Anthony N.S. Lane on John Calvin’s Doctrine of Assurance

This is an excerpt from a highly recommended piece from Anthony N.S. Lane on John Calvin’s doctrine of assurance (You can access the PDF for free here; and also note that the footnotes in these excerpts were preserved from the article, so go to the link to find the corresponding references):

Calvin’s theology is popularly seen as cold and remorseless. This fallacy is encouraged by the belief that he did not consider assurance of personal salvation to be possible. In fact the very reverse is true for Calvin taught that assurance, far from being impossible, is an essential ingredient of salvation. Paul ‘declares that those who doubt their possession of Christ and their membership in His Body are reprobates’.3

Calvin, in his commentary on Galatians 4: 6, argued that the confidence there described is so important that ‘where the pledge of the divine love towards us is wanting, there is assuredly no faith’. For Calvin it was not possible to partake of salvation without being sure of it. This is because saving faith is seen as faith in God’s mercy to me. The ‘full definition of faith’ is ‘a firm and sure knowledge of the divine favour toward us, founded on the truth of a free promise in Christ, and revealed to our minds, and sealed on our hearts, by the Holy Spirit’.4

Quoting Calvin:

In one word, he only is a true believer who, firmly persuaded that God is reconciled, and is a kind Father to him, hopes everything from his kindness, who, trusting to the promises of the divine favour, with undoubting confidence anticipates salvation; … none hope well in the Lord save those who confidently glory in being the heirs of the heavenly kingdom… the goodness of God is not property comprehended when security does not follow as its fruit.5

© 2014, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.


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