I came across your series of 3 posts regarding your model of eternal security. Unfortunately, I don’t have a google account (nor do I wish to) so I cannot respond directly via your blog comment section. I understand you do not reply directly to email questions either so I guess that leaves us at an impasse since this is a one-time comment. Even if you were to address my question/comment in another subsequent post, I would not be able to offer a reply. Nonetheless, given the import of this doctrine and the limitation of our discourse, I offer my input.
Correct me if I’m wrong but if I understand your view correctly you believe that a genuine regenerate believer will always persevere and if he/she does not, it demonstrates that he/she was never a believer, to begin with. So while it is possible to apostatize, a believer won’t do so. I do agree that it is indeed possible that someone who doesn’t persevere could have not been a genuine believer as that is a distinct possibility. However, it would be a fallacy of overgeneralization or hasty generalization to conclude that just because ‘some’ who don’t persevere were not really believers to then make the jump and conclude that ‘all’ who don’t persevere were never believers. Given this rationale, can we find examples in the Bible to confirm the view that genuine believers can indeed fall away and not persevere?
We have the example of Demas referred to in Col 4:14, 2 Tim 4:10, Phil 1:24. We know that Demas deserted Paul because he loved the things of the world. To be fair, the scripture says that he deserted Paul but it is silent regarding if Demas deserted the faith. One would have to speculate that Demas’ deserting Paul meant that he also completely lost his faith so I don’t consider Demas’ example to be proof of someone losing their salvation.
Then we have the example of Judas whom we know as the son of perdition. The pertinent question is was Judas a genuine believer? I believe the answer is an affirmative one because we find Jesus’ description of the calling and election of Judas if you will, to be exactly the same as the other disciples described in Jn 17:6-12. In this passage Judas, like the others was given to Jesus by the Father (v.6), Judas like the others received the word and believed (v.8), Judas like the others were kept in Jesus’ name (which can only apply to believers) but in spite of this he was still lost (v.12). Many believe that Judas was never a believer but I cannot see anywhere in this passage where Judas is somehow differentiated from the rest of his fellow disciples other than the sole fact that he was lost.
In Matt 7:21-22 we have a group of people who some claim were not believers because Jesus never knew them (v.22). The problem with this view is that if these were never believers, how did they prophesy, cast out demons and perform miracles IN HIS NAME? Only regenerate believers have the authority to do these things in his name. If these were not genuine believers, would they have not met the same fate as the sons of Sceva? If these were not children of God but instead belonging to the devil then this would be an example of Satan’s house being divided against itself. Jesus himself clearly gives the reason why he never knew them and told them to depart – because they “practiced lawlessness.” Despite performing these supernatural acts in His name, they also practiced lawlessness, i.e. disobedience. A lifestyle of disobedience mark by habitual sin disqualifies one from eternal life. That is exactly why Jesus stated that he only knows those sheep who LISTEN and FOLLOW him (Jn 10:27). The promises of Jn 10:28-29 can only be properly applied to those sheep who OBEY Jesus. Those sheep who disobey and practice lawlessness are told to depart as they do not have eternal life.
Jesus’ message was consistent as he warned that spiritual death is indeed possible for the believer. He made use of parables to illustrate spiritual truth and in Luke 15 he also made reference to sheep – in particular the one who became lost. This lost sheep was a believer, not an unbeliever as this sheep originally was a part of the other 99 sheep who “need no repentance” (v.7). Upon straying, this sheep became “lost” from the flock who need no repentance. Lost in this verse then is a reference to the spiritual condition of the believer; not an unbeliever being lost. Only upon repentance is this lost believer who is referred to as a “sinner” in v.7 then found. Several verses later, Jesus repeats the same teaching in the parable of the prodigal son. Notice that Jesus repeats himself twice in this passage in vs.24 & 32. We know that when Jesus repeats himself, he is often emphasizing the main point of his teaching and in this particular case v.32 represents the conclusion of this parable which we can conclude is the summary or main point of his teaching. This parable is often employed to illustrate the Father’s patience, grace and forgiveness which is indeed true but it completely overlooks what Jesus himself emphasized in this particular teaching. The pertinent question is how is someone who is lost made “alive again?” When one is saved and becomes regenerated by the Spirit, the person is made alive in Christ. But how is someone made alive AGAIN? The only way that I can think of is that a spiritually alive person become spiritually dead because of ongoing sin but upon repentance and turning away from sin becomes ALIVE AGAIN. Hence this is the exact description of the prodigal’s life. He was spiritually alive when he abided in his father’s house but decided to foolishly spend his inheritance away and depart from a life of sin. In doing so he became spiritually dead, not physically dead because the prodigal did not experience physical death. Only upon repentance and returning to his father’s house was he was made alive again. Jesus thus taught that those who belong to him can indeed face spiritual death through unrepentant sin in their lives. The good news though is that the Father is patient and gracious to forgive IF we return to him. Similarly, in Jude v.12 it refers to those who are “twice dead.” An unbeliever is said to be “once dead,” The only way to be twice dead is for an unbeliever (once dead) to become a believer and made alive in Christ, However, he can become twice dead (spiritually dead again) if like the prodigal he chooses a lifestyle of sin. That is why the Apostle Paul sternly warned the Roman brethren: “Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live” (Rom 8:12-13). Spiritual death is the outcome for those believers who choose to sow to the flesh and engage in a lifestyle of sin. Paul’s use of the word “if” is conditional indicating that not all genuine believers will persevere and choose not to live according to the flesh. The word if indicates the possibility that some of the brethren can and will choose to live according to the flesh and not according to the Spirit. Only the regenerated possess the ability whether to choose to live according to flesh OR according to the Spirit. The unregenerate have no such ability to choose as they can only live according to the flesh.
Finally, we have Gal 1:6 where Paul writes that he is amazed that some Galatian believers who despite being CALLED by the grace of Christ were deserting to follow another gospel. The word called in this verse is from the Greek kaleo which is the same word for called used in Rom 8:30 where we are predestined, called, justified and glorified. Rom 8:30 is sometimes referred to as the unbreakable or golden chain of redemption/salvation as it supposedly states that when God calls someone the believer will always end up being glorified. On the face of it, the structure of this verse make linear and logical sense. It appears to be a “done deal.” However, Paul’s own personal testimony proves this not to be the case as he refers to these Galatians as being kaleo/called (same word he employs in Rom 8:30) yet he bears witness that they deserted Christ to follow another gospel. Thus those particular Galatian Christians can lose their salvation and did lose their salvation.
I apologize in advance for this lengthy email but the restrictions imposed by your google only blog comment section necessitated a lengthy reply since further discussion is not possible per your policy. I have studied this particular subject for many years. Ironically as a result of my study, my position has changed as I formerly believed in the perseverance and security of the saints as that is what I was taught in seminary decades ago. All of my seminary professors whom I still respect were sincerely Reformed in their theology. The reason I have chosen to write to you is that you still seem to have an open mind on the subject and as an apologist, you have a position of teaching and influencing others. For some reason, I have found this not to be the case with other Christians who believe in eternal security. They do not seem to be open to the possibility that they may be in error regarding this topic. So like the 10 Commandments, their position is unbreakable despite any scriptural evidence which may posit otherwise. We are all fallible beings so I could also be wrong and remain open to correction.
May the Holy Spirit lead you to all truth,
Thanks for your e-mail, Stuart. I’m sorry you’re unable to leave comments, but that’s Google’s fault, not mine. Frankly, I’d prefer to have Facebook comments on my blog like WordPress users have. Maybe I’ll send the Google people a recommendation to make that possible. You’ve given me a lot to address, but I will proceed to answer them in this blog post, hopefully to your satisfaction. First of all, for the readers of this blog post, Stuart’s referring to my 3 part series on eternal security. For those interested, click here for part 1, here for part 2, and here for part 3.
Now, onto your e-mail.
Apostasy, Nominal Christians, and The Hasty Generalization Fallacy
Now, Stuart, first of all, you said “I do agree that it is indeed possible that someone who doesn’t persevere could have not been a genuine believer as that is a distinct possibility. However, it would be a fallacy of overgeneralization or hasty generalization to conclude that just because ‘some’ who don’t persevere were not really believers to then make the jump and conclude that ‘all’ who don’t persevere were never believers.” —
I don’t think my conclusion commits the hasty generalization fallacy at all as I never once argued in the series that because nominal Christians exist, that there are nominal Christians who become atheists or other non-Christians, that therefore everyone who ever apostatizes is a nominal Christian or false convert. If that’s how I reached my conclusion, then you’d be right in telling me that I’ve committed the hasty generalization fallacy. That conclusion wouldn’t follow any more than the argument that because some Catholic Priests are pedophiles that therefore all Catholic Priests are pedophiles.
Here’s how I reached the conclusion that anyone who apostatizes was never really saved to begin with. These arguments were given in Part 2 of the series. First, we have Jesus’ statement in John 10:27-29. In this passage, Jesus says “My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they shall never perish. No one can pluck them from my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” In this passage, Jesus says that no one is able to pluck us out of His hand. This seems to suggest that once you’re saved, that’s it. Nothing can cause you to be removed from Jesus’ hand. Now, some who advocate for The Can/Will model of apostasy have responded to this passage by saying that this passage only means that no outside forces will cause us to lose our salvation against our will (e.g demons, the temptations of the world), but it doesn’t follow that we can’t freely choose to jump out of Christ’s hand. Point taken, but there’s more to take away from the passage than merely the “no one can pluck them from my hand” part. Notice that in the earlier part of the passage, Jesus says “I give them eternal life and they shall never perish.” Jesus’ words here are a blunt, de facto statement. He doesn’t say “they shall never perish as long as they don’t hop out of my hand.”. He just says “they shall never perish” period. If we freely chose to jump out of Christ’s hand, what would happen to us? We would perish, in contradiction to Christ’s words. There’s no conditional statement in this passage. Jesus just says point blank “I give them eternal life and they shall never perish”. I don’t see how this leaves room for apostasy being an actualized possibility.
Moreover, I also pointed to 1 John 2:19 which says “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” This sounds almost exactly like what eternal security advocates say. “They were never saved. If they were, they wouldn’t have become unsaved.” The apostle John says “They went out from us, but they weren’t of us. If they were of us, they wouldn’t have left.” When eternal security advocates say to a former Christian “you were never saved. If you were, you wouldn’t have lost it”, they are merely echoing the apostle’s words in 1 John 2:19.
Philippians 1:6 tells us that God will finish the work that He began in us also leaves no room for actualized apostasy. If true, genuine, born-again believers actually apostatize, how could it be true that God finishes the work that He begins in us?
So, my conclusion that any apostate was never a true believer isn’t based on the kind of extrapolation you seem to have in mind. It’s a conclusion reached based on how I’ve interpreted the passages above. If The Bible really says that no true believer will fall away, then if any believer does fall away, then there are only two possibilities: (A) The Bible got it wrong, or (B) the person wasn’t truly saved, to begin with. Since The Bible cannot err, being the infallible word of God (2 Timothy 3:16, Proverbs 30:5), it follows that apostates were never truly saved to begin with.
But what about Judas Iscariot?
You wrote: “Then we have the example of Judas whom we know as the son of perdition. The pertinent question is was Judas a genuine believer? I believe the answer is an affirmative one because we find Jesus’ description of the calling and election of Judas if you will, to be exactly the same as the other disciples described in Jn 17:6-12. In this passage Judas, like the others was given to Jesus by the Father (v.6), Judas like the others received the word and believed (v.8), Judas like the others were kept in Jesus’ name (which can only apply to believers) but in spite of this he was still lost (v.12). Many believe that Judas was never a believer but I cannot see anywhere in this passage where Judas is somehow differentiated from the rest of his fellow disciples other than the sole fact that he was lost.”
I can see why this passage would lead one to think Judas was actually saved, and therefore think the Can/Will view is correct. However, again, we need to interpret scripture in light of scripture. I think John 10:28-30, 1 John 2:19, Philippians 2:6 and many other passages rule out the idea that actual instances of apostasy have and will occur. Secondly, if you’ll turn your Bible to John 6, it tells you very clearly that Judas was never saved. I want to specifically zero in on verse 64. In this verse, Jesus states “‘But there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe,” and who is it that would not believe? The verse goes on to say that it’s “who it was that would betray Him.” So, John 6:64 says quite plainly that the one who would betray Him never believed. Now, who is the one that would betray Him? Verse 71 gives us the answer: “Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him.” So you look at John 6 and it’s not a case where Judas was saved and lost his salvation; Judas was never saved to begin with.
John 13:10-11 says “Jesus said to him, ‘He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.’ For He knew” now this is in the Upper Room, “He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’” “Clean” there means to be forgiven, to be washed clean of all one’s sins. Judas had never responded to the gospel; he hung around with the twelve, he appeared to be an actual follower of Christ from the outside, but John is very clear that Judas never believed. Verse 18, you’ll see the same kind of thing. [Verse 18, “I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen, but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘he that eats bread with me has lifted up the heel against me.’”] Emphasis mine.
The People in Matthew 7:21-23
I think the fatal flaw with interpreting the people in this passage to be former true believers is in the fact that Jesus said “I never knew you“. If these were former believers, how could Jesus truthfully say that he never knew them. If the people in this passage were once saved, but then gave up their salvation, then Jesus couldn’t say “I never knew you.” He would have to say something like “I knew you, but then you abandoned me” or something like that. This language of Jesus’ is why even most Christians who reject OSAS understand this passage to be referring to nominal Christians.
The really potent part about your objection is that if these weren’t true believers, then how could they go around casting out demons and prophesying and so on. If a false convert tried to cast out a demon, wouldn’t it just turn on him like the sons of Sceva mentioned in Acts 19? And what of prophecy? This is a gift of The Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:10).
I think we need to follow the hermeneutical principle of interpreting scripture in light of scripture. Given the fact that John 10:28-30, 1 John 2:19, and Philippians 2:6 (among several others) give us grounds for affirming that the possibility of apostasy will never be actualized in true believers, we should look for a way to harmonize this passage with those. Secondly, the fact that Jesus says he never knew them in Matthew 7:23 is a big clue that He’s not talking about former true believers, as He would have certainly known them at some time in the past if they were.
But then we come to the problems you pointed out: of this being a case of Satan casting out Satan and of these people not meeting the same fate of the sons of Sceva when trying to perform exorcisms. How do these facts mesh with the interpretation that Matthew 7:21-22 is speaking of nominal Christians?
Well, one possibility is that these people claimed to have done things that they didn’t actually do. Perhaps many of these so-called prophecies were scams. Maybe the so-called prophet actually believed that he was a prophet when he wasn’t. How many times have we heard of people go up to others and saying “I have a word from the Lord for you” or “God told me to do such and such.”. Sometimes when you examine these so-called “words from The Lord” with the actual Word of the Lord (The Bible), you find that they contradict each other. “God told me that I should divorce my wife”. No, he didn’t, because in Malachi 2:16, God said he hates divorce and in Matthew 19, Jesus said no one should divorce for any reason except adultery. There’s a lot of people running around claiming to be prophets for Jesus, but I’m skeptical of them all. If anyone comes up to me claiming to have a word from The Lord, I’m going to ask them to perform a miracle and predict a future event (Deuteronomy 18).
A person can claim to have a word from The Holy Spirit, but that doesn’t make it so. The person making the claim can even firmly believe that He has a word from The Holy Spirit but in reality, it’s actually it’s just his own thoughts or desires combined with self-delusion. You should never underestimate the power of self-delusion. I’ve come to learn that people can talk themselves into believing all kinds of things if they try hard enough and want to believe it badly enough. Atheists are the best example of this. So many have talked themselves into believing that it’s truly possible for something to pop into being out of nothing without a cause (i.e the universe). If people can convince themselves of that, they can convince themselves of anything, including deluding themselves into thinking they’re a prophet for Christ. In fact, I think it’s interesting that immediately before this passage, Jesus was talking about false prophets and how to recognize them (Matthew 7:15-20). So, unless Jesus had A.D.H.D and just abruptly shifted gears, I think it makes sense to think that verses 15-20 of Matthew 7 are connected to verses 21-23 that immediately follow. And that would lend further credence to my proposal that the people talked about in verses 22-23 are false prophets.
As for performing miracles, we know from scripture that people can perform counterfeit miracles. In Matthew 24:24, Jesus warns, “For false christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible.” Similarly, 2 Thessalonians 2:9 says, “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders.” When God sent Moses to deliver the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, He performed miraculous signs through Moses to prove that Moses was indeed His messenger. However, Exodus 7:22 states, “But the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts, and Pharaoh’s heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses…” (see also Exodus 7:11 and 8:7). Of course, eventually, the miracles God performed through Moses became so increasingly extravagant that the magicians could no longer mimic them. Anyway, here’s the point: it’s possible for demons to perform counterfeit miracles and to lie and say that they’re done in Jesus’ name. It’s even possible for these demons to delude their chosen miracle worker to believe that he’s doing God’s work. Satan is a mighty deceiver after all. He can get a man to perform demonic works and get him to believe he’s doing God’s work so that on the judgment day, this person is legitimately surprised to hear Jesus tell him that He never knew him.
So, I don’t find it all that problematic to think that unsaved nominal believers can “prophesy” and “do miracles” in Jesus’ name.
The real head-scratcher is the part about exorcisms. Doesn’t the Spirit of God have to be with a person for them to successfully drive out evil spirits? This is the most difficult part of your argument from this passage. I’m, admittedly, just spit-balling here, but it’s possible that maybe some evil spirits fear the name “Jesus” so greatly that they flee from it no matter who utters it. There is power in the name of Jesus, but does the speaker of the name need to be *in* Jesus for His name to have power? Maybe, but then one has to wonder why that didn’t work for the sons of Sceva in Acts 19. Well, maybe these people were just outright lying to Jesus. Maybe they were saying that they cast out demons in His name when nothing of the sort occurred so they can dupe Jesus into letting them into Heaven? That doesn’t seem plausible either considering that “many” will say those kinds of things to him on judgment day. Are many people just going to tell the King of kings a bald face lie? And as you suggested, it makes no sense to try to argue that these people are doing it by demonic power any more than it made sense when the Pharisees applied that logic to Jesus in Matthew 12. Satan’s army would never fight against itself. If these people are telling the truth, then that means they actually cast out demons. But if they successfully cast out demons, how did they do it? Was The Holy Spirit working with someone who wasn’t saved? Does The Holy Spirit do the bidding of those whom He doesn’t indwell? Moreover, in Luke 10:19-20, Jesus said that he gives true believers the authority over demons. In verse 20, he says that their names are written in the book of life.
If I conceded the argument to you, that wouldn’t solve the problem either. It would just create another problem. Namely, that Jesus is a liar. Remember, he’s telling these people on judgment day that He never knew them. If these were genuine born-again believers who forfeited their salvation sometime before death, that would explain why they could claim to have prophesied, did miracles, and cast out demons in Jesus’ name, but Jesus could not in all truthfulness say that He “never” knew them. He would have indeed known them at some point. So, even conceding that your interpretation is correct wouldn’t fix the issue. It would solve one problem and create another. Even if I ignored the large pile of Scripture passages stating that a true believer will never fall away and I only dealt with Matthew 7:21-23, there’s an inherent problem with your interpretation in 21-23 itself which makes the these-were-true-believers-who-apostatized interpretation problematic.
I’ll be honest, the part about them claiming to have cast out demons has baffled me, and I can currently offer no explanation. It makes no sense to say they’re all just flat out lying to the Christ. It makes no sense to say they’ve cast out demons by demonic power. It makes no sense to think that the unsaved have The Holy Spirit doing things for them. And it makes no sense to say to former true believers “I never knew you.” instead of “I knew you, but you left me” or something similar.
I’ve spent an entire day wracking my brain over it, but suffice it to say that it wouldn’t help to merely concede that you’re right. That would just bring up another issue altogether. Maybe someone in the comment section can shed some light on this confusing issue.
The Parable Of The Lost Sheep and Prodigal Son
Regarding your arguments from the parables of the lost sheep and the prodigal son, I think you’re drawing way too much from them. The point of parables is to make a main theological point. And any hermeneutics teacher will tell you that it’s a mistake to try and build doctrine from incidental details from the stories. The point of the parables of the prodigal son and lost sheep is that we are estranged from God because of our sins, but no matter how far we’re gone or how bad we’ve been, He will search for us diligently (Lost sheep) and will embrace us with joy and celebrate our salvation (Lost son). These are the points of this parable, and it’s a mistake to try to make doctrinal points from the peripheral details of the stories, like the fact that the lost sheep was originally part of the shepherd’s flock or the fact that the prodigal son was a son.
Moreover, If you do this, you can even make a case for Pelagianism, as in the case of the Prodigal Son, the father didn’t have to come to him and enable him to come back home. The prodigal son inherently had the ability to come home. Should we conclude that sinners inherently have the ability to return to God? Of course not, as that would contradict the clear teaching of John 6:44, John 6:65, Romans 8:7-8, Acts 16:14, and several others which state or entail that man must be enabled by God to repent i.e be given prevenient grace. That the prodigal son inherently had an ability to return to his father is an incidental detail, and ergo, doctrine shouldn’t be built on it. We should focus on the central point of the parable and build doctrine on that.
Moreover, notice the context in which Jesus began speaking these parables. Luke 15:1-2 tells us that he was dining with tax collectors and sinners. From verse 3 and onwards is where Jesus speaks of the parables. There is no indication in the text that the tax collectors and sinners Jesus ate with were former true believers and just had to be brought back. All we can infer from the text is that they’re unsaved. Jesus is using the parables to demonstrate that they’re not too far gone to be saved. They can come to God and be forgiven.
Parables are a lot like analogies. They’re illustrations used to make a main point, but they all break down at some point because analogies are never 100% like the thing they’re being compared to. If they were, they’d cease to be analogies.
Jude Verse 12 and Romans 8
You wrote “Similarly, in Jude v.12 it refers to those who are “twice dead.” An unbeliever is said to be “once dead,” The only way to be twice dead is for an unbeliever (once dead) to become a believer and made alive in Christ, However, he can become twice dead (spiritually dead again) if like the prodigal he chooses a lifestyle of sin.” —
The Bible speaks of the second death in Revelation 20:6, Revelation 20:14 and Revelation 21:8 that the Lake of Fire is the second death, that is died twice. Now, I won’t get into whether this is in support of the teaching of annihilationism, however, I do think that the “twice dead” language of Jude 12 is referring to the “second death” mentioned in Revelation 20:6, Revelation 20:14 and Revelation 21:8, rather than a person apostatizing. Your interpretation of Jude 12 is certainly a possible one, but the interpretation that it’s referring to the second death is not only consistent with these verses from Revelation, but it also coheres better with what John 10:28-30, 1 John 2:19, and Philippians 2:6 (among several others passages) say.
Romans 8:12-13 would fit with my model of eternal security quite well. As I said in Part 3 of my series, these warnings and conditional salvation-loss statements are used of God to bring about the perseverance of the elect. Since on my view, salvation forfeiture is possible, God must use means to keep this possibility from being actualized. For many, it will be warning passages like that of Hebrews 6 or Romans 8:12-13. Born Again Believers will read these warnings against apostasy and heed them. That’s why they’re there. Your conclusion that “The word “if” indicates the possibility that some of the brethren can and will choose to live according to the flesh and not according to the Spirit.” is a non-sequitur. It doesn’t follow that some will choose to live according to the flesh, only that they can. On my view, any true believer would take this warning to heart and ergo choose not to live according to the flesh.
Finally, we come to Galatians 1:6, where you argued that this is evidence that not only can believers lose their salvation, but some will since Paul says the Galatian believers here did.
I have never thought of Galatians 1:6 as a statement that the Galatians actually did lose or forfeit their salvation. I’ve always seen it like I see Hebrew 6 and Romans 8:12-13; as warning passages. I’ve examined this verse in several different translations, and the vast majority of them translate Paul’s words in the present tense, not the past tense.
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel–“ (NIV), “I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ. You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News” (NLT), “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—” (ESV)
I think one can view Paul’s words as a warning against the Galatians that if they continue on the path they’re on, they will lose their salvation. But I don’t think we’re compelled to see this as the Galatians as already fallen from grace. For one thing, Paul uses the present tense, at least in the majority of the translations I’ve surveyed. For another thing, many passages suggest that no true believer will ever fall away (i.e John 10:28-30, 1 John 2:19, Philippians 2:6, Ephesians 1:13, Jude 24-25, 1 Peter 1:4-5). Galatians is filled with warnings though, which makes the can’t/won’t version of eternal security very untenable, as I pointed out in Part 1 of the series. The whole epistle is a warning against this church not to be entangled by the Judaizers’ legalism and works based theology.
I don’t think any of the arguments you’ve brought up here are a problem for any “won’t” model of eternal security, whether it be the Can’t/Won’t or the Can/Won’t models.
You are correct, Stuart, about my having an open mind on this issue. I’m willing to adopt the Can/Will view Arminians espouse or even the Can’t/Won’t view Calvinists espouse if I think the biblical data truly warrants it. However, from what I’ve seen so far, the Can/Won’t model I’ve defended seems to do the most justice to Scripture’s teaching on the matter. As I’ve said elsewhere, this is a difficult topic, and both sides have powerful arguments in their favor. Even in the position, I’ve clamped down on now, I’ve done so tentatively. I am not dogmatic about the Can/Won’t model of eternal security, it just seems like the most tenable view to me at the present time.
If you have any questions about Christian theology or apologetics, send Mr. Minton an E-mail at CerebralFaith@Gmail.com. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Christian or Non-Christian, whether your question is about doubts you’re having or about something you read in The Bible that confused you. Send your question in, whatever it may be, and Mr. Minton will respond in a blog post just like this one.
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