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Monday, October 02, 2006

Obedient Faith Or Obedient Belief?


I argued in the link below that justifying faith must be distinguished from cognizant-belief, but never separated in the lives of those capable of understanding. (A reading of that entry will help in understanding what follows.) If my thesis is false and belief in certain gospel propositions is necessary for justifying faith, then infants can be united to Christ by the Holy Spirit without having received pardon from God due to a want of belief in propositions. In other words, if the essence of justifying faith requires cognizant-belief, then infants cannot be forgiven in infancy, or justification is not always by grace through faith alone.

However, if we understand saving faith as a sovereign work of God whereby He subdues a person’s heart and renews the entire soul after Christ, then it is easy to see that elect infants can be justified by faith alone prior to comprehending the gospel. Accordingly, if a justified infant lives to years of maturity, he will in time believe to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word… and in particular will accept and rest upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life…
What I find ironic in the contemporary Reformed landscape is that those who so strenuously argue that justifying faith is not “obedient” faith also argue that all men everywhere are commanded by God to repent and believe the gospel in order to appropriate Christ's righteousness. Now how does one willfully follow a command (i.e. savingly believe from beginning to end) without obeying the command? One can't. Therefore, belief can be obedient if it results from a command; so if faith is belief, then faith can be obeident-faith! Yet, if we acknowledge that justifying faith is a subdued heart that must exercise itself in belief when confronted with God’s word, then of course justifying faith cannot be “obedient” faith for a dead man (or infant) who comes forth from the grave – ready to believe — does not do so out of obedience, let alone understanding. The point is simply this. If justifying faith is belief, then of course it can be obedient faith because belief always engages the mind and what we believe can be in response to a command. However, if what I say is true, that justifying faith is the propensity to believe all of God's truth from a posture of being recreated, then it is "by this faith" one can believe in obedience; but faith itself is not obedient anymore than Adam was obedient by being created out of the dust of the earth or Lazarus was obedient by coming forth from the grave.

http://reformedapologist.blogspot.com/2006/04/is-faith-belief.html

Ron

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6 comments:

Colin said...

Good article Ron! The topic is reminiscent of the "Lordship Controversy" from a few years ago.

If you have time, you are invited to the all-bahnsen forum:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/all-bahnsen

And the all-bahnsen-debate forum:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/all-bahnsen-debate

And the reformed christian culture forum:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/reformedchristianculture

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Thanks Colin.

I'll check out those groups!

Ron

Anonymous said...

How can God regenerate a sinner before the sin problem has been dealt with (justification), and still remain consistent with His holy nature and divine justice?

If God can bestow life before the sin cleansing blood of Christ is applied, then the cross becomes far less than God's necessary action for reconciling sinners to a Holy God.

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

There is no temporal lapse between regeneration and justification. There's only a logical order to be considered. 1) A dead man who hates God cannot desire the object of saving faith, Christ. Accordingly, God must regenerate the dead sinner in order for him to embrace Christ in faith and repentance. When God bestows life, faith is granted. Unless a man is (first) born again, he cannot see (perceive) the Kingdom of God let alone enter into the kingdom of God.

Ron

rgmann said...

However, if what I say is true, that justifying faith is the propensity to believe all of God's truth from a posture of being recreated, then it is "by this faith" one can believe in obedience; but faith itself is not obedient anymore than Adam was obedient by being created out of the dust of the earth or Lazarus was obedient by coming forth from the grave.

Ron, you’ve raised some great points here. It sounds like our understanding of “faith” is the same (or quite similar). Below is what I wrote regarding this issue on another blog (although I was focusing more upon the distinction between saving “faith” and “works” of obedience here). What do you think? Are we saying essentially the same thing or not?

-------------------

The WCF clearly distinguishes between the “grace of faith” -- which is the “the work of the Spirit of Christ” (WCF 14.1) -- and the various “acts” that it produces in the life of a believer:

“By this faith, a Christian…acteth differently, upon that which each particular passage [of Scripture] containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come.” (WCF 14.2)

The “grace of faith” is what causes the Christian to yield “obedience to the commands” -- obedience is not “part of the definition” of saving faith itself. This is precisely what Scripture teaches as well: “By faith Abraham obeyed…” (Heb. 11:8). “Faith” and the works of “obedience” it produces is clearly distinguished in Scripture!

“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.” (Rom. 3:28)

“Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace.” (Rom. 4:16)

“And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.” (Rom. 11:6)

Furthermore, “obedience to the commands” and “the principle acts of saving faith” are quite plainly distinguished from one another in the WCF:

“But the principle acts of saving faith are, accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.” (WCF 14.2)

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Yes, I believe we are in 100% agreement. As I noted in the other blog entry that is linked at the bottom of this one, if faith requires the cognizant apprehension of gospel propositions, then infants dying in infancy cannot be justified by grace through faith. Yet if faith is what *we* say, then faith is the gift of the propensity to believe God and when granted becomes the instrumental cause of our irrevocable justification. This faith will be exercised throughout the life of the Christian unto believing various truths (primarily the gospel), unto everlasting glory.

Yours,

Ron