Quote: Robert Gagnon on ‘Once Saved, Always Saved’

“There is a long-standing division within Christ’s church as to whether salvation, once acquired, can ever be lost. Some believe in an eternal security “once saved, always saved” (OSAS) doctrine. I once believed that but I think the overwhelming weight of the New Testament speaks against it. Persistent and unrepentant sin of an egregious sort, I believe, can get one excluded from eternal life. There are too many texts that make the point clear: for example (and I am making no attempt at being exhaustive), 

John 15:2, 6; Rom 8:12-14; 11:20-22; 1 Cor 3:17; 6:9-10 with ch. 5; 9:24-10:13; 15:1; 2 Cor 6:1; Gal 3:1-5 with 5:2-4; 5:19-21; 6:7-9; 1 Thess 4:3-8; Col 1:23; Eph 4:17-19; 5:3-6; 1 Tim 3:6; 4:1; Heb 2:1-4; 3:7-4:13; 6:4-6; 10:26-29; 12:15-17; 2 Pet 2:20-22; 3:17; Rev 2:5; 3:3-5; 3:16; 22:19; Matt 5:13, 29-30; 6:15; 18:23-35; 22:11-13; 25:14-30 (= Luke 19:11-27); Mark 4:16-19; 13:13, 20-22, 32- 37; Luke 13:6-9; 14:28-33.

Developing the argument for this would require another paper at another time. Suffice it to say, no one can know for certain when a believer crosses the line into falling away. Not even in the case of the incestuous man could Paul make that call; Paul simply referred to him ambiguously as “someone who goes by the name of brother” (1 Cor 5:11). But he could warn the offender, as he frequently warned all his followers, that an immoral life put one at high risk of not inheriting God’s kingdom. By way of analogy, a parent can’t say for certain, if his or her child skates out into thin ice, precisely when (or even if) the child will fall through the ice. Nevertheless, the parent can warn the child of the grave danger involved in traveling onto the thin ice. It is not a question of earning salvation (which the New Testament authors clearly state cannot be done) but rather of letting Christ live within oneself, to which faith (if it is true faith) always says “yes.”

The oft-cited Rom 8:35-39 listing all the things that “will not separate us from the love of Christ” or “the love of God in Christ” speaks only of things external to ourselves: persecution, a deprivation of material goods, angels and other spiritual powers, death. The remark “nor any other creation [or: created thing]” (8:39) appears to refer primarily to the material structures of non- human creation or at least created things external to one’s own self (compare 8:18-23, which distinguishes “creation” from the sons or children of God). The lists do not include “a life lived under the control of sin operating in human members” and for good reason: Paul has already stated clearly that such a life leads to death (6:16, 21; 8:12-14).”

– Robert A. J. Gagnon, link

Advertisements

Pink: The Fall Did Not Affect the Elect

“In other words, in God’s eternal thoughts and foreviews, the elect were conceived and contemplated by Him in the Divine mind as real entities in a state of pure creaturehood, above and beyond any consideration of the Fall… Such were “sons” before God sent forth the Holy Spirit into their hearts (Gal. 4:6); they were “children” while “scattered abroad” before Christ died for them (John 11:51, 52); they were “children” before the Redeemer became incarnate (Heb. 2:14). The elect were “children” from all eternity and decreed to be so unto all eternity. They did not lose their sonship by the Fall, neither by any corruption derived from that Fall in their nature. “Children” they continued, though sinful children, and as such, justly exposed to wrath. Nevertheless, this relationship could not be revoked by any after-acts in time: united to Christ from all eternity, they were always one with Him.” 

– A.W. Pink, Spiritual Union and Communion, ‘Mystical Union’, Pt.2

“Though, while all fell in Adam, yet all did not fall alike. The non-elect fell so as to be damned, they being left to perish in their sins, because they had no relation to Christ—He was not related to them as the Mediator of union with God.  The non-elect had their all in Adam, their natural head. But the elect had all spiritual blessing bestowed upon them in Christ, their gracious and glorious Head (Eph. 1:3). They could not lose these…”

– A.W. Pink, The Doctrine of Election, ‘Its Nature’

David Pawson: The ‘Omega’ Version of Once Saved, Always Saved

The ‘Omega’ Version

This is the subtle understanding of OSAS, more sophisticated and much less permissive. Both sin and holiness in believers are taken more seriously.

There is an emphasis on the need for perseverance in the Christian life.  Holiness is as necessary as forgiveness, sanctification as essential as justification.  Believers must never become complacent or satisfied, but press on towards the prize of their high calling.  It is as vital to finish the ‘race’ as to start it – hence my ‘Omega’ label for this viewpoint.

It is implicit in the teaching of many pastors, especially those who would describe themselves as ‘Reformed’ in doctrine.  They urge their hearers on to maturity, with constant exhortations against standing still or, worse, slipping back.

The stress on perseverance distinguishes this from the simpler Alpha position.  Indeed, some actually dislike the slogan ‘once saved, always saved’ because it does not include or even imply the need to press on afterwards.  It is therefore shunned for inadequacy rather than inaccuracy.

It is not going too far to say that proponents of this view believe that only those who persevere will finally be saved – and that those who don’t persevere will be lost forever.  So how can they be classed as OSAS?  What they say about perseverance seems to be a direct contradiction of it! Actually, they manage to believe both and this is where the subtlety comes in.  The tension is resolved in one of two different ways.

Some resolve it by defining the penalty of backsliding.  They say that the most that can be lost is in the realm of reward or special blessing, either in this world or, more usually, the next.  That is, there is a ‘bonus’ for perseverance which can be forfeited, though participation in heavenly glory is still assured.

Others resolve it by denying the possibility of backsliding, at least in a persistent form. This amounts to the belief that all those who are truly born again ‘must’ persevere – not meaning that they ought to, but that they inevitably will, that they cannot help but do so.

Nor does it stop there.  This inevitable perseverance is not so much their action as a ‘gift’ from God which they cannot refuse.  He ensures that they finish as he ensured that they began.  This gift and belief in it are often referred to as ‘the perseverance of the saints’, which is something of a misnomer since it is a divine rather than a human action. Recently, it is being more accurately described as ‘the preservation of the saints’.

The logical deduction drawn from all this is that all those who in practice fail to persevere were never truly born again.  They may have professed faith and even joined the Church on the strength of that, but they were only nominal ‘Christians’ and it is therefore not surprising that they did not persist in their pilgrimage.

– David Pawson, Once Saved, Always Saved? A Study in Perseverance and Inheritance (1996: Hodder & Stoughton), pp. 10-12

 

David Pawson: The ‘Alpha’ Version of Once Saved, Always Saved

The ‘Alpha’ View

This is the simple understanding of OSAS.  Its proponents believe that, once faith in Christ has been exercised, a person is safe and secure for eternity, no matter what happens afterwards.  To put it another way, one moment of faith in a whole lifetime is sufficient to secure a place in glory.

All one needs to do is start the Christian life.  You are now ‘saved’.  You have a guaranteed ticket to heaven.  Everything is settled.  To start is in a sense to finish.  Only the first step is absolutely necessary.  You only need to begin at the beginning.  Hence the ‘Alpha’ label seems appropriate.

This is implicit in the preaching of many evangelists, who must be held responsible for conveying this notion, even if they do not realise it.  Perhaps unconsciously, they present the gospel as an insurance policy for the next world, offering an escape from hell rather than a liberation from sin.  This is done by focusing on death rather than life (‘If you die tonight, will you find yourself in heaven or hell?’)  So often a guaranteed place in heaven is offered in response to a thirty second ‘sinner’s prayer’ repeated after the evangelist, often without mentioning deeds of repentance towards God or reception of the Holy Spirit, much less baptism in water – in marked contrast to apostolic evangelism in the New Testament (see my book The Normal Christian Birth for a more detailed examination of Christian initiation; Hodder & Stoughton, 1989).

Though it is rarely stated, the impression is left that, however life is later lived, the convert’s standing with God cannot be affected.  In a word, admission to heaven requires forgiveness but not holiness.  In theological terms, justification is essential, but sanctification is not.

Not surprisingly, this can and does lead to moral and spiritual complacency.  At worst, it becomes possible to rejoice in salvation while living in known sin.  This was the case on the Clapham train and at Spring Harvest (see the Prologue).  Typical were the remarks of an American mother reported to me: ‘My daughter’s a prostitute and drug addict but praise the Lord, when she was seven she made her decision for the Lord and I look forward to seeing her in glory.’

Such is the ‘popular’ view of OSAS.  It takes a very light view of both sin and holiness in the believer.  Neither can seriously affect eternal destiny, one way or the other.  The main thing is to get as many as possible ‘saved’, which means to get them started …

… It is tempting to call this an ‘escalator’ salvation.  Having once got on, one can step up or down, but never get off again.  Sooner or later, one is certain to arrive at the top.

– David Pawson, Once Saved, Always Saved? A Study in Perseverance and Inheritance (1996: Hodder & Stoughton), pp. 9-12

Cheung: ‘Permission’ is Nonsense; God is the Author of Sin and Evil

When Reformed Christians are questioned on whether God is the “author of sin,” they are too quick to say, “No, God is not the author of sin.”  And then they twist and turn and writhe on the floor, trying to give man some power of “self-determination,” and some kind of freedom that in their minds would render man culpable, and yet still leave God with total sovereignty.  On the other hand, when someone alleges that my view of divine sovereignty makes God the author of sin, my reaction is “So what?”  Those who oppose me stupidly chant, “But he makes God the author of sin, he makes God the author of sin.” However, a description does not amount to an argument or objection, and I have never come across a decent explanation as to what is wrong with God being the author of sin in any theological or philosophical work written by anybody from any perspective.  The truth is that, whether or not God is the author of sin, there is no biblical or rational problem with him being the author of sin. (p.4)

Although God must actively cause evil thoughts and inclinations in the creature, and then he must actively cause the corresponding evil actions, he does not create new material or substance when he does this, since he is controlling what he has already created.  It is true that a person sins according to his evil nature, but as Luther writes, it is God who “creates” this evil nature in each newly conceived person after the pattern of fallen Adam, whose fall God also caused.  And then, God must actively cause this evil nature to function and the person to act according to it.  Luther writes that God never allows this evil nature to be idle in Satan and in ungodly people, but he continuously causes it to function by his power… As for God’s purpose for sin and evil, first, as we acknowledge the biblical teaching that God is the sovereign and righteous “author of sin,” even if we cannot say why he causes sin and evil, it would not undermine what I have said.  Even if we do not know the reason, our view does not contradict Scripture or itself.  It would only be a matter of incomplete information. (p.10)

My position is a consistent application of divine sovereignty over everything.  It is a denial of any form of dualism or deism.  I affirm that God controls everything about everything that is anything, including every aspect of every detail of every human decision and action, in such a way that man has no freedom in any meaningful or relevant sense. (p.14)

Things are more determined in divine determinism than in any other scheme.  Under “fatalism,” an event is predetermined in such a way that the same outcome results “no matter what you do,” that is, regardless of means.  However, under divine determinism, although it “matters” what you do, “what you do” is also predetermined.  And it “matters” because there is a definite relationship between “what you do” and the outcome, although this relationship is also determined and controlled by God.  So I affirm divine determinism and not fatalism, but not for the reason that people often shun fatalism.  I affirm divine determinism not because things are less controlled in this scheme – they are more controlled – but I affirm it because it is the revealed and rational truth.  I cannot be charged with teaching fatalism, because the term means something different from what I teach, and also because I consider fatalism far too weak to describe God’s control. (p.25)

The Bible teaches that God’s will determines everything.  Nothing exists or happens without God, not merely permitting, but actively willing it and causing it to exist or happen… God controls not only natural events, but he also decides and causes all human affairs and decisions… If God indeed designs and causes all natural events and human affairs, then it follows that he also designs and causes evil. (pp.58-60)

God controls everything that exists and everything that happens.  There is not one thing that exists or that happens that he has not decreed and caused – not even a single thought in the mind of man.  Since this is true, it follows that God has decreed and caused the existence of evil. He has not merely permitted it, because nothing can originate or happen apart from his will and power.  Since no creature can make free or independent decisions, evil could never have started unless God decreed and caused it, and it cannot continue for one moment longer without God’s will for it to continue or without God’s power actively causing it to continue. Those who see that it is impossible to disassociate God from the origination and continuation of evil still attempt to distance God from evil by suggesting that God merely “permits” evil, and that he does not cause it.  However, since the Bible itself states that God actively decrees and causes everything, and that nothing can exist or happen apart from his will and power, it makes no sense to say that he merely permits something – nothing happens by God’s mere permission.  In fact, when it comes to ontology, “God’s permission” is an unintelligible term. (p.61)

– Vincent Cheung, The Author of Sin (2014)

 

Calvinist: Arminianism is a Damnable Heresy

“Since the teachings of Arminianism are contrary to Scripture, they are manifestly false. They are serious perversions of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is only one gospel, not two. Anyone who preaches any other gospel is preaching a false gospel and is accursed. “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8-9)… 

Is Arminianism a damnable heresy? Yes. The false doctrines of conditional election, universal atonement, partial depravity, resistible grace, and the possibility of a lapse from grace originate in the pit of hell with the father of lies (John 8:44). They are contrary to Scripture and worthy of condemnation. This is a serious matter. “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction” (2 Pet. 2:1)… Those who hold to these false doctrines consistently must believe that their salvation depends, in part, on their own merit, and persons who are depending on their own merit instead of the merit of Christ are on their way to perdition.”

– The Orthodox Presbyterian Church, ‘Q&A: Is Arminianism a Damnable Heresy?’ (Link)