Dear Wes,

Don't worry, I didn't take offense to your comments. I recognize the difference between a writing that is insulting, and one that is simply passionate (I've done the same myself a time or two...).

IRT:
"Itís just that your argument is so contrary to what the Bible teaches about perserverance. Your idea that a man who is truely born again spiritually would actually walk away from God and His grace blows my mind. How can one have any confidence in their salvation when it depends on themselves? You just canít build sound doctrine by interpreting one or two verses that disagree with a larger body of Scripture."

I realize that what I believe sounds a bit strange to you, coming from a Calvinist background. You ask how can I have confidence in my salvation? Well, let me pose you a similar question: How can I truly know that I am one of the elect? Even John Calvin himself had to face the problem of those who seemed to follow Christ sincerely for a time (maybe even years), and had what was apparently fruit of the Spirit in their lives, yet afterward fell into apostasy. Calvin concluded that God did give them (I forget the exact translation of the word, so please accept my layman paraphrase) a 'substitute' grace. That is, a grace that would not save them, but would at least make them live better lives. Now the tough question is: Do I truly have God's grace, or do I just have this substitute that makes me act like and think I am a Christian? And if it is only this substitute grace that I have, is it then possible that I am one of the non-elect, making salvation is impossible for me, and I am just living a lie in thinking that I am on my way to be with God? Scary thought.

I corresponded once with a reformed theologian (not a Calvinist, but definitely an eternal securist); after much discussion about people falling into sin and scriptural examples of falling away, his final analysis was that while the saved were eternally secure, one could never (in this life) truly know whether he or she was saved or not. I am not trying to over-exaggerate your position, this is simply what perseverance of the saints theology boils down to. I don't know how you feel about it, you may well differ; but I would rather serve the Lord believing that my salvation was secure as long as I follow Him by the power of His Holy Spirit, rather than believe that God has already taken care of everything for His elect but not knowing for sure if I could even be one of them.

It would be impossible to have any comfort in what I believe if I believed that I were still a pathetic and helpless sinner. I WAS a hopelessly lost sinner, but Christ changed me into a new creation, and gave me the strength I need to endure by the power of His Holy Spirit. So it is true, a human being in his own strength is incapable of living for God or holding fast to Jesus Christ, but God has transformed His children and made them partakers of His divine nature.

I see why you think I believe in a "works righteousness." The problem lies in what you consider works. Works are good deeds, acts of righteousness, or keeping of the law. The same term does not apply to humility, open-heartedness, love, or faith (this specifically is contrasted to works numerous times in scripture). These are neither work nor merit, but simple conditions that God has put on man to receive salvation through His Son. You may think that all of these are the result of salvation rather than conditions to receive the same, but the scripture plainly teaches that some of these are required to be saved. One has to open their hearts and ears to God's word to be saved, one cannot enter the kingdom of God unless one becomes like a little child (Mark 10:15), and one must believe before he is saved. There is no scripture that groups or classifies these conditions which God has set as works; for if faith is not a work, what makes you think that humility and hearing are? Some rely on the argument that there is nothing that one can do to save oneself. This is incorrect, else the term "save yourselves" in Acts 2:40 is meaningless.

These are not the result of salvation, but conditions for obtaining it. You may then counter that God is the one who works all of these things into the lives of His elect, but much of scripture testifies to the fact that men can stop their own ears (Zechariah 7:11), harden their own hearts (Hebrews 3:7-9), and choose to abide in unbelief (Romans 11:20 -- note that they were broken off because of their unbelief, not unbelieving because they were broken off). Let me also state that I do not believe anything man can do in his own power can save himself; I believe that man cannot come to God of his own free will unless God draws him first. So the will is not what saves us, though its compliance with God's will is essential for a man to be saved.

IRT:
"There are many passages that teach that those who are truly born again, who are genuinely Christians, will continue in the Christian life until death and will then go to be with Christ in heaven."

Forgive me for sounding so forward, but I must disagree on that point. I have seen no scriptures in the Bible that support the idea that all believers, without exception, will endure to the end. For instance, John chapter 6 which you cited: The assumption that you have that I do not is that just because it is God's will, it must then happen. There are many things that happen against God's will, it is not because God isn't strong enough to stop them, but simply that He chooses not to interfere in every circumstance. Many people displeased the Lord in scripture (Genesis 38:10, 2 Samuel 11:27, Isaiah 59:15, etc...), but I find it highly doubtful that it was God's will to set up the circumstances that would displease Himself. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 says that it is God's will that believers abstain from fornication, yet apparently, not every believer does. Indeed, to say that the will of God is always done would require that no true believer ever commit sexual sin.

Contrarily, I have seen multiple references to people turning aside after Satan (1 Timothy 5:15), denying the Lord that bought them (2 Peter 2:1), forsaking the right way and going astray (2 Peter 2:15), and counting the blood of Christ (even after being sanctified) an unholy thing (Hebrews 10:29); as well as many warnings and commands to keep ourselves in the love of Christ (Jude 21) and continue in His goodness (Romans 11:22).

Susan sent me several theoretical references to eternal security, you can read my responses if you like so I don't end up reinventing the wheel here; and then send me any more if you think they contradict what I say.

IRT:
"Arminians have objected that 'eternal life' is simply a quality of life, a type of life in relationship with God, which one can have for a time and lose it."

Let me throw out a third alternative. Eternal life IS in fact, Jesus Christ. Colossians 3:4, John 14:6, and 1 John 5:20 make it clear that Christ is our eternal life, and so believers do in a sense possess eternal life because they have Christ (1 John 5:11-12). If a man falls away from Christ, that eternal life doesn't end, for Christ will last for all time, but that man is cut off from its source. Eternal life as in "that man's life shall never end" is not received until a believer dies (Titus 1:2, Romans 2:7, 1 Timothy 6:12, etc...).

Concerning Hebrews 6, I have read many explanations for this passage. But the thing that not one of them can get past is that it says, "it is impossible to renew them again to repentance." For why would God grant people repentance (Acts 11:18) without saving them? And why would they need to be renewed if it were not true saving repentance? That is why I believe that this refers to true believers who became apostates, not false believers from the beginning.


In Christ,
Josh