I taught a two-week intersession course at Florida Bible College (FBC) in Kissimmee, FL back in 1990. I enjoyed my time there.
One of the students related an illustration he’d heard about a young man who believed in Christ but didn’t want everlasting life. His parents had both died as unbelievers. The young man was convinced that they were now in Hades. He believed that John 3:16 is true. However, he wanted to be with his parents forever. So, he chose not to accept the gift of everlasting life.
The student wanted to know what I thought of that story.
The other day, a GES partner named Hal sent me another version of the same story. I’m quoting from the article Hal sent (see here):
Imagine that you have three people who hear a clear gospel presentation—an atheist, a true Satanist, and a Christian. How does each person respond?
First, the atheist understands the gospel, but he’s not convinced it’s true. In other words, he has notitia [understanding] but not assensus [assent or persuasion]. To believe something takes more than just understanding it.
Second, the true Satanist goes one step further, and both understands the gospel and is even persuaded that it’s true. In other words, she has both notitia and assensus. But does that mean she has saving faith? She can’t, right? Something is missing, but what?
Third, the Christian understands the gospel and is persuaded that it’s true. However, unlike the Satanist, he takes the next step and believes in Jesus as his Savior.
Is that the difference between the Satanist and the Christian?
…Unlike the Satanist, the Christian makes a personal appropriation of the saving message by believing Jesus as his Savior and so is assured that Jesus saves him?
I used to think that making trust an aspect of faith was unnecessary, but in light of what true Satanists believe, I can see how it might help to emphasize that believing in Jesus in a saving way means personally relying upon Him for salvation and being assured that He saves you (“assurance is of the essence of saving faith”).
Do you think that including trust (fiducia) with notitia and assensus helps to clarify what it means to believe in Jesus for salvation?
I much appreciate the reference to the need to be assured that by faith in Christ, you have an irrevocable salvation. However, the suggestion that faith includes more than understanding and being persuaded is a major error. How could anyone be sure of his salvation if being persuaded of the promise of everlasting life is insufficient? How could a person know that he also trusts Christ for his salvation? What is this trust if it is something different than persuasion?
The problem with the illustrations about the young man with unbelieving parents and the Satanist is that neither person believes John 3:16. Neither the young man nor the Satanist is persuaded that John 3:16 is true.
John 3:16 has no option to choose to accept or reject everlasting life if you believe in Jesus. Whoever believes in Him has everlasting life whether he wants it or not.
If the young man and the Satanist were persuaded that John 3:16 was true, then they would know that they had everlasting life even though they did not want it. If I believe that “whoever believes in Him has everlasting life” is true, and I believe in Him, then I know I have everlasting life. If I claim to believe in Him and yet say I don’t have everlasting life, I show that I don’t believe what He said is true.
But what if the Satanist says he doesn’t believe in Him, but he knows that those who do believe in Him are eternally secure?
In the first place, I do not believe such a person exists.
In the second place, his point would be that the words “whoever believes in Him” do not apply to him because he hates Jesus and doesn’t want everlasting life. But there is no exception in John 3:16. Whoever means whoever. If he thinks there is an exception, then he doesn’t believe the verse.
In philosophy, there is a statement: “If A, then B.” Applied to John 3:16, if (A) I believe in Jesus for everlasting life, then (B) I have everlasting life. However, these illustrations reveal a different paradigm: “If A, then B, unless C.” If (A) I believe in Jesus for everlasting life, (B) I have it, (C) unless I don’t want it. But John 3:16 has no unless C.
Nearly everyone in Christendom claims to believe that John 3:16 is true. Yet most do not. They misinterpret what the Lord said. They think that believing in Him includes turning from sins, submission, commitment, and perseverance in faith and good works. They are convinced it takes more than simply being persuaded in order to have everlasting life. The same is true of the young man with unbelieving parents and the Satanist.