Friday, August 10, 2012

Two Faiths, or One Faith with Two Stages?

On October 21, 2008, fellow contributor Stephen wrote:
"The Hardshells not only insist on "two kinds of salvation" in the Bible, but also two kinds of faith, two kinds of sanctification, two kinds of births, two kinds of obedience, two kinds of following Christ, two kinds of repentance, two kinds of hearing Christ's words, two kinds of life, two kinds of forgiveness, etc."
These are words with which I heartily agree.  The duplication of Christian virtues is the inevitable result of what happens when one follows a system which attempts to preserve God fulfilling his purpose concerning His elect in time, but will not allow Him to do so through gospel means.  For each evangelical blessing that is to be conveyed to the children of God, a non-evangelical version must be created of which they are said to receive, where the former is left uncertain.  However, if “two faiths” is a caricature view, as Brother Jason Brown has charged in his rebuttal to my last posting, then both Brother Stephen and myself are guilty.  Yet we both spent double-digit years under this doctrine, in which a distinction was often made between seed and evangelical faith. 

If the terminology of “two faiths” is a caricature, it would stand to reason that the charge of "two kinds" of other virtues (listed above) are a caricature as well.  What of "two salvations"?  Is that a caricature? If evangelical faith is an extension of seed faith in regeneration, then is gospel conversion (i.e. time salvation) also an extension of regeneration?  It would seem that way.  For if evangelical faith is not really a separate faith from that received in regeneration, then the "two salvations" which are said to bring seed and evangelical faith, respectively, should be considered a single unit as well. Otherwise we are left with the strange conclusion that time salvation conveys and imparts a blessing which is actually part of the first salvation!  Thus, the verbage of “two salvations” should henceforth be discarded. Starting today, it should be declared that there really are not two salvations taught in scripture.  Rather, there is one salvation taught in the Bible, in which regeneration and the future gospel conversion are the components.  For to call it two salvations would be a caricature!
But let us notice the usage of two faiths in the following citations.
I do believe that all who are regenerated will and do have faith, but deny that the "faith" -- that is, the believing response to God -- is in all cases "cognitive" or "informed" faith -- for cognitive faith necessarily depends on hearing the rational proclamation of the gospel; rather, I do not hesitate to affirm that it is, in all cases, below the level of consciousness -- Lazarus-like, the sinner responds believingly to Christ in response to His Divine fiat in regeneration, being made willing in the day of His power, believing according to the working of His mighty power, and coming to Christ in "vital" relationship (Ps. 110:3; Eph. 2:8; Eph. 1:19; Jno. 6:37, 44). Cognitive faith is indeed present in some, but the gift of faith is present in all of God's children; hence, I concur that no one goes to heaven without faith, but deny that no one goes to heaven without rational knowledge of the truth. A teaching does indeed take place in the new birth, for God teaches the heart directly and immediately to know Him (Jno. 6:65). Cognitive faith, however, must necessarily come after this initial work of grace in the soul, for it depends on the instrumentality of the preached word. Obviously, if such cognitive (or evangelical) faith is necessary to eternal salvation, then every infant who dies in infancy and every individual without average mental capacities would miss salvation.” (Michael Gowens, Temporal Salvation: A Bogus or Biblical Concept?)
Clear reference is here made by the author to faith below the level of consciousness versus cognitive/informed faith.  Let’s do the math: 1+1=2. That’s what the unacquainted reader would conclude.  Unfortunately, the citation does not answer the question as to whether the author really feels that there is in reality only ONE faith, separated in two possible stages.  I think that would all depend on whether he aligns himself to the position which states that the regenerate elect who do get to hear the gospel would receive it or reject it.
Let us take another quote:
“Understanding faith will have a great effect on our relationship with God and our Savior while we yet live in this low ground of sin and sorrow.  Where does faith come from?  Can someone who is not a child of God believe in Jesus Christ?  Who can believe, when can they believe, and why do they believe?  Will all of God’s elect believe in Jesus Christ?  Does faith have the same meaning every time it is used in the scripture?  Are there different kinds of faith?  Could there be different phases of the same faith?” (Randy Dillon, Faith, Primitive Advocate)
Since inquiry is made both to whether there are different kinds of faith or different phases of it, it is not known as to whether the author prefers to use the terminology “two faiths” or one faith composed of the seed and evangelical phase/steps.
And lastly, in the pivotal trial of Mt. Carmel Church, Elder T.S. Dalton was questioned:
"You believe that God given faith is essential to the salvation of God's people, do you not?"
To which he replied:
"I will say this, that there is a belief produced through the preaching of the Gospel and there is a belief of the sacred truth of God; but that belief which is produced through the preaching of the Gospel is not a necessary adjunct in the eternal salvation of the sinner.  But there is a faith that is implanted by the Spirit of God in the soul of every man that will ever enter Heaven, and no man will ever go to Heaven without that Divine eternal faith by the Spirit of God."
If the true position within this system is that there is one faith composed of two stages, and not two faiths, then the fault lies not with me in making a caricature, but the failure of others in not pointing this out.  I repeat what I read and hear.  When they are held in contrast with each other in sermons or quotations such as those given above, it is quite easy to walk away with the impression that there is one "kind" of faith necessary for salvation, and another "kind" which is not.  I think Brother Stephen would join me in saying that we heard it expressed this way for many years.

The main point, though, is that even if I were to go back and rewrite my posting, and change my verbage of "two faiths" to one faith with two aspects, the substance remains the same.  Passages yoking faith with salvation must still be given an interpretation.  So I express it differently.  What is that stage or aspect of the ONE faith which unites us to Christ, as in Gal. 3:26?  Is it:

1) faith below the consciousness through the preaching of Jesus?
2) cognitive faith through the preaching of Jesus?
3) cognitive faith through the preaching of men?

Or some other permutation?  This is not a haphazard handling of a subject, but a legitimate question based on the various aspects of faith as defined by the very inventors of this regeneration-conversion divorcement.
But let us, for the sake of argument, suppose that there is one faith in Christ, consisting of two distinct stages separated by some expanse of time.  The result is that we end up facing that question which often surfaces in theological circles:  Is there any time gap between regeneration and conversion?  I can remember the time when I struggled with this question.  Entertaining this as a possibility was part of the process the Lord brought me through when I left the anti-means position.  As I grew in my understanding of some of the deeper things of soteriology I came to see all the theological problems created when one espouses such a view, not to mention the proof texts in the Bible which destroy it. The scriptures annihilate the idea of a time gap between regeneration and conversion, and thus the position that says that one receives seed faith in regeneration, and then evangelical faith one week, one year, or twenty years later.  It does so by specific proof texts in which evangelical faith as preached by MAN is included as part of the transition in which one goes from death in sins to life in Christ.
"In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory." (Eph. 1:13-14)
The text is clear.  The faith is evangelical.  The verses preceeding are dealing with matters respecting eternal salvation, and are some of the most profound of the Bible.  The sealing of the Holy Spirit speaks of how the regenerate are safe in Christ.  They receive the earnest of the inheritance, not in time salvation, but in regeneration!  I have never encountered one single writer in history who argues otherwise, and I certainly am not wiser than they.
But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.” (Rom. 6:17-18)

They were the servants of sin (i.e. unregenerate).  The doctrine was presented to them in that condition!  They obeyed the doctrine thus presented!  They were made free from sin! Not in time salvation, but in regeneration! 

It takes a most prejudiced mind to deny that these scriptures teach that the gospel is somehow involved in deliverance from depravity.

It is most interesting as well that Brother Jason commented favorably on a recent posting of mine regarding John Watson.  The stickler is that the Elder mentioned the evangelical faith (the gospel preached by man) of Romans 10 as transitional in going from death to life.

I post it again.

"Some do not object if the believers only be exhorted, but contend it is wrong to exhort the impenitent sinner to repent, or the unbeliever to believe! because the doctrine of repentance and faith is that they are both the gifts of God.  Has not the Lord ordained the preaching of His word to that very end? Rom. 10:8,15."

Lest there should be any doubt that the Elder felt evangelical faith was part of the transition from death to life, he writes as well:

"I would just state here, at once, that I have no idea that sinners, dead in trespasses and sins, will ever believe through the mere preaching of the Gospel, or through the exhortations of the Lord's ministers, any more than that they dry bones would have lived through the prophecying of the prophet, apart from what the Lord did for them.  But that fact does not nullify the commission to preach to them, but on the contrary greatly strengthens it.  The divine assurance that God's word will prosper in the thing whereunto He hath sent it, affords greate encouragement to preach to sinners.  If it be said by the objector that they are deaf and cannot hear it, faith replies God can open their ears; if said they are dead, faith again says God will give them life; and thus faith can meet all the objections which can be urged against preaching to the very chief of sinners, and at the same time exclude that Arminianism which some effect to see in a course of this kind."

Thus we see that evangelical faith is not something far removed from regeneration, but part and parcel to it. To deny this by placing it in the category of "conversion" as defined by those contending for the ordo salutis is no defense at all. Saying that there are people walking about in society who have been regenerated for x number of years and not converted is something entirely different.

Throughout the debate he has had with Brother Stephen, I noticed how Jason relied heavily on the case of Peter cited in Luke 22:32 to prove that such a time gap is warranted.  This is not according to sound hermeneutics.  Case studies should not be used as proof texts.  The exegesis of explicit Bible passages such as Eph. 1:13-14 and Romans 6:17-18 mentioned above should be where one grounds his doctrine, with case studies being interpreted in their light.  If we follow that rule, we will see that when one is regenerated, he is converted.

Right then and there.

For a more specific treatment of this soteriological "system of twos", I refer the reader to Brother Stephen's article:

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