CARSON ON CHRISTIAN ASSURANCE

This is my issue regarding the Puritans (Westminster Confession of Faith) doctrine of assurance which tends to devalue or cast doubt on the simple faith of new believers. Yes there are some who are deluded by modern evangelistic methods-but many are jsut struggling to find confidence in their salvation. But instead of security- WCF puts more fuel to doubts. I think the Heidelberg and the Canon of Dordts is better here.

But here’s an excerpt from Free Grace advocate: Zane Hodges:

Found at :  http://www.faithalone.org/journal/1993i/Hodges.htm

ZANE C. HODGES
Associate Editor
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Mesquite, Texas

A. The Debate over Kendall’s Work

In his impressive historical study entitled Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649 (Oxford: University Press, 1979), R. T. Kendall has argued that, starting with Beza in Geneva and Perkins in England, post-Calvin Calvinism departed from Calvin’s own doctrine of faith and assurance. The result was the denial of a fundamental feature of Calvin’s doctrine of saving faith: namely, a denial that assurance was of the essence of saving faith.

Carson does not side with those who categorically reject Kendall’s position. Indeed, in a carefully nuanced paragraph on this debate (p. 5), Carson begins by saying:

Certainly both sides of this essentially historical debate have full arsenals by which to take on the others’ positions.

But he goes on to add that “both sides recognize that the debate is not merely a historical one… but a doctrinal one with substantial theological and pastoral implications” (p. 5). Although this sounds like a very modest concession, it is considerably more than that in reality. Considering that many in the New Puritan camp have firmly rejected Kendall’s conclusions, Carson’s unwillingness to come down clearly on that side of the issue speaks volumes.3

Kendall’s thesis about the lack of assurance in Puritanism is relevant at another place in the article (pp. 20-21). There Carson has a lengthy quotation from I. Howard Marshall which ends with the words:

Whoever said, “The Calvinist knows that he cannot fall from salvation but does not know whether he has got it,” had it summed up nicely…The non-Calvinist knows that he has salvation—because he trusts in the promises of God—but is aware that, left to himself, he could lose it. So he holds to Christ. It seems to me the practical effect is the same.

Carson’s concession here is grudging: “At a merely mechanistic level, I think this analysis is largely correct” (italics added). Why “mechanistic”? Surely Marshall’s analysis is right on target. Carson’s discussion (following the quoted statement on p. 21), is simply an effort to salvage some superiority for the Puritan view over the Arminian one. But doubt, discouragement, and despair are the frequent fruits of a lack of assurance in both of these branches of professing Christendom.

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