08 May 2011

Saving Faith, Temporary Faith, and Justification by Faith

Here's a link to the text of a good sermon pertinent to the Hyper-Solafideism discussion. He does well in defining Saving Faith... avoiding Faith without Knowledge (which is mysticism) but also avoiding Faith being defined as mere assent which results in easy believism.

He's dealing with the classic categories of Knowledge, Assent, and Entrustment. Removing any of these gets you into trouble. He covers them briefly but well.

Also a note of interest...he's using the Parable of the Sower as his text. This parable has proved vexing to not a few. Who in the parable is saved? Though I'm often critical of John Calvin, his treatment of the parable is an excellent example of textual rather than systematic treatment and certainly differs from most Reformed Scholastic interpretations.

Though best known for teaching the doctrine of Predestination, Calvin speaks of Temporary Faith:

According to Luke, Christ says that they believe for a time; because that honor which they render to the Gospel resembles faith. At the same time we ought to learn, that they are not truly regenerated by the incorruptible seed, which never fadeth, as Peter tells us, (1 Peter 1:4) for he says that these words of Isaiah, The word of God endureth for ever, (Isaiah 40:8; 1 Peter 1:25) are fulfilled in the hearts of believers, in whom the truth of God, once fixed, never passes away, but retains its vigor to the end. Still, those persons who take delight in the word of God, and cherish some reverence for it, do in some manner believe; for they are widely different from unbelievers, who give no credit to God when he speaks, or who reject his word. In a word, let us learn that none are partakers of true faith, except those who are scaled with the Spirit of adoption, and who sincerely call on God as their Father; and as that Spirit is never extinguished, so it is impossible that the faith, which he has once engraven on the hearts of the godly, shall pass away or be destroyed.

Harmony of the Gospels, Volume II

What is interesting is that Calvin acknowledges they do in some sense believe. Though ultimately regenerate, the point is......we can't tell until they demonstrate by the bad fruit they bear that they are not brethren.

Rightly only the last category that bears fruit to some degree...those are the saved. But what of the others? They believed but didn't persevere.

God knows who will persevere, who is elect. But we don't. I don't know about you. In fact because of my sinful nature...I don't even know about myself.

I do know that today I'm repenting and believing, trusting in Christ. Tomorrow, God willing and by His grace.... I'll do the same.

I don't need to look back to an experience I had on some date. That is helpful in some sense, but not everyone has the same kind of dramatic experience.

So instead we have to:

Trust the Means God has given

and be diligent in our faith.

This isn't works, this is vitality, a never ending zeal in repentance and belief....the commands of the Gospel.

May God grant us the grace to repent and believe, for we cannot do it on our own. In the end, all we can do is trust in Him. Doing so, which is a gift, we are granted repentance and belief and our faith is not temporary but enduring.

Today if you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.


Anonymous said...

A thought provoking study here, but I think for me you have raised more questions than have answered, but I do find myself in agreement with much that you have said.

John A. (Protoprotestant) said...

That's what I'm trying to do...raise questions.

I don't want anyone's faith to stumble and I'm not trying to dash assurance.

However I do think a lot of people's notion of assurance is really presumption.

That may sound strange, but like I said, there's this dynamic in the text...absolute assurance and yet warnings to be vigilant.

I don't how much you've read here, but in several posts I've talked about how I left Dispensationalism became a Calvinist and really was on the road to hyper-Calvinism. Election is everything, and all theology must conform to its logic.

I had read Ian Murray's The Forgotten Spurgeon and that opened up many doors for me.

Then later I read his Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism. The book is small and deals largely with a 19th century controversy...but, in it there was some theological discussion that just shattered my whole way of thinking.

Here was Spurgeon, a staunch Calvinist doing battle on the one hand with the Arminians and on the other hand with the Hyper-Calvinists. He was being attacked by both sides becaus on the issue of the gospel he wouldn't cave into the logic of either system...he stuck with the text.

It was exhilirating...I felt like I had a new Bible, just as I had when I first saw election and predestination...when I first saw Covenants etc...

The I started reading Calvin and others and found that he and some others were saying a lot of things...or rather their way of thinking and method allowed them to say a lot of things that didn't quite accord with the later Reformed Scholastics as well as the later Reformed Systematic Theologies.

It's not that they're terribly wrong, it's just that their method hinders them. I don't how to put it. The Scriptures are simple on one level....as far as some basic ideas. But on the other hand there are just layers of complexity and starts to become clear that most errors are not entirely wrong...it's usually just a matter of they've picked up on something and over-emphasized it, are made it 'central' to a system and now they're not willing to see the rest.

The way we think, growing up in Western culture, we like outlines and nice organized systematic ways of thinking. That's great, but I'm not sure it's always right when it comes to Scripture. It's not something we can break apart into a formula. On one level it's staightforward, on another it defies that kind of investigation. It's basic enough that a very simple person, maybe someone who doesn't read well...they can grasp enough. On the other hand, there's an infinite well to draw from. You know how it is. You can read Ephesians fifty times and every time see something new. It's awesome.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reply to my very brief comment, I really appreciate it.Reading and studying about these things is in a way almost novel to me also, this is despite the fact that I spent maybe the first 17 yrs of my life in a reformed church before vegetating for the next 30 yrs in baptist churches. I certainly don't offer this up as an excuse for being apathetic toward the scriptures , but the mind numbing baptist theology over here doesn't really doesn't offer any assistance.From memory , the style of reformed doctrine that I encountered was big on covenental promises and short on exhibiting any sort of spiritual fruit, possibly another form of hyper-calvinism.A sad indictment on that church is that never once do I recall the gospel message being preached, and not until several years latter did I respond to a message that revealed my need for a saviour, [yes , the baptists were good at a few things].
So , despite my digression here , I think I grasp a little of what you are saying in regards of the interpretive lens being applied to scripture.