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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Mixed Messages on Eternal Security

I definitely haven't forgotten the preaching/teaching series, and I apologize for the delay in posting my thoughts on teaching, but I want to open up another topic for discussion. This isn't going to be as much of me writing my thoughts as just questions that are running around in my mind.

First, a little background to the questions. I was taught eternal security when I was growing up. The so-called "once saved, always saved" teaching says that once a person is saved, they can never lose their salvation. There are Scripture passages used to defend this position (such as John 10:29), as well as appeals to the nature of God (i.e., because God is sovereign, it would be impossible for someone to thwart the work of salvation that has been done by God in that person).

Of course, there are people who believe otherwise, citing the many references in the New Testament that seem to indicate the possibility of falling away (e.g. Hebrews 6:4-6) or even being cut off by God for not abiding in Christ (John 15:6).

While it is not the purpose of this article to defend one position or the other, my questions are more targeted at the "can't lose your salvation ever, for any reason" thinking. (By the way, "lose your salvation" is a poor phrase, because it sounds like salvation is something that can be misplaced by accident! Even if one believes that it is possible to fall away from salvation, this should never be something that is used to cause people to fear unknowingly offending God and incurring His wrath.)

And here's where my questions start. Recently, in several different blog interactions, I have seen certain doctrines mentioned (the Trinity, inerrancy of Scripture, etc.) as things that don't need to be affirmed in order to respond to the call of salvation, but can't be rejected later on. For example, here is a quote from the Chicago Statement of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy:

We affirm that a confession of the full authority, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture is vital to a sound understanding of the whole of the Christian faith. We further affirm that such confession should lead to increasing conformity to the image of Christ.

We deny that such a confession is necessary for salvation. However, we further deny that inerrancy can be rejected without grave consequences, both to the individual and the church.
(Article XIX)
Notice that the statement clearly denies it is necessary to "confess" the inerrancy of Scripture in order to be saved. Granted, this statement does not say that one cannot be saved if they deny the inerrancy of Scripture later on, but it does predict unspecified "grave consequences" if one does, in fact, deny the inerrancy of the Scripture at some point in their life post-salvation.

Others have gone further in their statements, though. Consider this comment made by Steve Camp in the discussion following a post on his blog:

Can someone not believe in the Trinity but yet still respond to the gospel of grace of Jesus Christ and be saved? Yes. Can someone claim to grow in their walk with the Lord, study the Scriptures and continue year after year to deny the Trinity and be considered a true believer in the Lord? Of course not.
Now, this introduces a very interesting dilemma, in my opinion. On the one hand, Steve (being fully Calvinistic in his doctrine) teaches very clearly that one cannot lose their salvation. Yet here, he states that, while a belief in the doctrine of the Trinity is not necessary for salvation, one cannot later deny the doctrine of the Trinity and still "be considered a true believer".

This sends a very mixed message on the subject of eternal security. How can one be saved, but then later not be considered to a "true believer" because they later reject a particular doctrine that wasn't necessary for salvation in the first place? Either the doctrine is absolutely essential for salvation, or it's not. I don't understand this.

I'm just curious if any of my readers have any thoughts on how to understand this mixed message.

Until next time,

steve :)

22 comment(s):

I believe that 2 Corinthians 5:17 is the truth; a person is a new creation when he is saved.

Now, for a person to lose his salvation, he would have to undo the new creation work in him and reverse all of the different works of the cross done by Jesus. It's hard to argue that point of view, right?

So, I am a "once saved, always saved" type of Christian. Please don't call me a Calvinist!

I have worshipped with Oneness (Jesus Only) believers. I don't agree with their theology on the Trinity, but it didn't hinder these saints from loving Jesus. And consider this thought? It must not have bothered the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit that much either because young Oneness people are still getting saved!

Truthfully, I don't think anyone has perfect theology. And I don't think our imperfect theology bugs Jesus that much. He is our perfect Redeemer.

By Blogger Larry Who, at Tuesday, April 25, 2006 11:26:00 AM  

First of all I'd like to say "nice blog Steve" - I'm glad you stopped by my blog today...looks like you're not "too far" down the road from me. I plan to check out some of your music when I get a chance.

Larry,

I'm not of the OSAS persuasion, but I acknowledge that there are many wonderful Christians who are. Frankly, the whole "you can't be unborn" mantra of OSAS holds very little weight. It's using human logic to explain spiritual truth- much like Nicodemus trying to figure out how to go back in his mother's womb :)

I will grant you that the Scriptures make no mention of becoming "unborn" per se, but they do allow for one to pass from life to death. Jude speaks of those "twice dead" plucked up by the roots. In Paul's great theological treatise to the Romans (ironically enough, a favorite of OSAS and Calvinists alike)-he clearly allows the possibility of going from life to death in Romans 6:16 and 6:21 and 6:23. Chapter 6 is clearly addressed to the believer (note the personal pronoun "we" Paul scatters throughout the passage)

Just my $.02 sorry to ramble!

By Blogger Henry Haney, at Wednesday, April 26, 2006 2:56:00 PM  

Henry,

Glad for your $.02 worth of comments. What's funny is that I used to preach your side of this argument. I would let the listeners have both side of my barrels right between the eyes with Hebrews 6 and 2 Peter 2.

But the scripture that really changed my thinking was John 6:39-40. And my thought was this - if anyone should lose their salvation, then Jesus would not have done the will of His Father.

By Blogger Larry Who, at Wednesday, April 26, 2006 3:55:00 PM  

Hi Larry,

I'm not sure if Bro. Steve would appreciate me coming on his blog the first day and becoming embroiled in an OSAS debate (**big apology Steve-I promise this is the last one from me :) **)

But I did want to answer your objection (if you will indulge me). You said you weren't a Calvinist (so I'm going to take your word for it). If you believe what II Peter says about the Father not being willing that any should perish then you would agree it's not God's will for anyone to be lost....but we know they will be. Does this indicate any failure on God's part (of course we would both agree the answer is No).

Secondly, an important note about John 6:40 is that "believes" is in the present tense. The one who continues to believe in Christ has eternal life. There are no guarantees for the "former" believer.

Be blessed Larry!

By Blogger Henry Haney, at Wednesday, April 26, 2006 5:01:00 PM  

Hi Larry,

I'm not sure if Bro. Steve would appreciate me coming on his blog the first day and becoming embroiled in an OSAS debate (**big apology Steve-I promise this is the last one from me :) **)

But I did want to answer your objection (if you will indulge me). You said you weren't a Calvinist (so I'm going to take your word for it). If you believe what II Peter says about the Father not being willing that any should perish then you would agree it's not God's will for anyone to be lost....but we know they will be. Does this indicate any failure on God's part (of course we would both agree the answer is No).

Secondly, an important note about John 6:40 is that "believes" is in the present tense. The one who continues to believe in Christ has eternal life. There are no guarantees for the "former" believer.

Be blessed Larry!

By Blogger Henry Haney, at Wednesday, April 26, 2006 5:01:00 PM  

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

By Blogger Henry Haney, at Wednesday, April 26, 2006 5:01:00 PM  

Henry,

What I actually said was, "Please don't call me a Calvinist!"

Sadly, it was stated tongue in cheek, but since we can only use words, you couldn't see my facial contortions. So, I'm sorry to mislead you in any way.

John Wesley and George Whitefield disagreed vhemently over OSAS. They refused to talk to each other for years because of this and would send strong letters back and forth to each other.

Once, their letters to each other crossed in the mail at the same time and both of their letters began something like this: "God has just showed me that I am right and that you are wrong..."

So, the eventual end of our discussion will probably end the same way, right?

Tell you what, why don't you go and build those other churches that God has been showing you during your quiet times? If you do that, God's kingdom will be blessed!

By Blogger Larry Who, at Wednesday, April 26, 2006 5:42:00 PM  

I think once a person is saved, he is always saved, assuming he endures to the end--a simple function of continuing to decide to walk with Jesus, which is a simple function of trusting in the grace of God.

I think lots of folks who claim salvation will be told, "I never knew you, be gone."

I think lots of folks who are unsure will be lifted up in the arms of grace until the end, because despite their lack of knowledge, lack of understanding and in general weakness which caused them much self-doubt, something in their hearts never let go of trusting in God--evidenced by how humbly they consistently sought Him out in the midst of their confusion.

I think some folks who never heard Jesus preached will be in because they were true to their conscience and what God had written on their hearts from birth for all their lives.

(Just call me squirrelly if you must, but it sure helped my kids get a handle on trusting God over the fate of all native peoples everywhere ever untouched by missionaries throughout history.)

It is not so much what our doctrine is, but what is happening in our hearts. God knows for sure about all of us, and some of us know for ourselves. Lots of folks do not know one way or the other.

Lots of folks who will not make the earthly journey nearly correctly, and that is exactly where they want to be and they are certain of it, will put their complete trust in Jesus on their death bed. In or out?
I think in because God's love is so complete.

I know this for certain: God in His perfection will never make a wrong judgment over who is in and who is not.

I am also certain, that the Word reveals enough of the Truth of Jesus for anyone to be certain, if the revelation of who Jesus is has been granted by the Father. (I believe the mercy of God completely covers this one.)
This should happen for all, according to the will of God, but because some of us are cowards or stubborn or both or something else full of contempt for the Holy Spirit, it does not.

Perhaps if those of us who know Him for certain allowed more of a revealing from our hearts of a great and heavenly love in contrast to words from our mouths, more people would be certain of their salvation throughout their journey and until the end.

Am I Calvinist or not? I don't know (I don't think so), and I don't care because Calvinism in and of itself is just another man-made religion and not faith. My proof text is the simple fact that a position called according to the name of a man makes it more than suspect as incomplete.

With a growing love for you all, way beyond my own ability to love,
thank You, Jesus,

I sign off.
8^)

By Anonymous ded, at Wednesday, April 26, 2006 7:08:00 PM  

hey, hey, I'm missing all the fun on my own blog!! :)

Henry, welcome. And feel free to make yourself at home and comment all you want. I have no comment policies here, and so far that has served me very well. In some sense, my blog is your blog (that goes for all of you)! :)

ded, you're not squirrely, brother! I appreciate your thoughts here, and absolutely love the relationship you and I have as brothers. (Sunday evening was such incredible fellowship, and we're so glad you and Mrs. ded are part of our lives!)

Larry, to your John 6:39-40 comment. I'd like to get your take on something, spoken by the same person (Jesus) and recorded by the same author (John).

John 17:6-12 is something that I came across recently as part of a completely different study, but what I saw there jumped out at me.

Jesus referred to his disciples as those whom the Father had given Him, which I think fairly equates to the language he used in John 6. And there He states that none of them were lost, except...

Was Judas given to Jesus by the Father? And if so, how was he "lost"?

By my count, 25 out of the 27 New Testament books contain references to, or hints of, the possibility of apostasy (or "falling away") -- Philemon and 3 John are the only ones in which I don't see a reference to it. I find this significant. Perhaps I'll devote a post to the verses to which I refer.

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Wednesday, April 26, 2006 8:03:00 PM  

Many years ago, I heard Hal Lindsey say on TBN, "I can think of no way that a person could lose his salvation."

At the time, I thought to myself, "Well, I can think of plenty."

Three years later, I agreed with Hal Lindsey. It came through a combination of scriptures and revelations. But what instantly happened to me was this great revelation came over me and I thought, "Wow - Jesus really loves people."

I agree with most of what ded said, and especially the squirrelly part. My disagreement is that salvation to me is always dependent on God's grace and never on my character. And if I really get into grievious error, I believe that God will kill me and take me home to heaven a little earlier than I would like.

As far as being a Calvinist or evangelical or Charismatic or a fundamentalist or whatever - I am a Christian. A follower of the way.

Steve:

As far as John 17 goes, I don't have a good take on that right now, but it makes for some interesting ponderings, doesn't it?

By Blogger Larry Who, at Wednesday, April 26, 2006 9:27:00 PM  

Response to eternal security. Thinking about the quote on the Trinity not being necessary for salvation, but not beliving in it not making you a true believer.
Accepting the Gosple, Jesus Christ, grants us Salvation. Jesus IS the trinity, 3 in one. However, just because you believe doesnt mean that you understand.
So can one believe in Jesus, and not the trinity, and still be saved. Yes. Its just that they dont fully understand what the trinity is.

By Anonymous Luke M, at Wednesday, April 26, 2006 10:57:00 PM  

Did I suggest my salvation was based on my character?

Wash my mouth out with soap or send me back to writing class. I never meant anything I said to imply such.

By Anonymous ded, at Thursday, April 27, 2006 5:25:00 AM  

Luke, welcome to the blog, brother. Hope your finals go well and you end the semester well.

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Thursday, April 27, 2006 7:31:00 AM  

I do want to clarify (I did say this in the post, but it bears repeating here) that this post was not meant to be a defense of either "once saved, always saved", or "ability to lose one's salvation." I certainly don't mind the discussion here on either side of that, and you are free to continue the dialogue on that topic, but I would like to get some more thoughts on the question of the post.

Here's the bottom line for me: If a particular doctrine is essential for one to be "considered a true believer", then should we not make sure that doctrine is believed before ever considering that person to be saved in the first place? If not, at what point does that doctrine become "essential"?

I like the way ded often says that the essential doctrine needs to be that which can be comprehended (or confessed, I guess I could say) by someone who is not necessarily intellectually gifted. (He says it much better than I do, but I can't remember the exact words he uses.)

I was attempting to point out the discrepancy between saying that someone can "be saved" without understanding, or even knowing about, certain other doctrines, yet later on then be considered not to be a "true believer" because they choose not to embrace the doctrine when it is explained to them. And the only reason I referred to "eternal security" in the context was because this two-faced position is held by those who do not believe one can lose their salvation.

As for my own personal position in the OSAS debate, I will say that I do not believe that "security" is something that is automatically assumed by the believer, unless they remain in Christ, endure, overcome, etc., as Scripture repeatedly states. Having said that, I do believe that it is entirely possible (and normative, and biblical) for a believer to be confident and sure of their salvation. But it does not come back to resting on some prayer that was prayed at some point in the past for "salvation". That is not where our security lies.

I'll also pitch in the thought that I believe the more a Christian matures in their relationship with Christ, becomes more and more conformed into His image, and becomes more consistent in walking in the Spirit, the more this issue of "losing salvation" becomes a non-issue.

Anyway, we'll probably get into that more, I'm sure! :)

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Thursday, April 27, 2006 7:48:00 AM  

Steve is right, we need to get back to the original post, but first...

Since I have a science background, allow me to portray Ephesians 2:8-9 in an equation format:

works = zero
grace + faith + zero = salvation.

So, am I to deduce that once a person is saved, his continued salvation no longer depends on the truth of this scriptural fomula. Pretty tough to argue that point of view, right?

Because if we can lose our salvations, grace must be removed from the equation. And if grace can be removed, what are we left with but a bunch of laws which we never will be able to live up to.

Getting back to the original post, salvation is a lot like the trinity in that we don't have to totally understand it to be recipients of the full benefits of the whole package.

By Blogger Larry Who, at Thursday, April 27, 2006 10:11:00 AM  

Hi Steve - OSAS - that's me.

As to your question about S. Camp - what he was saying was that the original "conversion" wasn't real - it was "spurious faith." The person is not elect.

Calvinist? - not me.

By Blogger Rose~, at Thursday, April 27, 2006 2:38:00 PM  

I'm ok with people being OSAS. I always chuckle at discussions like this. Here's what I've seen in the past:

-- Some, like Larry Who, will mention that they used to be non-OSAS, and then were convinced from the Scriptures to change. Me? I went the other way, based on the Scriptures.

-- Some have said that they used to be a continuationist, but studied the Scriptures, and became convinced of cessationism. Me? I went the other way, based on the Scriptures.

-- Some share how they used to be non-Calvinist, but studied the Scriptures, and became solidly convinced of TULIP. Me? I went the other way, based on the Scriptures.

Ironic, isn't it? And I think that there's probably a lesson to be learned there. We both read the same Scriptures (at least, I'll have to take people's word for it that they studied it for themselves, and not just listened to someone else preach it or read someone's book about it), and yet we swap positions. I used to be OSAS, cessationist, and pretty much Calvinistic. Funny, huh? ;)

Now, Rose, I wondered how long it would be before someone offered the caveat you offered for Steve Camp's comment. Thanks for not making me wait long! ;) hehe

Larry, as to your mathematical equation, I don't really have a pithy response to it right at the moment. But it really begs the question, what does Scripture mean when it talks about "abiding" in Christ? Or what does it mean when it talks about "enduring" to the end? Or what does it mean when it talks about "overcoming"?

I like these kinds of discussions. No one is pitching a fit here, and no one is accusing anyone of being unregenerate. Oh, the joys of not being a heavily-visited blog!!! :)

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Thursday, April 27, 2006 9:44:00 PM  

In my experience with the OSAS issue, I have hardly ever met a person that has changed from a non-OSAS view to a OSAS one. Generally, they are like you.

So, I chuckle at my minority status.

The terms "abiding", "enduring" and "overcoming" are important terms and I may not have all of the answers on them, but these is not the keys for believing in OSAS or not. The key is this: Is there any limit to God's grace? And if there is a limit, what is the law and what are the boundaries of this law?

Adam and Eve had one law and they knew exactly what would happen if they broke it. Their failure to keep this one law has put us in the pickle we are in today.

So, if salvation can be lost because of any rebellion on our part, surely - like Adam - I am a goner.

By Blogger Larry Who, at Friday, April 28, 2006 7:56:00 AM  

Steve, I realize that I am a little late in joining this conversation, but if I may I will take a stab at your original question.

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth, the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. Romans 10:9

What are we to confess about Jesus? His Lordship, as stated here. I believe based upon what Scripture teaches about this topic that one must believe that Jesus is the Son of God and the only means of salvation.

To believe in the Resurrection would imply an understanding of the crucifixion and what it means.

There are other doctrines that are vital to growth, fellowship, etc., but I believe these are essential to salvation. We only tend to cloud the issue and risk becoming legalistic when we try to add more.

By Blogger Gordon Cloud, at Monday, May 01, 2006 9:48:00 AM  

So Gordon, do I take that to be your "short list" of the things that absolutely must be believed in order to be viewed as a "true believer"?

I hope so, because that would mean that you and I are in agreement on this! ;)

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Monday, May 01, 2006 9:44:00 PM  

Well, whaddya know, we are in agreement, brother! :)

By Blogger Gordon Cloud, at Tuesday, May 02, 2006 12:40:00 AM  

Agreed. This is the cornerstone of salvation.

For practically living, might we say:

God = love (crucifixion is proof)

God = authority (resurrection is proof)

Love = authority

The authority that represents God in this fallen world are those who manifest His love.

This is not a statement about eternal security or not. It is a statement about the God -- human connection. Eternally secure is not a belief position but rather a function of belief in what God has ordained. First, His love and authority, then all of His will follows. Regardless of how we mentally work to get our minds around the depth and breadth and heighth of God's love.

By Anonymous ded, at Tuesday, May 02, 2006 8:06:00 AM  

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