in my own experience that in one instant I did not believe, though I wasn’t conscience of it, and in the next instant I did believe. It wasn’t something I strove or exercised effort, either physically or mentally, to achieve. One second it was not there and the next it was.

    It was as if someone else turned the lights on, a switch, as it were.

  51. Sean Gerety Says:

    Hugh, where did I say believing is a “work we do”? Well, nowhere.

    As the Spirit enables and illumines we believe to the salvation of our souls; i.e., we both understand and assent to the propositions of the Gospel and the finished work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. While we’re certainly passive in that we now receive with thanksgiving what is offered in the Gospel and that which we formerly rejected, we’re not inactive it is our minds that assent to the truth. And if we’re active and God’s active then it is not monergistic unless words mean nothing to you and you’re so afraid of Arminianism that you’re afraid to use a perfectly good word, synergism, because it is used to describe a perfectly corrupt view of regeneration. Clearly I’m not talking about regeneration but the “act of believing.”

    As for Monty maybe this will refresh your memory:


  52. Sean Gerety Says:

    And, BTW, you were very much involved in the entire Monty dust up and provided a number of quotes from John Murray to hopefully move the discussion forward.

  53. Hugh McCann Says:


    You’ve nowhere said that believing is a work.

    But you’ve said it’s something we do, and act (action?) on our part.

    Is it monergistic, because, as you said, “God doesn’t believe for us”?

    I’m just not ready to say it’s something we do.

    I’ll take your 8:42 comment as a compliment – thank you.

    P.S. Thanks for Collier refresher. There are too many blogs and too many players for me to keep track of them all!

  54. Sean Gerety Says:

    But you’ve said it’s something we do, and act (action?) on our part.

    OK, so what? Believing is an act of the [human] will, do you deny that? If so, how is a person justified?

    Is it monergistic, because, as you said, “God doesn’t believe for us”?

    I’m just not ready to say it’s something we do.

    Let me know when you’re ready as the entire doctrine of justification hangs on it . . . unless you’re willing to say believing is irrelevant to justification.

    P.S. Thanks for Collier refresher. There are too many blogs and too many players for me to keep track of them all!

    Even when you’re one of the major players? ;-P

  55. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean, If one acts or does something, how is such not “working”?

    How are “doing” and “acting” not “working”? Because it’s a sovereign, monergistic, God-given ability?

    I do not (yet) agree that believing is an act of the human will.

    I agree that believing is quite relevant to justification. You don’t have insinuate that I don’t. I hope I haven’t given that [mis]impression!

    I’ve never thought of myself as “a major player” anywhere. But I do love that Murray piece!

    Definitive Sanctification – no hope without it!

  56. Roger Says:

    Hugh, if we define “work” the way that Paul does, then the act of believing (or our obedience to the command to believe) is not a work, for it does not “earn” or “merit” the promised reward of justification (as perfect obedience to the law would).

    “Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” – Romans 4:4-5

    But to conclude from this that we don’t “do” anything when we believe the gospel is a non sequitur. The word “believes” (πιστεύοντι, pisteuonti) in the above passage is an active voice verb, which means that we are indeed “doing” something when we believe on Christ for justification. (If the subject of the sentence is executing the action, then the verb is referred to as being in the active voice) We are in fact obeying God’s command to repent and believe the gospel, which is an action of our will. To be sure, it is not a naturally generated action of our will, for it is only due to God’s effectual call and regenerating grace. But it is an action of our will nonetheless. As Sean pointed out, God does not believe for us.

  57. justbybelief Says:

    Thanks for the clarity, Roger.

    Romans 3:21

    But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

  58. “‘Your work of faith,’ is not immediately clear. Does it mean that faith, through a divine gift, is some sort of work or exercise Christians do? Or does it mean that faith produces some sort of external action? Obviously, a Christian from day to day continues to believe the doctrines of salvation, and this mental activity can be called a work. It is the activity of continuously believing. On the other hand, belief also produces external works which become the content of sanctification. Which meaning did Paul have in mind?” Gordon H. Clark, Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3, Commentary on Paul’s Epistles, (Unicoi: Trinity Foundation: 2005), p. 253.

  59. Roger Says:

    As Clark points out, there is a sense in which faith may be referred to as a “work.” Jesus Himself referred to faith as a work:

    “They said to Him, ‘What shall we do, that we may do the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.’” – John 6:29

    Now, obviously, Jesus is not using the word “work” in the same sense as Paul does (as a means of earning God’s favor through obedience to the law in contrast with faith). But rather as the sole act that God requires of us in order to receive eternal life – that is, to rest in Christ and His righteousness alone. In his commentary on this passage, John Calvin writes:

    “Those who infer from this passage that faith is the gift of God are mistaken; for Christ does not now show what God produces in us, but what he wishes and requires from us… Faith is called the only work of God, because by means of it we possess Christ, and thus become the sons of God, so that he governs us by his Spirit.”

  60. justbybelief Says:

    Another consideration would be God’s holding the Jews (and Gentiles) responsible for rejecting (not believing in) Christ.

  61. Hugh Says:

    It appears that God (Jesus) has left some ambiguity in the phrase, “this is the work of God” or, “this is God’s work.”

    It could mean as Calvin wants, work we do for God. Work that he commands – “the work of God” as a possessive.

    It can also mean work done by God: “God’s work.” I will disagree with Calvin here. Faith is indeed God’s gift, and John 6:29 may be marshaled to prove it.

    As Robbins wrote on Matthew 7:

    In verse 21, Jesus used the phrase: ‘he who does the will of my Father in Heaven.’ What does this phrase mean, if it does not mean works?

    The answer may be found in John 6:40, where Jesus says, ‘This is the will of him who sent me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him have everlasting life,’ and in John 6:28-29: Then they said to him, ‘What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he sent.’

    The phrase Jesus used in Matthew 7:21, he who does the will of my Father in Heaven, is equivalent to believe the Gospel. Far from teaching that our works save us, the passage teaches that even extraordinary, spectacular, and wonderful works are of no value in obtaining salvation, and that the only instrument of salvation is simple belief of the Gospel. Faith alone unites us to Christ. Faith alone is the instrument of salvation. By faith alone we are justified and sanctified. By faith alone we receive the imputed righteousness of Christ. By faith alone we are admitted into the Kingdom of Heaven.I realize that Robbins was not addressing the question of Calvin directly, much less the debate here on whether faith is a work we do, but it points up the equivalence of God’s work and God’s will – the salvation of his people through faith alone.

  62. Hugh Says:

    This should have been set apart from the quote given:

    I realize that Robbins was not addressing the question of Calvin directly, much less the debate here on whether faith is a work we do, but it points up the equivalence of God’s work and God’s will – the salvation of his people through faith alone.


    P.S. Fwiw, the NIV interprets 1 Thes.1:2-3 in the 2nd sense Clark gives: We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

    This makes better sense for ‘work of faith,’ given the context: ‘labor of love and patience of hope.’

  63. Hugh Says:

    As I said on Aug. 23rd @ 4:24PM:

    “Isn’t faith (‘assent to the understood propositions of the Gospel’) not something we do, but something divinely & monergistically, unilaterally* embedded in our spiritual hard-drive, our nous/ mind?

    “Otherwise, were faith/ belief/ trust something we do, it’d be a act on our part, akin to a work, no?”

    I still like my understanding of our faith. Thanks.

    * Or, Sovereignly.

  64. Sean Gerety Says:

    I still like my understanding of our faith. Thanks.

    OK, well your understanding is nonsensical. Seems to me you have no understanding of faith at all since you don’t accept that believing is an act of the human will, and, for whatever reason, think it’s monergistic.

    You certainly have departed completely from the Clark/Robbins understanding of faith and are more of a mystic than anything else. What else can I say about someone who thinks the act of believing, to use the WCF’s phrase, is not a human action at all.

    BTW the quote above from JR does not differ in the slightest from what Roger has written or even Calvin for that matter.

  65. Steve M Says:

    Believing is not something we (believers) do?

    Paul certainly contrasts faith and works, so it is plain that believing is not a work. However, not everything we “do” is a work and that seems to be what you are implying.

  66. Hugh Says:

    Steve M,
    Thanks for asking.
    No, it’s not.
    Yes, faith is not a work, not an action, not doing.
    To do something is to act, to work.

  67. Steve M Says:

    Last night I did something. I slept.

  68. Hugh Says:

    Right, Steve. I get your point: Since sleep is a rather passive work, etc.

    But as sleep is defined, we see that the human body and mind are doing things.

    Faith/ belief/ trust is not an action, not doing something, it is knowing something[s].

    In case of saving, biblical faith, it means our knowledge that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again the third day.

    But the gospel propositions are “received” by us by their being imprinted on our minds by the Holy Spirit, not by our doing anything.

  69. Hugh Says:

    I realize I am annoying Sean, and that I am going outside the box of received Clarkian Reformed orthodoxy here. I appreciate the iron-sharpening.

    As another aside, I found this amusing thread in researching our various beloved faith formulae: http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=315219

  70. Hugh Says:

    Given this asine Aquinas definition, you might better appreciate my unwillingness to call faith something we do, as well as my rethinking even our vaunted bi-partite definition:

    “Two things are requisite for faith. First, that the things which are
    of faith should be proposed to man: this is necessary in order that
    man believe anything explicitly. The second thing requisite for faith
    is the assent of the believer to the things which are proposed to him.
    ~ the angelic doc

    Given that few Reformed folk, and no Catholics get the gospel right,* it follows that many foul up defining faith, too!

    *And that it’s believing the right gospel propositions, not the manifold sillinesses propunded by many that have been ably dissected here at the Hammer! Such as ‘believing a person, not doctrines,’ or, adding trust (e.g., D. James Kennedy’s chair), adding works, etc.

  71. Steve M Says:

    “Sleep is a rather passive work.”

    Yes, it is nice work, if you can get it.

  72. Hugh Says:

    🙂 except for Eph. 5:14 😉

  73. Hugh Says:

    Steve M Says:
    August 29, 2013 at 8:04 pm
    Last night I did something. I slept.

    Yes, when you sleep, you do something. But when you believe, you do nothing. Nothing. 🙂

  74. justbybelief Says:

    Yes, when you sleep, you do something. But when you believe, you do nothing. Nothing.

    Well…I guess you don’t believe, Hugh.

    Assent is an act of the mind affirming the truth of something, that is, saying (thinking), “this is true,” in this case the gospel. Thinking is an exercise of the mind. Assent is concurring with God–thinking his thoughts after him. So, God imprints something on my mind, do I not after this concur that it is true? If I don’t concur that it is true I would be an unbeliever and it would be evidence that God has performed no work in me.

    What you’re asserting, Hugh, is that you don’t think, and I partially believe it.

  75. Cliffton Says:

    If metaphysical causality is the issue at hand, God alone works and man does not. In this instance it wouldn’t be correct to say that man is active (or passive for that matter) relative to God working. That would be to confuse categories.

    Belief has its origin in God, not man. When the bible contrasts justification by faith vs by works it is a contrast between Christ and self-justification. That is, whenever justification by faith alone is mentioned it must always be understood as standing in contrast to a justification by works. And to claim to be justified by works is to claim to justify one’s self.

    To claim to be justified by works does not imply that works as such can justify an individual. Rather, it implies that I (as an individual) determine my status before God. This the bible knows no such thing (hypothetical or otherwise), for God alone is judge.

    The contrast between faith and works is not a contrast between the subjective act of believing and works as such. It is a contrast between Christ and self-justification.

    But make no mistake, God commands man to believe. To remain in unbelief is illegal.

  76. Sean Gerety Says:

    “But when you believe, you do nothing. Nothing.”

    Well…I guess you don’t believe, Hugh.

    That about sums it up. This thread has degenerated into Monty-esque ridiculousness. Hugh, read Clark’s Faith and Saving Faith.

    This thread is closed.

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