Let's be reasonable with one another, shall we?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

A Head Scratcher

This is such an interesting quote.  Do you think  Dabney speaks for most Reformed folks?  If so, I am a little but flummoxed because most that I talk to insist that they have assurance of salvation... but Dabney is calling that an error of Calvin that has since been corrected by Reformed leadership (Westminster mentioned specifically).  Hmmmm?  What to make of this?

The cause of this error [the teaching of assurance of salvation] is no doubt that doctrine concerning faith which the first Reformers, as Luther and Calvin, were led to adopt from their opposition to the hateful and tyrannical teachings of Rome. These noble Reformers... asserted that the assurance of hope is of the essence of saving faith. Thus says Calvin in his Commentary on Romans, "My faith is a divine and scriptural belief that God has pardoned me and accepted me."

Calvin requires everyone to say, in substance, I believe fully that Christ has saved me. Amidst all Calvin's verbal variations, this is always his meaning; for he is consistent in his error... for as sure as truth is in history, Luther and Calvin did fall into this error, which the Reformed churches, led by the Westminster Confession of Faith, have since corrected.  - (Discussions of Robert L. Dabney, Vol. I, pp. 215-16)


  • Hi Rose!
    I've written in 2 places today arguing against determinism: over at KC's, and to a friend on facebook (Bobby-I told him about your place "EC" and gave him the link).
    But this Dabney thing goes beyond that.
    The person a couple of weeks ago, who indicated she was believing in Jesus, had been raised Catholic. She said that by the time she left home, she just figured she was bound for perdition.
    I heard Dabney's brand of assurance to some degree from R.C. Sproul. I heard on the radio one day of a lady coming to him for assurance. He could not help, though She said she believed all that any reformed would require of her. Sproul can not even be sure for himself.
    I believe this is more unkind than the Catholic version. The reformed have a way of making one fear eternal fire. The good thing is they can lead you to water, and you can drink it. But then they can make you doubt if you drank the true water or not. Alvin will tell you. That is a recipe for insanity literally.
    I wonder what bible these people read?
    I John 5:13 These things have I written to you that believe on the Name of the Son of God, that ye may know that you have eternal life and that you may [continue to?] believe on the Son of God.

    Most of my Calvinist Friends are normal. They think I'm saved and I return the courtesy. They also are quite sure that they are saved (or the elect).

    I always leave open the plausibility I'm wrong on this(determinism). I'd much rather find out now. I'm hoping that if I am wrong, Sovereign God has predestined me to found out soon.
    It just seems ironic HE would save someone before they believed, and not tell them about it. Que Sera Sera.
    Did you know that's Spanish?
    Thanks for askin'

    Your Brother


    By Blogger Duane WATTS, at 11/05/2009 11:52 PM  

  • Hi Rose,

    You write: If so, I am a little but flummoxed because most that I talk to insist that they have assurance of salvation... but Dabney is calling that an error of Calvin that has since been corrected by Reformed leadership (Westminster mentioned specifically).

    You seem to be saying here that Dabney is denying that Christians (Reformed or otherwise) can have assurance of salvation. Is this an accurate portrayal of your post?


    By Anonymous Colin Maxwell, at 11/06/2009 4:50 AM  

  • Hi Rose! Hi Colin!

    Mr Maxwell I don't remember ever addressing you directly, but if I have, I hope I comported myself in a similar spirit of brotherly charity that I have observed in all of your postings. I can get cantankerous at times.

    Rose, I googled the source and a read a piece by Bob Nyberg on Covenant Theology v. Dispensational.
    I was impressed, and trust that Jim, KC, Bobby and Tim will steer clear of Spiritualizing end times scriptures, and mixing law and grace, as Paul in Galatians warns about without mincing words.



    By Blogger Duane WATTS, at 11/06/2009 11:57 AM  

  • Hi Dunane,

    I can't remember if we discussed anything together or not. They say that headmasters in schools (if you forgive the illustration)only remember the very good and the very bad. On more than one occasion, I have had to remind old teachers when I met them who I was. Which is a bit like whether the glass is half full or half empty. As some one says, the answer to that depends in whose hand it is.

    Anyway, I'm looking forward to Rose's reply here. I think I have read her post right, but I am always open to correction.


    By Blogger Colin Maxwell, at 11/06/2009 12:12 PM  

  • Duane,
    you said: "Most of my Calvinist Friends are normal. They think I'm saved and I return the courtesy. They also are quite sure that they are saved (or the elect).

    I have found the same. But it is wierd when you start to read some of the things they say they appreciate - that is when I get the "head scratching" going on.

    Thanks for the comment! I have enjoyed reading your coments around town!

    By Blogger Rose~, at 11/09/2009 10:34 AM  

  • Hi Colin,
    You said: "You seem to be saying here that Dabney is denying that Christians (Reformed or otherwise) can have assurance of salvation. Is this an accurate portrayal of your post?

    Well, Dabney is saying that Calvin was in error to teach that assurance of hope is of the essence of saving faith. He is calling it an ERROR to view 'faith' is being sure that who have faith in has absolutely and surely saved you.

    Do you see something diferent? Do I need to read a larger passage to get his meaning?

    Good to talk with you again. :)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 11/09/2009 10:41 AM  

  • this is a blog test :)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 11/09/2009 10:41 AM  

  • Hi Rose,

    Your last comment(in response to mine)corrects your post. The difference is indeed about the nature of assurance but not about assurance itself.

    Dabney himself enjoyed great assurance of his salvation and exercised a faithful ministry seeing many converted to Christ.

    For which, of course, we thank God.


    P/s I have totally overhauled my Goodnightsafehome blog which lay dormant for month.

    By Blogger Colin Maxwell, at 11/09/2009 12:37 PM  

  • Colin,
    bear with me, but I am baffled as to how I 'corrected' my statements in the post with my comment. :)

    Are you saying that one can have assurance - they can know that they are saved eternally - but that this can mean something other than being sure that the one who(m) they have faith in has absolutely and surely saved them?

    I may be slow...

    ??? :)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 11/09/2009 3:52 PM  

  • Good morning Rose,

    The only point that I was making was that your post suggested that Dabney did not believe that Christians could have any assurance at all. Which turned out not to be the case, when your comment revealed that Dabney and Calvin disagreed over the nature of faith.

    Your latest question moves us into the nature of assurance – How can I know that I am saved?

    1) Ultimately I look to the gospel promises of God. Classic verse: Romans 10:13 “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Have I called upon God to save me? Yes – therefore I am saved.

    2) Is there evidence of my salvation? Does the tree bear fruit? Ans:- Yes. To a greater or lesser degree, the evidences of the new birth in 1 John are there.

    Caution: Do the evidences contribute to my salvation? No. While sanctification flows from justification, yet it is never a contributing cause. I am justified solely on the basis of God’s grace, paid for by Christ’s blood and received by an act of simple faith: Romans 3:24/5:1/5:9 Yet, the presence of evidence cannot be ignored. Indeed, our mutual friend (JVMcG) actually foes as far as to write:

    This is the final proof, this is the litmus paper which is put into the solution to tell whether it is acid or base. It will surely tell every time. The Word of God is the real test. In effect, John is saying that God’s children look like Father – they take after their Father. If they don’t take after the Father, they must not be the Father’s children. It is just as simple as that, my friend.” (Comment on 1 John 2:29)


    By Blogger Colin Maxwell, at 11/10/2009 4:30 AM  

  • Dear Colin,

    I've enjoyed the many posts you've written here at Rose's blog and other places. I'm very interested in what you've written in your latest comments.

    You wrote -
    "Ultimately I look to the gospel promises of God. Classic verse: Romans 10:13 “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Have I called upon God to save me? Yes – therefore I am saved."

    My question -
    Is the promise in Romans 10:13 to the believer for deliverance, or to the unsaved for eternal life? Does Paul's following question shed any light on this? - "How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?" Isn't the "caller" here *already* a believer? For assurance of eternal life, why look to a passage in which I've *done* something? ("called") Why not look to a passage where I am to *believe* something in which the guaranteed result is eternal life?

    God bless you and your ministry in the U.K.


    By Blogger Bill_H, at 11/11/2009 1:20 AM  

  • Good morning Rose/Bill.

    Bill: I can’t remember chatting you before on this blog, but you obviously know where I am coming from etc., I appreciate your kind comments.

    Re: Romans 10:13 I take this to be a salvation-from-sin verse. The context demands it. Clearly Paul’s home nation of Israel were not saved in that they were ignorant of God’s righteousness (by faith alone in Christ alone) and trying to establish their own works driven righteousness (v1-5) Paul contrasts this works driven (and ult. futile gospel) with the true gospel that is within reach and by faith (v6-11) One of Scripture proof texts (v11) brings us to the “whosoever” which he rightly applies to both Jew and Gentile (v12) reminding us that between the two groups, there is no difference – a theme that he noticed before in 3:23 when he said that “all have sinned” This brings us to the verse that you are disputing.

    To get quickly to the matter (and save paragraphs of explanations) I would take “believe” here to be the passive end of the matter and the resulting “call” to be the inevitable active part. In my sin, I was told of a Saviour. I believed the report and I asked Him to save me. But if I had not heard the report, then I could not act on information that I had never received.

    Paul maintains his interest in the salvation-from-sin interpretation after v13-18 by returning to the rebellion of the Jews and the bringing in of the Gentiles (v19-21) which leads him to answer the supposition that God had abandoned the Jewish people (chapter 11)

    In regards to my purpose of quoting a verse where the guaranteed result is eternal life, I suppose I could easily have quoted John 3:15 but then I take verses like Romans 10:13/Acts 16:30-31/John 3:15 etc., as kindred verses i.e. all basically saying the same thing.


    By Blogger Colin Maxwell, at 11/11/2009 4:39 AM  

  • Interesting post Rose,
    Good discussion too. Looks like you're getting back to the classic Rose's Reasonings. Why not have challenging and respectful exchanges of ideas?

    Your Tailor~
    John (10:10)

    By Anonymous John (10:10), at 11/11/2009 8:30 PM  

  • ok Colin - I see where you're coming from. Thanks...


    By Blogger Bill_H, at 11/11/2009 9:45 PM  

  • Hi Bill and John,
    Thanks for dropping in and sharing your respectful thoughts.

    I'm sorry but I am still slightly confused at how you interpret the Dabney quote. You don't see him as saying that assurance of salvation is an error? Or do you think what he more trying to say was that equating assurance with the essence of faith is the error?

    If so, then how did the Reformed churches, led by the Westminster Confession of Faith correct the error? Break it down for me if you would. :)

    Thanks for the friendly discussion!

    By Blogger Rose~, at 11/13/2009 2:42 PM  

  • Good morning, Rose:

    Dabney did not teach that assurance of salvation was erroneous. He disagreed with Calvin over the nature of that assurance, basically teaching (along with the WCF) that assurance of hope is not the essence of saving faith.

    I think (to be almost criminally brief here) that the WCF tackles the matter as it is in many saints as opposed to how it should be. Dabney doesn’t deny that ”even the weakest true faith is attended with an element of hope, more or less consciously felt…” He (and the WCF folk) differ from Calvin in the nature of the assurance and the rationale behind the assurance rather than the assurance itself.

    What did you make of JVM’s statement?


    By Blogger Colin Maxwell, at 11/14/2009 5:36 AM  

  • Hi Rose,

    I'm not very familiar with Dabney but you can find his chapter on assurance in his Systematic Theology at http://www.pbministries.org/R.%20L.%20Dabney/Systematic%20Theology/chapter27.htm. I haven't spent much time studying it and he's a little hard for me to read. He seems to be a little confusing in that he claims, as you quoted, that the Westminster Confession was correct and Calvin was wrong, but under heading "5. Means of Assurance. Self–Examinations, Etc." he seems to agree with Calvin by saying:

    "But the experience of Christians, I am persuaded, finds this process of self–examination and comparison rather an indirect than a direct means of assurance. For a faithful self–inspection usually reveals so much that is defective, that its first result is rather the discouragement than the encouragement of hope. But this leads the humbled Christian to look away from himself to the Redeemer; and thus assurance, which is the reflex act of faith, is strengthened by strengthening the direct actings of faith itself."

    Maybe I'm just reading it wrong but Jody Dillow found the same apparent inconsistency (Reign of Servant Kings p. 304-305).

    By Blogger David Bell, at 11/16/2009 11:08 PM  

  • Hi Rose/David:

    I think the issue here with Dabney is not so much as to which line we follow for assurance (as in "either/or") but which should take the leading order i.e. both.


    By Blogger Colin Maxwell, at 11/17/2009 4:07 AM  

  • Good morning Rose:

    It is a very wet afternoon here in the Oul' Country. Working on a message for the weekend wi' Youtube music going in the background - old gospel music taken from old 78's etc.,

    I thought John might appreciate this one I've just discovered here! http://bit.ly/2HLhFb



    By Blogger Colin Maxwell, at 11/18/2009 9:19 AM  

  • It was certainly interesting for me to read the post. Thanx for it. I like such topics and anything connected to this matter. I definitely want to read a bit more on that blog soon.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/18/2009 2:23 PM  

  • Hi Rose,

    I just wanted to drop you a note to let you know I've been lurking. I have followed the discussion and found it interesting. I know that Calvin and Luther both made faith and assurance synonyms.

    Basing our assurance on experience will lead to a weak assurance (I am not accusing anyone of not being assured). We all continue to sin after salvation and our experience will have its ups and downs.

    I also don't see how I can judge my "fruits of the spirit" with a divine eye. Unbelievers can do some very good things from a human perspective. I regularly see unbelievers who are doing good deeds and claim that their deeds are better than those of Christians.

    There is more I could say but nothing that won't be misinterpreted so I am going to show some discretion and leave it at that.


    By Anonymous Glenn_W, at 11/22/2009 5:00 PM  

  • Hi All. this has been an interesting dialogue amongst you in answer to this question. It is my belief that we have eternal security. It is amazing that Paul was given this message to take to the world. One man, one message, to the masses of the world. At the time he was in Rome there were over 1 million in population. Seems a little odd that after 2000 years we are discussing the inevitable, we are all saved.
    What is grace, but unmerited favor. I think grace covers us all, whether we know it or not.......

    By Blogger heavenbound, at 11/22/2009 6:53 PM  

  • Bro. Colin! I just want you to know that I very much appreciate your take on Rom.10:13! I am with you on that, & I also appreciate your great grace in discussing theology! Joyous & blessed Thanksgiving Season to you all!

    Also, Rose, hello, & as always, thank you for your grace as well!

    By Blogger David Wyatt, at 11/25/2009 10:40 AM  

  • Hi Rose/David:

    David: Good!


    By Blogger Colin Maxwell, at 11/25/2009 10:53 AM  

  • Glesnn,
    I appreciated your comments, even though I didn't log in to tell you so.

    I appreciate all your visits, everybody, and I hope you all are having a safe and happy Decemeber. Things are ever-busy at the Cole house as we are trying to raise our FOUR KIDS! The almost-three-year old gets to be a bigger handful by the day! ahhhh!

    By Blogger Rose~, at 12/08/2009 9:06 AM  

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