Reading Roger Olson’s “Arminian Theology” has pitted me in quite heavy discussions with friends (early this morning and throughout this afternoon). And the one tenet of Arminian theology that seems to crop up again and again is the idea of “losing one’s salvation.” Can people really lose their salvation? Can people really come to Christ and then turn around and walk away? Or, if they leave Christ, were they ever saved from the start?
Surprisingly, my reading in Olson’s book has shown me that the currently developed Arminian theology talks more on this issue than even Arminius himself did. Contemporary Arminians will tell you that someone CAN lose their salvation—they can come to God, enjoy the blessings of salvation, and then walk away. But Roger Olson’s comment regarding this issue will surprise you:
“…the Remonstrants, LIKE ARMINIUS BEFORE, DID NOT take any stand on the question of the eternal security of believers. That is, they left open the question of whether a truly saved person could fall from grace or not” (32).
In order to see what Olson is talking about, I’ll reprint here the fifth principle of the Remonstrance, the foundational document of Arminianism:
“That true believers had sufficient strength through the Divine grace to fight against Satan, sin, the world, their own flesh, and get the victory over them; but whether by negligence they might not apostatize from the true Faith, lose the happiness of a good conscience and forfeit that grace NEEDED TO BE MORE FULLY INQUIRED INTO ACCORDING TO HOLY WRIT” (32).
Even Arminius and his early followers didn’t answer the question regarding whether or not a personal was eternally secure or in danger of losing salvation!
This begs the question, then: “If Arminius and his early followers didn’t talk either way, should we try to answer this problem? Well, Arminius and his followers, according to the Remonstrance document, believed that “Holy Writ” could speak more about the issue than anything—so, it is at least worth a try to find out whether or not a person can lose their salvation. However, as always, the answer to this question requires humility on the part of all—for, if Arminius himself didn’t have such boldness to answer it, then who am I that my studies should reap the missing reward?