Does Anyone Really Know If They Are Saved? A Survey Of The Current Views On Assurance With A Modest Proposal -- By: Ken Keathley

Journal: Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Volume: JOTGES 15:1 (Spring 2002)
Article: Does Anyone Really Know If They Are Saved? A Survey Of The Current Views On Assurance With A Modest Proposal
Author: Ken Keathley


Does Anyone Really Know
If They Are Saved?
A Survey Of The Current Views On
Assurance With A Modest Proposal

Ken Keathley1

Dean of Students
Assistant Professor of Theology
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
— Fanny Crosby

I. Introduction

At a symposium honoring Dale Moody, I. Howard Marshall recited the old saw that Arminians know they are saved but are afraid they cannot keep it, while Calvinists know they cannot lose their salvation but are afraid they do not have it.2 Aside from being witty, this highlights the two components of the question about assurance. First, is it possible to know absolutely or even confidently that one is saved, and second, is it possible for those who currently believe they are saved to have assurance that they will remain in a state of grace until the day of redemption? It is more than just a little ironic that though they travel different routes, many Arminians and Calvinists arrive basically at the same answer—assurance is based on the evidence of sanctification.3 Michael Eaton points to the 19th century preacher, Asahel Nettleton, as

a good example of this odd state of affairs when he quotes Nettleton who stated, “The most that I have ventured to say respecting myself is, that I think it possible I may get to heaven.”4 Words perhaps expected from an Arminian, but Nettleton was a Calvinist.

Recently, Thomas Schreiner and Ardel Caneday presented an updated version of the provocative position set forth earlier by Louis Berkhof and G. C. Berkouwer. They attempt to reconcile the biblical passages that promise unconditional assurance with passages that warn of divine judgment (particularly the five warning passages in the Book of Hebrews) by positing “that adhering to the warnings is the means by which salvation is obtained on the final day.”5 The believer’s salvation is not merely manifested by perseverance, but rather, eschatologically speaking, a believer actually is saved by perseverance. However, Schreiner and Caneday deny that the elect will apostatize, claiming that the warning passages are the means by which God has chosen to preserve the elect. The means-of-salvation position, as they call it, seems to be, as a practical matter, a melding of Arminian and Calvinist soteriology.<...

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