Archive for the 'Eternal security' Category

Where do Scriptures say Christians can be lost?

Monday, December 29th, 2014

(courtesy sweetclipart.com)

By Spencer D Gear

If you want to find yourself in the midst of a Christian bun fight, raise the issue of once-saved-always-saved and the Arminian vs Calvinistic views and you can guarantee a start. It may not finish.

A fellow who believes in once-saved-always-saved (eternal security) challenged a poster on a Christian forum:

Show me in scripture where God ever lost one of His own.
Now if you want, we can continue to play these games.
But it still boils down to the fact that nowhere in scripture does it show God has ever lost one of His sheep to Satan, or ever let one saint slip from His hand.
I ask that you show me, where God lost one of His saints, prove it from scripture.[1]

Was he prepared for this kind of response?

A fellow, with an excellent knowledge of NT Greek, answered the challenge with some needed but technical language, to show in Scripture where God ever lost one of his own. He wrote:

John 15:6. “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.”

The Gospel According to John explicitly teaches that our salvation is conditional upon our abiding in Christ, and the Greek word translated ‘abide’ in English is the Greek word mene meaning to ‘abide,’ ‘remain,’ and ‘stay’ and is used in twelve of the New Testament books with these meanings. But before we go any further with this, we need to address the construction of conditional sentences in New Testament Greek.

There are the four kinds of conditional sentences found in the Greek New Testament:

1. The supposition of a fact. Example: For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; (1 Cor. 15:16). In this kind of conditional sentence we find the conditional Greek particle ei used with the verb in the indicative mood in the protasis (the “if” clause), and either the indicative mood or the imperative mood (or the subjunctive mood in the case of a prohibition) in the apodosis (the “then” clause).

2. The supposition of a possibility. Example: If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. (John 7:17). In this kind of conditional sentence we find the conditional Greek particle ean used with the verb in the subjunctive mood in the protasis, and either the indicative mood or the imperative mood (or the aorist subjunctive with ou me in the apodosis.

3 The supposition of an uncertainty. Example: who ought to have been present before you and to make accusation, if they should have anything against me. (Acts 24:19).

In this kind of conditional sentence we find the conditional Greek particle ei  used with the verb in the optative mood. There are no examples in the New Testament where this kind of conditional sentence is used having both the protasis and the apodosis.

4 The supposition of something contrary to fact. Example: If God were your Father, you would love Me. (John 8:42). In this kind of conditional sentence we find the conditional Greek particle  [ei] used with the verb in the protasis and the Greek particle an used with the verb in the apodosis with the indicative mood used in both the protasis and the apodosis.
With this information in mind, let’s look at the conditional sentences that we find in John 15:1-10:

John 15:4. “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” Although it is not apparent from this English translation, this verse does include a conditional clause and we find the conditional Greek particle ean  used with the verb in the subjunctive mood in the protasis. (Compare Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible, “remain in me, and I in you, as the branch is not able to bear fruit of itself, if it may not remain in the vine, so neither ye, if ye may not remain in me.”)

John 15:6. “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” Here we find the conditional Greek particle ean used with the verb in the subjunctive mood in the protasis and in the indicative mood in the apodosis.

John 15:7. “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you”. Here we find the conditional Greek particle ean used with the verb in the subjunctive mood in the protasis, and the indicative mood in the apodosis. Therefore, we have a supposition of a possibility – His disciples may or may not abide in Him. It depends upon them and their choices. If they choose to slip away – they slip away, and according Jesus, their slipping away is a possibility – and hence the warning!

John 15:10. “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” Here we find the conditional Greek particle ean used with the verb in the subjunctive mood in the protasis and in the indicative mood in the apodosis. The significance of this is that subjunctive mood in the protasis indicates that, in the mind of the speaker (Jesus), our keeping His commandments is a supposition of a possibility. Therefore it is not a question of who keeps us from falling, but a question of whether or not we continue to obey Christ and thereby continue to abide in Him. The choice, according to these words of Jesus, is ours.

John 15:16. “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.” We have no conditional clauses in this verse, but the verb that we are studying (translated here “remain” rather than “abide”) is in the subjunctive mood, the mood expressing a probability rather than a certainty. It is also worth pointing out that the mood of the several other verbs in this verse, hence:

John 15:16. “You did not choose (indicative) Me but I chose (indicative) you, and appointed (indicative) you that you would go (subjunctive) and bear (subjunctive) fruit, and that your fruit would remain (subjunctive), so that whatever you ask (subjunctive) of the Father in My name He may (subjunctive) give (subjunctive) to you.”

John 15:1. “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.
2. “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.
3. “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.
4. “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.
5. “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
6. “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.
7. “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

The word “abide” in verse 4 is in the subjunctive mood; Jesus is telling his disciple that unless they remain in him, they cannot bear fruit.

The word “abide” in verse 5 is in the imperative mood; Jesus is commanding His disciple to abide in him.

The word “abide” in verse 6 is in the subjunctive mood; Jesus is telling his disciple that if anyone does not remain in him, they are cast into the fire and are burned. This is a very stern warning in vivid language to those individuals who are in Christ that the consequence of failing to obey His command to remain in Him is to be dried up and burned like a dried up branch of a vine.

The word “abide” in verse 7 is in the subjunctive mood in both of its occurrences in this verse; Jesus is telling his disciple that if they (the you is plural) abide in Him and His words abide in them, they are to ask (imperative mood and hence a command) for whatever they wish and it will be done for them.

In these verses, the word “if” means “if,” not “since,” and the promises found in these verse, both the good and the bad, are conditional upon the disciples, individually, continuing to abide (remain) in Christ, and His words continuing to abide (remain) in them.

How do we continue to abide in Christ? Jesus answered that question for us, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (v. 10).[2]

Conclusion

This poster has nailed the issue. Christian salvation is only guaranteed for those who continue to abide in Christ. Continuing faith in Jesus is a condition of continuing salvation – and thus, eternal life.

See also my articles:

Based on the above evidence, decide for yourself whether the biblical evidence confirms or denies that some Christians can fall away from the faith. Also, see Carl Wieland’s, ‘Death of an apostate’ (i.e. Charles Templeton). Templeton in the 1940s was a colleague of Billy Graham in Youth for Christ.

clip_image001

(Courtesy Worldcat)

Michael Patton has written this sad but challenging article, ‘Billy Graham and Charles Templeton: A Sad Tale of Two Evangelists’.

I recommend the article by Roger E Olson, ‘What’s wrong with Calvinism?‘ (Patheos, March 22, 2013).

Notes


[1] Christian Forums, 16 November 2014, ‘OSASers choose to reject Jesus’ warnings about losing salvation!’, DeaconDean#152. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7842244-16/#post66634768 (Accessed 16 November 2014).

[2] Ibid., PrincetonGuy#155.

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 21 November 2015.

Can people lose their Christian salvation?

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

Free Gift

(courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

This has been a controversial subject throughout Christian history, but especially since the time of the Reformation. We have the Calvinists who defend the position that salvation cannot be lost and those who no longer continue to believe were not saved in the first place. Arminians respond, as I have below, that salvation can be lost when people commit apostasy.

Matt Slick’s view as a Calvinist is that ‘a Christian cannot lose his salvation’. And the author of Arminian Perspectives states that ‘we see that life abides in the Son and only those who presently “have” the Son “have” the life that abides in Him’.

What is apostasy?

Commit what? We don’t hear the word much these days. What is apostasy? In the English language, the definition given by dictionary.com is, ‘a total desertion of or departure from one’s religion, principles, party, cause, etc’.

A Christian-based definition is that apostasy is ‘a deliberate repudiation and abandonment of the faith that one has professed (Heb. 3:12). Apostasy differs in degree from heresy…. Perhaps the most notorious NT example is Judas Iscariot. Others include Demas (II Tim. 4:10) and Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Tim. 1:20)’ (Whitlock, Jr. 1984:70).

Hebrews 6:4-6 (ESV) is clear enough for me:

4 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

We also have 1 Timothy 1:18-20,

18 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme (ESV).

So by rejecting faith and a good conscience, some have shipwrecked their faith. Is that too difficult to understand?

Then we have John 3:36,

Whoever believes [continues believing] in the Son has [continues having] eternal life; whoever does not obey [continues not obeying] the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains [continues remaining] on him.

What I have inserted in square brackets [ ] indicates the meaning of the Greek present tense. There is only eternal life for those who continue believing in the Son, Jesus, and continuing to remain in him. There is no eternal life for those who continue not to obey the Son.

That’s Bible and I cannot arrive at the position you advocate while these verses are in Scripture.

My understanding is that if a person deliberately chooses to apostasize from the Christian faits, he/she loses salvation. See my articles:

See also,

If you don’t agree that salvation can be lost, take a read of Charles Templeton’s, Farewell to God (1996. Toronto, Ontario: McClelland & Stewart).

Farewell to God : my reasons for rejecting the Christian faith

(Courtesy Worldcat)

Works consulted

Whitlock, Jr., L G 1984. Apostasy, in Elwell, W A (ed), Evangelical dictionary of theology, 70. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 19 November 2015.

Was Judas saved and then lost?

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

File:Gustave Doré - Study for "The Judas Kiss" - Walters 371387.jpg

Gustave Doré – Study for “The Judas Kiss” (courtesy wikimedia commons)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Judas Iscariot and Peter were both picked by Jesus specifically to cast out devils, heal the sick, and preach the gospel (Matthew 10:1-27). I would not expect Jesus to choose men who were not in the kingdom and were not promoters of the kingdom of God.

Jesus placed his public approval upon these men when he picked them to be His Apostles and commissioned them to preach His gospel. This is a very important series of verses (Mt 10:1-27): note v 20, especially, ‘For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you’ (ESV).

So God’s Spirit was speaking through all 12 apostles, including Judas. Therefore Judas was of such a spiritual ranking that God’s Spirit spoke through him. Even though this is prior to Jesus’ death on the cross, it is made clear that the Spirit was working in and through Judas. In New Testament terms, he was a saved man.

Was Judas chosen for the kingdom of God and then lost his status or was Judas never ever chosen by Jesus for the kingdom? Or, was Judas chosen for destruction and damnation as ‘one of you [Judas] is a devil’?

What better place to start than with the Scriptures?

Good Book

ChristArt

 What do the Scriptures state?

Judas was first numbered among the Twelve apostles (Lk 6:13, 22:3; Acts 1:16-17). Acts 1:17 is clear about Judas’ role: ‘He was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry’. Therefore, this issue is unquestioned: Judas was ‘chosen’ by Christ Himself, and as the apostle Judas was one of the 12 chosen by Jesus (Lk 6:13; 22:3).

Luke 22:3: ‘Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve’ (ESV). That’s very clear. He was one of the twelve apostles chosen by Jesus.

John 6:70, Jesus asks the rhetorical question to His twelve apostles, ‘Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil?’

Matt. 26:23-24 He answered and said, ’He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born’.

In Luke 12:32 Jesus says to His disciples, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
This Scripture states that Matthias’ place was ‘to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place (Acts 1:25).
Jesus Himself provided the answer in John 17:12, ‘While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled’.

Matthew 27:3-5, ‘Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself’ (KJV).

The words ‘repented himself’ here (from the King James Version) are not the best possible translation of the underlying Greek. The Greek word means ‘regret’ or ‘remorse’ but it does not necessarily imply a change like the word for ‘repentance’ does. The World English Bible translates Matthew 27:3 as, “Then Judas, who betrayed him, when he saw that Jesus was condemned, felt remorse, and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders” (WEB).

‘Then they [Judas was there] that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God’ (Matthew 14:33 KJV).

Here we learn that Judas, with the others, was an unbeliever, and then the Lord Jesus adds in John 6:70-71 these words, “Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.”

Church Fathers (courtesy Wikipedia)

Let’s check out a few of the church fathers

Irenaeus (ca AD 125-202),[1] bishop of Lyons in Gaul about the year AD 180, wrote in Against Heresies (about AD 185), of Judas [2]

who was expelled from the number of the twelve, and never restored to his place…. but Judas was deprived [of his office], and cast out, while Matthias was ordained in his place….

But Judas having been once for all cast away, never returns into the number of the disciples; otherwise a different person would not have been chosen to fill his place. Besides, the Lord also declared regarding him, Woe to the man by whom the Son of man shall be betrayed; Matthew 26:24 and, It were better for him if he had never been born; Mark 14:21 and he was called the son of perdition John 17:12 by Him. (Against Heresies, 2.20.2, 5).

Chrysostom (ca AD 347-407),[3] was born and ministered in Antioch, Syria, and was the golden-mouthed expositor and orator. He wrote, ‘For Judas too was a child of the kingdom, and it was said to him with the disciples, You shall sit on twelve thrones; Matthew 19:28 yet he became a child of hell’ (Homily 26 on Matthew).

Ambrose of Milan (ca AD 340-397), [4] administrator and preacher, said, ‘For both Saul and Judas were once good…. Sometimes they are at first good, who afterwards become and continue evil; and for this respect they are said to be written in the book of life, and blotted out of it’ (cited from The Works of John Fletcher, p. 137).

St Augustine of Hippo (ca AD 354-430),[5] philosopher and theologian, in his Tractate 62 (John 13:26-21) had quite a bit to say about Judas and his condition. This is but a sample:

It was after this bread, then, that Satan entered into the Lord’s betrayer, that, as now given over to his power, he might take full possession of one into whom before this he had only entered in order to lead him into error. For we are not to suppose that he was not in him when he went to the Jews and bargained about the price of betraying the Lord; for the evangelist Luke very plainly attests this when he says: Then entered Satan into Judas, who was surnamed Iscariot, being one of the twelve; and he went his way, and communed with the chief priests. Luke 22:3-4. Here, you see, it is shown that Satan had already entered into Judas. His first entrance, therefore, was when he implanted in his heart the thought of betraying Christ; for in such a spirit had he already come to the supper. But now, after the bread, he entered into him, no longer to tempt one who belonged to another, but to take possession of him as his own.

But it was not then, as some thoughtless readers suppose, that Judas received the body of Christ. For we are to understand that the Lord had already dispensed to all of them the sacrament of His body and blood, when Judas also was present, as very clearly related by Saint Luke; Luke 22:19-21 and it was after this that we come to the moment when, in accordance with John’s account, the Lord made a full disclosure of His betrayer by dipping and holding out to him the morsel of bread, and intimating perhaps by the dipping of the bread the false pretensions of the other. For the dipping of a thing does not always imply its washing; but some things are dipped in order to be dyed. But if a good meaning is to be here attached to the dipping, his ingratitude for that good was deservedly followed by damnation (Tractate 62.2-3).

So Augustine regarded Judas as a man of ‘false pretensions’. Thus, it is inferred that Judas was not a genuine believer when he was tempted to betray Jesus. Irenaeus regarded Judas as being cast away from the 12, never to return. For Chrysostom, Judas was a child of the kingdom who became a child of hell. He was written in the book of life was Ambrose’s perspective and then Judas was blotted out of the book of life – he lost his salvation.

So for these church fathers, some believed Judas was never saved and was a pretender, but for others, Judas was saved and lost again.

A heretical forgery, a Gnostic gospel, ‘the Gospel of Judas‘, was found in the 1970s in an Egyptian cave.

 

Green Salvation Button

Tut tut says the Calvinist: Satan could not enter a believer

I was engaged in some interaction on Judas’ godly status or otherwise, on a Christian forum. One fellow, a Calvinist, responded: ‘Satan can enter believers? More heresy’.[6]

My response was:[7]

I do wish your presuppositions wouldn’t blind you to the facts recorded in the Gospels. Another person wrote:

Yes, he was a believer. Even Calvinists will tell you unbelievers want nothing to do with the gospel, the kingdom, and the King Himself. If he wasn’t a believer, he would have turned away from Jesus just as other disciples did. Judas fell away when Satan entered him.[8]

So what did one of these posters do? He labelled my post as ‘heresy’ because he believes that ‘Judas fell away when Satan entered him’
Let’s check out the Gospel facts. In Matthew 10, we note these Gospel details in the authoritative Scriptures:

  • ‘These twelve [including Judas] Jesus sent out, instructing them’ (Matt 10:5). How did Jesus describe these 12?
  • ‘Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves’ (Matt 10:16). So Jesus regarded Judas as one of his ‘sheep’.
  • ‘For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you’ (Matt 10:20). So all of the 12, including Judas, had the Holy Spirit of YOUR heavenly Father speaking through them. So, for Judas, God was HIS Father.

What happened later to Judas? ‘Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve’ (Luke 22:3).

Earlier, in response to another post, the person claimed: ‘I have my view. But if you believe that Satan can inhabit believes (sic), then you believe a heresy’.[9]

My reply was:[10]

That is a false claim in relation to Judas, as I showed in the thread on that forum.

Why must this person impose his own presuppositions on the biblical text and make it mean what it does not say? In hermeneutics (biblical interpretation), this is called eisegesis.

Judas was elected by Jesus as one of the 12, sent out to preach by Jesus and cast out demons, and the heavenly Father was Judas’s Father. The Spirit of the Father spoke through Judas. Then Satan entered Judas.

These are biblical facts and not heretical facts.

Based on these facts and those I have provided, this Calvinistic poster was engaging in eisegesis, but he called a poster a promoter of heresy because he believes Satan entered Judas and that can’t happen to a believer. However, the facts as recorded in the Gospels are that Satan entered Judas. I’m sticking with the biblical facts when I maintain that Judas was chosen by Jesus as one of the 12 to enter the kingdom, but he fell away when he allowed Satan to enter him and he denied association with Jesus – three times.

Scarlet Salvation Button

Calvinists refuse to accept loss of salvation

Calvinists have large problems with Judas being chosen as an apostle and then losing his chosen status when Satan entered him. Why? They are unable to accommodate anyone losing his/her salvation. It doesn’t fit with the presuppositions of a TULIP view of salvation.

Matthew Slick, a Calvinist, explained the P of the acronym, ‘Perseverance of the saints’:

You cannot lose your salvation. Because the Father has elected, the Son has redeemed, and the Holy Spirit has applied salvation, those thus saved are eternally secure. They are eternally secure in Christ. Some of the verses for this position are John 10:27-28 where Jesus said His sheep will never perish; John 6:47 where salvation is described as everlasting life; Romans 8:1 where it is said we have passed out of judgment; 1 Corinthians 10:13 where God promises to never let us be tempted beyond what we can handle; and Phil. 1:6 where God is the one being faithful to perfect us until the day of Jesus’ return.[11]

For an alternative – from an Arminian perspective – regarding salvation, see Brian Abasciano and Martin Glynn’s response to TULIP, represented by the acronym FACTS:

Freed by Grace (to Believe)
Atonement for All
Conditional Election
Total Depravity
Security in Christ

This view by Abasciano and Glynn provides this explanation of ‘security in Christ’:

  • Since salvation comes through faith in Christ, the security of our salvation continues by faith in Christ.
  • Just as the Holy Spirit empowered us to believe in Christ, so he empowers us to continue believing in Christ.
  • God protects our faith relationship with him from any outside force irresistibly snatching us away from Christ or our faith, and he preserves us in salvation as long as we trust in Christ.
  • Arminians have differing views of whether Scripture teaches that believers can forsake faith in Christ and so perish (the traditional view, held by most Arminians), or whether God irresistibly keeps believers from forsaking their faith and therefore entering into eternal condemnation (as unbelievers).[12]

Conclusion

The biblical evidence – as articulated above – points to Judas being chosen by Jesus, being a member of God’s kingdom and then losing his salvation when Satan entered him and he denied Jesus. I cannot conclude otherwise from an inductive study of Scripture.

Judas Iscariot (right), retiring from the Last Supper, painting by Carl Bloch, late 19th century (courtesy Wikipedia)

Works consulted

Cairns, E E 1981. Christianity through the centuries: A history of the Christian church. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

Notes


[1] Lifespan dates are from ‘St Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons: Biography’, Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Available at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/irenaeus (Accessed 29 December 2013).

[2] These details of Irenaeus are from Cairns (1981:110), who stated that he ‘was born in Smurna, had been influenced by Polycarp’s preaching while Polycarp was bishop of Smyrna’. Against Heresies is his ‘greatest work’ and ‘was done in the field of polemics writing against Gnosticism’ (Cairns 1981:10).

[3] Lifespan dates are from Cairns (1981:141).

[4] Lifespan dates are from Cairns (1981:145).

[5] Lifespan dates are from Cairns (1981:146).

[6] Hammster#22. 13 October 2013, Christian Forums, General Theology, Soteriology, ‘Does Matthew 13:11 support election and reprobation?’ Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7779586-3/ (Accessed 27 December 2013).

[7] Ibid., OzSpen#29.

[8] Ibid., Ask Seek Knock#20.

[9] Ibid., Hammster#25.

[10] Ibid., OzSpen#30.

[11] Matthew J Slick 2012. Calvinist Corner, ‘The five points of Calvinism’ (online). Available at: http://www.calvinistcorner.com/tulip.htm (Accessed 28 December 2013).

[12] ‘Security in Christ (Article 5)’ 2013, An Outline of the FACTS of Arminianism vs. The TULIP of Calvinism, February 28. Society of Evangelical Arminians. Available at: http://evangelicalarminians.org/an-outline-of-the-facts-of-arminianism-vs-the-tulip-of-calvinism/#ASC (Accessed 28 December 2013).

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 November 2015.

Controversies: Once saved, always saved

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

Ribbon Salvation Button Blue Salvation Button

By Spencer D Gear

It is predictable that in discussions on Christian themes in person and online, that there will be a dialogue, pro and con, regarding eternal security (often called once saved, always saved – OSAS) or perseverance of the saints. Sometimes this discussion can become somewhat heated.

In fact, Roger Olson, an Arminian, is of the view that there will be continuing Calvinistic-Arminian conflict in Christian theology. He wrote:

Whatever the future of the story of Christian theology brings forth, it is bound to be interesting. It always has been. And there are as-yet unresolved issues for theological reformers to work on. The major one, of course, is the old debate between monergists and synergists over God’s relationship with the world. New light from God’s Word is badly needed as the extremes of process theology and resurgent Augustinian-Calvinism polarize Christian thought as never before. While I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, I predict (with fear and trembling) that this issue will be the all-consuming one in Christian theology in the twenty-first century and that new insights and suggestions for resolving it will come from non-Western Christian thinkers. All the options of Western (European and North American) thought seem to have been proposed and have led only to reactions rather than resolutions. If this particular problem of theology is ever to be solved – even in part – the crucial insights will almost certainly need to come from outside of Western culture, with its dualistic mindset that insists on seeing divine and human agencies as in competition with one another (Olson 1999:612).

Double-Headed

(courtesy ChristArt)

 

A. Doubts about Arminians even being Christian

I encountered this and entered into some discussions with advocates of the OSAS position in a Christian online forum. Arminians have come under some provocative attacks (I write as a Reformed Arminian). Here are a couple of challenging examples:

(1) Kim Riddlebarger has stated, ‘Arminianism is not simply an alternative for evangelicals who are uncomfortable with certain doctrinal tenets of Calvinism. Taken to its logical conclusion, Arminianism is not only a departure from historic orthodoxy, but a serious departure from the evangel itself’ (Riddlebarger 1992:5, emphasis added).[1]

(2) Michael Horton has stated:

There will doubtless be Roman Catholics, Arminians, and others in Paradise who were saved by God’s grace even if they, like me, did not understand or appreciate that grace as much as they should have. Nevertheless, if we are going to still use “evangelical” as a noun to define a body of Christians holding to a certain set of convictions, it is high time we got clear on these matters. An evangelical cannot be an Arminian any more than an evangelical can be a Roman Catholic. The distinctives of evangelicalism were denied by Rome at the Council of Trent, by the Remonstrants in 1610, were confused and challenged by John Wesley in the eighteenth century, and have become either ignored or denied in contemporary “evangelicalism” (Horton 2013, emphasis added).[2]

Some do not want to use the dichotomy of synergism vs monergism. See:Monergism Versus Synergism: Beware, Kobayashi Maru Ahead!(John Kebbel, Society of Evangelical Arminians). However, for plying these definitions apart, Terrance L Tiessen, wrote:

Calvinism is monergistic in its soteriology, as evidenced particularly in two points in the well known acronym, TULIP – unconditional election and irresistible (or efficacious) grace. These points identify salvation as God’s sovereign work, in which God chose to glorify himself by saving particular people, in Christ, without any conditions on their part except those which God himself efficaciously enables them to fulfill, so that salvation is God’s work from beginning to end, even though it does not come about without human response.

By contrast, though Arminians also insist that salvation is a work of God’s grace, God does not determine who will be saved by it. His prevenient grace enables people to meet the conditions (repentance, faith, and obedience) which they could never have met on their own, but whether or not that grace eventuates in their salvation is determined by the individuals, not by God. So Arminianism has been dubbed “synergistic.”

In both of these understandings of salvation, God’s grace is essential, and in both of them people are not saved apart from their response to God’s grace. But because God determines the outcome in the Calvinist construct, it has been called “monergistic,” though it is clear that God is not the only actor. The key point is that God is the decisive actor, the one whose action determines the outcome.[3]

B. John 10:28-29 and eternal security

These verses read:

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand (ESV).

In responding to an Arminian who wrote about the falling away of believers in Hebrews 6:4-6, a Calvinist wrote on Christian Forums:

Let me put it another way.

Jesus said: “My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” -John 10:29 (KJV)

If sin, causes you to come out of the Father’s hand, if you, choosing to sin, takes you out of the Father’s hand, and costs you your salvation, then God ceases to omnipotent (all powerful). Sin, and man (namely you) are able to overpower and take yourself from His care.

Now which is corect (sic)?

No man, not even yourself can take you out of God’s hand, or is sin and man more powerful than God?

Either Jesus and scriptures are correct, or Jesus told a lie and subsequently the scriptures lie also, which means sin and man are more powerful than God.[4]

Another responded, ‘The problem is: in this church age, once you are saved by God, there is no way YOU can unsave yourself no matter what you do’.[5] DeaconDean’s reply was, ‘Sure there is. Haven’t you read the thread?’[6] I’d recommend a read of this online thread to see the back and forth between eternal security supporters – unconditional eternal security – and those who believe in conditional eternal security for Christian believers, i.e. between Calvinists and Arminians.

My reply to DeaconDean[7], who cited the Calvinist, John Gill, on John 10:28, Kittel and others. was:[8]

This is what happens when you read John 10:28-29 in isolation from the rest of John’s Gospel. It is true that ‘I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand…. no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand’ (emphasis added).

BUT this is what can happen. Take a read of John 15:6. This is in the context of being in the vine – God’s vine – and Jesus being the true vine and God the Father being the vinedresser (John 15:1). This is what John 15:6 states, ‘If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned (ESV, emphasis added).

The gracious power of God is comprehensively sufficient to protect every born-again Christian believer forever. But a believer can in the end be lost, because salvation is conditional. None of our enemies will be able to snatch us out of the Father’s/Jesus’ hands.
BUT … BUT, any Christians can turn from Jesus, enter into disbelief, commit apostasy and perish by wilful acts of their own. That’s what John 15:6 teaches: ‘‘If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away….’.

Therefore, John 10:28-29 is not an absolute that guarantees once-saved-always-saved (which, by the way, is not biblical language). Eternal life is granted to those who continue to believe. We know this from verses in John such as John 3:36; 6:47,

Whoever believes [Gk present tense – continues believing] in the Son has [Gk present tense – continues to have] eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him (John 3:36 ESV)

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes [Gk present tense – continues to believe] has [Gk present tense – continues to have] eternal life (John 6:47 ESV).

 

1. People can commit apostasy

Thus, eternal life only continues as long as a person continues to believe. He or she can commit apostasy by not continuing to believe in Christ for eternal life.

 Chuck Templeton (from Brad Templeton’s photo site)

I know people for whom this has happened and is continuing to happen – apostasy – and they were once vibrant Christians. Consider Charles Templeton, one of Billy Graham’s associates in Billy’s early days of ministry with Youth for Christ. See ‘Death of an apostate’.

Lee Strobel interviewed Templeton for Strobel’s book The case for faith (2000:9-46). Here is a grab from that interview:

And what about Jesus? I wanted to know what Templeton thought of the cornerstone of Christianity. “Do you believe Jesus ever lived?” I asked.

“No question,” came the quick reply.

“Did he think he was God?”

He shook his head. “That would have been the last thought that would have entered his mind.”

“And his teaching – did you admire what he taught?”

“Well, he wasn’t a very good preacher. What he said was too simple. He hadn’t thought about it. He hadn’t agonized over the biggest question there is to ask.”

“Which is …”

Is there a God? How could anyone believe in a God who does, or allows, what goes on in the world?”

“And how do you assess this Jesus?” It seemed like the next logical question – but I wasn’t ready for the response it would evoke.

Templeton’s body language softened. It was as if he suddenly felt relaxed and comfortable in talking about an old and dear friend. His voice, which at times had displayed such a sharp and insistent edge, now took on a melancholy and reflective tone. His guard seemingly down, he spoke in an unhurried pace, almost nostalgically, carefully choosing his words as he talked about Jesus.

“He was,” Templeton began, “the greatest human being who has ever lived. He was a moral genius. His ethical sense was unique. He was the intrinsically wisest person that I’ve ever encountered in my life or in my readings. His commitment was total and led to his own death, much to the detriment of the world. What could one say about him except that this was a form of greatness?”

I was taken aback. “You sound like you really care about him,” I said.

“Well, yes, he is the most important thing in my life,” came his reply. “I . . . I . . . I . . . ,” he stuttered, searching for the right word, ‘I know it may sound strange, but I have to say . . . I adore him!” . . .

” . . . Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus. Yes . . . yes. And tough! Just look at Jesus. He castigated people. He was angry. People don’t think of him that way, but they don’t read the Bible. He had a righteous anger. He cared for the oppressed and exploited. There’s no question that he had the highest moral standard, the least duplicity, the greatest compassion, of any human being in history. There have been many other wonderful people, but Jesus is Jesus….’

“Uh . . . but . . . no,’ he said slowly, ‘he’s the most . . .” He stopped, then started again. “In my view,” he declared, “he is the most important human being who has ever existed.”

That’s when Templeton uttered the words I never expected to hear from him. “And if I may put it this way,” he said as his voice began to crack, ‘I . . . miss . . . him!”

With that tears flooded his eyes. He turned his head and looked downward, raising his left hand to shield his face from me. His shoulders bobbed as he wept. . . .

Templeton fought to compose himself. I could tell it wasn’t like him to lose control in front of a stranger. He sighed deeply and wiped away a tear. After a few more awkward moments, he waved his hand dismissively. Finally, quietly but adamantly, he insisted: “Enough of that” (Strobel 2000:20-21).

https://i0.wp.com/thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/files/2013/05/001.gif?resize=315%2C248

Chuck Templeton, Torrey Johnson and Billy Graham in a publicity photo for the European trip taken in the YFC offices in Chicago, about  March 1946. (Billy Graham Center Archives, Wheaton College) [courtesy Justin Taylor].

However, Hebrews 6:4-6 is very clear about what happens to those who apostatise from the faith: ‘It is impossible to restore [them] again to repentance’ (6:4).

What, then, is apostasy?

Apostasy refers to

defection from the faith, an act of unpardonable rebellion against God and his truth. The sin of apostasy results in the abandonment of Christian doctrine and conduct. With respect to the covenant relationship established through prior profession of faith (passive profession in the case of baptized infants), apostates place themselves under the curse and wrath of God as covenant breakers, having entered into a state of final and irrevocable condemnation. Those who apostatize are thus numbered among the reprobate. Since the resurrection of Christ, there is no distinction between blasphemy against Christ and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (cf. Matt 12:31-32; Heb 6:4-6 ; 10:26-29 ; 1 John 5:16-17) [Karlberg 1996].

John 10:28-29 cannot be read in isolation apart from John 3:36; 6:47 and 15:6.

I have to be honest with what the text says, based on the tenses of the original language.

I do not think that you will like this kind of news (and it shouldn’t be new news for you), but that is what the texts say.

And have a guess what? First Timothy 1:19 and Hebrews 6:4-6 confirm that this can happen. People can continue to believe or to discontinue in belief. They then move from eternal life to eternal damnation. That’s how I see the Bible unfolding.

I have to be honest with the biblical text and in this case, with John’s Gospel.

I replied:[9]

So I respectfully disagree with your ‘accessment’. I do hope you mean assessment and not accessment. Accessment is not a word in my dictionary (also check Dictionary.com).

Also he wrote, ‘Now, regarding the Hebrews passage, I’m sure your (sic) familiar with Kittles (sic)?’ His name is spelled Kittel.
I agree with the Greek exegesis of Kittel (I have the 10 volumes of the Theological Dictionary that he co-edited with Gerhard Friedrich) where he explained that a person who commits apostasy cannot be brought again to repentance. That’s Bible!

See my detailed exposition of Hebrews 6:4-8 in my, ‘Once Saved, Always Saved or Once Saved, Lost Again? What you have cited from John Gill on Heb. 6:4-6 is not in agreement with the exegesis I have provided in my exposition.

I wrote, that John 10:28-29 should not be read in isolation from John 3:36; 6:47 and 15:6′. What did I notice in his response? He provided not one word to refute the content of John 3:36; 6:47 and 15:6, which teach that eternal life is conditional on people continuing to believe. People will continue to have eternal life if they continue to believe and they continue to remain in the vine. These verses are contrary to the view this person was advocating.

In my understanding of the exegesis, a once saved, always saved view is not taught by these verses that require continuing belief to enter eternal life. And that is taught by John 3:16 as well, ‘whoever believes’ means ‘whoever continues to believe’ because the Greek for ‘believes’ is a present tense Greek participle, indicating continuing action. Thus affirming the other verses that I’ve cited from John that continuing / continuous believing is needed to enter and retain eternal life.

Thus, perseverance of the saints is a much more biblical description of the perspective in Scripture – as I understand the Greek present tense used in the verses I have mentioned – than a once saved, always saved view (based on my understanding of the Greek grammar of the meaning of the present tense).

In the Baptist church in which I was raised, I was taught the view this person advocated of once saved, always saved. But my examination of these Scriptures has brought me to the view I am here sharing. I take seriously the Scriptural injunction:

‘Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers [and sisters], for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness’ (James 3:1 ESV).

The NLT and the new NIV correctly translate adelphoi as brothers and sisters, based on the Greek etymology This is shown in the New Living Translation and the latest NIV. Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek lexicon confirms that ‘brother’ as in the singular adelphos means any believer, male or female. Arndt and Gingrich note that ‘Jesus calls everyone who is devoted to him brother Mt 12:50; Mk 3:25, esp. the disciples Mt 28:10; J 20:17. Hence gener. for those in such spiritual communion Mt 25:40; Hb 2:12 (Ps 21:23[22:22), 17 al’ (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:15-16).

So I respectfully come to a different conclusion to yours.

C. Conditional security in John’s Gospel

Another poster wrote:[10]

John 8:31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you ?abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.

This shows the principle and is why in John 15:6 those branches that are burned do not abide in His word as opposed to those in v7.

John 15:6-7 If anyone does not abide in Me, ??he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. ?7? If you abide in Me, and My words ?abide in you, ?you ?will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you

My response was:[11]

Now let’s do the exegesis to obtain the meaning of John 8:31, which stated in full reads, ‘So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples”’ (ESV).

‘Had believed’ is a perfect tense, active voice, participle. Thus it means that those believed in the past and had continuing results of believing. As for ‘abide’ it is an aorist subjunctive verb. It is the conditional subjunctive and a point action, but it needs to be combined with the perfect tense of ‘had believed’ to understand that the meaning is that these Jews had believed in Jesus but they had continuing results of their believing. As a result, they ‘are’ (present tense, continuous action) continuing to be his disciples.

Therefore, based on this exegesis of the Greek text, eternal security is based on continuing to be a disciple. This is not talking about once saved and no longer serving God. It is talking about once saved and continuing to be saved by continuing to believe. That’s why I find the language of ‘once saved, always saved’ to send a message that does not line up with the biblical message of continuing to believe to attain eternal life (as in John 3:16; 3:36; 6:47; 15:6).

John 15:6-7 affirms the need to continue to abide (believe) to remain in the vine.

His response was somewhat unexpected:[12]

After reading your comments here, without going back rereading all the earlier posts I am confused as to why we have disagreed. Other than these in v30 had believed just as Jesus had spoken in the preceding verses and later on in this chapter we see that it is not leading to their salvation. But as far as your other explanations in this post I would agree that saving faith is a one time event that needs not to be renewed but saving faith is a present tense action that will evidence itself in abiding in His word. God looks at the heart and even know the future so He is not sealing and unsealing His children. They are sealed unto the day of redemption. It is God holding on to us and not us holding on to God, Ps 37:23-24, God is the one performing the action of the holding on to us. That is why I agree with Paul when he said being fully persuaded that He who began the good work in you will perform it unto the end.

I’m not of the view that we are agreeing with the need to continue to believe and that it is possible for a genuine believer to commit apostasy. So I replied:[13]

I’m not so sure that we are in agreement as I have provided verses to confirm that John 10:28-29 is in harmony with John 3:16; 3:36; 6:47; and 15:6 where believers are required to continue to believe to attain eternal life. Thus OSAS, in my understanding, is an improper explanation of this view as apostasy can be committed (1 Tim 1:19; Heb 6:4-6; 1 John 4:1-3).

Is it your understanding that a person can be generally saved, continue to follow Jesus, walk away from the faith and then commit apostasy? And the person who commits apostasy cannot be brought again to repentance (Heb 6:4-6). If this is your view, then we are on the same page. But is that your view?

But the OSAS is what I was raised on and I’ve rejected it because I do not find it taught with a consistent hermeneutic in Scripture.

D. Continuing belief needed for eternal security

I do wish my two friends who have committed apostasy would be able to return to repentance, but Hebrews 6:4-6 says that is not possible as ‘they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt’ (6:6 ESV). Heb. 6:4 is adamant in its teaching about those who commit apostasy: ‘for it is impossible to restore again to repentance’. That’s not the way my limited understanding of compassion and mercy works. But that’s based on the absolute justice, empathy, love and compassion of the absolutely honest Almighty God.

I have an ultimate commitment to the Lord God Almighty who revealed His will in the infallible Scriptures (in the original languages).[14]

Let’s check out …

 

E.  R C H Lenski, a Lutheran, on John 10:28-29

John 10:28 in Lenski’s translation is, ‘And I will give them life eternal, and they shall in no wise perish forever, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand’ (Lenski 1943:754-755). Of this verse, Lenski wrote of the second half of the verse, beginning with ‘they shall in no wise perish forever’:

This is a double and direct promise; the doubling increases the emphasis. “To perish” is to be separated from God, life, and blessedness forever. John and Paul use especially the middle voice [i.e. meaning ‘for oneself’ – SDG] of the verb in this sense…. It is the opposite of being saved…. “Shall in no way perish” would itself be enough, the modifier “forever” is added pleonastically[15]: this dreadful act shall never occur…. This promise holds good from the moment of faith onward. The verb “to perish” never means “to suffer annihilation,” or to cease to exist.

The first part of the promise is stated from the viewpoint of the sheep: they shall never perish. The second part is from the viewpoint of Jesus and of any hostile being that might attack the sheep: No one shall snatch them out of his hand…. The “hand” of Jesus is his power. His gracious power is all-sufficient to protect every believer forever (Lenski 2001:756).

But wait a minute! Are there not New Testament passages that warn about the danger of a true believer falling away? Reading Lenski on John 10:28 it sounds like Jesus’ followers are saved forever and shall never ever experience anything that would cause them to lose their salvation. But that is not what he concludes from John 10:28. He continues, ‘However weak the sheep are, under Jesus they are perfectly safe. Yet a believer may after all be lost (15:6). Our certainty of eternal salvation is not absolute. While no foe of ours is able to snatch us from our Shepherd’s hand, we ourselves may turn from him and may perish wilfully of our own accord’ (Lenski 2001:756).

His translation of John 10:29 is, ‘My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand’ (Lenski 2001:757). He explained that ‘has given’ is in the perfect tense in Greek and ‘has its usual force: a past act when the Son entered on his mission and its abiding effect as long as that mission endures’. In addition, ‘while “greater” is broad, here it must refer especially to power: the Father exceeds in power every being arrayed against the sheep (Satan, demon spirits, human foes however mighty)’ (2001:758).

But what about nobody ‘able to snatch us from our Shepherd’s hand’? Surely that sounds like a sine qua non to affirm once saved, always saved? Lenski explains:

After thus declaring the Father’s might, it might seem superfluous for Jesus to add, “and no one can snatch them out of the Father’s hand,” for this is certainly self-evident. The reason for the addition lies far deeper. Jesus deliberately parallels what he says of himself, “no one shall snatch them out of my hand,” with what he says of his Father, “no one can snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” The fact that he mentions the detail (“shall snatch”) with reference to himself is due to his being on his saving mission; that he mentions the possibility (“can snatch”) with reference to the Father is due to the Father’s institution of that mission. Both thus belong together; Father and Son, fact and possibility. Does the promise of Jesus, standing there in human form before the Jews, sound preposterous, that no one shall snatch his sheep out of his hand? To snatch them out of his hand is the same as snatching them out of the Father’s hand. Remember the relation of these two hands as his relation centers in the sheep (Lenski 2001:758-759, emphasis in original).

Lenski applies this understanding to John 10:30, his translation being, ‘I and the Father, we are one’. He explains that ‘what is thus prepared [in the preceding verse] is now pronounced in so many words: “I and the Father, we are one”. The equal power to protect the sheep is due to the equality of these two persons. This makes the mighty acts of equal protection perfectly plain. This makes the mighty acts of equal protection perfectly plain’ (Lenski 2001:759).

Lenski has already indicated that John 10:28-29 does not mean that eternal security is affirmed absolutely, ‘Our certainty of eternal salvation is not absolute. While no foe of ours is able to snatch us from our Shepherd’s hand, we ourselves may turn from him and may perish wilfully of our own accord’ (2001:756).

Mountains

(courtesy ChristArt)

 

F. Is any kind of reconciliation possible?

It is evident from these discussions on a Christian online forum that there was no movement by Calvinists affirming unconditional eternal security and my position as a Reformed Arminian, enunciating a conditional eternal security position. The view that one needs to continue to believe to guarantee eternal security (John 3:16; 3:36; 6:47; 15:6) did not make any impact on these people. It is also evident that some Calvinists, who are anti-Arminian (e.g. Riddlebarger & Horton) have doubts about Arminians being evangelical Christians and even align them with a heresy (Arianism).

There seem to be some aspects of Christian theology where there can be no reconciliation between Calvinists and Arminians. Roger Olson, an evangelical Arminian, claims that these include the nature of God and the understanding of free will. He wrote:

Contrary to popular belief, then, the true divide at the heart of the Calvinist-Arminian split is not predestination versus free will but the guiding picture of God: he is primarily viewed as either (1) majestic, powerful, and controlling or (2) loving, good, and merciful. Once the picture (blik) is established, seemingly contrary aspects fade into the background, are set aside as “obscure” or are artificially made to fit the system. Neither side absolutely denies the truth of the other’s perspective, but each qualifies the attributes of God that are preeminent in the other’s perspective. God’s goodness is qualified by his greatness in Calvinism, and God’s greatness is qualified by his goodness in Arminianism.

Arminians can live with the problems of Arminianism more comfortably than with the problems of Calvinism. Determinism and indeterminism cannot be combined; we must choose one or the other. In the ultimate and final reality of things, people either have some degree of self-determination or they don’t. Calvinism is a form of determinism. Arminians choose indeterminism largely because determinism seems incompatible with God’s goodness and with the nature of personal relationships. Arminians agree with Arminius, who stressed that “the grace of God is not ‘a certain irresistible force…. It is a Person, the Holy Spirit, and in personal relationships there cannot be the sheer over-powering of one person by another’” (in Olson 2006:73-74).

Therefore, Olson reaches the conclusion that

the continental divide between Calvinism and Arminianism, then, lies with different perspectives about God’s identity in revelation. Divine determinism creates problems in God’s character and in the God-human relationship that Arminians simply cannot live with. Because of their controlling vision of God as good, they are unable to affirm unconditional reprobation (which inexorably follows from unconditional election) because it makes God morally ambiguous at best. Denying divine determinism in salvation leads to Arminianism (Olson 2006:74).

It was Olson (2006:74, n. 21) who alerted me to what R C Sproul (1986:139-160) addressed the double-predestination issue. Sproul wrote:

DOUBLE predestination. The very words sound ominous. It is one thing to contemplate God’s gracious plan of salvation for the elect. But what about those who are not elect? Are they also predestined? Is there a horrible decree of reprobation? Does God destine some unfortunate people to hell?…

Unless we conclude that every human being is predestined to salvation, we must face the flip side of election. If there is such a thing as predestination at all, and if that predestination does not include all people, then we must not shrink from the necessary inference that there are two sides to predestination. It is not enough to talk about Jacob; we must also consider Esau (Sproul 1986:141).

Sproul regard Romans 9:16 as fatal to Arminianism. He quotes the New King James Version, ‘So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy’. The ESV reads, ‘So then it depends not on human will or exertion,[16]but on God, who has mercy’. Sproul’s commentary is:

Though Paul is silent about the question of future choices here, he does not remain so. In verse 16 he makes it clear. “So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.” This is the coup de grace[17] to Arminianism and all other non-Reformed views of predestination. This is the Word of God that requires all Christians to cease and desist from views of predestination that make the ultimate decision for salvation rest in the will of man. The apostle declares: It is not of him who wills. This is in violent contradiction to the teaching of Scripture. This one verse is absolutely fatal to Arminianism.

It is our duty to honor God. We must confess with the apostle that our election is not based on our wills but on the purposes of the will of God (Sproul 1986:151).

How does an Arminian respond to such an attack on the Arminian view of election/predestination and human responsibility (free will)? I am in agreement with Olson that

the nature of free will is another point where Calvinism and Arminianism diverge and where no middle ground seems possible. Because of their vision of God as good (loving, benevolent, merciful), Arminians affirm libertarian free will. (Philosophers call it incompatibilist free will because it is not compatible with determinism)…. Arminians do not believe in absolute free will; the will is always influenced and situated in a context. Even God is guided by his nature and character when making decisions. But Arminians deny that creaturely decisions and actions are controlled by God or any force outside the self (Olson 1986:75).

As noted by Olson, the Calvinistic, compatibilist free will (if Calvinists talk of free will at all)

is compatible with determinism. This is the only sense of free will that is consistent with Calvinism’s vision of God as the all-determining reality. In compatibilist free will, persons are free so long as they do what they want to do – even if God is determining their desires. This is why Calvinists can affirm that people sin voluntarily and are therefore responsible for their sins even though they could not do otherwise. According to Calvinism God foreordained the Fall of Adam and Eve, and rendered it certain (even if only by an efficacious permission) by withdrawing the grace necessary to keep them from sinning. And yet they sinned voluntarily. They did what they wanted to do even if they were unable to do otherwise. This is a typical Calvinist account of free will.[18]

Once again it is difficult to see how a hybrid of these two views of free will could be created. Could people have freely chosen to do something different than they actually did? Some Calvinists (such as Jonathan Edwards) agree with Arminians that people have the natural ability to do otherwise (e.g., avoid sinning). But what about moral ability? Arminians agree with Calvinists that apart from the grace of God all fallen humans choose to sin; their will is bound to sin by original sin manifesting itself as total depravity (Olson 2006:75).

However, Arminians describe it differently to free will. This moral ability that people have is called prevenient grace, given to them by God. Again, Olson:

Arminians do not call this free will because these people cannot do otherwise (except in terms of deciding which sins to commit!). From the Arminian perspective prevenient grace restores free will so that humans, for the first time, have the ability to do otherwise – namely, respond in faith to the grace of God or resist it in unrepentance and disbelief. At the point of God’s call, sinners under the influence of prevenient grace have genuine free will as a gift of god; for the first time they can freely say yes or no to God. Nothing outside the self determines how they will respond. Calvinists say that humans never have that ability in spiritual matters (any possibility in any matters). People always do what they want to do, and God is the ultimate decider of human wants even though when it comes to sin, God works through secondary causes And never directly causes anyone to sin. These two views are incommensurable. To the Arminian, compatibilist free will is no free will at all. To the Calvinist, incompatibilist free will is a myth; it simply cannot exist because it would amount to an uncaused effect, which is absurd[19] (Olson 2006:75-76, emphasis added).

Contrary to Sproul, Romans 9:16 is not fatal to Calvinism. The Calvinistic and Arminian views of free will are not compatible. Sproul’s view seems to involve his imposition of a Calvinistic worldview on Romans 9:16. What about Romans 9:14-18, which reads:

What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

This refers back to Exodus 7 and 8. If we note that context, we see that Pharaoh ‘hardened his heart’ (Ex 8:15) and ‘Pharaoh’s heart was hardened’ by God (Ex 8:19). So none of the application in Romans 9 excludes the action of individual responsibility for Pharaoh hardening his own heart and thus God hardened it. Human responsibility was not excluded in God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart in Exodus, as it is in God’s showing mercy and demonstrating hardening Romans 9. God’s actions and human responsibility go together in God’s super plan for the universe.

Therefore, I find Sproul quite wrong in his wanting to make Romans 9:16 to be ‘absolutely fatal to Arminianism’. Calvinism’s and Arminians’ concept of free will, election and predestination are described very differently, so the finger needs to be pointed to Sproul’s faulty understanding of the differences between Arminianism and Calvinism and making his judgement on a Calvinistic basis instead of reading Arminians on their own terms.

Therefore, there can be no reconciliation on the concepts of free will between Arminians and Calvinists while they maintain the positions as expounded above.

 

G. Conclusion

The conclusion is that none the twain shall meet. Calvinists will continue to believe in unconditional eternal security and Reformed/classical Arminians will continue to believe that it is possible for a person to commit apostasy for whom there is then no repentance possible to return to salvation.

For a biblical explanation of prevenient grace, see my articles,

clip_image002 Is prevenient grace still amazing grace?

clip_image002[1] The injustice of the God of Calvinism

clip_image002[2]Some Calvinistic antagonism towards Arminians

Other writings to confirm conditional security

I have written on this topic elsewhere. See:

clip_image004 Spencer Gear: Conversations with a Calvinist on apostasy

clip_image004[1] Spencer Gear: Once Saved, Always Saved or Once Saved, Lost Again?

clip_image004[2] Matthew Murphy: Practical Problems with OSAS

clip_image004[3] Spencer Gear: What does it mean to shipwreck your faith?

clip_image004[4] Spencer Gear: Is the Holy Spirit’s seal a guarantee of eternal security?

clip_image004[5]Matt O’Reilly: Eternally secure, provided that…

clip_image004[6] Spencer Gear: What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?

clip_image004[7] Spencer Gear: Does God want everyone to receive salvation?

clip_image004[8]Steve Witzki: The Inadequate Historical Precedent for ‘Once Saved, Always Saved

clip_image004[9] Spencer Gear: Does God’s grace make salvation available to all people?

clip_image004[10] Spencer Gear: Calvinists, free will and a better alternative

clip_image004[11] Spencer Gear: Is it possible or impossible to fall away from the Christian faith?

clip_image004[12] Steve Jones: Calvinism Critiqued by a Former Calvinist

clip_image004[13]Roy Ingle: Holding Firmly, I Am Held (An Arminian Approach to Eternal Security)

Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House)

Edwards, J n d. Freedom of the will. Christian Classics Etherial Library (CCEL).Available at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edwards/will.html (Accessed 28 September 2013).

Horton, M S 2013. Evangelical Arminians: Option or oxymoron?[20] in Reformation online, September 28. Available at: http://www.reformationonline.com/arminians.htm (Accessed 28 September 2013).

Lenski, R C H 2001. Commentary on the New Testament: The interpretation of St. John’s Gospel. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers.[21]

Karlberg, M W 1996. Apostasy, in W A Elwell (ed), Baker’s evangelical dictionary of biblical theology. Available at BibleStudyTools.com, http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/apostasy.html (Accessed 8 July 2013).

Olson, R E 1999. The story of Christian theology: Twenty centuries of tradition and reform. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Academic.

Olson, R E 2006. Arminian theology: Myths and realities. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Academic.

Peterson, R A & Williams, M D 1992. Why I am not an Arminian. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

Riddlebarger, K 1992. Fire and water. Modern reformation, May/June, 1-8 (Archives of Modern reformation, Riddleblog). Available at: http://kimriddlebarger.squarespace.com/from-the-archives/fire%20and%20water.pdf (Accessed 29 September 2013).

Strobel, L 2000 The case for faith: A journalist investigates the toughest objections to Christianity. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Notes


[1] I was alerted to this citation by Olson (2006:79).

[2] Olson (2006:81) referred me to a portion of this citation, thus directing me to the original article.

[3] Terrence L Tiessen, Thoughts Theological, Is sanctification synergistic or monergistic? April 9, 2013, available at: http://thoughtstheological.com/is-sanctification-synergistic-or-monergistic/ (Accessed 29 September 2013).

[4] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘Eternal security’, DeaconDean#73, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7775412-8/ (Accessed 28 September 2013).

[5] Danv8#74, ibid.

[6] DeaconDean#75, ibid.

[7] His post was at DeaconDean#73, ibid.

[8] OzSpen#79, ibid.

[9] OzSpen#93, ibid.

[10] iwbswiaihl #81 (emphasis in original), ibid.

[11] OzSpen#94, ibid.

[12] iwbswiaihl #96, ibid.

[13] OzSpen#98, ibid.

[14] I wrote the above 2 paragraphs as OzSpen#99, ibid.

[15] This means ‘the use of more words than are necessary to express an idea; redundancy’ (Dictionary.com, accessed 28 September 2013).

[16] Here the ESV footnote is, ‘Greek not of him who wills or runs’.

[17] The online Free Dictionary gives the meaning of coup de grace as, ‘a death blow, esp. one delivered mercifully to end suffering’ and ‘any finishing or decisive stroke’.

[18] Here Olson referred to Peterson & Williams 1992:136-161).

[19] At this point, Olson gave the footnote, ‘The classic Calvinist critique of libertarian free will is found in Jonathan Edward’s treatise “Freedom of the Will”’ (Olson 1986:76, n. 23). For this treatise, see Edwards (n d).

[20] This was originally published in Modern Reformation, 1 (3) May-June 1992, available at: http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var1=ArtRead&var2=776&var3=searchresults&var4=Search&var5=Evangelical_Arminians (Accessed 28 September 2013).

[21] This was originally published in 1943 by Lutheran Book Concern and assigned to Augsburg Publishing House in 1961.

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 3 November 2015.

Did Arminius refute eternal security?

Sunday, September 29th, 2013

‘I never taught that a true believer can either totally orfinally fall away from the faith and perish’ (Jacob Arminius)

Jacobus Arminius

Jacob Arminius (courtesy About.com)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Jacob Arminius, the founder of what has become known as Arminianism, wrote that it is “impossible for believers, as long as they remain believers to decline from salvation” (Arminius 1977:281). However, he admitted that at one time he did say “That it was possible for believers finally to decline or fall away from the faith and salvation” (Arminius 1977:281).

Perseverance of the Saints

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It is worthy of quoting him at some length in his segment onThe Perseverance of the Saints’:

My sentiments respecting the perseverance of the saints are, that those persons who have been grafted into Christ by true faith, and have thus been made partakers of his life-giving Spirit, possess sufficient powers [or strength] to fight against Satan, sin, the world and their own flesh, and to gain the victory over these enemies—yet not without the assistance of the grace of the same Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ also by his Spirit assists them in all their temptations, and affords them the ready aid of his hand; and, provided they stand prepared for the battle, implore his help, and be not wanting to themselves, Christ preserves them from falling. So that it is not possible for them, by any of the cunning craftiness or power of Satan, to be either seduced or dragged out of the hands of Christ. But I think it is useful and will be quite necessary in our first convention, [or Synod] to institute a diligent inquiry from the Scriptures, whether it is not possible for some individuals through negligence to desert the commencement of their existence in Christ, to cleave again to the present evil world, to decline from the sound doctrine which was once delivered to them, to lose a good conscience, and to cause Divine grace to be ineffectual.

Though I here openly and ingenuously affirm, I never taught that a true believer can, either totally or finally fall away from the faith, and perish; yet I will not conceal, that there are passages of scripture which seem to me to wear this aspect; and those answers to them which I have been permitted to see, are not of such a kind as to approve themselves on all points to my understanding. On the other hand, certain passages are produced for the contrary doctrine [of unconditional perseverance] which are worthy of much consideration (Arminius 1977:254, emphasis in original).

Assurance of Salvation

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He had this to write aboutThe Assurance of Salvation’:

With regard to the certainty [or assurance] of salvation, my opinion is, that it is possible for him who believes in Jesus Christ to be certain and persuaded, and, if his heart condemn him not, he is now in reality assured, that he is a son of God, and stands in the grace of Jesus Christ. Such a certainty is wrought in the mind, as well by the action of the Holy Spirit inwardly actuating the believer and by the fruits of faith, as from his own conscience, and the testimony of God’s Spirit witnessing together with his conscience. I also believe, that it is possible for such a person, with an assured confidence in the grace of God and his mercy in Christ, to depart out of this life, and to appear before the throne of grace, without any anxious fear or terrific dread: and yet this person should constantly pray, “O lord, enter not into judgment with thy servant!”

But, since “God is greater than our hearts, and knoweth all things,” and since a man judges not his own self—yea, though a man know nothing by himself, yet is he not thereby justified, but he who judgeth him is the Lord, (1 John iii. 19; 1 Cor. iv. 3,) I dare not [on this account] place this assurance [or certainty] on an equality with that by which we know there is a God, and that Christ is the saviour of the world. Yet it will be proper to make the extent of the boundaries of this assurance, a subject of inquiry in our convention (Arminius 1977:255).

Can Christian believers fall away from the faith?

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In his ‘Apology or Defence’ (Articles I & II) he wrote:

A distinction ought to be made between power and action. For it is one thing to declare, that “it is possible for the faithful to fall away from faith and salvation,” and it is another to say, that “they do actually fall away.” This distinction is of such extensive observance, that even antiquity itself was not afraid of affirming, concerning the elect and those who were to be saved, “that it was possible for them not to be saved;” and that “the mutability by which it was possible for them not to be willing to obey God, was not taken away from them,” although it was the opinion of the ancients, “that such persons never would in reality be damned.” On this very subject, too, the greater part of our own doctors lay down a difference. For they say, “that it is possible for such persons to fall away, if their nature, which is inclined to lapses and defection, and if the temptations of the world and Satan, be the only circumstances taken into consideration: but that they will not finally fall away, because God will bring back to himself his own elect before the end of life.” If any one asserts, “that it is not possible for believers, in consideration of their being elect persons, finally to fall away from salvation, because God has decreed to save them,” I answer, the decree concerning saving does not take away the possibility of damning, but it removes damnation itself. For “to be actually saved,” and “a possibility of not being saved,” are two things not contrary to each other, but in perfect agreement.

I therefore add, that in this way I have hitherto discriminated these two cases. And at one time I certainly did say, with an explanation subjoined to it, “that it was possible for believers finally to decline or fall away from faith and salvation.” But at no period have I asserted, “that believers do finally decline or fall away from faith or salvation.” This article, therefore, is ascribed to one who is not its author; and it is another offense against historical veracity.

I subjoin, that there is a vast difference between the enunciation of these two sentences. (1.) “It is possible for believers to decline from the FAITH ;” and (2.) “It is possible for believers to decline from SALVATION.” For the latter, when rigidly and accurately examined, can scarcely be admitted; it being impossible for believers, as long as they remain believers, to decline from salvation. Because, were this possible, that power of God would be conquered which he has determined to employ in saving believers. On the other hand, if believers fall away from the faith and become unbelievers, it is impossible for them to do otherwise than decline from salvation, that is, provided they still continue unbelievers. Therefore, whether this hypothesis be granted or not, the enunciation cannot be accurately expressed. For if this hypothesis (their perseverance in faith) be granted, they cannot decline; but if it be not granted, they cannot do otherwise than decline. (2.) But that first enunciation includes no hypothesis; and therefore an answer may be given to it simply, either that it is possible, or that it is impossible. For this cause, the second article ought to be corrected in the following manner: “It is possible for believers finally to fall away or decline from the faith;” or rather, “Some believers finally fall away and decline from the faith.” This being granted, the other can be necessarily inferred, “therefore they also actually decline from salvation.” Respecting the truth of this [Second] article, I repeat the same observations which I made about the First. For the following expressions are reciprocal to each other, and regular consequences: “Faith is peculiar to the elect,” and “believers do not finally fall away from the faith.” In like manner, “Faith is not peculiar to the elect,” and “Some believers finally decline from the faith”  (Arminius 1977:280-282).

As a Reformed Arminian,

I recommend the article by Roger E Olson, ‘What’s wrong with Calvinism?‘ (Patheos, March 22, 2013).

 

Works consulted:

Arminius J 1977. The Writings of James Arminius, vol. 1. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, also available at Christian Classics Ethereal Library at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/arminius/works1.iv.i.html (Accessed 29 September 2013).

Jacob Arminius (courtesy Christian History Institute)

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 12 March 2016.

Controversies: Once saved, always saved

Sunday, September 29th, 2013

By Spencer D Gear

Razor

(image courtesy ChristArt)

It is predictable that in discussions on Christian themes online, that there will be a dialogue, pro and con, regarding eternal security (often called once saved, always saved – OSAS) or perseverance of the saints. Sometimes this discussion can become somewhat heated.

In fact, Roger Olson, an Arminian, is of the view that there will be continuing Calvinistic-Arminian conflict in Christian theology. He wrote:

Whatever the future of the story of Christian theology brings forth, it is bound to be interesting. It always has been. And there are as-yet unresolved issues for theological reformers to work on. The major one, of course, is the old debate between monergists and synergists over God’s relationship with the world. New light from God’s Word is badly needed as the extremes of process theology and resurgent Augustinian-Calvinism polarize Christian thought as never before. While I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, I predict (with fear and trembling) that this issue will be the all-consuming one in Christian theology in the twenty-first century and that new insights and suggestions for resolving it will come from non-Western Christian thinkers. All the options of Western (European and North American) thought seem to have been proposed and have led only to reactions rather than resolutions. If this particular problem of theology is ever to be solved—even in part—the crucial insights will almost certainly need to come from outside of Western culture, with its dualistic mindset that insists on seeing divine and human agencies as in competition with one another (Olson 1999:612).

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Roger E Olson (Courtesy InterVarsity)

I encountered this and entered into some discussions with advocates of the OSAS position in a Christian online forum. Arminians have come under some provocative attacks (I write as a Reformed Arminian). Here are a couple of provocative examples:

(1) Kim Riddlebarger has stated, ‘Arminianism is not simply an alternative for evangelicals who are uncomfortable with certain doctrinal tenets of Calvinism.Taken to its logical conclusion, Arminianism is not only a departure from historic orthodoxy, but a serious departure from the evangel itself’ (Riddlebarger 1992:5, emphasis added).[1]

(2) Michael Horton has stated:

There will doubtless be Roman Catholics, Arminians, and others in Paradise who were saved by God’s grace even if they, like me, did not understand or appreciate that grace as much as they should have. Nevertheless, if we are going to still use “evangelical” as a noun to define a body of Christians holding to a certain set of convictions, it is high time we got clear on these matters. An evangelical cannot be an Arminian any more than an evangelical can be a Roman Catholic. The distinctives of evangelicalism were denied by Rome at the Council of Trent, by the Remonstrants in 1610, were confused and challenged by John Wesley in the eighteenth century, and have become either ignored or denied in contemporary “evangelicalism” (Horton 2013, emphasis added).[2]

Some do not want to use the dichotomy of synergism vs monergism. See:Monergism Versus Synergism: Beware, Kobayashi Maru Ahead!(John Kebbel, Society of Evangelical Arminians). However, for plying these definitions apart, Terrance L Tiessen, wrote:

Calvinism is monergistic in its soteriology, as evidenced particularly in two points in the well known acronym, TULIP – unconditional election and irresistible (or efficacious) grace. These points identify salvation as God’s sovereign work, in which God chose to glorify himself by saving particular people, in Christ, without any conditions on their part except those which God himself efficaciously enables them to fulfill, so that salvation is God’s work from beginning to end, even though it does not come about without human response.

By contrast, though Arminians also insist that salvation is a work of God’s grace, God does not determine who will be saved by it. His prevenient grace enables people to meet the conditions (repentance, faith, and obedience) which they could never have met on their own, but whether or not that grace eventuates in their salvation is determined by the individuals, not by God. So Arminianism has been dubbed “synergistic.”

In both of these understandings of salvation, God’s grace is essential, and in both of them people are not saved apart from their response to God’s grace. But because God determines the outcome in the Calvinist construct, it has been called “monergistic,” though it is clear that God is not the only actor. The key point is that God is the decisive actor, the one whose action determines the outcome.[3]

In responding to an Arminian who wrote about the falling away of believers in Hebrews 6:4-6, a Calvinist, DeaconDean, wrote on a Christian Forums:

Let me put it another way.

Jesus said: “My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” -John 10:29 (KJV)

If sin, causes you to come out of the Father’s hand, if you, choosing to sin, takes you out of the Father’s hand, and costs you your salvation, then God ceases to omnipotent (all powerful). Sin, and man (namely you) are able to overpower and take yourself from His care.

Now which is corect (sic)?

No man, not even yourself can take you out of God’s hand, or is sin and man more powerful than God?
Either Jesus and scriptures are correct, or Jesus told a lie and subsequently the scriptures lie also, which means sin and man are more powerful than God.
[4]

Another responded, ‘The problem is: in this church age, once you are saved by God, there is no way YOU can unsave yourself no matter what you do’.[5] DeaconDean’s reply was, ‘Sure there is. Haven’t you read the thread? clip_image004[6] I’d recommend a read of this online thread to see the back and forth between eternal security supporters – supporters of unconditional security – and those who believe in conditional eternal security for Christian believers, i.e. between Calvinists and Arminians.

My reply to DeaconDean[7], who cited the Calvinist, John Gill, on John 10:28, Kittel and others was:[8]

This is what happens when you read John 10:28-29 in isolation from the rest of John’s Gospel. It is true that ‘I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand…. no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand’ (emphasis added).

BUT this is what can happen. Take a read of John 15:6. This is in the context of being in the vine – God’s vine – and Jesus being the true vine and God the Father being the vinedresser (John 15:1). This is what John 15:6 states, ‘If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned’ (ESV).

The gracious power of God is comprehensively sufficient to protect every born-again Christian believer forever. But a believer can in the end be lost, because salvation is conditional. None of our enemies will be able to snatch us out of the Father’s/Jesus’ hands.
BUT … BUT, any Christians can turn from Jesus, enter into disbelief, commit apostasy and perish by wilful acts of their own. That’s what John 15:6 teaches.

Therefore, John 10:28-29 is not an absolute that guarantees once-saved-always-saved (which, by the way, is not biblical language; neither is it biblical theology – in my view). Eternal life is granted to those who continue to believe. We know this from verses in John such as John 3:36; 6:47,

‘Whoever believes [Gk present tense – continues believing] in the Son has [Gk present tense – continues to have] eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him’ (John 3:36 ESV).

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes [Gk present tense – continues to believe] has [Gk present tense – continues to have] eternal life (John 6:47 ESV).

Thus, eternal life only continues as long as a person continues to believe. He or she can commit apostasy by not continuing to believe in Christ for eternal life and repudiating belief in Jesus.

I know people for whom this has happened and is continuing to happen – apostasy – and they were once vibrant Christians.

John 10:28-29 cannot be read in isolation apart from John 3:36; 6:47 and 15:6.

I have to be honest with what the text says, based on the tenses of the original language.I do not think that this person will like this kind of news (and it shouldn’t be new news for him), but that is what the texts say. And have a guess what? FirstTimothy 1:19 and Hebrews 6:4-6 confirm that this can happen. People can continue to believe or to discontinue to belief. They then move from eternal life to eternal damnation. That’s how I see the Bible unfolding.

I have to be honest with the biblical text and in this case, with John’s Gospel.

I replied:[9]

So I respectfully disagree with your accessment. I do hope you mean assessment and not accessment. Accessment is not a word in my dictionary (also check Dictionary.com).

Also he wrote, ‘Now, regarding the Hebrews passage, I’m sure your familiar with Kittles?’ His name is spelled Kittel.

I agree with the Greek exegesis of Kittel (I have the 10 volumes of the Theological Dictionary that he co-edited with Gerhard Friedrich) where he explained that a person who commits apostasy cannot be brought again to repentance. That’s Bible!

See my detailed exposition of Hebrews 6:4-8 in my,Once Saved, Always Saved or Once Saved, Lost Again? What you have cited from John Gill on Heb. 6:4-6 is not in agreement with the exegesis I have provided in my exposition.

I wrote, that John 10:28-29 should not be read in isolation from John 3:36; 6:47 and 15:6. What did I notice in his response? He provided not one word to refute the content of John 3:36; 6:47 and 15:6, which teach that eternal life is conditional on people continuing to believe. People will continue to have eternal life if they continue to believe and they continue to remain in the vine. These verses are contrary to the view this person was advocating.

In my understanding of the exegesis, a once saved, always saved view is not taught by these verses that require continuing belief to enter eternal life. And that is taught by John 3:16 as well, ‘whoever believes’ means ‘whoever continues to believe’ because the Greek for ‘believes’ is a present tense Greek participle, indicating continuing action. Thus affirming the other verses that I’ve cited from John that continuing / continuous believing is needed to enter and retain eternal life.

Thus, perseverance of the saints is a much more biblical description of the perspective in Scripture – as I understand the Greek present tense used in the verses I have mentioned – than a once saved, always saved view (based on my understanding of the Greek grammar of the meaning of the present tense).

In the Baptist church in which I was raised, I was taught the view this person was advocating of once saved, always saved. But my examination of these Scriptures has brought me to the view I am here sharing. I take seriously the Scriptural injunction:

‘Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers [and sisters], for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness’ (James 3:1 ESV)

The NLT and the new NIV correctly translate adelphoi as brothers and sisters, based on the Greek etymology This is shown in the New Living Translation and the latest NIV. Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek lexicon confirms that ‘brother’ as in the singular adelphos means any believer, male or female. Arndt and Gingrich note that ‘Jesus calls everyone who is devoted to him brother Mt 12:50; Mk 3:25, esp. the disciples Mt 28:10; J 20:17. Hence gener. for those in such spiritual communion Mt 25:40; Hb 2:12 (Ps 21:23[22:22), 17 al’ (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:15-16).

So I respectfully come to a different conclusion to this person.

Conditional security in John’s Gospel

Another poster wrote:[10]

John 8:31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you ?abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.
This shows the principle and is why in John 15:6 those branches that are burned do not abide in His word as opposed to those in v7.

John 15:6-7 If anyone does not abide in Me, ??he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. ?7? If you abide in Me, and My words ?abide in you, ?you ?will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you

 

My response was:[11]

Now let’s do some exegesis to obtain the meaning of John 8:31, which stated in full reads, ‘So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples”’ (ESV).

‘Had believed’ is a perfect tense, active voice, participle. Thus it means that those believed in the past and had continuing results of believing. As for ‘abide’ it is an aorist subjunctive verb. It is the conditional subjunctive and a point action, but it needs to be combined with the perfect tense of ‘had believed’ to understand that the meaning is that these Jews had believed in Jesus but they had continuing results of their believing. As a result, they ‘are’ (present tense, continuous action) continuing to be his disciples.

Therefore, based on this exegesis of the Greek text, eternal security is based on continuing to be a disciple. This is not talking about once saved and no longer serving God. It is talking about once saved and continuing to be saved by continuing to believe. That’s why I find the language of ‘once saved, always saved’ to send a message that does not line up with the biblical message of continuing to believe to attain eternal life (as in John 3:16; 3:36; 6:47; 15:6).

John 15:6-7 affirms the need to continue to abide (believe) to remain in the vine.

His response was somewhat unexpected:[12]

After reading your comments here, without going back rereading all the earlier posts I am confused as to why we have disagreed. Other than these in v30 had believed just as Jesus had spoken in the preceding verses and later on in this chapter we see that it is not leading to their salvation. But as far as your other explanations in this post I would agree that saving faith is a one time event that needs not to be renewed but saving faith is a present tense action that will evidence itself in abiding in His word. God looks at the heart and even know the future so He is not sealing and unsealing His children. They are sealed unto the day of redemption. It is God holding on to us and not us holding on to God, Ps 37:23-24, God is the one performing the action of the holding on to us. That is why I agree with Paul when he said being fully persuaded that He who began the good work in you will perform it unto the end.

I’m not of the view that this fellow espouses on two items: (a) For eternal security, there is a need to continue to believe, and (2) It is possible for a genuine believer to commit apostasy.

So I replied:[13]

I’m not so sure that we are in agreement as I have provided verses to confirm that John 10:28-29 is in harmony with John 3:16; 3:36; 6:47; and 15:6 where believers are required to continue to believe to attain eternal life. Thus OSAS, in my understanding, is an improper explanation of this view as apostasy can be committed (1 Tim 1:19; Heb 6:4-6; 1 John 4:1-3).

Is it your understanding that a person can be generally saved, continue to follow Jesus, walk away from the faith and then commit apostasy? And the person who commits apostasy cannot be brought again to repentance (Heb 6:4-6). If this is your view, then we are on the same page. But is that your view?

But the OSAS is what I was raised on and I’ve rejected it because I do not find it taught with a consistent hermeneutic in Scripture.

Continuing belief needed for eternal security

I do wish my two friends who have committed apostasy would be able to return to repentance, but Hebrews 6:4-6 says that is not possible as “they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt” (6:6 ESV). Heb. 6:4 is adamant in its teaching about those who commit apostasy: “for it is impossible to restore again to repentance”. That’s not the way my limited understanding of compassion and mercy works. But that’s based on the absolute justice, empathy, love and compassion of the absolutely honest Almighty God.

I have an ultimate commitment to the Lord God Almighty who revealed His will in the infallible Scriptures (in the original languages).[14]

Let’s check out …

Richard C H Lenski, a Lutheran, on John 10:28-29

Cover of: Commentary on the New Testament by R.C.H. Lenski

Lenski’s NT Commentaries (Courtesy Open Library)

John 10:28 in Lenski’s translation is, ‘And I will give them life eternal, and they shall in no wise perish forever, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand’ (Lenski 1943:754-755). Of this verse, Lenski wrote of the second half of the verse, beginning with ‘they shall in no wise perish forever’:

This is a double and direct promise; the doubling increases the emphasis. “To perish” is to be separated from God, life, and blessedness forever. John and Paul use especially the middle voice [i.e. meaning ‘for oneself’ – SDG] of the verb in this sense…. It is the opposite of being saved…. “Shall in no way perish” would itself be enough, the modifier “forever” is added pleonastically[15]: this dreadful act shall never occur…. This promise holds good from the moment of faith onward. The verb “to perish” never means “to suffer annihilation,” or to cease to exist.

The first part of the promise is stated from the viewpoint of the sheep: they shall never perish. The second part is from the viewpoint of Jesus and of any hostile being that might attack the sheep: No one shall snatch them out of his hand…. The “hand” of Jesus is his power. His gracious power is all-sufficient to protect every believer forever (Lenski 2001:756).

But wait a minute! Are there not New Testament passages that warn about the danger of a true believer falling away? Reading Lenski on John 10:28 it sounds like Jesus’ followers are saved forever and shall never ever experience anything that would cause them to lose their salvation. But that is not what he concludes from John 10:28. He continues, ‘However weak the sheep are, under Jesus they are perfectly safe. Yet a believer may after all be lost (15:6). Our certainty of eternal salvation is not absolute. While no foe of ours is able to snatch us from our Shepherd’s hand, we ourselves may turn from him and may perish wilfully of our own accord’ (Lenski 2001:756).

His translation of John 10:29 is, ‘My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand’ (Lenski 2001:757). He explained that ‘has given’ is in the perfect tense in Greek and ‘has its usual force: a past act when the Son entered on his mission and its abiding effect as long as that mission endures’. In addition, ‘while “greater” is broad, here it must refer especially to power: the Father exceeds in power every being arrayed against the sheep (Satan, demon spirits, human foes however mighty)’ (Lenski 2001:758).

But what about nobody ‘able to snatch us from our Shepherd’s hand’? Surely that sounds like a sine qua non to affirm once saved, always saved? Lenski explains:

After thus declaring the Father’s might, it might seem superfluous for Jesus to add, “and no one can snatch them out of the Father’s hand,” for this is certainly self-evident. The reason for the addition lies far deeper. Jesus deliberately parallels what he says of himself, “no one shall snatch them out of my hand,” with what he says of his Father, “no one can snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” The fact that he mentions the detail (“shall snatch”) with reference to himself is due to his being on his saving mission; that he mentions the possibility (“can snatch”) with reference to the Father is due to the Father’s institution of that mission. Both thus belong together; Father and Son, fact and possibility. Does the promise of Jesus, standing there in human form before the Jews, sound preposterous, that no one shall snatch his sheep out of his hand? To snatch them out of his hand is the same as snatching them out of the Father’s hand. Remember the relation of these two hands as his relation centers in the sheep (Lenski 2001:758-759, emphasis in original).

Lenski applies this understanding to John 10:30, his translation being, ‘I and the Father, we are one’. He explains that ‘what is thus prepared [in the preceding verse – SDG] is now pronounced in so many words: “I and the Father, we are one”. The equal power to protect the sheep is due to the equality of these two persons. This makes the mighty acts of equal protection perfectly plain. This makes the mighty acts of equal protection perfectly plain’ (Lenski 2001:759).

Lenski has already indicated that John 10:28-29 does not mean that eternal security is affirmed absolutely, ‘Our certainty of eternal salvation is not absolute. While no foe of ours is able to snatch us from our Shepherd’s hand, we ourselves may turn from him and may perish wilfully of our own accord’ (2001:756).

Conclusion

It is evident from these discussions in a Christian online forum that there was no movement by Calvinists affirming unconditional eternal security and my position as a Reformed Arminian, enunciating a conditional eternal security position. The view that one needs to continue to believe to guarantee eternal security (John 3:16; 3:36; 6:47; 15:6) did not make any impact on these people. It is also evident that some Calvinists, who are anti-Arminian (e.g. Riddlebarger & Horton) have doubts about Arminians being evangelical Christians and even align them with a heresy (Arianism).

There seem to be some aspects of Christian theology where there can be no reconciliation between Calvinists and Arminians. Roger Olson, an evangelical Arminian, claims that these include the nature of God and the understanding of free will. He wrote:

Contrary to popular belief, then, the true divide at the heart of the Calvinist-Arminian split is not predestination versus free will but the guiding picture of God: he is primarily viewed as either (1) majestic, powerful, and controlling or (2) loving, good, and merciful. Once the picture (blik) is established, seemingly contrary aspects fade into the background, are set aside as “obscure” or are artificially made to fit the system. Neither side absolutely denies the truth of the other’s perspective, but each qualifies the attributes of God that are preeminent in the other’s perspective. God’s goodness is qualified by his greatness in Calvinism, and God’s greatness is qualified by his goodness in Arminianism.

Arminians can live with the problems of Arminianism more comfortably than with the problems of Calvinism. Determinism and indeterminism cannot be combined; we must choose one or the other. In the ultimate and final reality of things, people either have some degree of self-determination or they don’t. Calvinism is a form of determinism. Arminians choose indeterminism largely because determinism seems incompatible with God’s goodness and with the nature of personal relationships. Arminians agree with Arminius, who stressed that “the grace of God is not ‘a certain irresistible force…. It is a Person, the Holy Spirit, and in personal relationships there cannot be the sheer over-powering of one person by another’” (in Olson 2006:73-74).

Therefore, Olson reaches the conclusion that

the continental divide between Calvinism and Arminianism, then, lies with different perspectives about God’s identity in revelation. Divine determinism creates problems in God’s character and in the God-human relationship that Arminians simply cannot live with. Because of their controlling vision of God as good, they are unable to affirm unconditional reprobation (which inexorably follows from unconditional election) because it makes God morally ambiguous at best. Denying divine determinism in salvation leads to Arminianism (Olson 2006:74).

It was Olson (2006:74, n. 21) who alerted me to what R C Sproul (1986:139-160) addressed the double-predestination issue. Sproul wrote:

DOUBLE predestination. The very words sound ominous. It is one thing to contemplate God’s gracious plan of salvation for the elect. But what about those who are not elect? Are they also predestined? Is there a horrible decree of reprobation? Does God destine some unfortunate people to hell?…

Unless we conclude that every human being is predestined to salvation, we must face the flip side of election. If there is such a thing as predestination at all, and if that predestination does not include all people, then we must not shrink from the necessary inference that there are two sides to predestination. It is not enough to talk about Jacob; we must also consider Esau (Sproul 1986:141, emphasis in original).

Sproul regard Romans 9:16 as fatal to Arminianism. He quotes the New King James Version, ‘So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy’. The ESV reads, ‘So then it depends not on human will or exertion,[16]but on God, who has mercy’. Sproul’s commentary is:

Though Paul is silent about the question of future choices here, he does not remain so. In verse 16 he makes it clear. “So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.” This is the coup de grace[17] to Arminianism and all other non-Reformed views of predestination. This is the Word of God that requires all Christians to cease and desist from views of predestination that make the ultimate decision for salvation rest in the will of man. The apostle declares: It is not of him who wills. This is in violent contradiction to the teaching of Scripture. This one verse is absolutely fatal to Arminianism.

It is our duty to honor God. We must confess with the apostle that our election is not based on our wills but on the purposes of the will of God (Sproul 1986:151).

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R C Sproul (courtesy Wikipedia)

How does an Arminian respond to such an attack on the Arminian view of election/predestination and human responsibility (free will)? I am in agreement with Olson that

the nature of free will is another point where Calvinism and Arminianism diverge and where no middle ground seems possible. Because of their vision of God as good (loving, benevolent, merciful), Arminians affirm libertarian free will. (Philosophers call it incompatibilist free will because it is not compatible with determinism…. Arminians do not believe in absolute free will; the will is always influenced and situated in a context. Even God is guided by his nature and character when making decisions. But Arminians deny that creaturely decisions and actions are controlled by God or any force outside the self (Olson 1986:75).

As noted by Olson, the Calvinistic, compatibilist free will (if Calvinists talk of free will at all)

is compatible with determinism. This is the only sense of free will that is consistent with Calvinism’s vision of God as the all-determining reality. In compatibilist free will, persons are free so long as they do what they want to do – even if God is determining their desires. This is why Calvinists can affirm that people sin voluntarily and are therefore responsible for their sins even though they could not do otherwise. According to Calvinism God foreordained the Fall of Adam and Eve, and rendered it certain (even if only by an efficacious permission) by withdrawing the grace necessary to keep them from sinning. And yet they sinned voluntarily. They did what they wanted to do even if they were unable to do otherwise. This is a typical Calvinist account of free will.[18]

Once again it is difficult to see how a hybrid of these two views of free will could be created. Could people have freely chosen to do something different than they actually did? Some Calvinists (such as Jonathan Edwards) agree with Arminians that people have the natural ability to do otherwise (e.g., avoid sinning). But what about moral ability? Arminians agree with Calvinists that apart from the grace of God all fallen humans choose to sin; their will is bound to sin by original sin manifesting itself as total depravity (Olson 1986:75).

However, Arminians describe it differently to free will. This moral ability that people have is called prevenient grace, given to them by God. Again, Olson:

Arminians do not call this free will because these people cannot do otherwise (except in terms of deciding which sins to commit!). From the Arminian perspective prevenient grace restores free will so that humans, for the first time, have the ability to do otherwise – namely, respond in faith to the grace of God or resist it in unrepentance and disbelief. At the point of God’s call, sinners under the influence of prevenient grace have genuine free will as a gift of god; for the first time they can freely say yes or no to God. Nothing outside the self determines how they will respond. Calvinists say that humans never have that ability in spiritual matters (any possibility in any matters). People always do what they want to do, and God is the ultimate decider of human wants even though when it comes to sin, God works through secondary causes And never directly causes anyone to sin. These two views are incommensurable. To the Arminian, compatibilist free will is no free will at all. To the Calvinist, incompatibilist free will is a myth; it simply cannot exist because it would amount to an uncaused effect, which is absurd[19] (Olson 1986:75-76, emphasis added).

Contrary to Sproul, Romans 9:16 is not fatal to Calvinism. The Calvinistic and Arminian views of free will are not compatible. Sproul’s view seems to involve his imposition of a Calvinistic worldview on Romans 9:16. What about the context of Romans 9:14-18, which reads:

What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

This refers back to Exodus 7 and 8. If we note that context, we see that Pharaoh ‘hardened his heart’ (Ex 8:15) and ‘Pharaoh’s heart was hardened’ by God (Ex 8:19). So none of the application in Romans 9 excludes the action of individual responsibility for Pharaoh hardening his own heart and thus God hardened it. Human responsibility was not excluded in God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart in Exodus, as it is in God’s showing mercy and demonstrating hardening Romans 9. God’s actions and human responsibility God together in God’s super plan for the universe.

Therefore, I find Sproul quite wrong in his wanting to make Romans 9:16 to be ‘absolutely fatal to Arminianism’. Calvinism’s and Arminians’ concept of free will, election and predestination are described very differently, so the finger needs to be pointed to Sproul’s faulty understanding of the differences between Arminianism and Calvinism and making his judgement on a Calvinistic basis instead of reading Arminians on their own terms.

For a biblical explanation of prevenient grace, see my articles,

clip_image008 Is prevenient grace still amazing grace?

clip_image008[1] The injustice of the God of Calvinism

clip_image008[2]Some Calvinistic antagonism towards Arminians

Other writings to confirm conditional security

I have written on this topic elsewhere. See:

clip_image010 Spencer Gear: Conversations with a Calvinist on apostasy

clip_image010[1] Spencer Gear: Once Saved, Always Saved or Once Saved, Lost Again?

clip_image010[2] Matthew Murphy: Practical Problems with OSAS

clip_image010[3] Spencer Gear: What does it mean to shipwreck your faith?

clip_image010[4] Spencer Gear: Is the Holy Spirit’s seal a guarantee of eternal security?

clip_image010[5]Matt O’Reilly: Eternally secure, provided that…

clip_image010[6] Spencer Gear: What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?

clip_image010[7] Spencer Gear: Does God want everyone to receive salvation?

clip_image010[8]Steve Witzki: The Inadequate Historical Precedent for ‘Once Saved, Always Saved

clip_image010[9] Spencer Gear: Does God’s grace make salvation available to all people?

clip_image010[10] Spencer Gear: Calvinists, free will and a better alternative

clip_image010[11] Spencer Gear: Is it possible or impossible to fall away from the Christian faith?

clip_image010[12] Steve Jones: Calvinism Critiqued by a Former Calvinist

clip_image010[13]Roy Ingle: Holding Firmly, I Am Held (An Arminian Approach to Eternal Security)

I recommend the article by Roger E Olson, ‘What’s wrong with Calvinism?‘ (Patheos, March 22, 2013).

Bibliography

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House)

Edwards, J n d. Freedom of the will. Christian Classics Etherial Library (CCEL). Available at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edwards/will.html (Accessed 28 September 2013).

Horton, M S 2013. Evangelical Arminians: Option or oxymoron?[20] in Reformation online, September 28. Available at: http://www.reformationonline.com/arminians.htm (Accessed 28 September 2013).

Lenski, R C H 2001. Commentary on the New Testament: The interpretation of St. John’s Gospel. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers.[21]

Olson, R E 1999. The story of Christian theology: Twenty centuries of tradition and reform. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Academic.

Olson, R E 2006. Arminian theology: Myths and realities. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Academic.

Peterson, R A & Williams, M D 1992. Why I am not an Arminian. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

Riddlebarger, K 1992. Fire and water. Modern reformation, May/June, 1-8 (Archives of Modern reformation, Riddleblog). Available at: http://kimriddlebarger.squarespace.com/from-the-archives/fire%20and%20water.pdf (Accessed 29 September 2013).

Notes:


[1] I was alerted to this citation by Olson (2006:79).

[2] Olson (2006:81) referred me to a portion of this citation, thus directing me to the original article.

[3] Terrence L Tiessen, Thoughts Theological, Is sanctification synergistic or monergistic? April 9, 2013, available at: http://thoughtstheological.com/is-sanctification-synergistic-or-monergistic/ (Accessed 29 September 2013).

[4] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘Eternal security’, DeaconDean#73, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7775412-8/ (Accessed 28 September 2013).

[5] Danv8#74, ibid.

[6] DeaconDean#75, ibid.

[7] His post was at DeaconDean#73, ibid.

[8] OzSpen#79, ibid.

[9] OzSpen#93, ibid.

[10] iwbswiaihl #81 (emphasis in original), ibid.

[11] OzSpen#94, ibid.

[12] iwbswiaihl #96, ibid.

[13] OzSpen#98, ibid.

[14] I wrote the above 2 paragraphs as OzSpen#99, ibid.

[15] This means ‘the use of more words than are necessary to express an idea; redundancy’ (Dictionary.com, accessed 28 September 2013).

[16] Here the ESV footnote is, ‘Greek not of him who wills or runs’.

[17] The online Free Dictionary gives the meaning of coup de grace as, ‘a death blow, esp. one delivered mercifully to end suffering’ and ‘any finishing or decisive stroke’.

[18] Here Olson referred to Peterson & Williams 1992:136-161).

[19] At this point, Olson gave the footnote, ‘The classic Calvinist critique of libertarian free will is found in Jonathan Edward’s treatise “Freedom of the Will”’ (Olson 1986:76, n. 23). For this treatise, see Edwards (n d).

[20] This was originally published in Modern Reformation, 1 (3) May-June 1992, available at: http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var1=ArtRead&var2=776&var3=searchresults&var4=Search&var5=Evangelical_Arminians (Accessed 28 September 2013).

[21] This was originally published in 1943 by Lutheran Book Concern and assigned to Augsburg Publishing House in 1961.

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 3 July 2016.
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Stutters on the stairway: Arminianism vs Calvinism (eternal security)

Sunday, September 29th, 2013

Stairway To Heaven Spiral

Stairway to Heaven (PublicDomainPictures.net)

By Spencer D Gear

Will there every be unity in the body of Christ on controversial topics on our stairway to heaven? What about,

  • Iinfant vs believers’ baptism?
  • Eternal punishment vs annihilation?
  • Arminianism vs Calvinism on predestination, limited or unlimited atonement, eternal security, free will?
  • Premillennialism, Amillennialism, and Postmillennialism?

On this journey, will there ever be complete agreement on controversial theological topics?

It is not unusual to get some heated discussion online with Christian forums on controversial topics relating to Calvinism and Arminianism, where there are differences of interpretation regarding election, predestination, and eternal security. I write as a convinced evangelical, Reformed Arminian.

What is a Reformed or Reformation Arminian? See the Roger E Olson article, ‘Reformed Arminian‘.

I made this submission to an online Christian forum:

It says the one who is continuing to believe, continues to have eternal life- that’s the meaning of the Greek present tense [John 3:36].

Didn’t you believe that I knew the parsing and meaning of the Greek present tense?

So, eternal security is based on the fact that a person continues to believe in Jesus. It is not a once saved, always saved view, but a perseverance of the saints view – the saints are those who continue to believe. They are not those who once believed and gave up believing? The only guarantee of eternal life is for those who are continuing to believe at the time of death (or at the time of Christ’s second coming if it arrives before the believer dies).[1]

This was the reply:

No, according to scripture, 1 Jn. 2:19, if they depart, stop beliving (sic), they never believed in the first place. Unless you are calling the Apostle John a liar. Are you? And from Jesus’ own mouth, no man, not even yourself can take yourself out of God’s hand. That is, unless Jesus was lying?[2]

To what does 1 John 2:19 refer?[3] It states: ‘They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us’ (ESV).

What’s the context? First John 2:18 states, ‘Children, it is the last hour, as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour’ (ESV).

It is talking about antichrists in our midst.

That is not the discussion point that I’m addressing. I’m talking about people who formerly continued to believe in Jesus and were committed evangelical Christians for a considerable time and who gave up believing in Jesus. They committed apostasy. But you want that to mean that they never believed in the first place. I disagree profoundly! These people did continue to believe for a time and showed fruits of repentance. But then they quit believing (often related to circumstances in their life that left a big negative impact).

Warnings about the need to continue believing

The warning to the children of God in 1 John 2 (the chapter to which you refer) is:

And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him (1 John 2:28-29 ESV)

From these two verses, we know that:

clip_image001 ‘abide’ = menete = Greek present tense verb, which means continuing action, i.e. ‘continues to abide’;
clip_image001[1] ‘everyone who practices righteousness’, where ‘practices’ = poiwn (doing) = Greek present tense participle which indicates continuing action, the meaning of which is, ‘who continues doing/practising’.
Verse 29 is clear that the children of God (based on v. 28) are those who continue to do/practice righteousness. It is not dealing with those Christians who used to do righteousness.

I do not believe that sinning willingly means apostasy. So this person created a straw man logical fallacy against my views with his example of Peter and Paul. We cannot have a rational conversation when people respond in this manner in using such fallacies.

Mountains

(Courtesy ChristArt)

Responses to these posts

You might like to take a read of some of the responses to the information I provided above. These are samples:

clip_image003 ‘This is a pretty desperate and contradictory reply, in my opinion’.[4]

clip_image003[1] ‘The problem is on your end, since you do not submit to the scriptures, but only wrest a few to annoy the saints’.[5]

clip_image003[2] ‘Again, the man-centered salvation so prevelant in synergism and Arminianism. That which you so proudly taunt’.[6]

clip_image003[3] ‘So it is impossible for one to backslide, and yet still believe in God? That is the point I take away from all your posts’.[7]

clip_image003[4] ‘according to scripture, 1 Jn. 2:19, if they depart, stop beliving, they never believed in the first place. Unless you are calling the Apostle John a liar. Are you?’[8]

clip_image003[5] ‘So using your standard, we must therefore conclude that since both Peter and Paul sinned willingly, not once, not twice, but at least three times, they lost their salvation, and thusly were not able to “renew them unto repentance”. But tell me, when Peter and Paul both sinned, did they cease to “abide” in Christ? Did they cease to “believe” continuously? Remember, you can “commit apostasy and perish by a willful act of their own.” Who said that? Was it me? Hum…’[9]

clip_image003[6] ‘But notice you say this, without even bothering to acknowledge what the scripture says. What kind of a person sits here telling us these things, but doesn’t bother to respond to points properly? Are you capable of challenging what I have shown is clearly in those verses? If so, then show me, but take on what we say and respond to them specifically. Don’t dance around them as you do, and then get all huffy puffy after making sweeping assertions about it. It seems that you use the word “infallible” not to refer to the scriptures, but to your own point of view, and thus you do not take well to challenges’.[10]

With regard to this last post I made a complaint to the moderators about his emotionally abusive language with language such as:[11]

clip_image005 ‘without even bothering to acknowledge what the scripture says’;

clip_image005[1] ‘What kind of a person sits here telling us these things, but doesn’t bother to respond to points properly?’ (I have spent a lot of time on detailed responses on this forum but I will not continue with interaction with you when you make this kind of false allegation.)

clip_image005[2] ‘Are you capable of challenging’.

clip_image005[3] ‘Don’t dance around them as you do, and then get all huffy puffy after making sweeping assertions about it’.

clip_image005[4] ‘It seems that you use the word “infallible” not to refer to the scriptures, but to your own point of view’.

Petruchio’s response to me was: ‘You keep using this phrase to everything people say to you. I don’t think it means what you think it means. (I can’t post the photo of Inigo until I get a total of 50 posts! clip_image006).[12]

My response was:

Here you give another straw man logical fallacy. When you create a view which I did not state, you have created a straw man logical fallacy.

Here is a description of the straw man fallacy.

If you continue this approach in your responses to me, I will not reply. We cannot have a logical conversation when you use a logical fallacy.[13]

It seems to me from interaction on this Christian forum that I have to be alert to the logical fallacies that others and I use. I will name them as I see and understand them in their posts and also my own. I am not immune to using logical fallacies and I want people to draw my attention to them.

See the Nizkor Project for a description of a reasonably comprehensive list of logical fallacies.

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Logical fallacies

Notes:


[1] OzSpen#113 Christian Forums, Baptists, Eternal Security, OzSpen#113, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7775412-12/ (Accessed 29 September 2013).

[2] DeaconDean#114, ibid.

[3] This is my response as OzSpen#117, ibid.

[4] Petruchio#43, ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] DeaconDean#114, ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] DeaconDean#116, ibid.

[10] Petruchio#121, ibid.

[11] OzSpen#122, ibid. I made a complaint about this post to the moderators. Maybe this could be removed from the forum.

[12] Petruchio#123, ibid.

[13] OzSpen#124, ibid.

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 3 November 2015.

What does it mean to shipwreck your faith?

Saturday, September 14th, 2013

Spencer D Gear

clip_image002

Maheno shipwreck (photo 2007), Fraser Island,

off the Queensland coast (about 3 hours north of Brisbane)

Courtesy Wikipedia

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The New Zealand hospital ship Maheno (before the wreck)

Courtesy Wikipedia

In the controversy between Calvinism and Arminianism it is not unusual to read or hear a back and forth about the ability or inability to lose eternal salvation through Christ. Since Calvinists believe that a person, once genuinely saved, cannot lose salvation, it is common to hear language like this:

clip_image006 ‘It is my opinion, and I stress opinion, that it is not possible to lose one’s salvation’ (CARM).

clip_image006[1]’56 Bible Verses about Losing Your Salvation’ (OpenBible.info)

One set of verses often raised about losing salvation is, First Timothy 1:18-20, which states,

18 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme (ESV).

In commenting on these verses, one Calvinist wrote, ‘Did Paul say that they lost their salvation?’[1]

My response was:

So what does ‘shipwreck of their faith mean’? The Maheno ship wreck on the shores of Fraser Island (about 3 hours north of Brisbane on the Pacific Ocean coast) is useless, wrecked as a viable ship.

Is a shipwrecked faith viable or not to enter the sea of eternal life? Or is shipwrecked faith as useless as the Maheno as a ship in the Pacific Ocean?[2]

clip_image008

(courtesy ChristArt)

The reply from this person was:

‘This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to blaspheme’ (1 Timothy 1:18-20 NASB).

It would appear that Paul has I’m mind correction for these two. Not because they lost their salvation, but because they are not acting in the right manner. Paul is hoping that they will be corrected (taught).[3]

[4]Paul has a motivation to deal with ‘keeping faith and a good conscience’ or ‘holding faith and a good conscience’ (ESV). In context this is faith in the prophecies (apostolic teaching?) he had received.

What had Hymenaeus and Alexander done to ‘shipwreck’ their faith? Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek lexicon gives the meaning of this word from apwthew as ‘reject, repudiate’ (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:102). Therefore Lenski’s commentary, based on the Greek, concludes that

they got so far away from the apostolic prophecies that they did even what is here stated regarding their conscience and their faith. Paul himself had dealt with two of them, and when he held up to them the prophecies, i. e., the apostolic gospel teaching, and thereby tried to reach their conscience he found that they had actually thrust all good conscience away and had thereby lost their faith altogether. The true gospel teaching no longer made an impression on them, it had been smothered by their myths, etc (Lenski 1937:532-533).

The consequence for Hymenaeus and Alexander was that Paul has them ‘handed over to Satan’. What this means exactly has been the cause of much debate. However, it seems evident that these two men no longer have a good conscience and faith, so it seems that Paul means that these two are, according to exegete, Gordon Fee, ‘”put back into Satan’s sphere,” outside the church and the fellowship of God’s people…. Paul expects by such an “excommunication” they will “be caught not to blaspheme”‘ (Fee 1988:59).

What ‘blaspheme’ means here is not certain but there are hints in context. In 1:13 Paul says of his life before Christ, ‘formerly I was a blasphemer’ and in 6:4 he states that ‘slander’ (ESV) or ‘malicious talk’ (NIV) that come out of ‘a different doctrine’ (ESV) or ‘false doctrines’ (NIV). However the word is blasphemiai (i.e. blasphemies). This is from a list of what happens as a result of false teachers who had ‘an unhealthy craving for controversy’ (6:4 ESV).

Thus handing over to Satan seems to be an action of excommunication because they had rejected God’s grace for salvation and had pursued the arguments of the false teachers. It seems that Timothy was in Ephesus to deal with the false doctrine that was being perpetrated by false teachers and this was leading people away from the faith.

How would he respond? It was predictable for a Calvinist: ‘So you don’t think that they were apostate, right?’[5] To which I responded, ‘False! They had rejected, repudiated their faith. That’s what the Greek word means!’[6]

An artists rendition of the 1857 shipwreck (the Central America).

 Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

To another person, he wrote: ‘It still says nothing of them losing their salvation’.[7] To which I replied,[8] ‘Yes it does! That’s the meaning of ‘shipwrecked’, based on the Greek exegesis.

What had Hymenaeus and Alexander done to ‘shipwreck’ their faith. Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek lexicon gives the meaning of this word from apwthew as ‘reject, repudiate’ (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:102).

Therefore Lenski’s commentary, based on the Greek, concludes that

they got so far away from the apostolic prophecies that they did even what is here stated regarding their conscience and their faith. Paul himself had dealt with two of them, and when he held up to them the prophecies, i. e., the apostolic gospel teaching, and thereby tried to reach their conscience he found that they had actually thrust all good conscience away and had thereby lost their faith altogether. The true gospel teaching no longer made an impression on them, it had been smothered by their myths, etc. (Lenski 1937:532-533).

Faith that is shipwrecked is faith that has been repudiated, rejected. It couldn’t be clearer, based on the Greek etymology.

To shipwreck one’s faith is to abandon/repudiate the faith, reject the faith. This is similar to the message given in Hebrews 6:4-6,

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt (ESV).

For my lengthy exegesis and exposition, see: ‘Once Saved, Always Saved or Once Saved, Lost Again? (an exposition of Hebrews 6:4-6)’.

I recommend the article by Roger E Olson, ‘What’s wrong with Calvinism?‘ (Patheos, March 22, 2013).

See also:

clip_image012 Conversations with a Calvinist on apostasy;

clip_image012[1] Is the Holy Spirit’s seal a guarantee of eternal security?

clip_image012[2] Is prevenient grace still amazing grace?

clip_image012[3] What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?

clip_image012[4] Does God want everyone to receive salvation?

clip_image012[5] Does God’s grace make salvation available to all people?

This writer is convinced that it is possible to lose salvation if a person commits apostasy by repudiating the Christian faith. However, there are many fine Christians on both sides of this debate – Arminians and Calvinists.

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(courtesy ChristArt)

Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Fee, G D 1988. 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus (New International Biblical Commentary). Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers.

Lenski, R C H 1937. Commentary on the New Testament: The interpretation of St. Paul’s epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus, and to Philemon. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers Inc.

Notes:


[1] Hammster #25, Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘Saved only by grace’, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7773567-3/ (Accessed 14 September 2013).

[2] OzSpen #32, ibid.

[3] Hammster #34, ibid.

[4] This is my reply as OzSpen #39, ibid.

[5] Hammster #41, ibid.

[6] OzSpen #43, ibid.

[7] Hammster #37, ibid.

[8] OzSpen #42, ibid.

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 3 November 2015.

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Is the Holy Spirit’s seal a guarantee of eternal security?

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Peace Dove

ChristArt

By Spencer D Gear

It is not uncommon to read statements like this one about the Holy Spirit’s sealing redemption to guarantee eternal security.

What do you do with this scripture:
And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.
If you are seal when you get saved, telling me how in the world are you going to be unsaved?
Can you open the hand of God, who holds us and cause him to let you go?[1]

This was my response.[2] Quoting Ephesians 4:30 as you have done as a guarantee of eternal security is dangerous.[3] Here’s why:

In Romans 4:11 the same word for ‘sealed’ is used as in Eph 4:30. If this means an unbreakable and permanent seal of eternal security, then the same must apply to Rom. 4:11 – an unbreakable and permanent seal of circumcision.

But that cannot be the situation. What does Rom. 4:11 state?

He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well (Rom. 4:11 ESV).

We know from Scripture that the sealing of circumcision could be broken through unbelief (see Rom. 11:20-23 where circumcised Jews could be broken off through unbelief). See also Rom. 2:25-29.

So, sealing of circumcision, as in Rom. 4:11, depends on continued faith. As long as a person continues to believe that person is sealed.

Therefore, because a person is ‘sealed’ does not guarantee continued faithfulness. It does not guarantee an eternal destiny that is guaranteed, signed sealed and delivered and that such a person can never fall away.

We have the same kind of situation in John 10:27-28:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand (ESV).

I had a person say to me at church recently that he became convinced of eternal security by accepting what John 10:28 stated – nobody could pluck believers out of the Father’s hand.

However, what are the conditions for not being plucked/snatched out of the Father’s hand? The words that I have highlighted in vv 27-28 are all in the Greek present tense. So the meaning is continuous action as the Greek tense emphasises the KIND of action more than the time of action.

Therefore the meaning of those 4 words in bold is: ‘My sheep continue to hear my voice, and I continue to know them, and they continue to follow me. 28 I continue to give them eternal life….’

There is no guarantee of eternal security without continuing belief – continuing to hear, continuing to know, and continuing to follow. What is God’s guarantee for this continuing belief? God continues to give them eternal life.

That is the biblical teaching on eternal security. Perseverance of the saints is necessary for sealing to be guaranteed.

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Notes:


[1] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘falling away’, SoulBap6#16, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7699897-2/#post61859654 (Accessed 29 November 2012).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen#17.

[3] I received this exegetical insight from an article by Ben Henshaw 2012. Some further reflections on the nature of the sealing of the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 1:13 and 3:30 (online), 22 March. Society of Evangelical Arminians. Available at: http://evangelicalarminians.org/?q=Henshaw.Some-Further-Reflections-on-the-Nature-of-the-Sealing-of-the-Holy-Spirit-in-Eph-1.13-and-4.30 (Accessed 29 November 2012).

 

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.

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