On Accurate Knowledge of Guaranteed Salvation


I’ve been busy on fairly extensive commentary projects the past few weeks (plus normal ‘work’ work), which is why I’ve been slipping on the EU forum for a while. (And with tax deadline around the corner, I doubt this weekend will be any improvement!) Consequently, I’m very appreciative of other posters helping keep various discussions going (and introducing new discussions).

My comrade Prof. Victor Reppert (a renowned expert on religious philosophy, and C. S. Lewis’ theology and apologetics in particular) has recently launched what looks like this year’s opening salvo in his ongoing discussion with various Calvinist apologists (especially at Triablogue) on whether a Christian can have accurate knowledge of being guaranteed salvation by God (i.e. being one of the “elect”) if Calvinism is true.

I doubt I’ll have time to participate much this year, although in past years I’ve contributed extensively to comments in his related posts on Calvinism (Vic is more-or-less Arminian) as one of the few local orthodox trinitarian universalists. (Tom Talbott, another friend of Victor’s, has also sometimes participated extensively in the comments, typically when Vic moves the topic toward universalism compared to Calv or Arm salvation theories.)

But the dueling can be interesting, and this question (which I’ve brought out myself in previous years) is quite pertinent to the question of Universal Salvation. So, I thought I’d introduce the topic here, too, for discussion; with a link for following the thrusts and parries back at Victor’s journal.

For what it’s worth, I’m pretty hardline on the side of option 1: even if Calvinism is true (robustly speaking), it is still impossible for anyone to be sure of their salvation (i.e. that they are of the “elect” in Calv terms) prior to final judgment–an important problem, since one of the key selling points of Calv vs. Arm soteriology is a supposed advantage over whether one has to be worried about losing one’s salvation. Even though technically the answer would be no (since per Calvinistic soteriology those whom God intends to save can be sure that God will save them), Calvinist contentions elsewhere tend to require that a person could be thoroughly deceived about whether he or she is of the elect.

Calvinists don’t usually agree with this. :wink:

Discuss!! {stepping off to watch and do work elsewhere} :mrgreen:


Take heart buddy:


One thing I’ll say in favor of the Calvinist notion of election: it quite properly doesn’t distinguish according to merit. Calvinists are usually very good about being consistent on this point, including in their own favor (or not, rather).

Also, to clarify (since I don’t think I wrote one sentence very well): when I wrote “even if Calvinism is true, it is still impossible to be sure…” my point was that a major selling point of Calvinism vs. Arminianism, is the notion of secure salvation for the “elect”. An Arminian cannot be sure that he won’t cross a line somewhere and ‘lose’ his salvation. Although in practice most Arms I’ve spoken to trust that God won’t give up on them–which is the Calv doctrine of persistence–strictly speaking their position does acknowledge the technical possibility.

The problem with the Calvinist position on accurate assurance of one’s salvation, is that they consider at least some people excluded from God’s intention to save at all, ever. It isn’t even a question of whether they will or won’t be saved, they certainly won’t because God never intended to save them.

This doesn’t look like a problem, on the Calv side, for accurate knowledge of whether they themselves are of the elect. Until you start looking at those same verses of scripture that the Arms point to, where people who by all appearances would be considered elect, and who by all expectations must have thought of themselves as elect, get zorched by God after all. (Israel herself being the archetypal example but apparent ‘Christians’ being among the examples, too.) Arms say, “See, you can lose your salvation!” Calvs have to reply, “No, God never intended to save those people in the first place, because we’re taught that He will accomplish His intentions to save and these are condemned.” Arms reply, “But they thought they were saved!” Calvs have to reply, “They were under a delusion about that.” Arms: “God obviously allowed the delusion, then.” Calvs: “Not only that but God sends delusions to people sometimes.” Arms: “So are you one of the elect, or not?” Calvs: “… …” Arms: “If you say you are, you might be only under a delusion about it.” Calvs: “God wouldn’t delude us.” Arms: “Why? Because you’re one of the chosen ‘elect’? That what you think!” Calvs: “We couldn’t trust Him then! But God is trustworthy!” Arms: “Exactly. Except to the non-elect, on your theory.” Calvs: “But you can’t trust Him to save you either!”

Kaths: “God intends to save everyone (from sin, if not necessarily from hell); and can be trusted to keep persisting at this, regardless of merit (which is good, since it is those with ‘demerit’ who need saving from sin!)”

Others: “BAH! HERETIC!”


I have sometimes seen the defense (which is brought out early in the comments to the link to Victor’s article above) that Calvinists are encouraged not to think about who is or isn’t elect. That’s fine, until the same guy goes on to try to defend why he thinks he’s one of the elect! “Who is or isn’t elect” includes one’s-self. By its tenets, a Calvinist should be agnostic about whether he is or is not one of the elect, and meanwhile trusting God to do the right thing; even if that means (paradoxically) that the Calv’s self-abandoning trust in God, which one might be tempted to consider good evidence for being one of the elect, is only a convenient delusion sent by God for some other purposes (probably for the sake of helping lead those other people over there, who are actually elect, to salvation).

That’s an admirable position to take, in a way (except not, if it’s only a delusion! :wink: ); but it totally voids the supposed superiority of Calvinism over Arminianism on the assurance of salvation.