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Featured Perseverance of the Saints v Eternal Security

Discussion in 'Calvinism & Arminianism Debate' started by Ken Hamrick, May 4, 2017.

  1. Ken Hamrick

    Ken Hamrick Member

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    The Baptist doctrine of Eternal Security is often confused with the Calvinist doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints, especially since there are many Calvinist Baptists. While the two doctrines are similar and share the same end result, there are important differences. Eternal Security is the doctrine that affirms that once a sinner comes to genuine, repentant faith in Christ, God responds to that faith by doing that which irrevocably saves that one. God justifies the believer, and then seals the believer by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, indissolubly uniting the believer to Christ and forever identifying him with Christ’s righteous life and atoning death. While such irrevocable salvation does not depend on continuing works of righteousness and limitations on how far the believer may fall into sin, the reality of Christ within the believer will inevitably result in continuing good works and limitations on how far the believer will fall into sin.

    Perseverance of the Saints is a very different doctrine. Some of the differences come from subtle distinctions in how faith is defined. John Murray, in Redemption: Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), p. 152, says, “We must appreciate the lengths and the heights to which a temporary faith may carry those who have it.” This is a true statement as far as it goes, but notice that the emphasis is on “temporary” rather than disingenuousness. The crucial difference between a faith that fails and one that does not is not chronological duration but the reality of Christ within the genuine believer. Murray ostensibly agrees with this in some of his statements, but the inherent inconsistency keeps surfacing. He states, on p. 152:

    …The Scripture itself, therefore, leads us to the conclusion that it is possible to have very uplifting, ennobling, reforming, and exhilarating experience of the power and truth of the gospel, to come into such close contact with the supernatural forces which are operative in God’s kingdom of grace that these forces produce effects in us which to human observation are hardly distinguishable from those produced by God’s regenerating and sanctifying grace and yet be not partakers of Christ and heirs of eternal life. A doctrine of perseverance that fails to take account of such a possibility and of its actuality in certain cases is a distorted one and ministers to a laxity which is quite contrary to the interests of perseverance.​

    It certainly is possible for someone to have a disingenuous faith, and for that kind of faith to “produce effects… which to human observation are hardly distinguishable from those produced by God’s regenerating and sanctifying grace…” But again, the crucial factor is whether or not one is a “partaker of Christ.” Only those who are of genuine faith are made partakers of Christ and have Christ within them. With this Murray seems to tentatively agree, saying that men can have a faith convincing to “human observation,” “and yet be not partakers of Christ…” However, he implicitly moves the saving difference from partaking of Christ to persevering by effort, when he warns that failing to take into account the possibility of such a convincing counterfeit “ministers to a laxity which is quite contrary to the interests of perseverance.” A disingenuous, unreal faith is not caused by laxity and neither can it be cured by zealous efforts; and a genuine faith results in the immediate indwelling of the Holy Spirit and union with Christ, which cannot be invalidated or annulled by laxity. Intentionally or not, Murray is implying that those whose faith did not persevere might have persevered if they had not been so laxand by extension, we who have genuine faith should beware of laxity lest we fail to persevere also. This falsely grounds the reality of our salvation on our efforts to persevere.

    In those who have failed to persevere, it was not perseverance that they lacked but a genuine faith (which would have resulted in spiritual union with Christ and the fruit that naturally comes from that saving union). To say that true saints will persevere is to speak only of the outwardly apparent differences between those of true faith and those of false faith. Murray states, on p. 155:

    The perseverance of the saints reminds us very forcefully that only those who persevere to the end are truly saints. We do not attain to the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus automatically. Perseverance means the engagement of our persons in the most intense and concentrated devotion to those means which God has ordained for the achievement of his saving purpose.​

    This has much in common with the Arminian view, as the idea of salvation is moved to the end of life, and there is work to be done in order to successfully attain it. “We do not attain [it]… automatically,” but rather, we must engage “our persons in the most intense and concentrated devotion to those means which God has ordained for the achievement of his saving purpose.” Murray explains, on p. 154:

    The very expression, “The Perseverance of the Saints” in itself guards against every notion or suggestion to the effect that a believer is secure, that is to say, secure as to his eternal salvation, quite irrespective of the extent to which he may fall into sin and backslide from faith and holiness. It guards against any such way of construing the status of the believer because that way of stating the doctrine is pernicious and perverse. It is not true that the believer is secure however much he may fall into sin and unfaithfulness. Why is this not true? It is not true because it sets up an impossible combination. It is true that a believer sins; he may fall into grievous sin and backslide for lengthy periods. But it is also true that a believer cannot abandon himself to sin; he cannot come under the dominion of sin; he cannot be guilty of certain kinds of unfaithfulness. And therefore it is utterly wrong to say that a believer is secure quite irrespective of his subsequent life of sin and unfaithfulness.​

    There is a subtle fallacy here, by which it is implied that because some people have a disingenuous faith and abandon themselves to a life of sin, therefore a true believer’s salvation is contingent upon his not abandoning himself to such a life of sin, etc. The true believer may have no right to feel secure in his salvation if he has fallen into grievous sin, but security is more than a feeling. Security is also a fact, and a fact which is true of genuine believers irrespective of any sin that they fall into. It is a false implication that genuine believers may fall into such sin as to invalidate their faith or their salvation, and one which Murray never explicitly affirms. Nevertheless, he does lean heavily on the idea by way of implied warning of the same. Murray is very adept at using the language to employ the force of the idea while maintaining that true believers do persevere. He adds, “It is not at all that they will be saved irrespective of their perseverance or their continuance, but that they will assuredly persevere.” Which is the cause and which is the effect? Is the believer saved contingent upon perseverance, or is perseverance merely the evidence that flows from a real conversion to Christ through a sinner coming in genuine faith? The term, “irrespective,” is obscuring the issue. Yes, the genuineness of the faith by which the sinner was converted does have respect to the future perseverance; but the question ought to be, in what respect are the two related? They are not related in such a respect that the sinner’s salvation in any way depends on what he does or does not do in the future.
    (Continued...)
     
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  2. Ken Hamrick

    Ken Hamrick Member

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    (Continuing...)

    Whether the convert has a faith that is true or not, his salvation depends only on whether or not he genuinely believes in Christ (and has been spiritually indwelt and joined to Christ). Those who do not persevere are not lost by a lack of perseverance, but by a lack of Christ withinand a lack of the real faith that would result in Christ within. Additionally, some men who are of a disingenuous faith die prior to any seeming failure to persevere, but Christ will say to them in the end, “Depart from me… I never knew you.”

    The very idea of contingency has no meaning outside of this temporal world; but within this world, there are contingencies even with regard to God’s certain work. As one who holds to unconditional election, I agree that the elect will certainly be saved with no contingency in God’s eternal plan. However, contingency is the fabric out of which this temporal world is made, so that even the salvation of the elect is—within this world—contingent upon their coming to faith. It cannot be rightly said that we were saved from nothing, since an eternity in hell was never really a possibility for us. This would be an abuse of categories, since the contingencies of earth are not measured by the certainties of heaven. Certain our salvation is; but just as certain is the hell that we were headed straight towards—a hell that God saved us from as truly as the state of grace that He saved us to.

    Murray does not, of course, deny the eternal certainty of the salvation of the elect. But he does strongly imply that salvation—within this temporal world—is contingent upon perseverance. This is not to say that our perseverance, in Murray’s view, is not a matter of certainty within God’s redemptive plan, but only to say that God must use the means of perseverance to accomplish that final salvation—a means effected through His gracious enabling and sustaining.

    Accordingly, salvation is certain for the elect because perseverance is certain; and perseverance is not meritorious or dependent only on the believer’s will, since it is enabled and accomplished by God’s grace. However, those who hold to Eternal Security must disagree with how the means by which God accomplishes our salvation are portrayed. We see our salvation as fully and completely accomplished when we come to a genuine, repentant faith and are reborn into Christ; while those who hold to Perseverance of the Saints seem to see perseverance (by the grace and power of God) as necessary to the accomplishment of our final salvation. In other words, they see a temporal contingency of apostasy to be avoided or overcome by persevering (by the grace and power of God).

    Ken Hamrick, 2013
     
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  3. Mr. Davis

    Mr. Davis Active Member
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  4. Ken Hamrick

    Ken Hamrick Member

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    I disagree, but will of course defer to the moderators. However, while a debate between the Arminian view of Losable Salvation and the Calvinist view of POS would belong in the other forum, this discussion is between the Baptist view of Eternal Security and the Calvinist view of POS--leaving the Arminian view completely out of view.
     
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  5. TCassidy

    TCassidy Late-Administator Emeritus
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    Are you creating a false dichotomy? Many of the founders of the SBC were Particular Baptists and self-identified as Calvinists.

    Don't you really mean "The Baptist doctrine of Eternal Security and the Baptist doctrine of the Preservation of the Saints (the word used over and over again in the Canons of Dort) are the same thing under different nomenclature?"

    Why try to create a division among the brethren? You are aware of what God says of those who sow discord among brothers?
     
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  6. rsr

    rsr <b> 7,000 posts club</b>
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    Let's get down to brass tacks. "Eternal security" is simply a Free Grace relabeling of "Perseverance of the Saints," or as the Primitive Baptists would prefer, "Preservation of the Saints."

    On one hand "eternal security" is something of a remedy against some excesses of Calvinism, which looked to external signs to verify whether one is truly regenerated. On the other hand, it too often puts the focus on an individual's subjective "belief," i.e., I walked the aisle, I believed. No matter what I do afterward, I am assured of salvation. That is a bastardization of the doctrine of perseverance or preservation, an invitation to antinomianism.

    Since I'm not a Calvinist — but an Augustinian or even a Thomist — I believe that perseverance is totally an act of grace on God's part, but not something that I can take for granted just because I believe I'm included in the elect.
     
    #6 rsr, May 4, 2017
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  7. Mr. Davis

    Mr. Davis Active Member
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    Dr. Charles Stanley, Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Atlanta, wrote in his book, Eternal Security, that he believes (as others may as well) that believers were predestined before the foundation of the world unto salvation.The "keeping" of the Saints is entirely of God. They "Persevere" because God, in His glorious Grace, works in them to do so. (These are Calvinist Baptists).

    R.C. Sproul, a strong advocate of Reformed doctrine, calls the "Perseverance of the Saints," the "Preservation of the Saints." They are "Preserved," not because of self-effort, but because God foreordained their "Preservation."

    I think you should make very clear that there is a distinct difference between Calvinist and non-Calvinst Baptists. I am a Calvinist Baptist.

    Mr. Davis
     
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  8. Squire Robertsson

    Squire Robertsson Administrator
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    I hold to the security of the Believer in Christ. IOW, the security of my salvation lies not in me but in the work of my Lord and Savior.
     
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  9. Mr. Davis

    Mr. Davis Active Member
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    The doctrine of my Baptist Church (which I do not agree with) is that God foreknows those who will respond to the Gospel, and then predestines them unto salvation. This contradicts what I believe. (This is a non-Calvinist Baptist Church).

    No, God predestines in eternity past and no response of man is involved. Salvation is all of God, and none of man. He gets all the Glory, man receives none! (I don't think there are any true Calvinist Baptist Churches in my area.)
     
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  10. Ken Hamrick

    Ken Hamrick Member

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    You are correct, of course, that many of the founders of the SBC were Calvinist; but there were also many who were not. Many Baptists are Calvinists, but not all Calvinists are Baptists. The POS doctrine is held by all the Calvinist denominations, so I wouldn't characterize it as a particularly Baptist doctrine. Eternal Security, though, does seem to me to be a particularly Baptist doctrine.

    I'm not "[trying] to create a division among the brethren." My goodness, TC, the division in the SBC has been there since the beginning (between the Calvinists and the Arminians). It's actually my intention to bring the two sides closer together by establishing that there is and has always been a large percentage of middlers who do not fully agree with either of the two sides (but can get along well with either side). Setting forth some of the doctrinal views of these centrists, and showing the solid Biblical ground under them helps to establish this. Otherwise, we let the two sides fight without end.

    Now who's sowing discord?
     
    #10 Ken Hamrick, May 4, 2017
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  11. Ken Hamrick

    Ken Hamrick Member

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    Did you read the opening article/post? I only ask because I don't see how you could say that it's just a relabeling after reading it.
     
  12. Ken Hamrick

    Ken Hamrick Member

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    Did you read the opening posts?
     
  13. rsr

    rsr <b> 7,000 posts club</b>
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    Yes, I read it. Every word. Your goal is to make "eternal security" distinct from "perseverance of the saints," so I obliged. But probably not in the way you would prefer.
     
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  14. Ken Hamrick

    Ken Hamrick Member

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    No one yet has substantively engaged the opening posts.
     
  15. rsr

    rsr <b> 7,000 posts club</b>
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    Well, yes, we have. You have posited that "eternal security" is in fact something different than "perseverance." They really aren't, except in ways you don't agree with.

    I'm not a "cage Calvinist." I have no brief for them, but I also have no brief for those who continually want to fudge the theological differences among honest Christians who have different views of redemption. They are overwhelmingly in the middle.

    I have never been a member of a church whose members do not overwhelmingly believe in unlimited atonement or eternal security. It has never been a test of fellowship, for me, whether they believe in five points or one point of either particular doctrine. I have come to my conclusions, and they are free to come to theirs.

    I know I also am in a tiny minority in my eschatological views, but that is also not a test of fellowship.

    What matters is that they love Christ and glory in his love for us. But I will not affirm something I have no confidence in, and they have never asked me to, just as I will not expect them to conform to my own views on such things.

    You view rationalism as the enemy. Well, that's just the way with Baptists. Like it or not, the Baptist tradition is one of rationalism. We're not Anabaptists; we're not pietists. Rationalism, in my mind, is a good thing. Otherwise we would accept all kinds of mush that passes for theology.
     
    #15 rsr, May 4, 2017
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  16. TCassidy

    TCassidy Late-Administator Emeritus
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    You.
     
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  17. Squire Robertsson

    Squire Robertsson Administrator
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    In my case, it's because my position doesn't track either of the two you presented.
     
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  18. MennoSota

    MennoSota Well-Known Member
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    What is Unfree Grace?

    I just go back to adoption. I don't know of an adoptive family that has cast out the child they adopted. Since God has adopted me, I can't fathom being rejected by my Father.

    Call it whatever you want, but my God will never leave me nor forsake me.
     
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  19. Iconoclast

    Iconoclast Well-Known Member
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    I do not believe they are the same thing.....we have seen people here on baptistboard claim eternal security, while denying perseverance of the saints.
    The quotes of John Murray were on topic.

    Chapter 17: Of The Perseverance of the Saints
    1._____ Those whom God hath accepted in the beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, and given the precious faith of his elect unto, can neither totally nor finally fall from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved, seeing the gifts and callings of God are without repentance, whence he still begets and nourisheth in them faith, repentance, love, joy, hope, and all the graces of the Spirit unto immortality; and though many storms and floods arise and beat against them, yet they shall never be able to take them off that foundation and rock which by faith they are fastened upon; notwithstanding, through unbelief and the temptations of Satan, the sensible sight of the light and love of God may for a time be clouded and obscured from them, yet he is still the same, and they shall be sure to be kept by the power of God unto salvation, where they shall enjoy their purchased possession, they being engraven upon the palm of his hands, and their names having been written in the book of life from all eternity.
    ( John 10:28, 29; Philippians 1:6; 2 Timothy 2:19; 1 John 2:19; Psalms 89:31, 32; 1 Corinthians 11:32; Malachi 3:6 )
    2._____ 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, upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ and union with him, the oath of God, the abiding of his Spirit, and the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace; from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.
    ( Romans 8:30 Romans 9:11, 16; Romans 5:9, 10; John 14:19; Hebrews 6:17, 18; 1 John 3:9; Jeremiah 32:40 )

    3._____ And though they may, through the temptation of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins, and for a time continue therein, whereby they incur God's displeasure and grieve his Holy Spirit, come to have their graces and comforts impaired, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded, hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves, yet shall they renew their repentance and be preserved through faith in Christ Jesus to the end.
    ( Matthew 26:70, 72, 74; Isaiah 64:5, 9; Ephesians 4:30; Psalms 51:10, 12; Psalms 32:3, 4; 2 Samuel 12:14; Luke 22:32, 61, 62 )
     
    #19 Iconoclast, May 4, 2017
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  20. TCassidy

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    That is why I use the term "Preservation of the Saints." It is not our perseverance that gives us assurance, but God's preserving us by His matchless Grace. :)
     
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