BEYOND CALVINISM AND ARMINIANISM:
TOWARD A BAPTIST SOTERIOLOGY
This is part one of a four part series. These posts are adapted from Eric Hankins’s article “Beyond Calvinism and Arminianims: Toward a Baptist Soteriology,” published in the online Journal for Bapist Theology and Ministry, Spring 2011, Vol. 8, No. 1, and may be accessed here. The material published here is used by permission of the author.
For over a century, Southern Baptists, by-and-large, have not felt the need to identify themselves as either Calvinists or Arminians. We were glad to affirm different aspects of each system, politely reject the points that were at variance with the clear teaching of Scripture, gladly accept those in our tribe who did affirm one or the other, and go on about the business of reaching the world around us for Christ. We did so without formulating a distinctive soteriology of our own. This has served us well, but, unfortunately, such détente appears to be coming to an end. For the last several years, voices calling for a recommitment to Reformed theology in Baptist life have become louder and louder. The Reformed-minded want to make the case that Baptists have always been made up of two groups, Calvinists and Arminians, and that they are representing and calling for a revival of just one stream in our soteriological tradition. They believe that this would be a return to the “normal” state of affairs and would balance what they perceive as an Arminian tilt in Southern Baptist life over the past couple generations. So, the way to get us back to where we are supposed to be is to force us to choose one system or the other. And that’s the problem. Most Southern Baptists don’t want to be one or the other. It is becoming clear, however, that simply stating that we are “neither” is not going to work.
The time has come for Southern Baptist to spell out exactly what we believe about the nature of salvation without appealing to either Calvinism or Arminianism. We must break with the notion that these are the only two options. We must break with the notion that these two options can be successfully integrated. We must break with the notion that we can “all just get along” without having a serious debate. We must break with the notion that the “Neither” position has a future. These blog posts are written in hopes that a new direction can be forged.
Why Your Faith Is Secure, Part 6:
What the Bible Teaches about Apostasy
We have been examining reasons for the security of the believer from Ephesians 1 and other Scriptures – that persons who are genuinely saved are saved forever. We have seen five reasons in previous articles why the Bible teaches that we cannot lose their salvation:
“Part 1 — Salvation Is of God, Not of Us,”
“Part 2 — It is Based upon a Life Changing Experience with God,”
“Part 3 — It Is Based on a Scriptural Promise.” and
“Part 4 – It Is a Logical Necessity.”
“Part 5 – It is Based on an Unchanging Relationship Status.”
In this sixth article of the series I’ll discuss the Scriptures that are often raised against belief in the security of the believer, and attempt to explain why I don’t believe that these Scriptures teach that we can lose our salvation.
The Security of the Believer and Apostasy
In five prior posts, I have been presenting the biblical rationale for the belief that once we are genuinely saved, we are saved forever. We call this belief the security of the believer or perseverance of the saints. The five reasons presented to support belief in the security of the believer’s salvation are that we cannot lose our salvation because: (1) salvation is not ours to lose since God provides it, not we ourselves; (2) it is based upon a life-changing salvation experience with God; (3) eternal salvation is a Scriptural promise; (4) eternal salvation is a logical necessity; and (5) it is based on the unchanging status of our relationship with God. However, some other Christian denominations teach that believers can indeed lose their salvation. How do they reach this conclusion? What biblical basis do they claim for their belief? Let’s look together at what they take to be a biblical rationale that persons can lose their salvation, and why we believe that this is not the correct reading of these texts.
Can a Believer Fall Away?
The primary Scripture verses usually cited on behalf of those who believe you can lose your salvation include the idea of “falling away” from the faith in Heb. 6:1-6, or the mention of apostate believers who “fall away” or “err” from the faith (as in 1 Tim. 4:1, 6:10). The word translated “fall away” in Heb. 6:6 is the Greek word peripipto, which means to turn from or deviate from the correct path. At first blush, these verses would appear to indicate that persons could possibly lose their salvation.
May I ask you a personal question?
Do you ever plan to humble yourself before Almighty God and accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? If you do, could I ask one more?
What are you waiting for? What’s keeping you from turning to Him today and giving Him yourself (as much as you know, as fully as you can) right this minute?
People say to me, “Well, I’m going to do that. One of these days.” One of these days.
I have three things to say about that.
“One of these days” is pure self-deception. It’s how we fool ourselves into getting rid of the haunting feeling that we are missing out on what life was really meant to be. It’s how we fool ourselves into thinking we are all right with God in spite of the great guilt which rides on us day and night, because “we intend to get saved.” One of these days. Just not today.
You’re fooling yourself, my friend. And no one else. You’re buying into a lie which you are telling yourself. “One of these days” is the biggest scam in the universe. You may have thought the biggest scam in the world was some woman in Nigeria whose husband died leaving her zillions in some American bank and she needs your help to get it. That’s a big scam, all right.
Why Your Faith Is Secure, Part 5:
It is Based on an Unchanging Relationship Status
We have been examining reasons for the security of the believer from Ephesians 1 and other Scriptures – that persons who are genuinely saved are saved forever. We have seen four reasons in previous articles why the Bible teaches that we cannot lose their salvation:
In this fifth article of the series we see another compelling reason why we believe that we cannot lose our salvation – because eternal salvation is based on an unchanging relationship status.
Eph. 1:13-14 describes the Holy Spirit as sealing and guaranteeing our salvation. On the basis of this Scripture and many others, we believe the Bible teaches that once someone has a genuine salvation experience is saved forever – sometimes described as “once saved, always saved.” Another reason that we have this confidence in our eternal salvation is that it is based on an unchanging status of relationship.
One of the most fundamental confusions about the security of the believer is that it is earned by good works. Some teach that if we “keep persevering” with good works that we will eventually be saved. Yes, if we are truly saved we will demonstrate “bear fruit consistent with repentance” (Matt. 3:8, HCSB; see also Acts 26:20). But we are not saved by our continuing in good works. We continue in good works because we are genuinely saved.
Salvation is not earned by good works, and neither is it kept by good works. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addressed those who listed all the good works they had done for Him, and Jesus gave them a surprisingly strong rebuke: “I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matt. 7:23, NASB). Note that although these would-be believers had done many good works for Jesus, these good works were not sufficient for salvation. The basis for salvation was whether or not they had ever entered into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Obviously, they had not done so, for Jesus said, “I never knew you.” Salvation, then, is based on a relationship with God, not on our performance.
Why Your Faith Is Secure, Part 4:
It Is a Logical Necessity
We have been examining reasons for the security of the believer from Ephesians 1 and other Scriptures – that persons who are genuinely saved are saved forever. We have seen three reasons in previous articles why the Bible teaches that we cannot lose their salvation:
In this fourth article of the series is the most compelling reason why we believe that we cannot lose our salvation – because eternal salvation is a logical necessity.
We have seen that Eph. 1:13-14 describes the Holy Spirit as sealing and guaranteeing our salvation. On the basis of this Scripture and many others, we believe the Bible teaches that once someone has a genuine salvation experience is saved forever – sometimes described as “once saved, always saved.” However, other Christians disagree with this teaching. As evangelist Angel Martinez used to point out years ago, there are two logical alternatives to this view, both of which are held by other Christian groups. Besides the “once saved, always saved” view, there are those who believe (a) that you can lose your salvation once, and never regain it, or (b) you can lose and regain your salvation many times.
Which of these views is correct according to Scripture? We must ask a key question of those who believe that you could lose your salvation – “Where in Scripture does it say what would be required to lose our salvation?” More specifically, what Bible verse says which particular sins would be so heinous as to cause you to lose your salvation, and what Bible verse identifies how many sins would be required to lose your salvation? I challenge anyone to find a Bible verse with specific answers to these questions with clear reference to former Christians losing their salvation. Many verses tell us what it means to be lost, but none tell us the kind of sins or the number of sins that would be required for believers to lose their salvation.