Dedicated to my USA readers who just celebrated their 4th of July.
There is a common notion that in order to believe in something, that something must exists a priori. Although in human interaction and in some cases this is true, it is not true in all cases. Another corollary to this is that in order for a promise to be true, the content of that promise must, a priori, already be a reality. To make it more concrete, UOJers teach that in order to believe you are justified you must believe that your justification has already occurred. Otherwise, so the reasoning goes, faith has nothing to grab a hold on. Take a look at this example comment by Dr. Kilcrease here, the emphasis is mine for your attention.
So, to speak the gospel, you must make a promissory statement and a promissory statement presupposes a reality that's already present. If it's faith that does the justifying and not the reception of justification, then we're not speaking the word of the gospel as a promise-since faith must trust in an already existing reality that is completely fulfilled
I suggest that this type of reasoning or assumption is flawed. It misses the nature of faith and has misunderstood the nature of a promise. This is also reasoning not Biblically but philosophically. Philosophy, let us face it, is often based on observation not revelation.
Let me give an example. If I say to you I will be there in our meeting tomorrow and I will be on time, does that mean tomorrow has already come so that you can believe me - my words and actions? The answer of course is "no". What does it take for you to believe me? I suggest what you need from me so you can believe my words is my character. Am I a person who is known for integrity, is my word my bond? Isn't that what you need from me to believe that what I say, I will do? You do not require the existence of tomorrow, a priori, to believe me, right? Now transfer that notion of character to God who does not lie. We can then see why faith is precious to God.
Furthermore, the notion that in order for faith to grab a hold on something, that something must already exists, does not take faith as a gift. It does not take faith as an entire creation from nothing to something. This "a priori existence thinking" makes faith like it is just a matter of rearranging the furnitures in a room. The furnitures are already there but they are just not in the right places. Scripture does not speak of saving faith in this manner. Rather it speaks of faith as a creation through the Means of Grace i.e., the preaching or proclamation of the Gospel Romans 1:16-17. Faith is creation ex nihilo just like God created the Universe. The Gospel in the BOC is designated an offer. Namely AP XII, v.29
And this contrition takes place in this manner when sins are censured by the Word of God, because the sum of the preaching of the Gospel is this, namely, to convict of sin, and to offer for Christ's sake the remission of sins and righteousness, and the Holy Ghost, and eternal life, and that as regenerate men we should do good works.
As a counter example of why I believe the "a priori existence" notion is false, I give Hebrews 11:
13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth
Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. To believe in the promises of God, that is to see them afar of and yet be assured of them and embrace them is to have a faith whose author is not man but Christ, the author and finisher of faith.
Discussing Justification is always a good thing for in the discussion we get a clearer understanding of where faith is anchored, where it should rest.
Dr. Jackson says it well when he says
Wondering out loud is not permitted in the synods. I believe doctrinal friction is a positive factor in creating doctrinal clarity - as evidenced in the Formula of Concord.
Justification by faith, like subnet masking, is learned rather than taught. Going over every issue is essential in sorting out the Biblical truths.