Monday, January 16, 2006

Implicit faith


"5.Then there’s his willful abuse Acts 10:35, where he defiantly lifts the verse out of its explicitly evangelistic context in which the offer of the gospel is extended to all people-groups. He further disregards the fact that Cornelius was already a God-fearer (v2)."

Paul Owen has a point here, actually. He actually convinced me, I fear. Cornelius was a God-fearer even before he became a Christian (or Jew) -- this points to the truth that "unbelievers" can be saved. "ANYONE who works righteousness" is acceptable to Him; this points us more to the Catholic view that even non-Christians can be accepted just by being good, does it not?

# posted by Hello : 1/14/2006 7:29 PM


Hello “Hello.”


i)A “God-fearer” was not an unbeliever. This is a semi-technical term for a Gentile who, due to contact with the Jews, acquired a faith in the true God of Israel.

For the documentation, consult the standard commentaries on Acts by Barrett, Fitzmyer, Witherington, and Bruce (on the Greek text), as well as chapter 7 of Irina Levinskaya’s The Book of Acts in Its Diaspora Setting (Eerdmans 1996).

Up until then, Jewish faith was a saving faith. However, Acts charts the transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. Saving faith is pegged to progressive revelation and redemption.

ii)”Anyone,” in context, has reference, not to virtuous pagans or other suchlike, but to the fact that the Gospel was to be preached to Jew and Gentile alike, and anyone who responded accordingly would be saved. That’s the whole point of Acts 10-11, as well as the companion piece in chapter 15, not to mention the programmatic commission in 1:8. You need to cultivate the habit of reading individual verses with a view to the narrative whole and flow.


Oh, one more thing the last point (#10). Faith in Christ is no missing. All who seek to live a good life have an implicit faith in Christ. If they knew about Him or got a chance to become convinced, that faith would become explicit.


Wrong again:

i) Cornelius was saved by exercising explicit faith, not implicit faith. You are reading against the grain of the text.

ii) It is not a historical accident that many people don’t get a “chance” to hear the Gospel. God is responsible for who is born when and where. If someone is born to live and die outside the pale of the gospel, that reflects the preemptory judgment of God: God never intended to save that individual.


  1. Hi Steve,

    As a tangential question, I wonder if you've any thoughts on double predestination? Or, if you've already written on the topic, if you might please point me to where you have?

    Cool, thanks kindly.

  2. thanks for the clarification. i wish there were more stuff on this topic from the exclusivist point of view.

  3. As a tangential question, I wonder if you've any thoughts on double predestination? Or, if you've already written on the topic, if you might please point me to where you have?

    Can you define what you mean by Double Predestination? Different people use this to mean different things.

    For example:

    Do you mean simply the flip side of election, e.g. reprobation? Typically, this means simply that God grants repentance and saving faith to the elect and leaves the others in their unbelief, and thus their sins, anyway. In this sense, election as effectual calling is active (God acts to call and this results in regeneration); reprobation as passing over is passive (God does not act to call), so men are left in their sins.

    Or do you mean "equal ultimacy," the belief that God elects some and not others (reprobating them) and then actually puts fresh unbelief in the hearts of those He reprobates. This is "equal ultimacy" in that God actively inwardly affects both the elect and the reprobate to cause one to belief and be saved and the other to disbelieve and be saved.

    One is typically associated with mainstream Calvinism, the other is typically associated with hyper-Calvinism.

  4. pchan:

    Or perhaps you are talking about sublapsarianism, supralapsarianism, and infrlapsarianism, in the difference between active and passive reprobation? Is this your question?

  5. Wow, thanks guys. That's certainly more precise than I expected in the term, which is helpful to me, and which I do appreciate. :-) When I asked the question, though, I think what I meant was that God not only actively saves those whom He has chosen to save (by, as Gene notes, granting them repentance and faith), but also that He actively reprobates the lost. I hadn't really thought through it any more than this, and further, I'm not even familiar with the other terms -- sublapsarianism, supralapsarianism, and infralapsarianism. (Although now that I've googled for them, I see that Phil Johnson has written an article, which I'll have to take a walk through to better acquaint myself with the terms.) Anyway, that's where I'm coming from...


  6. pchan:

    This discussion is very closely related to the sublapsarian/supralapsarian distinction. In fact, that is the ultimate causal basis for each view.

    Without knowledge of the other contributors on this matter, my particular view is that God's decree of reprobation is indeed an active decree, but on the matter of whether or not God decreed first the fall of man and then election/reprobation, I do not believe that Scripture says.

    Calvin seemed to affirm an active reprobation (in regards to not only the actual decree, but the means of accomplishing the decree [based upon an order of decrees]):

    Predestination we call the decree of God, by which He has determined in Himself, what He would have to become of every individual of mankind. For they are not all created with a similar destiny: but eternal life is foreordained for some, and eternal damnation for others. Every man, therefore, being created for one or the other of these ends, we say, he is predestined either to life or to death
    (Institutes: God’s Election, or God’s Predestination of Some to Salvation and of Others to Destruction).

    Similarly, AW Pink held to this view:

    The answer which is usually returned to this question, even by those who profess to believe what the Scriptures teach concerning God’s sovereignty, is, that God passes by the non-elect, leaves them alone to go their own way, and in the end casts them into the Lake of Fire because they refused His way, and rejected the Saviour of His providing. But this is only a part of the truth; the other part —
    that which is most offensive to the carnal mind — is either ignored or denied. "The Sovereignty of God" (p. 81).

    The order of decrees is very important to both views. In passive reprobation, God first decreed the fall of man. Then He elects some for salvation, and the act of reprobation can be passive because no action needs to take place in the lives of the reprobate. In other words, while in the salvation of the elect God must utilize monergistic action in their regeneration; He can simply leave the reprobate in their current sinful state and let nature (that is, their sin nature) take its course. However, in active reprobation, the decree of election and reprobation is the most ultimate decree. Therefore, God must make reprobates into reprobates by decreeing the fall of man and saving the elect. Sublapsarians will often submit Romans 9:21 where the Potter makes “out of the same lump of clay [a neutral state] vessels for noble use and vessels for common use.” They would note that the passage does not say that, “God makes the noble vessels out of the common vessels,” or “God makes the noble vessels, and allows the common vessels to make themselves,” or “God makes some clay into noble vessels, and passes by the rest preexisting common vessels.”

    Today, however, I would place myself in between the two groups (Subplapsarians and Supralapsarians) in a position stating that we cannot conclude such strong views on the matter. Certainly, however, both camps affirm that God’s will in reprobation is indeed an active will; and that whether or not God goes about fulfilling that will in an active or passive way does not deny the inevitable fact that reprobation is accomplished by Him Who works all things according to the counsel of His will. But this question presupposes a much larger question. Logically, did God first decree election and reprobation and then decree the fall of man; or did God first decree the fall of man and then decree election and reprobation? How can we really know the answer to such a deep and ultimate question? It is my conclusion that we cannot.

    Someone might think this is simply arrogant of me, to be so conclusive about a matter that has been so disputed. Perhaps it is. But regardless, until sufficient Scriptural deduction can be presented, I do not see a Scriptural ability to be so conclusive on the matter.

    A note to those who believe in passive reprobation: do not reject the possibility of active reprobation. Though this doctrine is one that is difficult to swallow, learn to chew on it. Do not be so quick to jump on Arminians who say that Calvinism believes in the “predestination of some to Heaven and others to Hell” (but make sure the discussion focuses on the positive area of election rather than the negative area of reprobation). Know that in both scenarios, God’s will is active; and indeed the Bible states that the reprobates were destined for destruction (1 Peter 2:8).

    A note to those who believe in active reprobation: do not flaunt this belief or consider those Calvinists who are believers in passive reprobation to be “inconsistent” Calvinists. I know that when I found myself in this camp at one point, I wanted to debate the subject with every Calvinist I spoke with. Know that this question presupposes the ultimate questions of God’s order of decrees, something we simply cannot determine from Scripture. Focus on the fact that anyone who does not believe “stands condemned already” (John 3:18) rather than God’s action in their unbelief.

    To both camps: make the gospel central to your lives. Rather than simply discussing the nature of the reprobate, have a burden for them. Weep over the lost, and be motivated to preach the gospel.

  7. "--hello

    # posted by Hello : 1/16/2006 3:40 PM"

    For starters, try out: Ronald Nash, Is Jesus the Only Savior?

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  11. Hi Evan May,

    Thanks for your response. I've been away roughly a day and an half or so, maybe two days at the most, and have only now had the chance to read your response (and will soon read Steve's as well), but already you've responded in such detail. Truly amazing -- not only, again, for the detail, but also the speed at which it's produced. Wow.

    And I have still to mull over all the things you've written. Except for your last statement, of course, which I entirely agree with, and so will immediately exclaim, "Amen." :-)

    Thanks again,


  12. Okay, I'm not sure how I like posted a bunch of times in a row. (It kept saying "This blog does not allow anonymous comments, so I just reposted each one, with a change or two.) Anyhow, I totally apologize.

  13. pchan:

    as I probably won't be checking up on the comments on this post anymore (once they are pushed far enough down, I stop checking) if you have any further questions or comments please contact me here.