Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JOTGES 10:2 (Autumn 97) p. 69
No Condemnation: A New Theology of Assurance. By Michael Eaton. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995. 261 pp. Paper, $16.99.
In a postscript to his commentary on Ecclesiastes (IVP), Eaton cited Luke’s words in Acts 17:32–34: “Some … sneered … Others said, ‘We want to hear you again,’… A few … believed.”
I believe his book will produce the same diverse responses. Many will sneer; others will want to know more. Still others will consider the evidence and believe this scholar from the Reformed tradition who takes on both Calvinism and Arminianism on the theology of assurance. In doing so he defends unlimited atonement, demonstrates a “resistible” link between justification and sanctification, and sharply distinguishes salvation from inheritance.
Michael Eaton serves as the Senior Pastor of Lusaka Baptist Church, in Nairobi, Kenya. He received his B.D. from Tyndale Hall, Cambridge; and his Ph.D. from the University of South Africa (this book is a revision of his doctoral thesis presented to the University of South Africa in 1989 under the title A Theology of Encouragement—A Step Towards a Non-Legalistic Soteriology).
Eaton states that Arminians must not “assume the continuance of their faith, and scholastic Calvinists must not assume the reality of theirs. In the one case awareness of sin threatens the Arminian’s confidence about continuance in the faith; in the other case awareness of sin threatens confidence about the reality of salvation” (p. 20). Although some may believe this goes too far, he says, “Is it not a fact of history that the Calvinist has tended to have less assurance of salvation than the Arminian? The Arminian is at least sure of his present salvation. As the result of the high Calvinist doctrine, the Calvinist often doubts his present salvation and thus has a less contented frame of mind than his evangelical Arminian friend” (p. 20).
So where is the Calvinist’s assurance? Eaton believes “it has died the death of a thousand qualifications” (p. 23). He believes the more one knows the complete teaching of what he calls “scholastic Calvinism,” the more that person will question his or her own salvation which he calls introspection. “This is the snag of scholastic Calvinism. It leads into
JOTGES 10:2 (Autumn 97) p. 70
an abyss of ever-increasing introspection … The introspective variety is decidedly not totally derived from the New Testament, and its all-pervasive view of the law needs reconsidering” (p. 25).
When he compares Arminianism and Calvinism he sees little...
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