Friday, February 8, 2013

Knowledge and Assurance

From Clark’s Today's Evangelism: Counterfeit or Genuine?

Page 91:
The people mentioned in Matthew 7:22ff. had assurance. Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? But Jesus replied, Depart from me, I never knew you. As the profoundly theological Negro spiritual says, Everybody talkin’ ‘bout heaven ain’t goin’ there. Micah 3:11 says, “The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money yet will they lean upon the Lord and say, Is not the Lord among us? None evil can come upon us.”  
It is clear therefore that there is a feeling of assurance that is not real assurance. Just because a person believes that he is saved is an insufficient reason for thinking that he is saved. It may be suggested for sober consideration whether or not those who are most easily assured of salvation are least likely to be saved.
What is a “sufficient reason” for thinking that one is saved? Having established that 1 John was written for “giving direction on how assurance can be obtained,” Clark wrote:

Pages 93-94:
Since the epistle was written for this purpose, it is one of the best places in the Bible to find directions. I 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.”  
II Peter 1:5 does not explicitly mention assurance, but the section has to do with God’s “exceeding great and precious promises” with which he “called us to glory and virtue,” so that the remainder of the section describes how we may be assured of profiting by those promises. Verse five then says, “Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, and to your virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance. . . for if these things be in you, and abound, they shall make you that ye shall be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  
Without minimizing the other items in this list, it is well to emphasize knowledge. If one wishes assurance, he will try to increase his knowledge. Knowledge is mentioned twice in the section. Therefore, if one wishes assurance that he is regenerated, let him ask himself, Do I study the Scripture? How much of it do I know? Some people know so very little; some people believe so very little; some evangelists must have so very little assurance.
Let anyone who thinks Clark is possible using “knowledge” in a colloquial sense first define “colloquial knowledge” and then substitute it into the above to see if it makes sense. For instance, suppose colloquial knowledge is functionally equivalent to “opinion.” Is Clark really arguing an opinion can be a “sufficient reason” for thinking one is saved? Is Clark really asking, “Do I study the Scripture? How much of it do I [opine]?” Does Clark really think that when discussing assurance, “it is well to emphasize [opinion]”? Or when Clark says, “We know that we know the Lord by keeping his commandments,” is the sort of belief state to which he refers one which could be false?

Each of Clark’s Scriptural citations shows he applied them to present day believers who may on those accounts be assured or know his salvation is genuine. These tests cannot be met with satisfaction by those with false assurance. Of course, I can’t take the test for you, reader, nor you for me. I can’t even know you. But that doesn’t mean I can’t know myself. That doesn’t mean I can’t know I am saved. I can know that I myself am elect without knowing anyone else is. Paul names specific elect individuals in his letters. Why should my knowing that I am elect be any more of a problem than the fact these individuals could know that they were elect even during their own lifetimes? 

Now, such knowledge of assurance may be incidental rather than essential to salvation, and so one may lose his assurance. But similar to my present inability to know [about the salvific status of] others, this too is not relevant. Just as our justification is grounded in Christ alone yet requires our faith, so too knowledge is grounded in Scripture alone yet requires our faith. We can’t know without knowing of our faith, knowing that it is put in the right source. 

Why would anyone unable to know he is saved be assured that he is saved? Why would people like Sean Gerety be “free from doubt” about their own salvation if it is possible that they are not saved? What sort of assurance is that? I obviously don’t deny “knowledge” can be used with non-epistemic senses in mind, but imagine John writing a letter to people who are unable to know that they are his intended audience. Denying self-knowledge comes at the expense of denying assurance. Sure, they could opine these things, but so could false believers. Real assurance and false assurance can only be separated by knowledge. As the Westminster Confession says in its chapter on assurance,
I. Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favor of God, and estate of salvation (which hope of theirs shall perish): yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love Him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before Him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed. 
II. This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope; but an infallible assurance of faith founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made, the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God, which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption. 
III. 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. And therefore it is the duty of every one to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure, that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience, the proper fruits of this assurance; so far is it from inclining men to looseness. 
IV. True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as, by negligence in preserving of it, by falling into some special sin which wounds the conscience and grieves the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation, by God's withdrawing the light of His countenance, and suffering even such as fear Him to walk in darkness and to have no light: yet are they never so utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart, and conscience of duty, 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.
The WCF subsumes “infallible assurance” under that which a Christian is “enabled by the Spirit to know.” Contrary to Sean, this is not mere psychology. Certainty, infallibility, evidences, and knowledge are epistemological concepts, and the WCF uses these in relation to assurance. 

I noted this and the epistemic statements Clark makes on assurance in conversations with Sean, I’ve simply received no reply to either point. I’ve still received no reply to my arguments for self-knowledge (link 1, link 2). So I really don’t know what else Sean wants from me. Sean really has a bad habit of dismissing my conclusions without engaging the arguments. For instance:
I should think someone could know on the basis of divine revelation that David was King of Israel while denying that a person is justified by belief alone, through Christ alone, and by grace alone. I don’t see how it follows that regeneration is a prerequisite for any knowledge whatsoever even on Scripturalist terms. Regeneration is a necessary precondition for someone to come to believe in the one true God and Savior Jesus Christ, something it would seem Hedrich lacks (at least according to the evidence). 
Notice too, that for Hedrich the presumed knowledge of his own regeneration, his own election, is incommunicable, yet he asserts it is a “good and necessary consequence.” But “good and necessary consequence” from what? His bellybutton? He certainly hasn’t deduced his eternal blessed state from the Scriptures otherwise it would a truth he could readily communicate to others.
Aside from begging the question in his last sentence, I provided an explicit syllogism in my last post outlining, from Scripture, why I think self-knowledge of one’s own regeneration is a precondition for philosophic or epistemic knowledge:
P1. Knowledge precludes the possibility of error.
P2. If you may not be a sheep, you cannot know you’ve heard the voice of the Shepherd.
P3. If you cannot know you’ve heard the voice of the Shepherd, you cannot know which propositions are God-breathed.
P4. If you cannot know which propositions are God-breathed, you cannot know anything.
P5. You may not be a sheep.
C. You don’t know anything. 
P1. is by definition (cf. link).
P2. and P3. follow from John 8:43-47, 10:1-5, 26, 1 John 4:1-6, etc. Essentially, the point is that only regenerates can know the canon of Scripture (link) because only regenerates can know that they aren’t suppressing God’s self-authenticating and revealed truth in unrighteousness.
P4. is Scripturalism. 
Where has Sean dealt with this syllogism? Which premise does he deny, if not P5? Where has Sean answered this:
Sean, do you opine the canon of Scripture or know it? If the former, does that not mean your axiom and its attendant theorems could be false, in which case knowledge is impossible? If the latter, do you not agree that such would necessitate that you are regenerate due to the fact only God's sheep listen to, hear, and follow the voice of the Shepherd (1 John 4, John 8, 10)? If so, then why isn't that self-knowledge? Or if you would not agree, why not? 
Or what about Romans 8:16 and 1 Corinthians 2:11, both of which I cited in support of self-knowledge? In reply to another commentator, Sean said that 1 Corinthians 2:12 would appear to be a reference to knowledge in the strict sense.” So if it’s strict in 2:12, why not 2:11? 

What is the point is replying to me if you have no interest in answering any of my questions or arguments, Sean?


Charlie J. Ray said...

I generally agree with your syllogism. Where I part ways is when you deny the Trinity while still claiming to have genuine faith. The Trinity is an essential doctrine and that is why it is part of the creeds and the confessions. It would appear that that the visible church still has some derived authority as long as it is in subjection to Scripture.

Ryan said...

Excuse me, but have you been reading both sides of the exchange between myself and Sean, or just his [mis]representations of what I believe? I am not an Arian, semi-Arian, or Unitarian. Sean has been corrected on that numerous times. I do not reject the deity of Christ. I do not reject the fact He is homoousios with the Father. I do not reject the fact that because He possesses divinity, He may appropriately be called God. I do not think the eternal generation of the Son is unnecessary. In short, I submit to the Nicene Creed, something Sean, Clark, etc. are not able to consistently do.