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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we bessech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Gordon H. Clark: Arminians and Justification by Faith Alone



The Arminians, even though they were born Protestants, broke away from the Lutheran and Calvinistic teaching and took one or more steps backward toward Rome.  They held that the demands of the law were lowered to the level of "evangelical obedience" and on the basis of this quite human obedience, we are justified.  But in addition to running counter to the previous references which exclude works, this impinges on the holiness of God by picturing him as satisfied with less than perfection.  -- Dr. Gordon H. Clark

The following quote is from the book, What Do Presbyterians Believe?

. . . A judge acquits a man when he declares that the man is not guilty.  Justification then is a judicial act.  It is God's declaration that this sinner is not guilty, but righteous.

But how can this be so?  How can a sinner be righteous?  It should be clearly understood that even faith is not the basis of justification.  The ground or basis of justification is the object in which faith rests; that is, Christ and his righteousness.  God acquits a sinner, declares him not guilty, on the basis of Christ's righteousness having been imputed to him.  Sometimes the expressions are shortened in Scripture, as in Romans 3:21-26.  Then again, the great passage in Romans 5:12-19 shows that as it was one act of one man that brought condemnation, so it was by the righteousness of one man alone that justification is possible.

The Arminians, even though they were born Protestants, broke away from the Lutheran and Calvinistic teaching and took one or more steps backward toward Rome.  They held that the demands of the law were lowered to the level of "evangelical obedience" and on the basis of this quite human obedience, we are justified.  But in addition to running counter to the previous references which exclude works, this impinges on the holiness of God by picturing him as satisfied with less than perfection.  The Scripture does not teach that God lowers his requirements.  On the contrary, God requires and supplies complete sinlessness.  Christ not only bore our penalty on the cross, but in his life he perfectly obeyed his Father.  It is the personal righteousness of Christ's sinless obedience that is put to our account, on the basis of which we are declared not guilty.  Read the same references again.  Cf. also Titus 3:5-7; Ephesians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Philippians 3:9; and even Jeremiah 23:6, for, remember, the Gospel is in the Old Testament and with it justification by faith.

Gordon H. Clark.  What Do Presbyterians Believe?  (Unicoi:  Trinity Foundation, 2001).  Pages 123-124.
The first thing you will notice is that Dr. Clark says that the Arminians actually deny substitutionary atonement and justification by faith alone.  The very nature of Arminianism is that good works are necessary for saving faith and justification before God.  In fact, the initial act of faith is a work that the Arminian does and sanctification, rather than a gift of God, is a work that the Arminian does to keep himself saved.  Of course, the Arminian cannot have assurance because there is no guarantee that he can keep himself to the end or persevere to the end.  It is all up to him and his "libertarian free will."



This book is available in paperback at the Trinity Foundation website:  What Do Presbyterians Believe?  You can also listen to the audio of the book being read by someone other than the author by going to the mp3 section of the Trinity Foundations website.  (Scroll down.  The book can be downloaded in audio for free.  It has the whole book or individual chapters for download in audio).  You can listen to the chapter on justification by faith alone by clicking here:  Chapter XI:  Of Justification.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Latest Trinity Review: What is Truth, by Dr. Gordon H. Clark

You can read an excerpt from Dr. Clark's book, God's Hammer, by reading this article in the latest Trinity Review:  What Is Truth?

Further Disputations on the Doctrine of Assurance


If now a person wants the basic answer to the question, Why does one man have faith and another not, or, Why does one man accept the Koran and another the Bible, this is it. God causes the one to believe. But if a person asks some other question or raises an objection, he will have to read the argument over again.  -- Dr. Gordon H. Clark


As a continuing comment on the blog post on assurance over at God's Hammer blog, I want to point out that I am not an opponent of Gordon H. Clark's Scripturalism.  In fact I affirm it, though I would qualify that statement by saying that I might disagree with Clark here and there on minor points.  The issue of saving faith as defined by Clark as knowledge plus belief can be controversial because many of the early Reformers asserted that assurance and saving faith were essentially the same thing.  However, they were not always consistent on this point since obviously new believers can and often do struggle for a long time against known habitual sins before they overcome those sins.  Also, as King David in the Bible proves, Christians can and do fall into grievous sins that cause them to question or doubt their salvation.  And this is well deserved since most Reformed churches require discipline such as exclusion from the Lord's table until the person has repented of their sins.  The doctrine of self examination prior to coming to the Lord's table for communion applies here as well.  (1 Corinthians 11:27-29).


As noted in my previous post, Dr. Gordon H. Clark interacted with other Reformed sources in articulating his position on assurance, which he sharply distinguishes from both justification and sanctification.  Since faith must begin somewhere, it logically follows that assurance is not identical to faith.  Faith and assurance must be distinguished on this point for the consequent of faith cannot be identical to it.  This does not mean, however, that every new believer must struggle long and hard for assurance since not everyone is saved from out of grossly and grievously sinful lifestyles.  


Where Sean Gerety and I part ways, however, is that he asserts that it is never possible to know that one is saved.  He is equivocating on the word "know" here because he is speaking from the view point of logic and rationalism.  Technically speaking, from a strictly epistemological and rational perspective, it is not possible to know that one is saved because as fallen human beings we are all affected by the noetic effects of original sin.  It would require that we be infallible interpreters of our own conscience if we based our salvation on our subjective change of mind and behavior.  (Jeremiah 17:9-10).  Unregenerate men, both elect and reprobate, suppress the truth in unrighteousness.  (Romans 1:18-21).  The difference is that the elect will be granted regeneration and faith while the reprobate is unable to believe.  (John 1:13; 3:3-8; 6:44, 65; Matthew 22:14).  Furthermore, knowledge of our salvation is possible according to the Bible (1 John 5:13).  Whether this knowledge is infallibly understood is another issue.

Furthermore, we are not only imputed with the guilt of Adam's original sin but we also inherit a sinful soul from our parents.  Dr. Clark affirmed the traducian view of the transmission of the sinful nature from one generation to the next; but, he also affirmed the basis for this curse that is imputed to each new generation and transmitted to the next generation by the soul's being derived spiritually from one's parents is the federal headship of Adam over the whole human race.  (Genesis 3:17-19; Romans 5:12-21; Psalm 51:4-5; Psalm 58:3; Exodus 20:5; Jeremiah 32:18).


But if the Bible says that we can know we are saved, then we can know that we are saved.  That is the point of view of Scripturalism.  The way the Bible is using the word "know" is in regards to knowing the information in the system of logical and propositional revelation in the Bible, believing it, and then obeying it.  Dr. Clark says that assurance is the result of belief and obedience as the two prerequisites to attaining it.  Of course, regeneration precedes faith and obedience; and, according to Dr. Clark, the will does not participate in regeneration, which is monergistic, but the will does cooperate with believing and obeying.  Dr. Clark asserts that sanctification is synergistic but this is not the same synergism that Arminians propose with their doctrines of libertarian free will, conditional election, and prevenient grace.  Rather, Dr. Clark means that even our cooperation is produced by the decrees and providence of God.  (Philippians 2:12-13; Proverbs 21:1).


Dr. Clark further disagreed with William Cunningham's approval of assurance as coextensive with faith as a "state of mind" that includes "a necessary constituent element" of assurance or trust:


Other proofs might be adduced that the Reformers, when judged of as they should be, by a deliberate and conjunct view of all they have said upon the subject, did not carry their doctrine of assurance to such extremes as we might be warranted in ascribing to them because of some of their more formal statements, intended to tell upon their controversies with Romanists regarding this matter. And more than this, the real difference between the Reformers and the Romanists upon the subject of assurance, when calmly and deliberately investigated, was not quite so important as the combatants on either side imagined, and did not -really respect the precise questions which persons imperfectly acquainted with the works on both sides might naturally enough regard it as involving. 


With respect to the nature of saving faith the principal ground of controversy was this, that the Romanists held that it had its seat in the intellect, and was properly and fundamentally assent (assensus); while the Reformers in general maintained that it had its seat in the will, and was properly and essentially trust (fiducia). The great majority of eminent Protestant divines have adhered to the views of the Reformers upon this point, though some have taken the opposite side, and have held faith, properly so called, to be the mere assent of the understanding to truth propounded by God in His word; while they represent trust and other graces as the fruits or consequences, and not as constituent parts and elements, of faith. This controversy cannot be held to be of very great importance, so long as the advocates of the position, that faith is in itself the simple belief of the truth, admit that true faith necessarily and invariably produces trust and other graces, - an admission which is cheerfully made by all the Protestant defenders of this view, and which its Popish advocates, though refusing in words, are obliged to make in substance in another form. There is an appearance of greater simplicity and metaphysical accuracy in representing faith as in itself a mere assent to truth, and trust and other graces as its necessary consequences. But the right question is, What is the meaning attached in Scripture to the faith which justifies and saves? Upon this question we agree with the Reformers in thinking, that in Scripture usage faith is applied, in its highest and most important sense, only to a state of mind of which trust in Christ as a Saviour is a necessary constituent element.


William Cunningham (0101-01-01T00:00:00+00:00). The Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation (Kindle Locations 2123-2140). Monergism. Kindle Edition. 

[Cunningham's book can be downloaded for free at Monergism.com by clicking here].

Clark disagreed with Cunningham's analysis and opted for faith as knowledge plus assent.  The idea that assurance is a necessary consequence of saving faith also seems to be Clark's view, though he insists on justification which has as its purpose a resulting sanctification.  That sanctification necessarily and consequently results in a change in one's habitual thinking and acting.  The purpose of justification is a resulting sanctification, which in turn produces assurance in the face of one's struggles against sin.  When pushed, however, that we can never be sure if we have enough obedience and knowledge to attain this assurance from the propositions of the infallible Scriptures and how our self examination matches up to that standard, Clark concedes that he agrees with Luther after all.

Perhaps someone will say that it is wrong to seek for a method of achieving assurance. It is a gift of God, we cannot earn it; there is nothing for us to do except to hope that God favors us. Well, it is true that assurance, like faith, is a gift of God, but though regeneration and faith can have no preparation on our part, assurance or at least sanctification requires certain actions by us. Perhaps method is not the proper term, but John tells us that “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life.” The usual exegesis of “these things” that John wrote is that faith, love, and obedience, while they do not automatically produce assurance, are nonetheless requirements for being a candidate, so to speak, to receive it. Actually love is one form of obedience, since it is commanded, and hence belief and overt obedience are the two prerequisites.

There is, however, a difficulty. It is the same one Luther struggled with before he discovered the doctrine of justification. In Romanism he was supposed to earn his salvation by good works, penance, flagellation, and various monkish practices. But, being very sincere, he was troubled because he could never be sure that he had done enough. A similar difficulty arises here. If we wish to distinguish a valid assurance from a false assurance, how can we know that we have a sufficient theological knowledge and a sufficient degree of obedience to have met the requirements? Do we love deeply enough? Have we satisfied John’s criteria? Is there any devotional writer who has forthrightly faced this problem? It is hard to believe that none of them has thought of it. If as previously stated, Louis Berkhof’s temporary faith can last a lifetime, how can the true be identified in contrast with the false?

Gordon H. Clark (2013-03-04T05:00:00+00:00). What Is The Christian Life? (Kindle Locations 754-768). The Trinity Foundation. Kindle Edition.

So it is absolutely wrong for Sean Gerety to agree with William Cunningham's P1 and P2 syllogism while ignoring the complete argument by Dr. Clark.   Here is the relevant quote from Cunningham:


The Reformers, in order to show that the assurance which might be attained without either a special revelation or the testimony of the church was full and perfect, were led to identify it with our belief in the doctrines of God’s word, and to represent it as necessarily included or implied in the act or exercise of justifying and saving faith; nay, even sometimes to give it as the very definition of saving faith, that it is a belief that our own sins have been forgiven, and that we have been brought into a state of grace. This seemed to be an obvious and ready method of giving to the belief of our personal safety for eternity the very highest degree of certainty, and hence many of the Reformers were tempted to adopt it.

This view was certainly exaggerated and erroneous. It is very evident that no man can be legitimately assured of his own salvation simply by understanding and believing what is contained or implied in the actual statements of Scripture. Some additional element of a different kind must be brought in, in order to warrant such an assurance; something in the state or condition of the man himself must be in some way ascertained and known in order to this result. It may not, indeed, always require any lengthened or elaborate process of self-examination to ascertain what is needful to be known about men themselves, in order to their being assured that they have been brought into a state of grace. The circumstances that preceded and accompanied their conversion may have been such as to leave them in no doubt about their having passed from darkness to light. Their present consciousness may testify at once and explicitly to the existence in them of those things which the Bible informs us accompany salvation. But still it is true, that another element than anything contained in Scripture must be brought in as a part of the foundation of their assurance. And when they are called upon to state and vindicate to themselves or to others the grounds of their assurance, they must of necessity proceed in substance in the line of the familiar syllogism, “Whosoever believeth in the Lord Jesus Christ shall be saved; I believe, and therefore,” etc.

There is no possibility of avoiding in substance some such process as this; and while the major proposition is proved by Scripture, the minor can be established only by some use of materials derived from consciousness and self-examination. There are no positions connected with religion which can be so certain as those which are directly and immediately taught in Scripture, and which are usually said to be believed with the certainty of faith or of divine faith. The introduction of an element, as necessary to the conclusion, derived from a different source, viz. from the knowledge of what we ourselves are, must be admitted in fairness to complicate the evidence, and to affect the kind if not the degree of the certainty or assurance that may result from it. It is unwarrantable to give as the definition of saving faith, the belief that my sins are forgiven; for it is not true that my sins are forgiven until I believe, and it holds true universally, that God requires us to believe nothing which is not true before we believe it, and which may not be propounded to us to be believed, accompanied at the same time with satisfactory evidence of its truth; and if so, the belief that our sins are forgiven, and that we have been brought into a state of grace, must be posterior in the order of nature,

William Cunningham (0101-01-01T00:00:00+00:00). The Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation (Kindle Locations 2058-2082). Monergism. Kindle Edition.

Clark agreed with the distinction between P1 and P2.  But his answer to the problem was sanctification.  Sanctification is based on the knowledge of Scripture (John 17:17).   If there is a total disconnect between an intellectual apprehension, understanding of the information in Scripture and one's personal knowledge of himself--as Sean Gerety proposes--then it is impossible to know if one is sanctified or not.  It would further be pointless to examine one's self prior to communion because one cannot know anything whatsoever about one's self.  Worse, as Dr. Clark finally admits above, even conceding that belief and obedience are necessary prerequisites for assurance, how would one know if one has known enough of the information in the Bible to attain saving faith or obeyed enough of the commands in the Bible to attain to an acceptable level in the process of sanctification?  Sanctification lasts a lifetime.  (Philippians 3:13-16).  So if we take Sean Gerety's skeptical point of view, the entire epistemological system espoused by Dr. Gordon H. Clark's Scripturalism collapses.  The necessary consequence is therefore agnosticism.

Even Dr. Clark admitted that his view has a problem.  How do you know if you have believed enough or obeyed enough to have assurance?  In the end, Clark had to admit that both Luther and Calvin were right in regards to justification.  Justification by faith alone is the root and ground of assurance, though it is not inseparably connected with or coextensive with assurance.  While the purpose of justification is to produce sanctification and assurance, this assurance would be absolutely impossible without the doctrine of justification by faith alone.  Though faith and assurance are not inseparably connected, they are intimately related and assurance could not be possible whatsoever without justification by faith alone and by the doctrine of saving faith, which Dr. Clark defined as notitia (knowledge) plus assensus (belief).  (See:  Gordon H. Clark, "Saving Faith," December 1979, Trinity Review).

When the rubber meets the road, then, assurance is a necessary consequence of saving faith somewhere in the system.  This is where Gerety gets it wrong.  He thinks that particular points are in isolation from other points and in his blog posts Gerety fails to place his remarks within the context of the system of theology in Scripture and summarized by the Westminster Standards.

Dr. Clark contended that the Westminster Confession was slightly off when it says that the elect believer can have an "infallible assurance" of salvation because a subjective assurance is not infallible.  Only Scripture is an infallible revelation from God, not one's subjective apprehension of it.  Also, assurance needs no extra-biblical revelation from God as the papists and the Catabaptists contended.

There is, however, an additional problem that Dr. Clark never addresses.  If there is no additional special revelation, how would regeneration produce faith in the Bible?  According to Dr. Clark, in the end the only way a person can know the Bible is the Word of God and not the Koran is by regeneration:

All of this, naturally, depends on the acceptance of Biblical revelation. The secularists will have none of it. How can you prove, they ask, that the Bible is a divine revelation? Well, of course, a Dogmatist does not try to prove it. The question ignores the preceding argument concerning skepticism, first principles, and suicide. There is, however, another question that secularists can ask and do. It is not an impertinent question. It raises an important issue, the answer to which helps to clarify the dogmatic position. The question is: Granted that one must choose a first indemonstrable principle, how does one decide between two incompatible principles? . . .

. . . The religious form of this philosophical question, the form that occurs in many a volume on religious types, the question hardly anyone fails to ask, is, "Since several religions and several documents claim to be divinely revealed, how does one choose the Bible rather than the Koran?" This question properly understood and seriously put is not impertinent, as the first one was. Sometimes the difference is not understood, in which case it is taken as an objection to Dogmatism. But it is not an objection. Nor should it be directed against Dogmatism alone. Every non-skeptical position, as was made clear earlier, must have a first principle. Rationalists are well aware of this; Empiricists usually ignore or deny it and claim presuppositionless objectivity. But it applies to them with equal force. They too must answer why they assign so basic a position to sensation. Hence there is a perfectly legitimate question, applicable to all types of philosophy, concerning the choice of a first principle.

Dogmatic Christianity has its answer, a clear-cut answer, to this impressive question.  . . .

Gordon H. Clark (2013-08-12T04:00:00+00:00). Three Types of Religious Philosophy (Kindle Locations 1922-1938). Kindle Edition.

Even the Lutheran evidentialist John Warwick Montgomery questions Dr. Clark's Dogmatism with this silly question:

Rejecting this as “fuddled reasoning,” Professor Montgomery, among other things, asks, “How would the presuppositionalist distinguish the Bible he claims to start with a priori from Playboy magazine?”

Gordon H. Clark (2013-08-12T04:00:00+00:00). Three Types of Religious Philosophy (Kindle Locations 2004-2005). Kindle Edition.


And what is Dr. Clark's answer?  I will not quote the rest of his response.  You can read the book yourself by purchasing it at the Trinity Foundation in either paperback or e-book format.  Here is his clincher or zinger:

What now is the question to be answered? It is not, Shall we choose? Or, is it permissible to choose? We must choose; since we are alive we have chosen – either a dogmatic principle or empirical insanity. The question therefore, urged by atheist, evangelical Christian, and evangelistic Moslem, is, Why does anyone choose the Bible rather than the Koran? The answer to this question will also explain how a Christian can present the Gospel to a non-Christian without depending on any logically common proposition in their two systems.

Since all possible knowledge must be contained within the system and deduced from its principles, the dogmatic answer must be found in the Bible itself. The answer is that faith is the gift of God. As Psalm 65:4 says, God chooses a man and causes him to accept Christian Dogmatism. Conversely, the Apostle John informs us that the Pharisees could not believe because God had blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts.  [John 12:39-40; John 10:26].

The initiation of spiritual life, called regeneration, is the immediate work of the Holy Spirit. It is not produced by Abrahamic blood, nor by natural desire, nor by any act of human will. In particular, it is not produced by arguments based on secular and empirical presuppositions. Even if there were a common truth in secularism and Christianity, arguments based on it would not produce faith. What empirical evangelicals think is most necessary, is most useless.
Gordon H. Clark (2013-08-12T04:00:00+00:00). Three Types of Religious Philosophy (Kindle Locations 2130-2140). Kindle Edition.
Clark goes on to say that there is no common ground with the unbeliever.  Reason or logic standing alone is rationalism and rationalism, according to Dr. Clark, always leads to skepticism.  Gerety's error, then is rationalism, and rejecting Clark's Dogmatism as the source for defining the doctrine of assurance.  That is because faith itself is impossible without regeneration:

Even the preaching of the Gospel does not produce faith. However, the preaching of the Gospel does one thing that a fallacious argument from a non-existent common ground cannot do: It provides the propositions that must be believed.

But the belief comes from God: God causes a man to believe; faith is a divine gift. In evangelistic work there can be no appeal to secular, non-Christian material. There is an appeal – it is the appeal of prayer to the Holy Spirit to cause the sinner to accept the truths of the Gospel. Any other appeal is useless.

If now a person wants the basic answer to the question, Why does one man have faith and another not, or, Why does one man accept the Koran and another the Bible, this is it. God causes the one to believe. But if a person asks some other question or raises an objection, he will have to read the argument over again.
Gordon H. Clark (2013-08-12T04:00:00+00:00). Three Types of Religious Philosophy (Kindle Locations 2140-2146). Kindle Edition.
The difficulty here is not that I disagree with Clark's conclusion.  The difficulty is that regeneration is something different from the information in the Bible.  It is not something caused by knowledge.  Assent to the information in the Bible can only be caused by a subjective change in the mind of the person and this change, like sanctification and assurance, is caused by God in the mind or soul of the elect person.  (Titus 3:5; John 3:3-8).  So following the logic of Sean Gerety, if it is impossible to know one is saved, then he is in disagreement with the doctrine of regeneration and with the doctrine of justifying faith.  He is also in disagreement with the doctrine of sanctification and with the doctrine of assurance.  The system of doctrine in the Bible must be accepted as the whole counsel of God.  (Acts 20:27).  Regeneration would appear to be a form of special revelation directly given to the individually elect person, namely that the mind of the elect person is given regeneration and the illumination of the Scriptures so that he or she is enabled to believe that information, be justified, sanctified and obtain a consequent assurance of salvation.

6.      The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit or traditions of men. (2 Tim. 3:15–17, Gal. 1:8–9, 2 Thess. 2:2) Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word: (John 6:45, 1 Cor 2:9–12) . . .

Chapter 1, Of the Holy Scriptures.
The Westminster confession of faith. (1996). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
And finally, against Gerety's implied view that every elect person must always struggle long and hard to obtain assurance of salvation, the Westminster Larger Catechism puts that to rest:

Question 80

Can true believers be infallibly assured that they are in the estate of grace, and that they shall persevere therein unto salvation?

Such as truly believe in Christ, and endeavour to walk in all good conscience before him, (1 John 2:3) may, without extraordinary revelation, by faith grounded upon the truth of God’ s promises, and by the Spirit enabling them to discern in themselves those graces to which the promises of life are made, (1 Cor. 2:12, 1 John 3:14,18–19,21,24, 1 John 4:13,16, Heb. 6:11–12) and bearing witness with their spirits that they are the children of God, (Rom. 8:16) be infallibly assured that they are in the estate of grace, and shall persevere therein unto salvation. (1 John 5:13)


The Westminster larger catechism: with scripture proofs. (1996). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Notice that there are conditional results of saving faith prerequisite to attaining an "infallible" assurance.   Election itself is unconditional and is the result of God's eternal and unchanging decrees.  But in the temporal order of the falling out of the decrees according to God's providence, there are conditions that are met by God's irresistible graces in the mind and soul of the elect.  Is it impossible for God to grant an infallible assurance?  If so, then maybe it is impossible for God to regenerate the elect as well?  The infallible assurance is based on the infallible promises of God and the self examination of the elect person as to how his or her thoughts, words and deeds line up with the revealed propositions and commands in the Holy Scriptures.  This question and answer follows immediately after Question 79 dealing with the possibility that elect persons can fall into sin yet are not lost.  Even perseverance does not depend upon the will of the elect because it is God who causes them to persevere.  (See WCF 17:2).

Not everyone has this infallible assurance but that is not to say that everyone must struggle with assurance from their initial conversion.   (See WLC 81).  As stated above, Dr. Clark disagreed with the WCF and WLC on the issue of an infallible assurance.  But since WCF 80 and the 18th chapter of the WCF adequately explain this assurance as being conditioned on saving faith and self examination, it follows that Dr. Clark's concerns are inconsistent with his views on regeneration and illumination as stated in WCF 1:6.  Rejecting extraordinary revelation as the basis for assurance does not entail rejecting infallible assurance since both regeneration and illumination cannot be information in the Bible either.  It is interesting that Dr. Clark only refers to WCF chapter 18 and never mentions question 80 in the WLC. This is the problem Clark never addressed; so as I see it, Dr. Clark was inconsistent in rejecting infallible assurance while accepting regeneration and illumination. And, worse, some of Clark's followers have gone way beyond what Clark intended and have instead opted for an implicit agnosticism which Clark himself rejected on the basis of Dogmatism and regeneration.  So concludes my rambling response to Sean Gerety.

Charlie J. Ray, M. Div.

As proof that Sean Gerety accepts assurance as an emotion or feeling of confidence and not a logical deduction made from Scripture in regards to how your life lines up with the commands of obedience in the Bible, you can read this irrational piece:  Assurance and Knowledge.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Comments Posted at God's Hammer Blog in Regards to Saving Faith and Assurance of Salvation



A similar difficulty arises here. If we wish to distinguish a valid assurance from a false assurance, how can we know that we have a sufficient theological knowledge and a sufficient degree of obedience to have met the requirements? Do we love deeply enough? Have we satisfied John’s criteria? Is there any devotional writer who has forthrightly faced this problem? It is hard to believe that none of them has thought of it. If as previously stated, Louis Berkhof’s temporary faith can last a lifetime, how can the true be identified in contrast with the false?  -- Dr. Gordon H. Clark




(Click here to see the original post.  Sorry for the garbage in the comments.  But I was afraid Gerety would censor and edit my comments to make his fallacious thinking appear in a better light).


You side with Erasmus, Gerety. I will side with Luther’s Bondage of the Will:

“And how can you be certain and secure, unless you are persuaded that He knows and wills certainly, infallibly, immutably, and necessarily, and will perform what He promises? Nor ought we to be certain only that God wills necessarily and immutably, and will perform, but also to glory in the same; as Paul, (Rom. iii. 4,) “Let God be true, but every man a liar.” And again, “For the word of God is not without effect.” (Rom. ix. 6.) And in another place, “The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are His.” (2 Tim. ii. 19.) And, “Which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.” (Titus i. 2.) And, “He that cometh, must believe that God is, and that He is a rewarder of them that hope in Him.” (Heb. xi. 6.) If, therefore, we are taught, and if we believe, that we ought not to know the necessary prescience of God, and the necessity of the things that are to take place, Christian faith is utterly destroyed, and the promises of God and the whole Gospel entirely fall to the ground; for the greatest and only consolation of Christians in their adversities, is the knowing that God lies not, but does all things immutably, and that His will cannot be resisted, changed, or hindered. ”

Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, The Sovereignty of God, Section 12.

The Bondage of the Will

Sect. 9.—T, therefore, is also essentially necessary and wholesome for Christians to know: That God foreknows nothing by contingency, but that He foresees, purposes, and does all things according to His immutable, eternal, and infallible will. By this thunderbolt, “Free-will” is thrown prostrate, …

Furthmore, since Dr. Clark insists that assurance comes from sanctification and sanctification arises from knowledge (John 17:17), it follows that if assurance does NOT arise from knowledge, neither does the sanctification which produces it. According to Dr. Clark, the “purpose” of justification (by faith alone) is to produce sanctification. Justification THEREFORE sanctification. It logically follows that the purpose of sanctification, flowing out of the previous purpose of justification producing the result of sanctification, is that [the] purpose of sanctification is to produce the assurance that comes from the previous purpose of justification to produce sanctification. And worse for you, Gerety, the preceding purpose of regeneration is to produce the other three effects or results: regeneration; justifying faith; justification; sanctification; assurance.  Romans 4; John 17:17; 1 Corinthians 2:16; 1 John 3; 1 John 5:13….

The order of redemption and the order of salvation are decrees of God but they produce temporal results. To see the purpose or order of the logical decrees you just reverse the order, according to Dr. Clark. Supralapsarianism says everything has a purpose.  (Isaiah 14:24, 27; 46:9-11).

If assurance is possible, therefore, the knowledge revealed in Scripture has a purpose and that purpose cannot be divorced from the temporal order that results in the falling out of God’s decrees in time. Luther saw this plainly and how you could be so stupid as to divorce purpose from knowledge is ridiculous.

Also, I found a reference where Clark’s source for divorcing assurance from saving faith is:

it is better to spend a little space on the more directly pertinent article of William Cunningham, “The Reformers and the Doctrine of Assurance,” in his The Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation. This thirty-eight page chapter is a gem. The present interest, however, is only to show that the term fiducia, which today is often confidently joined with knowledge and assent to make the definition of faith, has never been unambiguously explained.

Gordon H. Clark (2013-08-12T04:00:00+00:00). What is Saving Faith (Kindle Locations 3430-3433). Kindle Edition.
In short, Clark’s critique of the tautological inclusion of trust as something in addition to saving faith has to do with assurance as a synonym for “trust.” Since faith is not inseparably connected with assurance, as everyone acknowledges, Clark rejects the inclusion of assurance as a part of faith.


The question now is, Can fiducia be so defined as to make it an independent third element in faith, or is faith essentially assent to a known proposition?

Gordon H. Clark (2013-08-12T04:00:00+00:00). What is Saving Faith (Kindle Locations 3482-3483). Kindle Edition.

But it might also be that Clark is not saying that assurance is disconnected with knowledge and arises instead from emotions. That’s because Clark flatly denies that assurance is an emotion:

On page 122 Cunningham writes, “With respect to the nature of saving faith, the principal ground of controversy was this, that the Romanists held that it had its seat in the intellect, and was properly and fundamentally assent (assensus), while the Reformers in general maintained that it had its seat in the will, and was properly and essentially trust (fiducia). The great majority of eminent Protestant divines have adhered to the views of the Reformers upon this point, though some have taken the opposite side, and have held faith, properly so called, to be the mere assent of the understanding to truth propounded by God in his word….” Before another quotation is given, a small comment on the above should be made. The distinction between assensus and fiducia is here connected with a psychology that separates the intellect from the will. Probably a third faculty, either emotion (rarely considered by the Reformers) or sensibility, is joined to these to constitute the person. If this type of psychology is rejected, and if more stress is put on the unitary person and his acts, it is at least possible that the analysis of faith will have to be altered. In the second place, in the history of theology, and even as far back as Stoic epistemology, assent was an act of will, not an act of intellect. Hence Cunningham has incorrectly reported Romanism and also makes a mistake in the psychological analysis.

Gordon H. Clark (2013-08-12T04:00:00+00:00). What is Saving Faith (Kindle Locations 3434-3443). Kindle Edition.

So over-simplifying a complicated topic to P1 and P2 is to ignore the system of theology in the Bible and in the Westminster Confession of Faith. Worse, Sean, you agree with Cunningham, not Clark. You think assurance is an emotion or a state of mind. That was not Clark’s position at all.

And if you want to read the chapter in Cunningham’s book, it is available at Monergism.com for free here:  http://www.monergism.com/reformers-and-theology-reformation

And the clincher is that Clark admits that sanctification has a problem as a source for assurance. And stupid Clarkians miss this all the time. Since sanctification is infused and subjective, how sanctified would you need to be to attain enough knowledge of your personal progress to reach a level of sanctification that gives assurance?
Since the epistle was written for this purpose, it is one of the best places in the Bible to find directions. First John 2:3 says, “Hereby we do know that we know him – if we keep his commandments.” Recall the lament, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?” But these people were condemned because they had not acted righteously. They may have walked down the aisle, shaken someone’s hand, and signed a card; but they were workers of iniquity. Remembering some emotional experience would do them no good. We know that we know the Lord by keeping his commandments. Another test by which we may come to assurance is given in 3:14, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren.” Later in the same chapter it says, “Let us love…in deed and in truth; and hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.” Again, “He that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him; and hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.”

Gordon H. Clark (2013-03-04T05:00:00+00:00). What Is The Christian Life? (Kindle Locations 3371-3379). The Trinity Foundation. Kindle Edition.

“…But if regeneration ipso facto guaranteed assurance, it would not be necessary to write an epistle encouraging assurance and giving direction on how assurance can be obtained.”

Gordon H. Clark (2013-03-04T05:00:00+00:00). What Is The Christian Life? (Kindle Locations 3369-3371). The Trinity Foundation. Kindle Edition.

Again, in the above quote, Clark flatly denies that assurance is an emotion!  And how do we know if we have obeyed or loved God enough to be assured?

Actually love is one form of obedience, since it is commanded, and hence belief and overt obedience are the two prerequisites.

There is, however, a difficulty. It is the same one Luther struggled with before he discovered the doctrine of justification. In Romanism he was supposed to earn his salvation by good works, penance, flagellation, and various monkish practices. But, being very sincere, he was troubled because he could never be sure that he had done enough. A similar difficulty arises here. If we wish to distinguish a valid assurance from a false assurance, how can we know that we have a sufficient theological knowledge and a sufficient degree of obedience to have met the requirements? Do we love deeply enough? Have we satisfied John’s criteria? Is there any devotional writer who has forthrightly faced this problem? It is hard to believe that none of them has thought of it. If as previously stated, Louis Berkhof’s temporary faith can last a lifetime, how can the true be identified in contrast with the false?

Gordon H. Clark (2013-03-04T05:00:00+00:00). What Is The Christian Life? (Kindle Locations 760-768). The Trinity Foundation. Kindle Edition.
The bottom line here, Gerety, is you and Robbins have completely missed Clark’s point. The ONLY place where Clark disagreed with the WCF was the comment about Scripture alone being infallible. We do not need special revelation to know we are saved, i.e., to have a knowledge that produces assurance. The distinction between a “valid” assurance and a “false” assurance proves that your appeal to emotions as assurance is unbiblical. Knowledge produces assurance. It was Cunningham who denies this and made the stupid argument for P1 and P2 that you made above:

These general observations apply to the way in which the Reformers met the allegations of the Romanists, about their want of certainty or assurance in regard to all the three subjects formerly mentioned, viz. the divine authority of the books of Scripture, the meaning of scriptural statements, and the certainty of personal salvation. In order to have a sure and at the same time a compendious way of getting the highest assurance, even the certainty of faith, upon all these subjects, they substituted the Holy Spirit instead of the church; and to make this serve the same purpose in argument as the church does among Romanists, they were led to employ some modes of statement about the Spirit’s operation which are not sanctioned by Scripture, though exhibiting perhaps rather confusion of thought than positive error. But we cannot dwell upon this general topic, and must return to the special subject of the assurance of personal salvation, with which alone we have at present to do.


The Reformers in general enjoyed ordinarily the assured belief that they were in a state of grace, and would be finally saved. They felt the importance of this grace in the arduous work in which they were engaged. They saw abundant ground in Scripture for the general position, that believers might be and should be assured of their own salvation. They inculcated this position upon their followers, persuaded that personal assurance would at once tend to preserve them from the perverting influence of Popish sophists, and fit them for doing and bearing all God’s will concerning them. The Romanists, on the other hand, laboured to show that believers could have no full and well-grounded assurance that they had attained to a condition of safety, except either by special revelation or by the testimony of the church; their object of course being to make men feel themselves entirely dependent upon the church for security or certainty on all subjects of interest and importance, and to deprive them of the energy and confidence which a well-founded assurance of personal salvation was fitted to produce, in contending against the prestige of ecclesiastical authority and influence. The Reformers, in order to show that the assurance which might be attained without either a special revelation or the testimony of the church was full and perfect, were led to identify it with our belief in the doctrines of God’s word, and to represent it as necessarily included or implied in the act or exercise of justifying and saving faith; nay, even sometimes to give it as the very definition of saving faith, that it is a belief that our own sins have been forgiven, and that we have been brought into a state of grace. This seemed to be an obvious and ready method of giving to the belief of our personal safety for eternity the very highest degree of certainty, and hence many of the Reformers were tempted to adopt it. This view was certainly exaggerated and erroneous. It is very evident that no man can be legitimately assured of his own salvation simply by understanding and believing what is contained or implied in the actual statements of Scripture. Some additional element of a different kind must be brought in, in order to warrant such an assurance; something in the state or condition of the man himself must be in some way ascertained and known in order to this result. It may not, indeed, always require any lengthened or elaborate process of self-examination to ascertain what is needful to be known about men themselves, in order to their being assured that they have been brought into a state of grace. The circumstances that preceded and accompanied their conversion may have been such as to leave them in no doubt about their having passed from darkness to light. Their present consciousness may testify at once and explicitly to the existence in them of those things which the Bible informs us accompany salvation. But still it is true, that another element than anything contained in Scripture must be brought in as a part of the foundation of their assurance. And when they are called upon to state and vindicate to themselves or to others the grounds of their assurance, they must of necessity proceed in substance in the line of the familiar syllogism, “Whosoever believeth in the Lord Jesus Christ shall be saved; I believe, and therefore,” etc.

William Cunningham (0101-01-01T00:00:00+00:00). The Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation (Kindle Locations 2043-2073). Monergism. Kindle Edition.
Clark argues that assurance does come from knowledge and it is knowledge that produces sanctification (John 17:17). But Clark argues, along with the confession, that saving faith and assurance are not “inseparably” connected. No one disputes that since many new believers do not have assurance due to a lack of knowledge about what saving faith is and what sanctification is. Also, those who sin grievously lose their assurance until they repent and return to a habitual Christian lifestyle that reflects obedience.

So it is one huge non sequitur to say that saving faith has nothing to do with assurance. The purpose of saving faith is to produce sanctification and assurance. Furthermore, knowledge is necessary to have saving faith in the first place. The Bible is a SYSTEM of logical propositions, Gerety. Divorcing one part of the ordo salutis from the rest is to isolate propositions from other propositions in the system. In short, you have contradicted the system of theology in the Bible. Listen to Clark’s lecture on sanctification again, Gerety. He flatly says that the purpose of justification is that it is to result in what? SANCTIFICATION. And what produces sanctification? Knowledge. And what does sanctification give, according to the First Epistle of John? ASSURANCE. Pee on your P2. :)

Charlie





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    Luther said that faith and assurance come from understanding that predestination produces it all. Unconditional election and predestination are related to assurance, not divorced from it. The 17th Article of the 39 Articles of Religion says the same thing. And remember that Dr. Clark was booted from Wheaton College for teaching predestination? Hello?

    Without predestination there is no systematic and logical system that can produce the assurance that was decreed to occur in the minds of the elect:
    XVII. Of Predestination and Election.

    PREDESTINATION to life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby, before the foundations of the world were laid, He hath constantly decreed by His counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom He hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation as vessels made to honour. Wherefore they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God be called according to God’s purpose by His Spirit working in due season; they through grace obey the calling; they be justified freely; they be made sons of God by adoption; they be made like the image of His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ; they walk religiously in good works; and at length by God’s mercy they attain to everlasting felicity.

    As the godly consideration of Predestination and our Election in Christ is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons and such as feeling in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh and their earthly members and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal salvation to be enjoyed through Christ, as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God: so for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God’s Predestination is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the devil doth thrust them either into desperation or into wretchlessness of most unclean living no less perilous than desperation.

    Furthermore, we must receive God’s promises in such wise as they be generally set forth in Holy Scripture; and in our doings that will of God is to be followed which we have expressly declared unto us in the word of God.

    http://www.eskimo.com/~lhowell/bcp1662/articles/articles.html#17
    Those are the words of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, by the way. Maybe Cranmer lost his assurance for a time under the emotional distress of torture designed to get him to recant from his rejection of transubstantiation in the Lord’s supper. But when he stood at the stake and flames were licking around his feet, Cranmer’s assurance and faith returned:
    And now I come to the great thing that troubleth my conscience more than any other thing that ever I said or did in my life: and that is, the setting abroad of writings contrary to the truth. Which here now I renounce and refuse, as things written with my hand contrary to the truth which I thought in my heart, and writ for fear of death, and to save my life, if it might be: and that is, all such bills, which I have written or signed with mine own hand, since my degradation; wherein I have written many things untrue. And forasmuch as my hand offended in writing contrary to my heart, therefore my hand shall first be punished. For if I may come to the fire, it shall be first burned. And as for the Pope, I refuse him, as Christ’s enemy and antichrist, with all his false doctrine.” http://www.luminarium.org/renlit/cranmerspeech.htm
    I wonder if the thief on the cross was assured by Christ’s words of comfort? “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Is that a proposition or an emotion, Gerety?

    but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. (2 Peter 3:18 NKJ)

    “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. (John 17:17 NKJ)

    These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. 14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. (1 John 5:13-15 NKJ)

    Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:1-11 NKJ)

    Looks like knowledge is necessary to “know” or be assured of salvation.





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    Roger said:

    If all one can do is “opine” whether P2 is true or false, then the Apostle John must have been lying, for he explicitly states that believers may “know” that that they “have” eternal life (1 John 5:13). And if one cannot “know” whether they are a believer or not, then it necessarily follows that they cannot “know” that they “have” eternal life. As I’ve stated before, you have no way around this quandary, as your theology on this point directly contradicts Scripture. All you are left with is a big fat *IF* with no assurance of salvation!

    Amen and amen. I intuitively recognized this just from being familiar with the WCF. Your remark summarizes the problem with Gerety’s position and with William Cunningham’s position. Robbins misunderstood Clark here, too. Clark was not rejecting knowledge as a basis for assurance. He was rejecting an inseparable connection between assurance and a special revelation in addition to the Bible on the one hand (Romanism) and an inseparable connection between saving faith and assurance on the other hand. The WCF more than adequately deals with both of these issues. As I stated above, Clark simply corrected a minor point on the “infallible assurance” being subjective since we need no extraordinary revelation to attain to the knowledge and obedience that gives assurance. Saving faith is knowledge plus assent. Which then produces sanctifying faith, which in turn through knowledge of the commandments produces the obedience that undergirds assurance. Ultimately, however, we could never do enough to merit assurance by any level of sanctification. Clark recognized that and so deferred to justification by faith alone to resolve the apparent contradiction. Luther’s argument in The Bondage of the Will is air tight.
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