Can Calvinists Have Assurance of Salvation?

I am not one who likes to criticize Leighton Flowers for having such a narrow apologetic focus. Dr. Flowers’ ministry is dedicated entirely to refuting Calvinism, and this irritates many of his opponents, most notably, Dr. James White. While many take issue with Flower’s myopic apologetic, I do not. I believe that the wealth of access we have to information today is making the “jack-of-all-trades” apologist a relic of a bygone age. I have no problem with an apologist focusing his efforts exclusively on something like textual criticism, or refuting Mormonism, or defending the Trinity, etc. Thus, if Dr. Flowers wants to only focus on Calvinism, so be it.

That stated, there is a danger to Dr. Flowers’ method. Dr. White has regularly warned Dr. Flowers of becoming “imbalanced” due to his sole focus on Calvinism. When all theological energy is oriented around one issue, or one group, it can be very difficult to remain balanced. Systematic and biblical theology can be neglected when theologians have tunnel vision. And I do believe Dr. White’s warnings to Dr. Flowers are looking more and more prophetic. So, while I take no principled issue with Leighton’s narrow focus, I think it is unwise as it is causing him to become, as Dr. White says, imbalanced.

Case in Point

The more recent example of this imbalance was seen in an argument he recently posted on his Youtube community page which best demonstrates how corrosive Leighton’s anti-Calvinism is. Flowers attempted to attack Calvinism on the basis of the doctrine known as “The Assurance of Salvation.” He attempted to offer a logical argument that, on Calvinism, Christians being assured of their salvation is impossible. Below is a screen shot of his argument.

What’s Determinism Got to Do with It?

Flower’s logic in this argument is horrendous. The primary problem with his argument is that the second premise is absolutely irrelevant to the argument. Flowers has crammed Determinism into an argument that has nothing to do with Determinism. This is a form of of the non-sequitur fallacy.

If the Bible teaches that people can think they are saved when they are in fact not saved, then every professing Christian must provide a reason for why they do not consider themselves among that group. Whether we were predestined to be fooled or we autonomously fooled ourselves, the fact remains that we might be fooled. Flowers is trying to blame Determinism for a problem that is not at all germane to that doctrine.

To show this more clearly, I edited out of Dr. Flowers’ argument the irrelevant data. Notice how the argument flows perfectly well without any reference to Calvinism:

“Is Assurance of Salvation possible if some people genuinely believe they are saved when they really are not? If you believe that some people think they are saved when in fact they aren’t, how can you possibly know if you’re not one of those people?”

It’s not good that the entire second premise of his argument can be removed and the argument not only makes sense, but is significantly stronger. That premise is unrelated to the argument entirely.

The fact remains that, in light of the fact that some people can be wrong about their own assurance is dilemma with which all Christians must wrestle. In other words Dr. Flower’s hasn’t asked a poor question, but he has poorly asked a good question. There is a good conversation to be had among Christians about whether we can be assured of our salvation, but this is something entirely unrelated to Determinism. All Christians must answer the question Dr. Flowers asked: How do you know you’re not wrong about your own salvation? But this question is pertinent to Calvinists, Arminians, Provisionists, and every other person claiming knowledge of the divine. Whether or not God has an immutable decree is irrelevant to both the question and its answer. The issue of assurance concerns epistemology. Flowers has tried to turn a question of epistemology and psychology into a question of soteriology.

An Accidental Admission

In case you are unconvinced of my point thus far, let it be known Dr. Flowers accidentally affirmed my critique.

It appears I was not alone in my reaction to his argument. Many pointed out that the problem he is probing is not at all unique to Calvinism, nor is it even exacerbated by Calvinism. Enough people pointed out his irrelevant second premise that Dr. Flowers was forced to do a bit of damage control, but only dug the hole he was standing in even deeper.

When Flowers is presented with the same criticism I have made here he answers by abandoning his original argument and presenting an entirely new argument! When Dr. Flowers says “The difference is that on Provisionism we teach and believe that God is the kind of God who wishes the very best for all His creation and thus would never decree for any person to believe they are a child of God when they are not” he is making an entirely new argument against Calvinism. So he has not clarified his first argument as he thinks he has done. Rather, he has abandoned his argument and posited a new one! Allow me to show you.

Leighton’s first argument looked like this:

P1: In Scripture some people are fooled about their salvation.

P2: God predetermined that those people would be fooled about their salvation.

C: Calvinists cannot know if they are truly saved.

Now, how would we formulate the argument in his explanation?

P1: God is kind.

P2: A kind God would never fool a person about his salvation.

P3: Calvinism’s God fools people about their salvation.

C: The God of Calvinism is not kind.

These two arguments are not the same. One cannot possibly be an explanation of the other. They are categorically and formally different. One is valid, one is invalid. One deals with epistemology, the other deals with theodicy. Dr. Flowers, in trying to defend his first argument, had to abandon it and present a new one. This means he has yet to actually answer the question posed to him by so many of us.

Why This Matters

The purpose of this post was not just to dunk on Dr. Flowers or pick low-hanging fruit. I didn’t join the fray here for an easy victory. I circle back to my introduction to explain that there is a larger teaching moment here.

Dr. Flowers is a smart, capable thinker. The illogical nature of this post is beneath him. His body of work and his credentials will demonstrate that this is unbecoming of him. The problem however is that he has only doubled down! Rather than just admit it was a poor argument and delete it, notice the rest of his commentary as he “explained” why his first argument is a true problem only for Calvinists:

Dr. Flowers posted a really bad logical argument. After this was pointed out to him by many people- including Provisionists- he provided an even worse explanation, wherein he posited a new, unrelated argument. Yet he continues to claim that his logic is sound and the question so many have raised has been answered.

Dr. White’s warning to Dr. Flowers is vindicated. Dr. Flowers is so blinded by his hatred for Calvinism that he cannot even see very basic logical mistakes that listeners from both camps are pointing out to him. When a very smart man doubles down on such an obviously poor argument, there is a dangerous bias poisoning his thinking. Dr. Flowers is allowing his hatred of Calvinism to infect his reasoning. It is apparent to me that every argument against Calvinism is a good one in Leighton’s mind.

On a Personal Note

I do need to say one final word as a kind of appendix. When Dr. Flowers made his video against me, one of his favorite arguments was to accuse me of the “tu quoque” fallacy. I spent a lot of time defending myself from that charge. I find it interesting that he did not accuse his non-Calvinist friend of “tu quoque” when his friend pointed out Leighton’s argument against Calvinism also works against Provisionism.

My hope is that people are beginning to see that Dr. Flowers regularly engages in a kind of argumentation that it forces people to respond as I did, by turning it back on him. The fact remains that Dr. Flowers has made such a habit of deconstructing Calvinism with issues latent in his system, or by blaming Calvinism for things it is not organically responsible for, that those who respond are forced to say “but what about you…” It’s not tu quoque. Dr. Flowers forces our hand in how he argues. My hope is that by now people will see that Dr. Flowers is the problem, not me.

One thought on “Can Calvinists Have Assurance of Salvation?

  1. marcdbaker asks a Torah question: November 13, 2021

    Rabbi KERR, I have a question please and it may not seem serious to some but it is to me. It is a serious question to me. My question is… In the scriptures, how does one gain the confidence to believe that G-D is pleased with their works ? Is there scripture that addresses this issue?
    I do believe the Scripture that states that FEAR of the LORD…… is the BEGINNING of WISDOM !! RABBI KERR…. DOES ALL OF HUMANITY BARE THE SPIRITUAL RESPONSIBILITY TO CHANGE THE WORLD OR IS THAT TOTALLY DELUSIONAL OF ME TO THINK THAT ?

    The Response:

    “”How does one gain the confidence to believe that G-D is pleased with their works?””

    Xtianity bases itself upon a Pauline conflict theme which confronts faith vs. works. The Torah rejects all belief systems as tumah. Tumah spirits arouse the Yatzir HaRah within the human heart. These tumah spirits, the source of irrational emotions, physically produced by the major internal organs within our bodies. The identification of tumah spirits within our hearts, when emotions dominate and control the rational mind of Man. The employment of propaganda and rhetoric by politicians and priests\pastors seeks to arouse an emotional response by the listening audience. A famous example of religious rhetoric, ‘fire and brimstone’ sermons. Beliefs in this or that God, Heaven and Hell etc etc. All belief systems wherein a person declares “I believe” … constitute as avoda zarah idolatry. Your question cuts straight to the heart of the Parshah of Noach.

    What relevance does this Parshah have with the rest of the Torah? From the 3rd Parshah of Lech Lecha to the end of D’varim the Torah focus centers around the chosen cohen seed of Avraham.

    Not so Parshat Noach. That Parshah addresses “Bnai Brit Goyim”. Who qualifies as a Bnai Brit Goy? Dof ג of the Gemara of Avoda Zara teaches that Goyim across the board abandoned the brit faith.

    Herein explains the floods and the later stories of Sodom and the fears of Avram and Yitzak that the Goyim would murder them for the beauty of their wives.

    Therefore seeing that mitzvot from the Torah do not apply ,,, Man receives no reward for keeping mitzvot while existing in accursed g’lut\exile. Herein comes to play Parshat Noach, commonly referred to as the “Brit Bnai Noach” …. the only Bnai Brit people on the face of the earth, Israel. Only Israel accepted the revelation of the Torah at Sinai.

    Therefore Parshat Noach – the Brit Bnai Noach – applies strictly and only to Jews living in g’lut. The Torah defines ‘fear of Heaven’ as Ba’al Shem Tov, a person who strives to maintain and respect the reputation of his\her ‘Good Name’. The vision of the Torah quite simple: live a righteous and just life on this earth.

    Righteous refers to the dedication unto HaShem of defined tohor middot wherein a person dedicates the Yatzir Ha’Tov to dominate the key decisions of life wherein a person defines his lifes’ walk before HaShem. Just, the Torah defines as – the courage to fairly compensate others whose person or property you damaged either intentionally or accidentally. Justice: the fair compensation for all damages inflicted upon others.

    The Jewish take on the Hebrew Scriptures spins around the distinction between tohor and tuma. This subject Xtianity totally ignores. The subject of ‘greatest commandments — hands down the opening first 2 commandments of Sinai. Sinai represents the watershed moment which eternally separates bnai brit Jews from non Jews. The Xtian Bible for example violates the 1st Commandment of Sinai. Aaron translated the Name revealed in the first Commandment unto the word אלהים. The Xtian Bible translations make the exact same avoda zara error by translating the Name, revealed in the 1st Commandment, to other words. The Name lives as Spirit not a word that the lips can pronounce. Attempts to translate the Name into a word: Yahweh, Jehova etc etc all examples of avoda zara, commonly mistranslated as idolatry.

    Most people translate tefilla into the English word — prayer. Tefilla shares nothing in common with non Jewish prayer. By the terms of the oath brit (brit commonly mistranslated into covenant. The bible translations all pathetic. The term brit requires swearing an oath, which requires the kabbala knowledge of saying the Spirit Name of HaShem, which the Bible never once ever includes. The translation of covenant fails to grasp the Torah requirement that swearing a Torah oath requires knowledge how to pronounce the Spirit Name of HaShem (The Name). The revelation of the Name in the first commandment of Sinai, this Spirit no word can pronounce.

    The consequence of unreliable biblical translations, the Xtian religion which stands upon the foundation of personal “I Believe” belief systems makes critical and fundamental errors. Xtianity denies the existence of the Oral Torah. Big Mistake.

    The Torah compares to the Talmud — both documents highly edited. The most famous example of this fundamental reality of the Torah texts … the 10 commandments. Xtianity never troubles itself with anything other than fuzzy logic. Never met a Xtian that asks: “How does the T’NaCH (Torah, Prophets, and Holy Writings) define the word prophet? Witchcraft foretells the future. Prophets do not foretell the future. Its absolutely impossible to “fulfill” the words of the prophets! Prophets command mussar to all generations of bnai brit Israel. Xtianity never examines T’NaCH mussar. A very Big Error.

    All T’NaCH prophets command mussar instruction. The so called “10 Commandments” serve as a great example of understanding how the editors of the Torah organized the Torah revelation at Sinai. The framers and editors of the Torah always stood in the shadows of g’lut\exile. The stories of the expulsion of Adam from the garden, Noach and his Ark, childless Avram told that his future born chosen Cohen seed would suffer g’lut\exile. This fundamental strategic reality which the Pauline dogma of original sin totally ignores, it plays out that bnai brit Yidden alway fear the censorship of Goyim overlords.

    At Sinai Israel accepted only the first 2 commandments of Sinai. Jesus really missed the boat when he confused the mitzva of kre’a shma, the Torah definition of love, with the revelation of HaShem at Sinai – as expressed in the opening first 2 commandments. Why then did the editors and framers of the Torah organize the revelation of the Torah at Sinai into the format of 10 commandments????

    All prophets command Mussar, and Moshe he serves as the greatest of all Torah prophets. Something as significant as this, you would think that non Jews – as expressed through the religions of Xtianity and Islam, would have understood and known, but such most definitely not the case. The Koran repeats the word prophet over and again. About every 7 to 12th word – prophet. Yet never once did the Framers of the Koran ever ask: “How does the Torah define this key term “Prophet”?

    The Talmud refers to this fundamental error in logic as — “Hanging a mountain by a Hair”. In the 2008 Presidential election candidate Obama hung his hopes for winning the Office of POTUS on the “hair”, the rhetoric of “C H A N G E”. Obama like Xtianity with the term prophet, he never trouble himself – not in 8 years of Office – to ever once give a concrete definition to this “hair” key word “C H A N G E”.

    All T’NaCH prophets command mussar. The editors and framers of the Torah organized the revelation of the Torah at Sinai together with the 10 plagues of Egypt. But after the 2nd Commandment, Israel could hear no more; they demanded that Moshe ascend the Mount and receive the rest of the Torah. At the sin of the golden calf, mentioned previously, Israel had received only 2 commandments and no more. The breaking of the 2 tablets: the first commandment on one and the second commandment on the other.

    At the crisis of the golden calf, Israel who sent Moshe to receive the rest of the Torah for fear that if the people heard just one more command, that they would all die; the people, 40 days after Moshe had gone missing, cried unto Aaron: “Moshe is dead. Who will teach us the rest of the Torah?” 40 days after Moshe broke the 2 tablets, he heard the Oral Torah logic system. This logic system permitted Moshe to derive 611 commandments!!!! The 611 commandments exist as interpretations upon the opening first 2 commandments. The Talmud employs the Oral Torah logic system to derive 10s of thousands of halachic laws which interpret the Torah in a like and similar fashion as did Moshe who derived the 611 commandments based upon the Oral Torah logic system which HaShem revealed to Moshe 40 days after the sin of the golden calf!

    Both Xtianity and Islam deny the revelation of the Oral Torah logic system. The rediscovery of the ancient Greek logic formats developed by Plato and Aristotle would dominate the Muslim and Xtian civilizations to this very day. The lights of Hanukkah, during that Civil War which pitted the P’rushim\Pharisees against the assimilated T’zeddukim\Sadducees … the P’rushim (separated: think tithes), this leadership existed during the 110 years that Judea existed as an independent nation. After the nation lost its national independents to the Romans the title of the inheritors of the P’rushim took the name of rabbi or rabbis. The dedication of the lights of Hanukkah — to only interpret the Written Torah using the Oral Torah logic format. And most specifically not to use alien Greek logic formats to interpret the Written Torah!!

    The refusal of Xtian leaders to recognize, much less validate, the Oral Torah logic format, revealed to all generations of bnai brit Israel on Yom Kippur 40 days after the sin of the golden calf, this unique logic format permits all generations to interpret the Torah unto its original k’vanna of its Framers. No one generation has a lock and monopoly upon logic. Xtianity committed a Huge Error when its leaders threw out the Written Torah together with the bath water Oral Torah. The Church confused Torah commandments with judicial legal rulings/halacha; Paul and his misinformed ilk called Torah commandments “the law”. A catastrophic error. Court judicial rulings, known as halacha in Hebrew, exist as law – legalistic interpretations. Torah commandments – being prophetic – command mussar. Mussar by definition – NOT law.

    Tefilla qualifies as a postive time oriented commandment. This type of Torah commandment {positive and negative and positive time oriented}, requires k’vanna. The k’vanna which tefilla requires, remembering t’shuva. Xtianity errs by limiting its mistranslation of t’shuva unto repentance to regretting sin. T’shuva by sharp contrast “remembers” both tohor and tuma social interactions. Torah faith of the Cohen nation spins around the limitation to do avodat HaShem strictly and only when in a tohor condition. The Torah threatens the din of כרת if a Cohen person attempts to remember the t’shuva made by a specific Yatzir within the heart when daavening the Shemone Esrei – tefilla. This fundamental distinction – tefilla dedicates t’shuva of a specific Yatzir within the heart (Tahor or Tumah Yatzir), it fundamentally and for ever separates tefillah from none Jewish prayer. Making this required “P’rushim\separation” distinguishes Yiddishkeit from the counterfeit religions which the world knows as Xtianity and Islam.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s