From: Rich Blinne (email@example.com)
Date: Sat May 24 2003 - 14:48:06 EDT
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com] On
Behalf Of Howard J. Van Till
Sent: Saturday, May 24, 2003 6:56 AM
To: John W Burgeson; firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Re: On Tillich
A couple of years ago Marcus Borg preached a sermon in our church
titled: "The Meaning of Faith: Relationship, Not Belief."
In this sermon he distinguished among several ways in which the word
'faith' is employed. These could be helpful in clarifying some of this
discussion. As I recall, his distinctions were:
1) faith as assensus -- to give mental assent to the truth of some
2) faith as fidelitas -- to be faithful to a relationship.
3) faith as fiducia -- to trust in God -- not in mere statements about
God, but in God.
4) faith as visio -- a way of seeing the whole of reality
I believe -- "credo" -- means, "I give my heart to .... "
"Believing" could mean "beloving" -- assuring fidelity, practicing
trust, seeing life positively.
Howard Van Till
PS: Anyone wishing to see the full text of this sermon can find it at:
Borg on fiducia:
The third meaning of faith and the second of these richer meanings is
faith as the Latin word fiducia. There is no good English equivalent.
Fiduciary is as close as we come and that doesn't get us very far at
all. So, let me just translate it into English. This is faith as trust,
as trust in God, *not trust in statements about God*, but as radical
trust in God. It is *not very much concerned with beliefs at all*, once
again. I think we get the clearest notion of what radical trust in God
is by looking immediately at its opposite. Its opposite, of course, is
mistrust. But, even more provocatively, the opposite of faith as trust
is anxiety. We see this most clearly in some teaching of Jesus that is
very familiar to us. It is found in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew
6, but also found in Luke 12. It is that famous set of passages where
Jesus says to his hearers, "Consider the lilies of the field and how
they grow. They neither toil nor spin and yet God has clothed them with
a glory exceeding that of Solomon. And consider the birds of the air.
They neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns and yet God feeds them."
Jesus is inviting us here to see reality as characterized by a cosmic
generosity and to trust in that generosity. And then the significant
thing for the point I'm making right now, five times in that passage he
says to his hearers, "Why are you anxious, O people of little faith?"
Little faith and anxiety about life go together. Faith as trust is the
opposite of this. *And so, the measurement or barometer of how much
faith as trust you have is how much anxiety is there in your life?*
Francis Turretin on fiducia:
The third act is fiducial and practical assent or a persuasion of the
practical intellect by which we judge the gospel to be *not only*
true[notitia], *but also* good and therefore most worthy of our love and
desire[assensus]; *also* the promises of grace to be most certain
concerning the *remission of sins* and the *bestowal of salvation* upon
all believers and penitents and so also upon me if I shall *believe* and
repent. [Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Francis Turretin
[Phillipsburg, NJ.: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1994, p. 562, emphasis
I shall proceed to distinguish various acts of faith. First, one act of
faith is direct which *has for its object the offer of the Gospel*. By
this act I fly to Christ and embrace his promises. Another act is
reflex, and has for its object the direct act of faith. By this act I
discovered that I have indeed believed, and that the promises of the
Gospel belong to me. Again, the direct act of faith is twofold. One of
its operations consists in the assent which it gives to the Word of God
and to the promises of the Gospel, as true in relation to the giving of
salvation to all who repent and by a living faith fly to Christ and
embrace him. Another operation of saving faith is its taking refuge and
trusting in Christ, acknowledging him as the only sufficient Saviour. It
is by this we fly to him, rest in him, and from him obtain pardon of our
sins and salvation. Now, that faith which is commanded us to the first
and second acts which are direct, before it is commanded as to the third
act which is reflex, and which necessarily supposes the two former; as
*it cannot exist unless preceded by them*. ["The Atonement of Christ,"
Francis Turretin, Baker Book House, 1978, p. 179, emphasis mine]
Since it was Turretin who coined the use of the term fiducia, his
meaning should take precedence over Borg. While Borg credited Neibuhr
for visio, he didn't credit Turretin for assensus and fiducia. The
context of the first quote was the challenge of Roman Catholicism
against Protestantism that claimed that the Protestants said you could
be saved by a notional (also known as historical) faith. Turretin's and
Herman Witsius' response was notitia and assensus were insufficient but
nevertheless necessary. Fiducia was both sufficient and necessary.
Futhermore, fiducia did not go against notitia and assensus but went
further than them. The context of the second qutoe was the
Amyrauldianism controversy which posited that Christ hypothetically died
for everybody. This raised issues concerning the offer of the Gospel.
Let's look at some of the differences between Turretin and Borg:
1. For Turretin the object of faith is the offer of the Gospel. For
Borg, "it is not trust in the statements about God." and "it is not
concerned about beliefs at all" But, the offer of the Gospel is a
statement about God. Thus Borg turns Turretin's concept of fiducia on
its head. (This illustrates a frustration that evangelicals have with
liberals where standard terms are silently redefined.) The critique that
Turretin had with noticia and assensus is not that they were wrong.
Rather, they were not sufficient to save.
2. Turretin distinguishes between faith and assurance while Borg does
not. Turretin has two classes of acts of faith, direct and reflex. You
directly believed in the promises of God and are saved. As a result of
that salvation and the indwellling of the Spirit, you reflexively
believe that you are saved. Reflexive faith is usually defined by the
term assurance of salvation. Assurance is where the lack of anxiety
comes from. It is quite possible to have false assurance. Thus,
Borg's anxiety test is not a good one. All the following combinations
1. Saving faith; assurance. Borg's test works.
2. Saving faith; lack of asssurance. Borg's test fails.
3. No saving faith; assurance. Borg's test fails.
4. No saving faith; no assurance. Borg's test works.
This is the reason why the lapel pin for Evangelism Explosion has two
question marks rather than one. In order to get a good diagnosis of an
individual's faith, you need to split the saving faith question from the
As to the relationship between faith and rationality, we see that
according to Turretin (and the whole of Reformed thought who followed
Turretin's thinking on this) saving faith (fiducia) is based on a
rational faith. A merely rational faith is not good enough to save, but
it is a necessary foundation for it. Acquinas did well by calling
reason faith's minister. While faith may be above reason it is never
 Since therefore grace does not destroy nature but perfects it,
natural reason should minister to faith as the natural bent of the will
ministers to charity.
-- Summa Theologiae, Part 1, Question 1, Article 8, Reply to Objection 2
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