Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Eternal Security Debate - Negative Opening Essay

Eternal Security Debate

Debate Resolution:
Do the Gospels Teach that Salvation Can Be Lost?

Negavie Opening Essay
by Vocab (LINK)

My Key Assumptions
Before I begin discussing the question of do the gospels teach that salvation can be lost, it is important to make known some key issues which under gird the position that no truly justified person can be lost:
  1. God-breathed Scripture is the Christian’s ultimate authority
  2. The correct interpretation of any given scripture can not result in any real contradictions with the correct interpretation of another scripture 
  3. It is necessary to interpret less explicit passages in light of more explicit passages
  4. Scripture uniformly teachers us that Jesus alone is the Author and Finisher of our faith
  5. Realizing that it is God whom preserves those whom he elects must result in an increase in the Christian’s hope, peace, and a never-ending desire to please our Savior
Nick’s Key Assumptions
Nick and I wrote our opening statements simultaneously so I am not yet responding to what he was written. Instead, I will be making a positive case that the Gospels do not teach that salvation can be lost. First, I would like to highlight what I think some of Nick’s key presuppositions are as a sincere Roman Catholic:
  1. Scripture is not formally sufficient; sometimes it is not clear enough to settle disputes. This is why we need the Magisterium.
  2. All theological interpretation must be done in harmony with the Roman Catholic Church's dogmas. The Roman Catholic Church sets up parameters, in light of which we then read Scripture.
  3. It is not possible for the Roman Catholic Church to apostasize (or even err when teaching on doctrine).
  4. Justification comes in stages and it is indeed possible for a true believer to forfeit his salvation.
  5. Nick believes that “If anyone says that justice once received is neither preserved nor increased in the sight of God by good works, but that the works themselves are no more than the effects and signs of justification obtained, and not also a cause of its increase: let him be anathema" (Council of Trent, Session 6, Canon 24).
In short, it is not an option for Nick to believe the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, which places the emphasis on God’s doing, not on man’s merit. How? In that the saints - those whom God saves - will necessarily persevere because it is God who preserves them. My point here is to remind us that as long as Nick is a faithful Roman Catholic, he can not accept that God will preserve those whom he saves


The Gospels attest to the preserving work of God in several places. One such place is John 10:26–30, where Jesus says, “you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

"No, Not Even One"
“no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” Jesus is saying that not even one single person has the ability (‘is able’) to snatch his sheep out of his Father’s hand. It seems this ability of the Father is directly tied to His greatness: “My  Father … is greater than all.” The word for ‘great’ here has the idea of ‘larger’ or ‘stronger.’ This also makes sense in light of the anthropomorphic use of ‘hand.’ Just think: whose ‘hand’ could be greater, larger, or stronger than the Father’s and would even have the ability to snatch them away? No one. Any doctrine that declares that the Father’s sheep can be snatched away ends up saying that there is a ‘hand’ that is stronger than the Father’s. 
John 6:36-40 relates to this: “But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Part of the context of this passage is that Jesus is giving an explanation for those who do not believe – and those who do. He begins by saying that all the Father gives him will come. Look at the certainty of the language: all will come. This means that none will be “left out,” as it were. Why do the “all” come? One reason is that the Father gives them to Jesus. Will any who are given not come? No, they will all come.

One question we might ask here is why would the Father, who has all knowledge, give some to Jesus (who also knows all things) who would end up leaving? Is the Father that kind of giver? Just think of a Christmas gift that you’ve gotten which broke the next day and you had to take it back. It’s bad enough it was janky but what if the person who gave the gift actually knew it was junk? What if they somehow knew that it would break within twenty-four hours? No, the Father does not give ticking time-bomb type of gifts to His Son in whom he is well pleased.

"In and Out"
Jesus also tells those assembled that he will never cast any of the ‘all’ out when he says, whoever comes to me” - who are all that have been giving by the Father – “I will never cast out.” Some commentaries on John point out that whenever John uses the verb ‘cast out’ (ekballo), it has to do with a thing or person that in its current state is ‘in.’ One example of this use is John 2:15; “And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.” The root word for ‘drove them out’ is ekballo. Here Jesus drove out those who were already in (in this case, in the temple). 

Back to our current passage: “never cast out does not mean “I won’t turn them away” but rather “I will preserve or keep in the one who comes.” I am following D.A. Carson’s balanced treatment of this passage in his book Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility (pages 184-185). I think it’s beneficial to quote some of his comments on the second clause of verse 37 directly: 
“The causal hoti and telic hina in 6:38 give the reason for this keeping action by Jesus, in terms of the will of the Father, viz. that Jesus should not lose one of those given to him (6:38).” 
 Carson notes that 6:37 argues that
“Jesus will keep them individually (ton erchomenon as opposed to pan ho) once there.” 

"Lose Nothing"
We find the will of the Father regarding those that the Father has given Jesus in verse 38: “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” Jesus specifically says he will lose nothing of all that has been given to him. Remember, what has been given to him are all those that believe in him. Jesus further reiterates this point when he says he will “raise it up on the last day.” The links in the chain seems pretty clear by now: those who come are those who have been given and those who are given are those who will be raised up on the last day (a reference to the resurrection). To summarize, in John 6:36-40 we see at least three distinct evidences of the Triune God preserving believers:
  1. Jesus will never cast them out
  2. Jesus will not lose any that the Father has given
  3. Those who believe will be raised
Jesus summarizes it this way in 6:40, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” We could even add one more evidence here if we simply realize that eternal life is just that: eternal. How can you be given something that lasts forever and then have it not last forever?

"God Preserves, We Persevere"
Once again, the reason disciples persevere is because they are being preserved by God. Another example of this is in John 17:11, where Jesus prays to the Father “keep them in your name.” The reason given is “that they may be one” in the same way the Father and Son are (even as we are one”). Isn’t it unhealthy to take a position that salvation can be lost since it winds ups implying that the Father is not answering the intercession of Jesus on behalf of his disciples? Furthermore, it makes it seem as if Jesus is unable to accomplish his purpose for salvation; that believers would be in unity in a way that imitates or mirrors the unity found between the Father and the Son.

"Jesus Intercedes, We Persevere"
What of the intercession of Jesus on our behalf? In John 11:41–42 Jesus says, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me.” In Luke 22:31–32, Jesus tells Peter that “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” I know that Nick believes that Jesus still prays that our faith may not fail but I wonder if he thinks it is possible for Jesus’ prayers to fail in this regard? I hope not.
There are a few more texts that carry with them the promise of eternal security: John 4:14, which states, “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again” and John 5:24, which declares, “whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” Are we to believe that even after we have eternal life we can still pass back to death again and then regain our salvation and pass back into life and on and on and ... in the words of Buzz Lightyear, "To infinity and beyond?"


In John 17:12 Jesus says, “While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” This coincides with John 6:64, “Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.” One note about the sons of destruction amongst us, Jesus tells us that they are not even truly his disciples in John 8:31, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.” The inverse of this would be that those who do not abide in his word are not truly his disciples.
Unless one wants to argue that the son of destruction who never believed from the beginning was truly a disciple and lost his salvation, I think it is justified from the text to say that between the Father keeping us and Jesus guarding us (not to mention the Holy Spirit sealing us), true believers are made secure by the very power of the Triune God.  

*all Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version of the Bible