Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Arminians Cannot Logically Adopt Perseverance

If grace is resistible and election is conditional, then there remains no basis for the perseverance of the saints. To maintain such, one would have to posit a transition in God's governance of the believer such that God initiates salvation according to Arminian principles (freedom and grace), but after rebirth continues salvation according to Calvinistic principles (determinism). Though a biblical mechanism for such a shift could be posited on the basis of texts like Philippians 1:6, or John 6:39, there is no way to harmonize such a conception with the book of Hebrews or other passages warning that all is lost if one ceases to persevere in faith.

There is no need to. From God's perspective (either looking back from the end or seeing all at once), of everyone who is finally and eternally saved it can be said that they will have made it because of God's efforts to preserve them. For everyone who made a turn to God, even who came to know him intimately, but at some point ceased to believe in Christ and walked away from him, it can be said that they will have fallen irretrievably because of their own freedom to believe or not believe. That God loses none of those he foreknew does not mean he will not lose some of those he knew along the way.

If it is intrinsic to God's will that mankind be free (as any Arminian would attest), then on what basis would a shift to Calvinistic precepts for the saved be justified? It seems to me, any such basis would have to be established by ignoring some scripture on its face in order to emphasize other passages of scripture. What would drive that? Emotion? Comfort? Make no mistake, any such an effort thoroughly undermines the Arminian conceptions of soteriology in the first place. If one knows God's grace is resistible, then one cannot posit a perseverance that is not.

14 comments:

  1. Hello SLW

    Michael Brown gave an analogy that I found v helpful. God will keep us safe in Him, just as we can trust the pilot who is flying the plane. (God is taking us to heaven, if you like.)If I could jump out of the plane, but why would I do that? That would be spiritual suicide.

    He explains it better, with his "Noo Yawk" accent, too.

    PS I did not understand the Alum post at all. Was this about American football gossip?

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  2. Anthea,
    Thanks for the great analogy (as long as the cabin door is not locked). :-) That door would have to be one's trust in the pilot, that is Christ.

    The long standing, well-beloved coach of my college's football team got embroiled in a scandal involving the pedophilia of a former assistant coach. The crimes involved were so heinous, so methodical, so predatory it boggles the mind. This assistant used his association with Penn State Football, his access to facilities, games, and famous personnel in conjunction with his charity work with troubled youth to lure and sexually prey upon impressionable young boys. The well-beloved head coach had reason and eyewitness reports sufficient to know the guy was a creep, and yet he allowed this creep to skulk about the program and its facilities while he continued to prey upon young boys. It is a truly heart-wrenching story with no good guys in it.

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  3. Actually "Perseverance" is more an Arminian term than a Calvinistic one. I think yours would be better as "eternal security." One of the key lines you penned was,

    "From God's perspective (looking back from the end or even just seeing all at once),"

    That is an important distinction. God is outside time which gives Him a different perspective. What looks to Him as a done deal is experienced by us as choices and experiences. Just because He knows what decisions we made (are making) doesn't mean we did not have free will.

    Of course we would say that the free will is provided by the Holy Spirit.

    Great topic.

    Grace and peace.

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  4. One of the most revealing spectacles in exegesis is watching the linguistic gyrations of Calvinists as they address Hebrews 6 and 10. When believers boldly proclaim themselves as Biblical literalists and then refuse to take such passages literally, well, I find it incongruous and reveals a faithfulness to one's systematic theology rather than the clear teaching of Scripture.

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  5. Rick,
    Calvinists are not the only ones that have to do that dance with Hebrews, so to do Arminians who hold to eternal security.

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  6. I wrote a long response and seemed to lose it when I tried to post. I will try again. If the first one came through you can delete this one.

    "Perseverance," to me means that a person applies their personal effort and discipline to reach a goal. It means sticking to it when the going gets tough. Take the Biblical picture of running a race. I am trying to complete a marathon. In the Arminian view it requires me to discipline myself to training and conditioning and then going out and putting out the effort to run the course. In my view of Calvinism I am picked out of the crowd at the beginning of the race, put in a limo, and driven to the finish line. I then get a winners wreath and the poor slups who actually ran end up being ignored. One demonstrates perseverance the other is just secure.

    In reading the second paragraph of your response I am not sure that we have that much divergence. I can agree with what you said. I understand that the Holy Spirit is the one who allows us to be free and makes us free. I understand that original sin makes it impossible to do anything on my own. I just have a different idea of who makes the choices after you get to that point.

    At times I think the big difference is semantics. I hope so. I will be perfectly happy to have the Calvinists laughing at me when I am resurrected to life.

    Does that make me more clear or just stir up the mud more?

    Grace and peace.

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  7. SLW, I agree with you. If saving grace is resistible, as we both believe, then how could a saved person have no ability to reject reject their salvation? Saying that there is no way that a believer can reject their faith makes no logical sense when we say that the believer could have rejected their saving faith in the first place.

    However, this same logic leads to a conundrum. If we say that a believer can possibly reject their faith on earth, then could we logically say that believers in heaven could never reject their saving faith?

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  8. Pumice,
    Thanks for getting back to me. Nothing else came through but the response that has been posted.

    I am convinced that semantics causes a not insignificant proportion of disagreement between those discussing theology. Good will and patience, thankfully, trumps semantical misunderstandings.

    I used "perseverance" in the way that a Calvinist would (for the most part). What was on my mind was that many Arminians embrace a very Calvinistic notion of perseverance (but more generally referred to as eternal security) and do so without recognizing the logical inconsistency of doing so. Arminians, often Baptists, who embrace eternal security do so in my mind without sufficient scriptural support nor with logical consistency.

    The only thing of concern to me in your comments would be the degree to which you would attribute human effort to successful endurance in faith. Faith is something we have to express (God doesn't express it for us, it wouldn't be faith then but instinct), and we do need to make efforts borne of faith, but it is always reliance upon and rest in who Christ is and what he's done for us that relates us to God effectively, and empowerment by the Holy Ghost that allows to walk above the flesh.

    A little mud never hurt anyone! ;-)

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  9. JG,
    Two things will make eternity a different kettle of fish entirely: 1) Believers will be remade without a fleshly nature that is antagonistic to God, and 2) Believers will experience a unity and participation with the Godhead that is not possible now. We will be like Jesus then, and he was able to face all challenges and temptations without fail.

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  10. SLW, I agree that the afterlife is a completely different fish. But if we believe that some angels sinned before the origin of humans (as I do), then we need an explanation for angelic beings in the heavenly realms sinning in the past while holy angels cannot do that in the future and angelic-like humans in heaven cannot sin in the future.

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  11. JG,
    Yes, you are correct about that. Would it surprise you that I have some theories? ;-)

    Theory one: we do not know the exact nature of angels' personhood. It is possible that some have more freedom than others. Certainly fallen angels had freedom; we cannot be truly certain about holy angels. What do we know about them but that they are ministering spirits?

    Theory two: for those angels that did fall, they did so with their eyes wide open concerning God, and therefore cannot be brought to repentance. Hence they are not redeemable as are fallen humans.

    Theory three: if beings opt for God with knowledge, they transcend such choice thereafter (the cosmic "been there, done that").

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  12. SLW said, Theory three: if beings opt for God with knowledge, they transcend such choice thereafter (the cosmic "been there, done that").

    Hmm, but this could be used to argue for conditional election and the perseverence of the saints, otherwise known as Arminians adopting perseverence. :-)

    Anyway, I am still working on this conondrum. :-)

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  13. JG,
    Keep working, but no Calvinist, nor eternal security promoting Arminian would claim the face to face knowledge of angels as part of their soteriology, so I don't give them any hope.

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  14. Hello SLW et al
    An interesting exchange.

    I think that the significance of falling away is not what it means for the angels, but rather, what it means for those Christians we are discipling -- at home, or at church.

    It surely will make us more thorough in mentoring baby believers, if we know that they could perhaps fall away, backslide or whatever. A too-rigid adherence to OSAS might lead to a little cutting of corners, methinks.

    PS Thanks for the sobering account of the American football scandal.

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