Saturday, February 25, 2006

Can't Stop Discussing Perseverance
I am once again in a discussion of "perseverance" on the Semper Reformanda section of Christian Forums. Earlier I was discussing it with Calvinists who had mixed up the idea of perseverance with "once saved, always saved" (OSAS). Now I'm discussing it with a couple of Roman Catholics (one who is Augustinian) who assume that Reformed perseverance is no more than OSAS.

Here is my latest post:
Ok; so far we have several verses presented that clearly teach that one can not be lost if they are called by the Father. All those who are called in this way are not lost and will not be lost. They will persevere in the faith until the end. Calvin certainly believed this, as did St. Augustine.
WR presented 12 verses that he says contradict the perseverance teaching of Calvinists because, according to WR, “All of them clearly affirm the reality of “apostasy.’”

Here again we find that WR does not understand Reformed thought. Reformed Christians clearly believe in apostasy. The Scriptures themselves give us examples of apostasy, and we find countless about apostasy in both the Old and New Covenants.

What often happens when these verses are set up next to one another is we get into a game of proof text tennis. Each side bounces its verses across the net, but they are often ignored by the other side, and the other side quickly lobs it’s on “proof text back the other way.

We know that both set of texts are true. They are both yea and amen. Throwing them back and forth is useless, and does a disservice to the Word of God, because it seems to imply that one set or the other is false, but this can not be and is not so.

The Scriptures are ALL God’s Word and our theology must be able to make sense of both sets of texts in context. I think the Reformed Faith does this better than anyone else, and it does so by using and teaching the biblical concept of covenant.

Q: Who were the Scriptures written to?
A: The Scriptures were written to God’s Covenant people.

Q: Are all God’s covenant people “His people?”
A: Yes

Q: Are they all saints (set apart-holy)?
A: Yes.

Q: Can a saint apostatise?
A: Yes.

Q: Are all saints elect unto eternal salvation?
A: No.

Q: Are they all wheat?
A: No, many of God’s covenant people are tares and will, on the final day, be judged.

Q: Were those who will be damned ever “in Christ?”
A: Yes, they were grafted into Christ (covenantally) in their baptism. They were part of Christ Church, His bride, which is where there is Salvation, and it is a grave and terrible sin for one who has been baptised and grafted into Christ to not make his election and salvation sure. This is one who proves that he was a tare and not wheat.

Q: Can you and I tell the wheat from the tares?
A: No, but all the wheat will persever as wheat.

Q: What will Christ say, on the last day, to everyone who forsook his/her membership in Christ and His Church, by not making his election and salvation sure?
A: “But He will say, 'I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.'”

Either the Bible is contradictory, or these different proof texts (used by both sides) must be understood in light of covenant. In order to teach and understand covenant, we must be willing to think and not insist on a simple either/or situation. There is a bit more nuance involved in the Scriptures than most people and theologies are willing to deal with. Our theology MUST allow us to accept both sets of proof texts as true or we must dump our theology. We have to be able to explain them without contradiction. I believe The Reformed faith does this better than anyone else that I have studied, including some modern "Reformed" statements on the subject that seem to miss some important nuances and defend more of an OSAS position, instead of a covenantal understanding of covenant and perseverance.

The RCC position does deal with some of these things, but those Catholics who do believe in predestination fail (IMHO) to fully address the Scriptures that mention God loosing none who come to Christ and are given him by the Father.

I don't think they can explain the fact that Christ, on the day of judgement, can say to those who fell away “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” They fell away, covenantally, and yet He never knew them, because they never made their calling and election sure. Had they done so they would have persevered. As John says of those who apostatise, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.

Apostasy is very real ,as is perseverance of the saints. The historic Reformed position, which is Covenantal, takes all Scripture seriously.

Coram Deo,

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