Updated: Apr 29, 2021
We opened a fun topic this past Sunday when we examined Romans 9. The second service question and answer time gave birth to this post. Not only is the general topic of predestination and God’s justice on the line in Romans 9-11, but also the question of “Do all Christians persevere to the end?” A popular way of bringing out this question is “Can a Christian ‘lose’ their salvation?”
I will give my thoughts on the subject, but I thought I would add a resource for those who want to look at the idea more. This article does a pretty good job of laying out the territory in Protestantism on this subject. However, it does lean to the Calvinist side in its overall approach, defense, and resources that it cites.
Theopedia - Perseverance of the saints | Theopedia
What the article lacks 1) a discussion on the early Christians after the Apostles, some of which knew the Apostles and 2) the actual context of the numerous passages that are cited to support a lean in the Calvinist direction. If both lacking elements were looked into, I think they will be shown to affirm Paul’s own view, which comes in Romans 11:11-24 about the natural branches being cut off by their own unbelief.
That being said, we find in the Scriptures enough data to somewhat validate either position on this subject. This happens on numerous doctrines. We see this happen in other disciplines where there is enough data to form two or more schools of thought.
The Bible does say
1. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand” John 10:27-28. There are many verses we could add to this side of the equation.
The Bible also says
2. “For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.” Romans 11:21. There are many verses we could add to this position as well.
Because there are enough verses (or data) for both the Arminian and Calvinistic positions to feel somewhat justified, I (at least at the pastoral level) put this doctrine in the second of the following categories.
1. On Essentials, Unity: These are Creedal Doctrines that we should all agree on.
2. On Non-Essentials, Liberty: These are non-creedal doctrines where there has typically been some disagreement in the body of Christ. This is at least true in Protestantism from the 1500’s onward.
Since there has been some disagreement throughout the centuries (at least since Protestantism began in the 1500’s), I think there is good room in the body of Christ to have some different views on the subject while being part of the same local Church. In fact, I think this gives us a quality that the world is looking for. Thus, I welcome disagreement.
Pastor Isaac’s View
My own view is not the Calvinist position or the Arminian position in their entirety. My view is that historically this is how theology (and other disciplines) often work. One view is presented, a counterview is presented to overcome the original view, and then some insights from each view are brought into a synthesis. Here are my affirmations and denials.
Affirm God’s total foreknowledge of all events that take place in human history.
Affirm that God’s foreknowledge includes what his creatures will do with their free-will.
Deny that God determines all things by his direct power; this is especially related to free-will. In other words, God is not fating/controlling all things to be a certain way. He knows what way they will develop, but he is not forcing them.
Deny that God has pre-planned, without the choices of human beings, which persons will go to hell and which persons will go to heaven.
Affirm that humans have free-will.
Affirm that God’s offer of salvation needs to be accepted and is not forced on any person. I accept synergism (God and humanity working together). This is like a marriage proposal. The person being asked to marriage needs to have the freedom to accept or deny the request.
Deny monergism (God doing all the work). Monergism looks to me like a forced marriage proposal. God asks, “Will you marry me” and then God answers for humanity “Yes” or “no” depending on whom he decides will be saved or not. This makes little sense to me.
Affirm that God works to persevere his children in their faith, and that if they continue to cooperate with his grace, they will receive glory in heaven.
Deny that no one can leave the faith.
Affirm that Apostasy is possible, albeit improbable (or minute). Most people who enter the faith will go forward in faith.
Deny that one or even many sins automatically causes one to lose their salvation. Christians can and do sin. Some Christian communities have wrongly thought that each sin needs another walk forward to the altar to get re-saved. This is incorrect. Confession of sin should take place but sins themselves do not automatically take one out of the body of Christ. They could lead to one deciding to turn their back on Christ (which is the Biblical definition of apostasy…see Galatians 1:6), but this would practically come after large or many sins over time and avoiding God’s grace to help them through their troubles. It would need to come with a specific act of the will, knowingly turning away from Christ and towards something else.
Affirm that God is the one who ultimately knows where a person is at with their salvation and what will constitute that person being considered in the faith or not. This is basically saying that there is more that meets the eye than just what we humans know about a person. Their affirmations and or denials of the faith are fully known by God, as well as the circumstances of those affirmations or denials. We should leave the outcome up to God.
Affirm that good Christian believers can think differently on this subject from me and embrace the Trinity.