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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Genuine or Deceived || The Convert

Acknowledging that I am neither a good writer, nor a great theologian, I am going to delve into a topic I think is probably in over my head. However, as I have been counseled when taking oral exams (which I just received an email that I have one coming up soon), keep your words few and you'll get in less trouble. Therefore, this post will probably be startlingly short for a person of my intense rambling and a topic of this profundity.

Genuine or Deceived: The Convert

The person who denies the truths articulated in Scripture for the convert must not be saved, for they doubt the promises of God. (Notice again, we are talking denial. Not that a person is ignorant of a truth about the gospel convert, but that they oppose a teaching from Scripture about the nature of a convert.)

Allow me to illustrate:
    To defend the position that a person must speak in a tongue to be saved is to deny the gospel.
Such a person denies that the Spirit indwells all believers at conversion (Ephesians 1) and requires a work to be added to salvation. To believe, and defend, that a person can repent of sin and trust Christ as Savior, yet be denied the Holy Spirit is to deny the gospel.
    To defend an unrepentant racist position is to deny the gospel.
Such a person denies that God offers salvation to all, is deceived into believing their sinful status is not as bad as another, and denies the nature of man being made in the image of God. Their racist attitude is a manifestation of self-righteousness that sees a certain ethnicity as worth more to God than others. Such a view, defended, can not be done in conjunction with the gospel.

I chose to make each statements a bit more active than passive. I am not saying a person who naively thinks all believers must speak in tongues, or a person who struggles to trust a particular race, are clearly not saved. I chose to say the person defends the position when confronted with their problem (whether doctrine or practice).

I believe this is where church discipline comes in. Why does church discipline conclude with the person being "treated as an unbeliever?" Because, when church discipline is rightly administered, a person is exposed to their doctrine or practice in light of the gospel and called upon to choose the gospel or their sin. Church discipline is not meant to be a threat, hoping to call my brother from sin by the inconvenience a frustrated church will be to him. Church discipline is meant to be a tool, a discipleship technique to call a person to examine their life. If they choose their sin over the gospel (for proper church displine should lead them to that conclusion), then I must say the person has not chosen the gospel. (What other term but "nonbeliever" can we give one who chooses not to trust the gospel?)

I do not look at a person who sins as a nonbeliever (I John 1). I do not even look at a person caught in a sin pattern as a nonbeliever. I still can not conclude, even if a person has lost family and relationships over their sin that they must be a nonbeliever. But, if discipline has been rightly administered, and a person chooses their sin in light of the exposed denial of the gospel that their doctrine/action makes, I have no choice but to view that person as a nonbeliever. And I have to view their departure from the faith, as evidence that they never were truly in the faith (I John 2).

They were, in fact, a false convert.


  • At 9:37 AM, Blogger jason said…

    I think you're saying that the genuine convert cannot deny God's word. I think it would good also to provide the flipside of this thought though to say that not all who hold to God's word are converts.

    I also think its good to define why the genuine convert cannot deny God's word. The convert cannot deny God's word first and foremost because it is the revelation of the beautiful, "amiable" God that they were inescapably drawn to in the first place. Edwards says that there are, what he calls, primary and secondary affections. Primary affections are the affections the believer has for the beauty and majesty of God; His moral and practical perfections. These affections cannot be reproduced in the unbeliever. The secondary affections are those for God's word, His blessings, etc. These can very much be reproduced in the unbeliever to their deception. Thus, the mark of a true believer is his affection for the beauty and majesty of God outside of his own benefit from it.

    I hope this clarifies that all those who would affirm the truths of scripture are not necesarily believers. There may afterall be some benefit of the flesh, some selfish motivation that may draw some to back God's word but not really understand the God of the Word.

  • At 12:29 PM, Anonymous brad said…


    So is it affections rather than faith that mark the truly elect?

  • At 2:07 PM, Anonymous McGriff said…

    I think that true faith leads to the affections

  • At 6:37 PM, Blogger jason said…

    Edwards speaks of them as if the two terms were almost synonomous. We do not have genuine faith without some measure of the "primary affections".

  • At 8:23 PM, Anonymous Brad said…

    What about one struggling to experience assurance of salvation?Wouldn't Edwards' teaching drive him to focus upon his own subjective feelings rather than upon the objective promises of God made in the gospel to all who believe? Wouldn't any man making an honest evaluation of his own fallen and fluctuting affections ultimately be led to despair by such a doctrine?

  • At 11:08 AM, Blogger jason said…

    Edwards holds that true religious affections are granted by God. Thus, they are visible in the believer becuase they are contrary to the sinful nature. When 1 Cor. 2 talks about spiritually discerned truth, the believer must have something different, some kind of demarcation from the unbeliever. This is difference that marks the believer. All Edward's is really arguing is that a sense of the beauty and majesty of God is foremost amongst these affections.

    I dont' think that beauty of God is anything that we could really call subjective. If there were ever anything that were objective it would be the beauty and majesty of God. God's attributes, His holiness, love mercy, glory, etc... all exist whether we comprehend them or not.

    We can only truly understand God's promises to be objective when we have some understanding of the beauty and trustworthiness of His attributes.

    If ever there were an assurance of salvation wouldn't it be that the thing that I was formerly an enemy of I now consider beautiful? Furthermore, the only true assurance of salvation that I see mentioned in scripture is the proof of the death of the flesh (Rom. 8:13-16). It is only by "putting to death the misdeeds of the body" that "the Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God".

    I hope this clarifies what I mean. We aren't talking about the subjective feeling I have about God's beauty but rather the revelation that God is beautiful. If we don't have a sense of God's beauty, His trustworthiness, His omnipotence and omniscience, we can't very well trust in His promises. Without these beautiful attributes, His promises are empty and hollow.

  • At 11:40 AM, Anonymous peppo said…


    A fine answer and one I'll have to think about. By the way, I must express the pain with which I express even a hint of disagreement with Edwards. The only point on which I've ever been brave enough to take issue with him is what I view to be his over-emphasis on the conversion experience for assurance of salvation.

    He often seems to say, "You believe the gospel, good. You trust in Christ alone for your salvation, good. You manifest a godly life, good. However, unless you've had this particular emotional experience, you don't have any basis for thinking you're saved."

    Is it really a biblical answer to tell someone struggling with assurance that he needs to look at how he feels about God and that only if his affections for Him are truly strong enough, can be sure he is saved?

    Yes, the glory of God is the only basic objective reality in the universe. But when we base our assurance, not on that glory, but on our assessment of how well we individually appreciate that glory, I think we unecessarily rob ourselves, and those under our teaching, of peace.

  • At 8:45 AM, Blogger jason said…

    Yeah, I hear what you're saying.

    Surely Edwards lived in a time where this might have been overstated. Even the forward to my copy of The Affections recognizes the quickly stated nature of some of Edward's statements.

    However, I think that much of modern Christianity etiher overemphasizes the emotions or downplays them. Faith cannot merely be mental or emotional but a subtle combination of both.

    In Edwards I find a middle ground; doxology permited by theology. Edwards states that the emotions are an evidence of grace but also sees the deceptive nature of emotionalism. However, I can see where some might not be so accepting of this

  • At 6:42 PM, Anonymous peppo said…

    Well said, Jason. Thanks for the pleasant discussion.


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