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Assurance (theology)

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Title: Assurance (theology)  
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Subject: Christian theology, Methodism, Wesleyanism, Redeemer (Christianity), Salvation (Christianity)
Collection: Calvinist Theology, Christian Terminology, Evangelicalism, Lutheran Theology, Methodism
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Assurance (theology)

Assurance is a Protestant Christian doctrine that states that the inner witness of the Holy Spirit allows the justified disciple to know that he or she is 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.


  • Historical interpretations 1
    • John Wesley and Methodism 1.1
    • Lutheranism 1.2
    • Calvinism and Reformed theology 1.3
    • Catholicism 1.4
  • See also 2
  • References 3
  • Further reading 4
  • External resources 5

Historical interpretations

John Wesley and Methodism

Paul's affirmation, " 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[1]

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..'"[2]

Lutheranism's will has some liberty to choose civil righteousness, and to work things subject to reason. But it has no power, without the Holy Ghost, to work the righteousness of God, that is, spiritual righteousness... –Augsburg Confession, Art. 18: Of Free Will[3]

  • Questions of Clarification for Wesley's Doctrine of Assurance by Michael E. Lodahl
  • The Relationship of Assurance to Justification and Regeneration in the Thought of John Wesley by Scott Kisker
  • Sermon #10: "The Witness of the Spirit, Part 1" by John Wesley
  • Sermon #11: "The Witness of the Spirit, Part 2" by John Wesley
  • Sermon #12: "The Witness of Our Own Spirit" by John Wesley
  • Heaven on Earth: a Treatise on Christian Assurance by Brooks, Thomas, Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1961. First published 1654 ISBN 0-85151-356-5
  • Guthrie, William (1620–1665). "The Christian's Great Interest". Retrieved 2010-07-23.
  • Ryle, J.C.. "Assurance". Retrieved 2010-07-23.
  • Assemblies of God position on Assurance of Salvation
  • Directory of Theology: Assurance

External resources

  • Lochman, Jan Milič (1999), "Assurance of Salvation", in Fahlbusch, Erwin, Encyclopedia of Christianity 1, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, pp. 146–147,  

Further reading

  1. ^
  2. ^ 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, Entry on Assurance.
  3. ^ See Augsburg Confession, Article XVIII: Of Free Will
  4. ^ 1 Cor. 2:14, 12:3, Rom. 8:7, Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent: Vol. I. Trans. Fred Kramer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1971, pp. 409-53, "Seventh Topic, Concerning Free Will: From the Decree of the Sixth Session of the Council of Trent".
  5. ^ Augsburg Confession, Article 18, Of Free Will.
  6. ^ Acts 13:48, Eph. 1:4–11, Epitome of the Formula of Concord, Article 11, Election, Mueller, J.T., Christian Dogmatics. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1934. pp. 585-9, section "The Doctrine of Eternal Election: 1. The Definition of the Term", and Engelder, T.E.W., Popular Symbolics. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1934. pp. 124-8, Part XXXI. "The Election of Grace", paragraph 176.
  7. ^ 2 Thess. 2:13, Mueller, J.T., Christian Dogmatics. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1934. pp. 589-593, section "The Doctrine of Eternal Election: 2. How Believers are to Consider Their Election, and Engelder, T.E.W., Popular Symbolics. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1934. pp. 127-8, Part XXXI. "The Election of Grace", paragraph 180.
  8. ^ Rom. 8:33, Engelder, T.E.W., Popular Symbolics. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1934. pp. 127-8, Part XXXI. "The Election of Grace", paragraph 179.
  9. ^ 1 Tim. 2:4, 2 Pet. 3:9, Epitome of the Formula of Concord, Article 11, Election, and Engelder's Popular Symbolics, Part XXXI. The Election of Grace, pp. 124-8.
  10. ^ Hos. 13:9, Mueller, J.T., Christian Dogmatics. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1934. p. 637, section "The Doctrine of the Last Things (Eschatology), part 7. "Eternal Damnation", and Engelder, T.E.W., Popular Symbolics. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1934. pp. 135-6, Part XXXIX. "Eternal Death", paragraph 196.
  11. ^ Luke 23:42-43, 2 Cor. 5:8, Engelder, T.E.W., Popular Symbolics. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1934. pp. 130, Part XXXIV. "The State of the Soul in the Interval Between Death and the Resurrection", paragraph 185.
  12. ^ 1 Cor. 15:22–24, Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, 505-515; Heinrich Schmid, The Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, 624-632; John Mueller, Christian Dogmatics, 616-619
  13. ^ Beeke, Joel (2011). "The Assurance Debate". In Haykin, Michael A.G.; Jones, Mark. Drawn Into Controversie: Reformed Theological Diversity and Debates Within Seventeenth-Century British Puritanism.  
  14. ^ Compare the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XVIII.
  15. ^ Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 18, paragraph 3
  16. ^ The text of the Council of Trent translated by J. Waterworth, 1848.
  17. ^ Part 20 of 25 of the Justification by Faith debate with Protestant apologist James White.
  18. ^ Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma IV/I § 22.
  19. ^ loc. cit. IV/I § 12.
  20. ^ St. Thomas Aquinas, S. th. II/II 18 IV
  21. ^ see S. th. II/II 21 I for the differences. - Let it be said, for the sake of those readers that may feel difficulty in overcoming some sins whatever, that hope in even only a future repenting, combined with a certain sorrow for the sins, is as such valid hope; that not hoping is never a legitimate way of avoiding presumption; and that despair is worse than presumption, as St. Thomas teaches in S. th. II/II 21 II.
  22. ^ See Sollier, Joseph. "Final Perseverance." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 6 Nov. 2011 .


See also

In the Catholic tradition, a close equivalent to a doctrine of assurance has been a doctrine of final perseverance.[22] Compliance with First Friday Devotions has sometimes been taught as a means to final perseverance.

Catholics recognize that a certainty of faith is ascribed to St. presumption.[21]

"The burden is on the Reformed position because it says that a person can live his whole life thinking that he is justified by faith alone and yet come to the point in time where he stands at the judgment seat of God and finds out that he or she did not have the works that qualified the faith to be justifying faith and therefore God would say, 'I’m sorry, you were never justified in the first place.' So, if there’s anyone who lives under a cloud of terror, it’s the Reformed Protestant because he or she never knows if he or she (or God) did the proper works in order to qualify the faith that he or she needs for justification. And this is especially important because the Reformed position says that works can never enter into the faith that procures the justification because works are all in sanctification. So, if works can never enter into the faith that one needs for justification how can they ever qualify the faith that one needs for justification? So, now there is a double-dilemma."[17]

In critiquing the Reformed doctrine of the assurance of salvation, prominent Catholic apologist Robert Sungenis notes a problematic complication of the doctrine as it relates to the historic Protestant doctrine of Sola fide:

"If any one saith, that he will for certain, of an absolute and infallible certainty, have that great gift of perseverance unto the end,-unless he have learned this by special revelation; let him be anathema."[16]

The Catholic Church teaches that an infallible certitude of final salvation, as supposed in Calvinism, is not a usual experience, as seen in the sixteenth canon of the sixth session of the Council of Trent:


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 choice, deeds, or feelings (compare perseverance of the saints).

...infallible assurance doth not so belong to the essence of faith but that a true believer may wait long and conflict with many difficulties before he be partaker of it: yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation, in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto. And therefore it is the duty of everyone to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure; that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience, the proper fruits of this assurance...

Indeed, the Westminster Confession of Faith affirms[15] that assurance is attainable though the wait for it may be long:

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. The idea that because good works necessarily result from true faith one can gain assurance by observing evidences of faith in their life is called the practical syllogism.[13] 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.[14]

Calvinism and Reformed theology

[12] where they await this bodily resurrection and the second coming of Jesus on the Last Day.[11], but Lutherans also teach that, at death, Christian souls are immediately taken into the presence of Jesus in heaven,Apostles' Creed The central final hope of the Christian is "the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting" as confessed in the [10]

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