Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Eternal Security and Its Implications For A Theology of History, Pt. I: Defining Eternal Security

“As Augustine was writing ‘The City of God,’ he was also battling the Pelagians. He was very aware that God created the two cities by His own predestinating grace. He does not stress that theme in his work. It is not unimportant to Augustine, but in ‘The City of God’ he is stressing the fact that to believe in grace and to believe in election DOES NOT MEAN THAT WE SHOULD NOT URGE PEOPLE TO FAITH AND LOVE FOR GOD.”

“If God knows what will come to pass, does that mean that all testings IN HISTORY are pointless? I DON’T THINK SO. God has not created the world just to be known in terms of what would be if tests were given. HE CREATED THE WORLD TO BE ACTUALIZED IN HISTORY. That is, he wills not just to foreknow, but to know by observation and experience. That is the point of creating a real world, rather than just knowing one that might be” (John Piper, “Answering Greg Boyd’s Openness of God Texts”; at the site www.ondoctrine.com/2pip1201.htm; quoted by Steven C. Roy, “How Much Does God Foreknow? A Comprehensive Biblical Study.” Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006, page 181).

The Doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints (also known informally as “unconditional assurance,” “once saved always saved,” and “eternal security”) states, according to the Westminster Confession of Faith:

“They whom God hath accepted in His Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved” (quoted by Loraine Boettner, “The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination.” Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1932, page 182).

Loraine Boettner places the Doctrine of Perseverance (Eternal Security) in other words:

“We believe that those who once become true Christians cannot totally fall away and be lost,---that while they may fall into sin temporarily, they will eventually return and be saved. This doctrine does not stand alone but is a necessary part of the Calvinistic system of theology. The doctrines of Election and Efficacious Grace logically imply the certain salvation of those who receive these blessings. If God has chosen men absolutely and unconditionally to eternal life, and if His Spirit effectively applies to them the benefits of redemption, the inescapable conclusion is that these persons shall be saved” (Loraine Boettner, “The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination,” page 182).

Eternal Security, in short, states that once you believe, you’re sealed for all eternity.

But is that ALL to the Doctrine itself? I will answer this question with a resounding “NO.” The Doctrine of Eternal Security states more than just “once saved, always saved.” Let’s read more of Loraine Boettner:

“Though floods of error deluge the land, though Satan raise all the powers of earth and all the iniquities of their own hearts against them, they shall never fail; but, persevering to the end, they shall inherit those mansions which have been prepared for them FROM THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD” (Boettner, “The Reformed Doctrine,” pages 182-183).

The phrase “the foundation of the world” is reminiscent of Ephesians 1; but it is also reminiscent of Boettner’s words regarding unconditional election:

“since it [the doctrine of Election] is the act of an infinite moral Person, it is represented as being the ETERNAL, absolute, immutable, EFFECTIVE DETERMINATION by His will of the objects of His saving operations...the Reformed Faith has held to the existence of an eternal, divine decree which, ANTECEDENTLY TO ANY DIFFERENCE OR DESERT IN MEN THEMSELVES separates the human race into two portions and ORDAINS ONE TO EVERLASTING LIFE AND THE OTHER TO EVERLASTING DEATH” (“The Reformed Doctrine,” page 83).

In other words, those who experience eternal security have always had “security in eternity.” What does the phrase “security in eternity” mean? It not only means that the person would be saved in time from the moment of confession until death; it also means that the person has ALWAYS BEEN SAVED from the standpoint of God’s decrees. That is, that the person has always been elect, even BEFORE they confessed Christ as Lord and Savior.

First, let’s look at the word “eternal.” The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines the word “eternal” as “having infinite duration, of or related to eternity, valid or existing AT ALL TIMES.” If the last definition is true, then the elect have been secure “at all times” of history itself...this means that before the person was born, they were already elect. In short, the elect never really “become saved,” but instead, are born saved!

The word “eternal” originates from the Latin word “aeternalis,” meaning “ae” (always) and “ternalis,” meaning “time.” Simply put, “eternal” refers to “all time.” This is why Calvinists and Molinists are often quick to ask the Arminian, “If eternal life be ‘eternal,’ then how can we lose it? Isn’t it supposed to last forever?” Little do they know that, when they ask this question, they seem to forget that if eternal life is “eternal,” then they have ALWAYS had it...they never “got saved,” never had a moment of salvation because, before time began, God saw them existing and had already marked them as saved! Are not the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years before salvation “time” as well? If they are, then when one advocates this beloved doctrine, he or she is saying that, “Every moment in time, even before I was born, I have been saved”...which is simply absurd.

And this has major implications for a proper theology of history. How can we define “theology of history”? I will get into defining this in my next post. In this post, I simply wanted to define eternal security as Calvinists define it to the reader. In my next post, I intend to talk about how eternal security works against the notion of genuine choices in time (and a proper theology of history). Stay tuned...

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