The Fickle Security of Eternal Security

By on Jun 23, 2014

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Once Saved, Always? / Function, Not Validity

Once saved, always saved—so the adage goes. Depending on your theological persuasion, there are other ways to say it: eternal security, perseverance of the saints, or more straight to the point—you can’t lose your salvation. It’s an interesting doctrine because it has wiggled its way into the theological bedrock of many theological systems, some of which differ fundamentally on other matters.

 

But rather than examining its validity as a biblical doctrine (for a good case against see Scot McKnight’s short book, A Long Faithfulness…for a good case for see chapter 6 in Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones’ PROOF), I’d like to examine its function because I’m not convinced the doctrine of eternal security provides as much security as some think. So as to function, what kind of security does the doctrine of eternal security really provide?

 

A Hypothetical “Backslider”

Let’s say you have a friend who becomes a Christian // asks Jesus into her heart and starts following him // gets baptized…the whole nine yards. She is faithful with it for a while, going to church, participating in local and foreign missions trips, saying her prayers, reading her Bible, sharing her faith, being transformed by grace. But then a couple of years later, she drops the whole thing. She renounces her faith, burns her Bible, tries to un-share her faith with everyone she previously shared it with. And what’s more, she never returns to it—in fact, she just goes further and further off the deep end. Dream up the craziest scenario you can: she becomes a senator and tries to pass legislature that legalizes the imprisonment of Christians, she assassinates the Pope. You get the point.

 

So what happened to her? If you do not believe in the doctrine of eternal security (that is, you believe you can lose your salvation), then you probably think she “fell from grace”, lost her salvation (Hebrews 6:1-8). If you do believe in the doctrine of eternal security, what do you think happened to her? The basic answer is that she was never really saved. If you ascribe to eternal security (whether you’re a Calvinist or free-will theist or whatever) you assume that her faith and conversion could not have been genuine, because if so it would have persevered (a bit circular, but it sounds a bit like 1 Jn. 2:18-19 so we’ll let it slide). As my friends and good Calvinists Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones say it, “Where there is no perseverance in faithfulness, there was no faith in the first place.”[1]

 

But notice where this leaves us: both those who ascribe to eternal security and those who don’t agree that there is no assurance without perseverance. In the case of our hypothetical “backslider” above, they disagree regarding whether or not she actually “lost” her salvation but they agree that her lack of faithful perseverance puts her outside the realm of security. This agreement on “no assurance without perseverance” is rooted in the Bible. Simply put, when addressing people who have turned away from the faith, the biblical writers never invoke the idea of eternal security to comfort them. They call on “backsliders” to repent (Hebrews 2:1-4, 3:7-4:13, 5:11-6:12, 10:19-39, 12:1-29). They don’t tell them, “Well once saved, always saved…so if you were really saved you’ll repent and if not, you won’t.”

 

Conclusion

All of this leaves me feeling as though eternal security tends to give you comfort when you don’t need it (that is, when you’re persevering in your faith) and no comfort when you do (that is, when you’ve rejected your faith and probably don’t even want the comfort it supposedly offers). In a sense, eternal security only gives comfort to those who are already secure in their faith and are following Jesus (although even those of us secure in our faith can certainly use some comfort now and again). Perhaps it gives some comfort to those on the fringes of faith, but it is fickle comfort because what happens if you fall off the fringes? Your comfort is gone (or so would say the writers of Scripture), regardless your belief in eternal security.

 

To be clear, none of this has anything to do with the validity of the doctrine, nor is it meant to patronize the importance of it. It’s just an observation that, to me at least, eternal security isn’t quite the security blanket many think it is. If you are, like Luther was, a tortured conscience filled with angst in regards to whether or not you’ve done enough to please God, the remedy is the stunningly gracious and faithful God revealed in Jesus Christ (justification by grace through faith is a beautiful and central piece of this bigger picture) and not so much eternal security, even if you think eternal security necessarily follows from it. Perhaps that’s a bit of an overstatement, but not much.

 

These are merely some observations and not settled certitudes, so what do you think? Am I underplaying its function?


[1] PROOF, 117.

41 Comments

  1. Peter McKenzie

    June 24, 2014

    Post a Reply

    Hi Austin,

    Just purchased the Kindle version of your book and it was a great read. Well done! Regarding this post, I posted a similar line of thought on facebook and thought I would just paste it here:

    An argument I always find interesting, is the one put forth by people who believe that one cannot lose their salvation (once saved always saved). The gist of that argument goes something like this: if a professing Christian appears to have gone off the rails by turning back to a life of gross sinning – or has in fact retracted their confession of faith, that in fact means that they were never saved in the first place.

    I find this to be somewhat amusing, because the OSAS belief system is supposed to provide a sense of assurance about ones eternal future. But my question to those people would be, “how do you know with certainty that you will not be one of those who will fall away in the future?” And if you cannot be certain that you won’t, at some point, deny Christ, “how can you then, therefore, be certain that you are not among those who are not really saved right now?”.

    It seems that if one answers these questions honestly (by admitting that there are no grounds for certainty) that the case for “they were never saved in the first place” in fact, diminishes assurance for one’s salvation – rather than cementing it.

    • Austin Fischer Austin Fischer

      June 25, 2014

      Post a Reply

      Totally agree Peter, and well said–thanks for saying it here. The logic of eternal security is quite circular and takes away with one hand what it gives with the other. And thanks for the kind words about the book!

    • And of course, Calvin was well aware of the problem of those who had strong Christian testimonies and yet fell away. His solution was evanescent grace. Few Calvinists seem to want to affirm this doctrine of Calvin, but at least Calvin was trying to deal with an obvious problem and plug a major hole in his theology. But in the end he failed to be able to offer any real assurance given his perseverance doctrine which undercuts assurance. He tried to say that the elect have a more sincere faith, but couldn’t make sense out of what the difference really was, since those deceived by God’s evanescent grace were convinced that they were believers and were saved as well. The only failsafe way to know if one is a true believer, according to Calvin, is to endure till the end in that faith. But that means until one reaches the “end” that person cannot be sure. For more on Calvin’s doctrine of evanescent grace and he problems inevitable perseverance doctrine creates for assurance, see here: http://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2008/10/29/perseverance-of-the-saints-part-13-salvation-assurance/

  2. Brian Abasciano

    June 24, 2014

    Post a Reply

    Hi Austin,

    I very much second Peter’s comments. The eternal security position you discuss here actually undercuts the assurance of salvation. As I said in my article summarizing Arminian theology using the acronym FACTS (see http://evangelicalarminians.org/the-facts-of-salvation-a-summary-of-arminian-theologythe-biblical-doctrines-of-grace/ ), This presents a serious problem for the position of inevitable perseverance, which holds that true believers cannot forsake Christ, and therefore, that professing believers who fall away never were true believers or saved in the first place. For if someone can appear to be a true believer to himself and the believers around him, but then fall away and show himself to have never been a true believer, how could we ever know that we are genuine believers and not simply exhibiting a false faith and are actually unsaved and will one day show it?

    In light of this, even though you say that your post does not challenge the validity of the ineveitable (as opposed to the unecessary) perseverance eternal security position, it really does. For the assurance of salvation is a biblical doctrine (1 John 5:13) and the eternal security position you discuss is at odds with the assurance of salvation. So it is more than that the eternal security position is practically useless for comfort/assurance, but that it is not compatible with it.

    • Austin Fischer Austin Fischer

      June 25, 2014

      Post a Reply

      Hey Brian…thanks for stopping by! I think you did a good job describing the psychological problems involved with eternal security and I have read your FACTS article a few times and really enjoyed it. Thanks for the effort you put into it.

      As to whether or not I have (at least implicitly) challenged the validity of eternal security, I’m not sure. I think it cracks the door open and perhaps prods us to be a bit more willing to examine the doctrine biblically, armed with the realization that it doesn’t really provide us the comfort we think it does.

      • Brian Abasciano

        June 25, 2014

        Post a Reply

        Hi Austin,

        Thank you for your kind words.

        Regarding my comments, what do you make of the combination of the points that (1) we can have assurance of salvation, and (2) the doctrine of inevitable perseverance of true saving faith is incompatible with assurance of salvation? You seem to agree with these. But since we know from the Bibe that we can have assurance of salvation, and the doctrine of inevitable perseverance is incompatible with it, does that not mean that the doctrine of inevitable perseverance is false?

  3. Jeff Weddle

    June 25, 2014

    Post a Reply

    it seems to me the purpose of OSAS is to grant assurance, even though further thinking on it often removes assurance as you point out.

    It seems that there are many who feel assured who are not saved (many will say to him “Lord, Lord. . .”), and many who are saved who feel no assurance (“when did we see you naked or hungry. . .”). Assurance and eternal security are not the same thing. Assurance is a feeling; security is a fact, whether felt or not. I think if this distinction were stressed more, the debate might get somewhere. But probably not.

    • I disagree that assurance is just a feeling. It can be a feeling, but it isn’t just a feeling. Assurance is essentially confidence. Faith is also a form of confidence. Would you then say that faith is just a feeling? Probably not. So one’s doctrine can either weaken or strengthen that confidence. If someone cannot know (have Biblical confidence) they are presently saved because their doctrine of perseverance makes such confidence practically impossible, then that certainly undercuts assurance. Brian Abasciano mentioned 1 John 5:13 above, which says that we can “know” (not feel) we have eternal life. But the Calvinist doctrine of inevitable perseverance implicitly denies one can know such a thing up until the moment one dies in the faith (since up to that moment one might be exercising a fleshly, spurious, non-saving faith). I know you were responding more to Austin, but the fact remains that assurance is more than just a feeling and the issue isn’t as simple as claiming it is a matter of subjective (assurance) vs. objective (security).

      • Robert

        June 26, 2014

        Post a Reply

        Ben I think you are misunderstanding the objective versus subjective distinction. You
        seem to disparage subjective experiences (“I disagree that assurance is just a feeling. It can be
        a feeling, but it isn’t just a feeling.”). There is nothing wrong with subjective
        experiences as God created us with the capacity to have subjective experiences.
        And some of our subjective experiences are extremely important (including
        faith, hope, etc.) There is also nothing wrong with confidence (if placed in
        the right object). Ben you also wrote: “Assurance is essentially confidence. Faith is also a
        form of confidence. Would you then say that faith is just a feeling? Probably
        not.”

        I wouldn’t disparage faith as “just a feeling” but at the same time I would see faith as a
        subjective experience. Recognizing that some subjective experiences are both
        very good and very important.

        “If someone cannot know (have Biblical confidence) they are presently saved because their doctrine of perseverance makes such confidence practically impossible, then that certainly undercuts
        assurance.”

        But again if ES is true it is true objectively not based upon an individual’s subjective
        experiences. And again assurance of salvation does involve subjective
        experiences (which is why the objective doctrine of ES has to be distinguished
        from the subjective experiences connected with assurance).

        “Brian Abasciano mentioned 1 John 5:13 above, which says that we can “know”
        (not feel) we have eternal life.”

        Ben here you appear to be distinguishing between knowledge (something good) and feelings
        (i.e. subjective experiences that are bad or in some way inferior). But this is
        a mistake because this **knowledge** that a believer has **is itself a
        subjective experience**. John says in 1 John that he wrote in order that they
        would know that they have eternal life. John was aiming at the subjective
        experience of a believer knowing that he/she was a believer (i.e. having
        assurance a subjective experience) because their subjective experiences matched
        up with the subjective experiences that John discusses in 1 John.

        “ I know you were responding more to Austin, but the fact remains that assurance is more than just a feeling and the issue isn’t as simple as claiming it is a matter of subjective (assurance) vs.
        objective (security).”

        Jeff did not say the matter is simple, he did say that the objective/subjective
        distinction is being neglected and that that distinction is important in the
        discussion of ES.

        Robert

        • Robert,

          You wrote,

          Ben I think you are misunderstanding the objective versus subjective distinction. You seem to disparage subjective experiences (“I disagree that assurance is just a feeling. It can be a feeling, but it isn’t just a feeling.”). There is nothing wrong with subjective experiences as God created us with the capacity to have subjective experiences.

          I didn’t disparage subjective experiences, nor did I say there was something wrong with subjective experiences. What I said was assurance is not just a feeling or entirely subjective.

          I wouldn’t disparage faith as “just a feeling” but at the same time I would see faith as a subjective experience. Recognizing that some subjective experiences are both very good and very important.

          I didn’t disparage faith as just a feeling, nor did I say subjective experiences cannot be good or important. It feels like you are addressing someone else’s comments and not mine. My comment about faith was to show that he was not drawing a very helpful distinction since he said assurance is about feelings. So it seems you agree with me, and would further say that something being subjective doesn’t necessarily mean it is based on feelings, especially since assurance, like faith, is to a great extent a matter of confidence. And this confidence is based not on subjective feelings, but objective reality. Since assurance is based on this objective reality (just as faith is), then you cannot simply separate the two as if they are not intricately related or have little do with one another.

          Ben here you appear to be distinguishing between knowledge (something good) and feelings (i.e. subjective experiences that are bad or in some way inferior).

          I never said anything of the sort. Where I did I say that subjective experiences or feelings are bad or inferior? You seem to be reading quite a bit into what I said unnecessarily and then trying to argue with those things that I never said.

          a mistake because this **knowledge** that a believer has **is itself a subjective experience**.

          That can be true in some instances, but John is giving assurance that is based on truth- knowledge that is more than just subjective or feelings based. Not all knowledge is subjective and not all subjective knowledge is “feelings” based. We would probably need to more carefully define things like subjective to continue the dialogue meaningfully.

          My point was that John says we can “know” we are saved. Knowing something to be true isn’t only subjective. It isn’t just feelings based either. Indeed, if it is true then there is an important and unavoidable objective element to that knowledge. Remember, contrary to what you have assumed, I did not disparage subjectively or even feelings. I said that there is more to it and that it cannot be boiled down to just feelings versus fact or subjective vs. objective. It isn’t that simple. Yet, it seems that Jeff was trying to break it down into those two simple categories and saying the problem lies in not recognizing the difference between those categories. You seemed to echo that same idea in your response to Austin where you quoted Jeff.

          John says in 1 John that he wrote in order that they would know that they have eternal life. John was aiming at the subjective
          experience of a believer knowing that he/she was a believer (i.e. having assurance a subjective experience) because their subjective experiences matched up with the subjective experiences that John discusses in 1 John.

          Well, that is sure a whole lot of subjectiveness you are loading into that verse. Actually, I think John is purposely grounding their faith and knowledge and confidence (assurance) in something more than subjective experiences. He is deliberately grounding it in truth, in objective reality. The objective reality is that if they are trusting in Christ for salvation and this is evidenced by the way they live, they can “know” that they possess eternal life. This objective truth is further grounded in their union with Christ, which is again an objective reality for the believer (1 John 5:11, 12).

          You seem to want to say that assurance is not something that can be derived from an ES doctrine. But it surely can. If a believer is taught that he or she can never lose their salvation, then assurance can be based on this supposed reality. Despite your personal views on the doctrine the reasons you personally teach ES, many do indeed use it as a bedrock for salvation assurance. But this only really works for the extreme view, which is why Steve brought the extreme view into the discussion above. In the view that you hold, any confidence one has in his salvation is undercut by the reality that he can yet fall away and then prove that his faith wasn’t real at all, despite how much it “seemed” or “felt” real to him. The only test for true faith is its endurance till the end. But John says we can know now if we have eternal life, and Paul says we can examine ourselves to see if our faith is genuine. I believe you can do this as well, but it is not consistent with the doctrine of inevitable perseverance and the reality of many believers falling away, even after years of strong Christian testimony and fruit bearing. That is the point. There is an inconsistency with the inevitable perseverance doctrine and what the Bible says about salvation assurance. You seem to want to address this inconsistency by appealing to subjective vs. objective, but I don’t think that works.

          Jeff did not say the matter is simple, he did say that the objective/subjective distinction is being neglected and that that distinction is important in the discussion of ES.

          But he said more than this. He made it clear how he understood the distinction to be relevant to the discussion and that distinction did simplify it to an issue of feeling versus fact. Here is what he wrote:

          “Assurance is a feeling; security is a fact, whether felt or not.”

          • Robert

            June 27, 2014

            Ben,

            I want to talk about the objective/subjective distinction a
            bit more. You said that assurance of salvation is not a subjective experience:

            “I didn’t disparage subjective experiences,
            nor did I say there was something wrong with subjective experiences. What I
            said was assurance is not just a feeling or entirely subjective.”

            Actually assurance **is** “entirely subjective” as are all
            of our personal subjective experiences. Subjective experiences include our thoughts,
            emotions/feelings, intentions, etc. (our subjective experiences). Objective
            refers to something that is distinct from our thoughts, emotions, intentions,
            etc. Some people speak of “objective” as outside your own mind and “subjective”
            as being inside your own mind. I am a big advocate of the correspondence view of truth (i.e. we have truth when our subjective thoughts correspond with an objective reality).

            “My comment about faith was to show that he was not drawing a very helpful
            distinction since he said assurance is about feelings.”

            Jeff meant that assurance is a subjective experience. He was
            using the word “feelings” for subjective experiences. It would have been better
            had he said that “assurance is about subjective experiences”.

            “So it seems you agree with me, and would
            further say that something being subjective doesn’t necessarily mean it is
            based on feelings, especially since assurance, like faith, is to a great extent
            a matter of confidence.”

            And confidence is that not also a subjective experience?

            Is confidence something outside your mind and thoughts or involving your mind and thoughts?

            “And this confidence is based not on subjective feelings, but objective reality.”

            I believe that we agree that our confidence as believers
            ought to be based upon “objective realities” (i.e. truths that are distinct
            from our subjective experiences). For example the resurrection of Jesus is an
            objective reality. If our faith is based upon the resurrection, this means our
            subjective experience/faith is based upon an objective reality/the resurrection.
            But this confidence or faith IS ITSELF a subjective experience.

            “Since assurance is based on this objective reality (just as faith is), then you
            cannot simply separate the two as if they are not intricately related or have
            little do with one another.”

            Actually you can separate the two, precisely because our
            faith is a subjective experience, while the basis of our faith ought to be an
            objective reality (like the resurrection of Jesus, the faithfulness of God,
            etc.) The distinction that Jeff was trying to make and which I agree with him
            on is that if ES is true it is an objective reality, while assurance of salvation
            involves our subjective experiences. This also means that while ES may be true
            of a person, their subjective experiences of assurance do not remain fixed but
            may ebb and flow.

            “Not all knowledge is subjective and not all subjective knowledge is
            “feelings” based.”

            Actually all knowledge **is** a subjective experience.

            It is true knowledge if it corresponds with objective
            realities. Our knowledge is a subjective experience. The experience of having
            knowledge is a subjective experience.

            “We would probably need to more carefully define things like subjective to continue the dialogue meaningfully.”

            And again the standard meaning of the term objective is outside
            of your subjective experiences (and hence not dependent upon your thoughts,
            emotions, intentions, etc. Subjective involves your own thoughts, emotions,
            intentions, etc.

            “My point was that John says we can
            “know” we are saved.”

            And this knowledge like ALL knowledge is a subjective
            experience. And there is nothing wrong with this subjective experience in fact
            God wants us to have this subjective experience of assurance of salvation.

            “Knowing something to be true isn’t only subjective.”

            And again **any knowing** is a subjective experience. The
            key when it comes to the issue of truth is whether or not it corresponds with
            objective realities.

            “Indeed, if it is true then there is an
            important and unavoidable objective element to that knowledge.”

            All knowledge is by its very nature a subjective experience.
            What you call an “unavoidable objective element” is whether or not that
            subjective experience of knowledge corresponds with something outside of
            itself, with an objective reality. Say that I say “I know that it is 8:45 AM
            right now”. My knowledge is a subjective experience. It is true or corresponds
            with objective reality if it really is 8:45 AM outside of my own mind and
            thoughts. And it being 8:45 is an objective reality that would be true even if
            me and my mind did not exist.

            Consider the famous question: if a tree falls in a forest
            and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? The answer is Yes it
            makes a sound (that is an objective reality, sound waves are produced by the
            falling tree): and even if no one is there to hear (have the subjective experience
            of hearing) it still makes a sound since that sound is an objective reality
            (independent of all minds). That reminds me I have a neighbor who has a bumper
            sticker that says: “If a man speaks in the forest and no woman
            hears him, is he still wrong?”
            🙂

            “I said that there is more to it and that it cannot be boiled down to just feelings
            versus fact or subjective vs. objective. It isn’t that simple. Yet, it seems
            that Jeff was trying to break it down into those two simple categories and
            saying the problem lies in not recognizing the difference between those
            categories. You seemed to echo that same idea in your response to Austin where
            you quoted Jeff.”

            My understanding of Jeff’s claim is that ES if true is an
            objective reality (i.e. that means it is a reality outside of an individual
            person’s subjective experience) and that assurance involves subjective
            experiences (i.e. that means that it involves our thoughts, emotions, etc.). Jeff also claims, correctly, that in the discussion of ES we must keep this distinction in mind, that this distinction
            is often neglected in the ES discussion.

            Objective realities are outside of our own minds and
            distinct from our own thoughts. Subjective realities are inside our own minds
            and involve our thoughts. If ES is true, it is true independently of our minds
            and thoughts (I may not feel saved right now, may even doubt my salvation right
            now and yet I am still saved). Assurance of salvation on the other hand is not
            independent of our minds and thoughts. Assurance
            of salvation will involve our minds and thoughts/subjective experiences.

            Robert

          • arminianperspectives

            June 28, 2014

            Robert,

            Thanks for the response. I haven’t been able to look it over yet and will be away all next week. But I do hope to respond sometime after that.

            God Bless,
            Ben

  4. Steve

    June 25, 2014

    Post a Reply

    Hey Austin,

    Thanks for writing an outstanding book. I appreciate your blog as well.

    I am in agreement with Peter and Brian’s observations. However, I think you may have overlooked those in the Moderate Calvinist or Free Grace camp who provide Christians with the greatest amount of security possible as opposed to those who are Reformed Calvinists.

    According to Moderate Calvinists, continuing to trust in Jesus is optional for a Christian after their initial response of faith. After one moment of faith you can later become an unbeliever, deny Jesus, and still be assured of being with Jesus in heaven upon death. Furthermore, as a Christian you can continue in unrepentant sin throughout your life and not be concerned with ever severing your saving relationship with Christ. According to them, if you persist in unrepentant sin you can expect the following consequences: undergoing God’s discipline (which may involve God taking your life prematurely); the loss of fellowship; the loss of daily victory; the loss of heavenly rewards; and the loss of reigning in God’s coming kingdom.

    So for Moderate Calvinists, Christians can become unbelievers, live like them, but not share in their same destiny. This is far and away the greatest amount of assurance one could provide for a Christian. Of course, the all-important question is: Do the Scriptures support such teachings?

    I’m curious Austin, where do you presently stand on this issue?

    Thanks.

    • That view of OSAS is at odds with so many plain Scriptures, it is a wonder anyone can hold to it. I do think it amounts to what Jude roundly condemned in Jude 4. This is a very dangerous doctrine in my opinion and has spiritually harmed many in the church. I highly recommend Daniel LaLond’s book, The
      Lying Promise
      , which does a great job exposing and refuting this teaching as it is being popularized by the likes of Swindoll, Evans and Lutzer (and Stanley, though the book does not interact with him).

      • Robert

        June 26, 2014

        Post a Reply

        Steve wrote:

        “That view of OSAS is at odds with so many plain Scriptures, it is a wonder
        anyone can hold to it.”

        This is a surprising statement for a number of reasons. First, those who hold to OSAS believe the doctrine is based upon some rather clear and plain scriptures (though this is not the proper context in which to argue over these verses). Second, some of the best Bible teachers you will find hold to eternal
        security. Third, I note that Steve’s moniker includes “arminianPerspectives”. Well Steve ought to know that even among professing Arminians while most deny OSAS, some do hold to OSAS. So considering that some of the best Bible teachers and also some Arminians hold to it, it should not be a wonder at all that
        anyone can hold to it.

        Steve’s next statement is just mistaken and unacceptable:

        “I do think it amounts to what Jude roundly condemned in Jude 4. This is a very dangerous doctrine in my opinion and has spiritually harmed many in the church.”

        I used to work on counter cult ministry with Walter Martin. Both of us are Baptists, both of us are thoroughly orthodox in our beliefs. Both of us hold to eternal security. We are also quite familiar with the meaning of Jude 4 (which was talking about real non-Christian cultists, not Baptists and others who hold to eternal security!).

        Steve claims that Jude 4 is actually a condemnation of the doctrine of eternal security. Look at what the verse states and ask: where does it refer to Baptists and where does it refer to those who hold to eternal security?:

        “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

        Does Steve really want to claim that this verse is talking about Walter Martin and other Baptists that hold to eternal security? Are Walter Martin and all Baptists who hold to ES “marked out for this condemnation”? Are Walter Martin and all Baptists “ungodly persons”? And regarding licentiousness speaking for myself and many of my pastor friends, we hold strongly to what MacArthur popularizes as “Lordship salvation.” Does Steve really want to claim that we turn the grace of God into licentiousness? I think it is sad that Steve would use this verse as an attack on other believers who hold to ES. Let’s say we are mistaken about ES, even if that is true, we do not fit Jude 4 at all. And while I believe that those who deny ES are mistaken I would never ever claim that Jude 4 applies to other genuine believers. We may disagree regarding ES but the fact is there are good and godly believers on both sides of the ES fence.

        Robert

        • Robert,

          The comment was not written by Steve. That little arrow shows who the comment is in reply to, just as your comment points to “arminianperspectives.” (see top of your comment above)

          You wrote,

          This is a surprising statement for a number of reasons. First, those who hold to OSAS believe the doctrine is based upon some rather clear and plain scriptures (though this is not the proper context in which to argue over these verses). Second, some of the best Bible teachers you will find hold to eternal security.

          I was not addressing OSAS in general, but a specific view of OSAS. That is why I wrote, “That view of OSAS…” Which view? The one Steve mentioned above my comment that my comment was a reply to. The version of OSAS which says one can abandon the faith and live in rebellion and hatred towards God after an initial moment of faith in Christ, die in unbelief and hatred towards God, and still be guaranteed heaven. Is that the view of OSAS you are defending? If not, then your comments are not relevant to what I said.

          So considering that some of the best Bible teachers and also some Arminians hold to it, it should not be a wonder at all that
          anyone can hold to it.

          It is a wonder to me because in my opinion it is a violently unbiblical position to say that unbelieving God hating deliberate sinners will inherit the kingdom of heaven when they die just because they once put faith in Christ before rejecting Him and returning to a life of wickedness and unbelief.

          I used to work on counter cult ministry with Walter Martin. Both of us are Baptists, both of us are thoroughly orthodox in our beliefs. Both of us hold to eternal security. We are also quite familiar with the meaning of Jude 4 (which was talking about real non-Christian cultists, not Baptists and others who hold to eternal security!).

          This view of OSAS holds that because of God’s grace, one can live in wanton sin and even unbelief and still remain saved. One can die an unrepentant murderer, adulterer, child rapist, and atheist and still be guaranteed heaven (with considerably less or no rewards, of course). Jude says that these teachers were changing the grace of God into a license to sin. Well, that is the practical implication of that view of OSAS. It is unavoidable. They don’t have to actively promote sin, but their doctrine certainly gives license to it and is in my opinion plainly spiritually destructive as it can lead believers to not take sin seriously, which can then lead to apostasy.

          Steve claims that Jude 4 is actually a condemnation of the doctrine of eternal security. Look at what the verse states and ask: where does it refer to Baptists and where does it refer to those who hold to eternal security?:

          “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

          See my comment above, and see the portion of the Scripture I put in bold above.

          Does Steve really want to claim that this verse is talking about Walter Martin and other Baptists that hold to eternal security? Are Walter Martin and all Baptists who hold to ES “marked out for this condemnation”? Are Walter Martin and all Baptists “ungodly persons”?

          Not necessarily, but those who hold to this form of OSAS are promoting a theology that has the same results that Jude is condemning in this passage: a distorted and dangerous view of grace that gives license to sin.

          And regarding licentiousness speaking for myself and many of my pastor friends, we hold strongly to what MacArthur popularizes as “Lordship salvation.”

          Then you are not holding to the form of OSAS I was describing in response to what Steve said above (and again, I am not Steve, only the one responding to Steve).

          Does Steve really want to claim that we turn the grace of God into licentiousness?

          Again, I wasn’t describing Lordship salvation, so of course I was not claiming that.

          Let’s say we are mistaken about ES, even if that is true, we do not fit Jude 4 at all.

          Well, let’s say that the hyper grace OSAS teachers are wrong about their view of OSAS. Imagine how dangerous and spiritually destructive that teaching could be “if they are wrong.” And they do indeed fit the description of the teaching being condemned by Jude in Jude 4 since they are teaching a view of grace that gives license to sin. This is true even if they do not personally fit the description of these particular false teachers that Jude is describing. The message is still essentially the same and is still dangerous and condemned by Jude.

          And while I believe that those who deny ES are mistaken I would never ever claim that Jude 4 applies to other genuine believers.

          I never said Jude 4 necessarily applied to genuine believers. I said the teaching is condemned in Jude 4. In hindsight, I wish I was more clear on what I meant so that someone like you wouldn’t so easily misunderstand.

          We may disagree regarding ES but the fact is there are good and godly believers on both sides of the ES fence.

          I agree. But again, I was speaking of the destructiveness of a certain form of OSAS which gives license to sin and therefore falls under the condemnation expressed in Jude 4. And I did not say that any OSAS teacher was evil or an unbeliever or anything like that. My focus was the teaching and its dangers, not the teachers themselves. I highly recommend you read the book by LaLond I recommended above.

          God Bless,

          Ben (not Steve)

          • Robert

            June 26, 2014

            Ben,

            Thanks for the clarifications Ben. In my experience people will alternate between
            calling it “eternal security” and “once saved always saved” (i.e. OSAS). Also
            in my experience those who advocate ES or OSAS do not simultaneously teach that
            you can live like the devil and be saved anyway. In fact, most would say of a
            person who professes to be saved but lives like the devil or does not deal with
            sin in their life, that they likely are not saved (cf. 1 Cor. 6:9-11 where Paul
            explicitly says of those who practice sin that they will not inherit the
            Kingdom of God).

            Ben you helpfully clarified by saying:

            “I was not addressing OSAS in general, but a specific view of OSAS. That is
            why I wrote, “That view of OSAS . . . The version of OSAS which
            says one can abandon the faith and live in rebellion and hatred towards God
            after an initial moment of faith in Christ, die in unbelief and hatred towards
            God, and still be guaranteed heaven.”

            Ben you need to also be careful in arguing against ES by arguing from what
            appears to be an extreme position (i.e. that one can be saved though they
            practice sin and are unrepentant about it): because someone could also argue in
            a similar way against the view that one can lose one’s salvation by arguing
            from those in that camp who suggest the opposite (i.e. that one can lose
            salvation easily by committing certain sins, or by not living a lifestyle
            advocated by them). One extreme leads to licentiousness (the extreme side in
            the ES camp) and the other extreme leads to legalism (the extreme side in the
            loss of salvation camp). It seems to me that the most Biblical advocates on the
            ES camp and the loss of salvation camp BOTH agree that a person who unrepentantly
            practices sin is not a believer and agree that licentiousness is an error as is
            legalism.

            “It is a wonder to me because in my opinion
            it is a violently unbiblical position to say that unbelieving God hating
            deliberate sinners will inherit the kingdom of heaven when they die just
            because they once put faith in Christ before rejecting Him and returning to a
            life of wickedness and unbelief.”

            I would suggest that what you are articulating here is not the ES position
            (at least not the one held by people like Walter Martin, myself and other
            Baptist leaders) but is an error that is sometimes referred to as “decisionism”.
            Decisionism is the doctrine that a person is saved by a single profession of
            Christ. So a person say at a camp meeting or retreat makes a decision and is
            then seen as a Christian, though this person goes years after this “decision to
            follow Jesus” without exhibiting fruit, without showing strong interest in
            scripture or prayer or evangelism or local church ministry, and yet if asked
            whether or not they are a Christian will point back to this *decision* they
            made years ago. While it is true that a believer makes a decision to follow
            Christ at some point. We are not saved by this decision, we are saved by God
            alone (as He is the one who forgives sin, gives people the Holy Spirit,
            sanctifies people, and at the end glorifies people). I would also argue from
            scripture that a genuinely saved person also will follow the Lordship of Christ
            in all areas of their life. This will result in fruit, maturity with time, and
            clear evidence of salvation.

            Ben you also assume that Jude was talking about advocates of OSAS. But it has not been shown nor have you shown that the false teachers talked about by Jude were advocates of ES/OSAS. Some have suggested that Jude was talking about a form of Gnosticism where they taught that one had to achieve spirituality by following their teachings but that the body was not that important and so you could do anything that you wanted with your body. These Gnostics were licentious but they were not teaching OSAS or ES! It is anachronistic to read into Jude 4 the current discussion of OSAS.

            Ben you also noted that I do not hold to this
            form of OSAS/ES:

            “Then you are not holding to the form of OSAS I was describing in response
            to what Steve said above”

            And

            “Again, I wasn’t describing Lordship
            salvation, so of course I was not claiming that.”

            And it must be kept in mind that the Baptist leaders in my circle while
            holding to ES/OSAS also hold to Lordship salvation (which is the polar opposite
            of the licentiousness the false teachers in Jude 4 were promoting). We should
            all agree against the error of licentiousness (whether it is promoted by a
            first century Gnostic or a modern proponent of OSAS).

            Robert

          • arminianperspectives

            June 26, 2014

            Robert,

            You wrote,

            Ben you need to also be careful in arguing against ES by arguing from what appears to be an extreme position (i.e. that one can be saved though they practice sin and are unrepentant about it): because someone could also argue in a similar way against the view that one can lose one’s salvation by arguing from those in that camp who suggest the opposite (i.e. that one can lose salvation easily by committing certain sins, or by not living a lifestyle advocated by them).

            I wasn’t arguing against ES by arguing against what appears to be the extreme position. I was specifically and exclusively addressing the extreme position in my comments. Again, just look at the post I was responding to by Steve (the real Steve). I appreciate your push back on what I wrote, but it would help if you carefully reviewed how the discussion developed. That would help clear up a lot of misunderstanding on your part. My comments did not appear in a vacuum.

            It seems to me that the most Biblical advocates on the ES camp and the loss of salvation camp BOTH agree that a person who unrepentantly practices sin is not a believer and agree that licentiousness is an error as is legalism.

            Agreed, but again I wasn’t trying to argue against all forms of ES by arguing against the extreme view. That is plain from Steve’s comment about the extreme view (which to that point had not been mentioned) which I was specifically responding to.

            I would suggest that what you are articulating here is not the ES position (at least not the one held by people like Walter Martin, myself and other Baptist leaders) but is an error that is sometimes referred to as “decisionism”. Decisionism is the doctrine that a person is saved by a single profession of Christ.

            You can label it however you like. You can call it decisionism (if you like), or “extreme” OSAS or hyper grace, or whatever. However, it was plain in Steve’s comment and in my response that this was a particular view of OSAS (call it what you may) that is different from the view that was up to that point being discussed.

            Ben you also assume that Jude was talking about advocates of OSAS. But it has not been shown nor have you shown that the false teachers talked about by Jude were advocates of ES/OSAS.

            Well, Jude may have certainly been addressing a teaching that is quite similar or the same as the extreme view of OSAS. We don’t know for sure. But the extreme view does have the same implication which gives license to sin, and this doctrine is condemned by Jude and countered throughout his epistle (as it is in 2 Peter as well).

            Some have suggested that Jude was talking about a form of Gnosticism where they taught that one had to achieve spirituality by following their teachings but that the body was not that important and so you could do anything that you wanted with your body. These Gnostics were licentious but they were not teaching OSAS or ES! It is anachronistic to read into Jude 4 the current discussion of OSAS.

            As you state, it might have been a response to Gnosticism, but it might not have been. Either way, the practical results are the same. Either view says that sinning cannot negatively affect one’s eternal destiny, which gives license to sin. Both views essentially amount to the same thing and that is why this view of OSAS is so dangerous. In fact, you admit that they amount to the same error and are dangerous in the following comment:

            We should all agree against the error of licentiousness (whether it is promoted by a first century Gnostic or a modern proponent of OSAS).
            So it seems we are in agreement. Jude 4 rightly condemns any doctrine that would turn the grace of God into a license to sin and the extreme view of OSAS certainly fits the bill.
            God Bless,
            Ben

          • Steve

            June 26, 2014

            Hi Robert,
            I find it interesting that you said: “most would say of a person who professes to be saved but lives like the devil or does not deal with sin in their life, that they likely are not saved (cf. 1 Cor. 6:9-11 where Paul explicitly says of those who practice sin that they will not inherit the Kingdom of God).”

            I think I am safe to assume that when you say that those who practice sin “will not inherit the kingdom of God” means that such people go to hell. I would agree with this as would the vast majority of NT scholars. Some OSAS adherents would have your same take on this passage (they were never saved to begin with if they practice sin), but other OSAS adherents teach something radically different from this passage or from a parallel warning passage (Galatians 5:16-21; Ephesians 5:1-8).

            For example, here is well-known author and pastor Tony Evans take on Galatians 5:

            In Verse 19-21 of Galatians 5, Paul gives three basic categories of sin that result from living for the flesh: sexual sins, superstitious sins, and social sins. This is not an exhaustive list, because he adds in verse 21, “and things like these.” So no one can say, “Well, my stuff isn’t on that list. I’m OK.” … But enough of the sins of the flesh are accounted for to warrant this very strong conclusion: “Of which I
            forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (v. 21b). . . . Christians who practice such things enter the kingdom, but they don’t inherit the kingdom. This is a very important distinction. There is a difference between entering the kingdom and inheriting the kingdom. . . . Christians who persist in practicing fleshly living incur two losses. One is in this life and the other is in the life to come. The temporal loss is that they will not live full, productive lives. That could come about in a lot of different ways. It could be a family tragedy, an early death, or not having needs met because God is disciplining. And even though Christians in this condition get into the kingdom. They will not be granted the authority God wants to give them in the kingdom that is to come. (Returning to Your First Love, 75, 81-83)

            On Moody Radio aired 6/22/94, Tony Evans said this:
            “Inheriting the kingdom [of God] has to deal with the bonuses that you get in heaven. It’s not the same as entering the kingdom. So unless you distinguish between inheriting and entering, you’ll think that you’re not gonna get in the kingdom because of these problems [i.e., persisting in sexual immorality, adultery, idolatry, lying, etc.] But you can lose benefits from the kingdom because of them.” (Brackets are mine)

            Here is Moody Bible Church pastor Erwin Lutzer on Ephesians 5:

            Paul wrote, “For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolator, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” (Ephesians 5:5). Who are these people who will not have an “inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God”? In context, Paul is warning Christians about their behavior. He assume that Christians can be deceived and live like the “sons of
            disobedience.” . . . If Paul meant that those who practice such vices will not enter the kingdom, our own assurance of final salvation would be in constant jeopardy. Any one of us could be overtaken by such a sin and die in disgrace. Perhaps what Paul meant is this: Those who practice such sins will not be barred from entering the kingdom, but will be barred from inheriting it. If one or more of these sins characterizes their Christian lives, and they refuse to judge the evil, they will forfeit the honor of kingdom rule. Similar teaching occurs in Paul’s instructions to the church in Galatia [i.e., Galatians 5:19-21]. . . . I’m sure we would agree that when genuine Christians allow such sins to become a part of their lives, their reward will be diminished. (Your Eternal Reward: Triumph and Tears at the Judgment Seat of Christ, 69-71)

            I shared both of these interpretations with two adult bible study classes and everyone, without exception (even those who held to OSAS), were shocked by the novel interpretation they put forth for “will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Some found the interpretation downright laughable.

            Nevertheless, according to these pastors/authors (and many others as well), a Christian can persist in the sins of the flesh and still wind up in heaven, but with less rewards and authority in the kingdom.
            Ben is right on target when he said: “while these men don’t have to actively promote sin, their doctrine certainly gives license to it and is in my opinion plainly spiritually destructive as it can lead believers to not take sin seriously, which can then lead to apostasy.”

            Unfortunately, there are many other influential pastors and teachers who are giving Christians a license to sin and few Christians seem to care. I am deeply troubled by this.

          • Robert

            June 27, 2014

            Hello Steve,

            You wrote:

            “I find it interesting that you said: “most would say of a person who professes to
            be saved but lives like the devil or does not deal with sin in their life, that
            they likely are not saved (cf. 1 Cor. 6:9-11 where Paul explicitly says of
            those who practice sin that they will not inherit the Kingdom of God).”

            I think I am safe to assume that when you say that those
            who practice sin “will not inherit the kingdom of God” means that such people
            go to hell.”

            In the NT the phrase “inherit the Kingdom of God” is
            synonymous with what many modern Christians mean when they say “Go to Heaven.” Conversely,
            if you do not inherit the Kingdom of God you are not saved and will be separated
            from God for eternity.

            “I would agree with this
            as would the vast majority of NT scholars.”

            That is because it is the correct view.

            “Some OSAS adherents would have your same
            take on this passage (they were never saved to begin with if they practice sin)”

            Right, that is the position of other Baptists that are in
            my circle.

            “but other OSAS adherents teach something
            radically different from this passage or from a parallel warning passage
            (Galatians 5:16-21; Ephesians 5:1-8).”

            And they are both mistaken and teaching something false.

            From reading your citations of Tony Evans and Erwin
            Lutzer, they are both mistaken and teaching something false.

            Note the words of Lutzer that you emphasized:

            “If Paul meant that those who practice such
            vices will not enter the kingdom, our own assurance of final salvation would be
            in constant jeopardy. Any one of us could be overtaken by such a sin and die in
            disgrace.”

            No, if we are genuine believers we won’t be **practicing**
            these sins. The passage is not speaking
            of someone who is overtaken in sin or gives into some temptation: it is talking
            about people who habitually practice these sins. Those who practice these sins
            are not saved (which is precisely what Paul says in 1 Cor. 6). Note that John
            in 1 John says that those who are
            genuinely saved **practice righteousness**.

            So it is literally Paul and John versus what these guys
            are claiming!

            “Nevertheless,
            according to these pastors/authors (and many others as well),”

            I don’t think there are **many** who are teaching these
            errors.

            “Unfortunately, there are many other
            influential pastors and teachers who are giving Christians a license to sin and
            few Christians seem to care. I am deeply troubled by this.”

            Again these teachings are false, but I don’t think “many”
            are teaching these things. Some are, and you provided some good examples.

            Robert

    • Austin Fischer Austin Fischer

      June 30, 2014

      Post a Reply

      Let me try to take a short cut here. In almost every parable about the afterlife, Jesus taught that there will be lots of surprises in God’s new world. So I’m not going to dismiss your proposal off-hand. However, I think one of the clearest teachings in the Bible (coming through various authors) is that there is no assurance without perseverance. As I stated in the post, I am not aware of any place in the Bible where the writer is addressing someone on the fringes of faith and invokes the notion of eternal security in any form or fashion.

      So could it be true that someone could, as you say, “become an unbeliever and deny Jesus” and not severe their relationship to Christ? Well, I suppose. But I don’t think the Bible gives us permission to believe that. In fact, I think the Bible (and I’m thinking especially of Hebrews) goes out of its way to deny such a thing.

      • Steve

        June 30, 2014

        Post a Reply

        Hey Austin,

        I should make it clear that I am not the one making this proposal—that after one moment of faith a Christian can later deny Jesus and become an unbeliever and still be on their way to heaven. This is the Moderate Calvinist position advocated by Zane Hodges, Norman Geisler, Charles Stanley, Tony Evans, and Joseph Dillow to name a few.

        I’m in agreement with you, there is no assurance without perseverance, and the Bible (especially the book of Hebrews) does not support the Moderate Calvinist position.

        Here is a sampling of Moderate Calvinist teaching:

        Zane Hodges writes:

        “. . . We miss the point to insist that true saving faith must necessarily continue. Of course, our faith in Christ should continue. But the claim that it absolutely must . . . has no support at all in the Bible” (Absolutely Free! A Biblical Reply to Lordship Salvation, 63).

        Norman Geisler:

        “Continued belief is not a condition for keeping one’s salvation. Two related questions here must be distinguished. The first one is whether continual belief throughout one’s life is a necessary condition for keeping
        one’s salvation. In distinction from Arminians, the answer is negative” (“Moderate Calvinism,” Four Views on Eternal Security, 109).

        Ron Rhodes:

        “I believe that Scripture consistently teaches that once a person trusts in Christ and becomes a part of God’s forever family, he or she is saved forever (Romans 8:28-30). No matter what that child of God does after the moment of salvation, he or she is saved [forever]” (The Heart of Christianity, 111).

        Joseph Dillow:

        “Even though Robert Shank would not agree, it is definitely true that saving faith is ‘the act of a single moment whereby all the benefits of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection suddenly become the irrevocable possession of the individual, per se, despite any and all eventualities’” (The Reign of the Servant Kings: A Study of Eternal Security and the Final Significance of Man, 202).

        According to Moderate Calvinists “any and all eventualities” includes falling away from the Christian faith and becoming an unbeliever. Dillow says, “It is possible for a truly born-again person to fall away from the faith and cease believing” (Ibid., 199). “What he forfeits when he ‘falls away’ is not his eternal destiny but his opportunity to reign with Christ’s metochoi [partners] in the coming kingdom” (Ibid., 202).

        Pastor Charles Stanley communicates the same view in his book, Eternal Security: Can You Be Sure?

        “The Bible clearly teaches that God’s love for His people is of such magnitude that even those who walk away from the faith have not the slightest chance of slipping from His hand” (74).

        “To say that our salvation can be taken from us for any reason, whether it be sin or disbelief, is to ignore the plain meaning of this text [Ephesians 2:8-9]” (81).

        “Some people argue that the believer must maintain his faith in order to maintain his salvation . . . . [I object to] those who hold that one’s faith must be maintained to ensure the possession of eternal life” (84, 92).

        “Does the Scripture actually teach that regardless of the consistency of our faith, our salvation is secure? Yes, it does . . . [According to 2 Timothy 2:11-13] The unfaithful believer will not receive a special place in the kingdom of Christ like those who are fortunate enough to be allowed to reign with him. But the unfaithful believer will not lose his salvation. The apostle’s meaning is evident. Even if a believer for all practical purposes becomes an unbeliever, his salvation is not in jeopardy. Christ will remain faithful . . . Christ will not deny an unbelieving Christian his or her salvation because to do so would be to deny Himself . . . Believers who lose or abandon their faith will retain their salvation, for God remains faithful” (93-94, Note: this interpretation on 2 Timothy:11-13 is common among Moderate Calvinists).
        Thanks for taking the time to reply.

  5. Robert

    June 26, 2014

    Post a Reply

    Hello Austin,

    I am concerned about the way you frame things in your article here. You seem to be arguing or suggesting that the
    doctrine of eternal security (ES for short) is used to give believers assurance of salvation (e.g. “I’m not convinced the doctrine of eternal security provides as much security as some think” . . . “armed with the realization that it doesn’t really provide us the comfort we think it does.”) And that it fails in doing so. My problem with this is that the doctrine of ES and the doctrine of assurance are apples and oranges. Your discussion assumes that the purpose of ES is to give assurance of salvation.

    But where in the Bible does it say that ES is one of the ways the believers has (or is given) assurance of salvation?
    It does not say this or suggest this anywhere.

    Austin you frame things as if the doctrine of ES is meant to give assurance of salvation to people. In my opinion that is a category mistake. Assurance of salvation involves the **subjective** experiences of a believer (does a believer feel
    that they are saved) while eternal security if true, involves the **objective** reality that a genuine believe is saved and will not be lost. I do not teach eternal security in order for it to provide assurance to believers (because the Bible
    does not teach that assurance comes from eternal security). I teach it because certain Bible verses when interpreted properly appear to convey the idea that a true believer will never be lost.

    Regarding assurance my understanding of scripture (and also what I have observed among professing believers) is that it
    comes two ways (1) through the direct work of the Spirit (Rom. 8:16), and (2) through actions of obedience by the believer (these actions may be good works or even trusting in what God has said, see especially 1 John where John says
    that the purpose for which he wrote was that they might know that they have eternal life 1 Jn. 5:13, in other words John said what he said in order to give believers assurance of their salvation, if you examine 1 John these ‘tests ‘
    include certain beliefs and certain practices).

    I and other Bible teachers that I know who hold to ES (we are Baptists you may have guessed :-)) do not teach it to give comfort or assurance, we teach it because we believe it is objectively true. If someone asks for the basis of assurance of salvation again the answer is twofold, the work of the Spirit (which is subjective and experienced only by the person) and the obedience of the individual (which is again subjective and experienced only by the person). Assurance of salvation is subjective, eternal security if true is objective. You may or may not have feelings of assurance, though you may be saved.

    One of the other commentators also noted the objective/subjective distinction as well.

    Jeff wrote:

    “It seems that there are many who feel assured who are not saved (many will say to him “Lord, Lord. . .”), and many who are saved who feel no assurance (“when did we see you naked or hungry. . .”). Assurance and eternal security are not the same thing. Assurance is a feeling; security is a fact, whether felt or not. I think if this distinction were stressed more, the
    debate might get somewhere.”

    Jeff clearly sees that one is objective and the other is subjective.

    If ES is objectively true, then it is true regardless of whether you feel saved or not (subjective feelings). Put another way, feelings and subjective experiences can change, they can ebb and flow, objective facts do not change nor do they ebb
    and flow as subjective experiences do. The resurrection of Jesus is an objective fact regardless of how we feel about it: on the other hand our feelings about the resurrection may change and ebb and flow over time.

    Robert

    • Austin Fischer Austin Fischer

      June 30, 2014

      Post a Reply

      Some great thoughts in this thread. Thanks fellas. Robert, I certainly think it’s fair for you to make the distinction between the objective and subjective aspects of eternal security. But I am not proposing that the doctrine of ES is meant to provide assurance (in fact I’m in complete agreement with you that the Bible doesn’t teach that and say that in the post), so much as I am asserting that it obviously cannot provide the type of assurance many people think it can. Along those lines, I think you underplay how many think adhering to the doctrine of ES or perseverance of the saints can provide assurance, but perhaps we just run in different circles!

      What I’ve noticed is that many people won’t engage in honest biblical reflection on the doctrine because of the illusion that the doctrine of eternal security can provide indubitable assurance. But once we can all agree that there is no assurance without perseverance, I think it creates a space for the doctrine to be looked at biblically. You believe it and teach it because you believe the Bible teaches. I can live with that! But there are many who believe it and teach it for, well, lesser reasons.

  6. Timothy Paul Jones

    June 30, 2014

    Post a Reply

    Austin, thanks for pointing out the chapter in PROOF on this topic. I would suggest that a distinction might be in order between perseverance of the saints/forever grace (which I would affirm) and eternal security/once-saved-always-saved (which I would affirm but with qualifications and asterisks, as well as some discomfort with the terms themselves and how they’re sometimes used).

    In perseverance of the saints/forever grace, the assurance is Christ himself, and one evidence—though not the only one—of this assurance is a life of faithfulness and growth. Theologically, I think the two of us would differ on this point; functionally, however, it might be that there wouldn’t be much difference in our proclamation. Neither of us would point the individual who made a profession of faith back to that experience and say, “See, you made a profession of faith back there, so you can’t be lost.” We would instead—I would suspect, anyway—proclaim to this individual that, apart from perseverance, he or she is lost. If the individual never repented, we would differ on his or her initial status but not on his or her final status. Is this a “fickle security”? Only if your assurance is rooted in your profession of faith instead of in Christ himself.

    In the latter—eternal security/once saved always saved, as it is sometimes presented—there is a tendency among some to identify the locus of assurance as the experience of professing Christ. The result is that, regardless of whether a person does or does not persevere, he or she is supposedly saved. This is patently false from the perspective of Scripture, and it results in persons living in fear, wondering, “Did I really mean it when I made my profession of faith?” instead of resting in the free righteousness of Jesus Christ. This type of “eternal security” is not fickle security; it is false security.

    • Austin Fischer Austin Fischer

      June 30, 2014

      Post a Reply

      Hey Timothy…good thoughts. The distinctions you make certainly make cognitive sense, but cognition is inescapably bound up with feelings/emotions, to the point that I’m just not sure the distinction in “assurance as the experience of professing Christ” vs “in Christ himself” really does much to alleviate the basic point that there is no assurance without perseverance.

      In other words…how do I know if my assurance is rooted in Christ himself or in my experience of professing him? I suppose you’re suggesting that the former results in assurance while the latter in a life of neurotic introspection, and I do think there is something to be said for that. But I think the main answer (unless we want to delve into some serious psychologizing) is (as you said it) a life of faithfulness and growth…which I think still brings us back around to about the same place.

      • Timothy Paul Jones

        June 30, 2014

        Post a Reply

        On this, I think we might be in functional agreement—i.e., agreement, at some level, in practice though not on what’s happening behind the practice. Christ himself and his righteousness is our only assurance, and there is no foundation for a personal sense of assurance if there is no perseverance.

  7. Ary

    July 1, 2014

    Post a Reply

    Hi Austin,

    (I am not very good with computer stuff, maybe I send this twice, if so, sorry for that.)

    Let me focus the attention for a moment on het
    pastoral side of the question. Afther my conversion, from a nonchristian
    backgroud, I joined the local bapstist church. A definitly arminian
    church, but not on the subject of the perseverance of the saints. I
    remember the first time that i encountered a christian who argued for
    the possibility of turning from your faith. The thought was very
    frightening for me. If that was true then I wasn’t sure for then it
    depended on my own faithfullness, while I was councious of my own
    weakness and vurnability. I see the same reaction by others from an
    evangelical or reformed backgroud. It is a very existenial en emotional
    question. When someone asks me if I believe in the perseverance of the
    saints. I answer yes and no. Yes, I believe in Gods keeping power, He
    will give all the grace I need to contiune in the faith. If I fall, he
    will lift me up. If I lose my way, He will call me back. He will not
    allow me to endure any circumstance above my spiritual level. His grace
    is sufficient. Don’t worry, Jesus will keep you. But on the otherhand,
    there is the possibility that a believer rejects his faith. But when
    someone does that, it is a concious and free decision, fully aware of
    what one does.
    When someone speaks about the possibility of falling
    from the faith, you should also speak about Gods faithfullness and Gods
    ability tot carry even the weakest feeling saint through.

    May the Lord bless you
    Thank you very much for your wonderfull book

    Ary

  8. Ryan Porter

    July 7, 2014

    Post a Reply

    Hey Austin,
    I think that the issue with eternal security hinges more on the sufficiency of Jesus’ atonement than it does “eternal security” as a loose doctrine. Can I keep my salvation? The answer is “no”. When we rephrase the question to “did Jesus satisfy the wrath of God due to me completely ?” That’s a definite “yes”. There’s a ton of difference. As a John 6 guy, I rest only in Christ (I know that sounds divisive…sorry). Especially when it comes to my shaky legs in view of my weakness and failures. However, my only option is to look to my Sacrifice for peace on the matter. I believe those who adhere to either eternal or conditional security will wrestle with their salvation, as scripture urges. My struggle as a proponent of the latter (conditional) was I always looked to my performance and no further. As a John 6 guy, I look in the mirror and then look up at the Savior and rest. I do this over and over and over…it’s my only hope. Otherwise I’m going to have to gamble on me being my own savior in order to feel rest and potentially slip of in to salvation by “I don’t need Jesus, I got this”. Hope this was helpful.
    Oh yeah, those who make a profession and maybe a short run in their faith, or even consistent church attendance, piety, so on, without ever growing in love and dependency for Jesus were not born again to begin with. I find nowhere in scripture where one is born again, then spiritually dies. In Adam, then in Christ, then back in Adam? Condemned, justified, then condemned again. Holy Spirit as guarantee…until the Lord withdraws the Guarantee? If so, I would hope that God would kill him, her, or me, while in the “born again” state. I think the parable of the sewers covers it all though. Trust in Christ alone.

  9. David Baker

    July 22, 2014

    Post a Reply

    Hi Austin
    I just finished your book and wanted to say thanks. It really helped to crystallise a number of things I’d been thinking. Especially liked the section on Kingdom, cross and discipleship – completely agree that these are the heart of the gospel but seem incompatible with Calvinism. I’d be interested to know how much in the US (I live in UK) your views would be seen as a minority position, or would significant numbers agree with you? Over here the Calvinist side can seem very dominant, at least in the college I go to.

    • Austin Fischer Austin Fischer

      July 24, 2014

      Post a Reply

      Hey David…thanks for the kind comments and good question. I’d say that in my particular setting (evangelical, Bible-belt), Calvinism is the dominant position among young, college-attending, white evangelicals. There are various reasons for this, some of which I allude to in the book. But in evangelicalism as a whole in America, I would suspect there is a fairly even split with a lot of people in a confused state of limbo and inconsistency.

  10. Scottie Lover

    July 23, 2014

    Post a Reply

    Hi Austin,
    I also just finished your book. It goes on my list of Very Best Reads,
    so much so that I bought a copy for my Pastor. He was very interested when I talked to him about it, having read “Young Restless and Reformed”, and I also bought a copy for a friend.
    I’ve never embraced Calvinism, and yet I was so very, very blessed by this book, I hated to finish it, truly.
    Blessings

    • Austin Fischer Austin Fischer

      July 24, 2014

      Post a Reply

      Thanks Scottie! Very kind words and I appreciate you taking the time to share them with me.

  11. Brian Stone

    August 4, 2014

    Post a Reply

    Hey Austin, picked up your book and really appreciated your approach. You did a great job of boiling down a primary issue and articulating in a very clear way. I think it should help all who read think more clearly. I agree with your position there. As a result I found myself reading your twitter feed and found this post. I also agree with the circular function of eternal security between the Calvinist and Armenian positions…either way, if you do not have enough good works you are not saved. I have always felt like both positions have brought in good works through the back door. It seems you too see this fault and use it to soften the disagreement between camps.

    I would challenge your conclusion a bit…I think there are biblical examples of invoking assurance and eternal security as a way of dealing with sin.
    Although I believe that it possible the person might not have been saved in the first place (I reject the option of loosing your salvation) I lean more heavily on the grace position that the person denouncing their faith and living in sin could very well be saved…Biblically I would challenge your position with the Apostle Paul’s approach in 1 Cor. 6:15-20. Paul reaffirms their secure salvation, namely by way of reminding them who they are in Christ, in hopes of confession and repentance. I think he gives them the benefit of the doubt that they are indeed genuine believers (secure and assured) who are “letting sin reign in their mortal bodies” (Ro. 6:12-14) and have “forgotten their purification from their former sins” (2 Peter 1:9). Rather than stealing their assurance and security he actually reminds and reaffirms who they are in Christ, for this grace is what brings about sanctification (Titus 2:11-14). —just my two cents of a biblical example of invoking assurance as a way of dealing with sin.

    I appreciate your ministry…I also appreciate your teaching style. You have a humorous, down to earth style that is great.

    • Austin Fischer Austin Fischer

      September 8, 2014

      Post a Reply

      Hey Brian,

      Sorry I’m just responding to this and thanks so much for the kind words about the book. I hope it was helpful.

      As to the topic of the blog, I also lean towards a grace position. As I like to say it, I think God looks for excuses to let people in, not keep people out. I suppose that while the passages you cite certainly emphasize God’s faithfulness and their place in the family of God, I don’t see them invoking eternal security so much. All that to say, I think you’re stretching it just a bit…but I’ve been wrong before :).

  12. Jeff Miller

    September 5, 2014

    Post a Reply

    Hey Austin,
    New reader here, deeply enjoying your work. Sorry for the late comment on this thread, but I wanted to offer an observation that I don’t see made as of yet. I think that there is a function for eternal security other than what is discussed here.
    In your post, you mostly focus on how eternal security functions for a person in relating to and understanding his own faith, and you point out (correctly, I think) that it “tends to give comfort when you don’t need it…and no comfort when you do”. However, it seems to me that in my own experience, when people turn to the doctrine of OSAS for comfort it is done less often out of concern for the status of one’s own salvation than for the status of a loved one’s salvation, such as a parent seeking comfort from OSAS theology out of concern for a backsliding child.
    It’s not difficult for me to imagine that IF a parent (for example), through their intimate knowledge of their child’s early spiritual life, felt (correctly or not) 100% certain that their child’s faith in Christ was legitimate and sincere, and then went on to see their child backslide (as in your example in the post), then that parent might take HUGE comfort in the theology of OSAS, believing that their child’s eventual repentance is just inevitable, since they “know” that the initial faith in Christ was real. Pastorally, I think I’ve heard eternal security claimed for comfort in these circumstances more often then a person trying to reassure themselves of their own salvation through OSAS.
    Of course, as with your post, this is not to speak to the doctrinal validity of eternal security, but I think this is another significant aspect of how the doctrine is used functionally within Churchworld.
    Glad to have found your blog, Austin!

    • Austin Fischer Austin Fischer

      September 8, 2014

      Post a Reply

      Hey Jeff…thanks for the kind words and I’m glad you found the blog! I think your observations are right and a helpful supplement to what has been said so far. People tend to have less angst over themselves than their loved ones…such is the nature of love. Thanks for the thoughts.

  13. gingoro

    September 8, 2014

    Post a Reply

    RIght on! As a moderate Calvinist I hold to a modified doctrine of preservation of the saints. Namely that I am protected from outside forces but if I leave of my own will and curse God then I have jumped out of the boat so to speak. Google Charles Tempelton and you will find a first class example. Tempelton was a Billy Graham associate evangelist and I remember him as an outspoken atheist. Meticulous providence is also something that I find impossible to demonstrate from scripture.
    Good job in the debate.
    DaveW

    • Austin Fischer Austin Fischer

      September 8, 2014

      Post a Reply

      Thanks for the kind words Dave, and I like the way you frame it. And out of curiosity…when you say you’re a moderate Calvinist, what do you mean by it? I’ve heard ppl like Norman Geisler use the label and when I read him I think, you’re not really a Calvinist yet for some reason you want to keep the term around…come on over to the dark side :).

  14. Soteriology101

    December 17, 2014

    Post a Reply

    I like to compare this with the concept of love. If someone says they have fallen out of love with their spouse then I’d have to kindly explain to them that is not “love” as defined in scripture. For it to be called “love” is has to match God’s definition, and true love does not fail. Likewise, can we call someone “saved” if they do not persevere? Isn’t salvation defined as one who remains in Him until the end? Those who “fall away” may appear to lose something that they really never had to begin with… right?

  15. Tim Lewis

    March 24, 2015

    Post a Reply

    What’s usually more likely than complete apostasy (e.g. if Paul went back to persecuting Christians after that whole saga of being blinded by that dazzling Christ manifestation) is that the Christian may cling to some pet sin that they don’t want to relinquish. This could be gossip, internet porn, eating of the unclean animals or smoking/alcohol problems. I’m aware that not everyone will have time to complete the sanctification process before they die. I do think there is an allowance for unknown sin, such as the difference between someone who is reverently honouring Sunday as Sabbath whose heart desires to please God vs someone who finds out that Saturday is the Sabbath but still sticks with Sunday due to it being more convenient with work issues (thus putting work before God’s preferred choice of day).

    I do think God knows who will endure to the end, although I don’t think it’s set in stone. A few verses like 1 John 3:6 No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him – seem to take the “Never saved in the first place” view. Other verses seem to have the opposite view, such as Ezekiel 33:18 When the righteous turns from his righteousness and commits inequity, then he shall die in it. Umm… you mean an unrighteous person in disguise according to the eternal security view, as it is impossible for truly righteous people to turn from their righteousness due to their wiring. This also applies to Satan, who turned from his righteousness Ezekiel 28:15 You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created,Till iniquity was found in you.

    I do think it’s possible in theory to lose salvation as otherwise, the devil wouldn’t bother trying to get people to fall away. I do think however that the closer you are to God in general, the more developed your conscience, and the more fear/anxiety is created by slipping into sin such that you desire to repent and correct.

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  1. Society of Evangelical Arminians | Austin Fischer, “The Fickle Security of Eternal Security” - […] So what happened to her? If you do not believe in the doctrine of eternal security (that is, you…
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