The Necessity of Objective Assent in the Act of Christian Faith -- By: Timothy Paul Jones

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 162:646 (Apr 2005)
Article: The Necessity of Objective Assent in the Act of Christian Faith
Author: Timothy Paul Jones


The Necessity of Objective Assent in the Act of Christian Faith

Timothy Paul Jones

Timothy Paul Jones is Pastor, First Baptist Church of Rolling Hills, Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Since the Reformation, theologians have viewed saving faith as simultaneously encompassing three components—notitia, assensus, and fiducia.1 In notitia the individual becomes aware of the conditions, promises, and events that constitute divine revelation, especially the events surrounding God’s consummate self-revelation in Jesus Christ. In assensus the individual expresses objective confidence in the truthfulness of these claims (Rom. 10:9; Heb. 11:3, 6; 1 John 5:1). In fiducia the individual places his or her personal trust in Jesus Christ. Central to this threefold model is a single key assumption: Faith, as presented in the New Testament, necessarily entails the recognition and acceptance of specific, objective content.

Wilfred Cantwell Smith is virtually unknown among evangelical theologians, but he is widely renowned in the field of comparative religions. An ordained Presbyterian minister, Smith taught religion classes at Harvard University and the University of Toronto until his death in February 2000. In The Meaning and End of Religion and Faith and Belief: The Difference between Them, Smith argued that when properly used the terms translated by the English words “faith” and “belief” excluded the recognition and acceptance of objective content.2 According to Smith, whether an

individual assented to specific cognitive claims was never “a matter of final human destiny” for premodern people.3 It is therefore “a mistranslation to render any word in the Christian scriptures by the English terms ‘belief,’ ‘believe’; those concepts not being found in the Bible.”4

An Overview of Wilfred Cantwell Smith’s View

According to Smith to believe or to have faith meant to regard another person with “a certain ultimate loyalty” and to set one’s heart on a relationship with that person.5 The essence of this faith was personal engagement that did not demand assent to any objective or propositional assert...

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