The Assurance of Things Hoped for: A Theology of Christian Faith. By Avery Dulles. New York : Oxford University Press, 1994. 299 pp. Paper. $14.95.
What a fascinating book this is. Avery Dulles, a well-known and highly respected Roman Catholic theologian, presents a Catholic view of saving faith that is in places quite similar to that of Reformed Lordship Salvation.
He goes through church history and shows what different theologians have said. He discusses Calvin’s view that assurance is of the essence of saving faith, yet without using that precise expression (p. 47).
Infant baptism and the issue of whether babies in some sense receive faith when they are baptized (he says they do, pp. 241-42), is also discussed.
Chapter 14, entitled, “Concluding Synthesis,” is worth the price of the book. Here Dulles reviews all of his findings in the book. Here are some of his conclusions: “Faith in the theological sense…is a self-surrender to God” (p. 274). “Although not reducible to belief, faith includes belief as a fundamental and essential ingredient” (p. 276). “Faith is obscure. It lays hold of its object not directly but through signs and testimonies that present the object only in partial and inadequate ways” (p. 277). “The saving plan of God includes mysteries that are to some degree impenetrable by the human mind” (p. 277). “Faith sets the believer on the path to eternal life” (p. 279). “Eternal life will be the lot of those who believe, who strive to put their faith into practice, and who persevere in faith to the end” (p. 279).
Those are just a few example of a host of references that pastor s and Bible study teachers can use to show that for many today, saving faith is unknowable and that the Roman Catholic view of faith is, in many of its expressions, identical to that of Calvinists who hold to Lordship Salvation.
How sad it is that most people in most churches, Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant, view faith as surrender to God and something which will gain us eternal life if we keep on living the surrendered life to the end.
I highly recommend this book for any person who is well grounded in the truth of the gospel and who interested in the nature of saving faith, or in Roman Catholicism and Lordship Salvation.
Robert N. Wilkin
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Irving , Texas