In Finding Assurance with Thomas Goodwin, Andrew S. Ballitch explores how deeply the doctrine of assurance of faith impacted Goodwin’s life and how Christians can learn from him today. In this interview, we discuss how Goodwin provides a “fantastic lifeline of help” to Christians seeking assurance—and we learn Ballitch is a Jiu Jitsu instructor!
Lexham Press: What is the inspiration behind Finding Assurance with Thomas Goodwin?
Andrew Ballitch: After studying the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries for a number of years with special attention given to the English Puritans, a project on Thomas Goodwin seemed like an exciting way forward. Reformation soteriology coupled with Puritan pastoral ministry brings the doctrine of assurance front and center. If salvation is determined by God’s election in eternity past, how can people know they are elect in the present? It was the question of the day. It remains a pertinent question to this day. And Goodwin’s articulation of the answer was the culmination of Puritan theology on the subject. I argue that Goodwin is the apex of the Puritan doctrine of assurance and seek to demonstrate how he is eminently beneficial for those experiencing a lack of assurance today.
LP: Who should read this book?
Ballitch: I had two general audiences in mind as I wrote this book.
First, those interested in the Puritans. Goodwin has so much of value to say, especially on the doctrine of assurance, that I wanted to make him available to individuals who may not be inclined to trudge through his twelve volumes of collected works, but none-the-less are interested in Goodwin and his contributions on the subject. This is why I spend a fair amount of time placing him in his historical context.
Second, my desire was to target Christians struggling with assurance. I am convinced, because of my own experience, ministry as a pastor, reading of Scripture, and exploration of Christian history, that all believers wrestle with assurance at different seasons in their lives and I believe Goodwin is a fantastic lifeline of help.
LP: Why do you write?
Ballitch: I write primarily because I like to have written. The process of writing is a grind.
Studying and hitting daily and weekly word count goals is a solitary experience that necessitates sacrifice in other areas of life. But writing is how I reflect, refine my thinking, and hone my opinions and convictions. The writing process feeds my soul and is at the same time part of me loving the Lord with all my mind. And when a project is done there is satisfaction in sharing with readers something that has been so formative for me.
Further, doing historical theology, I feel like I get to write about things of eternal significance, which is motivating for me. I have the privilege of writing about people I will spend forever with in heaven, doctrines that help us get there, and the mystery of God’s providence that we will behold when we do.
LP: Share something about yourself that only your friends would know.
Ballitch: I am a Jiu Jitsu instructor, with a black belt in Sport Jiu Jitsu and a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which means I am always sore and must explain away the occasional black eye. It’s continually challenging, helps me stay active, and I find it way more enjoyable than alternative forms of exercise. And an added bonus, I am starting to be able to introduce my kids to the sport.