Sean, thank you for writing. My intention is as always, to simply come against some traditional teachings of men that do not have full scriptural balance, nor do they resemble fully what the original founders of the Christian faith(the original twelve disciples and Jesus), put forth . The Christian faith did not start with John Calvin or Martin Luther, instead it started 1500 years before them. I was not attacking you personally and this is obvious, but it appears as though your letter is attacking me personally. I am looking to challenge peoples thinking only, and with a spirited approach, but not to attack them personally.
I see you have a passion of biblical discussion, which is more than most who call themselves Christians today. However, it appears that there is some scripture you don't like and since we are to be men of all the scripture, we can't put more weight on the scripture we like overs those that we don't like. There are far more passages that speak of loss of Salvation than Exodus 32:33, I was simply pointing out one that even the Calvinists have a tough time trying to twist and do away with. But more on this in a bit, but one other passage I would like to point to is John 15:5&6, which reads:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned".
This is very obvious that Jesus is speaking about and to Christians in this passage just as in all the letters to the Revelatory churches and he is speaking about loss of Salvation here and Christians who fall away being cast into hell.
I always wonder about the folks who are worried about eternal security by claiming one can't lose it. If this is true, then what is the gripe? What then are they worried about and why do they attacks others? If they are, as you say, 'part of 'the elect', shouldn't they be floating on cloud 9 all the time and dancing in the spirit constantly, even more than those who believe the opposite of what you do? Where is the joy? You sound angry to me, not like someone who is secure. If God is going to save the elect and none can do anything about it, then what is all this fuss about? Why lift a finger or try at all to be holy, if its all set correct? Why are you attacking me if you are secure? Jesus and the disciples never attacked anyone personally, instead they challenged their thought processes and traditions, especially those of the intellectual and religious class who only cared about tradition.
Do the hundreds if not thousands of scriptures, that command us to live holy lives and continue in the faith mean anything, or is it because we are "eternally secure" (a man made term), we can do as we please and still make it to heaven? No, instead what we find time and time again in scripture from all the writers, is a call to holiness and true religion which is taking care of the needy, not traditions of men.
Why is it the scripture repeats hundreds of times from Genesis to Revelation telling us to continue in the faith and warns again and again against falling away? All the following and more, speak to this and related topics as well: 1 Cor.9:27, 11:30,15:1-2, 2 Cor 13:5,Philippians 2:12,Col 3:8,1 Tim 4:16,6:10,6:20, Heb 6:1-6,9, 10:26-31, James 5:19,2 Peter 2:20-21,1 John 2:24, 2 John 9.
Another verse comes to mind when I see letters like yours, is Matthew 24:48-51:
"But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ 49 and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth".
We need to be on guard to never becoming like those who Jesus said would be beating his fellow servants before his return the way so many are doing today.
So, I am not attacking you personally the way you seem to be doing to me. (Maybe in person, it might come off different. Emails are hard.) In my articles, I am confronting traditions of men, religion and general principles which do not include the balance of ALL scripture. Remember Jesus said to Satan after he quoted scripture that he took out of context, "scripture also says" thus and so.
The church reformers are not my heroes as they appear to be with so many. They did some good no doubt, such as bringing us the Canon, but to uphold them as being above the original 'church formers' is dangerous and is causing many Christians to fall back into unrepentant sin, thinking they are still eternally secure and going to heaven, when they might not be.
I was one who was lukewarm for too long and I credit some of this to lies I believed such as the terms: "once saved always saved", "eternal security," or another that almost sounds scriptural: "don't be so heavenly minded that you can't be any earthly good" and others like this.So what did I do? I fell back into sin, thinking a Christian can do whatever they like and still make it to heaven. Well these lies brought me to place God never intended and it almost ruined me forever.
If 'church tradition' matches with scripture I like it, if it doesn't, I hate it. Just because the Protestant/Catholic church reformers, reformed the Catholic church to something they think was closer to the original, does not mean they went far enough. The fact is, they still missed the mark. More on this in a bit but now I want to break down your letter.
You said: "Besides the bizarre UFO YouTube videos, and what I believe to be other doctrinal fallacies...."
The 2nd coming of Jesus, in it's two phases, is not a fallacy. Real Christians know and understand this clearly. The bizarre UFO you tube videos as you put it, are not something I or anyone else made up. Dozens of people from all over the world caught the event simultaneously. I am simply plugging it into end times prophecy, the way real Christians are supposed to do before he returns. Watching for the signs, doing the work of pure religion, which is living holy and taking care of the helpless is to be our stance, not the one of the scoffer. Leave that to the unbelievers and fakes, many of whom are in the church.
But you are correct in one aspect, the first phase of Jesus 2nd coming will indeed be "bizarre" and a lot more. There has never been, nor will there ever again be an event like it again. It will be real shock and awe and all the signs including the recent "date setters" and false Christ's are all pointing to his soon return whether we like it or not and wether we are ready or not.
You said: "I would like to specifically (for now) address your citation of Exodus 32:33 in your attempt to refute the traditional reformed understanding of “Eternal Security” and/or the doctrine of the “Perseverance of the Saints.” I hope that the reader of this essay will recognize that the citation does NOT refute the reformed understanding of either of these two truths. I also hope that this will be done in an easily understandable manner".
Ex. 32:33 does not refute the man made doctrine of "the perseverance of of the saints". I do believe in eternal security for those believers who remain in Christ with the help of the Holy Spirit as John 15:5 and others proclaim. So, I believe in the eternal security of some of the saints, because the bible is full of scripture that tells us that not only some have lost their faith and Salvation in the past, but many will in the future and many are now. Matthew 24:10: "At that time, many will lose their faith, and they will turn against each other and hate each other".
If we look at what's going on in the real world right now we see this is going on everywhere and will only increase. Scripture, not you or I, will be the judge on if they were saved or not to begin with.
So then, the "traditional reformed understanding" as you put it, which started with men in the 16th century, was far removed from the original and resembles something more of what a cult looks like, not what the real original formers taught which was full truth, not half.
Case and point:
1. Martin Luther called the book of James "an Epistle of straw." Something that he never refuted to his death. Well sorry, but that's a huge problem calling any book of the bible anything of straw whatsoever. I can't follow a guy like this.
2. John Calvin was a known thug and merciless murderer and torturer of innocent people for things as simple as not attending church. I can't follow a guy like this. Did you know about all the ugly details of John Calvin's life AFTER he became a supposed Christian? Did you know that throughout John Calvin's life even after his supposed conversion he still counted on his Roman Catholic infant baptism as the basis of his regeneration?
Did you know Calvin burned one of his own friends at the stake for not believing in his book which sought to supercede the bible? In his book "Institutes of the Christian Religion" even the title is deceptive.
The "Christian religion" as he puts it, is supposed to be a relationship, not just another religion like the others.
Calvin's followers wanted his writings to supercede the Bible and they still do today. Calvin's teachings have distorted the attributes of God, as well as the character of God. The bottom line is, John Calvin was another false teacher in the long line of teachers who teach some truth, but not all.
Any "ism" such as Calvinism, is by definition a cult. The five points of Calvinism contain partial truth, but not 100% truth, again the definition of a cult. Why? Because they refuse to acknowledge ALL scripture, but instead adhere to only some.
You said: "Let us first be clear that the reformed understanding of “eternal security” does not state that a person who has come to faith in Christ may, later on, turn aside to a lifestyle of willing sin, and yet he will be saved anyway, because he professed faith at one time. That is BY NO MEANS the reformed understanding of eternal security."
It doesn't matter what traditional reformed theology teaches. It only matters what the entire Bible teaches on it's own, and not to be reinterpreted through partial truth. The phrase "eternal security" is a man-made term and Paul himself never used it. In fact, Paul himself knew if he preached the Gospel , while living a life of sin, he too would be disqualified from heaven by being cast aside (1 Cor.9:27).
You said: "The phrase “eternal security” emphasizes that all who are in Christ, that is, all the elect, who have truly been regenerated, are secure in their position forever – they will never finally fall away."
Again, we see the opposite from past biblical history. Wasn't it Satan and his buddies who were supposedly eternally secure at one time? Tell me what happened to them, if you can, but don't first pass it through the doctrinal lens of the council of nicea, the snod of Dort and other man-made religious councils and teachings not inspired by the Holy Spirit.
You said: "The doctrine of “perseverance,” on the other hand, emphasizes the manner in which God will infallibly preserve his own – by causing their faith to persevere through every trial, until they finally apprehend the prize of the upward calling, for which they have already been apprehended by Christ (see: Philippians 3:12-14)."
Perseverance is not automatic, we have a major role in persevering ourselves. We need to seek the daily guidance of the Holy Spirit which helps us to overcome sin. If we refuse to beat our sin with God's help we WILL fall away.
Also, be careful not to add words to scripture. This passage does not say, "God causes our faith anything."
Paul is talking about what HE must do to apprehend the goal, not what God must do to cause him to apprehend. We, who have the fullness of the Holy Spirit, need nothing else, but to listen to and follow his leading to obedience. Only those who remain in Christ will be eternally secure.
You said: "To argue against a position other than this is simply a straw man and grossly misrepresents the reformed position. If you desire to engage in apologetic refutation of what you believe to be Calvinism or Reformed Theology, straw men should be avoided. It is misleading and can cause learned people to not take your argument very seriously."
No, to argue against it, is to show other scripture that completes all biblical thought on the subject at hand, just as Jesus did with Satan in the wilderness. Satan quoted scripture and Jesus quoted other scripture to rebuff.
The reformed position is not what we are to apprehend. The high calling of Christ is, not councils or snods or rehashments of pure truth. We don't need the dilution of truth or the partial attention to some scripture as Calvin did and others do today.
If a Calvinist's arguments are to be taken seriously, love should be at the center. I think it was John Piper who told his fellow Calvinists to be more kind. This is job #1 for all Christians. To have to be reminded of the most basic of all tenets, shows serious underlying problem with many Calvinists. Calvin, himself, killed his own best friend just for disagreeing with him along with dozens of others. Wow.
You said: "While the Bible indeed teaches that all redeemed peoples names are written in the book of life, the Exodus citation in it’s own context does not explicitly or implicitly state that genuinely saved persons can become unsaved, then saved again, then unsaved again, and so on until we physically die. It does NOT state that the names of the elect can be “blotted out.”
Actually, that's exactly what it states and implies. It says what it means and means what it says. We can't take plain scripture and try to get it to say what we want it to say.
You said: "Now given that ALL have sinned against God, do we then believe that EVERYONE’S name will be blotted out of the book of life leaving heaven devoid of all humans"
No, not all humans, but certainly all those who rejected his invitation for all to come to Salvation. Also, those who claim to be Christians, but live another way along with all those who were once in the faith and tasted of the heavenly but then fall away, will also not be in heaven.
So those who do not persevere to the end, whatever their end may be will not inherit God's kingdom.
You said: "Whose sins will be counted against them?"
All those who refuse the way of holiness and repentance as a lifestyle, no matter what they believe or call themselves will have their sins counted against them.
You said: "Will the elect, whose sins were actually atoned for by Christ’s death on the cross be counted against them?"
Yes, if they fall away. See the hundreds of scriptures that speak of this, just about half the Bible actually.
You said: "Did the atonement of Christ actually accomplish the salvation of anyone in particular, or was it just a 'potential' atonement?"
Both actually. It is a potential atonement for all who accept Jesus and remain in him. And yes, salvation is particularly for those who accept Jesus and remain in him. The unbalanced doctrine of Calvinism teaches to their shame, that all who claim to be in or of Jesus can live a lifestyle anyway they choose and still be eternally secure.
Also many extremist Calvinists believe a "Christian" does not have to repent of future sin. The Lords prayer alone which is to be a daily model-type prayer, rebuffs this false teaching and shows us the humble repentant lifestyle of a Christian is to be a constant.
You said: "What is the only hope humans have regarding our eternal situation? Answer, the Atonement of Christ."
Yes, very good, you got one right there.
You then quoted Romans 8:31-39.
Beautiful scripture passage here, isn't it? And who is this for? It is for those who live and remain in the Christian faith, not for those who only talk about it, but do nothing with these truths. No action, no Salvation, as James said so clearly.
You said: "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16"
Another great passage. Since I believe all of scripture and do not attempt to rewrite, add to or take away from, the way some Calvinist's do, I love it. The whole book is powerful.
You said: "Do these verses indicate that the elect of God, regenerated by the Holy Sprit unto faith will have their sins counted against them and there names “blotted out” of the book of life? The answer is a loud and clear, “NO!”
I agree these passages do not indicate the elect will have their sins counted against them. But other passages Do!!
This is a classic obfuscation of other portions of scripture that many Calvinist and other cults undertake. Straw men should be avoided correct?
There are scriptures which indicate that some will lose what they have. It is all over the Bible. These truths that you have highlighted do not negate other truths, instead they all form a more complete picture.
We can't interpret scripture through the lens of another and say it can't mean what it says because another scripture says something else. All scripture is God breathed and useful for teaching. There is a reason one scripture says, we can be cut from the vine, and another that says we have salvation in Christ.
It is true we are secure, but only if we persevere. It is also true there is a cutoff only by God, if we turn from serving him.
Couldn't God have simply waited for the lives of these individuals to end to then erase their names from the book of life? It would look to a critic, that God was schizophrenic and didn't know that they would ultimately choose repeated UNREPENTANT sin, or the way of righteousness.
Obviously, he did this to show us what can happen and Jesus also eludes to this name erasure in Revelation 3:5, to those who do not repent of their sinful lifestyle while being in the church at the same time.
You said: "To cite the Exodus verse to rebut the entire doctrine of perseverance and/or eternal security, as believed by numerous reformers throughout the history of the church and articulated at the Synod of Dort, shows a serious lack of apologetic aptitude and serious ignorance of the historical reformed perspective".
No, it shows I put scripture above man-made religion and tradition plain and simple. I am not interested in apologetic aptitude unless it adheres to ALL the scripture and scripture alone. You cite incomplete, flawed reformed church history from the 16th century. We are to adhere to the original from 1500 years before.
You said: "If a claim like this is going to be made, let us actually see scripture that states that the elect of God, whose sins were actually atoned for, could ultimately end up in the lake of fire."
You mean some scripture, correct? Some follow the scripture they like, the scripture they don't like, is ignored or twisted by saying it doesn't mean what it says. John 15:5&6 along with many others, again shows us a Christian who does not remain, goes to hell.
We also just saw this in Ex. 32:33. They had their names in the book of life temporarily, which means they were temporarily on their way to heaven until they refused to continue on the path of righteousness. If their name was in the book, as it was, then it means their sin was atoned for, at least temporarily. When they had their names erased, they then went to hell. They were the elect long before we were given the chance to be grafted in to the vine Jesus.
You said: "How can it be logically stated, from a theocentric perspective, that a person can be genuinely saved, then ultimately unsaved?"
No, logic needed only scripture, sometimes scripture does not seem logical to us because God's ways are not ours. From a 100% God perspective, we have Ex. 32:33 along with dozens of like scripture that shows this clearly, much of what I have previously cited.
You said: "While considering this question, we should all agree that what matters is who is saved in God’s eyes and not man's."
Amen. In God's eyes, they were saved temporarily in the beginning of Ex. 32:33, in the end they lost what they had. Remember, Jesus is talking to Christians when he tells them in Revelation to repent so that they will not lose their crown of life,Rev. 3:2-5. This is very similar to Ex. 32:33 as well.
You said: "Man is not our judge but the almighty God is."
Not sure why you are bringing this in to this discussion, but does not judgement begin in the house of God? Did not the early church judge sin and sinners in the church and even cast some of them out?
Yes! Again balance is paramount. We are not to judge the world by condemnation, but those who name Christ as their head are to judge their fellow brothers in Christ now, so when we all see him we do not have to be judged.
This may be part of your problem as well as it was with me for a time. I pray not. But, if you have unrepentant sin in your life that you refuse to deal with, you will always be pointing at others and crying "don't judge me". Real Christians welcome discipline and reproof of all kinds when warranted. Galatians is clear on this along with many other passages. (Reproof is to be done with love, of course.)
You said: "Now, simply assuming that God has perfect knowledge of the future;"
We should never assume anything when it comes to God otherwise we will insert our own opinions about what we think about him. God knows the future, but he does not cause people to sin, to choose spiritual life or death. He wants all to be saved, so he did not only die for the elect but all mankind, unfortunately most will reject the truth wether for a time or forever.
People have a choice. They always did and they always will. Not just a choice to serve God for a time, but to choose him daily even after becoming a Christian. It is clear some choose him for a time, then fall away. Others will remain in him and be saved.
You said: "How could God consider someone genuinely saved who He perfectly knows, without a doubt and before he actually creates them, will ultimately perish? How could those who perish, ever be viewed as "saved" in God's eyes? Is God not sure what the outcome will be until it happens?"
People choose wether they will go to hell or not.
God always leaves it up to them to choose. Did God create some to perish from the get go? No! He foreknew those who would choose him after he chose all mankind for Salvation to start with.
He chose all mankind to be saved. But relatively few will find AND STAY on the narrow road that leads to life. All those who end up in hell always had the choice to choose God's choice, which was to save all mankind through Jesus.
So God knew from the foundations of the earth, who would be saved and who wouldn't, but not because he created some to go to hell. He is not a sick or maniacal God, but loving and merciful as well as just and Holy.
You said: "I will leave it at this for now hope you can see that your doctrine of “insecurity” must be read into this specific text. I hope you will be able to see the heaping pile of contradictions that you will be left with by using this text to support the idea of losing your salvation. The Word should bring clarity to the character of God, not confusion."
The Calvinist doctrine of "false security" which teaches a Christian can have their unrepentant sin and heaven too is dangerous and incomplete. Some are secure, some aren't, plain and simple. It's about the balance and the whole of all scripture, not a doctrine over all others. Also you have overemphasized one character of God over another which is deceptive.
The Word should be believed in all its completeness and yes, just one scripture is just as important as the whole, because it helps complete a bigger picture. So what is it to be, Sean? Should we be okay with believing some scripture, but not all of it?
Are you a Calvinist first, then a Christian? Are you a five point Calvinist? Or, perhaps just a two or three pointer? You see even in Calvinistic circles, all do not agree. This is because everything is based on man's interpretation of what has already been stated clearly for what even a twelve year old to understand. It took doctors of theology and intellectuals to rewrite and dissect the bible to a point never intended.
This is why there are thousands of camps of belief in so-called Christendom today, because no one agrees with anyone else. This is why I refuse most man-made thought and only go with what the bible says. I just read and believe all of it.
I hope and pray you will find full truth. God loves you as he loves everyone, but he will not strive with ignorance forever, especially after one learns full truth. This one of the simple truths and messages of scripture. Intellectualism can make us cold to the real purpose for scripture. We are to have a high view of God and a high view of ALL scripture.
But higher still, is what we will be found doing with the scripture. Will we apply all of it to our personal lives or just some of it? This is the question. Of course we also need a high view of holiness, since it is the main theme of the new testament which was written to an audience of Christians. Let's live it, talk is cheap.
God Bless you,