WILLIAM PERKINS Versus WCF on ASSURANCE

Discussion in 'Theological Forum' started by Catechist, Oct 26, 2010.

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  1. Catechist

    Catechist Puritan Board Freshman

    I was reading Rev. Chris Gordon's blog and found this here:


    ~THE GORDIAN KNOT~: WILLIAM PERKINS Versus WESTMINSTER CONFESSION on ASSURANCE


    "Perkins is adamant that assurance belongs to the essence of true faith. Read the following statements by Perkins and then compare them with the WCF 18:3.

    Here is what Perkins writes:


    "True faith is both an infallible assurance, and a particular assurance of the remission of sins, and of life everlasting. And therefore by this faith, a man may be certainly and particularly assured of the remission of sins, and life everlasting."

    Can these two seemingly variant doctrines on assurance be reconciled?:detective:
     
  2. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Kevin,

    I don't agree with the author that the two stand in polar opposition to one another. True faith may indeed be of a certain character. The confession is not denying that assurance is not a characteristic of faith but that a believer may be assailed in such a way that assurance is not immediately attainable. One only needs to look at the character of Romans 6 to see Paul enjoining believers to consider their union with Christ to realize that believers are wont to forget the reality of their status as indwelling sin battles and deceives. Has the nature of the evangelical grace of faith been altered by God or has the enemy accused and whispered something to the believer? Why, indeed, would Paul in the climax of Romans 8 have to ask "Who shall bring a charge agiainst God's elect?" if such battles were not part and parcel of the Christian life.

    This is reminiscent of John Brown of Wamphray's criticism of Richard Baxter's notion of faith (See CPJ 2). Baxter's view was parallel to many FV expressions today that didn't see faith as real until it was perfected or mature and expressed its fruition in the works of the believer. John Brown rightly pointed out that faith is that which lays hold of Christ. It need not be perfected to be true and it is a serious error both Biblically and Confessionally to assume that faith comes to the believer in a fully matured state or that it will never falter.

    As the WCF states on Saving Faith:
    Gordon will need to show that Perkins believed otherwise than this to show a contradiction.
     
  3. CharlieJ

    CharlieJ Puritan Board Junior

    The WCF does not deny that assurance is of the essence of faith

    18.3. This infallible assurance does not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it: yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto.

    The phrase "so...but that" speaks to mode or extent. In other words, assurance does belong to the essence of faith, but not in such a way that we can rule out conflict. Although this has perhaps lead some in the Reformed faith to an unhealthy introspection, this way of putting things is intended to accomplish the opposite. By putting a bit of distance without complete cleavage between faith and the assurance of grace, we avoid concluding that all doubts are indicative of a lack of saving faith.

    Calvin is interesting here. I don't have the reference on me right now, but when he defines faith, he includes a very strong statement of assurance. Yet, he states that his definition is of ideal faith, and that there is faith that doesn't entirely meet that qualification. I do think there is some variety of teaching within the Reformed tradition on assurance, and some ambiguity persists to this day, but there is not the radical disconnect suggested by R. T. Kendall and others.
     
  4. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

  5. dannyhyde

    dannyhyde Puritan Board Sophomore

    Here's how Louis Berkhof summarized his conclusion to his treatment of WCF 18.3/WLC 81:

    "...the Confession does not materially differ from that of the Reformers and of their other great Protestant Confessions, though there is undoubtedly a difference of emphasis" (The Assurance of Faith, 28).
     
  6. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    The sealing with the Spirit (II Cor 1:22; Eph 1:13; Eph 4:30) occurs at regeneration. But it is clear that all believers do not enter immediately into a fullness of subjective assurance as a result of that sealing, otherwise (e.g.) it would be unnecessary of the Apostle John to write:

    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, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. (I John 5:13)
     
  7. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Perkins wrote much on the subject of assurance. One statement does not suffice to understand the complexities of his theological and pastoral approach to the subject. Even the quoted statement itself could be understood as referring either to an objective or subjective certainty, and requires a larger context to determine its meaning.

    So far as objective certainty is concerned, it is a clear teaching of the Westminster Standards that remission of sins and life everlasting are certain and particular benefits which are offered by Christ in the gospel and it is the essential office of saving faith to rest upon Christ for these benefits, WCF 14.2. But so far as the subjective enjoyment of these benefits is concerned there are varying degrees of certainty in a true and lively faith, WCF 18.3.
     
  8. jogri17

    jogri17 Puritan Board Junior

    Hmm... Can't really comment given PERKINS'S WORKS ARE NEAR IMPOSSIBLE TO FIND or very very expensive! RHB or Banner Reprint them !!!
     
  9. Catechist

    Catechist Puritan Board Freshman

    There still seems to me, to be an apparent shift within the categorical terms of infallible assurance made in the WCF.

    I do not believe there is any infallible assurance in the preparatory works of the Spirit prior to justification. I believe infallible assurance is of the essence of faith and is for nature – certainty itself (Rom 8:16). Infallible assurance may be further subjectively realized throughout sanctification as the objective promises of the gospel are embraced in true faith.

    Rev. Gordon has challenged me more here and has commented on his blog to some of the comments made here on the PB.

    https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=2760063830420967275&postID=2764066000062690572

    "Christ said to Peter, Matt. 14:31, O thou of little faith, wherefore didest thou doubt? Where he makes an opposition between faith and doubting thereby giving us directly to understand, that to be certain, and to give assurance is of the nature of faith. Rom. 4:20-22, Paul says of Abraham that he did not doubt the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, and gave glory to God being fully assured, that he which promised was able to do it, where I observe first that doubting is made a fruit of unbelief. Therefore, infallible certainty and assurance, being contrary to doubting, must proceed from true faith, considering that contrary effects come of contrary causes, and contrary causes produce contrary effects.

    Now is Perkins describing, as Rev. Winzer questions, objective or subjective assurance? Well, why is Abraham commended? Because he did not waiver in unbelief. The very nature (essence) of true faith is to "believe" the promises. But notice the divide that is proposed, Abraham might have believed the promises objectively (promises of land and the Seed who is Christ), but not subjectively known that is was for him? Huh? Romans 4 loses all its force if this is the case. Same with Peter; Christ, in a form, chastises Peter for his "subjective" doubt. Why? Because doubting is inconsistent with true faith.”

    No one doubts that Perkins dealt with “doubting” and issues of “subjectivity”. Rev. Gordon points it out here,

    “Perkins states that the very thing commended about Abraham's faith was that in his embracing of the objective promises of the gospel, he did not subjectively doubt them. So, as Perkins observes, assurance is subjectively realized as the objective promises of the gospel are embraced in true faith because that is the nature of true faith, to not doubt.”

    The problem remains in, WCF 18:3. What are the result/consequences of the Spirit bearing witness with your spirit in justification? Is this a one way street? Once this takes place you have the witness of the Spirit, infallible assurance in true and perfect seed form, that you are a child of God. This is not something that a true believer may need to wait long for as in WCF 18:3. A true believer may wait long for his infallible assurance to be more grounded and further realized in Christ as he grows closer to him, even so, we only see through a glass darkly at the height of our growth and increase.

    Categorically, infallible assurance is not a matter of just becoming a solid confident mature Christian, see Perkins, for infallible assurance is of the essence of faith and is for nature – certainty itself.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2010
  10. Phil D.

    Phil D. Puritan Board Junior

    Here is a resource for some of Perkins' writings - some Latin, but also a few in English.
     
  11. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Again Kevin, as I noted, this is not merely a single clause in the Confession. You need to demonstrate that there was a departure on the nature of saving faith itself and not just regards assurance. I believe it is a simplistic analysis to show contradiction vs. development on the one hand while also overstating the difference on the other. Does Perkins elsewhere deny that true evangelical faith can be assailed or that it is variously weak or strong in the believer as the nature of saving faith is described in the WCF?
     
  12. dannyhyde

    dannyhyde Puritan Board Sophomore

    Kevin,

    You ought to read Beeke's, The Quest for Full Assurance. This will get you started.

    Long story short, there are a ton of distinctions the Westminster Divines made when discussing assurance. For example, you have to ask yourself, "In this context, what aspect of faith, what object of faith, what kind of faith, etc. is he speaking of?" Just to illustrate, when you read WCF ch. 14.2 on saving faith, this is discussing faith with regards to what it receives and rests upon for salvation. The fact that it receives and rests includes an element of assurance. Then, when you read WCF ch. 14.3 it's discussing the ongoing life and struggle of faith. That gets picked up again in ch. 18 on assurance. You see this also when you compare WLC Q&A 72 on justifying faith and Q&A 80–81 on assurance—and note well it's precise language of "infallible assurance." The question they were trying to answer is this: "If faith includes assurance does this mean that those who do not feel assured do not have true faith and therefore are not in the state of grace?"
     
  13. Catechist

    Catechist Puritan Board Freshman

    Rev. Hyde,

    I get what you are saying. Thank you. I first read Beeke on Assurance of Faith about 20 years ago. As a young Presbyterian I had accepted the WCF as somewhat of a “sacred cow” and wound not dare question a word or sentence. I have not read the newer versions that both you and Rev. Buchanan refer.

    I understand Beeke to say that the discrepancy between faith and assurance is largely quantitative and methodological. In other words, it was a matter of emphasis and method, rather than qualitative or substantial.

    Calvin allowed for varying degrees of faith and assurance. He often speaks of such concepts as "infancy of faith,""beginnings of faith," and "weak faith." He asserts assurance to be proportional to faith's development. Regeneration, sanctification, repentance, faith, and assurance are all progressive.

    We have those who are documented otherwise. We have theories of qualitative departure (Kendall) or of non-antithetical yet substantial discrepancy (Cunningham).

    I hear a number of good explanations especially from Calvin and Perkins. However, as post-reformation thought developed, I find less clarity especially considering the choice of words used in WCF chapter 18:3.

    I know why we need to reconcile WCF 18:3 as a matter of emphasis and method. It can be done! However, the words used by the Westminster Assembly (a concensus document) “seem” to employ words and terms that have the opposite effect. We can get back to the same effect if we use different words, just as Rev. Hyde has done above.

    One group says that infallible assurance is not of the essence of faith and another group says that infallible assurance is of the essence of faith.

    Calvin, “No man is a believer, I say, except he who, leaning upon the assurance of his salvation, confidently triumphs over the devil and death. . . . We cannot otherwise well comprehend the goodness of God unless we gather it from the fruit of great assurance.” (Inst. 3.2.16)

    However, it seems that the WCF would substitute the word "believer" above, for mature Christian? No man is a mature Christian, I say, except...
     
  14. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    Was it Thomas Goodwin who had a great experience of assurance subsequent to his conversion and said that getting assurance was like a second conversion, and also placed the sealing with the Holy Spirit subsequent to conversion?
     
  15. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    The "Reformed Catholic" is written in opposition to Roman Catholicism, which denied the possibility of assurance without special revelation. What Perkins wrote is basically a defence of the possibility of assurance. He writes, "We hold that a man may bee certaine of his saluation in his owne conscience euen in this life, and that by an ordinarie and speciall faith."

    The portion which has been quoted from Perkins on the "Gordian Knot" has ended the part where he explains what is meant by assurance and has begun to provide reasons to support what has been said. The first reason is the nature of saving faith. Perkins is not explaining what assurance is but is supporting his explanation by going back a step in the process to see how faith may produce assurance. This is clear from the use of the word "may" instead of "must," as when he says, "by this faith, a man may be certainly and particularly assured of the remission of sins, and life everlasting." If he were teaching that assurance is of the essence of faith his words would have reflected a necessity of assurance rather than a possibility of assurance. Afterwards, when he writes, "infallible certainty and assurance, being contrary to doubting, must proceed from true faith," he is not teaching the necessity of assurance but simply the necessity of true faith for assurance to exist. He says in plain words that assurance proceeds from true faith and nowhere claims that it is of the essence of faith. When he comes to look at the nature of faith he speaks of the certainty of the promise: "the property of faith is to apprehend and apply the promise, and the thing promised, Christ with his benefits." This is precisely what the Westminster Confession claims with respect to the office of faith in 14.2. There is nothing here which contradicts the Westminster Confession if the Confession is correctly interpreted as distinguishing between an objective and subjective assurance of faith.

    There are other works in which Perkins turns his attention from the theological debate with Roman Catholics and looks more closely at the experience of God's people. One such work is "A Grain of Mustard Seed: Or, The least measure of grace that is or can be effectual to salvation." He defines a seed of faith as an earnest desire to believe: "Here then we see that the desire of mercie, in the want of mercie, is the obtaining of mercie, and the desire to beleeue, in the want of faith, is faith. Though as yet thou want firme and liuely grace, yet art thou not altogether void of grace, if thou canst desire it, thy desire is the seed, conception, or budde of that which thou wantest: nowe is the spring time of the ingrafted worde or the immortall seede cast into the furrowes of thy heart: waite but a while, vsing good meanes, and thou shalt see that leaues, blossoms, and fruites will shortly followe after." It is clear from this statement that true faith is not considered to be an assurance of possessing grace but may exist where there is only a sincere and constant desire after grace.
     
  16. Catechist

    Catechist Puritan Board Freshman

    Here’s some of the problems I see with Rev. Winzer’s commentary on Perkins. Perkins moves with his golden chain from God’s assurance of salvation from eternity to the elect’s assurance in time. Rev. Winzer is dealing with assurance from the latter rather than the former, the Secondary rather than the Primary, and therefore rejects the true essence and nature of assurance and subsequently reduces it to a mere possibility - like the WCF 18:3.

    The impossibility of the human will to foil divine decree breeds certainty—not uncertainty—in the weakest of saints. Assurance is assurance because of election, which is the sinner’s only and solid hope. Puritans and Predestination, pp. 195-96.

    Rev. Winzer says of Perkins,
    See the contrary below.

    "Perkins stresses that the human spirit’s syllogistic response to the inward, saving work of the Triune God does not degrade Christ in any way. Rather, it magnifies the unbreakable strength of God’s golden chain of salvation merited by the Son and applied by His Spirit. Though one might argue that Perkins linked these secondary grounds of assurance to a personal profession of faith, these grounds were only valid as evidence of the primary grounds. With Calvin, Perkins maintained that works do not save the elect, but often succeed in assuring them. Works are the evidence of election, not the cause of it. Gordon J. Keddie, “’Unfallible Certenty of the Pardon of Sinne and Life Everlasting’”: The Doctrine of Assurance in the Theology of William Perkins,” (Emphasis added)

    As Shaw says: “The child of God can grab that link of sanctification, or good works in the golden chain and feel with certainty the tug of all the rest…. Perkins general principle is clear: grab any part of the ordo salutis within reach and you have the whole chain. Anyone clutching the middle links (the covenant of grace, justification by faith, and sanctification by the Spirit) can be assured of possessing the end links (election and glorification).”

    See also Rev Gordon’s comments here: https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=2760063830420967275&postID=2764066000062690572
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2010
  17. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    The Calvin versus Calvinist polemic argues the Confession deviated by introducing a decretal theology, quite erroneously. Now we have a new Calvin versus Calvinist polemic which argues the Confession was not decretal enough. The fact is that the Confession's teaching on Assurance builds upon the previous chapter, which has dealt with "the Perseverance of the Saints," and has grounded that perseverance on the immutability of the decree of election, WCF 17.2. Assurance is only possible because salvation is of the Lord from beginning to end. Yet it is not on that basis to be regarded as a decretal theology because, like Calvin, there is a clear distinction made between the secret things of the Lord and the things that are revealed. The administration of the covenant of grace in the promises of the gospel are therefore made the only basis for properly discerning whether one belongs to the elect, WCF 18.2. Both Calvin versus Calvinist polemics are at fault for failing to understand the symmetry and balance with which Calvin and the Confession balance all the elements of sacred truth and are unwilling to emphasise any truth at the expense of another.

    We are being asked to consult a secondary source in order to see the contrary of what the primary source, Perkins himself, has stated in express words. Let it be clearly noted that Perkins himself says that certainty proceeds from faith: "infallible certainty and assurance, being contrary to doubting, must proceed from true faith." But apparently one of Perkins' commentators knows Perkins better than he knows himself. I say, "apparently," because the fact is that these commentators actually support the interpretation I have provided of the English Puritan. Please note the use of the word can in the following quotation:

    If it were being argued that assurance is of the essence of faith the words can be, indicating a possibility, would poorly express the point. In their place we would expect to see words which reflect inevitability, like will be.
     
  18. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Kevin,

    I'm sorry to say that the problem here is not really with Perkins and the Assembly but a basic exegetical problem. It's pretty clear to me that you're not even applying basic grammatical/syntactical rules to common English words whose meaning/use are quite elementary.

    It becomes most apparent with your use of quotes and how you don't even seem to notice the grammar in the sentence you just quoted.

    Shaw's statement makes no sense if it is assumed that the child of God always has infallible assurance (as a subjective experience). Why even speak of it? It's like speaking of an airplane in mid-flight and saying: "The airplane can fly if the pilot applies power to the engines."

    What information would Perkins think he would have added to the Saint's knowledge if he believed that every child of God not only possessed objective assurance but experienced the same? In other words, every Saint, upon regeneration and conversion, would immediately not only possess salvation but would immediately, and thereafter, have a subjective experience of assurance. It seems quite silly to teach Saints who already possess something that they possess the thing they already know they experience because everybody experiences it.

    Yet, one doesn't even have to be a sophisticated student of Romans to see Paul, in Romans 5-8, telling Saints repeatedly to consider things that are their full, objective possession. Are you really thinking Perkins was so obtuse as to miss this obvious point that the Apostle makes: the believer IS vitally united to Christ but is constantly enjoined to consider that he is because his subjective experience sometimes belies reality.

    I guess I'm surprised that this is still an issue that's being missed here. I'm not sure what's driving the misunderstanding or if there is some sort of hidden agenda to drive a wedge between Perkins and the Westminster Divines as it looks like so much grasping for straws to me .
     
  19. Catechist

    Catechist Puritan Board Freshman

    What the objectors here do not see, is that, it is impossible to have infallible faith without pointing to the Primary source, Christ. The assurance of infallible assurance is in election and the finished work of Christ and in HIS righteousness. Assurance is of the essence of faith.

    The objectors would say, that, it is possible to gain infallible assurance in the Secondary source, within ourselves as believers, that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it, assurance of faith not being of the essence of faith.

    I would say this is true of fallible assurance not infallible assurance.

    The objectors would say that, it is possible to pull up our bootstraps enough to gain full assurance of faith by our own personal subjective religious experience though we have to work hard at it through the right use of ordinary means to attain thereunto.

    This is all sounding a way too much like the Arminian approach to gain salvation.

    The problem with this approach is, when we take our eyes off our infallible source, Christ, as we all do, and sin – the outworking of our faith, being fallible, assurance is hurt. Assurance is fallible in ourselves.
    Infallible assurance can only be achieved in this manner outside of ourselves: The assurance of infallible assurance is in election and the finished work of Christ and in HIS righteousness. Infallible assurance is of the essence of faith and to obtain it, we must look to Christ as our perfect righteousness and we will benefit forever and own it for ourselves in our daily Christian walk. Every Christian I meet, I hope to point them more to Christ and encourage them of their infallible assurance they have in Christ.

    I reject the Arminian approach to gain salvation and reject to Arminian approach to gain assurance outside the essence and nature of faith. Both are works based in man and land squarely outside the prevue of true faith.

    Therefore, a man is gifted with infallible assurance immediately upon true belief, in seed form. The Spirit Himself bears witness with my spirit that we are the children of God. He gains Christ at that very moment – the only source of infallible assurance of faith. I live with a perfect infallible assurance of my faith everyday when I keep my eyes on Christ knowing his righteousness is for me. I lived the other way for too many years under WCF 18:3. No going back....Assurance is of the essence of faith!

    Sorry guys but I reject any doctrine that promotes infallible assurance outside the essence and nature of faith. I do so for the same reasons I reject the Arminian doctrine that directs me to look outside of Christ and to my works for salvation.

    This is why this quote is of such value,
    See also Rev. Gordon's recent comments here, ~THE GORDIAN KNOT~: WILLIAM PERKINS Versus WESTMINSTER CONFESSION on ASSURANCE
     
  20. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Further references from the primary source, Perkins' Works, both dealing with the subject in a pastoral and experiential way. The first is from his book on Conscience:

    The second reference is taken from a Discourse which offers Consolations for the Troubled Conscience:

    It is clear from both of these references that assurance is something which comes after reconciliation with God and is not necessarily always present in the experience of the believer.
     
  21. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I'm not sure if you have trouble reading (exegeting) plain English or you are so certain that your "objectors" have an agenda that you cannot see that your reading of the objectors here is so far off-base as to be libelous. Nobody here has stated that assurance is found from within. The issue has to do with whether or not the objective assurance (which all men who are born in Christ possess) is subjectively apprehended by all believers. Both Perkins and the Confession are united on the point that a believer may not always subjectively apprehend his objective assurance.

    The question, then, may proceed as to how a man apprehends (subjectively) what he possesses in Christ. Nobody has stated "look within" and I challenge you to demonstrate anywhere in this thread where this has been stated. I noted Paul, for instance, where the believer is said to consider his objective status. The believer (in Romans 5-8) is repeatedly enjoined to consider that they are in Christ so that they might come to a full apprehension of what is their "birthright". All the "therefores" throughout are designed precisely to help the believer climb to the peak of assurance grounded in the saving work of Christ. The objective nature of the assurance remains, as it were, a fixed point even while Paul is building up the thinking and consideration of the believer to apprehend the objective truth.

    I think, frankly, your agenda in this thread has completely clouded any ability to read either the correct Confessional understanding or those that are trying to help you understand how a man learns to understand what union with Christ conveys to the believer. I would suggest you climb off your hobby horse and try to learn something rather than trying to teach on something which the unbiased reader can see very clearly if they take the time to read by ordinary use of grammar and syntax.
     
  22. Catechist

    Catechist Puritan Board Freshman

    Heidelberg Catechism Question 21.

    What is true faith?

    Answer: True faith is not only a certain knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in his word, but also an assured confidence, which the Holy Ghost works by the gospel in my heart; that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sin, everlasting righteousness and salvation, are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ's merits.

    When assurance of faith is hurt and degenerates in a believer to such degree that it “appears” to be no longer present in the “experience” of the believer – what is his remedy?

    Ursinus writes, “Yet it is nevertheless true and unfeigned, I have the blessed assurance that “to him that hath shall be given”. “Lord I believe, help though my unbelief.” In this most severe and dangerous conflict, which all the children God experience, christian consolation remains immovable, and at length concludes: therefore Christ, with all his benefits, pertains even to me.” (Ursinus Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism pg. 20-21)
    Ursinus writes, “Justifying or saving faith differs, therefore, from other kinds of faith, because it alone is that assured confidence by which we apply unto ourselves the merit of Christ, which is done when we firmly believe that the righteousness of Christ is granted and imputed to us, so that we are accounted just in the sight of God.” (Ursinus Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism pg. 110-11)

    Where WCF 18:3 states that this infallible assurance does not belong to the essence of faith, Ursinus writes that it alone is - and it is our remedy by which we apply to ourselves the merit of Christ. Be certain that I am not comparing WCF 18:3 to Arminianism as a system but to the Heidelberg Catechism and earlier Refomed thought on assurance.

    Ursinus cites many more examples of like nature throughout the commentary. I especially think his reasons are cogent as he presents to us - assurance being of the essence of faith and Christ being our remedy for those who experience a lack of it - where experience issues are taken as effects within the “second causes”. Basically using the same argument as Perkins, Calvin and others.

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

    Answer: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.
     
  23. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    You are engaged in a textbook case of equivocation.

    All along you have objected to those who point out that men waiver in their confidence and then you cite Ursinus himself who points out the frailty of our condition and that our confidence does, in fact, waiver. The cry of the father of the demoniac is a perfect example of a faith whose objective possession is one of assurance but who's subjective apprehension is struggling with it.

    On the one hand we have the objective notion of assurance stated poetically by Augustus Toplady:
    The reason why we reflect on these things, however, is the same reason why the father cried out to Christ.

    As I have also noted, the WCF states, very clearly, that assurance is infallible:

    As I have said before, it is grounded in what the child of God possesses.

    I find it interesting how you conveniently leave out portions of Ursinus' comments that don't comport with your agenda here:
    and
    Note:

    1. What is objective and immovable is the same as WCF 18.2. This is infallible assurance. Infallible assurance is not what the believer's emotions are on any given moment or how he "feels" about it.
    2. It is quite clear that Ursinus understands and is repeating what we have said repeatedly here that a believer's personal apprehension is shaken regularly.

    In other words, a man, who possesses faith, may not feel assured at times. This is the substance of WCF 18.3 as obvious from the clauses. Notice that Ursinus himself links persuasion and assurance together and says that our full persuasion and assurance is obtained by two things:

    1. Ursinus points the believer to his objective status in Christ (as does the WCF).
    2. Ursinus encourages the believer to examine the fruit of saving graces in language similar to WCF 18.3.

    In other words, Ursinus himself clearly states that persuasion and assurance are the pursuit of the believer and uses it in a way that is clear he is talking about subjective experience in contrast to objective status.

    I would urge you to stop and consider how blinding your agenda is. I don't know if your editing of Ursinus was intentional but, even more fearful to me, is the idea that you could read past what Ursinus wrote and only see what you desired to see in order to confirm your goal to show 18.3 to be saying something it does not say or showing it to be a departure from historic Reformed thought.
     
  24. Catechist

    Catechist Puritan Board Freshman

    Rich,

    Please, the bullying tactics have got to stop. Surely you are not that naïve to suggest that I am the only one in history who has outlined the categorical shift of reformed thought on assurance? Who’s the one with an agenda?

    I know of at least one reformed seminary that teaches a course on the very subject of debate that we are now having. Imagine sitting in class and telling the professor to get of his hobby horse and stop, stop already!

    I am glad you brought up Ursinus further, you actually established my point. Infallible assurance is of the essence of faith even when secondary causes of assurance are assaulted; assurance is not divorced from the efficient cause in the true believer at any time, infallible assurance is of the nature and essence of faith in early reformed writings.

    In post #2 on this thread you said, "The confession is not denying that assurance is not a characteristic of faith but that a believer may be assailed in such a way that assurance is not immediately attainable." Take note, that we are not talking about a characteristic of faith but the essence of faith. If WCF 18:3 stated: Infallible assurance doth not so belong to a characteristic of faith....I would not have such trouble with the wording. Inserting, essence or nature, is where the historical categorical shift has occurred.

    For Ursinus, the instrumental cause and the subject follow without divorcing the objective status from the subjective experience. I agree there is a contrast but not a divorce. When you separate the two in contrast this is fine but when you divorce the two from essence of faith - then here’s the rub. Who is attempting to drive the wedge and divorce the two? Infallible assurance is of the essence of faith.



    I do not think it furthers anyone’s agenda in a discussion when bullying tactics, ad hominem, or various logical fallacy terms are thrown out against one another. These are devices that I never see being used amongst well seasoned debaters. Take Rev. Winzer, for example. When he deals with what he thinks to be a contradiction, he will attempt to outline logical fallacies in the form of an argument without leveling an actual term against his brother. When actual terms are thrown out against a brother to bolster a point, it is usually is a sign that a person cannot deal very objectively with the subject matter.

    Due to fact that you seem to be having significant heartburn dealing with me on this subject, I will stop for that reason alone. My Pastor applied for a PB account a number of days ago and once his membership is approved, I will let him take up the issue with you and address any further comments you might make.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2010
  25. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    You do not understand what 18.3 states as your statements above and earlier demonstrate. You are approaching this subject emotionally and irrationally.

    You are obsessed with the phrase "essence of faith" as if the clause is meant to show that assurance and faith have a wedge between them. You don't even have a scrap of historical debate/development to demonstrate this but build your foothold on this tiny clause that speaks to whether or not a person who has true faith may be assailed in his assurance. The Confession DOES NOT say (as you would desire it to) that "infallible assurance is not of the essence of faith". What it says is that it "does not so belong to the essence of faith". In saying this, as a person who understands English would understand, the point it makes is that the person is not supposed to come to the conclusion that if I have doubts that I must not have faith. After all, 18.2 just got through telling that infallible assurance is unshakable and that it is an infallible assurance of faith. I have doubts, therefore I have no faith. Not so fast. 18.3 assures me that this infallible assurance is not so tied to faith that I will never have doubts. Full stop.

    In a very impious fashionr, have have not only refused to listen to what the historic Presbyterian view is here but you have driven a truckload of assumptions into your misreading of a clause and accused every Presbyterian on this board of holding to a form of assurance that is like unto an Arminian notion by our Confession.
     
  26. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Ursinus' statement finds its counterpart in WCF 18.4, which says that the believer is "never left utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life of faith ... out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may, in due time, be revived; and by the which, in the mean time, they are supported from utter despair."

    It is not difficult to make two authors contradict each other, or even to make an author contradict himself, when the complexities of their thought are simplified and categorical distinctions are ignored. If Ursinus, Perkins, and the Westminster Confession are all properly interpeted by analysing the structure and order of their thought on this subject, it will be seen that they all reflect essentially the same reformed convictions, even though there may be slight differences and overlaps in the language employed or on the emphasis of certain points.
     
  27. mvdm

    mvdm Puritan Board Junior

    Kevin, you don't identify the seminary, but please consider for a moment that just because a seminary is teaching a particular view does not mean it has validity. There are plenty of examples from past and current history of seminaries riding dangerous hobby horses. It is not hard to imagine at all that the churches would be well served if courageous men told such seminary to "stop, stop already!".
     
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