Perseverance in Corinth

Despite having to address several egregious problems in the church, Paul opens his first epistle to the Corinthians on a remarkably high note:

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, because in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and knowledge – even as the testimony of Christ was established among you – so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will establish you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Cor. 1:4-9).

If we are ever plagued by doubts as to whether we can persevere in faith, this should be a comforting text.  Given that the gospel was established among even this band of unruly believers, Paul was confident that Christ would then establish them until the time of the parousia.

This is not a terribly elaborate defense of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, but it is significant that Paul hangs the final blamelessness of the Corinthians on the faithfulness of God.  In a complementary text, Jesus announces, ‘It is the will of him who sent me that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me’ (John 6:39).  Should we gather, then, that to deny the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints is to call into question the faithfulness of God and the commitment of Christ to fulfill his Father’s will?  Thoughts pastoral, polemical, or otherwise?

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59 thoughts on “Perseverance in Corinth

  1. I think that the texts above are suggesting that the ‘P’ in ‘TULIP’, which focuses on believers’ perseverance, is funded by God’s faithfulness and perseverance in the purpose of his will. Inasmuch as God intends to enable us to persevere and we conclude that some genuine believers do in fact apostatize, it seems we ascribe to God a flimsiness or wavering or impotence that prevents him from accomplishing his purpose.

    As I mentioned, I’m not claiming to offer a full-orbed account or defense of the saints’ perseverance, but I think the drift of these texts is in that direction. Do you see it from another angle?

    -Steve

  2. With all due respect, Steve, it is your “flimsiness” argument that is insulting to God’s sovereignty. Bobby’s question penetrates to much deeper levels. You assume the validity of TULIP, which Bobby has opened to inspection (reformatus et semper reformandum, right?). I would argue that for the free will of the believer to be able to grieve and quench the Spirit yet “stop” at apostasy actually impugns God’s faithfulness and perseverance in the accomplishment of His will.

    The opening affirmation of the Corinthians is a soaring thanksgiving for what’s already true of them, and what will be eternally true of them, because of the faithfulness of Christ in them, as attested by the spiritual gifts they “do not lack.” The sad truth is that the Corinthians were not living out their identity in Christ to the extent that they abused these gifts; in fact, 1 Cor 1:4-9 portends the severe rebuke in the rest of the letter with an implicit challenge to anticipate their certain future in their present stewardship of the gifts of the Spirit. He can confidently rebuke them so severely because they are secure in Christ’s faithfulness and not because they will persevere individually—their faithfulness is only as good as their voluntary appropriation of Christ-in-them, who is in fact the One who remains faithful. Even if the one redeemed denies him in this life He cannot deny himself, which includes the Body of Christ, because He is faithful (2 Tim 2:11-13). The point is that God can eminently “handle” voluntary apostasy and also accomplish his will, because Christ is faithful.

  3. Jim,

    Bobby’s post didn’t actually open up whether the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints is a legitimate one. As far as I could tell he only went as far as asking about a potential implicate of denying it, so I didn’t make to defend it.

    You haven’t specified at all how God ensuring that believers don’t apostatize is inimical to God’s sovereignty.

    You seem to be essentially saying that, though Paul explicitly says that Christ will establish the Corinthians (presumably, generally those who are believers in the church and not necessarily those have not received Christ and are just affiliated with the church) ‘as far as the end’ and then grounds this in God’s faithfulness, it may not unfold in that way. It sounds to me like a blatant contradiction of a biblical promise. Again with 2 Tim. 2:13 you seem not to allow God’s faithfulness to bear on his action toward his people even though that is what Paul is doing in the text. There it seems that God being faithful to himself includes, on supposition of God’s decision to save his people, faithfulness to believers that issues in helping them not to deny him.

  4. @Steve,

    Yes, of course I see this from a different angle :-) . Primarily, I reject the interpretive tradition that has led to your question in the post. I would ground the “faithfulness” in the vicarious humanity of Christ for us. I simply wouldn’t frame this from the supposition that you have. I don’t believe God relates to creation through the absolutum decretum; from which the supposition and theology driving your post flows.

    My little question above was more loaded than I let on. I do see how you’re trying to present this. I just don’t think the metaphysics the TULIP flows from are adequate in explicating the categories present in a passage like I Corinthians 1. I.e. The TULIP, and her substance metaphysics lack the personalist categories that the triune God at work in the Corinthian correspondence requires in order to make sense of even the particular theological motif you are seeking to highlight with the post.

  5. Bobby,

    I suspected the different angle :) .

    In light of your perspective on the decree, we will obviously approach this from different points of view. When you mention that you would ‘ground the faithfulness in the vicarious humanity of Christ for us’, do you mean that God’s faithfulness is brought to bear in relation to Christ and what he has done on our behalf and not so much (or at least not specifically) in relation to individual believers and their ups and downs in the faith? If so, 1) I’m not sure this is an either/or (and maybe I’ve set it up to be an either/or when you didn’t intend to) and 2) it seems to me to minimize the importance of the Spirit’s work and of our reception of Christ, emphasizing the accomplishment of redemption by Christ in such a way that the application of redemption by the Spirit decreases in significance.

    I can understand where the concern about substance metaphysics is coming from (though you and I may address that matter differently), but I’m not sure I see why a person sympathetic to the ‘personalist’ emphases in recent trinitarianism would necessarily be compelled to deny that God has determined to enable his people to persevere and has then undertaken to do so.

    Steve

  6. Steve, you said:

    When you mention that you would ‘ground the faithfulness in the vicarious humanity of Christ for us’, do you mean that God’s faithfulness is brought to bear in relation to Christ and what he has done on our behalf and not so much (or at least not specifically) in relation to individual believers and their ups and downs in the faith?

    It’s that I would want to ground God’s faithfulness, and man’s faithfulness in the Godward and manward movement of grace that we see happening in the person of the Jesus Christ. This way the “ups and downs,” while an absolute reality—which the occasion of this epistle reflects all too well—aren’t tied to a performative kind of Christian spirituality; the stability of even the human (and individual’s enhypostatic) “walk” isn’t contingent upon us. Instead it is a reality of our participation in Christ.

    I don’t think, obviously, that classic metaphysics (based upon a decretive conception of God) has the capacity to provide space for a personal (or I should say christological) understanding of God’s perseverance (I see a rupture between God and humanity in this account).

    I’d like to say more, but gone to run for now; I’ll be back.

  7. Steven Duby:

    I think it is good you are now engaging the Bible itself. But I think you were right to note in passing that after all, 1 Corin 1, and its apparent endorsement of churches, and/or latter-day saints, takes place in a larger context: the context of dozens of complaints by Paul, about huge evils in the churches, and churchmembers/”saints”.

    What are we to make of 1 Corin 1, and its apparent enthusiastic endorsement of the infallibility of churchmembers, as even “saints”? The great mistake that preachers typically make, the sin they commonly commit in quoting the Bible, is that they quote misleading fragments of it only. It is extremely important to note the larger context of Paul’s remarks: right after appearing to assure us that the members of the church at Corinth, that Christ “will sustain you to the end, guiltless,” Paul immediately however notes sins in these very same churchmembers. Paul noting that it had been reported, that there are “dissensions among you” (1 Corin. 1.10). Critically, there were disagreements on who the real authority in the churches really is. While Paul adds in 1 Corin. 1.3 that his addresees in the church, are “still of the flesh. For … there is jealousy and strife among you.”

    Incredibly, furthermore? Paul notes that even the spirit of God, his inspiration, will not always effective in protecting church leaders from sin and errors: the followers of Moses he notes, had the supernatural spirit of God with them, the rock “and the Rock was Christ.” But, ” Nevertheless”? “With most of them God was not pleased; for they were overthrown in the wilderness” (1 Corin. 10.4-6).

    “Now these things are warnings for us,” Paul concludes.

    The most common mistake made by preachers and churches and beginning biblical exegetes, is to quote just the parts, the fragments of the Bible that, taken out of context, flatter their authority and vanity. While ignoring the massively consistent second voice throughout the entire Bible: the voice from God that warns constantly of huge sins, in essentially “all” our holiest men and angels.

  8. Amen to both Bobby’s last response and Mr. Woodbridge’s comments. Both are very apropos of my own concerns with Steve’s approach here. Sadly, Steve is in very good (theological) company with this approach.

    Steve commented:

    You haven’t specified at all how God ensuring that believers don’t apostatize is inimical to God’s sovereignty.”

    In reply, I would emphasize the term “participation” in Bobby’s last response above. The Corinthians passage quoted above ends with Paul’s reaffirmation of God’s “call” to participate in what He is up to—this is nothing less than His invitation to enjoy full fellowship (= “participation”) in Christ’s mission—the missio Dei. If the whole enterprise of God’s sovereignty is contingent on the sovereign preclusion of apostasy on the part of members of the people of God, then voluntary human participation in the missio Dei is excluded by a “weak” sovereignty on God’s part. The missio Dei will be accomplished by the faithfulness of Christ—exactly the point of the Corinthians passage—so God’s sovereignty is entirely robust enough to “handle” voluntary apostasy among members of the people of God.

    You seem to be essentially saying that, though Paul explicitly says that Christ will establish the Corinthians (presumably, generally those who are believers in the church and not necessarily those have not received Christ and are just affiliated with the church) ‘as far as the end’ and then grounds this in God’s faithfulness, it may not unfold in that way. It sounds to me like a blatant contradiction of a biblical promise. Again with 2 Tim. 2:13 you seem not to allow God’s faithfulness to bear on his action toward his people even though that is what Paul is doing in the text. There it seems that God being faithful to himself includes, on supposition of God’s decision to save his people, faithfulness to believers that issues in helping them not to deny him.

    Your impression of a “blatant contradiction” is a direct consequence of the impoverished personal eschatology of the strains of Calvinism that most fully embrace the TULIP doctrinal mantra which Bobby pointed out above. You are assuming that “the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will establish you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” is a direct counterpart of initial justification in Christ so that the “blamelessness” is equally guaranteed to all believers. That’s where the problem lies, for “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” is Pauline code for the Judgment Seat of Christ (compare Phil 2:12-16), and the “salvation” spoken of in both the Corinthians and Philippians passages refers to the full acknowledgment (exaltation, even) at the resurrection of those with exemplary (“blameless”) participation in Christ’s mission in this life.

    The point Paul is making here in his use of the future indicative “…will establish…” is that the only way full acknowledgment of individual believers (or even churches) will occur at the Judgment Seat is through Christ’s work in us; and for that to happen in us, He needs our full participation in Him in response to his invitation to the mission (bravo, Bobby). That doesn’t mean the missio Dei is in any way vulnerable to our apostasy—God through Christ is faithful whether we participate or not. And with these lenses, 2 Tim 2:11-13 makes complete sense without invoking the Calvinistic doctrine of perseverance.

  9. Rather than attempting to finesse this? By suggesting there is a kind of failure in each of us, but a kind of inevitable success/salvation as well?

    An out-and-out biblical critic 1) might simply note that 1 Corin. 1, after all, is the very beginning of the text: the very part of every text, most likely to have been added to, well after Paul. As marginalia and later introductions became integrated into the text. So that? This part of the text is least likely to be authentic.

    Indeed,2) to a biblical critic, 1 Corin 1 has a rather late kind of calm in it: the calm self-assurance not of churches in the day of Paul, but of some time later. Against many versions of Calvin, it seems far too self-assured, regarding even the assurance of Christ’s action in augmenting the church enough to insure our salvation. (By the way: why trust Calvin? I’ve read him – and have found him horribly confused and inconsistent. Even Wesley’s re-write of him fails to rescue him).

    In fact, the 3) notion that God – and/or even Christ – will inevitably save all or some of us, (who furthermore, know who we are; the elite, the chosen, the “elect,”) does not seem consistent with much of the rest of the Bible. Which suggests that a) only God himself is good. That b) only God knows who has best followed him. And it is inconsistent with c) the rest of the Bible – that shows God judging many and finding them false, inadequate, in the end. Even d) those who thought they were following God, citing his “name” and crying “Lord, Lord.”

    For these and other reasons, a Biblical critic would probably simply dismiss 1 Corin. 1 as a pious, later-day addition to the text. Probably, 4) it was a rather conventionally optimistic salutation, or prayer, used by later preachers to introduce the text. It’s optimism regarding what is perhaps called “blessed assurance,” is the product merely, at best, of a conventional politeness and professional optimism. Or more likely, institutional self-satisfaction and vanity.

    A biblical critic might just say that this passage is not authentic: it expresses the vanity of preachers, rather than the genuine expression of God himself.
    A God who constantly warns that after all, anyone and everyone can be mistaken about his or her ideas about God. And who often warns that many will simply lose their salvation. And even simply, go to Hell. Even those who think they are saved.

    Anything else, any over-sanguine attitude toward the assuredness of our salvation? Is just an expression of priestly Vanity. Which is a sin, in itself.

    If we are loathe to just suggest that this part of the text is false? Then 5) at the very least, we need to however, simply average its optimism out against the dozens, hundreds, thousands of warnings from God, in other parts of the Bible. That many will be called, but few chosen. That many will think they are saved – but they will be mistaken.

    A biblical critic therefore, would take a rather stronger position: simply opposing the authenticity of the introduction to Paul’s text. Or at the very least, insisting that it be simply balanced out, averaged out, against God’s constant warnings to those who think they are good, or better than others. God’s warnings to those who think their own salvation is “assured.”

    • I am sanguine to your concerns about the potential for loss of salvation, which multiple texts in the NT seem to suggest. But I don’t see a “second class” status to 1 Cor 1 at all. There are an equal number of NT texts that openly broadcast some level of assurance of salvation, and Steve has brought First John to bear on the discussion as but one example. My contention is that if we grant that some kind contingent inheritance is part and parcel of the larger overarching biblical construct of salvation, then there is every reason to see 1 Cor 1 as a legitimate reassurance of preservation, at the very least in the sense of 1 Cor 3:14-15—without requiring perseverance—but with the hope of preserving a much greater and more glorious inheritance that is contingent on co-suffering within the life-giving realm of grace/abiding (2 Cor 4:15-18; Rom 8:17b).

      “God’s warnings to those who think their own salvation is ‘assured'”? Indeed, in light of this latter contingency; but not in the absolute sense of anyone who—once in the Body of Christ—could be cast into hell, especially in light of assurances such as 1 Cor 1:4-9 and 3:15.

  10. Jim,

    My take is not that God absolutely couldn’t handle apostasy of believers. It’s not a claim about the realm of the possible at all. My point is that Scripture seems to indicate that God has in fact undertaken to keep his children in the faith until their death or until the parousia. In other words, it’s important to distinguish between something being absolutely necessary and something having only a hypothetical necessity. God could have willed that his people be able to apostatize and hence the perseverance of the saints is not absolutely necessary. However, in my view, God has freely determined that he will enable genuine believers to persevere and thus the perseverance of the saints is characterized by a hypothetical necessity. God need not have arranged things this way, but once he has decreed and promised it, he will not go back because of his steadfast love and faithfulness. God isn’t feverishly trying to protect himself from his people committing apostasy and he isn’t worried about it foiling his plans such that we can conclude that the perseverance of the saints undermines his sovereignty and power.

    I do think that those who undergo justification initially will have it confirmed at the day of judgment, though I would not say the conceptual content of ‘justified’ and ‘blameless’ is entirely congruent. Nor would I say that justification is the only dimension of salvation experienced initially or finally. To insinuate that classic Reformed thought does this or that it has an ‘impoverished personal eschatology’ demonstrates a lack of acquaintance with the sources of that tradition. Furthermore, despite your discussion about broadening one’s conception of salvation, I can’t find a straight answer from you to the underlying question here: does Scripture reveal, whether explicitly or implicitly, that God has undertaken to preserve his children from apostasy even as they themselves must endeavor to remain in the faith? The question remains even in the midst of the need to make sure we don’t truncate what salvation is all about.

    I have to say that I think you’ve badly missed the emphasis where Paul says that Christ will establish these believers until the end. The statement is quite plain and the question in view is not whether it will be Christ and his work or some other spiritual figure or spiritual means that will accomplish this. It simply concerns the fact that Christ will indeed do this. (Though other spiritual figures are mentioned below this text, it cannot be that Paul is emphasizing in v. 8 that Christ out of all the others will do this [for those who don’t apostatize] because Christ’s name is mentioned among the groups of factions listed and Paul would then be affirming that particular faction under this logic.)

    • Steve,

      In response to:
      1st paragraph—I totally understand your take; I simply flat disagree with it. All the Scriptures you would cite to support perseverance are simply more naturally viewed in context as aspects of salvation other than initial justification (whether temporal deliverance or eschatological inheritance) which are contingent on faithfulness, and this faithfulness can only be consummated by participation in Christ’s obedience. It is you who have not engaged the biblical notion of participation in addressing the question.

      2nd paragraph—My position on your question here should be perfectly clear from the above. I flatly deny your assertion in all parts. Your comment about my familiarity or not with Reformed sources only begs the question—Jody Dillow (Reign of the Servant Kings) has convincingly demonstrated that Calvin himself and other Reformers were well aware of some of the aspects of personal eschatology I highlighted in my prior response. But I am arguing that firmly holding to TULIP in its classical form—perhaps the dominant contemporary Reformed position—is simply incompatible with anything resembling a personal eschatology that allows inheritance in proportion to one’s voluntary participation in the work of Christ in this life. Brettongarcia’s comment below also speaks to this with respect to free will.

      3rd paragraph—Whatever “establish” means in the “quite plain statement” of the Corinthians passage, it has to do with the Judgment Seat of Christ and the guarantee of a future reign together with His Bride. You still haven’t dealt with that. Hence, to “establish you [pl] to the end” has to do with preservation of those God has given Him to receive their inheritance (Heb 2:5-13), not perseverance of individual saints. Paul’s point is to encourage the Corinthians that it is what they build on their foundation in Christ that will surely be preserved in Christ; he wants to instill confidence in them to continue to participate in Christ in the use of their gifts—Paul will soon expand on this by affirming that any role in this life apart from voluntary participation in the work of Christ has no portion in this reign (1 Cor 3:10-15).

        • Sure. I would also invite Bobby to respond to your question, since he was the one to introduce that terminology earlier in the thread. I believe we are on a similar wavelength in this respect, but don’t want to presume too much.

          In Johannine terms, eschatological inheritance is proportionally contingent on our willingness to abide in the Vine in doing the work of the Father. In Pauline terms, it is contingent on our willingness to walk according to the Spirit and not the flesh.

          With respect to my allusion to Dillow’s work, I was simply acknowledging that although Calvin had plenty to say on personal eschatology, the proof is in the pudding when it comes to the passage in question—how is it to be taken in light of Paul’s intent for the Corinthians in response to their need? I haven’t read Calvin’s comments on this passage, but his commentaries weren’t entirely consistent with his Institutes, and Dillow does a pretty good job of sampling Calvin’s work on the issue of inheritance.

          • Jim,

            I am not totally clear what you mean when you write: voluntary ‘participation'; could you clarify that a bit further? When I speak of participation what I am pressing is the choice that God made for us in Christ to participate in our humanity so that we might participate in his divine life by adoption.

            • Bobby,

              Not sure you had read my response above before you posted. While I don’t disagree with your use of the term, it is indeed different than mine. I am speaking of human willingness to participate as chosen agents of God’s work in Christ. We are his Body but we can choose individually (and even corporately, as a local Body) not to participate in what He is up to.

              • Jim,

                I did read your response; my response was just too brief, as I was pressed for time as I wrote it (or it only represents one half of what I wanted to say).

                When I think of ‘voluntary participation’ I do not ground this in a way that I see it as a result of ‘my choice’ (arbitrium) or flowing from an abstracted notion of libertarian ‘free-will’ (voluntas). Instead I want to place this in a dogmatic order of things; which for me means that I see (just as I said previously) this kind of ‘freedom of will’ and ‘choice’ grounded in the archetypical movement of the Son choosing (electing) to become humanity. It is because he choose to do this; in is his manward movement ‘for us’ (his priesthood, mediatorship) (shaped by his Godward movement, the homoousios) that I see our Spirit spirated participation flowing from. In short, I see ‘the human response’ as the one made by Jesus Christ for us; when we say ‘Yes’ to the Father’s offer of salvation, it is only because Jesus has already done that for us. I see this as the actualised reality for ALL OF HUMANITY [not yelling, just emphasizing ;-) ]. Why ‘All of Humanity’ does not say ‘Yes’ to the Father, from my view, can only be relegated to the inexplicable-irrational nature of sin-evil itself.

                I hope that helps clarify a little further where I am coming from, Jim. I do think you and I are probably closer in some ways (in mood) than you and Steve are. But then I also see the metaphysics you are probably using to be much closer to Steve’s than what I would be appealing to (what a friend has called ‘relational-metaphysics’ vs. ‘substance’ [where I see yours and Steve’s] and ‘actualistic’ [pace Barth]).

                • I think I’m “equi-distant” from both of you . . . in different ways . . . and I think you underestimate my relational metaphysics. It’s hard to look in the mirror here, but if I understand what you mean by “substance” metaphysics, I think I’ve moved away from that quite a bit over the last few years.

                  I think we agree that Paul’s intended readers are “in Christ” (excepting Brett, perhaps). My whole issue on this thread is that it seems we are reading that “positional” truth (our identity in Christ) into the word “establish” in the 1 Cor passage. I contend that Paul meant it as an exhortation to live out that truth by exercising our free agency to abide in Christ (which is what I’m saying by “participation”). Some degree of inheritance will be “established” for all in proportion to that participation. To use your terms, Bobby, Paul has assumed their adoption into the divine life, but they are not yet fully appropriating that divine life by fully sharing in Christ’s fulfillment of the redemptive work of the Father in this life. And that appropriation is what I see as the only meaningful prerogative of human free agency, which finds its ultimate resting place in the eschatology of co-inheritance—this in turn is contingent on a (non-guaranteed) perseverance of the saints. Thus I would strongly disagree with Kyle on free will (below), once we concede that this contingent co-inheritance is cut theologically from the whole cloth of soteriology. While we may disagree that this co-inheritance is even included in the scope of soteriology, I suspect my divergence from Kyle and Steve runs much, much deeper.

                  To concede the “I” in TULIP subverts this prerogative of human free agency by insisting on a sovereign and non-contingent guarantee of co-inheritance, which is constitutive of a broader soteriology. It flies in the face of the beaucoup Scriptures that exude such contingency: You and I have jousted before on Romans 8:16-17, for example: We in Christ are all heirs of God by virtue of our adoption in Christ, but our coinheritance—our “degree” of co-glorification with Christ—is clearly contingent on perseverance, which is not guaranteed. This distinction is marked in the Greek by the men . . . de . . . construction.

                • Jim,

                  1) With substance metaphysics I would be referring (with what I perceive of your approach) to ontological (and anthropological) questions. Like my perception of your view is that you would hold that people choose or reject Christ based upon their own deliberation (albeit aided by the Holy Spirit [like conviction Jn 16]). This would be in contrast to a view that God has done the choosing (of course the way I want to frame this is not through the classical decretive God and the absolute decrees, but through personalist-relational categories; seeing all of this “work” done in the person of the Son externalized in Jesus from Nazareth). I see your view on this rising from substance metaphysics which ultimately sees “grace” as a substance or quality that man can do with as he wills (per choosing his/her salvation).

                  2) I would want to ground all of this discussion in the vicarious humanity of Christ. So that “free agency” and “abiding” are grounded in the humanity of Christ for us. So I am going to read this through that kind of theological-exegetical lens (just as you have yours ;-). I think if we don’t ground all human activity in Christ’s humanity (ontologically); then we have placed a rupture between God’s person and God’s work (because presumably Jesus has done the human work as well as the divine in his singular person). I can try to develop this more if you want me to. I might be wrong, but I don’t think Kyle is in the same camp as Steve. I think Steve is post-Reformed orthodox in orientation, and that Kyle is not. They would have to clarify that to be sure.

                  3) I do recall our jousts ;-). I don’t follow the heir/co-heir distinction in the way that you do. I also don’t follow the TULIP the way you do (this was one of my critiques of Free Grace, that it doesn’t ultimately jettison classic Calvinism, instead it changes the referent in discussion from justification [pace classic Calvinists] to sanctification). This takes us full circle and helps to illustrate how I see you much closer to Steve’s substance metaphysical approach to theology than you want to admit. I like the men … de construction (esp. in I Cor. 1.18) ;-).

  11. Steven Duby:

    1) If God has willed that his people cannot apostatize … then they have no Free Will.

    2) Opposing 1 Corin. 1, are countless passages in the Bible, that firmly say that many who think they are following Christ, will be found to have been following a “false Christ.” So that? Thinking you are following Jesus, or God … does not really mean that you are.

    3) Nor likely, is our salvation by anyone else.

    Therefore? Your salvation is nowhere near as inevitable, as you seem to think it is.

    • 1) Non sequitur.

      2) Granted (except for the ‘opposition’ language). But this doesn’t mean that some who really are Christians do apostatize.

      3) Agreed, but if God endeavors to keep believers in Christ, then the fact that salvation is found in no one else (Acts 4:12) doesn’t threaten believers’ final enjoyment of salvation.

  12. 1) No non sequitur. a) If God has guaranteed that we cannot do anything that would endanger our salvation, then … b) there is a sphere of activity in which our own will is ineffective.

    2) Who are the “real” Christians that are really saved? That is the question. This or that group might think they are the “real” ones … and yet be mistaken. So that? Feeling you are a “real” one, and following your “real” sense of things … is no guarantee.

    It may be that the “real” Christians are really saved. But since no one knows who they are, until judgement Day? This is all MOOT; since none of us knows for sure we are among the real followers, and not followers of false churches.

    3) God wills that all be saved; but that is no guarantee. Because? Through he tries – many fail to take advantage of this offer. God extends his hand – but many fail to see it; or they grasp the wrong hand, from a “false spirit.”

    4) Therefore? No one should ever have any really firm feeling of security here.

    5) Indeed, the (all too common), rather Pharasitic (?) feeling of calm confidence that one is saved, is sheer and mere Vanity.

  13. 1) You are operating without a consideration of the doctrine of concursus in the Christian theological tradition.

    2) It is indeed possible to be assured that one is truly a believer and truly has eternal life. That is a leading emphasis of 1 John.

    3) There needs to be an exploration of the divine will here. There are helpful discriminations between the divine will as decretive or preceptive, hidden and revealed, and so on.

    4) See 2.

    5) Assurance of salvation is not vanity or Pharisaic. In fact, it would be pastorally cruel and, in light of 1 John, unbiblical to withhold this from God’s people.

  14. Steven Duby:

    To consider one point at a time:

    A classic theology of “concursus,” appears to asset that God is the First Cause of everything. Therefore? I assume you are concluding, in the case of Humanity’s essential salvation, that since God made us, therefore he cannot turn back on his own creation. And he will accept us? As after all, having been made by God himself, and as being therefore essentially, good?

    But of course, logical as that might appear, it is also clear throughout the Bible, that God made many things … that he will later term “evil.” And that he will extinguish.

    No doubt God made the devil himself. But? That is apparently no guarantee of the devil’s salvation.

  15. In light just purusing this thread, let me suggest that free will has nothing to do with this issue. It is unhelpful at best to introduce philosophical speculation about free will here (and that is clearly what this is). Rather, it would be more appropriate to make adequate dogmatic decisions that allow for more penetrating analysis into this issue. If one believes that free will needs to be discussed, it would need to be adequately located within its doctrinal moorings – which I would suggest are creation and soteriology.

  16. So how might we be saved? And/or, how might new, reliable saints be generated, if any? In spite of my earlier objection, concursus – the natural concord of man and his better nature, with the God that made him – might indeed be part of the answer. Though a full and satisfactory account of this, would need to meet certain objections. Like for example, the fact that parts of our even God-given nature, appear to be destructive.

    In any case, to be strictly Biblical? Let’s note that even1 John is not quite as entirely positive or “sure” as it appears at times, about our salvation or sainthood, by way of churches, and even saints.

    How reliable are our churches? And if the Bible is full or warnings about false things in churches, is there anything else that can save us? Like say, “saints”? It is commonly said and thought in Protestantism, that though we have all sinned, still somehow we can still be all but perfect; or as Paul suggested in 1 Corin. 1.1, “guiltless” in the end. But how reliable are these promises? How firm? How reliable are say, the “saints”? Such promises should be seen in context of later biblical warnings. And practical experience.

    Turn on your television – and you can see televangelists like Benny Hinn in his white Nehru jacket, confidently assuring us that he and his followers are saints; and confidently hinting that if you just demonstrate your faith in all that – by sending him a monetary contribution – he will remove your sin, with blood of the lamb; and heal you of any and all illnesses.

    But how reliable is all this? First, the Bible appears to be full of warnings about specifically, churches; indeed, after the gospels, most of the works of the New Testament are letters addressed to various early Christian churches … finding serious sins in essentially all of them (see, say, Rev. 1.4-2.4, 2.14, 2.20, 3.2, etc.). Paul’s letters – like Corinthians, Ephesians – are essentially letters to churches … noting good, but also bad things, in them.

    So what are we to make of 1 Corin 1? In the context of an epistle where Paul constantly notes serious sins in our holiest things; even noting that Christ, the Rock, can fail us (1 Corin. 10.1-6)? Worse, how indeed can we be “guilt”less, when “all have sinned”; and even the members of the first churches, overseen by the original apostles themselves, were full of sins?

    Traditional Protestant theory likes to assert that somehow, by some strange magical process or arcane logic, the very people that are said to be full of sins, are still somehow guiltless. But are any of these arguments, really true, or convincing? Are the guilty, guiltless? Are the very people Paul for example, calls “immoral” (1 Corin. 5.1), incestuous (5.1), “jealous” (3.3), and differing in major doctrinal matters (1.10-14), still somehow, “sustain”ed “guilt”less, to the end? How is that possible?

    Possibly in fact, it is simply logically impossible to reconcile the cocksureness of 1 Corin 1 say, with Paul’s own constant warnings about churches. And any apologetic that tries to harmonize these two logically contradictory positions, and make it all seem plausible, is mere “whitewash”ing sophistry. Finally therefore? We must simply take 1 Corin 1, as a mere bit of initial hopeful thinking and puffery; before a much harder and more critical assessment.

    We might after all simply reject the most hopeful remarks. Remembering that after all Paul after all, often acknowledged that he himself was not “perfect”; Paul admitting that his own “knowledge” and “prophesy” were imperfect, and fated, after all. Perhaps his moment of supreme confidence was merely and simply, a mistake.

    Can it be true? Can essentially even our very best religious leaders, be “false”? Can even our holiest men – even in their holiest, most Holy-Spirit inspired moments – fail us? In fact, the Bible confirmed over and over that this is possible, and even inevitable. As the Bible affirms that even those calling on the “name” of the “Lord, Lord,” will be found to have been deceived by false religious leaders, a false Christ; that deceives the whole “world” and its worship (Rev. 13).

    Therefore? The all-too-common attempts by preachers to assure us that they have some special quality or theological gimmick, that will somehow assure our salvation, and wash away our sins, are just, after all, mere moments of sophistry, vanity, and arrogance.

    In our thinking, let us be “mature” (1 Corin. 14.20); “all have sinned,” including our highest holy men and angels. And? Further research will show that the Bible itself tells us, there is no special quality – “anointing” or “blood” or “grace” or anything else, that will infallibly wash away our sins; to present us “guilt”less before the Lord. Those who claim otherwise? Are like Paul, simply speaking im “perfect”ly; as Paul in fact often confesses of himself (Php. 3.12).

    Some of the later works of the Bible – especially those written in the name of “John” – at times try to advance the idea that our Christian leaders are reliable, perfect, holy, in spite of obvious and continuous sins. But “John” after all is one of the latest, and most non-synoptic writers in the Bible. While even 1 John, at times tells us that were have been “cleans”ed of all sin (5.7), but then immediately thereafter issues a statement that might be taken to imply that nevertheless “if we say we have [present tense] no sin, we deceive ourselves” (1.8). John at times appears to assure us of a special “anoint”ing that will protect us (1 John 2.20-27); but other parts of the Bible tell us that practical preparations need to be made, anticipating sins even in the “anoint”ed priest (Lev. 4.3; Lam. 4.20). At times, in one voice, seems to assure us that “us” Christians are assuredly good; but in the next, John admits that the whole world, and its “worship,” and its “Christ”ians, can and will be deceived by a False Christ (1 John 2.15-22 – 4.3; Rev. 13). So that we should not “believe” too strongly, but even “test the spirits” (1 John 4.1). At times John appears to assure us that he has seen God in Christ; other times he tells us that “no man has ever seen God” (1 John 4.12). In one voice, the Bible, even Christ, tells us to “hate” our biological family (Luke 14.26); but then in another voice, in John, we are told that whoever “hates” his brother, is evil (1 John 4.20).

    Most preachers, churches, present and believe, only a single theme from the Bible; the theme that emphasizes priestly authority. But the Bible in fact, some now note, presents two voices: the first, a vain priestly voice, assures us continually that our holy men are all but perfect and reliable. But the second? The second voice tells a very, very different story.

    The second voice in the Bible itself, the voice that eventually predominates … confesses that even our holiest men and angels often sinned; and that there were no special graces or gifts, that inevitably or even reliably, guide us or anyone, firmly, to salvation. Finally, we must simply live our lives, trying to be good as best we can; but in “fear and trembling” (1 Co. 2.3, 2 Co. 7.15; Eph. 6.5;); “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Php. 2.12. Lines much quoted by Christians and existentialists, after Kierkegaard.)

    There is no room therefore, in religion, in churches, or in theology, for an over-selfconfident theology, that proudly, vainly, trumpets its own imagined perfection, or even the assuredness of its own salvation. Or the persistence of implicitly perfect saints.

    Or perhaps, if saints persist? Then let’s note the imperfections, even of the saints themselves. Like the imperfections, vacillations, equivocations, contradictions in say? Paul. Or in the apostle and saint that wrote the works attributed to “John.”

    They simply had moments of unjustified overconfidence in their own abilities; a moment after all, of simple human vanity.

    So how might we be saved? Not by churches. Not even by saints and apostles, entirely. But? Perhaps indeed by a more direct, personal, individual, existential encounter with God.

    Though to be sure? There are dangers and pitfalls here too; no one should be entirely confident and dogmatic, about our chances of success.

    Many are called – but few are chosen. Many will try to fit through the very, very narrow keyhole; but how many will be able to do this, after all? It may be that the many preachers who speak so confidently about their own salvation, will be last to really see it.

  17. This is a reply to Bobby’s last post on the sub-thread above. (WordPress did not allow me any further sequential replies on that sub-thread, so maybe that’s an electronic hint as to the direction I should take at this point :-)

    1) I perceive that your perception of my metaphysics is almost completely skewed. I don’t view grace as a substance nearly as much as a “realm” in which we can choose to “dwell” or “abide.” And I am all about personalist-relationalist categories; I simply can’t lay out all the construction I’ve done in theological anthropology in one thread, and my terminology obviously doesn’t match yours.

    2) Since the issue of perseverance was initially brought up using the framework of TULIP, I tried to frame my responses in those terms, even though I have long since rejected that way of framing it for the considerable constructive work in Theo. Anthro. that still needs to be done. You have presumed way too much about my metaphysics, which is a great deal more personalist-relationist than you suspect. On Steve and Kyle, I’m not as into pigeon-holing others’ positions as much as you seem to be, but I would agree with letting them clarify, if that’s what they want to do.

    3) Free Grace is no more monolithic a theological framework than dispensationalism per se. My views have all but completely evolved away from the Calvinistic roots that I concede form the backdrop for the development of that theology in its original form, especially the justification-sanctification “divide” you allude to. You are pigeon-holing me.

    I therefore think the discussion has lost any real productivity at this point and would prefer to email you a couple of constructive pieces I’ve been working on in the area of Human Agency as it relates to theological anthropology and let you evaluate the work on its own merits. (I’m assuming you have the same gmail edress?) Fair disclosure: Don’t expect my constructive work to be methodologically nested in “dogmatic moorings.” If that is your sine qua non for an “adequate” constructive project (pace supra) you will be disappointed. As has been discussed on TF on multiple occasions, dogmatics and Biblical Theology are always ever mutually-informing, and my contribution nests heavily in “Biblical-Canonical-Linguistic Theological moorings,” for lack of a better term. In this light I would hope that further dialogue on this topic could render due respect to both sides of the methodological divide.

  18. @Jim,

    My intention was not to pigeon-hole you, but I do see how what I’ve supposed about your position is presumptuous; sorry about that.

    I don’t really understand your distinction between “substance” and “realm.” Do you see Jesus’ humanity and the Holy Spirit’s uniting us to His humanity as the “realm?”

    On Steve and Kyle; I know where, in mood, Steve is coming from; because he has said so in the past (not trying to pigeon hole him either). Kyle quotes Barth and stuff (and he likes Edwards); so who knows ;-) . Having said that, it is helpful to be aware of the informing voices for people; I don’t see why that should be so much of an issue, Jim.

    I realize FG isn’t monolithic; but then again there are certain general contours of thought that make FG, FG. And it is those that I would be referring to. It seems that once one moves beyond those boundaries, that said FG theologian ceases to be an FG theologian (except by social-sub culture association), and becomes something else; maybe just a constructive theologian who is Evangelical.

    I read your mini-essay you sent me via email; thank you, Jim. After reading it I still see the same kind of problems associated with your position that I am leery of here. Anyway, I’ll email you about this.

  19. The “realm” is Grace per se, as I depicted in the figures of my essay. Just out of curiosity in this regard, what do you do regarding the question of “substance” with Romans 5:17—“…those who receive abundance of grace…”—and Acts 11:23, “…saw the grace of God…”?

    On the contributions of others, I don’t find the informing voices as helpful as you do, apparently. My approach is to press whatever synthesis seems to be “on the table” with Scriptural texts in context that at least prima facie seem to deal with the topics at hand. There seems to be a dearth of that in these discussions.

    On FG, we haven’t specified here what theological distinctives you feel define FG as a movement. The “general contours” you refer to have been tainted by personalities, as all such nascent movements must inevitably be, and we are now only beginning to delve deeper into the theological substance and implications of the foundational affirmations, which to this point are still largely limited to soteriology. My mission for the last several years has been to team up with other dissatisfied voices in the movement to delve deeper into the broader theological implications with the prospect of developing a more coherent synthesis relying primarily on a canonical-linguistic hermeneutic. My hunch is that there will be deep resonances with some strands of theology in more established “doctrinal moorings” but there will also be serious divergences that offer more comprehensive, competent, and congruent interpretations of controversial Scriptures like the one brought by Steve in this thread.

    Regarding “leery,” you haven’t really described in any useful detail the “problems” you see in my position. In fact you haven’t even engaged the substantive points I’ve made, especially on the topics of contingency and proportional inheritance that typically surround the issue of perseverance in the NT. I look forward to your email.

    • Jim,

      The brevity of my responses has been because I really don’t have the kind of time to develop anything at a level that would actually forward a fruitful discussion between you and I here in the comment meta of a blog combox.

      I will say, quickly, that I don’t buy a presupposition-less approach or prima-facie approach to bib interpretation as persuasive as you seem to; and thus my reference to the informing voices, Jim. To appeal to a “canonical-linguistic hermeneutic” as if this itself does not reflect a prior commitment to certain philosophical and theological assumptions illustrates ‘why’ again I am so concerned with the informing voices. That’s not to say that I don’t think we can’t ever get to the Text, per se; but that until we do this necessary ground clearing, like getting into what you mean by canonical-linguistic (like are you appealing to a Lindbeckean, Freian, Childs’ Sailhammerean ;-) mode of hermeneutical operation or what?), I don’t really think we will have a fruitful dialogue on this (or that there will be a dearth).

      I’ll be interested to see what you guys come up with for and within the FG movement, Jim.

      As far as providing something “useful,” getting into your points on contingency and such doesn’t make much sense to me until we talk more about the variance between our hermeneutical method and assumptions. And I don’t think this thread is the place to pursue that; I’ll email you within the next few days (I am really busy until Wednesday).

  20. OK, Bobby, I get it. What I am trying to say, and what seems to have been lost in this whole exchange, is that Steve finally put a text out on the table for the TF audience to discuss in light of the theological construct of perseverance. He did so from a “perspective” that you immediately assumed to be rooted in Dortian Calvinistic moorings. You challenged this approach with your initial question about TULIP, and I applaud that. My way of engaging that challenge was to go to the text in its broader (and ultimately canonical) context to try to evaluate his presupposition from the “voice” of the text. I’m not arguing for a “pure” prima facie hermeneutic as if I myself bring a tabula rasa to the text. What I am doing is inviting people to give the text in context at least as much of a voice as all the other voices that seem to be presumed as a widely accepted fabric behind our “doctrinal moorings.” I believe there is at least some substance to the Reformed notion of the perspicuity of the text. Kyle and Steve essentially went silent after making their “position statements” and putting out a couple of appropriate feelers to investigate our use of terms. I don’t know what that means.

    So here’s my question. What is TF for? …or maybe I should say Who is TF for? What are the minimal “membership requirements”? What “voices” do the blog administrators presuppose as a sine qua non for “fruitful” discussion, since we can’t spend all day defining terms and identifying alternative voices? You and I have demonstrated the problem here in spades with our virtually non-overlapping terminology, each of us left to speculate as to what the other means in setting out our respective proposals in response to the question(s) at hand. I suspect that most of the interlocutors have their own theological “axe to grind” when they enter into discussion—Brett, for example, for all his long-windedness, is simply more explicit in this respect than the rest of us. So, I guess all I’ve been asking is, How shall we then live on TF, methodologically speaking?

    • I’m not sure what Kyle or Kent would say, but I think that the methodological level itself probably has to be considered a place for deliberation and inquiry. Obviously, the more two people agree on methodological matters, the more readily they can engage in fruitful dialogue and debate about material concerns, which have more direct significance for church life and Christian praxis.

      As for my absence, you can chalk it up to me being busy changing my newborn son’s diapers :)

    • Jim,

      I see what you’re doing, and I understand what you’re after. I’m pretty stuck on methodological and prolegomena questions, and thus why I always seem to gravitate to that. I don’t think anything fruitful can happen, in re. to Scripture, until folks are honest about their own commitments (hermeneutically-theologically). I think this is the point of departure for so many within Christendom; we all have our various commitments, and thus if we fail to engage at that level first (which is harder, and requires more self-critical reflection), then we will continue to talk right past each other when we begin to provide Scripture for our particular views (I see this as a waste of time in the blogosphere). That’s why I addressed Steve’s question from a theological (dogmatic) mode instead of quoting Scripture.

      I’ve come to realize that folks simply have different modes and expectations when it comes to blogging. It bothers me when I go to blogs, and I spend my time writing a comment; and then the author of that blog doesn’t engage or reciprocate (I’m not saying that that is the MO here, per se). I have always thought that if someone is going to post a post at their blog, then they have committed themselves to following through with that in the ensuing comments (but not all operate this way).

  21. Bobby:

    I don’t think my reading of the Bible is ideologically-driven. If you give the Bible a fair reading – reading it honestly, as it is, and not as we are told to read it in church – it’s a revolutionary document. One that is far, far less supportive of conventional church structures, pieties, commonplaces, than we have been lead to believe.

    In fact, it is the conventional, priestly reading, the reading that supports existing institutions and dogmas, that is ideologically- driven. The Bible itself, more fairly read, contains a “second” voice; one that constantly warns about bad and “false” things priests and prophets, saints and angels. The Bible offers constant warnings about every aspect of religion, even Christianity, from A to Z: from warnings about the angels in heaven (Isa. 34.4, etc.) and “baptism” (in Paul), to warnings about our “worship” (Rev. 13), and even our pro-church “zeal” (q.v.).

    How did Jesus really demonstrate his “zeal for the church,” in point of fact? By personally making a whip of cords, and personally beating money-makers out of the temple. So that? Real “Zeal” for a church, does not manifest itself, as nearly everyone thinks, in the continuous support of the status quo in churches; not at all.

    And to prove my points are scripturally-based? Note how MUCH scripture I’m quoting, above.

    I’m prepared to defend my reading, objectively, quote by quote.

    Not that anyone is looking forward to that, I guess.

    But more precisely, to the point here: what does the text really say about the persistence of saints, and the assuredness of our salvation? The very Protestant notion here, that our salvation seems “assured “- by say, the human personhood of Christ, and/or Grace (free or otherwise; substance or not)- is not really true to the full context of the Bible overall. Not even of 1 Corn 1. If you read the Bible, read it carefully; even 1 Corin 1 does not necessarily assure that EVERYONE will be saved, even in a given church; but only those who are “righteous,” and perhaps even only “saints.” While other parts of the Bible note that even “righteousness” can be lost; can “become unrighteousness.” Even “Grace” can be deliberately destroyed, by God himself. Who in countless parts of the Bible, decides he will no longer forgive sins, but will punish this or that person or people, for them. (And who “breaks” the “staff” of Grace at least once; q.v., Bible).

    In one voice to be sure – the supremely over-confident voice that we hear constantly in Church – the Bible and 1 Corin 1, seemed to guarantee salvation. For instance? 1 Corin. at first, and other texts, seem to guarantee that all that call on God’s “name,” or on the “Lord,” and “Christ,” will be saved. But Indeed? In the End, famously, in other parts of the Bible – another voice – we were told that many hypocrites would call on the “Lord, Lord,” and yet be rejected by Jesus. While even those who think and say they are following “Christ,” can be found to have been following a “False Christ.” So that other parts of the the Bible, calling on the “name” of the Lord and Christ, don’t work.

    So that? In the Bible itself, more objectively, completely read – reading more carefully and fully in but also outside of say 1 Corin 1 – there is far, far, far, far less assurance than most Christians complacently think, that they will be saved. Or that they may even become saints. Even alleged special saving gifts, like “righteousness” and “grace,” can be withdrawn by God; or lost by us, due to our own mistakes. While calling on the “name” of Christ doesn’t always help either. Paul’s 1 Corin 1 therefore, needs to be far more carefully read, both in itself, and also in the larger context of the entire Bible, before it yields up its real meaning; which is far, far less complacent than asserted in most churches.

    To be sure? We can always have “hope” of salvation. But not the “blessed assurance” that so many Protestant denominations so complacently, proudly assume.

    According to simply, the Bible itself. Which, objectively read, is very, very different from what most assume or assert.

    And my conclusions? Are not derived from the imposition of an ideology on the text; but from a closer reading of the text itself, insofar as this is possible.

    Or, if we all have our ideological presuppositions? Then let’s see which presuppositions, the text best supports.

  22. Brett,

    “You are not far from the Kingdom of God; but one thing you lack . . .”

    Your sensitivity to complacency in the church and the need for renewed sobriety in our approach to the text is very healthy, and I appreciate your “objective” reading of the texts on perseverance . . . or lack thereof . . . among those who claim the name of Christ. I don’t think evangelicals know enough of what it means to “fear God” in listening to His voice, so I applaud your caveats.

    However? As an outsider on this blog myself, I might suggest a more “charitable heterodoxy” in your theological dialogue with others. How? Two things come to mind: First, I’m not sure you’ll get very far by appealing to contradictory voices in Scripture; I definitely think you’re onto something with your assessment but believe there is a far more glorious harmonization of apparent contradictory voices—in this case, on the issue of perseverance. I’d like to see a more “charitable hermeneutics” in your approach to Scripture, and I see you willing to lean in that direction. (Tell me if I’ve totally missed you here.) In this regard, I like the way Wolterstorff has coined the term “double agency discourse”—he openly acknowledges the plurality of voices but he clearly assumes that the human voices fully reflect the imago and missio Dei when they vocalize the vox Dei in human context. I think many have abandoned that assumption way too prematurely in their own critical approaches to Scripture, and I’ll cite Kenton Sparks as one example from our own [evangelical] camp with his notion of divine “accommodation.” It’s more like “divine appropriation,” as Wolterstorff would be wont to say.

    Secondly, a “charitable heterodoxy” begins by thinking the best of one’s opponents, who for the most part are quite zealous for the truth. This would mean recognizing any extant wisdom and insight in the words of the “other” before/while advancing alternative views. I am anything but a Reformed theologian, but I’ve learned more in true dialogue with Reformed voices than with those of my own tradition who by and large aren’t very “charitable” at all. I myself have spent all too many of my years as a “voice crying in the wilderness” without making much headway. Have you tried doing theology over a couple of beers? You might like it.

  23. Jim:

    Thanks for your kind guidance and participation. I see teaching has done a lot for your even-handedness.

    Though I might just sit this one out, for a while at least. The “End” I see, is far more apocalyptic, than harmonizing. I’m uncomfortable about living with these two voices/themes at the same time. And am in the mood to see one simply triumph, to tell the truth.

    So? I’m glad to probably just butt out for a while.

    Glad to see a nice long thread developing here again, though.

    I’ll probably just leave it in other hands for a while.

  24. You’re gracious, Brett. I think we’re a lot closer than might appear on the surface. For example, I’m all about apocalyptic; I just see two phases to the Judgment, and the first will bring a lot of embarrassment to believers who did not endure in the fear of God or uphold his name with honor—who did not “persevere in the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus,” as the writer of the Apocalypse said it. But I do believe we can have assurance at the level of our basic identity and destiny. “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have this life.”

  25. Bobby:

    I guess my remarks in defense of myself are general; anyone can be taken as being too partial, in exegesis.

    Jim:

    What do we do, to deal with the Two (Contradictory) Voices in the Bible’s text: the one that 1) warns about sins and errors in every aspect of Religion, even what is called Christianity; and the 2) one that seems to assure us that most (even all) of us who invoke the name of Christ, will be saved?

    To try to deal with the apparent contradiction, by asserting some kind of double action – like a two-phased Judgement. A 1) first condemning phase – but 2) then a final vindication. But that doesn’t quite work for me. Having heard 1,000 Reformed sermons, I’m not happy with this kind of solution.

    Rather, my solution would be to read the text more carefully. In a case like 1 Corin 1, where we are apparently assured that most of us who are “righteous” will be saved? Note that many are simply not righteous.

    Or if one text seems to say that all those who call on “Christ,” will be saved? those who have “the Son” will assuredly have life? I would recall the warning voice from God … that many will THINK they have the son; and yet be mistaken; may be following a False Christ, or a false idea of Christ. So that many will quote and call on even the name of Christ, the “Lord, Lord”; and yet that will not be enough. Jesus will say he “knew them not”; they were either merely mouthing pities, or in any case were invoking his name, but did not follow the right idea of Christ.

    It is nice to think that there is some special grace or gift in the Bible, that will absolutely protect us from the many sins in holy things, that the Bible warned about; errors in churches, in saints, and so forth. Like Grace. Or invoking the “name” of Christ. And yet? Though parts of the Bible seem to suggest that this or that special grace or gift will finally do it – some “anointing” or “blood” or “baptism”? Look up these special gifts in a concordance … and you will find that sooner or later the Bible itself warned that there will often be insufficiencies in each and every one of these allegedly saving gifts.

    So that I conclude? Those who feel all-to0 assured of their own salvation, are mistaken. Religion, Christianity, contains thousands of pitfalls. Even those who invoke anointing, angels, baptism, “Christ” as many see him, or saints, and so forth … will find that none of these infallibly save us. Even when we are sincerely trying.

  26. Thanks for the opportunity to further clarify, Brett . Replies in bold:

    What do we do, to deal with the Two (Contradictory) Voices in the Bible’s text: the one that 1) warns about sins and errors in every aspect of Religion, even what is called Christianity; and the 2) one that seems to assure us that most (even all) of us who invoke the name of Christ, will be saved?
    They aren’t contradictory—these warnings are for the most part to the people of God (see, e.g., 1 Pet 4:17), whose identity and ultimate destiny [only one aspect of their salvation] is secure, but whose inheritance [a related but distinct aspect of their salvation] is contingent on perseverance in faith. Regarding your use of “invoke” here, see my reply three paragraphs below.

    To try to deal with the apparent contradiction, by asserting some kind of double action – like a two-phased Judgement. A 1) first condemning phase – but 2) then a final vindication. But that doesn’t quite work for me. Having heard 1,000 Reformed sermons, I’m not happy with this kind of solution.
    How many times do I need to say I’m not Reformed in my views here: I don’t buy NT Wright’s “final vindication” as related to initial justification. For the people of God, both censure and vindication occur at the Judgment Seat of Christ—one phase, “whether bad or good” (Eccl 12:14; 2 Cor 5:10).

    Rather, my solution would be to read the text more carefully. In a case like 1 Corin 1, where we are apparently assured that most of us who are “righteous” will be saved? Note that many are simply not righteous.
    Righteous is multifaceted: positional (justification), progressive (overt display of the righteousness of God by continuing faith in this life, Rom 1:17), and prospective (co-inheritance in glory with Christ at his return, 8:17-19). Positional righteousness guarantees one’s identity and ultimate destiny, but co-inheritance is contingent on and vindicates the faithful display of God’s righteousness in this life. Unfaithful believers are heirs of God but not vindicated as co-heirs with Christ (2 Tim 2:11-13).

    Or if one text seems to say that all those who call on “Christ,” will be saved? those who have “the Son” will assuredly have life? I would recall the warning voice from God … that many will THINK they have the son; and yet be mistaken; may be following a False Christ, or a false idea of Christ. So that many will quote and call on even the name of Christ, the “Lord, Lord”; and yet that will not be enough. Jesus will say he “knew them not”; they were either merely mouthing pities, or in any case were invoking his name, but did not follow the right idea of Christ.
    I would suggest that when used in reference to Messiah, “name” always denotes his true identity. That would exclude any who follow false Christs. This is the whole point of the Luke 1-2 and all the early sermons in Acts: The Messianic promises were all fulfilled in the authenticated identity of the “named” Messiah, Jesus. Those who say “Lord, Lord . . .” in Matt 25 never knew him, so they apparently claimed obeisance to the wrong Messiah (see, e.g., Matt 24:23-28) and are accordingly called out for it.

    It is nice to think that there is some special grace or gift in the Bible, that will absolutely protect us from the many sins in holy things, that the Bible warned about; errors in churches, in saints, and so forth. Like Grace. Or invoking the “name” of Christ. And yet? Though parts of the Bible seem to suggest that this or that special grace or gift will finally do it – some “anointing” or “blood” or “baptism”? Look up these special gifts in a concordance … and you will find that sooner or later the Bible itself warned that there will often be insufficiencies in each and every one of these allegedly saving gifts.
    “Nice” . . . and fatal; I agree. Got no argument with you here, Brett, depending on what you mean by “invoking”; the Bible only vindicates believing on (not “invoking”) the name of Christ (= true identity) as meritorious. Meaninglessly mouthing the syllables without trusting the properly identified Messiah is worthless. And grace? Receive Jesus and you receive abundance of grace (Rom 5:17)..

    So that I conclude? Those who feel all-to0 assured of their own salvation, are mistaken. Religion, Christianity, contains thousands of pitfalls. Even those who invoke anointing, angels, baptism, “Christ” as many see him, or saints, and so forth … will find that none of these infallibly save us. Even when we are sincerely trying.
    Sincerely trying doesn’t get anyone anywhere—salvation in all aspects is absolutely dependent on faith, not trying. The truth is, many are indeed mistaken, and works done out of self-sufficiency will not be vindicated in Judgment, on that you are absolutely correct. But those who believe on (trust) the name (Messianic identity) of Jesus for life are indeed secure in their ultimate identity and destiny.

  27. Jim:

    Most of your answers seem to assume that one WILL be saved, if only one has the right idea of Christ, and faithfully follows it. But how can anyone be sure, that they do know Christ accurately? That our idea of CHrist is not at least partially, false? So that all of us to some extent, are following a False CHrist?

    Especially this seems inevitable, when we find that the Bible warns that nearly every element of Christianity – priests and prophets, saints and angels, even apostles – often sinned and erred. Even in their most inspired moments. Paul noting in 1 Corin for example, that the followers of Moses and God, had the rock, Christ himself, leading them. “And yet …they perished in the wilderness.”

    But suppose I put this aside. And make a simple compromise here: I might choose to say that 1) the first, priestly, reassuring Voice in the Bible, does more or less assure us that the Christ we know from church, or faith, is accurate enough; and merely following him, believing him “faith”fully, will save us in some way. Indeed, this makes a kind of common sense: being told to follow a moral figure, learning a little humility and love from him, does do a lot for us. However? 2) Experience later tells us, that simple loyal, faithful obedience, to even such authority,will not totally serve us, or save us, in every way; since the vision of Christ we have from many churches, is likely not entirely accurate. And therefore, following it faithfully, loyally … means that simply, we are following a false idea, all-too-faithfully, all-too-loyally. Therefore? THere is a sort of partial salvation, in simply, loyally following “Christ” as described in churches, say. But in the end? This salvation, that comes from following the “CHrist” of churches (and even saints) is not quite entirely “full” or complete enough.

    Perhaps there is a sort of two-tiered salvation however. Perhaps the two voices in the Bible in fact, are composed 1) first, of the voice directed at “children.” This voice stressed the assuredness of salvation, through faith; and indeed, Children should learn to obediently follow and obey authorities, and their picture of God or Christ, faithfully. But? 2) Then a more critical, “mature” voice kicks in. As we become adults? We learn that after all, even adults and the very highest authorities make mistakes. And therefore? Our salvation is not in blindly, faithfully following authority. Not even authoritative ideas of “Christ.”

    So that? When “Judgement” comes? Some people,w o believe they are faithful and ttrue followers of Christ, who think they are saved, and even saintly? Are in for an unpleasant surprise.

    I might in other words, tentatively here, for discussion’s sake, adopt your notions of a two-tiered judgement, etc.. As slightly modified, above.

  28. Brett:

    I have been contemplating whether and how to reply because I’m not sure we are on enough of the same wavelength. But I want to honor your request, so my replies are again in bold after each of your points:

    Most of your answers seem to assume that one WILL be saved, if only one has the right idea of Christ, and faithfully follows it. But how can anyone be sure, that they do know Christ accurately? That our idea of CHrist is not at least partially, false? So that all of us to some extent, are following a False CHrist?
    Brett, my heart aches that you do not seem to have assurance of even your own destiny with God through Christ. The Biblical testimony of the promised Seed who will bring life after death is consistent from Genesis to Revelation. Anyone who believes that promise of life in the Seed has eternal life. For those who are seeking life but don’t have the Scriptures to attest the “right idea of Christ” when it is revealed to them, the Holy Spirit will authenticate the promise in one way or another.

    Especially this seems inevitable, when we find that the Bible warns that nearly every element of Christianity – priests and prophets, saints and angels, even apostles – often sinned and erred. Even in their most inspired moments. Paul noting in 1 Corin for example, that the followers of Moses and God, had the rock, Christ himself, leading them. “And yet …they perished in the wilderness.”
    The whole point of 1 Cor 10—and, indeed, the entire book of Hebrews—is that the people of God can fail to inherit the “promised land” when they fail to persevere in faith, yet they THEMSELVES will be “saved” in the fire of judgment (cf. 1 Cor 3:15). OF COURSE they “often sinned and erred”—the point is that “there is STILL a sabbath-rest for the people of God” (Heb 4:10), and INHERITANCE in that rest is contingent on perseverance in faith.

    But suppose I put this aside. And make a simple compromise here: I might choose to say that 1) the first, priestly, reassuring Voice in the Bible, does more or less assure us that the Christ we know from church, or faith, is accurate enough; and merely following him, believing him “faith”fully, will save us in some way. Indeed, this makes a kind of common sense: being told to follow a moral figure, learning a little humility and love from him, does do a lot for us. However? 2) Experience later tells us, that simple loyal, faithful obedience, to even such authority,will not totally serve us, or save us, in every way; since the vision of Christ we have from many churches, is likely not entirely accurate. And therefore, following it faithfully, loyally … means that simply, we are following a false idea, all-too-faithfully, all-too-loyally. Therefore? THere is a sort of partial salvation, in simply, loyally following “Christ” as described in churches, say. But in the end? This salvation, that comes from following the “CHrist” of churches (and even saints) is not quite entirely “full” or complete enough.
    I don’t accept your premise (1)—the Biblical testimony is that it is faith in the promise of life in the Seed that “will save us in some way,” not your notion of “following him, believing him ‘faith’fully…”; the latter is what we are invited to do in Christ, once we have believed the promise in order that we may preserve our full inheritance in Him. I don’t know what to do with your premise (2), as it seems to be predicated on some strands of non-biblical Roman doctrine rather than the plain testimony of Scripture I have already cited in this thread. What do you mean “experience later tells us”? . . . He never promised us a rose garden in this life (Heb 11).

    Perhaps there is a sort of two-tiered salvation however. Perhaps the two voices in the Bible in fact, are composed 1) first, of the voice directed at “children.” This voice stressed the assuredness of salvation, through faith; and indeed, Children should learn to obediently follow and obey authorities, and their picture of God or Christ, faithfully. But? 2) Then a more critical, “mature” voice kicks in. As we become adults? We learn that after all, even adults and the very highest authorities make mistakes. And therefore? Our salvation is not in blindly, faithfully following authority. Not even authoritative ideas of “Christ.”
    This notion has some potential depending on how we define terms. In one sense, I would agree, viz., (1) the Law was given to bring us to Christ and our identity in Him is eternally secure; but then (2) we are asked to “follow Him” and our inheritance with Him is then contingent on “abiding” or “walking kata pneuma”.

    So that? When “Judgement” comes? Some people,w o believe they are faithful and ttrue followers of Christ, who think they are saved, and even saintly? Are in for an unpleasant surprise.
    Yeah, Brett. This is true at so many levels, both for “unbelievers” and for the people of God. But I’m not sure we yet see eye-to-eye on the three-dimensional nature of that salvation—which aspects are assured and which are contingent on perseverance

  29. I am indeed not entirely familar with every detail of terminology in conventional Protestant theology. But I see many problems in what I perceive in such theology. Particular what I see, in its assumption of a series of different kinds or layers of salvation, especially.

    For example? It may be that those who truly identify, and follow with faith the right Christ or Messiah or Seed, will be saved in some strong way, in the End. However? Your proposal that the Bible signfies this right and true Christ, as the “name,” does not seem right. In light of say: “Many will come in my name,” but don’t believe them. THe “name” itself can be misleading.

    Then too? The attempt to suggest that we are 1) saved in our “ultimate destiny,” but 2) not in our “inheritance,” seem to be quite illegitimately dualistic. Proposing that we might be saved,s ay, in Judgement, in say Heaven or spirit; but not in any physical way here on earth; in spirit, but not with an earthly kingdom. But? To divide salvation in this way – as admittedly Paul AT TIMES seems to want to do – contradicts the overall Bible. Which promises even “all” who are saved in any sense, a rather full salvation. Including salvation 1) not only in some ultimate or spiritual sense, but 2) also also salvation in the more physical and immediate sense of say, physical wonders, and a physical “kingdom.”

    But especially? How EXACTLY is it that – you say merely “one way or another” – that those who have found the right idea of Christ, or the Messiah, will know it? Practical experience with religious folks, shows that many of them, with quite different beliefs, believe they have been assured, one way or another, of their saved status. And yet? They all believe somewhat different things. So that surely, some of them must be wrong; the feeling and signs of assurance that they felt they had, must have been misleading and false. Resort to the “name” does not help here, remember.

    The attempt in much of Protestantism, to deal with apparently conflicting promises of salvation, by splitting our salvation in half, asserting it speaks of two parts or classes – roughly material inheritance, vs. ultimate or spiritual salvation? – was toyed with in the New Testament of Paul, especially. But it is finally not really true to the overall BIble itself. In particular, the problem seems a rather Greek/Platonic philosophical dualism. Which can in fact be seen in Paul, especially. Likely the split salvation, stems from a matter/spirit dualism, which seems to be willing to split the promises of Judeo-Christianity, into materialism vs. spirit. And then? To try to all but simply cancel the material promsies of God – a material kingdom, a material inheritance, material wonders – in favor of a future, ultimate, and solely spiritual reward.

    And yet however, the God of the Bible clearly promised both, overall. And not one, or the other, separately.

  30. Brett, you read way too much into what I’m proposing and thus project on me several presuppositions I don’t hold. Bobby was doing the same thing from his side of the fence.

    I can assure you I am not invoking Platonic dualism in my conceptualization of what you’re calling “layered salvation.” You are quite right that the OT promises entailed a full (tangible) inheritance in the land, and Jesus promised full (tangible) Kingdom inheritance in His invitation to follow Him—especially in Matthew. He never was pleased with “half-assed” followers but rather invited them to “eat my flesh and drink my blood” (cf. John 6).

    Nevertheless, the invitation to thus abide in Him was predicated on the firm assurance that they indeed had His “anointing” and “seed” in them (1 Jn 2:12-27) once they received (= believed) the eyewitness testimony (1 John 1:1-4; 5:4-20) that is now preserved for us in Scripture. But even then, we have the very real prospect of censure at the Judgment Seat of Christ for those who do not abide in Him (1 Jn 2:28)—a warning transparently addressed to those whose sins were already forgiven for His name’s sake (2:12).

    What I am proposing is a very tangible destiny for believers at the resurrection on Christ’s return, whether they abide or not, but co-inheritance is clearly contingent on perseverance—thus we have both heirs and co-heirs. But even if one were to collapse the two notions—like Bobby—where in the world do you read dualism into that construct? It is a continuum of tangible inheritance in glory for all believers, once everything that does not belong in the Kingdom has been burned off in Judgment at Christ’s return (“the day of the Lord”).

    You asked “How EXACTLY is that?” when you quoted me out of context as saying “one way or another” in reference to salvation in Messiah. Jesus the promised Son is the only way to life. I was referring to the Holy Spirit’s authentication of the testimony of Jesus—which is clearly “various” and multifaceted (Heb 2:4). Don’t you believe the Holy Spirit is alive and well?

    Unless you can bring specific passages to the table in context—whether intra- or intertextual—I don’t see where we have any epistemic common ground on which to spar over these issues. But of greater concern to me is why you even bother arguing if you can’t trust the Scriptural testimony? Do you believe ANY of the Bible’s testimony? Which parts? How do you know? You have no ground for assurance in that you clearly deny the perspicuity of Scripture, so what do you do? Try to be “good” and just cross your fingers that the Lord will honor your steadfast skepticism in this life? What kind of perseverance is that?

  31. Yup! That’s often what I do! Having no assurance, I cross my fingers, do the best I can, and hope.

    Or in my more critical moments? I compare and contrast what I think the Bible says, against science and experience – or what “comes to pass” (Deut. 18.21), in real life. As a way of determining which reading of the Bible is best.

    I follow the Bible; including its self-critical moments. When it warns of sins in its own authors. for example. And tells us therefore to “work out your own salvation.”

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