I’m going to follow up and invite Jim Reitman to get into a one-on-one discussion about the Content issue. It isn’t restricted to other related aspects, but I really want to understand and clarify what the issue is about without Jim feeling like he is getting walloped…and let me add…I’m not totally fond of the experience myself. Now let me explain before you are frustrated. I’m going to open up another post were you can Comment, Discuss, Cut-and-Paste, etc. Go to: The Content of Saving Faith (The Companion Discussion)
So you all will watch us have a dialogue and you will rip and dice and celebrate our conversation. We’ll also take advice, etc…meaning we may borrow from your posts!
You know, I get it from both sides (some of you have been at it a while), which explains why I post on various sites. It seems most fair…but, focusing myself on my blog seems smoother (though people are frustrated with what I allow through…which is almost everything!). I’m not sure about etiquette, but I am sure we are talking about what moves folks from darkness to light.
Here’s the experiment.
Would you please join me in a you-and-I-alone interaction about Content, etc.? I’d like to ask you not to post to the companion post except to clarify terms. We’ll see where it goes & hopefully this will be helpful and gracious. I’ll be at the Free Grace Alliance Conference in a couple of weeks (Click: FGA Conference Brochure), so this should prove helpful toward my time their as well.
I have posted our last comments from the post on Faith as a ‘starter’ for this discussion.
Any of you who want to be updated can subscribe under the “Blog Info” dropdown in the menu bar.
God bless & may the mistaken one convert! 🙂
P.S. Of course, we might already agree and just don’t realize it!
So it began…
On September 18, 2009 at 11:15 am fredlybrand Said:
I guess I’m confused more than I am annoyed.
Jim, what do you believe one must believe to be saved?
Then Jim and I got down to the following:
On September 22, 2009 at 3:11 pm fredlybrand Said:
Thanks for these thoughts…just wanted to get into this record a question about what you’ve shared here. Specifically, the thought that ‘content of saving faith’ isn’t a biblical category.
I’m not sure what makes something a biblical category (seems we are the one’s discerning categories). Even if it isn’t a biblical category, it surely must be a language category.
The content of saving faith is something we believe is knowable or not. It is also something we can believe we know or not. Finally, the content of saving faith is something we can express in language or not.
So, we can’t know it & can’t express it…we can know it but not be able to express it…and, we can know it and express it.
Yet, somewhere in there is the middle possibility that it is knowable, but we just can’t say that we really know it.
These are language issues, not biblical categories.
Any biblical issue can come around to these basics as well…and, of course, the text can just be largely silent (it doesn’t really fully say).
I think Gordon Clark landed here in Saving Faith…clear on faith, but punted on content (just preach the whole counsel of God).
What am I missing here?
Thanks for the question. It gets to the root of my concerns about using the label “Content of Saving Faith.” That phrase suggests that faith is directed at certain kinds of “propositions.” Revelation is comprised of propositions, to be sure, but it is much more than propositions; it typically invites responses, and that is what Greg and I were alluding to by mentioning volition. You can’t boil faith down to “knowability” or “persuasion” alone. There has to be a component of voluntary “acceptance” of God’s grace that involves the will (Rom 5:17, and others, such as Greg has provided).
Secondly, the “transaction” involves an object of faith, which is the Person of Messiah; a basis for salvation, which is the death and Resurrection of that Person; and a result, which is “eternal life.” So when I think of “saving faith” I think of trusting in an object (the promised Messiah) for a result (life after death, forever). The basis by which that promise can be guaranteed is the atoning death and resurrection of the Son of God.
So, when one talks about the so-called COSF, it fails to distinguish these elements, and I believe this has direct bearing on the way the gospel is presented. If we can hash the COSF thing out, then maybe we can go on to discuss the gospel.
Jim…I’ll open it for our discussion tomorrow…we’ll just let it soak overnight! Thanks FRL
As I looked through the discussion with Jim, I realized my most recent post was lost in the mix (partly because WordPress won’t allow replies to replies to replies, etc.). So, Here was my last post:
Sorry, I need to bring this one up to a higher level.
God-speech “does” things more than inform or convince or persuade. Revelation can also offend, convict, humiliate, encourage, mandate, exhort, warn, shame, and condemn, among others. While these different so-called speech-acts can be described by propositions, they are not the same as propositions and do not function as mere truth claims.
Jim, this is simply untrue (it is sort of a language and logic trick…calling something a speech-act doesn’t make it the thing it is named…see William Shakespeare on roses).
Revelation ONLY offends (offend, convict, humiliate, encourage, mandate, exhort, warn, shame, and condemn) when it is believed. We call this the convicting or enlightening work of the Spirit, but it is fundamentally about faith first.
Ephesians says this:
“having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,” (Ephesians 1:18-20, ESV)
Notice that He works in those who believe.
The truth is that people are ACTING on PROPOSITIONS that they believe. Others, who don’t believe them, don’t act on them. We act in faith, but it isn’t a faith-act in the sense you are claiming.
The proof is that people can indeed believe a proposition, but not act (see James 2, or Chapter 4 of Back to Faith, Fred Lybrand).
If people must act consistently with what they believe, then there COULD NOT EXIST such a thing a hypocrite.
‘Speech-acts’ cannot really accurately be called propositions. The proposition is the proposition (which is believed), AND the action is the action (which is done because the proposition is believed).
Well, Fred, your post is kind of out of order in our thread, but I’ll make some brief comments here and then resume the discussion in a more detailed reply to your other response below.
I’m glad you chose this statement to excerpt from my last reply. It really does get to the core of the “language” and “truth” issue I am trying to clarify. And you and I are not using terms the same way at all. So, let me just try to clarify my use of the terms that I believe you have misconstrued:
You said The truth is that people are ACTING on PROPOSITIONS that they believe. Others, who don’t believe them, don’t act on them. We act in faith, but it isn’t a faith-act in the sense you are claiming.
This has elements that are consistent with what I am saying, but I’m saying more than that: First, much of what God says is not in the form of propositions, and you have quoted my above examples to illustrate how that speech can “do” stuff to people other than persuading them that something is true. A common example in Scripture is the command: We are not being asked to “believe” a command, we are being asked to obey it. One can dispute whether the person making the command has the authority to do so, but that is distinct from obeying or refusing to obey. Second, you use the term “faith-act” which should not be confused with “speech-act.” What you are calling “faith-act” is what I am calling obedience in response to speech-act.
You also said:
‘Speech-acts’ cannot really accurately be called propositions.
That depends on whether the speech-act is making a truth-claim or not. If it is making a truth-claim, it is a proposition and can either be believed or denied. The thing that this kind of speech-act “does” is to inform and/or persuade.
If it is not a proposition or truth-claim, then such nonpropositional speech-acts can either be resisted or embraced, but it is a category mistake to claim that they must be believed or not believed. As I pointed out below in the example of David and Nathan: David’s anger and outrage over the lack of justice Nathan depicted in his story was exactly the response God intended in order to “set David up for the kill” with the ensuing proposition “Thou art the man.” Obviously, David “believed” Nathan’s story (which was only “true” by analogy), but the speech-act was intended to provoke outrage, not to persuade him of a truth-claim until Nathan’s concluding proposition. At that point, the issue was whether David would repent or not, so that does indeed relate directly to your final sentence above.
I’m sorry for getting out of order, but we really have a fundamental issue that I don’t think we can get past. Allow me to get our readers caught up on some of the jargon involved in the conversation. Here’s the some of the lingo-basics according to Hawthorne, Martin, and Reid,
1.5. Intentionality Approaches. There is a growing number of scholars who stress some type of intentionality approach, that is, a return to author and text as generating meaning. Prominent among these are E. D. Hirsch and his followers (e.g., W. Kaiser, E. Johnson) who see the author’s intention as the sole authentic meaning of the text. Hirsch sees two aspects in interpretation—meaning (linked to authorial intent) and significance (as the readers align themselves with the implications of the author’s meaning for the present). The former is never changing while the latter changes with the reader’s context.
Others build more upon the later phase of L. Wittgenstein’s thought and J. Searle’s speech-act theory. Searle argues that the heart of interpretation theory is the notion that language is referential more than it is performative. The sentence is an intentional device that brings hearers into the proper arena so that they might apply the correct rules for recognizing the meaning of the utterance. His thesis is: “speaking a language is engaging in a (highly complex) rule-governed form of behaviour” (Searle 1969, 77, 80). K. Vanhoozer (1986, 91–92) notes four factors that guide interpretation: proposition (the data in the text), purpose (the reason communicated), presence (the form or genre of the message) and power (the illocutionary force of the message). He argues that the reader is ethically bound by the text to discover its intended message. Osborne (411–15) calls for a trialogue between author, text and reader. The reader recognizes the guiding presence of preunderstanding and tradition but seeks to place it in front of rather than behind the text, thus allowing the text to correct previous understanding if necessary. This is not done easily but is accomplished by studying past meaning (via historical-grammatical exegesis) and present interpretative possibilities (via the conclusions of competing reading communities). The key is to allow competing possibilities to drive the interpreter back to reexamine the text in a new and open way.
Finally, A. C. Thiselton (597–619) has developed a comprehensive speech-act hermeneutic. Building upon Wittgenstein’s theory of language games and J. L. Austin’s understanding of performative-language functions, Thiselton argues that texts perform not only locutionary functions (propositional meaning) but also illocutionary acts (calling for commitment and action on the part of the reader). Thus meaning and significance are united in a single act of coming-to-understanding. The text not only communicates its meaning but demands response. While in some ways there is a pluralism of response as the biblical text communicates in many different reading situations, there is not polyvalence (plurality of meanings) in the strictest sense, for the text performs a transforming function, as readers are led to new horizons or life-worlds by the text. For Romans 3 this would involve not only Paul’s development of justification by faith, but also the sense in which the readers are called to experience this for themselves.
Hawthorne, G. F., Martin, R. P., & Reid, D. G. (1993). Dictionary of Paul and his letters (390). Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.
Now, as I hate to say these things…I am an educated man as are you. I have a degree in literature, served time in law school, have further degrees from Dallas Theological Seminary and Phoenix Seminary…and have been reading, writing, and teaching for over 28 years; but all of this is turning into a mess. This isn’t helpful to the conversation. Are you with Thiselton, Hirsch (who has changed views I understand), Johnson, Kaiser, or Wittgenstein?
Our conversation is really a simple discussion which academics has continued to embrangle. We are aiming at a very straight-forward conversation about the content of saving faith. Introducing concepts such as Searle’s speech-act actually takes us away from the point of the conversations.
Just because something in language is describe as having a demand in it (such as a command) it doesn’t remove the propositional nature of it. At the very least you would agree that coming to acknowledge a command MUST BE predicated on accepting propositions. Here’s the basic idea of propositions (again Websters):
1prop•o•si•tion ˌprä-pə-ˈzi-shən noun
1 a (1) : something offered for consideration or acceptance : proposal
(2) : a request for sexual intercourse
b : the point to be discussed or maintained in argument usually stated in sentence form near the outset
c : a theorem or problem to be demonstrated or performed
2 a : an expression in language or signs of something that can be believed, doubted, or denied or is either true or false
b : the objective meaning of a proposition
3 : something of an indicated kind 〈getting there is a tough proposition〉 〈the farm was never a paying proposition〉
Merriam-Webster, I. (1996, c1993). Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. Includes index. (10th ed.). Springfield, Mass., U.S.A.: Merriam-Webster.
Further, a to propose means,
[Middle English, from Middle French proposer, from Latin proponere (perfect indicative proposui) — more at propound]
1 : to form or put forward a plan or intention 〈man proposes, but God disposes〉
2 obsolete : to engage in talk or discussion
3 : to make an offer of marriage
1 a : to set before the mind (as for discussion, imitation, or action) 〈propose a plan for settling the dispute〉
b : to set before someone and especially oneself as an aim or intent 〈proposed to spend the summer in Italy〉
2 a : to set forth for acceptance or rejection 〈propose terms for peace〉 〈propose a topic for debate〉
b : to recommend to fill a place or vacancy : nominate 〈propose them for membership〉
c : to offer as a toast 〈propose the happiness of the couple〉
— pro•pos•er noun
Merriam-Webster, I. (1996, c1993). Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. Includes index. (10th ed.). Springfield, Mass., U.S.A.: Merriam-Webster.
The Bible sets before our minds propositions. That these propositions (which also amount to content or information) may be accepted, rejected, believed, doubted, followed, etc., are not relevant to our essential conversation on the Content of Saving Faith.
Even if you think my question is wrong [What must one believe to be saved?], and would be better stated, “Who must one believe to be saved?”—I still would propose, “What must one believe about Who must one believe to be saved” still comes back to the nature of faith needing a proposition to understand and believe. In private correspondence I know that some are starting to propose that understanding is not necessary for faith (?).
I, and all of us who are interested in sharing the gospel so others might join us in heaven [which no doubt includes you], have a really hard time with understanding the inordinate convolution such theological wranglings produce.
It sounds like you are simply saying to all lay-folks that they must have deep linguistic insight into the nuances of the distinctions between propositional and non-propositional objects of faith. Further, appreciating speech-acts (specifically the illocutionary force of the message) and the essence of a command verses a promise, doesn’t actually help the conversation.
FAITH is about believing something. What? Who?
What about Who? The WHO said WHAT that I need to believe it?
I want to have this conversation, but we are so far afield now that very few people can follow. Please, can we go back to a simple conversation that is on the topic?
P.S. I almost feel we need to start over. If it is necessary for the common person to understand your view of linguistics, hermeneutics, and the illocutionary force of the message, then it is no wonder people have been so frustrated in talking about something so simple. It was Wittgenstein who said (paraphrased), “If you can’t say it, you don’t know it.”
Please don’t take what I’m saying a rude or ungracious or uninviting, but there is a level of plain language we can interact within. I know that there is nothing one can believe that doesn’t arise through foundational (at least) propositions. We still must believe in something and that something is true. It isn’t that I don’t have the time or patience; it is that I don’t see the value. Is there a way for you to keep this straight and simple?
I want to reload this discussion if Jim is willing. The comments above seem to have gotten lost (and I haven’t seen a response from Jim in 4 days.
I really want to take the blame here in not framing things properly. Jim and I certainly have different views on some things, and different ways to express agreed upon things. Rather than getting into the minutiae of different aspects of whether or not hermeneutics has been damaged by being too rationalistic (though Jim agree that being rational is important), etc., I really just want to give Jim the opportunity to state what he really believes. Now, stating what he believes may take some explanation of his epistemology. I want to be patient with this as well. In other words, I’d like to give Jim a real opportunity to tell me / us what he believes it takes for one to be saved. In this way I can interact with him on the actual goal: hearing what he believes is the content of the gospel. Perhaps more accurately he will need to address what is the content-side of the gospel (Jim, I think, believes the gospel…here we mean what it takes to get saved from heaven to hell…involves more than faith in content).
So, please go to The Content of Saving Faith (The Dialogue) (REDUX)
Thanks and Grace,
P.S. Jim, you may certainly respond to this (above) if you’d like. Just email it and I’ll post it.