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Friday, September 23, 2005 

Treasuring Faith

Reading: Dominion and Dynasty by S. Dempster
Enjoying: nothing right now
Motzart's "Mass for Coronation"

Growing up, I was often told that certain spiritual keys and breakthroughs would come through more, or perhaps better, faith. Hey, I grew up in pietistic Protestant evangellyism, and what else could they tell you? What other remedy is there to offer when your theological convictions don't have room for anything objective, anything extra nos?

Well, as is so often typical of those in pietistic circles, this is frustrating news, not Good News. You end up trying to find other and better ways of increasing your faith, making it more genuine, etc. The problem with this is twofold:

1) No one has a really good idea of what faith is, or how it works.

2) The only thing to fix is inside of you. Thus, you spend all of your time looking inward, examining yourself, learning to look for any spark of divine you hope to find in your own heart. This is not wholly wrong, as we are commanded to test ourselves (II Corinthians 13:5). However, when your heart is as wicked and deceitful as yours is (and that is wicked, and I should know, because that's how wicked mine is), then you are not going to find much to work with if your only turning your gaze inward.

So you can imagine my relief when, discovering Reformed theology, they had already thought about what faith is and how it works. (I guess that is what happens when you aren't anti-intellectualistic and have a theology that goes back to the Fathers.) They consistently taught that faith comprised of three aspects: notitia, assensus, and fiducia. These are three components that make faith genuine.

Notitia - that is, knowledge - is a necessary (but not sufficient) aspect of faith. We must KNOW what we are talking about when we say we believe something. Faith is not altogether adrift from our reason and intellect. This is not to say our content must always be rational (e.g., the Trinity, the incarnation) but it must consist of rational pieces (both of those examples are supra-rational, above reason). This protects us from a faith that doesn't know Whom it believes, and is so much like the neo-Gnosticism in so much of the charismatic, Foursquare, and pentecostal circles of today. Unfortunately, so much of the "word of faith" and "name it claim it" attitudes, so faith driven, are not even true, saving faiths, since they lack this first, important aspect.

Assensus - assent - is the second necessary (but not sufficient) aspect of faith. While anyone can know the content of the Gospel, we must assent to it, and believe this is true. Any modern, liberal scholar can become an expert on the content of the Gospel, and recite it better than Paul could. However, one must believe it to be true. Mere knowledge, academic understanding, in not enough. One cannot get saved by classroom knowledge only. One must agree that it is true, and give assent to the propositions. The Gospel says I am a sinner, and I agree, I AM a sinner. The Gospel says Jesus died for my sins, and I agree, Jesus truly did do this.

Finally, fiducia is the hearty trust that all these things are "yes and amen" FOR ME. This hearty trust combines the affections with the mind (knowledge) and the will (assent) to make me truly long and yearn in this faith. Up to this point, the demons could agree. They know the Gospel, and they agree that it is true. But how they hate it. This hearty trust makes me love Jesus.

Recently, I wanted to do a little excavating on the topic of what treasuring had to do with a Reformed view of faith. I won't go into my interpretation. But here are some quotes that hopefully you will find helpful.

Reformed Scholastics on the Nature Of Saving Faith

Theodore Beza Confessions IV.16 - 17
Faith, I say, does not only believe that Jesus Christ is dead and risen again for sinners, but it comes also to embrace Jesus Christ (Rom 8:16,39; Heb. 10:22, 23; 1 John 4:13; 5:19, etc). Whosoever truly believes trusts in Him alone and is assured of his salvation to the point of no longer doubting it (Eph. 3:12).
Since Jesus Christ is the object of faith, and indeed Jesus Christ as He is held forth to us in the Word of God, there follow two points which should be noted well.
On the one side, where there is no Word of God but only the word of man, whoever he be, there is no faith there, but only a dream or an opinion which cannot fail to deceive us (Rom 10:2-4; Mark 16:15,16; Rom 1:28; Gal 1:8-9). On the other side, faith embraces and appropriates Jesus Christ and all that is in Him, since He has been given to us on the condition of believing in Him (John 17:20,21; Rom 8:9).

Francis Turretin Institutes II.XV.viii
The fourth is an act of refuge arising from a persuasion by which we betake ourselves by an act of desire to Christ thus known by us…Because the desire of salvation and happiness is implanted in all…[man] should not [sic] seriously and most ardently betake himself to Christ – desire, seek and endeavor to possess him in every way.

This faith is “by which we not only seek Christ through a desire of the soul and fly to him but apprehend and receive him offered…” When the soul sees Christ as his redeemer in all verity, it “cannot help embracing with the highest freedom of the will that supreme good offered, and the inestimable treasure, selling all for him (Mt. 13:44), resting upon Christ as the sole Redeemer and delivering and making himself over… This is the formal and principal act of justifying faith, usually termed “reception”: “As many as received him…”

Faith is confidence which consists in that joy, tranquility, peace, acquiescence and delight which arise from the possession of Christ, by which the believing soul leaning upon its beloved (Cant. 8:5) and conscious of its own most intimate union with Christ through faith and sure of its own mutual communion and love with him, piously exults and rejoices in the Lord, glories in adversity and courageously challenges and despises all enemies whatever (Rom. 8:38, 39); rejoices with joy unspeakable and glorious (1 Pet. 1:8); rests under the shade of the tree of life and satiates itself with its sweetest fruits (Cant. 2:3), certain that he who began the good work, will infallibly carry it on to perfection.”

Berkhof Systematic Theology p. 505
And in saving faith it is a matter of life and death that the object be appropriated. This third element [fiducia] consists in a personal trust in Christ as Savior and Lord, including a surrender of the soul as guilty and defiled to Christ, and a reception and appropriation of Christ as the source of pardon and of spiritual life …It naturally carries with it a certain feeling of safety and security, of gratitude and joy.


Transplanted from the artic blight of Minnesota to the sunny paradise of SoCal, I am attending school and learning to say "dude." I like to think of myself as equal parts surf rash, Batman, heavy metal, Levinas, poetic license, and reformational. Other than creating blund blogs, I enjoy reading, sporting, and socializing with serious and funny people.
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