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The conditional preservation of the saints, or commonly conditional security, is the Arminian belief that believers are kept safe by God in their saving relationship with Him upon the condition of a persevering faith in Christ.Arminians find the Scriptures describing both the initial act of faith in Christ, "whereby the relationship is effected, and the persevering faith in Him whereby the relationship is sustained." The relationship of "the believer to Christ is never a static relationship existing as the irrevocable consequence of a past decision, act, or experience." Rather, it is a living union "proceeding upon a living faith in a living Savior." This living union is captured in this simple command by Christ, "Remain in me, and I in you" (John 15:4).
Arminianism is a branch of Protestantism based on the theological ideas of the Dutch Reformed theologian Jacobus Arminius (1560–1609) and his historic supporters known as Remonstrants. His teachings held to the five solae of the Reformation, but they were distinct from particular teachings of Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli, John Calvin, and other Protestant Reformers. Jacobus Arminius was a student of Theodore Beza at the Theological University of Geneva. Arminianism is known to some as a soteriological diversification of Calvinism; to others, Arminianism is a reclamation of early Church theological consensus.
According to Arminians, biblical saving faith expresses itself in love and obedience to God (Galatians 5:6; Hebrews 5:8–9).In the Arminian Confession of 1621, the Remonstrants (or Arminian leaders) affirmed that true or living faith operates through love, and that God chooses to give salvation and eternal life through His Son, "and to finally glorify all those and only those truly believing in his name, or obeying his gospel, and persevering in faith and obedience until death ... "
The Remonstrants are a historic community of mostly Dutch Protestants who originally supported Jacobus Arminius, and after his death, continue to maintain his original views. In 1610, they presented to the States of Holland and Friesland a remonstrance in five articles formulating their points of disagreement with Calvinism as adopted by the Dutch Reformed Church.
Arminians believe that "It is abundantly evident from the Scriptures that the believer is secure."Furthermore, believers have assurance in knowing there is no external power or circumstance that can separate them from the love of God they enjoy in union with Christ (Romans 8:35–39; John 10:27–29). Nevertheless, Arminians see numerous warnings in Scripture directed to genuine believers about the possibility of falling away in unbelief and thereby becoming severed from their saving union with God through Christ. Arminians hold that if a believer becomes an unbeliever (commits apostasy), they necessarily cease to partake of the promises of salvation and eternal life made to believers who continue in faith and remain united to Christ. Wesleyan-Arminians believe that apostasy (and a consequent loss of salvation) can also occur through sin.
Therefore, Arminians seek to follow the biblical writers in warning believers about the real dangers of committing apostasy. A sure and biblical way to avoid apostasy is to admonish believers to mature spiritually in their relationship with God in union with Christ and through power of the Spirit.Maturity takes place as Christ-followers keep on meeting with fellow believers for mutual encouragement and strength; exhorting each to love God and others; to be growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; and to persevere in faith in prayerful dependence upon God through various trials and temptations.
Free Will Baptist scholar Robert Picirilli states:
Appropriately last among the points of tension among Calvinism and Arminianism is the question whether those who have been regenerated must necessarily persevere (or be preserved) or may apostatize and be lost. ... Arminius himself and the original Remonstrants avoided a clear conclusion on this matter. But they raised the question. And the natural implications of the views at the heart of Arminianism, even in its early stages as a formal movement, tended to question whether Calvinism's assumptions of necessary perseverance was truly Biblical. Those tendencies indicated by the questions raised did not take long to reach fruition, and thus Calvinism and Arminianism have come to be traditionally divided on this issue.
Prior to the time of the debate between Calvinists and the Arminians at the Synod of Dort (1618–1619), the view in the early church appears to be on the side of conditional security. From his research of the writings of the early church fathers (AD 90–313), patristic scholar David W. Bercot arrived at this conclusion: "Since the early Christians believed that our continued faith and obedience are necessary for salvation, it naturally follows that they believed that a 'saved' person could still end up being lost."
The Synod of Dort was an international Synod held in Dordrecht in 1618–1619, by the Dutch Reformed Church, to settle a divisive controversy initiated by the rise of Arminianism. The first meeting was on 13 November 1618 and the final meeting, the 180th, was on 29 May 1619. Voting representatives from eight foreign Reformed churches were also invited. Dort was a contemporary English term for the town of Dordrecht.
Jacobus Arminius (1560–1609) arrived at the same conclusion in his own readings of the early church fathers. In responding to Calvinist William Perkins arguments for the perseverance of the saints, he wrote: "In reference to the sentiments of the [early church] fathers, you doubtless know that almost all antiquity is of the opinion, that believers can fall away and perish."On another occasion he notes that such a view was never "reckoned as a heretical opinion," but "has always had more supporters in the church of Christ, than that which denies its possibility." Arminius' opinion on the subject is clearly communicated in this relatively brief statement:
My sentiments respecting the perseverance of the Saints are, that those persons who have been grafted into Christ by true faith, and have thus been made partakers of his life-giving Spirit, possess sufficient powers [or strength] to fight against Satan, sin, the world and their own flesh, and to gain the victory over these enemies—yet not without the assistance of the grace of the same Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ also by his Spirit assists them in all their temptations, and affords them the ready aid of his hand; and, provided they stand prepared for the battle, implore his help, and be not wanting to themselves, Christ preserves them from falling. So that it is not possible for them, by any of the cunning craftiness or power of Satan, to be either seduced or dragged out of the hands of Christ. But I think it is useful and will be quite necessary in our first convention, [or Synod] to institute a diligent inquiry from the Scriptures, whether it is not possible for some individuals through negligence to desert the commencement of their existence in Christ, to cleave again to the present evil world, to decline from the sound doctrine which was once delivered to them, to lose a good conscience, and to cause Divine grace to be ineffectual. Though I here openly and ingenuously affirm, I never taught that a true believer can, either totally or finally fall away from the faith, and perish; yet I will not conceal, that there are passages of scripture which seem to me to wear this aspect; and those answers to them which I have been permitted to see, are not of such a kind as to approve themselves on all points to my understanding. On the other hand, certain passages are produced for the contrary doctrine [of unconditional perseverance] which are worthy of much consideration.
For Arminius the believer’s security is conditional—"provided they stand prepared for the battle, implore his help, and be not wanting to themselves." This complements what Arminius says elsewhere in his writings: "God resolves to receive into favor those who repent and believe, and to save in Christ, on account of Christ, and through Christ, those who persevere [in faith], but to leave under sin and wrath those who are impenitent and unbelievers, and to condemn them as aliens from Christ."In another place he writes: "[God] wills that they, who believe and persevere in faith, shall be saved, but that those, who are unbelieving and impenitent, shall remain under condemnation."
After the death of Arminius in 1609, the Remonstrants maintained their leader's view on conditional security and his uncertainty regarding the possibility of apostasy. This is evidenced in the fifth article drafted by its leaders in 1610:
That those who are incorporated into Christ by a true faith, and have thereby become partakers of his life-giving Spirit, have thereby full power to strive against Satan, sin, the world, and their own flesh, and to win the victory; it being well understood that it is ever through the assisting grace of the Holy Ghost; and that Jesus Christ assists them through his Spirit in all temptations, extends to them his hand, and if only they are ready for the conflict, and desire his help, and are not inactive, keeps them from falling, so that they, by not craft or power of Satan, can be misled nor plucked out of Christ's hand, according to the Word of Christ, John 10:28: 'Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.' But whether they are capable, through negligence, of forsaking again the first beginnings of their life in Christ, of again returning to this present evil world, of turning away from the holy doctrine which was delivered them, of losing a good conscience, of becoming devoid of grace, that must be more particularly determined out of the Holy Scripture, before we ourselves can teach it with full persuasion of our minds.
Sometime between 1610, and the official proceeding of the Synod of Dort (1618), the Remonstrants became fully persuaded in their minds that the Scriptures taught that a true believer was capable of falling away from faith and perishing eternally as an unbeliever. They formalized their views in "The Opinion of the Remonstrants" (1618). Points three and four in the fifth article read:
True believers can fall from true faith and can fall into such sins as cannot be consistent with true and justifying faith; not only is it possible for this to happen, but it even happens frequently. True believers are able to fall through their own fault into shameful and atrocious deeds, to persevere and to die in them; and therefore finally to fall and to perish.
Picirilli remarks: "Ever since that early period, then, when the issue was being examined again, Arminians have taught that those who are truly saved need to be warned against apostasy as a real and possible danger."
John Goodwin (1593–1665) was a Puritan who "presented the Arminian position of falling away in Redemption Redeemed (1651)"which drew a lot of attention from Calvinists. In his book, English bishop Laurence Womock (1612–1685) provides numerous scriptural references to the fifth article concerning perseverance delivered by the later Remonstrants. Philipp van Limborch (1633–1712) penned the first complete Remonstrant Systematic Theology in 1702 that included a section on apostasy. In 1710, a minister in the Church of England, Daniel Whitby (1638–1726), published a major work criticizing the five points of Calvinism—which involves their doctrine of unconditional perseverance.
John Wesley (1703–1791), the founder of Methodism, was an outspoken defender of conditional security and critic of unconditional security. In 1751, Wesley defended his position in a work titled, "Serious Thoughts Upon the Perseverance of the Saints." In it he argued that a believer remains in a saving relationship with God if he "continue in faith" or "endureth in faith unto the end."Wesley affirmed that a child of God, "while he continues a true believer, cannot go to hell." However, if he makes a "shipwreck of the faith, then a man that believes now may be an unbeliever some time hence" and become "a child of the devil." He then adds, "God is the Father of them that believe, so long as they believe. But the devil is the father of them that believe not, whether they did once believe or no." Like his Arminian predecessors, Wesley was convinced from the testimony of the Scriptures that a true believer may abandon faith and the way of righteousness and "fall from God as to perish everlastingly."
From John Wesley onward, it looks as if every Methodist/Wesleyan pastor, scholar, or theologian in print has opposed unconditional perseverance: Thomas Olivers (1725–1799);John William Fletcher (1729–1783); Joseph Benson (1748–1821); Leroy M. Lee (1758–1816); Adam Clarke (1762–1832); Nathan Bangs (1778–1862); Richard Watson (1781–1833); Thomas C. Thornton (1794–1860) Samuel Wakefield (1799–1895); Luther Lee (1800–1889); Amos Binney (1802–1878); William H. Browning (1805–1873); Daniel D. Whedon (1805–1885); Thomas N. Ralston (1806–1891); Thomas O. Summers (1812–1882); Albert Nash (1812–1900); John Miley (1813–1895); Philip Pugh (1817–1871); Randolph Sinks Foster (1820–1903); William Burt Pope (1822–1903); B. T. Roberts (1823–1893); Daniel Steele (1824–1914); Benjamin Field (1827–1869); John Shaw Banks (1835–1917); and Joseph Agar Beet (1840–1924).
Apostasy "means the deliberate disavowal of belief in Christ made by a formerly believing Christian.""Cremer states that apostasia is used in the absolute sense of 'passing over to unbelief,' thus a dissolution of the 'union with God subsisting through faith in Christ'." Arminian scholar Robert Shank writes,
The English word apostasy is derived from the Greek noun, apostasia. Thayer defines apostasia as 'a falling away, defection, apostasy; in the Bible sc. from the true religion.' The word appears twice in the New Testament (Acts 21:21, 2 Thessalonians 2:3). Its meaning is well illustrated in its use in Acts 21:21, ... "you are teaching apostasy (defection) from Moses." ... A kindred word is the synonym apostasion. Thayer defines apostasion, as used in the Bible, as "divorce, repudiation." He cites Matthew 19:7 and Mark 10:4, ... "a bill of divorce [apostasion]." He also cites Matthew 5:31, ... "let him give her a bill of divorce [apostasion]." He cites the use of apostasion by Demosthenes as "defection, of a freedman from his patron." Moulton and Milligan cite the use of [apostasion] as a "bond of relinquishing (of property sold) ... a contract of renunciation ... the renunciation of rights of ownership." They also cite the use of apostasion "with reference to 'a deed of divorce.'" The meaning of the [related] verb aphistēmi ... is, of course, consonant with the meaning of the nouns. It is used transitively in Acts 5:37, ... "drew away people after him." Intransitively, it means to depart, go away, desert, withdraw, fall away, become faithless, etc.
I. Howard Marshall notes that aphistemi "is used of giving up the faith in Luke 8:13; 1 Timothy 4:1 and Hebrews 3:12, and is used of departure from God in the LXX [i.e., Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament]."Marshall also notes that "the failure to persist in faith is expressed by [other Greek] words which mean falling away, drifting and stumbling." Of particular theological significance are the verb skandalizō ("fall away from faith") and the noun skandalon ("enticement to unbelief, cause of salvation's loss, seduction").
Shank concluded: "An apostate, according to the New Testament definition, is one who has severed his union with Christ by withdrawing from an actual saving relationship with Him. Apostasy is impossible for men who have not entered into a saving relationship with God... The warnings against succumbing to the ugly peril of apostasy are directed ... to men who obviously are true believers."J. Rodman Williams adds,
One of the mistakes made by those who affirm the invariable continuance of salvation is the viewing of salvation too much as a "state." From this perspective, to be saved is to enter into "a state of grace." However true it is that one moves into a new realm—whether it is called the kingdom of God, eternal life, or other like expression—the heart of the matter is the establishment of a new relationship with God. Prior to salvation, one was "without God" or "against God," cut off from His presence. Now through Jesus Christ reconciliation—"at-one-ment with God"—has occurred. Moreover, the Holy Spirit, who becomes present, is not merely some force or energy but God Himself in a new and intimate relationship. Hence, if a person begins to "drift away," it is not from some static condition or "state" but from a Person. It is a personal relationship that thereby is betrayed, broken, forfeited; this is the tragic meaning of apostasy. It is not so much giving up something, even so marvellous as salvation, but the forsaking of a Person. Surely through such an action salvation too is forfeited. But the critical matter is the severing of a relationship with the personal God.
Marshall finds four biblical dangers that could serve as precursors to committing apostasy:
- 1. Persecution by Unbelievers – "Believers ... are frequently tempted to give up their faith because of the difficulties of maintaining it amid fierce opposition."
- 2. Accepting False Doctrine – "Whatever form this presents itself ... the temptation is to blunt the edge of faith in Jesus Christ and ultimately to destroy it altogether."
- 3. Temptation to Sin – "The significance of this form of temptation is that it causes the believer to deny the power of God to preserve him from sinning, to return to the very things from which he was saved by belief in Christ (and which by their nature exclude a man from the kingdom of God), and to perform those acts which are expressly forbidden by the Lord ... In other words, sin is an act and attitude which is incompatible with the obedience of faith, and hence constitutes a denial of faith."
- 4. Weariness in Faith – This is where "the believer gradually drifts away from his faith and passes into a state of apostasy."
Marshall concludes: "The New Testament contains too many warnings about the danger of sin and apostasy for us to be complacent about these possibilities. ... These dangers are real and not 'hypothetical.'"Methodist scholar Ben Witherington would add: "The New Testament suggests that one is not eternally secure until one is securely in eternity. Short of that, there is the possibility of apostasy or rebellion against God by one who has believed in Christ. Apostasy, however, is not to be confused with the notion of accidentally or unconsciously "falling away." Apostasy is a conscious, wilful rebellion against God ... Unless one commits such an act of apostasy or rebellion, one need not worry about one's salvation, for God has a firm grip on the believer."
With apostasy being a real possibility for Christians, Arminians seek to follow the example that New Testament writer's provide in urging Christians to persevere.Scot McKnight clarifies what perseverance means and doesn't mean for Arminians:
It doesn't mean sinlessness; it doesn't mean that we are on some steady and never-failing incline up into pure sanctification; it does not deny stumbling or messy spirituality; it doesn't deny doubt and problems. It simply means that the person continues to walk with Jesus and doesn't walk away from him in a resolute manner. ... What it means is continuing trust in God.
Since Arminians view sin as "an act and attitude which ... constitutes a denial of faith",believers who persist in acting like unbelievers will eventually become one of them and share in their same destiny and doom. Therefore, "the only people who need perseverance are Christians," and "the only people who can commit apostasy are Christians. Non-Christians have nothing to persevere toward or apostatize from." Thus, when Christians are appropriately warned about the dangers of committing apostasy, such warnings "can function as a moral injunction that strengthens commitment to holiness as well as the need to turn in complete trust to God in Christ through his Spirit."
Below are many key Scriptures that Arminians have used to defend conditional security and the possibility of apostasy.
Arminians find further support for conditional security from numerous Scriptures where the verb "believes" occurs in the Greek present tense.Greek scholars and commentators (both Calvinist and non-Calvinist) have noted that Greek present tense verbs generally refer to continuous action, especially present participles. For example, In his textbook, Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar, Calvinist William D. Mounce writes: "The present participle is built on the present tense stem of the verb. It describes a continuous action. It will often be difficult to carry this 'on-going' nuance into your translation, but this must be the foremost consideration in your mind." Calvinist Daniel Wallace brings out this "on-going" nuance for the present participle "believes" in John 3:16, "Everyone who [continually] believes in him should not perish. ... In this Gospel, there seems to be a qualitative distinction between the ongoing act of believing and the simple fact of believing." He argues for this understanding not simply because believes is in the present tense, "but to the use of the present participle of πιστεύων [pisteuōn, believing], especially in soteriological [i.e., salvation] contexts in the NT." Wallace goes on to elaborate,
The aspectual force of the present [participle] ὁ πιστεύων [the one believing] seems to be in contrast with [the aorist participle] ὁ πιστεύσας [the one having believed]. ... The present [participle for the one believing] occurs six times as often (43 times) [in comparison to the aorist], most often in soteriological contexts (cf. John 1:12; 3:15, 16, 18; 3:36; 6:35, 47, 64; 7:38; 11:25; 12:46; Acts 2:44; 10:43; 13:39; Rom 1:16; 3:22; 4:11, 24; 9:33; 10:4, 11; 1 Cor 1:21; 1 Cor 14:22 [bis]; Gal 3:22; Eph 1:19; 1 Thess 1:7; 2:10, 13; 1 Pet 2:6, 7; 1 John 5:1, 5, 10, 13). Thus, it seems that since the aorist participle was a live option to describe a "believer," it is unlikely that when the present was used, it was aspectually flat. The present was the tense of choice most likely because the New Testament writers by and large saw continual belief as a necessary condition of salvation. Along these lines, it seems significant that the promise of salvation is almost always given to ὁ πιστεύων [the one believing] (cf. several of the above cited texts), almost never to ὁ πιστεύσας [the one having believed] (apart from Mark 16:16, John 7:39 and Heb 4:3 come the closest . . .).
Arminian Greek scholar J. Harold Greenlee supplies the following literal translation of several verses where the Greek word translated "believes" (in our modern translations) occurs in the tense of continuous action.
- John 3:15, "...in order that everyone believing may have eternal life in him."
- John 3:16, "...in order that everyone believing in him should not perish but should have eternal life."
- John 3:36, "The one believing on the Son has eternal life."
- John 5:24, "The one hearing my word and believing him who sent me has eternal life."
- John 6:35, "the one believing in me shall never thirst."
- John 6:40, "...that everyone beholding the Son and believing in him should have eternal life."
- John 6:47, "The one believing has eternal life."
- John 11:25, 26, "The one believing in me, even though he dies he shall live; and everyone living and believing in me shall never die."
- John 20:31, "...in order that by means of believing you may have life in his name."
- Romans 1:16, "it is the power of God to salvation to everyone believing."
- 1 Corinthians 1:21, "it pleased God ... to save the one believing."
Of further significance is that "In many cases the results of the believing are also given in a continuous tense. As we keep believing, we keep on having eternal life (John 3:15, 16, 36; 20:31)."It is this type of evidence which leads Arminians to conclude that "eternal security is firmly promised to 'the one believing'—the person who continues to believe in Christ—but not to "the one having believed,"—the person who has merely exercised one single act of faith some time in the past." Indeed, "True security rests in the fact that saving faith is not a single historical act, but a present-tense, up-to-date, continuing process."
Those who hold to perseverance of the saints cite a number of verses to support their view. The following are some of the most commonly cited:
Arminians would argue that they have adequately provided explanations for how these verses and others can be easily reconciled with conditional security.
A major difference between traditional Calvinists and Arminians is how they define apostasy (see Perseverance of the saints for the definition as it is referred to here).
Traditional Calvinists say apostasy refers to people who fall away (apostatize) from a profession of faith, but who have never actually entered into a saving relationship with God through Christ.As noted earlier, Arminians understand that apostasy refers to a believer who has departed from a genuine saving relationship with God by developing "an evil, unbelieving heart." (Hebrews 3:12)
In traditional Calvinism the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints "does not stand alone but is a necessary part of the Calvinistic system of theology."The Calvinist doctrines of Unconditional Election and Irresistible Grace "logically imply the certain salvation of those who receive these blessings." If God has eternally and unconditionally elected (chosen) some men to eternal life, and if His Spirit irresistibly applies to them the benefits of salvation, then the inescapable conclusion is that these persons will be saved forever. Arminians acknowledge that the Calvinistic system is logically consistent if certain presuppositions are true, but they do not agree with these presuppositions, which include the Calvinist doctrines of unconditional election and irresistible grace.
In Wesleyan-Arminian theology, which is upheld by the Methodist Churches (inclusive of the holiness movement), apostasy can occur through a loss of faith or through sinning.
Wesleyan-Arminian theology thus teaches that "justification [is made] conditional on obedience and progress in sanctification",emphasizing "a deep reliance upon Christ not only in coming to faith, but in remaining in the faith."
If a person backslides but later returns to God, he or she must repent and be entirely sanctified again, according to Wesleyan-Arminian theology.
Baptist scholar James Leo Garrett says it is important for people recognize that traditional Calvinist and Arminians "do not differ as to whether continuing faith in Jesus Christ will be necessary for final or eschatological salvation. Both agree that it is so. Rather, they differ as to whether all Christians or all true believers will continue in faith to the end."For example, Anthony Hoekema, longtime Professor of Calvin Theological Seminary, stated: "Peter puts it vividly: We are kept by the power of God through faith [1 Peter 1:5]—a living faith, which expresses itself through love (Galatians 5:6). In other words, we may never simply rest on the comfort of God's preservation apart from the continuing exercise of faith." Hoekema even writes that he agrees with Arminian writer Robert Shank when he says,
There is no warrant in the New Testament for that strange at-ease-in-Zion definition of perseverance which assures Christians that perseverance is inevitable and relieves them of the necessity of deliberately persevering in faith, encouraging them to place confidence in some past act or experience.
Reformed Presbyterian James Denney stated:
And there is nothing superficial in what the New Testament calls faith . . . it is [man's] absolute committal of himself for ever to the sin-bearing love of God for salvation. It is not simply the act of an instant, it is the attitude of a life; it is the one right thing at the moment when a man abandons himself to Christ, and it is the one thing which keeps him right with God for ever. . . . Grace is the attitude of God to man which is revealed and made sure in Christ, and the only way in which it becomes effective in us for new life is when it wins [from] us the response of faith. And just as grace is the whole attitude of God in Christ to sinful men, so faith is the whole attitude of the sinful soul as it surrenders itself to that grace. Whether we call it the life of the justified, or the life of the reconciled, or the life of the regenerate, or the life of grace or of love, the new life is the life of faith and nothing else. To maintain the original attitude of welcoming God's love as it is revealed in Christ bearing our sins—not only to trust it, but to go on trusting—not merely to believe in it as a mode of transition from the old to the new, but to keep on believing—to say with every breath we draw, "Thou, O Christ, art all I want; more than all in Thee I find"—is not a part of the Christian life, but the whole of it.
The non-traditional Calvinist or Free Grace view disagrees with Traditional Calvinists and Arminians in holding that saving faith in Christ must continue in order for a person to remain in their saving relationship with God. For example, Zane Hodges says: "... We miss the point to insist that true saving faith must necessarily continue. Of course, our faith in Christ should continue. But the claim that it absolutely must ... has no support at all in the Bible"Joseph Dillow writes:
Even though Robert Shank would not agree, it is definitely true that saving faith is "the act of a single moment whereby all the benefits of Christ's life, death, and resurrection suddenly become the irrevocable possession of the individual, per se, despite any and all eventualities."
Any and all eventualities would include apostasy—falling away or walking away from the Christian faith and to "cease believing."What a Christian forfeits when he falls away is not his saving relationship with God but the opportunity to reign with Christ in his coming kingdom.
Lewis Sperry Chafer, in his book Salvation, provides a concise summary of the Free Grace position: "Saving faith is an act: not an attitude. Its work is accomplished when its object has been gained."
Traditional Calvinists and Arminians disagree with the Free Grace view on biblical and theological grounds.For example, Calvinist Tony Lane writes:
The two historic views discussed so far [Traditional Calvinism and Arminianism] are agreed that salvation requires perseverance [in faith]. More recently, however, a third view has emerged [i.e., non-traditional Calvinist or Free Grace], according to which all who are converted will be saved regardless of how they then live. They will be saved even if they immediately renounce their faith and lead a life of debauched atheism. Many people today find this view attractive, but it is blatantly unbiblical. There is much in the New Testament that makes it clear that discipleship is not an optional extra and that remaining faithful is a condition of salvation. The whole letter to the Hebrews focuses on warning Jewish believers not to forsake Christ and so lose their salvation. Also, much of the teaching of Jesus warns against thinking that a profession of faith is of use if it is not backed up by our lives. Apart from being unbiblical, this approach is dangerous, for a number of reasons. It encourages a false complacency, the idea that there can be salvation without discipleship. ... Also it encourages a 'tip and run' approach to evangelism which is concerned only to lead people to make a 'decision', with scant concern about how these 'converts' will subsequently live. This is in marked contrast to the attitude of the apostle Paul, who was deeply concerned about his converts' lifestyle and discipleship. One only needs to read Galatians or 1 Corinthians to see that he did not hold to this recent view. The author of Hebrews was desperately concerned that his readers might lose their salvation by abandoning Christ. ... These three letters make no sense if salvation is guaranteed by one single 'decision for Christ'. This view is pastorally disastrous.
Scot McKnight and J. Rodman Williams represent the opinion of Arminians on this view:
"Christians of all sorts tend to agree on this point: to be finally saved, to enter eternally into the presence of God, the new heavens and the new earth, and into the [final eternal] 'rest,' a person needs to persevere. The oddest thing has happened in evangelicalism though. It [i.e., non-traditional Calvinism] has taught ... the idea of 'once saved, always saved' as if perseverance were not needed. This is neither Calvinism nor Arminianism but a strange and unbiblical hybrid of both. ... [Non-traditional Calvinists] have taught that if a person has crossed the threshold by receiving Christ, but then decides to abandon living for him, that person is eternally secure. This is rubbish theology because the New Testament does not hold such cavalier notions of security."
"Any claim to security by virtue of the great salvation we have in Christ without regard to the need for continuing in faith is totally mistaken and possibly tragic in its results. ... A doctrine of 'perseverance of the saints' that does not affirm its occurrence through faith is foreign to Scripture, a serious theological misunderstanding, and a liability to Christian existence."
Harry Jessop succinctly states the Arminian position: "Salvation, while in its initial stages made real in the soul through an act of faith, is maintained within the soul by a life of faith, manifested in faithfulness."
The following denominations or groups affirm their belief in the possibility of apostasy in either their articles or statements of faith, or by way of a position paper.
Reformed Arminianism’s understanding of apostasy veers from the Wesleyan notion that individuals may repeatedly fall from grace by committing individual sins and may be repeatedly restored to a state of grace through penitence.
While for Arminius loss of salvation came only through ceasing to believe in Christ, Wesleyans held that it could result from eiter unbelief or unconfessed sin. ... Anabaptists (e.g., Mennonites, Brethren) and Restorationists (e.g., the Churches of Christ, Christian Churches, Disciples of Christ) have traditionally tended towards doctrines of salvation similar to that of Wesleyan Arminianism--without affirming a "second blessing" and entire sanctification. There have always been some in these groups, however, who has espoused a view more akin to Reformed Arminianism. Many traditional Lutherans also affirm the possibility of apostasy and reconversion.
Does an entirely sanctified person who rebels against God but later comes back to Him need to be entirely sanctified again? We do know that a person can rebel against God and later turn back in repentance and then be “re-saved.” Answer: Yes. To come back to God is the action of a backslider having his re in need of continual cleansing. The verb “cleanses us” is a present indica-relationship with God restored. After the restoration, one must walk in the light and obey Romans 12:1 and offer himself a living, holy, and acceptable sacrifice to God. This can be done only by a person in right relationship with God.
In Protestant circles there are two major camps when it comes to predestination: Calvinism and Arminianism. Calvinism is common in Presbyterian, Reformed, and a few Baptist churches. Arminianism is common in Methodist, Pentecostal, and most Baptist churches.
Sola fide, also known as justification by faith alone, is a Christian theological doctrine commonly held to distinguish many Protestant churches from the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Oriental Orthodox Churches.
Perseverance of the saints is a Christian teaching that asserts that once a person is truly "born of God" or "regenerated" by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, nothing in heaven or earth "shall be able to separate (them) from the love of God" resulting in a reversal of the converted condition.
In Western Christian theology, grace is "the love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it, not necessarily because of anything we have done to earn it". It is not a created substance of any kind. "Grace is favour, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life." It is understood by Christians to be a spontaneous gift from God to people "generous, free and totally unexpected and undeserved" – that takes the form of divine favor, love, clemency, and a share in the divine life of God.
The five solae of the Protestant Reformation are a foundational set of principles held by theologians and clergy to be central to the doctrine of salvation as taught by the Lutheran and Reformed branches of Protestantism. Each sola represents a key belief in the Lutheran and Reformed traditions in contradistinction to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. These Reformers claimed that the Catholic Church, especially its head, the Pope, had usurped divine attributes or qualities for the Church and its hierarchy.
Salvation in Christianity, or deliverance, redemption is the "saving [of] human beings from death and separation from God" by Christ's death and resurrection, and the justification following this salvation. Christians partake in this redemption by baptism, repentance, and participating in Jesus' death and resurrection.
In Christian theology, justification is God's righteous act of removing the guilt and penalty of sin while, at the same time, declaring the ungodly to be righteous through faith in Christ's atoning sacrifice.
Unconditional election is a Reformed doctrine relating to Predestination that describes the actions and motives of God in eternity past, before he created the world, where he predestinated some people to receive salvation, the elect, and the rest he left to continue in their sins and receive the just punishment, eternal damnation, for their transgressions of God's law as outlined in the old and new Testaments of the Bible. God made these choices according to his own purposes apart from any conditions or qualities related to those persons.
Assurance is a Protestant Christian doctrine that states that the inner witness of the Holy Spirit allows the justified disciple to know that they are saved. Based on the writings of St. Augustine of Hippo, assurance was historically a very important doctrine in Lutheranism and Calvinism, and remains a distinguishing doctrine of Methodism.
Eternal security, also known as "once saved, always saved", is the belief that from the moment anyone becomes a Christian, they will be saved from hell, and will not lose salvation. Eternal security is also known as "preservation of the saints", but should not be confused with the Calvinist doctrine of perseverance of the saints.
Unlimited atonement is a doctrine in Protestant Christianity that is normally associated with Amyraldians and non-Calvinist Christians. The doctrine states that Jesus died as a propitiation for the benefit of mankind without exception. It is a doctrine distinct from other elements of the Calvinist acronym TULIP and is contrary to the Calvinist doctrine of limited atonement.
The idea of corporate election expresses a Christian soteriological view that understands Christian salvation as based on "God choosing in Christ a people whom he destines to be holy and blameless in his sight". Put another way, "Election is the corporate choice of the church 'in Christ.'" Paul Marston and Roger Forster state that the "central idea in the election of the church may be seen from Ephesians 1:4": "For he [God] chose us [the Church] in him [Christ], before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight." William Klein adds:
Here [in Ephesians 1:3-4] Paul states that God chose Christians in Christ before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. The "chosen ones" designate the corporate group to whom Paul writes with himself included: God chose us. The focus is not on the selection of individuals, but the group of those chosen. As Westcott notes, "He chose us for Himself out of the world." Paul specifies the timing of this choice—it was pretemporal, before the world was created. God made the choice "in him". In other words, Christ is the principal elected one, and God has chosen a corporate body to be included in him."
The Five Articles of Remonstrance were theological propositions advanced in 1610 by followers of Jacobus Arminius who had died in 1609, in disagreement with interpretations of the teaching of John Calvin then current in the Dutch Reformed Church. Those who supported them chose to call themselves "Remonstrants".
In Christian theology, conditional election is the belief that God chooses for eternal salvation those whom he foresees will have faith in Christ. This belief emphasizes the importance of a person's free will. The counter-view is known as unconditional election, and is the belief that God chooses whomever he will, based solely on his purposes and apart from an individual's free will. It has long been an issue in Calvinist–Arminian debate.
Apostasy in Christianity is the rejection of Christianity by someone who formerly was a Christian. The term apostasy comes from the Greek word apostasia ("ἀποστασία") meaning defection, departure, revolt or rebellion. It has been described as "a willful falling away from, or rebellion against, Christianity. Apostasy is the rejection of Christ by one who has been a Christian...." "Apostasy is a theological category describing those who have voluntarily and consciously abandoned their faith in the God of the covenant, who manifests himself most completely in Jesus Christ." "Apostasy is the antonym of conversion; it is deconversion."
Backsliding, also known as falling away or committing apostasy, is a term used within Christianity to describe a process by which an individual who has converted to Christianity reverts to pre-conversion habits and/or lapses or falls into sin, when a person turns from God to pursue their own desire. To revert to sin or wrongdoing, especially in religious practice, someone who lapses into previous undesirable patterns of behavior. To be faithful, thus to believe backsliding is a reversion, in principle upholds the Apostle Paul’s condition in salvation: "If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Romans 10:9 (TNIV).
The Sinner's Prayer is an evangelical Christian term referring to any prayer of repentance, prayed by individuals who feel convicted of the presence of sin in their lives and have the desire to form or renew a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It is a popular phenomenon in evangelical circles. It is not intended as liturgical like a creed or a confiteor, but rather, is intended to be an act of initial conversion to Christianity. While some Christians see reciting the sinner's prayer as the moment defining one's salvation, others see it as a beginning step of one's lifelong faith journey.
Free grace theology is a Christian soteriological view teaching that everyone receives eternal life the moment that they believe in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord. "Lord" refers to the belief that Jesus is the Son of God and therefore able to be their "Savior". The view distinguishes between (1) the "call to believe" in Christ as Savior and to receive the gift of eternal life and (2) the "call to follow" Christ and become obedient disciples.
In Christian theology, good works, or simply works, are a person's (exterior) actions or deeds, in contrast to inner qualities such as grace or faith. In Judaism, a good work is also known in Hebrew as a mitzvah, and refers to a moral deed performed within a religious duty. As such, the term mitzvah has also come to express an individual act of human kindness in keeping with the law. The expression includes a sense of heartfelt sentiment beyond mere legal duty, as "you shall love your neighbor as yourself". Islamic theology holds that salvation is a combination of the grace of Allah and the works performed by the individual. On the Day of Judgment, if an individual's bad deeds are outweighed by their good works, he or she will be forgiven of all sin and then enter into Jannah (Paradise).
Sola gratia is one of the Five solae propounded to summarise the Lutheran and Reformed leaders' basic beliefs during the Protestant Reformation. These Lutheran and Reformed leaders believed that this emphasis was in contradistinction to the teaching of the Catholic Church, though it had explicitly affirmed the doctrine of sola gratia in the year 529 at the Council of Orange, which condemned the Pelagian heresy. As a response to this misunderstanding, Catholic doctrine was further clarified in the Council of Trent. This Council explained that salvation is made possible only by grace, and that the faith and works of men are secondary means that have their origins in and are sustained by grace.