Here is a video of Dr. Jerry Walls teaching on what is wrong with Calvinism from an Arminian-Wesleyan perspective.
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Some believe that Romans 14:4 clearly teaches eternal security. The passage reads:
The ending there is where people get this idea that this text teaches unconditional eternal security. I believe Dan Corner’s comments from his book, The Believer’s Conditional Security, is worth repeating:
I would add myself that for the disciple of Jesus we have the promise that He will keep us by grace through faith (Jude 24-25) and yet we are told to persevere in the faith (1 Corinthians 15:1-2; Colossians 1:21-23). It is much like many of the other promises of God that are conditioned upon us looking to Him such as in prayer (Matthew 7:7-11) but this promise requires prayer in faith (James 1:6). In the same way, we have the promises of assurance and eternal salvation in Christ but the key is to have faith in Christ (2 Peter 1:10-11).
Rick Warren has been heavily criticized over his son’s suicide. I agree that only jerks would use this tragedy as a chance to attack the Warrens, but I would also like to address the reasons why the complaints are invalid, not just rude. One specific complaint I would like to address is the idea that since Christians are supposed to be different, how can this happen in a Christian home?
When God regenerates a sinner, he does change their lives resulting in great moral reform. So how is it that a regenerate person can suffer from chronic mental illness? Science tells us that those with mental disorders have differences in their brains:
Regeneration takes place in the person’s soul, not their body or brain. Sure, Christ healed the sick in the past and he could heal a person’s brain. But just as regeneration does not normally result in removing physical blindness, so also it does not normally resolve mental disorders. So when a person with mental disorder dies, their disorder brain will remain in the grave while their soul lives on.
To be sure, when God created Adam from the ground and breathed life into him, Adam couldn’t have had a mental disorder. What God created was very good. Likewise, in the resurrection, none will have mental disorders. But because of the fall and until Christ makes all things new, mental illness exists.
Now I am sure that God has a stunning array of good reasons for not healing all mental disorders, but I would like to explore one. The suffering mental disorders causes can be a suffering for Christ. 1 Peter 2:20 says But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. Even if your struggle is with your own mental illness, if you are fighting to live the Christian life and suffering for it, God will reward you.
Arminianism has historically taught that personal apostasy is a very real possibility in the life of the believer. A person can believe the gospel and then become sluggish, indulge the flesh into sin, and ultimately turn away from trusting in Christ alone for their salvation and commit personal apostasy (Hebrews 6:4-20; 10:19-39 along with many others).
Calvinism has historically taught that once God has chosen a person from eternity past (divine, unconditional election) then He will save that person (irresistible grace) and seal them unto the day of redemption (Ephesians 1:13). Thus a true saint of God will always persevere. Those who fail to persevere prove they were never regenerated to begin with (1 John 2:19).
So instead of going over what Arminians and Calvinists disagree over, let us turn to what they agree with and that is the condition of the apostate. The Arminian views the apostate as once saved but now lost. The Calvinist views the apostate as never saved and still lost. However, both agree that the apostate is lost. Both affirm that the apostate should repent. Both should affirm that the apostate, unless they repent, will not inherit eternal life.
In essence, both Arminianism and Calvinism teaches that it is necessary for saints to persevere. While Calvinists will say that a true saint will persevere, nonetheless they also affirm that the true saint must persevere. Both agree that a saint is a saint through faith in Christ. Both affirm that salvation is focused completely upon the Lord Jesus Christ and His grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). Some Calvinists attempt to argue that Arminians are still lost because they deny that faith is the gift of God given only to the elect. I find this ridiculous. We both acknowledge that salvation is not by works (Titus 3:5-7) and that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 10:14-17). We may disagree over the nature of election (whether it is conditioned upon faith or not) but we both agree that a sinner believes the gospel by their own free will (whether it be compatible with God’s sovereignty or with libertarian freedom is another issue). God does not believe for us. We must believe to be saved. Even those Calvinists who hold to regeneration before faith would still argue that faith is something the person does by the grace of God. Again, God does not believe for us nor does He force us to believe against our will but according to Calvinism, He makes us willing to believe. Arminianism teaches that God’s Spirit and His grace enable the sinner to believe out of their own free will and the sinner can reject the gospel if they harden their hearts to His call (Luke 7:30). A key text is Luke 7:50 where Jesus tells the sinful woman that her faith saved her. Jesus didn’t say someone else’s faith saved her but her own faith saved her.
Yet both agree that a truly saved person must continue in the faith. Only those who hold to a more radical view of “once saved, always saved” would argue that a person need not continue in the faith. Both Arminians and Calvinists would appeal to the same texts regarding the security of the saint such as John 10:27-29 or Romans 8:38-39 or Jude 24-25 and both would appeal to texts that teach we must continue until the end to be saved (Matthew 24:13; John 15:1-11; Acts 14:22; Romans 11:20-22; 1 Corinthians 15:1-2; Galatians 5:1-4; Colossians 1:21-23; 1 John 2:28-29; 5:13 NKJV). If the person fails to remain faithful to the Lord Jesus, the Arminian would view them as having fallen from grace whereas the Calvinist would view the person as never saved to begin with. But both would acknowledge (or should at least) that the said person must repent or they will not be in heaven.
From time to time my mind drifts back to the 1990′s when I first got saved and when it seemed everywhere I went, people were talking about revival. I remember the Bible teacher that I sat under those early days of my salvation would often weep over the need for revival. He would talk about the great revivals of Church history and then he would weep over the lack of revival in our day. I remember hearing men of God like David Wilkerson or Leonard Ravenhill speaking on revival and how we needed a move of God. We believed, in those days, that revival would make things right.
In 1995 Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola, Florida begin to say that revival had come. On Father’s Day, evangelist Steve Hill preached to the large Assembly of God church and revival services began. The revival would continue night after night from 1995 to about 2000. The revival would slow and finally ended in 2002. I visited Brownsville Assembly of God three times. I first went in August of 1996 but I admit I went with a critical spirit. Myself and a friend of mine attended for a week in August, 1996 and while I was not 100% on board with the revival, I did see many good things. The gospel was preached with a cry to repentance. Prayer was powerful. The hunger for the presence of God was intense. There were bizarre physical manifestations and there were folks there for experiences instead of hungering for Christ but I walked away believing that there was much good going on at Brownsville despite the claims of the detractors who hated the revival. It was there also that I met Dr. Michael Brown for the first time and I was impressed with his knowledge and his zeal for the Lord.
I visited Brownsville two more times with teenagers in 1997 and in 2002. By the time we came in 2002, the atmosphere had changed dramatically and the revival was nearly over. Dr. Brown had left to start the Fire School of Ministry in Concord, NC and the revival days were over.
What I miss about all this is not the excess flesh. I miss the passion for God. I miss seeing teenagers crammed into a building on Thursday nights for the youth service and hearing brother Richard Crisco preaching the Word of God. I miss the prayer meeting on Tuesday night that was packed with intercessors crying out to the Lord. I miss the worship of God that filled your heart with joy. I miss hearing of revivals breaking out in other places from Brownsville. I do admit that not all of the revival was correct. After all, we are talking about a revival among fallen flesh. There is no such thing as a perfect revival. Every revival will feature things that we don’t like or approve. Thankfully God uses fallen people despite our sins and errors.
I can’t remember the last time I heard someone speak of being hungry for revival. Gone are the days of Ravenhill or Wilkerson I fear. Where is the hunger for God’s presence? Where is the passion for God in prayer? Where are the thousands of intercessors who would shut themselves in a room for a night of seeking God? Brownsville was not perfect but I miss the passion. I miss the zeal. I miss the joy of the Lord in singing praises to our King. I miss the reports of souls getting saved. I miss the Friday night baptisms. I miss the hunger for the Holy Spirit to be fully active in our lives.
Oh where are those who hunger for revival? Oh God send the fire (Acts 2:17)!
For more information on Brownsville Assembly of God check out this article.
Here is an excellent article on what will come next following the American culture adopting same-sex “marriage” as normal. The Church is facing a time when we need to cry out to God for revival and to be faithful in preaching the gospel (Acts 1:8). This alone can transform our nation.
You can find the article here.
Notable Calvinist R.C. Sproul writes,
And again, Sproul writes,
It is clear in Scripture that we believe and this saves us. We are not regenerated to believe but we believe to be saved or born again or regenerated. This post does a good job teaching this important point.
There is no doubt that postmodernism is taking hold of our society. From the issue of same-sex “marriage” to drugs to almost anything, the cry of the age is to allow for people to have personal freedoms and for no one to say that another person’s personal freedoms are wrong so long as those “freedoms” are viewed as what the culture likes. Romans 1:32 fulfills this view:
What culture views as appropriate is what is being championed today. The majority wins.
And this is effecting the Church as well. From the heretical emergent movement (that is thankfully dying) to the seeker church to the evangelical church, we see a move toward postmodern thinking taking hold of the Church. One way that I see clearly is the loss of desire from Bible teachers to be dogmatic over theological issues. I have a buddy who is open to Catholics being saved even if they hold to Catholic teachings faithfully. Perhaps there are Catholics out there who are truly born again of the Spirit (John 3:3-7) but I have witnessed to many Catholics and have never encountered such a person. When I begin to discuss salvation through faith alone in Christ alone, every Catholic I have evangelized did not understand the gospel. They always had a works-righteousness view where Jesus is part of their salvation but He and His work are not the finality of their salvation. Yet my friend believes that simply because a person has confessed Jesus Christ, they perhaps should be viewed as saved. He believes the society just will not tolerate the dogmatic teachings that a person must hold to the fundamentals of the faith to be rightly called a Christian.
Postmodernism has caused people to ask the question, “Is justification enough?” Can we make the gospel issue really about the nature of justification by grace through faith in Christ alone (Romans 5:1) or should be broaden our views so that we include Catholics, Oneness Pentecostals, etc.? Why be dogmatic about doctrine? Let us unite around our common experience in Christ (or whoever if you are an emergent) but not around doctrine.
The fact is that doctrine does two things. Doctrine affirms that we are in the faith and allows the Church to pursue the same goal of exalting the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:10). In Acts 2:42 we read that the early Church devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching. This is our New Testament. The early Church devoted themselves to hearing and obeying the Apostles who in turn, through the Spirit of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17), gave us the New Testament. Our duty today is to be devout in studying the New Testament and applying it to our lives. Paul told Timothy to watch his life and doctrine closely (1 Timothy 4:16 NIV). That should be our passion as well, to remain faithful to God in teaching His truths (Titus 2:1). Doctrine does matter both now and for eternity (Galatians 1:6-9).
Secondly, doctrine divides in a good way. Doctrine allows us to see who are the genuine children of God and who are not. 1 Corinthians 11:18-19 says:
Notice that Paul the Apostles states that these divisions are good because they force the Church to know the truth. Doctrinal controversies have been a part of the Church since her beginning. Yet when we ponder the great doctrines that came out of controversies, we realize that not all doctrinal debates are bad. Nearly all of the New Testament letters were written over doctrinal issues. And in all the New Testament letters, Paul spends time at the beginning of them discussing theological issues. The book of Romans, for example, spends 11 chapters before beginning in chapter 12 with “practical living.” Yet the modern church today spends 3/4 of her time with “practical living” and very little on doctrine.
We see this affecting the Church in many ways. False conversions. Shallow understanding of the gospel. Lack of passion for God in prayer. Lack of desire for evangelism. A careless attitude toward theology, toward holiness, and toward the Bible. We see people waffling on cultural issues such as same-sex “marriage” because they don’t know what the Bible says. We see a plethora of topical preachers because they are careless in their handling of God’s Word. We see theologians rejecting the inerrancy of Scripture because it just doesn’t fit into our modern times. This lazy attitude toward doctrine and toward holy living has in turn produced a very world, very cultural driven church.
I urge you faithful brethren in Christ to stand firm for the gospel. Defend the gospel. Die for the gospel if necessary. Let Jesus Christ be your passion and your God. I pray that those who love the truth of God would preach His truth in every city across our nation and around the world. Our world doesn’t need a compromising church. Our world needs the truth of God preached through tears and exhortation to repentance. I pray that every true disciple of Jesus would obey Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20) and be faithful to make disciples and to teach them His Word (John 15:1-11).
May God be exalted.
Here’s an extended quote from Marcus Borg that does a great (and somewhat discomforting) job applying Jesus’ command for enemy love by considering it in light of the original context.
The most important feature of this paragraph is the way it pushes us to think concretely about the identity of our enemies. Borg is right that when we read Jesus’ command to “Love your enemies” we tend to think of that as vague kindness or simply being a generally nice person. You know, not getting too mad when someone cuts you off in traffic. But the implications are much more striking and serious when we consider that Jesus spoke those words in a day when Israel was being occupied and heavily taxed by the world’s most powerful military. Borg argues that Jesus’ conflicts with various parties arose out of competing visions of holiness. Some saw holiness as rigorous law observance; others as purifying and preparing oneself to do battle with the enemies of God and his people. It was a time when powerful social and cultural forces pressured young Jewish men to join resistance movements against Rome. Against these movements, Jesus challenged his hearers to think of holiness in terms of love, and love for enemies not least. He taught that holiness was manifest in bearing the burdens of the occupying forces and interceding before God on behalf of those who levied taxes so heavy it was near impossible to put food on the table. That’s tough. Real tough. Jesus’ command for enemy love stands in stark counter-cultural contrast to the typical perspectives of his day.
How do we appropriate this for the church today? Borg’s book was originally published in 1984; so his references to modern day conflict are somewhat dated. But if you want to feel the force of Jesus’ command, pause for a moment to consider it in light of ongoing world conflicts. Then read Matthew 5:46-48 and ask yourself (if you dare): Who are my enemies? Who are the people who seek to do me harm? Do I love them? Do I pray for them? Do I believe Jesus? Am I obeying him? Am I holy?
Jesus said that we were called to make disciples (Matthew 28:19). He called us, saved us, transformed us – all this so that we would glorify His name in the earth and that we might be a light to draw others to Jesus Christ.
Sadly, some believe their job is to bring people to their point of view theologically. In other words, their job is to convert disciples to their particular views whether it be Arminians converting Calvinists to Arminianism or Calvinists converting Arminians to Calvinism. I know of two Calvinists in particular who see it their job to a) answer every Arminian out there on their Calvinistic theology and b) to convert as many people as possible to Calvinism. These men are passionate about Calvinism. They adore Calvin. They adore all Calvinists. Their passion is to teach others about Calvinism since, in their minds, Calvinism equals the gospel. They spend hours on Twitter and Facebook and other social sites trying to answer their critics or spread their Calvinism. Oh yes, they will occasionally praise God for something but in the end, it is Calvinism that is their passion and delight.
Why do they want to convert everyone to Calvinism? As I stated, they believe that Calvinism is the pure gospel. They believe that Calvinism along glorifies God and it alone is the true gospel of the Lord Jesus. They believe that Jesus Himself was the first Calvinist and from Him came the Apostles and eventually Augustine and eventually Calvin and so forth to this day. They believe that men such as Arminius or John Wesley are men who tried to pervert the true gospel. They believe that all other systems outside of Calvinism hold to works-salvation. You can assure them over and over again (as I have) that you hold to justification by faith and that you are kept by faith in Christ but they will in turn argue that your “faith” is a work and that you are not saved by God’s grace nor the gift of faith that He gives to His elect but you hold to salvation by works. When you quote passages about God saving you by grace through faith such as Ephesians 2:8-9 or Titus 3:5-7, they again will say that you still hold to works salvation since you believe that God saves you because of your faith. When you argue that your faith is not a work to be saved but is a humble confession of Jesus as Lord and Savior (Romans 4:5), they will again claim you hold to works salvation since you still deny that your faith is a gift from God that came after He regenerated you so that you could believe. It is a never-ending cycle. I had one of these two Calvinists tell me that I needed to repent even after I assured him that I was saved by grace alone through faith in Christ alone. Yet since I am not a Calvinist, I am lost.
I pray that there are no Arminians like this nor that I am like this. My passion is to preach the gospel of Christ and not Arminianism. I want to see people saved. If they become faithful disciples of Jesus and fellowship with Calvinists, so be it. I only want to see souls saved. I am not interested in spreading the fame of Arminius or Wesley. I only want Jesus to be exalted. I thank God for Arminius or Wesley but do not believe they have ever saved one sinner. Jesus alone saves.
My heart here is to see us all, both Arminians and Calvinists and all in-between, preaching Christ and Him crucified. I asked one of the above Calvinists if he was more concerned that I was an Arminian or a disciple of Jesus. He answered, “A true disciple of Jesus will always be a Calvinist.” I deplore such thinking. I want people to be faithful followers of Christ and not a man. Calvin was a sinner. Augustine was a sinner. Luther was a sinner. Campbell was a sinner. Ravenhill was a sinner. Tozer was a sinner. Only Jesus saves sinners. I believe these men would tell us to look to Christ alone to be saved and not to flesh.
Lance was my friend. He and I use to go to eat together every Tuesday while we were in college. We both loved God, love His Word, love teenagers (we were both youth pastors at the time) and both had dreams of evangelizing the world for Christ. Lance and I had a good friendship until one night we debated eternal security. Unbeknown to me, Lance had begun reading some “radical” eternal security books that taught cheap grace, easy believeism, and antinomianism. We debated at his kitchen table for hours about grace, the love of God, salvation, faith, security, perseverance of the saints, hell, etc. Lance held that God’s love was so wonderful and His grace so great that He would keep us no matter what we did. He reasoned that since salvation is a total work of God, God keeps us and He promises us eternal life (which eternal life means that it is eternal) and thus: we are saved forever. No matter what sins a person may commit, God promises to keep the person forever.
This was our last meeting. We lived in different cities at this point and we both became busy with life. Time passed by.
Lance’s new embracing of this radical view of eternal security led to major changes in his life. His passion for prayer went away. His hunger for worship slowly evaporated. He once guarded his eyes from watching ungodly movies but no more. He confessed to me once that he struggled greatly with lust. No more. He simply begin to live out his passions. After all, he reasoned that night I met with him, God is the one who keeps us. Lance fell further and further into gross sins. Eventually, he had an adulterous relationship with the choir director of his church and left his wife and two children for his mistress. He completely turned away from Christ and today is a shell of the man he use to be. Pray for Lance.
There are three major views regarding Lance at this point. The first is the radical, “once saved, always saved” view that says that Lance is bound for glory. Lance probably would hold to this view. He perhaps would know that he is not “in fellowship” with Christ but he would still claim heaven. Many cheap grace advocates (or free grace as they call themselves) would agree. I heard Dr. Tony Evans say once, “Even if you deny Christ and become an atheist, when you die, if you have believed even just once, He will drag you to heaven with you kicking and screaming that you don’t want to go.” The only thing Lance is losing right now is his rewards at the final judgement (1 Corinthians 3:15).
The second view would be that A) Lance was never saved to begin with and his apostasy proves he was not saved. The problem with this view is that no person reading this can have the assurance of our salvation. It is possible that you or I are false converts. It is possible that you will fall from the faith this time next year (1 Corinthians 10:12). If we could go back to the days when Lance and I would eat lunch together and you could ask him if he would fall away, he would have denied it. None of us wants to believe that we would deny Christ. Like Peter, we want to believe we would stand for Him no matter what (Matthew 26:33 and notice all the disciples agreed in verse 35) yet Peter still denied Christ as did all the disciples (Matthew 26:56). The person holding this view has no assurance since they believe that God keeps them but if they turn away from Him, they are not saved to begin with. Would it not be better to teach that we are saved through faith in Christ (Romans 5:1) and we are kept through faith in Christ (1 Peter 1:5)?
B) Lance is still a child of God who is in rebellion but under the conviction and discipline of the Lord, he will repent and be restored. This view holds that a child of God should live a holy life and if they don’t, God will discipline the person even to the point of death in order to save them (1 Corinthians 5:5). This view holds that true children of God do commit sins and even commit gross sins but this does not change the fact that they remain children of God. Since God has given us eternal life, we can never lose that life. It is eternal! Therefore, God will discipline His sinning children but He will never cast them away (John 6:37). He has promised us eternal life (Romans 8:38-39) and nothing can separate us from His love.
Let’s just take one example from Scripture in the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-24. Read the text and then ask yourself these questions:
Was the son truly a son in Luke 15:11?
In this case, the prodigal was a true son and rebelled against his father and begin to live a life of sin (Luke 15:13). The father considered him dead to him and lost (Luke 15:24). I have heard Luke 15:11-24 preached so many times toward sinners but Jesus is not using this parable that way (Luke 15:31-32). The prodigal son was not the lost sinner but the rebellious child who left the home and lived in sin. Until he repented (Luke 15:21), he was lost and dead. Life is only found in the father’s home and he knew this.
This leads me to the third view and that is the Lance must repent or he will not have eternal life. Eternal life is found in Christ alone. All of us will go into eternity some where. Daniel 12:2 says, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Jesus said in John 5:24-25,
Notice that Jesus says that life is found in Him. The Greek in this text is in the present active tense so that Jesus is saying, “Whoever hears (and keeps on hearing) My word and believes (and keeps on believing) Him who sent Me has eternal life.” This passage is much like John 10:27-29 where Jesus says that if we hear His voice (and keep on hearing His voice) and follow Him (and keep on following Him), we have eternal life and no one is able to pluck us out of His hands. True security is not found in ourselves but in Christ alone.
Some, at this point, we say that all of salvation is a work of God and I would agree. Salvation is accomplished through Christ alone (John 19:30). Jesus alone is our salvation and our only hope (1 Corinthians 1:30-31; Titus 1:1-2). Jesus alone is the one that we look to for salvation from beginning to end. He is our righteousness, our redemption, our mediator of this new covenant, our everything. We acknowledge that salvation is found only in Him and not in a church, an act of flesh (John 1:12-13) but completely in Him (Acts 15:11). Yet I would argue that God calls us to remain FAITHful to Christ (Romans 11:20-22). We are to remain in faith in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-2; 2 Corinthians 1:24; 11:2-4; 12:21-13:5). Jude 21 says to keep ourselves in the love of God. I have heard many “once saved, always saved” advocates dance around this verse but they ignore what Jude is saying. As we stay focused on Christ, Jude 24-25 promises us that He will keep us as well! 1 Timothy 1:19 says some can shipwreck their faith. How can they shipwreck faith if faith here is not true? True faith focuses on Jesus alone for salvation from beginning to end (Romans 2:6-7). Jesus taught us to “stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning” (Luke 12:35).
Jesus said in John 8:51, “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” Again, this is the present active tense of the Greek. If we keep and keep on keeping Jesus’ word, we will never see death. Eternal life is not a vague concept but eternal life is found in an eternal Jesus. Salvation, sanctification, glorification are all found in Christ Jesus alone. To argue that a person can be saved apart from Christ is not found in Scripture (John 14:6). Eternal life is found in Christ alone.
My view of Lance is that Lance must repent or he will go to hell. He is found, right now, in Revelation 21:8. Sin will keep people out of heaven because sin is against a holy God (1 John 3:4). Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and Galatians 5:19-21 that sin leads to eternal death and not inheriting the kingdom of God. Galatians 6:7-9 teaches us that if we sow to our flesh we will reap from the flesh and that is death. We are called to be a people of holiness (Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:15-16) and to hate sin. We are called to confess our sins for forgiveness (1 John 1:9 which makes no sense if we completely forgiven of all sins at the moment we believe). Jesus is our salvation and He is the one that we cast ourselves upon to be saved in this life and the life to come.
King David sinned against God. He committed adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11). 2 Samuel 11:27 ends with the saddest words perhaps in all of Scripture: “But the thing that David had done was evil in the sight of the LORD” (NASB).
Arminius wrote about David’s sin rather briefly but his words are interesting. He wrote,
In another place Arminius wrote,
Many Calvinist have taken exception with these statements saying that his theology here is poor and reflects his belief that a person can “lose their salvation” through sinning. They point to passages that seem to teach our unconditional security in places such as John 10:27-29 or Romans 8:38-39 and they praise God for His security in spite of their sins.
One Calvinist I have had some exchanges with on Twitter posted remarks about how Arminius was works-righteousness in his beliefs since he rejected eternal security (or “once saved, always saved”). In fact, I would argue that this Calvinist guy holds that if you reject eternal security, you are probably not saved. I wrote him and asked him, “If you went out and committed adultery and murder, where would you spend eternity?” He responded back, “HEAVEN (his emphasis) because my sins are forgiven.” He then responded, “but if I did go out and commit those acts, it would prove I did not believe.” So I wrote back, “So if you commit those sins, you were never saved to begin with?” How can he have it both ways? He says that he can commit adultery and murder and still go to heaven but if he did those sins, he was not saved to begin with?
Do you see where his road is leading? On the one hand he is arguing for an antinomian view that says that nothing we do affects us. We are under no obligation to be holy. We are under no obligation to obey God or submit totally to Him. We can do anything we like, live anyway we want but still be saved. Yet on the other hand, if we do go out and live like “hell” then we prove we were never saved to begin with. So which is it? Are we saved from sin or in our sins? Are we delivered from the penalty of sin but not the power of sin? Is there any sin that is more powerful than God that He cannot help us overcome?
I don’t doubt that we all struggle with the flesh. I recognize that we live in a fallen world full of the flesh and full of the devil. I don’t doubt that we all face temptations (James 3:2). 1 Corinthians 10:13 teaches us two important points: we all are tempted yet we all have the power of God to overcome. Take the “hot” sin of our times: homosexuality. Is homosexuality natural? The obvious answer for the Christian is no. So is sin natural? Why then do we sin if sin is not natural? The answer is because we want to sin. We love sin. Our flesh desires to sin (Galatians 5:16-17). I don’t buy into my own excuses for sinning nor yours. I sin because I enjoy sinning. Yet the Bible calls me to holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16). The Bible calls me to forsake my sins and walk in repentance (Acts 26:20). The Bible calls me to be like Jesus (1 Peter 2:21-24). The Bible calls me to confess my sins to God (1 John 1:9). The Bible calls me to not sin (1 John 2:1-2). The Bible calls us to examine ourselves to make sure we are in the faith or not (2 Corinthians 12:21-13:5).
The security of the believer is simply this: we are saved IN Christ Jesus. Why would you want to be away from Him? What sin is greater than the love of Christ? What does the world offer you that is greater than the joy of knowing your sins are forgiven in Christ? You see the issue is not about “losing your salvation” but loving Jesus supremely! The issue is not about what sins can I commit and still be saved but instead the issue is whether you love Christ more than your own sins. We have framed the questions wrong. We have made the debate over “eternal security” all about us and not about Christ. Christ is our salvation. I have eternal life because of Christ and not because of me (John 5:24-25). Christ is our all in all. He is worth more than anything this world can offer or the flesh can desire. In His presence we will be free from sin as we live in eternity with Him, free from the lies of Satan, the temptations of the flesh, and without the bondage of time (Hebrews 12:18-24). I pray that our focus would not be upon us or upon sin but upon the Lord Jesus Christ (John 15:1-11).
Truth is narrow. 2 + 2 = 4. Always has and always will. You could start a movement to eradicate that belief. You could scream and shout that this is so narrow-minded, so bigoted, so outdated, so old yet it would not change the fact that 2 + 2 =4. Simply because you don’t like the truth doesn’t do anything to the truth. You can deny it. You can try to ignore it. But in the end, it’s still the truth.
God lives. This is true. Whether you want to believe that or not will not change the fact that God is there. You can try to hide from Him, try to ignore Him, try to talk yourself out of belief in Him but in the end, He is still there and He is still truthful.
The Bible is true. You can try to avoid the Bible, never read it, never open it, etc. but the Bible is still true. You can deny it. You can blog about how much you hate it. The Bible will still be true.
And you will die. You cannot avoid this fact. Every person reading this will die. Your life will end. And then you will stand before God who lives and be judged by His truth. If you ever broke His laws such as lust, stolen any thing, used His name in a curse word, lied, etc., you will be found guilty on the day of judgement. You will be cast into hell for your sins.
Our only hope is the gospel: the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus died to reconcile us to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). Jesus shed His blood so that we could be forgiven of our sins against a holy and just God (Ephesians 1:7). Jesus lived a perfect life and then He willfully gave His life for our sins (Romans 5:8-11) so that through faith and repentance, we could be declared righteous before God (Romans 5:1). Jesus alone is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6) and none come to the Father but through Him. Jesus alone is the only One who can save us from our sins (Matthew 1:21; 26:28). Jesus alone is the One who stands before God the Father in our defense (1 Timothy 2:5-6; 1 John 2:2). Jesus alone is our salvation. In fact, His name means “the Lord saves.”
Truth is truth. 2 + 2 = 4. Salvation only comes through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). Salvation is not found in a religion or in a church group. Salvation is found only in Jesus Christ (John 3:3-5). Jesus is our eternal hope before God (Romans 6:23).
You will die. The question is whether or not you have repented of your sins (Acts 2:38).
If you are in seminary or thinking of going, Michael P. Jensen has written a book that you need to read. It’s called How to Write a Theology Essay, and it will only benefit you as you prepare for the task of serious theological writing. Jensen teaches at Moore Theological College in Sydney, and in this book he has summarized countless conversations with students on crafting and composing a solid theology paper. The focus is on the theological writing in general, but it could be easily applied to biblical studies or historical theology with minimal adjustment. I wish I’d had a resource like this before beginning seminary. Jensen covers a number of topics about which I asked professors as I worked on papers for their classes. Many of the issues he covers were ones I simply had to learn the hard way or figure out by looking at model papers. If you read this short book before you get started or while you are still in your theology degree, it will save you a lot of trial and error time. Read it now to save yourself a lot of guesswork.
All the chapters are practical and full of important tips. Especially helpful were the chapters on analyzing questions, how and what to read, advice on quoting, and different types of argumentation. Read and re-read the chapter on how to treat your opponents. The book is bound together in that all of the chapters are working to help you move beyond summary work to engaging in the higher learning skills of evaluating, synthesizing, and analyzing, which are essential to balanced and critical thought.
This book is also important because, in my experience, there was not a great deal of instruction on how to write a paper in seminary. It is generally assumed that graduate students in the humanities know how to write a research paper. But seminary is something of a different bag. Many students who come to seminary don’t have a background in the humanities. They may have math, science, or engineering backgrounds and, having experienced a call to ordained ministry, decided to go to seminary. Sadly, even many students who come out of a humanities undergraduate program are still quite weak on their writing. Jensen’s book will help you through the challenges and get you up to speed on how-to matters that your seminary profs will expect you know.
This book will only help you learn to communicate more effectively and elegantly. It is a witty and humorous read that you will want to keep around for consultation. You will not be disappointed.
What has been your experience with paper writing in seminary? Do you feel well-prepared or under-prepared for the task? If you have finished seminary, what do you think about as you look back at paper writing? Did you find it important? If so, why? If not, do you think more instruction on writing a good paper would have made the exercise more productive?
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