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
[See also my other article on this topic: Further Disputations on the Doctrine of Assurance].
(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.This, 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 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.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.
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.
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. :)
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.
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
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)
December 11, 2014 at 9:57 am
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.