Contemporary Problems in Biblical Interpretation Part III: The Doctrine of Assurance in Contemporary Theology -- By: John F. Walvoord

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 116:463 (Jul 1959)
Article: Contemporary Problems in Biblical Interpretation Part III: The Doctrine of Assurance in Contemporary Theology
Author: John F. Walvoord


Contemporary Problems in Biblical Interpretation
Part III:
The Doctrine of Assurance in Contemporary Theology

John F. Walvoord

[Editor’s Note: This article is the third in a series on the general subject, “Contemporary Problems in Biblical Interpretation.”]

The New Context for Assurance

Except for the question of inspiration of Scripture and its infallibility, few theological doctrines are of more direct concern to the individual believer than the basis for assurance of salvation. Here the fundamental issues of the deity of Christ, the work of redemption, and the experience of divine grace meet. The rise of neo-orthodoxy has introduced a new context in the discussion of the historic doctrine of assurance of salvation. Neo-orthodox theology has raised many questions. In almost every aspect of important Biblical truth neo-orthodoxy has provided a strange blending of the old liberalism and the old orthodoxy, and has provided its own explanation of the basic concepts of systematic theology.

In the doctrine of assurance of salvation neo-orthodoxy has also provided a new approach. Like the old liberalism, neo-orthodoxy has delivered itself from dependence upon the ipsa verba of the Scriptures and has transferred the authority for assurance from the exact wording of Scripture to the experience of the believer.1 Like the old orthodoxy, the neoorthodox view has given to spiritual experience a supernatural quality in which the natural and the supernatural meet and combine in creating a valid experience of knowledge in the believer. The resultant doctrine of assurance of salvation, however, raises grave doubts, at least among conservative scholars, as to the validity of this new assurance. There is good cause for questioning whether the neo-orthodox

doctrine of assurance is a solid ground on which the believer can trust the certainty of his eternal salvation.

Characteristics of False Assurance

In the contemporary situation as well as in the historic church many false bases for assurance may be observed. Among those uninstructed in Biblical truth the tendency to trust in a relative morality sometimes expressed in the standard of “doing the best one can” is frequently observed. This has been encouraged by affirmations of the more learned that God always deals in love and that this is a supreme principle overruling any standard of absolute righteousness. In like manner, the tendency to trust in religious works or in religion itself as embodied in acts of ritual, morality, or worship is another common area for false assurance of salvation. Many rely on church membership, acts of be...

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