Friday, March 04, 2005

I Have An Audience?

Well, regarding the situation I mentioned before, it's been semi-resolved. The issue was over whether or not a believing Christian could lose his or her Salvation. Those directly above me in a certain organization (I won't name it, or whether it's at Tech, home, online, or wherever) believe in Eternal Security (aka "Once Saved, Always Saved"), while I believe a Christian can still turn away from God and lose their Salvation. I've got an official position in the group, and was asked not to teach that doctrine. I wasn't happy about this at all, but I submitted to authority. However, when the issue actually came up while some of us were meeting, and I was conscience-bound to keep quiet, that bugged me. I figured I had three options. The first was to defy my bosses and teach it anyway. This wouldn't have been right, and in any case my co-leader knew I wasn't supposed to teach the subject (because I told him of my being prohibited when it happened). The second option was to keep the status quo, which was also unacceptable, as I believe this doctrine to be extremely important to the message of the Gospel. The third option, which I took, was to step down from a leadership role, thus removing my leaders' authority over my teaching without defying them. I believe it was the only honorable solution. In terms of organization, nothing has truly changed, as I still go to meetings and help my co-leader prepare. The only real change is that he now initiates topics, while I unofficially try to help him steer things and explain them.

I've been meeting with some people who don't agree with me, discussing the subject. If I'm mistaken, I'll joyfully recant and repent in (metaphorical) sackcloth and ashes. I've also been reading Eternal Security by a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. I'm in about chapter seven of twenty-three right now, and I'm a little frustrated. The author has a very clear writing style, and does an excellent job of describing many aspects of Salvation. In many cases, I'd happily quote his explanations for things, like why it was necessary for the Son of God to become a man and die for our sins. He also does a pretty good job of diagnosing the main objections to Eternal Security, which are basically:
1. If we have free will after being Justified, why can't we choose not to be with God, by leaving him out of our lives completely?
2. Some sins are too bad to be forgiven by God.
3. We're constantly flickering between having and losing salvation, and so doing too much bad stuff will separate you from God.
The author does a very good job of demolishing the second two arguments. Unfortunately, the first argument is the one I use, and while he constantly touches on it, he never stays with it long enough to offer much of a criticism. To my eyes, much of the book is simply setting up and knocking down strawman arguments and asserting things ipse dixit. Too often, there are statements along the lines of "Those arguing against Eternal Security for this reason are clearly wrong, as we all know that such and such happens." However, he doesn't bother to prove that "such and such" actually happens, but seems to simply assume it. I want the proof. I've been taking notes in the margins, and much of the book is simply filled with short things such as "prove this," "the analogy doesn't work," or "assumption."

The doctrine of Eternal Security has not been recorded as being put forth by anyone before the 1500s, by John Calvin. Fifteen hundred years seems like a pretty long time for an essential doctrine to be put forth (and, of course, any arguments such as "Christ/Paul/the Bible says it" are to be disregarded as cheap, as we're arguing precisely over what Christ/Paul/the Bible" says). Did any other important doctrines take so long to develop? It also seems odd to me that other than those from the Baptist, Presbyterian, and Anabaptist traditions (which includes the "non-denominational" Christians who are theologically indistinct from the preceding), no other denominations subscribe to it. The Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Pentecostals, and pretty much any other denomination you care to name disagree with "Once Saved, Always Saved." For that matter, many Baptists also dissent. Augustine, Aquinas, More, Wesley, Chesterton, and Lewis disagreed with it. These things don't themselves prove my position correct, but at the very least, they are worth considering as circumstantial evidence.

I've also been indebted to two websites in particular for resources, those being Once Saved, Always Saved is Wrong and The Nazareth Resource Library. I've got at least thirty-five verses/passages from the New Testament alone which clearly argue against Eternal Security. The majority of Christians do not subscribe to it. The majority of Protestants don't even believe it. For over fifteen centuries, the doctrine was unknown. The Church Fathers and some of the greatest theologians in history don't agree with it. I encourage you to look into it as well, and see what you think.

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