[We are] not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Monday, July 31, 2006

Is Faith to be Qualified by Works?

by Antonio da Rosa

The following is a response to Tim's comments on my previous post Are We Saved by Faith Alone or by Faith That is Not Alone?

Tim writes:
*true* faith, the kind through which salvation is obtained, is always accompanied by works. This is how we human beings recognize salvation in others: by seeing works, and recognizing them as those "which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."
Where do you get the notion that faith produces works? What is your definition of faith? Now I will agree that we often use our faith to produce works, and that we ought to. But that faith necessitates a life of persevering works is quite another thing altogether. What I am getting from you here is that the faith that saves is some superlative “faith” that is different from the everyday faith that we exercise. If this is true, what would be your biblical argument that saving faith is a special kind of faith? I suppose for you what makes saving faith “saving” is the quality of the faith? I say that what makes saving faith saving is not the special quality of the faith but the object of the faith, Jesus Christ.

Heb 11:1 states that faith is certainty and assurance. Is it not true that a person can be convinced of something yet not act on it? Isn’t this the usual case when Christians sin?

I know people who are convinced, believe, have faith that diet and exercise can save them from the deadly consequences of heart disease, yet their lives are not characterized by watching what they eat and physical exercise. I guess you would say that they have a “spurious” faith! But they are indeed convinced and believe in diet and exercise. What is the difference between this faith and saving faith other than the object? Works! Therefore if there are no works, hell is certain!

I would agree that a purpose of our eternal salvation is to do the works that God has set up for us (Eph 2:10), but that this is a necessary relationship has been by far undemonstrated merely quoting the text. Eph 2:10 uses the subjunctive “peripateswmen” in a purpose clause: “should walk”. Nowhere in this text is it adduced that it is a necessary relationship, but only that it is an expected relationship.

Tim writes:
it is also true that the Holy Spirit does not indwell someone without some measure of practical sanctification. It's just not God's style to be ineffective.
I wonder. If God’s grace completely justifies now, eternally saves now, if the Holy Spirit completely indwells now, how is it the man is not completely sanctified now? It would seem that God’s grace is somewhat ineffective.

Wouldn’t it be easier to see that man has a will to pursue or spurn the graces and leading of God? Everytime a Christian sins he is spurning the graces and leading of God and he grieves the Holy Spirit. And if he can do this some of the time, why not see that he can do it all of the time? If the Christian cannot fall away stopping permanently progressive sanctification, what is the use of all the warnings directed to Christians that they need to endure or else some consequence of one thing or another will befall them?

How is it in Calvinist theology that God will keep the Christian from the really huge sins, or their lives being characterized by them, but His grace is insufficient, or ineffective to keep the Christian from the plethora of little sins that he must confess every single day?

You contention that it is “not God’s style to be ineffective” diverts attention from the real issues. Christian’s sin. Why doesn’t God keep them from sinning?

I say because God doesn’t drag people down the path of obedience. He gives them all things that pertain to life and godliness, precious promises, the indwelling Holy Spirit, the seed of divine life (our regenerate nature), He will chasten, discipline, direct, encourage, etc., but He will not drag someone down the path of obedience! Practical sanctification is the synergistic activity of God and the Christian. If the Christian does not do his part, he will not be sanctified! God has promised rewards for those who obey, and loss and discipline for those Christians who do not!

You quote Is 55:10-11. Is it God’s word that caused you to sin today? (I am assuming that you have the humbleness to admit such). Is God’s word in your life purposeful only for “partial” sanctification mixed with sin? God’s word says “be holy for I am holy”. Does that leave room for the sin that we commit every day? I don’t think so.

Why is God’s grace completely effective to bring about regeneration and justification, but is ineffective to keep you from the small sins that you sin every day?

Tim writes:
Abraham's faith, through which he obtained salvation, was the same faith that enabled him to be willing to offer up Isaac. You cannot separate the two. If Abraham had not had a faith that was capable of producing action, then God would never have credited it to him as righteousness, because it would not have been faith.
Are you saying that Abraham’s faith through which he was justified necessitated him to proceed with offering up Isaac? How come your faith didn’t necessitate you to be sinlessly perfect today? Are you saying that if Abraham hadn’t offered up Isaac that he wouldn’t have been saved? That is what is sounds like to me! And that would be works-salvation.

How come Abraham’s faith didn’t necessitate him telling the truth to Abimelech?

So faith is not faith unless it is “capable of producing action”? So you qualify faith by works? Faith is not faith unless it is accompanied by works! “We aren’t saved by faith + works but faith that is accompanied by works.” Faith + works or faith accompanied by works are two ways of saying the exact same thing! No works = hell, thus making works a condition for final salvation, thus making Perseverance theology a works-salvation position.

I thought that faith was the conviction and assurance of the veracity and truth of something (Heb 11:1). Now I am being told that faith is not faith without the qualifier of works!

The Calvinist’s dilemma:
Some verses condition salvation on faith alone in Christ alone.
Other verses seem to condition salvation on works, and perseverance in works.
The Calvinist’s solution:
Modify the experimental data on the verses that say that simple belief in Christ saves.
Secondary assumption made: Simple faith is not the whole story, from our analogy of faith we must include the idea of perseverance in works.
Modify the experimental data on the verses that seem to condition salvation on works, perseverance in works.
Secondary assumption made: these verses just show the outworking of faith. “TRUE” faith, IOW, really big, big, big, faith, includes the idea of a perseverance in works, includes the idea of obedience.

Why not just see that eternal life is by the simple exercise of faith that takes Jesus at His word when He guarantees eternal life to the believer?

Why not just see that when salvations spoken about in the Bible are conditioned on works, that this salvation cannot be the justification-by-faith-alone salvation spoken of elsewhere? “Salvation” has a wide berth of semantical range, with many different usages!

Isn’t it odd, Paul says “But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted as righteousness”?

What The Traditionalists have done here, in their doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints, is short-circuit Paul’s claim that it through faith apart from works by importing into “faith” the qualifier of “works”! This is shamefully heretical, and is nothing but dressed up works-righteousness.

As concerning your reference of Hebrews, I wonder which tact you take. Are you like a Pink or a Shedd who thinks the warning passages are for Christians, or do you line up with a MacArthur who says the warning passages are for “professing” but not “possessing” Christians? For I would like to question your understanding of Hebrews based upon the warning passages.

Tim, you say:
"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 all are not of us."
Do you know to whom John is speaking about (2 John 2:18 might help you there)? Do you know who the “us” is in this verse? What was the point of contention between those who went out and those who remained?

If you want to read an exegetical commentary on this passage you quote as a proof-text without a shred of argumentation supporting your interpretation of it, click this link to my blog:

1 John 2:19 Commentary

Tim writes:
Yes, yes, I know: Hebrews is talking about Judaizers and 1 John is talking about Gnostics, they both have this in common: Both at first appeared to be Christians; to have been justified through faith; but in both cases this was not true: and their actions eventually bore out the truth.
Gnostics and false-prophets aren’t found out by their works, but by their doctrine (remember, they are wolves in sheep’s clothing!)

You write:
There is no sense in scripture of a faith accepted by God which produces no action:
Does faith now have a mind of its own? Does faith have power over your will or does your will determine to act on faith?


By your insistence that faith necessarily produces persevering works until death in the lives of true Christians, you have made works a condition for heaven. If there are no persevering works, there is no heaven. Without persevering works, there is no heaven.

If perseverance in works are a necessary result of the faith and if a man cannot be saved without them, then the works are, in fact, a condition for salvation. If they are not present, the man will perish. Necessary results for which we are responsible are the same as conditions.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Are We Saved by Faith Alone or by Faith that Is Not Alone?

by Antonio da Rosa

The Traditionalists use such statements as:

"A person is justified by faith alone BUT NOT by a faith that is alone"

(Which I stumbled across again recently in a Traditionalist's article at the blog named Expository Thoughts, which by the way, was linked to by a Free Grace brother on his website.)

By this sentence, they are, in fact, speaking nonsense. All this sentence is simply saying is that faith + works saves. The cleverness of the prose serves to conceal this fact. Proverbial sayings like this have been passed on in the theology textbooks for centuries. Yet for all intents and purposes, it is devoid of meaning, and furthermore, contradictory.

They say, "You aren't saved by faith alone, but you are saved by a faith that is not alone."

What is it not alone from?

Obvious answer: works.

Their pithy little statement says, in effect:

You are saved by faith that is accompanied by works (IOW, a faith that is not alone).

You cannot be saved by faith alone and at the same time be saved by faith that is not alone (apart from works).

How is this so difficult to understand?

The Traditionalists are so worried about Antinomianism that they fatally mar the gospel message by the introduction of a works contingency: Final salvation becomes conditioned on the supposed progressive sanctification and obedience til death that is supposedly necessitated by faith.

"You are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves you is never alone."

They say!


Let me complete it: "You are saved by faith alone (apart from works), but the faith that saves you is never alone (apart from works)." This is internally inconsistent, absurd, and heretical.

A person is saved by faith alone, and by faith that is alone. Faith plus anything = works salvation.


Friday, July 28, 2006

Does Anybody Agree with this Quotation? II

by Antonio da Rosa

I am proposing a intermittent series by my fellow bloggers here, titled "Does Anybody Agree with this Quotation", in respect for Matthew's first post in the series.

Do you know if you believe? According to Calvinism, you may only think you believe, you may only be conscious of exercising what you think is faith, but it may only be spurious faith. And in this case, you have deceived your own consciousness, and you are in the dark as to your lost position. What hope do you have? Not much apparantly! You can't know if you are God's child!

Robert L. Dabney:

“There is a spurious as well as a genuine faith. Every man, when he thinks he believes, is conscious of exercising what he thinks is faith. Such is the correct statement of these facts of consciousness. Now suppose the faith, of which the man is conscious, turns out a spurious faith, must not his be a spurious consciousness? And he, being without the illumination of the Spirit, will be in the dark as to its hollowness.” (Discussions by Robert L. Dabney, D.D., L.L.D., pg 180-181; taken from: Volume I: Theological and Evangelical, edited by C. R. Vaughan, published by the Presbyterian Committee of Publication, Richmond, VA., 1890.)

What are your thoughts?

Antonio da Rosa

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Shades of Grey: Are you a Four-Point Calvinist or a One-Point Calvinist?

by Matthew

The middle ground between Calvinism and Arminianism is a lot greyer than a lot of people tend to think. It is common to speak of Four-Point Calvinists, that is those who aspire to believe in all of the points of Calvinism except Limited Atonement. However, I would suggest that most of those who are described as Four-Point Calvinists are not so close to Calvinism as that description would suggest.

Four-Point Calvinists strongly maintain that election is Unconditional. There is almost no difference between them and Five Pointers on this point. However, it is on the other points that they are usually more ambiguous.

Four Pointers claim that they believe in Total Depravity, as do some who reject all Five Points. However, they tend not to understand this in terms of Total Inability, as do Five Pointers. They argue that unbelievers could believe; that they are capable of believing, they just do not do so and will be condemned for not believing. Likewise, they tend to be uncomfortable with Irresistable Grace. They seem to see the Elect as unable to resist God's grace, but view the non-elect as being offered a grace which they resist. Rejecting Limited Atonement tends to result in accepting the idea of grace being offered to all.

Four Pointers always profess to believe in Perserverance. However, their view tends to be closer to Eternal Security or Once, Saved Always Saved. They tend not to hold a consistent Free Grace position, but they usually allow the possibility of some sort of apostasy and its subsequent judgment both in this life and the next.

A good example of a theologian who calls himself a Four-Point Calvinist, but who is probably really a One-Pointer is Robert Lightner. He has written some really excellent books from a Dispensational Fundamentalist perspective. He rejects Lordship Salvation and often quotes Zane Hodges.

The fact that there is so much uncharted ground between Calvinism and Arminianism means that the old and popular categories of Arminian and Calvinist are simply no longer relevant. They belong to the days of Whitefield and Wesley and were probably unhelpful back then.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

John 8:30, 31

by Antonio da Rosa

There has been a controversy over at Jonathan Moorhead's blog Did Judas Receive 'Free Grace'. In the comment thread there has been an extended discussion on so-called "spurious" faith. I have commented extensively over there and have made posts concerning this topic on my blog:

Here Here and most recently Calvinism and its House of Cards

The Following is part of an article by Charlie Bing that can be found in the journal section of http://www.faithalone.org

Sorry Matthew for posting on the same day as you, but, I am going on a vacation tomorrow to go beach camping with my family and I wanted to post this.

Abide in His Word (John 8:30-31)

This passage will be considered because it is usually thought to be a condition of discipleship spoken to unbelievers. Speaking of Jesus’ ministry, John writes, "As He spoke these words, many believed in Him. Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are my disciples indeed." Many commentators assign Jesus’ words to those who had a counterfeit or spurious faith. For example, Morris states,

This section of discourse is addressed to those who believe, and yet do not believe. Clearly they are inclined to think that what Jesus said was true. But they were not prepared to yield Him the far-reaching allegiance that real trust in Him implies.48

However, the passage is best understood as a condition of discipleship directed to true believers, as can be shown.

It is argued that "believed Him" in v 31 indicates inadequate faith by the use of pisteuo ("believe") without the preposition eis ("in"). But it is obvious that those addressed in v 31 are the same as those in v 30 who "believed in Him" (pisteuo eis auton), which is a strong term denoting salvation.49 Also, there is overwhelming evidence that pisteuo without the preposition does not prove that faith is inadequate for salvation.50 Salvation is clearly meant in v 24 where pisteuo with no preposition is used when Jesus states, "If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins."

It is also argued that the hostility of these believers continues (vv 33ff.), and Jesus calls them children of the devil (v 44). This continuing hostility reflects the opposition of the Jews, which is a major motif of this section.

In light of what has been argued thus far, vv 31-32 show Jesus briefly directing His attention to those Jews who were saved as He taught in the temple. John’s commentary in v 30 is inserted before Jesus’ remarks to direct the reader to a change of focus by Christ before the opposition resumes in v 33 as a reaction to Christ’s remarks.51 As soon as He finishes His remarks to these believers, the Jews raise another objection, just as they have been doing from the start of the dialogue (cf. 8:13, 19,22,25). The objection of v 33, being totally out of character with the inclination of those mentioned in vv 31 and 32, shows that the identity of those in v 33 is assumed to be the antagonistic unbelieving Jews, not the new believers.52

This interpretation is most reasonable because it prevents Christ, who says in v 45 "you do not believe Me," from contradicting John, who said they "believed in Him" and "believed Him" (vv 30-31). It also has greater exegetical and theological consistency than that view which would say these are "believers who did not really believe."

The condition for becoming disciples in v 31 should not be construed as an admonition to unbelievers. In fact, the opposite is indicated by the emphatic plural pronoun "you" (hymeis) which distinguishes the new believers from the rest of the Jews.53 Also, Jesus’ admonition is not to enter His word, but to abide (meno) or continue in it. The assumption that they are already in His word indicates that abiding is a condition for further knowledge of the truth and freedom in Christ. Discipleship, as abiding in intimacy with Christ, is elsewhere in John made conditional on love and obedience (e.g., 13:35; 14:15, 21, 23; 15:4, 7, 10, 14).

Does Anybody agree with this Quotation?

by Matthew

Does anybody here agree with this quotation?

Are works really necessary if a person has faith?

James 2:17-26

Illustration: A young man may court a young lady, telling her that he loves her. But if he never asks her to marry him, is he really demonstrating that his love is thorough? Likewise, works are a means of demonstrating the genuiness of our faith and our love. If we do not obey God, we do not really love him or have faith in the rightness of his ways (1 John 5:3,4). But we cannot earn salvation no matter what works we do. Eternal life is a gift from God through Jesus Christ, not payment for our works- Eph 2:8,9

Reasoning from the Scriptures, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1985, p.132

Is this a correct understanding of the relationship between faith and works?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Bock Amok

by HK Flynn

Bob Wilkin has a really excellent podcast on Postmodernism and Evangelicalism. In it, he describes how Darrell Bock (who actually is, despite my goofy title, very reasonable, even if I often disagree with him) has said publicly (but informally, in unprepared remarks), something to the effect of that we may not be able to prove the resurrection but we can show that it is the most plausible event compared to the competing options.

I agree with Bob Wilkin that this is not a wise tact to take the church.

Epistemology—which is the discipline that shows how very wobbly human knowledge is—tends inevitably to be applied selectively to undermine traditional foundations, like NT doctrines, and rarely, if ever, the new doctrines of environmental-religion, and, for that matter, status quo beliefs like philosophic materialism. I think Christians should be very careful not to encourage that pattern by failing to be ultra wary about how they frame ideas related to the NT miracles and promises.

To give you an example, some consider epistemology at its most devious when the issue at hand is something like:
How do I really know I didn't come into being 17 minutes ago? How can I prove that that's not true?
That's a good example of an epistemological concern. And I would add that this example is not devious, but legitimate and even humble, and no disrespect to Dr. Bock, but his comments are the ones that are devious. My point is that even if epistemology sounds like sarcastic nonsense, there's a place for confronting the boundaries of human knowledge, and our ability to prove various things as being either absolutely verifiable or being less than that standard.

I’ve come to the conclusion that passionately believing the Word of God is the only thing that keeps us from being deceived by our senses, which is in concurrence with the epistemological skepticism which I’m (granted) only passing familiar with. If we only tentatively believe God’s promises, as so many seminarians are so conscientious to do, instead of passionately believing them, we remain in constant danger of being forever deceived by what our senses seem to tell us about our life here on Earth, and we still remain poster children naifs epistemologically speaking. Then environmentallism starts making sense to us, and we stop wondering who the antichrist will be, and... and... all is lost! Aaaarrgggghhhh!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Sadly Confused

by Matthew

I read this fantastic statement in the Quarterly Record of the Trinitarian Bible Society:

We are passive in regeneration, but we may not be passive or careless and indifferent about this matter (regeneration) that concerns our eternal well or woe! We may never rest, till by grace we know, that God has wrought this great work of purification within our hearts.

(Rev. G Hamstra, Quarterly Record July 2006 no. 576, Trinitarian Bible Society, p.8)

Does this make any sense at all? We are passive in regeneration, but we must not be passive about it? We are passive in regeneration, but we must not rest until we have done something about it?

Please do not patronize me by suggesting I do not really understand Reformed theology. I know very well the subtlety of the Reformed doctrine of conversion and that it is not so easily refuted. I realise very well that Calvinists do not deny the responsibility of man to believe. However, this statement is the worst possible way of stating the doctrine.