If someone asked you right now “How certain are you that you are going to heaven?” what would you say? Could you put a number on it? This is what is known as Assurance of Salvation, the knowledge that God has saved us from our sins and that we are in a right relationship with Him.
Now for an Apologist, one given to studying the supporting arguments and evidence for Christianity, the temptation is to give the very arguments themselves the role of being the ground of assurance of salvation. For example, it is demonstrable from arguments like the Kalam Cosmological Argument that a space-less, timeless, immaterial, and immensely powerful personal being exists, who we call God. When this argument is conjoined with the historical evidence for Jesus Christ, God is shown to be the God of the Bible, a being who loves the world and sent his son Jesus Christ to die for the sins of sinners, rescuing those who accept the offer of salvation from eternal judgement (Romans 10:9-10, John 3:36, Acts 4:12). However, using arguments and evidence as the sole ground for assurance of salvation fails for the 3 following reasons:
- The conclusions of Natural Theology are disputable
The conclusions of the arguments and evidence for the existence of God are very powerful, and if true, have a great deal to say about our lives and the world around us. However, many of these conclusions are supported by premises that are not absolutely certain, and as such, the conclusion cannot be absolutely certain either. If this is true, though we may believe beyond a reasonable doubt, we can never have complete confidence that we are indeed saved.
- Our ability to reason is fallible
It is clear that human beings do not have impeccable reasoning abilities. We often construct flawed arguments and make judgement errors. Can we really place full confidence in our own ability to reason? Now this is not to say that we cannot reach true conclusions in which we have a great deal of confidence, for if we could not, then it is odd that I would be writing this article seeking to persuade you of what I believe on this topic. I think what I believe is true, and that I have good reasons for it. I am not trying to argue that I am right even though I don’t know I am right. Rather, I mean that what we arrive at using our own reasoning, we ought to never simply assume as absolutely true. We must always be willing to admit we are wrong, and since certainty cannot exist where the possibility of being wrong is present, one cannot have absolute confidence.
- We have a limited and often errant experience and perception of the world
It is clear that we are limited and do not fully know the world around us. Some people have more knowledge than others while still other believe and have been taught false ideas. If one needed to have perfect knowledge of the world to truly believe in God, no person could ever fully believe. Moreover, many people have no evidence and some even believe that the evidence points away from God. Are we simply to assume that they are not justified in believing in God simply because of what they think they know? Surely not! God is not so cruel as to allow us the possibility of fumbling around in the dark, without any hope of seeing the light.
For these three reasons, I am skeptical of anyone who claims they are certain of the claims of Christianity simply by arguments and evidence, and nothing more. God is not a God who abandons us to the whims of our fallible faculties which we use to make probabilistic judgements on sometimes errant information. Scripture asserts that we can KNOW that we have eternal life (1 John 5:13). If arguments and evidence do not provide this, we must look elsewhere for the sure foundation of our belief. The purpose of Apologetics is actually somewhat modest. Instead of using it to know Christianity is true, we rather use it to SHOW that Christianity is true. However, this leaves the knowing position quite open, and that which fills it is what I will address in my next post.