Friday, July 20, 2018


The common definition of biblical faith involves a tripartism of notitia, assensus, and fiducia. Ligonier Ministries describes the situation like this:

Notitia. Notitia refers to the content of faith, or those things that we believe. We place our faith in something, or more appropriately, someone. In order to believe, we must know something about that someone, who is the Lord Jesus Christ.

Assensus. Assensus is our conviction that the content of our faith is true. You can know about the Christian faith and yet believe that it is not true. Genuine faith says that the content — the notitia taught by Holy Scripture — is true.

Fiducia. Fiducia refers to personal trust and reliance. Knowing and believing the content of the Christian faith is not enough, for even demons can do that (James 2:19). Faith is only effectual if, knowing about and assenting to the claims of Jesus, one personally trusts in Him alone for salvation.

Based on this description Notitia appears to be an intellectual element and can be said to be knowledge or understanding (I could have named this post “Knowing Faith or Faith is Knowing”). Assensus appears to be an element of the will in that one not only knows something to be true but of a will assents to it. Fiducia from the definition above wants to make the truth personal. This breakdown of faith has become official orthodoxy in most conservative circles despite not being scriptural or explicitly stated in any confession. In this post, I want to examine scripture on this to see if it makes the same conclusions that most theologians of our day do about “Faith”. I intend to show from scripture that faith and believing are used interchangeably and that they both ultimately are a faculty of intellect (knowing or understanding). I intend to show that faith is a gift and cannot be achieved by human willpower and so unbelievers not only do not believe the gospel but cannot believe without the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. I intend to show that the gospel is good news and therefore is something to be either believed or not. I intend to show that faith in the gospel will result in evidence of good works. Finally, I intend to show that despite faith being a gift, God normally uses the means of preaching to produce it in the elect and does not directly produce it in a vacuum.

                                                                KINDS OF FAITH?

The London Baptist Confession of 1689 states in chapter 14:3 This faith, although it be in different stages, and may be weak or strong,11 yet it is in the least degree of it different in the kind or nature of it, as is all other saving grace, from the faith and common grace of temporary believers”. This has led many theologians to break faith up in to different kinds.  Temporary, Historical, Speculative, Intellectual, Head and Demonic are just some of the types of labels given to Faith to indicate a belief in the gospel that is not saving and will lead eventually to Hell. The statement is correct in that faith has degrees, as shown in Mark 9:24, where the man clearly is a believer but in need of spiritual growth, however, errantly promotes the idea that unbelievers believe the gospel temporarily and that their faith is of a different nature than that of the elect. This a most Arminian statement and not in any way close to being scriptural. 1 John 2:19 tells us “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they are not of us.” clearly indicating that apostates were not really of us or true believers. It mentions nothing of them being “temporary believers” because their faith was deficient in kind or nature. Romans 1:16 states that Paul is “not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” showing that any one that believes the gospel is saved! It nowhere states how they are to believe the gospel just that they are to believe it. Matthew 13:20, 21 is often used to prove this idea of a “temporary faith’ but a few verses down in 23 we read only the good soil “hears the word and understands it”. This so-called temporary faith is in appearance only and not a different kind of faith. Judas never believed the gospel at all, he did not believe it with a temporary kind of faith (John 6:64, 71 & 17:8-12).


                                                Believing in Faith or Believing in Christ?

Saving faith or belief is always outward focused on Christ, what is often said to be “extra nos” by theologians. The opposite of this is “intra nos” which is focused on ourselves. To distinguish different kinds of faith makes it necessary to examine intra nos our faith or ultimately have faith in our faith. The same also goes for those that distinguish between “faith” and “believing”. These same groups try in vain to divide faith from belief. Often we read of an “easy believism” which is to be read as not saving but “faith alone” is read positively as saving. Scripture in contrast has no such distinctions. John 3:16 clearly says “… whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” and 1 John 5:4 states that we overcome the world by our faith. Paul advised the Philippian jailer to believe for salvation in Acts 16:31 but in Romans 3:28 he says we are justified by faith apart from works. Clearly there is no difference in faith and belief. We are justified by belief alone just as much as we are justified by faith alone.

                                                     Knowledge of the Truth

The strange thing about the common understanding of Faith is that despite theologians claim that it is made up of understanding, will and trust, is how easily they are willing to claim something as faith without the person having any understanding. The usual exposition of Matthew 13:20, 21 states that these stony soil people had a temporary faith because they lacked in either will and/or trust but they had a head faith (read understanding). Scripture contradicts this interpretation in verse 23 however where it says only the good soil understands. We often read in scripture that faith is a “knowledge of the truth”. 2 Timothy 3:7 describing apostates says that they are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truthand 1 Timothy 2:4 says God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”. 2 Timothy 2:25, 26 reiterates this by saying with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” Clearly, faith is equivalent to understanding the gospel as true. Speculation is not faith! We all think of possibilities before accepting the veracity of something but this is not faith. King Agrippa in Acts 26:28 was never persuaded and so did not have a knowledge of the truth. Ephesians 4:13 calls it a “knowledge of the Son of God” and goes on to say in verse 18 that unbelievers are “darkened in their understanding” and “excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them”.

                                                     The Gift of Faith!

Faith is a gift of God! Ephesians 2:8, 9 say that “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Philippians 1:29 states that it has been granted to us to believe in him for Christ’s sake. Before God opened our eyes we were dead in our trespasses and sins and were not able in the slightest to come to the knowledge of the truth. In Mark 4:11 and 12 we are told “And He was saying to them, “To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, so that while seeing, they may see and not perceive, and while hearing, they may hear and not understand, otherwise they might return and be forgiven.” Only the elect see the gospel as truth. No one can say, “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3).


                                                       Believing Unbelievers?

This leads us to the question of those that some theologians say believe without the Holy Spirit, after all don’t demons believe and go to hell. This reference is to James 2:19 where we are told “demons also believe and shudder”. The proper understanding of this is that demons faith (in their damnation) causes them to work (shudder). Our faith (in the gospel) will lead us to do works fit for the Kingdom. This is not saying demons believe the gospel as not even elect angels believe that (1 Peter 1:12) but that their faith works. Simon the sorcerer is another unbeliever said to believe (Acts 8:13) but once again whatever Simon believed it was not the gospel as he thought he could obtain the gift of God with money (Acts 8:20). The natural man cannot believe the things of God for they are foolishness to him (1 Corinthians 2:14). Notice that none of the rulers understood the wisdom of God, for if they had they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory (1 Corinthians 2:8, Acts 3:17), Jesus tells us that they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34). Apostates may have a zeal for God but it is not according to Knowledge (Romans 10:2). Unbelievers are blind, deaf and unreasoning animals (Isaiah 6:9-11, 2 Peter 2:12). God has hardened and blinded them from the truth (Romans 9:18, Romans 11:7, 8, 2 Corinthians 3:14 & 2 Corinthians 4:3-5). While people believe in God through natural theology (Romans 1:20, 21 & Genesis 4:13) no person believes in Christ unless the Father draws them (John 6:44) and anyone that does believe in Christ will most certainly go to heaven (John 6:37).


                                                            Gospel=Good News 

Many current theologians complain that the gospel is just “facts” and this cannot save anyone. They are right the gospel is facts but the alternative would be lies and of course that is what you believe if you deny the gospel. Paul told the Corinthians that they stand in the gospel unless they never really believed it in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. In Galatians 1:6 we learn that to believe a different gospel is to desert Christ. Romans 1:16 tells us the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. Read all about it, Christ died for the sin of man and conquered death in the resurrection and anyone that believes in him alone for salvation will be saved. 

                                                              Means of Grace

Despite faith being a gift, God has normally utilized the natural means of hearing or reading the gospel in the scriptures and not through some direct means such as personal conversation in a burning bush or white light. Romans 10:17 tells us that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:21 tells us that God is pleased to use preaching to save those who believe. We must be faithful witnesses always ready to give an account of the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15). 

                                                                Cause & Effect

Faith will produce works of righteousness. Faith without works is dead (James 2:26). Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we are God’s artwork created for good works, and we learn in Titus 2:14 that believers are “zealous for good works”. We must be careful to remember that faith is the root and works are the fruit and never try to get the cart before the horse. Without faith we cannot please him, a person that goes to God must first believe that he is and that he will reward him we learn in Hebrews 11:6. We are saved by grace not by works (Ephesians 2:8, 9 and Titus 3:5).  


Christ while on earth talked about his testimony and the testimony of scripture pointing to him (John 5:36, 39). If we receive the testimony of men the testimony of God is greater (1 John 5:9). Testimony is to be believed as truth or rejected as lies. God has given us, the elect, understanding to know the truth and set us free (1 John 5:20, Acts 13:48). We hear his voice and follow him (John 10:27). This faith is a gift and is passive.  Faith is an understanding or knowledge that Christ is the sacrifice for my sins and rose to prepare a place for me and is coming again. It excludes human will as Romans 9:16 tells us “…it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy”. How you define faith is how you believe you are justified. If you define faith as “affections” then you are justified by affections. John Calvin’s definition of faith is helpful here when he says “Now we shall possess a right definition of faith if we call it a firm and certain knowledge of God’s benevolence toward us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promise in Christ, both revealed to our minds and sealed upon our hearts through the Holy Spirit”. Soli Deo Gloria!

                                                               Further Reading

Letters on Theron and Aspasio by Robert Sandeman- The best work on faith. Congregational Theologian

Works of Archibald M’Lean in Six Volumes- Especially volumes 1, 4, and 2- Scotch Baptist Minister

The Miscellaneous Writings of the late William Braidwood- Scotch Baptist Minister

The Works of Mr. John Glas in Five Volumes- Especially volume 2- Congregational Minister

                                                             Other Books on Faith

What Is Saving Faith by Gordon Clark- Presbyterian Minister who advocates for faith=understanding & assent.

Faith, Obedience, and Justification: Current Evangelical Departures by Samuel Waldron- Reformed Baptist Minister.

Faith and Its Evidences by John Owen- Puritan Theologian

Free Grace Theology: 5 Ways it Diminishes the Gospel by Wayne Grudem- Charismatic Calvinist Baptist Theologian

The Secret Stifler: Incipient Sandemanianism and preaching the gospel to sinners by David H.J. Gay- Particular Baptist Minister

Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649 by R.T. Kendall- Faith from an Amyraldian perspective

The Gospel According to Jesus: What Does Jesus Mean When He Says "Follow Me" by John MacArthur- Evangelical Minister

What Pure Eyes Could See: Calvin's Doctrine of Faith in Its Exegetical Context by Barbara Pitkin

Final Destiny: The Future Reign of the Servant Kings by Joseph Dillow- Arminian Dispensationalist Theologian

The Current Justification Controversy by O. Palmer Robertson- Presbyterian Theologian

A Companion  to the Current Justification Controversy by John Robbins- Presbyterian Theologian

Life in the Son: A Study of the Doctrine of Perseverance by Robert Shank- Arminian Baptist minister

A Faith That is Never Alone: A Response to Westminster Seminary California by P. Andrew Sandlin

Salvation By Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King by Matthew W. Bates

Not By Faith Alone: The Biblical Evidence for the Catholic Doctrine of Justification by Robert A. Sungenis- Catholic Theologian

No comments: