Friday, February 15, 2008

A discussion on eternal security

I'd like to point out a thread where I'm participating on the topic of eternal security, and the discussion is interesting.

Here's my most recent post, responding to 'momesansmom' who has a tendency to make strange, extensive, and peripherally-relevant comments on God's non-temporal nature. I'm perplexed as to why she thinks that the Reformed viewpoint puts God into time, but hey, if you don't hold to the biblical view on stuff, you'll inevitably get messed up. My comment follows:

All of what you've said about temporality and such I agree with, except for your (to me) cryptic references to "encounter with the exalted Christ". I'm not following you on that one.
Part of the problem is that I express the same things but use diff words. Yes, God lives in the eternal NOW.
Yet you agree that God intervenes in time. Jesus CHrist is the same, period, but He is not always DOING the same things. He is not eternally dying on the cross - where would be the resurrection, then?
And I hasten to remind you that Romans 8 uses the words foreknowledge and predestination. What are "fore" and "pre" if not temporal statements? Sthg is being communicated there, and I think you need to acct for it.

I believe you are talking out of both sides of your mouth on this question. On the one hand you talk a great line about eternality and non-temporality and all that. But then you say this about asking questions about the diff between our free will choices to leave Jesus now vs after death:

Once a saint has exited time completely, there will be no falling away for him or her because he or she is in eternity. This isn't loss of "freedom" but it is the end of changeability in time.

So we're NOT living in eternity right now? Great - we're in agreement. This is what I'm saying. God has made it this way and uses language to express TO US certain concepts.
I said that in response to David Bryan's assertion that it's apparently unthinkable that our free will could be limited in such a way as to prevent our falling away once we are truly justified.

All that said, I still don't think that you've dealt with the fact that Rom 8 says that God foreknew AND JUSTIFIED those who will be glorified. Or, to be more proper (properer) and to comply better with what you've been saying about temporal language, it's that He foreknew, predestined, called, justified, and glorified. All in the past tense. And all the same "those", the same people.
Romans 5:1 (on which you missed the point) says that we were already justified. It's an aorist tense - it's completed. Paul apparently thought he could talk in terms of an "us" who have been justified and which action of justification has been completed. Thus, all the same those of whom he is speaking, their destiny is to be glorified. None will fall away since it's the same "those" justified and glorified in Rom 8.

justification can be in a sense described as a done deal, but salvation is not a matter of a moment when one is justified, it is a matter of a life lived in Christ.

There are at least two biblical uses of the word "salvation", but it is several times used as an equivalent to justification, which is the point at which an exponentially much greater number of things occur in changing the rebel enemy of God sinner to a friend, an adopted son, a lover, a holy one, of God. Thus this is most properly labeled as salvation, though salvation in a broader sense includes justification, sanctification, and glorification, all.

John 3:16, John 11:25-26 and so many other passages make it clear that it is "he who believes" that shall never die.

Yes, of course.
God will guard those in faith who are justified.
If someone dies in unbelief, they never believed. It's not that hard.

If you read 1 John 2:19 the way you're using it, then you are forced to assume that all phony Christians will eventually leave the faith.

Not at all - it doesn't say that. It says that those who left were never of us. But that doesn't mean that ALL who are not of faith WILL leave. Matt 7 obviously indicates that there will be some who persist in false profession until death, as you pointed out.

As regards Heb 6, you said:
And those who DO come back obviously CAN, so they obviously are not the ones to which this passage refers.

Sorry, but that's seriously a case of special pleading.
The psg says that those who fall away CAN'T COME BACK. So the choice is:
1) Believe that those who fall away once are screwed forever.
2) Believe that Heb 6 is not referring to a loss of salvation, and thus abandon it as a prooftext against eternal security.

1 Cor 9 - thanks for posting those words from those men. But their arguments don't change the force of John 10 and the fact that they obviously failed to take into account the many evidences for eternal sec in the NT. All I can do is parse what they said and the fact that 1 Cor 9 makes multiple references to the prize, the reward. Salvation is not strictly speaking a reward; it's a gift, can't be earned (Rom 4:4-5). Paul is speaking of sthg he CAN earn - eternal rewards.

You didn't deal with John 10:28-29 at all, and that's disappointing. Let me remind you of the issue here. It's pretty simple.
Jesus says that His sheep will never perish. Forget the questions about who can snatch.

John 10:25 Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father's name, these testify of Me.
26 "But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep.
27 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;
28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.

You said:
The promise in John 10:28 can quite easily be seen to describe our condition once we are totally free from the bonds of time.

Read it again. No it can't - the sheep are sheep IN THIS LIFE, else quite a lot in that psg wouldn't make any sense.
And the consequence of your position means that we can never be His sheep until we die. Is that really what you believe?
So, please let me ask you to comment again on what it means that His sheep will never perish. If they fall away and don't come back, will they not perish?

Augustine...did not seize the chance to elaborate "and they will never perish" as anything more than a taunt to his unbelieving audience, who would perish.

Fine, but what does it mean that they will never perish? How could it be a taunt if His sheep will indeed perish?

and that this sustains me even in my own faithlessness, even turning my sin into opportunity for grace as I live a life of continual repentance thanks to his faithfulness.

Then what's the problem with the idea of eternal security? Is it not part of your convictions that YOU MUST LIVE THE LIFE or else fall away and perish?

John 15. "Every branch IN ME that does not bear fruit He takes away."

Of course. And did He not take away the branch of the unfruitful Jewish nation? Does He not prune His church thru church discipline (not that Orthodox are strong in that area, I'm talking NT teaching here)?

He does not, in some pretemporal "era," choose some and reject others (this is truly the attitude that is not "God-honoring").

I don't believe that either, but IF IT WERE THE TRUTH, you as a mere mortal have NO call to judge God thusly. It is your responsibility to submit to what He has ordained. Talking back to Him and saying "What you've done is no good!" is the very definition of not-God-honoring.


10 comments: said...

As a recovering pentecostal, I have had this debate more times than I care to count. And I remember being 14 years old wondering why my pastors could not answer my question about Heberews 6. It CLEARLY says we cannot come back if it is indeed saying I can lose my salvation.

I am not a Calvinist but I do believe in eternal security. I believe we are predestined based on God's foreknowledge of our free-will choice. Why would I believe such a thing?

As the song says, "The bible tells me so..."

1PE 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood:

Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

orthodox said...

So, please let me ask you to comment again on what it means that His sheep will never perish. If they fall away and don't come back, will they not perish?

If I said that members of the Marlebone football club will never have to pay entrance fee to home games, does that have to mean that one cannot cease to be a member of the club and then have to pay?

This kind of pedantic interpretation that ignores the whole body of scripture is the kind of thing that universalists engage in. Sure there are verses that interpreted very literally could be interpreted as universalism. But it would hardly accord with the whole testimony of scripture.

Lucian said...

Rom 8 says that God foreknew AND JUSTIFIED those who will be glorified

No, Romans eight doesn't say that. What it says is that "all things work together for good to them that love God" and then goes on to describe exactly how this happens. And just like with the "sheep" of John ten (who hearken to His voice and follow Him), this doesn't happen but to the ones that love God (not ot the ones that don't [anymore or any longer]).

And ALL the words used there are in the past tense: "he did foreknow"; "he did predestinate" "he did predestinate", "he called", "he called", "he justified", "he justified", "he glorified".

Now, this is important, since it doesn't fit into Your picture, and hardly so, since Paul's speaking there from the P.O.V. of God's eternality, not from a temporal P.O.V., as Your argument goes along the first lines of Your post.

Lucian said...

Paul apparently thought he could talk in terms of an "us" who have been justified and which action of justification has been completed

Not anymore than us being glorified is a past, done, or already accomplished action.

Thus, all the same those of whom he is speaking, their destiny is to be glorified

No. They are already glorified, according to Your interpretation. Have at least the courtesy to be constant with Yourself, equally applying Your logic into all like statements.

Lucian said...

It is also worthy of note that nowhere such an obvious (or at least immediately deducible) statement as "they fell away because they were never [t]here in the first place" is to be found on the pages of Holy Writ: it's not to be found in Paul (Hebrews six included), it's not there when Anania and Saphira fell dead before Peter, it's not present in any similar or like or kindred or parallel passages. :-\

Lucian said...

David B. McLaughlin,

the Israelites of old were the elect peiople of God throughout the pages of the Old Testament. (The same goes for the N.T. Church, which Paul calls "the New Israel"). What does this mean? That no Israelite ever fell away? That none has sinned and failed to repent? That all the Jews were going to Heaven? :-\

And of the ones that did those things, where does it say: "they were never true Jews anyway; they were never a part of our people anyway; they weren't really Jews"?

Lucian said...

Oh, yeah ... and I forgot to say this: what in English is called fore-knowledge or in Latin pre-destination, in Greek is called pro-oridzo ... which is kinda funny, since the Romanian word for Prophet is "prooroc". :-?

Matt said...

I was browsing through here, and felt a need to comment on one of Lucian's comments:

the Israelites of old were the elect peiople of God throughout the pages of the Old Testament. (The same goes for the N.T. Church, which Paul calls "the New Israel"). What does this mean? That no Israelite ever fell away? That none has sinned and failed to repent? That all the Jews were going to Heaven?

Israel was a chosen nation, God's elect in a national sense, but not every member of that nation was part of God's elect in a soteriological sense. Salvation is, and always has been, by faith, not by rite, genealogy, or anything else. All Jews in the OT sense were under the old covenant relationship to God, and thus His people in that sense, though not necessarily His children in a soteriological sense. Paul alludes to this in Rom. 9:6 "For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel" and much more clearly in Rom. 2:28-29 "For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter." Thus, we see that to have been a true Jew (in a soteriological sense, above the mere national sense) was to have been circumcised in the heart, by the Spirit (a metaphor for regeneration), not merely to have been born into the nation of Israel physically. Indeed, during Israel's periods of idolatry, there is mention of a remnant who stay faithful to God. The OT soteriological elect never fell away, though the OT national elect could and did fall away (that is, to outwardly apostatize and reflect the true state of one's unregenerate heart), if they were not a part of the soteriological elect.

Another verse is Rom. 4:9-12 "We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised."

In all of these verses, we see that righteousness has always been credited on the basis of faith, not rite or genealogy. Those Jews who were never among the soteriological elect (those appointed to come to faith in Christ), were never saved. To illustrate this point, Jesus proclaimed the unsaved nature of the unbelieving Jews of His day, who later put Him to death: "Jesus said to them, 'If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires...Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God'" (Jn. 8:43-44,47). As Christ clearly demonstrated, OT Jews, God's elect in a national sense, were clearly not God's elect in a soteriological sense. Again, in Jn. 10:25-26 "I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you."

So, Scripture is very clear that not all Jews were God's soteriological elect, though the nation of Israel, as a whole, was chosen to be a light and witness to the nations (a task at which they failed, for the most part, through their own rebellion and unbelief). Within Israel, there were Jews who believed and Jews who were unbelievers, and the latter were in danger of falling away - that is, of publicly declaring through apostasy what was in their hearts secretly. It is the same in the church today. We have no certain knowledge of who is saved and who isn't, but we can be reasonably sure that there are unsaved professors among us. These may be self-deceived, thinking that they are saved, or may know that they do not believe, and not care. In any case, they are in danger of publicly apostatizing, and expressing publicly in word and deed what is in their heart secretly. Thus, there are warnings throughout the NT to self-examination, to make one's calling and election sure, lest one discover too late that one never truly believed, having a heart hardened beyond the possibility of repentance by having committed apostasy. I've also written a post on apostasy on my own blog, which talks about this idea in more detail.

P.S. Paul's term was "the Israel of God" (Gal. 6:16), not "the New Israel" (these two terms could be construed to mean different things).

Carrie said...


I don't know how you keep up! You always manage to get involved in long comment discussions - I get bored after 2 or 3 back-and-forths.

You is the man.

Lucian said...


if You're an all-American farmer or herdsman, interested in sheep and greener pastures, You might want to read my five perversely heretical comments starting here. >:) Nya-ha-ha!