It seemed to me that the only way I could know I was saved was by knowing the status of my eternal election. Was I chosen by God for salvation or was I eternally damned before I had done anything good or bad? To be sure, the Calvinist theologian in me had responses to this question, yet none of them sufficed.
Therefore, my Calvinistic theology presented my needs for assurance with an epistemological problem: in order to have assurance I needed to know the status of my election, something that by definition is secret and cannot be known. A Crisis of Faith and Common Sense After intense study of all these matters I came to doubt many of the core beliefs of the faith.
I did not express my doubts to many people, though I often confessed to others that I was struggling with a terrifying fear of death and did not know I was saved. One evening, I had dinner with a friend and confided my struggles with Calvinism and how it had undermined my assurance. Shortly after this I reassessed my belief in Calvinism and let it corrode under the sweet promises of Scripture: that eternal life is given to all those who believe in the Son of God—Jesus Christ.
It is the most precious news on the face of the planet. Yet I did not simply let my belief in Calvinism die without a serious attempt at preserving it. What follows are my thoughts and conclusions from a engaged study of a book co-authored by one of my professors on the subject of assurance. The Problem of Assurance The problem of assurance has a long and checkered history in Calvinistic theology.
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Perhaps the most devout practitioners of Calvinism, the Puritans of the 17th and 18th centuries, wrestled deeply with the problem and devised many innovative and ingenious solutions to it. Many of the Puritan Paperbacks you can still purchase today deal with discerning between true and false expressions of such weighty matters as love, repentance, holiness, and faith.
The most famous, and arguably the best treatise in this genre is Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards.
Salvation in Christ: A Calvinist Perspective
It is a very good book, one of the greatest in American theology. Covenant theology more or less states the terms and conditions of the promises that we must believe in order to be saved. Answering these questions almost always is a subjective exercise. Thus one can have the experiences of a genuine Christian, yet not be a genuine Christian.
As many of us know, we have shared deep fellowship with those who are no longer walking with the Lord. We thought they were saved for the same reasons we think we are saved, yet we are led to conclude they never were saved. Therefore, we have no reason to be assured of our own salvation since our faith, which is seemingly genuine, could in fact be a sham. A Possible solution? This is a carefully reasoned and trenchantly argued book that is perhaps the best in print on the subject of perseverance and assurance from the Calvinist perspective. The authors do not make the error in the argument from grace that so many Calvinists do in that they treat the sanctification and the perseverance of the chosen believer true to compatibilist terms that dignify his or her responsibility in salvation.
Falling away proves one never was genuinely regenerated in the first place.
The solution is ingenious because it directs the believer and unbeliever to the promises of God through the warning passages and honors the responsibility of the believer to persevere in believing them. Yet it is not unlike the other views in that it is not without its own problems. The Molinist Objection At this point I must tread carefully since I am waging disagreement with a professor from my school.
Though I have not taken one of his classes, I am told Professor Caneday does not suffer fools lightly and is very able in defending his view his blog is here. Yet I will persist with an objection that he has anticipated and formulated a rebuttal to in the appendix to his book. This contrasts with the Calvinist perspective in that it allows for libertarian free will, which is a view of freedom that is incompatible with causal determinism.
If the warnings had not been given, the believers would have fallen away. He asks, Does the [Calvinist] regard 1 as true or not?
14. Salvation in Christ: A Calvinist Perspective
If he holds that 1 is true, then it seems clear that the believers are in fact capable of falling away, for in the closest possible worlds in which the antecedent of 1 is true, they do fall away. Since Schreiner and Caneday are Calvinists the short answer is that they cannot. Textually, they argue that the warnings do not imply falling away anymore than road signs warning of slippery bridges imply we will slide off the road; they point to conceivable outcomes , not probable consequences See pp.
However, this seems to miss the point by confusing probability with possibility. A conceivable outcome is not that much different from a possible outcome, especially when we consider the warnings against backsliding and shipwrecking the faith. Yet it treats swallowing arsenic as a real possibility.
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One is capable of swallowing arsenic in the same way someone is capable of falling away see Rom This creates a problem for the Calvinist view since this possibility is exactly what it denies. Yet Jesus intercedes for Peter so that his faith will not fail Luke , and in the end he is restored. The fate of Judas, however, is one of judgment as he goes to his bitter death with much remorse, but no repentance. Schreiner and Caneday conclude that for those whom Christ intercedes Heb they will persevere.
Peter represents the former and Judas the latter. Therefore, we are back to the same epistemological problem: how can we know the Father has given us to the Son and that Christ is interceding on our behalf? Without having the knowledge of our eternal election we can have no assurance that we will persevere, for we have no assurance we will be given the grace to exercise the faith necessary for our salvation.
Concluding Thoughts There are many, many other issues that I could write about, but this post has gone on long enough. However, I want to be clear with my Calvinist brothers and sisters that I do not look back on my time in Calvinism with disdain or regret. While in the end the drawbacks far outweighed the benefits, the benefits were duly enriching. Through Calvinism I came to respect both reason and biblical authority and that neither are properly honored without the other.
I came to learn the great truths of the gospel in a deeper way that helped solidify my faith in the grace of God over and against my own works. It taught me that God answers to no one and may do whatever he pleases. I see no reason to hold Calvinism or those who teach it in contempt, nor do I claim to have believed it in the way it has been traditionally understood. This post is simply my intellectual autobiography and concluding reasons from my encounter with Calvinism.
However, I think there are less problems in it that serve my faith better. In my view I can rest on the universal love of God expressed through Christ; this is the anchor or my soul. She believed on Him that day and has never turned back shewas being raised as a Muslim I also believe the Lord showed me that there are mysteries about Salvation that perhaps the Calvinist seek to apprehend and define, and perhaps both the Cavinists and Arminians have Light , but not complete understanding…My final obseration between calvinism and other doctrinalslants on the Gospel is this… I looked at the Life of John Calvin, and John Weslety, and tried to consider how did each live, and how did each express the Love of Christ… without a doubt, John Wesleys life expressed profound Love, and determination to win souls for Christ, John Calvin aimed at correcting wrong doctrine and establishing Gods rule here on Earth, He struck me as a hard man…when I read Calvinism it strikes me as the new phariseeism, all calculation and addition and subtraction,… no wasted drops of Christs Blood etc,..
I was a Calvinist for a short time.
(PDF) Three views of Election, Calvinism, Arminianism and Barthianism | Mikko Autio - iregamen.tk
I had basically been an Arminian. But I came under the influence of a campus minister who was a Calvinist. He convinced me to embrace Calvinism with the usual types of proof texts. But it did not sit right with me. It conflicted with so much that the Bible says. I became depressed as the clear and certain implications of the theology was that God has created most people to torture them forever in Hell, and this somehow is what glorifies him. I found it difficult to pray.
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But I did come to the point where I truly desired that if it would most glorify God to send me to Hell, then that he do so. The Bible gives no hint that God would prefer to see people in Hell than save them. But I came to trust that I may not understand it now, but that God was still good, and that it would probably make sense in Heaven.
I came to trust that God was good despite what my Calvinistic theology said about him. Well, I came to realize that I did not have to try and sweep the thrust of the Bible, which supports an Arminian view of God, under the rug for example, that God is a God of love with a true desire to save all , nor did I have to inflict implausible interpretations on to so many plain and obvious passages.
But the Bible really said what I had thought it said. There are certainly some passages that can be taken as supporting Calvinism. And those texts must be dealt with.