R.C. Sproul and Demonic Faith Confusion

The following is a quote taken from Now, That’s a Good Question! – What Is Faith? by R.C Sproul

“According to James, even if I am aware of the work of Jesus—convinced intellectually that Jesus is the Son of God, that he died on the cross for my sins, and that he rose from the dead—I would at that point qualify to be a demon. The demons recognize Jesus, and the devil himself knows the truth of Christ, but he doesn’t have saving faith.”

If you have spent any amount of time discussing the gospel and how to best deliver it, then perhaps you may have heard something along the lines of, “faith is not a mental assent.” I disagree with this statement. Faith is simply agreeing that certain propositions are true. Assenting is agreeing. This mental agreement will express itself in the person’s actions depending upon the nature of the propositions being believed. To illustrate: If a doctor told you that you had 24 hours to live, there are 2 ways you can handle the proposition. 1) You can believe it. In this case you will most likely make a list of what you want to do before you die, and try to accomplish these things within 24 hours. 2) You won’t believe it. In this case you will ignore the news. There is nothing mystical about this. There are not different degrees of belief. Either you do, or you don’t.

But, what Dr. Sproul has stated above is what I have heard from many people: It is that faith is not enough, and that it is not simply a mental assent, therefore the gospel requires obedience. They will also quote the book of James, as Sproul has done, and tie simple faith into an easy believism demonic faith. James is saying that works are not separate from faith. Your belief will show itself in your actions, just like the example of the doctor given above.

Let’s look at the Scripture Sproul is quoting:

“You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” James 2:19

He makes two errors here:

1) Where in this Scripture does it say, “You believe in the gospel. You do well….”?

That is not the point James is stating. It is “You believe that God is one.” We are being told that the object of our faith is important, that is, the proposition in which we place our faith. To simply be monotheistic will not save, but rather the gospel. So, for Sproul to say, “even if I am aware of the work of Jesus—convinced intellectually that Jesus is the Son of God, that he died on the cross for my sins, and that he rose from the dead—I would at that point qualify to be a demon” is to insert something into the text that is completely not there.

2) It is always a little humorous to me when James 2:19 is used this way, because the assertion (whether they know it or not) is that demons can be saved. Did Christ come in the flesh of a demon, die as a demon, and resurrect as a demon? Of course not. He died on behalf of the sins of men. Salvation is not something that is open to demons/angels.

This article can be found at:

http://www.ligonier.org/blog/what-faith/

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5 thoughts on “R.C. Sproul and Demonic Faith Confusion”

  1. Chris,

    I agree with you and your view on faith by Grace, salvation, sanctification, redemption (In Christ alone), and the Gospel. Which all coincide with the fact that Christ is the center of all things, which is AWESOME!. Amen. However, I think RC is focusing on something else.. . . maybe…

    I really think that RC is only saying that he is sinful, because he is dead without Christ. He is simply saying, “the devil himself knows the truth of Christ, but he doesn’t have saving faith.” Without Christ we don’t have saving faith, and that is not to say that we have to work aside from faith, rather, we are dead without Christ. Completely unable to seek Him. And I think he’s kind of talking about General Revelation also, in the fact that: God reveals Himself as a person and can be physically seen…his miracles were seen (the Gospels), and his resurrected self was witnessed by 500 or so peeps…

    Furthermore, I think he is saying that he (James) could see the work and miracles of Christ and say that he is, “[C]onvinced intellectually..,” (which are key words in his phrasing, because if he didn’t say ‘intellectually’ then we’d have problems) but, we CANNOT believe without Christ. Not to mention, he (RC) is hypothetically stating it.

    Finally, James says, “the demons ALSO believe and shudder.” Not believing by ‘saving faith,’ rather just belief like you and me believe in the existence of gravity. I think that is the only emphasis that RC is making. In our belief of gravity, we cannot be saved from our sin or changed by the Spirit…And, pertaining to the title “What is Faith,” I think he is saying what faith is NOT. For example, just saying that there is a god is not enough. General Revelation without Special Revelation is not enough. Christ is the only reason we seek him. (Romans 3) Right…..?

    PS- I am not trying to argue, I just read what you wrote and didn’t catch what you said out of what RC said. I want to read the rest of RC’s entry on ‘That’s a good question….’

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    1. David,

      Sproul said the following:

      “According to James, even if I am aware of the work of Jesus—convinced intellectually that Jesus is the Son of God, that he died on the cross for my sins, and that he rose from the dead—I would at that point qualify to be a demon. The demons recognize Jesus, and the devil himself knows the truth of Christ, but he doesn’t have saving faith.”

      Where does James say this? He doesn’t.

      By saying that being truly convinced of the gospel is not enough, is confusing – especially since the Bible says we are justified by FAITH ALONE. If we are to consider that faith (being intellectually convinced) is not enough, the only other option to which we are left is works. As stated above, true belief will always produce works.

      Believing in gravity and believing in the gospel is not the same thing. The implications of the knowledge of gravity require me to do nothing but experience gravity. The implications of the knowledge of the good news of Christ place before me one of two options – either I believe it and be saved, or I don’t and go to hell.

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  2. This goes right alone with something I’ve been challenged with recently, this question of faith and knowledge. The Jews understood Paul’s gospel. They understood exactly what he was saying, and they understood the implications of it, as well. Paul was going around spreading the news that Christ had brought and end to circumcision, an end to festivals and new moon celebrations, an end to sacrifices, an end to Sabbath observances. He was going around spreading the news that Christ had brought an end to Jewish custom, had brought to an end to Jewish identity, had brought an end to Israelite uniqueness. But the worst part was that he was spreading the message that Christ had brought an end to all efforts to obtain righteousness by human merit. Christ had, in fact established a new body, one new man made up both elect Jews and elect Gentiles – and by the very definition of elect, the matter was outside the control of human hands. The proselytizing Jews knew Paul’s message. They understood it well, and they understood its implications. Nevertheless, they detested it. I’m faced with the challenge then, is understanding what the gospel says enough? It depends. Faith isn’t just understanding the gospel, it’s also ascenting to it, and this is something the Jews didn’t do. They didn’t love it, they didn’t ascent to it, they didn’t believe it, even though they understood it.

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    1. Realizing my last sentence may come across a bit confusing. Love, ascent, believe, I’m using these all to mean the same – believe. I don’t see a difference between belief and saving belief anywhere in Scripture. I see a difference between a gospel that saves and a gospel that doesn’t, but not a difference in belief. I believe the gospel the same as I believe anything else. I might be deceived about what I believe, or about the truthfulness of what i believe, but belief itself is always just belief. It’s usually the thing believed that changes, rather than the nature of the believing itself.

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  3. Chris.

    I got you. I see what you mean now, sorry it took so long to respond. But I do think you’re right. I just didn’t get that the first time I read it. The passage doesn’t say or even simply emphasize that. I was just thinking that RC meant to say what Faith isn’t, but as I thought further about that, it still isn’t what the passage says. Scripture is completely authoritative.

    Paz.

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