Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Word on Conditional Perseverance: Bberchin and the Five Points of Arminianism

I was up this morning watching a Youtube video by someone bearing the username “bberchin,” titled “The Five Points of Arminianism”( He attempted to refute the five points of Arminianism based upon scriptural support from the work called “The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented,” by authors David Steele, Curtis Thomas, and S. Lance Quinn. I have cited this same book here quite a few times at the site and will continue to do so in the future.

While exploring the five points of Arminianism, the point that most intrigued me about his presentation was point five, that of conditional perseverance. The fifth Arminian tenet states that not all believers endure to the end and be saved; therefore, only those who have faith and perseverance until the end of mortal life are those who will receive eternal life. “Bberchin” attempted to refute this fifth Arminian tenet through his use of Matthew 18:12-14.

Let’s read these verses:

“What do you think? If a man has 100 sheep, and one of them goes astray, won’t he leave the 99 on the hillside and go and search for the stray? And if he finds it, I assure you: He rejoices over that sheep more than over the 99 that did not go astray. In the same way, it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones perish” (Matthew 18:12-14, Holman Christian Standard Bible).

First off, let’s place these verses in the context of Matthew 18. When Jesus refers to “these little ones,” exactly to whom is Jesus referring? In the context of chapter 18, Jesus is referring to children. He uses the phrase “these little ones” in verse 10; in verse 6 He refers to children as “these little ones who believe in Me”. In verse 2, Jesus “called a child to Him” and labels the child as “one of these little ones who believe in Me” in verse 6. What we see from this chapter is that Jesus is referring to children. In addition, we also see Jesus telling the disciples “unless you are converted and BECOME LIKE CHILDREN, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3).

When we arrive at verse 11, Jesus tells us that “the Son of Man has come to save the lost.” “Bberchin,” however, does not pay attention to the context when He states that God finds the strayed believer. Unfortunately, the text itself does not say this; rather, what the text says is, “And IF he finds it,” not “When He finds it.” The Lord certainly pursues those who have strayed from the fold; but does the Lord “drag” such believers back to the faith? Evidently not---otherwise, why would 1 Timothy 4:1, as given by the Holy Spirit, tell us that some would “depart” from the faith? We never read of those specifically pointed out in 1 Timothy 4:1 ever coming back to the faith.

And regarding the meaning of these verses (Matt. 18:12-14), “Bberchin” had this to say:

“These verses have been taken out of context...especially by the Arminians. Many think it refers to God not wanting any person to go to Hell...but that is not what these verses are saying. What they are saying is that OF THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN SAVED, THERE ARE GOING TO BE THOSE WHO GO ASTRAY. Some people call it a ‘lull in the faith,’ ‘a falling away’...BUT THE BELIEVER ALWAYS COMES BACK. GOD ALWAYS BRINGS THE BELIEVER BACK. And that’s what this verse is saying” (7:16-8:35).

The verse says nothing about the believer “always coming back” to the faith; rather, what it says is that whenever a believer strays, God will pursue that sheep. There is no verse in Scripture that says that believers will always return to the faith; rather, there are biblical examples against this very notion. Take for example, 2 Timothy 2:16-18---

“But avoid irreverent, empty speech, for this will produce an even greater measure of godlessness. And their word will spread like gangrene, among whom are Hymenaeus and Philetus. They have deviated from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and are OVERTURNING THE FAITH OF SOME” (2 Timothy 2:16-18, HCSB).

The word for “overturn” here is “anatrepousin,” a compound of the words “ana” (over, again) and “trepo” (run, turn). Here we find that because false teachers are propagating the idea that the resurrection has already happened, many find that Christianity is no longer useful to them and throw away their faith in Christ. We don’t find any of these people returning to the faith. As I said above, we don’t find any of the deceived in 1 Timothy 4:1 returning to the faith, either. “Bberchin” has got to show proof that EVERY believer will come back if he intends to make his case...whereas I’ve got some good examples that refute his belief.

It is good that “Bberchin” attempted to deal with the five points of Arminianism; however, I’ve already argued the errors of Steele, Thomas, and Quinn regarding Arminianism; and I will be bold enough to say that Bberchin stands in error on this as well. I pray for the day when Calvinists and Molinists will come to see that the Arminian notion of perseverance is more than just a philosophical notion---but a biblical concept.

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