An “assurance of salvation” is unquestionably incongruent with Calvinism. When I point this out to Calvinists the response I often get is, “but the Bible tells us that we can know for sure” to which I respond “exactly!” and walk away with a grin of my face waiting – sometimes forever – for the lightbulb to go off in their head. Like those occasions on the sitcom Friends when everybody makes the connection but Joey and Chandler says, “wait for it, wait… for… it…” then a bright smile of recognition forms on Joey’s face and you know he finally got it.
I’m poking fun a bit. But In all seriousness though, Calvinists believe they have assurance of Salvation. And they should. And I’m not surprised. They are, after all, Bible Christians. The trick is to get them to see that what the Bible says about Christian assurance is incompatible with their Calvinistic theology (and by “get them to see” I don’t mean to imply that it’ll do just to show them, the last post makes that crystal clear!).
Though Saint Augustine came before Calvin, his views of predestination no doubt had an indelible mark on Calvin’s and Luther’s theology. But Augustine was willing to be consistent where, it seems, Calvin was not. Augustine believed that all unbapized infants went to hell. Calvin could not stomach such an idea. But really, with a soteriology such as Calvin’s, why not? Nevertheless, Calvin’ distain of Augustine’ view of the destiny of unbaptized babies is not unlike the Arminian distain for Calvin’s view of particular predestination.
But that’s not the only place where Augustine and Calvinism part ways. As perhaps the leading Augustinian scholar Gerald Bonner observes:
“There is, however, one important distinction between Augustine and later Calvinism: Augustine did not believe it possible to distinguish between the saved and the reprobate in this life. As long as we are in the body, no one can have “assurance of salvation.”’ (Freedom and Necessity, p.46)
Augustine knew that to hold to a view of particular predestination which dictated a theology of the preservation of the saints, especially in light of the fact that many sincere Christians have openly abandoned the faith since early times, this could only mean that there is no way to know who truly are the elect and who are not.
If your theology leads to that conclusion – as undeniably any theology of particular predestination (unless mingled with universalism) does – perhaps it’s time to go back to the drawing board.