Thursday, October 21, 2010

Eternal Security and Its Implications For A Theology of History, Pt. XIV-D: The Genuineness of the Evidence-of-Genuineness Proposal

“The Evidence-of-Genuineness proponents base their doctrine of perseverance on God’s promises in Scripture that He will complete His work of salvation in the individual believer. Even though a believer may fail miserably and sin terribly, he cannot remain in that condition. A Christian may fall totally, but his fall will not be final. The true believer will persevere. The warning passages serve as litmus tests, according to the Evidence-of-Genuineness position. THOSE WHO ARE NOT GENUINELY CONVERTED WILL EVENTUALLY SHOW THEIR TRUE COLORS. Therefore, the judgments threatened in those passages are not directed toward believers but are intended for false disciples, who for one reason or another are masquerading as real Christians” (Ken Keathley, “Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach.” Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2010, pages 177-178).
This is section D of Part XIV of the Eternal Security series. Can you believe that I’ve already produced fourteen parts to the series? Before all is said and done, the series will possibly make 20 parts!!!
In section C of Pt. XIV, I spent time emphasizing that the “evidence-of-genuineness proposal” amounts to nothing more than the “gift of genuineness.” My reason for so stating is that God unconditionally elects His certain ones (according to Molinism) and gives them faith. If God gives them faith, why then, wouldn’t He give them genuineness? To argue that such persons were “fake” and disingenuous is to argue that, had they been more genuine (i.e., met a condition), they “would have been saved.” To argue such a position goes against unconditional election. If Molinism will hold to its unconditional election, it must posit that the evidence of genuineness is present in the individual because, like faith, it too is a gift.
In this post, I desire to tackle the question, “Is the ‘Evidence-of-Genuineness Proposal’ a genuine test for truth?” My final answer will be no...because a person can appear genuine and yet be masquerading as a false believer. A person can stay in the church, continue fellowship with the rest of the body of Christ, and try extra hard to do what Christians do...but he or she can still be completely insincere and disingenuine about their love for God and walk with Him.
To see this idea of disguised ingenuity, go with me to Matthew 7, a favorite passage that is used by Molinists and Calvinists to refer to false disciples:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, HAVE WE NOT PROPHESIED IN YOUR NAME, CAST OUT DEMONS IN YOUR NAME, AND DONE MANY WONDERS IN YOUR NAME?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matthew 7:21-23, NKJV)
This passage is used by Molinists and Calvinists to say that those who fall away from the faith are fake believers (as Ken Keathley says above in his quote). However, the problem with such an interpretation is that it overlooks one important point of the passage: that is, that those who are cast out of the kingdom are those who do great things for God: they prophesy, cast out demons, and do many other wonders in the name of Christ. In other words, those that Christ “never knew” speak truth and do miracles in His Name!!!
Let’s pause here for a moment...think about it: how is it possible that these so-called “forever unsaved” could ever do anything in the name of Christ? Aren’t true genuine believers the only ones that can speak truth and do miracles in the name of Christ? The text is saying something that OPPOSES the Evidence-of-Genuineness Proposal: that is, that one can do all the things that appear to be genuine, while actually being disingenuous about one’s faith and walk with God. One can look genuine (i.e., have what many would call “evidence of genuineness”), but still be a child of the devil.
So I now ask, “How do we know who is genuine and who isn’t?” According to Ken Keathley, those who fall away are “fake believers”; but what about those who seem to be genuine and yet, according to Matthew 7, turn out to be “fake”? Can’t hard laborers for God be fake believers as well? So then, I ask, how is the person who stays in church and labors for God any more genuine than the person who falls away?
If those who fall away from Christ (and those who remain in Christ) have the potential to be fake, then how can we distinguish between the genuine and the disingenuous? If the Evidence-of-Genuineness Proposal is right, then we are left at a stalemate: for we can’t tell who is genuine from who is fake and artificial. If this be the case, then what does the proposal do for us, exactly? In the end, all the Evidence-Of-Genuineness Proposal does is make us even more suspicious of those who remain in the church; for, if Matthew 7 says anything, not all disingenuous believers fall away from the faith. Some stay in the church (in addition to false teachers) and begin to start trouble. Others simply keep up the “I am a child of God” act and yet, recognize within that they are lying to the Holy Spirit, their own lifestyles bearing witness to unbelief.
At the end, all we can say at most is that “genuine believers are less likely to leave the church and abandon Christ”...but we cannot know this with infallible certainty. To make matters worse, unconditional election (in the Molinist system) tells us that God picks those whom He wants to be saved. How then, do we know we’re saved, BECAUSE we do things that seem to be in line with the Scriptures? If God really does choose persons for salvation “without regard to anything they themselves do” (the definition of unconditional election), then how can ANY of us know with certainty or guarantee that we are saved? How do we know that we are not laboring for God in vain? How do we know that, even though we think “His Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16), we are not reprobate and to be damned in the end?
Simply put, the Evidence-of-Genuineness position is self-defeating because, in a word, the test itself is not “genuine.” Instead, the proposal only amounts to more confusion. I will deal more with the Evidence-of-Genuineness Proposal in my next post.


Steve Lemke said...

On behalf of Keathley . . .

You raise some important questions about the "evidence of genuineness" position, Deidre. Although I'm not committed to that position, I would like to suggest a couple of counterpoints in favor of Keathley's position for you to consider.

First, I do think we have clear evidence in Scripture that there are miracles by charlatans for their own reasons (perhaps the love of power, for example). The Matthew 7 passage is not the only Scripture that teaches that not every miracle is from God, even those which purport to be. Pharaoh's sorcerers were able to duplicate Moses' staff-to-snake miracle. Deut. 13 (especially vvs. 1-2) lays down the criteria for a false miracle, which in fact the text says it is God who is enabling the miracle. Simon the Sorcerer attempted to find such a "bag of tricks" to use the name of Christ to exert power (Acts 8:9-25). The Apostle Paul warned that even a miraculous appearance of angels did not guarantee the truthfulness of their message (Gal. 1:6-10). Matt. 24:24 warns against misleading miracles by others pretending to be sent by God. 2 Thess. 2:9 also predicts counterfeit miracles.

Second, surely you're not missing the fact that Jesus said, "Depart from me, you workers of iniquity, I NEVER knew you." It's not that Jesus knew them and then forgot them. He NEVER knew them. That indicates rather clearly that these people were never genuinely saved.

Third, I would just acknowledge that the evidence of genuineness is just that and nothing more. It is evidence, not proof. It is the nature of deception to be . . . deceived! So as Matthew 7 indicates, some people are going to think they are saved when in fact they are lost. The parable of the weeds in Matt. 13:24-30 says that the weeds grow among the wheat (planted by Satan), and will remain there until the harvest (i.e., second coming). So the false believers will be with us always. Only when their doctrinal aberration becomes evident do they go out from us, but they were never one of us (1 John 2:19).

I hope you'll consider these points in framing your views.

Deidre Richardson said...

Dr. Lemke,

About the points you raise...

I never stated in the post that Matthew 7 refers to the "saved." What I tried do was point out the ambiguity concerning the saved and the unsaved: if evidence is what we're looking for to determine authenticity, and fake believers can duplicate evidence as well as true believers, then what separates them? How do you and I even know we're saved? Dr. Keathley's system, the elect are unconditionally elected...and the fruits themselves "necessarily" (the word he uses) manifest themselves in a true believer's life. The problem with his system is that it is faulty to say that "God picks whom He pleases"...and then, turn around, and, when someone falls away, say, "They were never saved...they weren't genuine." If genuineness is a true test of faith, then how can one be unconditionally elected (i.e., without regard to anything within the person)? I hold to Peter's words to the scattered believers in his letter when he says, "therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble" (2 Peter 1:10; cf. 1:11).

The saved, if elected by God without regard to anything within themselves, cannot fall in the Molinist system. But what about those who fall? You have yet to engage me regarding the fact that Molinism holds to the Calvinist notion of election...which means that, should someone fall away, God never saved them (He never chose them for salvation). How can this be explained away? Evidence is present in the lives of the unconditionally elect...but what about those who don't bear fruit? And how do we escape the idea that WE may not be saved? What about if you are not one of the unconditionally elect?

If God saves us according to His own picking and choosing, how can we know in this life who is saved? We can't...and even though you could say, "Well, I do these certain things, like attend worship, Bible study, business meetings, missions trips, tithing, go to seminary," etc...such things do not place the believer above the unbeliever, if Matthew 7 is true (which I agree it is).

How can we separate the sheep from the goat, or the wheat from the tare? The point of Matthew 13 was to say that even Jesus believed in the development of the Christian, such that we can't rule a person out bc at the moment, he or she seems to be an unbeliever. Rather, the end will reveal all things...and until then, regarding judgment and personal evaluations of unbelievers, we must look to the Lord and remain cautious about such judgments.

Deidre Richardson said...

Dr. Lemke,

Regarding 1 John 2:19...

I've done some work on this verse, but I will post the summary of my work here.

1 John 2:19 is often a passage used against those who fall away...the problem with this verse, however, is that it does not take context into account. Who are those who leave the congregation, in 1 John 2? The "antichrists" (1 Jn. 2:18), those who deny both God and Christ (1 Jn. 2:22). Verse 26 tell us specifically who these "antichrists" are in the congregation--- "those who try to deceive" them (v.26). It is written about the deceivers. The deceivers who left were never of the congregation.

In verse 27, however, John validates the salvation of all the congregation when he writes, "the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you..." However, John still tells the congregation "abide in Him" (v.28) so that "when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming" (v.28). Why be ashamed of Him? because by turning away from the truth, their hearts would condemn them (1 Jn. 3:18-21).

Although the congregation has been plagued with the deceivers, this does not mean that they are eternally guaranteed. Rather, they are to continue in the truth so that they will not be condemned...since, if their hearts condemn them, God would do so all the more (1 Jn. 3:18-21).