Believe it or not, I don’t really like the type of controversy on topics like this. I know my own doubts and beliefs, but it can be difficult to give complete assent to one side or the other in some of these discussions.
Yet, I am so uncomfortable with dismissal of real points of contention within the debate, that it constrains me to add my two cents. I was about to apologize and give remonstrance that I am no theologian, but that is silly. If you are about the business of Knowing God, you become a default theologian of some sort or another.
There are distinct camps within Christianity. Two of those would be disagreed on the state of salvation in this life. One asserts eternal security in salvation, the other asserts that one may lose their salvation.
For a decent explanation of eternal security, Jollyblogger does some posts Hebrew 6 which I found via Parableman.
I tend to not accept the idea of “once saved always saved”. There are too many warnings in the Bible that a man can turn against God, can “fall away”. And other things, for which I will work off of Jollybloggers sermon.
He says,”It is true that, if you are truly saved, you cannot lose your salvation, but it is equally true that there are many who think they are saved and who arenâ€™t.” This is one part of the eternal security arguments I really dislike. There is often talk of how people think they are saved, but they are not really, because if they were they would have remained in that state. So the reasoning goes that they were mistaken about being saved.
That is implied within Jollybloggers statement, but I don’t know if he thinks that way. Others do, and that is problematical in the understanding of salvation. I think it is unnecessarily convoluted for the express purpose of supporting the eternal security idea.
J. continues,”Warning passages are there for the purpose of calling you to stop and re-examine yourself..” I agree. I would go further than that… it also means that there is a real danger being warned of.
J continues in his next installment to discern between “the Security of Salvation and the Assurance of Salvation” . My trouble with this section is that he combines the word eternal with security. The security I can agree with. Using John 6:39-40 and John 10:27-30 , Jollyblogger expounds on security and it is true as far as he goes, no one can wrench out of the Father’s hand, but then J. says this:
“Salvation is His choice not ours”
That brings me to a full stop. There are some intricacies of the Word to understand, but this is wrong as stated. Over and over it s made very clear that we have a choice. We do choose, really and truly choose.
However there are things involved that overconcern possibly makes Jollyblogger say such an unsupportable thing. Unsupportable because Christianity is not fatalistic. We don’t just sit by and view all things as God’s Will. Or we shouldn’t, or if we do have a conflict we ought to countenance it.
This is the verse given:
“Ephesians 2:8-9 says:
By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”
The grace is the gift, the faith is the vehicle by which it arrives, salvation is what happens; but there are some things on both sides of it, God chooses and we choose. Otherwise, pack away your prayers, why pray that hearts be opened and doors made into communities, and ear opened that they may hear?
Is that all some charade? Or is it necessary because there are wills on both sides of the matter? And God can shut doors and harden hearts that already have chosen and are on a path. Things that are laws within creation have already been put in motion. Our prayers can be instrumental in changing circumstances as surely as the sun stood still and the waves of the red sea rose up in a wall.
Of course if you doubt that you might have trouble seeing the usefulness or the necessity of our part in it. But someone had to put their rod out over the sea, and someone had to ask God to do these miracles.
It is hard for me to distill the many lines of scripture I see in this. Why does God plead with man? And why this:
I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment.
4 For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come.
5 And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me; and my fury, it upheld me.
6 And I will tread down the people in mine anger, and make them drunk in my fury, and I will bring down their strength to the earth.
7 I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the LORD, and the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he hath bestowed on them according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses.
8 For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie: so he was their Saviour. -Isaiah 63
He looked for a man. Why? He knew He would find none, but He also knew what He was willing to do.
I am going to stop here. I ‘m not going further into this without putting forth what I deem the central part of what is missed in between ideas of security and assurance, and it is this: we have so little concept of covenant relationship and what that means that we say things like:
“Salvation is His choice not ours”
No, no, no, and the word ‘covenant’ is the crucial reason why it cannot be as stated.
12 thoughts on “Once Saved Always Saved -but unsure?”
I didn’t notice that denial of choice. I don’t think he really believes that. He’s denied believing that before. He’s a compatibilist about human freedom, believing that it is God who chooses in a more fundamental way but that we choose as well as our will is enabled by God. It really is a choice, though it can only come from his enabling it. He’s no fatalist.
I find it odd that you’re so opposed to the idea of false professors. It’s such a clear theme in the teaching of Jesus and the apostles, not to mention the prophets, that there’s wheat amidst the chaff, those who were of us but didn’t really belong to us, those who cry “Lord, Lord” but he doesn’t know them, those who make all the right sacrifices but aren’t circumcised in the heart, those who are willing to sacrifice to God at the temple while offering to Baal in the high places or while persecuting the poor of the land, and so on. God says over and over again that such people are worshiping in vain, i.e. not really worshiping God at all.
They are thus believers in the sense James means when he says belief isn’t sufficient but not believers in the sense Paul means when he says salvation is by belief alone. It is belief, and it is genuine belief, if all you mean is that someone has a propositional belief that Jesus is who he claimed to be without the real work of God for life change. I don’t see why we should say such a person was ever saved.
I’m not sure what he believes, not having visited much of his site, and not interacting with him on this question, as you have. I am trying to approach from my doubts and beliefs. I find it very hard to find the idea of “it is God who chooses” and “It really is a choice, though it can only come from his enabling it” compatiable with real choice on the part of man. Although I do accept parts, I cannot seem to make it coherent in the way it is given. Perhaps as I work through the idea of covenant I can see more of a cohesion in the thoughts. Still working on it.
The thoughts on false professors is awkward, as stated. There are the false, that is agreed and very plain, but I am unsure about all the cases. The ones in the reference “people are worshiping in vain” are those building on sand, those who are acting in unbelief of what God says, choosing their version ( like Cain). Except they repent, they are in danger. It is likeness to Israel in the wilderness, the generation that dies because of unbelief does not enter into the promises ( except for the examples of faith, Joshua and Caleb with the generation that enters enters by faith.)
The difference in types of belief is “belief about” and “belief in”. I think that is why the phrase “I never knew you” indicating the state of relationship.
I will further develop my ideas in my next post I hope, in that salvation is a progression like life, compared to a branch in the vine. At the point that the progression stops or is interfered with the life stops, until that final sealing. I think this is equally strongly supported in scripture.
The verse Jollyblogger used is the great assurance that no one can take it away from us or God: that we belong to Him. That we may turn, I think that remains an option until we finish th ecourse of this life.
That is why we keep praying for grace, I believe.
The idea of security is very strong, but I believe that is within covenant.
I’ll try to also view the ideas that support what you are saying, because there are valid things that throw it all into a place where -for me- it must be considered further. Perhaps yet left open awhile.
not an easy topic, lots of stuff on either side. i’ve come to a point where i don’t believe anyone can LOSE salvation – if it’s real, it’ll be real always. on the other hand, i think there’s scriptural support for showing that some walk away, meaning that while you can’t LOSE it, you might be able to LEAVE IT BEHIND. like divorce, with one walking out of the covenant relationship.
thanks for posting all that.
Ahhhh….. Ilona goes where angels fear to tread.
It’s an interesting – and important – question. But it goes beyond the Calvinist/Arminian debate. Within the Arminian(and I use the term loosely) camp there are those who disagree on whether a believer can lose his salvation or not.
And if so, how does that happen? Is it a conscious decision to turn your back on God? Is there a certain level of sin you can commit and after that you’re hellbound? Is this a certain list that must be followed to keep yourself in good standing with God?
If you accept that salvation can be lost, then the question becomes what must I do to keep it.
In the tradition I grew up in(church of Christ), we were always worried about that one slip-up which would send is down the broad road that the Baptists, Catholics, and everyone else was already on. Not only did we have to do the right things but we had to think the right way about them(baptism, for example).
Since then, I’ve become comfortable with the idea that the true believer will in fact perservere until the end. I’m not in the Calvinist camp yet but for now I’m happy sitting on the fence. 🙂
Looking forward to your other posts on this.
Rick, it is very tough. I would be very much in line with you, but we have to take it further… we have to go to Brians questions of where is the line, if there is one?
Brian, what you describe in the idea of slip-ups in the traditions is a set of rules. that is the problem with that: we aren’t saved by rules, which you came to understand in getting to ” the idea that the true believer will in fact perservere until the end”.
This is closest to how I believe.
The topic that Jeremy raise on the false professor, is one that is related, but I don’t group it together. I would have to look at it more.
I am posting further ruminations-because truthfully that is all I can calim for them.
Very interesting, Ilona. Unfortunately I can’t quite follow you into such deep waters, but I am reading with great attention.
I find it very odd that anyone could believe that it is only God who chooses. This seems to me to be so out of line with Jesus’ acts and invitations that I simply can’t grasp the idea.
As for losing salvation, I would think that would be very hard, and would require a determined decision to repudiate it. However such a decision might not be fully conscious – it might be carried out by a consistent adoption of beliefs and intentions plus the execution of acts that operate to wholly contradict one’s prior participation.
For what is salvation? It is the acceptance of grace through the conscious limitation of self and acceptance of something outside ourselves, the sacrifice of our own self-determination and our agreement to participate in something we don’t understand. We can only do that by faith, but it is sealed by our acts or our intentions and prayers on behalf of others. And if, for example, one comes to grace through an impassioned yet unbelieving appeal on behalf of another that one loves, and God’s grace and mercy is extended to the loved one, we must reject not only our own thankfulness but our love of that person to really walk away from that act.
Ah, you don’t know how relieved I am. I was told to do something but I could not figure out how to do it. I prayed about it and the idea that I should ask you for help occurred to me, but I couldn’t figure out how to ask the question. I was too confused. And now I see where my confusion lay; I misunderstood exactly what I was told to do.
You have brought up one of the most persistent unanswered questions of the faith. If the answer were clear we would not still be asking. I do not propose to answer for anyone else, but for me there was one important insight: salvation is more than an event. Salvation, though it may be (pick one: found, appropriated, seen, launched, understood, given, other) as an event, it is significant as the beginning of a process.
That process of salvation is what enables a Christian always to be a participant in his own redemption. With God’s help through salvation he is able to move from sinfulness to safety, assured that with every step he is closer to a better place than he was before. Like Edison’s tireless elimination of materials that didn’t work to make a better filament for the light bulb, Christians keep on looking for a better way to let their individual lights shine. Every time we try something that fails, we are one step more toward the end we seek. In a sense we lose our salvation with every failure, but that does not mean that it is lost entirely. In the end we know we will not only endure, as Faulkner said; we shall prevail.
A simile comes to mind. Salvation is to the Christian what sobriety is to the alcoholic. As mortals we are born with the seeds of damnation, but every day we also have the option to embrace salvation. As oft as we do it, we can have life, and have it more abundantly. But if we neglect (read “take for granted”) our salvation, we are in danger of losing it (read “making a fatal error”).
My point, and Jollyblogger’s, is exactly that there is that danger, but it’s a mistake to see the danger as being loss of already-obtained salvation. The danger is that one will turn out never to have been saved, that one will turn out to have been a false professor all along, one Jesus never knew, one who was among us but not of us (as John puts it), one who has merely tasted of salvation (as Hebrews puts it).
Calvinists and Arminians alike can be fully aware of the danger. Those who believe in eternal security and those who believe in loss of salvation (which I’m aware isn’t the same distinction as the Calvinist-Arminian one) can be fully aware of the danger. That’s not the issue. Their disagreement is in how they describe the danger, but they will both point it out if they’re being faithful to the biblical teaching on this issue.
The place where you will find disagreement is whether anyone can be assured of salvation. What’s clear in scripture is that there are those who are in Christ and those who are not, and Christ promises that he will safeguard those who are truly in him. There are only these two categories, and they don’t match up to people’s own perceptions of which category they are in. We will only find out for sure about some people at the very end. I don’t think that means no one can be assured, but the view that loss of salvation is possible means no one could ever be assured. What inevitably leads to salvation is the true work of God, and that same true work of God can in some cases lead to assurance that the work of God is present, though in some cases it might not.
Jeremy, you said: “The danger is that one will turn out never to have been saved, that one will turn out to have been a false professor all along, one Jesus never knew,”
I do think there is that case. It is addressed here:”2 Corinthians 13:5
Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?”
That word, reprobate, is Adokimos which the online lexicon defines as
1. not standing the test, not approved
1. properly used of metals and coins
2. that which does not prove itself such as it ought
1. unfit for, unproved, spurious, reprobate
Does this mean all are given the chance, but that some will not respond because of the baseness which does not allow the regeneration to take root? Is there something that can be done for this? Perhaps the preparation of the soil of the heart.
This goes into other territory. It is not a matter of God choosing some to be reprobate, so this runs counter to God doing the choosing and we have nothing to say. And that is the expression from Jollyblogger that I most took issue with. That is what I believe needs more examination.
MoM, I am not sure if you figured out the matter that concerned you, but if you ever need someone to bounce something off of, I am available to you. Just send email.
“Brian, what you describe in the idea of slip-ups in the traditions is a set of rules. that is the problem with that: we aren’t saved by rules, ….”
Exactly, and that is what we non-Reform types must guard against – as much as Calvinists must guard against fatalism.
It is just so easy to step over that line and start to focus on what we need to do to keep ourselves in good standing with God. Just witness the churches that rose out of the Holiness movement – Nazarene, Church of God, and then there’s the CofC which we’re both familiar with. They began to focus on the externals – no makeup and hair must be bobbed for women, no movie watching, no playing cards of any sort, etc.
Sorry, getting off-topic here. I’m trying to read your other posts on the subject but you’re just putting them up to fast! 🙂
Don’t worry too much about strict topic, it’s a conversation here 🙂
“It is just so easy …” You’re right. It is. That could be something to discuss all by itself. The reasons we have for slipping off track from grace and into rules. I had an interesting conversation on a Christian forum on “Christian” bdsm that got into that topic of rules for behavior. There is strange stuff out there….
It is the opposition to sound doctrine that usually wants to reduce you to enumerating ‘rules’…. so they can lambaste your stance. But it really relationship and principles guiding ones life in response to God.
Anyway, I have accumulated thinking on this over many years, and I have a general overview of what I want to say, then break it into posts as I go along the thought process. Actually this much writing has sort of drained me… or maybe it is the heat and humidity?
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