Utmost good faith

Insurance is a contract of utmost good faith. Both the policyowner and the insurer must know all material facts and relevant information. There can be no attempt by either party to conceal, inveigle or deceive. A consumer purchases a policy based largely on what the insurer and its agent claim are its features, benefits and advantages, as well as what the insurer has actuated as the value and reasonable cost of coverage. An insurer issues a policy based primarily on the information it receives in the application.

This concept of utmost good faith translates to the Christian faith. In the covenant that comprises genuine, saving faith, there are three essential components, as codified by the 16th-century Protestant Reformers: notitia, assensus and fiducia (Loci Communes Theologici, Philip Melanchthon, 1521). Martin Luther, the Protestant Reformer, argued that genuine, saving faith is a fides viva, a vital or living faith (Justified by Faith Alone, R.C. Sproul, p. 47).

Notitia means “knowledge,” and is the content of faith, or those things we believe. We place our faith in something, or more accurately, someone. In order to believe, we must know that someone, who is the Lord Jesus Christ (John 17:3, II Corinthians 4:6, Ephesians 1:17-19). A person must receive the material facts, or the information of the gospel in order to have genuine, saving faith.

Assensus means “assent” or “agreement,” and is our conviction that the content of our faith is true. One can know about the Christian faith and yet believe that it is not true. Genuine faith says the content — the notitia taught by Holy Scripture — is true (Romans 10:9-11, 13, I John 5:20). A person must spiritually consent to the gospel in order to have genuine, saving faith. The Reformers distinguished three degrees of assent: firmitas, certitudo and evidentia. Assent with firmitas, or firmness, is full assent without hesitation to something accepted purely on authority. Assent with certitudo, or certainty, is full assent founded firmly upon a solid ground of accepted testimony. Assent to evidentia, or evidence, rests not on testimony, but on proof drawn either from sense-experience or reason. Protestants argue that the assensus theoreticus of faith is assent with firmitas and certitudo only. Evidentia, in contrast, belongs to a science.

Fiducia means “personal trust,” and involves complete reliance on the object of trust. Martin Luther referred to the apprehensio fiducialis, or “the apprehension of faith.” Knowing and assenting to the facts, the raw data of the Christian faith is not enough, for even demons can do that (James 2:19). Faith is effectual only if, knowing about and conceding to the claims of Jesus, one personally trusts in him alone for salvation (I Timothy 1:15, I Peter 4:19). Put simply, a person must have Christ in order to have genuine, saving faith.

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Covenant theology