Monday, July 20, 2009

Justification and Faith

There is an important distinction we need to make. A man is saved (justified) by faith in Christ alone for salvation. A man who trusts in his own works will be lost. This is the teaching of the Scriptures, made especially clear in Paul's epistles.

That said, man is justified by faith alone in Christ alone. That is to say, man is not justified by having a correct understanding regarding justification. Thus, we do not exclude from salvation every person who has (in some way or other) a faulty understanding of justification, provided that he sincerely believes on Christ alone for salvation.

In consequence of the above distinction, we do not exclude people based on their membership in an apostate church or cult. A believer ought to experience growth that will lead them out of that apostate church, but there are many seducing spirits in this world:

Mark 13:22 For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.

Some churches teach a false gospel: the Roman Catholic (so-called) Church is one of these. That false gospel will not save. But (thanks in large part to the Reformers) there are now Bibles available to members of that church. They can read and find the same conviction that stirred Martin Luther. It's even the case, these days, that many priests of Rome teach a Protestantized message. Perhaps, in some such parishes there may be priests who are contradicting their church's teachings to be faithful to the Scripture. If so, whether on an individual level or on an institutional level, praise be to God!

Another church that teaches a false gospel is the Mormon Church. Its gospel also will not save. But there are Bibles in the hands of most Mormons, and they too can read these and be convicted by the Word of God. I don't know enough of Mormon culture to say whether the gospel may be preached in some wards by the leadership there. If so, again, praise be to God!

Nevertheless, those who do follow the gospel of Christ ought to come out of these churches. That too is the teaching of Scriptures. For it has been prophesied that there will be false teachers:

2 Peter 2:1-3
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.

These days the idea of "damnable heresies" is not politically correct. "Heresies" itself is a bit strong for the typical person. But the fact is that these men will and have come and called themselves a part of us, though they are not in heart. What then is the Apostle Peter's exhortation:

2 Peter 3:17-18
Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

Beware of false teachers, dear reader, and whether you believe your current church is right or wrong in general, trust alone in Christ for salvation, as it is written:

Proverbs 3:5-7
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.

-TurretinFan

P.S. By the way - to those who do already acknowledge truth of Sola Fide: just so you know, that itself won't save you. You're not justified because you believe in Sola Fide, you're justified (if you are) only on the basis of faith, and that being faith in Christ alone for salvation. If you think good theology saves - you're wrong. Theology does matter: but having great theology won't keep you from being in the category of those who on the last day, with many sincere folks with worse theology than yours, saying "Lord, Lord" etc.

17 comments:

natamllc said...

With trepidation, I say AMEN to that, TF!

Coram Deo said...

Hmmmm...

Methinks you've staked out a provacative position here, TF. I'd be interested in knowing a bit more what led you to write this particular piece.

Clearly the sovereign Lord God Almighty can and does regenerate and save people from every kingdom, tribe, tongue and nation; and furthermore He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and He will have compassion on whom He will have compassion.

This being said something in the way this particular post is written troubles me, for it seems that you are leaving open at least the possibility that truly regenerate, born-again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ may continue as members of an apostate church or cult indefinitely. Sure they ought to come out, but who knows?

The two examples you cited - the RCC and the LDS - not only both teach a false soteriology, but the LDS in particular also teaches a false Christology (among many, many other heinous and soul-damning heresies).

It seems to me that to leave open the possibility that truly blood-bought, regenerate, born-again believers in the real Triune One True and Living God may continue as "members in good standing" within such decidedly anti-christ systems - potentially indefinitely - flies in the face of the teaching of scripture on the subjects of both sanctification and discipleship just for starters.

In fact such blatant disobedience to, and disregard for, Christ's commands to be holy and separate would seem to be evidence that militates against genuine salvation, as opposed to being evidence for it.

Please understand that I'm not trying to be nitpicky, nor am I trolling for a fight, rather I'm trying to understand where you're coming from in this post. Perhaps I've simply misunderstood your intended meaning.

Confused,
CD

Turretinfan said...

CD:

Yes, continued affiliation with an apostate church is strong evidence that a person is not truly saved - and I would never admit to communion someone who has not under the rule of elders in a non-apostate church.

And it's important to point out that the RCC is not simply wrong in its soteriology but in the gospel itself, and also in its extreme veneration of Mary, its ubiquitous idolatry, its usurping papacy, and so forth. It has numerous serious problems.

-TurretinFan

Anonymous said...

"By the way - to those who do already acknowledge truth of Sola Fide: just so you know, that itself won't save you. You're not justified because you believe in Sola Fide, you're justified (if you are) only on the basis of faith, and that being faith in Christ alone for salvation. If you think good theology saves - you're wrong. Theology does matter: but having great theology won't keep you from being in the category of those who on the last day, with many sincere folks with worse theology than yours, saying "Lord, Lord" etc."

TF

Do I understand you to being saying that it is possible that someone could believe all the propositions of the 66 books of Scripture together with their logical implications and yet be damned on the day of judgement?

Steve M

Turretinfan said...

Yes. For example, Satan might that do that. I doubt many humans would even be aware of all the propositions.

More to the point, "believing in sola fide," i.e. assenting to the truth of that doctrine, does someone no good unless they actually believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. And if they trust in Christ alone for salvation, assenting to the truth of sola fide is, to some degree, a matter of sanctification of their knowledge, not an essential doctrine in itself.

Hopefully that helps to clarify.

-TurretinFan

Alexander said...

...you're justified (if you are) only on the basis of faith, and that being faith in Christ alone for salvation.

And this is a one time event of which the individual could never change? If we are justified on the basis of faith, is it possible that we might die in a state of bad faith--that is, we have decided for whatever reason to place our faith in something other than God?

Secondly, in referring to an apostate church, how far would that church have to promulgate doctrines opposed to the Gospel for it to be considered apostate in your opinion? It is my understanding that the Reformed view does not consider the faith to subsist in any particular denomination.

Lastly, in what I also understand to be the Reformed view, because rational human knowledge is limited, how do we know with certainty which particular denomination hasn't fallen into apostasy? Keep in mind of those people who have neither the time, energy, or resources to engage in a thorough study and then are more prone to be sifted like wheat.

Alexander said...

Ah it's late. If I need to clarify anything please let me know.

Anonymous said...

How does one "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ" apart from believing the propositions of Scripture together with their logical implications concerning Christ?

Does Satan believe that Christ died for his sins?

Steve M

Turretinfan said...

The proposition "Jesus died for Satan's sins" is not a proposition in the Bible.

One believes on Jesus by trusting in Him. Of course, they cannot believe on a person whom they don't know, but they can know who Jesus is, without trusting in him.

Anonymous said...

TF

Yes, I would agree that simply knowing who Jesus is does not constitute faith in him.

You'll have to explain the difference between believing a person and trusting a person. If you believe that a person always speaks the truth, isn't that the same thing as trusting him?

PS I appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions.

Steve M

Turretinfan said...

The difference between believing a person and trusting a person can be explained this way.

"Believing a person" usually simply means "believing what the person says." On the other hand, "trusting a person" is one possible reason why we might believe what the person says. (We might alternatively believe what the person says based on confirmation from someone else who we trust more than that person.)

But there is an important difference between believing a person (i.e. believing that what they say is true) and believing in a person. The latter expression properly understood involves a reliance that can be seen in the following:

1 Peter 5:7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

Psalm 2:12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

Psalm 27:14 Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.

Hebrews 3:6 But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.

Perhaps another way to express it is a reliance on Christ. The Bible expresses it in a variety of ways, perhaps one additional poignant way the Bible uses to express it is this way:

Isaiah 27:5 Or let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with me.

The empty hand of faith takes hold on the strength of the Lord, relying on Christ alone for salvation as he is freely offered to us in the gospel.

-TurretinFan

Anonymous said...

TF

Is there a difference between trusting a person (i.e. trusting that what they say is true) and trusting in a person?

I trust Peter, David, the author of Hebrews and Isaiah when writing under the inspiration of God to be speaking only what is true. I believe what they wrote. I trust what they wrote to be truth.

“The empty hand of faith takes hold on the strength of the Lord, relying on Christ alone for salvation as he is freely offered to us in the gospel.”

What is faith?
What is the gospel?

Steve M

Turretinfan said...

"Is there a difference between trusting a person (i.e. trusting that what they say is true) and trusting in a person?"

Yes. I've tried to explain that difference above.

"What is faith?"

I've also tried to explain this above.

"What is the gospel?"

The good news - the word which Paul preached.

Anonymous said...

TF

The Good News was information was it not? Didn't Paul present it in the form of certain propositions which he intended his hearers to accept as true?

Are we are not saved by believing the Gospel? By that I mean hearing the news (information) and understanding it to be true.

Paul presents an outline of the gospel in 1 Cor 15:1-4

and in Romans he claims it (the gospel) is "the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes"

You differentiate believing and trusting. You differentiate believing someone and believing in someone. You differentiate trusting someone and trusting in someone. I think believing and trusting are the same thing. I think if you believe someone always tells the truth you trust him to do so and you also rely on him to do so. If someone whom you believe always tells you the truth (or, in fact, is the truth) makes a you a promise you trust that he will keep it. You rely on him to keep it. You believe that he will keep it. These are just different ways of stating the same thing.

You attribute orthodoxy to Satan and I am not quite sure what Satan's beliefs are, but I think we agree that believing the Gospel would not benefit Satan because Christ did not die for him.

Regarding Satan, Scripture says "there is no truth in him". I don't know where one finds the propostion that Satan believes Scripture to be true in Scripture. Christ says to the Father "your word is truth."

You said someone “can know who Jesus is, without trusting in him”, but can someone (a human being) believe that everything Christ says is true and everything the Scripture says concerning him is true without trusting him? I don't see how?

I think a definition of faith is vitally important. How can one understand what it means to be justified by faith alone without a definition of faith?

I appreciate that you have attempted to explain your view of faith, but I find it confusing. I consider you to be a very intelligent man. I have listened to you debate and I have been impressed with your knowledge of Scripture. I agree with you on most things, but I guess I must disagree with you regarding what faith is. I do appreciate your time and I hope I have not been an annoyance.

Steve M

Turretinfan said...

"The Good News was information was it not?"

The Good News is certainly communicated with information. But Paul says it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes. Paul also says that he preaches "Christ and him crucified."

"Didn't Paul present it in the form of certain propositions which he intended his hearers to accept as true?"

Yes. That's the nature of communication.

"Are we are not saved by believing the Gospel? By that I mean hearing the news (information) and understanding it to be true."

That's only a part of it. Let me provide two ways of trying to analyze the subject:

1) notitia, assensus, and fiducia

These Latin words are used to express the three aspects of faith. The first is notitia, which means knowledge of the truth. The second is assensus, which means acknowledging that the truth is true. The third, fiducia, is explained by Turretin in this way:

The third act is fiducial and practical assent or a persuasion of the practical intellect by which we judge the gospel to be not only true, but also good and therefore most worthy of our love and desire; also the promises of grace to be most certain concerning the remission of sins and the bestowal of salvation upon all believers and penitents and so also upon me if I shall believe and repent.

2) A More Practical Analogy

One practical analogy I've heard is the analogy of the difference between:

notitia: hearing that a chair can support your weight

assensus: acknowledging that it is true that the chair can support your weight

fiducia: relying on the chair to support your weight

I think there may be some weaknesses in this analogy, but perhaps it will help to convey what I've been trying to say.

"Paul presents an outline of the gospel in 1 Cor 15:1-4

and in Romans he claims it (the gospel) is 'the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes'"

ok

[cont'd in part 2]

Turretinfan said...

[cont'd from part 1]

"You differentiate believing and trusting. You differentiate believing someone and believing in someone. You differentiate trusting someone and trusting in someone. I think believing and trusting are the same thing. I think if you believe someone always tells the truth you trust him to do so and you also rely on him to do so. If someone whom you believe always tells you the truth (or, in fact, is the truth) makes a you a promise you trust that he will keep it. You rely on him to keep it. You believe that he will keep it. These are just different ways of stating the same thing."

I respectfully disagree, but we've both stated our position.

"You attribute orthodoxy to Satan and I am not quite sure what Satan's beliefs are, but I think we agree that believing the Gospel would not benefit Satan because Christ did not die for him."

It is certainly possible that Satan is deceived. Nevertheless, while Satan may believe what Christ says, Satan does not believe in Christ, Satan opposes Christ.

"Regarding Satan, Scripture says 'there is no truth in him'. I don't know where one finds the propostion that Satan believes Scripture to be true in Scripture. Christ says to the Father 'your word is truth.'"

Right. On the other hand, Satan is essentially an eyewitness to most of the history that Scripture records, from the garden of Eden to the temptation in the wilderness. Satan is said to be a liar, which implies that although he knows the truth he speaks falsehood - a person who spoke falsehood believing it to be true wouldn't be called a liar.

"You said someone “can know who Jesus is, without trusting in him”, but can someone (a human being) believe that everything Christ says is true and everything the Scripture says concerning him is true without trusting him? I don't see how?"

Can a person hate Christ? If so, how can he be said to be trusting in Christ, even if he acknowledges the truth of Scripture?

"I think a definition of faith is vitally important. How can one understand what it means to be justified by faith alone without a definition of faith?"

Scripture defines faith as "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen." That definition, perhaps, does not resolve the specific question we are addressing.

"I appreciate that you have attempted to explain your view of faith, but I find it confusing. I consider you to be a very intelligent man. I have listened to you debate and I have been impressed with your knowledge of Scripture. I agree with you on most things, but I guess I must disagree with you regarding what faith is. I do appreciate your time and I hope I have not been an annoyance."

Not at all. The comments you have been presenting are very similar to those that Gordon Clark expressed. I'm not sure if you're familiar with his work, but I consider him one of the best philosophers of the last century. I've been enjoying the discussion, and I hope it has been or will be of some use to you as well as to me.

-TurretinFan

Anonymous said...

TF


Yes, I am very familiar with Clark. I have read many of his books. I have read many authors on this subject (What is faith?)


Clark defines faith as intellectual assent to understood propositions and saving faith as intellectual assent to certain propositions from Scripture regarding the atonement (this is a summary from my memory only).


Charles Hodge also defines faith. He says in his Systematic Theology, Volume III:
"Faith may, therefore (because the only satisfying foundation for the persuasion of the truths of the Bible is the testimony of God), be defined to be the persuasion of the truth founded on testimony. The faith of the Christian is the persuasion of the truth of the facts and doctrines recorded in the Scriptures on the testimony of God."


To believe the Scriptures on the testimony of God requires the presupposition that the Bible is the word of God. That "the Bible is the word of God" must be the logical starting point seems obvious to me for without Scripture we don't know who God is.

I have found that very few authors actually give a definition of faith or saving faith. Most rather tell what it "looks like" or some such thing.


You mention three Latin words although I don't know what these have to do with the Greek words pistis (faith) or pisteuo (believe) found in Scripture. Fiducia is found 9 times in the Latin Vulgate NT, but is always a translation of the word parresia (freedom of speech, confidence). Notitia is only found once (Rom. 1:28) and Assensus is not found at all.


notitia: hearing that a chair can support your weight
assensus: acknowledging that it is true that the chair can support your weight
fiducia: relying on the chair to support your weight



You are saying that believing the Gospel is only part of it? The other part is illustrated by "relying on the chair to support your weight". Are you saying that the act of sitting in the chair is the only way that God knows whether or not I believe it will support my weight? Or are you saying that it is the only way you know whether I believe it will support my weight?


As I understand your definition of faith it includes "sitting in the chair". Your definition of faith seems to me to include an element of works. Paul definitely distinguishes faith from works. A definition of faith that includes an element of works makes "justification by faith alone" no different from "justification by faith and works".

Believing the gospel either saves us or it is only part of what is necessary for our salvation. When Paul describes the gospel as the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, I think he is clearly siding with the first position.

Steve M