Assurance of Damnation

For those who believe in assurance of salvation–does that imply that those who are not assured of salvation are thereby assured of damnation?

All we can do is hope and pray. I love the last line of the Jesus prayer: “lead all souls into heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy.”

I want to know what people think about this, so I’m a-subscribin’ to this thread.


I don’t believe in assurance of salvation, but I don’t think believing some are assured of one thing means that everyone else is assured of not having it.

For example if I assure the poster who posts after me that I will make sure they get a cookie within the week, I’m in no way assuring those who do not post after me that they are not. They may or they may not.

Indeed. Lack of A does not imply B.

Assurance of salvation can be mapped logically as:

If A (salvation) then not B (damnation).

Lack of assured salvation is: not-A

But to go from that to “B” would be the logical error, denial of the antecedent.


Many people who believe they are assured of salvation (such as once saved, always saved) believe they can know in this life if they are saved or not-- like 5 point Calvinists.

Now, do all of the elect receive this assurance, or do they go through life not knowing (or even not caring) one way or the other? If all of the elect receive this assurance, that has to mean that those who do not get the assurance are damned!

That is quite a thing, to know in this life that you are going to hell! No matter what you do.

No. For those who hold to a “strong” view of assurance (i.e., that all the regenerate enjoy assurance), it just means that those who are not assured are presently on the road to damnation–but they may still repent and be saved.

However, this view is pretty hard to maintain. Calvin tries to, but he has to qualify it to the point that it really vanishes. Wesley is explicit that not all true believers enjoy assurance–assurance is possible but not the inevitable consequence of being born again.


A blog post I wrote four years ago:

The Dark Side of ‘Once Saved Always Saved’

“For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” Gen. 3:5 (KJV).

Malcolm Smith (a charismatic Episcopal priest) used to call the words of this verse, “ye shall be as gods”, ‘The Lie’. The idea being that wanting to be ‘like God’ is the foundation of Original Sin. And what could be more ‘being like a god’, than having the knowledge of who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell.
The ‘doctrine’ of ‘once saved, always saved’ (OSAS), otherwise known as ‘eternal security’ was a teaching I found hard to abandon when I crossed the Tiber. It is an enticing philosophy that attracts people into a web that is hard to get out of.
Behind the doctrine, of course is the teaching that you and I can ‘know for sure’ that our destiny is Heaven. Or as fundamentalist preachers love to put it: ‘you’re as sure for Heaven as Jesus Himself!’ Catholics shrink from such statements as they smack of the sin of presumption.
But this doctrine has a dark side. If I can ‘be sure’ who is going to Heaven (those who repeated a sinners prayer), than I can also be sure who is going to Hell (those who have not). This ‘knowledge’ of who is destined for Hell not only plays into the ‘Lie’ (using Malcolm’s language), it also plays into a destructive psychological pattern.
A former Pentecostal pastor once recounted a strange service he attended once. The preacher was giving a sermon on Hell and began to name those he was ‘sure’ are either in Hell, or headed there. “They’re going to Hell! They’re going to Hell! They’re going to Hell!” the crowd began to chant over and over in a bizarre fashion.
There is a strange and sick satisfaction people have in ‘knowing’ their enemies are ‘burning in Hell’. It gives them a feeling of ‘justice’.
When some of the writings of Mother Teresa was made public, it revealed she had gone through (as St. John of the Cross did) a ‘dark night of the soul’.
Fundamentalists had a gleeful feeding frenzy. I remember one fundamentalist almost giddy with excitement: “See! This proves it! Mother Teresa is in Hell!!”. It is extremely important to fundamentalists that Mother Teresa be in Hell. If Mother Teresa is not burning in Hell, that would make their belief/doctrine false; hence she must be burning in Hell.
For extreme Calvinists, this gets into their theology that a portion of humankind is ‘predestined to Hell’.
A recent survey found 60% of born-again Christians say people were going to hell because they didn’t have the “right beliefs.” Whose beliefs are right is dependent upon the person you are talking to. Catholics are told (many times with glee) that it is ‘certain’ they are going to Hell.
It reflects a lack of compassion, hope, and love. It feeds into a person’s unforgiveness and bitterness toward another. In dehumanizing them with the curse of “They’re going to Hell,” it relieves them of any responsibility.
The Pharisees of Jesus day had a saying (from ancient Jewish writings): “There is joy in Heaven when a sinner drops into Hell.”
Jesus turned that around and said: “There is joy in heaven when a sinner repents.”
The Pharisees believed in a kind of ‘OSAS’.
Obviously Jesus did not.
“ye shall be as gods,*** knowing good and evil***.”
The Lie.

What ancient Jewish writing would that be?


Hi Edwin,
Okay. Now, in the strong view of assurance, are there some who are born regenerate and they are granted assurance, or is it that all are born non-regenerate and become regenerate at some point in their lives and then are granted assurance?

So, for Wesley, God grants some of the saved asssurance, but not all of them. For Wesley, therefore, lack of assurance of salvation does not mean assurance of damnation.


In a nutshell, yes.
I know this statement might be disagreeable with others, but those who believe in assurance of salvation do believe that all others would go to hell.
That means that there is an assurance of damnation, but unlike the assurance of salvation this one can be changed.
According to that kind of theology everybody was doomed to eternity in hell, but the ones who accepted Christ as their lord and saviour are saved through him and are therefore not on the path to hell any more and assured salvation.
Anybody can, until they die, become saved and leave the path to damnation, but until they do so they are assured damnation and if they die before they do so, they will be experiencing it.

To me that’s rather narrow minded to limit G’d like that, but that’s part of this type of theology.

Same goes for those who believe in predestination (which is not the same). They believe that certain people are irresistibly drawn to G’d and as a result that means that certain people aren’t. Furthermore that means that those who are not drawn by irresistible grace will not be saved and will go to hell. That’s actually assurance of damnation at its best. Those favouring Irresistible Grace usually only point out the positive side and fail to mention that this also means that there are people who will never be saved and are, from birth, on a straight path to hell, as this particular doctrine is commonly coupled with the doctrines of Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement and Perseverance of the saints.
See “The Five Points of Calvinism

I think it’s better to be not so assured of anything. Just leave it in the hands of God.

No one is born regenerate. Some early Reformed theologians spoke of “sparks of godliness” in the elect from birth, but if you look at the trajectory from Zwingli to Calvin you see a greater affirmation (in Calvin) of traditional Augustinian doctrine that everyone starts out sinful (Zwingli didn’t believe in the Augustinian understanding of original sin–Calvin affirmed it in a very strong form).

In the Calvinist paradigm, all the elect will eventually be regenerate (born again), and only the elect will ever be regenerate (this “perseverance of the saints” doctrine contradicts Augustine and the whole medieval tradition, as well as Luther). All the regenerate have assurance, but Calvin granted that for some of them it may be cloudy and uncertain at times. If you say, “what kind of assurance is that?” well, I agree with you. I think Calvin gets away far too often with rhetorical flourishes that lack logical coherence.

Wesley, who of course was not a Calvinist with regard to predestination, believed that God wanted all the regenerate to have assurance, but that it was something you had to seek for from God and didn’t automatically come with regeneration. He thought that there was often a time lag between a person being born again and receiving the assurance that they were born again.

But no one thinks that lack of assurance of salvation means assurance of final damnation, because everyone agrees that a person who is not presently regenerate may become regenerate later.


I agree.

The Lie.

In in same scripture we attribute to Moses we are told that God made man in His image and likeness. That means we are like God.

The reason we. are like God is we do, or can do what God does. The scripture also tells us about the infinite perfections of God. God is life. God is love. God is truth and justice. God is holy.

In our lives we can love, do justice, be witnesses of truth and tell the truth. Men and women procreate in cooperation with God making new beings with immortal souls. If we cooperate with God in doing His will, in obedience to divine will, then we are like God.

This is not our problem. Man’s problem is when he exalts himself. Jesus said of Himself that He is meek and humble of spirit. He also said we are to be holy, even as our heavenly Father is holy. What else could that mean than be like God.

Those who are like God, holy, do not exalt (glorify) themselves, but they are exalted.

I have met a number of people who told me they are sure they are going to hell. They see their sinfulness and do not like what they see in themselves, just as the saints saw their own failures and confessed they were sinful. Saint John the Evangelist writes that if someone says he has no sin he is a liar.

The impact of OSAS on society was some of what we saw in the Enlightment period. It drove people to despair, a sin against the theological virtue of hope. People came to believe they were damned. In literature we saw the theme of glorifying rebellion against God. This is a natural reaction to Calvin’s idea that God created some people to damn them. Why shouldn’t anyone curse the God who created Him to send Him to eternal torment?

All false doctrine has destuctive consequences on human beings and leads to spiritual and social disorder.

Are there any Calvinists who think they’re assured to be damned?

:rotfl: I highly doubt that!

I’ve asked that and never got a straight answer.

That is, do all Calvinists think of themselves as of the elect?

Calvinists believe, as I said earlier, that a regenerate person will (at least more or less, most of the time) be confident of his or her own election. So yes, to claim that one has been born again is to claim that one is among the elect.

The Calvinists who don’t think of themselves as “of the elect” would be Calvinists who have not yet professed regeneration (particularly in the Puritan tradition there were many such people). I don’t think this is a common phenomenon today.

My grandmother met Calvinists in the Hebrides who were convinced that they were predestined to be damned. Calvinists of my acquaintance would say that this stems from a radical misunderstanding of Calvinist teaching.


Interesting, so this was their hindsight after they found Calvinism?

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