This is part eight of a series on the Doctrine of Eternal Security (ES) and its impact regarding a proper theology of history. For those who have not read the other parts, let me bring you up to speed: those who hold to the Doctrine of ES presuppose that everything has been predetermined, decided before time began. In that sense, every action of every single person is predetermined...which means that choice is an illusion. Simply put, if God’s already decided that some will go to heaven and others will burn in Hell for all eternity, then there is no need to worry about one’s eternal fate; just stand at the judgment and, when God sentences you to burn in the lake of fire for all eternity, point your finger at Him and tell Him, “but I thought you decided everything! You decided I would go to Hell...so how do I bear blame for that?”. I can assure you that no one will get to blame a holy God on that day...but it’s funny how, despite the fact that God is innocent, we still attempt to make Him an “assassin” in our theologies.
What about those who don’t agree that everything has been predetermined? Some people have said to me that they believe that they have been predetermined to be with God for all eternity because He chose them (versus leaving someone else in their sins). However, God left those sinners in their sins because they refused to accept Him. So what about this group? My response would be that their theology is inconsistent and they need to decide what they believe about being chosen to be with Christ in glory. How can God damn someone else because “it’s their own fault,” but save someone else “without regard to that person?” And this is the problem with the Calvinist notion of unconditional election: it says that God picks without regard to the individual. But if God does this, then He damns without regard to unbelief or anything else. This group of which I speak don’t wanna take responsibility for a consistent theology, but it doesn’t make sense otherwise. To argue that, if the unbeliever had surrendered, he WOULD HAVE BEEN CHOSEN, is to argue conditional election (that is, God’s choice is based on faith or belief). If God is not damning on the basis of unbelief, then He’s damning by virtue of “His own good pleasure,” as Calvinists say it all the time.
In any case, I’ve argued that unconditional eternal security makes life on earth “pre-programmed.” In that sense, there is no theology of history. To believe in a theology of history is to believe that God actually works within history, that He has real relationship with man “in history,” that, as the John Piper quote says, God decides to do more than just think of “what would be” if He created history (rather, He actually does create history through which to work out His divine purposes). If God intended to predetermine everything, then what did He need history for? If eternal security is right, then why create history? It just serves as a stage...and all the people in history become players. But if eternal security is right, why subject God’s people to suffering in, for example, the Holocaust? How could a God subject His creation to such torture as death, disease, etc., if He is the one responsible for it all? Eternal Securitists will not like it, but if believers are predetermined and selected before time by God, then unbelievers have been “predetermined and selected” and are damned by God before time. And it’s high time we face that fact and stop trying to find ways to get around it. One is either Calvinist or Arminian...and there is no middle ground (Classical Arminianism is the middle ground between Classic, five-point Calvinism and Open Theism, and Pelagianism, for example). There are “middle-ground theologies,” but none exists between Classical Calvinism and Classical Arminianism (at least consistent middle-ground theologies, anyway).
In my last post, I dealt with B.J. Oropeza’s work on liminality and process, coming off of a post on the Israelite Wilderness Generation (1 Corinthians 10). Life in the wilderness was a genuine journey for Israel, in which the nation made a genuine decision to lose faith in God and His ability to provide for them. The individual members of the nation did not have “Eternal Security,” such that their complaining in the wilderness did not affect their entrance into the Promised Land. Now, Calvinists will say that people who fall away “were never saved to begin with”; but Jude 5 and 1 Corinthians 10 testify to the salvation of the Wilderness Group (not to mention Exodus 15 and the Red Sea Experience). Such language as “saved” “redeemed,” and “believed” is not tossed around for groups that are not saved.
In this post, I will focus on one chapter that I think best tackles the issue of conditional security (that is, security in Christ in time)...that is, Hebrews chapter 11. In this wonderful chapter we find examples of those whose trust in God to make good on His promises motivated them to “take hold” of those promises in time. That is, their faith in God drove them to put their faith in action. It is a living faith that pleases God (Heb. 11:6).
One of the most outstanding examples to me of great faith in Hebrews 11 is Enoch (v.5). Enoch is the first person on earth as recorded in Scripture that was “translated” and did not die. Why did he not die? “he pleased God” (v.5). What can be said of Enoch? He lived in a world where the divine death sentence had been passed on all of mankind since Genesis 3. He lived in a world where sin was spreading to every facet of God’s creation, where wickedness was daily increasing...and yet, because of his walk with God, he did not face the same physical death as everyone else. Was not death promised to all of Adam’s seed? Yes (Romans 5). Paul tells us in that chapter that “all sinned” in Adam (Rom. 5:12); if this is true, why then, does Enoch not see death? While we can’t know precisely the reason why God “took” Enoch and did not allow him to die physically, we know from the text that he had extraordinary faith, such that God did not desire his physical death. That must have been some awesome faith!!!
“And what more shall I say” for now? “For time would fail me to tell of” others on the Roll Call of Faith (Heb. 11:32). Tomorrow, I will go into the theme verse of all of Hebrews 11---that is, Hebrews 11:6. To dive into verse 6...well...you’ll have to have enough faith to wait patiently for my next post.