In my article “Are Arminians better off when it comes to assurance? Why I’m not so sure” I was being coy. In fact, I’m quite sure that Arminians aren’t any better off. Adam Omelianchuk countered that “things might go differently if the object of faith is God and his intentions towards humanity.” He then explained further:
“When I say “the object of faith” I am talking about the object of our belief such that it is able to provide us with assurance. To believe (on Arminianism) “I am one of the elect” would mean that I have faith in Christ, that he loves me and that he died for me. His mission was to come and seek and save the lost and bring in as many who would believe.”
But is this any sort of advantage when it comes to assurance? I don’t see that it is.
Consider this analogy.
You are living in a violent neighborhood plagued by arsonists in which buildings are burnt down and rebuilt on a regular basis. Of course you’d move if you could but for reasons beyond your control you have to live in this neighborhood. There are two possible buildings into which you can move.
Building A: comes equipped with sprinklers in some rooms which turn on automatically as soon as smoke is detected. The only problem is that if you move there you will not know whether the room you’re living in is equipped with a sprinkler until the fire occurs.
Building B: comes equipped with sprinklers in all rooms which are manually operated by the resident of the apartment. While you know you have a sprinkler in this room, the only problem is that you may not be awake or otherwise able to activate it when it is required.
Under those circumstances I don’t see that Building B has any advantage over Building A.
The same goes for the question of assurance. The Calvinist dilemma is not to know that the sprinkler will be effectual — it is, after all, irresistible — but rather whether one resides in a sprinkler equipped room (that is, is elect). The Arminian dilemma is not to know that the room is sprinkler equipped — after all they prevene on every room — but rather to know that one will be able to activate the sprinkler that will save the room, and their life.
The way that Adam seeks to address this problem is simply by avoiding it. Here’s what he says again:
“To believe (on Arminianism) “I am one of the elect” would mean that I have faith in Christ, that he loves me and that he died for me.”
What Adam is doing here is associating a different proposition with the sentence “I am one of the elect.” In the dilemma as I’ve outlined it, the sentence “I am one of the elect” is intended to express the proposition “I am one of the elect.” (Makes sense, no?) On Adam’s proposal the sentence “I am one of the elect” is taken to express the proposition “Jesus loves me and died for me” (or something like that).
I agree with Adam that there is comfort to be found in the doctrine of God’s superabundant love for all his creatures. But we cannot deal with the problem of assurance of salvation by resolving to think only about God’s superabundant love.
As I said last time, the problem here is not one unique to the doctrine of assurance. As finite knowers we have to make do with our own limitations in all matters, so this area is hardly exceptional. The lesson is simply this: when it comes to assurance Arminians simply have no advantage over Calvinists.