To all in this discussion,
Reading through the comments for this post, and comments on related posts at C2c, I just had a stunning and terrifying realization. The entire time that I was a convinced Reformed Baptist (from, approximately, 2005 until earlier this year), within the parameters of the Reformed soteriology I held, there was no way for me *know*, in fact, that I was saved. Logically, it would also seem that this would also apply to *anyone* who accepts Reformed soteriology– whether Presbyterian, Reformed Anglican/Episcopal, Bible church, Calvinistic Methodist (as was George Whitefield), and so on. I will explain my thinking and invite anyone to correct me if my reasoning is flawed, or completely incorrect, here.
As a Reformed Baptist who, by definition, believed in the Calvinist doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints (the Reformed understanding of “eternal security”), to be sure (no pun intended!), I believed in assurance of salvation, I sang about it in church, and when I evangelized non-Christians, it was at least my *desire* to share the concept of assurance with them. I *thought* that I knew I was saved, and that my salvation was secure for all eternity. In fact though, there was no way for me to know. All that I could *truly know* is that I possessed *signs* of belonging to the elect.
However, there were other, worrisome “signs” in my life that sometimes led me to *doubt* whether I was one of the elect. I repeatedly struggled with certain sins, and sometimes, chose to give in to them. My Reformed friends would tell me that the fact(s) that I *did* struggle, and that I lamented and hated my sin, showed that I was a true brother in Christ, one of the elect.
There was the other side of that coin though. I still *did* give in to sin at times, and at those exact moments, chillingly, the sin felt good. I also felt sickness, revulsion, and self-reproach, but part of me did like the sin. Soon after would come repentance and confession to God, and many times, talking with fellow Reformed Christians about my various sin struggles. These friends would assure me that I was continuing to hate and fight sin, and that those are signs of being elect. They would also lovingly warn me (as they should have, as my friends) not to become complacent *about* my sin or *about* my assurance– for either of these could lead a hardness of heart and a “falling away,” thus proving that I never really belonged to God.
Therein lies the crux of the problem with the Reformed concept of assurance. It isn’t really assurance. It is a “confidence,” one might say, though without complacence, that one is saved, based on the appearance of *signs* that one belongs to the elect. However, those signs could all be ultimately temporary in one’s life, and therefore, illusory. One must also, from time to time, check one’s life to make sure that the “signs” of belonging to the elect aren’t beginning to be outweighed by possible “signs” of being reprobate (non-elect).
The latter was a periodic struggle (and over time, a heavy burden) for me, as a Reformed Baptist who sought to have “assurance” of my salvation. I could never *truly* have assurance of my salvation, in any sense *other* than how I appeared to be showing signs of belonging to the elect, from one day or week or month (which might have been very encouraging) to another day or week or month (not as encouraging).
To be clear, none of the above has *anything* to do with why I have now, formally and decisively left Protestantism and begun the process of reconciliation to the Catholic Church, which I angrily and ignorantly left almost fifteen years ago. This process has a been a long and very hard one, brothers and sisters. I say that to *all* of my brothers and sisters in Christ– Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, and any and all others! :-)
I have re-read and re-studied relevant Scriptural passages (in light of the whole counsel of Scripture). I have studied Church history and the competing claims about that history. I have discovered, and have now been greatly taught and humbled by, the writings of the Church Fathers (both “early,” “medieval,” and more recent). I have had hours upon hours of discussions with Protestant friends, who have attempted to show that the objective evidence doesn’t lead, or doesn’t necessarily *have* to lead, to the Catholic Church. For me to be honest though, with God, myself, and others, the objective evidence has led me there– and I will not, cannot, in good conscience, turn back from what I have seen by God’s grace.
On Tuesday of this now-almost-past week, I met with a wonderful, orthodox, kind, wise, 80-year-old Catholic priest (with age, indeed, comes much wisdom!) and expressed my desire to return to the Church. We talked for 90 minutes, every single one for which I very grateful to God. Lord willing, he will hear my confession as soon as it can be arranged– and then, soon after, the Eucharist, the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of the one Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Thank you, deeply and truly, to everyone at C2C, for helping to make this possible for me. I am especially grateful to Bryan Cross, Tom Riello, and everyone else who has helped to answer my questions here, and even more, prayed to Our Father for me and, perhaps, asked for the intercession of Our Lady. A world of pain may be about to come down, in my life, from the possible reactions of many of my Protestant friends, including my roommate (I just told him the news late last night). Please continue to pray for me.
Whatever may come though, I am at peace and happy– because very, very soon, Lord willing, I will be back Home, in the fold of the Church that truly *is* (and always has been!) One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.