Tag Archives: doctrine of assurance

Comma Grace

If anyone tells you that careful punctuation doesn’t matter, just ask them whether it’s important to discern the difference between “Let’s eat, grandpa!” and “Let’s eat grandpa!” Hopefully they’ll see the point — so to speak.

Not only can a missing comma lead to familial strife, it can also screw up your theology. In the King James Version of the Bible, Luke 23:32 is translated as follows:

And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death.

But in some early printings, so I’m told, the first of the two commas was inadvertently omitted:

And there were also two other malefactors, led with him to be put to death.

To think that the integrity of the atonement depended on a punctuation point!

A misplaced comma can do just as much theological damage as a missing one. At church last Sunday evening we sang the old hymn “Jesus Loves Me” from the Trinity Hymnal. The final stanza reads:

Jesus loves me, he will stay close beside me all the way;

If I love him, when I die he will take me home on high.

When sung to the traditional tune the rhythm of the melody is somewhat misleading, because the punctuation here is quite crucial. Here’s how it shouldn’t be written (and understood):

If I love him when I die, he will take me home on high.

A three-word shift in the comma makes an enormous soteriological difference! The entire doctrine of assurance is at stake in the correct placement of the punctuation mark.

Is this an instance of “comma grace”?

Calvinism, Assurance, and Inerrancy

I’m pretty sure that by now I’ve heard all the major objections to Calvinism. Some of them deserve to be taken seriously, although none are weighty enough to overturn the balance (or rather imbalance) of biblical evidence. Others objections, however, I find hard to credit at all. An example of the latter is the claim that the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election undermines assurance of salvation. Only this week a student was telling me about a professor at a nearby liberal arts college who had wielded this objection in his theology class. The objection is rarely articulated with precision, but as best I can make out the idea is that a Calvinist can’t enjoy assurance of salvation because he’ll always be fretting about whether or not he’s really elect. What if he’s a reprobate after all? He longs to peer into the secret will of God, but all in vain — for as Deuteronomy 29:29 declares, the “secret things” belong to the Lord God alone.

Continue reading