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Aug 25, 2010

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J. K. Jones

Dr. Lemke,

Does this experience with God result in a new heart being given to the believer? Does the believer hold to faith and persist in good behavior because he has been born again?

If so, does this constitute a violation of a person's free will? To wit, the person holds to Christ because, being the kind of person he is, he cannot not hold to Christ.

JK, Presbyterian Layman

peter lumpkins

JK,

Not to slight Dr. Lemke from answering a question to him, I am curious as to why you'd ask the question you did. Obviously you agree with Dr. Lemke who unequivocally states, "anyone who has a genuine conversion experience can know that they are saved forever." My guess is, JK, you think you've exposed an inconsistency in the non-Calvinist who embraces a form of libertarian free will on the one hand but does not embrace the tendency among some Arminians toward "falling from grace" on the other. It's only a guess. But since you apparently like R.C. Sproul--and he repeatedly makes a point of this in his writings--it appears that way to me anyways.

Just a clarification: from the way I'm reading Dr. Lemke, he does not see Scripture grounding assurance of our eternal security in Christ to sanctification. Apparently, from the comment you logged, you do--"hold to faith and persist in good behavior...being the kind of person he is, he cannot not hold to Christ." Rather, Dr. Lemke sees our eternal security welded to justification and the promise of Jesus Himself: "I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day."

Hence, our eternal security in Christ is rooted in His promise to save and keep us--our justification in Him--not our sanctification (i.e., our 'good behavior', including our inadequacies to hold onto Christ). If correct, there is no inconsistency to expose, JK (assuming, of course, you had such an inconsistency in mind).

With that, I am...
Peter

Steve Lemke

Thanks for your question, JK. If you combine my first article on salvation being entirely initiated and preserved by God, and this article on human response by faith to God's intitiative, you have a divinely provided salvation without violation of human freedom -- something that Presbyterians long to look into (1 Pet. 1:12)
(:-)

J. K. Jones

Peter,

I thought I was pretty straight-forward. Maybe not. I apologize.

"...it was a dramatic change of lifestyle. We were living an ungodly life, and God totally changed and reoriented our life, just as He did in the lives of Paul and the Ephesian believers."

Seems that a change in behavior is called for by the experience.


Does a Christian continue to have faith over the course of his life? Is a person justified no matter wheter they continue in faith? If they must continue in faith, doesn't that leave us with the same problem? They are kept in faith potentially against their will.


Dr. Lemke,

You didn't answer the question.


I will re-read your first article.

JK

J. K. Jones

Peter,

Please not the Baptist Fiaht and Message Article V as quoted in Dr. Lemke's earlier article.

"All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation."

We can't totally divorce behavior and true faith.

JK

J. K. Jones

Please pardon my bad spelling.

peter lumpkins

JK

No one here argues totally divorcing behavior from faith. Please read what I wrote, "our eternal security in Christ is rooted in His promise to save and keep us--our justification in Him--not our sanctification (i.e., our 'good behavior', including our inadequacies to hold onto Christ)."

Nor does eternal security have a gnat's breath to do with being kept saved "potentially against their will." Eternal security is rather about God's promise to never leave nor forsake. Our security is about Him--His promise, His power to fulfill what He said to those who believe, those He pronounced justified--not my abilities, my inadequacies in fulfilling my end of the bargain, JK. Again, our security is grounded in our justification not our sanctification.

With that, I am...
Peter

J. K. Jones

Peter,

Does the true believer continue in faith or not?

Are those who abandon the faith saved?

JK

peter lumpkins

JK,

The answer to both questions are surely indicated in what I've thus far written. My question is, do you have a point? If so, please state it clearly. If not, I hope you have a great day.

With that, I am...
Peter

J. K. Jones

Peter,

The two questions are important because of what some Southern Baptists believe concerning eternal security. Some believe that a person may renounce the faith and still be saved. I am still interested to hear your answers to those questions.

You said: "Our security is about Him--His promise, His power to fulfill what He said to those who believe, those He pronounced justified--not my abilities, my inadequacies in fulfilling my end of the bargain, JK. Again, our security is grounded in our justification not our sanctification."

I agree. I am not trying to put works on the level of faith. Please pardon my inexact wording. I have written at length on that subject on my own blog.

You said, “our eternal security in Christ is rooted in His promise to save and keep us--our justification in Him--not our sanctification (i.e., our 'good behavior', including our inadequacies to hold onto Christ).”

That’s the point. Our eternal security is rooted in His promise. But, assuming that you think a Christian must persevere in his faith, you are saying that God will keep us whether we want him to or not because he has promised to.

I have been born again by the Spirit of God. God changed my heart such that I now desire good things. I chose Christ and now chose to remain in Him because I want to. God did the changing, and I have done the choosing. I have more free will as a Five-point Calvinist than you seem to as you define your view.

JK

peter lumpkins

JK,

First, you assert some Southern Baptists believe that a person may renounce the faith and still be saved. Who? But even if "some do" what has such to do with either me or Lemke? In addition, does the BF&M assert such? If you cannot show either, what is your point, JK?

Second, you said you agree that our eternal security in Christ is rooted in His promise. However, you turn right around and affirm you now choose to remain in Him because you want to remain—God changes, you ‘chooses’.  Wow.  I do not think I’ve ever heard a more explicit affirmation of works-oriented salvation, JK.  You persevere because you want to persevere, you choose to persevere?

I am a non-Calvinist but I place no such confidence in the flesh—even regenerated flesh. I persevere because Christ promises to save me and keep me. He’d be a liar if He didn’t. The fact is, times exist when I do not feel like persevering nor have desires to persevere.  Those times are the times I am much more aware of being kept by the power of God through faith. If my perseverance depended upon me, I’m but to be pitied, and of all men have no hope.

With that, I am…

Peter

Mary

I prefer the term preservation of the saints to perseverence. I believe it takes the emphasis off of my works and places it back on God's promise. It seems to me that some Calvinist place so much emphasis on the works that it becomes a works based salvation. God saved you and you have to work to be sure of your salvation.

A.M. Mallett

Being the drive-by classical Arminian, I'll offer Arminius' sentiments on this matter that is actually surprising to many who did not realize his particular sentiments.

...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...
http://wesley.nnu.edu/arminianism/arminius/f.htm

peter lumpkins

Mary,

Thanks. And, I think you have the right perspective. And, while I do not think JK meant to imply a works-oriented salvation, his words nonetheless demonstrate that an unhealthy focus on our perseverance lends itself to appearing works-oriented...

A.M.

Thank you for Arminius' words. Too often Arminianism is clumped into definitive statements about "falling from grace" when in fact Arminius himself was much more cautious. His words reveal the tension too few of us admit exists in Scripture.

With that, I am...
Peter

Mary

Peter, I know Calvinist don't mean to imply a works based salvation it just comes across to me this way. I remember the big fight over "unregenereate" church membership and I just remember thinking "who gets to decide what "fruit" is. Is fruit really about how often you show in church, how much you give or how many committees you serve on? I don't know if I'm making this clear. It just seems like some people have x number of hoops you're supposed to jump through to prove to the world and even yourself that you're saved. I'm so glad the Bible promises me that "if thou shalt confess with thy mouth and believe in thine heart thou shalt be saved.". Doesn't matter my failings because God's Word is true and God's promise is sure.

Eric Opsahl


Remember the warnings that God gives to believers such as
Eph 5:1 below. If I claim to be a follower of Christ and at the same time am a whoremonger. God does not give me the right to claim once saved always saved (vs. 5)? The Baptist Church is full of such persons both active members and non active members.

1 ¶ Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;
2 And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.
3 ¶ But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;
4 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.
5 For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.
7 Be not ye therefore partakers with them.
8 For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:
9 (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)
10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.
11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.
12 For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.
13 But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.
14 Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.
15 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.
18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;

peter lumpkins

Eric,

Thanks. You said, "The Baptist Church is full of such persons both active members and non active members." This post is neither about warnings the Bible states, nor antinomianism, nor whether the Baptist church is regenerate. If you'd like to comment on Dr. Lemke's brief essay, please feel free.

With that, I am...
Peter

J. K. Jones

Peter,

I was raised in a flavor of Southern Baptist religion that followed Charles Ryrie’s version of the salvation story. The questions were vital for an understanding of your position. I am just beginning to read you and Dr. Lemke. How am I supposed to know without asking?

And I would argue from the BF&M (IV, C.) that works are a necessary, but non-meritorious, component of the life of the saved person. It sounds like you would to. That is a good thing.


“You persevere because you want to persevere, you choose to persevere?”

I want to and choose to persevere because God has made me new and upholds me. Regeneration effects change in the heart. God gets the credit for that, and for everything else I do that is good. His Spirit continues to work in my messed-up, lazy, irreverent life to make me better.


“…I place no such confidence in the flesh…”

Except that you have enough confidence in the flesh to believe that you can choose Christ without being born again.


“…being kept by the power of God through faith.”

That seems to be a violation of your ‘free-will.’ It is as if ‘irresistible grace’ takes over after you invite the Lord into your heart and takes you home to glory. Why can’t irresistible grace change your heart to make you believe in the first place?

As to my own assurance, I have found the actual Canons of Dort to be helpful:

“…this assurance does not derive from some private revelation beyond or outside the Word, but from faith in the promises of God which he has very plentifully revealed in his Word for our comfort, from the testimony of the Holy Spirit testifying with our spirit that we are God's children and heirs (Rom. 8:16-17), and finally from a serious and holy pursuit of a clear conscience and of good works…” (Part 5, Article 10)

As for the Bible itself, I would recommend the careful reading of 1 John. That book destroyed the remaining vestiges of Ryrie’s thought in my own life.


A. M. Malett,

Thanks for the quote!

JK

peter lumpkins

JK,

You have brought up several issues with which this site is no stranger. Rummage through the archives all you like. Nothing you mention has not been thoroughly addressed before. Nevertheless, attempting to reduce Dr. Lemke's essays and/or my brief comments to the nature of free will is absurd. I suggest if you want to "debate" that issue you show up when that issue is our focus.

As for Ryrie as an example of the Southern Baptists you mentioned, perhaps you know more about him than I do. I did not know he represented Southern Baptist belief nor even if he is a Southern Baptist at all. Hence, unless you can do better, I suggest you drop the point.

With that, I am...
Peter

J. K. Jones

"...I suggest you drop the point."

You are correct when you say that Ryrie does not represent the main-stream of SBC thought. The point would have been dropped a long time ago if you would have just answered my questions plainly to start with.

It is not beyond your time and ability to provide links to relevant discussions.

I will try to search and read more of your blog. As stated before, I will work my way through "Whosover Will..."

J. K. Jones

I notice comments are closed on your older posts. That's a shame.

peter lumpkins

JK,

Look, brother. On the very first comment on this thread, you logged a query I judged as a sideways attempt to get the thread on a discussion of free will so you could explore R.C.Sproul's repeated objection in his books. I wrote, "you think you've exposed an inconsistency in the non-Calvinist who embraces a form of libertarian free will on the one hand but does not embrace the tendency among some Arminians toward "falling from grace" on the other. It's only a guess. But since you apparently like R.C. Sproul--and he repeatedly makes a point of this in his writings--it appears that way to me anyways" (#2).

Then, JK, you retorted with, "I thought I was pretty straight-forward. Maybe not. I apologize." Since, you have continued to make this into a discussion of free will. It is not. Nor I am going to go back through hundreds of posts to point you to link. That's what search engines are for, my friend.

Now, as for working your way through WW, I think you'd be wise. At least, some of the elementary mistakes Sproul and Gerstner make concerning free will may be exposed if you read with a relatively fair amount of objectivity.

Finally, as for the comments being closed on older posts, I'm afraid you'll just have to live with it. Typepad recommends all comments be closed between 1-4 weeks after posting to avoid spamming. I'm sure, however, if you look carefully at the comment threads, you'll more than likely find somebody asked your question already, JK.

With that, I am...
Peter

Steve Lemke

Eric and JK,

Thanks for your questions. Remember that this is just the third article in a series of six. You put me in the difficult position of stealing my own thunder. Nevertheless, let me respond to your questions about people who appear to fall away in a couple of ways. Without chasing some of these issues out exhaustively, I think you'll get a sense of where I (and probably most Southern Baptists) are on these issues:

First, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 makes a list similar to the one you cited in Ephesians 5, Eric, of people with ungodly lifestyles who will not inherit the kingdom of God. However, v. 11 points out that all these can be forgiven, and indeed was forgiven among some in the congregation at Corinth. The focus, though, is on an ongoing lifestyle, not an individual sin or shortcoming. I don't believe that people who "backslide" for a season in their lives are going to lose their salvation, and indeed, as I said in the first article, there is nothing we could do to earn or deserve our salvation anyway, and if it were left in our hands all of us (as fallen creatures) would inevitably lose it. It is kept in the hands of God.

Second, I'll give you an advance peek at a section from my sixth article. That article provides a response to some of the Scriptures that are claimed to support the case that one can lose your salvation:

"Those who fall away from the faith in 1 Tim. 4:1 and 6:10 were not genuine Christians, but were disciples of false teachers (1 Tim. 4:1-11, 1 Tim. 6:3-12). These false believers did not have the same faith as the orthodox church. The doctrinal error of these false teachers was evidenced by several notable characteristics: they were in error doctrinally (1 Tim. 4:1-7; 6:3-5, 10), ungodly in behavior (1 Tim. 4:2-8; 6:9-10), under demonic influence (1 Tim. 4:1), hypocrites with a seared conscience (1 Tim. 4:2), argumentative and divisive (1 Tim. 6:5-6), and motivated by greed (1 Tim. 6:6-10)."

"Jesus warned that everyone not everyone who claimed to be a believer was indeed a true believer (Matt. 7:23). These people did not lose their salvation; they were never authentically saved in the first place. As someone put it, “the faith that fizzles at the finish had a flaw from the first.” It is characteristic of a cult to add or delete something to the basic message of the gospel. The apostates that Paul mentioned apparently added requirements of good works for salvation rather than relying solely in the sufficiency of the grace of Jesus Christ for salvation (1 Tim. 4:3). The fact that these apostate believers may have been in some church meetings did not guarantee that they were genuine Christians. They may have been within the church building, but they were never within the true church (Acts 20:29-30). As John said of false believers in his day, “They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out so that it might be made clear that none of them belongs to us” (1 John 2:19, HCSB)."

Steve Lemke

JK,
My answers to your questions --
Does the true believer continue in faith or not?
Yes
Are those who abandon the faith saved?
No, indeed, they weren't saved in the first place.

Steve Lemke

A.M.,
You're absolutely right. Arminius and the original Remonstrants never advocated that the Bible teaches you can lose your salvation; they simply pointed out the obvious truth that some Scripures (such as Hebrews 6) seem to point the other way, and that was worth looking into in order to put ourselves fully under the authority of Scripture. However, of course, later Arminians are a different story. That's why "Reformed Arminians" or "classical Arminians" are trying to distance themselves from other Arminains and get back to the original beliefs. (By the way, I think that would be a good thing for some Calvinists to do as well!).

Steve Lemke

JK,
Let me echo what Peter has said about Charles Ryrie. He was not a Southern Baptist. Many Southern Baptists resonate with some of his views, especially regarding eschatology, but he is certainly no spokesman for Southern Baptist theology. It appears to me that since your upbringing was so colored with Ryrian theology in the Baptist church in which you were reared that you might have a difficult time separating Ryrian theology from Southern Baptist theology in your own mind. Since we Baptists believe in the autonomy of the local church (as opposed to Presbyterians), an individual church is free to go in a Ryrian direction if they so choose, but that does not mean that Baptists as a whole would endorse every aspect of his theology. So it might be that what you're reacting against is not true Southern Baptist theology, but Ryrian theology.

1 John is probably my favorite book in the Bible, too, or at least it is in my top 5. I've preached through it several times. It is a marvelous book inspired by God. I'm not sure at what points you see it as demolishing Ryrie's theology, but again, I'm not here to defend Ryrie. I was trying to express Southern Baptist theology.

I strongly disagree with your assessment that the BF&M 2000 endorses the position "that works are a necessary, but non-meritorious, component of the life of the saved person." My objection is the word "necessary." One of the fundamental logical errors that many in the Reformed camp make (including Jonathan Edwards) is confusing necessity with certainty. For a fuller discussion of this crucial distinction, see Jeremy Evan's article in Whosoever Will, or Ken Keathley's excellent discussion in his book Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Perspective.

Again, the modifiers "TRUE" or "GENUINE" before believers are crucial in understanding the Baptist perspective on this issue. I think you'll see that I consistently say a GENUINE believer cannot lose his salvation. The BF&M 2000 says "All TRUE believers endure to the end." As noted in my earlier post, some can be deceived by others or themselves into thinking they are saved, but they are not.

I do think that you're having difficulty understanding some of what we're saying because you're looking at it through Genevan eyeglasses. You're assuming that we have no freedom before conversation, that in fact we are dead and our wills are hopelessly bound in sin. Thus, in your perspective, not only can you not say "yss" to Jesus, you can't even say "no." You're just a dead rock. Thus, the Reformed position must reverse the order of salvation. Instead of a person believing in Christ and then being regenerated, as the Bible says (John 1:12, Acts 2:38, 16:31, Rom. 10:9-10, see my article in Whosoever Will for numeous other references), you believe that God regenerates us against our will as we're suddenly and forcibly regenerated through irresitible grace, and then we believe-- Poof, the magic Christian. Of course, after forcible regeneration we do believe according to our will, just as an automaton or a brainwashed person does what they're programmed to do. That presupposition colors everything.

But the point is that in your view, you suddenly are spiritual alive and do have free will after your "Poof the magic Christian" conversion. Hence, when a person is regenerated, suddenly you do have genuine freedom (for the first time in your life) and now you CAN deny Christ and reject your salvation. This goes back a long way in the Augustinian/Calvinist perspective. Some early Augustianians (and a few present day Calvinists) believe there are actually TWO elections -- one for justification, and another for sanctification. In this perspective, it is literally possible for someone to be among the elect and regenerated, then when they "come of age" and suddenly have free will, they can reject it all and be lost again. (For more details on how this played out in history, see Rebecca Harden's excellent book Divine Grace and Human Agency). That's why many Calvinists understand "perseverance of the Saints" not really as an affirmation of "once saved, always saved" or "security of the believer," but in fact as an affirmation that we must indeed "work out our salvation by fear and trembling" by good works. Thus the salvation that was granted by faith is earned by works. I find such a view repugnant and antithetical to Scripture.

JK, the questions you ask are profound and important. I would encourage you to "fast forward" to Ken Keathley's chapter on assurance of salvation in Whosoever Will (which mirrors his discussion of that same topic in Salvation and Sovereignty). I think you'll find the answers to many of your questions about our undrstanding of the Biblical teachings there.

Steve Lemke

Sorry, in typing it I omitted the last name of the author of Divine Grace and Human Agency. It is Rebecca Harden WEAVER.

Kyle

"The Bible clearly teaches that God's love for His people is of such magnitude that even those who walk away from the faith have not the slightest chance of slipping from His hand" (p. 74)Charles Stanely Eternal Security.

peter lumpkins

Dr. Lemke,

Many thanks to you, my friend, for answering much more fully and clearly than I could ever do. Please feel fully at liberty to respond as thoroughly as your schedule allows.

With that, I am...
Peter

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