The three aspects of saving faith identified by the reformers are notitia, assensus, and fiducia.1 For the reformers, saving faith was made up of each of these aspects. Possessing one or two of them does not mean you are saved. All three are necessary and are together sufficient for salvation. Let’s take a look at each of these aspects in more detail.
Three Aspects of Saving Faith
Notitia refers to the comprehension of data or content that is to be believed. Faith, especially saving faith, always has an object. You always believe in something. Notitia provides the understanding of the object of saving faith (namely, the truth about Christ’s birth, life, death, burial, and resurrection - see 1 Corinthians 15:1-81).
Given notitia is a comprehension of the object of faith, assensus is assent to the truth of the notitia. In other words, it is not enough to simply know that Christians claim Christ is God incarnate who died a sacrificial death for your sins; you must also affirm this statement to be true.
At this point, we have an object of faith (described by notitia) which is affirmed as truth (assensus). At this point, you may think someone with notitia and assensus is doing pretty well. According to James 2:19, however, even the demons have notitia and assensus! They understand the claims about Christ and God and even assent to their truth; there is something fundamentally missing from their faith which separates them from saving faith, and that is fiducia. Fiducia describes complete confidence and trust in the truths understood by notitia and affirmed by assensus.
So do these three aspects have any Biblical basis? For the sake of time, I’m only going to examine one passage.
Probably the clearest passage which supports these three aspects is Romans 10:5-17 (especially verses 13 and 14). In this passage, Paul is addressing his desire that the Jewish people receive “the righteousness of God” through faith (see Romans 10:2). In verses 13 and 14, he quotes Joel 2:32 which says “Whoever will call on the name of the LORD will be saved”. This is clearly a calling upon God which is salvific and fits nicely into what the reformers called fiducia. In verse 14, Paul begins to work ‘backwards’ to show what it would take for the Jewish people to express fiducia in calling on God. Paul’s first point in verse 14 is that it is not possible to call on someone in whom you “have not believed”. What does Paul mean here when he says “believe” (as in “have not believed”)? Keep in mind that Paul has already discussed the step at which a person is saved. He appears to be speaking of what the reformers would call assensus: an affirmation of the truth of events. After this, Paul continues to work backwards and points out that in order to have assensus, they must first “hear”. This “hearing” matches notitia, which is a comprehension of truth claims.
I may add more biblical evidence later, but am going to stop here for now. Understanding this topic is very helpful in evangelism, discipleship, and in growing our own faith. I hope you found this article helpful.