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3 3433 06826245 4

(The Tllniveretti? of Cbicago


The Basis of Assurance in Recent
Protestant Theologies


Submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate Divinity School in
Candidacy for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy


By henry burke robins

kansas city
Chas. E. Brown PrintingCo.


Zbc IDintversiti? of (tbicago













Published August, 1912




Introduction — Purpose and range of the study. Relation of assur-
ance of salvation (Heilsgewissheit) to intellectual certainty
(Wahrheitsgewissheit) .

I. Preliminary Survey.

Brief historical survey of the basis of assurance in Christian

A. Before the Reformation.

1. The Fathers.

2. The Scholastics.

3. The standard Catholic view. Thomas Aquinas.
The Council of Trent.

B. The Reformation and After:


1. Luther.

2. Melanchthon.

3. Calvin.

4. Pietism and English Evangelicalism.

5. Schleiermacher.

C. The Nineteenth Century.

The Nineteenth Century revolution in world-view.
Significance of the new view-point for theology. How
the basis of assurance is involved.


II. Present-Day Protestant Types.

The types to be considered distinguished. Their genealogy.

A. General Survey of the Doctrinal Systems of

Each Group.

1. Conservative Orthodoxy —

Orr, Warfield.

2. Ritschlianism —

Herrmann, Kaftan, Harnack.

3. Modern Positivismi —

Forsyth, Seeberg, Beth.

4. The School of Comparative Religions —

Troeltsch, Bousset.

B. Fundamental Conceptions.

1. Theory of knowledge.

2. View of science and reality.

3. History.

4. Revelation.

C. The Relation of These Conceptions to the Basis

of Assurance.

III. Alternative Views.

A. The supernaturalistic view of the world as determinant
of assurance.

B. The equivalent of assurance in a view of the world-
process as expression of personal will.

C. Non-absolutistic confidence in the method of experimen-



Part I of this Bibliography gives a limited number of books, each
bearing upon some aspect of the subject as it has been developed in
this essay. These are noted under four heads : General ; Phases of
the Doctrinal Situation, Past and Present ; Sources ; the Problem of
Certainty. Part II supplies a limited bibliography of works of the
ten modern theologians whose positions form the basis of this
study, only books which bear in some way upon the subject under
discussion being enumerated. Generally speaking, no attempt has
been made to include contributions to the theological reviews.
Where these have been noted, they are such as have been of use in
this discussion. Works of the ten theologians whose thought forms
the basis of this essay are given in Part II of the Bibliography, in
no case being mentioned in Part I.


1. General —

Fisher, History of Doctrine, New York, 1896.

Hall, History of Ethics Within Organised Christianity , New

York, 1910.
Loops, Dogmengeschichte, Halle, 1893.
Windelband, a History of Philosophy, E. Tr., New York,


2. Phases of the Doctrinal Situation, Past and Present —

Cross, Schleiermacher, Chicago, 1911.

Cunningham, The Reformers and the Theology of the

Reformation, Essay III.
DiEHL, Herrmann u. Troeltsch, Zeitschr. f. T. u. K., 1908.
Garvie, The Ritschlian Theology, Edinburgh, 1899.
HoDGE, Modern Positive Theology, Princeton Rev., Vol. 8.
KosTLiN, The Theology of Luther, E. Tr., Philadelphia, 1897.
MozLEY, Ritschlianism, London, 1909.
McGiffert, Protestant Thought Before Kant, New York,




ScHiAN, Zur Bcnrteilung der mod. pos. Theologic, Giessen,

Stephan, D. neuen Ansdtse d. conservat. Dogmatik.

u. s. w., Christliche Welt, 1911, Nos. 44-48.
Wendland, Ritsclil und seine Schuler, Berlin, 1899.

3. Sources —

(Attention is again directed to the fact that the chief sources
are enumerated) in Part II of this Bibhography.)
Calvin, Institutes, Beveridge's Tr., Edinburgh, 1895.
Hodge, Systematic Theology, New York, 1871.
Luther, Sdmmtliche Werke, Erlangen Ed., 1841 ;

Opera, 1829.
MoEHLER, Symholik, E. Tr., New York, 1894.
Melanchthon, Corpus Reformatorum (Bretschneider's),

1834 ; Loci, PHtt's Ed. Revised, 1889.
RiTSCHL, Doctrine of Reconciliation and JustiUcation, E. Tr.
Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, New York, 1877.
Spener, Das geistliche Priesterthum, 1677.
Schleiermacher, Der christliche Glaube, Berlin, 1830.
Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Rome, 1901.
Wesley, A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, Mason and

Lane Ed., New York, 1837.

Sermons, Eaton and Mains' Ed.

4. The Problem of Certainty —

Clasen, Die christl. Heilsgewissheit, 1897.

Gottschick, D. Heilsgezvissheit d. ev. Christen in Anschluss

an Luther dargestellt, Zeitschr. f. T. u. K., 1903.
Heim, Das Gezvissheitsproblem, Leipzig, 1911.
Ihmels, Christliche Wahrheitsgezvissheit, Leipzig, 1908.
Tasker, Art. "Certainty," Ha. Encyc. Relig. and Eth., Vol.



(The order in which authors are named in this section is that in
which their work is treated in the following essay.)
1. James Orr —

The Christian Viezv of God and the World, 1893 (Kerr



The Supernatural in Christianity, 1894 (with Rainy and

The Ritschlian Theology and the Evangelical Faith, 1897.
Essays on Ritschlianism, 1903.

The Image of God in Man and its Defacement, 1905.
Sidelights on Christian Doctrine, 1909.
Revelation and Inspiration, 1910.

2. B. B. Warfield—

The Divine Origin of the Bible, 1882,
Inspiration, 1882.

The Idea of Systematic Theology, 1888.
The Gospel of the Incarnation, 1893.
The Right of Systematic Theology, 1897.
The Power of God Unto Salvation, 1903.
The Lord of Glory, 1907.
"Incarnate Truth" (in Princeton Sermons).
The Task and Method of Systematic Theology, Am. Jour, of
Theol., 1910, Vol. 14, p. 192f.

3. W. Herrmann —

Die Metaphysik in der Theologie, 1876.

Religion in Verhdltnis s. Welterkennen u. s. Sittlichkeit,

Warum bedarf unser Glaube geschichtl. Tatsdchen, 2d Ed.,

Bedeutung der Insiprationslehre f. d. evangelische Kirche,

Begriff d. Offenbarung, 1887.
Gewissheit d. Glaube u. d. Freiheit d. Theologie, 2d Ed.,

D. ev. Glaube u. d. Theol. A. Ritschls, 2d Ed. 1896; E. Tr.

in Faith and Morals, 1904.
Verkehr der Christen mit Gott, 6th Ed. 1908; E. Tr., 2d

Ed., 1906.
Ethik, 4th Ed., 1904.
Rom. u. ev. Sittlichkeit, 3d Ed. 1903 ; E. Tr. in Faith and

Morals, 1904.
Die sittlichen Weisungen Jesu, 2d Ed. 1907.



Christlich-protestantische Dogmatik (in Die christliche Re-
ligion, pp. 583-632).

Lage und Aufgahe der ev. Dogmatik, Zeitschr. f. T. u. K.,

Offcnharung und Wunder, 1908.

D. Widerspruch i. religios. Denken u. s. Bedeutimg f. d.
Leben d. Religion, Zeitschr. f. T. u. K., 1911.

J. Kaftan —

SoUcn und Sein in ihrem Verhdltnis "u einander, 1872.

D. Predigt d. Evangelium in mod. Geisteslehen, 1879.

D. Ev. des Ap. Paulus in Predigten d. Gemeinde dargelegt,

D. Wesen der christl. Religion, 1881.
Das Leben in Christo (sermons), 1883.
D. Wahrheit d. christl. Religion, 1888 ; E. Tr., 1894.
Das Verhdltnis d. ev. Glaubens s. Logoslehre, 1896.
Dogmatik, 1897.
Heilige Schrift u. kirchl. Bekenntnis in ihr Verhdltnis 2.

einander, 1898.
D. Verpflichtung auf d. Bekenntnis in d. ev. Kirche, 1898.
D. christl. Glaube im geistigen Leben d. Gegenwart, 2d Ed.,

Kant, d. Philosoph d. Protestantismus, 1904.
Zur Dogmatik, 1904.
Zur Dogm-atik u. Glaubenspsychologie, Zeitschr. f. T. u. K.,


A. Harnack —

Das Monchthum, seine Ideal u. Geschichte, 1881 ; E. Tr.

Martin Luther in seiner Bedeutung fiir d. Geschichte d. Wis-

senschaft u. d. Bildung, 1883
Dogmengeschichte, 3 vol., 1886-1890.
Das Christentum u. d. Geschichte, 1897; E. Tr. 1900.
Das Wescn des Christ entums, 1900; E. Tr. 1901.
Die Aufgabe der theologisch. Fakultdten u. d. allgemein

Religionsgeschichte, 1901.
Reden u. Aufsdtse, 2 vol., 1904.



6. P. T. Forsyth —

The Holy Father and the Living Christ, 1897.
Christian Perfection, 1899.

Positive Preaching and the Modern Mind, 1907 (Yale Lect-
Person and Place of Jesus Christ, 1909.
Revelation and the Bible, Hibbert Jour., Oct., 1911.

7. R. Seeberg —

Begriff d. christl. Kirche, Bd. I, 1885.

Lehrbuch d. Dogmengeschichte,Bd. I, 1895, Bd. II, 1898; E.

Tr. 1904.
An d. Schwelle d. ip Jahrhunderts, 3d Ed. 1901.
D. Grundwahrheit. christl. Relig., 4th Ed. 1906; E. Tr. 1908.
D. Personlichkeit Christi d.feste Punkte im Hiessende Strome

d. Gegenwart.
Leitfad. d. Dogmengeschichte, 2d Ed. 1905.
Protestant. Ethik, in Ktdtur der Gegenzvart, 1906.
Offenbarimg u. Insipration, 1908.
Zur systemat. Theologie, 1909.

8. K. Beth-

Do.? IVesen des Christentums u. d. mod. hist. Denkweise,

D. W under Jesu, 1905.

Wunder u. Naturwissenschaft (Konsist. Monatschrift, 1906).
Empirische, Teleologie, N. K. Zeitschr., 1907.
Die Moderne u. d. Prinsipien der Theologie, 1907.
D. Verstdndnis v. Leben in d. neueren Naturf., Reformat.,

D. Bindung d. Glaubens an d. Person Jesu, Theol. Rundschau,

Jan., 1912.

9. E. Troeltsch —

D. wissenschaftliche Lage u. ihre Anforderung an d. The-
ologie, 1900.
D. Absolutheit d. Christentums, u. d. relig. Gesch., 1902.
Gegenwart Lage d. Religionsphilosophie , 1904.



D. historische in Kants Relig.-Philos., 1904.

Bcdeutiiny, d. Protestantismns f. d. Entstelinny. d. mod.

Kultur., 1906.
Psychologie u. Erkenntnistheorie in d. Religionswiss., 1905.
Protestantismus, Kultur der Gegemvart, I, 4, 1906.
Wesen der Religion, Kultur der Gegenwart, I, 4, 1906.
Ri'ickhlick auf cin halbes Jahrhniidcrt d. tlicol. Wissenschaft,

Zeitschr. f. wiss. Theol., 1908-1909.
Ueber d. Moglichkcit eines freien Christentums, Weltkong, f.

freies Christenttim; Protokoll, 1910, p. 333 f.

10. W. BOUSSET —

Wesen d. Religion, 1903-1904; E. Tr. 1907.
Schriftgelehrtentum u. V olksfrommigkeit , 1903.
Was zvissen wir von Jesusf 2d Ed. 1906.
Jesus, E. Tr. 1906.

D. Mission u. d. sag. religionsgeschicht. Schule, 1907.
Gottesglauhe, 1908.

D. Bedeutung d. Person Jcsu f. d. Glauben, Funfter Welt-
kongress f. freies Christentum; Protokoll, 1910, p. 291 f.




The interest of this study is to show the place which chief types
of recent Protestant theology give the classic Protestant doctrine of
religious assurance. The undertaking is analytical and interpreta-
tive; only in so far can it be termed constructive, for solutions
beyond those which will pass under review in a study of typical
recent theologies are not here attempted.

In the systems which will be studied intellectual certainty (Wahr-
heitsgewissheit) and religious assurance (Heilsgewissheit) are inex-
tricably interrelated ; not only so, they are logically related. Hence a
study of religious assurance within the field indicated will involve
the wider problem of intellectual certainty. Only in so far as it is
thus involved will it be here considered.

The First Division will sketch the history of the doctrine of assur-
ance in Christian theology, as this forms the background of the
current views. The Second Division will develop the content of four
types of current theology, since these systems thus viewed in their
various bearings afford the theological context of the doctrine of
Christian assurance, or its equivalent. Further, in the Second Divis-
ion, certain fundamental conceptions, as they are developed by the
various theological types, will be considered in their bearing upon
Christian assurance. And, in conclusion, the Third Division will
define the alternative views which the results thus obtained suggest.

The types of theology chosen for investigation are : Conservative
Orthodoxy, Ritschlianism, Modern Positivism, and the School of
Comparative Religions. While other types may be discriminated, it
is believed that these are the most significant recent or current types.
The choice of theologians has been governed by the simple purpose
of confining the study to theologians who are truly representative of
the various groups. In some cases other theologians than those cited
would have served the end in view quite as well ; of Herrmann,
Seeberg, and Troeltsch this could hardly be affirmed. The exposi-
tion of the various systems of theology has been carried only far
enough to yield what seems a sufficient perspective for the purposes
of this study. It aims at cardinal traits, and, while attempting to be
fair, dbes not undertake exhaustive analysis.




The note of religious assurance is characteristic of the New Tes-
tament, however variously it may be grounded. The exulting cer-
tainty of Romans viii will never be surpassed. We should expect to
find a marked quality of personal assurance of the favor of God in
all types of religion rooting in the Biblical literature. As a matter
of fact, however, there have been marked fluctuations in quantity
and variations in the quality of assurance in the Christian church in
the course of its history.

A. Views of the Basis of Assurance Before the Reforma-

1. In the Fathers.

Christianity took over the revelation theory of the Jews, and this,
reinforced by the Alexandrian belief in revelation as the highest
source of knowledge, became characteristic of Christianity. From
the time of Irenseus and Tertullian this belief was definitely con-
nected with the Old and New Testaments.' The Nicene and Post-
Nicene Fathers are at one in the view that a true knowledge of God
can be attained only through revelation, and in particular through
Jesus Christ. In contradistinction to the more liberal view of the
Apologists and of the Alexandrian Fathers, which recognized all
truth, in whatever system, as from the Divine Logos, the Western
Fathers limited revelation to the Christian Scriptures. The same
motives, in large measure, which developed the Rule of Faith and
the Catholic Church led to the formation of a Canon, which drew
the line on all not scripture and hence not revelation. The auctoritas
variously exercised by these three norms had ultimately to be read-
justed to the exercise of human ratio. Tertullian held that the
content of revelation is above reason, and, further, that reason
cannot comprehend it. There must be unconditional surrender
to revelation.^

In the West auctoritas and ratio remained side by side, their
relations being undefined. As a matter of fact, Stoic and Aristotelian
rationalism was carried over into Catholic Christianity and became
characteristic of its dogmatics andl morality.* With Ambrose faith

iWindelband, History of Philos, E. Tr., 1901, p. 219 f.

"Ut supra, p. 225.

*Hamack, History of Dogma, Vol. V, p. 20 f.



is the basic fact of the Christian life; it is faith which lays hold of
the redemption in Christ, and not mere belief in authority ; it builds
upon the blood of Christ. The question of salvation is not one of
deliverance from death, as v^ith the Eastern theologians so largely,
but is concerned with deliverance from sin and its consequences/ In
Augustine, however, ratio is the organ by which God reveals Him-
self to man. This thought, which was clearly defined in his first
period, he never surrendered; yet it was limited in a marked way
by the admission that the knowledge due to faith will always be
uncertain here below. The only thing that can supersede it is
revelation. He constantly "appeased with revelation his hunger for
the absolute." Revelation is not recommended alone or chiefly by its
intrinsic worth. Its external attestation, its certification by the
Church, is conclusive. "Man needs authority to discipline his mind
and to support a certainty not to be obtained elsewhere." Augustine
was never clear about the relation of faith and knowledge ; but his
formal appeal was to authority — now to the Scriptures as above the
Church, now to the Church as guaranteeing the Scriptures,* He was
never able to rest his faith upon the rationality of Christian truth as
revealed in the Scriptures alone. "As a Christian thinker he never
gained the subjective certitude that Christian faith was clear, con-
sistent, demonstrable. He declared that he believed in many articles
of faith, yes, even in the Gospel itself, only on Church authority."*
In his Confessions, especially Book IX, 8-12, we find the Psalmist's
faith in possession of the living God expressed. He is the true father
of that Catholic mysticism which was at home within the Church
until after the Council of Trent. But the assurance which such a
mysticism expresses did not become doctrinally articulate with
Augustine. Justificatio ex Ude, as a subjective experience, is never
complete in this life, for the simple reason that it contemplates the
entire transformation of its subject. Grace, to be sure, is prevenient
and irresistible ; the external means of grace avail for the elect ; but
only perseverance to the end can reveal the real objects of irresistible
grace. Even the called who do not possess this final grace of per-
severance will be lost. In consequence, there is a wide range of
contingency in this view. Yet for himself, Augustine was sure of
communion with God; he really possessed the certainty of faith.

»Ut supra, v., p. 20 f.


»Ut supra, v., p. 20 f.

»Ut supra, v., p. 125 f., Note 2.

»Ut supra, v., p. 79 f.


Yet he held that no one can be certain that he is of the elect, and
thus possessed of the doniim persevcrantiae.'

Harnack suggests that while he had a full horror of sin, he had
not experienced the horror of the uncertainty of salvation ; and
that, in consequence, he did not give Christ the central place in his
scheme of salvation by grace which he otherwise might/

Augustine's philosophy is based upon tlie conviction of the imme-
diate certainty of inner experience. And he regards the idea of God
as involved in the certainty which individual consciousness has of
itself. All rational knowledge is ultimately knowledge of God,
though he far transcends all the forms of human thought. Such
rational knowledge, even, as the illumination of the individual
consciousness by the divine truth, is essentially an act of divine
grace, for God bestows the revelation of his truths only upon him
who through good effort and morals shows himself worthy. The
appropriation of these truths is through faith rather than through
insight. Full rational insight is to be the consummation ; this com-
plete beholding of the divine truth is the acme of blessedness ; but in
order of time, even if not in dignity, faith in revelation is first. And
thus we are brought once again to the pathway of authority. Here
the open question is not that which concerns the existence of a
gracious God, but that which concerns the matter of individual

2. In Scholasticism.

Scholasticism met at the threshold of its career a twofold doctrine
of natural and revealed religion. It developed this doctrine exten-
sively. The two are in the closest harmony ; but natural theology
must subordinate itself to revealed, for it has its foundation in
revelation. As a matter of fact, the scholastic theologian alternated
between reason and revelation, while reason really determined his
method and the structure of his system. Aquinas, the formulator of
classic Roman Catholicism, held revelation above reason, but not
contrary to it. Their relation is that of different stages of develop-
ment ; philosophical knowledge is a possibility given in man's natural
endowment, and is brought to full and entire realization only by the
grace active in revelation. With Aquinas religion and theology are
essentially speculative and not practical. He is an absolutist in

'Ut supra, v., p. 204 f.

='TTt supra, V., p. 210, Note 1.

»Wind€lband, History of Philos., p. 276 f.



thought. He endeavors to demonstrate the Christian religion from
principles, and when in any particular he fails, he falls back upon
authority. His theological interest is that of Augustine ; all the
results of world-knowledge must lead to that knowledge of God
which liberates the soul.^

There are truths accessible to reason, as e. g. that there is a God ;
yet this truth could be reached by only the few, after long effort and
very imperfectly. There are truths above reason, e. g. the Trinity.
Even the truths accessible to reason need to be confirmed by the
testimony of revelation. At the same time, though reason unaided
could not arrive at the highest truths, it is her function to
set in order even that knowledge which is gained through revelation."
Philosophy, as secular science, is over against theology, which is
divine science. But theology is above philosophy, the Church above
the State, grace above natural ability, the supernatural above the
natural, and faith above reason. "Faith is at bottom 'believing
things true because God said them,' and is therefore a more certain
basis of knowledge than science, because nothing is more certain
than the word of God. At the samiC time, these things are given
in articles whose acceptance and interpretation belong to the intel-

The type of piety developed by this view of things is mystical. In
the mysticism of Aquinas all is intellectually conditioned. The vision
of God is essential knowledge. "Knowledge is the means of reaching
spiritual freedom, and the highest knowledge attained is nothing but
the natural result of the absolute knowledge given in vision."* But
just because everything is intellectually conditioned, nihil prohibit id
quod est certius secundam naturam, esse quod nos minus certum
propter dehilitatem intellectus nostri." The entire scheme in which
this mysticism moves admits of only "a. perpetually increasing
approach to the Deity, and never allows the feeling of sure posses-
sion to arise." The debility of our intellect never allows the process
of intellectual certification to become a demonstration." As with
Augustine, there is in the end a falling back upon authority, the
churchly guarantee. To be sure, there remains the experience of

'Harnack, History of Dogma, VI., p. 152 f.

J'Fisher, History of Doctrine, New York, 1896, p. 234 f.

*Hall, History of Christian Ethics, p. 325.

*Hamack, History of Dogma, VI., p. 106.

"Summa, Pars Prima, Quaest. I, Art. 2.

»Summa, Pars Tertia, Quaest. I, Art. 5, Resp.



beatific vision, summum hominis bonum.^ But this is granted to only
a very few. And beyond this there remain the judgment from
experience, always vitiated by subjective doubts and defects; and
the appeal to authority. As for the last of these, from the days of
Augustine it forbade positive assurance of personal salvation, defin-
ing it as praesumptio. Yet the Church enjoined hope, of which
Aquinas says, it is media inter praesumptionem et desperationem ex
parte nostra. And further, non potest esse superabundantia spei ex
parte Dei, cuius bonitas est infinita'

3. The Standard Catholic View.

The Catholic view of faith and Christian assurance developed in
the direction indicated by Augustine and Aquinas. Believers could
have no full or complete assurance except through special revelation
or by the witness of the Church. Chapter XII of the Decree of the
the Council of Trent concerning Justification makes this matter

Nemo quoque quamdiu in hac mortalitate vivitur de arcano divinae prae-
destinationis mysterio usque adeo praesumere debet, ut certo statuat, se omnino
esse in numerum praedestinatorum, quasi verum esset, quod justificatus aut
amplius peccare non possit, aut, si peccaverit, certam sibi resipiscentiam
promittere debeat. Nam, nisi ex speciali revelatione, sciri non potest, quos
Deus sibi eligerit.'

Chapter XIII, which deals with the gift of perseverance, enjoins

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Online LibraryHenry B. (Henry Burke) RobinsThe basis of assurance in recent Protestant theologies → online text (page 1 of 9)