The Donahue - Morrison Debate
on "Once Saved, Always Saved?"
Steve Morrisons Second Negative
I have to admit, I was very surprised to learn that Patrick believes in Galatians 2:14-18 that Peter the Apostle lost his salvation and was going to Hell. I was less shocked, but still surprised, when I realized that to Patrick, Simon the Sorcerer and Peter were in the same boat, genuine believers where lost their salvation. We hope Peter got it back though, if 1 and 2 Peter were written after this.
Patricks view is a symptom of four fundamental misunderstandings: the nature sin, election, crowns, and the visible church. I have to be brief to discuss these four parts, and show two ramifications of these mistakes.
Every Christian Sins Frequently; We Need Gods Continuing Grace
Peters sin was hypocrisy on whom he would not eat with. Here are some other sins and evil things.
Breaking Gods commandment by worrying. Mt 6:25; Php 4:6
Knowing what is good and failing to do it. James 4:17
Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. Romans 14:23b
Greed, love of money, or loving money more than God. 1 Cor 5:10; 1 Tim 6:10; Mt 6:24
Loving the world or things in the world. 1 Jn 2:15-16
Slandered (reviler) 1 Corinthians 5:10
Looking with lust. Matthew 5:28
Crude talk. Ephesians 5:4
Children disobeying parents (in the Lord). Ephesians 6:1-2
Speaking evil against another or judging another. James 4:11
Now these sins are serious; Christ had to die for them (as well as others), and apart from Gods grace through Christ, just one of these would keep you out of heaven. But Gods grace is already applied to the Christian; we do not lose our salvation when we do one of these. However, genuine Christians will reach a point where they repent of these. So correct me if I am wrong Patrick, but I understand your view to be that if a genuine Christian commits a willful sin, they have lost their salvation, though they can repent and gain it back. Lets look at what this theology entails:
How many people have been saved and afterwards never committed even one of these sins? The same number of Christians that have never lost their salvation: probably close to none.
When you are saved you are regenerated. If you lose your salvation and get it back, are you unregenerated and then regenerated again, or does the lost person keep his regeneration? If not, when you get your salvation back, i.e. get regenerated again, shouldnt you get baptized again?
Let suppose hypothetically in one week you committed:
Five unintentional sins, two of which you repented, but three of which you were unaware.
Then four intentional sins, but you saw your error yourself and repented.
Then three occurrences of hypocrisy, and (like Peter), you did not repent until you were rebuked.
Then two sins where you mistakenly thought it was OK, and you will not see for two weeks.
Then one intentional sin you did not repent of because you forgot.
My first question to Patrick is: how many times in this example did you lose your salvation?
My second question is: if you died in this state, would you go to heaven or hell? Yes, no, or you never of any assurance of where you currently would go?
There is a very simple solution for all of this: your first (and only) salvation included forgiveness of sins you will commit as a Christian.
In an any-sin-loses-your-salvation theology, a brother can never sin, because when a brother sins, he is no longer a brother. However, Jesus said in Luke 17:3-4 If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, I repent, forgive him.
Patrick and I agree that good works do not earn our salvation. However, we differ in that he apparently thinks works / complete obedience / never sinning at all is required to stay saved. And if some sins do not make you lose your salvation and others do, then we would need to know which sins are mortal and which are just venial. Patrick, if you could narrow down the previous by articulating your view more precisely, that would be good.
Election, not Re-election
Patricks view fails to account for verses that show we were the elect of God before creation. This is before we even did anything, though of course God knows all the future. Since Patrick explicitly stated he believes someone who lost their salvation can get it back, do you get un-elected and then re-elected? In the previous example of sins (and sins can keep you from heaven), did God blot some peoples names out of his book many times in one week, and then re-write it many times too? Even if a Christian were completely without any sin 70% of the time, and lost 30% of the time, then I hope we all die on a good minute, not a bad minute.
Predestination and election are NOT Calvinist terms: they are Biblical terms. No Christian has the option of denying them. I am not at all suggesting Patrick become a Calvinist, for I am not one either. But I am asking him to affirm that, regardless of your view of how genuine a persons salvation can appear to be and they still fall away and go to Hell, that God has certain knowledge of who is ultimately going to heaven and who is not.
The elect are those ultimately going to Heaven, whom God knew and chose before the world began. If you accept this definition of elect, 2 Corinthians 13:5; Colossians 1:23; and 1 John 2:19 do show that the elect will persevere. However, while Patrick has not articulated any belief about the elect, I am guessing we are far apart on our understanding. So I think I recognize why he thinks those scriptures do not reflect what I said. Permit me restate that sentence: Those who ultimately go to Heaven will persevere, because they are the ones who ultimately go to heaven (2 Corinthians 13:5; Colossians 1:23; 1 John 2:19). I assume Patrick would then agree with my sentence, taking our difference about the elect out of the way.
The Bible teaches that we are promised a deposit, the Holy Spirit, sealing and guaranteeing us (Romans 8:28-39; Ephesians 1:13-14; 2 Corinthians 1:22).
I was surprised that Patrick did not know that crowns do refer to rewards also.
We do have differing rewards in heaven. (1 Cor 3:8-15)
The prudent are crowned with knowledge. (Proverbs 14:18)
A noble wife is her husbands crown. (Proverbs 12:4)
We cast our crowns before God (Rev 4:10-11), but afterwards we will still be saved.
One of Pauls crowns was not his salvation, but the Philippian believers (Php 4:1) and the Thessalonians (1 Th 2:19).
Thus 1 Cor 9:25-27 and Rev 3:11 cannot be used to show crown means salvation without first assuming what you are trying to prove. I admit that the crown of life in James 1:12; Rev 2:10 includes salvation though.
Brothers in the Visible Church
Scripture says there are counterfeit believers among us in the visible church according to 2 Pet 2:1; Mt 7:22-23; Rev 2:14,16,20-23, 3 John 9,10, 1 Cor 5:11. (Patrick would agree here).
There are people in the church who are currently called false brothers in 2 Cor 11:26; Gal 2:4.
A key point to refute Patrick is that some Christians in serious sin are called brothers, not false brothers in 1 Cor 6:6,8.
Christians who were Judaizers were called brothers in Acts 15:1,5 especially 6
You cannot just say a word like brothers always has the same meaning; you have to look at the context. Even non-believing Jews were called brothers in Acts 2:29; 3:17; 7:2; 23:1,5,6.
So for example in James 5:19-20, some people in the visible church do later wander away. Elect brothers are brought back, and counterfeit believers never return and perish in Hell.
Can a false brother have any type of cleansing that does not transform on the inside? 2 Peter 2:20-22 shows yes.
1 John 2:19 says not, rather than never as I mistakenly said. However, in Matthew 7:23, Jesus tells counterfeit Christians I never knew you, and I believe the precept is the same. 1 John 2:19 does not say they do not belong (present tense), but did not really belong (past).
Ramification 1: Do we Even Have Eternal Life at All, Except Potentially?
Patrick does not seem to have any problem with un-biblical concepts of un-salvation, un-sanctification, un-regeneration, un-born again, and un-election. I would like to ask Patrick if this is the reason. I am concerned that Patrick is being consistent with other Church of Christ teachers who say we do not have eternal life at all, except in a potential sense. Patrick, is your view consistent with these others in the Church of Christ movement?
Walter Scott (1796-1861) in The Gospel Restored p.558 says, No Christian is yet born of the Spirit; this event is the resurrection . . . still in the future.
M. H. Tucker in Sword of the Spirit 4/77, p.19 says, We have eternal life in prospect . . . eternal life follows the judgment; it is received in the world to come.
Tom Warren in Sword of the Spirit 4/77, p.30, 31 says, No one goes into eternal life (as a present possession) when he is baptized, but he only comes into hope of eternal life at the time he is baptized, if he lives the faithful Christian life (I John 1:7), he will receive the eternal life which the Lord has promised (I John 2:25).
In contrast to this, I praise God that we can know we are children of God in 1 John 5:19, and we know we have eternal life in 1 John 5:13.
Ramification 2: What Does the Holy Spirit Do in Salvation and Re-Salvation?
If salvation is lost and regained many times in a Christians life, what role does Patrick think the Holy Spirit has in re-salvation? The Church of Christ has taught that the Holy Spirit has no role in any salvation. Patrick, is your view consistent with the following?
J. H. Parker in Sword of the Spirit 4/76, p.10 says, Thus we see that the eunuch did not need an angel or the Holy Spirit for salvation, but he did need Philip's message for salvation
We can further note that the very efforts of the angel and the Holy Spirit in bringing Philip to the eunuch show that such divine agents are to have no direct role in the salvation of a man, rather that a man is to be converted by his hearing another preach the Gospel to him.
However, 1 Th 1:5 and Acts 16:14 show that the Holy Spirit does work in our salvation. Furthermore, converts received the Holy Spirit prior to water baptism in Acts 10:44-46. If a person intellectually believes and has the indwelling of the Holy Spirit but no water baptism yet, they are still saved.
I admit that the Greek word in Acts 8:13 (Strongs 4100) does refer to saving faith in other passages, but you have to look at the context. Strongs 4100 does NOT always refer to saving faith, but merely to intellectual assent in James 2:19: Even the demons believe and tremble! (NKJV). The point is, that having an intellectual belief, and going through water baptism, does not make you a Christian if you do not trust your life to Christ. In particular, Acts 8:14-17 proves they had not received the Holy Spirit yet.
It is not sufficient to look at the plain meaning of only some verses. You have to look at the plain meaning of all of them; we need to interpret scripture using scripture. If a persons theology has no place for a Christian being born again and being transformed when they believe, then it does not matter what verses an interpretation affirms, if it denies other verses. You have to integrate our need to persevere with the nature of sin, election, our crowns, and the visible church. (Posted 1/28/2006)
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