I have debated many people on the topic of eternal security among them atheists, Calvinists, Muslims, Afrikaner Israelites, Seventh Day Adventists, Sabbatarians, Charismatics and, believe it or not, even Christians. None of them made such a profound impact on me than the one I had with a group of Christians who tried to convince a young man that he can lose his salvation. The young man actually believed that he had already lost his salvation and was so stricken with despondency, I thought he was on the verge of committing suicide. During my conversation and attempts to convince him that a saint cannot lose his salvation, the other members of a well-known Bible forum attacked me head-on, accusing me of all kinds of things. I could sense that Satan was really doing his utmost to keep the young man in bondage to a lie so many Christians believe to be true. By the grace of God, the dark cloud of misery and uncertainty lifted from the young man and he eventually knew for certain that he never lost his salvation.
We must remember that our younger generation of brothers and sisters in the Lord are exposed to immense temptations and many of them do succumb to them. The ensuing battle with Satan and his host can be so intense that the saint begins to contemplate suicide. “You call yourself a Christian. Look what you’ve done now. Look at you, you wretch. You’ve lost your salvation.” It is always a good thing to remind ourselves of these words:-
Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12)
The mere thought that you are standing is proof that you may have already fallen. If you have, don’t remain there. Get on your knees, enter into the holy of holies through the blood of Christ and ask forgiveness (Hebrews 10:19-23). Then, get on your feet and continue to follow Christ Jesus.
Why is Satan so keen to sow doubt in the hearts and minds of God’s saints? His main purpose is to get you to distrust Jesus Christ, your only Saviour. If he can get you to turn your eyes away from Jesus where He is seated at the right hand of God and turn them inwardly to yourself, he has gained a foothold that can cause havoc in your life.
A brother in Christ, whose acquaintance I was privileged to make on Facebook, asked me to critique an article he had written on free-will. A comparatively large part of his article included his thoughts on eternal security. At first I was a little reluctant but quickly realized that Louis was a man of gentle persuasion who could throw and receive punches with dignity. With his permission which he granted me without any hesitancy, I now present to you our little debate for you to make your choice for or against eternal security. Please choose your words with placid gentleness when you comment. Thank you.
The believer’s security
LOUIS: No other issue arising from Augustinianism/Calvinism is of wider interest today than that of “eternal security,” or perseverance of the saints (also called once ‘saved always saved’). True Calvinists still hold on to this 5th doctrine of TULIP as a logical part and conclusion of their theology. Many who have abandoned or minimizing the other four doctrines, have generally held firmly on to this one, even when its logical foundations have been removed. In their minds it followed as a necessary conclusion from their view of divine sovereignty, predestination and unconditional election. It is certain that the elect can never be lost.
The mild Calvinistic position includes all those who have departed from strict Calvinism but who still hold to unconditional security for the believer. There are serious problems with this modified view.
Eternal Security is not based on the doctrine of Calvinism
TOM: I can assure you that my belief in eternal security is not some kind of residue of TULIP or any other Calvinistic doctrine. It is based entirely on the promises of God in Scripture.
I wouldn’t call the Calvinist’s view of eternal security “Once Saved Always Saved.” I would rather refer to it as “Once allegedly Elected Always allegedly Elected.” Allow me to explain. True repentance involves a godly sorrow (sorrow approved by God when His Spirit convicts of sin, righteousness and judgment). This happens when the sinner realizes that he/she is lost (bound for hell) and of his own volition comes to Jesus to seek forgiveness and redemption because he/she knows they desperately need a Saviour. “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” The elect cannot possibly know that they are sick and that they need a Physician to heal them. Dead men aren’t sick. They are dead and cannot possibly know that they are terminally ill.
I notice that you have failed to mention one of the most important passages in Scripture dealing with eternal security and that is 2 Corinthians 7:10 “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” The truly converted sinner will never regret his or her conversion/repentance/salvation and turn his/her back on God, no matter how difficult the road ahead may be. Only those who had a “conversion” inspired by the sorrow of the world eventually turn their backs on God because they are not genuinely saved. They are usually the ones who say: “I used to be a Bible believing Christian but I no longer believe in God and His Son.” Pharaoh had such a “conversion.” “And Pharaoh sent, and called for Moses and Aaron, and said unto them, I have sinned this time: the LORD is righteous, and I and my people are wicked.” (Exodus 9:27) “Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste; and he said, I have sinned against the LORD your God, and against you.” (Exodus 10:16).
An unbeliever’s mere acknowledgement of sin means nothing. Pharaoh proved it. People do that every day. An unbeliever’s acknowledgment of sin without a conviction of being lost (hell-bound and deservedly so) cannot save. Jesus can only find and save sinners who know, realize and acknowledge that they are lost (Luke 19:10). I usually ask Calvinists: “When were you convicted of judgment – before or after your monergistic regeneration?” They can’t answer: “Before regeneration” because a corpse cannot be convicted of anything. And they cannot answer: “after regeneration” because what’s the point in being convicted of judgement and hell when they have already been delivered from it? That’s preposterous. The only answer they can give, is the one a Calvinist once gave me:
The bible never says that God’s people were ever bound for hell, it says they were chosen “in Christ” before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). The conviction of sin is usually misinterpreted by God’s people to be the conviction that they are hell bound, the gospel explains to them that they are not, because of what Christ did FOR them”
“Conviction of sin is the belief in the reality of sin in light of God’s holiness and perfection. Many of God’s children believe this to mean that they are going to hell. They are not. That is why they need to hear the good news of their salvation, so that they can believe it, rejoice in it, and profit from it. The gospel doesn’t make their salvation true, their salvation IS TRUE and the gospel proclaims it to the Lord’s people who receive it by faith and profit from that understanding.”
So you see, Calvinists have always been Jesus Christ’s sheep, they’ve always been saved (God’s elect). They only need to be made aware that they are saved (elected) and live accordingly (perseverance of the saints). There is absolutely no difference between them and the Emerging Church who claims that Jesus already dwells mystically in sinners and they only need to be made aware of it. Is this not perhaps the reason why Neo-Calvinists like John Piper and Mark Driscoll have penchants for the mystic practices in the Emerging Church? I’m no prophet but I predicted more than seven years ago that this was going to happen.
Sadly, Total Depravity (Total Inability) deprives the Calvinist of true repentance and salvation. They are deceived and don’t know it. I have tried for many years to figure out why they cling so tenaciously to John Calvin’s doctrines and have come up with two answers. They are deathly afraid to violate God’s sovereignty and the other reason is simply “The Mystery of Iniquity.”
I, therefore, wouldn’t associate “Once Saved Always Saved” with “Once allegedly Elected Always allegedly Elected.”
LOUIS: 4.1 Logical inconsistency
In his Institutes vol. 1, p. 8-9 Calvin makes a long statement which plainly means that laymen reading the Scriptures are to interpret them according to his doctrine. Jacobus Arminius discovered the same priority of doctrine at Leyden University. Gomarus, the professor of New Testament studies, insisted that the Scriptures should always be interpreted according to the creed, while Arminius held to the Word of God as the final authority. The doctrine of security, then, was not derived from the Bible but from philosophical and logical considerations.
TOM: I beg to differ. If eternal security was derived from philosophical and logical considerations and not from the Bible, then we should consider the death and resurrection of Jesus (the very foundation and bedrock of eternal security) from a purely philosophical and logical angle instead of from the revelation given to us in the Bible. If the death and crucifixion of Jesus is the bedrock/foundation of our salvation, which of course it is, then we need nothing else to secure our salvation, least of all philosophy. “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” (Colossians 2:8). In fact, your entire discourse on the issue of eternal security is based purely on philosophical presuppositions. The following paragraph proves this.
LOUIS: One cannot insist on unconditional eternal security of the believer, while neglecting or denying unconditional election and irresistible grace (See TULIP). When Calvinistic evangelicals preach the Biblical Gospel to all men and declare that people are genuinely free to receive or reject it; they are denying the Calvinistic concepts of unconditional election, limited atonement and irresistible grace. And when they say that once a person has repented and received Christ through a free, voluntary act of faith he is no longer free to renounce Christ through a voluntarily act of unbelief and disobedience into apostasy, they are taking a position unsupported by Calvinism, the Bible or sound reason.
TOM: Your train of thought is fallacious. You cannot assume that because TULIP says that unconditional election requires no free-will that it debunks free-will in unconditional eternal security. You seem to be saying that TULIP’s unconditional election is the only barometer by which eternal security must be assessed. That’s a pure philosophical argument which, to my mind is, holds no water. To draw a parallel between two things just because the same word “unconditional” appears in both is not kosher. I have already proven to you above that the Calvinistic view of eternal security (“Once allegedly Elected, Always allegedly Elected”) is worlds apart from “Once Saved, Always Saved,” simply because the Calvinistic foundation for salvation is a false one.
If man is free to receive or renounce Christ’s death on the cross as the only means for his salvation, it follows that he is also free to renounce his salvation once he has been saved. Nonetheless, as I have already shown earlier, the truly repentant sinner who realized that he/she was lost without Jesus will never regret his/her salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10). Those who regret their “salvation” were never saved in the first place because they built their “redemption” on a false foundation. This happens frequently within the ranks of the Charismatic fraternity where health wealth and prosperity doctrines are put out as proof for one’s salvation. When most do not experience what they’ve been told, they grow despondent, renounce God and turn their backs on Him. As you can see I tend to base my conclusion on biblical facts rather than on philosophical arguments.
LOUIS: The modern “eternal security people” are inconsistent when they declare that sinners are free to repent and exercise faith in Christ (through the aid of the Spirit), but once having been saved, they are no longer free to reject Him (through resisting the Spirit).
TOM: I have already dealt with your assertion in the previous paragraph. One more thought will suffice. You call the “Once Saved Always Saved” crowd the “modern ‘eternal security people.’” Is there any difference between Paul’s and the other apostles’ views on eternal security and the modern day “eternal security people?” I don’t think so. Paul said: “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12). Paul uses the past tense, as you may know, not because he once believed and then fell into unbelief. He was referring to the day in Ananias’ house in Damascus where he called on the Name of the Lord for his salvation. To him, and this should be the case with all the truly saved believers, faith is to commit your entire being – spirit, soul and body – into the hands of Jesus Christ on the basis that He has paid the penalty for all of your sins. It was this commitment (the relinquishing of his own authority on his life) by faith alone that gave Paul the absolute assurance that Christ Himself would preserve him until that day. It ties in perfectly with what he says in Philippians 1: “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6).
Was there any possibility that Paul could renounce his faith in Jesus Christ, turn his back on him and turn away? Absolutely! But I think the issue here is not whether he could renounce his faith but rather whether he wanted to, and the answer is a resounding “no” because he knew from the very outset into whose hands he committed his entire life. May I ask you whether you would ever want to renounce your faith in Jesus Christ and turn your back on him never to return again? No? Why then would anyone else who’s had a true salvivc encounter with Jesus Christ even contemplate such a disastrous thing? Ah, of course, it is always the other person who loses his salvation and not I.
Some Clichés of Eternal Security
LOUIS: 4.2 Some clichés of the security doctrine
To promote this doctrine, the mild Calvinists have made popular a number of brief statements…
“Once a child, always a child” or “once a son, always a son”
This is not binding in a spiritual sense. All believers were once children of the devil. If the analogy is binding, we must always remain so. Since children of the devil can become children of God, the analogy is obviously not binding. John 8:42, 44 and Ephesians 2:3 say that we were children of the devil and by nature children of wrath. If that cliché is true, that would prevent any unbeliever form ever becoming a believer and being saved.
TOM: Having been a child of the devil can hardly be used as an analogy against the “Once Saved Always Saved” doctrine. If anyone, who is being held captive in the clutches of Satan, must remain there because of a manmade binding analogy “once a child, always a child” or “once a son, always a son,” then Satan is the omnipotent God and not YAHWEH. Moreover, salvation would have then been a cruel hoax and YAHWEH the author of it.
What did Jesus say to his disciples when they asked Him “Who then can be saved?” He said: “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” (Luke 18:27). Nonetheless, is it possible with God to save someone without them having to put their trust in Jesus Christ and his finished work on the cross? Doesn’t that limit God’s sovereignty and omnipotence? (Hebrews 11:6). Indeed, nothing is impossible with God but in his salvivic work He has sovereignly and omnipotently decided to accomplish his salvation – which has never been impossible with Him – through faith and faith alone. If faith could limit God’s omnipotence and sovereignty, we would again squarely be in the Calvinist camp and we don’t want to go there, do we?
If the analogy “once a child, always a child” or “once a son, always a son” could be applied to both God’s and Satan’s security systems, we would have to say that Satan’s security system is equal to or just as good as that of God and vice versa. Needless to say, that would be disastrous for God and a resounding and eternal victory for Satan. As you yourself said “that would prevent any unbeliever from ever becoming a believer and being saved.” However, the millions upon millions of sinners who’d been saved throughout history prove beyond any doubt that not only is God’s salvation but also his security system magnanimously superior, greater and stronger than that of Satan. (Matthew 12:29; 1 John 3:8; Colossians 2:15).
The phrase “ex agorazo” is used several times in the New Testament and denotes Christ’s formidable and irreversible redemption. It conveys the meaning of someone going into a market place, purchasing slaves and taking them into his home never to sell them again.
While it is hypothetically possible that the analogies “once a child, always a child” and “once a son, always a son” may be applied to Satan because it is so easily applied by saints to God’s salvation and his preserving grace, the maxim “once saved, always saved” cannot possibly be used of Satan. It can only be applied to God. Yes, it is true that we would have remained sons and daughters of Satan IF Jesus Christ never became flesh. Yes, if He hadn’t paid such a magnanimously high price for our deliverance from the clutches of Satan we would still have been Satan’s sons and daughters. Therefore, the notion that a saved saint can lose his salvation and forever remain a son or a daughter of Satan demeans the magnanimous salvation of Jesus Christ on the cross. It would mean that Satan is stronger than Jesus Christ. If Christ’s sacrifice has satisfied God the Father for all eternity why wouldn’t it satisfy the saved sinner? Indeed, it does because he would never regret his salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10)
LOUIS: “A person who is once born can never be unborn”
This is also a subtle way of convincing those who are not careful in their thinking. The Bible never uses the term “unborn,” for the opposite of being born is to die, not to be unborn. The Bible clearly teaches that one who has been born can die. Life does not end by “unbirth,” but by death. A fire that is once kindled is never “unkindled,” but it can be quenched. A fish that is once caught is never “uncaught,” but it can be cast away as worthless. Likewise, a person who is once born can die, both spiritually and later physically. Nothing at all is proved by the fact that we do not use the term “unborn” to express the end of life.
Yes, I too have heard children of God using this analogy to substantiate OSAS but must admit that I myself do not like it. Nicodemus fell into the same carnally minded trap when he asked: “How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” (John 3:4). He too thought that man first had to be unborn before he could be born again. Jesus didn’t make it any easier for him to understand when He said: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8)
Note the expression “of water and of the Spirit.” Many believe that “water” is a reference to baptism by immersion in water but that would make rebirth a mixture of something physical and spiritual while God Himself says that physical phenomena profit men nothing (is void of any salvivic properties) (John 6 :63). Therefore, the “water” must refer to a spiritual phenomenon that is equally potent in salvation than the dynamic work of the Holy Spirit. And indeed Jesus confirms this in John 4, Revelation 22:17 and John 15:3.
The reason why I am making such a spiel about spirit verses physical is to illustrate that as soon as we mix the two we are immediately prone to error. And you seem to be doing just that. You say: “The Bible clearly teaches that one who has been born can die. Life does not end by “unbirth,” but by death . . . . Likewise, a person who is once born can die, both spiritually and later physically.” And then you conclude: “Nothing at all is proved by the fact that we do not use the term “unborn” to express the end of life.” The fact that a saint dies physically does not in any way prove that he can also die spiritually. Physical phenomena cannot prove spiritual phenomena. If physical phenomena were able to prove spiritual and supernatural phenomena we wouldn’t have a single atheist left in this world.
But let’s assume that physical phenomena such as organic death can in some way represent spiritual death and as a result we may use the inevitability of physical death as an example for the inevitability of spiritual death whenever saints fall away. At first glance this seems to be quite feasible when we take into account what Jesus once said, “Let the [spiritually] dead bury their [physically] dead.” (Matthew 8:22). The difference, of course, between the two is that the spiritually dead are still physically alive and have every opportunity to be made spiritually alive through faith in Jesus Christ while the physically dead have no opportunity whatsoever.
Now, to get back to Nicodemus. Look again at Jesus’ answer: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:6). He was saying: “That which is born of the flesh is corruptible (given over to death and decay) and no-one can escape death by re-entering the womb of the mother or by being unborn again. But that which is born of the Spirit is wrought in the deepest being of man, his spirit, where the seed of the Spirit remains forever. “You have been regenerated (born again), not from a mortal origin (seed, sperm), but from one that is immortal by the ever living and lasting Word of God.” (1 Peter 1:23)
LOUIS: “Eternal life has no end; so a person who has eternal life can never lose that life”
We must realize from the Bible that what is eternal has neither beginning nor ending. If eternal life cannot be lost because it has no ending, then it cannot be gained either, for it has no beginning. Accordingly, a person cannot be saved unless he was eternally saved without a beginning. The fact is, eternal life is in the quality of life which is in Jesus Christ. It has its origin nowhere else. “…God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; and he who does not have the Son of God does not have not life” (1John 5:11-12). If we receive Him, we have eternal life; if we lose Him we lose eternal life. It can have both a beginning and ending in us – a beginning when we repent and believe on Him for personal salvation; an ending if we fall away in apostasy (cease to believe and follow Him). This need never happen, but it is a possibility the believer is often warned against and urged to avoid.
TOM: Your statement “If eternal life cannot be lost because it has no ending, then it cannot be gained either, for it has no beginning. Accordingly, a person cannot be saved unless he was eternally saved without a beginning” makes no sense, at least to me. But bear with me to see whether I understand you correctly.
Eternal life is a Person, and I think you acknowledged this when you quoted 1 John 5:11-12, “and this life is in His Son.” In the first place, eternal life cannot be gained by man. That is a given and indisputable fact. It is given without price to everyone who believes, as the first part of 1 John 5:11 and 12 plainly say. As such, eternal life in a repentant sinner has a specific beginning, i.e. when he/she puts their trust in Jesus in whom eternal life has no beginning. Thus, there are two features closely interwoven in the one concept “eternal life” – the one with a beginning and the other with no beginning.
Yes, of course there can be no eternal life if it had a beginning. It would mean that Jesus who is the essence of eternal life had a beginning. The logical supposition, if eternal life had a beginning, would be that it also has an ending. But now, since it has no beginning in Jesus Christ it cannot possibly have an ending. Voila, the eternal life that was begun in a repentant sinner the moment he/she put their trust in Jesus for their salvation cannot possibly have an ending because the beginning of the saint’s eternal life is grounded in Jesus Christ in whom eternal life has no ending. If it were possible for a saint’s eternal security to cease, it would mean that Jesus Himself would have to cease being the essence of eternal life. Impossible!
The fallacy of your argument lies in the supposition that saints need to do something to maintain their salvation. Such a view must inevitably lead to the notion that a saint can lose his/her salvation because failure is commonplace in the lives of frail human beings. Had they not been frail and prone to failure, they would not have had any need for an Advocate and a High Priest.
- Eternal Security: NOSAS Versus OSAS (Part 2)
- Eternal Security: NOSAS Versus OSAS (Part 3)
- Eternal Security: NOSAS Versus OSAS (Part 4)
- Eternal Security: NOSAS Versus OSAS (Part 5)
- DTW/WAP obtained written permission from Louis Matthys Ackermann to quote him in this series. Thanks Louis.
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