Monday, October 11, 2010

Eternal Security and Its Implications For A Theology of History, Pt. X: Past, Present, and Future Sins

Have you ever heard the statement, “All of your sins, past, present, and future, have already been forgiven” in a sermon before? If not in a sermon, how about in a Bible study? Chances are, if you’ve ever been raised in an evangelical, conservative, Bible-believing church, you’ve heard these words. If you’ve ever been a member of a conservative church, you’ve heard these words. I point out conservatives in this post not to make fun of us, but to make the point that most conservative churches (particularly Baptist churches) have heard the above statement made within church walls.
In this post, I desire to tackle the above statement and see if Scripture really teaches such a thought. In my reading, though, I’ve found little to commend itself to this train of thought; however, in my estimation (however little that may be), it seems that the above statement is just another one of those philosophical statements of the Doctrine of Eternal Security that preachers place in sermons (and teachers in class lessons) without thinking about the implications of such statements.
Here’s what Calvinist theologian James White has to say about past, present, and future sins:
“The truth is, if justification is a one-time declaration by God, intimately connected with the forgiveness of sins through the work of Christ, then it follows that all of the believer’s sins have been forgiven him for Christ’s sake. This remission of all sins IS NOT LIMITED TO PAST SINS ONLY, BUT TO ALL SINS---PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE. If it were not so, THEN JUSTIFICATION WOULD HAVE TO BE REPEATED OVER AND OVER AGAIN, AND THE IMPUTATION OF THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST WOULD BE LITTLE MORE THAN A FICTION, lowered to the level of the animal sacrifices of the old covenant, which had to be offered over and over again as a symbol of the continued presence of sin. Instead of this, all our transgressions were laid upon Christ and were, therefore, nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:13-14)” (James White, “The God Who Justifies: The Doctrine of Justification, A Comprehensive Study.” Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 2001, page 98).
It is noticeable throughout James White’s quote above that for him, justification is a one-time-for-all-time act. Then, White seems to struggle with the biblical evidence that might stir controversy toward his view:
“The problem with accepting this fact is easy to see: how can we speak of sins being forgiven when they haven’t even been committed yet? AND WHY DO WE READ THAT WE AS BELIEVERS ARE TO CONFESS OUR SINS (1 JOHN 1:9)?” (White, “The God Who Justifies,” page 98).
White then turns around and, against Scriptural proof, argues from his own logic:
“First, we note that at the time of the death of Christ, all the sins of all believers for the next two millennia were yet future. So if we believe that ANY of our sins were laid upon Christ, even if we limit this to our past sins, we are asserting that future sins were laid upon Christ in the past. Therefore the idea that future sins can be said to be forgiven in the death of Christ is basic to the whole presentation of the efficacy of His saving work” (White, “Doctrine of Justification,” page 99).
What do we do with James White’s analysis? If you ask me, I think that James White’s logic should not be placed before Scripture itself. The fact that he notes 1 John 1:9 and the continual need to ask God for forgiveness of sins does not justify his logical argument given right after which seems to assert that past, present, and future sins have all been forgiven.
What does 1 John 1:9 say, exactly?
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, NKJV).
The condition is “if we confess our sins,” and only with the confession of sin will we be forgiven. No other “if” statement in Scripture is hypothetical, so why would this one be? The condition must be met in order for sins to be forgiven. If this is true, then James White’s assumption is wrong. While our future sins are forgiven in some sense, it is a “conditional forgiveness”---a forgiveness that is dependent upon us asking the Lord to forgive us of our many sins.
The idea of conditional forgiveness can even be found in the Lord’s Prayer, as Jesus taught the disciples to pray:
“And forgive us our debts, AS WE FORGIVE OUR DEBTORS” (Matthew 6:12, NKJV).
What are we praying in Matthew 6:12? We are praying that, AS we forgive others, by us meeting the condition of forgiving others (and praying to God, as Jesus does here), we will receive forgiveness from God. The text does not say, “Forgive us our debts, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER OR NOT WE FORGIVE OUR DEBTORS,” or “forgive us our debts because we are eternally secure and you died once for sin,” etc; no---the text itself points to a forgiveness that COMES ALONGSIDE our forgiveness of others who have wronged us and our requesting forgiveness of our own sin from a holy God.
Not only are sins forgiven on the conditions that 1) we ask for it and 2) we forgive others...also, forgiveness of past sins can be withdrawn. Jason Kerrigan writes in his work, “Against Once Saved Always Saved: Refuting the Doctrine of Unconditional Eternal Security,” that Matthew 18:23-35 is the ideal parable on forgiveness. Jesus tells the story of a man who, as a servant, was forgiven of his debt; however, this forgiven servant had a servant under him who also had debt...and yet, the forgiven servant failed to forgive his own servant of his debt. The king discovers that the forgiven servant has failed to practice forgiveness and retracts his debt. Matthew 18:34 tells us, “And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him” (NKJV). Here’s what Kerrigan has to say about the parable:
“Since the servant did that which was wicked after being forgiven, the lord of that servant WITHDREW HIS PREVIOUS FORGIVENESS AND REINSTATED HIS OLD DEBT. THIS IS A PICTURE OF WHAT GOD WILL DO TO US IF WE DO NOT FORGIVE OTHERS AFTER GOD HAS FORGIVEN US...Matthew 28:35” (Jason Kerrigan, “Against Once Saved Always Saved: Refuting the Doctrine of Unconditional Eternal Security.” Denver: Outskirts Press, Inc., 2009, page 24).
The fact that the king took back his forgiveness on the servant means that the forgiveness itself is not guaranteed, nor is it automatic; rather, the king’s forgiveness was CONDITIONAL, based upon the servant’s forgiveness of his servant (and others). Because he failed to do that, he failed to meet the condition, and the king took back the forgiveness and reinstated the financial requirement upon the head of the unforgiving servant. This explains why the parable tells us that the unforgiving servant was thrown into prison “until he should pay all that was due to him.”
Now, back to the question of 1 John 1:9. James White’s quote above asked the question, “how can we be forgiven of past, present, and future sins if we must confess our sin (1 John 1:9)?” Responding to White’s question would now be one of the foremost New Testament scholars of our time, Tom Schreiner:
“Some maintain that John could not possibly intend such a thought, since WE ARE ALREADY FORGIVEN BY OUR DIVINE JUDGE. They think, therefore, that JOHN MERELY MEANS THAT WE MUST CONFESS OUR SINS TO MAINTAIN FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD. In their view, fellowship is not the same thing as salvation...THIS INTERPRETATION IS MISTAKEN, for fellowship in these verses cannot be separated from salvation. In the context John counters the teaching of secessionists who had left the church. These secessionists claimed to be without sin (1 John 1:8) and asserted that they had not sinned since their conversion (1 Jn 1:10), yet John says they ‘walk in darkness’ (1 Jn. 1:6)...Thus, John really means that WE MUST CONFESS OUR SINS IN AN ONGOING WAY TO BE FORGIVEN BY GOD” (Thomas R. Schreiner and Ardel B. Caneday, “The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance and Assurance.” Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001, pages 76-77).
What do we do with the testimony here of Jason Kerrigan and Dr. Thomas Schreiner against James White? Scripture doesn’t lie, and it testifies to the need for ongoing confession and ongoing forgiveness of others. At the end of the day, no matter how eloquent James White’s argument may be, it is more a sign of human depravity to buy into “unconditional eternal forgiveness” than to admit that Scripture contradicts the idea. In my next post, I will tackle the philosophical reasoning behind James White’s argument and tie in “unconditional eternal forgiveness” with “unconditional eternal security.” Stay tuned...

23 comments:

Steve Lemke said...

Deidre,
Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I find myself being in the unusual position of defending James White here, so I feel a bit uncomfortable about walking in unfamiliar territory . . . (:-)

I think Schreiner and Canaday are just wrong about 1 John 1:8, etc. As an antidote to their rank Arminianism (:-), I recommend That You May Know: Assurance of Salvation in 1 John by Christopher Bass, which provides a much more thorough Biblical exposition of this theme in 1 John.

Speaking of Arminius, wouldn't Jakob Harmenszoon be on my side on this one? -- that the substitutionary atonement purchased justification for past, present, and future sins? Admittedly, Arminius left open the possibility that one could later renounce the faith and lose salvation, but that's different from having to repent of each future sin.

Also, from a practical perspective, wouldn't being justified as long as you're "prayed up" lead to the unhappy result that everyone killed in an unexpected accident would go to hell, since they didn't have the opportunity to repent of their last sin?

Deidre Richardson said...

Dr. Lemke,

I am so appreciative of your comments here. What an honor to hear from you!

Regarding the purchasing of justification, I'm not denying that justification has been purchased; i'm simply denying that it's granted unconditionally---that is, without regard to confessed sin. In the same way, I wouldn't deny that salvation has been purchased; I would deny, however, that a person can be saved unconditionally---that is, without confession and belief (Rom. 10:9).

I don't know if you remember something Schreiner and Caneday wrote right after the above quote of theirs, but here it is:

"Of course, this does not mean that believers must frantically try to recall every transgression ever committed to be 'clean' before God. It means that we must ask God to forgive the sins we remember. The stubborn refusal to admit such sins is lethal...the already-but-not-yet dynamic of New Testament thinking helps us here. Yes, we are already forgiven. But we have not yet arrived in the heavenly city. We cannot use the promise of present forgiveness as a wedge to deny the need to confess sins as we commit them...the Scripture teaches both truths, and we ignore either of them to our peril" (Schreiner, "The Race Set Before Us," page 77).

Schreiner’s quote here answers your question. It is impossible to pray for every specific sin, simply because we commit sins everyday that we are unaware of, or things sins that we forget we committed. But the scriptural mandate is that we pray and ask for forgiveness for our sins whenever we are cognizant of them, even if that only comes at the end of the day.

By praying when we are cognizant of our sin, it shows that we are aware that our sin offends a holy and righteous God. It is the “principle” that matters, not so much the routine of prayer itself. It is, in the words of one of my friends, “a heart issue.”


I can’t cover all the material here on the subject, but I do have some recommendations: first, read Arminius’s “Works,” II, page 70. Regarding justification of sins, Arminius writes:

“By this [justifying faith] I obtain remission of sins, therefore it precedes the other object; [the remission of sins;] and NO ONE CAN BELIEVE THAT HIS FUTURE SINS WILL LIKEWISE BE REMITTED, UNLESS HE KNOWS THAT HE WILL BELIEVE TO THE END: for SINS ARE FORGIVEN TO HIM WHO BELIEVES, AND ONLY AFTER THEY HAVE BEEN COMMITTED; wherefore the promise of forgiveness, which is that of the New Testament, must be considered as DEPENDING ON A CONDITION STIPULATED BY GOD, that is faith, without which there is no covenant” (Arminius, “Works,” II: 70. Translated by James Nichols. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996, pg. 70).

Last but not least, for Arminius, apostasy not only involved renouncing faith; it also involved the commission of willful, deliberate sin. To read this material, see Arminius’s letter titled “On The Sin Against The Holy Ghost” in Arminius’s “Works,” II: 731ff.

Finally, here’s what Keith Stanglin found in his studies on Arminius:

“The fact that Arminius sees malicious sin against God’s law, and not just renunciation of faith, as a contributing factor to apostasy raises the important question of the relationship between sanctification and justification. DID ARMINIUS BELIEVE THAT SIN CAN UNJUSTIFY A TRUE BELIEVER? THE ANSWER IS YES, in that a sin of malice is inconsistent with actual, justifying faith. Thus, it is incorrect to say that justification is based on sanctification. However, there exists for Arminius a relationship between justification and sanctification, namely, faith...for Arminius, malicious sin contributes to apostasy inasmuch as it is an indicator of a lack of faith and trust in God” (Keith D. Stanglin, “Arminius On the Assurance of Salvation: The Context, Roots, and Shape of the Leiden Debate, 1603-1609.” Leiden & Boston: Koninklijke Brill NV, 2007, page 141).

I hope this helps. Thanks for commenting.

Steve Lemke said...

On behalf of the sinner . . .

Okay, you convinced me about Arminius. I was coming at it from Picirilli, Forlines, and Birch's strong advocacy of the substitutionary atonement. Perhaps they would be closer to my side.

However, I don't think Arminius, Schreiner, or Canaday sufficiently answer my accident question -- even if it's not a matter of repenting for every single sin, that's not the point. I don't have the chance to give my general "prayer for the unknown sin." I don't get to pray at all. So can the unexpectedly killed (or those taken unexpectedly by medical emergencies) be saved? Probably not. That problem renders this question unaceptable from a pragmatic perspective.

On another topic, I have a link that I wanted to show you for a lecture here that I thought you would be interested in. I don't think I can copy an attachment here, so send me an email and I'll forward it to you.

Deidre Richardson said...

Dr. Lemke,

In response to the accident question: The issue is not that a person prays regarding their sin before the die; rather, the issue is whether or not a person is “in Christ” by faith. In my theological studies, I have found that Scripture itself refers to the faith as “the full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:22). This means that a person has a heart that does not condemn them towards God (1 John 3:18-24), a heart that is confident he or she is walking with the Lord. In addition, such a person, the one who is in fellowship with the Lord (i.e., walking in the light, 1 John 1), is a person who does not throw away their good conscience, as some seemed to do in Paul’s letter to Timothy (1 Timothy 1:19-20).

These two ideas, assurance of faith and a good conscience, are not just present in 1 Timothy 1:19 but meet in Hebrews 10:35-39). The writers tell the congregation, “Do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you need endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise” (Heb. 10:35-36, NKJV). Confidence and assurance seem to run together, and it these two ideas, I believe, that determine whether or not a person is secure in Christ. They must have faith, but they must also have a good conscience toward God, a heart that does not condemn them (as 1 John 3 tells us).

If a given person has a living faith in God, and a good conscience, confident that they are a child of God by walking in the light, then forgetting to pray before they die or neglecting prayer that day will not keep that person from being with Christ in eternity. As far as the Bible itself goes, the only sin that keeps a person from being with Christ in eternity (aside from failure to confess and believe in Christ) is deliberate willful sin (Heb. 3:12-13; 10:26-31).

Forgetting or neglecting to pray is not an issue of deliberate, willful, sin. Unconfessed sin that goes on over a long duration, however, will fall into this category. It is my belief that everyone knows whether or not they have unconfessed sin in their lives...the fact that someone would allow the sin to go unconfessed demonstrates their knowledge of its presence.

This is the most succinct answer I could provide regarding your accident question. Feel free to contact me further if you have any other questions.

Steve Lemke said...

Deidre,
I think we differ in our understanding of "in Christ." I understand it to be positional or relational in that, based upon our profession of faith in Jesus Christ, we are adopted in the family of God (John 1:11-12). When we were adopted into the family of God, becoming God's sons and daughters is a status or position of relationship. It cannot change. I can be a poor son, but I am still a son. The sins after we enter into this new status regard fellowship, not status of relation. Fellowship can change, but not relationship.

But the model you propose seems to be behavioral, i.e., you remain saved only as long as your behavior supports it. So, at the end of the day, you're saved by your good works and not by Christ, or just secondarily by Christ (i.e., without the good works you would not be saved or, in philosophical language, your good works are a necessary condition for salvation).

Does a marriage analogy work here? Once you're married, you remain in that status or position in the eyes of God. You don't have to wake up each day and decide you still love that person and want to remain married to them. Indeed, there may be days you feel that way, but that doesn't mean you're not married anymore. It's not based on feeling, but a change of status. You can fall out of love, or get divorced, but that does not change your status in the eyes of God. That's why an adulterer who marries makes the person he/she marries an adulterer in the eyes of God. It doesn't matter whether they respect the status and live by it; the status is unchangeable.

I'm still worried about your temporalizing sins as in what consists in a "long duration." Is it a day? A week? A month? A year? A decade? And what kind of sins would qualify? Bank robbery? Incest? Mass murder? Unfortunately, not a single verse of Scripture tells us how many sins it would take to lose your salvation, or the kind of sin. So we're thrown back to what we're taught in James 2:1-10 -- it just takes one sin to be guilty of all sins, and that sin might be impartiality, which we might say was a "lighter sin" than most. If that is the case, how does it relate to this question? It appears that any sin would put us back into lostneass.

Deidre Richardson said...

Dear Dr. Lemke,
I’m responding to your previous comments made at the blog...

The Scriptures indeed discuss fellowship...but they also discuss our behavior as sons. If your interpretation of John is correct, what about Hebrews 12? There, you will find an extended discussion regarding believers as sons of God who are being disciplined by God. Hebrews 12:8 states, “But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons” (NKJV). What about these in this verse who rebel against God’s discipline? You claim that they would only lose fellowship; the problem with this, however, is that the text distinguishes between “illegitimate” and “sons”...and the sons who do not receive God’s discipline become illegitimate. What happens to the person who is no longer a son? If we cannot lose our relationship with God, what about this text? Contrary to most interpretations, such writing by the authors is not a “hypothetical.” There is something genuine and real about Hebrews 12:8 that must be considered in interpretation.

Now, about sonship. You seem to believe that relationship is separate and distinct from behavior. What about the relationship between you and your students, for example? Would you allow a student to disrespect you openly in one of your classes, in one of your lectures, and yet, do nothing about it? Chances are, you would quickly remind that student of their relationship to you and what that relationship demands (i.e., the behavior expected in that relationship). If this is not the case, then should a student ever disrespect and dishonor you openly, just let it go...because, they are still a student (even if they treat you as if they are a fellow colleague). I imagine, however, that this would not go over so well...and you would probably find a way to make that student submit to your rule in your classroom. In other words, you would “put them in their place” because you believe that with relationship comes the behavior that the relationship demands. Why then, would it be any different with God? Why would God allow a son to behave in any manner and yet, still call that child “a son”? And if so, what is that saying about Hebrews 12:8?

Why do we need to know how long we can stay in a sin? The point of the Scriptures is that, whenever we sin, we confess it before a holy God. Why do we need to know how many sins we can commit before we can lose our salvation? David lusted after Bathsheba in his heart, slept with her (another man’s wife...committed adultery), and then murdered her innocent husband in battle. And yet, he prayed, “Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11). If David feared losing the Spirit and being thrown out of God’s presence with only a few sins, then why do we need a specific numeral count in order to know whether or not we have “crossed the line”? David seemed to fear God enough that he thought those few sins he committed (heinous they were) were enough to cause the Spirit to depart from Him. He quickly prayed to be restored to a right fellowship with God. If David thought he was treading on dangerous water with the Lord, then what more proof do we need regarding the seriousness of just ONE sin before God?

Deidre Richardson said...

Dr. Lemke,

The point is not that every sin will throw you back into lostness...but that every sin “could possibly” place you into lostness. This is why we are to be watchful of our spiritual state. As Arminius once said, “The persuasion by which any believer assuredly persuades himself, that it is impossible for him to decline from the faith, or that, at least, he will not decline from the faith, does not conduce so much to consolation against despair or against the doubting that is adverse to faith and hope, as it contributes to engender security, a thing directly opposed to that most salutary fear with which we are commanded to work out our salvation, and which is exceedingly necessary in this scene of temptations. He who is of opinion that it is possible for him to decline from the faith, and who, therefore, is afraid lest he should decline, is neither destitute of necessary consolation, nor is he, on this account, tormented with anxiety of mind. For it suffices to inspire consolation and to exclude anxiety, when he knows that he will decline from the faith through no force of Satan, of sin, or of the world, and through no inclination or weakness of his own flesh, unless he willingly and of his own accord yield to temptation, and neglect to work out his salvation in a conscientious manner” (James Arminius, Article XXII, “On The Assurance of Salvation,” from “Certain Articles to be Diligently Examined and Weighed.” Works II:726. Translated by James and William Nichols.).

The issue is that we “work out our salvation in a conscientious manner”---that is, that we do not “neglect so great a salvation” as ours (Hebrews 2:3). Salvation is a gift that, like, in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25), we must give an account for. Those who neglect their salvation will be treated in the last days as unjust stewards who will share a place with the hypocrites (Luke 12:45-46).

Steve Lemke said...

Deidre,

Thanks for your comments. I do see these things from a different perspective.

Regarding Hebrews 12, discipline is indeed a sign of sonship. The point is that we should not complain when we receive discipline, because it is a sign of sonship. If were were not being disciplined, it might be an indication that we were not sons. So it seems to me that the discipline is initiated by God, not by our sonship. Indeed, in Hebrews 12 our sins and rebellion only "matter" (with regard to discipline) if we are sons/believers.

Yes, I would discipline an unruly student (or son). But that doesn't mean that they have lost their status as sons. It just means they're not behaving like sons should, not that they're not sons.

Your admission that just one sin would "do it" (and the Arminius quote) worry me even more about my unexpected illness or disaster scenario. I don't see how you can escape the problem that if being "in Christ" only pertains to sins for which you have specifically (or generally) asked for forgiveness sometime after the sin, people who have sudden deaths are very unlikely to be saved. I'm not willing to go there, and nor do I see it indicated by Scripture.

Well, at least you see why we say we're not Arminians (:-).

Deidre Richardson said...

Dr. Lemke,

Regarding the Arminius quote: please tell me where, in Arminius's quote, does he err in regards to "working out one's soul salvation." I don't see where Arminius goes wrong in this quote. Please explain if you can.

Your interpretation of Hebrews 12 does not fully explain why the writers emphasize not just despising God's chastening, but also why the writers mention "of which you all have become partakers." Verses 5-6 tell us not to despise God's chastening; but how is that chastening despised? it is not simply despised by complaining about it...rather, the writers are insisting that to despise the Lord's chastening is to fail to accept the Lord's discipline: "But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers...shall we not much more readily BE IN SUBJECTION to the Father of Spirits and live?" (Heb. 12:8-9)

Verses 12-15 of the chapter tell the Jews what to do in their current state to face the persecution that is upon them. I agree that these persons are sons; the question is, what does this warning mean, when the writers ask, "Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?" What do the writers mean when they talk about subjection and life in this question? are they referring to physical or spiritual? If they are referring to spiritual life, then there seems to be a possibility of falling away. I desire an answer to my questions on this one...

I never once said with my teacher-student example that the person lost their student relationship. What I said was that, if that person is a student in your classroom, then that person is expected to behave in a manner proper to being your student. One cannot be a student and behave like a teacher...or be a teacher and behave like a student. The relationship dictates the behavior...in this case, sonship should dictate the behavior as a son (i.e., receiving the Lord's discipline).

Deidre Richardson said...

Dr. Lemke,

Back to the accident question: this question is one that the Bible never intended to answer. First and foremost, it is a question that pertains to only a few, since most people will not die in car accidents (in fact, more people have a chance of dying to cancer than they do car accidents). Because the Bible never meant to address this, the question may be a good one for practical reasons...but our theology cannot be based on the accident question (or any question the Bible never asks and answers).

I hold to conditional security not because I believe I have to do enough good works in order to merit salvation; I hold to conditional security because I have read and studied the warnings numerous times that the writers give the churches...and I've yet to hear a convincing argument against it. The accident question may be a fascinating one to bring up...but if I determine my view on security by the accident question, then I have elevated a question (a human thought) above the Word of God. It is the Word that should drive my theological convictions, not a practical "what-if" proposition.

Last but not least, the doctrine of eternal security, according to church history, originated with John Calvin. Talk to Dr. Keathley and you will find that the early church was historically Classical Arminian. For the first 1500 years of church history, no one espoused eternal security until John Calvin began to attack the Pelagians. I just don't believe that the early church, for 1500 years, got it wrong in regards to salvation (when you consider that the first 1500 years included Jesus and the original twelve apostles who inaugurated the early church).

As a result, eternal security is a Calvinist doctrine, and all who hold to it are Calvinist. Even James White said the following about Arminians:

"The Arminian, however, who believes everyone is capable of exercising saving faith, has a real problem...that is why historically Arminians have always rejected 'eternal security.' There is no place for it in their system" (James White, "Debating Calvinism," page 404).

White also goes on to say:
"Those who limit God's freedom through asserting some form of libertarian free will are completely inconsistent in claiming that once a person 'accepts Christ,' he somehow loses the free will that got him to that position in the first place and is now 'secure' from falling. If Christ's work of salvation is dependent upon our cooperation to be effective, there is no reason to believe it is eternally secure at any point" (James White, "Debating Calvinism," page 401).

All that to say, Eternal Security is a Calvinist doctrine...and, if we say we hold to it, then we might as well declare ourselves Calvinist in the end.

Deidre Richardson said...

Last but not least, even John Piper provides a statement on eternal security:

"We believe in...the eternal security of the elect" (John Piper and Pastoral Staff, "TULIP: What We Believe about the Five Points of Calvinism" (Minneapolis, Minn.: Desiring God Ministries, 1997, page 24).

I looked back at an earlier comment at this post in which you stated that I hold to good works as a necessary condition for final salvation. If by this you mean that I hold to perseverance as necessary for final salvation, the answer is yes. All Arminians historically have held to the necessity of perseverance for final salvation. If you differ with me on this one, you are closer to being a Molinist. By not holding to the necessity of perseverance, you would also be in departure from Arminius's theology.

I think it's fine to hold your convictions about the accident question. But I do say that with caution: because I am firmly committed to maintaining distinctions between the various systems. Since you do hold to eternal security, you would feel more at home in the Molinist camp. Maybe that is why the Arminian label is so hard to wear.

Steve Lemke said...

Ah, Deidre, you have hit me with an Arminian machine gun of questions. I'll try to give brief answers.

Let's be honest. There's nothing in Hebrews 12 that says anything about losing your salvation. The verse you cite sounds to me like something a Mother would say to a rebellious child -- if you don't submit to what I say, I'll tell Daddy when he comes home, and he'll REALLY let you have it! In other words, it is saying the one who despises the discipline due sons will receive even stricter discipline. You're never going to convince me from Hebrews 12. Hebrews 6 -- maybe. But not Hebrews 12. Give it up.

Arminius lost me when he said (per Stanglin) that sins could make you lose your salvation. We are all sinners, so (unless we have the fortune to have clarity of mind to repent in the right way at the right time) most of us will be lost anyway.

I think you discount my problem of sudden death syndrome all too quickly. It's not just wrecks, of course. It's people killed in war (who unfortunately have been trying to kill people all day, and hence have sinned). It's people with sudden medical conditions like heart disease, epilepsy, etc., which are among the top killers. How about someone with Alztheimer's or those with mental illness? They are slowly losing their moral accountability, but they have to be lucky enough to ask forgiveness the minute before they slip out of accountability. Fires. Car wrecks. Suddeen crib death. Murders. Towers of Siloam falling on us. Gang killings. Serial killers. Tsunamis. Mt. Helena explosions. Volcanos. Earthquakes. Heart trauma. Falling off cliffs. Getting hit by trains. Planes crashing into houses. Bombs. Terrorist killings. Mine cave-ins. Tornados. 9-11. Poison. Really, a considerable percentage of the human race goes into eternity this way. Your answer just doesn't seem sufficient to deal with that many cases. That's why the Bible answer is much more dependable -- that salvation depends on God, not on us.

No, I'm not a Molinist, but I am at a mediating position between Arminius, Schreiner, and White. I'm in an often overlooked position called being a Baptist. We believe in holding that tension where Scriptue leaves it -- in a tension. In Keathley's terms, I'm probably "once saved, always saved." I'm tempted by his "evidence of genuineness" position, but again, I worry about putting conditions on it that humans must earn by good works. It is God who says he will "guarantee," "protect," "guard," and "seal" our salvation, and it is He who assures us that He is able to keep us from falling. I would much rather put my trust in Him for salvation than in myself and my own good works.

I don't think you've adequately dealt with my son analogy, since it is a biblcal analogy, but let me add a marriage analogy. After I marry, I should take the trash out and do other "honey do's." But if I don't, it doesn't mean I'm not a husband anymore. (Just as a chair can be burnt, shattered, smashed, or broken into pieces, but it's still A CHAIR). I might be a bad husband, a husband who doesn't behave like a husband ought, but again, that doesn't change my STATUS. (I might could get a divorce, but God doesn't recognize divorce. Once married, always married, in God's eyes). So I take out the trash because I love my wife, not in order to do good works so I can stay married.

I think the historical question is not very helpful, since the Catholic church was enmeshed in a works salvation. That's what the Reformation rightly sought to correct.

So, like Popeye, I yam what I yam. Here I stand I can do no other. And, I might reluctantly let you be who you be and stand where you stand (albeit in the wrong place) (:-)

Steve Lemke said...

Ah, Deidre, you have hit me with an Arminian machine gun of questions. I'll try to give brief answers.

Let's be honest. There's nothing in Hebrews 12 that says anything about losing your salvation. The verse you cite sounds to me like something a Mother would say to a rebellious child -- if you don't submit to what I say, I'll tell Daddy when he comes home, and he'll REALLY let you have it! In other words, it is saying the one who despises the discipline due sons will receive even stricter discipline. You're never going to convince me from Hebrews 12. Hebrews 6 -- maybe. But not Hebrews 12. Give it up.

Arminius lost me when he said (per Stanglin) that sins could make you lose your salvation. We are all sinners, so (unless we have the fortune to have clarity of mind to repent in the right way at the right time) most of us will be lost anyway.

I think you discount my problem of sudden death syndrome all too quickly. It's not just wrecks, of course. It's people killed in war (who unfortunately have been trying to kill people all day, and hence have sinned). It's people with sudden medical conditions like heart disease, epilepsy, etc., which are among the top killers. How about someone with Alztheimer's or those with mental illness? They are slowly losing their moral accountability, but they have to be lucky enough to ask forgiveness the minute before they slip out of accountability. Fires. Car wrecks. Suddeen crib death. Murders. Towers of Siloam falling on us. Gang killings. Serial killers. Tsunamis. Mt. Helena explosions. Volcanos. Earthquakes. Heart trauma. Falling off cliffs. Getting hit by trains. Planes crashing into houses. Bombs. Terrorist killings. Mine cave-ins. Tornados. 9-11. Poison. Really, a considerable percentage of the human race goes into eternity this way. Your answer just doesn't seem sufficient to deal with that many cases. That's why the Bible answer is much more dependable -- that salvation depends on God, not on us.

No, I'm not a Molinist, but I am at a mediating position between Arminius, Schreiner, and White. I'm in an often overlooked position called being a Baptist. We believe in holding that tension where Scriptue leaves it -- in a tension. In Keathley's terms, I'm probably "once saved, always saved." I'm tempted by his "evidence of genuineness" position, but again, I worry about putting conditions on it that humans must earn by good works. It is God who says he will "guarantee," "protect," "guard," and "seal" our salvation, and it is He who assures us that He is able to keep us from falling. I would much rather put my trust in Him for salvation than in myself and my own good works.

I don't think you've adequately dealt with my son analogy, since it is a biblcal analogy, but let me add a marriage analogy. After I marry, I should take the trash out and do other "honey do's." But if I don't, it doesn't mean I'm not a husband anymore. (Just as a chair can be burnt, shattered, smashed, or broken into pieces, but it's still A CHAIR). I might be a bad husband, a husband who doesn't behave like a husband ought, but again, that doesn't change my STATUS. (I might could get a divorce, but God doesn't recognize divorce. Once married, always married, in God's eyes). So I take out the trash because I love my wife, not in order to do good works so I can stay married.

I think the historical question is not very helpful, since the Catholic church was enmeshed in a works salvation. That's what the Reformation rightly sought to correct.

So, like Popeye, I yam what I yam. Here I stand I can do no other. And, I might reluctantly let you be who you be and stand where you stand (albeit in the wrong place) (:-)

Steve Lemke said...

Ah, Deidre, you have hit me with an Arminian machine gun of questions. I'll try to give brief answers.

Let's be honest. There's nothing in Hebrews 12 that says anything about losing your salvation. The verse you cite sounds to me like something a Mother would say to a rebellious child -- if you don't submit to what I say, I'll tell Daddy when he comes home, and he'll REALLY let you have it! In other words, it is saying the one who despises the discipline due sons will receive even stricter discipline. You're never going to convince me from Hebrews 12. Hebrews 6 -- maybe. But not Hebrews 12. Give it up.

Arminius lost me when he said (per Stanglin) that sins could make you lose your salvation. We are all sinners, so (unless we have the fortune to have clarity of mind to repent in the right way at the right time) most of us will be lost anyway.

I think you discount my problem of sudden death syndrome all too quickly. It's not just wrecks, of course. It's people killed in war (who unfortunately have been trying to kill people all day, and hence have sinned). It's people with sudden medical conditions like heart disease, epilepsy, etc., which are among the top killers. How about someone with Alztheimer's or those with mental illness? They are slowly losing their moral accountability, but they have to be lucky enough to ask forgiveness the minute before they slip out of accountability. Fires. Car wrecks. Suddeen crib death. Murders. Towers of Siloam falling on us. Gang killings. Serial killers. Tsunamis. Mt. Helena explosions. Volcanos. Earthquakes. Heart trauma. Falling off cliffs. Getting hit by trains. Planes crashing into houses. Bombs. Terrorist killings. Mine cave-ins. Tornados. 9-11. Poison. Really, a considerable percentage of the human race goes into eternity this way. Your answer just doesn't seem sufficient to deal with that many cases. That's why the Bible answer is much more dependable -- that salvation depends on God, not on us.

No, I'm not a Molinist, but I am at a mediating position between Arminius, Schreiner, and White. I'm in an often overlooked position called being a Baptist. We believe in holding that tension where Scriptue leaves it -- in a tension. In Keathley's terms, I'm probably "once saved, always saved." I'm tempted by his "evidence of genuineness" position, but again, I worry about putting conditions on it that humans must earn by good works. It is God who says he will "guarantee," "protect," "guard," and "seal" our salvation, and it is He who assures us that He is able to keep us from falling. I would much rather put my trust in Him for salvation than in myself and my own good works.

I don't think you've adequately dealt with my son analogy, since it is a biblcal analogy, but let me add a marriage analogy. After I marry, I should take the trash out and do other "honey do's." But if I don't, it doesn't mean I'm not a husband anymore. (Just as a chair can be burnt, shattered, smashed, or broken into pieces, but it's still A CHAIR). I might be a bad husband, a husband who doesn't behave like a husband ought, but again, that doesn't change my STATUS. (I might could get a divorce, but God doesn't recognize divorce. Once married, always married, in God's eyes). So I take out the trash because I love my wife, not in order to do good works so I can stay married.

I think the historical question is not very helpful, since the Catholic church was enmeshed in a works salvation. That's what the Reformation rightly sought to correct.

So, like Popeye, I yam what I yam. Here I stand I can do no other. And, I might reluctantly let you be who you be and stand where you stand (albeit in the wrong place) (:-)

Deidre Richardson said...

Dr. Lemke,

I appreciate you responding here.

First, let me say that I do believe that salvation is of God. I believe that God preserves believers through faith (1 Peter 1:5). However, what I don't believe is that a person cannot throw off their faith. It is the issue of faith that Arminius addressed.

Secondly, let me say that Hebrews itself is one of many books that troubles those who argue for eternal security. I refuse to address the issue of eternal security here, when I've done an entire series on it. Should you feel the need to address my questions, read the twelve or thirteen posts I've done on the series and feel free to respond in the comments section under each one. While my view may not adequately suit what you take to deem "practical relevant issues," it is a conclusion well-arrived at on the basis of sound biblical teaching. Eternal security affirms things like "always saved" that maybe you haven't thought about. Persons have never been saved from all eternity...and yet, this is what eternal security teaches. If persons have always been saved, what about passages such as Ephesians 2 that address a "before" and "after" salvation? Such temporal markers can't exist if someone has been "eternally saved."

Last but not least, you talk about a mediating position in your theology. It's fine to have a mediating position; however, to do so places you outside of Arminius's theology and thus, Reformed Arminianism itself. I have written a post about four-point Arminianism and that my brothers and sisters who hold to it do not consistently adhere to Arminius's theology. I am not saying something to you that I haven't stated here at the blog numerous times. The bottom line is that you hold to a position that lies outside of Arminius's; therefore, you are at the very least inconsistent in your theology. The same holds true for four-point Calvinists. Four-pointers are not truly "Calvinist" as John Calvin espoused his beliefs, and need to declare themselves "Amyraldian" and stop trying to wear a theological label whose theology they do not hold to. The same is true for you. I respect you greatly, but I believe that Arminius's theology is sufficient as is...and doesn't need revision or remodeling. If you feel that he was wrong on some things, then give up the "Reformed Arminian" label and take on a label that is more in line with what you believe to be true.

Deidre Richardson said...

Dr. Lemke,

Let me address the divorce question here...

You claim that God does not honor divorce. Where is this in the biblical text? From the translation that I'm reading from, there are grounds for divorce in the Scriptures (Matt. 19:9; 1 Cor. 7:13-16). One such case is from 1 Corinthians 7, which concerns a Christian who married as an unbeliever, and whose unbelieving spouse desires to divorce and go their own way. Paul writes, "for how do you know, o wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?" (1 Cor. 7:16, NKJV)

Matthew 19:9 makes it clear that adultery is the grounds for divorce. Divorce that happens for any other reason (outside of divorce) is adulterous and sinful. However, there is clearly grounds for divorce in Scripture. The problem with your marriage analogy is that it breaks down with the issue of adultery. By one spouse physically joining themselves to another, the marriage bond is broken. One can choose to reconcile and remain married...but one is not bound in such cases. I ask that you consider these texts before you conclude that divorce is not permissible in God's eyes.

There is a connection between the idea of divorce in marriage and apostasy. The same word for apostasy in the Greek (apostasiou, or a similar word) is the same word used to refer to divorce in Matthew 19, when Jesus says that a writ of divorce was given because of the hardness of men's hearts. There seems to be a wedding analogy between Christ and the church, in the same way that there is a marriage between husband and wife. In the same way that a spouse's adultery is grounds for a divorce, a rejection of Christ and one's status in Him is grounds for a divorce too. You continue to say that "salvation is of God, not of us." What you don't seem to understand is that I hear you: I too, believe that salvation is of God. What I don't believe is that God "forces" me in relationship. I don't believe that God forces anyone to come to Himself. While He certainly draws us, without which none of us would desire Him (John 6:44), I don't believe (like the Calvinist) that God "drags" me to Himself. In your theology, a person cannot leave God no matter what they do...but the problem is, God does not even tell husbands and wives to "force" the other to stay. Understanding God's relationship with us requires that we understand that if God "forces" us to do something, then there is no submission to Him, or respect of human dignity (the way He made us). God cannot treat us like persons and "force" us to stay. If a person desires to leave Christ, then they are free to leave. However, once they throw off Christ, they cannot return...as you would know from Hebrews 6:4-6.

Deidre Richardson said...

Regarding Hebrews 12 once more...

You say that "the one who despises the discipline due sons will receive even stricter discipline." However, where is that seen in the verses in that passage? What is the "stricter discipline" of which you speak? The issue is submitting to God's discipline and to "live". Verse 10 tells us that the discipline of God is so that "we may be partakers of His holiness," the same holiness without which no man can see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). How does this then, refer to anything but spiritual life and one's salvation? You have to show me why the text mentions "partakers of His holiness," that holiness is necessary for eternal life (Heb. 12:14), and that we must submit to the Father and "live." Just throwing up one's hands and saying, "it'll lead to stricter discipline" will not do. I just think your analysis of this is lacking tremendously. What is the stricter discipline?

I think that you misunderstand something about "losing salvation." You have a view in mind that Calvin wrote about under his Doctrine of Temporary Faith: that is, that the Spirit enlightens the reprobate for a time and then "abandons them and because of their ungratefulness, abandons them and smites them with greater blindness." That is NOT what Arminius had to say regarding the loss of salvation. In Arminius's view, the Spirit did not abandon someone UNLESS that person decided to abandon the Spirit. What do you do with Hebrews 10 and the person who "has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?" (Heb. 10:29)? What do you do with the fact that the person in question is a Christian who neglects their salvation, since the writers emphasized the point that "the Lord will judge His people" (Heb. 10:30)? Here, it is the Lord's people that are being judged for such actions. These actions of trampling over God's blood and insulting the Spirit of grace are not just an issue of "sons who rebel but are eternally secure." Instead, such persons have driven the Lord to such measures that the writers go on to say, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Are you gonna explain these verses as referring to someone who stays a son regardless of how he spits on Christ's blood and insults the Spirit? I think there is a deeper issue here...and you know this too. Explain to me why these verses have nothing to do with apostasy.

To conclude, let me say that apostasy is not the Spirit abandoning believer, but the believer abandoning the Spirit and rejecting Christ and everything in Christ that he/she has. This is what 1 Timothy 4:1 is getting at---that the Spirit Himself said these sorts of things would happen. Why do these texts not say "lose your salvation"? Because this terminology is from modern times, not the biblical times. The text DOES, however, say "neglect so great a salvation" (Heb. 2:3). Maybe your search on "losing salvation" is coming to nothing because you're looking for modern-day terminology to fit an ancient text. This is what happens when people place modern ideas onto the biblical account (as is also done with 1 Timothy 2...but I will not address this text at this time).

Deidre Richardson said...

Regarding your "Baptist" mediating position...I understand that by making that comment, you are being honest with me, but I don't think that "Baptist" has ever been given to a mediating theological system. I've studied quite a bit of "Calvinism," "Amyraldianism," "Molinism," "Classical Arminianism," "Open Theism," "semi-Pelagianism," and even read some of Pelagius's Romans commentary...but I've never seen a theological position labeled "Baptist."

As a fellow Baptist, to make that comment to me is insulting, to say the least. I am a Baptist born and bred...but that has not prevented me from doing my homework to determine what theological system I hold to. In all honesty, Baptists have been poor in developing their theology, which is why the rest of the evangelical world laughs at us. And as far as what they think? Robert Picirilli, whom you mentioned earlier as advocating your view of substitutionary atonement, writes the following about Baptists:

"There is a popular belief in unconditional [eternal] security held by many (many Southern and Independent Baptists, for example) who think of themselves as Calvinists but really are not---as both Arminians and consistent Calvinists realize" (Robert Picirilli, "Grace, Faith, Free Will; Contrasting Views of Salvation: Calvinism and Arminianism," page 193).

In another place, Picirilli further details his discussion about Baptists:

"Logical or not, the sub-Calvinists introduced in the preceding chapter apparently agree with Arminians on all the rest of the soteriological doctrines but disagree about perseverance. In other words, they seem to believe that salvation is conditional, but they do not follow through with insistence that it remains conditional after the initial experience of regeneration. Both for consistent Calvinists and for Arminians, THAT POSITION SEEMS TO BE INTERNALLY CONTRADICTORY. For that reason, I do not desire to pursue treatment of that position at length" (Picirilli, "Grace, Faith, Free Will," page 203).

Picirilli clearly states here what he believes about Baptists: that we're inconsistent in our theology. So Lemke, you now have Picirilli saying what I'm saying about your theology. Holding to "Baptist" theology might seem pious and devout, but the rest of the evangelical world (including Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, etc.) is laughing at us...because, one moment, we're standing up, holding a Bible in our hands saying, "This is the infallible, inspired, inerrant Word of God"...and the next moment, we're standing up holding to "inconsistent" theology in the name of a "consistent" God. How can this be? For you to tell me that your mediating theology is "Baptist" (and reading Picirilli's thoughts) should shame you, me, and all Baptists who hold to such theological inconsistency. Picirilli doesn't even treat it in his book...and I'm not gonna treat four-point Arminianism much here at my blog either. To do so is to entertain foolishness. If God is consistent, so must our theology be. To hold to anything else is to fail to be theologically honest.

You might not like how my theology lacks in pragmatism...but I'm a theologian first and a pragmatist second...and at the end of the day, I hold to my theology because I'm simply going where the evidence leads. Your theology may be pragmatic...but it is quite inconsistent, and I think it is a disgrace to a consistent God to hold to such an inconsistent theology (that is supposed to represent Him who is consistent in nature).

Steve Lemke said...

Deidre,
I'm sorry, I don't mean to be insulting you or irritating you by having my differing viewpoiont. Since it seems that I'm irritating you by having a differing opinion, I'll make this my last comment (though it had to be broken down into a couple of posts). It's probably just best for us to move on from this particular doctrine about which our readings of Scripture differ, and rejoice that we agree on most points.

I'll not comment on all of your articles, though I must say you're a good young theologian who shows much promise, and I disagree on a few points. I also have written quite a bit on this issue. If you would care to read through them (though they're primarily addressed to a lay audience, not a scholarly audience), you can see a recently recopied version of the six article series at http://peterlumpkins.typepad.com/peter_lumpkins/2010/08/why-your-faith-is-secure-salvation-is-of-god-not-of-us-by-dr-steve-lemke.html.

I'll not chase out the divorce question further than to note (a) it never had God's approval as the ideal, but was a practical concession to human weakness, and (b) your answers still don't take adequately into account the difference between the STATUS of sonship or marriage, with the BEHAVIOR of being a good or bad son or husband, daughter or wife. So, for example, we should not "neglect" so great a salvation, but it never says we could lose it, just as a wife should not neglect her responsibilities to her husband, but she could do so and still retain the status of wifehood.

I agree that our theology should not be driven by pragmatic matters, but as a pastor, one guideline for good theology is that it is confirmed in church life. That's a big reason that I'm opposed to hard Calvinism, for example -- its response to the problem of evil is an insufficent answer in the church. So, if your theology doesn't work in the way that perhaps how nearly half people go into eternity, that might be an important sign that we need to rethink our theology and see if we've taken a wrong reading of the text.

(went over character limit . . . to be continued . . .)

Steve Lemke said...

I'm also sorry, Deidre, if I ever lent the impression to you that I was a Reformed Arminian. I have profited and learned from reading Reformed Arminians, have good friends that are Reformed Arminians, have preached a couple of times in chapel at Free Will Baptist Bible College, have recently written an endorsement for Forlines' new book, and I share many views in common with them. However, I am indeed what Picirilli labels as a "subCalvinist." That's not, of course, how we would label ourselves (nor, similarly, the slightly kinder nomenclature that we're called in Forlines' forthcoming new book -- "moderate Calvinists"). Nor do we agree with Roger Olson's depiction of us as "Arminians" (see http://baptisttheology.org/WhosoeverWill.cfm.

I'm sorry you don't like us calling ourselves as Baptists, but that's just what we call ourselves (see the statement signed by both Dr. Keathley and myself-- "Neither Calvinists Nor Arminians, But Baptists" -- at http://baptisttheology.org/documents/NeitherCalvinistsNorArminiansButBaptists.pdf). You may remember that this is exactly what we said in the editor's preface to Whosoever Will. Because Baptists do try to be faithful to the tension between divine sovereignty and human freedom that we see in Scripture, and thus not truly be fully Calvinist nor Arminian, others do likely disagree with us. Not our problem. We think we're being faithful to the tension we see in Scripture.

To be very frank, this "Baptist" view can't be a surprise to you, since the BF&M 2000 is the doctrinal confession that guides the institution you attend. Nor is it an obscure, secretly held doctrine, since it is the doctrinal confession of the largest Prostestant denomination in America. Dr. Keathley and I not only gladly affirm the BF&M 2000 (which affirms eternal security), but we would lose our present positions if we didn't. So, if I were an easily offended person (which I'm not), I would say that your remarks were offensive when you questioned our commitment to biblical truth. Clearly, we are inerrantists. Dr. Keathley and I both have affirmed Biblical inerrancy in books we have authored. These are not matters of inerrancy or noninerrancy. They are (important) matters of interpretation about which Christians can disagree.

Steve Lemke said...

I'm also sorry, Deidre, if I ever lent the impression to you that I was a Reformed Arminian. I have profited and learned from reading Reformed Arminians, have good friends that are Reformed Arminians, have preached a couple of times in chapel at Free Will Baptist Bible College, have recently written an endorsement for Forlines' new book, and I share many views in common with them. However, I am indeed what Picirilli labels as a "subCalvinist." That's not, of course, how we would label ourselves (nor, similarly, the slightly kinder nomenclature that we're called in Forlines' forthcoming new book -- "moderate Calvinists"). Nor do we agree with Roger Olson's depiction of us as "Arminians" (see http://baptisttheology.org/WhosoeverWill.cfm.

I'm sorry you don't like us calling ourselves as Baptists, but that's just what we call ourselves (see the statement signed by both Dr. Keathley and myself-- "Neither Calvinists Nor Arminians, But Baptists" -- at http://baptisttheology.org/documents/NeitherCalvinistsNorArminiansButBaptists.pdf). You may remember that this is exactly what we said in the editor's preface to Whosoever Will. Because Baptists do try to be faithful to the tension between divine sovereignty and human freedom that we see in Scripture, and thus not truly be fully Calvinist nor Arminian, others do likely disagree with us. Not our problem. We think we're being faithful to the tension we see in Scripture.

To be very frank, this "Baptist" view can't be a surprise to you, since the BF&M 2000 is the doctrinal confession that guides the institution you attend. Nor is it an obscure, secretly held doctrine, since it is the doctrinal confession of the largest Prostestant denomination in America. Dr. Keathley and I not only gladly affirm the BF&M 2000 (which affirms eternal security), but we would lose our present positions if we didn't. So, if I were an easily offended person (which I'm not), I would say that your remarks were offensive when you questioned our commitment to biblical truth. Clearly, we are inerrantists. Dr. Keathley and I both have affirmed Biblical inerrancy in books we have authored. These are not matters of inerrancy or noninerrancy. They are (important) matters of interpretation about which Christians can disagree.

Deidre Richardson said...

Dr. Lemke,

The offense at the Baptist remark was to simply state that you are confusing terms. "Baptist" and "Amyraldian," for example, are not the same. "Baptist" is the name of a denomination, while "Amyraldian" or "Calvinist" are names of well-known theological systems. To confuse a denomination with a theological system is like asking the question "Who made God?", and confusing God (Creator) with that which is made (creation). To do so makes no sense.

I'm not trying to insult you...and I understand that Baptists are committed to certain doctrines and even to the idea of tension in Scripture. For me, however, what is problematic is that it is not Scripture that contains tension...but rather, our interpretations. We are the ones who seem to miss the consistency of Scripture. Scripture itself presents no contradictions or tensions...to make such a statement about Scripture is to make the same statement about the nature of Christ, who is also called "The Word" (John 1:1). That's the problem I have: presupposing that tension exists in Scripture.

As a Baptist, my biggest problem with Baptist life is that we seem to somehow presume that because God is above us, His Word is too high for us to understand...that there are somethings that are beyond understanding. That very well may be true, but if I cannot read the Scriptures and understand how God chooses in salvation, or what I can do to please this God, or how I can be saved, then all I am left up to is a god of Greek and Roman mythology who punishes, damns, and destroys at whim...and who blesses and promotes people at whim. To take away God's Word as being predominantly intelligible is to take away one of the major distinction markers that the Christian God bears. How can I be saved, if I come to God's Word, and I can't understand that either 1) He picks who He wants and leaves the rest, or 2) I can be saved by grace through faith? If I can't understand this, then how do I bear any responsibility for accepting or rejecting Christ? Similarly, if I can't understand whether or not I'm saved in the end either with or without perseverance, then how am I responsible if I don't persevere? You claim that you desire practical theology...but the issue of God and man in salvation is as practical as it gets. And yet, on the issue of perseverance and security, you seem to say, "it's okay that we cannot understand it." That is problematic to me...and that position should be troubling to every Christian...particularly, every Baptist.

We say that Christ ALONE is "the way, the truth, and the life" (Jn 14:6)...that there are no other ways to salvation and heaven. However, are not the Scriptures God's Word to us? and are they not the ONLY way to know how we can be saved? If that's true, why then, when it comes to theology, do we just accept many existing theological systems? If there is one truth, one Lord, One Book of ultimate spiritual authority, then why is there not "one" correct theology? The systems themselves only consist of five points of Scripture: depravity, election, atonement, grace, and perseverance. If we cannot read and understand these five points, how will we understand anything else in Scripture? I've heard statements made, such as, "I don't need theology; I just need the Bible." The problem with that statement is that the Bible "is" theology...since "theologia" is Greek for "the word" (logia) of "God" (theo). The Word of God (the Scriptures), should clearly tell us what God has to say about the five tenets that exist in theological systems. So when we say that there is tension in Scripture, what we're really doing is accomodating the theological relativism that we've allowed to creep into theological systems.

Deidre Richardson said...

Dr. Lemke,

Regarding the Baptist confession...it is the confession of the institution I attend. However, we say that we're neither "Calvinist nor Arminian but Baptists" because we are a "Baptist" institution...but this does not mean that we are not dogmatic about our theology. For instance, although Dr. Keathley is a Baptist, Dr. Keathley is a Molinist.

Last but not least, thanks for affirming that you are a sub-Calvinist. I did presume you to be a Reformed Arminian. It's fine for you to admit to being a sub-Calvinist...however, that does draw the lines a bit. You wouldn't call yourself a Calvinist, but it seems that those who hold to Eternal Security are Calvinists. That includes my institution. All I wanted you to do is confess that you are inconsistent. While you are being true to your "Baptist" beliefs, you just need to know that you hold to an inconsistent theology...and Picirilli and James White are not the only ones who have written that in print.