Monday, May 17, 2010

What must I do to be saved?

steve hays said,
May 16, 2010 at 6:14 pm

Perry keeps harping on whether the WCF exhaustively specifies what beliefs are necessary for salvation.

Of course, a fundamental reason the Confession doesn’t spell that out is because the Bible doesn’t spell that out.

But Perry’s question also hinges on an unsound and unspoken assumption: the obvious reason why Scripture doesn’t tell us which Biblical teachings are necessary for salvation is because there’s a general obligation to believe whatever Scripture teaches.

Hence, if you believe whatever the Bible teaches, you will ipso facto believe the subset of Biblical teachings that are necessary for salvation. For the general includes the specific.

Therefore, we wouldn’t expect the Bible to enumerate the saving beliefs.

Indeed, it will be quite counterintuitive for God to say: “The entire Bible is my Word, but here’s the faction of my Word you have to believe. You can safely disregard everything else I say.”

In the nature of the case, a divine revelation isn’t going to tell you which fraction of the revealed truths you *really* need to believe–as if the rest is optional. What would be the point of revealing things you don’t have to believe? Surely a divine revelation, by dint of inspiration, obligates the listener or reader to believe it.

If it told us what revealed truths we have to believe, and what revealed truths we don’t have to believe, would its telling us which is which itself be one of the obligatory beliefs? Or would that be an optional belief? The question is self-refuting.

“In going to tell you which things I’ve told you that you must believe, and I’m also going to tell you which things I’ve told you that you are permitted to disbelieve.”

But that’s implicitly self-contradictory. We have to believe everything God tells us to believe anything God tells us, for the only reason to believe what God tells us is because whatever he tells us is believable.

So we wouldn’t expect a revelation to partition its contents into obligatory revealed truths and optional revealed truths. Is God going to say: “Believe me–I have revealed which revelations you should believe, and which revelations you can ignore”? I don’t think so.

http://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2010/04/29/determining-the-doctrine-of-the-church/#comment-74489

8 comments:

  1. http://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2010/04/29/determining-the-doctrine-of-the-church/#comment-74513

    steve hays said,
    May 17, 2010 at 9:42 am

    John said,

    “The trouble is, Protestants are never so generous as to allow those who believe the bible, but interpret it differently to themselves in what they consider important aspects to be considered among the saved. On the other hand they usually are willing to give some leeway – often a lot of leeway, on other things. So Steve, this answer is disingenuous. The issue is not whether we are to believe everything God said. The issue is what you think God meant, and how much leeway you will give others who think He meant something else. So yes, you do need to tell us your minimum beliefs to be saved. Or else at least, stop being among those accusing other churches of not having the gospel, being as it is you can’t tell us the minimum requirements for having the gospel.”

    I see that John is oblivious to the obvious: his own reasoning is reversible. Protestant theology isn’t any less “generous” than other theological traditions like Catholicism and Orthodoxy, both of which anathematize opposing viewpoings. Both of which have their damnatory clauses. So, John, thanks for your disingenuous objection.

    And we can certainly state where other traditions go awry without having to exhaustively state what beliefs are sufficient for salvation. So your objection is fallacious.

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  2. How does this work, say, with the differences between Calvinists and Arminians?

    I mean, since we must believe everything the Bible teaches and Calvinists and Arminians differ then can either believe the other to be a Christian? And if the answer is yes then does this not require a distinction between 'essential' and 'non-essential' doctrines, at least as far as possessing saving faith goes?

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  3. Steve wrote, "But Perry’s question also hinges on an unsound and unspoken assumption: the obvious reason why Scripture doesn’t tell us which Biblical teachings are necessary for salvation is because there’s a general obligation to believe whatever Scripture teaches."

    This statement is confusing me. Are you saying that the sentence after the colon is the unsound and unspoken assumption?

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  4. i) There's a difference between what is necessary for salvation and what is sufficient.

    And we can't eliminate borderline cases, for we can't be more precise than Scripture. If Scripture leaves some things ambiguous, then we need to leave things where Scripture has left them.

    ii) We can also draw certain practical boundaries for purposes of church membership and church discipline. But that's not identical to saving faith.

    Likewise, we can draw certain practical boundaries in terms of acceptable degrees of cooperation with those who differ.

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  5. twofold said...

    "This statement is confusing me. Are you saying that the sentence after the colon is the unsound and unspoken assumption?"

    It refers back to Perry's demand that we exhaustively specify saving articles of faith from nonessentials.

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  6. Steve wrote, “And we can't eliminate borderline cases, for we can't be more precise than Scripture.”

    If you don’t know what constitutes the propositional content of saving faith, how are you in any position to determine borderline cases?

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  7. STAND FAST SAID:

    "If you don’t know what constitutes the propositional content of saving faith, how are you in any position to determine borderline cases?"

    I don't have to. That's the point. I was responding to Perry Robinson, remember? He's the one who raised the specter of borderline cases, not me.

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  8. Okay. Thanks for the reply.

    ReplyDelete