Monday, January 08, 2007

The Direct and Reflex Acts of Faith

I have been arguing that the witness of the Spirit is not some form of verbal or propositional testimony by which the Holy Spirit communicates the fact of our adoption, but rather (in keeping with how the NT uses the term martureo), the witness of the Spirit involves an appeal to the evidence of divine handiwork in our lives.

To what, then, does the Spirit appeal to demonstrate our sonship?

The handiwork to which the Holy Spirit points consists of two lines of evidence. The first is the fact that we have exercised faith in Jesus Christ -- which includes the element of fiducia -- and therefore carries with it a degree of certitude and confidence (Rom. 5:1-2). The primary means of the saint's assurance, then, is what Turretin calls "the direct act" of faith -- looking outside of ourselves to Jesus the Savior.

The second line of evidence to which the Spirit points us is the resultant fruit of holiness that always accompanies justification, and has been called "the reflex act" of faith (II Pet. 1:5-8, 11; I John 3:10-15). The duplex beneficium (double benefit) of Christ's work, according to Calvin, is justification and sanctification, and our confessional documents make it clear that the former always produces the latter (Westminster Confession XI.2).

The witness of the Spirit, therefore, is no tertium quid. It is not merely of the "benessence" of faith, reserved for those of God's favorites who have tarried long and struggled hard to attain it. It is, rather, the conditio sine qua non of assurance, for without the testimony of the Holy Spirit we would not only be unable to call Jesus Christ "Lord" (I Cor. 12:3), we would be unable to recognize that we have called him "Lord." Without the testimony of the Holy Spirit we would not only be unable to perform good works, we would be unable to recognize the good works that we do perform.

As Thomas Goodwin has beautifully stated, "[The Spirit] writes first all graces in us, and then teacheth our consciences to read his handwriting, which we could never do without his light."