Assurance (theology)


Assurance (theology)

Assurance is a Protestant Christian doctrine which states that the inner witness of the Holy Spirit allows the justified disciple to know that they are saved. Based on the writings of St. Augustine of Hippo, "assurance" was historically a very important doctrine in Methodism, Lutheranism, and Calvinism, and remains so among some members of these groups today.

St. Augustine

"Since then by lying eternal life is lost, never for any man's temporal life must a lie be told." [ [http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1312.htm St Augustine On Lying Chapter 9] ]

"See Augustine of Hippo"

Lutheranism

"See Lutheranism"

Calvinism

Calvinism teaches that believers may have assurance of their salvation especially through the work of the Holy Spirit and also by looking at the character of their lives. If they believe God's promises and seek to live in accord with God's commands, then their good deeds done in response with a cheerful heart provide proof that can strengthen their assurance of salvation against doubts. This assurance is not, however, a necessary consequence of salvation, and such assurance may be shaken as well as strengthened. [Compare the Westminster Confession of Faith, [http://reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/index.html Chapter XVIII] .]

Additionally, the Augustinian doctrines of grace regarding predestination are taught in the Reformed churches primarily to assure believers of their salvation since the Calvinist doctrines emphasize that salvation is entirely a sovereign gift of God apart from the recipient's deeds or feelings (compare perseverance of the saints).

John Wesley and Methodism

John Wesley believed that all Christians have a faith which implies an "assurance" of God's forgiving love, and that one would feel that "assurance", or the "witness of the Spirit". This understanding is grounded in Paul's affirmation, "...ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father. The same Spirit beareth witness with our spirits, that we are the children of God..." (Romans 8:15-16, "Wesley's translation"). This experience was mirrored for Wesley in his Aldersgate experience wherein he "knew" he was loved by God and that his sins were forgiven.

:"I felt my heart "strangely warmed". I felt I "did" trust in Christ, Christ "alone" for salvation, and an "assurance" was given me that He had taken my sin, "even mine"." - "from Wesley's Journal"

Early in his ministry Wesley had to defend his understanding of "assurance". In 1738 Rev. Arthur Bedford had published a sermon in which he misquoted Wesley's teachings. Bedford had understood Wesley as saying that a Christian could be assured of persevering in a state of salvation, the Calvinist view.

In a letter dated September 28, 1738 Wesley wrote, "The "assurance" of which I alone speak I should not choose to call an "assurance" of salvation, but rather (with the Scriptures), the "assurance" of faith. . . . [This] is not the essence of faith, but a distinct gift of the Holy Ghost, whereby God shines upon his own work, and shows us that we are justified through faith in Christ...The 'full assurance of faith' (Hebrews 10.22) is 'neither more nor less than hope; or a conviction, wrought in us by the Holy Ghost, that we have a measure of the true faith in Christ..'" [The discussion of Wesley's understanding of "assurance" is a revision of information presented on the website "Days of Wesley", copyright 2004, Days of Wesley, Conrad Archer, [http://www.gbgm-umc.org/sonorafirst/handa.html#assurance Entry on Assurance] .]

Resources

* [http://wesley.nnu.edu/wesleyan_theology/theojrnl/21-25/23-12.htm Questions of Clarification for Wesley's Doctrine of Assurance] by Michael E. Lodahl
* [http://wesley.nnu.edu/wesleyan_theology/theojrnl/26-30/28-3.htm The Relationship of Assurance to Justification and Regeneration in the Thought of John Wesley] by Scott Kisker
* [http://gbgm-umc.org/umhistory/wesley/sermons/serm-010.stm Sermon #10: "The Witness of the Spirit, Part 1"] by John Wesley
* [http://gbgm-umc.org/umhistory/wesley/sermons/serm-011.stm Sermon #11: "The Witness of the Spirit, Part 2"] by John Wesley
* [http://gbgm-umc.org/umhistory/wesley/sermons/serm-012.stm Sermon #12: "The Witness of Our Own Spirit"] by John Wesley
* Brooks, Thomas. Heaven on Earth: a Treatise on Christian Assurance. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1961. First published 1654 ISBN 0851513565

References

External links

* [http://www.ag.org/top/Beliefs/gendoct_09_security.cfm Assemblies of God position on Assurance of Salvation]


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