Is Love a Part of the Nature of Saving Faith?

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S. Alexander Johnson

Puritan Board Freshman
I have a question concerning the nature of saving faith: is love a part of the nature of saving faith or merely the chief fruit of saving faith? Or both?

When I read the WCF, Belgic Conf., and Heidelberg Catechism I don't see love mentioned but when I read Jonathan Edwards and John Piper they add love or "treasuring" into the very definition of saving faith. I'm concerned that adding love into faith has the same harmful consequences as adding the law into the gospel. Do other Reformed theologians add love into faith or is this unique to the those two and a deterrent from Reformed theology and, more importantly, the Bible?

John Piper:
“An essential element of saving faith is treasuring Christ above all things.”
Receiving Christ as your supreme Treasure is what faith is.
"Faith includes the embrace of Jesus as our all-satisfying Treasure.

He goes on to say that within "trust" is trusting Christ as a supreme treasure, and that we must trust him for all that he is, applying it this far:
"I think if you don’t believe in Jesus as your financial advisor, you’re not saved. That is, if you reject his counsel about how to use your money and say, “You’re stupid. I’m smart,” that’s unbelief."

I know I have rejected God's counsel for my finances time and time again, and even my best efforts to do so are flawed, so have I not trusted Christ enough? Have I not treasured him enough? Correct me (seriously) if I'm wrong but I think there is a direct link between defining faith as having love in it and agreeing to Lordship Salvation (or what I call "Treasureship" Salvation which is one step further).

In a separate article Piper says:
"I am pressing into numerous places in the Bible where saving faith is more than knowledge, more than agreement, and more than trust or receiving of a partial Christ."

However here's the most concerning quote from this article: "Where Jesus is not treasured above all things, he is not trusted with saving faith." Piper says this after he interprets Matthew 10:37 as a requirement to be a Christian instead of, how I believe Reformed theologians may take it, as the massive weight of the law upon us that we cannot bear. I believe that Christ often crushes us with the law in the gospel so that we might find our refuge in His perfect law-keeping.

Doesn't "treasuring Christ above all things" sound essentially like the greatest commandment to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." (Matt. 22:37)? And if so, then doesn't Piper's definition of saving faith essentially require the fulfillment of the law, the very thing I cannot do and need a savior for? If treasuring Jesus above all things is the greatest commandment, and if I must do that to have saving faith, then I have no hope and even Rome is a better option.

Lastly, Jonathan Edwards:
Edwards says that "love is the main thing in saving faith." In one sense this makes sense to me because how could someone not love something they were trusting and resting in? Yet love is no small thing and you would think that the reformers would have made sure to include it in the nature of saving faith in the confessions. But they didn't. Why is that? Is it because love is associated with the fulfillment of the law? Piper is very influenced by Edwards, so I think He may be a significant reason why Piper seems to be expanding the definition of the nature of saving faith.

Thank you for reading such a long post. This doesn't come from an ivory tower but from someone who personally knows people who have been crushed by the weight of trying to "treasure Christ above all things" and consequently have struggled with assurance.

Christ IS the greatest treasure, the only one who is worthy of ALL our love. I, however, have a treasuring and love problem in my heart, that's why I need a Savior.

S. Alexander Johnson

Puritan Board Freshman
I came across a couple insights from Calvin:

In his Galatians commentary, specifically Galatians 5:6 (ESV) ["For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love."], Calvin warns, "When you are engaged in discussing the question of justification, beware of allowing any mention to be made of love or of works, but resolutely adhere to the exclusive particle." The exclusive particle being "alone" from "faith alone"/"Sola Fide".

It is interesting that in the Geneva Catechism which Calvin wrote, he sees love as a part of the nature of repentance:
"Q: 128 What is Repentance?
A: Dissatisfaction with and a hatred of sin and a love of righteousness, proceeding from the fear of God, which things lead to self-denial and mortification of the flesh, so that we give ourselves up to the guidance of the Spirit of God, and frame all the actions of our life to the obedience of the Divine will."
Here he includes love in repentance, which is "proceeding from the fear of God." I know that "fear of God" is often equated with faith, so I would be curious if that is what he means here and sees that love proceeds from faith.

Overall I am thinking that love is separate from faith but that it is not disconnected from it, but rather that love is the chief and first fruit of faith and of the Spirit.

Any push back to this? Anyone seeing this differently than I am? I would love to learn more!

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
Augustine and Aquinas saw faith consisting of knowledge and assent as unformed faith. What faith needed to be formed (and thus properly saving, albeit as part of the "process of justification"), they said, was caritas: love. The Reformers differed with this, seeing the formative element as being fiducia: trust. Luther and Calvin (as well as the other Reformers) were in agreement on this.

As was the Westminster Standards. WLC 73 is quite helpful here:
Q. 73. How doth faith justify a sinner in the sight of God?
A. Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces which do always accompany it, or of good works that are the fruits of it, nor as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for his justification; but only as it is an instrument by which he receiveth and applieth Christ and his righteousness.

WLC 73 makes it clear that faith alone justifies and that such faith is to be distinguished both from the other graces that always accompany it (like repentance) and from that which are the fruits of it: good works. Good works are the evidence and expression of love. So love is not an essential part of saving faith (as is knowledge, assent, and trust) but is an ever-present fruit of it.

Surely some root of charity may be present in trust, but the fruit of it (and Edwards is clear on this) manifests itself in good works, which is love of God and love of neighbor. Love and good works are synonymous. We don't include the fruit of justifying faith in the definition of faith itself for to do so would be to introduce works into our justification, the only proper works wherein are those of Christ, whose righteousness is imputed to us and received by faith alone.

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