Debate With Turretin Fan, Rebuttal Essays

[Turretinfan’s Rebuttal Essay]

Perseverance of the Saints is consistent with the Scriptures. It is particularly consistent with the basic theme that God’s love is an unconditional love, that God is able to prevent apostasy, and that it is within Christ’s desire to save to the uttermost those he wishes to save. Furthermore, the concept of saved again / lost again / saved again is completely foreign to Scripture, as is the concept of Christ losing any that the Father gives to him.

In short, when we look at the specific passages that JCT has picked out, we realize that there are reasonable explanations of the verses that harmonize them with the rest of what we know about God. Furthermore, we find that the sense JCT has proposed for those verses actually forces the verses into more or less contradiction with other parts of Scripture.

Thus, not only has the “negative” side of this debate established that there are reasonable sense of the relevant verses consistent with the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, but in fact the “negative” side has established that the alternative sense proposed by JCT is not itself a reasonable interpretation of the verses.

At the heart of the matter, it seems as though JCT feels that the verses should only be there to describe a situation that is contrary both to the best interests of the person involved, and contrary to God’s own desires. Such an interpretation of the verse would require us, in essence, to discard our theology away from a theology including an omnipotent God, since it would in essence declare that God’s attempt to save genuine believers sometimes does not succeed to the uttermost.

Accordingly, we can conclude that contrary to the resolution, the doctrine that teaches that genuine Christians cannot end up in hell (whether due to unfaithfulness or any other reason) is and must be coordinate with the true sense of the largely unrelated passages of Matthew 5:27-30, Hebrews 4:9-11, and Revelation 22:18-19.

(Source)

[My Rebuttal Essay]

TF hurls a few elephants in claiming that I contradict scriptural principles, yet can cite no clear evidence as to how specifically. Apostasy wouldn’t require that God be less-than-omnipotent, merely that He allow its occurrence. His ‘reasonable explanations’ of the passages cited collide with problems I’ve already presented:

  • His interpetation of Matthew 5 explains nothing of how avoiding sin helps one enter into life (Matthew 18, Mark 9).
  • His suggestion that I’m confused concerning Hebrews 4 is confuted by his admission that conditions for Christian and heavenly life aren’t mutually exclusive (second response). He also grossly misrepresents my view as, ‘[by] works,’ which was nowhere suggested.
  • His view of Revelation 22 is self-contradictory: The unsaved aren’t being told what awaits them, since he denies that anyone’s part in New Jerusalem will ever really be taken.

His calls them ‘pastoral warnings,’ given to move believers to perseverance; but his case upon examination falls apart, answering nothing as to why God threatens consequences of damnation to those who can supposedly never suffer them. When finally asked how the consequences specifically would spur one on if they are not real-world possibilities, he appeals to a ‘logical connection’ between warnings and consequences, with no explanation as to how such a connection with what (in his view) amounts to an absurdity could spur on anyone.

His answer to the last question (which follows through with his ‘hypothetical’ interpretation), destroys his argument’s credibility entirely when he states, Hypothetical questions are dangerous, especially when they contradict reality. A ‘logical connection’ to a consequence that ‘contradicts reality’ won’t spur anyone on to anything. People aren’t motivated by what they’re told are hypothetical bluffs, they don’t strive to serve God for the sake of what they think is a hollow myth, and they aren’t driven to persevere by ‘logical connections’ to fairy-tales with no connection to reality –which is exactly what Calvinism makes the consequences of the warnings out to be.

Opening statements
Cross-exam, my questions
Cross-exam, TF’s questions

[Though we were slated for one more essay each, the debate ended here]

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Perseverance & Warning Passages Debate With Turretinfan: Cross Exam, TF’s Questions

#1 Is God’s love for those humans whom he loves conditional on their behavior, or is God’s love for them unconditional on their behavior?

‘Love’ as it pertains to salvific effectuation is not conditioned upon behavior (in terms of good works) itself, but upon a relationship with Christ (good works being an outworking). God loves all sinners in that He has no pleasure in their deaths and desires their repentance (Ezekiel 33:11), but savingly loves those who receive and abide in Christ.

Continued faith and perseverance are not only qualities of Christian life, but conditions to eternal life. All the promises of God for salvation, preservation, spiritual life, and forgiveness of sin hinge upon remaining in His Son: we remain saved because we persevere in Christ, not vice-versa, for the promises are only for those who by faith and patience inherit them (Hebrews 6:12). Not surprising, since God’s promises of blessing carry conditions of faithfulness throughout scripture. To the profane Eli He says,

“‘I promised that your house and your father’s house would minister before Me forever.’ But now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from Me! Those who honor Me I will honor, but those who despise Me will be disdained.” (1 Samuel 2:30b)

Even for one who has been known by God (and is thus born of Him), if he turns away, Christ will profit him nothing (Galatians 4:7-9, 5:2), for those who deny Christ will be disowned (2 Timothy 2:12). Such does not constitute God contradicting or denying Himself, since He Himself is the one who has justly declared the condition of perseverance, and remains steadfast to that declaration whether we remain faithful or not.

God desires that none of His apostatize, He also desires that we abstain from fornication (1 Thessalonians 4:3), but does not choose to imperatively halt either from occurring, but strictly warns us against them. Such warnings are of great import, since nowhere does God promise to unalterably cause us to persevere, but rather gives us all that’s requisite to endure (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Unlike the old covenant that the nation of Israel forfeited, the new covenant of God’s law being written on our hearts will not be broken with His chosen people -He will bring the body to completion until the day of Christ. But God’s faithfulness to His covenant does not preclude individuals that have obtained its blessings and later despise Him from being cut off: even when the old covenant was in force, those who forsook it were severed from the covenant body, those unfaithful to it forfeited its promises (Exodus 6:4, Numbers 14:30). This is not unfaithfulness on God’s part, but man’s. Likewise, we under the new covenant are warned not to be highminded about our position, but reverently fear and endure lest we incur like punishment (Romans 11:20-22).

So the love of God is in Christ, the Mediator of the new covenant and Seed to whom the promises were made, in which we share if we abide in Him, and in doing so, keep ourselves in the love of God.

#2 Given your comment, “God desires that none of His apostatize,” (yet seemingly God might not prevent apostasy) is God able to keep people from falling away into apostasy or does something (man’s free will?) stop God from keeping them from falling?

God can do whatever He pleases within the range of His holy nature, nobody prevents Him. If God didn’t care if we apostatized, He wouldn’t give us sustaining grace enough to endure. The fact that men can still fall away despite His provision is easily reconciled by the fact that He doesn’t choose to apply His grace irresistibly. I’d pointed out this concept in 1 Corinthians 10:13, which states that God won’t allow us to be tempted beyond what we can endure. ‘Can’ does not amount to ‘will;’ believers sometimes do fall, but due to our own failures, not want of God’s help.

His provision is evidenced in several passages often mistaken for support of eternal security. John 10:27-29 and Romans 8:35-39 for instance express that no one will ever tear us away from God (as countless martyrs for Christ have by their deaths triumphantly testified), but nowhere does scripture indicate that it’s impossible to willfully walk away from Him, since apostates themselves don’t separate/pluck themselves from God -scripture clarifies that God the Father Himself severs those who don’t remain in Christ (John 15:1-6). Hence, arguments such as the sealing with the Holy Spirit guaranteeing eternal security miss the mark as to how one can be lost: Since the sovereign God has both power and prerogative to cast out those who don’t abide, His own seal is no bar to Him doing so. Having the Spirit is both a gift and responsibility, for those in which the Spirit dwells are the temple of God,

…If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. (1 Corinthians 3:17b)

According to the riches of His grace, God preserves us, sustains us, and works in us to will and do His good pleasure, yet the apostles still plead with us, “not to receive the grace of God in vain” (2 Corinthians 6:1b). God is able to keep us from stumbling and to make the weak in faith to stand (Romans 14:4), yet we are still told,

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12)

It’s only by God’s grace that the heart can be established in persevering, but the scriptures never portray the operation of grace as something unconditional or irresistible. Grace to endure is never merited, nor is it inescapably instilled, but when enduring temptation it’s written,

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

So God is able to keep us from falling, but doesn’t choose to do so apart from our willing cooperation (we being freed by His grace to serve Him -Hebrews 12:28), and thus He warns us against the real dangers of apostasy and exhorts us to seek Him,

…be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall. (2 Peter 1:10b)

#3 Given your comment, “God can do whatever He pleases within the range of His holy nature, nobody prevents Him,” is it pleasing and within the range of Christ’s holy nature to save to the uttermost those whom he wishes to save by making intercession for them?

Most definitely. Just as the priests in the Old Testament made intercession for the people, so Christ eternally makes intercession for His, and is our Advocate with the Father if we sin, and the Mediator of the better covenant God has made with us. Unlike the Levitical priests which were imperfect and subject to death, Christ lives forever and is perfect, and so can save to the utmost, in contrast with the animal sacrifices by the Levite priests that could not. He being the sole way to God, our salvation wholly relies upon His mediation between ourselves and the Father. The question as far as the conditionality of salvation is concerned is not whether Christ makes intercession for us, but whether He’ll do so for one who departs from Him. He indicates that He won’t, as He states,

“But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:33, similar statement made in 2 Timothy 2:12)

Some may argue that Christ’s intercession will imperatively keep all genuine believers from apostatizing, but such an idea is not found in scripture. Indeed the fact that His confession of us before the Father is conditioned upon our confession of Him indicates conditionality. Others point to Christ’s prayer in John 17,

…keep through Your name those whom You have given Me… (John 17:11b)

The conditional nature of salvation comes to light when one considers that God keeps us through faith (1 Peter 1:5), which we are exhorted to hold fast to, and told that not all have done so,

Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck… (1 Timothy 1:19)

It must be noted that Paul does not distinguish the latter as some superficial, ineffectual form of faith; nor would the exhortation to hold to faith be coherent if no one with true faith could ever forfeit it. The theme of continuance in the faith of Christ as being necessary to our being forgiven runs throughout the New Testament, many wicked acts such as unforgiveness being incompatible with saving faith:

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

This sentiment is also reflected in the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18. When scriptural warnings (including the three in question) indicate consequences of damnation for believers who unrepentantly commit certain sins, taking them as serious and violable is not salvation “by works” as was erroneously insinuated in the opening statements –such actions necessarily reflect a heart no longer in union with Christ.

So Christ saving those He wishes to the uttermost by making intercession for them is perfectly in line with conditional security, since the only ones He will confess before the Father are those who hold fast to their confession of Him.

#4 It appears that your position is that genuine believers can violate certain warnings, with the consequence of such violations being hellfire. Is that correct, or is the consequence merely a return to an unsaved (but re-savable) state from a saved state?

Varies. Denying Christ for instance will bring denial by Him, yet Peter repented of his denial and was restored. Speaking against the Spirit (Matthew 12:32) on the other hand, will never be forgiven. For some who have fallen into grievous sin, they can be ‘in danger of hell fire,’ but scripture indicates there’s hope of God restoring backsliders who have not sinned ‘unto death.’

If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. (1 John 5:16)

One can believe, yet be imperiled: the key is that salvation isn’t granted in its entirety when one believes, Paul writes,

…for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. (Romans 13:11b)

While the scriptures do tell us that we who believe are saved, it also indicates that final salvation isn’t obtained during earthly life:

…if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. …Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule…. (Philippians 3:11-12, 16a)

We have to a degree attained salvation through faith, but it’s ours probationally, its condition being continuance in Christ; final salvation is not attained until one has endured to the end. Romans 2 expresses that it is granted at the judgment,

“But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness–indignation and wrath….” (Romans 2:5-8)

Hence while we already possess eternal life in a sense (1 John 5:13), it is not contradictory to call it the ‘hope of eternal life’ (Titus 1:2) or to exhort a fellow believer to ‘lay hold’ on it (1 Timothy 6:12). Additionally, if eternal life were fully and finally ours now, then neglect thereof would be a non-issue,

Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation…? (Hebrews 2:1-3)

From the scriptural record then, some fall into sin, but are brought back; while the completely apostatized are “twice dead, plucked up by the roots” (Jude 12).

#5 Given your assertion that, “We have to a degree attained salvation through faith, but it’s ours probationally, its condition being continuance in Christ; final salvation is not attained until one has endured to the end,” what shall we make of verses that suggest salvation is unconditional on works?

Neither remaining in union with Christ nor continuing in the faith are ‘works,’ otherwise ‘justification by faith’ would be ‘justification by works.’ It would be absurd to call continuance in Christ ‘works’ for being a necessary condition for salvation, as it was even stated from the negative: [if one] were to lose union with Christ and apostatize, there would be no hope for that person.” (Turretinfan’s fifth answer). The relationship between abiding in Christ and good works was touched upon in my first answer: good works are an outworking of a relationship with Christ, for one bears good fruit by remaining in the vine. Inversely, because sin proceeds from the heart, unrepentant iniquity denotes that wickedness is overcoming one’s heart, which is immiscible with abiding in Christ.

For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins…Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:26, 29)

Through His word, God is mighty to save and uphold His own, but this doesn’t constitute unconditional security, since He only grants such preservation based upon one’s relationship with His Son. By faith we stand (2 Corinthians 1:24), but He has no pleasure in anyone who withdraws from it (Hebrews 10:38). A believer who falls into unrepentant sin isn’t in danger because Christ “can’t forgive sin,” but because of the condition of his heart before God and his love towards Christ growing cold. If the sinner turns back to God and acknowledges his wrongdoing, God will gladly forgive him (1 John 1:9); but He rejects one who remains obstinate and proud.

“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6b)

The real peril of a Christian growing proud is underscored in the warning against making elders out of new believers,

…not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. (1 Timothy 3:6)

The fact that salvation isn’t by works then doesn’t imply that one can remain saved when in willful rebellion against God, as scripture repeatedly states (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Ephesians 5:5, Revelation 21:8) -the doom of one who turns from Christ unto wickedness being worse for him than if he’d never known Him:

For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. (2 Peter 2:20)

Therefore taking the warnings against being surmounted by sin seriously, and regarding their disastrous consequences as real-world possibilities for believers is not ‘works righteousness’ as has been erroneously claimed by some.

Opening statements
Cross-exam, my questions
Rebuttal Essays

Perseverance & Warning Passages Debate With Turretinfan: Cross Exam, My Questions

#1 How exactly would something like damnation being the consequence to violating a ‘pastoral warning’ “have use in the form of preventing the warned person from ever doing” what is warned against?

To understand how this would work, I suggest making use of an analogy. We are sheep, God is the Shepherd. Suppose that we, the flock of sheep, are feeding at pasture that has, on one side, a sheer 200 foot cliff. Falling off the cliff is “something like damnation” for a sheep.

If the shepherd wanted to keep the sheep from falling off the cliff (i.e. preventing the warned person from ever doing what is warned about), one of the ways he could do so is by warning the sheep of the danger that would befall them if they walked over the cliff. This would spur a rational sheep not to try to walk over the cliff (i.e. not to violate the pastoral warning).

On the other hand, of course, it does not mean that if it looks to the shepherd like a sheep is going to try to ignore his warnings, that he is just going to let the sheep do this thing that would be bad. No, the warning is just one of the ways that the sheep are kept from falling.

This is, of course, an analogy: but it is founded on a Biblical analogy. The Good Shepherd not only warns, exhorts, and uses his rod and staff on the sheep, the Good Shepherd even goes so far as to die for the sheep.

If there is someone who is going to fall off the cliff, it is not going to be the sheep, but the good shepherd. He’ll do everything in his power to save the sheep whom he loves. That’s true, remarkable, self-sacrificing love.

I think it’s fair to say that a genuinely loving Shepherd uses every possible tool to save the sheep he loves: from warnings of the consequences of apostasy, to discipline (in the form of various temporal chastisements), and to promises of reward as well. Thanks be to God that he does, for if he did not, we’d be as helpless as sheep without a shepherd.

Source

#2 How is being diligent to enter into eternal rest so that we do not fall after Israel’s example of unbelief (for which they did not enter that rest) a “condition of Christian life” that is mutually exclusive of being a “condition for Heavenly Life?”

Of course, being a condition of Christian life is not inherently exclusive of being a condition for Christian life. Instead, the conditions of Christian life are a superset. For example, grace from God is a condition both for and of Christian life.

In other words, we view perseverance as fitting within a logical scheme such that all believers will persevere, but not that people are believers because they persevere. Instead, people persevere because they are believers.

John’s epistle is instructive in this regard. John explains:

1 John 3:9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

1 John 5:4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.

1 John 5:18 We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.

The apostle Peter explained the same thing, namely that we who are born again are born of incorruptible seed:

1 Peter 1:23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

Thus, as a result those who are born again will persevere – but not contrariwise: in other words, they are not born again because they persevere: to suggest such a thing would be to put the cart before the horse.

To return to the question, it is not that I am claiming that the two ideas are mutually exclusive. In the case of being born again, the condition is both a condition of and a condition for Christian life. Instead, I’m trying to explain that continued faith, repentance, and perseverance to the end are qualities of the Christian life.

They can serve as evidences to us, justifying us (in the sense James speaks of) in the eyes of ourselves and our fellow men. They help us to distinguish the true faith that springs from being born again (1 John 5:1 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.) from a dead faith that illustrates that we continue in a state of bondage to sin, not having been freed by the work of the Holy Spirit.

Source

#3 If God unequivocally promises that the consequences of His warnings against apostasy given to the saints will never come to pass, then why should anyone pay any heed or caution to avoid them?

First: Because our paying heed and our giving caution to avoid them, is a means God has ordained to the end of our perseverance. In other words, as already explained, the cautions help us to steer clear of the danger.

Second: Because failure to heed these warnings may give rise to God taking further measures. In other words, if we do not heed these warnings, God may chastise us as sons (with a rod of correction) or as sheep (with a rod and staff), which will not be pleasant for us. Ben Franklin sagely said that experience is a dear [expensive] school, but a fool will learn in no other.

Proverbs 10:13 In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found: but a rod is for the back of him that is void of understanding.

Proverbs 26:3 A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool’s back.

Third: Because God commands obedience to his warnings. It is a thoroughly sufficient reason to simply answer that God commands us to heed the warnings. That is a perfectly good reason to do something. Even when Abraham did not understand the reason why God wanted him to sacrifice his son Isaac, he obeyed, and that became a demonstration and witness of faith.

Fourth: Because we love God. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” This is connected with the previous item. Nevertheless, this is an answer to one’s naughty side that says, “Yes, it’s bad: but it’s not like God’s going to punish me eternally, right?” Love should and will constrain us from acting that way. If we love God, we will keep his commandments.

1 John 3:9-11
9Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. 11For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.

1 John 5:1-3
1Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. 2By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. 3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

Source

#4 If both the warnings against final apostasy and their consequences are given to motivate believers to persevere/avoid chastisement/obey/love/etc (as your responses indicate), yet the consequences are not even to be considered real-world possibilities, then how are the given consequences specifically meant to spur believers to perseverance?

The concept of “real-world possibilities” is inherently self-contradictory (i.e. an oxymoron) in the context of this debate.

To distinguish, the science of statistics is not meaningless. The concept of “possibility” exists. It relates to the orderly way in which many “random” events occur. Thus, for example, a meteorologist will predict the chance, possibility, or probability of rain tomorrow. Such discussion has meaning, and we speak reasonably when speak of a “fair coin” in statistical calculations.

Nevertheless, from God’s perspective, there is no such thing as “chance,” “possibility,” or “probability” (see also Ecclesiastes 9:10 and Proverbs 16:33). This is simply a logical consequences of God having omniscience: given omniscience, there is nothing left undetermined by His mind, and consequently, there is no real-world “possibility” from God’s perspective: only what will be and what will not be.

When God promises us, he communicates what will be. Thus, for example, Abraham knew that the Messiah would come, because God had promised it (though if Isaac had stayed died childless and stayed dead, God’s promise would have failed). It was not a mere possibility, but a certainty.

Because of the promise-certainty link, we can echo Paul:

Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

One might object that if no one actually apostatizes (i.e. the consequences are only in hypothesis: never actualized) then the warning lacks meaning (that seems to be the question’s unspoken premise). Two main responses come to mind:

(1) It seems absurd to suppose that a woman must sometimes let her children burn in order to give her warning meaning (all the more so, as to God’s warning to his children); and

(2) The truth value for the meaning is determined by the reality of the logical connection between the hypothetical premise (apostasy) and the hypothetical conclusion (hell).

Thus, rather than simply spurring us to obey (as already discussed in the previous answer), the consequences may promote gratitude in us for God’s grace. Just as the world’s continued existence day by day is only by God’s mercy, God does not have to prematurely end the world to make that proposition true. Likewise, God does not have to let any of his sheep perish to prove the truth of the premise consequence relationship.

Thus, the consequences specifically motivate by logical connection with their premise, as already noted in the previous answer, not by occasionally being actualized. In fact, such consequences could only be helpful to us if they are not actualized for us (just as the truth that long falls kill is helpful only to those who don’t fall).

Source

#5 Hypothetically speaking, if God did allow one who was born again and had his sins atoned for by the blood of Christ to sin by violating the scriptural warnings given against apostasy, would the violator then no longer be born again or have his sins atoned for?

Hypothetical questions are dangerous, especially when they contradict reality. That said, let me do my best to give some kind of meaningful answer.

a) Being born again (regeneration of the heart) is an event. It takes place in history.

b) Christ’s sacrifice on the cross (atonement for sins) was also an event. It also took place in history.

c) It would seem to be a fairly fundamental principle of history that what is done cannot be undone.

Thus (a) and (b) cannot cease to have happened. Nevertheless, if someone who had been born again and had received the benefit of the atonement in justification were to lose union with Christ and apostatize, there would be no hope for that person.

In other words, such apostasy would defeat the purpose of the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart (regeneration) and the purpose of Christ on the cross (atonement). Indeed, this is a powerful argument for why such a hypothetical situation (as JCT’s question describes) cannot occur. God cannot contradict himself.

If we were severed from Christ, we would perish, because our life derives from him. But we can have assurance that we will persevere, because of what connects to God is God’s “great love” (πολλην αγαπην) (Ephesians 2:4).

If God divorced us for our sins, we would perish. But the Lord is the God who hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). Instead, “The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

In short, the hypothetical situation will not arise, because if it did, it would violate the principle enunciated in Isaiah 55:11, “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”

God accomplishes what he wants to accomplish. What is that? “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” John 6:39 And again, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

Source

Opening statements
Cross-exam, TF’s questions
Rebuttal Essays

Debate With Turretin Fan, Opening Statements

[This debate was in response to a challenge by Turretinfan over an article I wrote, challenging the idea of inevitable perseverance with facts from scripture]

[My Affirmative Constructive Essay]

I wrote a challenge to Calvinist doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints some time back to show that the concept of eternal security was incompatible with several key warning passages in scripture. An important principle of scriptural interpretation is that passages that are clearer should guide our understanding of those which are not as clear. Though many places in the Bible warn against falling away, I chose these particular three for two main reasons:

1.) Clarity of address, and 2.) clarity of consequence.

Matthew 5:27-30 – Escaping the snares of wickedness is not advice that would benefit one who was unregenerate, much less allow him to enter into life (see the parallel passages in Matthew 18:9 and Mark 9:47). Christ’s words were plainly directed at those who follow Him. The consequence of being overcome by sin is hell fire, it doesn’t get much clearer.

Hebrews 4:9-11 – The context of the whole discourse pertains to those who believe, notably where the author states that “we who have believed do enter into that rest,” and when he concludes his call to perseverance by stating of himself and those he addresses, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.” The rest being spoken of can only be eternal rest given the context. Note that it is not something achieved when one believes, for we who have believed are entering it (verse 3), further indicated by verse 10, “for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.”

Revelation 22:18-19 – The consequence of having one’s part in the holy city taken being only applicable to those who possess a share of the heavenly inheritance, who is being addressed specifically isn’t hard to determine. Having one’s part in the holy city taken can realistically amount to nothing else than eternal separation from Christ.

Unlike many of the warnings in scripture which Calvinists write off as applying only to the unsaved or speaking of loss of tertiary rewards, these warnings with eternal and damning consequences are addressed to the regenerate specifically, eliminating any possibility of chalking them up to the “almost saved” or “false professors. Such clarity also renders the eternal securist arguments of violators getting their ‘potential’ eternal reward taken from them rather weak, such arguments made even more ridiculous by the Calvinist position, which effectively has God threatening to revoke an inheritance that He never planned on giving them.

The clarity with which these warnings are delivered has driven many Calvinists to view the passages as entirely hypothetical. Key to understanding where the error lies in such a position is how they employ the terms ‘hypothetical’ and ‘possible.’ This is not the same as being unsure whether the consequences are actual possibilities or not: in the Calvinist view, such a result must be strictly speculative. Some will say it’s ‘possible,’ but not possible in a sense that it could ever come to pass, thus not a genuine possibility (since in their view, it will definitely never occur).

With that in mind, it would be much easier for Reformed theologians to reconcile their views with just a command to persevere, but the consequences given with these divine warnings (especially Revelation 22:19, which pertains directly to the possession of the believer) pose a major problem in that the Reformed view of Perseverance turns them into absurd impossibilities contingent upon more absurd impossibilities. If a genuine believer falling into damnation would imply a change in the very nature of God (as was stated at Dordt), and hence God Himself ensures that such warnings can never be violated by believers, then Calvinism essentially makes these divine warnings say, “Don’t do something God won’t allow, or He’ll do something He would never do,” putting scripture through mind-boggling contortions to accommodate 16th century doctrinal silliness.

It’s true that impossible and completely speculative statements are occasionally made in scripture, Jeremiah 31:35-37 comes immediately to mind, where one is used to express that God being unfaithful is as feasible as a man being able to measure heaven and earth. In contrast, these warnings are not at all framed as anything speculative or hypothetical, nor does anything in the text suggest as much. Hence reinterpreting, “If you take away from this book, God will take away your part in His kingdom” as merely, “If God were to allow such a thing (which He won’t), then you would lose your part in His kingdom” is naught but wholly unjustified filtering of scripture through a dogmatic lens. The absolute negative of those consequences being, in the Calvinist view, due to and absolutely necessitated by the very faithfulness of God, one can only wonder as to why God would cast doubt upon His own faithfulness by proclaiming such consequences upon the redeemed who violate His command, without even a hint of the “but that could never happen” qualification that Calvinists are so quick to add.

The eternal securist defenses against the clear implications in these passages then fall far short of being either sound or convincing. Many instead like to point to assurances of salvation given in scripture as evidence against its conditionality, but a promise does not negate its own conditions — assurance with accompanying conditions is still conditional assurance. Bottom line, the Calvinist view of perseverance cannot be soundly reconciled with the scriptural warnings against believers falling into damnation:

Scripture says, “Be diligent lest you come up short!”

Calvinism adds, “But you can’t possibly come up short!”

Scripture says, “Take heed lest you fall!”

Calvinism counters, “You never can and never will fully fall away.”

Scripture says, “Do not be high-minded, but fear.”

Calvinism, despite any doubletalk about God filling us with fear and trembling, effectively states that there’s no reason to fear such warnings because God will never allow such consequences to occur, making the word of God of no effect.

[Turretinfan’s Negative Constructive Essay]

Negative Constructive – Perseverance of the Saints is Consistent with Scriptures
By TurretinFan

This debate is ultimately about whether the Reformed Doctrine of “Perseverance of the Saints” can be reasonably reconciled with three passages of Scripture. I’ll address each in turn and provide at least one reasonable alternative, thereby demonstrating that the passages can be understood consistently with that body of soteriology commonly called Calvinism. Afterwards, I’ll address miscellaneous points identified by JCT.

Matthew 5:27-30

JCT seems to suggest that the only reasonable meaning of Matthew 5:27-30 is that it is teaching that regenerate people can sin badly enough that they will be cast into hell-fire. An alternative explanation is that Jesus is explaining that lusting after a woman is a sin of sufficient gravity to merit eternal damnation, and that consequently merely abstaining from physical acts of adultery is insufficient to fulfill the law of God. After all, if we repent and trust in Christ not only lusting after a woman but also the physical act of adultery will be forgiven.

Hebrews 4:9-11

JCT seems to suggest that the only reasonable meaning of Hebrews 4:9-11 is that we do not have eternal rest yet, and consequently must keep on believing/working in order to obtain that. We agree that we do not yet have eternal rest, for that is a reference to heaven. Furthermore, the point of the passage is that since we have not reached the fulfillment of the Sabbath, we must continue to work. Nevertheless, as verse 9 indicates, the people of God have a future rest coming. JCT’s objection seems to confuse a condition of Christian life (to live on Earth is to work) with a condition for Heavenly Life (as though we receive heavenly rest not by grace but works). Verse 16 of the same chapter dispels this misconception.

Revelation 22:18-19

JCT seems to suggest that the only reasonable meaning of Revelation 22:18-19 is that people can only have a part in the holy city if they were regenerate. An alternative explanation is that those are being addressed who think they have a part. The elect will heed the warning, and the rest will be warned of what awaits them. After all, the command is – in essence – a command to believe the Scriptures. Those who willfully subtract from Scriptures refuse to believe what it says. Such an action is inconsistent with Faith in the Word and the Spirit.

Miscellaneous Issues

JCT acknowledges that some folks have interpreted warning passages in Scripture as entirely hypothetical. JCT responds that the “Key to understanding where the error lies in such a position is how they employ the terms ‘hypothetical’ and ‘possible.’ This is not the same as being unsure whether the consequences are actual possibilities or not: in the Calvinist view, such a result must be strictly speculative. Some will say it’s ‘possible,’ but not possible in a sense that it could ever come to pass, thus not a genuine possibility (since in their view, it will definitely never occur).”

JCT seems in this objection to confuse “will” with “could.” For example, it will not happen that genuine believers will eventually go to hell, but we could imagine how it may be that they could do so, if a different set of circumstances were present. For example, if genuine believers were not loved by God, God could let them separate themselves from Him. Objecting that such a description is “strictly speculative” or not a “genuine possibility” may or may not be accurate, but it is not a rebuttal.

JCT parodies the hypothetical interpretation this way, “‘Don’t do something God won’t allow, or He’ll do something He would never do,’ putting scripture through mind-boggling contortions to accommodate 16th century doctrinal silliness.” But the response is to turn to Genesis 15:8-18, where God in essence swears that he will do what he promises, or that he will be divided. One could parody this is as, “God promises not do something that he says he won’t do, or He’ll do something that he would never do.” Is that for the accommodation of “doctrinal silliness”? Surely not.

Indeed, JCT acknowledges that “It’s true that impossible and completely speculative statements are occasionally made in scripture, Jeremiah 31:35-37 comes immediately to mind, where one is used to express that God being unfaithful is as feasible as a man being able to measure heaven and earth.” JCT goes on to contrast these to the warnings discussed above, and properly so. These are not examples of hyperbole. Nevertheless, warnings for believers – even if they are warnings of dire consequences can have more than one purpose.

One purpose would be prophetic: you will do this, and you will fall. Another purpose, however, is pastoral: if you do this, you will fall. A pastoral warning can have use in the form of preventing the warned person from ever doing the “this.” The usual analogy is one’s child playing by the fire. We may properly warn the child that if they fall into the fire, they will be burnt to a crisp, without having the least intention of letting that happen. Why does JCT seem to want God from treating us like children?

JCT makes a final appeal to ineffectuality: “Calvinism, despite any doubletalk about God filling us with fear and trembling, effectively states that there’s no reason to fear such warnings because God will never allow such consequences to occur, making the word of God of no effect.” It is interesting that JCT would make this sort of claim. Yes, the fear of Calvinism is not the sort of servile fear in which man fears that he will do something that will separate himself from the love of God. No, it is a recognition of the power and majesty of the Most Holy God.

Sola Deo Gloria,

-Turretinfan

Source

Cross-exam, my questions
Cross-exam, TF’s questions
Rebuttal Essays

Some Afterthoughts on The Challenge to Reformed Theology

In John Piper’s sermon The Doctrine of Perseverance: The Future of a Fruitless Field, he acknowledges that the consequences of the warnings in Hebrews do indeed speak of eternal damnation, and that all who believe themselves to be saved should heed the warnings (because the Bible says to, and because many who think they are saved are not), yet still asserts that the only ones who can actually fall away are unbelievers. He concludes that the purpose of the warnings is to keep us
from falling. So he effectively teaches that in an outward sense, the consequences of violating these warnings apply to everyone, but in a true sense, only the unredeemed are in view. A few problems here:

1. The consequences of the scriptural warnings I listed here can specifically apply only to those who are saved. One who is unsaved is already condemned to hell fire for not believing on the Son of God, so it is useless to tell him to avoid sin at all costs to escape it; one does not know Christ has already fallen short of His eternal rest, so exhorting him to be diligent in a faith that is not real is moot; and no unrepentant sinner has any part in the holy city or any like inheritance in God’s kingdom, making it futile to warn him under penalty of it being taken. These passages are not talking about never being saved, they’re warnings against falling away from our Savior. In short, if the result of not heeding the scriptural warnings is forfeiture of eternal life, then
in reality it logically applies specifically to those who possess it, making Piper’s defense untenable in these cases.

2. As far as God using absurd warnings as a means to preserve believers, if you really want to have some fun, start questioning the Calvinist to get to the bottom of the issue:


Synergist: Why does God warn us against falling away?

Monergist: As a means to keep us from falling away.

Synergist: But what if we don’t heed the warnings?

Monergist: That’s not possible, God will make sure we they take heed and obey.

Synergist: But if God is already making sure that we obey and keeps us from falling, then why does He still warn us?

Monergist: I told you, that’s one of the ways He keeps us from falling away.

Ah yes, God is warning us against a violation that He would never allow to occur with a sentence that He would never carry out to preserve people that He is already keeping secure. Obviously Calvinists are performing a ridiculous semantic dance in order to escape the obvious implications carried in the word of God. As my friend Ben Henshaw so succinctly put it: “If God does everything (causes us to believe and keep believing), then to warn them to keep believing is like warning someone hooked to a respirator to keep breathing.”

It’s pointless to say that warnings against falling from God’s grace apply only to those who aren’t in it, and it’s downright silly to say that God uses those warnings to preserve us if He’s the sole cause for our heeding them. And even if they were simply commands He wanted to be obeyed, then why tack on the consequence of being cast from His presence into hell fire if belief in conditional security is doctrinal error? I can’t even begin fathom the reasoning of Calvinists who think this way: “Yeah, that whole, ‘take heed lest ye fall’ thing; God would never actually do that, that’s just something He says to the rubes who lack assurance to keep them in line.” What utter nonsense. Could you imagine how badly they’d rake anyone else over the coals for employing such convoluted logic? Picture a Pelagian employing that kind of defense against Ephesians 2:8:

Pelagian: “Well, it’s not actually by God’s grace, it’s by faith inherent in man, it’s only a gift of God in the sense that He created man with that capacity. While it does mention grace in the context of salvation, texts like this aren’t meant to represent the standard soteriological model, for that would contradict the biblical doctrine total moral neutrality. Paul is not saying that salvation is by grace here, He is simply employing outward human terms to help safeguard the redeemed from becoming puffed up with pride, as it says, ‘lest any man should boast’….” They’d be all over him like Rosie O’Donnel on a buffet, yet they themselves selectively employ similar reasoning when it fits their doctrine.

It has also been suggested that God simply uses Revelation 22:19 as a “do not tamper” warning to those that merely think they are saved, apparently to scare them into believing they will lose their part in an eternal inheritance they never really possessed, thereby preserving God’s word from detractors. This view carries with it the same problems as the “God is trying to scare us into holiness” argument above: If we teach unconditional security as a central tenet of the gospel, then if some scripture-twisting false professor thinks he’s saved, he will certainly have no trouble believing that he is unconditionally secure if that is what is taught, and thus have no fear of tampering with God’s word, again making the warning in scripture of not even any practical effect by Calvinist tradition. Let’s face it, if you seriously believe such a serious warning to be merely a ‘scarecrow’ that God has placed up to keep people in line, then proceed to tell everyone that it is in fact only a scarecrow that would never in reality carry out the consequence written, then you are making even the hollow warning of no effect by your teaching. Call me crazy, but I for one prefer to believe God actually means what He says.

If we are to truly believe this nonsense that unconditional security is a vital element of the true gospel, and therefore of necessity make the belief in even the possibility of forfeiting salvation a seriously false doctrine, then we are also forced to conclude that in order to promote holiness and preserve itself, God’s perfect word instills a concept of false doctrine within the church via idle admonitions with preposterous consequences. Newsflash: God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), and I stand in awe at the sheer befuddlement of anyone that cannot recognize the obvious discrepancy there.

Does Revelation 22:19 Indicate That God Will Take What Unbelievers Only Seem to Have?

One of the standard tactics of Calvinist theologians when dealing with the clear warnings in scripture against apostasy (since apostasy of the elect does not fit into their monergistic doctrine) is to either a.) State that the warning was given so that the elect would never fall away (ultimately self-defeating, since according to that logic, one is better off believing an errant warning), or b.) Insisting that the warning does not apply to the elect. Here I address John Gill who in his exposition of the Bible employed the latter tactic.

God shall take away his part out of the book of life; by which is meant eternal election, which is the meaning of the phrase throughout this book, in which whoever are written shall certainly be saved. The worshippers of the beast, or the antichristian party, who are chiefly regarded here, are not written in it, Revelation 13:8 wherefore taking away the part of such, is only taking away that which they seemed to have; see Luke 8:18 and the sense is, that such shall be cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death, and will be the portion of all that are not written in the book of life, Revelation 20:15. The Alexandrian copy, one of Stephens’s, and the Complutensian edition, read, “the tree of life”; and so do the Syriac and Ethiopic versions; the sense is the same; see John 15:2 and out of the holy city; the new Jerusalem, before described, a part in which is a right to enter into it through the gates, and possess the glories of it: what is mentioned here is only a seeming one, which wicked men may flatter themselves with; and the meaning is, that such shall never enter into it, and enjoy the happiness of it, but shall ever be without, Revelation 21:27

(taken from John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible)

One of the most creative of the arguments I have heard thus far, but ultimately flawed. Let’s look at Jesus words in Luke 8:18 and its corresponding passages in the gospels.

[Answer as to why He spoke in parables] “He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but but to them it is not given. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and [their] ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with [their] eyes, and hear with [their] ears, and should understand with [their] heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed [are] your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.” (Matthew 13:11-16)

“Take therefore the talent from him, and give [it] unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 25:28-30)

“If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given. For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.” (Mark 4:23-25)

“Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have.” (Luke 8:18)

“And he said unto them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give [it] to him that hath ten pounds. (And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.) For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him.” (Luke 19:24-26)

Luke 8 is the only passage that uses the phrase “seems to have” or “thinks he has.” Of course eternal securists jump on this in a hurry and then publish it as evidence that imaginary things can be taken away from someone, and hence any warnings about one’s share in eternal life must only apply to those who merely think they possess them. The word for “seems” or “thinks” in that passage is ‘dokeo,’ which translates as ‘think,’ ‘suppose,’ ‘reputed as,’ or ‘seems.’ Where their argument falls short is that they do not recognize that dokeo can be used in a variety of ways to express different ideas.

“Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12)

Such a person is standing in a sense (for he could not fall if it were not so), but only thinks he stands if he will not take heed to himself.

“If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 14:37)

The word “think” (dokeo) here does not imply that the man only thinks he is a prophet without actually being one. One can seem to be something and be said thing at the same time.

“And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we [should go] unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.” (Galatians 2:9)

An example similar to the verse above. The New International Version I believe more clearly words it as, “James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars…”

“And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.” (1 Corinthians 8:2)

The idea being expressed behind this verse is that one can truly know facts etc, yet not know anything that is important, and so in another sense, know nothing.

One can in one sense possess a thing, and in another only think he does. For instance, a temporal ruler has power in a sense, but in an ultimate sense does not, for God ultimately retains all power. Therefore while they do have power entrusted to them by God (Romans 13:1), a ruler who boasts against God only thinks he has real power, for the God who gave it can just as easily take it away (see Jesus’ words to Pilate in John John 19:11, and 1 Kings 11:31, 1 Samuel 13:13-14). This type of idiom is clearly being used in 1 Corinthians 8:2, for while men may have deep knowledge of things, they only think that they have knowledge apart from the knowldge of Christ. Likewise, Jesus is not making reference to God mysteriously taking away imaginary attributes that someone never had; He is clearly employing a similar expression to 1 Corinthians 10:12, saying that men must hear and receive the gospel, and thereby be given more understanding and fullness of it. But if they “have not,” i.e. fail to acquire more (such as the unprofitable servant of Matthew 25) understanding by hearing and listening (see Zechariah 7:11), then even the little power to understand that they do have, which they can only think they have apart from God’s revelation, will be darkened (Romans 1:25-28). This is evidenced by the various false teachers that have arisen over the years, which start by not heeding the voice of God in their doctrine or practice, and end up denying the very fundamental truths of His word.

“But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” (2 Timothy 3:13)

In conclusion, even if the meaning of Luke 8:18 were arbitrarily forced onto Revelation 22:19 (or any other passage relating to one’s part in the kingdom of God being taken away), it would still not bolster the case for unconditional perseverance of the saints, for one could indeed have possessed a part in the kingdom of God at one time, but only think (or seem) to continue to possess it if he ceases to abide in Christ.

Bottom Line:

  • The biblical usage of the word “seem” does not necessarily imply that such a thing does not exist
  • One “seeming to have” something (especially something abstract such as knowledge or authority) can be used in the idiomatic sense that he does possess it, but only thinks he possesses it apart from its source

Is Revelation 22:19 Addressed to the Unsaved in the Church?

In my previous article on Revelation 22, I addressed the most common objections that Calvinists and eternal securists raise to its literal interpretation. The following argument is actually a specific spin on Objection 1 written by Ra McLaughlin (you can see the original post at http://thirdmill.org/answers/answer.asp/file/99899.qna/category/nt/page/questions/site/iiim. When a reader asked him about what that verse meant, he responded:


“I think the best way to understand this is to notice that the Bible sometimes speaks of people possessing a right to or an expectation of something that will never be fulfilled. For example, in Romans 9:1-5 Paul says that the Jewish people possess all sorts of blessings of salvation, and he also indicates that they have not and will not receive these blessings. His point is that because they are in covenant with God, they have the right and expectation to these things if they will only keep covenant. Since they do not keep covenant, however, they forfeit these rights. In the same way, we may have a “part” in eternal life not be [sic] being saved, but simply by being in covenant with God — because being in covenant with God gives us a right to inherit the covenant blessings if we fulfill the covenant stipulations (i.e. being perfectly righteous). Now, we can’t be righteous on our own, and we can only inherit the covenant blessings in Christ, but that doesn’t change the fact that God promises to bless us if we can be perfect on our own. Because that offer exists, it can rightly be said that all who are in covenant with God (i.e. all who are in the visible church) have a “part” or “share” in salvation, even if they have never come to faith in Christ. Thus, those who are in the church but who are never saved lose their “part” or “share,” which is their right to be saved if they keep covenant. But they do not lose their actual salvation, which they have never actually possessed.”

Ouch. It hurts my occipital lobe just to read that kind of twaddle. Let’s examine the key points of this argument carefully:

“In the same way, we may have a “part” in eternal life not be [sic] being saved, but simply by being in covenant with God — because being in covenant with God gives us a right to inherit the covenant blessings if we fulfill the covenant stipulations (i.e. being perfectly righteous).”

I’m not sure exactly what covenant he’s talking about here. While there are several covenants between God and man mentioned in the scriptures, there are only two covenants with the promise of eternal life involved:

1. The Old Covenant (the Law – see Romans 10:5)

2. The New Covenant (grace – Ephesians 2:8)

First off, this book was written to Christian Gentiles in Asia Minor, not Judaea. If John is indeed addressing his readers as people under a ‘covenant,’ it is an impossibly silly contingency to insist that he was referring only to Jews; leaving only the new covenant, which Ra apparently acknowledges by saying, “…we can only inherit the covenant blessings in Christ.” The sign of the old covenant was ritual circumcision, and its power through keeping the law of Moses (which we are both agreed is impossible for a mortal man to fulfill perfectly). What is the sign of the new covenant? Calling oneself a Christian? Fellowshipping in church? Both wrong. The Mediator of the new covenant is Christ (Hebrews 12:24), its seal is the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30), and the power of that covenant is through Christ’s own blood.

“Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant…” (Hebrews 13:20)

For this [is] My covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. (Romans 11:27)

No one is in covenant with God just by claiming to be or by being in a body of believers. If someone who does not repent and believe attends a church, he has no expectation of a part in God’s kingdom in the estimation of God or the church. Since the new covenant is not based on us being totally righteous (as we all have already sinned), works righteousness is not a stipulation of the new covenant (indeed, it is heresy against it), and no one under the new covenant has even the expectation or hope of eternal life by being sinless. So Ra’s quote: “…but that doesn’t change the fact that God promises to bless us if we can be perfect on our own” is a solecism, for this concept was indeed integral to the old covenant, but is alien and contrary to the new.

To sum it up: The author of the above article more or less makes this up as he goes along in a futile attempt to circumvent the warning given in Revelation 22:19 by asserting that those to whom this warning applies do not actually possess a share in the kingdom of God, but simply the hope and expectation of such because they are in covenant with God. But as can be clearly seen, the only covenant by which one can have any hope or expectation of eternal life is salvation through the blood of Christ, not just being part of a church body. I have a better theory as to what this passage means, and this is going to sound wild so bear with me:

“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life [most texts say ‘tree of life’], and out of the holy city, and [from] the things which are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:18-19)

Maybe it means that if someone who has been redeemed turns his back on God and hates His word and tries to destroy it, that he will have broken the covenant and will be eternally damned. I know that might be hard to garner from the plain reading of that verse, but if you read it VERY closely, I believe you’ll find that is the point it is trying to convey.

Closing Thoughts

In actuality, the doctrine of conditional salvation necessarily carries with it an idea along the lines of what Ra implied was possible: That men who are under the new covenant with God can break that covenant with Him, and hence fall from His grace. What he didn’t recognize was that being under the new covenant with God is synonymous with being saved.

“He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” (Hebrews 10:28-29)

Bottom Line:

  • It is true that the only way to have any place in God’s kingdom is to be in covenant with Him
  • The only way to be under the new covenant is through its Mediator – Jesus Christ

Is Revelation 22:19 not Authoritative Because it’s not a ‘Didactic’ Book?

About the silliest argument I have ever heard. I actually got this one from someone on the staff of James White. When I asked him about Revelation 22:19, he responded that Revelation was not a ‘didactic’ (teaching) book, but that is was ‘apocalyptic,’ and for reasons known apparently only to him, that made its teachings on salvation less authoritative than a didactic book such as Romans or John, and that the doctrines of unconditional election and perseverance of the saints were taught clearly there, so whatever Revelation says, it could clearly not be contradicting those. Argument by categorization? I could not twist my brain in that direction if I tried. For starters, unconditional election and perseverance of the saints are not clearly taught or even spoken of in John 6, Romans 9, or anywhere else in the Bible.

There is in fact a substantial- body of scriptural evidence that goes against them; they are merely mistaken conclusions that Calvinists have drawn after reading those scriptures. Secondly, all scripture is inspired and good for doctrine and instruction (2 Timothy 3:16). Was Christ guilty of irresponsible theological interpretation because He used a ‘historical’ book instead of a ‘legal’ book in Matthew 12:4 (when He used 1 Samuel 21:6 to argue the lawfulness of plucking grain to eat on the Sabbath)? What nonsense. I am not suggesting that it is impossible to misuse scripture, but to simply discount the clear testimony of God’s word because it is not in the category of books you think it should be in is just plain silly.

Should Revelation 22:19 be Translated “May God Take Away…”?

Probably the only thing even resembling a reasonable defense that Calvinists can employ against Revelation 22:19 is the wording that some manuscripts of it use. The word used in the Byzntine majority texts and Septuagint for “take away” (root verb: aphaireo) is ‘apheloi’, the mood of which is called ‘optative,’ which very often means that the verb in question is something the author wishes to take place, and is most often translated as “may [optative verb]…” For example:

“The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy….” (2 Timothy 1:18)

The word for ‘grant’ here is in the optative mood, and expresses a desire, which is equivalent to Paul saying, “May the Lord grant him that he find mercy…” This is known as an optative wish. You may see where this is bringing the argument; some authors have claimed that the use of the optative verb for ‘take away’ indicates that Revelation 22:19 is simply John’s wish that God take away the part in His kingdom from those who detract from His word, and that such a consequence was not uttered nor intended by God Himself, and is only John saying, “…may God take away his part…” This seems like a pretty good argument, until one considers that many other texts, including the Alexandrian texts and some majority texts instead employ ‘aphelei,’ which has an indicative mood (which indicates actual or future occurance), rather than optative.

So how can one tell which reading is correct? A vast majority of the major Bible translations (except the World English Bible, which is still in draft form) all render the passage “God will/shall take away,” instead of “May God take away,” and with good reason. Look at its context in verse 18,

“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book…”

The warnings of verses 18 and 19 are given in testimony — a statement or declaration of truth, also called bearing witness — and under divine inspiration no less. The idea that John is simply praying or hoping for God to damn the apostates does not fit in the context of the passage, as solemn testimonies are for bearing witness to statements of fact, not wishful thinking. If we were to try to interpret this passage as just John’s whim, it would basically end up saying, “I testify that may God cut off whoever detracts from this book.” The thought being expressed by this text is clearly a proclamation that God will take away the right to the tree of life and the holy city from someone who tries to tamper with His divine Revelation.

Though there is some manuscript evidence for the optative form of “will take away,” the fact that the warning is a testimony rather than a prayer or wish establishes that a definite consequence is being stated in verse 19, not merely John’s desire.

Is Revelation 22:19 Only Hypothetical?

Not used much by unconditional securists (as they would have to admit that there are sins that can cause a believer to be damned), this is a mainstay of Calvinistic thinking. Some Calvinists actually admit that a believer could fall away — were it not for God keeping him from falling. They then go on to say that verses like this are simply meant to warn believers, but that such a thing could not actually happen (such warnings being one of the reasons it does not happen). That argument is hard to contradict directly, but let’s follow this thinking through to its logical end shall we:

After turning the Bible on its ear and making the admonishing testimony of scripture out to be an impossible scenario, Calvinists will then state confidently that it is impossible for a believer to fall away. When I objected to this idea in the past on the basis of Revelation 22:19, I was told that I was a heretic and in deep error. Questions then:

  • If I am so in error, then does the Bible promote such an error for the sake of warning us?
  • If the final warning of Revelation is meant simply to humble me and maybe even make me believe that I could possibly fall away so that I will have the utmost respect for God’s word, then can you fault me for believing it?
  • If God meant for that to be in His book (which He did), and meant for it to be taken to heart (do you not agree?), then shouldn’t you believe it as well?

The Calvinist argument sounds pretty good at first, but falls apart in the real world. The Calvinist is either forced to either A. Admit that the scripture is not warning against impossibilities, or B. Admit that you are not a child of Satan, maybe just a little over-literal at best (though some vie for option C: bury your head in the sand and continue to shout ‘Heretic!’). Either way, the argument just doesn’t make any sense. There is no reason in scripture to doubt that God will do exactly what His word says He will, and when dealing with warnings from the book of the Almighty, it is better to believe and take to heart the things that He says rather than discount it as a warning against something which could never occur.

Bottom Line:

If God’s warnings are meant to make us fear and obey, then what right do men have to discount them?