Among Christians, there is a consensus that life begins with God (a statement of origin), and that life exists to bring glory to God (a statement of purpose). To answer the third of life’s great questions, the question of destiny, there is much debate. Does the objective truth need a subjective assurance to partner with it? What does the Bible teach about hope and assurance of salvation?
Matthew Hoskinson very carefully proceeds through the development of this theology of hope in Assurance of Salvation: Implications of a New Testament Theology of Hope, laying a groundwork in the early centuries through the teachings of Aquinas, the council of Trent, the teachings of Luther and Calvin in the Reformation period, to the teaching of John Wesley during the early eighteenth century. On this foundation of understanding, he presents three common contemporary views on assurance and spends the rest of the book discussing their strengths and demerits.
The first school of thought Hoskinson calls the “Present Only View.” Following closely the teachings of Wesley, it affirms the possibility of assurance of only present salvation and denies that believer can have assurance of final salvation, since believers can forfeit salvation through apostasy. At the other end of the theological spectrum stands the “Time of Conversion View” – another term coined by Hoskinson. Its proponents hold that the only basis for assurance of salvation is found in the objective work of Christ.
Because of the sure promises of God, there is no further need for assurance. According to this viewpoint, works cannot forfeit salvation, nor can they bring certainty of salvation. The third and final school of thought presented is a group Hoskinson has labeled the “Composite View.” This system affirms the objective means of salvation – namely, God’s work in Christ – as primary, yet sees subjective means, such as the believer’s perseverance, as a secondary source of assurance. Supporters of this viewpoint state that true believers will attain salvation while those who apostatize will not enjoy the blessings of final salvation.
Hoskinson then turns to Scripture and presents its theology of hope and assurance. The discussion ranges from Abraham in both the Old and New Testaments, to the presentations of hope in the New Testament historical books, as well as the Pauline and General Epistles. Over and again hope is presented and seen in Scripture to be rooted, beyond the present situation, in the very character of God. As such, it expects God to fulfill His promises. A second finding in the search of Scripture is that a believer’s assurance will grow over time; it must not remain the same.
As the teachings and finding of Scripture are compared to the school of thought present today, Hoskinson demonstrates that the best biblically tenable position is what has been termed the Composite View, as it most consistently allows Scripture to set its own bounds, limits, and extent.
Written on a scholarly level, Assurance of Salvation is greatly assisted by several charts that succinctly organize its findings. This is not light reading! It is beneficial for those who will be involved in counseling, ministries of encouragement, and those who want to fully understand the blessings of salvation. In short, if you don’t feel ready for such a “meaty” book, prepare yourself and dig in! – Charles L. Eldred, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
In Assurance of Salvation, Matthew C. Hoskinson traces the New Testament doctrine of hope and its implications for an age-old debate: how believers may be sure of their salvation. After delineating major orthodox views of assurance, Hoskinson measures today's evangelical positions against references to hope in each part of the New Testament. Along the way, he addresses topics such as Reformed and Wesleyan theology, the Second Coming of Christ, and whether assurance is necessary for salvation. The result will clarify how to have, and how to help others have, what Hebrews 6:11 calls the full assurance of hope unto the end.