Wednesday, November 26, 2008

An Eternal Permanence

And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:17; NKJV)

"This clearly suggests that it is by obedience that we [Christians] establish an eternal identity that outlasts the present world system. If I am a laborer on earth, an architect, a musician, a scientist, a teacher—however skilled I may be at any of these activities—none of the designations will survive the present age. But there is an eternal permanence to the character and activity of a person who can be identified as one who does the will of God."

Zane C. Hodges, The Epistles of John, p. 105

Sunday, January 13, 2008

On Saving Faith and Bank Accounts

The following is an excerpt from What is Saving Faith, by Gordon H. Clark. The Trinity Foundation, 2004, pp. 157-158.

[Begin excerpt] 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. [End excerpt]

Friday, December 21, 2007

Is Faith Mere Intellectual Assent?

The following is an excerpt from Absolutely Free, by Zane Hodges, pages 30-31 :

In [discussions of faith], we should discard words like mental or intellectual altogether. The Bible knows nothing about an intellectual faith as over against some other kind of faith (like emotional or volitional). What the Bible does recognize is the obvious distinction between faith and unbelief!

No one needs to be a psychologist to understand what faith is. Still less do we need to resort to “pop psychology” to explain it. It is an unproductive waste of time to employ the popular categories—intellect, emotion, or will—as a way of analyzing the mechanics of faith. Such discussions lie far outside the boundaries of biblical thought. People know whether they believe something or not, and that is the real issue where God is concerned.

But lordship salvation drives its adherents into a psychological shadowland. We are told true faith has volitional and emotional elements. But we might ask: In what sense?

Have we not all at some time been compelled by facts to believe something we did not wish to believe? Did we not, in a sense, believe against our will? Was that not even the case with Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus? And is it not equally true that we often believe things without any discernible emotional response to them, while at other times we are overwhelmed with emotion?

Such questions show how precarious and contradictory are the notions about faith which arise out of popular psychology.

The one thing we cannot do, however, is to believe something we don’t know about. That is why the apostle Paul declared quite plainly, “And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?” (Ro 10:14). And he added appropriately, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (10:17).

Does that involve the intellect? Of course! But is it mere intellectual assent? Of course not! To describe faith that way is to demean it as a trivial, academic exercise, when in fact it is no such thing.

What faith really is, in biblical language, is receiving the testimony of God. It is the inward conviction that what God says to us in the gospel is true. That—and that alone—is saving faith.

[End excerpt]

Monday, November 26, 2007

Robert Reymond on Sanctification

The following is an excerpt from A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, by Robert F. Reymond:

To the degree that the Christian “reckons himself dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11), that is, to say to the degree that the Christian takes seriously the reality of his Spirit-wrought union with Christ, to that degree he will find his definitive sanctification coming to actual expression in his experiential or progressive sanctification. The holiness of the Christian’s daily walk directly depends upon his union with the Savior.

Robert Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998), p. 739.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Puritan Way of Death

The following is an excerpt from The Puritan Way of Death: A Study in Religion, Culture, and Social Change, by David Brannard:

Thus for as long as he [a Puritan] lived, even the most apparently obvious candidate for Sainthood did not dare take his election for granted; there was no way in this world of knowing with certainty whether one was saved or not. In other words, the best sign of assurance was to be unsure. As a result, the devout Puritan constantly examined himself and assailed all evidence of impurity, filling journals and diaries with interminable exhortations on the depravity of all men, but most importantly himself …. The Puritan faith, then …was instead a faith marked by a never-ending, excruciating uncertainty. So intense and so demanding of resolution was this uncertainty that on one occasion, as John Winthrop related, “a woman of Boston congregation, having been in much trouble of mind about her spiritual estate, at length grew into utter desperation, and could not endure to hear of any comfort, etc., so as one day she took her little infant and threw it into a well, and then came into the house and said, now she was sure she should be damned, for she had drowned her child.”

David E. Stannard, The Puritan Way of Death: A Study in Religion, Culture, and Social Change, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), p. 75.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Quote from J. Gresham Machen

The Epistle to the Galatians is directed just as much against the modern notion of “salvation by character” or salvation by “making Christ Master” in the life or salvation by a mere attempt to put into practice “the principle of Jesus,” as it is directed against the Jewish ceremonialists of long ago: for what the Apostle is concerned to deny is any intrusion of human merit into the work by which salvation is obtained. That work, according to the Epistle to the Galatians and according to the whole New Testament, is the work of God and of God alone. (J. Gresham Machen, What is Faith?, pp. 192-193)

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Is Faith a Gift?

Excerpted from page 167 of The Gospel Under Siege, by Zane C. Hodges.

[Begin Excerpt] It is often claimed by theologians that man has no capacity to believe and that faith, like salvation, must be given to him as a gift. But this view is contradicted by 2 Corinthians 4:3,4 where Paul writes, “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose mind the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine upon them.”

From Paul’s words it appears that Satan himself does not regard men as constitutionally incapable of faith. Instead, from his point of view, men are in danger of believing unless he actively blinds them! He must therefore prevent the truth from dawning on their hearts. This may be compared to an effort to keep light out of a dark room by (for example) drawing together a thick pair of curtains. The room can receive light but is prevented from doing so by the curtains. If someone pulls the curtains apart, light will automatically shine into the room.

God’s role in bringing men to faith is therefore revelatory. (See our Lord’s statement to Peter in Matthew 16:17). As Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 4:6, God shines His light into our hearts. Perceiving God’s word as light (i.e., as truth) is precisely what faith does. When the truth of the sufficiency of Christ for the eternal salvation of every believer dawns on our hearts, at that moment we are believing the light and thus know that, in so believing, we ourselves are eternally saved. Thus faith is a capacity built into man by His Creator, just like the capacity to think or speak. None of these capabilities are obliterated by the Fall, but man’s use of them is seriously impaired by his own sinfulness. As a sinner, he prefers to believe a lie rather than the truth (See Romans 1:20-25).

Yet despite man’s darkened heart and Satan’s special efforts to prevent man’s illumination, God can break through all this darkness with the light of His truth and in so doing can meet a response of faith in man. So it is clear from all this that man’s created capacity to believe things is awakened by the illumination God gives in the Gospel. Belief in the truth is impossible for any man so long as he remains persuaded that the truth is false. Once he is persuaded of the truth of the saving message, he has believed it.

Finally, one must say that the Reformed view that man is in every sense a “corpse” without even the capacity to believe the light when it shines forth to him is a gross distortion of reality. It is a transparent effort to press a metaphor like “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1) well beyond the legitimate parameters of that metaphor. Man is “dead in sins” precisely because he is separated from God’s own kind of life, as Paul states in Ephesians 4:18: “being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them.” But the metaphor is seriously misused when it is made the basis for denying to man any and all capacity to receive the truth of God as light. If man had no such capacity, he could not be charged with sin for his unbelief, as Jesus told the Pharisees: “If you were blind, you would have no sin” (John 9:41). [End Excerpt]