Can a Calvinist Actually Have Assurance of Salvation?

It’s curious that Calvinists I know and interact with are adamant they’re part of Team Elect and don’t seem to understand those who struggle with assurance of salvation. There’s an interesting tidbit in John Calvin’s Institutes of Religion 3.2.11; God not only reveals himself to those on Team Reprobate but also instills within the reprobate a sense of goodness and mercy where the reprobate believes God loves him and has mercy for him? However, the reprobate is only enlightened with a “present” and not “eternal” sense of grace. Therefore, what the reprobate experiences doesn’t lead to salvation. Afterall, one has to be unconditionally chosen to be saved. Nevertheless, I get the impression that God manipulates or otherwise toys with those he plans to send to hell.

The question that comes to mind … how can one on Team Elect know that they’re really part of Team Elect? Maybe God has toyed with or otherwise fooled them? So, how can anyone have any sense of eternal security? How does one on Team Elect differentiate themselves from one on Team Reprobate? After all, it’s not up to the team member. It’s entirely up to God who he allows to be a permanent member of Team Elect.

The below passage is from Calvin’s Institutes of Religion 3.2.11:

I am aware it seems unaccountable to some, how faith is attributed to the reprobate, seeing that it is declared by Paul to be one of the fruits of election; and yet the difficulty is easily solved: for though none are enlightened into faith, and truly feel the efficacy of the Gospel, with the exception of those who are fore-ordained to salvation, yet experience shows that the reprobate are sometimes affected in a way so similar to the elect, that even in their own judgment there is no difference between them. Hence it is not strange, that by the Apostle a taste of heavenly gifts, and by Christ himself a temporary faith is ascribed to them. Not that they truly perceive the power of spiritual grace and the sure light of faith; but the Lord, the better to convict them, and leave them without excuse, instills into their minds such a sense of his goodness as can be felt without the Spirit of adoption. Should it be objected, that believers have no stronger testimony to assure them of their adoption, I answer, that though there is a great resemblance and affinity between the elect of God and those who are impressed for a time with a fading faith, yet the elect alone have that full assurance, which is extolled by Paul, and by which they are enabled to cry, Abba, Father. Therefore, as God regenerates the elect only for ever by incorruptible seed, as the seed of life once sown in their hearts never perishes, so he effectually seals in them the grace of his adoption, that it may be sure and steadfast. But in this there is nothing to prevent an inferior operation of the Spirit from taking its course in the reprobate. Meanwhile, believers are taught to examine themselves carefully and humbly, lest carnal security creep in and take the place of assurance of faith. We may add that the reprobate never has any other than a confused sense of grace, laying hold of the shadow rather than the substance, because the Spirit properly seals the forgiveness of sins in the elect only, applying it by special faith to their use. Still, it is correctly said that the reprobate believes God to be propitious to them, inasmuch as they accept the gift of reconciliation, though confusedly and without due discernment; not that they are partakers of the same faith or regeneration with the children of God; but because, under a covering of hypocrisy, they seem to have a principle of faith in common with them. Nor do I even deny that God illumines their minds to this extent, that they recognize his grace; but that conviction he distinguishes from the peculiar testimony which he gives to his elect in this respect, that the reprobate never attains to the full result or to fruition. When he shows himself propitious to them, it is not as if he had truly rescued them from death and taken them under his protection. [God] only gives [the reprobate] a manifestation of his present mercy. In the elect alone he implants the living root of faith, so that they persevere even to the end. Thus, we dispose of the objection, that if God truly displays his grace, it must endure forever. There is nothing inconsistent in this with the fact of his enlightening some with a present sense of grace, which afterwards proves evanescent.

Author: Bob

I’m an upper Midwestern guy who recently entered the "Buick stage" of life given my present eligibility for senior discounts. This blog is an attempt to rectify discordant aspects within my Christian faith ... or what often feels like my lack of Christian faith. Things which make life more enjoyable include strong black coffee, charcoal grilling anytime of the year, putz'ing at a table saw, playing chess, a good orthopedic surgeon and an occasional IPA. Please feel free to poke around and comment as you wish. I welcome discussion and the insights of others.

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