Doctrine Of Assurance – Part 2

Assurance for the Puritans, was something separate from saving faith. Full assurance must be regarded as a fruit of the spirit rather than the essence of faith, although by definition saving faith does contain assurance. The Puritan tradition would teach that one can be saved and not have full assurance. However, a consistently inactive faith was seen as false or temporary faith.

The Puritan tradition is the foundation and framework of the classic Reformed position on Assurance. This teaches that  true Christian, justified by faith alone, is known by his works. Hence, those who fall away were not saved in the first place. A true Christian will continue to grow in faith and assurance as well as in his good works. Works are NOT the foundation of salvation, but they are a necessary fruit of faith [1]. It is this Puritan and Reformed tradition of assurance which was challenged by Dr R.T Kendall of Westminster Chapel, London.

My paper will compare this tradition with the conclusions of Dr R.T Kendall. There are a number of reasons for such a comparison.

  1. Dr Kendall published his Ph.D thesis on this subject, Calvin, English Calvinism to 1649. He has also written two popular books, Once Saved Aways Saved which deals explicitly with assurance and Are You Stone deaf To The Spirit which tackles Hebrews 6. He is also a popular author and speaker who has had and continues to have influence in many believers lives. His conclusions are controversial and they have been challenged vigorously by other scholars, not least Paul Helm.
  2. Dr Kendall has challenged the traditional Puritan/Reformed tradition in a number of areas. Firstly he claims that Calvin was not a believer in limited atonement but in universal atonement. Secondly, Calvin’s  belief in temporary faith was wrong and thirdly The Westminster Confession of Faith reflected NOT Calvin’s doctrine but was influenced by Theodore Beza, Calvin’s successor. Additionally, Kendall argues that the focus upon Syllogism and Reflex Act is an error, as is distinguishing between saving faith and developed assurance. All this pushes the Puritan teaching on assurance, in Kendalls view, to within a hairs breath of justification by works. Kendall also strongly challenges the teaching that someone who has fallen away was never saved in the first place. He claims that the Puritan/Reformed tradition of assurance is no assurance at all!

[1] Ibid pg161