Friday, October 1, 2010

Eternal Security and Its Implications For A Theology of History, Pt. III: Defining Conditional (Temporal) Security

“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; quoted by Steven C. Roy, “How Much Does God Foreknow? A Comprehensive Biblical Study.” Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006, page 181).

I’ve spent the last two posts covering the Doctrine of Eternal Security and its philosophical and theological implications. To be sure, most people think of Eternal Security as referring to the duration of one’s security in Christ (that is, that nothing or no one can pluck you out of the Lord’s hand, Jn. 10:26-28); however, what most people miss is that, if Eternal Security is true, then a great many people (in this case, those handpicked by God for salvation) have always been secure in the eyes of God, even before salvation. They have never been under the wrath of God, and will never worry about getting under that wrath any more. As the Doctrine is espoused by most believers, it relates to the idea that once a person believes on Christ, he or she can never fall away from the grace of God. But most people forget the implications of this belief upon time itself...for, if one in Christ can never fall away, he has ALWAYS been chosen by God for salvation. He cannot fall away because he never really had a choice to begin with. If God decreed it “before the foundation of the world” (to use Ephesians 1, a phrase Calvinists emphasize incessantly), then time only fulfills the Divine Script. In other words, time itself does not genuinely play out, but rather “play-acts” the decrees of God from eternity past.

But what do we do with John Piper’s statement above, that God chooses for the world to be actualized “in history”? If one is to hold to a proper theology of history, then he or she must recognize history as holding genuine events that play out, not pre-scripted ones. If God wanted to fulfill a divine script, did He really need time to do that? If that’s all life on earth is (just a set of decrees unfolding), then did God really need to create time and space in which to let them play out? Couldn’t He have just created individuals like toy cowboys and indians on a stage and moved them around...or made us chesspieces on a chessboard and just moved us around at His own fancy? Why did God create time and space and history itself, and allow us to have genuine relationships with Himself if all life is about is a bunch of foreordained decrees? Even movie writers design movies for the purpose of more than just “play-acting”: their hope is to always emotionally move their audiences, to get them to think about some issue or thing, and then hopefully, to act upon what they’ve learned or the new (or old) conviction the movie brings out. If movie writers do this, then how much more does God desire genuine relationships with humanity?

What we see throughout Scripture is a God who genuinely desired to invest Himself in us, and who desires that we invest all of our talents and abilities in His service for His glory.

If you look to the right of this page, you will see a “link list #1.” At the very top of that link list is a link to Conditional Security, also known as “Conditional Preservation of the Saints.” The link is to “” Now let me say this before going any further: As a seminary student, I am not allowed to use wikipedia in any of my research papers whatsoever, and it is not considered to be a scholarly source. Nevertheless, I think the write-up done on conditional security is so good that I just had to share it with my readership.

This is what the write-up says about conditional security:

“The Conditional preservation of the saints, or commonly conditional security, is the Arminian belief that believers are kept safe by God in their saving relationship with Him upon the condition of a persevering faith in Christ.[1] Arminians find the Scriptures describing the initial act of faith in Christ, "whereby the relationship is effected, and the persevering faith in Him whereby the relationship is sustained."[2] The relationship of "the believer to Christ is never a static relationship existing as the irrevocable consequence of a past decision, act, or experience."[3] Rather, it is a living union "proceeding upon a living faith in a living Savior."[4] This living union is captured in this simple command by Christ, "Remain in me, and I in you" (John 15:4).”[5]

Notice in the quote from wikipedia above that, in conditional security, “The relationship of the ‘believer to Christ is NEVER A STATIC RELATIONSHIP existing as the irrevocable consequence of a past decision, act, or experience.” In other words, the relationship between God and the believer is one in which the believer grows in the grace and knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3:18) and conforms to the image of God’s Son (Romans 8:29). While God certainly knows those who will be conformed (i.e., those who will believe and endure), the person is not completely transformed at the moment of initial faith; rather, the new believer has begun a journey with God that will involve the believer facing new trials and temptations everyday (in order to further strengthen the believer for future trials and temptations). The trials and temptations serve as a strengthener for the Christian, teaching him things about himself and God that he never knew, things that build his trust in God and his desire to endure to the end and be saved.

What is conditional security? It “is a living union proceeding upon a living faith in a living Savior.” For those who hold to eternal security, life with Christ is static; that is, the moment of initial belief completes the process for an eternity. While this might give confidence to the Christian in his salvation, it does not portray what the everyday reality is: that is, that he must be shaped and transformed and have his mind renewed by the Word of God and his faith renewed through constant trials. Look at the three stages of salvation to the right of the main page. The link to the three stages of salvation will show you that man “has been saved,” “is being saved,” and “will be saved.” There is a constant process that occurs from initial belief to final salvation. And why does this occur? Because a proper theology of history understands, as John Piper’s quote tells us, that God chose to actualize the current world “in history”; that is, that history would show us genuine relationship in genuine time, not play-acting from eternity.

In my next post, I will defend conditional (temporal) security and the idea that life in Christ is all centered in time from the Scriptures. For now though, let me say that life in Christ is all about the passage of time, and how circumstances and situations change in time. To affirm eternal security is to affirm that everything we see in time has been predetermined from all eternity. While everything has been known before time and space were created (“the foundation of the world”), everything (such as sin and evil) has not been predetermined. All exists simply because God allows His human creation to choose to do good or to do evil with its power of libertarian free will. I will cover what the Scriptures have to tell us about God and genuine relations between God and His human creation next time...

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