Lordship Salvation + Assurance = Easy Believism
Antonio has done an excellent job in his blog of demonstaring how Calvinistic theology destroys assurance. Indeed many Calvinists no doubt do lack assurance that they are truly saved.
However, there are many who believe in Lordship salvation (holding that personal holiness and perserverance are essential elements of salvation) to varying degrees who have a strong sense of assurance. They may pay lip service to the idea that there is a false faith, but they would never question the reality of their own faith in Christ. In their theological reasonings they may make faith complicated and attack 'mere mental assent', but practically they know when they believe something and when they do not. They know very well that they are eternally secure in Christ, even though they believe that this must inevitably result in perserverance in the faith.
Until last year I favoured a Reformed approach to Sanctification and held to Calvinistic Perserverance. However, I had a strong assurance of my salvation. I knew my faith was real. I knew for certain that Christ had died for my sins and was raised for my justification. This was rightly my confidence.
This of course was a problem in terms of dealing with Biblical warnings and exhortations.
"Even so faith , if it hath not works, is dead, being alone."
While I was vaguely aware that there was an alternative interpretation, I assumed that this meant that genuine faith must have works.
Now, I never liked the book of James very much. I felt it was tougth teaching. However, I did not let it bother me. I was absolutely confident that my faith was real. Therefore, logically I must be doing works. As my faith was real, I must obviously be doing sufficent works to demonstrate the reality of my salvation. They might not always be good enougth to satisfy my conscience, but they obvioulsy must be real because God was at work in my life sanctifying me.
I read devotional books by Calvinist writers, in particular 'Holiness' by J.C. Ryle. In this collection of papers, Ryle warned Christians to look at their behavior and to question their salvation. It was challenging stuff, but it did not worry too much. I had absolute confidence that Jesus Christ paid the penalty for my sin and that I had life in Him. Therefore, I was saved, regardless of the fact that J.C. Ryle's papers made me uncomfortable.
The fact was that so long as I had assurance of being a justified sinner, my Lordship salvation theology actually lead me into the same 'Easy Believism' that Free Grace advocates are accused of.
What challenged my thinking was Ananias and Saphirah. I had always accepted the possiblity that Ananias and Saphirah might have been saved, but I had never given it much thought. However, when I began studying J.N. Darby and other Brethren writers, I was surprised to find that they connected the deaths of this couple to the 'Sin unto death' in 1 John 5:16. I had been troubled before by Arminians using this verse to prove the possiblity of Christians being lost forever. However, the idea that this was physical death made so much more sense.
The idea that Biblical warnings might be to believers instead of false professors completely turned my theology upside down. The doctrine of God's chastening now seemed so much more real. If failure to walk in faithfulness had dreadful consequences, then the denial of Perserverance didd not necessarilly lead to 'Easy Believism' as I had thought. I was now able to see that Lordship salvation either leads one to question his assurance of salvation or else to genuine 'Easy Believism'.