Contradicting Confessions on Assurance?

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Arch2k

Puritan Board Graduate
I had a meeting with a local pastor last night, and we discussed many topics. The discussion involved an examination between the Heidelberg Catechism and the Westminster Confession on the topic of assurance and how it relates to Saving faith. Here are the two passages in question:

WCF
18:3 This infallible assurance doth not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties before he be a partaker of it (Psa_77:1-12; 88:1-18; Isa_1:10; Mar_9:24; 1Jo_5:13):

Heidelberg Catechism
21. Q. What is true faith?

A. True faith is a sure knowledge whereby I accept as true all that God has revealed to us in His Word.[1] At the same time it is a firm confidence[2] that not only to others, but also to me,[3] God has granted forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation,[4] out of mere grace, only for the sake of Christ's merits.[5] This faith the Holy Spirit works in my heart by the gospel.[6]

[1] John 17:3, 17; Heb. 11:1-3; James 2:19. [2] Rom. 4:18-21; 5:1; 10:10; Heb. 4:16. [3] Gal. 2:20. [4] Rom. 1:17; Heb. 10:10. [5] Rom.3:20-26; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8-10. [6] Acts 16:14; Rom. 1:16; 10:17; I Cor. 1:21.

The WCF says assurance is NOT essential to saving faith, but the HC seems to make it a part of faith. Is there a contradiction between the two? If not, how does one reconcile the wording (specifically of the HC)?
 

wsw201

Puritan Board Senior
Jeff,

This is one of the differences between the continental view and the Puritan view. Joel Beeke has an excellent book on the subject of Assurance and how the idea of faith not being of the essence of faith started. I highly recommend it if you want to really dig into this.
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
I second Beeke's book. It's not really a contradiction when you study the history of development. The Puritans taught 2 kinds of assurance, that initial assurance, which the Dutch would a call part of the essence of faith, that God is "my God", and then a later more subjective assurance which grows as our faith grows. This second type is what the WCF is refering to.
 

C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
As a simple illustration of the same idea - I was saved, am being saved and will be saved. There are different ascpects of "savedness." Same with faith. Assurance, or full assurance, is not of the essence of faith, otherwise, there would be a whole slew of people who are not saved because of the way they "feel" or "misunderstand" what they "know."
 

Average Joey

Puritan Board Junior
Sort of off topic.Wasn`t there a famous hymn writer who always professed he was not saved,because he could not believe he was worthy of salvation?
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
Patrick is right. Two categories are in view: faith and assurance. The Heidelberg is discussing true (or saving) faith, the section on the Confession you cite is discussing assurance of faith.

All the Heidelberg is doing is referencing the classic formulation of true saving faith as (1) notitia (knowledge), (2) assensus (assent to the truth of the proposition) and (3) fiducia (trust). The actual chapter of the Confession that is parallel to Heidelberg 21 is WCF 14 (and also WLC 72).


WCF 14:2 By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God Himself speaking therein;(1) and acteth differently upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands,(2) trembling at the threatenings,(3) and embracing the promises of God for this life and that which is to come.(4) But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.(5) 

WLC 72 What is justifying faith? A. Justifying faith is a saving grace,(1) wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit(2) and word of God,(3) whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself and all other creatures to recover him out of his lost condition,(4) not only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel,(5) but receiveth and resteth upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin,(6) and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.
 

Poimen

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Excuses, excuses. You guys just can't admit that the 3 Forms of Unity are superior to the Westminster Confession/Catechisms!

;)
 

Arch2k

Puritan Board Graduate
Still Confused, but researching

Joel Beeke suggests that the difference between the first generation reformers and the 2nd generation is a difference in degree of assurance, not qualitative. In other words, one (the H.C.) is speaking of a little bit of assurance that comes with justifying faith, whereas the WCF is speaking of a more formed, developed and stronger assurance.

I am still getting hung up at this point:

The WLC expounds differently on what they meant on assurance,

Q81: Are all true believers at all times assured of their present being in the estate of grace, and that they shall be saved?
A81: Assurance of grace and salvation not being of the essence of faith,[1] true believers may wait long before they obtain it;[2] and, after the enjoyment thereof, may have it weakened and intermitted, through manifold distempers, sins, temptations, and desertions;[3] yet are they never left without such a presence and support of the Spirit of God as keeps them from sinking into utter despair.[4]

1. Eph. 1:13
2. Isa. 1:10; Psa. ch. 88
3. Psa. 22:1; 31:22; 51:8, 12; 87:1-12; Song of Sol. 5:2-3, 6
4. I John 3:9; Job 13:15; Psa. 73:15, 23; Isa. 54:7-10

What may believers wait for and still have saving faith? Is this talking of infallible assurance? (i.e. no doubt that you are saved) Or, is it speaking of ANY assurance?

The WLC doesn't seem to be talking about a not having a "full" assurance, it rather reads to me that believers may wait long b
 

Poimen

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Originally posted by WrittenFromUtopia
Originally posted by poimen
Excuses, excuses. You guys just can't admit that the 3 Forms of Unity are superior to the Westminster Confession/Catechisms!

;)

Because they ain't! ;)

You're going down Presbyterian!
 

Arch2k

Puritan Board Graduate
Originally posted by poimen
Originally posted by WrittenFromUtopia
Originally posted by poimen
Excuses, excuses. You guys just can't admit that the 3 Forms of Unity are superior to the Westminster Confession/Catechisms!

;)

Because they ain't! ;)

You're going down Presbyterian!

Hey! If you wanna argue
g1jargue.gif
, go here!
 
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