Archive for the 'Apostasy' Category

Why is eternal security such a touchy subject?

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

Hanging Cat

(image courtesy ChristArt.com)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

If you want to stir up some controversy, go to a Presbyterian church and question the eternal security of the Christian believer. To suggest that a Christian can fall away and even commit apostasy from the faith (1 Tim 1:18-20; Heb 6:4-6) is almost to have the anathema pronounced over you. I had a TULIP Presbyterian member tell me on 1 May 2016 that he would not attend a Wesleyan Methodist church in his rural community because those people ‘believe people can lose their salvation’.

1. Samples of OSAS

Try opposing once-saved-always-saved (OSAS) in some Baptist churches and you could be vigorously opposed. I’ve experienced similar animosity in opposing OSAS on Christian forums where Calvinists and Arminians hover and engage in sometimes antagonistic interaction. Some examples of this included:

bronze-arrow-small ‘Surely Satan does not want us to know that faith is the security of our salvation: “who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:5 NASB)
He wants every one of us who believes to stop believing, so we will no longer have access to God’s protection for our salvation through that faith’.[1]

bronze-arrow-small ‘Some teachers and preachers of the Word teach OSNAS [once saved not always saved] so that they can keep their congregation under their thumb—fearful, insecure and dependent on their leaders to know what to do to maintain or keep their salvation. (Many cults function this way.) The more sincere ones are just afraid that teaching OSAS will cause their congregations members to leave church and sin like there’s no tomorrow. This opposite is true, though’.[2]

bronze-arrow-small ‘This statement — “faith is the security of our salvation” — is also one of the reasons why there is resistance to the doctrine of eternal security. There are many Christians who believe that it is their faith and/or their good works which keeps them saved’.[3]

You can encounter similar antagonism by promoting TULIP in Wesleyan, Assemblies of God, or Free Will Baptist churches. Then if you promote Arminianism in Reformed, Presbyterian, or Reformed Baptist churches, you’ll find similar resistance.

That’s a sampling from an online Christian forum, but it could happen anywhere that there are Christians from both sides of the theological fence in a congregation – promoting Arminianism or Calvinism.

2. Eternal security: A touchy topic

Why is eternal security such a contentious subject among Christians? I encountered it again with the topic, ‘Why is there so much resistance to the eternal security of the believer?[4]

2.1 He fired away

The opening post got the discussion underway with this perspective:

The eternal security of the believer is a fundamental Bible truth (1 Jn 5:13). Yet there is considerable resistance to this doctrine in many quarters, and at the same time many believers who really don’t know the Scriptures are uncertain about something which should be absolutely certain. So why is there so much resistance? I believe there are at least two reasons, and perhaps you might find that there are several others.

The first reason in my esitmation (sic) is the opposition of the archenemy of God and of the Christian. Satan does not want anyone to know – without the shadow of a doubt – that their salvation is eternally secure.

The second reason is that Gospel Truth is not being preached and taught as it ought to be (in all its fulness), babes in Christ are not being discipled as they ought to be, and too many believers do not really understand their position in Christ. The point of this thread is to determine whether we clearly understand our position in Christ.[5]

How should I, a Christian believer who accepts perseverance of the saints but not OSAS, answer such a person’s unfortunate misinterpretation of 1 John 5:13 (ESV)? I responded:[6]

2.2 The meaning of 1 John 5:13

What does 1 John 5:13 (ESV) teach? The verse states, ‘I write [Gk aorist tense] these things to you who believe [Gk present tense] in the name of the Son of God that you may know [Gk perfect tense] that you have [Gk present tense] eternal life.

The aorist tense is point action. The present tense refers to continuing action in the present time. The perfect tense refers to an action in the past with continuing results. In Dana & Mantey’s advanced Greek text, they explain that there are ‘two fundamental ways of viewing action’ for Greek tenses. ‘It may be contemplated in single perspective, as a point, which we may call punctiliar action…; or it may be regarded as in progress, as a line, and this we may call linear action…. The perfect tense is a combination of these two ideas: it looks in perspective at the action, and regards the results of the action as continuing to exist; that is, in progress at a given point. Hence the perfect has both elements, linear and punctiliar. The aorist may be represented by a dot (clip_image001), the present by a line (————), and the perfect by the combination of the two (clip_image001[1]————-) [Dana & Mantey 1955:179].

Therefore, the meaning of 1 John 5:13 (ESV) is NOT that somebody believed in the past and thus is guaranteed eternal security for salvation, no matter what he or she does after saying ‘yes’ to Jesus. The meaning is that it is written to those ‘who continue to believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may continue to have the result of knowing that you are continuing to have eternal life’. So, perseverance of the saints is better language than eternal security OSAS, based on this verse, 1 John 5:13 (ESV). Christian believers are those who continue to believe to the end of their lives.
Why is that the case? It is because the original Greek language of the text affirms that the Christians who continue to believe in the name of the Son of God will know that they continue to have eternal life. Thus, eternal life is guaranteed to those who persevere in the faith – they continue to believe.

3. Resistance to teaching on eternal security

Another person made a perceptive observation:

What security EXACTLY is being resisted? Rom 8:38-39 (NIV) or some other issue?

1 John 5:13 (NIV), IN context, refers to EVERYTHING John wrote in this whole letter. It says nothing about ‘eternal security’.

That is a catch phrase for RT [Reformed Theology].[7]

He’s correct. First John 5:13 (NIV) reads, ‘I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life’.

What is being resisted is the spiritual condition of continuing to believe (Greek present tense). For those who continue to believe, the result is that the believers will know they have eternal life.

Why is there resistance to the eternal security teaching? From my point of view, it is related to these issues:

1. It is not a biblical teaching and when this is shown to the OSAS folks, they can get defensive and resistant to hear what the Scriptures state. I’ve found nothing in Scripture that supports the view that a person can believe in Christ once, live a life in continuing, deliberate sin, and be guaranteed eternal security of salvation. See my articles:

clip_image003 Once Saved, Always Saved or Once Saved, Lost Again?

clip_image003[1] Loss of salvation is nowhere taught in the Bible;

clip_image003[2] Where do Scriptures say Christians can be lost?

clip_image003[3] Controversies: Once saved, always saved.

clip_image003[4] What does it mean to shipwreck your faith?

clip_image003[5] Did Arminius refute eternal security?

2. They may resist the doctrine of eternal security or OSAS because the biblical view is perseverance of the saints. They have not been taught this.

This doctrine is taught in passages such as John 3:36 (ESV),

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 continue to remain in him. There is no eternal life for those who continue not to obey the Son.

Perseverance of the saints is the biblical teaching that believers who continue believing in Jesus to the end of life or the second coming of Jesus, are the ones guaranteed eternal life. They are the ones who enjoy eternal security.

3. This is a core issue: A person’s theological views are driven by presuppositions.

Concerning NT scholars, Graham Stanton wrote:

Why do the conclusions of New Testament scholars differ so widely? Anyone who begins to read books about the New Testament soon becomes aware that competent scholars defend with equal vigour and sincerity widely differing approaches to the New Testament. The variety of viewpoints often causes great perplexity both to theological students and to the church at large…. The presuppositions adopted either consciously or unconsciously by the interpreter are far more influential in New Testament scholarship than disagreements over method (Stanton 1977:60)

If it is not possible for a person to lay aside his or her presuppositions, Stanton recommends three safeguards:

(a) The interpreter who is aware of the danger of not laying aside the person’s assumptions is more likely to avoid this problem.

(b) Use the historical, critical method. This will help rule out fanciful, allegorical [and postmodern][8] interpretations.

(c) ‘The third safeguard is even more important. The interpreter must allow his own presuppositions and his own pre-understanding to be modified or even completely reshaped by the text itself. Unless this is allowed to happen, the interpreter will be unable to avoid projecting his own ideas on to the text’ (Stanton 1977:68).

While Stanton wrote for a scholarly audience, his ‘safeguards’ are just as important in Christian conversation, preaching and discussion about Calvinism and Arminianism.

Until those presuppositions change, the possibilities of changing from one view to the other is nigh impossible. The Calvinistic view of OSAS or perseverance of the saints is driven by the presuppositions of TULIP and if one accepts the content of TULI, then P is a normal and natural consequence. The Arminian theology is driven by FACTS. ‘Arminianism may be represented by the acronym FACTS’:

Freed by Grace (to Believe)
Atonement for All
Conditional Election
Total Depravity
Security in Christ (Abasciano & Glynn 2013).

See my articles in support of this latter view:

clip_image005 Continue in the faith to guarantee eternal life;

clip_image005[1] Loss of salvation is nowhere taught in the Bible;

clip_image005[2] Is it possible or impossible to fall away from the Christian faith?

Now let’s look at the teachings of some leading lights in this theological debate.

3.1 Arminius and eternal security

It is sometimes said by those who oppose Arminian theology that Arminius (1560-1609)[9] did not believe in eternal security. Let’s check out some evidence:

clip_image007

Jacobus Arminius (image courtesy Wikipedia)

It is worth quoting Arminius at some length in his teaching on ‘The 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.

Thus, Arminius, whose views have been most often associated with loss of salvation and repudiation of eternal security, actually stated that the one who is ‘a true believer’ (presumably meaning that he/she continues as a true Christian), cannot either totally or finally commit apostasy and fall away from the faith. Here’s the key: Is that person continuing to trust in Jesus alone for salvation?

3.2 Calvinism and eternal security

clip_image009

John Calvin (image courtesy www.biography.com)

 

John Calvin (1509-1564)[10] was the one after whom the Calvinistic system of theology was named. He promoted the view of eternal security that the Lord’s promise declares that all who have been received by the Lord ‘in true faith have been given to him by the Father, no one of whom, since he is their guardian and shepherd, will perish [cf. I John 3:16; 6:39]’. Of Judas, Calvin claims that ‘the Lord’s assertion in another passage [John 6:70] that he was chosen by him with the apostles is made only with reference to the ministry…. That is, he had chosen him for the apostolic office. But when he speaks of election unto salvation, he banishes him far from the number of the elect’ [John 13:18] (Calvin, 1960:3.24.7 and 3.24.9, pp. 973, 975).

What was the Calvinistic view of perseverance of the saints by those after Calvin? The Synod of Dort[11] that met in Dordrecht, the Netherlands, in 1618-1619, in response to the Remonstrants’ challenge, concluded that

for God, who is rich in mercy,[12] according to the unchangeable purpose of His election,[13] does not completely withdraw His Holy Spirit from His own even in their deplorable fall.[14] Neither does He permit them to sink so deep that they fall away from the grace of adoption and the state of justification,[15] or commit the sin unto death[16] or the sin against the Holy Spirit[17] and, totally deserted by Him, plunge themselves into eternal ruin (Synod of Dordt, Head 5, Art 6).[18]

It is not surprising that Calvinism would adopt the position of eternal security since it believes that the only ones out of all humanity who are recipients of salvation to eternal life are those who have been unconditionally elected to salvation and drawn through irresistible grace. The natural corollary is that those who are predestined unconditionally to salvation will persevere to the end. If such a person, in the Calvinistic system, were to fall from grace, then it would be a demonstration that that person had not received the effectual call of salvation. See the explanation of TULIP (the five points of Calvinism).

The Westminster Confession of Faith,[19] an eminent Calvinistic confession, in its chapter, ‘Of the Perseverance of the Saints’, states:

1. They, whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.

2. This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace: from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.

3. Nevertheless, they may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins; and, for a time, continue therein: whereby they incur God’s displeasure, and grieve his Holy Spirit, come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded; hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves (ch 17).[20]

Therefore, the Calvinistic position is that those who are unchangeably drawn to salvation by God through election, will not be permitted to fall away from the grace of adoption in Christ to return to eternal ruin. The perseverance of the saints depends, not on human free will, but on the immutable decree of election. However, they may be tempted by Satan, fall into severe sins and even continue committing such for a time and bring temporal judgments on themselves. However, their salvation will not be lost.

3.3 The church fathers and eternal security

What can we discern from the writings of the church fathers on this topic? It was Arminius’s view

that almost all antiquity [i.e. the teaching of the church fathers] is of the opinion, that believers can fall away and perish…. “Elect” and “believers” are not convertible terms according to the view of the fathers, unless perseverance be added to faith. Nor is it declared, by Christ, in Matt. xxiv,24, that the elect can not depart from Christ, but that they can not be deceived, by which is meant that though the power of deception is great, yet it is not so great as to seduce the elect (Arminius, 1977:493, emphasis in original).

 

Using Judas as an example, these church fathers reached different conclusions concerning his eternal destiny in the beginning and at the end of his life.

 

a. Concerning Judas

File:F463.highresBaiserJudas.jpg(Francais: Daiser de Judas, image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Irenaeus (ca AD 125-202),[21] bishop of Lyons in Gaul about the year AD 180, wrote in Against Heresies (about AD 185), of Judas[22]

‘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),[23] 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),[24] 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),[25] 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).

What can we conclude from these church fathers about Judas’s destiny? He was once a child of the kingdom (Chrysostom) and then was damned after Satan entered him and he betrayed Jesus. Movement from being chosen as a disciple of Jesus to being a ‘son of perdition’ is a demonstration that these church fathers saw a falling away from grace.

b. Church fathers and eternal security for believers

clip_image011

Irenaeus (image courtesy Wikipedia)

clip_image012 Irenaeus (ca 125-202), bishop of Lyons, ‘was most influenced by St. Polycarp who had known the apostles or their immediate disciples’. It was he who wrote in one of his most celebrated publications:

Christ shall not die again in behalf of those who now commit sin, for death shall no more have dominion over Him…. We ought not, therefore, as that presbyter remarks, to be puffed up, nor be severe upon those of old time, but ought ourselves to fear, lest perchance, after [we have come to] the knowledge of Christ, if we do things displeasing to God, we obtain no further forgiveness of sins, but be shut out from His kingdom (Against Heresies 4.27.2).

clip_image014

Tertullian (image courtesy Wikipedia)

clip_image012[1] Tertullian (ca 155/160-220)[26], the son of a centurion and a pagan until middle life, wrote,

But some think as if God were under a necessity of bestowing even on the unworthy, what He has engaged (to give); and they turn His liberality into slavery…. For do not many afterward fall out of (grace)? Is not this gift taken away from many? (Tertullian, On Repentance, ch. 6).

clip_image012[2] St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (354-430)[27] wrote: ‘This grace He placed in Him in whom we have obtained a lot, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things.’ And thus as He worketh that we come to Him, so He worketh that we do not depart’ (Augustine 1887b).

Augustine also wrote: ‘He that made us without ourselves, will not save us without ourselves’ (cited in Wesley, 1872/1978:281).[28] We note Augustine’s struggle with human free will and divine sovereignty in the following teaching from, “A Treatise on Grace and Free Will” (Augustine, 1887a):

Lest, however, it should be thought that men themselves in this matter do nothing by free will, it is said in the Psalm, ‘Harden not your hearts;’ [Ps. 95:5] and in Ezekiel himself, ‘Cast away from you all your transgressions’ [Ezek. 18:31]…. We should remember that He says, ‘Make you a new heart and a new spirit,’ who also promises, ‘I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit will I put within you.’[Ezek. 36:26] How is it, then, that He who says, ‘Make you,’ also says, ‘I will give you’? Why does He command, if He is to give? Why does He give if man is to make, except it be that He gives what He commands when He helps him to obey whom He commands?…” [Ch. 31 (XV)]

It is certain that it is we that will when we will, but it is He who makes us will what is good, of whom it is said (as he has just now expressed it), ‘The will is prepared by the Lord.’ [Prov. 8:35] Of the same Lord it is said, ‘The steps of a man are ordered by the Lord, and his way doth He will.’ [Ps. 37:23] Of the same Lord again it is said, ‘It is God who worketh in you, even to will!’ [Phil. 2:13] It is certain that it is we that act when we act; but it is He who makes us act, by applying efficacious powers to our will, who has said, ‘I will make you to walk in my statutes, and to observe my judgments, and to do them’ [Ezek. 36:27]…. [Ch. 32 (XVI), emphasis in original].

Forasmuch as in beginning He works in us that we may have the will, and in perfecting works with us when we have the will…. On which account the apostle says, “I am confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” [Phil. 1:6] He operates, therefore, without us, in order that we may will; but when we will, and so will that we may act, He co-operates with us. We can, however, ourselves do nothing to effect good works of piety without Him either working that we may will, or co-working when we will’ [Ch. 33 [XVII]).

These church fathers taught that a person who believed in Christ could be shut out of the kingdom, thus losing salvation. However, Augustine’s view was people ‘act when we act; but it is He [God] who makes us act, by applying efficacious powers to our will’.

4. Conclusion

There have been those throughout church history who have believed it is possible for a person to commit apostasy and fall away from the Christian faith. Others teach the opposite. This Arminian-Calvinistic divide will continue. Reasons were suggested why eternal security (OSAS) is a touchy subject and provokes such antagonism in the Christian community.

One of the dominant reasons suggested for such continuing conflict involved the presuppositions from both sides of the debate. If a person cannot lay aside his or her presuppositions, Graham Stanton suggested three safeguards: (1) Interpreters are to be aware of their own presuppositions; (2) Use the historical critical method to avoid fanciful allegorical interpretations; and (3) Most importantly, interpreters need to allow their own presuppositions to be modified by the content of the biblical text. Unless this happens, the interpreter will impose his or her own ideas onto the text (Stanton 1977:68).

5. Works consulted

Abasciano, B & Glynn, M 2013. An Outline of the FACTS of Arminianism vs. The TULIP of Calvinism. Society of Evangelical Arminians (online). Available at: http://evangelicalarminians.org/an-outline-of-the-facts-of-arminianism-vs-the-tulip-of-calvinism/ (Accessed 1 May 2016).

Arminius, J 1977, The writings of James Arminius, vol. 3 (Nichols, J & Bagnall, WR eds.), Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Also available at CCEL, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/arminius (Accessed 1 May 2016).

Augustine, A 1887a. ‘On grace and free will’, in Schaff, P (ed), Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 1st series (online), vol 5. Tr by P Holmes & R E Wallis.  Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co. Rev & ed for New Advent by K Knight at: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1510.htm (Accessed 10 April 2015).

Augustine A 1887b. ‘On the predestination of the saints’, in Schaff, P (ed), Nicene and Post-Nicene fathers, first series (online), vol 5, rev by B B Warfield. Tr by P Holmes & R E Wallis. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co. Rev & ed for New Advent by Kevin Knight. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/15122.htm (Accessed 10 April 2015).

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

Calvin, J 1960, Institutes of the Christian religion, vols. 1-2 (McNeill, JT ed. & Battles, FL transl.), The Westminster Press, Philadelphia. Also available online at CRTA, http://www.reformed.org/master/index.html?mainframe=/books/institutes/ (Accessed 1 May 2016).

Dana, H E & Mantey, J R 1927/1955, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. Toronto, Canada: The Macmillan Company.

Harper, J S 2002, “A Wesleyan Arminian view,” in Four views on eternal security, gen. ed. J. M. Pinson, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Stanton, G N 1977, Presuppositions in New Testament criticism, in I H Marshall (ed), New Testament interpretation: Essays on principles and methods, 60-71. Milton Keyes, England: The Paternoster Press Ltd. This chapter is available also at: http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/nt-interpretation/nti_03.pdf (Accessed 1 May 2016).

Wesley, J 1872/1978, The works of John Wesley (vol. 6), Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Also available at Wesley Center Online, http://wesley.nnu.edu/john-wesley/ (Accessed 1 May 2016).


Notes

[1] This is located at Christian Forums.net, Apologetics & Theology, 29 May 2015, Jethro Bodine#3. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/why-is-there-so-much-resistance-to-the-eternal-security-of-the-believer.59729/ (Accessed 3 June 2015).

[2] Ibid., DWJL511#4.

[3] Ibid., Malachi#9.

[4] Ibid., Malachi#1.

[5] Ibid., Malachi#1.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#132.

[7] Ibid., StanJ#16.

[8] Postmodern is my insertion.

[9] Lifespan dates, Encyclopaedia Britannica (2016. s v Jacobus Arminius). Available at: http://www.britannica.com/biography/Jacobus-Arminius (Accessed 2 May 2016)

[10] Lifespan dates, Encyclopaedia Britannica (2016. s v John Calvin). Available at: http://www.britannica.com/biography/John-Calvin (Accessed 2 May 2016).

[11] Dort is the English spelling for Dordrecht, the Netherlands.

[12] Eph 2:4-5 (NIV).

[13] Eph 1:11 (NIV).

[14] Ps 51:13 (NIV).

[15] Gal 4:5 (NIV).

[16] 1 John 5:16-18 (NIV).

[17] Matt 12:31-32 (NIV).

[18] Canadian & American Reformed Churches 2016. ‘God will not permit his elect to be lost’. Available at: http://www.canrc.org/?page=281 (Accessed 18 April 2016).

[19] This Confession was produced by the Westminster Assembly, completed in 1646 and approved by the British parliament in June 1648 (Encyclopaedia Britannica 2016. s v Westminster Confession). Available at: http://www.britannica.com/topic/Westminster-Confession (Accessed 2 May 2016).

[20] Available from The Orthodox Presbyterian Church at: http://www.opc.org/wcf.html#Chapter_17 (Accessed 18 April 2016). Scriptures to support this position are provided in Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 17, Center for Reformed Theology & Apologetics 1996-2016. Available at: http://www.reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/ (Accessed 18 April 2016).

[21] 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).

[22] 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).

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

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

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

[26] Lifespan details, Encyclopaedia Britannica (2016. s v Tertullian). Available at: http://www.britannica.com/biography/Tertullian (Accessed 1 May 2016).

[27] Lifespan dates, Encyclopaedia Britannica (2016. s v Saint Augustine). Available at: http://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Augustine (Accessed 1 May 2016).

[28] This quote by Augustine is from John Wesley’s Sermon LXIII, “The General Spread of the Gospel”(in Wesley, 1872/1978b, p. 277ff). However, Wesley did not footnote his bibliographical details for Augustine and Augustine’s quote was repeated in Harper (2002:251), also without bibliographical information. I have not been able to locate Augustine’s exact quote in his works on the World Wide Web.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 2 May 2016.

Loss of salvation is nowhere taught in the Bible

Thursday, December 24th, 2015

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By Spencer D Gear PhD

How would you respond to this assessment? ‘Where are the words “loss of salvation” or “loss of eternal life” found ANYWHERE in the Bible?????’[1]

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The exact word, ‘Trinity’, is not found in the Bible, but the teaching on the Trinity is there.[2] The exact words, ‘Jesus is God’, are not in Scripture, but the teaching on Jesus’ deity is there.

In the same way, ‘loss of salvation’ or ‘loss of eternal life’ is not the exact language used, but the teaching on loss of salvation is there. We find it in this kind of language:

A. Those who commit apostasy, cannot be restored to repentance

‘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’ (Heb 6:4-6 ESV, emphasis added).?

clip_image006(image courtesy twoedgegraphics.com)

‘Have fallen away’ is from the Greek verb, parapiptw, which Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek lexicon gives the meaning in Heb 6:6 as ‘fall away, commit apostasy’ (A&G 1957:626). Thayer’s Greek lexicon provides the meaning of parapiptw as ‘in Scriptures, to fall away (from the true faith): from the worship of Jehovah, Ezek. 14:13; 15:8…; from Christianity, Heb 6:6‘ (Thayer 1885/1962:485).

Leading Greek exegete from the 20th century, A T Robertson, in commenting on the seriousness of the consequences of this apostasy in Heb 6:6 stated, ‘It is a terrible picture and cannot be toned down…. This is why renewal for such apostates is impossible. They crucify Christ. And put him to an open shame….In a bad sense to expose to disgrace’ (Robertson 1932:375-376).

Thus, in the Greek, whether LXX or NT, parapiptw means that it is possible to commit apostasy and fall away from the true faith in Christ. In English, apostasy means ‘The abandonment or renunciation of a religious or political belief or principle’ (Oxford dictionaries 2015. S v apostasy). That’s what it meant in the LXX and NT as well.

B. It is possible to shipwreck one’s faith

For a more comprehensive response to what it means to shipwreck one’s faith, see my article, What does it mean to shipwreck your faith?

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(Willy Stöwer [Public domain], image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

That is a painting of the Titanic going down after it was shipwrecked off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada. Was this boat of any use after its shipwreck? Of course not!

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(image courtesy titanicexpo.co.za)

‘The wreck of the RMS Titanic was located about 370 miles (600 km) south-southeast of the coast of Newfoundland, lying at a depth of about 12,500 feet (3,800 m)’. The liner hit an iceberg and sank on her maiden voyage in 1912 from Southampton UK to New York NY (Wikipedia 2015, Wreck of the RMS Titanic).

Take a look at the present condition of the wreck of the Titanic:

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(Titanic wreck 2003, image courtesy Wikipedia)

How does this analogy relate to shipwreck of a person’s faith?

We have this verse that speaks of ‘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.’ (1 Tim 1:19 ESV, emphasis added). So, in their shipwrecked faith they were blaspheming. Whom were they blaspheming? It seems obvious in context that the blasphemy is against God and so Paul hands them over to Satan for Satan’s consequences against them.

In this verse, the verb, ‘have made shipwreck’ is nauagew which means literally in ancient Greek ‘to suffer shipwreck’ and is the word used for Paul’s physical shipwreck in 2 Cor 11:25 (ESV). It is used metaphorically with respect to shipwreck of one’s faith (1 Tim 1:19 ESV) (Thayer 1885/1962:423). Arndt & Gingrich (1957:536) affirm the same meaning as Thayer, literally and metaphorically, ‘they have suffered shipwreck in their faith’ (1 Tim 1:19).

Note the emphasis that this has applied to ‘some’ Christians who were supposed to be ‘holding faith and a good conscience’ have rejected this faith and so have shipwrecked their faith (1 Tim 1:19 ESV). It is important to note that in the NT, the same word used for a literal shipwreck is used for a metaphorical shipwreck of one’s faith. Shipwrecks wreck ships, thus making them unusable for the purpose for which they were created. Shipwrecks of faith make faith unusable for the purpose for which faith is engendered – for salvation. So, to shipwreck one’s faith is parallel to committing apostasy.

C. Avoidance of issues

How do you think a person, who supports eternal security, would respond to the above exegesis? As happens so often in person and on Christian forums, people are known to engage in the use of logical fallacies when their favourite doctrines are refuted. I long for the day when someone says, ‘I have never considered that before. I’ll need to re-evaluate my support of eternal security’. However, I also need to be open to the possibility that I could be wrong in my support of perseverance of the saints (as opposed to once-saved-always-saved). Up to this point in my Christian journey, I’ve not found a consistent case for eternal security as a doctrine of Soteriology. There are too many warning passages to make an absolutely tight case for eternal security.

Back to the Christian forum! This is what he did when he stated:

My point is that there is no clear teaching on loss of salvation in the Bible. It’s all just assumption of verses that are not specifically clear about it. And there are clear verses on eternal security.

In fact, the verses on eternal security are as clear as the verses on unlimited atonement.[3]

What has he done with those kinds of statements?

1. Logical fallacies

(image courtesy chopcow.com)

Logical fallacies are errors in reasoning that can throw a discussion way off topic and may even get to the point where continuing a discussion is nigh impossible. It is important to recognise, name and explain how these fallacies are used in discussion.

In discussing with me, this fellow used a red herring logical fallacy. Here he has introduced an irrelevant topic ‘no clear teaching on loss of salvation’ to divert attention from the exegesis I provided on Heb 6:4-6 and 1 Tim 1:19 that do provide evidence on loss of salvation. When this tactic is used, the view is to try to win an argument by introducing another topic. It is deceptive because it is changing topic to what he wants to say and is not dealing with the arguments I presented. He is not refuting the claims I have made. The Nizkor Project illustrates this sort of illogical reasoning:

(1) Topic A is under discussion.

(2) Topic B is introduced under the guise of being relevant to topic A (when topic B is actually not relevant to topic A).

(3) Topic A is abandoned (1991-2012. S v Fallacy: Red Herring).

This sort of “reasoning” is erroneous because merely changing the topic of discussion, even though here it looks to be close to the original topic, does not present an argument against a claim. He has not challenged the content of what I stated.

As to what I stated about apostasy in Heb 6:4-6 (ESV), he continued his diversionary tactic:

But there is a very logical and reasonable explanation for this passage that doesn’t involve loss of salvation.
How does “restored to repentance” even relate to the status of loss of salvation. Repentance isn’t a one time thing. We need to turn from sin every time we do sin. This isn’t the basis of maintaining our salvation.?[4]

This is inserting his own opinion. Note the language from Heb 6:4-6, ‘It is impossible … to restore them again to repentance’. His argument was that repentance was needed every time we sin. I agree with that, but he used a detour tactic to take the discussion where he wants it to go – in support of his once-saved-always-saved position. These 3 verses from Hebrews demonstrate that there is no possibility of repentance from any sin for a person who has committed apostasy. But this fellow didn’t deal with that. He was off and running with his own emphasis – repentance is needed every time we sin. However, that is not related to the issue I raised from Heb 6:4-6. It can become very frustrating trying to interact with people who use logical fallacies. In fact, ‘

See my articles

coil-gold-sm Logical fallacies hijack debate and discussion.

coil-gold-sm Logical fallacies used to condemn Christianity

coil-gold-sm Christians and their use of logical fallacies

coil-gold-sm One writer’s illogical outburst

coil-gold-sm Bible bigotry from an arrogant skeptic

I urge you to watch for these digressions that are used in discussions to avoid dealing with the matters you and I raise. My experience is that Christians online and in person frequently use logical fallacies. I was speaking with a person recently about Australian cricket’s opening batsman, David Warner and his good looking wife, Candice. His response was, ‘My wife also is good looking’. That was a red herring fallacy. I was not talking about his wife, but about David Warner’s wife.

2. Inventing a definition

Notice how he does it: ‘Yes, apostasy is very serious, but does not lead to loss of salvation, no matter how much it may offend and disgust people’.[5]

I reminded him:[6] From where did you obtain that definition of apostasy? I do wish you would document your sources. Nothing was documented in your reply. If you are going to continue to do this, we have no grounds for a reasonable discussion. See the definitions above from the Greek NT and Oxford dictionaries of the definition of apostasy. They are far removed from this person’s agenda. He is pushing a theological barrow. No matter what biblical evidence is provided, he is so blinded by his theological ‘cataracts’ that he cannot see the evidence of what apostasy is and its dangers.

3. Distorting the biblical material

If one can’t use the Greek exegesis to refute parapiptw in Heb 6:6 in the Greek NT, what does one do? Here is his approach.

There is nothing in the word for “apostasy” that means loss of salvation.
Here is the word for “fall away” in Heb 6:6 – parapiptw
1) to fall beside a person or thing
2) to slip aside
2a) to deviate from the right path, turn aside, wander
2b) to error
2c) to fall away (from the true faith): from worship of Jehovah

Nothing here about loss of salvation.

Further, Paul described God’s gifts as justification (Rom 3:24 and 5:15,16,17) and eternal life (Rom 6:23) and then wrote that God’s gifts are irrevocable (Rom 11:29). That should end all debate on eternal life.

These gifts of God are “unrepented of” or irrevocable.

Further, when one believes they are sealed with the Holy Spirit, a promise and guarantee FOR the day of redemption.
Eph 1:13,14, 4:30, 2 Cor 1:22, 5:5.

Heb 10:14 – because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

Those “who are being made holy” is a reference to believers, and God “has made (them) perfect FOREVER”.

Having been made perfect forever precludes the loss of salvation.

These are not “cherry-picked” verses, but verses that clearly speak of eternal security.[7]

This is a detour into irrelevance. He’s going off at tangents, which indicates he does not deal with the specifics I raised. I chose to correct his erroneous statements.

So, ‘There is nothing in the word for “apostasy” that means loss of salvation’. Who said so? He has given us his opinion – a red herring. In section A above, I provided the definitions of ‘apostasy’ to refute this person’s statement. Evidence is better than personal assertions in any situation. When a person comes up with this kind of lack of evidence, I urge you to challenge him or her to provide the proof to confirm what he/she is avowing.

4. Correcting erroneous statements

I did obtain this person’s information online about the meaning of parapiptw from Strong’s Concordance (online) at:[8]  http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Lexicon.show/ID/G3895/parapipto.htm. Here it stated that Thayer’s Greek lexicon gave the meaning of this word for ‘fall away/apostasy’ as:

Thayer
1) to fall beside a person or thing
2) to slip aside
2a) to deviate from the right path, turn aside, wander
2b) to error
2c) to fall away (from the true faith): from worship of Jehovah
Part of Speech: verb
Citing in TDNT: 6:170, 846?

I have Thayer’s lexicon in hard copy. What this abbreviated version at that website has failed to state was that 1), 2), 2a) used ‘to deviate from the right path, turn aside, wander’ and that related to the meaning of 2) ‘to slip aside’. Number 2b) should be the infinitive ‘to err’. All of these meanings are from classical Greek authors Polybius and Xenophon and were NOT from the Bible. They were the meanings in those ancient Classical Greek authors.

What his abbreviated edition failed to mention was that 2c) was the only meaning that was from the Bible and it means ‘to fall away (from the true faith); from the worship of Jehovah’ (Ezek 14:13; 15:8 in the LXX) and ‘from Christianity’ (Heb 6:6) (Thayer 1885/1962:485). This is the meaning of apostasy as Arndt & Gingrich’s lexicon confirms (as I’ve already provided above).

I know that this kind of definition is outside of this persons theological philosophy of eternal security, but I want to be honest with the Greek exegesis of the text. It is possible to commit apostasy (fall away from the faith) in such a bad way that ‘it is impossible’ to restore their faith again through repentance. The language of Heb 6:6 (ESV) is accurate that it is impossible ‘to restore them again to repentance’, i.e. the apostasy has caused them to reach a stage where repentance to obtain true faith is needed, but it is impossible for that to happen.

That’s what Heb 6:6 (ESV) states. It’s a challenging thing before God to want to minimise this serious situation. I was in Bible College with two students who became Christian ministers and they have now committed apostasy. They have repudiated Christ and their Christian faith. They are now secular pagans in their thinking and actions.

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.

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(Image courtesy Worldcat)?

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

5. Irrelevance again

Image result for clipart signs public domainIf you want to continue to divert a topic to your own agenda, throw in another red herring. That’s what this person did again: ‘My position is based on what the Bible says clearly. And the verses I provided are clear about eternal security’.[9]

Notice the tactic! It sounds so reasonable, but the ploy he used was contrary to the information I supplied. I provided verses that demonstrated that apostasy could be committed (I defined apostasy) and how one could shipwreck one’s faith. He didn’t want to deal with this information to refute it, so he goes off into a statement about his favourite topic, eternal security – based on the Bible. Why is he refusing to answer the issues I raise about eternal security? Could it have something to do with his fixation on his version of the doctrine and not wanting to deal with the problems I raise that oppose that position? Seems like it.

What he doesn’t know is that I support the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints and not once-saved-always-saved. See my other articles on this topic:

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

Do I have a fixation in support of Arminianism? I have searched my heart on this topic. I don’t think so. I have seen so much misrepresentation of the Arminian position in 54 years as a Christian, in this latter stage of my life, I’m attempting to bring correction of that misinformation. Roger Olson’s book, Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities (Olson 2006) challenges some of these misconceptions regarding Arminianism.

6. A postmodern approach to Bible verses

What is postmodern interpretation? Ben Witherington explained:

[Stanley Fish, a postmodernist interpreter] does not really believe texts have meanings. He believes that active readers give texts their meaning.
I was always taught to call this eisegesis– the inappropriate reading into the text of something that is not there. He is not at all interested in arguments about “the intention of the author”. He thinks those intentions, whatever they were can’t be known and don’t matter. Meaning happens– its not encoded in texts, and the issue of authorial intent is a moot point. The funny thing about this is that when some people have misread his own work on John Milton, and totally misrepresented what he said— he objects “but that is not what I said or meant.” But he doesn’t have a leg to stand on. He gave up claims about objective meanings in texts and authorial intent. As for me, I would much rather listen to Kevin Van Hoozer on these subjects (see his “Is There a Meaning in This Text?“) or more remotely E.D. Hirsch’s classic study “Validity in Interpretation” (Witherington 2006).

Paul Noble described Fish’s hermeneutics as engaging in ‘radical reinterpration’. Noble maintained that ‘the text has an independent existence over against the interpreter, and offers very significant resistance to the reader’s interpretative strategies, in ways that contradict Fish’s central principles…. In spite of his denials, Fish’s theory entails a radical form of solipsism’. Oxford dictionaries defined solipsism as ‘the view or theory that the self is all that can be known to exist’ (Oxford dictionaries 2015. S v solipsism). It is Noble’s view that biblical studies should not move in a more Fishian direction (Noble 1995:1, emphasis in original).

In reply to another poster, this person on the Christian forum wrote:

One of the other of God’s gifts that is irrevocable is justification: Rom 3:24, 5:15,16,17.

Paul noted 2 of God’s gifts and then wrote that they are irrevocable.

Since he didn’t describe any other things as gifts of God, when he wrote Rom 11:29 we must go to where he DID describe gifts of God. And they are irrevocable.[10]

What are the difficulties with this post?[11]

Those verses from Rom 3 and Rom 5 teach justification but they do not teach justification that is irrevocable. You are imposing on these verses to get your ‘irrevocable’ emphasis.

Romans 11:29 (ESV) in the context of Rom 9-11 (ESV) is not talking about irrevocable or unrepented gifts in isolation. The Greek preposition gar (for) at the beginning of this verse (11:29) links it back to what has preceded it. The gifts of God, as the context makes clear, are not just for Jews but for Gentiles as well. See Rom 9:4-5 (ESV); Rom 11:1 (ESV); Rom 11:11-24 (ESV).

It is so important to interpret in context and not as a remote verse. The meaning of Rom 11:29 (ESV) is tied up with the Gospel going to the Jews (who often rejected it) and the Gentiles.

This person seems to want Rom 11:29 (ESV) to mean something that it doesn’t mean in context.

D. Make verses conform

Part of his response was: ‘The definition of the Greek word found in Heb 6:6 is from Strong’s…. Are you suggesting that the Bible re-defines some words?? Where would I find that teaching in the Bible?… But where in the Bible is the teaching that if one falls away, they lose their salvation?’[12] There were other parts to this response, but I found them to be meanderings that were not attempting to solve the differences between supporters and opponents of eternal security.

My reply to him was that when I wrote (above) that Thayer gave the meanings from classical Greek authors Polybius and Xenophon in his definitions of papapiptw, I was showing that authors outside of the Bible – and ancient authors – did use papapiptw in a different way to the LXX and NT.
Yes, the Bible does use words with a slightly or even considerably different meaning from ancient secular sources. Where do I find that in the Bible? I won’t, just as I won’t find the fact that Captain James Cook circumnavigated New Zealand in 1770 and then sailed up the east coast of Australia. I’m grateful for scholars who have compared the ancient sources with the LXX and NT in our Greek lexicons and publications such as Kittel & Friedrich’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. It is hard work reading and analysing the etymology of words in ancient writers in the original languages to arrive at meanings.

I’m grateful for scholars who have compared the ancient Greek, secular sources with the LXX and NT in our Greek lexicons and publications such as Kittel & Friedrich’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. It is hard work reading and analysing the etymology of words in ancient writers in the original languages to arrive at meanings.

Where in the Bible is the teaching of losing salvation? I’ve already provided the evidence from Heb 6:4-6 (ESV) and 1 Tim 1:19 (ESV) but you don’t want to receive that information. This latter verse talks of shipwreck of one’s faith.

Take a look at the present condition of the wreck of the Titanic:
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(Titanic wreck 2003, photo courtesy Wikipedia)

Apostasy speaks of repudiating salvation; a shipwrecked faith indicates a useless faith for what it was designed (salvation).
I don’t believe in eternal security or once-saved-always-salved but I do believe the Bible teaches perseverance of the saints, i.e. believers will persevere to the end of life. This is taught in 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’.?

The meaning of the Greek present tenses [that I have put in square brackets], confirms this biblical theology that the saints will persevere and not commit apostasy or have their faith shipwrecked.
Matt 24:13 (ESV) also verifies this: ‘The one who endures to the end will be saved’.

E. Conclusion

The challenge from a proponent of the eternal security of salvation was, where are the words or the message, ‘loss of salvation’, found in the Bible?

The answer is that the exact words, ‘loss of salvation’, are not found. However, having the identical words is not necessary. As demonstrated, it has been shown that the Scriptures do use language that it is possible for a Christian to,

clip_image015 commit apostasy, which means to renounce the Christian faith;

clip_image015[1] shipwreck the faith, so that the faith is useless in action. It has been demolished or shattered so that it is worthless for its purpose of achieving salvation.

clip_image015[2] some promoters of eternal security will avoid the biblical issues of apostasy. They seem blinded by their theological cataracts.

Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[13] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Noble, P R 1995. Hermeneutics and postmodernism: Can we have a radical reader-response theory? Part 2. Religious Studies, 31(1), 1-22, March.

Olson, R E 2006, Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Robertson, A T 1932. Word pictures in the New Testament: The fourth Gospel, the epistle to the Hebrews, vol 5. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press.

Thayer, J H 1885/1962.Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament being Grimm’s Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti, tr, rev, enl. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Witherington, B 2006. Thoroughly post-modern biblical interpretation. Ben Witherington Blogspot (online), October 3. Available at: http://benwitherington.blogspot.com.au/2006/10/thoroughly-post-modern-biblical.html (Accessed 23 December 2015).

Notes


[1] ChristianForums.net, Apologetics & Theology, ‘If I ask someone for a gift, did I earn it, or work for it when I got it handed to me?’ FreeGrace #703, 20 December 2015. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/if-i-ask-someone-for-a-gift-did-i-earn-it-or-work-for-it-when-i-got-it-handed-to-me.61200/page-36 (Accessed 21 December 2015).

[2] This is my response to FreeGrace at ibid., OzSpen#714.

[3] Ibid., FreeGrace#718.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#728.

[7] Ibid., FreeGrace#718.

[8] Ibid., OzSpen#728.

[9] Ibid., FreeGrace#726.

[10] Ibid., FreeGrace#735.

[11] This is my response in ibid., OzSpen#745.

[12] Ibid., FreeGrace#732.

[13] This is ‘a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörtbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur’ (4th rev & augmented edn 1952) (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).

 

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

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Contentious theology: Falling away from the faith

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015

(courtesy pinterest.com

By Spencer D Gear PhD

If you want a warmed up or heated discussion in church or online in a Christian forum, raise a passage like this one, Hebrews 6:4-6 (ESV), and contend that a person can fall away from the faith – commit apostasy!

A person quoted this verse and then stated, ‘The writer of Hebrews seemed to think that it is possible for Christians to fall away’.[1]

They were never Christians

This kind of response was predictable. I’ve encountered it many times during my 50 years of Christian experience:

The scriptures you’ve quoted above are NOT speaking about a child of God or Christians , as you put it, rather the word “some” in Heb 6:4 must be qualified, and these are they who are the Tares that God allowed to grow together with the Wheat in the church environment. The Tares are the unsaved and the Wheat the saved. In every congregations of the world, without exceptions, there are saved and unsaved people who gather together in the local churches. The Tares are those that will fall away although they heard the true Gospel preached (enlightened), and have tasted of the heavenly gift (salvation), and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit (communion).

The key verse in understanding Heb 6:4-6 is found in Heb 6:9 which do not speak about a child of God or salvation, but of unbelief which is explained in Heb 3:17-19.

God is the Author of the Bible and I don’t believe He intended that it is possible for His child to fall away!

2 Pet 2:20-22 are companion scriptures to Heb 6: 4-6.[2]

The context refutes that view

I responded:[3] This is not what the verses say in context, we read Heb 5:11-6:8 (ESV):

11 About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

6 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do if God permits. 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. 7 For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. 8 But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.

The context of Heb 6:4-6 (ESV) is very clear that these people are those:

  • Who have become ‘dull of hearing’ (5:11).
  • By this time, for those for whom Jesus ‘became the source of eternal salvation’ (5:9), ‘ought to be teachers’ (5:12), i.e. Christian teachers, but they needed ‘someone to teach you again’ (5:12).
  • Teach what? ‘The basic principles of the oracles of God’ (5:12).
  • These Christians needed to go back to ‘milk’ and not be fed ‘solid food’ (5:12).
  • ‘Everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness’ (5:13). So, the author is not talking about unbelievers but about those who are ‘unskilled’ in righteousness. He is not referring to those who do not know and experience righteousness.
  • He is addressing those who are children in righteousness (5:13). Nevertheless, they are Christians of righteousness, but still need milk as children of God when they should be more mature.
  • However, ‘solid food is for the mature’. These are those who have ‘powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil’ (5:14).
  • The author’s call is that these Christians ‘leave the elementary doctrine of Christ’ (6:1) – the milk – and ‘go on to maturity’ so that the foundation of Christ – repentance – will not be laid again. This problem they were encountering was a ‘foundation’ of ‘dead works and of faith toward God’ (6:1).
  • This elementary doctrine also included ‘instruction about washings’, ‘laying on of hands’, ‘resurrection of the dead’ and ‘eternal judgment’ (6:2). Obviously these kinds of doctrines were involved in these Christians’ belief in and teachings of the ‘milk’ of being ‘unskilled in the word of righteousness’ (5:13).
  • Then the author launches into the warnings of apostasy contained in Heb 6:4-6 (ESV), in which the teaching is that for those who apostatise from the faith by falling away, ‘they are crucifying once again the Son of God’ (6:6), thus making it ‘impossible to restore [them] again to repentance’ (6:4).
  • Then comes the analogy of  land that has absorbed the rain that falls, produces a crop for those who cultivate it and the blessing is thus received from God (6:7).
  • But if that crop ‘bears thorns and thistles’, ‘it is worthless’ and is ‘cursed’ and ‘burned’ (6:8).

So, it is possible for Christians to feed on the milk instead of the food and be immature in their faith and then become vulnerable to the temptations to apostatise and fall away from the faith.

That’s the context of Heb 6:4-6 (ESV) as I understand it. It is addressing Hebrew Christians who are warned that they could apostatise BUT ‘in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things – things that belong to salvation’ (6:9). Who are the ‘beloved‘? Christians, of course!

The writer of Hebrews had this longing for the believers to whom he addressed this letter: ‘We desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises’ (Heb 6:11-12 ESV).

So the writer is dealing with immature Christian believers who had been feeding on milk instead of solid food. For these, the temptation to fall away from the faith was always a possibility. But for these Hebrew Christians, the writer desired better things – perseverance in the faith.

I don’t believe the context, based on this reasoning, allows us to say that these people were ‘NOT speaking about a child of God or Christians’ (the language of the person on the forum). They were immature Christians who could be tempted away from the faith and fall into apostasy.

So close, but not a Christian

Image result for cross public domain(www.clipartlord.com)

 

How do you think this person would respond to the above exposition? Here goes:

Unfortunately, the passage concerned is Hebrews 6:4-6 which speaks that there will be “some” (in a church setting), who will fall away.

I was merely responding to Barrd’s post #10 where she claimed those who will fall away are Christians, just as you do but in a different twist, by saying these who fall away are also Christians but unskilled in the doctrines of Christ. I have yet to read in the Bible that anyone lacking in the knowledge of scriptures cannot be saved!!

We are not saved because of knowledge of Scripture.

FYI, the gist of Hebrews 6:4-6 is about someone who was brought so close to salvation but rejected it!

Consider these scriptures which are self explanatory:

1Jo 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

Heb 4:2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.

Heb 3:17-19 But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?

18 And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?

19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

To God Be The Glory.[4]

What has he done here?

Red herring fallacy in place of evidence

Red Herring Clipart(courtesy clipartsheep.com)

 

This fellow has done what many Christians resort to. My response was that I am flabbergasted that I provided an extended examination of the context to demonstrate the nature of the salvation that the people of Heb 6:4-6 (ESV) had. He refuted not a word of this, but then gave this red herring logical fallacy:

‘FYI, the gist of Hebrews 6:4-6 is about someone who was brought so close to salvation but rejected it!’

Could I be wasting my time in providing this person with an exposition in context? Seems so![5]

This person is imposing his view on the text. In biblical interpretation, this is called eisegesis, that is, ‘The reading into a text, in this case, an ancient text of the Bible, of a meaning that is not supported by the grammar, syntax, lexical meanings, and over-all context, of the original’ (Exegesis v. eisegesis).

Conclusion

Hebrews 6:4-6, when examined in context, demonstrates that it is speaking about Christians who are so immature in the faith that they are still being fed on spiritual milk.

They are so weak in the faith that they do not persevere but are tempted away from the faith and may even commit apostasy.

A person who had a pre-commitment to once-saved-always-saved theology could not accept this explanation so engaged in fallacious reasoning by committing a red herring logical fallacy. It’s impossible to have a logical conversation with anyone who uses a logical fallacy and will not deal with the illogic of his or her views.

Therefore, Heb 6:4-6 teaches that it is possible for Christians living on the milk of the Word to be so immature in the faith that they can fall away from the faith. This apostasy is so serious that they cannot be restored to repentance, which means they are lost permanently because ‘they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt’ (Heb 6:6).

It is serious charge to make against Scripture to make it say what it does not say. To the contrary, those who promote eternal security and deny apostasy are teaching false doctrine.

Notes


[1] Christianity Board, Christian Theology Forum, ‘The Law & The Gospel’, The Barrd#10, 8 October 2015. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/21997-the-law-the-gospel/#entry263608 (Accessed 12 October 2015).

[2] Ibid., Jun2u#18.

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#19.

[4] Ibid., Jun2u#20.

[5] Ibid., OzSpen#22.

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 2 December 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.

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.

What does it mean to shipwreck your faith?

Saturday, September 14th, 2013

Spencer D Gear

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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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Conversations with a Calvinist on apostasy

Monday, July 8th, 2013

Spencer D Gear

Lake of Fire

Courtesy ShareFaith

By Spencer D Gear

If you want to see some heat generated in theological discussions, just raise the issue of the possibility of apostasy with Calvinists who believe in perseverance of the saints. These folks who believe in once saved, always saved (OSAS) – which is not good terminology – do not want to come close to believing that it is possible for a genuine Christian to be lost again and to be lost eternally with no further opportunity for repentance.

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].[1]

I made the post to a Christian forum in which I dealt with Hebrews 10:26-27, which states, ‘For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgement, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries (ESV).

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Courtesy ChristArt

In response to another person, I wrote:

They should cause us all to be concerned about our continuing to ‘go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth’ (Heb. 10:26). This verse, along with Heb 6:4-8, confirm that apostasy is a genuine possibility for some who have been Christian but choose to sin deliberately and reject the Lord.

These verses and the others you quoted cannot be excluded when continuation or loss of salvation is considered.[2]

A Calvinist responded, ‘We all sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth’.[3] How should I reply?

Therefore, this is what we can expect from God if that is what we :

26 Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. 27 There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies (Heb 10:26-27 NLT).

The NLT has gotten the essence of the Greek present tense with ‘continue sinning’ and this is deliberately. This is deliberate sinning that continues on and on.[4]

The same Calvinist responded:

The passage isn’t talking about losing salvation. It’s sad that you think the Great Shepherd could lose His sheep.
The writer is talking to Jews. If they reject Christ, their sacrificial system will not benefit them. That’s why there remains no more sacrifice for sins.
But hey, only have conversations with those who agree with you. That way you’ll never be challenged.
(Oh, and the 1 Tim passage says nothing about them losing their salvation.)[5]

My response was:[6] The passage is doing more than talking about losing salvation. It is talking about the believer who commits apostasy (repudiates the Christian faith), for whom ‘there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins’. That’s the apostasy from which there is no return, as Heb. 6:4-8 confirms.
It’s sad that you think the Great Shepherd is not telling us the truth when he writes about committing apostasy in Heb 6:4-8 and Heb 10:26-27 for which there is no return to repentance.

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Bible.malmesbury.arp.jpg, Courtesy Wikipedia

The context of Hebrew 10:26-27, no matter how much you want it to refer to Jews, tells us that the writer to the Hebrews is writing to Christians. We know this from these verses in Ch. 10:

clip_image012[2] Hebrews 10:10, “By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (ESV)

clip_image012[2] Heb 10:15, “And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us….”

clip_image012[2] Heb 10:19, “Therefore, brothers and sisters since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,”

clip_image012[2] Heb 10:22, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith….”

clip_image012[2] Heb 10:23, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering….”

clip_image012[2]  Heb 10:24, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.”

clip_image012[2] Heb 10:25, “Not neglecting to meet together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.…”

clip_image012[2] Heb 10:26, ‘“For if we go on sinning deliberately….”

This Calvinist did nto seem to like the challenges that I to his view on apostasy, which was that no Christian can commit apostasy as once they are saved they will persevere in the faith and not lose salvation. However, that is not a consistent view maintained in Scripture.

Mark Karlberg’s (1996) article on apostasy continued:

G. C. Berkouwer[7] comments: “We must underscore the deep seriousness of the biblical warning against apostasy after enlightenment’ and after the knowledge of the truth.’ This is the apostasy which reviles the Spirit of grace and despises the Son of God and crucifies the Man of Sorrows anew” (p. 343). Berkouwer is correct to refute the idea that this sin against the Holy Spirit is a mysterium iniquitatis (“a mystery of sin”), a sin difficult, if at all possible, to define precisely in the Bible.

Apostatizing from God’s redemptive covenant is an act of unpardonable transgression and rebellion. All other sins are forgiven on true repentance and faith. Those who fall out of fellowship with the saints are restored to full communion through confession of sin and reaffirmation of faith in Jesus Christ. Excommunication, as a final step in the process of ecclesiastical discipline, is undertaken in the hope of restoring the wayward sinner who has fallen into grievous sin ( 1 Co 5:1-5).

Israel of old repeatedly broke covenant with God. By impugning the name and works of Yahweh, Israel despised her calling and proved to be a stubborn and disobedient nation. Pentateuchal law identifies covenantal faithlessness as apostasy (see, e.g., the curses of the covenant pronounced on Mount Ebal by the Israelites in Deut 27:9-26). With respect to temporal blessing in the land of promise, restoration of Israel to divine favor after covenant breaking was always a consequence of divine grace and mercy, not because of meritorious works on Israel’s part.

In biblical prophecy apostasy is an eschatological sign of the impending day of the Lord, a precursor of the final day of judgment. Ancient Israel’s experience of divine wrath and displeasure served as typological foreshadowings of that latter day. The increase in apostasy in these last days of the church’s wilderness experience is associated with the appearance of the “man of lawlessness” ( 2 Th 2:1-3).

For a detailed examination of the possibility of a Christian committing apostasy and being lost forever with no opportunity for repentance, see my exposition of Hebrews 6:4-8, ‘Once saved, always saved or once saved, lost again’.

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

Works consulted

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).

 

 Notes:


[1] Karlberg (1996).

[2] Christian Forums, Congregation, Christian Communities, Baptists, Heb 6:4-6, OzSpen #13, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7755725-2/ (Accessed 6 July 2013).

[3] Ibid., Hammster #14.

[4] Ibid., OzSpen #15.

[5] Ibid., Hammster #30.

[6]Ibid., OzSpen #34.

[7] Karlberg stated that this referred to the book by G. C. Berkouwer, Sin.

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.