Arminian Today

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Is Belief in Personal Apostasy Akin to Heresy?

I recently had a discussion with a Calvinist blogger and he stated that belief in personal apostasy is akin to heresy.  I asked this man if he believed John Wesley was saved.  He said he didn’t know enough about Wesley to make this judgment but I could tell from his reply that he does not believe Wesley was saved because John Wesley held to personal apostasy.

There are three major views when it comes to the issue of the security of the believer.  The first is the radical, hard view of what I call “extreme eternal security” views such as those held by some Dispensationalists such as Charles Stanley, Charles Ryrie, Tony Evans, and even Chuck Swindoll who embrace the idea that a person needs only believe for a moment and they are sealed unto the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30).  Stanley, for example, wrote an entire book on the subject called, Eternal Security: Can You Be Sure?, in which he argued that a person is saved no matter what they do so long as they once believed.  This is sometimes called, “Once Saved, Always Saved.”  Most Calvinists I know reject such a view.  John MacArthur, for example, teaches that if a person claims Christ but lives in constant rebellion and sin, they were never saved to begin with.  He would cite 1 John 2:19 as proof.

The second view is the Calvinist teaching called “perseverance of the saints.”  Some Calvinists use the terms “perseverance of the saints” and “eternal security” in sync.  The idea of this teaching is that true believers will persevere for God upholds them (John 10:27-30).  While believers may sin, they will be convicted and repent under the discipline of the Lord (Hebrews 12:5-11).  No true believer will continue in a life of sin (1 John 3:6-10).  True repentance will manifest itself in holy living (Matthew 3:8).  I have much more in common with this view than the radical “once saved, always saved” view from above.  Godly men such as Dr. MacArthur preach holiness and preach against sinning.  I appreciate that emphasis.

The third view is the belief in personal apostasy.  While Arminius was not clear on this issue, Arminianism has historically held to this view.  This view takes the bulk of Scripture and sees both the promises of God to keep us (1 Corinthians 1:8-9) and the warnings from God to remain faithful to Him as Lord (Luke 6:46-49; John 15:1-11; Romans 6; 8:12-14; 11:30-32; 1 Corinthians 9:24-10:21; 15:1-2; Galatians 5:1-4; 6:7-9; Ephesians 3:17; Philippians 2:12-13; Colossians 1:21-23; 3:1-4; etc.) and sees that God is faithful to convict us and He is faithful to discipline us but He calls us to have faith in Him and follow Him.  Even my Calvinist brethren admit that God does not make us believe but rather they teach that He gives a special inward call to the elect that makes them want to follow Him.  Either way, we both acknowledge that perseverance is necessary.  The difference being that Calvinists would say that those who commit apostasy were never regenerated and Arminians would disagree.  Both, I pray, would agree that such people need to repent whether they were never saved to begin with or not.

My biggest issue would be the large amount of “warning passages.”  You have to do something with those texts.  Are they not real?  Are they given only for unbelievers?  I once did a post on this blog about 85 passages just in the New Testament that are “warning passages.”  We must do something with those.  The tendency is to take passages that teach security such as Romans 8:38-39 and apply that to all the warning passages but that does not solve the problem.  I would agree that the Bible is clear that we are secure, and here is the big issue for me, IN CHRIST.  We are justified before God IN CHRIST (Romans 5:1).  We have the assurance of our salvation IN CHRIST (Romans 8:12-17; Philippians 1:6).  We are saved by grace through faith IN CHRIST (Ephesians 2:8-9) and are secure in Him by grace through faith (Romans 11:6).  There are some who seem to teach justification by faith but then teach the assurance or even our security in Christ by works of obedience (Matthew 7:21-27).  I would agree that obedience flows naturally from a redeemed saint of God (Ephesians 2:10) but I would deny that works keep us saved.  Christ is our salvation and hope and He keeps us (1 Peter 1:5).

Let me get back to the point of this post.  If a person holds to personal apostasy does that mean that they hold to works-salvation or works-righteousness?  For instance, I believe we are saved by grace alone through faith alone.  I believe works flow from our salvation and that is the point of James 2:14-26.  I believe, with Paul the Apostle in Galatians 3:6, that Abraham was declared righteous because of his faith in God (Genesis 15:6).  This reckoning took place systematically before Genesis 17:9-14 and the call to circumcision.  It was Abraham’s faith that made him righteous and not his works.  The same is true for the disciple of Christ.  We are declared righteous before God because of our faith in Jesus Christ His Son (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 3:8).  I am justified before God through faith in Christ (Romans 5:1).  This justification is not based on my actions but upon Christ.

Now if I fully cast myself upon Christ as my Savior and believe that His blood alone cleanses me from sin (1 John 1:7), am I saved?  If I hold that Christ takes away the just wrath of God against my sins (Romans 3:21-27; 1 John 4:10) and He brings peace through His sacrifice upon the cross (Romans 5:8-9), am I saved?  If I hold that Christ is our salvation from beginning to end (1 Corinthians 1:30-31), that Christ alone is my mediator before God (Hebrews 7:25), am I saved?  If I look to Christ alone to forgive me, to wash me, to uphold me, to pray for me, to stand with me, to be my righteousness (John 3:14-15), am I saved?  If I make Christ the One that we should adore, follow, worship, pray to, preach, and continue to obey as Lord (Acts 14:22), am I still saved?

So where is the issue?  I have been an Arminian disciple of Christ for over 20 years.  I have heard one sermon in over 20 years on apostasy.  And that brother today would laugh if I brought up his sermon because it was too hard and without grace.  I have never heard one Arminian say about a person who walked away from the faith that “they lost their salvation.”  I will admit that I did hear a Pentecostal Holiness minister once say during a testimony service, “As an Arminian I believe you could fall away from Jesus but praise God that this year I didn’t.”  It did make me laugh inside.  My point is that the language of apostasy often accused toward those who believe in apostasy is not found.  We don’t “lose our salvation” since we didn’t find our salvation.  We lose coins.  We lose our keys.  You don’t lose Jesus.  You didn’t find Him.  He is not an object like your wallet that you can’t find.

I will end this post by simply affirming that salvation is in Christ alone.  Salvation is not in Arminianism or Calvinism or in belief or rejection of eternal security.  Salvation is in Christ alone.  Arminians and Calvinists can disagree over this issue but we must agree that salvation is by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.  This is the heart of the Reformation.  This is the heart of what it means to be Protestants.  Jesus doesn’t save Arminians or Calvinists but He saves sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).  I think we all would agree, that means us (Romans 3:23).


3 Responses

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  1. Its often asserted that those who don’t believe in classical Arminianism or Calvinism don’t believe in having any assurance of their salvation. The non-classical Arminians (or so-called “Semi-Pelagians”) must believe that unless you live a sinless life you cannot know that you are saved, it is argued. But this is precisely where the fact that they treat grace as meaning MERCY rather than magic-enabling power comes to the rescue. Calvinists and Arminians mean by “grace” a power of enabling that jump-starts the conversion process. Non-classical Arminians or so-called “Semi-Pelagians” mean God’s mercy in forgiving or even overlooking our failures. The result of grace coming in in the middle and end in “Semi-Pelagianism” rather than just at the beginning as in classical Arminianism and Calvinism cuts off all the heads of this hydra of internecine debate and condemnation of each other before it even begins to grow any heads. There is a much greater assurance of salvation when grace means mercy that keeps on keeping on rather than magic enabling power that comes at the beginning. This is a major point of failure for both of the four century old European models of salvation. They are as outmoded and moldy as monarchy.


    03/05/2013 at 11:00 PM

  2. There are three doctrines connected to this issue: eternal security (ES), present assurance (PA), and rejection of licenciousness(RL). However, one cannot believe in all three. You must either accept ES and PA while rejecting RL (Once saved always saved), accept ES and RL while rejected PA (perserverance of the saints), or accept PA and RL while rejecting ES (possible apostacy). Considering that PA and RL are explicitly taught in Scripture, I think the solution is obvious.


    03/06/2013 at 8:02 AM

    • That’s a really good explanation. But I fear the classicals will reject it as heresy because they love to label everything that involved any level of obedience as “adding to the finished work of Christ.” Its the devil’s constant refrain against what you call “rejection of licenciousness” and he’s trained all his flying monkeys in classical Arminianism and Calvinism both to constant cackle it as they flap their wings.


      03/07/2013 at 2:19 AM

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