Is there a difference between intellectual assent and saving faith? Take, for example, the very many churches each Sunday which have the entire congregation recite the Apostle’s Creed. What percentage of those persons who recite orally the Apostles Creed are saved? Is reciting the Creed orally or silently a guarantee that one has saving faith? Isn’t reciting the Creed orally at the very least intellectual assent? And is intellectual assent saving faith?
Thank you for the questions. Let me try to answer them.
“What percentage of those persons who recite orally the Apostles Creed are saved?”
I don’t know. Only God knows. And only God knows if the Creed came from the Apostles—which I highly doubt.
“Isn’t reciting the Creed orally at the very least intellectual assent?”
No. Saying something out loud and believing it to be true are two different things. I can read the Quran or the Book of Mormon out loud, without believing either to be true.
“Is reciting the Creed orally or silently a guarantee that one has saving faith?”
No. As I said, you can recite something out loud without believing it to be true.
But what if you believed the Apostles Creed was true? Would you be saved then? No, because the Apostles Creed does not contain the saving message. Yes, it recounts some very important facts about Jesus’ life which we should all believe to be true. But it does not give the saving message. Here is the Creed:
I believe in God,
the Father Almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried;
He descended into hell;
on the third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from there He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Holy Catholic Church,
the communion of Saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.
The problem is, you can believe those things and also believe in works salvation.
Wouldn’t the Judaizers in Paul’s day have said they believed that Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate and died and rose again? Wouldn’t they have said they believed in forgiveness, resurrection, and life everlasting? But how do you get those things? The Judaizers would have said you needed faith plus circumcision to get them—a false message that Paul called “another gospel” and “accursed” (Gal 1:8). Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and others who recite this creed often add an even longer list of works to do to be saved. They, too, teach and believe “another gospel.”
How do you get forgiveness of sin, bodily resurrection, or life everlasting? The Creed does not say. Hence believing the Creed is not salvific.
If the Creed contained the saving message that whoever simply believes in Jesus for eternal life, then believing it (not merely reciting) would be salvific (John 3:16; Eph 2:8-9).
Here are twelve theses about belief that might clarify things.