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What Can Satanists Teach Christians About Saving Faith?

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I recently heard a pastor talk about his encounters with Satanists. Yes, Satanists. His story helped to clarify something about the difference between faith and saving faith.

The pastor explained there are two types of Satanists. Some are atheists who have “a little bit of Satanic flavor.” They don’t take it seriously. But others are true Satanists. Interestingly, these people believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died on the cross for sins, rose again from the dead, and saves everyone who believes in Him. They believe all of that—and they hate Jesus for it.

What kind of faith does a true Satanist have?

It made me think of the traditional Protestant definition of faith as having three aspects: understanding (notitia), assent (assensus), and trust (fiducia).

Following Gordon Clark, I’ve long thought adding trust to the mix was redundant or dangerous. Redundant if it was a synonym for assent and dangerous if it was used to add submission or commitment to the condition of salvation (what we call back-loading the gospel with works).

But when I heard about what true Satanists believe, it made me wonder. Is there room for fiducia in our understanding of faith after all?

To see what I mean, 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 but not assensus. 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?

That brings me back to that classical Protestant definition of faith. Interestingly, fiducia can be translated as “trust, confidence, reliance, assurance.” Those last two possible translations may help us understand the difference between the true Satanist and the Christian. Could we say that, unlike the Satanist, the Christian not only understands (notitia) the gospel, and is also persuaded that it’s true (assensus), but also relies upon Jesus for his salvation (fiducia)? In other words, 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. He is not only persuaded of the truth of the promise in general, but believes in Jesus for what is promised, and is persuaded that it has become true of him, i.e., that he has salvation.

To put it as a syllogism:

P1: Whoever believes in Jesus has eternal life.

P2: I believe in Jesus.

C: Therefore, I have eternal life.

While the Satanist is persuaded of the first premise (P1), she has not believed in Jesus herself (P2), and so, unlike the Christian, also does not believe that she has eternal life (C). To put that in terms of the classical definition of faith, the Satanist has not trusted in Jesus.

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?

Edited: January 10, 2024

Send your questions or comments to Shawn.

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6 comments on “What Can Satanists Teach Christians About Saving Faith?”

  1. I agree with you, Shawn, and although I love our two-element brothers and sisters, I still believe in the chair illustration and Blondin's wheelbarrow.

    In modern usage, to "believe in" means "to acknowledge the existence of something." I "believe in" George Washington because he existed. But I'm not relying on him to do anything for me. In the Bible, to "believe in" means "to rely with certainty on." (To rely without certainty is called "gambling".)

    Simply to give the Greek background of "believe," I shall quote the non-inspired philosophical treatise The Wisdom of Solomon from the usually now separately-published section called The Apocrypha in the Anglican Authorised Version (AV) of 1611, also known as the King James Version (KJV). Wisdom 14:5 reads, “Nevertheless thou wouldest not that the works of thy wisdom should be idle, and therefore do men commit their lives to a small piece of wood, and passing the rough sea in a weak vessel are saved.”

    The “small piece of wood” refers to a thin plank of an ancient ship whose hull was only four fingers thick. The Greek word here translated “commit” is πιστεύουσιν (pisteuousin, a pistis verb that is also translated in the New Testament as “belief” in Jesus). The “men” who are sailors “believe” in the plank in the sense that they trust it and get on board the ship; and just as a sailor commits his life to a ship’s flimsiest plank, so a Christian commits himself or herself into the sure hands of Jesus. This kind of commitment is not “a promise to be loyal”; it is “a handing over for safekeeping.” It is trust combined with a decisive one-time act based on that trust. The name for active trust is reliance. Relying results in rest.

  2. How do you define "trust"? I find your definition confusing. I am persuaded that "trust" is a persuasion: For example I trust my boss. I do not trust him in every regard but I am persuaded that he wants my best. When it comes to other things like some advice relating linguistics I would rather talk to a good friend of mine. So I am not persuaded my boss could give me good advice regarding linguistics and in that sense I do not trust him- I am not convinced that my boss is reliable relating linguistics, I cannot rely on him for good advice relating lingustics. So I cannot quite agree with your definition because trust is a persuasion/conviction. Thus I reckon it is not necessary adding trust to the definition of faith because trust and persuasion are of the same category. I am excited to read a reply in future somewhere. Christian

    1. Hi. Thanks for that feedback. I added some clarifying phrases. I was thinking of trust and reliance in terms of persuasion——but persuasion about what Jesus does for me personally. Here is the section I added:

      "He is not only persuaded of the truth of the promise in general, but believes in Jesus for what is promised, and is persuaded that it has become true of him, i.e., that he has salvation.

      To put it as a syllogism:

      P1: Whoever believes in Jesus has eternal life.

      P2: I believe in Jesus.

      C: Therefore, I have eternal life.

      While the Satanist is persuaded of the first premise (P1), she has not believed in Jesus herself (P2), and so, unlike the Christian, also does not believe that she has eternal life (C). To put that in terms of the classical definition of faith, the Satanist has not trusted in Jesus."

  3. Jesus's message to the people he encountered was that he was the Messiah , the Divine and human Son of God. If they believed that, they were saved. Having said that , it goes without saying that to believe "that", a person has been convicted by the Holy Spirit of their lost and sinful condition{in my opinion that is what repentance is.} That is what Paul preached Acts26:20.The Holy Spirit convicts, we "turn" to Christ in saving faith. To do works, {Acts 26:20} {worthy, meeting, keeping } of or with their repentance is not a condition of saving faith , but should hopefully be the goal or focus of the new believer. Not guaranteed. I think Paul was saying that their works prove to the world the reality of their faith, James2:14-25.The Philippian jailer , having heard Paul and Silas Acts16:25 ,had already repented when he asked Paul what must he do to be saved, no need to preach repentance.

  4. Hey Shawn,
    Yes! I loved your discussion of fiducia. Years ago I used to debate the two-element guys. I think Antonio was one of them. I hold the three element, non-volitional view.
    Blessings,
    Marty

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