“’If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with baloney.”
-W.C. Fields (paraphrased)
Theologians say that the Biblical word for faith has three essential aspects, expressed by the Latin words, notitia, assensus, and fiducia, which in English means “notion,” “assent,” and “fidelity.” Biblical saving faith is Latin fiducia, so when the Bible says, “faith alone,” it really means, “faith plus a lifelong commitment of works.”
Let’s take a look at Latin, Greek, English, but most importantly, the Bible, to discern whether saving faith really requires our fidelity, or if the theologians are just baffling us with baloney.
Notitia, Assensus, and Fiducia
Here’s how Lewis and Short describe notia in A Latin Dictionary (1879):
The first and most common meaning of notitia is “notoriety” or “fame.” Theologians skip the main meaning of the word and jump to the second. The second meaning is “notion,” in other words, an understanding of an idea.
Lewis and Short list the Greek equivalents as ennoia (ἔννοια) and prolepsis (πρόληψις). The word, ennoia, occurs twice in the Greek New Testament: translated “intents” in Heb 4:12 (KJV) and “mind” in 1 Peter 4:1 (KJV). The word, prolepsis, does not occur in the New Testament.
Notitia occurs thrice in the Latin Vulgate. It is the translation for gnosis (γνῶσις) in 2 Cor 2:14 (“knowledge” KJV) and epignosis (ἐπίγνωσις) in Heb 10:26 and Rom 1:28 (also “knowledge” in KJV).
But these aren’t the only NT occurrences of gnosis and epignosis. There are 29 other uses of gnosis and 21 occurrences of epignosis. KJV translates gnosis “knowledge” 28 times as “science” once and epignosis as “knowledge” 16 times with the rest being related to “acknowledge.” The Latin Vulgate uses words like scientia or scio for gnosis and agnitio or cognitio for epignosis.
Notitia, scientia, cognitio…regardless of what you call it in Latin, we all agree that we need to hear a proposition and have some kind of understanding before we can believe it.
Here’s how Lewis and Short describe assensus:
Assensus is not found in the Latin Bible. Interesting that Reformed theologians pull out a Latin word that does not exist in the Latin Bible to describe the conviction that something is true… I’ll propose some biblical Latin words later.
Reformed theologians want fiducia to mean “fidelity.” Here’s what the dictionary says it means:
Two basic meanings: “confidence, reliance, assurance” or “trustiness, fidelity.” Notice that the first definition implies an object, as in “confidence in something else” or “reliance upon something else” or “assurance of something else.” The second definition emphasizes the subject. “Trustiness” implies passiveness and means “able to be trusted” or, as Lewis and Short put it, “that which is entrusted to another.”
At least fiducia occurs in the Latin Bible, unlike assensus. If we include aprocrypha, then fiducia has 88 occurrences in the Vulgate. But as with notitia, the Reformed theologians want you to hold to the secondary, passive, definition of fiducia, and even then we must divide the secondary definition into a specific usage.
For alms deliver from all sin, and from death, and will not suffer the soul to go into darkness. Alms shall be a great confidence before the most high God, to all them that give it. (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition)
quoniam elemosyna ab omni peccato et a morte liberat et non patietur animam ire in tenebras fiducia magna erit coram summo Deo elemosyna omnibus qui faciunt eam
διότι ἐλεημοσύνη ἐκ θανάτου ῥύεται καὶ οὐκ ἐᾷ εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὸ σκότος· δῶρον γὰρ ἀγαθόν ἐστιν ἐλεημοσύνη πᾶσι τοῖς ποιοῦσιν αὐτὴν ἐνώπιον τοῦ ὑψίστου.
I think this non-canonical passage was part of the justification for Roman Catholic indulgences, but that’s a topic for another day.
Look at how the word, fiducia (translated from Latin as “confidence”), is being used. The original Greek word that was translated fiducia here was doron (δῶρον), which means “gift.” When Jerome translated the Bible into Latin, he used a dynamic equivalence method (similar to the NIV), in which he took liberty to translate more sense-for-sense rather than word-for-word. This “great gift” became a “fiducia magna” in Jerome’s mind. This is not a belief that results in works. It is money. Whenever you take out a mortgage on a home, your house becomes a fiducia. Pawn shops are fiducia shops. This usage has nothing to do with faith.
We also have fiducia as translated from the word, parrhesia (παῤῥησία). Here are some parrhesia quotes from the ESV, none of which were translated fiducia:
John 7:4 For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.”
John 7:13 Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him.
John 16:29 His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech!
John 11:14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died,
Here are some parrhesia quotes that are translated as fiducia:
Accordingly, though I am bold [lit. “I have παῤῥησία”] enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, (ESV)
Διό, πολλὴν ἐν Χριστῷ παρρησίαν ἔχων ἐπιτάσσειν σοι τὸ ἀνῆκον,
propter quod multam fiduciam habentes in Christo Iesu imperandi tibi quod ad rem pertinet
2 Corinthians 3:12
Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: (KJV)
Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, (ESV)
῎Εχοντες οὖν τοιαύτην ἐλπίδα πολλῇ παρρησίᾳ χρώμεθα,
habentes igitur talem spem multa fiducia utimur
1 John 2:28
And now, children, abide in him, that if he be manifested we may have boldness, and not be put to shame from before him at his coming. (KJV)
And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. (ESV)
Καὶ νῦν, τεκνία, μένετε ἐν αὐτῷ, ἵνα ὅταν φανερωθῇ ἔχωμεν παρρησίαν καὶ μὴ αἰσχυνθῶμεν ἀπ᾿ αὐτοῦ ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ αὐτοῦ.
et nunc filioli manete in eo ut cum apparuerit habeamus fiduciam et non confundamur ab eo in adventu eius
Jerome used fiducia to describe plain speech or confident people who do “not shrink.” Fiducia is not “faith.” Nor is it necessarily “fidelity” as the Reformed theologians would have us believe. The Greek word for “faith” is pistis (πίστις). The verb form, “to believe,” is pisteuo (πιστεύω). When Jerome translated the Latin Bible, he did not render “faith” as fiducia – that would be bad Latin. He used different words…
Credo and Fides
In English, the noun, “faith,” and the verb, “to believe,” have different roots (unlike, for example, Greek pistis and pisteuo). Latin is similar. The verb is credo and the noun is fides. We talked a bit about that here, so we won’t get into it now.
This is the Latin verb translated for pisteuo. It is similar to the Spanish verb, creer, Italian credere, French croyez, etc. Here are some clear Gospel verses that every Christian should know in his own language:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (ESV)
οὕτω γὰρ ἡγάπησεν ὁ Θεὸς τὸν κόσμον, ὥστε τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν, ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν μὴ ἀπόληται, ἀλλ᾿ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον.
sic enim dilexit Deus mundum ut Filium suum unigenitum daret ut omnis qui credit in eum non pereat sed habeat vitam aeternam
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ὁ τὸν λόγον μου ἀκούων καὶ πιστεύων τῷ πέμψαντί με ἔχει ζωὴν αἰώνιον, καὶ εἰς κρίσιν οὐκ ἔρχεται, ἀλλὰ μεταβέβηκεν ἐκ τοῦ θανάτου εἰς τὴν ζωήν.
amen amen dico vobis quia qui verbum meum audit et credit ei qui misit me habet vitam aeternam et in iudicium non venit sed transit a morte in vitam
Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (ESV)
καὶ προαγαγὼν αὐτοὺς ἔξω ἔφη· κύριοι, τί με δεῖ ποιεῖν ἵνα σωθῶ; οἱ δὲ εἶπον· πίστευσον ἐπὶ τὸν Κύριον ᾿Ιησοῦν Χριστὸν, καὶ σωθήσῃ σὺ καὶ ὁ οἶκός σου.
et producens eos foras ait domini quid me oportet facere ut salvus fiam at illi dixerunt crede in Domino Iesu et salvus eris tu et domus tua
Clearly, God requires man to believe, credo, pisteuo, in Christ to be saved.
This is just the noun form, like the English word, “faith.” See how Paul uses “faith” to mean “that which is believed” in Rom 3:22. Fides is the noun form of credo, just like “faith” is the noun form of “believe.”
But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (NKJV)
Νυνὶ δὲ χωρὶς νόμου δικαιοσύνη Θεοῦ πεφανέρωται, μαρτυρουμένη ὑπὸ τοῦ νόμου καὶ τῶν προφητῶν, δικαιοσύνη δὲ Θεοῦ διὰ πίστεως ᾿Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς πάντας καὶ ἐπὶ πάντας τοὺς πιστεύοντας· οὐ γάρ ἐστιν διαστολή· πάντες γὰρ ἥμαρτον καὶ ὑστεροῦνται τῆς δόξης τοῦ Θεοῦ,
nunc autem sine lege iustitia Dei manifestata est testificata a lege et prophetis iustitia autem Dei per fidem Iesu Christi super omnes qui credunt non enim est distinctio omnes enim peccaverunt et egent gloriam Dei
Here’s fides in a few Gospel passages that are worth memorizing:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. (NKJV)
τῇ γὰρ χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι διὰ πίστεως· καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν, Θεοῦ τὸ δῶρον· οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων, ἵνα μή τις καυχήσηται.
gratia enim estis salvati per fidem et hoc non ex vobis Dei enim donum est non ex operibus ut ne quis glorietur
For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. (ESV)
λογιζόμεθα οὖν πίστει δικαιοῦσθαι ἄνθρωπον χωρὶς ἔργων νόμου.
arbitramur enim iustificari hominem per fidem sine operibus legis
And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, (ESV)
τῷ δὲ μὴ ἐργαζομένῳ, πιστεύοντι δὲ ἐπὶ τὸν δικαιοῦντα τὸν ἀσεβῆ λογίζεται ἡ πίστις αὐτοῦ εἰς δικαιοσύνην,
ei vero qui non operatur credenti autem in eum qui iustificat impium reputatur fides eius ad iustitiam
Notice how emphatic these verses are. Not only does Paul say that it is by faith, but he emphasizes, “not of yourselves,” “not by works,” “apart from works,” and “to the one who does not work.” It sure is difficult to say that we need faith and works, when Paul keeps repeating that it is faith not works. The two are clearly separate and of the two, only faith is required for salvation.
Some have protested the faith alone message on the grounds that “even the demons believe” (Latin et daemones credunt). First, the “demons believe” quote comes from a hypothetical objector in James 2:18-19, whom James calls “a foolish person” (Jas 2:20). Second, the content of the demons’ faith is monotheism (Jas 2:19a), not faith in Christ for eternal life. Third, demons are not humans and are thereby ineligible for eternal life even if they did believe in Christ. Fourth and most importantly, this verse clearly distinguishes between faith and works because demons do not have good works – only faith.
Some object to the faith alone message, saying “faith without works is dead” (Latin fides sine operibus mortua est). This is another James quote (James 2:17, 26). Remember that James is writing to believers. He calls them “brothers” repeatedly throughout the letter. They have already believed in Christ and received eternal life, which, as the name implies, is eternal. They can’t lose it, so they can’t get it back. They have already been saved, so what good is faith alone in Christ alone to them? It’s useless, isn’t it? If they didn’t have eternal life, then faith alone in Christ alone would be of infinite benefit to them, but since they already have eternal life, they can and should work.
Some might think that true, saving faith involves a change in heart, a love for God, etc., which mandatorily results in good works. It is difficult to imagine someone so terrible that he never does any good works, right? Well, first of all, what’s a good work? I know several nonbelievers who are very kind people; you might even say that they do more kind things than many Christians. So, yea, it is hard to imagine someone living a life completely void of good works, whether he’s saved or not. But, what about those believing chief rulers in John 12?
Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. (KJV)
ὅμως μέντοι καὶ ἐκ τῶν ἀρχόντων πολλοὶ ἐπίστευσαν εἰς αὐτόν, ἀλλὰ διὰ τοὺς Φαρισαίους οὐχ ὡμολόγουν, ἵνα μὴ ἀποσυνάγωγοι γένωνται· ἡγάπησαν γὰρ τὴν δόξαν τῶν ἀνθρώπων μᾶλλον ἤπερ τὴν δόξαν τοῦ Θεοῦ.
verumtamen et ex principibus multi crediderunt in eum sed propter Pharisaeos non confitebantur ut de synagoga non eicerentur dilexerunt enim gloriam hominum magis quam gloriam Dei
Clearly, it is possible to believe in Christ without even loving the praise of God more than the praise of men. If we examined their fidelity to determine whether or not they had faith, then we would simply get the wrong results. They did not have fidelity, but the Bible clearly says that they had faith.
Remember how the theologians like to use the word assensus to describe believing something is true, but not necessarily acting on it? I think the word they were looking for is credo! That’s what John uses to describe what these believers did. The Greek is pisteuo – the same verb in John 3:16.
Don’t be baffled by the baloney. The Notitia, Assensus, Fiducia Argument is, at its very core, an attempt to turn men’s eyes away from Christ’s fidelity and to their own fidelity. And it uses goofy Latin to do so. Let’s stick to the Biblical message of faith, pistis, fides, in Christ.
By the way, do you know how to say, “by faith alone” in Latin? Sola fide.