Why I Don’t Bother With The Losing Salvation Debate

Is this debate worth having? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I saw someone else on Facebook recently make a post about losing salvation saying the idea was heretical. A later post toned it down, but the die had been cast. This is one of those debates I used to take part in, but now I don’t really even bother.

In all openness, my thinking is much more on classical Arminianism. I reject open theism and I don’t hold to Calvinism. However, if you asked me if I believe in works salvation, of course not. Now some people will say that saying you are to believe in Christ counts as a work, but I just consider this pedantic.

This does not mean I deny the sovereignty of God. My thinking on the whole issue is I just hold to two statements. God is sovereign. Man has free-will. How do those work out? Beats me. Better philosophers than I have wrestled with that and it’s not a necessary question for me.

So what about losing salvation? This question I think misses the mark because we really lose sight of the goal. I think we all agree that we want to preach the gospel so that people get saved and come to know Jesus, we want to instill a life of discipleship in people, and we want them to live holy lives.

The Calvinist will evangelize because he doesn’t know who the elect are and he knows that this is the means God has chosen to bring people to salvation. The Arminian will evangelize wanting to give everyone a chance to come to know the gospel. Both are doing the same thing. Both will encourage repentance, holy living, and discipleship.

So why not focus on those things that we are encouraging? Why not instead of thinking about salvation and if it can be lost, have people live in such a way that it won’t be a concern. The overwhelming majority of Arminians don’t think you can just casually lose your salvation. Instead, it’s more that they think you have to outright apostasize or participate in some blatant sin, such as those in 1 Cor. 6.

I will interject this. I do think it needs to be addressed when someone is concerned they have lost it, such as the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. If someone is doing a sin that they are concerned about, we really need to be doing is calling them to repentance. A little bit of leaven goes through the whole dough and sin can easily destroy everything in someone’s life.

Yet looking at this, let’s suppose we have someone that both Calvinists and Arminians agree is living in blatant sin. What are both sides saying? Calvinists are saying “Was never saved to begin with.” Arminians are saying “Lost it.” Again, both camps agree on the conclusion. The person is not a Christian.

Therefore, instead of debating on this point when we agree on so much really, why not ask this question. How can we encourage Christians to lead more holy lives? What can we be doing to foster discipleship? How can we help those who are struggling with sin and those who are unrepentant?

Oddest thing. That’s what we’re supposed to be doing anyway? If we do that, then the question really won’t matter.

Now some might say, “But you’re not trusting in God for your salvation.” I don’t know any Arminians who rely on their works for salvation. We say God is the one who is saving us and it’s not because of what we do. How that works with sovereignty and free-will I do not know, but I do just choose to trust God and live as I ought.

Thus, I don’t engage in the debate between Calvinists and Arminians. It would be far more profitable for both sides, and may both of us see one another as fellow Christians, to just come together and work on what we can do to increase discipleship and holy living, which we do agree on.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)
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What Is Not The Gospel

Do we make secondary issues the Gospel? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently, I wrote about the topic of “What is the Gospel?” At this point, I think it’s important to answer what it is not. Now when I say the Gospel is not X, that does not mean that X is unimportant. X could be an issue worth studying on its own. It could even be something that is true. What I am saying is that we don’t want to marry it to the Gospel where that if X is not true, then we have no Christianity. So what are some things that the Gospel is not?

First, the Gospel is not inerrancy. Again, this does not mean that that is false, but it does mean that an error in the Bible does not mean we pack it all up and go home because Jesus did not rise from the dead. As I have said before, imagine going up to a skeptic. Their argument that Jesus didn’t rise? The Bible has errors in it. (This does happen. Someone like David McAfee in his book Disproving Christianity, which I have dealt with, argues against Christianity not by even touching the resurrection but by listing Bible contradictions.)

Suppose you respond to this person who has given you a web site of 101 Bible errors by going off and researching all of those errors and proving to your opponent’s satisfaction even that they are not errors. Will he convert? No. He’ll just go get another list of 101 errors. You will in turn be playing “Stump the Bible Scholar” over and over. In fact, you will STILL have to prove the resurrection lest he say that treating the resurrection as a fact is an error.

There are also plenty of devout Christians who do not believe in inerrancy. I disagree with them, but I don’t doubt their sincere love for Jesus. Of course, I am not opposed to Biblical reliability or anything like that, but the Bible is not an all-or-nothing game.

Creation is also not the Gospel. This is a big one in that we often think that unless the world was created in six literal days a few thousand years ago, then Christianity is false. Not for a moment. Someone still has to answer the question “What do you do with Jesus?” We all still have to explain the historical data surrounding Jesus.

Creation is a big one because so many ministries make their focus on creation. It’s as if if evolution were proven to be true, we would all be doomed. How would evolution show Jesus didn’t rise from the dead? The historical evidence is still right there. It still has to be explained somehow.

By the way, I mention young-earth creationism specifically because that’s usually the one this gets married to, but I would say the same if you married Christianity to old-earth creationism or to theistic evolution. Again, I am not saying don’t care about your view of creation or that it doesn’t matter. I’m just saying it’s not an essential.

Calvinism or Arminianism is not the Gospel. For the former, you can actually see a lot of Calvinists out there saying “Calvinism is the Gospel.” Well what does that mean for those of us who aren’t Calvinists? We don’t believe the Gospel then? Are we just second-rate Christians? What exactly?

Calvinism might explain how a person comes to believe, but how does that explain what happened to Jesus? It doesn’t. A Calvinist and an Arminian could use the exact same arguments for the resurrection of Jesus. Of course, I have many friends who are devout Calvinists and I have no wish to dissuade them from that, but I just caution them to please not marry it to the Gospel. Calvinists usually are the main ones doing this, but I’d say the same to Arminians and in fact to Molinists as well.

Eschatology is not the Gospel. Eschatology does have some tie-ins obviously with the resurrection, which is an eschatological event, but your view on eschatology is not the Gospel. This is probably the biggest one for me on the list because I am a staunch defender of orthodox Preterism. If I was shown to be wrong, I would have a hard time explaining a lot of passages, but my view of Jesus would still stand as far as the resurrection is concerned.

One exception I could make to this is the view that everything happened in 70 A.D. This position is problematic to me because I think in the end, it has to deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Our future resurrection is said to be like His bodily resurrection. If our resurrection is not bodily, then neither was His, and that’s a big problem. That means Jesus did not really conquer death. Note then the one exception I have is an exception because of what it says about the resurrection.

As far as I’m concerned, these are the biggest kinds of issues often concerned with what the Gospel is. When I meet someone and I want to know if they’re a follower of Jesus, I ask them about their view of Him. I look for what they think about Him. If they accept His deity, bodily resurrection, and His being the second person of the Trinity, I normally have no problem whatsoever. Now could some of them have a false view of how they are saved? Yes. Some Protestants for instance can have a works view of salvation. I don’t think that disqualifies them. They can be saved in their ignorance. It’s also why I’m not ready to cast out my Catholic or Orthodox brothers and sisters.

When it comes to defending Christianity and the Gospel then, the #1 thing to defend is Jesus rising from the dead. If that’s false, then let’s pack it up and go home. If it’s true, then we will find an answer for the secondary issues somewhere along the way and even if we don’t, we still have Christianity.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: The Chosen People

What do I think of Chadwick Thornhill’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As an IVP reviewer who has a passion for the NT and thinks that our modern individualism so often misreads the text, I took notice when I saw a book come out about election in Second Temple Judaism. I try to avoid the Calvinism/Arminianism debate with everything I have and have surprised a lot of friends by not jumping onto the middle ground of molinism. Thornhill’s book then sounded like something right up my alley.

Thornhill writes to help us see what election would mean for Paul and what would it mean to be a Jew and how would you be included within the spectrum of Judaism. It’s often been said that it was not Judaism that existed at the time of Paul but rather Judaisms. We could compare it to many Christian denominations today. There are some who will have an incredibly wide umbrella and accept most anyone in. There are some who will make incredibly small. I’ve heard the joke many times about Saint Peter welcoming someone to heaven and having them go by a room where they’re told to be quiet and when asked why is told “Those are the (Southern Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, etc.) and they’re somber because they think they’re the only ones here.

This is why Thornhill goes to the Jewish writings of the time to look and see how the Jews identified themselves. What were negotiables? What were non-negotiables? What did it mean to be elect and how did one maintain one’s role in the covenant with YHWH? Many times we have in the past thought that the law was this system put on Jews that they slaved under and struggled to follow and were just hoping that they were in the grace of God, but this really isn’t the case. Jews had quite different views and while no one would really say being born a Jew was a free pass, most were not trying to find a new way of salvation. Paul himself definitely wasn’t. After all, in Philippians, he writes that with regards to the Law, he was blameless.

Thornhill’s main thesis in all of this is that election is not about individuals but about rather a group and whether one is in the group or not. Today, we could say that there is only one who is truly elect in Christianity and that is Jesus and those who are elect are those who are in Jesus. For the Jews, it would have been recognizing who is truly in Israel and who isn’t. Our debates on free will and soteriology might in fact be a surprise to Jews if they were here today. Could it be that many of them would say “God is sovereign and man has free will and we just don’t know how that works out but that’s for God to do.”?

Thornhill does not speak on the Calvinism/Arminianism issue directly, but he does give food for thought. Could it be that perhaps we will move past this debate by realizing that our focus on individualism is something that we are reading into the text itself and try to approach it more the way the ancient reader would have read it, or dare I say it, more the way the apostle Paul would have been thinking when he wrote it?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 11/8/2014: Kurt Jaros

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast this week? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This week on the Deeper Waters Podcast, we’re going to be looking at some topics that Christians can divide over a bit and I’m going to be getting the perspective of my friend Kurt Jaros. Kurt has been on the show before and has in fact been a speaker at the Unbelievable? conference in the U.K. So who is Kurt Jaros?

KurtJaros

Kurt Jaros is the Director of Operations at Apologetics.com, a charitable organization that challenges believers to think and thinkers to believe. He is currently a Ph.D. student at Highland Theological College in Dingwall, Scotland. His doctoral dissertation will look at the doctrine of Original Sin in the writings of monks from southern France in the 5th and 6th century. He holds two Masters degrees in Christian Apologetics from Biola University, and Systematic Theology, from King’s College London.

He likes systematic and historical theology, philosophy of religion, and issues in Christian pop culture. Additionally, he enjoys political philosophy, economics, American political history and campaigns. He current resides in the suburbs of Chicago with his lovely wife and daughter.

So what all are we going to be talking about?

We’ll be talking about original sin some. (Last I checked, Kurt is against sin for all concerned) Kurt comes from a perspective where he has enjoyed debating in the Calvinist/Arminian debate. It’s one that I’ve tended to avoid, but if you’re interested in that kind of debate, then you might want to hear what he has to say.

We’re hoping as well that some of this can break off into the problem of evil. How does one deal with the supremacy of God in a world of evil from the perspective of someone like Kurt? Can it be dealt with?

Also, we’ll be looking at what Kurt has to say about the teaching of Pelagianism. If one rejects Pelagianism, can one call oneself a semi-Pelagian? How will this relate to the doctrine of salvation? What kinds of issues are at stake in this? How will all of this then tie back into original sin?

I’m also interested in having our discussion on inerrancy as well. Kurt and I have had several discussions about this topic and while we both believe in inerrancy, we both hold a view of it different from the traditional view. Those who have been interested in the writings that I have done on the Geisler debate will certainly want to hear this kind of discussion on inerrancy. We will also be discussing various items we have in the works for the debate on inerrancy.

Kurt’s a good friend of mine and I’ve enjoyed a number of comments he’s left on my Facebook page as well as much of the humor we share together. He also takes my blogs which I appreciate and shares them on his own group. If you don’t know Kurt, now’s your chance to get to know him. I hope you’ll be listening to hear what he has to say.

In Christ,

Nick Peters