“Faith is No Emotion…” – Gordon H. Clark

Faith[The following is an excerpt from Gordon H. Clark’s previously unpublished essay Lecture on Logos, available in its entirety for download from The Gordon H. Clark Foundation here.

Soli Deo Gloria :) ]

For a good 1500 years Christian Theologians have described human nature as intellectual and volitional. Jonathan Edwards, for example, wrote “God has endued the soul with two principal faculties: the one, that by which it is capable of perception and speculation, or by which it discovers and judges of things, which is called the understanding. The other, that by which the soul is some way inclined with respect to things it views or considers: or it is the faculty by which the soul beholds things, … either as liking, disliking, … approving or rejecting. This faculty is called … inclination, will … mind, … often called the heart.”

The Lutherans too, at least those who, like the Missouri Synod, have preserved their orthodoxy, pay little or no attention to the emotions. Even in this decadent century their notable theologian, Pieper, in his Christian Dogmatics (p. 519) very briefly, but twice, states the Lutheran position that the image consists of intellect and will. There is no mention of emotion.

This emphasis on the will has almost totally disappeared from what now passes as Christian preaching. Freudianism has replaced it with the emotions. Most pew-warmers do not realize that this emphasis is a very modern development. If one go back to the Westminster divines, to Calvin, even to Aquinas, and especially to Augustine, the will find that human nature is regularly divided into intellect and will. The point is important because faith in Christ is not an emotion but a volition. One does not feel for Christ, he decides for Christ. The Scripture says, Jesus himself said, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” (Lk 13:3). Note very carefully that repentance is a change of mind. Its root is the word nous, to think. The noun nous is the intellect. And faith, by which one is justified, is a belief, a voluntary assent to an understood proposition.

Begging your pardon, and with what modicum of modesty I can muster, may I remark that this month the Trinity Foundation has completed the publication of my book on The Bible Doctrine of Man.

Now today, in contrast with the Christianity of the past, Freudian emotionalism has replaced intellectualism, and volition seems to have been totally forgotten. Finny reduced evangelism to psychological brain washing. A contemporary evangelistic, but non-ecclesiastical, group boasted that it could convert almost anybody in 20 minutes. They were astounded to discover that they needed 35 minutes in England. This was not the attitude of Jonathan Edwards, of Whitefield, of Calvin, of Luther, nor of Augustine and Athanasius.

These men emphasized the truth and swayed people to believe the truth. Faith is no emotion. Faith is intellectual understanding with volitional assent.

-h.

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