Travis Fentiman

Puritan Board Freshman
What precisely must one believe to be saved? Given the variety of people’s background, understanding and what is told them of Christianity, even as exampled in Scripture, that is not an easy question to answer.

If people profess serious errors that seem to overturn the fundamentals of Christianity, though they yet profess to believe in those fundamental teachings of the True Faith, will they be saved? Are they professing Christians? May we have fellowship with such a Church?

The topic of the fundamental and secondary teachings of Christianity is at once a profoundly basic issue, and yet it is incredibly complex with many real world implications. Should a baptist be allowed to be a member of a presbyterian Church? Should an Arminian?

Little is it known that there was a large, reformed agreement amongst the presbyterians on these issues in the puritan era, even in the minute details, and that not simply from human agreement, but as it was proved by the Word of God and the light of nature.

I have compiled a lot of historic reformed resources on this topic, if it is of interest to you. You will likely learn a lot from perusing the resources. See especially Witsius. Turretin is excellent (but not online). And, as usual, git wrekt by Rutherford:

By the way, one of the few modern Reformed writers to write on these issues has been Gordon Clark in his book Saving Faith. While it was a noble attempt, for having to reinvent the wheel, yet, not only was he Sandemanian in his view (not recommended), and gets numerous things wrong, and his solution is deficient and inadequate, he also shows himself very unfamiliar with the older standard reformed writings on the subject (which are much, much better, and are on the link above).
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Freshman
What precisely must one believe to be saved? Given the variety of people’s background, understanding and what is told them of Christianity, even as exampled in Scripture, that is not an easy question to answer.

If people profess serious errors that seem to overturn the fundamentals of Christianity, though they yet profess to believe in those fundamental teachings of the True Faith, will they be saved? Are they professing Christians? May we have fellowship with such a Church?

The topic of the fundamental and secondary teachings of Christianity is at once a profoundly basic issue, and yet it is incredibly complex with many real world implications. Should a baptist be allowed to be a member of a presbyterian Church? Should an Arminian?

Little is it known that there was a large, reformed agreement amongst the presbyterians on these issues in the puritan era, even in the minute details, and that not simply from human agreement, but as it was proved by the Word of God and the light of nature.

I have compiled a lot of historic reformed resources on this topic, if it is of interest to you. You will likely learn a lot from perusing the resources. See especially Witsius. Turretin is excellent (but not online). And, as usual, git wrekt by Rutherford:

By the way, one of the few modern Reformed writers to write on these issues has been Gordon Clark in his book Saving Faith. While it was a noble attempt, for having to reinvent the wheel, yet, not only was he Sandemanian in his view (not recommended), and gets numerous things wrong, and his solution is deficient and inadequate, he also shows himself very unfamiliar with the older standard reformed writings on the subject (which are much, much better, and are on the link above).
Great list! I was especially pleased to see Rutherford, since I found his distinctions very helpful. It may be worth adding Thomas's treatment from the Summa, since his views that the articles of the Apostle's Creed represent the fundamental doctrines of the faith, among other points, are reflected in Rutherford, and since, if I'm not mistaken, the viewpoint presented there differs substantially from the modern Roman Catholic assertion that all dogmas of the church are essential articles of the faith.
 

Travis Fentiman

Puritan Board Freshman
It may be worth adding Thomas's treatment from the Summa, since his views that the articles of the Apostle's Creed represent the fundamental doctrines of the faith, among other points, are reflected in Rutherford, and since, if I'm not mistaken, the viewpoint presented there differs substantially from the modern Roman Catholic assertion that all dogmas of the church are essential articles of the faith.
Do you have a reference for Thomas? I am probably willing to put him under the Roman section.

The few quotes I saw from him were distinctly Romanist, and in error in that regard (for which I was hesitant to put him up), though I did find some reformed guys that quoted certain notions of his positively.
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Freshman
Do you have a reference for Thomas? I am probably willing to put him under the Roman section.

The few quotes I saw from him were distinctly Romanist, and in error in that regard (for which I was hesitant to put him up), though I did find some reformed guys that quoted certain notions of his positively.
It's under the heading Faith, Summa II-II, Q. 1.
I don't find that the section on the Romanist view of fundamental doctrines accurately represents our differences from them, since it reads,
"According to Catholic teaching, the essential note of faith lies in the complete and unhesitating acceptance of the whole depositum on the ground that it is the revealed Word of God. The conscious rejection of a single article of this deposit is sufficient to render a man guilty of heresy. The question is not as to the relative importance of the article in question but solely as to whether it has been revealed by God to man. This is clearly put by Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica II-II:5:3."
But this same distinction, that saving faith embraces all that God has revealed, and that rejection of any aspect of the word of God is in that respect heresy, is present in Rutherford's treatment in Examen Arminianismi if memory serves. So it appears to me that our differences are more subtle, and lie in whether it is ultimately the interpretation of Scripture of the Roman Church that must be embraced, and not whether rejection of Scripture is heretical in this particular sense.
Perusing Thomas's treatment, the most obvious error is that the Pope has the authority to appoint a symbol of faith. This is of course a less egregious error than the later Romanist dogma that the Pope has the authority to establish articles of the faith, but it's easy to see how the latter can proceed from the former both in thought and in the course of time.
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Freshman
Rutherford addresses this point on p. 43,
"Why all things contained in the word of God are to be believed on pain of damnation, when, nevertheless, only the fundamentals are necessary to be believed necessitate medii [by a necesity of means]?"
 
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Travis Fentiman

Puritan Board Freshman
I don't find that the section on the Romanist view of fundamental doctrines accurately represents our differences from them, since it reads,
"According to Catholic teaching, the essential note of faith lies in the complete and unhesitating acceptance of the whole depositum on the ground that it is the revealed Word of God. The conscious rejection of a single article of this deposit is sufficient to render a man guilty of heresy. The question is not as to the relative importance of the article in question but solely as to whether it has been revealed by God to man. This is clearly put by Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica II-II:5:3."
But this same distinction, that saving faith embraces all that God has revealed, and that rejection of any aspect of the word of God is in that respect heresy, is present in Rutherford's treatment in Examen Arminianismi if memory serves. So it appears to me that our differences are more subtle, and lie in whether it is ultimately the interpretation of Scripture of the Roman Church that must be embraced, and not whether rejection of Scripture is heretical in this particular sense.
Perusing Thomas's treatment, the most obvious error is that the Pope has the authority to appoint a symbol of faith. This is of course a less egregious error than the later Romanist dogma that the Pope has the authority to establish articles of the faith, but it's easy to see how the latter can proceed from the former both in thought and in the course of time.
Charles, thanks for the reference, I'll look it over and likely add it.

As to the Wikipedia quote, I agree it doesn't well represent our differences with Papists, but, as for an introductory statement of the general perspective they come from, and what I have found, I thought it was broadly representative.

Papists: "The conscious rejection of a single article of this deposit is sufficient to render a man guilty of heresy." The reformed consensus I have found, including Rutherford, was that a conscious rejection of a tertiary teaching of Christianity simply makes one to err therein, which usually is not that big of a deal. If they err on a secondary matter, it makes them a sectarian in that regard. Only if it is a fundamental matter, or possibly a secondary matter that seriously tends to overturn a fundamental, does it make them a heretic.

I agree, with Rutherford, that saving faith implicitly will receive whatever God says on principle, and must, but this is different from affirming that while yet erring on a tertiary matter which they may believe is not the word of God, or not deduced from the Word of God.

" it appears to me that our differences are more subtle" I completely agree. The Romanist view shares a fair amount of overlap with the truth, but is twisted in subtle, but significant ways, which are not always easy to splice out. And I do recommend Rutherford (on the page) for splicing those things out.

Blessings friend, and thanks for your feedback.
 

Travis Fentiman

Puritan Board Freshman
Rutherford addresses this point on p. 43,
"Why all things contained in the word of God are to be believed on pain of damnation, when, nevertheless, only the fundamentals are necessary to be believed necessitate medii [by a necesity of means]?"
Correct. That section is linked on the webpage.

There is a necessity of command, and even that of implicit things not yet known which fall under the category of the Word of God, versus the necessity of means, which means God uses in his decree and providence to save sinners, and sinners won't be saved without them (which things must be explicit).

If a professing Christian knows God has revealed something, that it is from God, and won't believe it out of a habitus (as distinguished from an act of doubt, trial, weakness, etc.), that person is as good as the devils, does not have saving faith, and is going to Hell.

But the typical Romanist view, as I understand it, and even what Thomas says, out of memory, is that all the depositum of truth is to be affirmed implicitly, even without knowledge of what it is, and if someone errs on any matter therein, secondary or tertiary, and won't repent of it, they are going to hell, are a heretic, and should be burnt at the stake. The reason they can say this, so far as I understand it, is because the Church is infallible, and therefore one must agree with the Church implicitly, and never disagree with it; and to disagree with an infallible Church explicitly and consciously, well, one might as well be consciously disagreeing with God Himself, and will be damned for it.
 
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