[We are] not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Monday, November 27, 2006

MetaSchema: FAQ - What is Assurance? // Free Grace Theology Blog -- I Know that I Believe I Have 5 Fingers On My Right Hand

MetaSchema: FAQ - What is Assurance?

Great discussion going on over at Earl's blog on the subject of assurance. I disagree fundamentally with Earl's explanation of assurance.

Matthew, please excuse me for doing this (forgive me, I have never done this before, and I don't plan on doing it again!). I don't wish to take the spotlight off of Earl's post that provides 5 fundamental basis for the appropriation of an "assurance" that, by virtue of its basis, cannot be certain, and all the discussion going on there. It really is great.

Yet, I asked some very vital questions concerning Earl's view on his blog in the comment meta that have not been answered. I took those questions and made them into a post on my blog:

I Know that I Believe I Have 5 Fingers on my Right Hand

Also, Bobby Grow has a discussion concerning assurance on his blog:

Calvin Wasn’t an Empericist: Assurance Found in the Work of Christ vs. the Fruit of the Elect

19 Comments:

  • Oh, this is why my blog meter suddenly jumped on my normally quiet site. You're all welcome. :o)

    By Blogger Earl, at Monday, November 27, 2006 7:08:00 AM  

  • Antonio,

    The usual practice in replying to someone that they have not answered some of the points is to do so directly in the conversation. I did address some of the issues you raised, but I got no response from you. That's okay, we don't have time to answer everything. I'll figure out what I didn't respond to and try to provide a response at some point.

    By Blogger Earl, at Monday, November 27, 2006 8:50:00 PM  

  • Who the heck wrote this post?

    By Blogger nathaniel adam king, at Tuesday, November 28, 2006 8:12:00 AM  

  • Sofyst, I was a little confused also. Then I remembered that Matthew entered this post a couple of days ago and all it said was this:

    MetaSchema: FAQ - What is Assurance?

    Great discussion going on over at Earl's blog on the subject of assurance. I disagree fundamentally with Earl's explanation of assurance.


    I think what happened is that Antonio went into the post and added to it. That is why we hear his voice apologizing to Matthew, even though it says it was written by Matthew.

    I am glad the Bible is not that complicated ... or is it?

    By Blogger Rose~, at Tuesday, November 28, 2006 12:31:00 PM  

  • ...and I addressed more of Anotonio's concerns in my blog.

    By Blogger Earl, at Tuesday, November 28, 2006 2:22:00 PM  

  • I was wondering the same thing? Thanks for the clarification, Rose.

    By Anonymous bobby grow, at Tuesday, November 28, 2006 2:39:00 PM  

  • I had to respond here too...

    Antonio, Rose, and Matthew,

    You all are geniuses! Interacting with you all is sometimes frustrating – after all, why can’t you see it my way? :o) It’s a bit arrogant, but hey, that’s Total Depravity at work. In trying to figure out how to explain perseverance, and how wonderful it is (I know, sick mind :o), I had an aha in understanding, based on you all’s statement: “Yes, I can know that I have everlasting life. I also can know that I have 5 fingers on my hand.”

    Yes, I agree with you that I can know I have everlasting life, just as I can know I have five fingers. What else do we know? In heaven we will not be sinning. That is a delightful, encouraging thought, isn’t it? Why will we not sin? Because we will be changed, in a twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. We will be raised be raised incorruptible! I know that as I know I have five fingers on my hand. But here is something else. When we’ve been born again, we’ve been changed from our old selves. We also have the Holy Spirit taking up residence in our lives. I know that as I know I have five fingers on my hand. Because of that, and the promise in Scripture of persevering, I know I will persevere. I know that like I know I have five fingers on my hand! Need I fear self-examination? Not at all, just as I don’t fear examining the five fingers that I know are on my hand. I know they’ll be there, and seeing them there gives me great comfort that I’m not missing a finger. So it is with those who put their confidence in Christ! Do you know what freedom and exhilaration that brings? Not only do I have heaven guaranteed for me, but also God is there, granting me grace to persevere. How do I know this? I know it as I know I have five fingers on my hand. I have been justified, saved, and now God is at work in my life making me into the image of his Son. Hallelujah!

    Now, what happens if some day, you, me, or some other believer doubts she is saved? Will that doubt never possibly happen? If you think it is possible for someone to loose his or her faith (but also still be saved), then certainly it is possible. It’s also possible from the perseverance perspective. So what do we do to help that person who is in doubt? We explain salvation to them in more detail, more intelligently. If that person has ever had saving faith, we ask them to look back on it to see if they believed then (self-examination). If that person has served God, and loves God, we bring that to their attention. I think you’d agree that someone who loves God and serves God most probably has exercised saving faith (again, self-examination). Of course we’d pray that the Holy Spirit would reconfirm on that person the witness to her spirit (based on Romans 8 – and praying Scripture is praying God’s will).

    You see, we in the Reformed camp also know we are saved, just as we know we have five fingers on our hands. We also know we will persevere, just as we know we have five fingers on our hands. When someone stumbles in our Reformed groups, just as in your groups, we exhort them in similar ways. You were right in point out Calvin’s Institutes, we do know we have salvation, just like we know that we have five fingers on our hand. We do know we will persevere, just like we have five fingers on our hand.

    Thank you for that insight!

    By Blogger Earl, at Tuesday, November 28, 2006 9:32:00 PM  

  • Earl, I think it is a little more complicated than that.

    You see the Bible gives us many hints that believers can fall away. Calvinists generally explain these texts by arguing that they are warnings to true believers to check that their faith is genuine and not a 'false faith.'

    It is this problem of 'false faith' that causes the headache over assurance.

    It is certainly true that believers have doubts. But if we can be certain that we have believed, then those doubts ought to be dispelled very easily, without even bringing up the question of conduct.

    However, because Calvinists generally insist on the possiblity of certain people having a 'false faith', the Christian is left with the dilemma "How do I know my faith is genuine?" and so their grounds for assurance become purely subjective and focused on works.

    We believe that this notion of a 'false faith' is utter nonsense and that this dilemma over assurance is tragic.

    Calvinists could easily solve this problem by ditching the doctrine of Perserverance and simplifying their doctrine of faith.

    Every Blessing in Christ

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Wednesday, November 29, 2006 1:50:00 AM  

  • Matthew,

    No it is not complicated. It is elegantly simple. It is as simple as the five fingers on each hand typing on this keyboard.

    Within the Reformed world, we believe you can absolutely know, rock solid, you can be assured you are saved. It's in the Westminster Confession, if you need any evidence that Reformed documents teach it: “such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity, endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed.” (WCF, 18.1).

    Warnings to persevere? Yes, there are warnings to persevere. That is because there are people with false assurance, who don't have genuine faith that is not confirmed by the Holy Spirit. The warnings are a source of rich blessing to those who believe, who are rock solid convicted by the Holy Spirit of assurance of salvation. The warnings are used by the Holy Spirit to wake up the false professors of faith.

    How do I know I am saved? The Holy Spirit confirms it with my spirit. How much stronger can that get? I can cry Abba Father! I know it like I know I have five fingers on my hand. And as I look at my hand I see the five fingers and am reminded that also as I look at my life, I see the marks of belonging to God. Because I know that God will complete the good work he has begun within me, I will persevere. How do I know it? The Holy Spirit confirms it to my spirit. I know it like I know I have five fingers on my hand. It's that simple and elegant. It drives me to optimism, joyous optimism that I will indeed persevere.

    By Blogger Earl, at Wednesday, November 29, 2006 4:35:00 AM  

  • Earl has posted this same objection or comment in the meta of my post on Free Grace Blog.

    I have responded to him there.

    Come see my response:

    Assurance!

    By Blogger Antonio, at Wednesday, November 29, 2006 12:05:00 PM  

  • Hello Everyone!

    I have a comment which probably won't add much to the discussion but what the heck. A major difference I see between the free grace and reformed positions when it comes to assurance is what we are basing our assurance on. Those who adhere to the free grace position base their assurance on those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ are saved (no controversy here) and that there are not different kinds of belief or faith. The disputes among free grace advocates then tend to turn on what does a person have to believe, what is it essential to have believed in rather than the genuiness of the belief itself.

    Those from the reformed side, while not disputing that once you are saved it is forever, cannot take it for granted that their faith is genuine (I assume that the reformed advocates could also debate what has to be believed but I have not seen very much of that). This lack of certainty regarding their faith causes them to turn inward and evaluate their works from a subjective viewpoint. I will admit that I have had some successes and made some terrible mistakes as a believer, if I were to hold to the perseverance view I would have to be very uncertain about my eternal security after some of my mistakes. The emphasis becomes me as evaluated by me.

    I have seen accusations that those who hold to the free grace position have a man centered theology instead of a God centered theology. However, assurance seems to be very man centered. Unless a person holds to a hyper Calvinist theology, which I consider to be nothing more than fatalism, then man's volition comes into the equation at some point.

    Glenn W.

    By Anonymous GlennW, at Wednesday, November 29, 2006 5:49:00 PM  

  • Glenn,

    You say, "cannot take it for granted that their faith is genuine".

    Not so. There are various Reformed people that think otherwise. One of the standard Reformed confessions states it this way:

    "such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity, endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed.” (WCF, 18.1).

    In other words, it is possible to be certainly assured (or to say it informally, take it for granted) we are saved.

    You'll find that FG advocates will admit that once someone is saved, it is possible they can come into periods of doubt about their salvation. It can be possible with Reformed people -- this is a problem that potentially all Christians can face under the circumstances you described. In those cases, look to Christ, understand the nature of salvation and how immutable it is. The advantage of the Reformed view (besides being Scripturally correct ;o) is that those who are saved will be guaranteed, by God himself, that they will ultimately persevere in the faith. Perseverance, correctly understood, is a joyous, optimistic faith. It's optimistic that not only will God save you into heaven, but that God will graciously enable you to persevere, so you will hear, "Well done, faithful servant!"

    btw, are you the GlennW of Covnet? I used to hang around there.

    By Blogger Earl, at Wednesday, November 29, 2006 9:32:00 PM  

  • Earl,

    I have never been to CovNet. I thought for sure I would ber the only one!

    Glenn W.

    By Anonymous GlennW, at Thursday, November 30, 2006 6:16:00 AM  

  • ...and about Calvin not permitting self-examination, I've got an entry on this here.

    By Blogger Earl, at Thursday, November 30, 2006 7:50:00 PM  

  • Matthew,
    I did a post on your question at my blog that you asked at Gojira's Stomping Ground blog!

    The question was: If a person does not persevere in the Christian faith and walk, will she go to heaven?

    I know you don't visit often if ever anymore, but I thought you should know about me posting and answering the question! I know this is not on assurance but I thought you may be interested.

    By Blogger jazzycat, at Thursday, November 30, 2006 9:24:00 PM  

  • ...I'm converting my blog (Google Blogger) to beta -- 5 hours now and counting. I'm going through blogger withdrawal! It's a terrible thing!

    On the other hand, this has been providentially arranged by God for everyone's good. Hmm, I don't like the implications of this. :o)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sunday, December 03, 2006 3:31:00 PM  

  • Chuck (?), bad idea. Beta is rubbish. I often don't bother commenting on Beta blogs.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Monday, December 04, 2006 1:00:00 AM  

  • That's the problem when I run around with multiple identities. Who am I now? :o)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Monday, December 04, 2006 2:56:00 PM  

  • Seems simple to me, if you're motivated by love you should have a "boldness" in the matter of your salvation.

    1 John 4:17-19

    In this love has been made perfect among us, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, because as he is, even so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear has punishment. He who fears is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us.


    Yes, if you love Him you'll keep His commandment's (not meaning "all" or "perfectly")... but what matters is WHY you will keep them. Fear of judgment? or a grateful heart?e

    Cause if it's fear, you haven't been perfected. DOH!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wednesday, December 06, 2006 1:57:00 PM  

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