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"You Ask Me How I Know He Lives . . . He Lives Within My Heart". . . And Other Stupid Statements

The longer I am in ministry, the longer I teach theology, the more I see that some things are not quite as clear as they used to be. At one time, I had pretty much everything figured out. Ministry was just about transferring this information effectively. That is the peril of theology. If you want to have it all figured out, don’t get into this business!

At the same time, there are many things that I have believed and about which I continue to grow in conviction. One of these, ironically, is the simplicity of the Christian life. The center point is really not too difficult. God wants us to believe him. Trust, belief, conviction, assurance. These are all words we use to describe this act of the will – faith.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines faith this way:

  1. Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.
  2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.
  3. Loyalty to a person or thing; allegiance: keeping faith with one’s supporters.
  4. The theological virtue defined as secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God’s will.
  5. The body of dogma of a religion: the Muslim faith.
  6. A set of principles or beliefs.

Each one of these, in the right context, could describe some aspect of the Christian faith. But we need to go one step further in understanding this term “faith” in a particularly Christian way.

The Reformers sought to distinguish true faith from false faith. The battle cry of sola fide (justification by faith alone) demanded that they define faith in a precise manner.

As started by Luther and developed further by Melancthon and others, the understanding of faith was expressed in three separate yet vitally connected aspects: notitia, assensus, and fiducia.

1. Notitia: This is the basic informational foundation of our faith. It is best expressed by the word “content.” Faith, according to the Reformers, must have content or substance. You cannot have faith in nothing. There must be some referential, propositional truth to which the faith points. The proposition “Christ rose from the grave” or “God loves you” for example, provide a necessary information base or notitia that Christians must have.

2. Assensus: This is the assent, confidence, or assurance that we have that the notitia is correct. Here we assent to the information, affirming it to be true. This involves evidence which leads to the conviction of the truthfulness of the proposition. According to the Reformers, to have knowledge of the proposition is not enough. We must, to some degree, be convinced that it is really true. This involves intellectual assent and persuasion based upon some degree of critical thought. While notitia claims “Christ rose from the grave,” assensus takes the next step and says, “I am persuaded to believe that Christ rose from the grave.”

But these two alone are not enough, according to the Reformers. As one person has said, these two only qualify you to be a demon, for the demons both have the right information (Jesus rose from the grave) and are convicted of its truthfulness. One aspect still remains.

3. Fiducia: This is the “resting” in the information based upon a conviction of its truthfulness. Fiducia is best expressed by the English word “trust.” We have the information, we are persuaded of its truthfulness, and now we have to trust in it. Christ died for our sins (notitia). I believe that Christ died for my sins (notitia + assensus). I place my trust in Christ to save me (fiducia). Fiducia is the personal, subjective act of the will to take the final step. It is important to note that while fiducia goes beyond or transcends the intellect, it is built upon its foundation.

The Church today seems to lack #2. Nominal Christianity lacks #3. Postmodernism lacks #1 and #2.

The change occurred during the Enlightenment. Rene Descartes introduced the criteria of absolute certainty (absolute assensus) about all things. Hume responded with radical skepticism (non-assensus) about all things. Kant provided a mediating position which provided the basic framework for our current epistemology. Kant proposed that while we cannot be certain about all things, there is no reason to be skeptical about everything, either.

He relegated all knowledge into two categories: 1.) The real world, which can be known and understood through observation (the phenomenal), and 2.) that which cannot be known because it is unknowable (the noumenal). Religion and all matters concerning the knowledge of God and metaphysics were placed in the noumenal category. Kant was basically saying, you can believe in God, but you cannot believe in Him like you believe in your friends, car, or your popcorn machine. However, when you believe in God, you must understand that your belief is not based in knowledge and intellectual conviction, but in faith.

Hence came the now popular dichotomy between faith and reason. Hence rose anti-intellectualism in the church; hence came the unbiblical banishing of assensus from the Christian faith. Unfortunately, the church has bought into this Kantian philosophy and has been plagued with it for the last 200 years.

We have a song to commemorate this. You know the one? It goes like this, “You ask me how I know he lives, he lives within my heart.” In other words, I don’t have any true assensus, therefore I appeal to emotional conviction and say it is from the Holy Spirit. Indeed, it could be from the Holy Spirit, but it could just as well be self-produced or from a demon. How do you know the difference?  Many in the evangelical church today have the right information (notitia) but they blindly trust in that information without considering it in a critical manner. Notitia and fiducia without assensus is blind faith.

Please do not get me wrong. I am not saying that this kind of faith cannot be real, but I am saying that it is dangerous. The more I read about those who have “walked away from the faith,” the more I see that their faith was void of this important element that solidifies the truth in their heart.

This can be illustrated by the different seeds in the Parable of the Soils. Two of the three seeds that take root (believe) fall away after a “short time” (it is interesting that we don’t know how short the “short time” is – another blog). Why do they fall away? One reason is probably because they are not really persuaded of the truth. In the end, other truths prove more convincing. Like the character “Pliable” in Pilgrim’s Progress who is never convinced of any particular truth, there are those who wander from “truth” to “truth” based upon the expediency of the day. In the end, I fear, there are many out there who, like Pliable, are really not convinced of who Christ is and what He did.

Am I saying that assensus is the most important aspect of faith? Not at all. All three are equally important. What I am saying is that it is the most neglected. When assensus is neglected, Christianity has no more legitimacy than any other worldview. This is unfortunate. While I believe every other worldview must necessarily exclude assensus to survive, Christianity is the only worldview that does not.

89 Responses to “"You Ask Me How I Know He Lives . . . He Lives Within My Heart". . . And Other Stupid Statements”

  1. Okay dude, you are moving to the top of my blog bookmark list.
    or CMP, you make me heart theology, (gush).

    The last three paragraphs defined what my problem was. Thanks.

  2. I don’t mean to be deragatory, but when I read the post I was reminded of my extended family, which professes “belief” in Jesus … notitia, that is! Many are deceived in this area. They think just because they know the truth that Jesus died and rose again, they think that is faith enough. I agree that unless they come to fiducia via assensus, they are mis-guided, even deceived.

  3. I wonder if the “assensus” aspect of faith is a one time thing. I find that the assensus aspect of faith is the hardest one for me. Every so often different life experiences or just the over analytical nature of my brain cause me to more or less doubt my faith. It seems I often have to go back, examine the evidence and “re-assent”. Is faith big enough to occasionally encompass doubt?

  4. @Michael

    I definitely believe that the assensus can and should fluctuate based on the information available at the time. People first believed that the world was flat because all the evidence they had at the time pointed to that conclusion. As more evidence was gathered, they came to the conclusion that the world was not flat, but round. This should be the same in our Christian lives as well. We should not be so firmly rooted to some beliefs that we defend them without question, without consideration of any new evidence. God’s truth will always prevail – but it is the quest for that truth that brings us closer to understanding.

    I think this fits in perfectly with yesterdays post on the Creation/Evolution debate:
    http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2009/05/six-views-on-the-creationevolution-debate/

  5. Um, if one is a Calvinist the real and foundational reason that people “don’t have any true assensus” or “why do they fall away” is that they are not elect. If they are not elect then they are not subject to the irresistable grace of God. God either puts all three aspects of faith into one’s heart or He does not. If God does not irresistably draw someone and put all three aspects of faith into that person’s heart, then there is nothing that person can do about it, or would want to do about it (being lost in total depravity, they would not desire saving faith/ seek after God). Consequently, I fail to see how “neglect” of “assensus” is relevant, useful, or even true. Once one preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ it is up to God to draw someone irresistably to Himself. We can talk until the cows come home about assensus, but unless God gives it our hearers are never going to get it.

    Regards,
    #John

  6. Lisa Robinson May 29, 2009 at 6:31 am

    #John,

    I’m not sure how you are concluding that assensus contradicts that fact that the Holy Spirit must draw a person to the gospel. Michael said ‘this involves evidence which leads to the conviction of the truthfulness of the proposition.’. I would say the conviction is the role of the Spirit, no?

  7. Lisa R.,

    ? Perhaps there is some miscommunication. I’m not concluding that there is a contradiction. I’m concluding that there is irrelevancy. Assuming the truth of TULIP Calvinism, faith is entirely the work of the Spirit. There is nothing that we can do in regard to producing saving faith. Teaching, or focussing on, assensus will have no effect. If someone leaves the faith because of faulty or lacking assensus (per CMP’s illustration), it is because the Spirit did not produce in them the requisite assensus, and the Spirit did not do so because that person was not elect.

    I also disagree with Michael’s mocking of the song, but I’ll leave that for another post.

    Regards
    #John

  8. #John, I think the Spirit of God regenarates a person, thus enabling her/him to exercise saving faith, where assensus also plays a part.

    And I believe CMP was only using the song to get the point across, and was not mocking the song itself!

  9. #John,

    How you arrive at faith is not the same thing as the aspects of faith once you’ve got it. The initial rush to faith (notitia) was certainly prompted by God, and in His believers, He places a thirst to know more. However, that aspect (assensus) comes from effort on our part (reading Scripture, etc), it doesn’t just arrive. This is the “renewing of our minds” part. And, as Michael writes, it is a part that is missing from a lot of churches, leading to a shallow faith that often turns out not to have been a real faith at all, or is very susceptible to corruption by false teaching. Calvin never writes that we are puppets, with God doing all the work. We are called to work out our faith, since our initial step into faith is only the first step of a long road toward sanctification, a process in which are very active participants.

  10. Note that it is CMP who ties assensus to “walking away from the faith”. That kind of faith is saving faith. It is a fundamental tenet of TULIP Calvinism that we have no work that contributes to our salvation, and that we do not even contribute our faith (as that would be a work) but that our faith is entirely from God (as a gift of his mercy and grace).

    Regards,
    #John

  11. A fine post, C. Michael Patton! Dallas Willard’s latest would be a good explication upon the introductory material you present here on the nature of faith. See his Knowing Christ Today.

    Also, consider my lecture, given in Budapest, 2005, Faith and Reason: Friends or Foes?.

  12. I don’t know if it’s because I haven’t had my coffee yet or if I’m suffering from the curse of being a Lutheran, but I read this post and saw it riddled with works.

    #John,
    The same goes for Lutherans. Faith is a work of the Holy Spirit, it is not a work I can do.

  13. Michael, I really enjoyed this blog. I have never heard faith explained and broken down like this. It gives me much more clarity now. Thank You!
    I can see for myself how I began in my Christian walk in notitia. I really had nothing to base my belief on other than what someone had told me about Christ and His salvation. I had not experienced anything yet that would allow me to move into Assensus. A true revelation and conviction of sin living in me came many years later. With this brought the persuasion I lacked to really know that I needed Christ as my Savior. Yet again it would be years before I totally trusted (fiducia). (I have heard the word surrendered to explain this part of faith too.) I believe this came through study and prayer and it too was a revelation and a conviction from God, that I was not totally trusting Him. I came to a point where I had to cross the line into fiducia. As I submitted to God I found myself placed upon a solid foundation I could rest on. Now, I believe God had orchastrated and prepared all of the ways that lead me up to the revelations and convictions I needed to secure in me the foundation of total fiducia. I also believe that those who have stepped into notitia have a responsibilitly to make thier calling and election sure as they seek God and prove His perfect will. There are too many people that are at the point of notitia who do not take what they have believed intellectually and allow it to penetrate their hearts. God says you will seek Me and find Me, when you seek me with all your heart. I believe our faith grows from a mustard seed and as God reveals Himself to us and we surrender to His will we will come to the point fudica.

  14. John the “Calvinist” follower…
    Can we receive notitia, assensus and fiducia when we believe and yet not have a full revelation and knowledge of the substance of that faith that eventually leads us to truly trust ?

  15. I see the same confusion here as # John does regarding what has been said here about faith and the very much stressed point in Calvinism that it is God that gives us that faith as a gift of mercy and it has nothing to do with us. Maybe we are both missing something here, but that has come across loudly and clearly in discussions on Calvinism.

  16. Is it works when we are told to make every effort supplement our faith with virtue, knowledge, self control,steadfastness, godliness,botherly affections, and with love? If these are ours and are increasing they keep us from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  17. Sherry,

    I have never thought it was (# 16). However, it seems to me that things I don’t consider works are considered so by Calvinists. That is my whole point.

  18. Dude! You’re dissin’ my song! Whassup with that? I have a great bluesy arrangement in 12/8 – think Stevie Ray – I play it every Easter, and every Easter the old folks go away shaking their heads. It’s awesome. And now you got me questioning the theology. Dude!!!

    You can’t judge a song by the hook. Pay attention to the verses and I think you’ll see it covers all three of your essentials. In verse 1 we find “I see his hand of mercy, I hear his voice of cheer” Those are statements of evidence (maybe a little subjective, but still..)and therefore assensus. In verse 2 we have “In all the world around me I see his loving care” (more evidence/assensus) and “though my heart grows weary, I never will despair (fiducia), “I know that he is with me through all the stormy blast” (notitia).

    If you’re gonna pick at the theology in a much-loved song, choose one that deserves it, like “In the Garden.” Or maybe something by U2.

  19. I do agree that our faith and our salvation are gifts from God we do not come to a revelation of them in any way on our own, but it seems we have a certain responsibility to participate in the working it out part through the help of the Holy Spirit…Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.

  20. I applaud Sherry N’s growth in the faith, and have experienced the same sort of things.

    I suggest, though, that Sherry N. has related her experience to the threefold faith framework of notitia, assensus and fiducia in a manner that compartmentalizes them more than necessary and does not adequately relate the various aspects of faith to her own faith as it grew. If Sherry had enough initial faith to go to church and praise God, then that indicates not only knowledge, but also assent that it is true, and enough reliance on it that she would trust it enough to worship in public. Perhaps only a little assensus and fiducia, but sufficient for her to act on her notitia.

    What I have found happens is that God continually exposes more areas of our life and being where we don’t act in dependence on and trust in him. These exposures can result in small jumps or big leaps in our faith growth. Sometimes so large that it seems by comparison that we did not have any faith before.

    Regards,
    #John

  21. I do believe that our testimony is a very valid point in witnessing. Our faith is part of that. Our testimony should be based on the scriptures we are using to witness. A shrewd skeptic may not consider your testimony but most people will not dispute you when you talk about how Christ changed your life and that it is based on faith but God does reveal Himself to you and you can reassure others that He will make Himself known to them.

  22. John
    Yes, maybe I did over compartmentalize explaining my experience it was not my intention. It is just very hard to put words to my experience. Thank you for bringing that out.
    I do want to say that I am not sure at that point if it was faith that pressed me to church and to praise God or that it was more of “it was what I was suppose to do as a new Christian”. Maybe there was some faith involved as you said… but very little. It seems to me I just followed what everyone was doing or told me I should do without any real connection to the reason why. My knowledge was based on others knowledge not my own.

  23. Michael,
    Very good insights about the different soils which the seed falls on. The parable of the sower and soils has befuddled me since I first read it in 1983. And I have seen it happen in each of those soils many times, although you can only tell which soil it was in hindsight. Wow, great post!

  24. CMP,

    Great post. What a terrific overview.

  25. rayner markley May 30, 2009 at 7:45 am

    Do we see here any signs that Michael may someday relax some of his strict TULIP positions?

  26. I had written a longer comment with quotations of the verse but I accidentally closed my browser, so this summary will have to do. Look at Jesus’ preaching, look at what the gospels say Jesus sent the apostles to preach during his earthly ministry, and you will see most of the emphasis is on repentance. Look at what God says in the cloud on the mount of transfiguration “This is my beloved son: HEAR him.” Look especially at the sermon Peter preaches in Cornelius’ house in Acts 10 and that Paul preaches in Acts 17, and at the parables of Christ in which Christ is depicted as Judge. The message of both Peter and Paul is that Jesus’ resurrection was done to prove him to be Judge and to indicate that you need to repent. In Acts 24 Paul reasoned with Felix of “of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come,” undoubtedly because Christ is Judge. In John 5:29 Jesus says those who have done good will be raised to eternal life, those who have done bad to eternal damnation. He says the Father has committed all the judging to the Son, and yet he also says that for those who reject his words (John 12:47) he will not judge personally but the words he has spoken will be the true judges.

    In Romans 14:10 Paul says “for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ and in 2 Cor 5:10 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”

    What’s the point? This is what is missing in faith today. Everyone seems to believe in all or nothing salvation. The Judgment seat of Christ for Christians is gone, they think. The need to repent for Christians is gone, they think. Yet Jesus tells a parable in Luke 12:42-49 in which three servants are pictured. One is cut in pieces and given his portion with the unbelievers. (This shows that ‘servants’ in the parable means ‘believers.’) The next is beaten with MANY stripes. The next is beaten with few stripes. But everyone today says its either 100% scott-free frolicking in heaven or 100% broiling in hell. They fail to realize that even the saved can be beaten with many stripes. But what’s worse, they fail to see that even a believer can be given his portion with the unbelievers if he refuses to live as a true Christian, for “if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?”

    Faith in Christ, faith in his death, burial and resurrection, is also faith in what that means: God raised him from the dead to show that he will be the Judge! The voice of God from the bright cloud says “This is my beloved Son: HEAR him.” Hear him, for he is the Judge. OBEY his doctrine, for his words will Judge you in the end. And He is “the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;” (Hebrews 5:9)

  27. “I fail to see how ‘neglect’ of ‘assensus’ is relevant, useful, or even true. Once one preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ it is up to God to draw someone irresistably to Himself.”

    I just love how Cavinism blames God for men’s failures. (sarcasm) Maybe this post is proof that it isn’t God’s fault that men fail, because men have free-will. A novel concept I know, but less blasphemous nonetheless.

  28. While I was in the bible this morning, I came across this verse Ephesians 3:17
    “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith”
    This is a pretty simple statement… even a child could understand.
    Where does Jesus live you ask? Faith says… He lives within in my heart! How do I know He lives in my heart? …The bible tells me so!

  29. Lisa Robinson May 30, 2009 at 11:31 am

    Sherry, the issue is not that Christ does not dwell in our hearts but how is it that He comes to dwell in our hearts. And that is the point I think Michael is trying to make. Is it enough to say He lives there because the Bible tells me so? Or does He dwell in our hearts because of what we have accepted as truth and placed trust in based on the facts presented? Consider what Eph 3:17 is saying in context of the whole chapter and I actually, I would say the whole book. We Gentiles, who were once excluded from the promises of God, can be strenghtened in the inner man because of what God has granted to us through Christ. So when Paul commends Christ dwelling in our hearts it is based on everything he previously said and our acceptance of its truthfulness.

  30. ““You Ask Me How I Know He Lives . . . He Lives Within My Heart” And Other Stupid Statements” (Title)

    I think the meaning of this statement (which you call stupid) is that I haven’t seen him nor “touched him” nor “handled him” like the apostle John (1st John 1:1) nor have I “seen in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails” as Thomas did, nor have I had a vision on the road to Damascus like Paul professes, but that I believe nonetheless, as Jesus Himself says to Thomas “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29) and that I know he is alive, not so much by the wrangling arguments of historians as by the reality of the effect he has on my life, how “he has changed me completely, a new life he gave…” to quote another such song.

  31. To the wrangling arguments of historians can be added “the fear-mongering of theologians.” Most who truly believe do so for a perceived impact Jesus has had on their lives not because of historical data or threats of hell. Fact is those who say they know he lives because he’s in their heart are probably stronger in true faith than anyone here.

  32. Folks:
    A confluence of “evidences” should be considered re: the nature of faith. Personal experiences or the “reality of the effect[s]” are one among many reasons to believe that something is true. To quote a dead guy (B. B. Warfield to be exact) we should allow “the avalanche of the evidence” to have its way with us. “Historians’ wranglings,” philosophers’ musings, as well as personal experience can all converge to form a belief. No matter how much I believe something is true, without sufficient empirical and/or philosophical evidence to support that belief, then it borders on mere superstition. Put differently, reality is indifferent to how strongly I hold a belief. We must insist on thinking matters out to their logical conclusions, not shying away from what my be around the next logical corner (philosophy) and take into account the best testimonies of witnesses (history). When the “reality of the effect” on my life comports with these other lines of evidences, then I can have relative certainty my belief is true. This is not to say that one line of evidence has priority over the other, but that all three are sufficient to form a true belief.

  33. Hey Rey,

    Go get a dictionary, look up “blasphemous” and use it correctly.

    And, I completely agree with your interpretation of the song.

  34. Paul, it almost sounds like you are redefining “faith” as “sight” when you speak of “avalanche of evidence.” the only time (unless I am mistaken) that the Bible speaks of “evidence” with respect to “faith” is when Hebrews (11:1) says that “faith…is the evidence of things unseen” not that it is based on evidence but that it itself is the evidence. Certainly that statement defies logic on some level, and yet the reality must be faced that you cannot PROVE Jesus’ resurrection by whipping out the evidence of a video which God has not seen fit to provide, or hundreds of signed affidavits. Sure Paul says 500 brethren saw him, but he provides no names, no letters of sworn testimony. The gospel writers also do not themselves write like eyewitnesses (in first person) but only as men who have heard from eyewitnesses. After all, how could anyone be a witness of the virginity of Mary prior to Jesus’ birth but Joseph her husband? In the end if your view is that true faith must be proven then you will never have true faith in the sense of Hebrews 11. Believing in Jesus resurrection because of the moral effect Jesus has on your life is just as logical as believing because of the evidence that we do have, or rather it IS the strongest evidence we do have. After all personal evidence is always more convincing than second and third hand.

    DavidZ I do know what “blasphemouse” means and blaming God for mens failures certainly fits the definition. Perhaps you need to look up the word “glory” because blaming God for mens failures certainly does not bring him any “glory.”

    Typed on iPod, so please forgive typos.

  35. The New Dictionary of Theology says “Blasphemy connotes a word or deed that directs insolence to the character of God, Christian truth or sacred things.” So, that would include being irreverant or impious or having a mocking spirit. I don’t see those things in those who post here.

    Of course, “blasphemouse” means being irreverant towards Mickey and Minnie.

    (No offence intended, I didn’t even know it’s possible to post from an ipod. But it was great typo, I just couldn’t resist.)

  36. To the wrangling arguments of historians can be added “the fear-mongering of theologians.” Most who truly believe do so for a perceived impact Jesus has had on their lives not because of historical data or threats of hell. Fact is those who say they know he lives because he’s in their heart are probably stronger in true faith than anyone here.

    What fear-mongering of theologians??? What threats of hell??? I wonder where all these anti-intellectualism characters are rising up from.

    Yes, we are saved by faith. Yes, you and I have never seen or handled Jesus. BUT that does not mean that our faith is reduced to a warm feeling in the heart or a Mormon-esque burning in the bosom. The Bible, which is a written record, is given to us that we might believe and that by believing, we might have faith in Christ’s name. Pray tell, how can the heart believe what the mind rejects as false?

    No. Rather, faith is a multi-faceted “action” for lack of a better word. It involves the brain, the heart, the emotions, the will, etc. Reducing it to “it feels right” is nothing more than Bible-esque wishful thinking.

  37. Rey Jacobs:
    Appreciate your thoughtful reply. Exactly how does Heb. 11:1 “defy” logic? The text does not say that “faith” is the evidence but that “faith is being sure” of what we hope for. Faith in Hebrews addresses degrees of certainty.

    Moreover, it seems to me that the degree of authority placed upon a particular “evidence” (personal experience, historical findings, philosophical arguments) can vary depending upon the person. You place more authority on personal experience because of the moral effects of Jesus upon your life, whereas another may place more authority upon a sound philosophical argument in God’s existence (which grounds miracles like the resurrection), or still another may find the most authority in the historical reliability of the New Testament documents (which then grounds the details about which they speak in reality, e.g., the resurrection). It does seem odd, however, (if not triumphalist) to insist upon one “evidence” as the “strongest” simply because that how it works for you. And, of course it’s not illogical for you to do so. That point was never contested.

    Selah.

  38. rayner markley May 30, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    Michael has given an excellent essay on faith. However, it doesn’t address the issue raised by the hymn. It is not a ‘stupid thing’ to say that the Spirit of Jesus lives within us. How else can His Spirit bear witness with our spirit (Romans 8:16)?

  39. “Pray tell, how can the heart believe what the mind rejects as false?” (Douglas K. Adu-Boahen)

    I never said it could. I am merely responding to “You Ask Me How I Know He Lives . . . He Lives Within My Heart” being called stupid. Its not always as stupid as it may sound.

  40. “Appreciate your thoughtful reply. Exactly how does Heb. 11:1 “defy” logic? The text does not say that “faith” is the evidence but that “faith is being sure” of what we hope for. Faith in Hebrews addresses degrees of certainty.” (Paul)

    The text certainly does say that faith is “evidence itself”, or so in the translations I am most familiar with, the KJV and NKJV. It is in the latter part of the verse. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Not only the NKJV, and KJV, but also Geneva and Bishops’ Bible use the word “evidence.” I didn’t realize until your response that many modern translations do not use the word “evidence” here.

    “You place more authority on personal experience because of the moral effects of Jesus upon your life, whereas another may place more authority upon a sound philosophical argument in God’s existence” — Not so, but rather I recognize that philosophical arguments proving God’s existence don’t prove anything about Jesus’ life, death, or resurrection, but only of God’s existence. For the details of Jesus’ life, we need the gospels, and indeed for Jesus’ moral impact on our life, we also need the gospels, for without them that impact would not become real. Certainly, the “authority in the historical reliability of the New Testament documents” (particularly the gospels) is of utmost importance. However, if you simply read the gospels and saw that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, (or as some might suppose, persons other than these individuals claiming to be these individuals), wrote that Jesus was resurrected, it would be utterly unconvincing unless you were first convicted of the wonderfulness of the morality that Jesus taught. I don’t believe anyone is ever first convinced that Jesus rose and then that his teaching was divine. I think it always works the other way around. There is a certain effect, an impact, that his teachings have on a person that makes them believe in the resurrection also. People don’t analyze history and say “Aha! Its proven that Jesus arose! Now I will become a Christian” unless his teachings have apprehended them. The divinity of his morality makes you want to believe that he arose. You aren’t convinced by an empty tomb that you’ve never seen, and that is identified by tradition in at least two different spots. You are convinced by the power in his words, for “No man ever spoke like this Man!” (John 7:46) Perhaps, again, I only speak for myself, but I just can’t see anyone being convinced on purely historical grounds, nor can I see anyone believing the gospels to be “historically reliable” unless they are first convinced by the power of Jesus’ words. Without first being convinced by the power of Jesus’ words, people would not consider the gospels “historically reliable” but rather would just laugh at the gospels as superstitious tales of miracles, as in fact many today do for this very reason.

  41. Rey,

    Here is a problem with that morality is a sign of Christ’s power – MILLIONS of people kick their drinking habit by joining AA, yet Jesus is not the center of AA. Here in the UK, thousands of people have quit smoking thanks to government initiatives, yet Jesus is not integral to those initiatives.

    To say that Jesus is alive because He changed my life is nonetheless true, but will not stand up when tested by someone who is either inquiring about the faith or is out to destroy it. There must be some concrete foundation upon which that faith is based.

  42. I’m with Sherry (post #28)! Great verse. Great point.

    Regards,
    #John

  43. John From Down-Under June 1, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    Question for you Michael (you’d be ‘Mick’ if you lived in Australia!).

    Does Romans 8:16 belong to notitia, assensus or fiducia?

  44. “Here is a problem with that morality is a sign of Christ’s power – MILLIONS of people kick their drinking habit by joining AA, yet Jesus is not the center of AA…To say that Jesus is alive because He changed my life is nonetheless true, but will not stand up when tested by someone who is either inquiring about the faith or is out to destroy it.” (Douglas K. Adu-Boahen)

    Is this discussion about apologetics or about why people really believe? The impact of Christ on your life may be a weak argument in trying to convert someone but that doesn’t make it a weak reason for personal belief. If you are arguing that it is a weak reason for personal belief, then you may yourself be “out to destroy” people’s faith.

    So, let me know this, Doug, if you sat down with an “avalanche of evidence” and determined that its all proven and you’re forced to believe in Jesus’ resurrection by the evidence, what was this great mass of evidence? The eyewitness accounts that are written in 3rd rather than first person and thus are clearly not eyewitness accounts at all? The references to Christ by Roman officials who are clearly only citing what is popularly believed by Christians and not reading from “official records of Rome”? The empty tomb that tradition cannot even place in one and only one spot? A personal appearance of the risen Christ to you on the road to Atlanta? The supposed infallibility of the pope? Your reason for faith, in the end, like everyone elses’ must boil down to the same subjective argument that you are arguing is weak, i.e. the impact of Christ on your life.

  45. I can point to my life as a proof, but not the final proof.

    As a person gifted with logic and reason, just as yourself, I will take the evidence – the Gospels (which I believe to be the Word of God and thus 100% reliable), the fact that non-Christians such as Josephus, Tacitus, etc. all speak of one Jesus who they said actually existed, the fact of fulfilled prophecies and the mountain of remaining evidence which exists – work through that evidence and trust the Spirit of God to use that information to His glory.

    My testimony is pretty simple – grew up in Christian family, saw changed lives week after week, even played in the band at church, but it didn’t move me. It took a Sunday school teacher to preach the Gospel to me before I got “it”. That was age 14. Soon, I began to realise that not everyone shared my evangelical faith and everyone just happened to have some evidence which said Christ was fake. I began to look into the evidence and it strengthened my faith, as well as helped me to contend for the faith with those who were clearly opposed to it.

    Not everyone will accept the idea that, because someone’s life changed, they should be saved. Paul didn’t seem to think so – in Acts 17, he reasoned with the Greeks at Mars Hill from their own worldview and from within their intellectual understanding. Further, Paul, in speaking to Titus, uses Greek poetry to convey the truth that the Cretans to which Paul was sending Titus were far from nice people.

    To say that changed lives are the final and greatest argument is a self-defeated, fideistic position. All that said, it is not the evidence that saves, nor the proof of a changed life – it is the sovereignty of God in salvation that saves a person.

    P.S. I am not out to destroy peoples’ faith – I am simply out, like CMP, to get people to know what they believe and why they believe it, so they can defend it. Great for personal belief – not so great when you’re dealing with a hardcore atheist on the streets of London. If that is destroying people’s faith, you need to get out more (oh, and the Gospels were written by people who saw the events – unless of course, Peter and John lied through their teeth (2 Peter 1:16-17 and 1 John 1:1-3 respectively…)

  46. I personally think that saving faith is to be placed in Christ and not in doctrine or proposition about Him. This does not invalidate theology and the study of God’s revelation, I think all of these serve as the backdrop for the real jewel. Many people (including myself at one time) leave the faith and it is easy because it is leaving a proposition – “I no longer believe that”. But the faith that we must have, if rejected, involves “I no longer believe Him”. I have yet to hear a deconversion story about someone who felt personally betrayed by Christ and wanted nothing to do with Him.

  47. But Ruben,

    If you know nothing about Him and nothing about who He is or what He has done, (which is doctrine), how can you believe in Him?

    I believe that theology can be “over done” and get so detailed and intense that it becomes impractical and maybe self defeating. However, we do have to know something about Him to believe in Him. Paul did tell Timothy to watch his life and his doctrine in order to save both himself and his hearers. I Timothy 4:16

  48. “the Gospels (which I believe to be the Word of God and thus 100% reliable)” (Douglas K. Adu-Boahen)

    In other words, your belief that the gospels are the word of God comes first and your belief that they are historically accurate comes second. This is my point exactly! Something about the gospels first convinces you that they are divine and then and only then do you trust their historicity. You do not first trust their historicity. Who would, after all, with all those miracles they claim happened?

    Now what makes you believe the gospels to be the word of God might not be the morality there inculcated but rather a perception of fulfilled prophecy. Whatever it is, it is THAT which is your true reason for belief, not historical reliability.

  49. In other words, your belief that the gospels are the word of God comes first and your belief that they are historically accurate comes second. This is my point exactly!

    Nice try – but I didn’t say that in any way, shape or form. Actually I wouldn’t put my reasons in a top-down list and I didn’t in my last comment (just listed them from memory), since all of them are pretty important. The fact that Scripture works from the pre-supposition that it is inspired would be on there. The historical reliability would be another. Yet another reason would relate to the internal consistency between the synoptic Gospels.

    That said, historical reliability is a pretty strong reason. You can have everything imaginable – but if it isn’t historically reliable, why waste time? It would be nothing more than an esoteric fable than something worth living and dying for…

    The fact that the Gospels contain a great moral code is neither here nor there. Several world religious texts contain those – but none are as time-tested as the Word of God.

  50. hi cheryl I do agree however what I don’t understand is how little I hear about Jesus,his life and teaching. How can we believe in him if we do not know him? We know about the logistics, the blueprints of salvation but focus so little on the one who is our salvation. In my experience, I had to unlearn a lot of theology and focus only on his life reading the gospel narratives because I realized how little I knew of him and I craved the response he gave to the people he interacted with. I wanted to know him for myself.

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