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)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

I Know that I Believe I have 5 Fingers on my Right Hand

Can a person know if he believes something or not without external experimentation? (IOW, can I know that I believe something apart from determining such from the results of an experiment on my actions and emotions?)

Do you believe that you have 5 fingers on your right hand, or that your mom is truly your mom? Are these convictions you hold? Can you know that you believe these things? Do you know you believe these things?

If you can know when you believe something, what makes belief in Christ's promise any different?

Can I know that I believe:

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

If I can know that I believe Christ in His promise to me, I will know, certainly, and beyond any shadow of a doubt, that I, indeed, possess eternal life.

----------

Imagine your son in a time of messing up pretty bad and you saying to him:

"Based upon your recent short-comings, you have every reason to doubt that I am your father."

Imagine what reactions would insue. How would he feel? What psychological and spiritual damage could result of such an outrageous statement?

Yet Lordship Salvation and Traditionalism mimic this sentiment with their doctrine of assurance. Only those whose lives meet up to their subjective standards are worthy of an 'assurance' of a right standing and relationship with God.

A healthy and effective relationship with your child is based upon the bedrock foundation of his assurance that you are indeed his father, and that you will never leave him nor forsake him.

Reformed soteriology turns the appropriation of assurance into a circus and a grueling effort to substantiate whether or not one has simple faith in Christ's promise.

But faith = conviction, being persuaded, being convinced, therefore = certainty, assurance. If I am convinced that Jesus' promise is true, I am certain of it. If I am certain of His promise, I know I have eternal life.

Firm persuasion results in faith and certainty (assurance).

Can I know I believe something?

1) In every other subject and area beside religion, people operate their daily lives knowing that they can be certain whether or not they believe something.

2) Reformed theology teaches that in the arena of religion, a man cannot know that he believes Jesus, has simple faith, IOW, trusts Christ's promise to impart eternal life as a present possession to all who merely believe Him to do so, apart from external experimentation based upon one's works and introspection.

There is something tragically wrong with this scenario.

It witholds assurance from the people who need it the most.

The pious and proud can have their 'degree' of certainty (far from certainty, for they "could be a spiritual defector who hasn't defected yet!" (JMac)), but the dejected, discouraged Christian "may wait long and conflict with many difficulties before he be partaker of it" (WCF)

Inasmuch as one is certain that Christ's promise is true, IOW, believes His promise wherein He guarantees eternal life and resurrection to all who simply take Him at His word for it, they are certain that they possess eternal life, for the guarantee is inexorably linked to the promise, wherein if I know I believe, I know I possess.

Eternal life is by grace through faith.

Yet apprehension of one's possession of eternal life is by experimentation of works?

Eternal life is received apart from works, why must my works, therefore, become an integral part of my possession of salvation?

If salvation is by faith alone (and it is), if Christ offers eternal life to the one who believes Him to do so (and He does), then assurance of the possession of eternal life comes certainly and ONLY to those who look to Christ in His promise in faith. For when one is certain of His promise, he is certain of his assurance.

John Calvin so succinctly states my whole argument:

"Doubtless, if we are to determine by our works in what way the Lord stands affected toward us, I admit that we cannot even get the length of a feeble conjecture: but since faith should accord with the free and simple promise, there is no room left for ambiguity" (Institutes III.ii.38)

For John Calvin, works were not to be viewed in one's quest for assurance. Christ gives a "free and simple promise", and when our faith "accord[s]" to that promise, "there is no room left for ambiguity" for one is certain of their eternal standing before God.

20 Comments:

Blogger Antonio said...

Some may be interested in more quotes from John Calvin on the subject:

"But if we have been chosen in Him, we shall not find assurance of our election in ourselves; and not even in God the Father, if we conceive Him as severed from His Son. Christ, then is the mirror wherein we must, and without self-deception may, contemplate our own election." (Institutes III.xxiv.5)

Indeed, "if you contemplate yourself, that is sure damnation". (Inst III.ii.24). For if men begin to judge whether they are regenerate "by good works, nothing will be more uncertain or more feeble." For if works are judged it is shown that "by their imperfection they will no less declare God's wrath than by their incomplete purity they testify to His benevolence" (Inst III.xiv.19) Moreover, "when the Christian looks at himself he can only have grounds for anxiety, indeed despair" (Comm. 1 Cor 1:9).

We should not seek assurance by "conjecture", for faith corresponds "to a simple and free promise"; therefore "no doubting is left" (Inst III.ii.38)

"Nevertheless, though a good conscience cannot be separated from faith, yet no one should hence conclude that we must look to our works in order that our assurance may be certain." (comm 1 Jn 3:19)

Calvin looks to Christ alone for his assurance: "If Pighius asks how I know I am elect, I answer that Christ is more than a thousand testimonies to me" (Predestination, 130)

November 26, 2006 4:15 PM  
Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Antonio, that is a very logical post.

J.N. Darby was continually pointing out the possiblity of assurance on faith alone, without looking to works.

God Bless

Matthew

November 27, 2006 1:01 AM  
Blogger Rose~ said...

Great post, Antonio. We know who we have believed and are persuaded. This is simple.

November 27, 2006 5:52 AM  
Blogger jared said...

What do you mean by "know" and "believe"? What are the important elements that make the two concepts distinct? I know I have five fingers on my right hand because I can count them; how do you know that you have five fingers on your right hand? I also happen to believe I have five fingers because I know I can count them.

The first chapter of Romans seems to imply that everyone knows God exists, yet there are many who do not believe He does. Does knowledge precede belief? If so, then how is belief of any sort not "empirical" (I think you really mean "experiential" or "existential", but that's neither here nor there)? St. Augustine is famously quoted as saying that he believes in order to understand. In other words, he believes in order to know. Does belief precede knowledge? What does believing you have five fingers before admitting that you have five fingers look like?

My point, here, is that saving faith is not some disembodied, ethereal and amorphous fact floating about waiting for some mind to ascertain it. Saving faith brings life and spiritual change to the recipient. It unites us to Christ's death, resurrection and ascension and our assurance comes from knowing and believing that this union cannot be broken.

November 28, 2006 8:12 PM  
Blogger Earl said...

Antonio,

You're a genius! Interacting with you all is sometimes frustrating – after all, why can’t you see it my way? :o) It’s a bit arrogant, but hey, that’s Total Depravity at work. In trying to figure out how to explain perseverance, and how wonderful it is (I know, sick mind :o), I had an aha in understanding, based on your statement: “Yes, I can know that I have everlasting life. I also can know that I have 5 fingers on my hand.”

Yes, I agree with you that I can know I have everlasting life, just as I can know I have five fingers. What else do we know? In heaven we will not be sinning. That is a delightful, encouraging thought, isn’t it? Why will we not sin? Because we will be changed, in a twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. We will be raised be raised incorruptible! I know that as I know I have five fingers on my hand. But here is something else. When we’ve been born again, we’ve been changed from our old selves. We also have the Holy Spirit taking up residence in our lives. I know that as I know I have five fingers on my hand. Because of that, and the promise in Scripture of persevering, I know I will persevere. I know that like I know I have five fingers on my hand! Need I fear self-examination? Not at all, just as I don’t fear examining the five fingers that I know are on my hand. I know they’ll be there, and seeing them there gives me great comfort that I’m not missing a finger. So it is with those who put their confidence in Christ! Do you know what freedom and exhilaration that brings? Not only do I have heaven guaranteed for me, but also God is there, granting me grace to persevere. How do I know this? I know it as I know I have five fingers on my hand. I have been justified, saved, and now God is at work in my life making me into the image of his Son. Hallelujah!

Now, what happens if some day, you, me, or some other believer doubts she is saved? Will that doubt never possibly happen? If you think it is possible for someone to loose his or her faith (but also still be saved), then certainly it is possible. It’s also possible from the perseverance perspective. So what do we do to help that person who is in doubt? We explain salvation to them in more detail, more intelligently. If that person has ever had saving faith, we ask them to look back on it to see if they believed then (self-examination). If that person has served God, and loves God, we bring that to their attention. I think you’d agree that someone who loves God and serves God most probably has exercised saving faith (again, self-examination). Of course we’d pray that the Holy Spirit would reconfirm on that person the witness to her spirit (based on Romans 8 – and praying Scripture is praying God’s will).

You see, we in the Reformed camp also know we are saved, just as we know we have five fingers on our hands. We also know we will persevere, just as we know we have five fingers on our hands. When someone stumbles in our Reformed groups, just as in your groups, we exhort them in similar ways. You were right in point out Calvin’s Institutes, we do know we have salvation, just like we know that we have five fingers on our hand. We do know we will persevere, just like we have five fingers on our hand.

Thank you for that insight!

November 28, 2006 9:41 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Jared writes:
----------
What do you mean by "know" and "believe"? What are the important elements that make the two concepts distinct?
----------
I am not sure that you understand my post.

The word “know” is polymorphous, but I thought the context of how I used it in my post should’ve answered that question for you.

Here is one of the entries for “know” in the dictionary:

1. to perceive or understand as fact or truth; to apprehend clearly and with certainty

Jesus says, “Most assuredly I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). If I believe Jesus in His promise, if I take Him at His word, in other words, if I am convinced/persuaded (believe), I, by necessity, must have certain assurance of eternal life. The guarantee of eternal life is inexorably linked to Christ’s promise!

Therefore, inasmuch as I believe Jesus in His promise, I am certain that I have eternal life (I possess certain and absolute assurance).

How can one say he believes Jesus in His promise that guarantees eternal life if one is not persuaded that he has eternal life? He cannot, for if he believed Jesus’ promise, he would also believe he has eternal life.

If my boss says, “I guarantee that you have a raise on your next paycheck,” and his communication persuades/convinces me, I therefore believe that I have a raise, being 100% assured that come my next paycheck, I have my raise. This is what Free Grace theology means when we say that “Assurance is of the Essence of Saving Faith”. Traditionalism would say that I couldn’t have assurance based solely upon being convinced of my boss’ promise. I must wait for some “full” assurance (whatever that means, it obviously cannot be certainty) until I start spending the money in my paycheck.

Traditionalism poses the idea of a “spurious” faith. The faith that one exercises may not be “genuine” faith. For the Traditionalist, one cannot know (in the sense that I put up above) if the “faith” he has exercised is genuine of not until he perseveres in faithfulness, obedience, and works (the supposed “inevitable fruit” or “results” of genuine faith).

It is absurd to propose that one can’t be sure that he “genuinely” believes something apart from experimentation. Every day we operate conscious of those things we know we believe.

If you cannot know you have genuine faith until it has been tested by experiments, you cannot know that you believe Jesus in His promise, therefore you cannot be certain that you have eternal life (no assurance).

You write:
----------
The first chapter of Romans seems to imply that everyone knows God exists, yet there are many who do not believe He does.
----------
First off you state that it “seems”. Are you not sure, in other words, do you retain doubt, you aren’t certain, you don’t believe? (Being disposed toward a position falls short of believing).

What sense of the word “know” do you imply here?

On what planet can someone “know” (in the sense you “seem” (lol) to be using here) something to be true yet not believe it? If you know something true, you believe it.

November 29, 2006 11:15 AM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Earl,

If one can certainly know (in other words posssess certain assurance of eternal life) based solely upon looking to Christ in His promise in faith, why the need to look anywhere else?

You write:
----------
If that person has ever had saving faith, we ask them to look back on it to see if they believed then (self-examination).
----------
NO WE DON'T!!! Most absolutely NOT! I viscerally disagree with you!

We present to them Christ and his promise, and as they look PRESENTLY to Christ in His promise they will be certainly assured of their possession of eternal life.

We don't point them to examine their faith! A person knows whether or not they believe something! We point them to CHRIST in His promise! When they are again confronted with the Scriptures containing the promise of Jesus that guarantees eternal life to the one who believes Him to do so, they cognizantly recognize they have eternal life based upon their taking Jesus at His word!

People lose track of Christ's guarantee. Sin causes them to doubt, circumstances can break their confidence. But when the simplicity of the gospel message is presented afresh to the struggling individual, showing that it depends 100% on Christ's faithfulness in His promise and 0% on ours, showing how Christ gives an absolutely free gift that can never be taken away, that is guaranteed, confidence, certainty, and absolute assurance returns to the Christian.

Earl writes:
----------
If that person has served God, and loves God, we bring that to their attention. I think you’d agree that someone who loves God and serves God most probably has exercised saving faith (again, self-examination).
----------
I don't point them to their fruits, Earl. I point them to Christ alone. I do not agree that someone who loves God "most probably" is regenerate. What of the Mormon, the Catholic, the JW, the 7th Day Adventist, etc? Anyway, "most probably" falls light years away from "certainty".

I love what Calvin says:

For if works are judged it is shown that "by their imperfection they will no less declare God's wrath than by their incomplete purity they testify to His benevolence" (Inst III.xiv.19)

Earl writes:
----------
Of course we’d pray that the Holy Spirit would reconfirm on that person the witness to her spirit
----------
Please re-read Romans 8. It most definitely does NOT say:

"The Spirit Himself bears witness TO our spirit"

it says "WITH", in other words to GOD! Our spirit and the Holy Spirit are a testimony to GOD (in prayer, see context) that we are God's children. It isn't the Spirits ministry to testify "TO" our spirit, in order for us to have assurance!

We must be careful to understand the words that are used in their contexts.

Earl writes:
----------
We do know we will persevere
----------
No Earl, you do not. You know that the elect will persevere.

You may be a spiritual defector who hasn't defected yet. You may possess only spurious faith. You may have only been "ineffectually called".

The doubt that one is of the elect casts a huge shadow over one's certainty of his possession of eternal life.

In ending I quote R.L. Dabney and Kenneth Gentry:

“There is a spurious as well as a genuine faith. Every man, when he thinks he believes, is conscious of exercising what he thinks is faith. Such is the correct statement of these facts of consciousness. Now suppose the faith, of which the man is conscious, turns out a spurious faith, must not his be a spurious consciousness? And he, being without the illumination of the Spirit, will be in the dark as to its hollowness.”
(Dabney).

Kenneth Gentry writes, "Assurance is subjective ... Dabney rightfully notes that [absolute assurance] requires a revelation beyond the Scripture because the Bible does not specifically speak to the individual in question. Nowhere in the Bible do we learn ... that Ken Gentry is among the elect"

Antonio

November 29, 2006 11:41 AM  
Blogger Antonio said...

If one is not certain that they possess eternal life the moment they believe what they percieve to be the true gospel, then either:

1) They have not believed Christ in His promise (for reasons of not understanding it, or other reasons)
or
2) They believed the wrong gospel

This is serious. For if they are not certain, at that moment, that they have eternal life, then they are lost for the above two reasons.

Antonio

November 29, 2006 11:56 AM  
Blogger Earl said...

Antonio,

I got you wrong again on how you'd check for salvation. As I do whenever I do that, my apologies. And now I've leaned something.

But you've got something wrong about the Reformed. We can know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, we are saved and therefore will persevere. I know that like I know I have five fingers on my hand.

November 29, 2006 12:12 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Earl,

1) Did you read my comments to you and Jerod? What do you disagree with in my assertions? 2) Especially my answer to Jerod. What is it you disagree with? 3) Was not my illustration of the boss and the raise self-evidentary?

If one can know certainly that one is absolutely saved by looking to Christ in faith, there is no reason to submit to other experimental tests for assurance. Looking to Christ in faith IS sufficient. 4)Why then your 5 basis for assurance?


Please answer a few more questions:

5) How DO you know that you are saved "beyond the shadow of a doubt"? Please walk us through how you are CERTAIN.

6) Do you believe in "spurious faith"?

November 29, 2006 12:31 PM  
Blogger jared said...

antonio,

As to the first part of your response to my comment, you are preaching to the choir. Those who are elect will be 100% assured of their salvation from the moment they are saved; "traditionalism" does not disagree with this, furthermore, "traditionalism" teaches that this assurance is by faith alone in Christ alone (or, at least that's what I was taught). It is also true that those who are elect will persevere in all circumstances. Their faith and the assurance of their salvation will result in good fruit every time. Why? Because Paul tells us that's what we are created in Christ Jesus to do. Since these good works were prepared beforehand for us to do, does it not make sense, then, that we should be doing them? If we aren't doing them, then either our faith is not true (and was not true from the beginning) or we need to repent and get back on track (which the elect will always do).

As to the second part of your response to my comment, Paul says quite clearly, plainly and explicitly that there are those who know God and, yet, do not believe Him (or in Him either). Not only do they know Him, but they know His decrees against their sins and they still refuse to believe. So, I suppose it is on this planet that one can know something true and not believe it.

November 29, 2006 1:20 PM  
Blogger Earl said...

Antonio,

Your analogies are always a little off. That's why I don't put too much stock in arguments by analogy. For instance, you say:

"If my boss says, “I guarantee that you have a raise on your next paycheck,” and his communication persuades/convinces me, I therefore believe that I have a raise, being 100% assured that come my next paycheck, I have my raise."

This would correspond to Jesus saying, "You have eternal life, no matter what." So, I'd get eternal life whether I believed or not. You see, your analogy is not right. It needs to be modified:

If my boss says, “I guarantee that you have a raise on your next paycheck if you believe me,” and his communication persuades/convinces me, I therefore believe that I have a raise, being 100% assured that come my next paycheck, I have my raise.

Now, suppose you didn't get the raise? What happened? Either your boss is unreliable, or you did not 100% believe. If your boss is reliable, then guess what, there was a test about your faith in your boss.

Now, the reason I believe I will persevere is because I am saved. The reason I beleive I am saved is that I take Christ's word for it. That's all that's needed -- but God is overflowing in his graciousness, so that the Holy Spirit convicts me that I am saved, and even as sinful as I am, shows that I am walking with Christ.

Mere intellectual belief, the type of belief of the demons in James (I know, you've split lots of virtual ink writing otherwise) and the belief as writen in John (see second part of comments) indicate more than a naked intellectual belief, no matter how 100% committed to the assertion intellectually you are. The belief John talks about has results. I'll give an anology (see if you like my analogy, and if you don't, then that serves to make my either point that argument by analogy is not convincing to anyone because it does not fit the way they see things :o). A lightning bolt struck a tree and split it. Thunder came with the lightning. The split tree and thunder were cause by the lightning. But the thunder did not cause the tree to split, it was the lightning. Pretty good anology, eh? Oh, you don't like it? It doesn't fit? Shucks, I knew you wouldn't like it. You can tell me why. :o)

I'll be back at my blog. Let me know if there is anything you want me to comment on.

November 29, 2006 2:05 PM  
Blogger Earl said...

...by the way, you've been taking John Calvin out of context for quite some time. Here is what Calvin says about self-examination:

"When believers therefore feel their faith strengthened by a consciousness of integrity, and entertain sentiments of exultation, it is just because the fruits of their calling convince them that the Lord has admitted them to a place among his children. Accordingly, when Solomon says, “In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence,” (Prov. 14:26), and when the saints sometimes beseech the Lord to hear them, because they walked before his face in simplicity and integrity (Gen. 24:10; 2 Kings 20:3), these expressions apply not to laying the foundation of a firm conscience, but are of force only when taken a posteriori. For there is no where such a fear of God as can give full security, and the saints are always conscious that any integrity which they may possess is mingled with many remains of the flesh. But as the fruits of regeneration furnish them with a proof of the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, experiencing God to be a Father in a matter of so much moment, they are strengthened in no slight degree to wait for his assistance in all their necessities. Even this they could not do, had they not previously perceived that the goodness of God is sealed to them by nothing but the certainty of the promise." (Institutes, 3.III.xiv.19)

I could say that is shamefoul how you misuse Calvin, but, I assume you were ignorant of this and Calvin's teaching. ;o)

In other words, what Calvin is saying is that there is a proper use of self-examination. There are of course wrong uses. But this use is seeing that the Lord has called them. Such use is not exaulting in self righteousness, but glories in what the Lord is doing in their lives.

So, I am not out of line with Calvin after all. Imagine that! :o)

November 30, 2006 7:30 PM  
Anonymous Legume said...

Earl,

I too am interested whether you believe in spurious faith. If you do, then please tell me how you know with certainty that your faith is not spurious? I am not trying to be argumentative, but rather trying to figure out how these two things (assurance and spurious faith) can co-exist.

Kevin

November 30, 2006 7:52 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Earl,

you need to re-read this statement of Calvin's that you offer, as it confirms my belief and basically denies yours.

Ill write more tomorrow on your misuse of Calvin here, as he is clear, especially in the last sentence you quote of him.

More on your misuse of him tomorrow.

Antonio

November 30, 2006 7:53 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Yes, earl,

will you attempt to answer my 6 questions?

Antonio

November 30, 2006 7:53 PM  
Blogger Earl said...

Kevin,

Spurious faith, I'll write about it sometime in my blog.

Antonio,

I look forward to your analysis. Regarding the six questions. No. I may take some or all of them up when I have time in the future. You can take my refusal now however you wish. :o)

Ahh, the Christian liberty we enjoy. :o)

November 30, 2006 9:40 PM  
Anonymous Bud said...

Antonio;

Are you gonna deal with this nonsense from Jared (not that he's nonsensical, just that whoever taught him taught him nonsense. Nothing personal on Jared):

---
Those who are elect will be 100% assured of their salvation from the moment they are saved; "traditionalism" does not disagree with this, furthermore, "traditionalism" teaches that this assurance is by faith alone in Christ alone (or, at least that's what I was taught). It is also true that those who are elect will persevere in all circumstances. Their faith and the assurance of their salvation will result in good fruit every time.
---

I'd love to take this up but I'm under water until mid-January.

The Calvinists themselves have been arguing about this since the mid-sixteenth century. Jared's view was the one propounded by the British Calvinists at the Synod of Dort, but it was roundly rejected by the Continental Reformers. All one has to do is read the New England Puritans to see that what he claims he was taught is patently false.

December 01, 2006 7:25 AM  
Blogger jared said...

If all the "continental" Reformers can offer is assertions, I'm not terribly worried about being wrong.

December 01, 2006 9:42 AM  
Blogger centuri0n said...

When you live in a bubble, you must be right.

December 04, 2006 11:45 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home