The question of assurance is a subset of epistemology. And that means Christians today who struggle with assurance are dealing with an extra factor that previous generations of Christians (usually) did not have to deal with. We live in a skeptical postmodern age, and so the question of knowing that you are saved is related to the question of how you can know anything.
This becomes even more challenging when we are talking about our own faith five years out. In Scripture, genuine faith in God now is necessarily related to faith in God in the future. Baptism binds the future.
“Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me” (Phil. 1:27–30).
Paul says that when Christians respond to persecutors with a calm and like-minded spirit, this freedom of terror is a token, a proof, a demonstration. The word is endeixis (ἔνδειξις — pardon — just testing WordPress fonts). When God gives such supernatural grace, it is a token, a sign, an indicator, that this group is going to be saved, and that one is going to be damned. This is not something that should be classed as infallible revelation (a persecutor might repent, and one of the Philippians might apostatize), but it should be classed as genuine knowledge.
So we are not talking about any kind of assurance that by-passes the need for perseverance. We cannot be assured of anything the way God is assured of things. God knows what He knows absolutely, and all our knowledge is contingent. All our knowledge is creaturely. But there are more options than having to decide between “knowing as God does” and “knowing merely that I am saved for the present moment.”
The Spirit works into us true knowledge about the future, not just the present. We know this future as we know anything else, as creatures, but we do in fact know it. This is why the Bible speaks of the Spirit as an earnest, as a guarantee (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:14). But what good is a guarantee that guarantees nothing in the future? This is why we are encouraged to know that He who began a good work in you will complete it in the day of Christ Jesus (Phil. 1:6). And this is why Paul piles up challenge upon challenge, threat upon threat, in order to teach us to taunt those challenges with the knowledge that nothing coming down the pike can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:37-39).
In short, we need two things in this, and as I see it the FV dark beers thus far are only affirming the first of the two. The first is that as we work through the New Testament, we must find a class of Christian for whom it is absolutely true that nothing can separate them — whether things present or things to come — from God’s love for them in Christ. Because they affirm decretal election, the dark beers do affirm this, unapologetically. The dark beers have been repeatedly and slanderously wronged by those who maintain they are denying this. That mistake is made because people believe this controversy has to be an old issue in new clothing. No, it really is a new issue, and needs to be treated as a new issue. It needs to be worked through patiently, asking and answering the hard questions.
So the second thing we need is this. We must also find that it is possible for this class of chosen Christian to know this fact to be true about themselves, and to draw real assurance from it. And this, thus far at least, is what I believe is missing from this new proposed paradigm. And the ramifications of what we need to work through here extend from soteriology up to epistemology. It is a big issue, and a complicated one.
As for me, I hold that an essential part of our confession of faith has to do with our place in the future of God’s people. “And of this community I am and always will be a living member” (HC 54).