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.]

Daily Bible Verse

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Dispute with Sean Gerety: God's Hammer Blog. 2015

"This freedom from sin is the evidence to support an assurance of salvation.  And since John seems to have desired to assure his readers, it seems strange that he wrote so severely.  The problem here is not how I can know you are saved, but how can I know I am saved."  -- Dr. Gordon H. Clark.

[This post somehow disappeared.  I am making small editorial changes and reposting it.  The post originally appeared in 2015.]

Logic and Assurance

In recent years I began on my own to read Reformed theology and Reformed systematic theology.  During my reading I came across the writings of the late Dr. Gordon H. Clark and his emphasis on the axiom of Scripture as the defining starting point for Christianity.  Dr. Clark was an expert in philosophy, and, for that reason, his emphasis was on the logical nature of the Scriptures.  According to Dr. Clark, the Bible alone is the word of God (2 Timothy 3:16; Matthew 4:4; John 10:35).  Scripture is not just partly inspired; but, all Scripture is fully inspired and not one jot or tittle can be rejected without compromising the Gospel.  All Scripture is profitable for doctrine.  So connected is this emphasis on the Bible as a system of theology that Dr. Clark contended that all Scripture is the Gospel and the Gospel is the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).

Moreover, the Bible teaches that the pre-incarnate Christ, the Word, the Logos is Logic (John 1:1).  Furthermore, Dr. Clark exegeted John 1:9 as a verse that is not salvific in purpose; instead, he contended that the verse teaches that man as God’s image is also innately endowed with the logical ability to think in rational and logical ways.  The soul, according to Dr. Clark, is the image of God.  Man is the image of God because it is not the body that is God’s image or the combination of the soul and body that is the image of God; rather, it is the soul that is God’s image.  Man is the image of God because man is his soul.  God is a spirit and spirits do not possess bodies (John 4:24).  Likewise, man is a spiritual soul that is created in God’s image.  Animals have bodies; but, do animals do calculus, compose music, do paintings and sculptures, or do operational science?  Animals have no language or civilization.  Animals cannot keep track of time or have a divine purpose in life.  Man alone is uniquely the image of God.

The real question is how does a Christian worldview relate to epistemology?  How does man know anything at all?  The answer, according to Dr. Clark, is that all secular sources of knowledge or secular epistemological constructs lead ultimately to skepticism.  Empiricism, rationalism, and other adaptations of these two basic views lead to skepticism.  In fact, some theologians recognized that the two-pronged modernist attack against Christianity leads to irrationalism.

Unfortunately, some so-called Clarkian presuppositionalists, including the late Dr. John Robbins, asserted that we cannot know if we are elect or saved or not.  He drew this non sequitur conclusion from the distinction between saving faith and assurance.  Although it is true that at the point of conversion the elect believer is not immediately assured of salvation, it does not follow that assurance is an emotional feeling of confidence as Sean Gerety recently asserted in a blog post at the God’s Hammer blog.   Dr. Clark would have strongly disagreed because the Bible itself says that we can know we are saved and elect.  1 Peter 1:10 says that we are to make our election and calling sure.  Now it if it is impossible to know if we have made our election and calling sure, why would God command us to do so?  (See also:  Further Disputations on the Doctrine of Assurance).

Although Sean Gerety and the late Dr. John Robbins asserted that we can have assurance but not knowledge that we are saved, the late Dr. Gordon H. Clark, their alleged mentor, stated otherwise.  In fact, Dr. Clark said that we can know that we are saved.  In fact, he said so several times in at least two or three of his books.  One would think that someone who is allegedly an expert in Dr. Clark’s philosophy and theology, as Gerety claims to be, would know this.  Here is one pertinent quote from Dr. Clark’s book, The Holy Spirit:

Although the present writer should avoid the temptation to discuss sanctification too fully, as he resisted the temptation to expatiate on the Trinity, nevertheless a little more description  of the Spirit’s work in all Christians needs to be added.  If sanctification is a necessary element in salvation, it is hard to see why some Christians feel no need to understand it better.  No doubt the real reason is that they are not presently sanctified enough.

Some Scriptural statements on sanctification are deeply disturbing to serious souls.  Romans 8:9 says, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”  What is worse, 1 John 2:29, 1 John 3:9, and 1 John 5:18 seem to say that if I commit one single sin, I have not been regenerated.  Not only “everyone that does righteousness is born of him,” but “Whoever is born of God does not sin.”  These are terrible verses.  They jolt any conscientious Christian.*  The New American Standard softens 3:9 a bit, but only a little bit.  So also the New International Version.  Even the the Revised Standard Version is better, or should we say worse?  [1 John 3:9 NASB; 1 John 3:9 NIV; 1 John 3:9 RSV].

This freedom from sin is the evidence to support an assurance of salvation.  And since John seems to have desired to assure his readers, it seems strange that he wrote so severely.  The problem here is not how I can know you are saved, but how can I know I am saved.  Presbyterians do not admit people to communicant membership on the ground of their regeneration, but on the basis of a credible profession.  Obviously, sessions often admit persons to membership who later seem to have no spiritual life whatever.  But, if a single sin certifies one’s unregenerate condition, no one could be a communicant.  There would not even be a  session to decide.

In this dismal situation Paul offers us a ray of hope, for he acknowledged that he had not attained sinless perfection.  Even in his apostolic years he committed some sin.  And if that means he was not a saved man, nobody is.  To the brief mention of Romans 7 a paragraph or two ago, a bit more can be added.  As in Galatians 5:17, “the flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh . . . so that you [regenerated Christians] cannot do the things that you would,” so also in Romans 7.  The Arminians generally want to assign the whole chapter to Paul’s pharisaical years, after which, they say, we get to the freedom of the Gospel in Romans 8.  This incorrect interpretation is partly due to the stupid, unmethodical divisions into verses.  If a chapter heading had not been made after 7:25 [Romans 7:25], the THEREFORE of 8:1 [Romans 8:1] might have been more easily recognized.  Chapter 8 is a conclusion drawn from the material in chapter 7.  Note that verses 4, 5, and 6 picture a regenerate state.  [Romans 8:4, 5, 6].  Verses 8, 9, 10, and 11 refer to Paul’s life as a Pharisee, and maybe on to verse 15.  [Romans 8:8, 9, 10, 11; Romans 8:11-15].  But there comes a gradual change in the scenery.  By the time verse 17 comes into view, we see Paul as a Christian.  There is therefore a struggle.  Who shall deliver him from his sinful inclinations?  God will, through Jesus Christ.  THEREFORE there is NOW no condemnation.  Hence in spite of John’s disturbing words, Paul gives us a bit of confidence. 

Dr. Gordon H. Clark.  The Holy Spirit.  (Jefferson:  The Trinity Foundation, 1993).  Pp. 48-49.

As you can easily see, Dr. Clark intimates that we can have confidence in the knowledge that we are saved.  Of course, there are prerequisites to this attainment of the knowledge of our assurance.  But even here assurance, contra Sean Gerety, is not a “feeling” or an “emotion.”  No, assurance is the result of regeneration, justification by faith alone, the positional and progressive sanctification of the believer, and a solid knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures (John 17:17; 1 John 5:13).  In order to examine ourselves we would need to compare the information in the Bible with our propositional understanding of ourselves, our assent to that information, and our obedience to that information.  If knowledge that we are saved is impossible, as Robbins and Gerety contend, then it would also be impossible to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith or to prepare for communion.  (2 Corinthians 13:5; 1 Corinthians 11:28).  Furthermore, it would be impossible to make our election and calling sure if we can know nothing of ourselves or compare that information with the information in the Scriptures.  (2 Peter 2:10).  Assurance is therefore not a feeling of confidence or an emotional response.  It is a logical deduction made from the self-examination of the propositions we know about ourselves and how that lines up with Scripture.  After all, it is the moral law of God that reveals us to be sinners in the first place.  (Romans 3:20; Romans 7:7).  Now if I can know that I am a sinner from the law of God, surely I can know if I have believed the promises of the covenant of grace, the justification merited by Christ in His sinless life, and His atoning death on the cross for all the sins of all the elect from the beginning of time to the end of time.  

18 "Known to God from eternity are all His works. 19 "Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, 20 "but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood.  (Act 15:18-20 NKJ)

Sean Gerety ought to know better than to appeal to feelings rather than to the logical system of theology and propositional truths of the inspired Scriptures.  [See: Assurance and Knowledge].  This is where Gerety stupidly makes this opening remark:

Having assurance of one’s salvation is not the same as knowing that one is saved.  I am not really sure why this is difficult for some people to grasp, but even some calling themselves “Scripturalists” have a hard time telling the difference.

So for those still confused, assurance of salvation means to be free from doubt.  It is to  possess a confidence derived from the promises of God and the finished work of Christ outside of ourselves revealed in the Gospel.  (Ibid.  https://godshammer.wordpress.com/2013/02/08/assurance-and-knowledge/).

Is not being free from doubt a form of knowledge?  The blatant contradiction here is just too much to let pass without a critical response.  Confidence and assurance are not feelings or emotions.  Rather they are logical deductions that we make from the information infallibly and inerrantly revealed in the Scriptures.  And the Bible clearly says that this is knowledge, not agnostic ignorance.

Question 1. What is thy only comfort in life and death?

Answer: That I with (1) body and soul, both in life and death, (2) am not my own, but belong (3) unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with His precious (4) blood, hath fully (5) satisfied for all my sins, and delivered (6) me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me (7) that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair (8) can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be (9) subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me (10) of eternal life, and makes (11) me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto Him.

Question 2. How many things are necessary for thee to know, that thou, enjoying this comfort, mayest live and die happily?

Answer: Three; (12) the first, how great (13) my sins and miseries are; the second, how I may be delivered (14) from all my sins and miseries; the third, how I shall express my gratitude (15) to God for such deliverance.

1 1 Cor. 6:19-20

2 Rom. 14:7-9

3 1 Cor. 3:23

4 1 Pet. 1:18-19

5 John 1:7

6 1 John 3:8; Heb. 2:14-15

7 John 6:39; John 10:28-29

8 Luke 21:18; Matt. 10:30

9 Rom. 8:28

10 2 Cor. 1:22; 2 Cor. 5:5

11 Rom. 8:14; Rom. 7:22

12 Luke 24:47

13 1 Cor. 6:10-11; John 9:41; Rom. 3:10, 19

14 John 17:3

15 Eph. 5:8-10;

It would be odd that the Heidelberg Catechism could give such specific information in concise form as to how to know one is saved and elect of God if such knowledge is impossible; yet according to Sean Gerety, we cannot know that we are saved.  Gerety seems to miss this.

Charlie J. Ray


Posted By Blogger to Reasonable Christian at 2/09/2015 11:14:00 AM



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