Update: Joe Carter at EO has posted a response to Challies’ article below, and I have inserted the 9th comment ————————————-
Tim Challies has a nice article, and a good reference post discussing the principles around judgment vs. reproof and rebuke. Very timely, seeing our discussions here. Have fun reading The Obligation to Assume, and even better, The Ultimate Human Judgment.
On Judging Yourself
Paul acknowledged this when he wrote, in 2 Corinthians 13:5, "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?-unless indeed you fail to meet the test!" Paul knew that some who professed to be believers were not and thus he encourages each of them to continually test their hearts. One terrifying aspect of the final judgment is that there will be many going to hell who sincerely felt they were believers….
On Believing that Others are Believers Profession of Faith
When a person has made a profession of faith and is a member in good standing of a true church, as defined by these three marks: the preaching of the Gospel, the administration of the sacraments and the exercise of church discipline, I believe that we are under an obligation to assume that this person’s faith is genuine….
This is important, for we have affirmed that a person can be involved in ongoing and unrepentant sin and still be assumed to be a believer, provided that he is within the context of a local church and is receiving necessary discipline.
In the Specific Case of Andrew Sullivan
As I understand it, then, because of Sullivan’s unrepentant behavior, and because he has deliberately avoided placing himself within a true church, the proper context for all believers, I feel that we have no obligation to assume that he is a true believer.