Periodically heated discussions breakout concerning the question of assurance, arguably one of the least understood doctrines especially by those who ought to know better. The confusion rests on the error of attempting to rest one’s assurance on the knowledge that one is saved and the claim that our blessed state can be deduced by good and necessary consequence from Scripture. This is false. The Westminster Confession never makes this claim even stating that assurance does not belong to the “essence of faith,” but rather is a gift that “a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it.” It follows that if knowledge of one’s election could be deduced from Scripture, then the true believer would not have to wait long or struggle for assurance at all for; all they would need to do is simply deduce their eternal blessedness from the Scripture.
But, that my friends, is impossible.
Quite a few years ago on a Scripturalist discussion group run by Dr. Robbins, this question regarding assurance and knowledge basically brought the group to a grinding halt and no progress could be made on either side. While Dr. Robbins did not participate in the back and forth at that time, he did offer the following insight. I post it hear not so much to revisit this question of assurance, or even to rebuke those who find themselves on the other side of this debate, but because there is so much practical wisdom and insight into the Scripturalism of Gordon Clark in John’s response that it deserves its own post:
It seems that when a discussion gets underway on this list some members prefer to return to the question of whether one can now know one is saved. Then follows all sorts of confusion that would take days to sort out, probably to no one’s satisfaction. So no progress is made.
First, the issue is not skepticism. Even if a sinner cannot know (in the proper sense of the word) that he is saved — and so far no one has shown that he can — Scripturalism furnishes us with many truths when all other methods fail, and so skepticism is avoided.
Second, knowledge requires explicit statements in Scripture or deductions from Scripture. It is not the same as assurance or certitude or certainty.
Third, opinions may be true or false. (It is absurd to say that some propositions are neither true nor false.) So Jack’s (a hypothetical person) opinion that he is saved may indeed be true, but no one has yet shown how he can deduce it from Scripture. Those who think he can so deduce it must show how it can be so deduced — but don’t try it here for at least a year.
Fourth, Jack’s failure is not due to any doubt about Scripture (and it is impossible to doubt a proposition one believes — one either assents or one does not) but solely to the problem of self-knowledge. He knows the major premise, All believers are saved. He opines the minor premise, I am a believer. Therefore the conclusion, I am saved, can rise no higher than opinion.
Finally, the question is not how does one know one knows? but how does one know? Scripturalism says, one knows only by explicit statements in or valid inferences from Scripture.
Now, gentlemen, move on to another topic.