In the article Barnes rejects Clark’s suggestion that faith is being convinced that a proposition is true. Instead, he favorably cites Kuyper who says that believing that the testimony of Scripture is true “is not saving faith, only faith in the testimony. To believe that it will prove true in our case, in our own persons, is quite different. This depends, not upon the testimony, but upon whether we will submit ourselves to Him of whom it speaks…We must submit. And this requires the laying aside of all our self-conceit, the utter casting out of self.”
After citing John Murray, Charles Hodge, and Brakel, Barnes then says, “More authorities could be quoted…But the conclusion is inescapable: Belief alone is not enough…”
After the article, Banner of Truth put a response by John Robbins of the Trinity Foundation. The Trinity Foundation published many of Gordon Clark’s books, including Faith and Saving Faith. Robbins points out that Barnes uses tradition and not Scripture as his standard concerning what saving faith is.
Robbins says, “Barnes attacks, repeatedly and emphatically, the notion that belief of the Gospel saves the sinner. This is a frontal attack on the Gospel itself.”
Barnes argues that what is needed is trust. Yet Barnes does not define what trust is. Robbins chides Barnes saying, “But an undefined psychological state called ‘trust’ has no place in the Gospel or in Biblical theology.” Robbins rightly says, “Believing Christ’s claims is ipso facto ‘receiving and resting on Christ alone.’”
Regarding the promise to be believed, Robbins says, “the promise of the Gospel [is] eternal life” and that we believe that this promise is true to all who believe in Jesus because of “the objective work of Christ [on the cross].”
Concerning the authorities Barnes quoted, Robbins says, “Such quotes settle nothing. Only Scripture is decisive, and Scripture says, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.’ To go beyond this, to assert that belief is not enough [as Barnes does], is to deny the Gospel.”
John Robbins died on August 14, 2008. But his word live on.
If you haven’t read Robbins on saving faith, I recommend this banner of truth article, and also an outstanding article he wrote, and which we published in our journal, in which he defended the idea that all faith is being convinced that a proposition is true. That is, all faith is propositional. See “The Biblical View of Truth” at our website.
Here is a short quote from that latter article to whet your appetite:
The view of truth that I wish to relate is this: Truth is propositional, and only propositional. To put it even more plainly, truth is a property, characteristic, or attribute only of propositions. The view is in stark contrast to views, both academic and popular, of truth as encounter, truth as event, truth as pictorial, truth as experiential, truth as emotive, truth as personal, truth as mystic absorption into or union with the divine.
This last view, that truth is personal, not propositional, has led theologians to substitute the nebulous concepts of “commitment,” “personal relationship,” and “union” for the clear and Biblical concept of belief, thus undermining the Gospel itself (p. 51).