Rawlings School of Divinity
Doctor of Philosophy in Theology and Apologetics (PhD)
Daniel R. Sloan
absolute assurance, full assurance, partial assurance, of the essence, saving faith, Gospel of John, perseverance, Calvinism, Calvin, Luther, Westminster Confession, assurance of salvation, 100% certainty, Zane C. Hodges, John MacArthur, promise of everlasting life, eternal security, eternal life, never hunger, never thirst, gospel, evangelism, Robert Wilkin, R.C. Sproul, John Piper, Craig Keener, Scot McKnight
History of Christianity | Practical Theology
Vacendak, Robert, "Is Assurance of Salvation of the Essence of Saving Faith in the Gospel of John?" (2023). Doctoral Dissertations and Projects. 4300.
Catholics, Calvinists, and Arminians deny absolute assurance of salvation. Instead, they imagine only “degrees of,” “a measure of,” “a kind of,” or “some level of” assurance before final judgment. Scholarly analyses of assurance often prioritize earlier studies, not Scripture. Therefore, few question whether partial assurance even meets the Biblical threshold. This dissertation seeks a fresh inductive analysis of John’s Gospel, a book challenging the scholarly consensus. Numerically, John’s divine truth-claims regarding eternal life/assurance far exceed other Biblical books. Careful exegesis of John vindicates absolute assurance and refutes partial assurance. Regeneration occurs the moment one believes Christ has irrevocably saved him forever. Unlike the Westminster Confession, John’s Gospel validates absolute assurance as of the essence of saving faith. Inherent in Christ promising believers eternal life is the immediate and absolute assurance of that life the moment one believes Christ’s saving promise (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:47). Assurance is not contingent on post-conversion obedience or life-long perseverance in faith and good works. John’s Gospel asserts that believers have already passed from death into life and are certain of it. After a historical survey, the dissertation defines absolute assurance (it is not “hope,” “inward evidence,” “a three-legged stool,” “the Spirit’s inner witness,” or “fruit of the Spirit”). It also contains how to obtain absolute assurance, absolute assurance in John’s Gospel and other New Testament books, refutations of objections to absolute assurance, and absolute assurance’s practical results. This dissertation verifies: (1) Absolute assurance is not a novel theology; (2) Calvinism and Arminianism preclude absolute assurance; (3) Christ’s promises in John’s Gospel establish absolute assurance as of the essence of saving faith. Believers in Christ possess eternal life at the moment of belief. They are sure of it, because eternal life is what Christ promised them. Expressions of uncertainty are tantamount to disbelieving Christ’s promise.