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Jack Miller

Very clear, Lee. I do hope that Piper's confusing terminology is simply that - something that is poorly written. But it leaves one to wonder...


Hi Lee,

Thanks for this post. I would also take issue with the following statement in Piper's forward:

"And this faith is no mere mental assent, but a heartfelt embrace of Jesus Christ as its all-satisfying treasure. “Justification is by faith alone, for faith finds its joy in Christ alone, seeing him as the pearl of great price, the one who is more desirable than anything or anyone else” (emphasis added)."

I agree that faith is not merely mental assent. However, Piper seems to add more to faith than receiving and resting in Christ and the promises of the gospel. It's through faith (receiving and resting) that Christ becomes the pearl of great price and the all satisfying treasure. In other words, Piper seems to again mix up faith and the fruit of faith.

I would be curious to know your thoughts on this.

Hope you're doing well.




Jon, thanks for the observation. "Faith" for Piper seems to be greatly expanded to include all these extra affections in a way that goes beyond the simplicity of receiving Christ and trusting in him. Like you, I don't want to reduce faith to mental assent the way Gordon Clark did. But front loading all these pious affections is burdensome. The zealous preacher then so passionately describes faith as a work. "You say you have faith, but do you really? Is Christ more desirable to you than anything else? Do you really love him with your whole heart?" Isn't that the law (Deut 6:5)? The ordinary sinner who is "merely" trusting in Christ will conclude they don't have true faith.

David Rothstein

I find this helpful, and generally agree. But it seems to me that you've overstated the Reformed rejection of the term "condition," given WLC 32: "The grace of God is manifested in the second covenant, in that he freely provideth and offereth to sinners a Mediator, and life and salvation by him; and requiring faith as the condition to interest them in him ..." Is Piper's use of the term in the forward essentially different from this?


I don't see where in Larger Catechism #32 it says that faith is the condition of justification. It seems to me to be saying faith is the condition of getting an interest in (i.e., a share in) the benefits of membership in the covenant of grace. I agree that the covenant of grace is conditional upon faith.

Justification, on the other hand, is God's judicial act of pardoning our sins and accepting us as righteous in his sight, on the legal basis of the righteousness of Christ. There are no conditions for being accepted as righteous. If there were, then there would be something in us, something we have to do, to make us qualified or acceptable, other than Christ himself. Justification is a free gift, received by faith. Faith is not a condition of being pardoned and accepted as righteous. It is the means by which we receive the gift of Christ's imputed righteousness. If there is a condition, it is Christ's righteousness, and we are simply hiding in him.


"... accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone" (WCF XI.1).

Sounds like a denial of any conditions to me.

David Rothstein

I completely agree with your explanation of the relationship of faith to justification. But at the same time, if faith is the condition of having a share in the benefits of membership in the covenant of grace (as you agree it is), and one of those benefits is justification, then doesn't it logically follow that faith is the condition of justification?


The covenant of grace is a covenant relationship between God and his people, and this relationship includes a lot more than justification. I'm uncomfortable equating the role of faith as a condition of the covenant of grace with the role of faith with respect to justification.

I would also distinguish between the salvific benefits of the covenant of grace (of which justification is one) and the conscious enjoyment of those saving benefits. Berkhof says, "It is only through faith that we can obtain a conscious enjoyment of the blessings of the covenant" (Systematic Theology, p. 280). Faith is a condition of the conscious enjoyment of the benefits of the covenant of grace.


Lee, Since I started reading your blog I always value your spot on analysis and likewise your gracious tone. Both matter, for others at the fore of this debate have not recently been so decorous. Thank you.

Phil Gons

Lee, you're reading more into "condition" than is necessary or appropriate. It needn't imply ground or cause. It's simply a sine qua non. In this sense, faith is absolutely a condition of justification. You can't have justification without it. It's not the cause or ground or meritorious, but it is necessary (i.e., a condition). That's all condition means. There are likewise numerous conditions to final salvation: faith, repentance, sanctification, holiness, obedience, love, good works, etc. There is no final salvation without these things. None of these are causes or grounds or meritorious. They are Spirit-wrought gifts of grace that must happen. They are conditions that God both requires and meets.

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