Friday, August 22, 2008

scaring the hell out of us

You may not like the title of my post (I don't like it either, really) or the subject matter (I'll agree with you there, to a large extent at least), or the tone of some of my posts recently (okay, I don't either), or in the past (to some extent I'll agree there, also). But I believe this is important because it's a part of Scripture, and I believe Scripture is the word of God speaking the message and Story of God to us. Which ultimately comes to us, in Jesus, God's final word to us.

I was raised Mennonite, but after my conversion at the beginning of my senior year in high school, I was soon influenced by my uncle who taught at the school and is a pastor, and I by and by embraced a Baptist doctrine, leaving my Mennonite beliefs behind. Of course eternal security was part of that teaching, and since I felt insecure, I found it helpful and liberating for me. And indeed, it is essential to know just how important and foundational God's keeping of us in Jesus is.

At the same time, I think what I understand Scot McKnight in a recent comment at Jesus Creed, to have said, is true. Many Baptists who believe in eternal security, once saved always saved, really do not believe in perseverance, that is that true Christians will persevere faithfully in God's will till the end, not perfectly, but they'll always come back and be saved in the end. I do think most Baptists believe we're to live holy lives, and only a few think that when you are saved you don't have to concern yourself with that.

But inherent in their position is the belief that once you're saved you'll always be saved. In light of the book of Hebrews, and in light of Jesus' strong warnings to his disciples, I think such a position takes the teeth out of such passages. The idea is that no matter what you do, you can't lose your salvation. That may be true. For example I knew a good young pastor years ago, at that time a youth pastor who believed that one would forfeit their salvation if they committed suicide. There is no way I believe that. Though at the same time I wouldn't want to fall into such a sin with all the awful ramifications and no opportunity in this life to repent of it.

What sinning can do for us is harden our hearts since sin is deceitful. We can drift away from the message of Christ and the gospel. Not just for those who have yet to taste and see that the Lord is good, but for those who already have. We are told in Scripture to make our calling and election sure. There are other arguments on this side, as well as on the other side. Good Christians will disagree on it.

My plea though is to take seriously the warning passages, and not somehow skirt what they're actually saying so as to take the teeth out of them. By faith we're kept by the power of God for salvation, but though we can't earn our salvation, we can walk away from it, at first perhaps not deliberately, but in the end no longer caring, hardened in heart and devoted to other things (idols) rather than God in Christ.

So I think we need to listen to the word of God and take to heart all that is written in it. We need to continue to rest in the grace of God for us in Jesus, trusting God for his good work in us, and working that out with fear and trembling.

Just some scattered and incomplete thoughts on this, this morning. One part of Scripture which is not pleasant, but is for our good.

What would you like to add to this, or say here?


Rachel Mc said...

Once saved always saved.....I have problems with that concept. I have problems with a murderer finding Christ at the end of his/her life and then thinking everything is forgiven, ok.
I'll pay attention today what everyone else writes....

Mike said...

Okay Ted. I've said it before but I'll say it again, I LOVE YOUR HEART!

What I really appreciate is your openness to concern yourself with the truth rather than denominational teaching or biases. That's what I pray for myself. Thanks man!

Now, on to the post. I was raised in the Baptist church but came to a time in my life where I realized I didn't believe Calvinist doctrine. I realize not all Baptists aren't Calvinists, but...

As for eternal security, I choose not to use the phrase "lose my salvation." In other words, if I've received God's grace (salvation) and value that more than anything else, I won't lose it. However, that said, I can give it back (apostasy).

I think if one is concerned about their salvation (again recognizing the value of what Christ has done), they're obviously not apostate.

McKnight also mentions the "domino effect" of Calvinist doctrine.

Just my $.02.

preacherman said...

Wonderful words for us all Ted.
I hope you have a great weekend!

Andrew said...

Good stuff. I am a pretty full-on Calvinist, of course, but I agree with what you and Mike have said. No one "loses" salvation; we reject Christ. You're right on about the doctrine of perseverance; it's not "once saved always saved," but it's that true saints purchased by Christ and brought into his fellowship will continue to live in that fellowship. As in Christ we are set apart once for all, so too will we realize a continuing (if wavering) measuring of his sanctification and holiness in our own lives. Calvin himself saw justification (or definitive sanctification) as well as sanctification as inseparable facets of union with Christ.

I think one of the problems is a definition of faith that doesn't involve repentance. There is no condemnation for all who trust in Christ (Rom. 8:1). But Christ didn't do away with the Law; he fulfilled it on our behalf. The Law will ever expose our sin and reveal us as sinners who, apart from faith in Christ which turns from sin and clings to him, will perish under God's wrath. If we treat the Cross as nothing, caring neither for sin's offense nor trusting the work of Christ, we will trample Christ underfoot (Heb. 10:26 ff).

I think this also does a lot to bolster the historical Reformed covenantal view of the church, but that's another story.

Ted M. Gossard said...

I can understand your problem, but like the thief on the cross, God can forgive the truly repentant believing heart even at the last hour, no matter what they have done. God's grace in Christ covers every sin, of course. But there needs to be the believing look at the Savior.

Of course it's by faith we're forgiven of all our sins, not by any change we do, since Christ's sacrifice for sin is alone sufficient. One must trust God's word in that, and then comes forgiveness of sins through Christ.

Like you I do have a problem with once saved always saved. My problem comes from passages in Scripture. But again, good Christians disagree on it. What is important, I think, is to maintain a healthy fear of God. I could easily abandon that, thinking it's not a worthy motive for us who are called to the love of God in Christ. But it's Scriptural and God is wiser than we are, of course!

Ted M. Gossard said...

Thanks, and I agree. Maybe the words "losing your salvation" are not the best ones to use, though I tend to err on the side of simplicity to seek to communicate clearly.

Good words, and I can tell they come from a pastor!

Ted M. Gossard said...

Thanks, and blessings on you and yours, as well.

And hope you're feeling better and able to do more longer.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Thanks for your good words to us. Good teaching.

I certainly agree on faith. It should be a submissive faith, or it's no saving faith at all. The demons believe and tremble (James) being nonsubmissive. Repentance and faith are ever joined together and ongoing for us now.

I also agree that there is so much good we can learn from the theology of Luther, Calvin, even Menno Simons (of the radical Reformation, Anabaptists), from the Reformers. I think we'd be surprised by some of what they taught, but there is much good there, and especially for me, their commitment to Scripture as our authority, and not the Church (other entities such as the church, only in a secondary, derivative sense, I take it).