Roger Olson, “Calvinism and Assurance of Salvation (or Not)”

, posted by SEA

Here is a very interesting, and I would say “insightful,” message sent to me by a Christian worker with young people (some of who are being drawn into Calvinism by the Young, Restless, Reformed Movement). He gave me permission to post his thoughts here without identifying him.

A bit of background for those not already steeped in the Calvinism-Arminianism debate. Calvinists have often claimed that only their theology provides true assurance of salvation—because, in that theology, God does everything in our salvation. We contribute nothing and don’t even cooperate with God’s grace. So, many Calvinist have claimed that insofar as free will plays any role in salvation (Arminianism), assurance of salvation is undermined. This Christian worker sees it differently, as do I:

“In Calvinism, when someone moves from professing faith in Christ and being a Christian worker to cynicism about the Bible and the God revealed there (specific examples come to mind)  we would say they have become apostate.

In response to the assurance question with an apostate believer, most Calvinists say they were never saved to begin with.  They were deceived on that point (usually accompanied with a citation from James 2:19).  This seems to be their least problematic response to that circumstance.

However, it also creates a bigger issue for them.  They are saying it is quite possible in Calvinism to live for years believing you have saving faith, professing Christ, and being affirmed as an evangelical believer in Christ (or even a Christian worker/leader) while being unsaved and completely deceived.  Logically, therefore, no one could be assured they are not currently living in a deceived state unless or until they died still professing faith.  That is no assurance for the living, walking believer and would violate 1 John 5:13 and other passages that speak to our ability to have confidence now.

By contrast, if people truly have both a choice in, and a choice out (I don’t believe that people apostate due moral sinning-2 Timothy 2:13, but rather due to failure to remain in their faith-Colossians 1:21-23), then they would always have confidence and assurance of where they stood with Christ.  If I am depending on Christ alone, then I have confidence that Jesus will embrace me. If I have changed my mind and “moved past” that belief, I have rejected Christ as my savior and would know that I have no assurance if it turns out that Jesus is actually the only way to God.  This is ultimate assurance.  I would never be confused.

Thus, Calvinism leads to no assurance in this life until the moment of death, while a view that affirms free will imparts complete assurance through every stage of the human condition.”


[This post was taken from Roger Olson’s blog, where comments can be made and seen.]