Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:13-14)

Monday, January 30, 2006

Can a Believer be Certain that He Believes?

What is Saving Faith?

Perhaps the most fundamental answer to such questions is to say that large sections of the Christian Chruch have quitely yielded to a process that has turned the meaning of faith upside down.

Over a period of many years the idea has gained ground that true saving faith is somehow distinguishable from false kinds of faith, primarily by means of its results or “fruits”.

Thus two men might believe exactly the same things in terms of content, yet if one of them exhibited what seemed to be a “fruitless” Christian experience, his faith would be condemned as “intellectual assent,” or “head belief” over against “heart belief.” In a word, his faith was false faith – it was faith that did not, and could not, save.

With such ideas as these, the ground was prepared for full-fledged lordship theology. It remained for lordship thinkers to take the matter one step further.

What was really missing in false faith, so they affirmed, were the elements of true repentance and submission to God. Thus, saving faith ought not to be defined in terms of trust alone, but also in terms of commitment to the will of God. In the absence of this kind of submission, they insisted, one could not describe his faith as biblical saving faith.

If ever there existed a theological trojan horse, this point of view is it!

Under cover of a completely insupportable definition of saving faith, lordship teaching introduces into the Christian church a doctrine of salvation which was unknown to the New Testament authors. It transforms the offer of a free gift of eternal life into a “contract” between the sinner and God, and it turns the joy of Christian living into a grueling effort to verify our faith and our acceptance before God. As theology, is it a complete disaster.

But it is also nonsense. A little reflection will show this.

In every other sphere of life, except religion, we do not puzzle ourselves with introspective questions about the “nature” of our faith. For example, if I say to someone, “Do you believe that the President will do what he has promised?” I could expect any one of three possible answers. One answer might be, “Yes I do.” Another might be, “No, I don’t.” But my respondent might also reply, “I’m not sure,” or, “I don’t know.”

There is nothing complicated about this exchange. Two of the three answers reveal a lack of trust in the President. The answer, “No. I don’t,” indicates positive disbelief of the President’s reliability. The reply, “I’m not sure,” indicates uncertainty about the integrity of the President. Only the response, “Yes, I do,” indicates faith or trust.

Of course, my respondent could be lying to me when he says, “Yes, I do.” I might even know him well enough to say, “You’re putting me on, aren’t you? You don’t really trust the President at all, do you?”

But it is certainly not likely that I would say, “What is the nature of this faith you have in the President? Would you now go out and break a law? And if you did, would that not raise a question about whether you really trust him?”

Such a question would be absurd. My respondent would have every reason to think I was joking. And if he took me seriously, he would hae a perfect right to reply, “What has my breaking a law got to do with my firm conviction that I can trust the President in anything he says?”

Clearly, we all operate at the level of common sense when we talk about faith as it relates to everyday life. It is only when we discuss this subjext in religion that we tend to check our common sense at the door.

Indeed, in ordinary human life, the concept of “false faith” would arise only rarely. What would such an expression mean in normal conversation? Would it not have to mean something like “misplaced faith” or “pretended faith”? A person who had such a faith might be mistaken in believing what they do. His or her actual convictions might be false. Or they might only be pretending to a conviction, or confidence, that they did not in reality possess.

But “false faith” would never refer to a real conviction or trust which somehow fell below some imaginary standard which measured its results!

Let it be clearly stated here that English words like “believe,” or “faith” function as fully adequate equivalents to their Greek counterparts. There is not some hidden residue in the Greek words that is not conveyed by their normal English renderings. Although some have affirmed that there is, this claim betrays an inadequate or misguided view of biblical linguistics.

It follows that a Greek reader who met the words “he who believes in Me has everlasting life,” would understand the word “believe” exactly as we do. The reader most certainly would not understand this word to imply submission, surrender, repentance, or anything else of this sort. For those readers, as for us, “to believe” meant “to believe.”

Surely it is one of the conceits of modern theology to suppose that we can define away simple terms like “belief” and “unbelief” and replace their obvious meanings with complicated elaborations. The confusion produced by this sord of process has a pervasive influence in the church today.

The solution, however, is to return to the plain meaning of the biblical text.

--------------------
Zane C. Hodges, Prof. Emeritus of Dallas Theological Seminary, 27 years teaching New Testament Greek; Absolutely Free! A Biblical Reply to Lordship Salvation, pgs 27-29; Zondervan Publishing, 1989

Thank you, Professor Hodges for that concise statement concerning the unnatural understading of “faith” that requires it to be consciously recognized by the assessment of one’s works.

Where does the Bible speak of "false faith"? If false faith is not faith at all, what exactly is it? Could someone who espouses Lordship Salvation please describe for me what the one exercising false faith is consciously cognizant of? How does one think he believes but does not believe?

Traditionalists qualify faith by testing it against the so-called "tests of life" in 1 John. Those 5-11 tests seem to take some knowledge and growth to attain to some positive results, no? The new believer may not have any prior knowledge about Christian living and commandments. If this genuine new believer were to immediately take those tests, he would fail. He would therefore be robbed of the assurance that is his birth-right, and wonder when he could ever know with certainty that he had appropriated the grace of God that guarantees eternal life.

“… a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties before he be a partaker of [assurance]” (Westminster Confession of Faith, XVIII, II)

I once wrote, “Reformed people’s motivation is to work hard enough in order to gain some shadow of assurance, and thus make some conjecture that they may be saved.” Why Sacrifice for God if You Can’t be Certain that Christ Sacrificed for You?. Many people took exception with this statement. But the Westminster Confession makes the same claim: “And therefore it is the duty of every one to give diligence to make his calling and election sure, that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace…” (XVIII, II).

But, must we “wait long” before we can be certain of our standing with God? Must we “conflict with many difficulties” before we can have confident assurance?

Jesus says "Most assuredly I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life" (John 6:47).

Surely one can know whether or not they believe in Christ without making subjective external experimentation! One knows whether or not he is convinced that Jesus guarantees him eternal life! Is our cognizant recognition of convictions checked at the door when one considers religious truth? Or are the Traditionalists stuck with regarding certainty of held beliefs in any category to be impossible (apart from the "assurance" that comes from their Predestinational experiments)? Their integrated presuppositional theology works out an array of astonishing and ridiculous deductions.

To suggest that one can not know if he has believed Christ’s saving message and thus has eternal life, in and of themselves, apart from subjective external experimentation, is fantastic... surreal... odd and incredible, and should be wholeheartedly rejected! To propose that those whom God created in His likeness and image, possessing His communicable attributes, must necessarily be uncertain if they are trusting Him alone for their eternal-well being and therefore are convinced that Jesus guarantees them eternal life is lunacy. This is the predicament of the Experimental Predestinarian: syllogistic reasoning based upon perceived holiness and works that necessarily produce less-than-certain “assurance” and can, admittedly by Reformed advocates, result in faulty interpretations: either that one is unsaved when in fact he is elect, or that one is saved when in fact he is reprobate.

One can most certainly recognize that they are convinced that Jesus guarantees them eternal life and so bynecessarily know they indeed have eternal life. One can know whether or not he is convinced apart from subjective external experimentation! (As I assert this I am dumb-founded that anyone could disagree with this statement)

1) Eternal life is by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.

2) Jesus guarantees eternal life to the believer in Him for it.

If I am convinced that Jesus guarantees me eternal life, I am convinced that I have eternal life, therefore, certain and complete assurance is of the essence of saving faith, for Christ's guarantee is explicit in the promise being believed.

To say that one cannot know whether or not they are convinced about something (apart from subjective experimentalization) is an area of thought completely foreign to all but the Traditionalist. The Traditionalist must realize their faith only by conducting subjective external experiments, considering the worthiness of their works to prove that they are saved.

For the Traditionalist, being convinced of the Word of God is not enough, the objective Word of God is not enough; one must look to self and works for reason to have faith in their faith that it is adequate enough to save, that it is a true faith and not a spurious or false faith (whatever that is!).

Again. The Reformed advocate, the Calvinist, must necessarily not believe that the Word of God is enough! Their works must be in order before they can have faith in their faith that is is salvific. But what if their faith that their faith is saving is wrong? Wouldn’t they necessarily need to conduct an experiment on their conviction that their faith in Christ is actually saving? Which book of the Bible would they need to turn to for that research?

Such is the absurd nature of the presuppositional deductive theology of the Traditionalist.

To see an accurate description and definition of what faith is, click this link to an article I wrote:

The Biblical Definition of Faith

17 Comments:

Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Excellent reasoning, Antonio.

God Bless

January 30, 2006 3:05 PM  
Blogger J. Wendell said...

Hi Antonio!
I'm certain that I believe what I am certain of ... and I believe that I am certain. Do you believe me? :)

January 30, 2006 3:44 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

I second Mr. Wendell's thoughts.

January 30, 2006 7:11 PM  
Blogger ambiance-five said...

I try not to think in terms of division..reformed..calvinist..
yada yada

Heb 11:6 and without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him.

Are we confident?

1Jo 3:21
(ASV) Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, we have boldness toward God;

My own faith is the only one I can or even want to judge.

January 30, 2006 8:52 PM  
Blogger Modern Day Magi said...

thnks again antonio,
although i mudst be honest and find many of your posts difficult to digest. (they are very meaty) i thouroughly enjoy each and every one i get through.

God's grace is all I need for salvation, and Faith in Him is all I need to know that I am among those he has saved.

January 30, 2006 9:01 PM  
Anonymous bobby grow said...

Antonio,

"Why" would anyone desire to "believe" in Christ in a fiduciary (trusting)way, if all men (humanity) is captured by a love of themselves? In other words, what breaks this vicious cycle of inward focus of self that all men have?

Good post, BTW!

January 30, 2006 10:07 PM  
Blogger Nate said...

Antonio,

THanks man!! Great post, WE CAN BE SURE!!!

PEACE,

NATE

January 31, 2006 2:34 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Whew! I sure am glad I don't have to work for my salvation the way I have to work to get through this pithy post.

Very good, BTW. Worth working to get through.

January 31, 2006 6:08 AM  
Blogger Shawn L said...

Antonio,

Here's something I thought you might like as I wrote to our friend and yours Matthew.

"The problem with Free Gracers is that you on this topic are heavily influenced by stocism. I think more than your bible when it comes to this topic.

The language that you use with belief seems to put an emphasis upon the mundane to prove that salvation is very much like a work of man. The verses through the scriptures don't talk like this at all.

We need to reflect on the literal aspects of the spiritual awakening in man when they come to Christ.

The simple truth is that an unregenerate man is dead to God and alive to sin and becomes alive to God and is now dead to sin.

I'm sometimes surprised with Dispensationalists who believe things very literally when reading the bible, but when it talks of salvation don't believe this literal truth of being raised to life is true in our spiritual life in all of the parts of the man. I find it discouraging at times, because they are the heralds of the literal and make some very good points normally.

The fact is the bible teaches us that a man is body, soul, and spirit. We are both head and heart and you can't seperate the two. I don't believe you can.

The emotions and part of the heart are a dashboard to what we really love and believe in our heart and adore in our heart and believe. You can't take out that part of the fact that we are all of these things. All parts of us are affected in salvation.

What we believe, love, adore, etc, is coming out of this and what we worship.

For example, all true football fans see the glory in football players and adore and rejoice in the football players. You know what is really what they believe in their hearts to be the greatest thing better than father or mother or sister or brother at the time.

However when someone comes to Christ how can we not see more glory in God himself in our salvation. It affects all parts of us. I believe salvation is a work of God not a work of man. It is God who changes our whole person.

So we born again believer like all true football fans we show our worship and love based on what we believe to be the greatest thing in the world because we see His Glory and Behold His Grace.

So much more is His Glory in Christ and in Salvation and it is quite a telling thing in our intellect when we don't really believe something to be true. This is well true enough.

What a marvelous work of God.

If you don't agree with all aspects of this in justification think about it in terms of sanctification as well. This is important aspect in your growth to consider that you are more than just intellect, but all of you is involved in what you love.

You can see this in a shadow of what you love in life now. For example, football and food.

January 31, 2006 6:57 AM  
Anonymous Bobby Grow said...

Shawn,

The interesting thing is many of the "original" dispensationalists, Darby, Scofield, Chafer, etc. were staunch Calvinists--just for clarification.

And I'm not quite sure how your analogy between Antonio's position and Stoicism relate; relative to "belief". Stoics definitely tried to supress passion from belief--but I don't see Antonio doing this whatsover. Maybe you were thinking of Gnostics who dualistically make a hard and fast distinction between body and spirit--even then I don't see Antonio engaging in such a hard distinction; rather he is clarifying "one" aspect of the whole of salvation (be careful not to confuse the part with the whole or vice versa)

January 31, 2006 10:09 AM  
Blogger Shawn L said...

Bobby,

Yes, I do mean stoics and I was writing to Matthew originally and thought Antonio would like to comment as his comments on belief seem to put an emphasis on that as well.

It would be good to see where he sees passion in with belief in Christ. He says belief is just mean acceptance of the truth in Christ and belief in "Christ". Does he by this mean our belief is fueled with our internal desires as well.

This is what I am losing in all of this is that Hodges' Free Gracers seems to put so much emphasis on passive acceptance of truth rather than an active acceptance of truth that involves the whole aspects of a man.

This idea that we are adding to belief by saying that one has conviction of sin and a heart turning toward God in repentence is surprising.

You can't take out these affections from a man for Christ in your acceptance and trust in God.

It's like taking out part of a person like the Stoics do. I think it just isn't biblical.

It would be interesting to note how Antonio responds to this and other friends of mine in Christ.

Thanks guys for a good discussion.

May God bless you all,
Shawn Lynes

ps. There are many confessors of faith who have a form of Godliness but denying it's power and we must do well to see and hear all aspects of salvation with the eyes of faith.

January 31, 2006 10:32 AM  
Blogger Shawn L said...

Thanks Guys and Gals I mean... ;0)

January 31, 2006 10:33 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

Antonio,

It seems to me that many opponents of FG see it as promoting easy believism. Since I am ignorant as to the inner workings of the FG movement, perhaps you could address a post to this issue?

January 31, 2006 12:54 PM  
Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

My response to Shawn's comment on my blog:

'Shawn, the problem with your comments on this subject is that they confuse issues.

The issue of what constitutes saving faith has absolutely nothing to do with whether regeneration precedes conversion or vice versa.

It would be quite possible to hold that a man must be Born-again before believing, while at the same time making no distinction between intellectual assent and Biblical faith.

If we believe, then we receive a new nature through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that will affect our whole person, as you say.

However, our sinful nature remains, which is why our emotions may not always be in line with our faith.

However, you have not shown how belief in the fact of our receiving eternal life through Christ is essentially different from believing any other fact.

Your belief in your wife's existence could be said to be head knowledge, as you apprehend it in the same way as any other fact. However, the fact that you know it to be true affects your whole life, your whole person.'

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

January 31, 2006 1:10 PM  
Blogger Chuck said...

What's funny is that much of this is the same as I believe in regard to saving faith- yet I am a Calvinist. To say that there is such thing as "head faith" and "heart faith" is a Reformed thing is not exactly true. Some may say it...it's just not the same. I wonder what Gordon Clark would think, since his position is essentially the same yet you claim that it is not the Reformed view. Just thinking...

January 31, 2006 1:43 PM  
Anonymous bobby grow said...

Shawn,

I don't see Antonio creating a faulty dichotomy between the affections and saving faith in Christ, remember I originally said, of your thought process . . .

"rather he is clarifying "one" aspect of the whole of salvation (be careful not to confuse the part with the whole or vice versa). . ."

You are actually committing a logical fallacy here.

I would venture to say that Antonio believes the affections are an integral component to the reception of salvation in Christ.

To Moonlight Blogging:

Actually the Reformed faith, in its classical understanding, emphasizes an voluntaristic outlook (i.e. a will centered anthropology)relative to things salvific. In other words, the contemporary understanding of the Reformed faith typically fails to recognize that the Calvinists (see the Puritans)never really did remove themselves, except by way of assertion, from the Roman Catholic soteriological model of cooperative salvation that they were so adamantly "Protesting". To further clarify, classic Calvinists subsume justification with sanctification thus functionally making salvation a process rather than a "punctiliar event" (i.e. justification event; as Antonio likes to say ;). I would say Antonio is much closer to the original intention of Martin Luther's thought process on justification than that reflected by contemporary Calvinists of today . . .

IN Christ,
Bobby

January 31, 2006 5:57 PM  
Blogger Shawn L said...

Bobby,

Thanks for letting me know. You are right it would be a good thing to talk about this as well.

In Christ,
Shawn

January 31, 2006 8:24 PM  

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