Monday, September 15, 2014

Thor's hammer

I'm going to comment on some statements that Sean Gerety made on his blog. Sean is a Clarkian Scripturalist, as well as Thor's high priest. 
The 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.
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 like impotent and incompetent chumps as they continue to attack the Reformed system exactly at its weakest point; the traditional threefold definition of saving faith.  
Lane Keister has devoted years of tedious, long-suffering study to meticulously documenting, dissecting, and debunking the Federal Vision. Sean is real piece work to malign Keister as "an impotent and incompetent chump." But if all you've got is Thor's hammer, then everything looks like a nail. 
Turretin had seven elements of saving faith. Per your Dutch buddy Bavinck Witsius had nine.
As for Manton, Owen and the rest. Yes, they often said contradictory things regarding the nature of faith and saving faith 
Sean alleges that Lane and Ron are "unreformed," yet his cast of villains includes Manton, Owen, Turretin, Bavinck, and Witsitus. So who's unreformed?  
or that high priest of paradox, James “Aquascum” Anderson? 
This is part of Sean's ingrown narrative. He tries to discredit the traditional Reformed definition of faith (notitia, assensus, fiducia) by belated association with Van Tilian paradox. But, of course, the traditional definition long antedates Van Til.
Oh, and by the way, there's another little problem with Sean's contention: James Anderson isn't Aquascum. Perhaps Sean inferred that Anderson is Aquascum because Anderson happens to host that thread at his website, but that's a fallacious inference. For someone who prides himself on logic, Sean should try harder to avoid logical fallacies. 
I understand that OPC elders like DiGiacomo are required to be versed in and even hold to Van Til’s theology of paradox.
i) To begin with, does Sean have any evidence that OPC elders are required to espouse Van Tilian paradox? Can he document that claim? 
ii) Likewise, what is Sean's evidence that Ron is a lockstep Van Tilian? It's my impression that Ron has a rather independent view of Clark and Van Til, finding useful things in both men. 
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.
The claim that sola fide is "the very foundation on which the church stands or falls" is a Lutheran maxim. Why should a Calvinist accept that radically reductionist maxim? Although sola fide is a Reformed essential, the Reformed faith has more than one foundational doctrine. It's not as if sola fide is the singular foundation on which the church stands or falls. 
Does Sean imagine that if we denied the Incarnation, Resurrection, Second Coming of Christ, Final Judgment, divine omniscience, sola gratia, sola Scriptura, the Exodus, or the calling of Abraham (to name a few)–the Christian faith would remain standing? 
Dr. Alan Strange, a man who identifies himself as one of the “Watchmen of Israel,” fail miserably in his attempt to show that belief alone in the finished work of Christ alone doesn’t save.
...the profound confusion and darkness that has triumphed in the Presbyterian and Reformed world.  A world where men actually deny salvation by belief alone while thinking they are defending the biblical doctrine of salvation when nothing could be further from the truth.
Notice that Sean has fallen into fundamental doctrinal error. We are not saved by faith alone. Rather, we are justified by faith alone. Justification and salvation are not conterminous. There's more to salvation than justification. Salvation includes unconditional election, monergistic regeneration, sanctification, preservation, glorification, &c.
For Sean to collapse salvation into sola fide is typical of anti-Calvinistic antinomians like Zane Hodges, Charles Stanley, Charles Ryrie, Earl Radmacher, Robert Lightner, and R. T. Kendall. This is just one indication of how far Sean has departed from the Reformed faith.  
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?
i) Does Sean think we choose to believe that a red rose is red. Do I will myself to believe that? Can I will myself to believe that a red rose is white? If I can, I'd be clinically insane.  
ii) More to the point, Sean's doxastic voluntarism is typically Arminian: I choose to believe in Christ, as if belief is an act of the will. 

So this is yet another example of Sean deviating from Reformed orthodoxy. 

For these men faith, as opposed to belief, provides the vehicle by which they can attach an intangible and undefinable something-they-know-not-what that must first be wrought in the sinner before they can be saved. It is not Christ’s work alone completely outside of us that saves…
At worst, it is an addition to simple belief in the truth of the Gospel that falls perilously close to Paul’s anathemas in his letter to the Galatians and it robs Christians of their confidence and assurance they have in Christ. It turns our focus from Christ and his finished work to something within us and that is, by definition, dangerous.
Again, this grave and very un-Reformed error asserts that there must be some intangible psychological change or feeling within us in order to be saved, and not simply the apprehension of Christ’s finished work alone completely outside of us and for us. This view of saving faith, which is all too common, turns the focus from the object believed toward the subjective state of mind and emotions of the believer. 
i) To begin with, Ron has defined what he means. For instance, he's said:
Again, we assent to many things apart from a disposition of commitment.
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.
ii) In addition, here's another instance where Sean's position coincides with the anti-Calvinistic antinomians. In Reformed theology, saving grace is both external and internal. Justification is an example of something God does "outside" of us to save us. The imputation of an alien righteousness.
However, God also does some things to us or in us to save us, viz, regeneration, sanctification, glorification. God doesn't simply change our objective status in relation to himself (e.g. justification, propitiation), but changes us (regeneration, sanctification, glorification).
iii) Sean is borrowing a page from Lutherans and antinomians, who vehemently deny that the assurance of salvation can have any subjective conditions. For they maintain that once you admit any subjective condition as an element of assurance, you introduce a degree of uncertainty into the assurance of salvation.
Yet in delineating the assurance of salvation, the Westminster Confession appeals to "the inward evidence of those graces" (WCF 18.2). Once again, Sean is repudiating Reformed theology. 
Now, before we continue, this is astonishing.  Here we have an 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.”
Sean lacks a grasp of idiomatic usage. It's customary in theological jargon to distinguish between "unbelievers," "professing believers," and "true believers." In idiomatic usage, "unbelievers" aren't simply people who lack a certain belief. Rather, they lack a certain quality of belief. Same thing with merely professing believers. Sean may dispute that distinction, but for now I'm simply drawing attention to the nature of theological discourse.   
Who do you prefer, the so-called “Reformed Epistemologist” Michael “Hare Krishna” Sudduth
Unfortunately for Sean, that attempted counterexample backfires. Sudduth, the former Scripturalist. Winner of the Clark prize in apologetics.

That would be a paradigm case of someone who understood and assented to the very purest form of orthodoxy: Clarkian Christianity! 

Yet he subsequently renounced the faith. But if saving faith just is assent to certain doctrinal propositions/articles of the faith, then how is his apostasy consistent with perseverance? How does one differentiate Sudduth from an elect believer?

Same thing with Ryan Hendrich. Sean considers Ryan to be a heretical apostate. But didn't Ryan understand and assent to the right doctrinal propositions prior to his subsequent misgivings? 

If, as Sean would have it, Clarkian Christianity is the gold standard of orthodoxy, how can saving faith just be understanding/assent when some Clarkians subsequently defect from the faith? Did they lose their salvation? 

This is yet another example of Sean denying major planks of the Reformed faith.

I have defined trust as belief in the reliability of someone or something.
That's an inadequate definition. It transfers trust from a trusting or reliant subject to a trustworthy or reliable object. But that's clearly separable. 
For instance, I can believe that Secretariat is a good bet. I'm convinced that if I put money on Secretariat, that's a profitable investment. Secretariat is a proven winner. 
That, however, is entirely distinct from making an actual monetary commitment to Secretariat. The fact that I believe Secretariat is trustworthy doesn't mean I will actually entrust my life savings to Secretariat's performance. 
I may not bet on Secretariat because I don't approve of horse racing. I may not bet on Secretariat because it's inconvenient for me to make a trip to Louisville or Belmont Park to lay a bet. My belief that Secretariat is trustworthy is not the same as actually trusting in Secretariat. Belief in reliability is just an abstraction. 
Likewise, I may believe that a Land Rover is a more reliable mode of transportation than an Alfa Romeo. That, however, doesn't entail any commitment on my part. I may buy the Alfa Romeo instead because I like Italian sports cars better than Land Rovers. 
As I just explained, trust is *belief* of propositions in the future tense, such as “he will be good to me” or “this bank will keep my money safe.”
So by that definition, Sean doesn't trust OT history. After all, that's in the past rather than the future. 
If I believe that Jesus died for my sins how is this not trusting that Jesus died for my sins?
That's an ironic way of casting the question. Assuming that Sean subscribes to limited atonement, then believing that Christ died for my sins is a second-order belief. A self-reflexive belief. If I exercise saving faith, then, by implication, Christ died for me. That's an inference involving a relation between something about me and something outside of me. Yet Sean just attacked that distinction. But maybe Sean espouses Amyraldism. 
Straw man argument Ron. My axiom is Scripture. 
Actually, Sean's axiom is Clark. Sean's canon is not the 66 books of the Bible, but the collected writings of Gordon Clark. 
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. 
i) This is yet another example where Sean repudiates Reformed theology. Calvinism grants the existence of apostates who used to be orthodox professing Christians. They assented to the articles of faith. Their orthodoxy was unimpeachable. Not all apostates were orthodox prior to their defection, but some were. If saving faith is equivalent to mere assent, then Clarkians like Sean must reject the perseverance of the saints.

Put another way, what distinguishes the faith of an elect believer from the faith of a prospective apostate? It can't be assent, for both may give assent to the very same body of doctrine. At the level of assent, they are identical. So there must be something over and above mere assent which distinguishes an elect believer from an impending apostate. 

In one sense that would be regeneration. The faith of an elect believer is grounded differently than the faith of a prospective believer. His faith is the effect of regeneration. It has a different cause.  

But that, in turn, generates a different kind of faith. A different quality of faith. 

Apostasy isn't necessarily the result of defective doctrinal belief, for some apostates were theologically impeccable prior to their loss of faith. Sean may deny that, but in so doing he denies another Reformed essential. 

ii) Here's the ironic upshot: the Clarkian position parallels the Arminian position: there's nothing that distinguishes the faith of born-again Christian from the faith of one-time Christian. They both had the same faith. Believed the same theological propositions. 

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 Calvinism, there's a distinction between regenerate and unregenerate believers. Some professing Christians lose their faith. Abandon the Christian faith. That's because they were unregenerate. They had a socially conditioned faith. A rootless faith. A default faith. But then something happened which precipitated a loss of faith: an intellectual crisis, a personal tragedy, a conflict between Christian ethics and sexual sin, &c. 
Sean can reject that, but in so doing he rejects Calvinism. Sean's theology is a witch's brew of Lutheranism, Arminianism, antinomianism, idealism, and residual Calvinism.  
Finally, I'd like to say something about Clarkian Scripturalism in general. Sean is very quick to brand his theological opponents as "heretics," but what about his own position? Sean has made a hobbyhorse of attacking the Federal Vision. That's a useful decoy because it deflects attention away from his own position. Keep in mind that even in that respect, there are far more competent critics of the Federal Vision than Sean. Take Guy Waters and Lane Keister. 
But in any case, showing how bad the Federal Vision is does nothing to make Sean's alternative orthodox. It's just a magician's flamboyant gesture to distract the audience. 
Let's briefly consider what consistent Clarkianism amounts to. Clark didn't merely have a propositional theory of knowledge, but a propositional theory of reality. Not just a propositional epistemology, but a propositional ontology. For Clark, like Hegel, the real is the rational and the rational is the real.
If, however, human beings simply are propositions, then bodies are illusory. We don't have bodies. We merely have ideas of bodies. 
Furthermore, how can Clark avoid pantheistic idealism? If humans are propositions, whose propositions are they? Are we reducible to ideas of ourselves
Perhaps a Clarkian would try to avert pantheistic idealism by distinguishing between God's idea of me and my idea of myself.
If so, the problem with that attempted distinction is that propositions are abstract objects. I can't be a proposition if I'm an instance of a divine proposition about me. For a proposition is an exemplar of property instances. A proposition is not, itself, an instance, but the source of exemplifications.
Admittedly, some philosophers try to give a nominalist or fictionalist account of propositions, but that's hardly consistent with Clark's Augustinian realism. 
If, then, reality is propositional through and through, and if, what is more, God is timeless (which Clark defended), then the entirety of Bible history is illusory, like a reel of motion picture footage. It has a static sequence. But time and space are illusory. No creation, no Fall, no Flood, no Abrahamic covenant, no Exodus, no Incarnation, no Crucifixion, no Resurrection, no Ascension, no Parousia. At best, that's an abstract representation of time and space. But nothing really happens. Nothing is physical. Nothing comes into being. Nothing dies. 
Consistent Clarkianism is every bit as heretical as unitarianism or gnosticism or Mormonism or Swedenborgianism. Compared to that, the Federal Vision is chump change. 


  1. Appreciate the post, Steve. Very much so.

    I’d like to make one point regarding one quote of Sean’s. He quotes me correctly here: 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.

    As a point of clarification, I try to communicate here that,

    "most of the things we assent to, whether a priori or a posteriori, are not volitional. [Implication: some assents have a voluntary “ASPECT.”] 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…. Assent always pertains to accepting the truth of a proposition, whereas how one might respond in light of assent (e.g. trust, rest, exuberance, etc.) is commonly classified under the philosophical heading of disposition (which is not propositional assent)." end quote

    So, let me say here most clearly that although some believes involve a voluntary *aspect* I don't believe that *any* belief is chosen. I do believe that choices (and experience) can nurture and quench beliefs (hence there is an *aspect* of choice with respect to beliefs, like when choices are proximate to a new belief) but choosing assents is a non-sequitur as I see it. I see no room for even a moderate form of doxastic voluntarism.

  2. @Sean Gerety

    "If I believe that Jesus died for my sins how is this not trusting that Jesus died for my sins?"

    1. On a practical note, isn't this putting the cart before the horse? How can someone believe himself to have been saved when he hasn't in fact trusted in that which or rather he who will save him? It'd be trusting the *proposition* "Jesus died for my sins" rather than trusting the *person* of Jesus himself. At a minimum, that'd seem to be a recipe for the lack of assurance of salvation, no? But worse, on my deathbed, I'd rather have Jesus saving me than the idea of Jesus saving me.

    2. Also, if salvific faith is equivalent to assent, then what happens if one can no longer assent to the proposition "Jesus died for my sins" such as if one has dementia or brain-damaging head trauma or the like?

  3. Key to the Clarkian position is that our assents are chosen. (I won’t get into here why this is key to their position but it is.) This either leads to an infinite regress or else a first choice that is irrational, being void of any beliefs. One Clarkian, Steve M, took a swipe at defending infinite regress on GB. It was a failure. However, Roger and Sean think they’ve found a regress stopper. Roger’s position is: “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.”

    To avoid an infinite regress conundrum entailed by choosing all our assents the first choice of the first assent needs to be void of any assent whatsoever. (This would get rid of the regress but at the cost of making a choice apart from any beliefs, a bigger monstrosity.) Roger would have us believe that one can choose what he believes yet without any prior beliefs. Right off the bat one might wonder what might influence such a choice. Roger’s point is that we do not believe anything before that first choice. Rather, we understand the meaning of the propositions in view and then choose which one to believe. (But, wouldn’t I want to choose the one I *believe* serves me best?) So, for Roger one can understand something without believing anything. Strangely enough, Roger kept pointing to non-first choices to make this point. Roger kept reminding me that one cannot believe p without understanding p (which has never been a matter of dispute). In that context, I posted Roger,

    “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 women or that mortal does not mean immortal? So much for having understanding without belief.”

    Roger responded with,

    “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!”

    Roger answered “no” to the question. He, therefore, agrees that to understand the meaning of “all men are mortal” one must first believe that men are not women (or better yet, men are not ~men (e.g. women, dogs, buildings, etc.) He also wrote, which of course is agreeable to me, that in order to believe that men are not women one must first understand the meaning of “men are not women.” (Again, this is not a matter of dispute, maybe.To assent to proposition p* one must “first” understand the meaning of p* but do we come into this world a blank slate? Or do we come into this human, with certain beliefs and understanding in place (whether propositional, procedural or personal)? Is this order of belief and understanding temporal or logical? If the latter, then one can have both at the same time; the two go together but what is it to choose a belief while believing nothing at all? What is to understand apart from believing anything?

  4. Now here's the rub. This regress will go on for Roger until he comes to an alleged first chosen-belief, and *that* choice will (for Roger’s position to stand) have to entail understanding without belief.

    What intrigues me possibly most in all of this that with respect to these choices (not the first choice but the other ones), Roger seems to appreciate that prior beliefs have to be in place in order for there to be intelligible understanding (so that one might allegedly choose to believe the proposition under consideration). Given that the regress stops with a choice void of belief(s), how could the first choice be intelligible (if intelligible understanding of p* presupposes beliefs in m, n and o)? Furthermore, what are we to make of all subsequent choices that are ultimately founded upon a first choice that is, well, uninfluenced?

    Roger writes,

    “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.”

    Roger has stopped the regress by Clarkian fiat. “There’s no infinite regress… Period. Full stop. End of story.” So, whenever that first belief is chosen, no beliefs influence it and no beliefs inform the subject’s understanding We have understanding of something without belief in anything.

    I would think that the more Christian understanding is that we come into this world with certain a priori beliefs, which presupposes understanding. I would think a Clarkian would be all over that given that we’re created in the likeness of logic, or maybe some of us aren’t?

    Again, this sad ending is merely one of the trajectories of the Clarkian view of faith. They want to be like the rest of the Reformed community by acknowledging some aspect the will in justifying faith. The traditional view is that we trust in accordance with our assents. Trust being something other than assent. However, the Clarkian view is that all we do is assent. So, to sound Reformed what they must do is smuggle trust in under the heading of assent, but in doing so "trust" is reduced (more like redefined) to assent to specific propositions (regarding the future; regarding something personal....) In the process, they've gone so far as to say that our assents are chosen, which is very much akin to agent causation and the philosophical surd of pure contingency

  5. From What is Saving Faith (pp. 157-158), here is how G. Clark responded to an example similar to your Secretariat and Land Rover examples:

    “The desire to find a third element in faith, in addition to understanding and assent, seems, if we may judge by popular preaching, to be aided by a psychological illusion. Preachers often use an illustration such as this: You may believe that a bank is sound by having read its financial statement, but you do not and cannot trust it until you deposit your money there. Making the deposit is faith. So, these preachers conclude, belief in Christ is not enough, no matter how much you read the Bible and believe that it is true. In addition to believing you must also trust Christ. That is faith.

    The psychological illusion arises from the fact that the two cases are not parallel. In the case of the bank, there is the factor of depositing money. I have some dollar bills to be deposited; I go and deposit them in Bank X and not in Bank Y. Therefore I trust Bank X and do not trust Bank Y. But such is not the case. The reason I deposit money in this bank and not another is simply that my financial condition is far from warranting two bank accounts. I believe that Bank Y is quite as sound as Bank X. Both have competent administrators. Then, too, they both insure all depositors up to $10,000 and my account is less than one-tenth of this. I choose Bank X, not because I trust it more, but simply because it is nearer my home. This is a matter of convenience—not of faith. What is more, in the bank illustration there is a physical factor—depositing bills or checks; whereas in saving faith there is no such factor. Thus arises the illusion. Those who use such illustrations import into a spiritual situation something, a physical motion, that cannot be imported into it. There is nothing in the spiritual situation analogous to depositing the currency. There is believing only: nothing but the internal mental act itself. To suppose that there is, is both a materialistic confusion and an inadmissible alteration of the Scriptural requirement.”

    1. "Believing only" is not the same thing as trusting, or commitment. And even at the level of "nothing but the internal mental act itself," Clark's definition is defective.

      i) I may believe that a particular heart surgeon is a trustworthy heart surgeon. And if I needed heart surgery, I'd trust him with my life. But unless I need heart surgery, believing that he's trustworthy is not the same thing as entrusting myself to him. It remains abstract.

      ii) To take the illustration a step further, he might be the world's best cardiologist. Perhaps I need heart surgery. But there's a catch: he's Jewish and I'm a Neo-Nazi. My anti-Semitism precludes me from placing myself in his hands. I find that repugnant.

      iii) Dropping the metaphors, there's more to faith and infidelity than bare belief or lack of belief. There's also one's attitude towards the truth. The devil knows the truth. But the devil hates the truth.

      Belief can be accompanied by animosity. Thats one of the things distinguishing Christianity from Buddhism. In Buddhism, the problem is lack of enlightenment. A lack of knowledge.

      In Christianity, lack of knowledge can be one part of the problem. But over and above that is the ethics of belief. The reprobate suffer from deep-seated antipathy towards the truth. A moral (or immoral) aversion to the truth. There's an ethical dimension to faith and infidelity.

      An evil being can know the truth, and thereby believe the truth, yet despise the truth. Evil hates good. An evil being experiences revulsion in the face of virtue. Fear and loathing.

      iv) Finally, Christians aren't brains in vats. Saving faith isn't confined to "the internal mental act itself." Saving faith involves a life of faith. Acting on God's promises. Trusting God in the darkness.

    2. Given how obvious this is, I can't for the life of me begin to figure out what the draw is to this rationalist, dehumanizing view of faith. I've felt for sometime now that the Clarkian's confidence is rooted in the writings of Clark. That you would call the collected writings of Clark the Clarkian's axiom is I think fitting.

  6. Clark’s point is pedantic. The physical placing of a bet or making a deposit reveals the non-physical disposition or resolve one possesses relative to the object of trust. These are the evidences of trust. The analogue to faith would be the non-physical confidence one has in the bank or the horse. The analogue to of good works wrought in faith would be placing the bet or making the deposit. The analogies in view demonstrate that assent does not always give way to trust, underscoring that they are distinct and distinguishable. (We can point to Abraham's offering up of Issac to make the point that there is more to faith than assent alone, yet the act only demonstrated Abraham's confidence that God could raise his son.) In any case, this idea of trust (also called acceptance) is not captured by assent. Indeed it cannot be since assent merely means to regard something as true. If trust were a matter of assent alone, then we should expect trust to be proportional to agreement, which often is not the case.

  7. If I believe the following proposition is true, “Jesus Christ and His work alone will justify me before God,” am I trusting Jesus Christ to justify me?

    1. That depends.

      However, if you believe this proposition to be true, but you hate it and refuse to entrust yourself to Christ himself, then you aren't trusting Jesus Christ despite the fact that you believe only Jesus Christ can justify you.

    2. No, that's not trusting in Jesus to justify you. That's just hypothetical.

      One of the things conspicuously absent from Sean's definition is repentance. There is, for instance, a crucial different between believing that *if* I repent of my sins and trust in Christ for salvation, God will save me–and actually repenting of my sins.

      There are people who can believe that Christ is able to save them from their sins, but they don't want to be saved. They want to sin. Christianity cramps their lifestyle.

      Likewise, there are people who can't stand the idea of being accountable to someone else. They refuse to submit to the Lordship of Christ. They wish to do whatever they chose to do with their life.

  8. I don't think that even fulfills the Clarkian notion of assent.

  9. And to add, "will" sounds like you're looking for a justification that is not yet present, one dependent upon works possibly.

    1. How about if the proposition is, “Jesus Christ and His work alone has justified me before God, is justifying me before God, and will justify me before God.” Am I trusting Jesus Christ for justification if I believe that proposition is true?

    2. In Reformed theology, justification is a once for all time event.

      BTW, unless you repent, you're not trusting in Jesus.

    3. If a doctor tells you that you are cured of cancer, is repenting necessary to trust the doctor that you’re cured?

    4. That confuse a metaphor with the reality it was meant to illustrate.

    5. If a doctor tells you that you are cured of cancer, is repenting necessary to trust the doctor that you’re cured?

      Aside from confusing the metaphor, there are other problems that Steve probably didn't want to waste time on. I'm not so wise as to quit wasting my time with Clarkians.

      With respect to repentance, certainly there would be a change of mind about being cured.The bigger problem is that to "trust" the doctor is to agree with with he says. Yet both in common parlance and philosophy people distinguish between assent and reliance upon the truth (often called "acceptance"). Only Clarkians don't as far as I know.

      To trust as answer is true is not the same thing as to place one's trust in what is believed. For one thing, to trust in that sense will result in rest. Assent is merely agreement; yet the standards speak of resting in Christ, which Clarkians suggest is the same thing as assenting (just to different propositions.) I know what it means to assent to all men are mortal but what is to rest in all men are mortal?

      No, assent is not rest. Isn't there a vast difference between trusting the doctor is telling the truth, which is assent, and placing one's trust in the doctor's assessment, which would be accompanied by the disposition of receiving and resting in the news(!), resulting in external acts like that of cancelling the insurance policy and planning a celebratory vacation? For the Clarkian receiving and resting is the same thing as assent, but obviously one need not receive the news as being all that good let alone find rest in it. Even if one says that assent is always accompanied by these things, these things can still be distinguished from assent, which would underscore they're not the same things.

  10. Can someone believe his father has paid his financial debt yet have no love for his father? Can one not love the Lord and be saved? Why can't one have the same sort of cold indifference toward God? Can't one agree with no real reflection and even without repentance?

    1. “Can someone believe his father has paid his financial debt yet have no love for his father?”
      If you take somebody at their word, you think they are trustworthy. How much love is necessary for justification?

      “Can one not love the Lord and be saved?”
      Steve already chided somebody for conflating salvation and justification. Does God justify the ungodly or those that love Him?

      “Why can't one have the same sort of cold indifference toward God?”
      Notice that taking God at his word is now “cold indifference” toward God.

      “Can't one agree with no real reflection and even without repentance?”
      You have to understand something in order to agree that it is true.

    2. BTW, "humphrey," is there a reason you post under multiple aliases? Since they all have the same IP address, why do you go to such lengths to impersonate different commenters? Is that to conceal a hidden agenda? We have better things to do with our time than play cat-and-mouse with a troll.

    3. Good work, Steve. Before pressing "publish" last night I took out "Humphrey" (in quotes). I also took out a sentence asking why I hadn't seen him at SG's site.There is little doubt in my mind that he is using alias.

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

    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) You should agree that a son’s love for a father who pays the son’s debt is not a necessary condition for the state of affairs that includes assent to the proposition that contemplates the father’s payment of the debt. Therefore, we may also say that assent to such a proposition is not a sufficient condition for loving gratitude. This common experience obviously does not comport with the alleged sufficiency of “assent alone” for salvific pardon since pardon in Christ must be accomplished by love for the Lord. So, why should we believe that one cannot assent to the gospel in ingratitude and consequently apart from regeneration and pardon? Certainly the parable of the sower makes room for such as these.

    Steve already chided somebody for conflating salvation and justification.

    Rightly so. Salvation is not by assent alone. Justification is. Yet this does not preclude us talking about saving faith.

    Does God justify the ungodly or those that love Him?

    The verse teaches that God justifies those who believes in the One who justifies the ungodly. It doesn’t teach that Christians are ungodly. In any case, it doesn’t matter either way because whether you think Christians are godly or not the fact of the matter is love for God is a necessary condition for being in a state of pardon.

    Notice that taking God at his word is now “cold indifference” toward God.

    The position before you is that cold indifference is possible for those who assent to good news, which does not mean that taking God at his word is cold indifference toward God.

    I wrote: “Can't one agree with no real reflection and even without repentance?”

    You responded with: “You have to understand something in order to agree that it is true.”

    You didn’t address the point of the question. One can understand something and also agree yet without any serious reflection and disposition of gratitude. As one poster already suggested, it even can be done with a spirit of contempt. 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.

  12. It was just brought to my attention that Sean doesn't grasp logical conditions, preconditions and states of affairs. It was also recently brought to my attention hat Sean doesn't grasp that repentance and faith can occur at the same time, apart from temporal order. I dealt with the latter sort of confusion several years ago but thought I'd publish it again on my site. Given the relevance, I'll link to it here too.

  13. I have a correction to a post:

    I originally wrote: 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) You should agree that a son’s love for a father who pays the son’s debt is not a necessary condition for the state of affairs that includes assent to the proposition that contemplates the father’s payment of the debt. Therefore, we may also say that assent to such a proposition is not a sufficient condition for loving gratitude. This common experience obviously does not comport with the alleged sufficiency of “assent alone” for salvific pardon since pardon in Christ must be accomplished by love for the Lord. So, why should we believe that one cannot assent to the gospel in ingratitude and consequently apart from regeneration and pardon? Certainly the parable of the sower makes room for such as these.{emphasis new}

    "Accomplished" should have been "accompanied".