Tag Archives: doctrine of election

Perseverance of the Saints is Not About Good Works

PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS IS NOT ABOUT GOOD WORKS…not really.


So, as I re-frame the blog to focus on ALL THINGS FAITH AND WORKS, I keep running into a misunderstanding about The Perseverance of the Saints. There is a basic misunderstanding being perpetuated by a number of Free Grace advocates. Here’s a response I recently posted on this question:


The Quote:
So, we have not touched the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints and it’s compatibility with the doctrine of eternal security. These are not the same thing, though some would say that they are. Any thoughts?

…very important question. And, I guess I may have to push back here…Perseverance of the Saints IS the Doctrine of Eternal Security.

There has been a move among some Free Grace thinkers to buy into what I think is some Hyper-Calvinists’ rhetoric that perseverance is about perseverance in doing good works.

This is clearly not the heart of this point in TULIP. If one reads DORT he will see that works are mentioned to prove eternal security (but eternal security is point) If one looks at the articles and history of the discussion he will see the prominent issue is always about “falling from grace.”

The Wikipedia article opens with this (for good reason): …as well as the corollary—though distinct—doctrine known as “Once Saved, Always Saved”, is a Calvinist teaching that once persons are truly saved they can never lose their salvation.

Websters gets to it too– Perseverance: to persist in a state, enterprise, or undertaking in spite of counter-influences, opposition, or discouragement

In other words, perseverance is about persisting in the ‘saved’ state until one’s safe arrival in heaven. Works are mentioned as a ‘proof’ of this eternal security the believer has.

Yet, there is an easier way!

All we have to do is look at the Remonstrance (DORT responded to this) or at any rendition of Arminianism’s Points. The issue with the Arminian view is that one can lose his salvation…that one is not eternal secure. If that is the counter-point, then we know the point is that one cannot lose his salvation, is eternally secure.

Now, since it IS the Doctrine of Eternal Security–why the confusion? Well, DORT (and others) surely have ‘persevering in good works” AND/OR ‘persevering in faith (believing)’ as parts of the point. Yes, true. The reason is that these are seen as PROOFS of ones Eternally Secure Standing.

The way I would say it is… perseverance in works and perseverance in faith are both mechanisms Reform thinkers use to prove an individual’s standing as and Eternally Secure, Elect, Child of God.

Fred Lybrand
www.backtofaith.com

P.S. To be fair…the writers of the Remonstrance stated they weren’t sure if one could lose his salvation (and hence the affirmation of God’s Perseverance in keeping the elect, elect).

P.P.S. Here is a listing of quotes that show the drift from Perseverance of the Saints meaning essentially Eternal Security…to including the ‘proof’ of works as part of the definition (a truly historically recent emphasis).


MERRILL UNGER

Thus the Westminster Confession says, “This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will but upon the immutability of the decree of election flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father….” In other words, those who are real Christians cannot fall away or be eternally lost. Merrill Frederick Unger, R. K. Harrison, Howard Frederic Vos et al., The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Rev. and updated ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1988).

 

CHARLES SPURGEON

Sustained by such a doctrine we can enjoy security even on earth; not that high and glorious security which renders us free from every slip, but that holy security which arises from the sure promise of Jesus that none who believe in him shall ever perish, but shall be with him where he is. Believer, let us often reflect with joy on the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, and honour the faithfulness of our God by a holy confidence in him. Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening : Daily Readings, Complete and unabridged; New modern edition. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006).

 

GEORGE WHITEFIELD

Those whom God has justified, he has in effect glorified: for as a man’s worthiness was not the cause of God’s giving him Christ’s righteousness; so neither shall his unworthiness be a cause of his taking it away; God’s gifts and callings are without repentance: and I cannot think they are clear in the notion of Christ’s righteousness, who deny the final perseverance of the saints; George Whitefield, Selected Sermons of George Whitefield (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1999).

 

RALPH MARTIN

In theological debate the terms “perseverance (of the saints),” “falling away” and “apostasy” are used in discussing the question of whether it is certain a Christian will remain in faith and salvation. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin and Daniel G. Reid, Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, 40 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993).

 

LEWIS SPERRY CHAFER

THIS ASPECT of Soteriology, commonly styled by earlier theologians the perseverance of the saints, contends that no individual once the recipient of the saving grace of God will ever fall totally and finally from that estate, but that he shall be “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation” (1 Pet. 1:5). The doctrine of security is one of the five points of the Calvinistic system, but it is more distinguished by the fact that it is set forth in the New Testament in the most absolute terms and is there seen to be an indivisible feature of that which God undertakes when a soul is saved. This major doctrine is well stated in the Westminster Confession of Faith, which declares: “They whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved” (17.1). Lewis Sperry Chafer, vol. 3, Systematic Theology, 267 (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1993).

WAYNE GRUDEM

Eternal security: Another term for “perseverance of the saints.” However, this term can be misunderstood to mean that all who have once made a profession of faith are “eternally secure” in their salvation when they may not have been genuinely converted at all. (40D.3) Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology : An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, 1241 (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 1994).

 

F.F. BRUCE / R.K. HARRISON

PERSEVERANCE — the steadfast effort to follow God’s commands and to do His work. The New Testament makes it clear that faith alone can save. But it makes it equally clear that perseverance in doing good works is the greatest indication that an individual’s faith is genuine (James 2:14–26). Indeed, perseverance springs from a faithful trust that God has been steadfast toward His people. Through persevering in God’s work, Christians prove their deep appreciation for God’s saving grace (1 Cor. 15:57–58).
As a result of perseverance, the Christian can expect not only to enhance the strength of the church, but also to build up strength of character (Rom. 5:3–4). In short, Christians can expect to become closer to God. They learn that they can persevere primarily because God is intimately related to them (Rom. 8:25–27) and especially because they have the assurance of a final reward in heaven (1 John 5:13). Ronald F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, R. K. Harrison and Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville: T. Nelson, 1995).

 

CONSTABLE

There is much misunderstanding about the Bible’s teaching concerning the perseverance of the saints.30 It does not teach that Christians will inevitably continue to persevere in the faith, that is continue believing the truth, walking with the Lord, and doing good works. It does teach that God will persevere in His commitment to bring all who have trusted in Him to heaven. If someone asks me if I believe in the perseverance of the saints, I ask them what they mean by the perseverance of the saints. If they mean that a believer is eternally secure, I say that I believe that. If they mean that a believer will inevitably follow God faithfully to the end of his or her life, even with occasional lapses, I say I do not believe that.” Joseph C. Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings, has the most helpful and biblically consistent discussion of perseverance that I have found. See his Subject Index for his many references to it. Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible, 1 Pe 1:5 (Galaxie Software, 2003; 2003).

 

If you liked this blog…you might also like the discussion in this post: http://www.backtofaith.com/biblically-speaking/the-zero-point-calvinst/

THE FLAW in DORT (5 Point Calvinism)

I’m so grateful that many of you have pitched in (but haven’t posted yet), and that a number of other have dropped my private notes of apology (too busy)!

I am finding that part of the problem with most Free Grace folks who are against Calvinism is that they simply have not read the original documents.  There is much in Calvinism that I love, and many things that I find to be pretty useless.  We all know that Calvinism is a theoLOGICAL system which largely makes sense if Scripture is not used as the standard of evaluation.  Do not miss the point– Calvinism is HIGHLY scriptural; yet, it is also, highly theological.  In other words, this is how Calvinists put it together.

Yet, one point is often denied in certain Free Grace circles; there is no such thing as Consistent Calvinism.  There is simply a broad spectrum of viewpoints within the largely circle.  We see this same reality with Arminians, Dispensationalists, Amillenialists, Preterests, denominations, and Free Grace advocates.  Sorry, that’s just the truth.  When we preach against “Calvinism” without defining terms, we are in the worst of straw-man worlds.  Sadly, we are attacking friends and patrons.  I personally have felt the same sense of being ostracized for not taking a stance against Calvinsim.

All Free Grace Advocates (faith alone in Christ alone) OWE a debt of gratitude to the Reformation for the recover of Grace being returned to the forefront of conversation and focus.  However, it doesn’t mean that forms and aspects of Calvinism aren’t mistaken (they are)!

Here is THE FLAW in DORT, as I study through it:

Dort assumes that humans are still depraved after regeneration.  In other words, they apply the same standards to a ‘saved’ person as they do a ‘lost’ person.  Practically, this means that they not only have the individual needing to be elected unto salvation, but elected unto sanctification (spiritual growth).

There is nothing inherently required in the ‘5 points’ or in Scripture concerning growth.  The very reason a believer can be accountable is that he is indeed a ‘new creation’ in Christ.  There is a new game in play where God can reward or chasten based on our works (and attitude, faith, doubt, etc.).  Saying that on is chosen to belong to Christ is one thing, saying one is chosen to produce good works (increasing) is quite another.

We are certainly called to good works as believers (read Titus), and God has set the kind of good works in place by His own will (see Ephesians 2:10); but to say God is imposing His will on us to make us obey is actually irrational and indefensible.

Said differently:

Before Christ = Depraved

After Christ = NOT Depraved

I’m catching a flight…so I’ll prove this later!

What do you think?  Where does this go?

Grace and peace,

Fred Lybrand

Face it, You are at Least a Little Bit of a 5 Point Calvinist!

So, in studying the Canons of Dort, I’m reminded of the statements of dear friends and mentors like Dr. Radmacher who have said (to the effect), “I’m a O.O Calvinst and a O.O Arminian.” I mention Dr. Radmacher because he has been very vocal about this issue in recent years, but it doesn’t diminish my love or appreciation for him.  We all must learn to disagree graciously…and on this one, I just disagree.  Of course, I regularly have disagreements with myself as well (so, I’m very in-discriminant in the matter!). The idea is that if you buy one part of the “5 Points” of Calvinism, you must necessarily buy them all.  I’ve addressed this elsewhere.  While I find some of the points in Dort untenable , I find other points quite wonderful.

ARTICLE 11 (under the First Head of Doctrine) And as God Himself is most wise, unchangeable, omniscient, and omnipotent, so the election made by Him can neither be interrupted nor changed, recalled or annulled; neither can the elect be cast away, nor their number diminished.

ARTICLE 5 (under the Second Head of Doctrine) Moreover, the promise of the gospel is that whosoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish, but have eternal life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published to all nations, and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction, to whom God out of His good pleasure sends the gospel.

Article 11 is basically saying that the saved / justified / elect cannot, for any reason, lose their salvation.  This was a huge point the Reformers recovered (thought there is some muddling in the matter as they invite an over-dependence on works/fruit as proof of faith…to be discussed later…or see www.backtofaith.com).  Surely, those of us who believe in eternal security have to agree with Dort on this one.

Article 5 is a plain statement of the gospel…whosoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish, but have eternal life…how clear would I want it?  I know there are some who question if faith in Christ’s crucifixion should be included (see GES Gospel: Lybrand Open Letter), but I certainly find this statement to resonate with my own soul and the forgiveness I have found through faith in the Savior and His finished work.

The point is that as one works through the system of Dort (or Westminster, or the Remonstrance, or Augsburg, etc.), one will find point on which he agrees and points on which he differs.  Taken as a ‘whole’ system, one can be forced to reject or accept…and yet, is that really an accurate description of the view?

The challenge is in the logic of the system, and in theology, it tends to come down to a couple of errors we consistently see:

1.  Bad premise, bad conclusion

2. Good premise, non sequitur conclusion

These are oversimplified, but just because something seems logical, it nowise means it is logical.  Certain points are often pushed along until the absurd becomes the nauseating.  Please know, all sides fall into this from time to time.  Theology is too often built on the shaky cliffs of inference, conjecture, and speculation.  What might happen if we ever dared to just affirm what the Scriptures say and leave the rest to class-time in eternity?

God bless,

Fred Lybrand

5 Point Calvinists Believe All the Children of the Elect are also Elect? You’ve got to be kidding.

Here it is…
From the Canons of Dort
ARTICLE 17

Since we are to judge of the will of God from His Word, which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature, but in virtue of the covenant of grace, in which they together with the parents are comprehended, godly parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom it pleases God to call out of this life in their infancy (Gen. 17:7; Acts 2:39; 1 Cor. 7:14).


This does say that the children of the elect are elect, that is, the children who die in infancy.  Does any 5 pointer really believe this?  I’m sure they do, but it is simply a theological extrapolation.  Most people who believe infants go to heaven believe so because of an idea of innocence (the child hasn’t sinned).  Of course, if salvation is received through faith, then a child can’t believe.
Frankly, this is simply theological extrapolation.  My wife and I lost our first baby and I can’t honestly say that I KNOW I’ll see him/her in heaven, but I sure hope to.
The greater problem is that it is OBVIOUS that ALL CHILDREN of the elect must also be elect (hence will be saved); otherwise, why the would argument about the death of children make any sense?  If it is only for those who die in infancy, then God has to volitionally protect the non-elect children from death until they are old enough to die in their own unbelief (huh?).
Yet, to create a categorical declaration that all children of the elect are elect shows the problem with obsessive logical systems.  The framers of Dort left the Word of God on this one. Well…they appeal to 1 Cor 7, but that refers to a believer  (elect) and a non-believer (non-elect).  Technically, then, it must mean that if you had one elect parent you are elect too.
Honestly, this is scripturally silly and embarrassing, and for only one reason–they are stating the unknowable.
If you are a 5 Pointer and agree with this, then please help me understand why this is a legitimate point.
In the meantime, this is an example of why I consider myself a moderate Calvinist (if the definition of Calvinism is Dort).  If the definition of Calvinism is something other than Dort, then it goes to my point that there is NO SUCH THING as a 5 Point Calvinist.
Of course, Calvin died 55 years before the  Synod of Dordrecht.
Thanks,

 
Fred Lybrand

So Here’s What Stumps Me in the Debate About the Doctrine of Election

Well, let me say at the outset that some of you (many) will not agree with my point here.  If you’d like, please read my article about Calvinism (so called) to understand why I think of myself as a 1.5 Arminian (Click Here for the Article).

I’ve run into a number of folks who say they are 0.0 Calvinists and not Arminians either.  I really have not been able to decipher that notion, so if you can explain it, please pitch in!  Frankly, you don’t have to like the label (or even wear it for that matter), but it doesn’t change the fact that each of the ‘5 points’ are simply either / or…and everyone believes something about some of them.  Either people are depraved or not, God has an effective call or He doesn’t, one can resist God’s call or he can’t, etc.

But here is where I’m stumped.  There is an argument for a ‘corporate election’, but most folks have abandoned the weakness of that argument; so all that is left is that (a) God choose freely apart from our choices, or (b) God chose based on our actions.  This second view is where I get lost.  Good friends of mine believe that God knew which individulals would chose Him, so He chose each of them…a case of mutual love and choosing.

Here’s my problem—if it is a mutual choice, then why does the Bible use the word elect /  chosen?  We can all spend time in our language tools, but it doesn’t seem to matter.  Here’s an example:

30.86 ἐκλέγομαιa; αἱρέομαιa; λαμβάνωe: to make a choice of one or more possible alternatives—‘to choose, to select, to prefer.’
ἐκλέγομαιa: ἐντειλάμενος τοῖς ἀποστόλοις διὰ πνεύματος ἁγίου οὓς ἐξελέξατο ‘he gave instructions by the power of the Holy Spirit to the men whom he had chosen as his apostles’ Ac 1:2; οὐχ ὁ θεὸς ἐξελέξατο τοὺς πτωχοὺς τῷ κόσμῳ; ‘has not God chosen the poor in this world?’ Jas 2:5.
αἱρέομαιa: τί αἱρήσομαι οὐ γνωρίζω ‘I do not know which I should prefer’ Php 1:22; μᾶλλον ἑλόμενος συγκακουχεῖσθαι τῷ λαῷ τοῦ θεοῦ ἢ πρόσκαιρον ἔχειν ἁμαρτίας ἀπόλαυσιν ‘he chose to suffer with God’s people rather than enjoy sin for a little while’ He 11:25.
Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, vol. 1, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament : Based on Semantic Domains, electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., 360 (New York: United Bible societies, 1996).

The word just means ‘to choose’ and that’s all it means; context informs everything else.  So, God chooses His own…but why is this a problem for the second view (we both choose each other / He foreknows that we will choose Him so He chooses us)?

Well, in my way of thinking, ‘elect’ (choose) is a really silly word to use unless it means He chose us apart from our actions or choosing.  Honestly, if God calls everyone and only some choose to accept the calling (meaning they choose Him too)…then how is that being chosen?  It isn’t a choice for God at all because He actually called everyone but only some chose.  If this is the case than ‘chosen’ is not the word to use…He didn’t chose us we chose Him.

Let me say that again.  If ‘foreknowledge’ is the reason He chose someone, then it isn’t a choice, He had to choose that person BECAUSE that person chose Him.  This debate has been hashed out ad-nauseum over the centuries, but in my slow mind it just seems obvious now.

Unless God chose His own apart from any action (deserving) on their part, then the wrong word is used…it is not a choice.

I still hold to the mystery of it all…I certainly understand that I came to believe without Him simply regenerating me spiritually.  Yet, I also believe He clearly looked down though time and decided, “Fred, you’ll be mine.”  I don’t get the mystery of  it, but I also don’t want to argue with the gift-giver!  What kindness…and as I ponder, I wouldn’t have chosen Him without this kindess (I’m just not that noble apart from His grace).

So, what do you think?  Can we really say we are chosen / elect if we believe He chose us because we chose Him?

I’m not saying that there aren’t challenges in thinking this sort of thing through, but really, how can anyone argue it was God’s choice if it was dependent (contingent) on our choosing?  I’ve heard speakers use the notion of human love and marriage.  My wife chose me and I chose her…so it goes.  Well, the English means to select out of various alternatives.  So, I guess you could say I ‘selected’ my wife out of the choices…and…I guess you could say I ‘chose her’ because she was the only one who would have me; but, that really isn’t the nature of a choice.  We really don’t talk that way.  We fell in love, we decided together, etc.  She is my bride and my wife, but she isn’t my chosen one (unless I have the authority to pick whomever I want…like a king perhaps).  She could be my chosen one if our parents arranged the marriage, but these contort the point don’t they?

Next, consider the use of the word from the angle of those abandoned to their own destiny apart from God.  If believers are ‘the chosen’ then unbelievers are the ‘unchosen’—there is no other way to go.  So why did God not chose them?  Option #2 above says it is because they did not ‘choose’ Him.  So really, God chose everyone, but some rejected.  Again, the word elect / choose is NOT the right word.  He didn’t choose, He just got rejected.

Finally, pretend God really did ‘choose’ individuals apart from anything in the individual (just His own  free volition).  What word would you have wanted Him to use to convey that idea.  How could God have said it so it was CLEAR that He chose them apart from any reason other than His own will.  I’m pretty confident He would use the word CHOSE / ELECT.

I’m really wanting to get the argument, but honestly my friends, you wouldn’t let anyone get away with shape-shifting language in another discussion on another topic.  Why do it here?  Why can’t ‘elect’ just mean elect?

Grace,

Fred Lybrand

www.fredlybrand.org