Friday, July 14, 2006

Do we know we're saved?

John W. Loftus said:

“Calvinists know that they are saved? Really? So they have direct access to the secret will of God? There is no such assurance. As far as you know all you have is false assurance. Claim it all you want to if it makes you psychologically confident. But you can never be intellectually convinced of this, and you know it.”

1.We don’t need direct access to the secret will of God since that is not how the assurance of salvation is accessed in Scripture.

Rather, it is accessed in certain public criteria. For a discriminating discussion, cf. P. Helm, The Beginnings: Word & Spirit in Conversion (Banner of Truth 1986), 89-96.

2.You are also confounding paper doubts with real doubts. The hypothetical possibility that I may be a nominal believer or closet apostate has no more affect on my assurance of salvation than the hypothetical possibility that I’m a lunatic who happens to think he’s sane is any reason to question my sanity.

If I were really insane, then I’d be self-deluded about my own mental state. So is that a reason for someone who’s sane to doubt his sanity? Only if you're prone to paranoia.

“And the fear of hell keeps you from entertaining your hidden doubts, which makes you zealous for your faith since you suppress them.”

Loftus is now retreating into the Freudian fortress of the Id. But since, by definition, Castle Id is equally unprovable and unfalsifiable, an appeal to the alleged existence of unconscious doubts can never translate into conscious doubts.

9 comments:

  1. Loftus seems to be assuming that S's knowing p entails that p is indubitable for S or incorrigible for S. But why think that? Why should Calvinists (or anyone else) be committed to such an implausible Cartesianism?

    Given the same assumptions Loftus might just as well conclude that he doesn't know that he isn't a brain in a vat or that the law of gravity will hold tomorrow.

    "Atheists know that apples will fall downwards tomorrow? Really? So they have direct access to future states of the physical universe? There is no such assurance. As far as you know all you have is inferences from the past based on unrepresentative samples, etc., etc."

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  2. Not at all, Dr. Anderson. As I said earlier, a superior analysis of the practical differences between Arminian and Calvinist views of assurance, read William J. Abraham's chapter, "Predestination and Assurance" in The Grace of God, The Will of Man, ed, Clark Pinnock, (Zondervan, 1989).

    He wrote: "As far as assurance is an issue, the debate between the two positions is to a great extent a verbal one. The differences arise in part because the competing sides are interested in two different questions. The Arminian focuses on whether one can know NOW that one is a child of God; the Calvinist focuses on whether one will ULTIMATELY be saved in the future."" (p. 239).

    I mean really, with so many ex-Christians like me out there, who have spent years of our lives living the Christian life and believing and evangelizing and praying, and hoping for heaven, like you do now, how do you know you will be ultimately saved, according to your own theology?

    Your claim of people like me is that we were never saved in the first place, isn't it? If you ever leave your faith they will say it of you too. And this isn't something that requires Cartesian certainty because there are many of us ex-believers. Just check out here: http://www.ex-christian.net/ and here, http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/decon.html.

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  3. Your claim of people like me is that we were never saved in the first place, isn't it? No, it's the claim of Scripture. We merely take Scripture at its word.

    Calvinists know they are Christians because they believe and persevere, but subjectively assurance is indexed to perseverance anyway, and thus is person variable. A person who falls into sin has reason to doubt, but there is still a difference between backsliding and apostasy.

    Backsliding involves one of three things: fall into sin, repudiation of evangelical doctrine, loss of spirituality of mind. Apostasy encompasses all three.

    We know you're apostate because you have clung to all three of those. Ergo, the testimony of 1 John fits.

    For you to claim that a Calvinist must know the decretive will of God to have assurance is simply another example of your incompetence, because our theology does not index assurance to that will. It indexes assurance to faith and perseverance in that faith. Want assurance? Then examine yourself to see if you are in the faith. That's the biblical answer, and that's the answer our theology gives.

    Arminian theology on one level gives the same answer, but at the conceptual level it has a bigger problem for a number of reasons. First, election is indexed to foreseen a faith, but why is this? Faith is necessary to be converted, but perseverance to the end is also necessary to stay converted. Why not index, then, election to foreseen perseverance? God is seen to elect based on foreseen faith but not unelect based on foreseen non-perseverance. This is a huge problem that Arminian theology simply cannot overcome. Thus, second, the only consistent position is to index election to perseverance, not foreseen faith, but that, of course, makes salvation into a much more explicit form of remunerative justice.

    It's this kind of wooly thinking on your part that shows you only had surface level understanding of your theology from the start, and it only gives credence to your incompetence not only then but now.

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  4. It indexes assurance to faith and perseverance in that faith. Want assurance? Then examine yourself to see if you are in the faith. That's the biblical answer, and that's the answer our theology gives.

    Hmmm. And you can only be sure when......?

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  5. I remember a chap who suggested we were all brains in bottles on his first day at Uni. He was 'Bottle' after that for three full years, and I can't even remember his real name now, although we were on the same course and Debating Society Committees.

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  6. John:

    I mean really, with so many ex-Christians like me out there, who have spent years of our lives living the Christian life and believing and evangelizing and praying, and hoping for heaven, like you do now, how do you know you will be ultimately saved, according to your own theology?

    It's not clear to me what your argument is here. I'm guessing it's one or other of the following:

    A1: Some Christians apostatize. Therefore, no Christian can know that he's saved.

    A2: Some people who are convinced that they're Christians apostatize. Therefore, no Christian can know that he's saved.

    A1 obviously begs the question against the Calvinist. So that's a non-starter.

    A2 is a non sequitur. Nothing much significant about the possibility of assurance follows from the uncontroversial fact that some people who are convinced they're Christians later apostatize -- unless one imports implausibly strong assumptions about the necessary conditions of knowledge. But apparently you want to disavow such assumptions. So how else will you support the crucial inference in A2?

    Look at it this way. Suppose I were to offer this argument:

    A3: Some men who are convinced that they're the fathers of children living in their homes turn out not to be. Therefore, no man can know that he's the father of a child living in his home.

    You would be right to laugh at such an argument. But it's no different in form than A2; and it's fallacious for the same reason.

    Now, you might claim that the Calvinist's doctrine of assurance is making a stronger claim than that a Christian can know that he's saved. But different Calvinists have interpreted the doctrine in different ways. So you'll need to be more specific about which interpretation you mean to target.

    Perhaps you'll say you're targeting the view that a Christian can know with certainty that he is saved. But epistemologists commonly distinguish various kinds of certainty (e.g., psychological certainty, maximal justification, maximal warrant, indubitability). Calvinists aren't obviously committed to one particular interpretation here. So again, you'll need to be more specific about your target (and the relevance of that target with respect to mainstream Calvinist theology).

    In short, your argument, as it stands, doesn't have a whole lot going for it. It's mired in ambiguity and hamstrung by reliance on dubious epistemological assumptions.

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  7. Thank you for responding, Dr. Anderson. It's not clear to me what your argument is here. I'm guessing it's one or other of the following:

    A1: Some Christians apostatize. Therefore, no Christian can know that he's saved.


    Yes, except that I would say many Christians apostacize, although about this we'd have to do a scientific poll. You never know if it could happen to you. You'll never know with the assurance that Calvinists preach, anyway, until you die, since you do not have access to the secret will of God.

    A1 obviously begs the question against the Calvinist. So that's a non-starter.

    And your *flawed* understanding of the relevant texts make you beg the question of whether or not I was a believing Christian. I stand as a witness against your knowing that you'll remain a committed Christian, and that's just one of the many delusions Christians like you have. There was a time when I thought there was no possible way I could ever under any circumstances apostate from the faith.

    I mean, really, your exegesis must be able to explain what people experience. This is true for the doctrine of perserverance of the saints, as well as claims about once gay always gay, as well as pentecostal claims, and even the whole science/Biblical interpretation debate is about exegeting the relevant texts to incorporate the empirical evidence of what the scientist experiences in his/her experiments.

    A2: Some people who are convinced that they're Christians apostatize. Therefore, no Christian can know that he's saved.

    A2 is a non sequitur. Nothing much significant about the possibility of assurance follows from the uncontroversial fact that some people who are convinced they're Christians later apostatize


    So on a scale of 1-100, with 100 being apodictic certainty, impervious to all doubt, how much assurance do you have that when you die you you'll be in heaven, even granting that Calvinism is 100% certain?

    Answer that, and then I'll know what your psychological state of mind is, even though it will say nothing about whether your psychological state of mind will prove what's in store for you in the future. And that's what I'm talking about. How much assurance does Calvinism provide for the future of your faith?

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  8. "So on a scale of 1-100, with 100 being apodictic certainty, impervious to all doubt, how much assurance do you have that when you die you you'll be in heaven, even granting that Calvinism is 100% certain?

    Answer that, and then I'll know what your psychological state of mind is, even though it will say nothing about whether your psychological state of mind will prove what's in store for you in the future. And that's what I'm talking about. How much assurance does Calvinism provide for the future of your faith?"

    One of my problems with Calvinism. Perhaps there is an obvious answer that I have over-looked?

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  9. I like very much this discussion and think it is an important one. Further, I am no logician. Just a silly daughter of Eve, who was deceived by the serpent. Plus, I agree with the Calvinists, so that makes me even sillier. But isnt the information Mr. Loftus looking for simply to know the object for the knowledge of and assurance of our salvation? I would like to think we Christians should be very easily able to give that out information to him? Im confused why we are not. Rather, we seem to keep taunting him with the idea of "assurance," but not telling him what the object or basis of that assurance is. The object of our salvation is Jesus. I know Im 100% getting to heaven because Jesus will get me there. He is my get into heaven free 'pass.' I know 100% I am going to heaven because its not about me. Its about Jesus. My assurance rests on what Jesus did. I'm getting to heaven based on Jesus' moral record. Jesus alone is fit to stand in the presence of God. I am not. Therefore, if I can somehow obtain his perfect moral record (and I can) and be rid of my own imperfect record (and I can), I could get to heaven. Jesus says I can to this. I can ride to heaven on Jesus' coattails (so to speak). Jesus said he will do this for us if we believe this. Why is this so hard to tell the poor man? ... Also, for an "apostate" (which he may be in the final analysis, but only God knows), he sure is showing a lot of interest in spiritual things! Toodles, a silly little sister in Christ

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