Filling the Breach — Justification By Belief Alone, Pt. 2

PCAThe attack on justification by belief alone continues by Lane Keister and his associates at his Greenbaggins blog. This time Ron DiGiacomo, the so-called “Reformed Apologist,” has taken up the challenge.  In part one of this series we saw Mid-America Reformed Seminary professor, Dr. Alan Strange, a man who identifies himself as one of the “Watchmen of Israel,” failed miserably in his attempt to show that belief alone in the finished work of Christ alone doesn’t save.  For Strange, DiGiacomo, Keister and the rest at the Greenbaggins blog belief is not the alone instrument by which a sinner is justified, but rather something more is needed.  This something more, whatever it may be, is incorporated (some would say smuggled) in what they mean by “faith.”

According to these men faith is something qualitatively distinct and different from belief.

In part one Dr. Strange argued, insisted actually, that this threefold definition of faith consisting of a combination of understanding (notitia), assent (assensus), and trust (fiducia), is explicitly taught in the Westminster Confession specifically in the Larger Catechism 72 where we learn that justifying faith “not only assents to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receives and rests upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.”  According to Strange to receive and rest upon Christ and his righteousness is more than belief (understanding + assent) and is an expression of the elusive fiducial or trust element that transforms ordinary belief (understanding + assent) into something more.  Yet, according to Hugh McCann WLC 72 is not a discussion of the elements of justifying faith at all, but rather its object.  I think this is exactly right, but Strange maintains that not only did “all the magisterial Reformers” hold to this threefold definition (despite the fact that Turretin had seven elements of saving faith and Witsius had nine), but that all the Divines at Westminster intended WLC 72 to be understood as an expression of this threefold definition.

Now, I admit, it was very odd when this professor of church history could not provide a single quote from even one of the theologians at Westminster demonstrating that the Confession was intended to be read in terms of the elements of justifying faith and not the object that faith apprehends and by which we are justified.  Yet, on Keister’s blog Strange bellowed:

[Sean] now demanded that I provide citations proving what everyone (including Clark and Robbins) has already conceded to be true: that the Reformed tradition teaches that justifying faith is not by assent alone but also involves trust.

We all know how the tradition defines faith; the question is how the innovators define it. My ability to contribute to this discussion, certainly for now, has come to an end, but it seems that if this is where the discussion has come, it’s really quite over. No one disputes what the historic Reformed definition of faith is; the only question is whether Clark’s novel definition corrects the tradition or errs. We maintain that it errs and now we have a bunch of Clarkians saying, “Well, what really is the tradition anyway?”

For the record, it has never been denied that tradition has defined faith exactly as Strange has done.  My objection is, and has been, WLC 72 is not a discussion of the traditional threefold definition of faith at all, but rather the object of justifying faith.  I completely grant that Strange is defending tradition, but that tradition errs by adding a superfluous, tautological, anti-intellectual, and even ambiguous element to simple faith or belief that has allowed heretics like those in the Federal Vision to drive a truck through.  By denying that trust is belief, specifically belief in propositions in the future tense like “he will be good to me” as Clark defined it, or, as Webster’s defines it as “belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc.,” men like Strange have left the Reformed faith completely open and vulnerable to attacks from within and from without.  Men like Doug Wilson, Peter Leithart, James Jordan, Steve Wilkins, Greg Lawrence, Joshua Moon, Jeff Meyers and the other Federal Visionist have made all these self-styled “Watchmen of Israel” look impotent and incompetent as they continue to attack the Reformed system exactly at its weakest point; the traditional threefold definition of saving faith.  Yet, rather than acting like Protestant men by judging their tradition in light of Scripture, they act like puffed up papists complaining that their opponents “have to make their argument from the Bible.”  The gall, I know.

Which brings us to Ron DiGiacomo, who, with the blessing of Lane Keister, has continued to undermine the very foundation on which the church stands or falls.  According to DiGiacomo those who maintain, along with the Scriptures, that a man is justified by belief alone err by denying that fiducia or trust is that which transforms or completes simple faith or belief making it saving.  DiGiacomo begins his attack as follows:

Those who promote the belief alone view are sometimes met with tedious rejoinders such as the false dichotomy “we’re saved by Christ not propositional belief.” Notwithstanding, more serious objections have been raised by Teaching and Ruling Elders against the belief alone position because of the group’s insistence upon equating belief with assent. This is where things get a bit dicey. Most of the things we assent to, whether a priori or a posteriori, are not volitional. One does not will to believe that God exists any more than a child chooses to believe he is being fed by his mother. These are mental assents that are not discursive; they are immediate and without reflection. The will is bypassed. However, the gospel always engages the will as the unbeliever counts the cost and by grace abandons all hope in himself while looking to Christ alone, finding rest in Him. Accordingly, it is inadequate to reduce justifying faith to belief alone when belief is reduced to assent without remainder.

Like most bad arguments this one fails right from the start.  First, DiGiacomo begs the question by asserting that “most things we assent to . . .are not volitional,” i.e., that most of our beliefs don’t involve choice.  How does he know this?  DiGiacomo’s chief examples are belief in God’s existence and a child’s belief that he is being fed by his mother.  First, how does he know what a child chooses to believe or does not believe? While on a plane this past week I saw a stewardess pick up a woman’s baby who was on her way to her grandparents in order to celebrate her fist birthday.  After a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday” the stewardess said; “Where’s your Mommy?”  The child started to reach out to her mother. Was her choice of this one woman out of a half dozen or so other women seated nearby a choice?  Was it an act of will? It would seem so. If the stewardess handed the child to a different woman and said, “Here, this is your Mommy,” would the child believe her?  Somehow I think the child would have resisted and probably would have squirmed and even cried in protest as she was handed off to an impostor. Thankfully, the stewardess wasn’t so cruel, yet this child exhibited more intelligence than some Reformed apologists.

So, what about God’s existence?  According to DiGiacomo belief in God’s existence is a belief that “is not discursive” or one not marked by “analytical reasoning.”  Now, I don’t know what sort of isolation booth DiGiacomo lives in, but I’ve met countless people over the years that either deny or affirm God’s existence for all sorts of reasons.  It seems that the choice to be an atheist, a Muslim, a Roman Catholic, a Hare Krishna, a Christian, or whatever else in relationship to the one true God are more often than not marked by some of the most intense analysis imaginable. Then again, some people are just brought up as an atheist, a Muslim, a Roman Catholic, a Hare Krishna, or even a Christian, but does this imply that that their belief or non-belief in God’s existence, or even the belief in many gods for that matter, is not a choice; “not discursive”?  I don’t see how, but then I don’t live in anything close DiGiacomo’s solitary confinement.  Besides, and as Gordon Clark explained many times throughout his career, the idea of God’s existence is really a meaningless phrase feigning profundity for the simple fact that any word that can be predicated on everything means precisely nothing. Hallucinations, dreams, and even unicorns all exist. The better question would be which God exists and to answer that, either in the positive or the negative, requires a choice, or, simply, an act of the will. 

DiGiacomo continues:

It is at this point someone will assert that assent is synonymous with resting in or relying upon Christ. In this context is it is opined that to assent to Christ dying on the cross for my sins is to trust the proposition is true. Albeit the premise is true, this observation turns on a subtle equivocation over the word trust. Indeed, to trust a proposition is true is no different than to assent to its truth. So, in that sense trust and assent are synonyms. However, to trust that something is true is not the same thing as to trust in that something. The latter idea of trust carries the meaning of reliance upon, whereas the former use of trust merely conveys an intellectual assent that might or might not be accompanied by the reliance sort of trust. Accordingly, to argue that trust and assent are synonyms in this way is to implicitly deny the need to willfully trust upon Christ alone for salvation!

Notice, DiGiacomo concedes that trust and assent are synonymous, but that “to trust that something is true” is different than to “trust in that something.”  According to DiGiacomo to trust in something is to rely upon it.  While DiGiacomo accuses his opponents of equivocating on the word “trust” the equivocation is all his for trust, as defined above and since the beginning of this debate, is the “belief that someone or something is reliable.”  Now, DiGiacomo may not like Webster’s definition, or even Clark’s for that matter, but it should be clear that he is attempting to create a distinction without a difference.  With a sophistic sleight of hand DiGiacomo tries to portray his opponents as denying that one must “trust upon Christ alone for salvation!”  His exclamation notwithstanding, it has never been denied that trust in Christ alone for salvation is all that is required.  What has been denied is that trusting in Christ alone for salvation is any different from or something in addition to believing in Christ alone for salvation and DiGiacomo has done precisely nothing to show that it is.  The only thing he has succeed in doing is to obscure the meaning of trust by insisting that it is not properly, and as it relates to the Gospel, a species of belief.

However, the hollowness of DiGiacomo’s analysis is exposed in the comment section of his blog post where he was asked a series of probing question by Dr. R. Fowler White.  Here is just part of that exchange:

RFW:  What is the difference between the unbeliever’s “Jesus died and came to life again” and the believer’s “Jesus died for our sins and came to life again for our justification.”

RD: I’m not sure but I would think you meant *my* sins not our sins. That would be more in keeping with the personal proposition. Aside from that, it would appear you want to contrast the unbeliever’s x with the believer’s y. It might be better to stick to both assenting to the same y, “Jesus died for me.” In which case, the difference is the believer’s assent is accompanied by the completion of faith by God granting him to trust upon the Person the proposition contemplates. The unbeliever has not been taught by God but by flesh and blood. He isn’t granted the gift of assent or trust.

This is a very confusing and tangled, but I’ll do my best to unpack it, supposing that is even possible. Notice, DiGiacomo uses assent and  trust interchangeably and even recognizes it as a gift that God grants to believers.  So far, so good.  Frankly, I would say this is precisely what makes someone a believer.  Yet, according the DiGiacomo unbelievers can also assent to the proposition “Jesus died for me” without being “granted the gift of assent or trust.”  Huh? How can someone assent and not assent to the same proposition?  I understand how an unbeliever cannot be said to trust that Jesus died for him simply because he doesn’t believe or assent to that proposition, but DiGiacomo says he does.  But, didn’t DiGiacomo just use assent and trust interchangeably and as synonymous terms when applied to a believer who has been “taught by God.” So, how can trust be absent from the unbeliever who assents to the same proposition, “Jesus died for me”?  This not only makes no sense, it is utter nonsense.  According to DiGiacomo one can believe or assent to the truth that “Jesus died for me” yet still be an unbeliever; i.e, still be lost.  Now, if belief or even faith is defined as a combination of understanding and assent (or a combination of notitia and assensus for those tickled by Latin) how on earth can an unbeliever be both an unbeliever and a believer at the same time?   I understand that former OPC elders like DiGiacomo are required to be versed in and even hold to Van Til’s theology of biblical paradox, but this is ridiculous.  God himself could not resolve this paradox as DiGiacomo is left with the class of persons who are unbelieving believers.

However, if DiGiacomo were actually interested in advancing an actual distinction it would have been between understanding and assent.  After all, and despite the continual mischaracterization by DiGiacomo, Strange and others, it’s not assent alone that is being contended for, but rather the combination of understanding and assent that is the proper definition of belief or faith.  These men are more interested in fighting straw men than actually interacting with the definitions, much less the actual positions, of their actual opponents.  One can certainly understand the proposition that “Jesus died for me” and not assent it.  One can even clearly mouth the words “Jesus died for me” and not really believe them or even understand what they mean. There appears to be no accounting for hypocrites in DiGiacomo’s universe.  Don’t Roman Catholics and even the Pope himself claim to assent to “Jesus died for me” without understanding, much less believing, what this proposition means according to Scripture? Or, to put it another way, do Roman Catholics and Christians mean the same thing when they say “Jesus died for me”?   I would think not, but according to DiGiacomo they do as both believers and unbelievers can assent to the same Gospel truths, the same Gospel propositions, or, simply, the same Gospel.

Has DiGiacomo forgotten that this whole debate began when Dr. Strange attacked me for using the phrase justification by belief alone?  Has he forgotten that along with Gordon Clark that I have defined belief and faith as the assent to an understood proposition?  Has he forgotten that a proposition is the meaning of a declarative sentence and is not just a series of words signifying nothing? Or, that along with Clark and the Confession I differentiate faith and saving faith not by some nebulous psychological addition to faith’s definition, but rather the by the propositions believed?  It would seem so.  Yet, regardless of all this, and clearly sensing DiGiacomo’s confusion, White presses on:

RFW:  Yes, it would involve “my sins.” For clarification, by “our sins” I meant to cite 1 Cor 15:3, which itself is likely an echo of Isa 53, where, as you’d know, the prophet is rehearsing the confession of believers (i.e., the prophet and all others who believe as he does) about the Servant.

I do appreciate your point about why you speak of “assenting to the same y.” Yet isn’t that precisely the point of the added phrase “for my/our sins”? Or do we want to say that the unbeliever does and can assent to the truth of the proposition(s) embedded in the phrase “for my sins”? I take it that that phrase entails the trust of which you speak. No?

When you say He isn’t granted the gift of assent … , I would agree: the unbeliever, human or demonic, is not granted the gift of assent to the truth of the proposition that Christ’s death was for my/our sins or to the truth of the proposition that Christ’s resurrection was for my/our justification.

RD: Of course an unbeliever can assent to Jesus having died for his sins without having saving faith. So, at this point I think we must be tracking. Now what?  [all emphasis mine]

Now, before we continue, this is astonishing.  Here we have a former OPC elder and a man who calls himself the “Reformed Apologist” who insists that “an unbeliever can assent to Jesus having died for his sins without having saving faith.” But, to assent to a propositions is to believe that it is true, for belief is assent or agreement to an understood proposition, in this case the proposition “Jesus died for my sins.”

White’s gentle line of questioning didn’t help and now Ron has driven off the proverbial cliff and has denied the Gospel.   White evidently sees this too and asks DiGiacomo to step back I imagine hoping it’s not too late:

RFW: Ron: slow this buggy down so even I can understand you.

I asked: do we want to say that the unbeliever does and can assent to the truth of the proposition(s) embedded in the phrase “for my sins”?  You wrote: Of course an unbeliever can assent to Jesus having died for his sins without having saving faith.

Am I reading you correctly: you do want to maintain that the unbeliever can assent to the truth of the proposition “Christ’s death was for my [our] sins” and lack saving faith? If so, please elaborate.

RD: What is there to elaborate upon? Since false beliefs are commonplace there would seem to be a burden of proof to explain why one cannot believe falsely about the Savior’s work on one’s behalf. But I’ll assume the challenge to move things along. I can think of many scenarios in which such can be the case. An easy one would entail one who believes everything their parents tell him. So they believe this too without any serious reflection, let alone without receiving and resting in Christ. Certainly one can assent without counting the cost, yet still be assenting. Most of our assents work that way.

RFW: Ron: seriously, thanks for forbearing … though I’m sympathetic with your thesis, but it seems we’re missing an undisclosed premise or two. Do you mean to say that in the unbeliever who assents to the truth of the proposition ‘Christ’s death was for my sins’ we actually have a denial of the truth of that proposition? As in “seeing they do not see, hearing they do not hear, believing they do not believe”? As in self-deception?

RD: … No, not at all does a false belief imply that the proposition is false. The one who believes apart from salvation could be elect. In such cases, the proposition would actually be true.

RFW:  Ron: in seeking to understand your argumentation for your thesis, I’m not clear on how a person assents to the truth of the proposition “Christ’s death was for my sins” and that assent not entail personal appropriation of Christ’s death for one’s sins. In other words, why does that assent — in effect, “Christ died for me” — not entail the trust you’re concerned to affirm? Is it because you see an inherent limitation in what “assent” involves? Or in the proposition itself? Or perhaps you’re seeking to make sense of the assertion “they believe for a while” in Luke 8:13. Can you spell out why assent to truth of the proposition “Christ died for me” does not entail the trust you’re concerned to affirm?

RD: First, it’s not my thesis. It’s the Reformed position.

If one believes the propositions contained in fortune cookies no matter what the proposition is and then comes across one with the gospel proposition in question, would that person be saved? Or are you saying it’s impossible for a person to assent (to what their parents tell them, from our other example) apart from regeneration? Can’t one assent to that gospel proposition without the disposition God grants to all he converts, summarized in the doctrine of repentance?

Again, many assents are not according to much reflection. Why can’t one casually assent with his mind yet without his will being changed so that he might rely upon the Peron [sic] of Christ? Or are you saying with Clark that the will distinction is an illusion?

Again, we assent to many things apart from a disposition of commitment. Far from being salvation by works; the disposition precedes works and is part of what God does in us in biblical salvation. [all emphasis mine]

At this point White dropped out of the discussion, which is too bad as I would like to know what a “disposition of commitment” is?  Is a “disposition of commitment” what DiGiacomo means by trust?  It would seem so since according to DiGiacomo trust is something in addition to understanding and assent that completes or makes faith saving. If that’s the case, I would also like to know what the difference is between DiGiacomo’s view of saving faith which entails a “disposition of commitment” that “precedes works and is part of what God does in us in biblical salvation” with the following statement taken from the Joint Federal Vision Profession:

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

How is this “disposition of commitment,” which God “does in us” and is something that is wrought in or infused in a believer, different from a “personally loyal faith” or a “living trust”?   DiGiacomo doesn’t say, but he does insist that this “disposition of commitment” is something that God “does in us” and is something that is in addition to simple belief alone. Frankly, I can’t see any difference between DiGiacomo’s view of saving faith and that of the Federal Vision and I’m absolutely sure the FV men can’t see any difference either.  I’m quite sure with DiGiacomo they would say; “It’s not our thesis. It’s the Reformed position.”  And, since Alan Strange, Lane Keister, Reed DePace, Ron Henzel and all the other men at Greenbaggins are in agreement with DiGiacomo, they would have to be in agreement with the signers of the JFVP at this point as well to include John Barach, Rich Lusk, Randy Booth,  Jeff Meyers, Tim Gallant, Ralph Smith, Mark Horne, Steve Wilkins, Jim Jordan, Doug Wilson, and Peter Leithart.

Can there be any wonder why the PCA and OPC GA’s have upheld the complete exoneration of the FV men tried in their lower courts?  The FV men and these so-called “Watchmen of Israel” all agree that no man is saved by simple faith or belief alone and without some additional “disposition” wrought in a person, whether it’s called a “living trust” or a “disposition of commitment.”

Now, I want  to be clear, I don’t consider DiGiacomo, Strange, Keister or the rest of these men on par with the heretics of the Federal Visionist. At worst it seems their “disposition of commitment” is just another meaningless figure of speech that alludes to some inscrutable third element that we’re told completes simple faith making it saving. Besides, DiGiacomo’s analysis is so convoluted and contradictory it is hard to take seriously. On the other hand, the FV men attach a clear and unambiguous meaning to their “personally loyal faith” or “living trust” and that is to do.

With that caveat aside, it should be clear that for DiGiacomo people can believe the gospel, believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, believe that Jesus died for them and that He alone is their righteousness, yet still be lost.  That’s because according to DiGiacomo in addition to believing the gospel alone and Christ’s finished work outside of ourselves, one must also possess a “disposition of commitment” within.  Belief alone is not enough.  To be saved you need something more. Yet, the Scriptures teach “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved” and Jesus said, “He that believes has eternal life.” Along with Alan Strange and the other men at Lane Kesiter’s Greenbaggins blog, DiGiacomo make Jesus a liar.  Clearly Jesus didn’t know that belief alone wasn’t enough.

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257 Comments on “Filling the Breach — Justification By Belief Alone, Pt. 2”


  1. According to dictionary.com “assent” is defined as:

    assent
    /əˈsɛnt/
    noun
    1.
    agreement, as to a statement, proposal, etc; acceptance
    2.
    hesitant agreement; compliance
    3.
    sanction
    verb
    4.
    (intransitive) usually foll by to. to agree or express agreement

    Therefore its synonyms are: acceptance, compliance, sanction. To give mental assent with understanding is a tautology since acceptance or “express agreement” implies intellectual apprehension. Therefore when we give assent to 1 Cor. 15:2-4 we accept it, and comply with it, expressing agreement with the proposition and giving it our sanction. We believe. And when we believe we (figuratively) rest on Christ. Jesus did NOT say believe and trust, He said believe (pisteuo). Christian doctrine is called the pistis, the belief, improperly translated “faith”. In Latin we call it “credo”.

    So whats the hang up? Jesus called it straining at gnats and swallowing camels.To belief is to give assent, and to assent is to believe, and either word implies the presence of trust. Belief is in the future tense. The supernaturalness of saving belief is that it requires the saving grace of God to believe 1 Cor 15. Anyone who does not make a credible profession of faith, has either never assented, i.e. believed with understanding, or is a hypocrite

    The thief on the cross was saved. Jesus says so. Therefore he assented. And all he said about Christ is that he is innocent, and that he was going to come into a kingdom. On that basis he asked that Jesus would remember his. His future belief involved trust. He would find out in mere hours what heaven was like. That was saving belief. Demons do not believe 1 Cor 15, they believe there is one God. This object of assent requires supernatural enablement. See: Psalm 110

    “NKJ Psalm 110:3 Your people shall be volunteers [willing] In the day of Your power; In the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning, You have the dew of Your youth.” (Psa 110:3 NKJ)

  2. Roger Says:

    So whats the hang up? Jesus called it straining at gnats and swallowing camels.

    Straining at gnats would be a major understatement in this case! The “hang up” for the antivangelicals is that they promote “trust” in Christ as something more than simple assent/belief in the propositions of the gospel. I asked this question numerous times over on the Greenbaggin’s blog, and never got a straightforward answer:

    “If I genuinely assent to or believe the gospel propositions – that Christ is the incarnate Word of God, that He died for my sins, that He was buried and raised on the third day for my justification, and that my own works of obedience contribute nothing toward my legal standing before God – am I justified in God’s sight or not?”

    I can only assume that the answer they would give is “No, you are not justified in God’s sight by merely believing these truths alone,” but were too cowardly to publicly pronounce.

  3. Roger Says:

    With that caveat aside, it should be clear that for DiGiacomo people can believe the gospel, believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, believe that Jesus died for them and that He alone is their righteousness, yet still be lost. That’s because according to DiGiacomo in addition to believing the gospel alone and Christ’s finished work outside of ourselves, one must also possess a “disposition of commitment” within. Belief alone is not enough. To be saved you need something more.

    I must really be confused, Sean. For I’ve always understood the “disposition of commitment” that’s produced within us to be part of the Holy Spirit’s work of sanctification and the result of one’s believing the gospel (i.e., “Christ’s finished work outside of ourselves”) for justification. It seems to me that DiGiacomo, Strange, Keister and the rest of these men are on the same road to Rome as the Federal Visionists; they’re just bringing up the rear a bit.

  4. Sean Gerety Says:

    I’ve always understood the “disposition of commitment” that’s produced within us to be part of the Holy Spirit’s work of sanctification and the result of one’s believing the gospel

    I’m not exactly sure what this disposition is as I had never heard of it before, but I have accused Strange and the rest of confusing the fruits of faith with faith itself and it would seem I was right to do so. What I found amazing was Ron’s responses to Fowler White’s questions, particularly when he asked:

    I’m not clear on how a person assents to the truth of the proposition “Christ’s death was for my sins” and that assent not entail personal appropriation of Christ’s death for one’s sins. In other words, why does that assent — in effect, “Christ died for me” — not entail the trust you’re concerned to affirm?

    I realize you’ve asked this same question repeatedly as well, but I would have thought coming from White it would have at least caused these men to pause and reflect. Pride is a deadly thing.

    Imagine what it would mean if the were to admit that Clark was right over and against the magisterial Reformed blah, blah, blah? It’s easy for me as I’ve got nothing to lose, but I’ve always suspected that Lane has aspirations toward WSC and Strange has already invested so much of his professional capital attacking Clark that no matter how many times his arguments have been refuted, and by Scripture, he can do nothing but hold his hands over his ears and yell loudly. DiGiacomo is a different case entirely, but I suspect his thenomistic roots are starting to show.

  5. Sean Gerety Says:

    Therefore its synonyms are: acceptance, compliance, sanction. To give mental assent with understanding is a tautology since acceptance or “express agreement” implies intellectual apprehension

    Hi Gus. I understand what you’re saying and I agree you can’t assent to something you don’t understand, but you can still understand something without assenting to it. Further, you can misunderstand the meaning of some proposition and assent to a misunderstanding. Consequently, I wouldn’t necessarily say that defining faith as the combination of understanding and assent is tautological, although I would agree it might be a bit redundant. What is tautological is the addition of fiducia or trust since it doesn’t add anything to our understanding of what faith is and is tantamount to defining the word with the word you’re trying to define, as men like Strange and DiGiacomo have made so painfully clear. 🙂

  6. Roger Says:

    I’m not exactly sure what this disposition is as I had never heard of it before…

    I was assuming that it meant “a commitment to follow Christ’s teachings” or something along those lines. But who knows? I may be reading more into it than is warranted.

    What’s fiducia? It’s that nebulous “thingamajig” that’s missing from belief in Christ alone and on which one’s eternal destiny rests! It’s all so clear now…

  7. Sean Gerety Says:

    Just a quick aside, but if you haven’t seen this post by Lane Keister on his blog from 2011 it might be worth checking out:

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

  8. Stephen Welch Says:

    Wow, it seems from this entry by Lane in 2011 he was following your argument and at least agreeing with some of your points. What happened? He seems to have taken a different attitude in the recent entry. Am I missing something, Sean?

  9. justbybelief Says:

    David Reece nailed it in the first comment. He cleared up what “personal appropriation” is, that is, assent to a proposition.

    It seems Mr. Baggins and company don’t like clear language. I suppose that if there were clarity one would not need a priesthood.

  10. Stephen Welch Says:

    I missed this discussion in 2011 on GreenBaggins but David Reece quoted Lane here, “Second, a point of clarification, you said, “On the one hand, when looking at the Clarkian position, the tendency has been to say that Clark believes in salvation by intellectual assent alone. This is not what Clark is saying. Clark most definitely includes a personal appropriation of the truth of the Gospel when he talks about saving faith.” Interestingly it seems like Lane is in agreement with Clark at least in 2011. I do not believe that Allan Strange is heretical but does have a disdain for Clark as many Van Tillians do. I found Ron DiGiacomo unclear and confusing in his position.

  11. Sean Gerety Says:

    Wow, it seems from this entry by Lane in 2011 he was following your argument and at least agreeing with some of your points. What happened? He seems to have taken a different attitude in the recent entry. Am I missing something, Sean?

    @Stephen. Nope, you’re not missing a thing. I can only guess, but I would suspect a fear of men might play a role. Who knows?

    FWIW, he wrote me, along with all of his moderators, just prior to booting me from commenting on his blog and explained that the only reason he had cut me “some slack” and even allowed me to comment on his blog at all was because I was “more or less right on the Doug Wilson thing.” More or less right? Give me a break. He explained his view of how to define faith was “still somewhat in flux.”

    Stop right there. How on earth can anyone’s definition of faith be “somewhat in flux”? If faith is the alone instrument by which a sinner is justified and is the doctrine on which the church stands or falls, it is reprehensible that Lane would have the conceit to portray himself as a defender of JBFA when he doesn’t even have a clear grasp of what faith is! How could he have the audacity to think he was remotely qualified to debate Wilson on his blog, much less be a witness — and the chief witness at that — in the Leithart trial!

    Lane’s lack of a clear and unambiguous understanding of faith was the reason he was completely wrong on “the Doug Wilson thing” and is why after a year of back and forth with Wilson publicly debating “Reformed Is Not Enough, ” he concluded by pronouncing Wilson sound on JBFA. Lane wrote at that time 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.”

    After this year long debate the only fault Lane could find in Wilson was that “he will not distance himself from any error of the FV, no matter how egregious.” Not surprisingly, Wilson immediately announced on his blog; “[Keister] has not found anything that would place me outside the pale of Reformed orthodoxy . . . .”

    Now, you might recall, for literally months before Lane taking up RINE on his blog, Wilson had been scouring Reformed blogs and forums challenging ANYONE to debate him on the FV. Lane was the only one to take the bait.

    That was in 2008. However, two years later he reversed himself and announced that “every proponent of the Joint Federal Vision Statement denies sola fide.” Excuse me, but I’d say at that point it was too little, too late. Wilson had cleaned Lane’s clock and it was precisely because Lane’s understanding of faith was, and still is, “in flux.”

    Yet, despite the fact that his moderators, particularly Reed DePace, were completely biased, abusive and heavy handed (see http://tinyurl.com/pogdsam) and that Alan Strange ended up embarrassing himself in his pathetic attempt to defend the traditional and tautological threefold definition of saving faith (see http://tinyurl.com/pbpsqtq), Lane wrote:

    I wonder sometimes if your faith is in reason and logic too much. In your reaction to Van Til, for instance, you reject any and all kinds of mystery in the Christian faith, as if our minds were as capable of understanding everything as God’s own mind. Is there any limit at all to what human reason and logic can attain? Is there a Creator/creature distinction? I’m not sure there is in your thinking. This makes you so sure of your positions that you look down on people who differ from you in almost any way. There is almost no charity at all when you differ from someone. It is what Scott Clark calls the quest for illegitimate religious certainty.

    I am going to have to ban you at least temporarily from the blog, as painful as this is for me to do. You have a lot to contribute in the way of theology, but your emotional maturity is not very high. I say this without any vitriol in my soul at all. I am seeking to correct you in as loving a way as I can. I have small hopes that you will receive this well. But know this: my motives are to seek to help you become more mature emotionally. You have dwelt so long in the realms of logic and reason that emotions don’t seem to make much sense to you. But they are God-given just as much as logic and reason are.

    Lane is a Vantillian. His weak understanding of faith and saving faith is driven by his un-biblical view of mystery and a corrupt understanding of the Creator/creature distinction. Yet, Lane can’t see the relationship between Van Til and the FV. While iron may sharpen iron, it can’t do anything to a wet noodle. 🙂

  12. justbybelief Says:

    Has it occurred to anyone that these men, Baggins et al, are disingenuous and divisive. They refuse the correct definition of ‘faith’ because it would stop the endless debate (created by their denial), and they would loose control over their ‘reformed’ club jeopardizing their position and title.

    Maybe they’ve assumed their positions for the very purpose of keeping the faith confusing putting stumbling blocks before God’s elect. The apostles and Jesus certainly didn’t ignore this possibility.

    In my mind it is past time to debate and these men should be told to repent or perish.

    “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”

  13. Stephen Welch Says:

    Sean, I am sorry for the experience you had on GreenBaggins, but am not surprised. I saw some of the same thing years ago on Puritan Board and it left me feeling nautious. He cut you out of the discussion but allows Papists to rant on and on. I do not understand this. The problem with GreenBaggins is there are too many people who do not know the issues or cannot offer a clear and articult argument. Remember most people on GreenBaggins are VanTillians, so you will not have a favorable reception. Sean, I was curious who Ron DiGiacomo is; I am not familiar with him.

  14. Sean Gerety Says:

    Has it occurred to anyone that these men, Baggins et al, are disingenuous and divisive. They refuse the correct definition of ‘faith’ because it would stop the endless debate (created by their denial), and they would loose control over their ‘reformed’ club jeopardizing their position and title.

    I do think Van Til’s followers do have a tendency toward ecclesiastic authoritarianism and a distorted view of their own positions and power as elders, seminary profs and the like. They also have the tendency to think their word, just because it is their word, ends all debate. This is why you routinely see appeals to the Fifth Commandment coming from these men even at the questioning of some elder who might say some of the stupidest things. That card was even played in this debate as Lane complained I was “too harsh” in some of my comments and that I didn’t show the appropriate submissiveness particularly to Dr. Strange. For example, in that email I cite above, Lane wrote:

    Do you really need to be so angry at the majority of the Reformed world? Do Van Tillians have so little in common with you that such strong language is necessary as you use to Dr. Strange? Mid-America Reformed Seminary’s position on the FV is well-known as being thoroughly antithetical to it. I plead with you to reflect on how you have addressed Dr. Strange. There are quite a few people who are not happy with how things stand at the moment.

    Now, maybe Dr. Strange complained privately to Lane, but he seemed to be able to give as well as take it in my debate with him on Lane’s blog and here on this blog in part one of this series. He didn’t strike me as a fainting Lilly and appeared to be made of pretty tough stuff, but maybe I was wrong. But, if he had a problem with something I said, I would think he’s big enough to say something to me directly. After all, I thought some of the things Reed DePace said to me on Lane’s blog were completely out of line and I told him so privately. Of course, he told me to basically go scratch, but I don’t need someone else to handle things for me if I think I’ve been offended. But, then, I guess I’m not part of their “Reformed club.”

  15. Sean Gerety Says:

    @Stephen. DiGiacomo is an OPC elder (or, last I checked he was) and runs a blog; The Reformed Apologist (http://reformedapologist.blogspot.com/ ). I think it’s also safe to say that he’s a Theonomist and certainly a Vantillian, but to his credit he does have some appreciation for Clark (even though he said on his blog that he would recommend Clark to virtually no one). And, while he’s on the wrong side in this fight, there have been a number of times when he and I have been very much on the same side. FWIW, he is one of my favorite Vantillians and seems like a genuinely nice guy.

  16. Pht Says:

    RD: What is there to elaborate upon? Since false beliefs are commonplace there would seem to be a burden of proof to explain why one cannot believe falsely about the Savior’s work on one’s behalf. But I’ll assume the challenge to move things along. I can think of many scenarios in which such can be the case. An easy one would entail one who believes everything their parents tell him. So they believe this too without any serious reflection, let alone without receiving and resting in Christ. Certainly one can assent without counting the cost, yet still be assenting. Most of our assents work that way.

    Wait a hot second here – the child doesn’t believe everything the parent says for no reason. They believe everything the parent says because they think everything the parent says is WORTHY OF BELIEF for whatever reason(s)!

    RD:

    If one believes the propositions contained in fortune cookies no matter what the proposition is and then comes across one with the gospel proposition in question, would that person be saved?

    Gross strawman. Anyone who believes in fortune cookies as truth teller isn’t saved by merely reading, or even reading and understanding the gospel in the fortune cookie, for the simple reason that they don’t believe the fortune cookie is God’s voice (and gee, as christians, we define “God” from the bible, right?). In fact, it doesn’t matter HOW the gospel comes to a person – if they are not of the elect, they WILL NOT understand AND assent to the truth of the gospel. At this time in history, God has chosen the bible, as it is read and preached, as the normative means of salvation. Those who are elect WILL have the gospel come to them in propositional (true/false) form, even if they’re in an islamic country and went to a well because of a vision and found a christian missionary at the bottom of it.

    … all of this destruction and confusion because people can’t or WON’T make the distinction between belief and what MUST, as a consequence logically follow after understanding and assenting to the gospel. Yet if you ask them if 1+1=2, they’ll say yes, and than you ask them, is the “2” 1+1? or the necessary result of 1+1? … they’ll say it’s the necessary result. Than they’ll turn right around and say that 1+1 IS 2, not EQUALS 2. A blunder of horrible proportions; mistaking a logical conclusion for identity.

  17. Lauren Kuo Says:

    John 3:8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.

    Don’t you think that those who have a problem with accepting “faith alone” are in a sense trying to explain the wind? It’s like the blind man trying to explain how he could see. The Pharisees kept hounding him for an explanation and all he could say was, “I once was blind and now I see.” Then he went on his way rejoicing in the miracle while being thrown out of the synagogue.

    Because justifying faith cannot be explained and analyzed but remains a mystery, theologians can’t stand the thought of leaving it alone. To the unconverted churchman, something visual has to be added. But isn’t that what all other false religions do?

  18. Sean Gerety Says:

    I don’t agree that justifying faith cannot be explained or analyzed. It can be and quite easily, accurately and unambiguously. The problem is modern Reformed theologians like Alan Strange and Lane Keister (although he claims his view on the topic are “in flux” while acting like a man who has made his mind up) all believe that justifying or saving faith is a mystery. That’s the problem. It is not a mystery at all. All who believe the gospel will be saved. What these men maintain is that faith is more than belief when all the Scriptures know is “pistis.” For DiGiacomo saving faith is to have a “disposition of commitment.” How exactly that differs from the FV’s “living trust” or a “personally loyal faith” is indeed a mystery.

    As John Robbins explained, and as I quoted him in part one, the problem lies in that

    …most Christians have not yet recognized is that the common Protestant view of saving faith as something more than belief of the Gospel has fueled and will continue to fuel denials of justification by faith alone so long as it prevails. Until faith is understood as mere belief – the Bible makes no distinction between the two words – the justification controversy will continue, and those defending justification by faith alone will continue to be embarrassed by their agreement with the deniers of justification, that belief of the Gospel is not enough for salvation.

    I don’t think a clear understanding of faith and saving faith is like “trying to explain the wind” at all. It is absolutely essential if men want to refute and expose those who, like the FV, deny that faith is the alone instrument in justification. They need to know what faith is. After all, the best way to identify a counterfeit is by having a clear understanding and familiarity with the genuine article.

    The reason the FV men have been so successful in the PCA and beyond is because these self-styled Reformed “stalwarts,” these “Watchmen of Israel,” have no clear idea what faith is at all, much less what differentiates ordinary faith from saving faith.

  19. brandonadams Says:

    Thanks for your labors, Sean

  20. Hugh McCann Says:

    Stephen, I like your term, “nautious.”

    Is that a combo of nauseous & cautious? 🙂

  21. Stephen Welch Says:

    Hugh, I just realized I misspelled nauseous. Wow, how did I do that? I guess I created a new word, so yes “nautious” is a combination of the two words 🙂

  22. Ron Says:

    Hi Sean,

    I’m interested in clearing up just one or two misunderstandings and then I’ll make a couple of observations regarding some other comments you made. I’m not terribly inclined to argue about faith anytime soon.

    I wrote: “One does not will to believe that God exists any more than a child chooses to believe he is being fed by his mother.”

    You responded with:

    While on a plane this past week I saw a stewardess pick up a woman’s baby who was on her way to her grandparents in order to celebrate her fist birthday. After a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday” (OK, I wasn’t very rousing), the stewardess said; “Where’s your mommy.” The willful child started to reach out to her mother. Was her choice of this one woman out of a half dozen or so other women seated nearby a choice… Was her choice of this one woman out of a half dozen or so other women seated nearby a choice? Was it an act of will? It would seem so.

    Your child analogy points to a premise we already agree upon. People make choices based upon beliefs. But that does not address the question of whether the beliefs themselves are chosen. Roping this in a bit, although a child might choose to be fed by his mother, or in the plane analogy choose his mother over other women nearby, these observations do not address claims about whether beliefs are chosen. I hope you can recognize that the plane analogy only confirms that one chose his mother over other woman. It does not suggest that the child chose to believe that the person he wanted to be with was his mother.

    Notice, DiGiacomo uses assent and trust interchangeably and even recognizes it as a gift that God grants to believers. So far, so good. Frankly, I would say this is precisely what makes someone a believer. Yet, according the DiGiacomo unbelievers can also assent to the proposition “Jesus died for me” without being “granted the gift of assent or trust.” Huh? How can someone assent and not assent to the same proposition?

    I didn’t use assent and trust interchangeably. I wrote: “…the difference is the believer’s assent is accompanied by the completion of faith by God granting him to trust…” Clearly assent is distinguished from trust in that statement. Then after writing that, I then wrote in the same post: “The unbeliever has not been taught by God but by flesh and blood. He isn’t granted the gift of assent or trust.” I think you took “or” in the equivalent sort of way, whereas I was trying to communicate that the unbeliever doesn’t have either. I was not using “or” to define assent in other words. For years I’ve distinguished assent from trust so there was really no reason not to interpret my more recent words in any other way but especially given that I plainly noted that when saving faith obtains assent is completed by trust, underscoring the distinction between assent and trust, or so it would seem to me.

    The other things I wanted to address are your remarks about my theonomic views and your eagerness to index my alleged contradictions to my being Van Tillian. First, I don’t see how you can connect one’s views on the relevance of the civil case laws to his views on faith. After all, most people who oppose your view of faith are not theonomists. Secondly, whether you think I’m Van Tillian or not, I’ve stood with you over and against views on apparent contradiction. So, I don’t find this rhetoric terribly germane or helpful.

    God’s blessings to you,

    Ron

  23. Steve M Says:

    “The unbeliever has not been taught by God but by flesh and blood. He isn’t granted the gift of assent or trust.”

    Ron
    You have argued that the both the reprobate and the elect can understand and assent to the gospel, but now it sounds like you are making assent a gift from God. Do you mean to do so? I’m confused.

  24. Ron Says:

    Steve,

    Actually, I thought of putting in a clarifying parenthetical anticipating such a query. When God calls one of His elect He grants the entirety of faith, which includes assent. Saving faith, which includes assent, is a gift from God. However, it’s the non-Clarkian contention that people can assent without being saved. So, naturally in such cases assent is not a gift from God (lest God grants half gifts). So, in such cases assent can be void of being grounded upon the authority of God’s word. It can be based upon flesh and blood.

  25. Steve M Says:

    Ron
    Thanks for the explanation. Now I’m more confused.

  26. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean, Stephen, Eric, Steve, You’re all a bunch of flippin’ ignoramuses. THAT’S your problem.

    Ron DiG is an OPC RE, fer cryin’ out loud! He’s ordained, trained in philosophy, and VERY smart! Are any of you any of these things?

    Didn’t think so.

    How dare you accuse him of anything confusing, or even try to think at his level?

    You are not worthy – that is sadly very clear. The simple reason you’re confused is because you are unable to grasp simple paradox, antimony, and apparent contradiction. Every mature believer knows that mystery is the zenith of the Christian life. And, of course, at the same time, the nadir.

    Granted, all of this does take a superior mind, and I glad to announce that I am finally on my way to having one.

    I bought the CVT CDs of his works,
    I have burned my $50,000 worth of Clark books (Acts 19:19),
    I asked Cornelius into my heart (Isa. 45:16),
    and now have peace with the divine Paradox (Rom. 5:1).

  27. Roger Says:

    However, it’s the non-Clarkian contention that people can assent without being saved. So, naturally in such cases assent is not a gift from God (lest God grants half gifts). So, in such cases assent can be void of being grounded upon the authority of God’s word. It can be based upon flesh and blood.

    The “non-Clarkian” position is unbiblical, plain and simple. Men in their natural or unregenerate state “do not” and “cannot” assent to the understood propositions of the gospel:

    “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” (1 Cor. 2:14)

    If the “natural” man cannot accept or understand the gospel, then he most certainly cannot assent to its truthfulness – for it is “foolishness to him.” With this, John Calvin agrees:

    For [Paul] teaches that the reason why [the gospel] is condemned is that it is unknown, and that the reason why it is unknown is that it is too profound and sublime to be apprehended by the understanding of man. What a superior wisdom this is, which so far transcends all human understanding, that man cannot have so much as a taste of it! While, however, Paul here tacitly imputes it to the pride of the flesh, that mankind dare to condemn as foolish what they do not comprehend, he at the same time shows how great is the weakness or rather bluntness of the human understanding, when he declares it to be incapable of spiritual apprehension. For he teaches, that it is not owing simply to the obstinacy of the human will, but to the impotency, also, of the understanding, that man does not attain to the things of the Spirit. Had he said that men are not willing to be wise, that indeed would have been true, but he states farther that they are not able.

  28. Sean Gerety Says:

    Ron writes:

    Your child analogy points to a premise we already agree upon. People make choices based upon beliefs. But that does not address the question of whether the beliefs themselves are chosen. Roping this in a bit, although a child might choose to be fed by his mother, or in the plane analogy choose his mother over other women nearby, these observations do not address claims about whether beliefs are chosen. I hope you can recognize that the plane analogy only confirms that one chose his mother over other woman.

    Fair enough. People do make choices based upon beliefs, even infants, but you beg the question when you assert that “Most of the things we assent to, whether a priori or a posteriori, are not volitional.” I guess your objection here cuts both ways and precisely for the reason I gave and that’s because you have no idea how an infant arrives at the belief he is being fed by his mother. I would have thought it was a gradual thing that takes root in a child’s mind and which eventually forms the belief “this is my mother and she feeds me.” I would think that belief arose from somewhere which would certainly suggest volition. I would also think the volitional element of that child’s assent to the belief that this woman is her mother was demonstrated by her response to the Stewardesses question, “Where is your mommy?” After all, the child didn’t come to believe that woman A is her mother in a vacuum. Moses came to believe that Pharaoh’s daughter was his mother until he was disabused of that belief later on. I would think that what precedes a belief, even in the mind of a baby, is a matter of volition. However, you seem to think most of our beliefs spring up magically in our minds from the ether or perhaps are part of our original endowment. But, again, you have no idea how a baby comes to believe anything and I don’t either, but I do know that all assents are volitional.

    I suspect the problem you and others have with Clark is that you have an insufficient understanding of what is involved in assent. A non-volitional assent is no assent at all.

    I didn’t use assent and trust interchangeably. I wrote: “…the difference is the believer’s assent is accompanied by the completion of faith by God granting him to trust…” Clearly assent is distinguished from trust in that statement. Then after writing that, I then wrote in the same post: “The unbeliever has not been taught by God but by flesh and blood. He isn’t granted the gift of assent or trust.” I think you took “or” in the equivalent sort of way, whereas I was trying to communicate that the unbeliever doesn’t have either. I was not using “or” to define assent in other words.

    I did take your use of assent and trust as equivalents when you said that the unbeliever “isn’t granted the gift of assent or trust.” I thought you just made a slip and we were momentarily in agreement with me and that you were actually making a sound theological point. After all, elsewhere you admit; “to trust a proposition is true is no different than to assent to its truth. So, in that sense trust and assent are synonyms.” But, then you have also asserted that someone can assent to or believe the Gospel and still be lost. As Steve correctly points out above the problem is you also say that the unbeliever can assent to or believe the Gospel, believe in the finished work of Christ on his behalf, yet still be lost. Consequently, the unbeliever does have assent or belief (which is a contradiction in terms), yet lacks trust. In any case, I’m no closer to understanding what you mean by trust and as something that completes faith?

    For you trust in the saving sense and assent are not synonymous. Therefore, for you trust is not the belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective, etc. Consequently, trust in it’s most important sense, and in the sense by which sinners are saved, is still a complete mystery wrapped in some of the most strained and confused argumentation I’ve ever suffered through.

    So what is trust since it’s not defined in terms of a belief in the reliability of someone or something? Elsewhere you say that what completes faith is the “disposition of commitment.” Is this what you mean by “trust”? And, if so, how would you differentiate your view from that which completes faith in the FV? They define trust in terms of “personal loyalty” or a “living trust” and, like you, say this “is part of what God does in us in biblical salvation.” You said this “disposition of commitment” precedes works, but haven’t the FV men said the same thing concerning their “living trust”? They share your idea that trust is something in addition to and different from belief or assent and is what completes faith. I just don’t know where you end and they begin.

    From what I can tell you guys are all saying the same thing.

    For years I’ve distinguished assent from trust so there was really no reason not to interpret my more recent words in any other way but especially given that I plainly noted that when saving faith obtains assent is completed by trust, underscoring the distinction between assent and trust, or so it would seem to me.

    But you still haven’t explained what trust is? Clearly for you it is not belief in a proposition in the future tense, such as “He will do good to me.” It is not the belief that someone or something is reliable, etc. Frankly, it’s not belief in any proposition at all for then you would be forced to admit “to trust a proposition is true is no different than to assent to its truth.” For you what completes faith is some internal psychological disposition that God infuses within a person and which somehow completes their assent or belief in the Gospel and Christ’s finished work making it saving.

    Maybe you have tried to distinguished assent from trust for years, but from what I can tell all those years have been wasted. But, don’t take my word for it. Even after all your carefully (albeit confusing) argumentation where you try to distinguish asset from trust you have Dr. White wondering; “I’m not clear on how a person assents to the truth of the proposition ‘Christ’s death was for my sins’ and that assent not entail personal appropriation of Christ’s death for one’s sins. In other words, why does that assent — in effect, ‘Christ died for me’ — not entail the trust you’re concerned to affirm?”

    White is absolutely spot on and that which is completely elusive in your convoluted understanding of saving faith is made perfectly plain and transparent in White’s simple questioning. Why you don’t get this is mind blowing. It is really scary that someone so bright can be so in the dark when it comes to something so obvious and elementary, not to mention central to the Christian faith.

    In any case, thank you for finally coming out of the woodwork and coming here to defend your position.

  29. Ron Says:

    Sean,

    Maybe I’d stop by more if you’d censure the ridicule and non-arguments that we find between my post and yours. I appreciate that to do so might be construed as hypocritical since arguably such posts sometimes resemble your own.

    Trust is a synonym for belief when used in this sort of way: I trust that California has not drifted into the Pacific Ocean in the past hour. When trust is used that way it means that I regard the proposition true. There is no dependence upon the proposition intended in such an employment of “trust”. Trust in such cases merely means assent. Trust can be used another way too. It can mean something different than assent. No matter what side of the issue one is on, in philosophy assent is distinguished from what is called “acceptance” (which means reliance upon, i.e. trust).

    It’s been my contention all along that Clarkians operate under the supposition that “all assents are chosen.” Recently I was told by a Clarkian that “this is very poorly worded” and that I should have written: “The propositions to which one assents are chosen (i.e. selected from two or more possibilities).” I’m going to interact with this though I don’t want to put words into the mouths of other Clarkians.

    This person defined choice as “an act of selecting or making a decision.” Fine, now let’s apply that definition to the revision of this Clarkian axiom. What is it to make a decision that “all men are mortal” or to select “the sky is blue today”? I understand what it is to think that these propositions are true but how do such assents constitute a willful decision? Does one choose “the ice cream is vanilla” or does one choose vanilla ice cream? Obviously the latter because we don’t choose propositions, we simply believe them and then choose accordingly. So, although I have somewhat of an inkling of what is meant by the Clarkian claim: “I choose to believe that p* (e.g., “I choose to believe that the ice cream is vanilla”),” I have no idea what is meant by choosing p* itself (i.e., “I choose the ice cream is vanilla.”). If Clarkians want to unite in affirming this revision then let’s get talking about choosing propositions, like the laws of logic. But until more come forward with this revision, I am going to zero in on what I’m quite sure is the Clarkian position, that we choose to believe our assents to propositions, like assent to the laws of logic, as opposed to choosing propositions themselves.

    Before advancing, this would be a good time to review that if we choose x-belief then that choice must be based upon other beliefs (e.g., t, u,v,w…). And, wouldn’t those more foundational beliefs have to be chosen since there can be no regress stopper (like basic beliefs) given the Clarkian axiom that whenever we assent a choice is made? Consequently, given this axiom that affords no room for a regress stopper we are left with an infinite regress. {Actually, I can think of one alternative but it would be “worse” (if that were somehow possible). Clarkians can go with the idea that choices are not predicated upon any beliefs whatsoever while maintaining that assents are chosen. That would eliminate the infinite regress conundrum but at the high price of destroying the very concept of choice, which is supposed to presuppose a decision based upon beliefs (whether rational or irrational; justified or unjustified). I digress.} Back to the infinite regress dilemma. We can go the way of this other Clarkian by defending infinite regress by noting that an infinite number of points exist between any two points. But that is hardly a defense of infinite regress (as was already shown). Or, maybe all Clarkians might join this particular Clarkian by arguing like the pagan skeptics when they say that justified true belief (JTB) leads to an infinite regress of justifications, making JTB a non-starter and thereby destroying their definition of knowledge. (For the Christian the Bible’s revelation ends all justification for anything that can be known.)

    Now to some new stuff… Regarding logic and choice: all choices are predicated upon at least some degree of rational analyses (even apart from self-awareness of the process) so that a “decision” (or selection) can be made between contradictories. Added to this, we can safely say that willful decisions presuppose assent (albeit unconscious assent in most cases) to the law of identity (lest one can decide between two propositions without distinguishing them). Yet the law of identity is itself a proposition. How, then, can assent to the propositional law of identity be an act of the will if assent to the law of identity is a precondition for any choice, including that alleged one, to obtain?! How does one choose the laws of non-contradiction and excluded middle without first assenting to them so that his choice might be intelligible?!

    Clarkians like to assert that their position has not been dealt with, but what more can one do? It’s been shown that their position leads to an infinite regress that would preclude the possibility of any choice, and secondly it has been adequately demonstrated that the Clarkian axiom that all our assents are chosen is internally inconsistent and self-refuting on the basis that choices of assents presuppose that at least some unchosen assents already be in place. (Actually, I have argued elsewhere that this reductio of their position is even more universal, extending beyond laws of logic, since any alleged choice to believe any proposition would presuppose that the proposition is already believed to be true, otherwise why would one “choose” to believe it?!)
    The Reformed position on saving faith is that one doesn’t just intellectually assent to the gospel but rather men also willfully entrust themselves to Christ. Clarkians exchange this act of the will for assent to additional propositions. In doing so they do not affirm willful trust as part of saving faith but rather eliminate it altogether, replacing it with additional assents. In an effort to hold on to some semblance of a willful saving-faith they must posit that all assents are products of the will, which leads to many silly conclusions (as have been fleshed out). In any case, they reason that all assents presuppose non-affirmation of the contradictory of the assented to proposition; they then leap to the conclusion that these mental states of affairs are chosen. In other words, if one believes p* then he must, also, reject ~p*, therefore, a choice is made to assent to p* (or in this other Clarkian’s case: p* itself is chosen). Such reasoning is not deductive. It’s simply garden variety question begging.

  30. Sean Gerety Says:

    Trust is a synonym for belief when used in this sort of way: I trust that California has not drifted into the Pacific Ocean in the past hour. When trust is used that way it means that I regard the proposition true. There is no dependence upon the proposition intended in such an employment of “trust”. Trust in such cases merely means assent. Trust can be used another way too. It can mean something different than assent. No matter what side of the issue one is on, in philosophy assent is distinguished from what is called “acceptance” (which means reliance upon, i.e. trust).

    I have defined trust as belief in the reliability of someone or something. Acceptance is agreeing either expressly or by conduct to the act or offer of another. Sounds to me more like another synonym of assent, but I can fully understand why some of the things you say are subject to ridicule.

    So now trust is “dependence” and means “reliance upon,” but how does that differ from how I have, or how Clark has, defined trust in terms of belief? It seems to me that you are again attempting to make a distinction without a difference

    It’s been my contention all along that Clarkians operate under the supposition that “all assents are chosen.”

    I can’t speak for all “Clarkians,” but I do agree with Clark that assent entails the will. A non-volitional assent is a contradiction in terms, much like your unbelieving believer. Leaving the question of whether or not all assents involve a choice, certainly you would agree that coming to saving faith, believing the Gospel, requires a choice. Yes? I mean, what is repentance anyway but a change of mind. However, where I would say with the Confession that assent to the Gospel concerning Christ’s finished work for the pardon of sins and his righteousness imputed is saving, you say it’s not. More is needed, yet you keep fumbling around playing word games that amount to precisely nothing.

    The Reformed position on saving faith is that one doesn’t just intellectually assent to the gospel but rather men also willfully entrust themselves to Christ.

    What does it mean to “willfully entrust”? How it this different from belief in the reliability of something or someone one? How does this “willful trust” bypass the intellect? It clearly is more than trust which you admit is a synonym of assent at least in the ordinary sense of the word. What does the word “willfully” add to the word “trust” that in combination becomes the third element that when added to understanding and assent can alone save a sinner?

    Clarkians exchange this act of the will for assent to additional propositions.

    Clarkians and Clark just refuse to assent to undefined terms. I want to know what willful trust means as opposed to simple trust as I have defined it?

    In doing so they do not affirm willful trust as part of saving faith but rather eliminate it altogether, replacing it with additional assents.

    Yes, we eliminate “willful trust” because we have NO IDEA WHAT IT MEANS! If I believe that Jesus died for my sins how is this not trusting that Jesus died for my sins? What does “willful trust” add to anything? How does saying I believe that Jesus died for my sins, but I also willfully trust that he did add anything to anything? How does the word “willfully” modify the word “trust”? How can you unwilling trust in something or someone?

    As far as I can see, you are no different from Alan Strange who when asked to define in literal language the Confessional figure of speech concerning “receiving and resting” could only use more figures of speech. Now you have added to the list by adding the figure of speech to “willfully trust,” but that does THAT mean?

  31. Sean Gerety Says:

    Further, I want to know how your “disposition of commitment” differs from how the men of the FV define saving faith?

  32. Sean Gerety Says:

    And, how is a “willful trust” different from the FV’s “living trust”?

  33. Ron Says:

    If beliefs are chosen, then the first choice must have been void of any belief. What is it to choose apart from belief in anything?

  34. Roger Says:

    However, you seem to think most of our beliefs spring up magically in our minds from the ether…

    Apparently you were correct, Sean. Ron believes that most of our beliefs “spring up magically in our minds from the ether” for no rational reason whatsoever. But since this couldn’t possibly be a “volitional” assent/belief on his part (after all, no such thing exists), we shouldn’t hold it against him!

    If beliefs are chosen, then a man’s first belief was obviously an act of his will (i.e., a volitional choice between two or more possibilities of what to believe). There’s no infinite regress. We are finite beings. As Sean has already pointed out, “A non-volitional assent is a contradiction in terms, much like your unbelieving believer.”

  35. Ron Says:

    If beliefs are chosen, then a man’s first belief was obviously an act of his will (i.e., a volitional choice between two or more possibilities of what to believe). There’s no infinite regress.

    I already addressed that, Roger. “Clarkians can go with the idea that choices are not predicated upon any beliefs whatsoever while maintaining that assents are chosen. That would eliminate the infinite regress conundrum but at the high price of destroying the very concept of choice, which is supposed to presuppose a decision based upon beliefs (whether rational or irrational; justified or unjustified).”

    More fundamentally, the construct you just offered entails an agent choosing between propositions without first believing that p is p and that ~p is ~p.

  36. Sean Gerety Says:

    Ron, you don’t get it at all do you? This has nothing to do with being a “Clarkian.” This has to do with defining the sole instrument by which we are justified and you haven’t done that.

    Now, to his credit, Clark was the one who pointed out that the threefold definition is tautological, i.e., that the addition of “fiducia” or trust doesn’t add a single thing to faith’s definition. The only thing it does is to allow some nebulous, anti-intellectual and psychological component that shifts the focus from what Christ has accomplished for us completely outside of us, to something that you claim God does within us.

    Your fight is not with Clark or “Clarkians,” it is with Jesus Christ, the one you call Lord. Jesus said; “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.” Yet, instead of belief as the alone instrument by which we are justified, you say we also must possess a “disposition of commitment.” Then when I ask what that is you come back saying that what completes faith is to “willfully trust” in Christ, whatever that means.

    You, Alan and the rest of the vitriol spitting mods on Lane’s blog have only proven Clark right. You make his case.

    So, I’ll ask one more time nicely. I want to know exactly what a “disposition of commitment” is? I want to know what it means to “willfully trust” someone as opposed to trusting someone unwilling? If you can’t make sense out of what it is you mean and instead want to keep going down more irrelevant rabbit trails, then I think you should do us all a favor and go back into hiding.

  37. Ron Says:

    Ron believes that most of our beliefs “spring up magically in our minds from the ether” for no rational reason whatsoever.

    Do all things formed in man “spring up magically”? Did you choose your aspirations or were they formed in you? Indeed, beliefs and aspirations can be nurtured or quenched due to experience and choices. Notwithstanding, assents are acts of apprehension, not volition. Volitional acts are according to beliefs that must already be in place lest our choices do not engage the faculty of choice. They become non-willful movements.

  38. Sean Gerety Says:

    If beliefs are chosen, then the first choice must have been void of any belief. What is it to choose apart from belief in anything?

    Really, Ron? Do you even know what you’re saying? When someone comes to believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, they have gone from disbelief to belief in Christ. What could be more basic. Again, Jesus said; “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”

    I don’t know about you, but when I came to Christ I know now that God regenerated me so that I might freely choose Christ. I didn’t believe in Christ before believing in Him. Maybe things were different for you. Prior to coming to Christ I thought Christianity was complete and utter nonsense. What is disturbing is that since coming to Christ there have been countless Christians, even those calling themselves “Reformed,” who have done everything in their power to prove I was right the first time.

  39. Ron Says:

    Sean,

    Your position hangs on one axiom. “We choose our assents.” You’ve not come close to defending the article upon which your faith stands or falls, but here’s your chance. Getting off on Van Til, Federal Vision and all the rest is a waste of time. You have your chance to defend your axiom, which I’ve distilled for you. For some reason you haven’t. What you have done is confuse (i) a child’s choice to be with his mother with (ii) the belief that his mother is this woman and not any of those women.

    If beliefs are chosen, then the first choice must have been void of any belief. What is it to choose apart from belief in anything?

    Did you choose to believe the law of identity or was this belief formed in you?

  40. Sean Gerety Says:

    Straw man argument Ron. My axiom is Scripture. I have said that all assents are volitional. Do you deny that? I have said that “willful trust” is a meaningless phrase and you have not defined any of your terms, much less the horrid “disposition of commitment.” Even for the sake of argument if I grant that not all assents are chosen, which I think is an irrelevant rabbit trail, then do you deny that believing in Christ is a choice? We’re talking about justifying faith and you clearly don’t know what that entails. Fowler White schooled you on Lane’s blog and you still don’t get it.

    It seems all you want to do is play games Ron. I don’t have either the time an inclination to do so. Either address the questions I’ve raised, define your terms, or we’re done. Not very complicated.

  41. Steve M Says:

    Ron
    I have attempted to find a quote in which Clark says, “all assents are chosen”. That is apparently your own paraphrase. I did find a quote in which Clark said, “Naturally, all assent is voluntary.” You propose the idea that all assent is involuntary. I would agree that your involuntary assent will save no one. I do not find the concept of involuntary assent among the writings of the reformers. Maybe you could point me to the discussions on this subject that I have missed.

    As far as Clark’s axiom. It was not “all assents are chosen”, it was “The Bible is the word of God”. That axiom is the starting point of Clark’s philosophy.

    Back to “Naturally, all assent is voluntary”, Clark’s point is that assent is voluntary by its very nature. If it is not voluntary, it is not assent.

  42. Ron Says:

    I have said that all assents are volitional.

    Explain, Sean. Maybe do so in light of Roger’s: “If beliefs are chosen, then a man’s first belief was obviously an act of his will (i.e., a volitional choice between two or more possibilities of what to believe).

  43. Stephen Welch Says:

    Sean, I have been trying to follow some of this and am somewhat confused. Is not belief or faith a volitional choice or act of the will? Clark believed that knowledge, assent, and trust were all volitional. This sounds so simple. One cannot believe or trust unless the Lord opens his eyes and changes the heart. It seems to me that some in this discussion are making contradictions.

  44. Sean Gerety Says:

    It seems to me that some in this discussion are making contradictions.

    Me too.

  45. Stephen Welch Says:

    Sean, this is why I gave up on the GreenBaggins blog because it seemed like contradictions and confusion. Of course all of your blog entries were removed but the Roman Catholic apologist’s comments were left in place.

  46. Sean Gerety Says:

    Explain, Sean.

    Better, I’ll let Clark explain:

    For a good 1500 years Christian theologians have described human nature as intellectual and volitional. Jonathan Edwards, for example, wrote “God has endued the soul with two principal faculties: the one, that by which it is capable of perception and speculation, or by which it discerns and judges of things, which is called the understanding. The other, that by which the soul is some way inclined with respect to things it views or considers: or it is the faculty by which the soul beholds things…either as liking, disliking…approving or rejecting. This faculty is called…inclination, will…mind…often called heart.”

    The Lutherans too, at least those who, like the Missouri Synod, have preserved this orthodoxy, pay little or no attention to the emotions. Even in this decadent century their notable theologian, Pieper, in his Christian Dogmatics (page 519) very briefly, but twice, states the Lutheran position that the image consists of intellect and will. There is no mention of the emotions.

    This emphasis on the will has almost totally disappeared from what now passes as Christian preaching. Freudianism has replaced it with the emotions. Most pew-warmers do not realize that this emphasis is a very modern development. If one go back to the Westminster divines, to Calvin, even to Aquinas, and especially to Augustine, he will find that human nature is regularly divided into intellect and will. The point is important because faith in Christ is not an emotion but a volition. One does not feel for Christ, he decides for Christ. The Scripture says, Jesus himself said, “Except you repent, you shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). Note very carefully that repentance is a change of mind. Its root is the word noeō, “to think.” The noun nous is the intellect. And faith, by which one is justified, is a belief, a voluntary assent to an understood proposition.

    Begging your pardon, and with what modicum of modesty I can muster, may I remark that this month The Trinity Foundation has completed the publication of my book on The Biblical Doctrine of Man.

    Now today, in contrast with the Christianity of the past, Freudian emotionalism has replaced intellectualism, and volition seems to have been totally forgotten. Finney reduced evangelism to psychological brain-washing. A contemporary evangelistic, but non-ecclesiastical, group boasted that it could convert almost anybody in 20 minutes. They needed 35 minutes in England. This was not the attitude of Jonathan Edwards, of Whitefield, of Calvin, of Luther, nor of Augustine and Athanasius. These men emphasized the truth and urged people to believe the truth. Faith is no emotion. Faith is intellectual understanding with volitional assent.The Logos

  47. Sean Gerety Says:

    Of course all of your blog entries were removed but the Roman Catholic apologist’s comments were left in place.

    Really? That’s odd. I guess we know who these men are afraid of … and who they’re not.

  48. Ron Says:

    Sean,

    It would appear you are hiding behind a quote that fails to explain how the propositional law of identity can be chosen prior to regarding it as true.

    You’re problem Sean is that you’re running from a playbook that never delved into metaphysical considerations. Heck, Clark didn’t deal with epistemological matters with precision. When challenged all you do is quote irrelevant chunks of Clark, maybe because you haven’t thought through these things on your own. You’ve relied ONLY upon Clark.

  49. Ron Says:

    BTW, Sean, that we “decide” for Christ is not a defense of the premise that assent is a decision. You need to put Clark away, go into the woods and start thinking harder about these things.

  50. Ron Says:

    Approvingly Clark says” For a good 1500 years Christian theologians have described human nature as intellectual and volitional. .”

    The same Clark says: “The common opinion that an act of volition is different from an act of intellection is an illusion…”

    Well, Sean, which Clark do you affirm? No matter which, just defend your view that assent (to the law of identity for instance) is volitional.

    Disapprovingly Clark states: The Scholastics…may insist that logic is not a voluntary choice, for none can choose to think otherwise. If someone thinks otherwise, it is an involuntary error…

    Clark misses the point and argues by false disjunction. That willful acts are metaphysically necessary does not support his premise that intellection pertaining to logic is volitional. Clark’s desperate appeal to the choice of paying attention does not refute the position that “logic is not a voluntary choice.” It’s just a Red Herring.

    Another Clark musing: One must choose simply to think…

    That one chooses to pay attention (Clark’s appeal!) in order to think about the specific topic of quantum mechanics does mean that thinking is volitional in nature. It merely means that choices play a part in what we think about. But, if one chooses to think at all then it only stands to reason that if one was so inclined by God’s providence (in a Calvinistic sense) he could choose not to think. Your doxastic voluntarism is coming through.

  51. Roger Says:

    More fundamentally, the construct you just offered entails an agent choosing between propositions without first believing that p is p and that ~p is ~p.

    Ron, are you really so confused that you can’t distinguish between understanding and assent? Choosing to assent to one proposition over another only requires that one first understands that p is p and that ~p is ~p. Your argument is absurd.

    Notwithstanding, assents are acts of apprehension, not volition. Volitional acts are according to beliefs that must already be in place lest our choices do not engage the faculty of choice.

    No, understanding is an act of apprehension. Assent is an act of volition. You are making less and less sense with every post.

  52. Steve M Says:

    Roger
    I agree with you. Ron makes less and less sense with every post. We don’t need to refute him. We just need to keep him posting.

  53. Ron Says:

    Ron, are you really so confused that you can’t distinguish between understanding and assent? Choosing to assent to one proposition over another only requires that one first understands that p is p and that ~p is ~p. Your argument is absurd.

    Roger,

    Amusing (and telling). Your problem is you don’t understanding “understanding.” You would have us believe that understanding does not entail assent to anything.

    I perfectly understand the difference between understanding and assent. I also understand that assent to certain propositions is a necessary condition for understanding any proposition. One cannot understand the choice that is before him without also believing “there is a choice before me.” Also, one cannot choose x or ~x without also believing x means this and ~x means that. To understand the meaning of a proposition is to have a belief about the meaning of the proposition. Hence, one cannot make a choice between x and ~x without certain basic beliefs, like belief in the law of identity.

  54. Sean Gerety Says:

    You’re problem Sean is that you’re running from a playbook that never delved into metaphysical considerations.Heck, Clark didn’t deal with epistemological matters with precision.

    I admire your arrogance Ron. Clark has been the only Christian thinker to date who has offered a defensible and completely biblical epistemology. Who do you prefer, the so-called “Reformed Epistemologist” Michael “Hare Krishna” Sudduth or that high priest of paradox, James “Aquascum” Anderson? Now, it’s true that Clark never delved in to the metaphysical considerations that seem to consume the fevered minds of C. Van Til or you, but then Clark never said stupid things like God is both three persons and one person or your bit of metaphysical brilliance; the unbelieving believer.

    When challenged all you do is quote irrelevant chunks of Clark, maybe because you haven’t thought through these things on your own. You’ve relied ONLY upon Clark.

    The citation is very relevant. It demonstrates that you stand outside of the Reformed tradition and are in opposition to the magisterial Reformers to include the Westminster divines, Calvin, Luther, Whitfield, Edwards, and the countless other stalwarts who all agree that a non-volitional assent is a contradiction in terms. I’m sure they would have said the same about your unbelieving believer too, but the quote was enough to show the novelty of your claim that there are “mental assents that are not discursive; they are immediate and without reflection. The will is bypassed.” Or this piece of self-contradictory metaphysical brilliance; “Most of the things we assent to, whether a priori or a posteriori, are not volitional.”

    I’m surprised that the “Watchman of Israel,” Dr. Alan Strange, didn’t pick up on this, but then he seems to agree with any argument, no matter how vain or vacuous, that purports to support his threefold definition. Why he is even a man who would try to bluff his way out of an argument even pretending that “all” of the divines at Westminster intended for WLC 72 to be read in terms of the elements of justifying faith and not its object. Now, I can understand a Christian bluffing if he’s playing poker (although the Dutch Reformed have historically opposed all games of chance), but to bluff in a theological debate and over something so central to the Christian faith, even justification by faith alone, is just shameful.

    Regardless, I’m happy to disagree with Clark when he’s wrong, but you have done nothing to show that he is. I had hoped by now you would stop playing games thinking you can dazzle your opponents with all your metaphysical insights and actually focus on the main issues under discussion which is faith and saving faith. I want to know what is a “disposition of commitment” that you said completes faith and makes it saving.

  55. Sean Gerety Says:

    Approvingly Clark says” For a good 1500 years Christian theologians have described human nature as intellectual and volitional. .”

    The same Clark says: “The common opinion that an act of volition is different from an act of intellection is an illusion…”

    No contradiction here Ron. I’m guess you read so fast that you missed:

    Begging your pardon, and with what modicum of modesty I can muster, may I remark that this month The Trinity Foundation has completed the publication of my book on The Biblical Doctrine of Man.

    If you want to go down that rabbit trail too and discuss Clark’s doctrine of man I’d be happy to do so once you explain what a “disposition of commitment” is how it completes faith so that a poor sinner might be saved.

  56. Sean Gerety Says:

    No, understanding is an act of apprehension. Assent is an act of volition. You are making less and less sense with every post.

    Amen and amen. But, let’s not be so hard on Ron. Like Dr. Strange he has nothing else to go on. He can’t defend the traditional threefold definition head on so he needs to divert attention to irrelevant metaphysical discussions, similar to Strange’s ad populum where he wraps himself in the “magisterial Reformers” even when the Scriptures scream out in opposition to him and the divines at Westminster don’t support him.

    The bottom line; these men have nothing. The FV has succeeded in the PCA and beyond precisely because of them.

  57. Sean Gerety Says:

    Amusing (and telling). Your problem is you don’t understanding “understanding.” You would have us believe that understanding does not entail assent to anything.

    I perfectly understand the difference between understanding and assent. I also understand that assent to certain propositions is a necessary condition for understanding any proposition.

    Really, do I have to assent to communism to understand Das Kapital? Do I have to assent to “the Vaishnava bhakti traditions of India, the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta, and Zen Buddhism” to understand that Michael Sudduth is not and never was a Christian?

    Give it a break Ron. You’re looking desperate.

  58. Hugh McCann Says:

    Snot running down his nose,
    greasy fingers smearing shabby clothes.
    Hey, Aquascum.

    (Thanks, Sean; I guess.)

  59. Hugh McCann Says:

  60. Ron Says:

    Really, do I have to assent to communism to understand Das Kapital? Do I have to assent to “the Vaishnava bhakti traditions of India, the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta, and Zen Buddhism” to understand that Michael Sudduth is not and never was a Christian?

    One cannot understand proposition x without believing many things (like that proposition x means something different than proposition ~x). You would have us believe that one can understand x without believing anything because you don’t yet see the difference between (i) believing the proposition means x with (ii) believing x. The former is a necessary condition for assent to either x or ~x.

  61. Steve M Says:

    Ron
    Do I understand you correctly to be saying that in order to understand proposition x, one must understand proposition ~x?

  62. Roger Says:

    I also understand that assent to certain propositions is a necessary condition for understanding any proposition.

    You have it ass-backward, Ron. Since assent means “agree with,” we must first understand any proposition before we can assent to it. We can’t agree with something that we don’t first understand; and when we do assent to or agree with any proposition, we do so voluntarily.

    One cannot understand proposition x without believing many things (like that proposition x means something different than proposition ~x).

    That’s a specious argument. The truth is that one cannot believe that proposition x means something different than proposition ~x unless one first understands what propositions x and ~x mean. As I’ve already pointed out, we can’t assent to or agree with (i.e., believe) something that we don’t first understand.

  63. Denson Dube Says:

    Hi Ron,
    Your belief that Clarkians have not delved into the metaphysics of epistemology is illusory. Clark readily admits to apriorism, or pre-equipment of the mind. He says the mind is never blank, otherwise it is no mind. He says Logic is the architecture of the mind. Our minds are a creation, in the image of God. God is not a contentless entity. Therefore His image (man’s mind) is not created a blank. This is the doctrine of creation. Perhaps you could score a point if you suggested a contradiction is entailed in holding to apriorism and asserting that *all* beliefs are voluntary. However, as Sean has rightly put it to you, this discussion is about saving faith and not all these garden paths you are trying to take us along. And in saving faith, it is the content of the Gospel that one must understand and assent to, voluntarily. As the apostle Paul puts it Romans 10: (13 – 14 )”For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
    14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?”
    It seems the apostle thought voluntary belief is necessary in salvation.

  64. Sean Gerety Says:

    this discussion is about saving faith and not all these garden paths you are trying to take us along.

    It’s telling that that Ron thinks “Van Til, Federal Vision and all the rest is a waste of time.” Yet, his understanding of justifying faith is openly contradictory and is virtually indistinguishable from the FV. Ron maintains that to be saved God must first infuse a “disposition of commitment” into the believer and this infusion is what completes simple belief transforming it into magic faith.

    Now, I have no idea what a “disposition of commitment” is or even what it means to “willfully trust” someone as it just seems to be a meaningless redundancy, but there can be no mistaking that Ron has completely confirmed Dr. Robbins’ observation regarding the relationship between and Ron’s impenetrable understanding of saving faith and the FV:

    The deniers of justification by faith alone agree: It is not enough to believe the Gospel in order to be saved. But rather than urging people to perform some further psychological task in addition to belief, they tell them to do good works in order to be saved. Their works (or their baptism) will complete what is lacking in belief alone. In this way, both the defenders and the deniers of justification by faith alone have lost sight of what in fact saves: The perfect, imputed righteousness of Christ completely outside the sinner, and received by the simple instrument of belief alone.

  65. Ron Says:

    You have it ass-backward, Ron. Since assent means “agree with,” we must first understand any proposition before we can assent to it.

    That’s true, Roger. One must first understand a proposition before one assents to it, hence to assent to any proposition p one must first understand what p means. The position before you is not that one can agree with p prior to understanding it, but rather that to understand p presupposes beliefs (which does not imply agreeing with p). You’ve been shooting at the wrong target several times now.

    To understand p is to discern p’s meaning. Discerning the meaning of p does not imply agreeing with (assenting to) p. Notwithstanding, the intellection of understanding presupposes beliefs. That you would disagree with even this is remarkable. However, I do sympathize with you given that your disagreement is due to your confusion between believing p is true and believing that p means p and not ~p.

    Your attempt at a regress stopper was to posit that the first choice is void of any beliefs. You wrote,

    If beliefs are chosen, then a man’s first belief was obviously an act of his will (i.e., a volitional choice between two or more possibilities of what to believe). There’s no infinite regress.

    Your regress stopper is that the first belief is volitional, an act of the will. Your position requires that the first belief is a choice between to possibilities of what to believe. Accordingly, you’ve alleged that at least with respect to the first choice one must choose between propositions without believing anything. Yet you’ve also maintained that one must understand the meaning of at least two possibilities, presumably in propositional form, in order to believe. What you don’t grasp is that to understand what p means requires assents, not to p but to things that make understanding p intelligible. Can you understand the meaning of “all men are mortal” without believing that men are not woman or that mortal does not mean immortal? So much for having understanding without belief.

    Given all your misguided arrows, it’s becoming apparent that because assent to p requires understanding the meaning of p you’ve drawn the wrong conclusion that understanding p does not entail any assents at all. This sort of misunderstanding is akin to Sean not appreciating the difference between a child’s beliefs and her actions that are predicated upon such beliefs.

    Ironically, you affirm doxastic voluntarism, which fits nicely with Armininanism but not Calvinism.

  66. Sean Gerety Says:

    Ron, you seem to forget whose blog this is. You’re not in the Greenbaggins fairyland any longer.

    If you continue to refuse to answer my questions to you I will start to moderate your posts.

    You say I am lax in my moderation of my blog, but I’m rectifying it now starting with you.

    Thank you for understanding.

  67. Steve M Says:

    Sean
    I am a little foggy on just what it is going to take for Ron to understand you.

  68. Sean Gerety Says:

    @Steve M.

    Me too. He seems to think since Lane and his mods at Greenbaggins can bully people there he can call the shots here. If the traditional threefold definition can be defended I’d like to see him, or anyone else for that matter, try.

    Now, to Ron’s great credit, it is true when he said, “whether you think I’m Van Tillian or not, I’ve stood with you over and against views on apparent contradiction.” This alone places Ron head and shoulders above men like Alan Strange, Lane Keister and the rest of the coterie of self-refuting and hopelessly confused armchair theologians over at Greenbaggins. However, he still needs to deal with the more than apparent contradiction that his own view entails as I’ve already explained and as Robbins explained in the quote Hugh linked above. Here’s the way John put it:

    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.

    While Ron has accused is opponents here of Arminianism, it is his view that in fact “fits nicely with Armininanism but not Calvinism.” So, while I may be a little harsh in my dealing with Ron here, he is, after all, the one man out of the whole lot over at Greenbaggins who should be able to get this. At this point I can only pray that one day he does.

  69. Ron Says:

    Sean,

    I see no use in continuing. I think I’ve zeroed in on a fatal flaw that is just one necessary trajectory of your position. Rather than discuss this implication of your position you’ve required me to discuss disposition or else be banned. Disposition is a very basic concept and I’ve offered a link to it over at GB (somewhere at the top of the thread I believe). Anyway, I don’t have much hope that we can communicate on disposition if we can’t even agree that understanding presupposes belief in some things.

    Best wishes,

    Ron

  70. Steve M Says:

    Translation:
    Ron’s not going to answer. It figures.

  71. Hugh McCann Says:

    The “mods” @ ‘baggins.
    “All Mod Cons”

  72. Hugh McCann Says:

    Now, to Ron’s great credit, it is true when he said, “whether you think I’m Van Tillian or not, I’ve stood with you over and against views on apparent contradiction.” This alone places Ron head and shoulders above men like Alan Strange, Lane Keister and the rest of the coterie of self-refuting and hopelessly confused armchair theologians over at Greenbaggins…

    Ron here, he is, after all, the one man out of the whole lot over at Greenbaggins who should be able to get this. At this point I can only pray that one day he does…

    Sean, with all respect due you, at the end of the day, given all the pedantry, pontification, and downright confusion from Mr DiG., *so what*? What does it profit a man if he still sees men as trees, walking?

    Evil Knievel’s successor might get a few feet farther than he did (and Ron may see bit more than others of the evil of VanTillian paradox), but he’ll probably still fall short: http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/years-after-knievel-s-attempt-complete-canyon-jump-still-sought/article_71e12698-a0fd-56be-9707-b2c3f887a0cc.html

  73. James Says:

    Ron,
    you wrote,

    in philosophy assent is distinguished from what is called “acceptance” (which means reliance upon, i.e. trust).

    well, not quite. In the modern philosophy *belief* and acceptance are contrasted and the two are distinct, not merely distinguished. *Assent* is/is a form of acceptance – not belief – since assent is volitional and belief is non-volitional. Acceptance in modern philosophy can exist without belief. For instance I can accept some proposition as true (for argument sake, or as a rule for conduct) even though I do not believe it true in order to realize an end. Hence I can “trust” a prop without believing it to be true.

    Problem is, it’s very sketchy trying to make the Bible fit the modern philosophy: it seems to me to be a very strange thing that Christ would appeal to the will, as He did, if belief in the Gospel was actually non-voluntary. And it also doesn’t make much sense that the Gospel was held out to us for mere trust/acceptance, if, as the modern philosophy has it, that does not require belief.

    Also, this,
    (i) believing the proposition means x with (ii) believing x. The former is a necessary condition for assent to either x or ~x.
    and this,
    Also, one cannot choose x or ~x without also believing x means this and ~x means that.

    is not quite true either since in the modern philosophy animals and infants have beliefs – without having to understand the meaning of what they believe.

    Thanks,

  74. Lauren Kuo Says:

    Well, I honestly have not had the chance to read all the comments. But back to the wind verse. Remember, Jesus said you hear the sound of the wind. That tells me that justifying faith is a very real thing that happens to a person born of the Spirit. It is something that is felt and understood just as a physical birth. Just as a baby cries for the first time – you know she/he is alive. When a person goes from being dead in sin to alive to God, like the wind and a newborn baby cry, you should notice a difference. I love what the Heidelberg teaches that when a person is justified by faith and delivered from sin and misery, he now can spend the rest of his life showing his gratitude to God for his deliverance. Works are just the fruit of his faith and his show of gratitude.

    Sean, I agree with you entirely with the so-called FV version of “mystery”. When a person is born again, there should be no mystery about whether or not he is saved. If he is saved and doesn’t know it, then he is not saved. That’s like saying I was born but don’t know it. And, according to the FV, I have to spend the rest of my life proving I’m saved, wondering whether I am saved, and desperately but futilely holding onto my salvation by works. In other words, to the FV folks, Christ is lying when He says that no one can snatch His sheep out of His hand. Like all false doctrine, the Federal Vision is a theology of fear thought up by a bunch of unconverted false teachers who want to control people.

  75. justbybelief Says:

    “Your [Ron’s] fight is not with Clark or “Clarkians,” it is with Jesus Christ, the one you call Lord.”

    That sums it up.

  76. Roger Says:

    That’s true, Roger. One must first understand a proposition before one assents to it, hence to assent to any proposition p one must first understand what p means… Notwithstanding, the intellection of understanding presupposes beliefs.

    That’s utter nonsense, Ron. If “understanding presupposes beliefs,” then it can’t possibly be true that “one must first understand a proposition before one assents to it (i.e., believes it).” In that case, beliefs presuppose understanding not vice-versa. You are one confused and irrational soul.

    That you would disagree with even this is remarkable. However, I do sympathize with you given that your disagreement is due to your confusion between believing p is true and believing that p means p and not ~p.

    There’s no confusion on my part at all. What I have argued applies equally to “believing p is true and to believing that p means p and not ~p.” One cannot believe (i.e., assent to or agree) that proposition p means something different than proposition ~p unless one first understands what propositions p and ~p mean. We can’t believe (i.e., assent to or agree with) any proposition that we don’t first understand. Period. Full stop. End of story.

    What you don’t grasp is that to understand what p means requires assents, not to p but to things that make understanding p intelligible. Can you understand the meaning of “all men are mortal” without believing that men are not woman or that mortal does not mean immortal? So much for having understanding without belief.

    No. But I also cannot believe that men are not women or that mortal does not mean immortal without first understanding what the propositions “men are not women” and “mortal does not mean immortal” mean. Again, we cannot believe (i.e., assent to or agree with) any proposition that we don’t first understand; and when we do believe a proposition, we do so voluntarily. Period. Full stop. End of story. So much for having belief without understanding!

    I’m not sure what your problem is, Ron. Perhaps you’ve simply forgotten that from the outset of this debate “belief” has been defined as “assent to or agreement with understood propositions.” Or maybe you’re just living in Ron’s Adventures in Theological Wonderland where up means down and left means right. I honestly have no idea at this point…

  77. Sean Gerety Says:

    I see no use in continuing. I think I’ve zeroed in on a fatal flaw that is just one necessary trajectory of your position. Rather than discuss this implication of your position you’ve required me to discuss disposition or else be banned.

    Like most things lately, you have it completely reversed. It is you who keeps refusing to discuss the implications of your own contradictory position. A faithless believer or your unbelieving believer renders the threefold definition of faith not only tautological, but impossible.

    Not only is the threefold definition in opposition to the clear teaching of Scripture and the Confession, but it is a tradition that cannot hold except perhaps in the mysterious contradictory world of the Vantillian. Which is why, when push came to shove, Alan Strange and Lane Keister both pulled the “it’s a mystery” card and you, despite your claims to stand with me “over against views on apparent contradictions,” are now standing with those very same people who not only recognize the contradiction entailed in their definition of faith, but proudly revel in it in a perverse and warped sense of piety claiming this contradiction is even foundational to the Reformed faith. This is Van Til’s defective Creator/creature distinction in all its glory gutting the very heart of the Christian faith, even justification by belief alone and you are right there with them.

    Disposition is a very basic concept and I’ve offered a link to it over at GB (somewhere at the top of the thread I believe). Anyway, I don’t have much hope that we can communicate on disposition if we can’t even agree that understanding presupposes belief in some things.

    You’re right Ron. It makes no sense to continue since you think you’re putting down a pair of aces when all you have is a joker. As has already been mentioned you have things precisely reversed. Roger is exactly right and “one cannot believe (i.e., assent to or agree) that proposition p means something different than proposition ~p unless one first understands what propositions p and ~p mean.” Belief presupposes understanding, not the other way around.

    Besides, I still fail to see how if one grants your love affair with modern philosophy how this eliminates the contradiction your position entails? Maybe you can explain that before you go back into hiding since you refuse to defend your “willful trust” or “disposition of commitment” which are both supposed to somehow complete faith (BTW I don’t see any link and I be curious where either phrase can be found in or deduced from Scripture)?

    Frankly, your argument at Greenbaggins burned to the ground right at the outset when you asserted a the idea of a non-volitional assent. So, I understand your embarrassment and why you refused to address my questions and why you would choose not to continue.

    And, just to be clear, I have nothing against philosophy per se, but you are a textbook example of what Paul warned us about in his letter to the Colossians:

    See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.

    Your fascination with “modern philosophy” reminds me of Mike Sudduth who also placed philosophy over Scripture and we all know where that got him. Be careful Ron.

  78. Steve M Says:

    Sean and Roger
    Take it easy on Ron. He does not understand or choose what he believes. It’s not his fault if all his beliefs are completely irrational.


  79. […] Filling the Breach – Justification By Belief Alone, Pt. 2 […]

  80. Sean Gerety Says:

    Little update. While Ron DiGiacomo has evidently gone back into hiding, seemingly with his tail between his legs, he has continued to flail away aimlessly at Greenbaggins to include this:

    The more I think about your latest comment the more I simply want to walk away from this discussion. That you don’t think this is a matter of the intellect vs. the will is a strange claim. Clarkians deny the volitional aspect of saving faith, that being trust in Christ. They then point to the intellection of assent to satisfy all the tradition has in mind with respect to willfully receiving and resting in Christ. http://tinyurl.com/laxs38k

    I understand that those in desperate situations often resort to desperate measures, but in all the years I’ve been dealing with Ron I have never known him to just out-and-out lie. I used to believe he was a reasonable man, quite the exception to most Vantillians I’ve known over the years.

    “Clarkians” don’t “deny the volitional aspect of saving faith” at all. And, if some do, I don’t and neither did Clark.

    I would like to chalk up Ron’s remarks to ignorance, but that’s impossible given the exchange we’ve had here to include Clark’s remarks concerning the volitional nature of assent:

    “Faith is no emotion. Faith is intellectual understanding with volitional assent.”

    Beyond that, I have repeatedly stated that a non-volitional assent is a contradiction in terms similar to Ron’s unbelieving believer.

    It seems that Ron has no idea what “assent” means, much less what it entails (despite his devotion to “modern philosophy”).

    However, I never would have thought Ron would just lie in order to make a point, but then again I never thought an OPC elder and professor of church history at Mid-American Reformed Seminary would resort to bluffing. Don’t these men have any sense of integrity?

  81. Hugh McCann Says:

    Deceiving and being deceived.

  82. Sean Gerety Says:

    No kidding. Ron doesn’t think believing involves a choice, but then he must deny that one must repent first before believing the Gospel. Beliefs, for Ron, just happen. I realize the OPC is a virtual micro-denomination, but now I guess now we know why.

  83. justbybelief Says:

    It seems we had this or a similar debate, here at your blog, at an earlier date, this is, whether ‘belief’ was something we do (or not).

    Eric

  84. Sean Gerety Says:

    Check this out this comment from Ron DiGiacomo on Tiablogue.

    Ron was asked:

    If you take somebody at their word, you think they are trustworthy. How much love is necessary for justification?

    This is Ron’s reply:

    It’s not a question of “how much love” but rather whether love is a necessary condition for being in a state of pardon. It is. If one is justified, then he has love for the Lord. (“If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed…” 1 Corinthians 16:22)

    Ron confuses the fruits of justifying faith with that which justifies which is faith alone. Jesus said; “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” Jesus requires belief alone and says nothing about love being “a necessary condition for being in a state of pardon.” The one who believes has immediately passed out of death into life. Learning to love God and neighbor are works of sanctification.

    Ron also claims:

    One can understand something and also agree yet without any serious reflection and disposition of gratitude.

    Again, Ron confuses the fruit of justifying faith with faith itself. To put it another way he confuses the Law and the Gospel. True justifying belief will certainly result in a “disposition of gratitude” along with other evangelical acts of obedience, acting on God’s promises, etc., but these things are hardly part and parcel of the instrument by which we are justified, yet for Ron it is. According to Ron we are justified by some psychological change that occurs within us, rather than on the basis of what Christ’s finished work accomplished completely outside of us.

    Ron continues:

    One can assent and not repent – agree without counting the cost. Your task is to show that assent to gospel good news is different from assent to other kinds of good news that should be accompanied by an about face and gratitude but often times it is not.

    Weird. I can’t think of even one Reformed confession that states that faith must be accompanied by gratitude in order to be justified. That’s not to say that those who are justified won’t be grateful, but it is hardly a precondition to justification. Frankly, I would think remorse over the recognition of our sin would be a more common emotion when coming to Christ rather than gratitude. But, I’m not up on all of Ron’s modern analytic and philosophic musings.

    As far as the task of “showing that assent to the gospel good news is different from assent of other kinds of good news,” the WCF has already done that. The WCL 72 draws the distinction between those who assent to the truth of “the promise of the gospel” with those who who also assent to the truth of “Christ and his righteousness … held forth for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.” The asset to former alone doesn’t save, whereas assent to the latter does and is the very definition of justifying faith.

    Besides, the Confession (XI.1) is clear and that we are justified “not for any thing wrought in” us, even if Ron DiGiacomo disagrees.

  85. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean, You’ve just put the Pauline anathema upon Mr DiG.

    You twice claim that, “Ron confuses the fruits of justifying faith with that which justifies which is faith alone.”

    “Ron confuses the fruit of justifying faith with faith itself.”

    If he truly confuses fruit for grounds, then he’s a functional papist (they love to champion love as a ground for final justification).

    I believe the root problem for these men (including FV-ers, et. al.) is that they don’t like the gospel per se.

    It’s not first a matter of belief’s components, it’s a matter of whether believing the gospel is sufficient.

    THERE IS CONFUSION among the common grace/ free offer gang OVER THE GOSPEL, as they have two strata of love in God, two conflicting wills that make him want mutually exclusive things. It could be termed the “dichotomy of divine desire,” and it’s right hooey.

    They essentially cannot allow faith alone, as they don’t truly understand election and the atonement. They can parrot some biblical & confessional truths, but their confusion (2 Timothy 3:13) is made manifest by their contradictory doctrines.

  86. Hugh McCann Says:

    And, to adapt Dr Robbins: The three-element view of faith leads straight to a contradiction – believing demons – and therefore must be false.

    Again, the FoG/ CG guys cannot see the gospel as sufficient to save. And they confuse the death and resurrection of Christ as being the gospel. (“Did he just say that?!”)

    Jesus’s death and resurrection are believed by demons, and asserted by Orthodox, Lutherans, Charismatics, Arminians, Anglicans, Baptists, Presbyterians, Catholics, Methodists, etc.

    But only the elect believe the gospel: The death and resurrection of Christ for our sins. Not as a potential atonement if only we’d accept, believe, pray, decide, choose, etc., but as the sole sufficient ground (and therefore, hope) of our justification. Amen.

  87. Hugh McCann Says:

    Steve M said: “Sean, I am a little foggy on just what it is going to take for Ron to understand you.”

    Simply put, it’d take ….(wait for it)…. faith. Holy Spirit-given faith.

  88. Steve M Says:

    According to Ron D, the “Reformed positon” is that belief is a state of perfect indifference. I can’t find support for that notion in the writings of the reformers, nor has he put forth any quotes from them that support it.

  89. Sean Gerety Says:

    It’s not a question of “how much love” but rather whether love is a necessary condition for being in a state of pardon. It is.

    Another thing to consider is that in Scripture love isn’t an emotion; it is a volition. Jesus said; “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” Therefore it follows that for Ron works are a necessary condition for justification. I have to wonder if Ron has really thought his position through at all?

  90. Sean Gerety Says:

    Thinking about this some more.

    Love is the necessary condition for justification
    Scripture defines love as doing God’s commands
    Therefore, doing God’s commands is the necessary condition for justification.

    I have asked Ron to explain the difference between his view of justifying faith and the FV who define the elusive fiducial element of saving faith much like Ron does calling it a “personally loyal faith,” but it seems in the finally analysis there isn’t any. Or, if there is a difference, it is virtually indistinguishable.

  91. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean,
    Yep.
    Hugh

  92. Roger Says:

    Another thing to consider is that in Scripture love isn’t an emotion; it is a volition. Jesus said; “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” Therefore it follows that for Ron works are a necessary condition for justification.

    To be fair to Ron, I’m not sure that John 14:15 necessarily “defines” love as “doing God’s commands.” For instance, in commenting on this passage, Calvin says that our love of Christ should be “regulated by” or “directed to” a pure obedience to God’s commands rather than being equated with pure obedience to God’s commands:

    “The true love of Christ, on the other hand, is regulated by the observation of his doctrine as the only rule. But we are likewise reminded how sinful our affections are, since even the love which we bear to Christ is not without fault, if it be not directed to a pure obedience.”

    Therefore, while I strongly disagree with Ron’s position, it most likely doesn’t imply that “doing God’s commands is the necessary condition for justification.”

  93. Roger Says:

    As I’ve mentioned before, the reason Ron’s position is so convoluted is because he has equivocated on the term “belief” throughout this debate. From the outset we have defined belief as “assent to or agreement with understood propositions.” At times Ron seems to agree with this definition, but then he turns right around and says that “understanding presupposes beliefs.” As the Indians used to say in the old Westerns, he “speaks with forked tongue!”

    Perhaps I’m wrong, but all I can think is that Ron is confusing the inherent “knowledge” of God that we are imbued with at creation (Romans 1:16-32) with “assent” or “belief.” But the “knowledge” (vs. 19, 21, 28, 32) of God that we possess by nature is equated with an “understanding” or awareness of God’s “eternal power and Godhead” (v. 20) not with “assent” or “belief.” Indeed, by “suppressing the truth in unrighteousness” (v. 18) unbelievers are voluntarily not “assenting” to or “believing” the truth about God majesty that is clear for all to see. In Scripture both “assent” and “dissent” are voluntary acts of the will/intellect, just as we’ve been clearly saying throughout this debate. Ron is without a doubt seriously confused. I stand by what I wrote earlier:

    “Again, we cannot believe (i.e., assent to or agree with) any proposition that we don’t first understand; and when we do believe a proposition, we do so voluntarily. Period. Full stop. End of story. So much for having belief without understanding!”

  94. Hugh McCann Says:

    Again, Roger (with all due respect), the root problem for Ron & Co. is that they don’t like the gospel per se.

    It’s simply a matter of believing the gospel is sufficient. And about that gospel, they suffer great confusion. Not just the elements of faith, but of what exactly IS the gospel.

  95. justbybelief Says:

    “Again, Roger (with all due respect), the root problem for Ron & Co. is that they don’t like the gospel per se.”

    It’s about time someone said it! Thanks, Hugh. Maybe, I’d change your statement a bit and replace “per se” to “at all.”

  96. Hugh McCann Says:

    Hear, hear, Eric. Sad it is that obfuscation and pedantry can mask infidelity. But I for one am fed up pretending the emperor is clothed.

    I used to think John Robbins and Paul Elliott and the anti-OPC / PCA critics were just over-the-top ranters, overly-zealous fault-finders who overstated their case.

    But with the institutionalized confusion in these organizations, coupled with the heavy-and-high-handed dismissive (dare I say, popish?) attitudes of many in the clergy class, I am more convinced than ever that a full-scale anti-gospel, Reformation-reversal apostasy is upon us.

    God, give us light to be light!

  97. justbybelief Says:

    I’ve thought for a very long time that the Presbyterian Churches had, and have, been infiltrated by Jesuits. Call me paranoid.

    Is this statement taken seriously anymore:

    Matthew 7:15
    Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

    Is Jesus speaking of religions like Mormonism or that of the JoHo’s? Or, is he talking about those who are members and teachers in our own churches ‘dressing’ like we ‘dress’ and disguising themselves as one of God’s people (sheep).

    Eric

  98. Hugh McCann Says:

    Certainly Sts Paul & Jude warned of such:

    Acts 20:28f ~ Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.

    Jude 3f ~ Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. 4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

  99. justbybelief Says:

    What could a potential convert come away with if one of these so-called teachers got a hold of them? I know from experience! They’d come away with the doctrine that justification is by faith plus works.

    Is it just as Jesus said?

    But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.

  100. Hugh McCann Says:

    (y)

  101. Sean Gerety Says:

    @Roger. You wrote:

    To be fair to Ron, I’m not sure that John 14:15 necessarily “defines” love as “doing God’s commands.”

    OK, but would you agree that love still is a volition; a willingness and desire to do as God commands, or simply a willingness to please the Lord? I think it is fair to assume that this is what Ron means by a “disposition of commitment” which he says “precedes works and is part of what God does in us in biblical salvation.” Now, he also said that this is “Far from being salvation by works…”, but by adding this caveat I suspect he realizes it is not that far at all.

    Ron said:

    Again, we assent to many things apart from a disposition of commitment. Far from being salvation by works; the disposition precedes works and is part of what God does in us in biblical salvation.

    So without the will to do as God commands one cannot be justified and this is the “fiducial” element in addition to understanding and assent that makes ordinary faith or assent saving. There has to be a change within us, as the result of “what God does in us,” in order to be justified. Of course, the Confession states the exact opposition in XI.1 under the definition of justification:

    Those whom God effectually calleth he also freely justifieth; not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous: not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone: not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience….

    For Ron in order to be justified a “disposition of commitment” that precedes works must be wrought in us first and this in addition to mere belief alone is needed in order for a sinner to be justified.

    It should be clear that these so-called “Watchmen of Israel” stand in opposition to the Westminster Confession. I know, ironic. 🙂

    So, would this modification of the above argument be OK with you:

    Love is the necessary condition for justification.

    Scripture defines love as the willingness and desire to do as God commands

    Therefore, the willingness and desire to do as God commands is the necessary condition for justification.

    In any case, I think it is fair to say that for Ron and the rest of these “Watchmen” is that they confuse the fruit of justifying faith with faith itself.

  102. Hugh McCann Says:

    Some beliefs may be chosen, but we do not choose to believe the gospel.

    That faith is a unilaterally-given, monergistic gift of the Almighty to his elect.

    Think Ephesians 2 & John 6…

  103. Hugh McCann Says:

    And John 3:3-7 ~

    Jesus answered and said unto him, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

    Nicodemus saith unto him, “How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?”

    Jesus answered, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”

  104. Roger Says:

    OK, but would you agree that love still is a volition; a willingness and desire to do as God commands, or simply a willingness to please the Lord?

    Yes, no doubt, I agree that love is a “willingness and desire to do as God commands” or “to please the Lord.” And this love is a result or “fruit” of justifying faith rather than a precondition or essential element of justifying faith (e.g., fiducia in the three-fold definition of faith).

    I think it is fair to assume that this is what Ron means by a “disposition of commitment” which he says “precedes works and is part of what God does in us in biblical salvation.”

    Yes, that certainly appears to be what he means. If so, then he’s clearly putting “the cart before the horse” and corrupting the biblical gospel…

    In any case, I think it is fair to say that for Ron and the rest of these “Watchmen” that they confuse the fruit of justifying faith with the work of sanctification.

    Do you mean that they confuse “the instrument of justification” (i.e., voluntary “assent” or “belief” of the gospel alone) with the work of sanctification (i.e., Spirit wrought “love for God” or “disposition of commitment” within us)?

  105. Roger Says:

    Some beliefs may be chosen, but we do not choose to believe the gospel. That faith is a unilaterally-given, monergistic gift of the Almighty to his elect.

    Hugh, the spiritual ability and desire to believe the gospel is a monergistic work of God in the elect, granted to us as a free gift the moment we are regenerated by the Spirit. But the necessary result of this sovereign work of the Lord is that we indeed “choose to believe the gospel.” It is an act of our regenerated will/intellect. God doesn’t do the believing for us…

  106. Hugh McCann Says:

    Roger, I can go with this:

    //…love is a result or “fruit” of justifying faith rather than a precondition or essential element of justifying faith (e.g., fiducia in the three-fold definition of faith).//

    I also hold, though, that the necessary result of the sovereign work of the Lord is that we indeed believe the gospel, but not “choose to believe the gospel.”

    I see faith as info imprinted on our mind / soulish hard drive.

    NOT, then as “an act of our regenerated will/ intellect.”

    Not an action (work) we do at all.

    “God doesn’t do the believing for us….” – Fair enough. But neither is faith/ belief/ trust in us an act we carry out.

    Sean & I have round and round on this, and we disagree. He sides with you.

  107. Stephen Welch Says:

    Sean, I have been following your recent entries, particularly with regards to Ron’s comments, and find this very disturbing. I gave up trying to follow Ron’s arguments on Green Baggins because it got to be more confusing, and I did not have the time or patience to follow it. If love for Christ’s commandments or love for Christ is a condition of justifying faith, then this runs contrary to the Scriptures and the Westminster Standards. He is confusing justification with sanctification, which is the same error the FV heretics and Papists follow. There is no condition for justification, because it is an act of God’s free grace wherein He pardons and accepts us who are not by nature righteous or holy. No man can love Christ, accept, or respond to him unless the Lord changes His heart and grants Him grace. Having been raised a Papist and later coming out of the Church of Christ (Campbellites) I saw faith as something on the part of man, but Paul says that it is by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not of yourselves. This is not an intermural argument over Clark vs. Van Till, or even over Clark’s understanding of belief, but is really a question of the gospel. Does Christ save sinners and if He does what conditions does he lay down for the justification of sinners who are dead, without hope, without God, rebels, and enemies of God. I am coming to realize that when a theological argument is filled with confusion, it is because the truth of the gospel is clouded or missing. The truth on which the church stands or falls is so simple to understand yet a stumbling block to many. As we approach the anniversary of the Protestant Reformation we need to sound forth the trumpet more than ever regarding the doctrines of grace.

  108. Cliffton Says:

    Is belief a subdivision of repentance, repentance being a change of mind?

  109. Hugh McCann Says:

    Ditto to Stephen Welch’s post @ 7:42pm today.

    This is the way out: “I gave up trying to follow Ron’s arguments.”!

  110. justbybelief Says:

    Only Jesus fulfilled the love that God requires. God requires love in thought, word, and deed from the moment of conception to ones dying breath. No one has done this so no one is saved by their own love.

  111. justbybelief Says:

    If someone says that love is necessary for salvation they do not understand the law nor do they understand righteousness. If they don’t understand the law or righteousness they don’t understand grace. How can one be a Christian and not understand these things? More importantly, how can one be an elder in a reformed church lacking this understanding?

  112. Cliffton Says:

    Does the mind will to change its mind?

  113. justbybelief Says:

    God works in you both to will and do of his good pleasure. The unaided mind will never change or want to. Apart from God’s work men will continue to love our sin. The ground of our justification is the works of Christ not our change of mind, or faith.

  114. Cliffton Says:

    Cliffton: Is belief a subdivision of repentance, repentance being a change of mind?

    Cliffton: Does the mind will to change its mind?

    justbybelief: God works in you both to will and do of his good pleasure. The unaided mind will never change or want to. Apart from God’s work men will continue to love our sin. The ground of our justification is the works of Christ not our change of mind, or faith.

    Cliffton: Thanks for that. But what’s your answer to the question that was asked.

  115. Steve M Says:

    Cliffton
    What, exactly, is the mind’s mind? Does the mind’s mind also have its own mind? Would that be the mind’s mind’s mind? Just wondering.

  116. justbybelief Says:

    Repentance is a change of mind about sin in light of the gospel of Christ.

  117. Sean Gerety Says:

    Do you mean that they confuse “the instrument of justification” (i.e., voluntary “assent” or “belief” of the gospel alone) with the work of sanctification (i.e., Spirit wrought “love for God” or “disposition of commitment” within us)?

    Yes. I was rushing to post as my wife was yelling “We’re going to be late for church, hurry up.” : )

    I’ve changed the sentence to:

    In any case, I think it is fair to say that for Ron and the rest of these “Watchmen” is that they confuse the fruit of justifying faith with faith itself.

    BTW, and just to show how far from the Confession DiGiacomo and Strange really are, check out the definition of justification and that we’re justified “not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing….” The Confession equates faith and the “act of believing,” so why don’t the “Watchmen of Israel”? Oh, yeah, for them the “act of believing” is more than, not less than, belief. 😛

  118. Sean Gerety Says:

    @Stephen.

    This is not an intermural argument over Clark vs. Van Till, or even over Clark’s understanding of belief, but is really a question of the gospel.

    I completely agree. But, because it was Clark who first pointed out the logical deficiencies in the traditional threefold definition, and because Vantillians think that Van Til’s theory of analogy and biblical paradox is the heart of the Reformed system, they have cast this debate in those terms. Ron DiGiacomo castigates Tim Harris over at Greenbaggins by appealing to Tim’s Vantillianism and Strange perhaps recognizing the contradiction in his own position appeals to the catchall, “mystery.”

    Any understanding of faith that ends with Ron’s unbelieving believer is impossible, except if you’re steeped in the gobble-de-goop of Vantillianism where the logically impossible is worshiped and viewed as the apex of profundity and piety.

  119. Cliffton Says:

    Cliffton: Is belief a subdivision of repentance, repentance being a change of mind?

    Cliffton: Does the mind will to change its mind?

    justbybelief: God works in you both to will and do of his good pleasure. The unaided mind will never change or want to. Apart from God’s work men will continue to love our sin. The ground of our justification is the works of Christ not our change of mind, or faith.

    Cliffton: Thanks for that. But what’s your answer to the question that was asked.

    Steve M: What, exactly, is the mind’s mind? Does the mind’s mind also have its own mind? Would that be the mind’s mind’s mind? Just wondering.

    Cliffton: Repentance of necessity already comprehending the heart/mind, is the term “heart” in the biblical phrase “unrepentant heart” meaningless Steve?

  120. Cliffton Says:

    Cliffton: Is belief a subdivision of repentance, repentance being a change of mind?

    Cliffton: Does the mind will to change its mind?

    justbybelief: God works in you both to will and do of his good pleasure. The unaided mind will never change or want to. Apart from God’s work men will continue to love our sin. The ground of our justification is the works of Christ not our change of mind, or faith.

    Cliffton: Thanks for that. But what’s your answer to the question that was asked.

    justbybelief: Repentance is a change of mind about sin in light of the gospel of Christ.

    Cliffton: According to your definition, does a repentant man then first believe the gospel prior to repentance, thereby making repentance a subdivision of faith, so that in each instance of repentance a man assents to the gospel prior to a changed mind?

  121. Cliffton Says:

    justbybelief: Repentance is a change of mind about sin in light of the gospel of Christ.

    Cliffton: According to your definition, does a repentant man then first believe the gospel prior to repentance, thereby making repentance a subdivision of faith, so that in each instance of repentance a man assents to the gospel prior to a changed mind?

  122. justbybelief Says:

    Repentance, that which is of a godly sort, can only occur in light of the gospel. Turning away from one thing and toward another seems to have an order to it. When one turns to Christ, by implication, they’re turning away from sin. Would you agree?

  123. Steve M Says:

    Cliffton: Does the mind will to change its mind?

    Steve M: What, exactly, is the mind’s mind? Does the mind’s mind also have its own mind? Would that be the mind’s mind’s mind? Just wondering.

    Cliffton: Repentance of necessity already comprehending the heart/mind, is the term “heart” in the biblical phrase “unrepentant heart” meaningless Steve?

    Steve M: Thanks for that. But what’s your answer to the question that was asked.

  124. Cliffton Says:

    Cliffton: According to your definition, does a repentant man then first believe the gospel prior to repentance, thereby making repentance a subdivision of faith, so that in each instance of repentance a man assents to the gospel prior to a changed mind?

    Justbybelief: Repentance, that which is of a godly sort, can only occur in light of the gospel. Turning away from one thing and toward another seems to have an order to it. When one turns to Christ, by implication, they’re turning away from sin. Would you agree?

    Cliffton: What do you mean by “in light of the gospel”?

  125. justbybelief Says:

    What do you mean by “in light of the gospel”?

    The gospel preached. Apart from the gospel no one will turn from sin to Christ.

  126. Cliffton Says:

    Cliffton: According to your definition, does a repentant man then first believe the gospel prior to repentance, thereby making repentance a subdivision of faith, so that in each instance of repentance a man assents to the gospel prior to a changed mind?

    Justbybelief: Repentance, that which is of a godly sort, can only occur in light of the gospel. Turning away from one thing and toward another seems to have an order to it. When one turns to Christ, by implication, they’re turning away from sin. Would you agree?

    Cliffton: What do you mean by “in light of the gospel”?

    justbybelief: The gospel preached. Apart from the gospel no one will turn from sin to Christ.

    Cliffton: So in your mind is repentance and belief the same thing? The man repents, that is, assents to the gospel. If not, how are they different? And which one is prior?

  127. Roger Says:

    Clifton, according to the Westminster Confession, repentance and faith are two distinct evangelical graces. While both may involve a “change of mind,” repentance regards turning from sin whereas faith regards believing the gospel. That seems correct to me.

    “Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces [which includes repentance – RM], and is no dead faith, but works by love.” (WCF 11:2)

    Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace, the doctrine whereof is to be preached by every minister of the Gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ.” (WCF 15:1)

  128. Cliffton Says:

    Cliffton: According to your definition, does a repentant man then first believe the gospel prior to repentance, thereby making repentance a subdivision of faith, so that in each instance of repentance a man assents to the gospel prior to a changed mind?

    Justbybelief: Repentance, that which is of a godly sort, can only occur in light of the gospel. Turning away from one thing and toward another seems to have an order to it. When one turns to Christ, by implication, they’re turning away from sin. Would you agree?

    Cliffton: What do you mean by “in light of the gospel”?

    justbybelief: The gospel preached. Apart from the gospel no one will turn from sin to Christ.

    Cliffton: So in your mind is repentance and belief the same thing? The man repents, that is, assents to the gospel. If not, how are they different? And which one is prior?

    Roger: Clifton, according to the Westminster Confession, repentance and faith are two distinct evangelical graces. While both may involve a “change of mind,” repentance regards turning from sin whereas faith regards believing the gospel. That seems correct to me.

    Cliffton: The only difference you have mentioned is the propositions believed. And yes, both certainly “involve a change of mind”.

  129. Cliffton Says:

    What is the difference between understanding that the gospel is true and thinking that the gospel is true?

    It seems like Ron is banking on the idea that for “Clarkians” belief and understanding are different. He then makes the claim that understanding presupposes belief. And then the “Clarkians” begin to stammer. So Ron then thinks he’s correct to go on affirming his experiencialism with respect to his incoherent view of faith. And it goes back and forth.

    Ron is correct in saying that to understand anything requires prior beliefs, presuppositions. To deny that is to deny presuppositionalism, and, that understanding can be had in a vaccum, that is in the absence of a world view. Ron is wrong however in distinguishing between belief and understanding, something that others here are adament to hold on to.

    Of course the rebuttal is how can one believe what he doesn’t understand. However, that’s not much of a rebuttal but more begging the question.

    Rather, all propositions are either true or false and so understanding a proposition would include understanding it to be true or false. So that believing that the gospel is true, understanding that the gospel is true, and merely thinking that the gospel is true are one and the same intellectual activity.

    All scriptural propositions are truth. Not to understand them as such is not to understand the scriptural propistion but rather to be thinking of some nonscriptural proposition. And of course, believing is always thinking that a proposition is true.

  130. Hugh McCann Says:

    Knowledge/ Understanding

    + Assent =

    Faith/ Belief/ Trust.

  131. Hugh McCann Says:

    My comments at 8:30 & 8:50 are basically saying that those who are obscuring the gospel with all their tripartite faith gobblety-gook are missing the 1 Cor. 15:3f gospel at the heart of it all.

  132. Cliffton Says:

    Hugh,
    I am saying that there is NO difference between understanding and assent. It is not as you say understanding PLUS assent. Understanding is assent.

  133. Sean Gerety Says:

    There are many arguments, worldviews, schools of philosophy, political theories, etc., that I understand, but don’t assent to. I suppose you do too Clifton. So, no, understanding is not assent.

  134. Cliffton Says:

    Sean: There are many arguments, worldviews, schools of philosophy, political theories, etc., that I understand, but don’t assent to. I suppose you do too Clifton. So, no, understanding is not assent.

    Cliffton: In other words Sean *understands* other worldviews to be false and *understands* them not to be true. However Sean argues because he understands but does not assent, understanding is not assent. You’ve asserted the consequent Sean.

  135. Cliffton Says:

    Or did Sean beg the question, or both?

  136. James Says:

    Cliffton

    There are many arguments, worldviews, schools of philosophy, political theories, etc., that Sean has never heard of, and thus does not assent to.

    does it follow that Sean understands them to be false and not true?

    There is much confusion in what you say precisely because you seem to forget that “not assenting” is much wider than dissenting.

    Also, Clark himself pointed out that terms like “understanding” and “belief” can be used equivocally and need to be carefully defined in an argument. The beauty of a word like “assent” is that it – like “acceptance” – is narrow in that it mainly brings to our minds a connotation of an act of will towards a proposition not the content of a proposition. OTOH belief can refer to the content or the act of will. Clarity is called for here.

    A good example of the need for clarity is your alleged agreement with Ron that understanding requires prior assent. You also said that Understanding=Assent. This of course leads to an infinite regress of assents/understandings. And if assent is an act of will, it leads to an infinite regress of acts of will. Reductio ad absurdum.
    Of course I predict that you’ll assert the regress stops with a “presupposition” (another term that needs clarification) which I suppose in your world is an assent/understanding as well – so, on your own idea that understanding is assent it turns out to be false that understanding requires prior assent/belief and you really don’t agree with Ron..? Clarity please.

    Thanks

  137. Cliffton Says:

    James: There are many arguments, worldviews, schools of philosophy, political theories, etc., that Sean has never heard of, and thus does not assent to.

    does it follow that Sean understands them to be false and not true?

    Cliffton: From the vantage point of a christian world view, yes.

    There is much confusion in what you say precisely because you seem to forget that “not assenting” is much wider than dissenting.

    Cliffton: To assent implies a dissent, and the dissent is as wide as its contrary.

    Also, Clark himself pointed out that terms like “understanding” and “belief” can be used equivocally and need to be carefully defined in an argument.

    Cliffton: All terms can be used equivocally.

    The beauty of a word like “assent” is that it – like “acceptance” – is narrow in that it mainly brings to our minds a connotation of an act of will towards a proposition not the content of a proposition. OTOH belief can refer to the content or the act of will. Clarity is called for here.

    Cliffton: Clarity is always called for. Obscurity ought always to be denounced.

    A good example of the need for clarity is your alleged agreement with Ron that understanding requires prior assent. You also said that Understanding=Assent. This of course leads to an infinite regress of assents/understandings.

    Cliffton: If understanding is distinguished from belief, as Sean has done, then yes you would be correct. If they are equal then every understanding is itself a belief. My “aggreement” with Ron was only as “wide” as to include the truth that all thought presupposes a worldview that is thought to be true.

    And if assent is an act of will, it leads to an infinite regress of acts of will. Reductio ad absurdum.
    Cliffton: Understanding is an act of the will. All thought is an act of the will.

    Of course I predict that you’ll assert the regress stops with a “presupposition” Will(another tereds clarification) which I suppose in your world is an assent/understanding as well – so, on your own idea that understanding is assent it turns out to be false that understanding requires prior assent/belief and you really don’t agree with Ron..? Clarity please.

    Thanks

    Cliffton: Your welcome.

  138. Roger Says:

    The only difference you have mentioned is the propositions believed. And yes, both certainly “involve a change of mind”.

    Right, which proves that repentance from sin and belief of gospel propositions are not “the same thing,” as you seemed to imply by the questions you asked Hugh.

    “So in your mind is repentance and belief the same thing? The man repents, that is, assents to the gospel.”

    If you were merely asking whether repentance involves assenting to certain propositions, I would have said: Yes, repentance involves assenting to the proposition that “I am a guilty sinner in need of divine forgiveness.”

  139. Roger Says:

    It seems like Ron is banking on the idea that for “Clarkians” belief and understanding are different. He then makes the claim that understanding presupposes belief. And then the “Clarkians” begin to stammer.

    I’m not sure who these “Clarkians” are who “begin to stammer,” but it certainly hasn’t been anyone on this blog. From the very outset of this debate “belief” has been defined as “assent to or agreement with understood propositions.”

    Of course the rebuttal is how can one believe what he doesn’t understand. However, that’s not much of a rebuttal but more begging the question. Rather, all propositions are either true or false and so understanding a proposition would include understanding it to be true or false.

    No, “understanding” the content of a proposition includes “agreeing” that it is either true or false by logical necessity. But that is hardly to the point of this debate. The issue is whether one “agrees” that the content of a proposition is in fact true or false. “Jesus died for my sins.” I “understand” the content of that proposition. I also “agree” that it is either true or false by logical necessity. But the real question is whether I “agree” that it is in fact true or false. Only the elect will believe (i.e., agree or assent) that it is true and be justified in God’s sight. The reprobate will believe that it is false and be condemned for their sins.

  140. Cliffton Says:

    Cliffton: The only difference you have mentioned is the propositions believed. And yes, both certainly “involve a change of mind”.

    Roger: Right, which proves that repentance from sin and belief of gospel propositions are not “the same thing,” as you seemed to imply by the questions you asked Hugh.

    Cliffton: What it “proves” is that faith and repentance are the same intellectual activity. And they can’t be distinguished as such on account of their differing objects.

  141. Cliffton Says:

    Cliffton: Of course the rebuttal is how can one believe what he doesn’t understand. However, that’s not much of a rebuttal but more begging the question. Rather, all propositions are either true or false and so understanding a proposition would include understanding it to be true or false.

    Roger: No, “understanding” the content of a proposition includes “agreeing” that it is either true or false by logical necessity. But that is hardly to the point of this debate. The issue is whether one “agrees” that the content of a proposition is in fact true or false.

    Cliffton: A proposition IS the meaning of the declarative statement. Propositions are the most basic unit of thought. Understanding is an intellectual activity that has as its object a proposition. But understanding is not the proposition itself. You are attempting to abstract information from the proposition. You are attempting to understand the proposition apart from your understanding. You fail to realize that the proposition IS the meaning. And one’s understanding of the proposition stands in relation to his world view. As an intellectual activity there is NO difference between understanding that the Gospel is true and believing that the gospel is true. That’s my last post on this issue.

  142. Jason Loh Says:

    Faith as mental assent destroys the law-gospel distinction as it makes belief into law — a condition in which you must fulfill (but of course like Rome, you also speak of grace).

    Faith comes from the outside — by hearing the gospel. Not by intellectual insight, i.e. from the inside. Therefore, faith intensely physical (ear), not mental. This is why the gospel is sacramental.

    Faith justifies precisely because it justifies the hearer. Faith as mental assent is self-justification. This is because by its very nature, propositions require the process of abstraction, i.e. internalisation.

    On the contrary, we are incorporated into the Body of which Jesus Christ is the Head. This externalisation is not a process but an eschatological event. That is, we are killed and raised up anew one and the same time by the external word of the gospel contain only in simply words such as “I forgive you.”

    The external word of the gospel is, therefore, “for you.” It is addressed to our entire person. Persons are unique and unrepeatable. Propositions, on the other hand, are part of nature since thoughts are held in common. This reflects the philosophical priority of nature over person. The Eastern Church Fathers broke through the legal scheme of Greek philosophy. Persons are not instantiation or expression of nature. Rather, nature expresses person.

    That is to say, we a person are united to the Trinitarian persons through nature and not the other way round.

    All this is to say that faith a mental assent involves triadological, Christological, soteriological and ecclesiological errors.

    The 16th century Reformation ignited by Luther’s articulation of the gospel marked a complete break from these errors.

  143. Hugh McCann Says:

    Jason – You’re (willfully?) missing the point that the subjective faith* in the objective faith** is God’s unilateral gift.

    You deny a definite atonement for the elect only, and continue confusedly thinking that our subjective faith/ believing is up to us (and thus, a work) and thus you reject the free grace gospel.

    Been kicked off of Greenbaggins yet?
    ———-

    * Our believing.

    ** That once delivered to the saints: 1 Cor. 15:3f ~ For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

  144. Ron Says:

    Ron is wrong however in distinguishing between belief and understanding, something that others here are adament to hold on to. …So that believing that the gospel is true, understanding that the gospel is true, and merely thinking that the gospel is true are one and the same intellectual activity.

    Cliffton,

    I’m not sure I distinguish belief and understanding in a way that wouldn’t meet with your approval. I’ve written elsewhere: It has been fleshed out that a Clarkian axiom is that one can understand a proposition apart from belief. This is self-refuting because the concept of understanding is shorthand for what is entailed by believing the meaning of things. To understand p* requires believing that p* has an identity or distinctiveness that’s different from its denial. Understanding also entails believing that one has interpreted the meaning correctly. In other words, to understand p* is to believe that a particular interpretation of that which denotes p* is correct. (That which denotes p* can be an audible or written statement, something observable, etc.) So, to understand “the moon is made of green cheese” is to believe that it is true that the statement does not convey that “the moon is not made of green cheese.” Again, to understand a proposition is to believe a distinct interpretation is correct. Consequently, the Clarkian axiom [which is one can understand without belief] is self-refuting because it reduces to: one can believe the correct meaning of the statement that denotes p* without believing what p* means. [end quote]

    I think I might see where you got the idea that I wanted to distinguish the two. It probably occurred when I was saying that to understand a comprehensive propositions p one must first believe certain things, like the meaning of m,n and o. However, I wasn’t distinguishing understanding from belief but rather showing that understanding p* presupposes assent to meaning of other things. This was said in response to others saying we can understand without assent. But yes, as you you say understanding is the same activity as belief. My point was to draw out that understanding p, which is to believe that p has a particular distinctiveness and identity that contradicts its denial, presupposes other objects of assent.

    [Overseas and not really interested in this discussion other than to address something that I think we can have agreement on. Whoever you are! ]

  145. justbybelief Says:

    Faith as mental assent destroys the law-gospel distinction as it makes belief into law.

    Oh no! Another person who believes that words have no meaning bearing the gift of an undefinable ‘faith.’ Didn’t I say before that Van Tillianism has its root in the Lutheran heresy.

    Faith comes from the outside — by hearing the gospel. Not by intellectual insight, i.e. from the inside. Therefore, faith intensely physical (ear), not mental. This is why the gospel is sacramental.

    Faith justifies precisely because it justifies the hearer. Faith as mental assent is self-justification. This is because by its very nature, propositions require the process of abstraction, i.e. internalisation.

    On the contrary, we are incorporated into the Body of which Jesus Christ is the Head. This externalisation is not a process but an eschatological event. That is, we are killed and raised up anew one and the same time by the external word of the gospel contain only in simply words such as “I forgive you.”

    Hmm…another mystic. There you have it! There is no renewing of the mind–at the beginning or anywhere in between. As if, man is not the image of God and God does not work IN you. And, who said anything about “Intellectual insight” alone as if we don’t believe God’s Word is Light bringing understanding to a darkened mind. Another false accusation–one of the many straw-men–conjured up by Lutherans in their quest to slander Reformed Christians.

    Luther’s articulation of the gospel marked a complete break from these errors.

    I suppose it does not matter what Luther articulated since, as you say, the mind is not involved in salvation. Amazing! How can anyone with your viewpoint talk about articulating anything?

    Why are you even bothering to speak?

    For that matter, why does your god speak? It’s not really necessary.

    The problem with Lutheranism is that it did not shed the mysticism of the Catholic State-Church.

    Eric

  146. Steve M Says:

    Ron
    “To understand p* requires believing that p* has an identity or distinctiveness that’s different from its denial.”

    Therefore, when one assents to p*, one is choosing it over its denial. Is that right, Ron?

  147. Roger Says:

    Therefore, when one assents to p*, one is choosing it over its denial. Is that right, Ron?

    Since Ron rejects the notion that “belief” is voluntary assent to understood propositions, Ron can’t possibly understand what he believes!

    By logical necessity one cannot believe (i.e., voluntarily assent to or choose) p* over its denial unless one first understands what p* and its denial mean. Understanding logically precedes belief. Period. Full stop. End of story.

  148. Hugh McCann Says:

    Eric,

    Your last post reminded me of this from JR:

    \\ Barth also wrote in Church Dogmatics, “God may speak to us through Russian Communism, through a flute concerto, through a blossoming shrub or through a dead dog. We shall do well to listen to him if he really does so.” //

    http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=147

  149. Sean Gerety Says:

    However, I wasn’t distinguishing understanding from belief but rather showing that understanding p* presupposes assent to meaning of other things.

    Completely irrelevant. Saul believed his understanding of Judaism and adherence to the law as the way of salvation and to please God prior to his conversion. He also understood Christianity arguably better than most first century Christians, which also is why he persecuted the church with such vehemence. After his experience on his way to Damascus his understanding of Christianity didn’t change, but now what he once disbelieved he now believed. Certainly he would come to understand more of Christ after his conversion, but as Clark would say; “The problem with unbelievers is that they don’t believe.” Now, Ron will counter, “Well, they believe something.” OK, so what?

    The problem with Ron’s argument is that it doesn’t address his contradictory “unbelieving believer” or his assertion that there are “non-volitional” assents. Ron doesn’t understand assent or belief. His position is logically impossible and anti-Scriptural and instead of dealing with that he wants to engage in irrelevancies.

  150. justbybelief Says:

    Thanks, Hugh. That was funny in a sad sort of way…”a blossoming shurb,” indeed!

    I had a Presbyterian ‘friend’ tell me that he knew someone who was saved watching the movie ‘Terminator.’ And, yet when I articulated the gospel and the definition of faith to this ‘friend’ he rejected it outright.

    Imagine that! ‘Terminator’ saves but the gospel doesn’t.

    What a sad state of affairs.

    I thought this quote thought provoking from that link you posted:

    Barth, echoing Luther and Calvin, taught that justification is by faith alone, but in Barth’s mouth, neither “justification” nor “faith” (and perhaps not even “alone”) meant what Luther and Calvin had meant.

  151. Matt Anderson Says:

    Hey, guys. I long-time lurker here and fellow Clark/Robbins presuppositionalist.

    The subject of this thread has made me want your thought’s on a somewhat related question that has confused me ever since I became a believer in ’09. The question is this:

    What is the precise content of saving faith? Stated another way: What are the propositions believed by a person, though they may believe other erroneous things, that save them? A related question would be: Is it possible for a person to have saving faith, yet believe something erroneous concerning the Word of God?

    To my recollection, I haven’t seen this discussed on this blog before (if it has please, direct me to the article in question) and I’ve never read a Clark or Robbins essay that addressed this question.

    I’ll step back read your responses and, again, I certainly don’t mean to change the subject of this thread, this just seemed the best place to ask it.

  152. Hugh McCann Says:

    Matt, The gospel EVER relevant. Pertinent questions!

    It’s stated in 1 Cor. 15:1ff ~ Moreover, BRETHREN, I declare unto YOU the gospel which I preached unto YOU, which also YE have received, and wherein YE stand; by which also YE are saved, if YE keep in memory what I preached unto YOU, unless YE have believed in vain. For I delivered unto YOU first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for OUR sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

    Critical it is that we get definite atonement. Pronouns are muy importante. See for example Isaiah 55:off ~ Surely he hath borne OUR griefs, and carried OUR sorrows: yet WE did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for OUR transgressions, he was bruised for OUR iniquities: the chastisement of OUR peace was upon him; and with his stripes WE are healed. All WE like sheep have gone astray; WE have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of US all.

    Our gospel includes our assurance! 🙂

  153. Sean Gerety Says:

    @Matt. It’s interesting that the more you study Clark and the more you listen to his recorded lectures (free at the Trinity Foundation website), you’ll notice he never really answers that question. As a matter of fact, while not having read Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” (maybe he did later on) he was critical of the title. He said that he was not interested in how little one can know in order to be saved, but how much one could know. Both open ended questions. Certainly the thief had some knowledge of Christ and enough to be present with Christ in paradise before the day was done, but it’s still tough to quantify. I’m happy to say that faith the size of a mustard seed is sufficient (I know, yet another dodge).

    IMO that the real danger is those who think they can quantify what is required for salvation to the point where you have folks like Marc Carpenter and the “Outside the Trailer Park” crowd pronouncing even Clark and Robbins (and me) “lost” for simply thinking someone can be wrong on the question of “free will” and still be saved. Monty Collier too thinks I’m lost for some stupid reason.

    If pressed, I would say that justification by belief alone is central to the very minimum of a correct understanding of the Gospel. I agree with Luther that this is the doctrine upon which the Church stands or falls. But, even here I’m dealing with men like Ron Di, Alan S, Lane K and many more who all deny that belief alone is enough and I don’t consider these confused men lost. I consider them brothers. Maybe I’m wrong, but then the older I get I don’t look too closely in mirrors either. 😉


  154. Jason Loh has apparently come out of the closet. He used to pretend to be a Reformed Anglican of some sort. At least the cat is out of the bag now.

    I happen to agree that Jesus is the object of WLC 72. His righteousness is only ours by imputation and by means of faith.


  155. Clark also said that there is no minimum knowledge necessary for salvation. The entire Bible is the Gospel according to Clark and we all have an obligation to learn as much of the information and the system of propositional theology we can. The thief on the cross had an excuse because he would die in a few hours. The rest of us have no excuse.

    If you say that Arminians are saved, why stop there? Maybe the Papists are saved, too? I know Dr. Clark and Dr. Robbins did not exclude Arminians. But both said Arminianism is a false theology. And let’s not forget that the Canons of Dordt excommunicated them. And if you’re going to say Doug Wilson is lost, why stop there? I do not consider myself to have been converted until I became a Calvinist in 1995. Arminianism is a damnable heresy. I don’t know if some Arminian laypersons might be saved in spite of their ignorance. But I can say without a doubt that those who are teaching and preaching that theology cannot be saved. They are leading people astray every bit as much as any Federal Visionist does. Arminianism is a direct and logical contradiction of everything that Reformed theology stands for.


  156. As for Marc Carpenter, he is not Reformed. His brief statement of faith pales in comparison to the Westminster Confession.


  157. For any of you on Facebook, I started a debate group called Calvinism Defended Against All. I push hardcore Scripturalism there. I have admins who are either Clarkians or old school Presbyterians.


  158. The thief on the cross very obviously understood only a little. Is not this little, if we can discover it, sufficient for an evangelist’s sermons? Well, the thief called Jesus Lord. And Romans 10:9 says that those who acknowledge Jesus as Lord shall be saved. Here if anywhere is the essential proposition. Nothing else – except belief in the Resurrection – is necessary. Maybe the Resurrection is not necessary, for the thief did not know that. Furthermore, as other references in this book mention, the devils believe there is one God, they even believe that Jesus is the Son of God, but by some twist of demonic mentality, they do not confess him as Lord. Have not we therefore found the irreducible minimum?

    The answer is, No. The reason for this negative answer lies in the necessity of understanding the proposition. It is a matter of intellectual apprehension. There are many who in that day will say to Christ, Lord, Lord. And he will profess, I never knew you. Thus, clearly, a verbal profession of Lord is not saving faith. One must understand what the term Lord means. Further, as has already been pointed out, the name Jesus must be correctly apprehended. Confess that the Jesus of Strauss, Renan, or Schweitzer is Lord, and you will go to Hell. “Jesus is Lord” therefore is not a minimum that means nothing else.

    The thief on the cross knew or at least said that Jesus was Lord. Did he know anything else? How did he learn anything? Of all people, meeting Jesus for the first time on the cross, he had little opportunity to learn. And a cross is neither the best pulpit for preaching nor the best pew for listening. But perhaps the thief knew more than most people give him credit for.

    Gordon H. Clark (2013-03-04T05:00:00+00:00). What Is The Christian Life? (Kindle Locations 2959-2972). The Trinity Foundation. Kindle Edition.

    For such reasons as these the idea of a minimum faith must be dropped as un-Biblical. The evangelist is un-Biblical who decides to preach only a little bit of God’s revelation. Granted that no preacher can cover the entire Bible in one sermon, nevertheless he should not decide on principle to omit certain themes. He should in many sermons try to explain all he can. “All he can” no doubt should be limited by what the audience or the prospect can understand. One of the worst principles imaginable was expressed by a very popular but very stupid evangelist in Canada who said, No one has the right to hear the Gospel twice until everybody has heard it once. Another man of similar sentiments boasted that he had preached on five continents. But more than likely the poor natives in the Andes or the Himalayas understood nothing at all when the preacher gave them one sermon and then ran off to another continent.

    Gordon H. Clark (2013-03-04T05:00:00+00:00). What Is The Christian Life? (Kindle Locations 2985-2992). The Trinity Foundation. Kindle Edition.

    I could give you plenty of other references where Clark upholds the system of theology in the Bible and a plenary view of Scripture as a whole being the Gospel. For Clark minimalism was not an option. Laziness on the part of the Christian is not an option. We are all obligated to learn as much information and knowledge from the Bible as we can in a lifetime.

  159. Hugh McCann Says:

    I think that if Clark spoke with Robbins about the latter’s wise articles on the gospel, they would have been agreed on 1st Cor. 15:3f.

    What Clark was [rightly] objecting to are minimalistic “faith” & demonic “faith.” Surely Robbins and we all agree.

    “The thief on the cross very obviously understood only a little.”

    But these quotes do not indicate that Clark thought the gospel was something more than Christ’s death & resurrection FOR US, simply that the Christian faith involves/ contains more than the gospel.

    “The thief on the cross very obviously understood only a little.”

    He deduces that belief in the resurrection, monotheism, and Christ’s lordship are insufficient in and of themselves.

    And yet, “The thief on the cross very obviously understood only a little.”

    Clark does not say, “that there is no minimum knowledge necessary for salvation.” He is talking about bogus or insufficient propositions to be sure, and is (in the first quote) asking what is the necessary minimum. In these quotes, he doesn’t seem to have an answer.

    But, “The thief on the cross very obviously understood only a little.”

    I doubt that Clark would agree with Charlie that, “The entire Bible is the Gospel.” That’s the kind of crap that Wilson and the FV-ers spew.

    The thief on the cross very obviously understood that Jesus was dying for his sins.


  160. Clark specifically says in the Q & A following the lecture on Predestination in the OT that the Gospel is the whole Bible. I can find the minute mark for you if you want.


  161. “Understanding, therefore, is a prerequisite to faith. It is impossible to believe what one does not understand. The evangelist or missionary must spare no pains to help his prospective convert to understand the message.”

    “Just how much has to be understood is difficult to measure. Obviously a child of ten cannot understand as much as a highly educated adult; yet God regenerates some children. Does it follow that God will regenerate a highly educated adult if he understands no more than a child? Some individuals and some churches have tried to set down minimum requirements. They have tried to separate the few sentences in the Bible that are essential from all the rest that is unessential. One can see how these people become interested in such an attempt, but one cannot see any Biblical recommendation of such an attempt. Christ commanded us to teach all the things he taught; Paul was guiltless of his auditors’ blood because he had declared all the counsel of God; and many other passages condemn ignorance and recommend knowledge. In Scripture there is no minimum.”

    Gordon H. Clark (2013-03-04T05:00:00+00:00). What Is The Christian Life? (Kindle Locations 2942-2949). The Trinity Foundation. Kindle Edition.

  162. Hugh McCann Says:

    If [even!] Gordon Clark said the whole Bible is the gospel, then he erred as Doug Wilson and Harold Camping erred. Such a notion is nonsense.

  163. LJ Says:

    @ Charlie J. Ray:
    >Clark also said that there is no minimum knowledge necessary for salvation.<

    I don't think that's what he wrote. He wrote that only God knows what the irreducible minimum is for any particular sinner's salvation.

    So, while it might take many complicated propositions in the understanding of, say, a rocket scientist, to save him … it might, again, take only one saving proposition for an 8-year old or Forrest Gump to be regenerated. Only God knows and God alone ordains that minimum understanding required for any particular sinner.

    We, of course, cannot know for sure whether any individual sinner/saint is saved; hypocrites are sometimes very deceptive and we lack omniscience. That's why we look for a credible confession before admitting someone to membership in a church. Apparently some Baptists think they can KNOW who is or is not saved without question. I personally don't know any.

    But God cannot be fooled and he alone knows without question those who are his. We accept the good profession and look to outward obedience as best we are able.

    LJ

  164. Hugh McCann Says:

    Hear, hear, LJ.

  165. Fred Zorch Says:

    Hey Hugh, my old friend!

    >the whole Bible is the gospel<

    seems I remember Clark writing something like that, but as I recall, he said the gospel is all the saving propositions of the Bible, rather than that the whole Bible is the gospel. I'd have to read it in context and I don't have the particular text handy now.

    I like all the saving propositions of the Bible since I can't imagine how that could be wrong. Abraham, after all, saw Christ's day and was glad! So Father Abraham must have known some saving propositions in order to be glad …

    I'm glad to be reading again some good stuff here on God's Hammer. I'm very pleased to report that in my absence my beloved wife has undergone cancer treatment and licked it, brave soul that she is! And I have undergone a terrible labor lawsuit against my company and licked it too, by God's immeasurable mercy and grace – though the lawyers got all the money and left me with coal in my stocking 😉

    LJ

  166. LJ Says:

    Oh, forget the Fred Zorch thing it’s a confusion of sorts …

    LJ

  167. Hugh McCann Says:

    At least you still have a stocking!

    Praise God, LJ, for his care of you & yours.

  168. Roger Says:

    LJ, your entire response to Charlie Ray was excellent!

  169. James Says:

    If the following is true, and as applicable to knowledge of ourselves as well as to our knowledge of others,
    viz,
    “We, of course, cannot know for sure whether any individual sinner/saint is saved”

    then I must say the thief knew something more than the rest of us can possibly know and yes “very obviously understood that Jesus was dying for his sins”:

    Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.

  170. LJ Says:

    The thief had something we wish we had today but do not, viz., direct revelation from God.

    “Verily I say … ”

    Today “We, of course, cannot know … ” with certainty any sinner’s state of grace. But we accept with joy into fellowship all those who, upon examination, profess with credibility the faith once forever given to the saints.”

    LJ

  171. James Says:

    LJ Thanks! Pray all goes well for you and family

    actually the thief had something not many of our day, his day, or any day (ie day on this earth alive) had – and it’s actually more narrow than just “Direct Revelation”:

    Verily I say…..today you shall be with me in paradise…..

    (Most of) the rest of us cannot know at all -certainty or not.

    That means the belief that Christ died for *my* sins is in most of our cases an opinion and always will be (at least in this phase of life)- but not in the thief’s case.

    Anyway, if the Gospel is “Christ died for our sins” which it is according to 1 Cor 15 (I currently agree not the whole Bible is the Gospel), then any belief I have that I’m part of the *our* in that phrase can only rise to an opinion. No doubt I know that Christ (and Christ only) died as the sacrifice for sins such that If Christ died for my sins then I am saved and vice versa – but alas, I cannot assert either of the latter with knowledge.

    To be honest, and I may be wrong, but I don’t think this topic (what combo of props are required to believe in order to be saved) can really go much of anywhere. I take it that Christ knows who He died for and they will be saved no matter what combination He causes them to have – However, I do agree with Clark we are responsible to know as much as we can.

    My own opinion on this subject is more influenced by a read I’d recommend to everyone: J I Packers wonderful Introduction to John Owen’s The Death of Death. Perhaps what is said there has something to offer this discussion …. or not …..well whatever…

    But read it anyway – it’s quite good actually…
    “The last good Foreword J. I. Packer wrote was to John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.” – – John Robbins

    Have a great weekend, and Holiday too,

  172. LJ Says:

    Thanks for your thoughts, James.

    That forward by Packer was instrumental in bringing me to a full orbed Calvinism. I still have my dog-eared copy of Owen’s classic.

    I agree with all you wrote but wonder, given your point, if assurance is then possible? If I know the saving propositions and believe them can I not then be assured that I, even I, will be with Christ in Paradise?

    Assurance is a beloved doctrine but assuredly difficult to assert 😉

    Have a great Thanksgiving!

    LJ

  173. LJ Says:

    @ Roger: By logical necessity one cannot believe (i.e., voluntarily assent to or choose) p* over its denial unless one first understands what p* and its denial mean. Understanding logically precedes belief. Period. Full stop. End of story.

    Nailed, center mass and frontal lobe …

  174. Hugh McCann Says:

    James, May I ask why you think that –as pertaining to the gospel (“Christ died for our sins,” etc.,1 Cor. 15:3f — that “any belief” you have that you’re part of the “our” in that phrase can only “rise to an opinion”?

    No doubt [pun intended?] I know that Christ (and Christ only) died as the sacrifice for sins such that If Christ died for my sins then I am saved and vice versa – but alas, I cannot assert either of the latter with knowledge. Why not?

  175. Sean Gerety Says:

    No doubt [pun intended?] I know that Christ (and Christ only) died as the sacrifice for sins such that If Christ died for my sins then I am saved and vice versa – but alas, I cannot assert either of the latter with knowledge. Why not?

    Not to try and answer for James and I couldn’t agree more with what he said directly above, but it is phrases like “I am saved” and “my sins” that you need to account for in order for your otherwise arguably true belief to rise to the level of knowledge. But, how do you account for the prop “I am saved”? Or, to put it another way, we all would agree that Christ died for a particular people, the elect, but by what means can you know anyone of us is one of God’s elect? And, if you can’t know that someone else is elect, how do you know you fall into that category? Well, you can say the inward work of the Holy Spirit, but then are you asserting private revelation? Is it all of your good works? You’re otherwise excellent grasp of theology? You’re impeccable and much appreciated editing skills and grammar?

    Peter told us to be diligent making every effort “to make your calling and election sure.” But, if our calling and election where objects of knowledge and a deliverance from God in Scripture or a necessary deduction from it why all the effort? I would think it would be easy to prove. You saying “I am saved” is at best an induction and an incomplete one until the last day.

  176. Hugh McCann Says:

    Striving to share at every opportunity my impeccable and much appreciated editing skills and grammar, I would remind our dear host that it’s “your,” not “you’re.” 😉

    And no, I’m not banking on said skills for my salvation.

    But speaking of that, I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against [until] that day.

    And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.

    These things have I [St John] written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

    …but these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

    Are we not to know that we have this eternal life?

    He that hath the Son hath life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

    I recommend doing a word search on “assurance” => Col. 2:2, I Thes 1:5, Heb. 6:11, 10:22.

  177. Hugh McCann Says:

    Job “got it”:

    For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:

    It wasn’t merely that he’d see God, but that God was his redeemer!

  178. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean, et. al.,

    Christ died for OUR sins. Are y’all part of US?

    Isaiah said, Surely he hath borne OUR griefs,
    and carried OUR sorrows:
    yet WE did esteem him stricken,
    smitten of God, and afflicted.

    But he was wounded for OUR transgressions,
    he was bruised for OUR iniquities:
    the chastisement of OUR peace was upon him;
    and with his stripes WE are healed.

    All WE like sheep have gone astray;
    WE have turned every one to his own way;
    and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of US ALL.

    Are you part of “us all”?

    Jesus says, Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

    Do you believe that of yourself?

  179. Sean Gerety Says:

    BTW, and just an aside, my wife and I have been attending a local Reformed non-PCA church lately that we like very much. The pastor is solid and completely politically incorrect which is refreshing. However, a couple of weeks ago going through James 2 he stumbled in no small part due to the traditional Reformed view of faith as consisting in three parts. He did this after first admitting that Evangelicals while getting the first two parts of faith right, understanding and belief, have done a terrible job with the third or “fiducal” element.

    He then went on to explain that a person can ” understand the gospel and believe the content of the gospel,” but still be unconverted. He said without a “commitment to Christ,” which he said was this third element, then that person is not converted. He would have made Ron DiGiacomo and Alan Strange very happy. Of course, just like those other two men, this pastor ends up with the impossible class of “faithless believers.” Therefore, it is wrong and misleading for any of these men to ever say that believers are saved. What the need to say is that only “faith-ers” can be saved.

    Then to support his view that believers aren’t saved (even after referring to Christians as “believers” throughout the rest of his sermon) he cited James 2:19 and the belief of demons. Now, why do people do this? Bob Mattes early on in my recent dust up with Strange at Lane’s blog made the same point. I think I’ve heard this dozens of times over the years from the pulpit and other places, but I have been wondering why so many completely butcher this verse. It dawned on me that only by butchering James 2:18 and completely ignoring the actual content of what it is that James tells us the demons believe, can they even begin to justify the 3-fold definition of faith. What these men need to do is find a verse which shows that demons understand and believe the content of the gospel, which is something nowhere found in 2:19 (or anywhere else from what I can tell). If they could do that they would have a much better case, but then they would also have to show that Christ’s died to save fallen angels as well as fallen humans.

    Further, and I would think effective immediately, these men need to amend the WCF and revise the Confession’s definition of Justification. The Confession defines justification as being not due to “for any thing wrought in . . . or done by” the person who is justified. So where does “commitment” come from? Is it wrought in us by God like Ron DiGiacomo says or is it something we must bring to the table? Or, is it a combination of God’s grace and our effort? Also, how much commitment is necessary to be converted? Why don’t the defenders of tradition ever answer these questions? And, if they can’t answer these questions, why this love of tradition? Is it just Reformed idolatry?

  180. Sean Gerety Says:

    Christ died for OUR sins. Are y’all part of US?

    Isaiah said, Surely he hath borne OUR griefs,
    and carried OUR sorrows:
    yet WE did esteem him stricken,
    smitten of God, and afflicted.

    No one is arguing this. What we need to see is your argument, your account, that grammarian Hugh is among those for whom Christ bore their grief and sorrow. This is what you would need to do to transform your true belief into knowledge. I personally think the only way you can do that is by admitting you’re (not your) a Universalist and that Christ bore the sins of all men everywhere regardless of what they ever might believe. Of course, then you will come into direct conflict with other passages of Scripture, but it would at least be a promising start.

    I mean, I am happy to count you among those for whom Christ died, but I could be wrong. I believe I’m one of those guys too, even if Alan Strange classified me with Arius because of my rejection of his traditional threefold definition of faith. OTOH, I have been wrong about a lot of men. I remember a time before he came out of the closet and so openly denied the Gospel that I thought Dough Wilson was a Christian man and among those for whom Christ died. I even had a subscription to Credenda Agenda for a time. Now I think he’s a wolf whose sheep costume is looking pretty silly. I thought Michael Sudduth, despite his complete rejection of Clark, was a Christian and I certainly believed he was after he won the Clark prize in apologetics. Now he’s a Hare Krishna probably growing a topknot while ringing bells dancing around San Francisco International Airport. Opinions, unlike knowledge, can be either true or false.

  181. LJ Says:

    13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.

    18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

    I am comforted and rest assured by these words and the many other good words Hugh cited above. Otherwise I would sorrow as those who have no hope. Believers, Christians, have a hope that is sometimes tested GOD KNOWS! But the testing of our faith produces perseverance, not hopeless doubt. Think of the poor, wretched Romanist who exits the confessional absolved by the priest but can’t get to the parking lot before he has to turn around and hit the revolving door of the confessional all over again, and again, and again …

    Assurance is a gift of God. I pray God gives it in abundance to you all at this glad hour!

    LJ

  182. LJ Says:

    I might add FWIW that there is little Satan would love more than to destroy our assurance and have us doubt our salvation as we are led to the Romanist guillotine.

    This seems the essential element of our argument that justification is by BELIEF alone and not of works. Lord I believe … help thou mine unbelief!

    LJ

  183. LJ Says:

    2. This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope;[353] but an infallible assurance of faith founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation,[354] the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made,[355] the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God,[356] which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption.[357]

    3. This infallible assurance doth not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties before he be partaker of it:[358] yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation, in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto.[359] And therefore it is the duty of everyone to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure,[360] that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience,[361] the proper fruits of this assurance; so far is it from inclining men to looseness.[362]

    The brackets above are the scripture citations in my electric version of the WCF.

    Note the terms INFALLIBLE ASSURANCE, CERTAINTY, and the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits.

    Blessed assurance Jesus is mine and a foretaste of Heaven divine! Assurance will by God’s grace steel you for the axe, the pillory, and the flames.

    LJ

  184. LJ Says:

    Finally and I’ll shut up (rest assured, LOL!), read the gospel of John over and over and over again for it is full of positive statements of assurance for God’s own.

    Over ‘n out,

    LJ

  185. Sean Gerety Says:

    FWIW, and I don’t recall whether it was from a lecture or one of his works, but Clark wasn’t a fan of the word “infallible” in WCF XVIII. Probably because it’s hard to imagine something that is infallible that may also be “shaken, diminished, and intermitted.”

    Also, I would argue the BIGGEST detriment to assurance is the trad threefold definition of faith for reasons already given. If belief alone in Christ’s finished work outside of us isn’t sufficient for justification, His work is hardly sufficient for assurance either.

  186. LJ Says:

    38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, …

    Nor Screwtape, nor scholastic arguments, …

    Nor the threefold argument regarding faith …

    nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    Justified by grace through belief despite my shaken, diminished, and intermittent assurance.

    But I get the point about the logical demonstration.

    Blessings,
    LJ

  187. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean – I’m not following you as to what I’m supposed to do.

    As for your new pastor, he could use this: http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=117

  188. Sean Gerety Says:

    But I get the point about the logical demonstration.

    Maybe you can explain it to Hugh and then maybe he’ll understand Jame’s post above. 🙂

  189. Hugh McCann Says:

    I am missing why St John is insufficient.

    And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. I John 5:20

    These things have I [St John] written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. I John 5:13

    …but these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. John 20:31

    Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. John 5:24

    Again, I ask, are we not to know that we have this eternal life?

  190. Hugh McCann Says:

    The quote of LJ’s that James commented upon was:

    We, of course, cannot know for sure whether any individual sinner/saint is saved; hypocrites are sometimes very deceptive and we lack omniscience. That’s why we look for a credible confession before admitting someone to membership in a church. . . But God cannot be fooled and he alone knows without question those who are his. We accept the good profession and look to outward obedience as best we are able.

    From the context, it appears that LJ means that we cannot know for sure whether any *other* individual sinner/ saint is saved. Am I reading you correctly, LJ?

    As a believer in Jesus Christ, I am sorry to read of James’s doubt. He takes LJ and goes from others to self:

    LJ: “We, of course, cannot know for sure whether any individual sinner/saint is saved”

    Jas: then I must say the thief knew something more than the rest of us can possibly know

    Jas: (Most of) the rest of us cannot know at all -certainty or not. That means the belief that Christ died for *my* sins is in most of our cases an opinion and always will be (at least in this phase of life)- but not in the thief’s case.

    Anyway, if the Gospel is “Christ died for our sins” which it is according to 1 Cor 15 (I currently agree not the whole Bible is the Gospel), then any belief I have that I’m part of the *our* in that phrase can only rise to an opinion. No doubt I know that Christ (and Christ only) died as the sacrifice for sins such that If Christ died for my sins then I am saved and vice versa – but alas, I cannot assert either of the latter with knowledge.

    “Something more than the rest of us can possibly know?”
    “Only opinion”? “Cannot assert with knowledge”?
    Are you yet in your sins, James?

    Christ died for his elect. One knows his election & salvation by believing on Christ alone.

  191. Hugh McCann Says:

    From the Heidelberg Catechism:

    Q & A 1

    Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?

    A. That I am not my own,1 but belong— body and soul, in life and in death—2 to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.3

    He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,4 and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.5

    He also watches over me in such a way6 that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven;7 in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.8

    Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life9 and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.10

    1 1 Cor. 6:19-20
    2 Rom. 14:7-9
    3 1 Cor. 3:23; Titus 2:14
    4 1 Pet. 1:18-19; 1 John 1:7-9; 2:2
    5 John 8:34-36; Heb. 2:14-15; 1 John 3:1-11
    6 John 6:39-40; 10:27-30; 2 Thess. 3:3; 1 Pet. 1:5
    7 Matt. 10:29-31; Luke 21:16-18
    8 Rom. 8:28
    9 Rom. 8:15-16; 2 Cor. 1:21-22; 5:5; Eph. 1:13-14
    10 Rom. 8:1-17
    __________

    Q & A 22

    Q. What is true faith?

    A. True faith is not only a sure knowledge by which I hold as true all that God has revealed to us in Scripture;1 it is also a wholehearted trust,2 which the Holy Spirit creates in me3 by the gospel,4 that God has freely granted not only to others but to me also,5 forgiveness of sins, eternal righteousness, and salvation.6

    These are gifts of sheer grace, granted solely by Christ’s merit.7

    1 John 17:3, 17; Heb. 11:1-3; James 2:19
    2 Rom. 4:18-21; 5:1; 10:10; Heb. 4:14-16
    3 Matt. 16:15-17; John 3:5; Acts 16:14
    4 Rom. 1:16; 10:17; 1 Cor. 1:21
    5 Gal. 2:20
    6 Rom. 1:17; Heb. 10:10
    7 Rom. 3:21-26; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8-10
    __________

    Q & A 60

    Q. How are you righteous before God?

    A. Only by true faith in Jesus Christ.1

    Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all God’s commandments, of never having kept any of them,2 and of still being inclined toward all evil,3 nevertheless, without any merit of my own,4 out of sheer grace,5 God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ,6 as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, and as if I had been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me.7

    All I need to do is accept this gift with a believing heart.8

    1 Rom. 3:21-28; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8-9; Phil 3:8-11
    2 Rom. 3:9-10
    3 Rom. 7:23
    4 Tit. 3:4-5
    5 Rom. 3:24; Eph. 2:8
    6 Rom. 4:3-5 (Gen. 15:6); 2 Cor. 5:17-19; 1 John 2:1-2
    7 Rom. 4:24-25; 2 Cor. 5:21
    8 John 3:18; Acts 16:30-31
    __________

  192. Hugh McCann Says:

    James, May I ask you, per your post above:

    You say, the thief had something not many of our day, his day, or any day (ie day on this earth alive) had – and it’s actually more narrow than just “Direct Revelation”: Verily I say…..today you shall be with me in paradise….. (Most of) the rest of us cannot know at all -certainty or not.

    How do you know that most of the rest of us cannot have certainty? We have the completed canon of Scripture, a most sure word of prophecy.

    And, That means the belief that Christ died for *my* sins is in most of our cases an opinion and always will be (at least in this phase of life)- but not in the thief’s case.

    This is your opinion/ belief. But is it an irrefutable fact?

    And, Anyway, if the Gospel is “Christ died for our sins” which it is according to 1 Cor 15 (I currently agree not the whole Bible is the Gospel), then any belief I have that I’m part of the *our* in that phrase can only rise to an opinion.

    Again, your opinion/ belief; but is it fact?

    Lastly, No doubt I know that Christ (and Christ only) died as the sacrifice for sins such that If Christ died for my sins then I am saved and vice versa – but alas, I cannot assert either of the latter with knowledge.

    Am praying for you. And exhorting you to return to his word wherein is life: It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. John 6:63

    “If Christ died for my sins,” indicates that you are yet in your sins and do not yet know him as Saviour and Lord. Repent, and believe the gospel of God’s dear Son!

    H.C. Q & A 31

    Q. Why is he called “Christ,”meaning “anointed”?

    A. Because he has been ordained by God the Father and has been anointed with the Holy Spirit1 to be our chief prophet and teacher2 who fully reveals to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our deliverance;3 our only high priest4 who has delivered us by the one sacrifice of his body,5 and who continually pleads our cause with the Father;6 and our eternal king7 who governs us by his Word and Spirit, and who guards us and keeps us
    in the freedom he has won for us.8

    1 Luke 3:21-22; 4:14-19 (Isa. 61:1); Heb. 1:9 (Ps. 45:7)
    2 Acts 3:22 (Deut. 18:15)
    3 John 1:18; 15:15
    4 Heb. 7:17 (Ps. 110:4)
    5 Heb. 9:12; 10:11-14
    6 Rom. 8:34; Heb. 9:24
    7 Matt. 21:5 (Zech. 9:9)
    8 Matt. 28:18-20; John 10:28; Rev. 12:10-11
    __________

    Q & A 32

    Q. But why are you called a Christian?

    A. Because by faith I am a member of Christ1 and so I share in his anointing.2 I am anointed to confess his name,3 to present myself to him as a living sacrifice of thanks,4 to strive with a free conscience against sin and the devil in this life,5 and afterward to reign with Christ over all creation for eternity.6

    1 1 Cor. 12:12-27
    2 Acts 2:17 (Joel 2:28); 1 John 2:27
    3 Matt. 10:32; Rom. 10:9-10; Heb. 13:15
    4 Rom. 12:1; 1 Pet. 2:5, 9
    5 Gal. 5:16-17; Eph. 6:11; 1 Tim. 1:18-19
    6 Matt. 25:34; 2 Tim. 2:12
    __________

  193. Sean Gerety Says:

    “Something more than the rest of us can possibly know?”
    “Only opinion”? “Cannot assert with knowledge”?
    Are you yet in your sins, James?

    Christ died for his elect. One knows his election & salvation by believing on Christ alone.

    Why do I think I’m talking with Pat “The Lawyer Theologian” Sciacca and Reinhard Srajer? Have you read Intro to Christian Phil yet Hugh? Perhaps you can show us how you deduced “Hugh McCann is one of the elect” from Scripture so that you might not just believe this truth, but know it? And, remember, anything in your conclusion, like your name for example, must also be found in at least one of your premises. So far you haven’t adduced a single verse from Scripture that is sufficient to sustain your claim. So far it’s just an assertion. So where can you find the missing premise? Sciacca said the HS revealed this to him and it is private knowledge to which the rest of us are not privy.

  194. LJ Says:

    @ Hugh: From the context, it appears that LJ means that we cannot know for sure whether any *other* individual sinner/ saint is saved. Am I reading you correctly, LJ?

    Yes, that’s what I meant.

    Hugh also wrote: Christ died for his elect. One knows his election & salvation by believing on Christ alone.

    I concur.

    Belief is subjective but once I have arrived I know I’m there because God immediately imparts the knowledge. How else can a man KNOW anything?

    I also know that I don’t know how to write this out in a syllogism. At least I don’t think I can yet and certainly not today since I’m going to church.

    To all those whom God regenerates he immediately, through faith, implants that knowledge. That’s the best I can do right now.

    Blessings,
    LJ

  195. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean,

    Why do I think I’m talking with Pat “The Lawyer Theologian” Sciacca and Reinhard Srajer?
    > Dunno? Who dey? Need I know?

    Have you read Intro to Christian Phil yet Hugh?
    > Its been years. Will try to reread soon.

    Perhaps you can show us how you deduced “Hugh McCann is one of the elect” from Scripture so that you might not just believe this truth, but know it?
    > Didn’t know there was a diff. between faith and knowledge. See St John’s quotes I’ve given twice. We are to believe/ know. I do. James will too, if he is elect.

    And, remember, anything in your conclusion, like your name for example, must also be found in at least one of your premises.
    > What LJ says immediately above, RE: syllogism, etc. I think he and I have done our (sufficient) best, per I Peter 3:15.

    So far you haven’t adduced a single verse from Scripture that is sufficient to sustain your claim.
    > Where does God tell me to do so?

    So far it’s just an assertion.
    > Yep. So?

    So where can you find the missing premise? Sciacca said the HS revealed this to him and it is private knowledge to which the rest of us are not privy.
    > See LJ, above. I know Whom I have believed, whether you believe me or not.

  196. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean, Isn’t every profession of saving faith “just an assertion”?

    “Perhaps you can show us how you deduced “Hugh McCann is one of the elect”…”

    And perhaps I can’t. So what? Prove to me why I need to.

    And, remember, anything in your conclusion, like MY name for example, must also be found in at least one of your premises.

  197. LJ Says:

    P1: And we (the universe of all believers which includes Hugh) know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. I John 5:20

    P2: Hugh is included in the universe of believers.

    Therefore, Hugh knows that the Son of God is come.

    Now, I’m really, really getting ready for church😃!

    LJ

  198. Hugh McCann Says:

    LJ – Works for me, but isn’t the whole enterprise pointless if my existence cannot be proven biblically? 🙂

    I agree your thing is valid, and I certainly believe/ know the true, saving gospel, but you cannot prove P2.

    We’re left with but my profession of saving faith.

  199. Sean Gerety Says:

    @Hugh: From the context, it appears that LJ means that we cannot know for sure whether any *other* individual sinner/ saint is saved. Am I reading you correctly, LJ?

    Yes, that’s what I meant.

    And.

    I agree your thing is valid, and I certainly believe/ know the true, saving gospel, but you cannot prove P2.

    We’re left with but my profession of saving faith.

    If you cannot prove P2 and you cannot know (I’ll leave out the “sure” qualifier since it’s irrelevant) whether any other sinner is saved and all your left with is your profession, how is it that YOU can know P2 applies to yourself? You certainly cannot account for it from Scripture or from any necessary implication, i.e., deduction, from Scripture, so how can YOU know P2 since you admit no one else can?

    Is it a feeling? A secret message from God? Self delusion? Wishful thinking? Or, is it just something you believe about yourself that you cannot prove in which case why would you balk at calling it an opinion?

  200. LJ Says:

    A burning in the bosom😳

  201. Hugh McCann Says:

    Urp. 😛

  202. Hugh McCann Says:

    I can account for it from Scripture, whether another chooses to agree with me or not.

    YOU’RE left with only my profession (as well as other works, that prove the tree a good one), but I have yes, that inner witness from the Spirit that I am a child of God.

    And the Bible says that “by him [Jesus] all that believe [we, the elect] are justified from all things…”

    And, my Lord said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, HATH everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but IS PASSED from death unto life.

    And, And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should NOT perish, but HAVE eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should NOT perish, but HAVE everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might [would] be saved. He that believeth on him is NOT condemned…

    And, again, And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may KNOW him that is true, and we ARE in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.

    I am to affirm the Lord and my faith. I don’t see (yet) in Scripture the requirement in the law to provide a syllogism to prove to others that I am elect.

  203. LJ Says:

    Seriously, though, is assurance impossible? Or is it just subjective and that’s ok? Do you not accept the WCF on this doctrine? Or do you interpret the chapter on assurance differently? Maybe I need to read some previous posts on the topic since it apparently has a history here.

    I do see why P2 cannot be proved from scripture if you, or Hugh, or I am not included in the “we.” But aren’t we? Who exactly are the “we?”

    LJ

  204. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sounds like James and Sean think that “we” (the elect) is such a secret society, that even those within it do not know that they are?!

  205. LJ Says:

    I’ve been experimenting but every syllogism I try seems to be asserting the consequent.

    Hmmmm … this is a first for me.

    Whence commeth then Chapt. 18 of the WCF on assurance?

    When I read it they seem pretty sure assurance is possible.

  206. Hugh McCann Says:

    You all probably know that the continental reformed (as in the Heidelberg Catechism – see references above) and the British Isles variety (Westminster adherents) have had debates about assurance, whether it is an inherent component of saving faith.

    I obviously side with the Heidelberg, and strongly recommend it!

  207. Sean Gerety Says:

    Hugh writes:

    I can account for it from Scripture, whether another chooses to agree with me or not.

    YOU’RE left with only my profession (as well as other works, that prove the tree a good one), but I have yes, that inner witness from the Spirit that I am a child of God.

    Then you cite Acts 13:39, John 5:24, 3:14,15, 1John 5:20 (which is a complete repudiation of Ryan Hedrich’s Unitarianism), yet not one of those verses can we find either explicitly or by necessary implication LJ’s second premise; “Hugh is included in the universe of believers.” So, while LJ’s argument is valid, it’s not sound unless you can demonstrate HOW you arrived at P2. And, since this is not something you can prove from Scripture, just claiming you can account for it from Scripture is not an argument; it remains your opinion. Until you can show how and from whence you have deduced P2 Scripturalism also stands and you are left confusing and conflating noetic states.

    I don’t see (yet) in Scripture the requirement in the law to provide a syllogism to prove to others that I am elect.

    I never said proving your blessed state from Scripture was a requirement, but I would think not begging the question is. My point is that it is impossible to prove your eternal state from Scripture therefore James’ argument stands which is; “the belief that Christ died for *my* sins is in most of our cases an opinion and always will be (at least in this phase of life)- but not in the thief’s case.”
    LJ is correct and that you are left asserting the consequent.

    And, if you and he think your assurance rests on your ability to know in the epistemic sense P2, perhaps you need to revise your understanding of assurance or like most people, reject Clark’s Scripturalism and find a different epistemology that better supports your claim. It seems to me that so-called “Reformed Epistemology” provides a basis for elevating all sorts of opinions including God’s existence to the level of “knowledge,” but then we all saw where that got Mike Sudduth.

    FWIW I don’t see the doctrine of assurance requiring we know in any strict sense that we are “in the state of grace,” which is why I agree with Clark and that “infallible assurance” may have been a poor choice of words and perhaps has led people to confuse assurance with knowledge. However, I do completely agree with the WCF and that assurance does not belong to the “essence of faith.” I do hope to reread Packers intro to Death of Death and maybe I (or if James has the desire to jump back in) can glean some relevant remarks from it that might help.

    Finally, I’m happy to say that my belief that I too am “in the state of grace” is an opinion that I hold, although I only think you have to go over to Lane’s Greenbaggins blog to find plenty who don’t share my opinion. But, then, my assurance, which has at times been shaken to say the least, doesn’t rest on anything in me, but rests on “the divine truth of the promises of salvation” found in Scripture which is enough for me . . . and should be for you.

  208. Sean Gerety Says:

    Also, and to echo something John Robbins once said in a different context, since P1 is something we can *know* is true (and it is save his parenthetical remark which is a restatement of P2), and if it is your opinion that P2 is true, then you are obligated to believe the conclusion: “Hugh knows that the Son of God is come.” Remember, we are commanded to take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,” even our opinions.

  209. LJ Says:

    Sean, help me out here and answer a previous question I asked:

    >I do see why P2 cannot be proved from scripture if you, or Hugh, or I am not included in the “we.” But aren’t we? Who exactly are the “we?”<

    If it is assumed that the *we* of 1John 5:20 is the universe of all believers, why else did John write it except to ASSURE believers? I mean, isn't that at least part of his purpose in writing those words to the church? For assurance?

    If the Spirit witnesses with my spirit that I am a son of God isn't that epistemically justified true belief? Providing of course I am believing the saving propositions of Scripture?

    I fear I may be missing the point. So I'm asking and not debating your point since reducing assurance to the level of opinion is a bit disappointing to say the least😕.

    LJ

  210. Roger Says:

    It seems to me that this narrow point of dispute revolves around how one defines the term “knowledge.” If we use the Scriptural definition of knowledge, then surely all men “know” the one true God by natural revelation (Romans 1:18-28), which includes the knowledge that God will righteously judge all who sin against Him (Romans 1:32). Moreover, if we genuinely believe the gospel, then we may subjectively “know” that we have eternal life (1 John 5:13). But if the term “knowledge” is defined in a way that requires us to deduce our own personal identity from Scripture, then we cannot “know” that we are saved any more than we can “know” that we exist as a human being created in God’s image. But is that really the Biblical criteria?

  211. Sean Gerety Says:

    If it is assumed that the *we* of 1John 5:20 is the universe of all believers, why else did John write it except to ASSURE believers? I mean, isn’t that at least part of his purpose in writing those words to the church? For assurance?

    If the Spirit witnesses with my spirit that I am a son of God isn’t that epistemically justified true belief? Providing of course I am believing the saving propositions of Scripture?

    Knowledge, if we’re going to call it that, requires an account. It’s not enough to believe that something is true, but to show how it is true. Most people, I should think, believe science provides us with knowledge about the world. However Clark, Popper, Russell and others have shown that all the conclusions of science rest on a tissue of fallacies and therefore the account given by science concerning conclusions it believes to be true cannot be accounted for. That’s because the conclusions of fallacious arguments are false, or at least we can never know if even one conclusion arrived at by the scientific method is true. So, you can equivocated on the world “knowledge” and say that everything you believe to be true because you believe it, but then how do you differentiate knowledge from opinion or from ignorance for that matter or is it all the same?

    Clark was concerned with answering the question how can we know anything at all. You only have to read Thales to Dewey or take a few philosophy courses in college to realize that secular philosophy has failed completely in providing a basis for any knowledge at all. Subjectivism and skepticism reign supreme. However, all is not lost and starting with the axiom of Scripture, or what he called the “Westminster principle,” Clark sketched out how we can know the truth in his Intro to Christian Philosophy. He argued that starting with Scripture we could account for knowledge in every area of philosophy. However, there are limits to our knowledge and the knowledge of our own blessed state, at least in this phase of life, appears to be one of them. Now, if you want to say there are other sources of knowledge like the “Spirit bearing witness” then I would ask how are you then any different from the Charismatic or Pentecostalist who claims to receive private revelations all the time quite apart from Scripture?

    But, I think the more important point is that assurance isn’t concerned with knowledge at all as for example faith would be, but rather its concern is our confidence in Christ and the promises of God in Scripture. Assurance results from our knowledge, but even then our confidence can be shaken and interrupted at times due to various trials or our own sin.

    I honestly don’t even know why this is an issue as I have never met even one Reformed pastor or even layperson who believed they could identify the elect members even in their own church. Now, the FV men get around this and say they can identify the elect from the non-elect by claiming everyone who got their head wet from a mumbling priestling is elect. Of course, for them election often devolves into reprobation due to, as Doug Wislon said, a lack of faith and good works. But, then, I’m talking about Reformed folk.

  212. LJ Says:

    Thanks for taking the time to explain. I have to think about this some more. I get the point about the subjectivity of charismatics and bosom burning Mormons. But the charismatics disregard analogia fide and think they’re getting new revelations from God while the Mormons fail to believe the saving propositions of the gospel and have extra biblical revelations.

    I don’t think I fall into either category. But I’m not saying you’re wrong I’m just not yet convinced assurance is only opinion.

    Something definitely to think about. In the meantime …

    Night😴

    LJ

  213. Sean Gerety Says:

    I don’t think I fall into either category.

    You would if you were to contend that ” the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God” was some private propositional revelation from which you were able to deduce your blessed state. It’s important to remember that the testimony of the Spirit in assurance is where He enables the believer (as opposed to that special Reformed class of “faither”) “to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation, in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto.”

  214. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean, again I ask, “Why?”

    “Knowledge, if we’re going to call it that, requires an account.”
    Why?

    “It’s not enough to believe that something is true,”
    Why isn’t it?

    “but to show how it is true.”
    Why?

  215. Hugh McCann Says:

    Jesus Christ says that believers are saved.

    I am a believer.

    Therefore,

  216. Hugh McCann Says:

    “And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

  217. LJ Says:

    Didn’t the Council of Trent pronounce an anathema on the “new” Protestant doctrine of assurance? One cannot have assurance in the Romish system since that would cut into the Priest’s power over his flock.

    Oh well, no new revelations here I’m afraid. I did have a burning in the bosom once but Rolaids took care of that.

    FWIW, I understand how this could be ONLY belief and not knowledge. But it still doesn’t sit well with me; maybe I’ll get over it.

    LJ

  218. Hugh McCann Says:

    It was Cardinal Bellarmine who said, “The greatest of Protestant heresies is . . . assurance.”

  219. Sean Gerety Says:

    “Knowledge, if we’re going to call it that, requires an account.”
    Why?

    Because Christians should be interested in knowledge, not opinion. And, if you can’t tell the one from the other (this convo being a case in point), then I think it shows that your interest is not in discovering the truth, but validating your own notions.

    “It’s not enough to believe that something is true,”
    Why isn’t it?

    Because you might be mistaken and opinions, unlike knowledge, can either be true or false.

    “but to show how it is true.”
    Why?

    Because some of us are not content with just opinions.

  220. Sean Gerety Says:

    Jesus Christ says that believers are saved.

    I am a believer.

    Therefore,

    P1 is true and I can know it’s true because it is what Jesus said and is found in Scripture. P2 is arguably true and a premise that I accept as true, so therefore you probably are a believer and are saved. But, as already mention I’ve been wrong before, although I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. And, I would hope that you extend to me the same courtesy. 🙂

  221. Sean Gerety Says:

    It was Cardinal Bellarmine who said, “The greatest of Protestant heresies is . . . assurance.”

    OK, so what? Assurance is a psychological state of mind impossible for Romanists, Federal Visionists, and is extremely difficult for those who deny justification by belief alone. What does that have to do with this discussion?

  222. Hugh McCann Says:

    Of course, Sean, don’d know why I wouldn’t extend you that courtesy. But I’m still waiting to read why I’m supposed to have some airtight, logically valid “proof” of my redemption…

    The Bellarmine quote was b/c we’ve been discussing assurance, and b/c LJ asked about Trent @ 10:01am.

    As for my knowledge, why is it anyone’s business? I must have missed that in the thread here as well as in Scripture. Did Paul prove his knowledge of his justified state? Was he supposed to?

    1. Christians should be interested in knowledge, not opinion.
    But if this knowledge of mine is unprovable…

    2. if you can’t tell the one from the other (this convo being a case in point), then I think it shows that your interest is not in discovering the truth, but validating your own notions.
    I have discovered the truth, and it’s set me free, etc. Why is criticizing me or belittling helpful to your cause? Which I still do not see from Scripture: That I am to prove to others that I am saved. Why not help me understand?

    3. you might be mistaken and opinions, unlike knowledge, can either be true or false.
    But I am not mistaken; I am assured/ certain/ know whom I have believed, etc…

    4. “but to show how it is true.”
    Why?
    Because some of us are not content with just opinions.
    So I am to bow to your discontent? Your whim? WHY?
    Show us from Scripture, please, since it seems you lay upon us a yoke no one can bear.

  223. LJ Says:

    I wonder if the Protestant martyres, facing certain death, had assurance? I know I would be much more likely to jump on a hand grenade if I KNEW the next moment after death would be the state of glory. THey said Stonewall Jackson had it and that’s why he was like an old stonewall in the face of battle. There are so many passages of scripture that appear to encourage Christians not to fear death. Why? Because they can be assured of eternal life as believers of the gospel of Christ.

    Must we face death unsure of our salvation waiting to see if we made the cut after the crucible of death and dying? Granted it is a psychological state of mind and logical demonstration may be impossible but the scriptures seem to clearly teach that assurance is something we are to lay hold of, especially during severe trials.

    Maybe that’s why it’s often called “blessed assurance?”

    I want it. Usually I have it. Sometimes I’m shaken and doubt it. But by availing myself of the means of grace God has always given it back to me, wretched soul that I am. God gave my wife blessed assurance while she faced possible death from cancer. I could only beg God that I would bear that burden as well as she. You ask her and it was the certainty that her name was written in the Book of Life that gave her perseverance and courage through a ghastly ordeal. Blessed assurance indeed!

    LJ

  224. Sean Gerety Says:

    1. Christians should be interested in knowledge, not opinion.
    But if this knowledge of mine is unprovable…

    If you can’t account for it, then it’s not knowledge. Look, you’re the one who took issue with James’ post, when everything he wrote was spot on.

    I have discovered the truth, and it’s set me free, etc. Why is criticizing me or belittling helpful to your cause? Which I still do not see from Scripture: That I am to prove to others that I am saved. Why not help me understand?

    Believe me, I’ve tried. Perhaps you should read Clark’s Intro to Christian Phil again.

    3. you might be mistaken and opinions, unlike knowledge, can either be true or false.
    But I am not mistaken; I am assured/ certain/ know whom I have believed, etc…

    You are just begging the question.

    4. “but to show how it is true.”
    Why?
    Because some of us are not content with just opinions.
    So I am to bow to your discontent? Your whim? WHY?
    Show us from Scripture, please, since it seems you lay upon us a yoke no one can bear.

    You don’t have to bow to anything, but this is really Clark’s Scripturalism 101. I thought you were a Scripturalist? My mistake.

  225. Hugh McCann Says:

    Yes, if scripturalism means having to prove to others that you’re saved, then I am not (yet) a scripturalist. Unless you can show me (as I have repeatedly asked) from Scripture where it says I need to prove this to others.

    If you can’t account for it, then it’s not knowledge.

    It’s not shared knowledge, not common knowledge. But not knowledge?!

    Paul said, “I know whom I have believed,” etc.

    “And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

    Was his not true knowledge b/c he didn’t account for it? Or did he? If so, please show me how so you’ll be nice again.

  226. Sean Gerety Says:

    I wonder if the Protestant martyres, facing certain death, had assurance?

    From what I’ve read some did and others didn’t. It wasn’t always the romantic ideal, as Peter’s own confession when facing imminent death shows.

    There are so many passages of scripture that appear to encourage Christians not to fear death. Why? Because they can be assured of eternal life as believers of the gospel of Christ.

    Yet, many, many Christians fear death and face it everyday as will you and I. I don’t think their failing the test, as it were, makes them any less Christians or somehow not among God’s chosen. Thankfully our performances won’t be held against us, nor will the add to what Christ has already won for us.

    Granted it is a psychological state of mind and logical demonstration may be impossible but the scriptures seem to clearly teach that assurance is something we are to lay hold of, especially during severe trials.

    I completely agree, but then I don’t confuse knowledge with assurance. Although the former might come from the latter, that doesn’t mean they’re the same thing.

    God gave my wife blessed assurance while she faced possible death from cancer. I could only beg God that I would bear that burden as well as she. You ask her and it was the certainty that her name was written in the Book of Life that gave her perseverance and courage through a ghastly ordeal. Blessed assurance indeed!

    Amen. And, praise be to God for your wife. But perhaps you’re beginning to see why James and Clark before him both said certainty is irrelevant when it comes to questions of knowledge. We should be confident that our names are written in that Book, and, as you say, we have been given every reason to have that confidence, but we will *know* our names are in that book when that book is read. See the difference?

  227. LJ Says:

    Yes. But I think the psychological state of mind called ASSURANCE is a desideratum the scriptures encourage, even compel, the Christian to, dare I say(?), KNOW by virtue of their knowledge of and belief in the gospel.

    Do you think the chapter on assurance in the WCF was in error? Yes they did use the term INFALLIBLE and I wonder why?

    Thank you for your kind words and patience. This is a challenging topic of discussion. I have learned a lot just from the dialogue and appreciate both Hugh’s and your argument – iron sharpens iron.

    Now I think I’ll turn on the tube and watch Ferguson, Missouri burn.

    LJ

  228. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean,

    Does this, “we will *know* our names are in that book when that book is read. See the difference?” mean that knowledge is tied to experience?

  229. Sean Gerety Says:

    Does this, “we will *know* our names are in that book when that book is read. See the difference?” mean that knowledge is tied to experience?

    Um, no Hugh, it means that knowledge is tied to revelation. As Clark argues in his Intro there are two primary objections to positing the axiom of revelation as the source of knowledge with the first being that it is too all encompassing.

    The second is that verbal inspiration covers very little. Presumably all secularists, and many theologians as well, see no hope of developing all possible knowledge out of verbal inspiration. Admittedly, the Bible gives us some theology; granted, it contains some history; but how from the Bible can one get the rest of history, all of science, and even logic and mathematics?

    As this objection is obvious, so it demands a clear answer. One is immediately forthcoming. As has been shown, secular epistemology cannot provide for any knowledge at all, therefore whatever revelation gives us, however restricted, is to be received with thanksgiving. Even if one does not take such a dim view of secular principles, every philosopher admits that there will always be spheres of ignorance. Hegel himself, retreating from his imposing claim to omniscience, acknowledges that some parts of zoology cannot be deduced from his categories. Hence, that the Christian system leaves some or many gaps in our desired knowledge is not a pertinent objection. Furthermore, one should not assume that the postulate of revelation provides only a bare minimum of knowledge. Its extend remains to be examined. – Intro to Christian Phil, 63-64

  230. Hugh McCann Says:

    “…knowledge is tied to revelation…”

    And both St John and St Paul write of knowing Christ.

    John: And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.

    Paul: I know whom I have believed and am persuaded…

    But revelation, of course. Same with me. And every believer.

    So, why, biblically, am I being derided as deficient? What did I do wrong in answering James’s post? Can anyone here help me?

    LJ – Can you explain how Sean & I talk past each other? I am either not getting my question answered, or I am missing the answer.

    hughmc5 AT hotmail DOT com

  231. LJ Says:

    IMHP, and I may not get it either since I’m barely sharp as a marble😕, it’s all about epistemology; Sean’s Scripturalism 101. He’s looking for justification of HOW you know in order to determine WHAT you or any man can know. You’re asserting you know because the Bible says believers know, or should know, certain things pertaining to salvation and, I think, assurance of salvation.

    I’m betwixt n between since I see his point, kinda, and I see your point, kinda, while I confess I’m leaning more toward you than I am Sean.

    How does ANY man know ANYTHING? I think dat be da question.

    It seems clear to me the Bible asserts that the elect know certain saving propositions and believe them. Since the believing is an IMMEDIATE gift from God, and that not of ourselves, so must the knowing be since we can’t believe something we don’t know, and vice versa; Augustine said we believe in order to understand (know?). A very difficult philosophical problem and very interesting, but not something in my view brothers ought to get too antagonistic about. But then I’m a real milquetoast kinda guy😎.

    LJ

  232. LJ Says:

    IMHO … that is

  233. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean,

    You say, “If you can’t account for it, then it’s not knowledge.”

    How do you prove this assertion biblically?

    Also, “…we will *know* our names are in that book when that book is read…” This “means that knowledge is tied to revelation.”

    Says you. I assert that I can know this today, since it’s been revealed to me.

    Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.
    I so believe.
    I am saved.

    Yes, I take “issue with James’ post.”

    I see it is cordial and honest and heartfelt, but also, it evinces skepticism, doubt, unbelief.

    Everything he wrote was decidedly not “spot on.”

    If the following is true, and as applicable to knowledge of ourselves as well as to our knowledge of others, viz, “We, of course, cannot know for sure whether any individual sinner/saint is saved”
    then I must say the thief knew something more than the rest of us can possibly know and yes “very obviously understood that Jesus was dying for his sins”:
    Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise

    And

    actually the thief had something not many of our day, his day, or any day (ie day on this earth alive) had – and it’s actually more narrow than just “Direct Revelation”:
    Verily I say…..today you shall be with me in paradise…..
    (Most of) the rest of us cannot know at all -certainty or not.

  234. Hugh McCann Says:

    We actually know more than the thief: All the Bible’s propositions.

    We know exactly what (or better, Whom) the thief knew: Jesus.

    And with the same certainty, as it is revealed by the Holy Ghost.

  235. Sean Gerety Says:

    You say, “If you can’t account for it, then it’s not knowledge.”

    How do you prove this assertion biblically?

    “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.”

    I can’t find a single verse says Hugh’s word is truth.

    Yet, I can find this one: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God….”

    Says you. I assert that I can know this today, since it’s been revealed to me.

    Not in Scripture it hasn’t. As you have already demonstrated above:

    I agree your thing is valid, and I certainly believe/ know the true, saving gospel, but you cannot prove P2.

    We’re left with but my profession of saving faith.

    Yep, that’s what we’re left with.

    I take “issue with James’ post.”

    I see it is cordial and honest and heartfelt, but also, it evinces skepticism, doubt, unbelief.

    Everything he wrote was decidedly not “spot on.”

    If Clark is correct, and I think he is, and that secular philosophy “cannot provide for any knowledge at all,” and that the axiom of Scripture or revelation, as broad or as limited as some might see it, provides both the content and account of knowledge, then James is just agreeing with you concerning P2.

    As Clark said; “It may be suggested for sober consideration whether or not those who are most easily assured of salvation are least likely to be saved.” Or, as Paul put it; “let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.”

    See more at: https://godshammer.wordpress.com/2013/02/08/assurance-and-knowledge/ . Please pay careful attention to what Robbins writes toward the end of that piece.

  236. Sean Gerety Says:

    Here’s another one for John that might help you see the light 🙂

    https://godshammer.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/john-robbins-quick-quote-8/

  237. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean – I agree that neither you nor anyone else but me can know whether my profession of faith is ultimately legit. But I can and do know.

    I hope and pray that James will be able to truly say that he knows his salvation is sure, as well.

    “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”
    I so believe.
    I am saved.

    Thanks for Robbins links.

  238. Sean Gerety Says:

    I agree that neither you nor anyone else but me can know whether my profession of faith is ultimately legit. But I can and do know.

    Then for you something other than Scripture alone is your source of knowledge and either won’t or can’t explain what that source is. Either that or in addition to begging the question you are just equivocating on the word “knowledge” which is also fallacious.

    Have a nice Thanksgiving. 🙂

  239. Hugh McCann Says:

    Thanks Sean. You too!

    Yes, ee must be working from different definitions of the word “knowledge.”

    The source of my information/ revelation/ knowledge, is God the Holy Spirit via his Scriptures.

  240. Hugh McCann Says:

    That is, We must be working from different definitions.

    I’ll read your piece on assurance and knowledge.

  241. LJ Says:

    Sean, I really do see your point. What I cannot get by the categories of plural pronouns in scripture who are to “know” what they believe. Why is not Hugh, you, or I not included in the category? Why does it have to state “categorically” your name or mine?

    Confused,
    LJ

  242. LJ Says:

    Sean, never mind. I read the links above and I see why it is opinion. I also remembered the scripture “the heart is deceitful who can know it.”

    Have a great Thanksgiving and let’s remember to Whom we are thankful!

    LJ

  243. Hugh McCann Says:

    But, do we know that we know Him Whom we are to thank? 😉

  244. LJ Says:

    stop it 🙂

    Go get your turkey ready for Thanksgiving dinner!

    Cheers,
    LJ

  245. Sean Gerety Says:

    The source of my information/ revelation/ knowledge, is God the Holy Spirit via his Scriptures.

    No it’s not or you would be able to demonstrate P2 from the Scriptures.

  246. Sean Gerety Says:

    Sean, never mind. I read the links above and I see why it is opinion. I also remembered the scripture “the heart is deceitful who can know it.”

    🙂

    Have a great Thanksgiving and let’s remember to Whom we are thankful!

    You too and amen.

  247. Hugh McCann Says:

    HM: The source of my information/ revelation/ knowledge, is God the Holy Spirit via his Scriptures.

    SG: No it’s not or you would be able to demonstrate P2 from the Scriptures.

    HM: You cannot prove that I do not know God as St Paul said he did, and as St John said we could.

  248. Sean Gerety Says:

    Paul didn’t demonstrate P2. Read P2 again Hugh.

  249. Sean Gerety Says:

    And, sorry, I don’t accept the Book of Hugh as divinely inspired. ;-P

  250. Hugh McCann Says:

    My “P2” is that I believe the gospel.

    I can say that I KNOW whom I have BELIEVED and am PERSUADED, etc.

    Also, that the Son of God is come, and has given us* an UNDERSTANDING, that we* may KNOW him that is true, and we* are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.

    * John’s us & we being God’s people, the elect. I am part of that host by faith in the word of God.

    Whether Sean or LJ or anyone agrees with me is utterly irrelevant. God has given me the faith, the understanding, the knowledge, that I am in him of a truth.

    I have struggled through this to understand why I owe Sean or anyone an explanation that satisfies them. I do not, according to Scripture.

    The serious bit here is that James sounds downright skeptical or doubting. And THAT could indicate no knowledge of Christ.

  251. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean, In quoting this: Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God,”* are you saying we can know whether another has or has not the Spirit of God?

    It also seems to be the case in Paul, Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. 1st Cor. 12:3

    And our Lord: Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. . . Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Matthew 7:15f, 20

    How else can one discern the Spirit of truth from the spirit of error (1 Jn 4:6), as well as dogs, swine, fall prophets, wolves, & corrupt trees?

    We shall know the truth, said Jesus (John 8:32).

    * From 1 John 4:1ff ~ Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
    2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
    3 and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
    4 Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
    5 They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.
    6 We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.

    Sounds like John says we can know some things.

  252. KLW Wallace Says:

    “According to these men faith is something qualitatively distinct and different from belief…”

    It is interesting that, in my Bible, Matthew, Mark and Luke all use the word “faith” extensively. But John never mentions faith at all, but uses the word “belief” instead. (Except in one passage where he mentions faith “backwardly” or in a negative sense, and then immediately converts it positively into “believe”).

    I’ve always wondered why the translators used the word “faith” in the first three gospels, and then suddenly change and use only the word “believe” in John’s gospel. Was it not the same group of translators? If not, wasn’t there at least one governing body that must surely have noticed this break in the pattern of the final product before they presented it to the King?


  253. Well, you know, the plow boy cannot understand the Bible or know anything after all. Even Sean Gerety cannot know himself because Gerety is a sinner. Jeremiah 17:9. But how would you know even that since no knowledge of any kind is possible. Oh, wait, you keep shifting the definitions of the word “knowledge.” What is knowledge anyway? If knowledge is only known to God, then you must be one of those God forsaken Van Tilians? You cannot even know what Clark said because you keep leaving out parts of the total system. Only God knows all the propositions that are to be known.

  254. Stephen Welch Says:

    Charlie, if you have something to add to the discussion or a question, you are welcome to post it. I do not appreciate your sarcasm or the tone of your last entry. As a Christian you are to be above this kind of attitude.

  255. Sean Gerety Says:

    @KLW – Because there is no verb form for the word faith which is why the translators use believe instead. I guess they could have used credo. 😉 Why they used faith instead of belief is the better question as it would have made more sense linguistically, but you know how those churchmen love their Latin and its derivations. Much easier to keep us pew-ons in our place. 😉

    I know you posted this on another thread concerning the question of faith vs belief, so I’m sorry I didn’t respond to you earlier.


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