Election: The Problem with Perseverance of the Saints, Part III

I just want to add this final note. If the Reformed/Calvinist view teaches, as Piper and many others teach, that someone who appears saved and later “falls away” was never really saved and if the Calvinist believes that those who appear to be believers should be exhorted to remain true to the faith and continue in their obedience, then the Calvinist view and the Arminian view are functionally identical.

For example, if a member is struggling with sin and appears about to be overcome with sin, both sides would want to warn and counsel this person to return to his first love.

And if a former believer were to renounce the faith, he’d be expelled from the church.

And if a formerly devoted member were to live a life of sin and then repent, seeking to be restored, both churches would gladly accept him.

And if a member were to be caught up in willful sin, unwilling to repent, both churches would be as likely to discipline him.

I can’t think of a single instance where the Calvinist and the Arminian would act differently (as to this issue), other than when some church committee writes up their statement of faith or when the preacher decides to pound the pulpit on Reformation fights yet once again.

Therefore, it seems to me that we are fighting over nothing. I mean, to me, the Reformed/Calvinist view of perseverance is mistaken, and they think I’m mistaken, but as applied in practical pastoral terms, it makes no difference at all.

It would matter a great deal if a Calvinist were to teach that a believer can live a life of willful sin and remain saved — and there are a few that teach just that — but as I understand it, that’s not mainstream Reformed/Calvinism, and certainly not the Piper version.

And so … let’s talk about something else.

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5 Responses

  1. The practical pastoral need is indeed the same in either situation, as the author of Hebrews makes plain (and as you pointed out in your comments about my new Hebrews commentary at
    http://oneinjesus.info/2009/03/22/new-commentary-on-hebrews-by-edward-fudge/ , which is to keep our eyes on Jesus and keep on keeping on. (current info on the new book — now in second printing — is available at EdwardFudge.com/written/hebrews.html ).

  2. Wow its hard to believe the series is over….seems like what it needed was one final collage of past post, flashing on the screen with some overly emotional song being played…something like “The road is looong, with many a winding….” and then say “Calvinism teaches such and such” flashes on the screen.

    Like a really cheesy 90’s sitcom. Oh well onto bigger and better things….like Article spin offs!!

  3. I’ve thinking about your idea that people are “fighting over nothing,” but that does something to dishonor the intent on both sides (not intentionally, of course).

    It came together when I read your latest: http://oneinjesus.info/2009/10/06/the-future-of-the-progressive-churches-of-christ-our-attitude-toward-the-conservative-leaders-part-1/#comment-17803

    Many people from all denominational backgrounds have been through the feeling of being cheated out of some part of the full life that Jesus promised. As they study, begin to hear from God, and begin obeying, a very different image of God begins to appear that doesn’t fit within what we’ve been taught. What’s more is that these experiences fit the scriptures – and magnify them – better than what we’ve been taught. There is a conflict there that must be resolved.

    This issue is similar. The “fight”, as it were, is not over salvation, really. As you have pointed out, there is much that is agreed upon about that. What is at issue is the “trapping” of people, as you mention in the other post.

    If a person believes that salvation is only assured via works post baptiso, then he is charged with communicating that to other believers, and encouraging them to follow through on that.

    This, of course, rakes the assurance via faith person over the coals as it were. It was for freedom that Christ set us free! Those ocnservatives are trapping those poor people!

    And the conservatives are yelling back, “Oh yeah? Well, you and your “freedom in Christ” is trapping people in Hell!”

    And such it has been for 100 years.

    The pastoral approach might be the same between the two houses of thought. But the affect on the believer’s life, and how it reflects God, is what seems to be at stake. How should we live: Joy and freedom? Try to find joy in the law and be content with that? Be content with heaven someday, and suffer through the guilt of imperfection for the rest of our years? There are several different “gospels” floating around, and at their core is what people believe about salvation to begin with.

    I don’t look down on my conservative brothers, for who else on earth has the passion and determination they show when defending their position? Is that not an asset to the Kingdom that God has put into them? Are we not butting heads because they successfully taught many of us the same tenacity? Then we are more unified than we admit (again!).

    I’m fine if the subject drops here. What I mean to say is, I think it’s ok to validate the frustration and conviction of the multiple viewpoints by saying more than, “The result of your beliefs is the same, so that’s that.”

    We all want unity. We all want to love well. We all want Jesus to be lifted up, and people saved. The concern for everyone involved is: saved to what? I think it’s ok to admit that this is a valid concern, and to continue to dialog about it, just maybe not here. Again. For awhile.

  4. This is by far the best post you have written on this series. And you are exactly right that in the end there are few differences in practical terms.

    All of us expect and desire the same outcome. We want the very good news about what Jesus has accomplished for sinners to be published throughout the earth and we want believers of every stripe to live surrendered, disciplined lives as we serve others in Christ’s stead.

    False accusations and name calling is common when these weighty subjects are discussed but they have no place in God’s redemptive story.

    Jay, I admire your work ethic and even when I disagree with your conclusions I love you deeply and respect you as a man of God.

    Royce

  5. […] Perseverance of the Saints, Part 1 Election: The Problem with Perseverance of the Saints, Part 2 Election: The Problem with Perseverance of the Saints, Part 3 Election: Further […]

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