Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Is Assurance of Salvation a Good Thing?

I am feeling adventurous today so I am going to pose this question for debate. I didn't necessarily want this to become an apologetics blog. There are many good ones out there. I may never do this again, but as I said today I was feeling adventurous. I wrote a very benign post below on how I plan meals today too.  Nothing too controversial about meal planning. :-)

Is Assurance of Salvation a Good Thing?

Think carefully and follow the theme to its logical conclusion.

First Premise: A man believes he is assured of his salvation is confident that he is bound for Heaven.

Second premise: As a normal human being, he has both a conscience and concupiscence.

Minor premise: This man has an attachment to to a particular grave sinful activity (i.e. excessive drinking, sexual sins, shirking at work, etc.), but is otherwise a "good" man.

Minor conclusion: This man sins and regrets it, yet continues to sin.

Initial conclusion: The man comes to believe his guilt about sin is something he should not worry about because his salvation is assured. Thus he begins to suppress his natural guilt when he commits his favorite sin.

Final conclusion: The man concludes that sin is not really important, nor is avoiding sin important, because salvation is assured. He gives up thinking in terms of "sin" altogether and is able to justify any behavior because he is assured of Heaven.

Is assurance of salvation healthy? Is it rather presuming on God's mercy?

Is this logical progression correct? Well, since we are talking in very broad generalities, the answer is "Sometimes." But does "sometimes" mean often or not often?


motherofmany said...


I have a question not related specifically to this topic. I actually have a post scheduled for Friday on this very question because I was asked for my stand on it, and to be honest I haven't read through your entire post, though I will come back and do that when I'm in the mindest.

I am asking honestly and not snotty. Somehow no matter how I pose a question I offend someone. My question is that if the Catholic church has the fullness of truth, so that other chrstians are missing out on some things, why doesn't the church have an answer/stand on everything? Two examples that have come up are limbo and Marian apparitions.

Everything I have looked up on both subjects say the church does not require people to believe, though they are "free to believe". But if the church has direct revelation from God the Father, how can there not be an answer? Especially in light of the claim to have the Fullness of Truth.

Thanks so much!

Tracy said...

I can see where you have followed your through process through to the end. And I guess the fact that we live in a sinful fallen world, there will be some who end up going that route.

Someone who is truly grateful for their salvation and takes their faith seriously will have 'fruit' in their life that is a result of their faith & salvation. So whilst we will all struggle with sin, because we're human those with mature/ing faith will try their best NOT to continue sinning and to work through overcoming it.

To me, the more logical conclusion is that as a result of faith and the resulting salvation, that one's life is a testament to it. Not in spite of it.

Personally, I'm glad my salvation is assured and secure. But then, I don't aim to use and abuse that gift.

Saved Sinner said...

I can see were you are coming from with your reasoning that someone with assurance of salvation could become complacent about their sin. However, I would argue that while complacency about sin is a danger (and of course a sin in itself) I don't think this therefore means that assurance is inately wrong. (I don't think you were saying assurance is inately wrong BTW - I'm just trying to give a reasoned and structured comment.)

If someone was *intentionally* being complacent about or disregarding sin then I would question whether they were truly saved because in order to be saved, one has to appreciate the seriousness of one's sin. If the person was not taking their sin seriously because of assurance, then they would not be showing forth fruits/works of faith. (Of course I'm sure everyone is complacetn aout sin at times because we are sinners but those who were saved would still be showing the fruits/works of their faith.)

I think taking our sin seriously can be a tough balance. Whilst on teh one hand, we don't want to take them too lightly, we can also be tempted to take them too seriously such that we either cannot function and/or we think we are too bad for God to forgive us.

I am probably a bit of a paradox as even the concept of not being sure of one's salvation did not enter my head until I came across people who did have difficulties with assurance and yet at the same time, in my early Christian days I had a lot of dificulties because I did take my sin very seriously.

I hope that all makes sense - it turned into rather a long comment!

Blessings in Christ,


Deeny said...

MotherofMany wrote
>>I am asking honestly and not snotty. Somehow no matter how I pose a question I offend someone. My question is that if the Catholic church has the fullness of truth, so that other chrstians are missing out on some things, why doesn't the church have an answer/stand on everything? Two examples that have come up are limbo and Marian apparitions.

Everything I have looked up on both subjects say the church does not require people to believe, though they are "free to believe". But if the church has direct revelation from God the Father, how can there not be an answer? Especially in light of the claim to have the Fullness of Truth
Thanks so much! <<

First I find it funny that you have to add the disclaimer that you are not being snotty. But it is so true that when we read a question or response online in a written post that we truly can't tell the authors demeanor, tone, or body language,and I think we hear it in our heads maybe totally different than the author intended. So I guess I will always try to give the author the benefit of doubt that they are not trying to be snotty or offensive.

First My Disclaimer LOL: These are my personal thoughts musings and understandings and I am in no way officially speaking for the Catholic Church. Remember I have only been Catholic for less than a year. I was a Baptist for many years but a Christian always. :-)

I believe "Fullness of Truth" refers to everything we need to be reconciled to God i.e.: Salvation and to live a life for Christ. Not that they have the all knowing truth of God on every single subject. Not everything has been revealed, only what we need. (That is my definition and understanding of that phrase. I would have to research exactly what the Church officially means by that statement in more detail but I think that is pretty close)

1 Corinthians 13:9-10 (New American Standard Bible) 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part;

The Bible doesn't claim to have complete knowledge on everything. It doesn't even contain all the things that Jesus did. It does claim that it's purpose is to lead us to Christ and reconciliation to God

John 20:30-31 (New American Standard Bible)
30Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

Now as for Limbo- It is my understanding that it basically was a theory. It was never doctrine. I liken it to the theory of "the age of accountability" It can't be proven Biblically. The age of accountability is also a theory to try and answer the theological question of where do young children/ babies go when they die.

My thoughts on Visions and Apparitions. Protestants have there own visions. I have heard a ton of them. They seem really prevalent in Pentecostal and Charismatic circles. I knew people that claimed all sorts of visions and visitations. If it strengthened their faith great. i am not going to tell them that they are mistaken. It is their personal experience. It may or may not be legit. There is a popular book out now called 90 minutes in Heaven. Do I believe it? I take it with a grain of salt like most things.

My stand on miracles and visions. If the miracle or vision strengthens someones faith in Christ or leads them to Christ etc. I am not going to say it isn't legit or that it is of the devil.

I personally will remain skeptical but I am not going to denounce it.

I believe that is the Catholic Church's stance too. Some Miracles and Visions have been investigated and have been found to be legit and sanctioned by the church but again those miracles or visions were given to specific people at a specific time for their personal faith growth. So no, the Catholic Church doesn't require people to believe them.

I think their are superstitious and delusional people that want to find something supernatural in everything.

This post was just off the top of my head but I will think about this further as I have time.

Deeny said...

These are my conclusions and personal observations. These are questions i have been pondering and the conclusions that I have drawn and where i am currently at on my Christian walk. Since I am constantly growing and learning and as the Holy Spirits is constantly convicting me these ideas are subject to change.

Problems I see with assurance of salvation. If one truly believes that they have assurance of salvation and then later down the road they have a crisis of faith to the point that they themselves or others suspect that they might never have been saved in the first place, then there can't ever really be assurance. It is a game of semantics. One Christian group would say that the person fell away from the Faith The other Christian group simply says he wasn't saved in the first place. Either way that person is not in a state of "saving" grace. The other problem is; If said person truly believed he was saved and had eternal security when in fact he might not ever have been saved in the first place, then he has a false security. How would he know? It is circular reasoning.

Now to put this in very observable practical terms, I was a member of a Baptist church that believed in Once Saved Always Saved. If you doubted your salvation at all, you were suspect. So they preached constantly on eternal security but nobody was really sure anybody else was really saved. Does that make sense? What I am trying to say is that it seemed that people had the mentality that if their neighbor wasn't as righteous as them maybe their neighbor wasn't really saved. For instance gossip and judgment was rampant in this church. Example: So and so doesn't attend church enough, so and so let's their kids read Harry Potter, So and so lets their kids listen to rock music, I saw so in so out drinking beer, they let their kids dress up for halloween and go trick or treating maybe they aren't really "saved".

Then we knew several people that everyone would have thought were "saved" then go through a crisis of faith and leave the church totally- Not to another denomination or church but totally left. You could say well they weren't saved in the first place if they could fall away, but for 30 plus years leading up to that they and everyone else who knew them believed they were saved and model Christians. Now logic says If they then could turn their backs on everything then maybe down the road I could be like them. Maybe I could have a crisis of faith even though i can't possibly imagine that now. --See no assurance. You could argue once saved always saved from God's perspective because he is omniscient and knew that they would not persevere to the end, but from our human perspective by all appearances they would have appeared to have fallen away.

Then we knew others that had a very serious sin that in their mind they felt justified about (with no intent to repent whatsoever) go and present themselves to others as outstanding Christians. They believed all past present and future sins were forgiven so therefore as a born again "saved" Christian they did not have to repent of current or ongoing sins. If they were never saved to begin with, but were taught that they had eternal security and believed they had eternal security, do they then have a false security that leads them not to think they need to repent of their current sins? I think that is dangerous.

Then the last group were those who were so afraid of others questioning their salvation that hey had to be the most spiritual, the most righteous, the ones that were always shouting the loudest etc. Some of these Christians might have been truly that sincere, but I think most were simply trying to prove to themselves and others that they were Christian enough. Again why? Because they truly didn't have that assurance. Actually in our personal experience those that were trying to appear the most righteous were actually the ones with the most sin that they were trying to hide. So my personal experiences have definitely influenced my perspective.

What is Biblical?- I have studied and studied this issue.I have studied this issue for over 20 years. I have been to churches that taught Eternal security and churches that taught Conditional security. By conditional security I mean the belief that one can after being saved fall away from the Faith. That salvation is conditional on continued belief and remaining in Christ till the end.

I believe ( at this moment in time my personal conclusion) the preponderance of scriptural evidence supports conditional security. God can keep and protect all that are his from being snatched away, but a person has the free will to leave at any time. i don't believe in the stuck theory.

Now with that said: Does how I view this security affect my salvation? So what if i believe in conditional security, I want to remain on the narrow path and I want to repent of my sins. I feel that as long as I am truly seeking after Christ I have assurance of salvation but not in a presumptive way. I don't think believing that a person can fall away from the faith, affects my salvation. A false security where i justify my sins and feel no need of repentance would affect my salvation.

Anyway my thinking is very much in line with the Catholic Church. A person can be a Christian but whether that Christian is in a right relationship with God or in a state of saving grace is up to God. It is between God and that person.

That is where i am at at this point in time with this issue and my thinking. I appreciate everyones view. Thanks for sharing on this topic. I really like to talk to others and get others input. And if others stumble across this blog and want to share their viewpoint that is fine too,

Very Sincerely Deana

motherofmany said...

I agree with your assessment of the scripture saying we do not have all knowledge and revelation. It says we have what we need for salvation, as you pointed out.

The question with limbo, though, seems one of salvation to me becuase if an unbaptized baby were to go to pergatory, wouldn't the family need to know that so they could be praying toward that end? I understands that libo is a theory and was never doctrine, but if it involves salvation, shouldn't we have a clear answer?

I know the term 'age of accountability' is not in the scriptures, but there are verses that say children were or were not old enough to decipher the right from the wrong. I don't know what verses are used to support the theory of limbo, so I can't really add anything to that question other than the query itself about it being a matter of salvation and we should therefor have an answer.

Thanks for your time and for knowing I wasn't being snotty!

Deeny said...

Mother of Many asked

>>The question with limbo, though, seems one of salvation to me because if an unbaptized baby were to go to purgatory, wouldn't the family need to know that so they could be praying toward that end?<<

Short Answer No.

First off: People don't need to be prayed out of Purgatory. We are suppose to pray for one another and prayers are helpful in all situations but people don't need to be prayed out of purgatory. If one is in purgatory they will go to heaven.

Secondly I don't believe babies who may be forgiven of original sin (through ordinary means meaning water baptism or extraordinary means meaning any other way God chooses) would go to purgatory. If you have no actual sins like babies don't, there is no need for purgatory. Read my whole post to hopefully get a clearer explanation.

Misconceptions on Purgatory

Purgatory is not necessarily a place. It is a state of being or more specifically the state of final purification before entering heaven if needed. Not everyone goes to Purgatory. Some go straight to Heaven. Everyone that goes to Purgatory will go to Heaven

Ex. We say the pregnant mom has gone into or is IN labor. Is labor a Place? No, it is a condition.

Biblical Concept

1 Corinthians 3:15 (New American Standard Bible) 15If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

Matthew 12:32 (New American Standard Bible) 32"Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.

Christ refers to the sinner who "will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come" (Matt. 12:32), suggesting that one can be freed after death of the consequences of certain other sins, but not blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Similarly, Paul tells us that, when we are judged, each man’s work will be tried. And what happens if a righteous man’s work fails the test? "He will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire" (1 Cor 3:15). Now this loss, this penalty, can’t refer to consignment to hell, since no one is saved there; and heaven can’t be meant, since there is no suffering ("fire") there. The Catholic doctrine of purgatory explains this passage.

I have seen Baptists that use the 1 Cor 3:15 passage in support of the Once Saved Always Saved concept saying that this shows a backslidden Christian is still saved if just barely.

Hebrews 12:1 (New American Standard Bible)
 1Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

Revelation 21:27 (New American Standard Bible)27and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.

If sin still clings to Christians and can entangle them (Heb 12:1), but there is no sin in heaven (Rev. 21:27), there must be a purification that takes place after one’s death and before one enters heaven. Even if it were "in the blink of an eye," this final stage of sanctification must take place, so those who die in God’s favor may be cleansed if any affection for sin remains in them.

My understanding of purgatory at present. (keeping in mind I am a new Catholic and could have this not quite right.)
If we die with unconfessed, un-repented known and in most cases probably unknown sin that are not Mortal sins (And I don't want to get into the discussion of venial and mortal sins right now) there is a need for a final purification as with fire as in 1 Cor 3:15 before entering heaven. Some may die with no un-repented unconfessed sin and go directly to heaven with no need of purgation.

This brings me back to Babies , Young children and the Mentally handicapped etc.
All are born with original sin. However I think we can agree that these very young children, mentally handicapped do not have any "actual sins". To sin takes an understanding of what sin is.

Baptism is the ordinary means of removing original sin however we know that God can work through extraordinary means to remove original sin. An example the thief on the cross. God is not confined to a box. he is Almighty and can do what he wants. Catholics also recognize a merciful loving God and teach that is is possible to have a baptism of desire such as the thief on the cross. The idea being that he desired baptism but in the situation he was in, it was not possible. Can a baby desire baptism? I don't know.

My Bottom Line:
Anyway my view is that God has known that infant in the womb he knows the heart and he can chose to remove original sin at his discretion. We have no way of knowing. So lets assume God has removed and forgiven original sin of the infant. After original sin is forgiven the infant has no actual sins so therefore would go straight to heaven. There is no need of Purgatory in that case.

Now what is Limbo:

In the Middle Ages theologians came up with the theological construct of limbo, Limbo does get around two sticking points: the absence of sanctifying grace (the removal of original sin), which implies no possibility of heaven, and the absence of personal or actual sin, which implies no hell. Unbaptized infants die with neither, so it might seem that they are destined neither for heaven nor hell. Under this older understanding, unbaptized infants who die, whether through miscarriage or abortion, enjoy complete natural happiness but do not see God face to face. They are not in heaven or hell but in a third state, limbo.

This was a theory. I don't think there is any Biblical support for it and it wasn't doctrine.

The new Catechism understanding is that unbaptized infants, the unborn, the severely mentally handicapped, the brain injured etc. might be able to achieve sanctifying grace for original sin, though how this might happen know one can say with certitude.

Likewise no one in Protestantism can say unequivocally that all unsaved infants etc go to heaven. We can have hope that God knows best and i don't believe it is something we need to worry our heads about.

motherofmany said...

Thank you for explaining that for me. ;)