I’ve had people telling me that intellectual assent is when people agree that Christ paid the penalty for our sin but they don’t believe they’re sinners and need to be saved. Is this the right definition?
I think intellectual assent is a decision made in our head that lacks the commitment of our heart. There are lots of things people believe in theory, but wouldn’t entrust their life to. For example, people might agree that a bridge made of rope and planks appears to be strong enough to allow them to cross a deep chasm, but until they’re willing to step on the bridge and walk across it’s only intellectual assent.
It’s the same with salvation. Many people understand that the Lord died to pay for the sins of the world, but until they’re willing to trust their own eternal destiny to him by becoming born again it’s only intellectual assent. And Jesus said no one can enter the kingdom without being born again (John 3:3).
Knowledge resides in our head, but belief is a matter of the heart. That’s why Paul said, “If you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).