Auburn Avenue Kerfluffle (AAK) and Transitive Verbs

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Always trying to be helpful, I would like to suggest something else that might help good Reformed folks out of the impasse we have gotten ourselves into. In the current debate over faith alone, obedient faith, faith and obedience, and so on, we have a tendency to reify things like faith and obedience, and then talk about them like they were two billiard balls. Then, when one of the Auburn guys talks about obedient faith, it seems to others like we are trying to get two billiard balls to occupy the same space at the same time. Everyone knows that obedience in sanctification is this billiard ball, and that faith is that billiard ball. And they do not mush together well.

But the problem is that faith is an abstract noun that describes the action of a multitude of verbs — numerous actions of believing. Obedience does the same thing — and refers to numerous actions of obeying, generally considered.

But an abstract noun should never forget that in its abstract form it never does what it is talking about. “Love,” as found in the dictionary, does not have a beloved. But love, in order to exist in the world, requires a beloved. This is another way of saying that love is a transitive verb. So is obey. So is believe.

Now in order for someone to check out someone else’s Protestant bona fides (such as mine, for instance), it is necessary to ask what I understand the direct object of any given sentence to be.

When I say obedient faith, the question should be “faith that obeys what?” or “obedience that believes what?”

The response should not be “Faith obeys? That sounds like obedience. Obedience sounds like works. Works? Akkk!”

Saving faith obeys the gospel, and only the gospel. Saving obedience believes in Jesus Christ, and saving obedience does nothing but believe in Jesus Christ. What is the direct object? God in Christ, Christ on the cross, Christ ascended.

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