The Essential Difference between the Protestant and Roman Catholic Views of Assurance
In this brief clip from his teaching series A Survey of Church History, W. Robert Godfrey examines the difference between the Roman Catholic and Protestant views of assurance. Watch this entire message for free.
Here is the embodiment and summary of what had generally been taught in the Middle Ages but it had never been officially defined that God loves the lovely. “For God to love you, you need to become a different person. You are not loved because of the external righteousness of Christ imputed to you. You are loved because Christ comes into you and changes you so you’re a different person so that you can be loved by God.”
That’s a rather brief summary of a rather long document but that’s the very heart of it. Rome defines itself now as committed to this proposition that you are only justified by being changed into a different moral person by the grace of God. And this is so important because it remains the essential difference between Protestantism and Rome. And it relates very much to this matter of assurance that we talked about. If you have to be a morally better person to be accepted by God, how much better do you have to be? How do you have any confidence that you’ve gotten there? And of course, Rome’s pastoral position is you shouldn’t be confident, you ought to be worried. You’ll try harder if you’re doubting. It is not good for you to have assurance. That’s just Protestant arrogance.
One of the great Roman Catholic theologians of the late 16th, early 17th century, Robert Bellarmine said “The essential Protestant heresy is the arrogance of assurance.” You’ll get lazy if you are assured. You won’t try hard if you’re assured. It’s good to be doubting and fearful and uncertain. So you have really two quite different religions at work here. Calvin said, “The assured heart in Christ will live for God out of gratitude.”