Monday, June 22, 2009

Riddle Me This

Help me out here. How, exactly, does the following passage jibe with Eternal Security of the Believer? I'm just sayin'.

Mark 9:43-50

If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. 45And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. 47And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48where
" 'their worm does not die,
and the fire is not quenched.' 49Everyone will be salted with fire.

50"Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other."

Explain it to me as if I were four. Bonus points if you can do it without quoting Calvin.


UPDATE: Yesterday, I read a great sermon from John Piper's archives that deals in some depth with the question I raise here. He has preached on this several times, and is always questioned, "Are you saying a person can lose his salvation?" That's not what he's saying, (if you know John Piper, you know he's like a 23-point Calvinist), but the subject of saving faith and sanctification cannot be done justice by taking a small, sound-bite quote out of context.
"Our response: the battle for obedience is absolutely necessary for salvation because it IS the fight of faith. The battle against lust is absolutely necessary for salvation because it is the battle against unbelief. Faith alone delivers from hell and the faith that delivers from hell delivers from lust."
The righteous shall live by faith, basically.

Now go read the whole sermon, and a whole bunch of other ones he has at "Desiring God" that are similar. Good stuff.


Barbara said...

Part of God's Providence in keeping His people is through means He has ordained - including praying for what we need even though God knows we need it, and in these warnings that keep a healthy degree of fear/reverence and keep us from presumption - throughout Scripture we are warned to be careful, to make our calling and election sure, and we are given fair warnings of the consequences of not continuing in the faith. But the promise of God is that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it; that Christ is the author and perfector of our faith. Not quoting Calvin, but quoting the Apostle Paul. :)

The believer will persevere to the end because it is the one who perseveres to the end who is saved; John wrote of those who went out from them "because they were not of us". Remember the parable of the soils? All false converts but the last one. And false converts will eventually fall away. Only the true believers will persevere to the end, because only the true believers have the Spirit of the eternal, living God indwelling them, and according to Scripture, God gives His Spirit without repentance - He does not give His spirit and then take it away again.

Sorry, disjointed thoughts, there are constant shrill dialysis machine alarms going off in my ears as I try to type this halfway coherently...

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Well, I'm going to seem like a heretic to you, or even an Arminian, but I have always just looked at the Bible and understood what it says about Salvation long before I heard of Calvinists or Arminians.

I think there are numerous passages in Scripture that say one can lose their salvation. There are just too many "if" passages to explain them away. I don't believe a mature believer will ever walk away from the faith, but I believe immature believers who hit upon hard times can become discouraged and walk away from the faith.

The problem as I see it with Calvinists is the idea of God choosing people for salvation from the very beginning and that we have nothing to do with it. But all through Scripture it says we have to have faith - that we choose to follow God or not. So if we have faith to get salvation, if we lose our faith, then wouldn't we lose salvation? I mean, if we were believers, then became atheists, would we have gone from saved to unsaved?

I know the usual answer is that the person wasn't really saved to begin with, but that is begging the question - arguing in the circle around the bias put into it. We can't know one's heart and only God knows if they were saved to begin with.

Too often Calvinists and Lutherans (I was in a Lutheran Church for 8 years - NOT ELCA!) claim that faith is a work, but since many passages in the Bible contrast faith with works, that again is a bias brought into the text.

Calvinists always seem to get in a tizzy when I look at salvation like this and I am immediately accused of being an Arminian, but I just look at what Scripture says, and it never says God forces himself on us.

At least in my understanding of Scripture, the parable of the tares makes sense! As do all the "if" passages. And I know I am saved, whereas I read R.C. Sproul once say he could never be sure he was one of the elect until the end. What a scary way to live.

lyn said...

I just want to chime in on the 'faith' issue. According to the link below, faith is a gift from God; if He gives you this gift, would it make sense He would ever take it away? Watch this video concerning this very issue and see what you think...

Marie said...

I don't think you're a heretic at all. As far as the election goes, our pastor explained it like this: remember that God is outside of time. (He has forknowlege). Nothing in Scripture indicates that God is arbitrary or indifferent to those perishing - in fact, He pleads with all to repent (even with tears - ie. Jesus weeping over Jerusalem). If it were just God's sovereignty and man's responsibility to respond didn't enter the picture, one could ask the Lord, "Well, why did You weep over them? You created them - destined them - to damnation. So it was Your doing!" That position is Scripturally and logically untenable.

Our church is not 5-point Calvinist for exactly that reason. There is a balance, as they say, and we have to hold these truths (God's sovereign election and man's responsibility) as two truths, and we can't quite see where they intersect. We have to trust that God is good, just, and it will remain somewhat of a mystery this side of eternity. I guess you could say we uphold T, U, and P, but get into trouble on L and I.

However, one thing that is taught without hesitation or unceratinty is eternal security. Of course, I want to be as certain as I'm supposed to be, but I see passages like this and they're hard to dismiss, for exactly the reasons you cited! The "they were never really saved to begin with argument" is indeed circular, as many "Ex-Christians" with testimonies will tell you. I know that for the believer, there is no sin that will not be forgiven if one repents of it, but it's hard not to think of this passage (the cutting off of the hand/eye/foot that leads one to sin) when you talk about professing Christians with addictions. Of course, the implication here is that if someone doesn't stop, say, looking at pornography, even if they profess to be a Christian, they'll be sent to hell.

What if someone is battling a besetting sin and has success some of the time, but other times succumbs to the temptation? The cutter or bulimic who is trying to repent comes to mind. This is a rhetorical question and I can see both sides of it; obviously, if someone is a true Christian, that shows up in fruit. I'm not looking at "easy believism" or false professions here - but rather the consequences of ongoing sin in the life of a true Christian. As Barbara said, God can keep those He ordained in His hand, so that would be an argument for perseverance of the saints...but what if one jumps out of God's hand? I was almost afraid to discuss this on my blog, because it's such a huge, controversial subject. I tend to think a true child of God is not going to willingly walk away, but I recently heard a very Reformed, Lordship pastor online preach that certain sins will send a Christian to hell. Period.

Not a pleasant subject to look at unflinchingly, but WWJS?

Barbara said...

If you can be saved and then lose your salvation - there's an even scarier way to live.

We are given biblical means of assurance, the fruits (please don't confuse the thoughts of the hypercalvinists with the doctrines of grace, faith is a gift, repentance is a grace, the works of faith - the fruits borne in keeping with repentance - along with the tests of assurance given to us in John's first epistle and the development of the fruits of the Spirit, a change in our fundamental desires - these are the kinds of things that help to lead to assurance that we have the gift of saving faith. Some things will be mysteries, and that of God's sovereignty and man's responsibility in the matter tends to be one of those things people have debated for the past two millenia - but the perseverance of the saints is a promise of God. So the question is whether one has been truly regenerated, truly born again, born from above, born of the Spirit. Belief isn't just a matter of mental assent to something, as James said, "You believe, you do well. The demons believe, and tremble." It's not just a matter of knowing something and accepting it to be true, it's a matter of it becoming the wellspring of your life (living water) from which the life of Christ springs forth and indwells you, changing you from the inside out, so that Christ is the sustenance, His word is the bread of life to you, His blood is precious to you, His being is glorious and beautiful to you, such that you desire Him above all else; flesh may hang on and be particularly strong at times, but in the long run it is the Spirit - His Spirit, His nature, His being that re-creates you and conforms you to the image of Christ - once you have been born of the Spirit, sealed by the Holy Spirit, given a spirit of adoption, would Christ break His promise and abandon you?


But there are many who are deceived, as Christ's parable of the soils indicates, there are those who will seem to walk for a time but will be choked away by the cares of the world. These have never been sealed by the Holy Spirit. These were never bought by the blood of Christ. That's a precious price He paid for us with, and once He covers us in it, He won't let us go. We may stray, but He will come and get us. If we are His, He disciplines us and brings us back; if He does not chastise us occasionally, and bring the rod and staff to us, then we are illegitimate and none of His (Hebrews 12). Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.

I think people get hung up and confuse "faith" with "assurance". Of course, here's where I break out the 1689 again :)

I see you posted as I was re-checking my posting on "preview", give me a sec and I'll pull out my JC Ryle commentary, I read his notes on this subject just last night...but still we've gotten into soteriology and off the topic of the perseverance of the saints....

Barbara said...

Okay, here we go, two places:

1. CH Spurgeon's sermon entitled, "Jacob and Esau", taken from Romans 9:13. Sheer genius, I never noticed this little difference in wording before:

Turn to the ninth chapter of Romans, where we have selected our text, see how careful the Holy Spirit is here, in the 22nd verse. 'What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction; And that he might make knowt he riches of his glory on the vessles of mercy which he had afore prepared unto glory.' But it does not say anything about fitting men for destruction; they fitted themselves. They did that: God had nothing to do with it. But when men are saved, God fits them for that. All the glory to God in salvation; all the blame to men in damnation....

"If any of you want to know what I preach every day, and any stranger should say, 'Give me a summary of his doctrine,' say this, 'He preaches salvation all of grace, and damnation all of sin. He gives God all the glory for every soul that is saved, but he won't have it that God is to blame for any man that is damned.' That teaching I cannot understand. My soul revolts at the idea of a doctrine that lays the blood of man's soul at God's door. I cannot conceive how any human mind, at least any Christian mind, can hold any such blasphemy as that. I delight to preach this blessed truth - salvation of God, from first to last - the Alpha and the Omega; but when I come to preach damnation, I say, damnation of man, not of God' and if you perish, at your own hands must your blood be required. There is another passage. At the last great day, when all the world shall come before Jesus to be judged, have you noticed, when the righteous go on the right side, Jesus says, "Come, ye blessed of my father,' ("of my father," mark) - "inherit the kingdom prepared" - (mark the next word) - "for you", from before the foundation of the world." What does he say to those on his left? "Depart, ye cursed." He does not say, "ye cursed of my father," but "ye cursed." And what else does he say? "into everlasting fire, prepared" - (not for you, but) - "for the devil and his angels." Do you see how it is guarded. Here is the salvation side of the question. It is all of God. "Come, ye blessed of my father." It is a kingdom prepared for them. There you have election, free grace in all its length and breadth. But, on the other hand, you have nothing said about the father - nothing about that at all. "Depart, ye cursed." Even the flames are said not to be prepared for sinners, but for the devil and his angels. There is no language that I can possibly conceive that could more forcibly express this idea, supposing it to be the mind of the Holy Spirit, that the glory should be to God, and that the blame should be laid at man's door.

(all of the above was Spurgeon, free-typed from the New Park Street Pulpit Volume 5, any typos are entirely my own)

Marie said...

Barbara -

Without a doubt. I agree with every word above about salvation.

The problem is how, then, are we to interpret Jesus' words in the passage in Mark? Are we to assume He is speaking to unbelievers? Or believers - to, as you said, have a healthy fear (of what, if salvation is secure...) or, perhaps, it is along the lines of what John later writes about "testing [our]selves, to be sure we are in the faith"?

The threat of damnation here for ongoing sin seems pretty unambiguous. The bit about cutting off body parts may be metaphorical, sure. I get that Jesus used hyperbole. But there is nothing hyperbolic about His threats of hell.

If He is talking to seekers who have not yet been justified, THEN it makes sense. It's a call to Lordship salvation - He demands absolute obedience. But the problem is what to do with the passage AFTER we have put our faith in Christ. Especially when talking to a Christian addict whose greatest fear is the threat of hell.

Barbara said...

You know, every day I am reminded, and pray, "Christ, if you don't keep me, then I am lost." That's pretty much the whole point. We would jump out in a heartbeat, if we weren't given a new nature, if Christ weren't faithful to finish the work He began in us, and if we were left to our own. But Christ promises He will never leave nor forsake us. He may hide His face from time to time, but He is always there. What wonderful comfort!

We have not the power to save ourselves, and we have not the power to keep ourselves. Legalism is tied up with the doings, the obedience of Grace is that we obey - not out of some compulsion that we have to, but out of a deep desire because we have the spirit of God in us, that causes us to want the things of God and to despise the things of this sinful, fallen world, because we love Him, He gave us that love for Himself, and we wish not to grieve the one who so tenderly brought us to Himself and who meekly bore our sin upon Himself on that cross.

Addiction - fear of hell - I know it. Did you ever read in my blog about my battle with cigarettes? I was converted as a 2ppd smoker. And I can tell you, it did not take long for the conviction to hit me fiercely. It wasn't a question to me of whether or not I would "lose" my salvation, I was battling the parable of the soils and 2 Peter 2:20-22 and "he who puts his hand to the plow and looks back isn't fit for the kingdom of God" and I would seek His grace and yet willfully go to the effort to get in my car, drive to town, and buy another pack, hating myself for it the whole time. It wasn't until I was convicted to the point of utter self-loathing and desperation that I sat down one Sunday afternoon between church services, pulled together a few scripture passages, and then went to the evening service, arriving early, throwing a half a pack of cigarettes (all my remaining ones) and my lighters and begged for them to pray for me as Scripture says we should do. They did so.

That was July 6, 2008. Haven't had a cigarette since. Haven't really wanted one since, either. After all, I don't want to be just a sow who was washed only to wallow back in the mire. I was transformed from a sow to a child of God - that much is evident. I have a new nature. The mire is repulsive to me now - as it was to me even as my flesh held on hard and fast. Same fear, though. Not a matter of losing salvation, but a matter of wondering if you ever had it. Flesh is a tough thing, and we do have to work with the Spirit in putting it to death. As the Spirit grows and we use the means God has given us to use, including confession and the prayers of our brethren, and the comforts to be found in Scripture, even in Paul's struggle with his own flesh in Romans 7, as he outlines that same kind of battle, and determines to go forward in the Spirit, so do we - because we desire Christ above all.

It took recognition of my utter powerlessness and humbling myself before God and man to receive the grace of Christ to break the power of that particular cancelled sin and set this prisoner free. Again, how faithful and wonderful our Savior is. Truly.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

I fully understand God’s foreknowledge - He knows who will come to salvation. The problem with Calvinism is that it confuses foreknowledge with fore-ordination. God doesn’t ordain who will be saved other than he has ordained those who place their faith in Christ to be the elect. By the way, the whole TULIP rises and falls on every part - you really can’t take it apart. Take the “Unconditional Election” for example; there is a condition - that we place our faith in Christ. As far as someone in sin - the cutter or even the adulterer - the sin isn’t what loses their salvation, rather it’s turning away from God altogether. But that can be a long discussion which I really don’t want to get involved with here! But a person whose lifestyle is still defined by sin after they claim to be a Christian would leave me to doubt the sincerity of their proclamation.

Lyn, I think the Bible shows that God gives everyone the faith needed to seek him. It isn’t a matter of God taking the faith away, it is a matter of someone no longer wanting to place that faith in Him. Like a birthday gift you have been given - you can use it, let it lay, or even throw it in the garbage, but the person who gave it to you never took it back.

Barbara, If you can lose your salvation it is not a bit scary in my thoughts. It’s something that we are to constantly check ourselves for, to ensure we are indeed in the faith rather than just making a mental ascent. I don’t find in the Bible where our gift of faith is a gift of saving faith. It is only a saving faith if we use it. I don’t say that Christ abandons the true believer, what I say is one who once was a believer abandoned Christ. We don’t have to listen to discipline any more than your earthly child has to listen to discipline. God doesn’t force himself on us, contrary to “Irresistible Grace” - we can indeed resist God; the Bible is full of those who have resisted him! Romans 9-11 is about nations being chosen for service, not individuals being chosen for salvation. Big difference.

I don’t want to get into a Calvinist/anti-Calvinist debate because it gets time consuming and not really beneficial unless someone is actually open to the other side (I am not open to Calvinism!). I liked Dave Hunt’s book “What Love Is This?” “Chosen But Free,” by Norm Geisler, “Why I Am Not A Calvinist,” by Jerry L. Wallis & Joseph R. Dongell and “Grace, Faith, Free Will,” by Robert E. Picirilli. These are in my personal library right along with Piper, Sproul, MacArthur, and James White and others.

I will leave the discussion with the following passages to be mulled over:
Rom. 11:22; 1 Cor. 15:2; Col. 1:23; Heb. 2:1; Heb. 3:6, 12-14; Heb. 6:4-8; Heb. 10:26; James 5:19-20; 2 Pet. 2:15, 20-21. These are the “if” passages I’ve started recording. And the last thought is, with Calvinism how do you know you’re one of the elect? You may think so for your whole life and the end comes and God says - “Oh, you weren’t chosen from the beginning - you just thought you were.”

lyn said...

Glen~ you say,"Lyn, I think the Bible shows that God gives everyone the faith needed to seek him. It isn’t a matter of God taking the faith away, it is a matter of someone no longer wanting to place that faith in Him. Like a birthday gift you have been given". So, if God gives everyone faith, it then becomes our responsibility to use it or lose it, so to speak? How is that a lasting gift? If the responsibility of keeping the faith lies in the hands of mortal man, why do some follow Christ wholeheartedly, while others simply fall away?
True saving faith is not a work of man, nor could it be. The unregenerate heart is dead to the things of God (Eph. 2:1, Jer. 17:9}, nor does any unbeliever seek God (Romans 3:11}. We respond to God drawing us to Christ (John 6:44} because the power of God opens up the blind eye, deaf ear, and dead heart. Only then can we be receptive. The faith given by God to those He draws will indeed result in lasting salvation {Eph 2:8,9}.
By claiming that God gives all faith to believe, yet not all do, you're insinuating God is not sovereign, and not powerful enough to save those He gives faith to. Where in God's word does He state He gives faith to all of mankind?

BTW, did you get an opportunity to view the video? Jim McClarty goes back into the greek and does a wonderful job of explaining God's gifts of faith and salvation, all by His grace.
No one has the ability to believe and follow Christ unless God regenerates that person, giving them a new heart and a new Spirit (Ez. 36:26}
John 2:24 tells us this, 'But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men'. If God gives all the gift of faith, then why would Christ not commit himself to these certain ones? It's not because they didn't believe, for verse 23 states many believed in His name when they saw the signs.

lyn said...

Will the Judge Change His Verdict on You? {J. MacArthur}

Arthur Pink, who wrote a book on this topic (Eternal Security [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1974]) said that it is utterly and absolutely impossible that the sentence of the divine Judge should ever be revoked or reversed. He wrote, "Sooner shall the lightnings of omnipotence shiver the Rock of Ages than those sheltering in Him again be brought under condemnation." The Judge issued a verdict that will stand forever.

1. 2 Timothy 1:12--The apostle Paul, confident of God's ability to preserve his salvation, said, "[I] am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day."

2. Hebrews 10:10-14--"We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering often the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but this man [Christ], after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God, from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified."

3. Romans 8:31-34--"If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" (vv. 31-32). Since God gave the supreme gift of His Son to redeem us, you can be sure He will give us whatever is necessary to preserve our redemption.

Verses 33-34 say, "Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? Shall God that justified? Who is he that condemneth? Shall Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us?" Do you think the Attorney for our defense is going to accuse us? Do you think the Judge who delivered us from judgment and set us free is going to reverse His verdict? No!

This is from Romans 8:1, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
Also this from Phil. 1:6,'being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.'
For God to save us, by His grace, then let go is contrary to what the Bible teaches.
These passages speak of eternal security as well, from John 10:28, 29,"I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand." The Father gives to His Son, by His grace, regenerated born again believers. Once in the hand of God, who can separate us from Him? "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? [Shall] tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Once God sets His love upon you and changes you, there's no going back to the sewer He pulled you out of.

To fear losing your salvation means you continually 'work' at staying on God's 'good side'. This is a gross misunderstanding of grace, which is what salvation is based on. The Spirit of God ministers and teaches His people; by His power we are guided down the narrow path. When we do go astray, we do NOT stay there long, God's Spirit will not allow it. Christ saves us to the uttermost {Heb. 7:25}. To think God would discard any after He saves them is indeed both frightening and erroneous. Again, the total misunderstanding of grace leads to erroneous thinking.

JTW said...

Barbara: Thanks for the Spurgeon reference!

Yikes, I'm not sure that I want to wade too deep into these waters – I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer and I feel out of my depth. Nevertheless, here are a few of my thoughts as I have wrestled with, and continue to wrestle with, these issues.

Marie, I think the verses that you referenced are basically a restatement of the principle we see in Mathew 16:26 and Mark 8:36 – namely, that there is nothing in this world worth hanging-on to if we lose our soul in process.

I would like to pull back the microscope a bit and take more of a panoramic view of the issue. We are all familiar with verses like John 10:29 that would point to the eternal security of the believer. Then there is the tension we find in the span of two verses like Philippians 2:12-13.

I think part of the problem (for lack of a better word) is that God's ways are far above our ways and there are times, like Job, perhaps we should cover our mouths for things that are too great for us and rest in the knowledge that He is God and we are not.

I think another part of the problem is that, in systems of theology, we must be precise - however, could it be, at times, we overstep and try to systematize things that are beyond our comprehension. Once again, I can't help but think of Job's comforters at this point. I mean, some of their arguments sounded pretty good to me. They had a tight system of theology about Job's suffering. However, when God arrived on the seen they were found wanting.

When it comes to Calvinism (I do lean in that direction), at the end of the day, the most ardent Calvinist will concede that there is tension in Scripture between the election of God and the responsibility of man that we will be unable to fully reconcile. That is, unless you're dealing with a hyper-Calvinist.

Here is an analogy that I find helpful - and it is childlike in its simplicity.
Let's say there are three Christians: James, Paul, and David. Let's say that David owes James $1000 but is having difficulty paying him back, and really, David isn't trying very hard to pay his debt.

On separate occasions, they each seek counsel from Paul. Paul admonishes James that, as a Christian, he should forgive the debt and not allow bitterness to consume him. And to David, Paul admonishes him to repay his debt.

To an outsider, that might seem like a complete contradiction. Do we forget about the debt or not? Nevertheless, the admonition given to each man was appropriate regarding his position and responsibility before God.

Now, Scripturally, God has one message for the unredeemed and another message for the redeemed:
To the unredeemed, there are pleadings and commands to repent. Keep in mind, the unredeemed includes those who think they are saved, but are not. To the redeemed, there are declarations about being justified and chosen. There are assurances that God will complete the work that He began. There are also admonitions to grow in sanctification and holiness. From where we are standing (and with our limitations) we are unable to fully reconcile the tension.

I can’t remember the exact quote from Spurgeon, but he commented on this tension in Scripture – the election of God and the responsibility of man. Spurgeon warned that we must preach each without dilution, and that we must not seek some middle ground between the two because, in doing so, we destroy each doctrine.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Lyn, No I didn't watch the video. I've seen much and read much of the same stuff from Calvinists. Funny how scholars who aren't Calvinists find something different in the Greek. That's why I'm not interested in the debate. You and I are convinced of our own beliefs in this regard.

I do want to point out your normal Calivinist misrepresentation of how this affects God's Sovereignty. The fact that God gives man the free-will to choose with the faith he has in no way affects his sovereignty - He can still do as He chooses. We do not limit Him. But it would be against God's character to force us to accept Him. Calvinism has God regenerate the person before He can believe, but then you have a person being a Christian before he chooses to do so, which is the whole issue of God creating some for salvation and the rest for damnation - "What Love Is This?" The Bible says God draws ALL men to himself (of course the Calvinists redefine "ALL" the way Bill Clinton redefined "IS"). John 12:31-32. But not all me answer the call - their choice. Even Paul says in Romans 1 that no one is without excuse. God puts in all of us who He is, but we choose to place our faith in Him or not.

I've had my say. Read the books I suggested if you want another viewpoint other than Calvin's. I follow the Bible, not Calvin. Calvin just regurgitated Augustine.

Barbara said...

Well, Glen, I'm not going to argue with you. You do very much sound like an Arminian, and though I spent 40 years of my life as an Arminian, it wasn't until God actually saved me in spite of myself that my eyes were opened to the Scriptures and that I wound up embracing the doctrines of Grace because if not for His amazing grace overcoming my sinful God-hating self-loving flesh, I would still be lost. And probably dead.

Marie said...


(IS there another name by which I can call you, btw?)

Your explanation resonates with me and sounds exactly like what our associate pastor has said on the tension between the two views. Thank you!

I will go back and have a look at the video this morning. Somehow I don't think I will ever get this worked out satisfactorily, at least this side of heaven...

Barbara said...

Note my above comment was written before Glen's last comment came through. It is not meant to sound unfriendly, but to me it "sounded" so in print. My apologies for that. My understanding of the very nature of saving faith is that it does exactly as God promises in Ezekiel 36 and 37 and John 3 and Ephesians 2, it is a new heart and a new spirit such that it cannot be refused, because once you've tasted of it, once you've come into contact with the Living God and He's shown you His hugeness and greatness and holiness and glory and at the same time he peels back your heart and shows you your crimes against deity, you aren't going to come away unchanged and you will grab ahold of the cross with all your might because saving faith comes with a nature that loves Him. I know that for some people it happens more quietly and over a longer period of time than that, but it's still the same thing, if you're sealed by His Spirit, as we are at our conversion, then you are sealed and you will be sanctified, you will cooperate with that and be chastened when you don't, and there will be pruning and there will be fruit. But there won't be the axe at the root, because the believer's root is Christ and not self.

JTW, I agree. I like what JC Ryle says in his commentary on Luke 13:

"Let us take heed that we are not more systematic than Scripture. It is a serious thing to be "wise above that which is written." Our salvation is wholly of God. Let that never be forgotten. None but the elect shall finally be saved. "No man can come unto Christ except the Father draw him." (John vi. 44) But our ruin, if we are lost, will be wholly of ourselves. We shall find that we have lost our own souls. Linked between these two principles lies truth which we must maintain firmly, and never let go. There is doubtless deep mystery abuot it. Our minds are too feeble to understand it now. But we shall understand it all hereafter. God's sovereignty and man's responsibility shall appear perfectly harmonious one day. In the meantime, whatever we doubt, let us never doubt Christ's infinite willingness to save."

And that said, what I have been convicted of lately is too much blog-reading, reminded deep within my soul that there comes a point where we realize we are spending too much time with the words of men, when we should get away from that and instead rejoice in delving into the great gift we are given with the word of the Lord, never forgetting that men died so that we might have it and relish it, not so we can pick it to pieces and pick each other to pieces with it.

Barbara said...

Oh, Marie,

You don't have to get it worked out this side of heaven. That's a pride thing I deal with too because it puts me looking to myself for control, which when you take it all the way out boils down to putting my faith in myself and my understanding - that's death. When I take it to the altar what it all comes out boiling down to in the end is that I simply have to trust the Savior. To trust Him for it, with it, to keep us, to trust Him. Not just once, but every day in every thing. And when we do that, it radically changes everything.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Lyn says, "To fear losing your salvation means you continually 'work' at staying on God's 'good side'. This is a gross misunderstanding of grace, which is what salvation is based on. The Spirit of God ministers and teaches His people; by His power we are guided down the narrow path. When we do go astray, we do NOT stay there long, God's Spirit will not allow it. Christ saves us to the uttermost {Heb. 7:25}. To think God would discard any after He saves them is indeed both frightening and erroneous. Again, the total misunderstanding of grace leads to erroneous thinking."

I really don't want to keep debating this, but you misrepresented or misunderstand the issue. It is NOT about God discarding or letting go, it is about the person leaving God and denying him. Luke 12:8-9. I do not fear losing my salvation nor do I know of anyone who does. What I am saying is that it is possible for an immature believer to turn away from the faith and lose his salvation. It is not about works - no one claimed it was. It is only about maintaining one's faith, and exercising faith is not a work. That is a fallacy of Calvinism. The Bible too often contrasts faith and works, proving faith is not a work. Salvation is not just based on grace, it is basd on faith in Christ. THAT is the condition to receive the grace of God. Without faith, we are lost.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Barbara, why is it Calvinists (who identify themselves as such) call everyone who disagrees an Arminian? I do not follow the teachings of any man, rather I follow what the Bible says. And the Scripture has tooooooo many "if" passages to sluff off, and it also plainly states that God's offer of salvation is genuinely to all mankind and not just to those he specifically created for salvation while creating the rest of humanity only to send them to hell. All the convoluted arguments from Calvinists can't alter the fact that the end result of that belief system is an unloving God who creates people specifically to send to hell, all the while saying it is their fault.

Barbara said...

Glen, I'm not calling you an Arminian because you disagree with me, I'm calling you an Arminian because your stated belief system lines up with classical Arminianism. The arguments you make have clearly outlined prevenient grace, unlimited atonement, and free will (as opposed to the will bound to nature).

That's Arminianism. It's not an insult.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Barbara, NO it is not Arminianism. It may be similar to it, but it is how I read the Bible. I read it that way before I ever heard of Arminanism or Calvinism. I read the Bible for almost four years, after having come to Christ through the Navigators, before I ever read a commentary or even went to church anywhere (I didn't go to church - except visiting my wife's Lutheran Church a couple times a year) for 14 years after becoming a Christian because I had to work on Sundays. So I didn't have anyone telling me how to interpret it. Funny now I came to a belief that negates Calvinism by just reading the Bible. When I first started reading and listening to Calvinists (some of my favorite teachers, by the way) I could never figure out where they came up with those ideas!

I just don't like being lumped into a belief system other than Biblical Christianity. Calvinists seem to think everyone who isn't a Calvinist is an Arminian (or a Catholic :oD). That isn't true. Some of us can actually think for ourselves!

Barbara said...

By the way, Glen, it does sound as if you've come into contact with a lot of hypercalvinists, and I'm sorry for that. The hypers do tend toward an unloving God and they tend to hate man; just as the hyper-Arminians tend toward a more Pelagian outlook - and its not uncommon for sinful flesh to get batted about sometimes toward one extreme or the other, but praise God for His Son, the Good Shepherd who comes and bring us back!

But classical Calvinists and classical Arminians have more in common than the hyper-camps would ever even see. Did you know that Spurgeon and Ryle, both as I quoted above, were 5-point Calvinists? But of the classical kind, and Spurgeon came under fire from hypercalvinists all the time.

The fact remains that we all deserve Hell because we want to trust in ourselves and go our own way - attempted deicide - and yet we in our natural state will deny that to our dying breath because we can't see it, insisting that we're "good enough" to see and know and choose what is "right". Any chance we are given on this earth to have our eyes opened to that fact so deeply & personally, so that we go forward in love and service to Christ even though we know - because we have been shown our own hearts - that He is right to send us there due to our crimes against HIM - and any time the Cross is shown against that in the full glory that it has - is a miracle of grace. When we see that, when we are shown our own blackness, we agree with Him. That is repentance. In that light, we can do no other.

And there is the cross.

The beauty of Christ who had compassion on and gave Himself for that dead, decayed to the point of stench piece of flesh - for me! - and the Father who sent Him, shines brightest and most beautiful and brings us to our knees in a depth of gratitude and awe that defies words. The new birth is a resurrection resulting in a new creature, the old is crucified with Christ, the new arises out of the grave; one thing the Greeks had a lot of in their language, that they used biblically, was in the "now and not yet" tense. It is real now - the kingdom of God is at hand, the time is coming and now is that the dead will hear the word of God and be raised....but while it is real and glorious now, the "not yet" part comes in, what is "now" is still only a shadow of what is to come.

That's the Christ I know, because He did that with me. That's the Father I know, and the reality of the fact that in my flesh, as Paul said, there is truly NO good thing. But while we were yet helpless, Christ died for the ungodly, for His enemies, that we might become His brothers and sisters, His body. Christ ransomed (bought from slavery) His church, His body, His bride - with His blood.

An amazing, glorious thing. Ever notice that there was never a savior sent for the fallen angels, but yet He sent one for fallen man? And that He didn't have to do that at all? God is not beholden to us or our opinions, and yet He - the Holy One of Israel - tenderly calls us and even weeps over us. Ever been broken and amazed by that fact? I wish the hypers on both sides could see and know the beauty in that, but there is a veil as Paul said, a veil over the eyes of natural man. Christ humbles us before Himself so that all we can do is exalt Him, He who shines over all. May His name ever be praised.

lyn said...

If you truly belong to Christ, you will not fall away from true saving faith. Those who do never belonged to Him to begin with. God is sovereign and powerful, He saves all whom He draws to the uttermost.
Too bad you refuse to watch the video Glenn, it has nothing to do with Calvin. In any case, I will not continue to debate beyond this point. I believe the Bible does in fact teach eternal security, you don't. So be it.
May the Lord bless you.

Barbara~ excellent posts! I was especially moved by this comment, 'God is not beholden to us or our opinions, and yet He - the Holy One of Israel - tenderly calls us and even weeps over us. Ever been broken and amazed by that fact?' Amen sister! Thank you for your posts.

Barbara said...

Oh, Glen, must you take it as an adversarial comment? It's just a label for expedience sake, your doctrinal system runs in alignment with that of Jacob Arminius, and you got there from reading Scripture, as did John and Charles Wesley.

Notice that Charles Wesley's hymns run toward an acceptance of total depravity, however, as did the writings of Jacob Arminius. And Can it Be? brings in images of Ezekiel 37 all over again. One of the deepest pleasures I've known is when I open Scripture and it becomes a mirror - even when it hurts and convicts, I can only thank God for the sword that is cutting the flesh from the Spirit for the purpose of conforming me to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:28-30).

Likewise I am a Calvinist, not because I read the works of John Calvin, but because I read the Scriptures as they opened up to me where they had been dead words before, they took on life as I was being given a new heart (not saying you didn't, I can only relate my own experience, and because Christ had just brought me to the absolute end of myself - I was quite literally an empty vessel at that point and thus absolutely and prayerfully submitted to them). As I'm sure the Wesleys did also.

It is no small miracle that the humanistic, lapsed Episcopalian, proud feminist, divorced, bitter, stubbornly independent United Methodist preacher's daughter who had walked away from the church some years before, is now a joyful, peaceful, complementarian Calvinist who would simply loves her Christ and strives, by His grace, to know Him more and more and to grow in Him more and more, grieved by the presence of indwelling sin still in the flesh and looking forward to the day when we can come to Him face to face no longer encumbered by the sin in this world. And I know that I can claim no glory, no boasting, no credit in any of it. If there is one place where there may be some hiccups between classical Calvinists and classical Arminians, it is that we tend to feel that many (at least modern-day Arminian-type protestants) follow a doctrinal system that allows them to claim some credit for their salvation. And that's an absolutely untenable position for someone like me and others I know like me. It is all of Christ, all of grace. I did not save myself. I wanted to stop believing in God altogether. But He brought me to give up at that point - not even seeking salvation, but just giving up and falling at His feet, willing to accept destruction if that was what He thought was best, because my way had so obviously been wrong for 40 years and I was at that point. He brought me there. I was never so clearly an enemy of God as I was that day, and the days leading up to it, and yet He brought me to say, "I'm done. It's your call." It was not even within my comprehension that His answer would be to bring bone together with bone, form sinews and then skin, and then to call the winds to blow breath in me to resurrect me so that I may hear the word of the Lord, to raise me up and clothe me in a white robe, and sit me at a banquet of the bread of life (His Word) and filling me with a wellspring of Living Water.

But that's what He did. And when I look into the Scriptures, every new covenant promise says that He will do these things, not that we will do them. He will put His Spirit within us and He will take the old heart out, and give us a new heart, and in Christ's ministry He opened eyes, He raised Lazarus (who was so dead He stunk, as was I and as Paul talks about in Romans 3, so are we all), He went to some and He turned away others.

And so when the Scriptures actually outline the same thing that happened to me, so that the mirror of God's word brings assurance, that the written word as given by the Holy Spirit and the incarnate Word who is Christ, are one and imaged upon us and reveal the image of God to conform us further....there is no exaltation of man's intelligence or judgment even possible, but only exaltation of Christ.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Hi again Lyn,

I don't take the label "Arminian" so much adversarial as annoyance. If you're not a Calvinist then you get immediately put in the box of "Arminian" and debate is ended. I have dealt with Calvinists on this subject for many more years than I care to remember. And since it rarely is fruitful, I just avoid it. Sort of the same way I avoid discussions on eschatology - I'm a post-trib rapture person and that drives dispensationalists crazy!

Anyway, we are never responsible for our salvation other than accepting the gift on faith. The Calvinists always tell me that this means I'm saving myself, but that's silly. If a person hands you a gift and you refuse it, you're not going to benefit from the gift. But if you accept the gift (i.e. placing your faith in Christ), then you benefit from it. But you still aren't responsible for it. But there is a condition to the gift - you have to accept it. Which is the problem with unconditional election. The condition is always accepting it.

And I'm sorry if I sounded adversarial - I'm actually having a good time. :oD. I just like to make the clarification that one should not be labeled an Arminian just because they aren't a Calvinist. I'm a biblical Christian - period.

Here's an example on the other side. I was in an adult Sunday School class where the instructor was hard-core 5-point. He kept saying "Calvin said" even though everything he was saying was straight from Scripture. I finally raised my hand and said that since it is the Bible we are talking about, we should be saying "Scripture says" because I am not interested in what Calvin said. If Calvin is just saying what scripture says, why give Calvin the credit? So if I am reading the Bible as Arminius read it, why say I am an Arminian? Why not say Arminian was a biblical Christian? A-HAH! Let's leave it at that! :oD

Marie said...

I wanted to add that I think this is a great discussion, and I haven't seen a comment I disagree with yet. That said, I confess I will have to come back to this and read these comments with accompanying links again later when I have more time to ponder the depths of Calvinism and Arminianism......and agency just called me to go down to Cambridge later this afternoon to interpret, so I am scurrying to get some stew made for the fam's supper in my absence; fold the laundry; pick up the house; decide if I'm going to bother with makeup or not.....

Seriously, I am getting a lot out of this discussion and am glad that everyone's respecting the other's views. I don't believe that debate or argument per se is wrong, only quarreling is. The theologians have been debating this issue for almost 2 milennia, so I shouldn't be surprised that I'm no closer to clarity on that passage than I was yesterday morning. Everyone here agrees that salvation is through faith alone in Christ alone by grace alone. Arminius was not a heretic, nor was Calvin. However, I agree with Glenn and Barbara that we need to look for Christ Himself in His Word.

I am secure in my salvation and I know that it is Christ Who keeps me there. I want to be absolutely certain of what I reach others. As Glenn said, there are too many "if" passages to dismiss - we do have a responsibility.

lyn said...

Glen~ accepting God's gift?!? And you aren't Arminian? When God saved me, He didn't ask me first if I wanted His gift! My dear mother was diagnosed with lung cancer, which brought me to my knees. She meant the world to me, and this was the exact thing God would use to crush me under the weight of my sins. I cried out to Him for mercy and help, and He heard me. He brought me to repentance, He gave me persevering faith to believe in a God that I never wanted anything to do with until He pulled the rug out from under me. He sanctified me, regenerated me, and continues to work in me and through me.
Your refusal to not watch the video I suggested is disheartening, you seem set in your view, regardless of what the Greek language teaches on this issue; this video explains the phrase, 'by grace you are saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves' which includes a neuter demonstrative pronoun. The word 'that' is the neuter demonstrative pronoun. In the Greek language, a Greek pronoun has to agree in gender and in number with its antecedent. The word that, if it's referring to salvation, has to agree with the gender and the number. If it's referring to 'grace' it has to agree in gender and in number. Same thing with 'faith'. Arminians say the word 'that' is a neuter {neither male nor female}. Demonstrative means that it's pointing to a particular thing. It's the difference in saying 'a preacher preached' and 'that preacher preached'. So it's pointing directly at something. Arminians say it can't be referring to faith, because faith is a feminine noun. Because faith is feminine and that is neuter, it can't be referring to faith. The word 'grace' is also feminine, and does not agree with 'and that'. The word 'salvation' is masculine and does not agree with 'and that'. I.O.W., none of those words, 'grace' 'saved' and 'faith' agree with 'and that'. There's a rule in Greek grammar that whenever you find this kind of sentence construction, the writer did it on purpose because he wasn't trying to point at any one word. 'And that' refers to the whole collective phrase. Therefore, 'grace' 'saved' and 'faith' are ALL GIFTS OF GOD!!!

If God hands you the gift of salvation, and you refuse it, then He isn't Sovereign. His power is limited and overridden by man's 'free will' to choose. That is not what my Bible teaches. Again, I refer to Eph 2:1,"And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins".
If we can reject faith, then this passage is a lie. We are all DEAD in sin {I've yet to see a dead man or woman bring themselves back from the dead}. Our hearts are spiritually dead, with that said, how can such a heart choose faith? It cannot comprehend the things of God, it is dead! Who quickens us? GOD!! God brings us to life and gifts us with faith. Christ says, 'apart from me, you can do nothing'. How can you accept or reject faith if Christ teaches otherwise? You are not capable to make such an important choice, for your heart is dead in sin until God does a work in it. Once God crushes a lost sinner under the weight of their sins and brings them to repentance, giving them a new heart and putting a new Spirit within them, there's no turning back.I find no examples in scripture of anyone who God saved that ended up walking away.

Marie said...

I find no examples in scripture of anyone who God saved that ended up walking away.

What about Dimas?

Actually, and I'm not taking sides here, we can't be sure of that one way or the other. But as far as someone having the power NOT to choose Christ, think of the Rich Young Ruler of Mark 10. The text says he was seeking eternal life, yet opted out of following Christ. Likewise, many of the early seekers/disciples who were tagging along after Christ walked away after John 6. Jesus turned right around and offered the Apostles the same choice....and of course, the penultimate example of choosing the evil over good was Judas.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not citing these examples as folks who "were saved" and then "lost their salvation". Rather, I cite them to demonstrate that God has, indeed, given us the power of free will and a responsibility to "choose this day who you will serve". As for me and my house, we'll serve the Lord - but at some point that was a conscious decision and commitment each of us made.

Glen~ accepting God's gift?!?

Well...Jesus Himself uses that term with the Samaritan women at the well in John 4. Instead of walking off in shame, she recognized He was at the very least a prophet, was humbled by it, and brought back half the town. Many people from that village then chose to believe.

See what I mean? Yes, the very faith we can exercise is a gift - but we do have a responsibility to accept the offer of God's salvation (on His terms). No one will be brought into the Kingdom kicking and screaming.

I just got home from work, so I'm gonna watch that video you posted now to see what insights he has.

Re: paragraph 2 of your comment....Lyn, I can diagram sentences in my sleep, have a college degree and speak 3 languages, and I don't have the slightest clue what you're talking about. I'll take your word for it, though. :) Seriously, I don't think it's necessary to parse the original Greek to get Christ's clear meaning in certain statements/warnings. I plan to continue looking at and studying what the Bible teaches on this issue (especially where passages seem to contradict each other), so certainly I appreciate the material you guys link to.

JTW said...

(IS there another name by which I can call you, btw?)

Sure, my name is Joe, but since that name is so common, I went with my initials.

Barbara, once again, a great quote from JC Ryle.

Like you, I was very Arminian in my thinking, but God came looking for me when I walked away. To use a metaphor, it was like he grabbed me by the neck and took me off the crooked path - even as I resisted.

And isn't that what we see in Scripture, Jesus is the Good Shepherd and Blessed Saviour. When the sheep wander off, He looks for them and He will use the rod and the staff when necessary.

It was also like scales had fallen from my eyes. For example, I don't know how many times I read Ephesians, but one day as I read, verses like Ephesians 1:4,5 jumped off the page and exploded in my soul. I felt like the disciples on the road to Emmaus. I began to see things in Scripture that I had been blind to.

Nevertheless, as Marie pointed out, this issue has been debated for 2,000 years and it will continue to be a subject of debate.

I look at it this way - I don't REALLY understand why the remote control works and contemplating the known universe makes my head hurt. It seems more than reasonable that I cannot completely fathom how God works. In fact, it seems unreasonable to think that I am even capable of understanding everything about how God works.

Remember what Jesus said to Nichodemus about the wind in John 3:8. We are dealing with a mystery here.

lyn said...

Marie, as for par. 2, watch the video. I transcribed what was said from it in that paragraph.
As for choosing faith and losing salvation, I disagree. I'll leave it at that. To continue this debate will only lead to someone having to repent.

God's blessings to all, it's time for me to graciously bow out!

Barbara said...

What about Demas?

Paul indicates that Demas was seduced by the world. That fits in with the seed that fell among the rocky soil or the thorns, evidence of a "false conversion" (purely a work of the flesh and not of the Spirit, not unlike Judas) and is possibly one of the ones John refers to in his first epistle, in which he states,

They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us. - 1 John 2:19

Another good video, while you're watching clips - :)

Barbara said...

As to the "acceptance" of the gift - I like what Spurgeon wrote:

God doesn't need our permission to save us, but He gets it anyway. :)

I mean, come on - what's the newly regenerate soul going to do? Kick and scream and say no, even though You just showed me how I absolutely deserve Hell - not on an intellectual level but on a gut, spiritual, emotional, all-encompassing understanding that leaves us wretching on our knees kind of a level and then you shine that glorious, blessed hope in the Cross and not only that You just filled me with love for you and for Your children, even though You just opened my eyes and turned my heart toward you and made me hate the sin I once loved and love the God I once hated, and You made all these promises that You keep, and You're the God who created and sustains this world so You can back up your promises, and You have brought me up from being a dead dog to a banquet and You consider me Your child....nah...I'd rather give it all up and go to Hell with never a hope for myself? Yeah, sure, I mean, I guess it could happen.... :~

But that ignores/minimizes the whole concept of what rebirth and adoption and ransom with the price of the blood on that cross is all about. Faith is not an intellectual exercise, and justification isn't brought through a little prayer followed up by works of the flesh as we try to convince ourselves that we have the Holy Spirit (which for all practical purposes is what most modern-day protestant churches teach because they skim the surface of the rebirth and count a "sinner's prayer" as means of conversion) but without regeneration there is no power of the Holy Spirit on it, so it winds up being a cultural moralism with a Christian veneer, having the form of godliness but without the power thereof. And that is just as damning as following any other false religion. And so many go apostate in the long run because their flesh gives out, and ultimately it is to their benefit to do so because then the deception they'd been living under is lifted - there is no hope for a person who thinks he is saved but is not; there is only hope for a person who knows he is not saved because then he might be able to come to Christ, who came to seek and save the lost.

True conversion is a re-creating work of the almighty God who makes a covenant with His people and seals it with the blood of His only begotten Son, transplants the stony heart with a fleshly, circumcised one with His law written upon it, puts the fear of Him in us so that we will not turn away from Him, puts His Spirit within us, and brings us to love Him because He first loved us.

And he promises that Christ is the author and perfector of our faith, He who began a good work in you will finish it, and that the gift of the Spirit of God is given without repentance.

It's interesting that the testimony of the two Calvinists in the comment thread both include wanting nothing to do with God when He essentially swooped down and turned us toward Himself - and we know it was not of us, nor of our will, even as Paul said in Romans and John said in his Gospel, but of God. That'll sure make a "Calvinist" out of a person ;)

Marie said...

But that ignores/minimizes the whole concept of what rebirth and adoption and ransom with the price of the blood on that cross is all about. Faith is not an intellectual exercise, and justification isn't brought through a little prayer followed up by works of the flesh as we try to convince ourselves that we have the Holy Spirit (which for all practical purposes is what most modern-day protestant churches teach because they skim the surface of the rebirth and count a "sinner's prayer" as means of conversion) but without regeneration there is no power of the Holy Spirit on it, so it winds up being a cultural moralism with a Christian veneer, having the form of godliness but without the power thereof. And that is just as damning as following any other false religion. And so many go apostate in the long run because their flesh gives out, and ultimately it is to their benefit to do so because then the deception they'd been living under is lifted - there is no hope for a person who thinks he is saved but is not; there is only hope for a person who knows he is not saved because then he might be able to come to Christ, who came to seek and save the lost.

Wow. Barbara, I just had to read that part of your comment over a couple of times, because you just nailed it. And that's a serious thing to nail down. Sometimes my pastor has said, "Around here [meaning New England], sometimes you have to get people 'unsaved' before you can get them 'saved'".

And you're surely right about Demas....I was thinking about that passage in 1 John on the drive back in tonight, (ever have theological arguments with yourself while commuting?), and thinking of the logic there - if they bailed, they were never really "of" us. (And this time Calvin didn't state it; the Apostle did). So that makes sense.

Laurie lyn...please do not get upset w/ me or think you have to bail - I am NOT saying one CAN lose their salvation (I don't think you can, as you never did anything to 'earn' it to begin with), but the shallow confession followed by a falling away that Barbara mentions is one possibility. Just because I'm thinking out loud here and looking at all sides of a doctrinal issue doesn't mean I'm jumping ship on soteriology. Although I reject hyper-Calvinism totally.

Barbara, that is a poignant note of your testimonies - but don't forget, God meets people where they're at and uses all kinds of means to draw them to Himself. I cannot imagine not wanting anything to do with God. I was a lonely kid with a distant father so even from early childhood I was seeking Him. I believe He put that desire in my heart, and He knew in His timing how He was going to save me. It's different for everyone. But I didn't know I was in rebellion against Him, until someone explained why God's standard is necessarily perfection to me.

Barbara said...

No argument a'tall, Marie - :) He meets us where we are and brings us to where HE is. I have some folks around who like to follow the modern-day mantra of the "come as you are/stay as you are" thing or that God's nature is somehow mutable so that pretty much "anything goes if it calls itself Christian". That I absolutely reject, I believe that the Holy Spirit will sanctify us by the word of God as Jesus prayed for in John 17, and will make us like Christ - at varying speeds and in varying degrees until the end, sure - but there will be continual progress in that direction regardless, and that becuase as Christ prayed to God that all in Him would be one as He and the Father are one, there is something recognizeable in the brethren, something we can see and know that is in them that is also in ourselves. An incredible gift, however you slice it, and not one to be treated trivially, for sure.

Been a good discussion, but 0430 comes way early. Have a wonderful night.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Lyn, your comments are exactly why I didn't bother with the video. Why is it I can read other Greek scholars and they say that Grace is the gift of God in Eph. 2:8-9? Calvinists have their scholars who say faith is the gift while other scholars (call them all Arminians if you like - that's normal for Calvinists) say grace is the gift. Since I'm not a Greek scholar, I let the Scripture interpret scripture and grace is the gift for salvation, not faith. Everyone has faith given to them. Then you go with that tired Calvinist idea that accepting the gift of salvation is somehow interfering with God's sovereignty. Sorry, but that is a non sequitur. God is still sovereign - He does what he wants. But he also allows us free will. Allowing us to refuse him doesn't negate his sovereignty - it demonstrates his justice. He doesn't force himself on us. He quickens us AFTER we accept his grace by faith. At that moment the Holy Spirit indwells the Christian. Calvinists have the Spirit indwelling the Christian first. He first elects you so you can then place your faith in Christ - sorry, but that isn't biblical. You can read it that way if you like, but that is eisegesis.

Since God commands all men to repent (Acts 17:30), if they are unable to do so unless God has elected them, then that makes God unjust. That would be like me cutting off your legs and then commanding you to run a 4-minute mile. You have God commanding what we can't do, withholds his grace that would allow us to do it, and then punishes us eternally for failing to obey? What sort of justice is this?!

Judas was a follower of Christ who walked away. There is no place in Scripture where it says he wasn't a true follower. So you have to decide he wasn't really in order for him to have walked away and turned on Christ.

As I said, I have been this route for almost 35 years and I'm not changing my mind. One more video telling me the same Calvinist line won't change anything.

Would you read Dave Hunt's "What Love Is This?" Doubtful.

This is why I say I don't want to debate the issue, yet I keep coming back to it because I'm easily hooked.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Wow, Marie, thanks for that!

4simpsons said...

I didn't get through all the comments but I read a lot and was very impressed with the post and the thread and the overall adult conversation. I have attended Arminian churches but listen to a lot of Reformed guys (e.g., MacArthur Podcasts). I'm sort of a fence sitter but leaning towards the Reformed views. I enjoy the debates of great thinkers on both sides but don't divide over the issue.

I think Marie summed it up best for me at this point:

"There is a balance, as they say, and we have to hold these truths (God's sovereign election and man's responsibility) as two truths, and we can't quite see where they intersect. We have to trust that God is good, just, and it will remain somewhat of a mystery this side of eternity."

Micky Williams said...

Hi Marie; you have a great blog here. Don't expect me to comment too often, as I am no longer a Christian, and it feels strange to contribute on theological issues, even though I do understand (some of) them.
My understanding of this issue was always that you can most certainly lose your salvation, but only if you want to. I lost my faith because I realised the bible is not what I had thought all along. If there is a god, and he is the god of the bible, then I would not expect him to do me any favours because I was once saved. To talk of "once saved always saved" is clearly un-biblical, unless you take the view that a true believer would never fall away. And this implies judgements that no-one is qualified to make, and is a view that I find insulting considering the nature of the faith I held for 25 years. So perhaps for once Glenn Chatfield and I can agree on something.

I am no fan of Calvin, by the way, either the man (who was prepared to burn those who disagreed with him at the stake) or his vile doctrine of pre-destination. I consider Calvinism one of the worst things to happen to Christianity, and it can do just fine without him.

Peace, Michael (I comment as Racing Boo on Neil's blog)

Marie said...

Hi Michael,

Thanks for commenting, and the compliment on my blog!

I also post pants-wettingly funny YouTube clips from time to time; you may enjoy those more than the theological dissertations.

I'm sorry of course that you're no longer a believer, but I tend to agree with you (previously) on the point someone would essentially have to "want" to lose their salvation (ie, decide he/she no longer believed) in order to do so. The Bible says God will not let us out of His hand, but in context that seems to mean protecting us from external influence. Just as many of the early disciples walked away, I would think anyone with a superficial faith could give it up. OTOH, those who have a vital union with the Vine will stay united in Him, despite periods of sin or doubt in their lives.

I need my coffee. Too much thinking for having just gotten up...

Hadassah said...

Hey Marie! I haven't waded through all of the comments here, so this is probably a repeat of what someone else has already said.

But I read those verses, thought about them, read some commentary, and came to a conclusion.

So here it is...*ta da!*

Why do these verse have to mean that you can lose salvation? Why can't they just mean that sin is really really serious and bad, so serious and bad that it should be avoided even at GREAT PERSONAL COST.

And that believers need to take the warnings against sin very seriously, gaurding their 'saltiness' as a precious and dear treasure. Because even though the saints will persevere, they are never given the green light to be careless and lazy in their pursuit of righteousness.

I'm sure someone has pointed out to you that salt used to be used mined with various other minerals, it did not exist in the "pure" form we are used to buying at the grocery store today. And if it was carelessly left out at the mercy of the elements, the saltiness could leach out and leave a tastless lump of useless minerals.

But true, pure salt doesn't actually lose its flavor. It would then cease to be salt, which, I don't think is even possible.

Oh, and what Piper said...