September 29, 2020

iMonk 101: Losing the Treasure of a Christ-Centered Assurance of Salvation

I had a good talk yesterday with one of our young preachers on this subject. I’m also longing for Robert Capon to never die and to keep writing books that show me the way. Anyway, this is a favorite topic and I hope a helpful repost from a couple of years ago.

i-beli8.jpgUPDATE: John H has a helpful Lutheran response.

UPDATE II: A Lutheran view of Assurance. [Link is dead]

UPDATE III: Mark Shea comments on assurance in Calvinism and Catholicism. I think Mark’s experience with Calvinism is not very nuanced, but it’s on target. Takes forever to load, but is worth it. (Buy the Rosenbladt presentation.)

Q. 1. What is your only comfort, in life and in death?

A. That I belong–body and soul, in life and in death–not to myself but to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, who at the cost of his own blood has fully paid for all my sins and has completely freed me from the dominion of the devil; that he protects me so well that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that everything must fit his purpose for my salvation. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

Q. 2. How many things must you know that you may live and die in the blessedness of this comfort?

A. Three. First, the greatness of my sin and wretchedness. Second, how I am freed from all my sins and their wretched consequences. Third, what gratitude I owe to God for such redemption.

-The Heidelberg Catechism

Eric Thoennes from Talbot is writing at CT answering the question how do you know you are a Christian if you can’t remember when you made your “decision.” I appreciate his desire to address an important question.

It’s the ever-present evangelical struggle with assurance. With our differing view of sacramental effacacy, most evangelicals get tossed back to their experience of conversion, hence the stereotypical “testimony of getting saved,” an evangelical sacrament if there ever was one. Many of us abandoned that approach long ago in our own rejection of the errors of revivalism and good riddance. But what does that leave us with? Thoennes says the answer is sanctification, i.e. “growth” in being like Jesus and in the fruit of the Spirit.

Here’s the last paragraph.

For those who question their salvation, the best evidence is not the memory of having raised a hand or prayed a prayer. Nor is it having been baptized or christened. The true test of the authentic work of God in one’s life is growth in Christ-like character, increased love for God and other people, and the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-25; James 2:18). A memorable conversion experience may serve as an important referent to God’s saving work in one’s life. But the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in making a person more like Jesus is the clearest indicator that one has been made a new creation in Christ.

Hmmmm. Revivalistic experience…..or…..works. Any other choices? How about “I believe Jesus Christ died and lives for me. I am a sinner, and Jesus Christ is my hope, savior and mediator. Jesus = my salvation.” How about sola fide, sola Christus?

I’ve addressed this numerous times here at IM. If you want to know why there is an ad for Rod Rosenbladt’s teaching on my sidebar, this is the reason. Let me suggest the good doctor’s cure on the doctrine of Justification and its pastoral use in the matter of assurance.

The “best evidence” is “growth” in “love” and “fruit.” Being more “like Jesus.” Good grief. Can anyone spell “despair?” Seeking assurance through a measurement like “growth in Christlikeness” is not reformation Christianity. It’s the other team, where justification and sanctification are two words for the same thing. It’s obliterating the crucial distinction between justification and sanctification in the matter of assurance.

This stuff matters, folks. It matters at the moments you really need the Gospel to matter most: moments of great sin, attacks of doubt/despair and deathbeds- a place where I understand the active righteousness of Christ can be very comforting.

Interestingly, the first time I gave specific attention to this was also the first time I found myself disagreeing with Dr. Piper. I have changed my views even more into the Lutheran/Capon camp since I wrote “On Faith’s Crumbling Edge,” but you can sense here that when Dr. Piper keeps tying assurance to the question of “have you made every effort,” I’m not with him at all.

My older essays, “When I Am Weak” and “Our Problem With Grace” are statements of my understanding of the kind of assurance produced by the Gospel by faith, NOT by works.

Back to Dr. Thoennes. It seems to me he’s saying we’ll get rid of aisle-walking and hand-raising, and instead offer the wounded conscience “Are you becoming like Jesus?” If that will do the job, see you at mass. I’m quite serious. I’d far prefer the out and out Roman view of “assurance,” plainly stated as something you can’t have with certainty, than the advice to look at my own life for evidence I’m a real Christian. As Catholic convert and commentator Mark Shea says, ““I became more secure in my relationship with God once I was no longer certain I was going to heaven.” This is where we end up when we self-reference assurance.

Why are the prodigal son, Peter’s denial and the publican on his face our models for faith? Why does Romans 7 precede Romans 8? Why are warned that when we think we stand, we are ready to fall? Who in the New Testament would have passed the test of “examine your life and see if you are growing in obedience?” The rich young ruler? Nicodemus? Saul of Tarsus?

Please go buy Rod Rosenbladt’s message on justification at New Reformation Press.

The Lutheran position remains, for me, the absolutely necessary antidote for revivalism, subjective experience or the despair of self-examiniation for “progress.” (I have no problem with the statements in scripture that urge examination to see if I am in the faith. Entirely different than being in some legalistic environment where there’s an “obedience scrorecard.”

There must be a clear and unqualified pronouncement of the assurance of salvation on the basis of the fullness of the atonement of Christ. In other words, even a Christian can be saved. This other gospel, in its various forms (“Higher Life,” legalistic, the “carnal Christian” teaching, etc.) is tearing us to pieces.

You might be surprised who gets this sort of thing. A reader sent me this quote:

“A seriously Catholic friend whose line of work has him hanging out with equally serious evangelical Protestants has a problem. “I’m not very good,” he says, “at giving the kind of formulaic ‘personal testimony’ that they seem to expect.” I know what he means. For many years I’ve been responding to evangelical friends who want to know when I was born again or, as it is commonly put, when I became a Christian. “I don’t remember it at all,” I say, “but I know precisely the time and place. It was at 357 Miller St., Pembroke, Ontario, on Sunday, June 2, 1936, when twelve days after my birth I was born again in the sacrament of Holy Baptism.” (I was baptized at home because the chicken pox was going around.) That usually elicits a wry smile, and then the question, “Yes, but when did you really become a Christian?” In sober truth, there have been not one but several moments in my life that would no doubt qualify as what most evangelicals mean by a conversion experience. In circumstances appropriate to the disclosure of intensely personal experiences, I have told others about these moments. And some day, in pathetically pale imitation of Augustine and other greats, I might write about them in detail. My public testimony, however, is not to my experience but to Christ. It is not upon my experience but upon Christ that I rest my confidence that I am a child of God.

That’s Father Richard John Neuhaus, writing in First Things, April of 2000.

Comments

  1. Dude — why is it either/or/or? Why is it not all of the above, Christ’s work AND my repentance AND my sanctification by which I am assured? That’s not by which I am saved but but which I see God’s work.

    I’m good with the hard-core “I hang my whole hope on Christ” — honestly good with it because frankly that’s bedrock. Because I’m not perfect — not even close — it better be the way and the reason God sees me as justfied. But the NT also tells us to see the fruits of this work — not in passing, but as part of the way we know we’re not among the tares but among the wheat, so to speak.

    Now seriously: some of us (that means “me” and others like me) can only measure our overall sanctification in single-digit angstroms — our forward progress is frankly uneven at best, and almost fruitless at worst. What this must do if we stand on the foundation of Christ is drive us back to Him and not away from Him. But we flee to Him in repentence, and for cover from our sins, not as a way to merely overlook our sinfulness, amen?

    Our Hero Todd Friel often counsels folks in a way I would sort of not want — because his first pass toward besetting sins is “maybe you’re not saved”. That’s a bad idea — because it’s not in the doubt of salvation that hope lies: it is in the hope of salvation that doubt is destroyed.

    So while I get all the stuff Michael is saying here, I think the NT paradigm is not “no reference to work or repentence but only reference to Christ” but is in fact “Because of Christ, repentence and therefore fruit in works which God has ordained”.

    Your opinion may vary. 🙂

  2. I think for most people it is both – we (who believed at a late date in life) can both hold to the scripture and see how we now live v. how we did live as proof of Christ in us

    But when you are desperate, moments of great sin, attacks of doubt/despair and deathbeds then there is really only one thing to fall on, because everything else is in question – that is when it all comes apart – it seems to me that is what ms is talking about

    or not

  3. Michael,

    Christ’s death is not grounds for assurance of my salvation, unless universalism were true (Christ’s death guarantees that everyone goes to heaven). Nor is baptism grounds for assurance unless no one who is baptized can go to hell. So that shows that assurance requires internal examination. So when I look within, do I look for faith only, or faith working through charity (Gal 5:6)? If faith without love is nothing (1 Cor 13:2), then discovering loveless faith within isn’t ground for assurance. The notion that the only mortal sin is apostasy (i.e. loss of faith) treats salvation as fundamentally about belief, and not fundamentally about love.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

    • There’s no Catholic apologist for whom I have more respect, and no one who makes it clearer to me that if your understanding of the faith is true, I could never be a Christian, no matter how much I wanted to be one.

      • Michael, are you saying Bryan Cross is the Catholic apologist for whom you have this great respect? (I guess I better go to your blog and do some reading, Bryan.)

        And Michael, if Bryan is correct, why does that mean you could never be a Christian? I guess I am just confused. I don’t think Bryan is saying we must ALWAYS be loving to be Christian, or you would be right…none of us could be Christians. But you are, through the help of God, acting with as much love as possible at the moment, by your choice. You can be impatient, unfaithful, sometimes even cruel but if you look at yourself now as opposed to many years ago, do you think that in some ways, at least, you are becoming a person more motivated by love? We talk about a Jesus-shaped spirituality here. That would be a LOVE-shaped spirituality. Jesus told us “God is love.” He didn’t say God has love or God gives love. God IS love. Jesus is God, God is love, we are in God, God is in us, we are being shaped by love.

        • Clarification…in the sentence I started with “You can be impatient…” that YOU was a general YOU, as in “A person can be impatient.”

        • Joanie, Bryan’s articulation of Christianity, as is true with my experience with Catholicism in general, is an abyss of despair for me. Call it whatever you want. To me it’s the bitter end. The very idea that there is one thing in me capable of producing unpolluted goodness, love etc sends me down a spiral from which there is no returning. The idea that God makes salvation possible contingent on effort is like telling me I can be saved from drowning if I swim to Hawaii. I’ve broached this before. Bryan takes great solace that he’s found the true church. Were my journey to culminate in “God makes salvation possible if you find the right church, take the sacraments, make every effort, etc…” would be like the mouse’s discovery of the cat.

          I appreciate that Bryan is straightforward, because his articulation of the faith drives me to rejoice in the sovereign good news of the good news of salvation accomplished and applied.

          • Michael, there is one thing, and only one thing, within you capable of producing unpolluted goodness, love, etc – Christ. That is the Catholic faith. Perhaps, to extend your metaphor, God has told you you can be saved from drowning only if you swim to Hawaii. But then, within that metaphor, God also offers you the chance to be a fish. As our Orthodox brothers and sisters say, we are to become by grace all that Christ is by nature. That is why God the Word became man, why He suffered and died, why he was raised from the dead: not that we might feel saved, but that we might be saved. There is no despair here.

            Not trying to convert you, brother, only trying to set the record straight.

            MOD: I’m not trying to establish a record. I’m telling you my experience of this system that defines grace quite differently than I do. I’m quite sure I have nothing to offer anyone wanting to know what the RCC teaches. (No reply on your comment for some reason.)

          • OK, Michael, I can appreciate what you say and as some of us have said here before, you are where you should be and even though I am Catholic, you know from some private correspondence we have had that I have some of the same concerns you have with the Catholic church.

            I do think Bryan makes good points about faith, baptism and love, though. And I don’t think “God makes salvation possible contingent on effort…” God makes salvation possible because Jesus has conquered evil and because the Holy Spirit is with us to guide us through this life.

            If I was not a Christian but was considering becoming one, I would start by reading the Bible and then books people have written about how intelligent people can be Christians. Once I was persuaded that Jesus really was born of virgin, lived a perfect life, died, was resurrected and promised to come back and live with his followers/disciples/brothers & sisters forever and that he also sent the Holy Spirit to guide his followers in the meantime, I would then look for a group of people with whom I could worship, learn and grow. I would find out what that group believes and teaches. But what if I found two or three groups that seem to “fit” what I have come to believe is the right teaching? It would really have to come down to some gut level feeling of “Which group seems to be more loving the way I believe Jesus would want us to be?” Jesus says we would know his followers by their love. It’s even possible they could have the teaching all mixed up but their love was so encompassing that I would be drawn to them because I would be drawn to God. Of course, someone will say, “But what about when the people do something that disappoints you? What about when they sin in a major way? What will you do then?” Well, hopefully, if I had been growing in God’s love myself, I could help them and if I couldn’t help them, I would pray for them. And I could thank God that when I needed them there for me earlier on, they were there.

            Some of the people who helped me the most on my journey through life were some non-denominational charismatic Protestant folks. I was confused and they prayed with me and Jesus came alive for me in a way that I have never forgotten, even though I have fell away at times.

            It all comes down to love.

          • I can’t help but feeling there is some misunderstanding here between what Bryan is saying and what you are hearing, iMonk.

            What do Catholics say that grace is (more than just “divine favor”):
            The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines grace as “a participation in the life of God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1997). This sharing or participation in God’s life is freely given to us first when we were baptized.

            My first thought is: “Wow, how wonderful that we can participate in the life of God!”

            Secondly, if the Protestant’s imputed righteousness is something to be happy about, how much more so if God truly makes us righteous and holy! That is not bad news but good news, and this not from ourselves, it is the gift of God. The Holy Spirit can truly make us holy. Why is that something to reject? It is still a gift we can either accept or reject.

            If you recoil at the reference to freely receiving this life at *baptism*, you should read my reference in a comment below to Martin Luther vs. John Calvin’s view of baptism and salvation.

            In short, the question of whether we have ASSURANCE is one thing, but whether we have some 100% assurance of salvation or not, both Protestants and Catholics agree that salvation is a freely given gift by God, and that we are saved by grace alone.

      • Michael,

        Respectfully, I think your objection is not a good one, because you wouldn’t want to put yourself in the epistemic situation of saying “even if it is true, I wouldn’t want it.” What could you possibly want more than the truth? Part of the paradigm shift is precisely giving up the idea that the faith conform to us, that we get to decide what it should be, or that it be made in our image. I think you would say something quite similar [to the previous sentence] to persons of other religions who said they could never be a Christian, and yet it is no less true here. A fundamental insight within Christianity, anticipated in certain respects by the Greeks, is that at the very center of our being, the human heart wants the Truth far more than anything else, no matter how difficult, painful, unpleasant or even terrifying it might seem. So the most important question is not whether we like it, or even whether we could imagine ourselves embracing it, but whether it is True, because Truth is what we most deeply desire.

        In the peace of Christ,

        – Bryan

        • I’ve decided I have to say something here. Now, I must first give a warning that I am certainly NOT the trained theologian, but I’m going to give this a shot anyway.

          I know people who have been personally devastated by the kind of theology you’re putting here, Bryan. You may not know how devastating and hopeless it is, but what iMonk writes about it above is a small inkling of it. Until you’ve lived under the burden of the cross you’re describing, had it break you and your spirit and your hope until you are curled up in a fetal position in the dark in a corner of the bedroom at three in the morning, you may simply not ‘get’ how truly hopeless it is.

          But that’s where it goes. I’ve not done it myself (all thanks be to God for the earthly father I was given) but I’ve had many pour out their horrific stories on me regarding that theology and the journey of hopelessness on which it took them.

          Now, I’m Lutheran and I’m sure we’re simply going to have basic doctrinal disagreements on what I’m about to say, but it needs to be said anyway.

          When you say:
          “Christ’s death is not grounds for assurance of my salvation, unless universalism were true (Christ’s death guarantees that everyone goes to heaven). Nor is baptism grounds for assurance unless no one who is baptized can go to hell. So that shows that assurance requires internal examination.”

          Christ’s death and resurrection is the ONLY grounds for assurance of my salvation. And it is possible for an individual to turn away His gift, so universalism doesn’t come into play here. And it is even possible for baptized individuals to do so, too, so that doesn’t enter in, either.

          Our fallen hearts ALWAYS want to look inward for assurance. This is exactly why we need an OBJECTIVE and EXTERNAL basis for my assurance rather than my fallen and 100% God-denying heart.

          If Christ is not my confidence and my assurance, then I have none. I will never, ever find any within myself. God saw our inability to look away from our own navels and instead to Him and came down from heaven to rescue us.

          You talk of the human heart’s desire for truth? It only desires a ‘truth’ which is self-justifying and Christless. That is all the fallen heart ever wants. The objective truth of Christ’s atoning death and resurrection is not at ALL what the human heart seeks because it doesn’t allow any self-focus whatsoever. Look to the cross, not yourself? The human heart will turn away from it 100% of the time, so all-encompassing is the interest only in self.

          Christ IS my confidence. My feelings and my faith always fall short. My faith is imperfect and never enough to bring me solace.

          But the objective truth of what was done on the cross never changes. Solus Christus.

          Under the completely sufficient imputed righteousness,

          Ted R

          • Ted,

            When we construct a theology by examining whether it has “devastated” certain people, what we are doing is constructing a theology according to our human experience, according to what we judge to satisfy us and to work for us. It is the equivalent of looking into our heart, and building a theology that matches what we perceive to be our desires and wishes. The result is a made-to-order theology, a humanism that makes ‘God’ in our own image, according to our self-knowledge. Christianity, by contrast, is a supernaturally revealed religion, not something we make according to our own self-determined desires and needs. A Christian believes rightly that God knows what we need better than do we, even in theology. This is part of the reason why theology is not properly done by anecdotal evidence regarding how some persons responded to it, or by surveys of the respective degrees of self-reported happiness or satisfaction among holders of various religious beliefs. Sacred theology is not psychology, not does it answer to psychology; psychology answers to it.

            You want Christ’s death and resurrection to be the “only ground” of assurance. But, then you admit that it is possible to turn away, and not be saved. So, by logical necessity it follows that in order to have assurance that I am in a state of grace, I must know that I am not turning away from Christ. And that requires some looking within. If I do not know whether or not I am turned away from Christ, then, since I know that universalism is false, I have no basis for assurance merely by knowing that Christ died and rose again. Even the demons believe those things about Christ.

            Regarding our longing for the truth, if Christ (who is the Truth) were not what most perfectly satisfies the human heart, then there would be no good reason for us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. In that case it might be reasonable for us to love God, but only instrumentally and thus secondarily, i.e. as a means to something else (i.e. pleasure, security, power, etc.) that we desire more deeply than we desire God. Even when we arrived in heaven, we would still be loving God only for something He gives us, and not because He Himself is our perfect happiness. If the fallen heart were truly satisfied by something other than truth, then there would be no reason to bring Christ to the lost. It is precisely because they are not satisfied by falsehood that we have good reason to bring the truth of Christ to them, because we know that the truth of Christ is what they truly, most deeply desire, and hence what most perfectly satisfies them. As Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”

            In the peace of Christ,

            – Bryan

  4. I’m not sure that Thoennes was getting at the idea that experience is a determining factor in conversion, though I could be wrong as I haven’t read the entire article. I imagine, or perhaps I just hope, that Thoennes was offering a source of evidence rather than an indicative proof. In the end, we walk by faith, not by sight, but God is gracious enough to provide hints here and there – evidence that suggests without proving our security.

    I think overall you are correct, but I am uncomfortable with how quickly you dash sanctification as evidence for justification to the ground. In addition, I feel for those who feel so strongly the need to have proof of their salvation. Such a need says to me that there is something in their hearts that feels alone and in great need, and while the presence of the Holy Spirit repairs the ontological issues resulting in this experience, it doesn’t always solve the experience – the feelings of fear and emptiness. What Thoennes doesn’t seem to get at from that little clip is that the real solution is the love of God both directly and indirectly through his body. As love casts out the fear, faith in the completed work of Jesus on Calvary takes hold. The solution is not proof, nor is it even evidence, but it is faith born from love and strengthened through hope. But for those who have yet to have internalize the love of God and stand on their own in faith, perhaps a crutch can be warranted lest they come apart. They just can’t live by that crutch forever, and you are right to urge people to move beyond it to the work of Christ. I just think many don’t have the option of changing their belief structure so easily and quickly.

  5. Having been raise in the church and not having a “saving” moment, I understand the concern some people have about whether or not they are really “saved”. I experienced this for many years.

    I looked towards the works aspect of salvation as discussed here. It may make you feel more confident today, but less so tomorrow. Such is life in a fallen world.

    I looked to what I consider the more contemporary response of Catholics, as Frank mentions above, about acknowledging sin and letting repentance and reconciliation drive me back to Jesus. I guess that is better, but it really doesn’t answer the question.

    I looked to the Calvinist response (as I unstand it) that we don’t really know until we are judged. But that to me didn’t sound like the loving God of the New Testament. Or even the loving but vengeful God of the Old Testament (he let people know NOW!).

    I think I have found the Love of God’s salvation in a mix of the reformed and evangelical beliefs. I am saved because my acceptance of God’s love and the healing power of Jesus’s death. As one of my Lutheran pastors taught me, “Justification by Grace through Faith as shown in works.”

    But does that answer my question of “Am I Saved?”? Not really. That statement still leads to a response of “works”. I see lots of people doing good works in this world. Some of them are people I would consider saved. Some of them I fear are not saved. And some of them, while doing good works, have likewise rejected God’s gift of grace and may never be saved.

    I can say that I have accepted God’s gift of salvation. I can say that I have professed my faith in front of other people. I can point to works that I have done.

    But, how do I know that God has accepted me and that I am saved?

    Not because of what I do for God, but because of what God does for me. TODAY. I am a sinner. I don’t deserve God’s love. But I am surrounded by good people who love me and care both for and about me. The Holy Spirit works in my life and in the world around me to provide for me. And while, yes, I have been blessed in material ways, I have also been blessed in spiritual ways. The words of God and the word of man have both at times been able to speak to me to calm my fears, raise my spirits, and provide for me direction.

    That is how I know I am saved. Not an emotional moment. Not reciting a prayer. Not my works. But God’s love at work in me and in the world around me.

  6. I have always loved the simple statement that I first heard from Chuck Smith, although I am sure it is not original to him:

    “You have full assurance of your salvation as you abide in Christ.”

    Isn’t that the teaching that Jesus gives us in John 15?

    Stop abiding and you have no reason to be assured.

    • How do I know if I’m truly abiding, or just fooling myself into thinking I’m abiding? How can you tell if you’re abiding enough? What’s the standard of measure of abiding?

  7. For a fascinating comparison between Luther’s view of this subject and Calvin’s, I recommend (Anglican) professor Dr. Phillip Cary’s presentation at a Lutheran symposium: http://www.ctsfw.edu/events/symposia/papers/sym2007cary.pdf

    Excerpt:

    Calvin and the Standard Protestant syllogism is:

    Major Premise: Whoever believes in Christ is saved.

    Minor Premise: I believe in Christ.

    Conclusion: I am saved.

    Luther’s syllogism is:

    Major Premise: Christ told me, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

    Minor Premise: Christ never lies but only tells the truth.

    Conclusion: I am baptized (that is, I have new life in Christ).

    The entire paper is really interesting and at the end of it he asks the Lutherans why they are not more Luther-an on this matter!

  8. sue kephart says

    Assurance? I have no assurance. I have faith and faith is hope in what is unseen. I am not against doubt. Without doubt one has no growth.

    Michael Casey, OCSO, “Toward God”, ‘Discontent is the force that makes us search persistantly for an answer to our deepest aspiration.’

    Our doubt or discontent leads us to our search for answers and to find God. Or is He leading us toward Him by use of our human nature? As we grow spiritually we realize it is more God and less us.

    I feel truly blessed than I grew up in a Church that read from Gospels every Sunday. To hear the words of Christ Himself. And the story of His life, death and resurrection and to hear this preached from the pulpit each Sunday. Blessed that I grew up in a Sacremental tradition. To know that God justified me by His Holy Spirit at my baptism. That I could receive the true Christ in the Eucharist. I have hard time understanding faith without this. I keep trying to relate to those who are based in the Epistles of Paul. Not taking anything from St. Paul but he is not Jesus. As one of our Baptist converts said,”I want to hear the Words of Jesus”.

  9. JohnB5200 says

    I downloaded Rosenbladt’s gospel message when you first advertised it. And I found it very encouraging. I would need to read more Lutheran theology to understand how they reconcile faith alone in Christ alone to their denominational rejection of eternal security.

    I would like to note that there is another, non-Lutheran, evangelical alternative to the traditional Refomed/”Lordship” understanding of assurance (or lack of assurance.) It is most often referred to as “Free Grace” and it’s major proponents are Charles Ryrie and Zane Hodges. What is your assurance based on? Faith alone. Period. Full stop.

  10. denise and wesley says

    Wow, powerful, a testimony nonetheless, I was brought up RC but my wife was brought up by Jewish atheists and I am not an expert on doctrine. Seems to me that you do need true assurance directly from the Holy Spirit as stated above but to define this assurance immediately places it in an uneasy box. I performed all the rites of a Catholic but my story swerved when I began to contemplate am I truly a disciple of Christ. I became Born-Again because I felt like Nicodemus in a Catholic robe and I was immediately taken aback by the reality that my belief in Christ and the knowledge that came with it was not enough assurance for me. I was 19 years old and I truly had a moment on the “road to damascus”, I needed the assurance and interestingly, I thought my public testimony and baptism supplied it for me, I was sure now that I was a true disciple of Christ. God truly moved in my heart and unlike childish moments of comfort I felt as if the holy spirit had truly shifted my soul, God bless any Catholic who feels that after being “confirmed” but that simply was not my reality. Now what did this really mean? It means that until your assured continue seeking the Kingdom and the Holy Spirit will do the rest, show you the sandy foundation, direct you towards the rock if you dare to continue pursuing it. Why do I say this? It’s truly complex, that church where my soul shifted fell prey to my psyche and I left sadly in a worse torrent than I was saved from originally. But once again God’s faithfulness prevailed and 15 years later after 2 failed relationships, 2 suicide attempts, countless sins and glorious grace, I finally was able to, with a true spirit recommit myself to Christ and eventually to a powerful group fellowship church. I was able to watch my wife benefit from my earlier walk with Christ and convert to Christ as well and she is just a most cherished fruit I have seen Christ bare. I would like to add that gifts of the spirit, fruit born as well as atonement through Christ are all assurances of salvation possibly and the weighting of assurances of salvation is the devil’s sandbox of devise. If I have been open-ended I primarily meant to but if I have been unclear or off-point truly I apologize. I was personally provoked in my heart to respond, please continue to edify and teach me.

  11. I saw this interesting question:

    How do you know if you are a Christian?

    Didn’t Jesus answer this? “They will know I am with you by the love you have for one another”

    If we walk like a duck . . . . .

  12. ..i recently had an experience where i thought i was going to die within seconds from sudden heart failure…in that instant i was more alive than i had ever been in my life..i was intensely focused and aware of the present moment …my reaction was Panic….it got “real”…i was about to stop breathing and i was terrified..and i prayed a prayer out of fear…”Oh God!……LORD!…?…..Lord help me….???…. ..second later it passed….this all happened within 15 seconds and it seriously shook me up but more importantly my faith in God at that instant was called into question and it wavered badly…Am I saved?..i think so………………………. .??

  13. Imonk,

    This area presents one of the strongest signals to me that evangelical theology is off in some way, or at least routinely prioritizing the wrong question. Here’s why: when the scriptures, including the NT, ask the very same question or raise the issue you raise, the answer isn’t uniform but it is overwhelmingly answered in terms of the fruit or character of one’s life, whether its Jesus, Paul, Peter, John or James. When “how can we know” or “what kinf of faith are we talking about here” questions arise in the scriptures, one’s life is the indicator. This also washes with the NT and common sense concept of trust. Our actions are the only true indicator of what we really trust, love and hope for.

    I had an alcoholic friend of mine tell me in the midst of struggling with it, “I’m not sure what I believe in right now.” To which I replied, “Well, one thing is certain. Right now you believe in beer.” He agreed, then began, I think anyway, really wondering if he wanted to trust beer as much as he did.

  14. I need to read Capon. I’ve heard both liberal and conservative Christians rave about him.

    In college i led a bible study and this one kid was depressed and having problems. He was Christian and met all the requirements (had been baptised, confessed Jesus as lord, was trying realyl hard to be good, etc). I told him he was saved no matter what his feelings were telling him and he should meditate on the verses that talk about assurance.

    My campus pastor and the other bible study leaders gave me blank stares when I discussed the situation with them. Their take on the situation was that if he didn’t feel saved then he wasn’t, and I should have lesd him through the sinners prayer again, etc.

  15. I’m a little late jumping in here (thanks again for the link, Michael), but here’s an article by Dr. Rod Rosenbladt that I’ve been tweeting lately entitled “Reclaiming the Doctrine of Justification” which he wrote for Modern Reformation magazine. I think it’s clearly pertinent to this discussion.

    http://tinyurl.com/mkhz3p

  16. Good Lutheran link. (The one that works.) I would simply add this nugget from Luther’s Large Catechism. As the link you cited notes, our confidence and assurance is in the external Word applied to us by God. Salvation is extra nos (outside of us). Faith deals in objective certainties.
    Here’s the Large Catechism:

    44] Thus we must regard Baptism and make it profitable to ourselves, that when our sins and conscience oppress us, we strengthen ourselves and take comfort and say: Nevertheless I am baptized; but if I am baptized, it is promised me that I shall be saved and have eternal life, both in soul and body. 45] For that is the reason why these two things are done in Baptism, namely, that the body, which can apprehend nothing but the water, is sprinkled, and, in addition, the word is spoken for the soul to apprehend. 46] Now, since both, the water and the Word, are one Baptism, therefore body and soul must be saved and live forever: the soul through the Word which it believes, but the body because it is united with the soul and also apprehends Baptism as it is able to apprehend it. We have, therefore, no greater jewel in body and soul, for by it we are made holy and are saved, which no other kind of life, no work upon earth, can attain.

    Ref: http://www.bookofconcord.org/lc-6-baptism.php

  17. Re: Capon. I’m a huge Capon fan. I’ve read everything he’s written, including the rare Exit 36 and his cookbooks. His best in my opinion are his books on the parables, now released as a single volume – “Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus.”

    Two cautions: Capon can be misread (let the reader understand) as being a “universalist,” though God’s grace in Christ is “gratia universalis” and objective justification is truly objective. He can also be misread as being “antinomian,” but his point is that grace trumps sin and the Gospel trumps the Law every time.

    What attracts me to Capon is that he takes objective justification and God’s universal grace in the death of Jesus and floors it, reminding us that God’s exclusive grace in Christ (only Jesus) is also inclusive (for all). That’s why Lutherans love this Episcopal bad boy.

  18. I missed the link, Michael, that you already used in your article to the same MR article I linked to on the MR site. My apologies to everyone for the redundancy.

  19. On the question of “Am I Saved?” Molly Sabourin says it better than I’ve ever managed to express my own interaction with that question.

    http://faithandfood.morizot.net/2009/06/26/are-you-saved/

  20. I think if we long to be in Christ, and the thought of being separated from Him fills us with despair is a sure sign that we are already in Him to begin with. I have met sinners that dreaded the thought of hell, but I’ve never met one that dreaded separation from Christ.

    • sue kephart says

      Separation from Christ (God) is the definition of hell.

      • Actually, separation from God is the definition of non-existence, not hell. We see in Colossians, in Ephesians, in Isaiah, in Habakkuk, and permeating our text, that all things exist in Christ and are contingent on him for their continued existence. All of creation is filled with God’s glory. It is in Christ that we live and move and have our being. To be separated from Christ, then, is to cease to exist. However, since God begrudges existence to none of his creation, such separation is impossible. However much we seek nonexistence, we can never attain it.

        • sue kephart says

          And where does Satan live?

          • In creation, he also being a created being and sustained by God. Satan is not an almost equal to God. He’s nothing before God and also has no independent existence. I think some of these ideas about being separated from God have their roots in neoplatonic ideas about the eternal nature of “spirit” and that God somehow can’t be around evil. Neither of those ideas are even vaguely scriptural. Nothing but God is uncreated or eternal. And God has no problem being around evil. Evil is a shadow and a distortion and can hardly endure in the unveiled presence of God. But that’s a problem for evil, not for God. There is no “place” in creation that is apart from God. Nor can there be.

          • sue kephart says

            I don’t think so Scott. I am an eternal being. I guess we will just have to disagree. Jesus separates the sheep from the goats in my Bible. We can not be in sin and in the presence of God. Thus the nessessity of the Son who took on the sin of the world so we can come to the Father.

          • On the eternal existence thing, welcome to Platonism.

            http://www.socyberty.com/Philosophy/Platos-Theory-of-the-Existence-of-the-Soul.627537

            Or you could find a different sort of eternality in the Vedic religions. I’ve explored many things over the course of my life. Christianity and its perception of God, creation, and the nature of man bowled me over once I finally began to understand it. I’m sticking with it for now.

            Why can’t we be in sin and in the presence of God and where does it say that? Now certainly the love of God is a consuming fire. And since he does not begrudge any of his creation existence, we could not actually be consumed by it. If we have not been transformed into beings who can experience his love as warmth and light, the unveiled presence of God promises to be unpleasant. But there is and will be no place that God is not. Right now all creation is filled with his glory (Isaiah 6) and one day all will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord (Isaiah 11 and Habakkuk). God is the only eternal being, the only uncreated. If that weren’t the case, there never would have even been an Arian controversy. And everything is contingent on Jesus. For goodness sake, read Colossians.

          • Further, we see Satan talking to God in the presence of God in the story of Job. Satan personally came to tempt Jesus. Even in the story of the garden, God finds the man and the woman and personally clothes them. Hosea prophetically acts out what God has done with Israel by going and marrying the prostitute Gomer and loving her. At all costs, closely, and intimately. Find me a place in Scripture that says that God can’t be around sin. That’s simply not a Christian idea.

          • sue kephart says

            “I am the Way the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

  21. David Ulrich says

    Although Paul Washer is addressing those who walk around thinking they are Christians when they’re not, his speech called “Examine Yourself” really cuts to even believers’ hearts.

    http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=5220621750

    I highly, highly recommend everyone listen to it.

    As far as assurance, knowing who I now am, based upon what I know Jesus Christ has done, has often brought me assurance. Knowing that I have been adopted by the Father; knowing that I’ve been translated from the kingdom of darkness into Jesus’ kingdom; knowing that I was formerly a slave to sin and am now set free; knowing that Jesus was crucified, became sin for me, and was raised from the dead on the third day; all these truths have helped me through difficult times. But the greatest sense of assurance comes when I give thanks in prayer to the Father for these truths.

  22. I agree that justification and sanctification are separate things, and bad things happen when they are confused. But they have many things in common. Jesus is for us both our redemption and sanctification (I Cor. 1:30). Both are works of God’s grace – not anything for which we can boast. We don’t clean ourselves up in order to earn forgiveness.

    But something is suspiciously therapeutic and plato-like to preach the hope of justification without preaching the hope of new life in Christ. Is God’s goal to make us feel better about ourselves or just get us into heaven? What about delivering from the power of sin, death, and the devil? What does it mean to “be saved”?

  23. I’ve been reading a book by Ian Murray about Spurgeon and his battle with hyper-Calvinists. A piece that jumped out at me was Spurgeon pointing out that the Bible says “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lordshall be saved.”. This seems like a good antidote to the tendency to look at my growth in good works, growth in willingness, or growth in anything else. I have called on the name of the Lord, and I continue to call on the name of the Lord. I’m trying to put my trust in what God has appeared to say and promise plainly.

    I know this is not very nuanced, and like someone said above things like apparent growth in sanctification can provide hints and visible evidence. But when times are tough and the brain’s not working very good and things look dark it’s good to not have to figure out the nuances.

  24. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    The “best evidence” is “growth” in “love” and “fruit.” Being more “like Jesus.” Good grief. Can anyone spell “despair?” Seeking assurance through a measurement like “growth in Christlikeness” is not reformation Christianity.

    It’s more like SMIIIIIIILING with Joel Osteen. (Which in itself has inspired many IMonk rants.) How can you grow without some hardship to experience? How can you recgnize the high points if you never have a low point? How can you gauge your strength if you never have to perform under a load of oppostion?

    Happy Clappy Joy Joy with Shiny Happy SMIIIIILEs really helps when Tash kicks in the door to your Thomas Kincade cottage.

  25. As someone who was snatched from the brink of unbelief and dissipation after I had been a believer for years, I can say, at least for me, any assurance based on “evidence” of my growth in grace is sinking sand.

    Luke 17:10 says ‘So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ ” How much more so considering all that we leave undone? Not a lot of comfort here.

    Paul Washer seems sincere, but has made a name for himself telling Christians that they maybe/probably not/aren’t Christians, blasting away at any assurance, other than the believer’s renewed consecration of themselves to God.

    Seems a better way would be to preach faith into folks (faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God) than to preach it out of them by undermining their assurance and then turning their attention to their own response rather than the objective promises oif the Gospel.

    • David Ulrich says

      With easy believism, “raise your hand and say a prayer,”” fill out a commitment card,”” add Jesus to your life,”” just give Jesus a chance” kind of Christianity that is so pervasive in our country, some who say that they are Christians need to know that their professions may be false.

      2 Corinthians 13:3-6
      3 since you seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you. 4 For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you.
      5 Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. 6 But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified.

      Even God’s word tells us to examine ourselves.

  26. Does it bother anyone who doesn’t like “works” going into the equation of assurance that 1st John literally makes this statement: “This is how we are sure that we have come to know Him:” but then follows it with “by keeping his commands” and then later, “This is how we know we are in Him: the one who says he remains in Him should walk just as He walked.” And later still, “Little children, we must not love in word or speech, but in deed and truth; that is how we will know we are of the truth, and will convince our hearts in His presence.”

    Now, obviously, John says in the same book that anyone who says they never sin is a liar, so he’s not talking about being perfect; he must be talking about the overall shape and direction of one’s life. Can we have John give these kinds of answers to the “being sure” questions, and then dismiss his answers because it doesn’t comply with *reformation* Christianity? If a brother or sister gives the same answer as John, are they giving an unacceptable answer? Where is the sola scriptura?

  27. There are three theological virtues; faith, hope and love. Despair is answered not alone by faith, but by hope.

    And what is this hope by which we are saved? Who is this hope?

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20071130_spe-salvi_en.html

    “The essence of the answer is given in the phrase from the Letter to the Ephesians quoted above: the Ephesians, before their encounter with Christ, were without hope because they were “without God in the world”. To come to know God—the true God—means to receive hope. We who have always lived with the Christian concept of God, and have grown accustomed to it, have almost ceased to notice that we possess the hope that ensues from a real encounter with this God.”

  28. I love it when someone calls something I wrote “Catholic” with a big “C”. It makes so many people crazy.

  29. IMonk: I can really appreciate the quote you have at the end of this one. Except, substitute “Catholic” or “Lutheran”. =] Recently at my college’s youth group the minister decided that it would be a good idea to practice “salvation experience” stories for practice in evangalism. Originally it was going to be in front of the entire group (!!!) but (I think to save time) we just got into small groups. I really hated the entire idea of it. Quite honestly, like the man in the story, I didn’t have any single “conversion experience” where suddenly everything was right in the world and my relationship with God has been great ever since. Actually, quite the opposite. My journey with God is deeply personal and, quite frankly, meandering. So I just sort of tried to say something that made sense and felt quite silly the whole time.

    So it is nice to know that I’m not the only one thinking this way! Don’t get me wrong, I love the group and the leader is a great guy (and I love his family). I wouldn’t still go to this group if I didn’t like them overall.

    In terms of my assurance of salvation, I see it as a bit of a give/take between faith and works. When I feel as though I’m simply not good enough or loving enough to merit salvation, I remember that no one is and that my righteousness only comes from Jesus’ righteousness. But at the same time, when I simply want to say “forget it; I do what I want” I remember that my faith shows itself in the fruit that I produce. And, even as Paul wrote “Should we sin that grace may abound? Surely not!!!!” (Only without the abuse of exclamation points 😉 (Does that make sense?)

  30. re: comments from Bryan Ross
    Way to take away any hope anyone has. Christ isn’t enough, neither is your baptism, the clincher is what goes on inside us. That throws us upon our own efforts. Seems a thinly veiled Pelagianism to me.

    Take a look at the world around you. Do humans really desire truth above all else? That is nothing but a fantasy. Our hearts are idol factories, and the lies we tell ourselves are manifold.

  31. I don’t quite understand why we rag on the idea of finding some assurance in our continual obedience to Christ. Such a view, in my worthless opinion, springs from a low view of regeneration. What really took place when we were born again? Did God just tick a box and let us into heaven…or did, in the words of Ezekiel, God put His “Spirit within [us] and cause [us] to walk in his statutes” (Ezekiel 36:25-27)?

    John the Apostle also seems to think so:

    1Jn 2:3-6 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. (4) Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, (5) but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: (6) whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

    I’d add Paul to that list:

    Eph 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, (9) not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (10) For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

    I think of assurance as a multi-faceted diamond – there is the Cross of Christ, the means of grace, our continual walk with the Saviour. It’s a lob-sided idea to simply look at one thing for our assurance without considering the others.

  32. In reference to:

    “Hmmmm. Revivalistic experience…..or…..works. Any other choices? How about “I believe Jesus Christ died and lives for me. I am a sinner, and Jesus Christ is my hope, savior and mediator. Jesus = my salvation.” How about sola fide, sola Christus?”

    The tricky part with this is trying to judge if you actually believe this. While it is true that regeneration will result in saying the above statement, there are surely a great many non-regenerate people who have said it, maybe even believing that they believe it. Words are just words, and we can say whatever we will at times for motivations for away from righteousness. If being ‘religious’ makes someone happy, they will be religious. They will talk about Jesus all the time, how he died for them, etc. But they aren’t saved and they don’t care about the deeper elements of the faith.

    I agree that anyone refusing to name Christ as Lord is not saved — but just naming him as such does not prove salvation. Perhaps the easiest way to say it is as such: anyone who confesses Christ and does not follow him in action does not have faith (James 2), but anyone who confesses Christ and follows him as well does have faith. Therefore, simply confessing words is not sufficient for claiming proof of salvation, since knowing the genuineness of the words themselves is dependent upon works.

    Of course, this isn’t proposing works-based salvation; salvation is from faith which comes from regeneration. But being saved and being assured of being saved simply are not identical concepts.

  33. Honestly, I think we Christians fail miserably when it comes to encouraging and building each other up when it comes to things like eternal hope and salvation in Christ. In fact, we always seem to be adding more hurdles and hoops to jump through before you get to go to heaven.
    I can’t count the number of sermons I’ve heard in my lifetime that were specifically geared toward creating doubt in people’s minds in regards to their salvation. And if the preacher is really good at what he does, even the most devout Christians in the audience will find themselves racked with inner turmoil. The real irony comes after the sermon during the invitation, when the preacher offers salvation as if it were nothing more than the product of walking an aisle and repreating a prayer — like salvation were candy in his pocket. But that’s just the beginning. If someone does walk the aisle and repeat the prayer, then for the rest of their Christian lives, they get the privilige of having more prerequisites and burdens heaped on them by clergymen, denominational authorities, and fellow Christians.
    As far as I’m concerned, the only person with salvation in His pocket is Jesus. Maybe it would be more accurate to say that He is salvation — Him alone as a real person and not some religious mumbo jumbo we’ve devised to represent or symbolize Him. And He has invited us to follow Him and partake of His spirit, His nature, and the salvation He possesses within Himself. The only symbol that He’s asked of us is obedience in baptism, though their may be more to that than just symbolism.
    Scripture makes it clear the He loves us (enough to die for us), and we claim to believe that. So then, why do we go around fearing that He’s going to reject us and damn us to hell on some religious technicality? Scripture says that the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life. And God has given that gift in the form of His son. Of course, accepting that gift means submitting ourselves to both the gift and the giver. But I don’t think that’s nearly as complicated, oppressive, or performance-based as most religious authorities try to make it.
    Quite simply, Jesus is our salvation. Accept Him. Believe Him. Honor Him. Obey Him. Worship Him. Love Him. Learn from Him. Spend time with Him. And when you screw up, confess and apologize to Him. Just keep it genuine, and keep it honest.
    Consider it this way: Could He really love us in the way and to the extent that He claims and still reject us because we don’t belong to the correct church, have all our dotrinal ducks in a row, live unfailingly righteous lives, or fullfill all the guidelines written in fine print at the bottom of the contract?
    As I see it, much of the present doubt and confusion regarding salvation comes from the fact that most churches and church institutions wrongly claim ownership and control over it. Think about it. People (and their money) are a lot easier to control if they’re kept uncertain, ignorant, and dependent on the religious professionals. But if I read the gospels correctly, Jesus freely offered forgiveness and salvation to sinners, but He always threatened judgement to those who tried to offer up man-made religious substitutes in place of true spiritual realities.

  34. Wonderful post, Ron!

  35. An Essential Mark of a Sound Conversion

    by Joseph Alleine

    We turn from our own RIGHTEOUSNESS. Before conversion, man seeks to cover himself with his own fig-leaves, and to make himself acceptable with God, by his own duties. He is apt to trust in himself, and set up his own righteousness, and to reckon his pennies for gold, and not to submit to the righteousness of God. But conversion changes his mind; now he counts his own righteousness as filthy rags. He casts it off, as a man would the verminous tatters of a nasty beggar. Now he is brought to poverty of spirit, complains of and condemns himself; and all his inventory is, ‘I am poor, and miserable, and wretched, and blind, and naked!’ [Rev 3:17]. He sees a world of iniquity in his holy things, and calls his once-idolized righteousness but filth and loss; and would not for a thousand worlds be found in it!

    Now he begins to set a high price upon Christ’s righteousness. He sees the need of Christ in every duty, to justify his person and sanctify his performances; he cannot live without Him; he cannot pray without Him. Christ must go with him, or else he cannot come into the presence of God; he leans upon Christ, and so bows himself in the house of his God. He sets himself down for a lost undone man without Him; his life is hid in Christ, as the root of a tree spreads in the earth for stability and nourishment. Before, the gospel of Christ was a stale and tasteless thing; but now—how sweet is Christ! Augustine could not relish his once-admired Cicero, because he could not find in his writings the name of Christ. How emphatically he cries, ‘O most sweet, most loving, most kind, most dear, most precious, most desired, most lovely, most fair!’ all in a breath, when he speaks of and to Christ. In a word, the voice of the convert is, with the martyr, ‘None but Christ!’

    Excerpt from Alarm to the Unconverted by Joseph Alleine, 1671

  36. C. Donofrio: Interesting choice.

    Alleine’s book The Almost Christian Discovered is a nuclear bomb to the assurance of any Christian. I can’t read it and believe I am actually a Christian. It demolishes assurance like only a Puritan could do.

    Where’s my Lutherans? I thought you had my back? 🙂

  37. I’m tryin’ here, man!

    For instance, Bryan says recently (in part):

    “The tricky part with this is trying to judge if you actually believe this. While it is true that regeneration will result in saying the above statement, there are surely a great many non-regenerate people who have said it, maybe even believing that they believe it. Words are just words, and we can say whatever we will at times for motivations for away from righteousness. If being ‘religious’ makes someone happy, they will be religious. They will talk about Jesus all the time, how he died for them, etc. But they aren’t saved and they don’t care about the deeper elements of the faith.”

    Sorry, but no one will ever know that about themselves the way you portray it, Bryan. The only direction it goes is Christless in our idol-factory hearts… Christless, hopeless, doom and despair. And too many have figured out that what you’re selling doesn’t pan out, think that’s all that Christianity has to offer, and walk away from the whole thing. They simply aren’t educated enough (yet) to know that what you’re selling isn’t backed by Scripture. I’ve been around enough (stunningly good) theologians to know that that position doesn’t hold water.

    So, what’s the point of driving out any vestiges of hope in Christ that the Christian has with that gnostic garbage? Get rid of it, man. Dump it and focus back on the cross, and away from yourself.

    Secondly, if I were you, Bryan, I’d focus on getting away from ‘knowing’ what is in the hearts of others and whether they’re saved. You know nothing about what’s in other people’s hearts. Focus on the log in your own eye, would be my recommendation.

    There is objective hope in Christ. We know what he did for us as attested by first-hand eyewitness accounts. The testimonies backing what Christ did for us are arguably some of the most reliable in historical record. My hope and confidence remains in the One who died and rose that I may have eternal life.

    Later, RonP says (in part):

    “Honestly, I think we Christians fail miserably when it comes to encouraging and building each other up when it comes to things like eternal hope and salvation in Christ. In fact, we always seem to be adding more hurdles and hoops to jump through before you get to go to heaven.”

    Exactly! And miserable is exactly where everyone then ends up. How about we simply rejoice in the good news of Calvary and quit looking inwards towards despair?

    Christ died for the sins of many, for the sins of the world, in order that you may inherit the kingdom. Only in Christ is there confidence. He is the Rock on which my faith stands, nothing inside me, all thanks be to God.

    Solus Christus.

  38. Songs for the Broken says

    Michael, thanks for saying it out loud. As someone who doubted his salvation for a long time while kicking back and forth between varying theologies, I appreciate that you are perhaps helping other people avoid wasting time that could have been spent serving God, loving other people, and rejoicing in God’s mercy.

    Eventually, I came to the same conclusion it seems that you have: that the gospel is that God offers forgiveness through Jesus as a free gift, and that this forgiveness is for all of our sins, past, present, and future. My assurance comes from what Jesus did on the cross, from his resurrection, and from who God is. I take comfort from Romans 4:5. The God who justifies the ungodly does not take away a free gift from someone who does wrong.

    You nailed it. Rosenblatt nails it. A lot of other people get it. But most of the people in the church don’t, and the ones that do don’t know how to articulate it.

    And there are a lot of people who are going to whip out references from 1 John and try and argue it. But I’m with you on this one: if they’re right, I’m not saved, and never will be. Not only that, no one is saved, and never will be, because no one lives up to God’s moral standard as revealed in scripture. Rather, I will choose to trust the one who nailed all indictments against me to the cross.

  39. I have to add here that I messed up the attribution in my last comment. I had Bryan Cross’ name in my mind from my earlier comment a ways up and put his name in my most recent comment. My apologies. I was referencing ChristSpeak’s comment from July 18, 2009 at 9:43 pm