The Bonfire–Straw Man Argument #3

Straw Man Argument #3 Calvinists don’t believe in assurance of salvation.

Last week on another blog, the comments of a Calvinist were posted in response to a specific question about why Calvinists preach the gospel to people even though they may not be among the elect. His answer was that we cannot know who the elect are until the final judgment. For that reason, we proclaim the good news to people indiscriminately. The blog owner took from that answer that this man does not believe it is possible for believers to enjoy assurance of salvation. It did not seem to matter to anyone commenting on that post that the question he was answering had nothing whatsoever to do with the assurance of salvation. They were all convinced that Calvinists don’t believe assurance of salvation is possible. One of them wrote on another blog, as if he were stating the Calvinist’s position, “You see, no one can know if they are truly elect or not until they stand before God and He pronounces His arbitrary and subjective judgment upon them.” This is clearly a straw man argument. Though we do not believe that assurance is of the essence of faith, we believe assurance is possible and desirable. I would refer you not only to my article on this blog re: the assurance of salvation but to the two Calvinistic statements below. Please observe that the standard of judgment is anything but “arbitrary” and “subjective.” The first statement is from the original formulation of the doctrine we call Calvinism, “The Canons of Dort”– 1619. The second is from “The Westminster Confession of Faith,” universally acknowledged to be a Calvinistic confession.

Canons of Dort
FIRST HEAD: ARTICLE 12. The elect in due time, though in various degrees and in different measures, attain the assurance of this their eternal and unchangeable election, not by inquisitively prying into the secret and deep things of God, but by observing in themselves with a spiritual joy and holy pleasure the infallible fruits of election pointed out in the Word of God – such as, a true faith in Christ, filial fear, a godly sorrow for sin, a hungering and thirsting after righteousness, etc.

Westminster Confession of Faith (Chapter 18)

Of the Assurance of Grace and Salvation

1. Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favor of God, and estate of salvation(a) (which hope of theirs shall perish(b): yet 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,(c) and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed.(d)

(a) Mic 3:11; Deut 29:19; John 8:41
(b) Amos 9:10; Matt 7:22-23
(c) 1 John 5:13; 1 John 2:3; 1 John 3:14,18-19,21,24
(d) Rom 5:2,5

2. This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope;(e) but an infallible assurance of faith founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation,(f) the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made,(g) the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God,(h) which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption.(i)
(e) Heb 6:11,19
(f) Heb 6:17-18
(g) 2 Pet 1:4-11; 1 John 2:3; 1 John 3:14; 2 Cor 1:12
(h) Rom 8:15-16
(i) Eph 1:13-14; Eph 4:30; 2 Cor 1:21-22

3. This infallible assurance doth not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it(k) yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation, in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto.(l) And therefore it is the duty of everyone to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure,(m) that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience, the proper fruits of this assurance;(n) so far is it from inclining men to looseness.(o)
(k) 1 John 5:13
(l) 1 Cor 2:12; 1 John 4:13; Heb 6:11-12; Eph 3:17-18
(m) 2 Pet 1:10
(n) Rom 5:1-2,5; Rom 14:17; Rom 15:13; Eph 1:3-4; Ps 4:6-7; Ps 119:32
(o) 1 John 2:1-2; Rom 6:1-2; Titus 2:11-12,14; 2 Cor 7:1; Rom 8:1,12; 1 John 3:2-3; Ps 130:4; 1 John 1:6-7

4. True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as, by negligence in preserving of it, by falling into some special sin which woundeth the conscience and grieveth the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation, by God’s withdrawing the light of his countenance, and suffering even such as fear him to walk in darkness and to have no light:(p) yet are they never utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart, and conscience of duty, out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may, in due time, be revived;(q) and by the which, in the meantime, they are supported from utter despair.(r)

(p) Ps 51:8,12,14; Eph 4:30-31; Ps 77:1-10; Ps 31:22; Matt 26:69-72; Luke 22:31-34
(q) 1 John 3:9; Luke 22:32; Ps 51:8,12; Ps 73:15
(r) Mic 7:7-9; Jer 32:40; Isa 54:7-14; 2 Cor 4:8-10

I don’t think language could be plainer. It is true we don’t believe a person can be assured of eternal salvation simply by virtue of a public profession of faith he has made. John wrote his first epistle to professed believers so that they might know they know God. In other words, he wrote to them that they might obtain assurance of salvation. If every believer possessed assurance, John’s epistle would have been unnecessary. Still, this epistle along with other biblical passages makes it clear that assurance of salvation is possible for the child of God.


1 Response to “The Bonfire–Straw Man Argument #3”

  1. February 13, 2013 at 5:52 am

    Wow good work in documenting the historical reality of what Calvinists really believe

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