Sunday, 13 January 2008

Assurance of Salvation in Calvinism?

A major gun in the Calvinist arsenal against Arminianism is the issue of assurance of salvation. Calvinists relish pointing out that an Arminian never has assurance of his salvation. In contrast, they say, Calvinists are absolutely assured of their salvation since God has foreordained it from the deep dark, inscrutible counsels of God.

However, in this post, I would like to claim that Calvinists really have no assurance at all of their salvation.

Let me first hasten to say that, true to the accusations of Calvinists, we Arminians do believe in the possibility that we could neglect so great a salvation so as to make shipwreck of their faith. And I realize that we take seriously the apostolic warnings to their Christian brothers to hold fast to faith lest we turn away from the living God and trample the blood of the Son of God underfoot--after having received the knowledge of the truth. And so, I own all those Calvinistic charges that Arminians fear the possibility of apostasy and therefore have no absolute assurance of their final salvation. Moreover, I freely admit that we Arminians believe that Jesus' death doesn't save anyone who is not united with Christ by faith. I own all this—no point in reminding me.

I'm just saying Calvinists have a different problem with assurance. Let me explain what it is.
The Arminian has the Divinely bound assurance that Jesus died for him, for the Word clearly and unequivocally declares that God so loved the world that he sent his only Son to die on its behalf. And so, if you ask the Arminian, "Did Jesus die for you?" he will respond with absolute assurance, "Yes, Jesus died for me as well as for you."

But if you ask the Calvinist, "How do you know Jesus died for you?" his response is be-stuttered. He can't say, "I know Jesus died for me because the Bible tells me so." And so he retreats to the position that since he is a believer, he knows that Jesus died for him since the Bible teaches that Jesus died for the elect.

However, this argument is based on the Calvinist's personal experience. But isn't personal experience tainted by Total Depravity, by the Calvinist's own admission? What if Satan has merely tricked the Calvinist into thinking that he is a believer. It wouldn't be the first time that someone was mistaken about his salvation.

In this light, a Calvinist just doesn't seem capable of absolute assurance that Jesus died for him. Now to be sure, they can assure themselves on the basis of Scripture that Jesus died for the elect. But after that, Calvinistic assurance that Jesus died for him gets fuzzy. He has to say, "Well, I think I'm a believer, and if so, I must be elect, and so therefore, Christ must have died for me."Ultimately then, Calvinistic assurance that Jesus died for him is based penultimately on the fact (or mis-fact based on depraved misperception) that he is a believer. Calvinistic assurance all comes unhinged if the person is mistaken as to whether he truly is a believer.

Moreover, the Calvinist minister who wishes to encourage the regenerate person who starts wavering on assurance cannot make an absolute statement, "Brother Joe, I know Jesus died for your sins" since the minister cannot actually know for sure that the person, in fact, was regenerateThere you have it! Despite the thundering cannons of Calvinism on this issue, Calvinism really doesn't have absolute assurance of salvation.

So, pick your poison. Be an Arminian with assurance that you will be saved only if you continue to the end in faith, or be a Calvinist without the assurance that Jesus died for you.


Boms said...

Assurance of salvation? Is this all that we are after? Is this what matters to us the most? Assurance of what's in it for us?

Rejoice in the assurance of CHRIST's LORDship over all! All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to CHRIST. THAT is the Good News!

If He commands me to spend the rest of eternity burning in hell just as I deserve, does this make Him any less worthy of our praise, honour and loyalty?

JESUS CHRIST is the alpha and omega of the Gospel, HE is the very heart of the Good News, the reason and centre of everything. This is what we should all joyfully and FAITHFULLY declare, whatever the cost.

To God alone be the glory!

Pizza Man said...

This is a great post. Another thing to note - Calvin thought it was possible for God illuminate someone for a while, and then bail at a later point. So even if you ARE a believer, God might withdraw from your life, and then you're toast. The Puritans were plagued with this kind of fear (called the doctrine of the false hope).

Calvin:There are two kinds of call. There is the general call, by which God invites all equally to himself through the outward preaching of the word-even those to whom he holds it out as a savor of death, and as the occasion for severer condemnation. The other kind of call is special, which he deigns for the most part to give to the believers alone, while by the inward illumination of his Spirit he causes the preached Word to dwell in their hearts. Yet sometimes he also causes those whom he illumines only for a time to partake of it; then he justly forsakes them on account of their ungratefulness and strikes them with even greater blindness.

a helmet said...

Absolutely right. According to Calvinism there are 3 kinds of believers:

1) Soon-to-fall-away-believers (rocky ground)

2) No-fruit-believers (thorny ground)

3) True believers (good ground)

How does the calvinist know what type of believer he is? Obviously he must identify his fruit. How does he do this? By self-examination, that is ultimately self-righteousness. Here we go, Calvinism boils down to a salvation-by-works-gospel. For only by works they can have a glimpse of hope of salvation. Just watch the Sermons of Paul Washer and many other reformed chiefs.
Assurance? I sum it up like this: Calvinism = Check-If-You-Are-Saved-ism

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this article, the link to which I found through a google search. Through it, I was able to discover what being a Reformed Arminian is. Thank you and God bless you!

Gary said...

Many Christians have said the following to themselves during a very difficult period in their life: Am I really saved? Here are the thought processes on this issue for an Evangelical and a Lutheran:

The Evangelical's Assurance of Salvation:

1. At age ___ I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior. At that moment I asked Jesus to come into my heart to be my Lord and Savior and to forgive me of my sins.

2. But since I am currently questioning my salvation, maybe I didn't "do it" correctly. Maybe I didn't fully understand what I was doing. Maybe I didn't fully repent. Maybe I didn't really have complete faith. Maybe I did it just because my friends were doing it. Maybe...

3. I don't know...maybe I should "do it" again, just to be 100% sure.

The Lutheran's Assurance of Salvation:

1. Have I been baptized into the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, thereby receiving God's promise of the forgiveness of my sins, salvation of my soul, faith, and eternal life?
Answer: Yes.

2. Have I outright rejected Christ as my Lord and Savior?
Answer: No.

3. Am I living a life of ongoing sin in willful disobedience and defiance of my Lord?
Answer: No.

Therefore, I KNOW I am saved!

When your assurance of salvation is based on what GOD did and not what you did, it makes all the difference in the world!

Frank Eckenroad said...

As a Calvinist I know that I am saved/of the elect because of what the Scripture says. How does the Scripture tell me to have assurance. There are so many places this is addressed how can I chose where to begin. There's a whole book of the Bible that deals with that very issue: 1 John! It's not works righteousness to look at the fruit of God's work in a believer' s life to see where your heart is (this is examining yourself to see if you're in the faith). 1 John 2:3 says We know we have come to know if we obey his commands. So one test is obedience. Obedience is not the cause of salvation because grace is. Since God requires perfection even are best works are mortal sins. But I can discern God's work in my life because I am now eager to do good works (though imperfect) whereas before I desired to do evil in God's sight.