Why is Bahnsen linked to FV?

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DonP

Puritan Board Junior
On the Faith/Works issue Bahnsen was with Shepherd. Besides the evidence David Bahnsen gives, consider the following quote which I transcribed from a the lecture entitled "Dispensationalism" (the first lecture of the series on "An Eschatology of Optimism")

“…Because faith and obedience can’t be separated artificially. If you have faith in God, you obey him. And if you truly obey him you have faith in him, the two go hand in hand.

They understand salvation by faith to be separate from works. They think we are saved by faith – some kind of little internal spiritual ghostly experience in our heart – and then of course, works are an evidence of that - or something like that - that comes in later. Good works becomes, maybe, the second work of grace for people who see things that way. That isn’t the way the New Testament presents it. Men are saved by obedient faith in the New Testament, even as they are saved by faithful obedience. You have to have both. James - unless you want to throw him out of the canon, as Luther was tempted to do – James makes it very clear that a man who says he is justified by faith and doesn’t have works is wrong. That’s dead faith, and dead faith justifies no one. Now I am not telling you we are saved by faith plus works. You see, that’s the problem, people hear what I’ve been suggesting and they think that means this plus that – it’s not at all. I am saying that we are saved by the grace of God, and that the instrumentality of that is active living obedient faith – not dead faith, obedient faith. So I’m not saying first you have faith then you add works to it, and that formula gives you salvation, that would be judaizing – that’s a problem. What I’m saying is that the faith God gives us, as a gift, is a living active obedient faith, and that was true of the Old Covenant saints as much as it is of the New Covenant saints.”
-Dr. Greg Bahnsen, from the first lecture (Dispensationalism) in the series on An Eschatology of Optimism

I bolded some different parts of Bahnsens' words to emphasize an opposite understanding, and a different THEY, who he is opposing. I am taking his to be Dispensationalists who often held to a carnal christian heresy.

I think this passage is as clear as we must expect; though I am no fan of Bahsen's theonomy or reconstruction as it showed up in his church and to the members I knew, in spite of his telling me holiness and gospel is 1st and the way to reformation.

Here he clearly seeks to defend against works being a 2nd step or coming later. This was the carnal Christian heresy so prevalent in our lives, being taught and promoted by Dallas T.S. and CCC etc.
He says, the problem is when I try to make sure people know true faith produces the fruit of good works, that they would see it as justifying and I don't mean that.

He tries to separate faith and works in the regenerating act, yet show they are inseparable in the immediate life and experience of the believer.
As the "Work" of repentance springs immediately from converting faith. This may be indiscernible to the eye of man, yet theologically we would say the faith gave rise to or the works are a reflex action from the faith.

What are proper ACTS of saving faith?

Robert Shaw's, The Reformed Faith
Of saving Faith
Section II.–By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God himself speaking therein; and acteth differently, upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come. But the principle acts of saving faith are, accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.

Exposition
1. The genera1 object of divine faith is the whole Word of God. As faith, in general, is an assent to truth upon testimony, so divine faith is an assent to divine truth upon divine testimony. Saving faith, therefore, includes an assent of the heart to all the truths revealed in the Word of God, whether they relate to the law or to the gospel, and that, not upon the testimony of any man or Church, nor because they appear agreeable to the dictates of natural reason, but on the ground of the truth and authority of God himself, speaking in the Scriptures, and evidencing themselves, by their own distinguishing light and power, to the mind.

2. (deleted for space) An Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith

3. The principal acts of saving faith are, accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ. Romanists make faith to be nothing more than "a bare naked assent to the truth revealed in the Word." This notion was strenuously opposed by our Reformers, and is renounced in the National Covenant of Scotland, under the name of a "general and doubtsome faith;" yet, many Protestants, in modern times, represent saving faith as nothing more than a simple assent to the doctrinal truths recorded in Scripture, and as exclusively an act of the understanding. But, although saving faith gives full credit to the whole Word of God, and particularly to the testimony of God concerning his Son Jesus Christ, as has been already stated, yet, its principal acts are "accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ." True faith is the belief of a testimony; but it must correspond to the nature of the testimony believed. Were the gospel a mere statement of speculative truths, or a record of facts in which we have no personal interest, then, a simple assent of the mind to these truths–the mere crediting of these facts, would constitute the faith of the gospel. But the gospel is not a mere statement of historical facts, or of abstract doctrines respecting the Saviour; it contains in it a free offer of Christ, and of salvation through him, to sinners of every class, who hear it, for their acceptance. Saving faith, therefore, that it may correspond to the testimony believed, must include the cordial acceptance or reception of Christ, as tendered to us in the gospel.

As Christ is exhibited in Scripture under venous characters and similitudes, so faith in him is variously denominated. It is expressed by coming to him–by looking unto him–by ,fleeing to him for refuge–by eating his flesh and drinking his blood–by receiving him, and by resting upon him. It is to be observed, that the terms employed in our Confession do not denote different acts of faith, but are only different expressions of the same act. Believing on Christ is called a receiving of him, in reference to his being presented to poor sinners, as the gift of God to them; and it is styled a resting on him, because he is revealed in the gospel as a sure foundation, on which a sinner may lay the weight of his eternal salvation with the firmest confidence. It is manifest, that all the figurative descriptions of saving faith in Scripture imply a particular application of Christ by the soul, or a trusting in Christ for salvation to one's self in particular; and this is what some have called the appropriation of faith. It is no less evident, that in the phraseology of Scripture, faith is not simply an assent of the understanding, but implies an act of volition, accepting the Saviour and relying on him for salvation. This does not proceed upon any previous knowledge which the sinner has of his election; nor upon any persuasion that Christ died intentionally for him more than for others, for it is impossible to come to the knowledge of these things prior to believing; nor does it proceed upon the persuasion that Christ died equally for all men, and therefore for him in particular; nor upon the perception of any good qualities in himself to distinguish him from others; but it proceeds solely upon the free, unlimited offer and promise of the gospel to the chief of sinners.

4. That the true believer receives and rests upon Christ alone for salvation. This distinguishes the true believer from such as rest their hope of salvation on the general mercy of God, without any respect to the mediation of Christ, or upon their own works of righteousness, or upon the righteousness of Christ and their own works conjoined.

5. That the true believer receives and rests upon Christ for a complete salvation. He trusts in Christ for salvation not only from wrath, but also from sin–not only for salvation from the guilt of sin, but also from its pollution and power–not only for happiness hereafter, but also for holiness here. In the language of the Confession, he rests upon Christ "for justification, sanctification, and eternal life;" and that "by virtue of the covenant of grace;" that is, as these blessings are exhibited and secured in that covenant.
------- bolds above are mine

So when we speak of works, or acts we must use care to be specific which we refer to. But there are properly some things called acts which are included with and or a direct result of saving faith. None of which are meritorious. Shaw seems clear to call these acts, not multiple but different names for one act. As opposed to good works.

We often observe in some people, at what appears to us to be the time of conversion, through definitive sanctification which also comes with saving faith or is a part of it, bringing certain knowledge, and repentance such that a person may discontinue certain sins and may begin to do good acts and works immediately. It may show up differently in each person as the Spirit works in them uniquely. And we cannot so precisely separate in our experience that which is a result of definitive sanctification and that which is from ongoing sanctification which occurs in that next second after conversion.

I think we should use care to not take someone's particular words, like in the case of Bahnsen, who may be seeking to make a distinction against an error of his time, with language one may use at another time to avoid being confused with another error. Like FV which is prevalent now and not so much then.
It would be good if we had a set of precise questions to determine a man's
orthodoxy or not.

Like:
Are these good works that come with saving faith meritorious?
 

Craig

Puritan Board Senior
The problem with the above is that he uses the word saved. It is Shepherd lingo. It is not about faith alone that justifies or works that proves a living faith.

As noted by others, I think it's clear Bahnsen is saying what kind of faith saves...not that works are a basis for justification.
 

Archlute

Puritan Board Senior
The problem with the above is that he uses the word saved. It is Shepherd lingo. It is not about faith alone that justifies or works that proves a living faith.

I saw the same dynamic coming from a session that was supportive of Shepherd. They never wanted to discuss justification, only salvation. The WCF (and I assume also the LBCF) makes the proper distinction between the element of justification, and the larger, more encompassing term of salvation. They wanted only to use the term salvation, and by doing so blur the distinction between justification and the other elements of salvation, thus re-introducing the necessity of works.

Edited to add: I'm not saying anything one way or the other about Bahnsen's quotes, since I am not a Bahnsen scholar. Just saying that there are other Reformed folk who do take that approach.
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
Part of the problem with this discussion is that it is anachronistic. Bahnsen cannot clarify anything he said anymore. That makes taking 20 year old statements and trying to apply them to a present controversy very difficult.

The real shame here is that his son has seen fit to drag his father's name through the mud for his own 15 minutes of "fame."
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
The problem with the above is that he uses the word saved. It is Shepherd lingo. It is not about faith alone that justifies or works that proves a living faith.

I saw the same dynamic coming from a session that was supportive of Shepherd. They never wanted to discuss justification, only salvation. The WCF (and I assume also the LBCF) makes the proper distinction between the element of justification, and the larger, more encompassing term of salvation. They wanted only to use the term salvation, and by doing so blur the distinction between justification and the other elements of salvation, thus re-introducing the necessity of works.

Edited to add: I'm not saying anything one way or the other about Bahnsen's quotes, since I am not a Bahnsen scholar. Just saying that there are other Reformed folk who do take that approach.

I agree with Adam as he makes clear what I was trying to say.
 

DonP

Puritan Board Junior
Why is Bahnsen linked to FV?

Because some people think it will help their cause.

Because many are theonomic and laws and rules fit well with a way to "See" faith.
So they seek to find tight language about a faith that produces works, to suit their ends and make them feel like they have a leader in an old teacher.

Were Bahnsen one of the framers of the Confession I could see seeking to use him, but now, its just sad.
 

AndyS

Puritan Board Freshman
The bold portion of that quotation misses the conclusion Bahnsen was aiming for...he was simply defining what saving faith is...it is living.
What I’m saying is that the faith God gives us, as a gift, is a living active obedient faith, and that was true of the Old Covenant saints as much as it is of the New Covenant saints.

The context is a discussion of Dispensationalism...where the erroneous "carnal Christian" doctrine is paraded about. Bahnsen addressed that error in a similar vein that James did.

Thanks for pointing that out.

And you could probably get almost anyone in trouble by [mis]quoting their comments on the book of James. (By misquoting, I am referring to taking a quote out of or ignoring its broader context, whether intentionally or otherwise.)
 
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