31 May 2012

Assurance: Every Believer's Birthright

by Phil Johnson



was listening to a sermon by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones not long ago in which he pointed out that assurance is one of the most prominent subjects in the New Testament. Virtually every New Testament epistle was written to address some doubt, answer some question, settle some uncertainty—all of them aimed at stimulating or reinforcing the assurance of believers. Scripture encourages us to have assurance. It is not inherently brash or presumptuous to be confident in your faith.

Shortly after reading that comment by Lloyd-Jones, while doing some research on a totally different theme, I had occasion to review The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent. Trent was the Roman Catholic Council that was convened in the mid-1500s in order to hammer out an official response from the Roman Catholic Church to the Protestant Reformation.

And let's be candid: the Protestant Reformation had embarrassed the whole Roman Catholic hierarchy in a major way, because in addition to the many doctrinal errors and patently unbiblical and extrabiblical teachings the Reformers challenged, they also shone the bright light of biblical truth on centuries of exploitation of Papal power, gross corruption of the priesthood, spiritual abuse for material profit (including the sale of indulgences and the sale of church offices and political favors for money). Underneath all of this was the most shocking kind of moral rot that went right to the top in the Papal hierarchy. The Roman Catholic Church was totally corrupt.

The council of Trent cleaned up or papered over some of the more obvious exhibitions of rank clerical debauchery. At the very least we could say that Trent somewhat subdued the unbridled corruption of the medieval priesthood, after generations of abuse and corruption that were the hallmark of the priesthood right across Europe.

One other thing that the Council of Trent accomplished was this: They gave clear definition to certain Catholic doctrines that had always been rather hazy and abstruse—such as the doctrine of justification.

But fundamentally, the Council of Trent was a backlash against Protestant teaching.

The popes and bishops of the 16th century were not at all eager to convene a council to discuss the areas of church life and doctrine that needed Reform. It took years to get the council going. Meetings stretched out over about thirty years' time. The bishops convened in fits and starts, working more or less halfheartedly for the first couple of decades. Only in the council's final stages did they show any enthusiasm for the work. By then, they were so eager to antagonize the Protestants and their doctrines that they cranked out document after document pronouncing anathemas on the Reformers.

And in the process (mainly, I think, because they were more interested in countering the Protestants than they were in clarifying biblical truth on the issues they dealt with), they got major points of doctrine wrong in every set of decrees they issued.

For example, in their decree on the doctrine of justification (Council of Trent, Sixth session, chapter 9), they said this: "It is not to be said, that sins are forgiven, or have been forgiven, to any one who boasts of his confidence and certainty of the remission of his sins." In other words, while we can know with certainty that God does forgive sins, no individual can say with any settled certainty—based on faith alone—"My sins are forgiven." Even the priest's declaration of absolution is only good until the next time you sin.

The Council of Trent went on to draw this conclusion: "No one can know with a certainty of faith, which cannot be subject to error, that he has obtained the grace of God."

That's why no faithful Roman Catholic can ever really be sure of his or her salvation, even though they have thousands of priests in thousands of confessionals every day telling people that the sins they confess to the priests are forgiven. Those priests are giving people a deadly false assurance, and even Rome's official doctrine acknowledges that.

But Scripture says this (1 John 5:13): "You may know that you have eternal life." "The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8:15). "Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar" (1 John 5:10). We're supposed to "be . . . diligent to make [our] calling and election sure" (2 Peter 1:10). Far from saying what the Roman Catholic Church says, that it's sinful—even damnably evil—to be certain that our sins are forgiven and we have received the grace of God—Scripture says, "do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward" (Hebrews 10:35).

Scripture everywhere commends and encourages assurance. Nowhere are we taught to live in a state of perpetual doubt about our personal standing before God. Never does the Bible suggest that we should rely on the false promises of a mere man in a confessional booth who can never offer anything more than a kind of temporary absolution; a spiritual bait-and-switch offer that can never usher anyone into the true rest that is the birthright of those whose faith is authentic.

Phil's signature

65 comments:

Kerry James Allen said...

Thanks, Phil. I'll never forget when as a new convert and doubting my salvation I read First John several times and came away with rock-solid assurance that has stood the test of time. "Full assurance is not essential to salvation, but it is essential to satisfaction. May you get it--may you get it at once; at any rate, may you never be satisfied to live without it." Spurgeon

Johnny Dialectic said...

Nowhere are we taught to live in a state of perpetual doubt about our personal standing before God.

Phil, what is your take on the well-known conundrum of those who have "spurious" faith? If saving faith vel non is finally and only in God's hands, how does one avoid what Sproul described this way: "There are people in this world who are not saved, but who are convinced that they are. The presence of such people causes genuine Christians to doubt their salvation. After all, we wonder, suppose I am in this category? Suppose I am mistaken about my salvation and am really going to hell? How can I know that I am a real Christian?"

I believe Sproul pointed to being assured by a certain discomfort, which I don't quite get. Maybe I misunderstood him.

worthless said...

I know there is a love train that goes on around here but a few simple facts need to be pointed out and lets start here.
In my 11 years at a reformed church (who`s pastors attended the shepherds conference every three years mind you)every time one of the little letters was written and read about someone in regards to church discipline it was almost always determined that the individual must not have been saved to start with. You dont say!!! Reformed people believe that salvation can be lost by their action, though their words say something else. I think the papacy is repugnant but you guys are not far behind.
This post was written stating that somehow you folks are so much higher in your faith than the papists. And then to post a picture of the pope looking like a demon shows your arrogant heart. As one who has studied church history so that i can know which side to choose one thing came across loud and clear, the reformation was a bust. Anyone who doesn't see the reformation as an absolute failure is taking the same drug the face eating guy did, or the same demon is pulling your strings.
By all means leave the papacy in your dust, but don't hold on to something else that is just as corrupt and antiquated as the reformation. Just call yourself a christian and stop holding on to this reformed yuck, then you would truly be better than the papists. Right now, i agree with the Orthodox Church, your just the papists wayward children.
And those are the facts.......

Kerry James Allen said...

I think somebody needs to have their morning coffee. And as to the pope looking like a demon, I don't think it was Photoshopped. I think somebody needs to read 2 Corinthians 11:13-15. And let me blow the horn on the love train so that everybody hears: the pope is a demon.

Daryl said...

Johnny D.,

I've always understood (perhaps wrongly) that there will necessarily be a bit of tension within a true believer.

That is, on the says where we don't have assurance per se, it will matter to us. It will bother us in a way that it won't bother those with false faith.

That's probably too simplistic, if the "testimonies" of ex-churchmen, now atheists, are to be believed. But I think it means something at least.

Kind of how someone who is afraid they've committed the unforgivable sin is worried, but the one who really has couldn't care less.

Bill said...

Phil, Amen! My better half struggled with assurance but was helped immensely by D. Whitney’s book. As a former RC, I can say sacrament of penance itself is a doubt-perpetuating process for one never wants to get caught in a state of less than perfect grace. I don’t care how long it had been since I went to confession, the Holy Spirit convicted me on my “thought life” alone, often the confessional door did not close before I sinned again. I’ve come to believe that consistently doubting has its roots in “did God really say…” and unregenerate man will never recover. While we are to test ourselves to see if we are in the faith, we don’t test ad infinitum. We may test regularly, but as you note we are not to be in the perpetual state of doubt. The number of Scriptures that directly or indirectly affirm assurance is overwhelming: 1 John 3:19-24, Hebrews 6:9-12, John 10:27-29, 2 Timothy 4:6-8, Ephesians 1:13-14, Romans 8: 28-30, 2 Timothy 1:12, John 6:40 to list a few.

JD: We know by fruit, the bearing therein. We express gratitude and amazement for a Grace that saves so undeserving a wretch we are overcome with love (and joy) for the One who made it possible.

Worthless: if an individual church fails at Matthew 18 does it nullify 1 John 2?

dac said...

what is the point of the photoshopped pope? Exactly who do you expect to be fruitfully impacted by it? Does it add or detract from your argument?

Committed Catholics - nope, you just allowed them to ignore you
Nominal Catholics - nope, even if they have limited understanding of the faith, they are going to be insulted by that
Liberal protestants - nope, they ignore you already, so no chance of impacting them
Evangelicals? Perhaps they ignore the graphic as I doubt they would ever recognize Ratzinger, even without the photoshop. They will think its some obscure star wars reference they don't get and be to embarrassed to mention it
Fundies - well, sure, you know the slice of hate crowd is going to eat that graphic up. But is that really who you are targeting with your argument?

So, pretty much anyone you would hope to influence is going to focus on that graphic and write you off. Except the slice of hate crowd who is pretty much going to respond "preach it!" So, if that is your target audience for this post, great graphic. Otherwise, not so much

DJP said...

Golly, dac, you overlooked the even more significant offense of the font size and style Phil chose! What does that say to animists and Rastafarians?!

The Blainemonster said...

worthless said "As one who has studied church history so that i can know which side to choose one thing came across loud and clear, the reformation was a bust." What history books you readin'???

Robert said...

As a former RC, I can say that I recall always being hounded by guilt over my sinfulness. The RCC is good at pointing that out, which is to their credit, but they leave out the fact that Jesus died to pay the price for our sins once for all.

I do find myself caught in the tension that JD says that Sprou described...it is a tension that actually gives me assurance. That is because I shouldn't be satisfied with how I am and should be wanting to root out sin continuously until the day I die.

Worthless, you have just put up a straw man that needs to be burned to the ground. Even if you encountered problems at a "reformed" church, it doesn't hold that all "reformed" churches and people are the same. And it also shows that you are not willing to show grace towards fellow sinners saved by the grace of God. And you are also assuming to know what is in the hearts of people, which is something that only God can do. Just because somebody can point out what is wrong with the statements/beliefs of a different group doesn't make them arrogant.

Jules said...

@worthless...

"As one who has studied church history so that i can know which side to choose one thing came across loud and clear, the reformation was a bust."

We don't study church history to know which is the right side. We study Scripture.

Nash Equilibrium said...

I'd say in reaction to dac, "humanity is a bust." I'd be quite surprised if Phil says otherwise. The movement that we call The Reformation was an attempt to recapture the essential elements of the Gospel after years of its being obscured by a corrupt hierarchy. Was The Reformation pristine and perfect? Of course not, it involved humans who are, once again, a bust. But it was a move of God. Take the good that came out of it as a result of God's work, and leave the human parts out, if you prefer. Quit implying that Phil or anyone else deifies Luther or Calvin or anyone else - they don't. None of the Pyros team is stupid after all, so they know that anything involving humans will have some degree of corruption either before, during, or after, but that doesn't change that there was a lot of good that came out of the Reformation. And, there is a lot of corruption of the Gospel that remains in the papacy.
Saying that Ratzinger is a demon is also pretty over the top, in my view. He's both deceived, and a deceiver... but a demon? Come on. Lots of over the top, all or nothing comments here. Too much!

Read what Phil wrote - it is true and it is measured. You can know that you are saved!

Phil Johnson said...

OK, I've changed the disputed image.

Whether the Pope was Photoshopped in that first picture or no, I don't know. I used it as I found it. So that the comment-thread doesn't get derailed by that subject, I've substituted the famous picture of Ratzinger showing off his Prada shoes. It IS Photoshopped. (I added the PyroManiacs' logo.)

But I have to say: Anyone who is more offended by an unflattering picture of the pope than by the papacy itself needs a priority adjustment, it seems to me.

Protestants used to understand that it is grossly and abominably evil for a man to declare himself "the vicar of Christ" and arrogantly claim authority (and infallibility) God never gave him. Evangelicals nowadays are more concerned about artificial postmodern transgressions, such as plainly saying that false religion is evil.

donsands said...

Good post. And good follow up comment Phil.

Blessed Assurance Jesus is mine!
Oh what a foretaste of glory divine!

Jesus died for me, personally. What can change that. How am I with Christ dying for me?
I feel horrible-wonderful when I see the Cross, and see my sin and His blood.

I love my Savior, and talk to Him all the time. I talk to the Father, our Abba Father as well.

I trust in the Lord, and obey; there's no other way.

The Pope needs to come to Christ, and see his sin in trusting in the teachings of man.
Man stole the truth: "I believe....in the holy catholic Church", that was penned in 390 AD.

They need to keep Roman if they want, but give back the word catholic, with a small c; which means unity, or one Church world wide.

Have a terrific, wonderful weekend in that your name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life! Hallelujah! Can't wait for the New earth, and seeing our Lord Jesus Christ in all His glory!

Phil said...

Amen..I might add,though I feel more from my mind than my emotions just yet, the gospel gives assurance that our sins are forgiven without our coming to Christ over-and-over for ongoing forgiveness/pronouncement of absolution, too. Heb10v14. And that's the strength of life in Christ.

Spurgeon ~ "we are justified by faith through our Lord Jesus Christ." There is the foundation: there is the mainspring. There is the tree that bears the fruit. We are justified by faith, but not by faith of itself. Faith in itself is a precious grace, but it cannot in itself justify us. It is "through our Lord Jesus Christ." Simple as the observation is, I must venture to repeat it tonight, because it is hard for us to keep it in mind. But remember that faith is not the work of the Spirit within, but the work of Christ upon the tree. That upon which I must rest as my meritorious hope is not the blessed fact that I am now an heir of heaven, but the still more blessed fact that the Son of God loved me, and gave himself for me." ("Justification by Faith", sermon on Rom5v1)

Another good quote;on Rom8v1;

"The apostle [Paul] is asserting that if we are Christians, your sins and mine – past sins, present sins and future sins – have already been dealt with once and forever! Had you realized that? Most of our troubles are due to our failure to realize the truth of this verse. ‘There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus’ is so often understood to mean nothing more than that past sins have been dealt with. Of course it means that; but it also means your present sins; even more, it means that any sin you may ever chance to commit has already been dealt with. You will never, you cannot ever, come under condemnation.

…But why does the apostle say this, and on what grounds does he say it? Is it not a dangerous thing to say? Will it not incite people to sin? If we tell Christians that their past sins, their present and their future sins have already been put away by God, are we not more or less telling them that they are free to go out and sin? If you react in that way to my statements I am most happy, for I am obviously a good and true interpreter of the apostle Paul."

(Romans – The Law: Its Functions & Limits: Exposition Of Chapters 7:1 – 8:4, p. 272-273)

Nash Equilibrium said...

May sin abound that grace more fully abound? May it never be!

dac said...

lol @dan

if you don't think that a highly insulting graphic is a little different than arguing about font sizes, well, ok. nvrmind then. I retract my previous statement. Bring on the Chick tracts

Nash Equilibrium said...

Are you sure the original was photoshopped? From what I've seen of unaltered pictures, Ratzinger does kinda look like Simon Barsinister from the old Underdog cartoon.

Kerry James Allen said...

If this is what "worthless" says it is, I vote for DJP as Love Train Engineer.

Kerry James Allen said...

Some of you would understand the repulsion we feel for the primary representative of Catholicism on earth better if you were ex-Catholics. When we ponder the fact that we were enslaved to a system that would have sealed our doom forever, and the fact that it still has hundreds of millions of people in its grasp, how do you feel sorry for the man who portrays himself as Christ's representative on Earth, and who speaks Ex Cathedra? Assurance to us is something we treasure and hold with a death grip. And if you don't like hearing him called a "demon" I'll use a more Biblical term from 2 Corinthians 11:13-15: Satan's "minister."

DJP said...

Showing that "oh yes I did say that" attitude that is why the raised-pinkie set disdains and feigns blindness towards us, I will add this, Kerry:

I think folks would understand revulsion for RCism and its peddlers (qua peddlers) better if they loved the Gospel and eternal souls more.

Chris H said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeremiah Greenwell said...

Worthless; you really hurt my feelings calling me a hater. I didn't mean to laugh; I just thought it was funny...who are you helping with that language?...I'm gonna go cry in a corner in agony now while I pray to God not to strike me down for my murdering, hateful heart. ; ;

PS; in all seriousness, I have to believe in perseverance of the saints primarily because the bible teaches it, but apart from that, I know that if it were up to me to keep my salvation I would never, ever stand. I've lived under that system and I was nothing more than a pious murderer, so I know what it is to be hateful. And friend, it takes a lot more love to warn men of dangerous systems that men are so fond of then to sit back and say 'can't we all just get along?'

Chris H said...

I removed my earlier comment because it threatened to lead us far afield of the topic - assurance of salvation - and into a list of all the things Rome has done wrong.

That I am forgiven of my sins, and can know it, and thus can know I am saved is sweeter to me than knowing my wife loves me (She's okay with that, by the way, and feels the same about me).

It's sweeter because I so desperately needed forgiveness it hurt. How a person could live a day having no answer to that question baffles me.

Kerry James Allen said...

Amen to the Love Train Engineer.

Nonna said...

After all, we wonder, suppose I am in this category? Suppose I am mistaken about my salvation and am really going to hell? How can I know that I am a real Christian?"

Johnny Dialectic:

I would proffer that anyone who has genuinely called themselves a Christian has at some point gone through self-doubt. And oddly, it crosses denominations and confessions. The Arminian may fall into this category because they might worry that they have not forsaken a particular sin and thus they have a hard heart. A Calvinist may worry that no matter how much they thought they had genuinely repented, they actually might be deluded and self-deceived; their faith might be false faith, and they might actually be one of the reprobated by God. The non-Calvinist Baptist types of the OSAS variety will question whether or not that walk down the isle (or some variation on that theme) and that Sinner's Prayer they recited was done with genuine repentance. So, to seal the deal they go down to that altar at various and sundry times during their life to make sure they're actually saved. And the Lutherans can be subject to doubt since they are taught that not all who profess genuine faith remain faithful to Christ in the end - they can fall away.

And on and on it goes. The human condition is such that all doubt, and since Christians can't escape being human...well, you get the gist of it.

Nonna said...

Right now i agree with the Orthodox Church, your just the papists wayward children.

Worthless,

Or they might just say the Protestants are a schism of a schism and many schisms there after, depending on what kind of Protestant one claims to be.

Nathan said...

I recently did a series on this topic for my blog:

http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2012/04/21/joan-of-arc-faith-vs-infant-faith-part-1-of-2/

http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2012/04/23/joan-of-arc-faith-vs-infant-faith-part-2-of-2/

I'm a conservative Lutheran who reads Pyromaniacs and especially likes to debate Roman Catholics.

First time commenter.

+Nathan

Kerry James Allen said...

Can't resist the cultural reference part: After Phil changed the photo of the pope from the first photo to the one in his Prada shoes, that begs the question, wasn't there a movie out a few years ago called "The Devil Wears Prada?"

Kaffikjelen said...

I wonder: what does the Bible mean when it refers to our hope? Hope doesn't seem to be equal to certainty.

Nonna said...

Kind of how someone who is afraid they've committed the unforgivable sin is worried, but the one who really has couldn't care less.


Daryl,

There is another scenario to add to the mix. There are those who have professed faith in Christ who fall prey to worrying whether or not they have committed the unforgivable sin. Their concern may be due to a propensity to be overly scrupulous. Whatever the reason, they find themselves becoming sick with worry over time. So, they cry out to God but cannot hear Him; it's as if the heavens have become like brass. They scrutinize themselves wondering what vile sin they've committed that prevents God from answering their prayers. Eventually, unable to continue this wretched existence - this vicious cycle of worry, crying for mercy, repentance, etc., they give up on their faith entirely.

Iow, they stopped trusting in a loving, merciful God. Their heart became hardened and they turned away from the God they once loved.

Daryl said...

Kaff,

Biblical hope is, by definition, a certainty that something which has not yet happened, will happen.

It's not a "I really hope so" kind of a thing.

So when we are told to hope in Christ, we do so with certainty because whatever Christ has said must surely come to pass, there is no "fail" option with Him.

Daryl said...

Nonna,

That's good, except I'd have to failing to hear God's voice is a failure to trust that He speaks through Scripture, or failing to see how Scripture applies directly to us in our situation. Nothing more, nothing less.

That is the beauty of believing what Scripture says of itself, a believer can never, not hear God's voice since it is forever fixed in the heavens and we have it so plainly on the printed page.

Thanks be to God for His holy word!

DJP said...

Word.

Nonna said...

We don't study church history to know which is the right side. We study Scripture.

Ah, Jules, then that would be the problem, wouldn't it? Although I'd venture to say that there are any number of Protestants who would differ with you. They'd contend that an understanding of Church history, with all of its intricacies, is necessary in order to maintain true confidence in one's faith and church affiliation. Ignoring history in preference to the Bible alone is throwing that baby out with the bath water. Otherwise lots of bshops wasted a lot of time and ink meeting in councils, proclaiming doctrines, refuting heresy, hammering out the creeds, writing confessions, only to be ignored by Christians centuries afterward.

Eric said...

Nonna,

Who said anything about ignoring history? Isn't Jules' point about wherein lies absolute authority? It seems a stretch to say that Jules is supporting the idea that history does not speak at all or with any value or lessons.

donsands said...

"Word."-Dan

Ditto.

Good discussion so far folks.

Let us worship our Abba Father in Spirit and truth, as we love His Son, if you so desire:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29myH7xXI4M&feature=related

"No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in him, is mine;
alive in him, my living Head,
and clothed in righteousness divine,"

Nonna said...

The Apostle [Paul] is asserting that if we are Christians, your sins and mine - past sins, present sins and future sins - have already been dealt with once and forever! Had you realized that?...'There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus' is so often understood to mean nothing more than that past sins have been dealt with. You will never, you cannot ever, come under condemnation.

Phil,

How exactly does this work in real time and space? Granted, condemnation is from the Evil One, however, conviction of sin is entirely a different matter. It is the Holy Spirit's purpose to convict the Christian of his/her sins. If it's all been done and all we need do is believe that, why ever repent once we're in Christ? Why pray the Lord's Prayer personally and corporately if all our sins - especially Present/Future - are forgiven? If all my future sins are already forgiven, then I'd ask, what's the point of ever asking for forgiveness again? I've never understood this kind of thinking, and I'd not heard of it till a number of years after being a Christian.

Nonna said...

Eric,

I took her words at face value. If I misunderstood then perhaps Jules can clarify. As far as absolute authority goes, I'll contend that those bishops that met in council did so with authority from God Himself. And that it was with authority which Christ gave to His Church that they were able to speak boldly against the heretics. In other words, the Ecumenical Councils are authoritative by their very nature and to reject these councils is to question the very Authority that spoke through the Church.

pgepps said...

Phil, the Donatist Controversy and the Novatian Controversy, the arguments with the Gnostics, the problem of going from persecuted to legal to "official" as a public religion, the immorality and divisive feuding, all embarrassed the Church and scandalized the faithful, as well as invited the mockery of those outside--which doesn't invalidate the purely defensive but absolutely essential definitions of doctrine that condemned Donatism, Arianism, and Pelagianism even as it led to anathema-slinging that created embarrassments like the difficulty with which we determine where exactly Nestorius went wrong, or what to do with Tertullian and Origen, and which parts of Augustine we should pay most attention to, etc. etc. No one should be surprised that the Church is full of sinners, that it struggles with sin and requires the constant renovating work of the Spirit and the prayers of the faithful. It is especially silly to treat the development of doctrine, which *normally* takes place in response to errors, in order to clarify the truth, as somehow flawed for being what it by design clearly is.

The Tridentine canon on Justification is clearly defining the term over against the Reformed effort to establish an erroneous definition for it (though not yet with sufficient clarity confronting the problem of philosophical nominalism which was corroding the language of faith). Luther's "justification by faith" lapsed almost immediately into a teaching that our inward certitude regarding our own election *was* justifying faith; that is, God did something wholly prior to and separate from our faith which was signified, to us, by a wholly inward and wholly private certitude that God had done thus-and-so for us. This did simplify matters for those radical reformers who had decided to clear the decks of all sacraments, but it left Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and their successors with a theological mess on their hands: sacraments instituted by Christ, instructed by the Apostles, universally practiced by the Church, and theologically meaningless.

Meanwhile, Protestants everywhere struggle to have this assurance which they have been led to believe is the measure of God's grace in them--with the results of a constant swing between the most extreme and abstract rationalism/mysticism (of which Karl Barth's Reformed/Lutheran neo-orthodox universalism would be the latter end) and the most conduct-centered and secular revivalism (of which Finney would be a splendid example).

What gives me greater and more justified assurance: My own frequently asserted belief that my distant father will always be there for me? Or his coming for a visit?

In this question, and your answer to it, you may find everything you should have seen when you read Trent's canon on Justification.

Karen said...

I grew up in a fundamentalist church which left me with a lot of doubt about whether I could ever be sure I was truly converted. I felt that I was responsible for my salvation because I had to have faith to be saved. "Do you know beyond a shadow of a doubt, if you died tonight, you would go to heaven?" was preached at youth meetings on a regular basis. This frustrated me greatly. I believed the Gospel, but how could I ever be sure I truly believed? Was there supposed to be this mystical, fuzzy feeling to tell me? I knew I couldn't save myself, but I had to believe and I had to believe right. This scared me - how could I trust myself with something so important? How could I know that my faith was "right" or "enough" etc. etc. And how did I know I had it?? It was a big struggle for me.

Finally after much Bible study I realized Eph. 2:8-9 refers to even our saving faith as coming from God as a gift. And Mark 9:24 helped me see that I could ask God for the faith. What a relief that was for me.

How wonderful that Christ draws us to Himself and supplies the faith we need for salvation. He answers our prayers for faith. It is not up to us, it is up to Him. He is the author and finisher of my faith. This is my hope and assurance.

Phil Johnson said...

PGEpps:

Have you converted to Roman Catholicism? AND are you saying you agree with the Council of Ephesus' condemnation of Pelagianism?

Does that mean you now accept the doctrine of original sin? If so, at least you have moved an inch or two in the right direction. Bravo.

Still, it intrigues and troubles me that almost every time you resurface you are touting some major new wrinkle in your worldview. You should peruse some of our posts on the dangers of serial paradigm shifting.

You also need to read more on the post-Reformation discussion among Protestants regarding whether assurance is of the essence of faith. The history of development in the Reformed view(s) on assurance is not quite what you have portrayed. However, one thing all the leading Reformers, Puritans, and evangelical Protestants have insisted on is that settled assurance is not only possible, but it's also one of the expected fruits of mature faith.

Solameanie said...

Great post!

Julie Gebhards said...

Do priests have "assurance"? How would a Catholic answer?

donsands said...

"How would a Catholic answer?"

They may have do a little time in Purgatory. RC's try to cover all the bases, and they also have "Hail Mary full of grace....pray for us sinners."

Sad.

Nonna said...

Was this entry about preachin' to the choir or ministering to Catholics or none of the above? It's a given what most lower church Calvinists think about Catholics so is the point to remind yourselves how blessed you are not to be one of them?

Jeremiah Greenwell said...

The purpose was to point us to Christ's atoning work on the Cross and all that it bought us, stating that our confidence is not in our flesh or ability to keep the law but in God's unending love.

The choir needs good teaching just like every other sinner on earth, and you're the one who keeps making it about Calvinism; is that your only purpose in commenting?

Nonna said...

Ah...Jeremiah, but that's where you might be a bit myopic. This is, after all, a Calvinist blog, and in particular of the low church variety. Many of the entries/comments implicitly and/or explicitly empahsize the Calvinistic doctrines. Oui?

And btw, I'm an equal opportunity Christian. In my first comment within this thread I mentioned a number of Christian denominations. In my second comment to worthless, I mentioned Protestants in general. In my third comment to Daryl, I said nothing of Calvinism. In my fourth comment to Jules the subject matter had nothing to do with Calvinism. In my fifth comment to Phil I was asking about a particular teaching that I had never heard of for years as a Christian, which btw I've never gotten a response on that one from anyone that I've asked. Perhaps you'd be willing to tackle it. :-) My sixth comment was a response to Eric - no Calvinism discussed there either. And my seventh comment...TA DA! I specifically mentioned Calvinism - of the low church variety in particular.

So there you have it. Hey, this is a Calvinist blog and INQIRING MINDS WANT TO KNOW. Inquiring non-Calvinist minds, that is. :-)

Have a nice day, mate.

Nash Equilibrium said...

It seems obvious to me that anyone who sniffs the term "low church" to other believers is high on some sort of spiritual pride.

DJP said...

Oh gosh, Nash -- now she's going to have to talk more!

o_O

Nonna said...

Nash,

Do you even know what low church means and where the term came from in the first place? It certainly isn't a word I invented, but rather, a term used by Calvinists themselves as well as Christians from other faith traditions. My husband who was raised as a high church Anglican eventually attended a low church Anglican Church, better known as The American Epicscopal Church. It was from him that I first heard the terms used.

Among Classical Calvinists such as Dr. Peter Leithart & James Jordan, who embrace a Reformed Catholicism, the terms low and high church have been assigned specific meanings. The predecessors of these men, who called themselves high church Calvinists, would be those who associated themselves with Mercersburg Theology. John Williamson Nevin and Phillip Schaff were outspoken high church Calvinists who spear-headed the Mercersburg Theological Movement. In fact, a book was written about Nevin entitled, "High Church Calvinist." Basically the high church view was a reaction to American Revivalist Protestantism which swept across this nation in the 19th C. The differences between the two:

High Church stresses the importance and centrality of the sacraments in the life of the Christian.

Low Church de-emphasizes the need for sacraments.

Both churches have a different understanding of the efficacy of Baptism and the Lord's Supper.

High Church has a form of liturgical worship whereas low church does not.

High church places a greater emphasis on the importance of learning from the early church fathers than low church.

There are other differences as well but I think what I have here will suffice.

If one indeed firmly adheres to low church principles, then being termed a low church Calvinist should not be considered a pajorative term. If they're your convictions then wear them like a badge of honor. And should someone consider you a low church Calvinist, don't take offense.

Nonna said...

DJP:

HA...Ya got me! :-)

Nash Equilibrium said...

Nonna: I know what it means. I'm talking about how you are using it: as a put-down. In other words, you are using it the same way so-called "high" church people always have, to imply that there is something superior about liturgy, your view of sacraments, and so on. Because, after all, there is nothing inherently "high" about such things, nor "low" about the others, is there? The phrase is a not-so-subtle form of manipulation that, apparently, you have fallen for.

Nonna said...

Ok Nash...let's get our cards out on the table. First of all, when I initially used the term it was to differentiate between the attitudes low church Calvinists have toward Catholics in particular as opposed to high church Calvinists. This is just an observation that I have noticed in my encounters with Calvinists. And I'll grant you that I prefer the attitude which high church Calvinists demonstrate toward Catholics. So in this specific sense, I would assert that high church Calvinists are better suited to address Catholics.

As regards your beliefs and forms of worship I have no dog in the fight since I have no allegiance to high church or low church Calvinism. And you're right, as far as some not-so-subtle form of manipulation - well, that's where you lose me. My use of the term was not to impugn one particular faith tradition over another - certainly not as regards doctrine or praxis. Rather, I was expressing what I consider to be a distinct observation.

Jeremiah Greenwell said...

I am going to try and respond without throwing this thread into an unnecessary tangent.

Nonna,

Please take note that I have never once referred to you as Armenian. I'm not on here rebuking you for believing a system that I believe to be completely unbiblical, in this thread or the one where we were arguing over the sufficiency of scripture.

I will tell you that I believe your wrong and I will use scripture to prove it, but how many times before this have you heard me attack you for making God subject to the will of man, as your beliefs do? I have not continual assaulted your belief system nor concluded that you're just 'one of those free-willers that can't be reasoned with because God hasn't revealed it to you yet' like some hyper-Calvinist. Why do you keep throwing a similar charge against me?

All I'm hearing from you is "You're just a low-level Calvinist who will Amen anything posted here." Maybe that's not what you intend, but you aren't looking for answers with that implicit message constantly being thrown out; you're looking for a fight.

But for your question;

~What language shall I borrow to thank Thee dearest friend,
For this, Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever; and should I fainting be,
Lord let me never, never outlive my love for Thee.~

There's your practical application that you long for more than the simple biblical truth. Far more could be said on the subject, but I'm not continuing while you simply insist on trampling the pearls I hold so dear underfoot. Good day.

Nash Equilibrium said...

No I don't think I lost you, I think you don't like hearing the truth of the matter, that is, that once upon a time someone in a high church hierarchy gave those who rightly protested against the trappings of so called high church, by giving them a name (low church) that implied those low church fellows were the Great Unwashed of Christendom. (psst! You dont want to be in that low crowd, do you?) And you perpetuate the error, using it here as an insult, then trying to feign ignorance of the insult. There is nothing inherently high about liturgy, rituals, and robes; or perhaps you dispute that point? I notice you didn't comment on that.

That aside, moving to the subject of who if anyone, is better suited to address Catholics... You think the liturgical crowd Calvinist is better suited. Might that be because they are more willing to only indirectly address the serious disconnects between Biblical doctrines and the Catholic teachings of men? Yeah, maybe so. Furthermore, I imagine you think that the more someone is willing to let slide the serious doctrinal errors of the RCC, the better suited they are to address Catholics, and the rest of us ought to just be quiet.

Nash Equilibrium said...

PS: I propose from now on everyone simply avoid the terms high and low church, and instead refer to them as "dead church" and "alive church." Since a reliance on ritual and liturgies is dead and a reliance on spontaneous worship is alive, it's simply a descriptive way of referring to them so no offense ought to be taken, right "mate?"

C. T. Bennett said...

Counselors and analysts know that persistent uncertainty is one of the most corrosive influences on peace of mind, clarity of thought, and quality of life. When the uncertainty has to do with something as significant as one's status before God and eternal state, it is worse.

The Catholic Church had to provide antidotes for the uncertainty it created. John Owen commented in his book on the mortification of sin: "The whole bundle of the popish religion is made up of designs and contrivances to pacify the conscience without Christ; all described by the apostle in Romans 10:3"

Nonna said...

Jeremiah,

Have I really offended you that much? If so, I truly apologize.

However, there is a differentiation between opposing a particular doctrine and opposing a person. Christians can and do have doctrinal disagreements, but when those disagreements turn into personal insults wherein condemnations are issued, then the discussion has run amuck.

Why do you keep throwing a similar charge at me?

Have I really done that? I don't recall attacking you personally. If so, I'll say here and now that I'm sorry. However, please don't mistake the disagreements I have with Calvinism as an attack against you personally. Conversely, I don't take your criticism against Synergism as a personal attack on me.

All I'm hearing from you is "You're just a low-level Calvinist who will Amen anything posted here."

Wow. We must be operating on two different wave lengths. If you really think that, how can I convince you otherwise? Cyberspace indeed has it's challenges and this is one of those times.

There's your practical application that you long for more than the simple biblical truth.

Are you sure you really wanna go there? You can discern my heart in such a way when you have never met me personally?

But I'm not continuing while you simply insist on trampling the pearls I hold so dear under foot.

For someone who began by saying they're not on here rebuking me for believing in a system that is "completely unbiblical", well...I suppose you really told me a thing or two.

I think it would be wise to beat our swords into plowshares at this juncture. What ya say?

Nonna said...

There is nothing inherently high about liturgy, rituals, and robes; or perhaps you dispute that point? I notice you didn't comment on that.

Whew, Nash, I must have really touched a nerve. I feel like the Psalmist, "What I did not steal must I now restore?" I didn't comment on those things because they were not apropos as regards the topic at hand. And btw, there's nothing inherently high nor inherently low about liturgy, rituals, and robes.

Furthermore, I imagine you think that the more someone is willing to let slide the serious doctrinal errors of the RCC, the better suited they are to address Catholics, and the rest of us ought to just be quiet.

Well Nash, you imagine wrongly. But do you really want to excoriate your high church Calvinist brethren in such a fashion?

Again I suppose it's time to beat those swords into plowshares. Peace.

Nonna said...

...it's simply a descriptive way of referring to them so no offense ought to be taken, right "mate?"

No offense taken here. After all, the insult is directed at your high church Calvinist brethren. But aren't you just retaliating in the same manner that you find so repugnant among the high church folks?

Tom Chantry said...

I'm admittedly late to the party but, let's be clear: The Pope is not a demon, he's the Antichrist.

There, I offended everybody. Blessed Sabbath, all.

Kathy said...

Jeremiah,
Having lived in the Transcaucasus for nearly a decade, I just cannot resist the urge to point out the difference between Armenian and Arminian. The first refers to a citizen of Armenia; the second refers to a theological belief system. It's a very common error! :-)

Nash Equilibrium said...

Nonna: I identify as a Christian, not as a Calvinist; I expect that's true of most people who read this blog. So excoriating Calvinists who may be rather blasé towards distinguishing truth from error is fine with me, just as excoriating the manmade doctrines of the RCC is, also. I think it's awfully hard to point out Biblical beliefs surrounding the Gospel without fairly quickly running into the need for pointing out its pretenders.
I guess you found out today that low church isn't the clinical term your high church reference group has always told you it was. Let's hear it for learning something new.

donsands said...

"Blessed Sabbath, all."-Tom C.

It was an inexpressible joy kind of Sabbath.
Our pastor preached from 1st Peter 1:1-16

God's foreknowledge is amazing.

Have a blessed week in the truth of our salvation.

"My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!"-Horatio Spafford