Tuesday, January 7, 2014

"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Soteriology 9

The debates between Arminians and Calvinists are usually debates between each sides favorite Bible verses. Take the extent of the atonement for example. Arminians quote Scripture where it says Jesus died for the whole world. Calvinists then respond by citing examples of Jesus only atoning for the sins of the elect. And back and forth it goes. Eventually the debate leads to a discussion over how to interpret and define the word "world."

The same is true when it comes to perseverance of the saints. Arminians like to cite Hebrews 6 with its suggestion that believers (those who have "tasted" salvation) can and do fall away. Calvinists, on the other hand, like to cite John 10 where Jesus states that no one can pluck his sheep out of His hands. So what do we do? Debate the meaning of "hands?"

In his book Christian Theology Dr. Millard Erickson puts forth one attempt to reconcile these seemingly contradictory texts. After exegeting both passages in question, he writes:
We are now able to correlate John 10 and Hebrews 6. While Hebrews 6 indicates that genuine believers can fall away, John 10 teaches that they will not. There is a logical possibility of apostasy, but it will not come to pass in the case of believers. Although they could abandon their faith and consequently come to the fate described in Hebrews 6, the grace of God prevents them from apostatizing. God does this, not by making it impossible for believers to fall away, but by making it certain that they will not. Our emphasis on can and will not is not inconsequential. it preserves the freedom of the individual. believers are capable of repudiating their faith, but will freely choose not to. (1005)
At this point, Erickson offers an illustration (a practice one must be careful doing in theology):
At this point someone might ask: If salvation is sure and permanent, what is the point of the warnings and commands given to the believer? The answer is that they are the means by which God renders it certain that the saved individual will not fall away. Consider as an analogy the case of parents who fear that their young child may run out into the street and be struck by a car. One way the parents can prevent that from happening is to build a fence around the yard. That would prevent the child from leaving the yard, but would also remove the child's freedom. Try as he or she might, the child could not possibly get out of the yard. That is the idea some persons have of what perseverance is. Another possibility is for the parents to teach and train the child regarding the danger of going into the street and the importance of being careful. This is the nature of the security we are discussing. It is not that God renders apostasy impossible by removing the very option. Rather, he uses every possible means of grace, including the warnings contained in Scripture, to motivate us to remain committed to him. Because he enables us to persevere in our faith, the term perseverance is preferable to preservation. (1005)
A few quick thoughts. First, the illustration is helpful and reflects one of the main points Jesus makes in John 10. As the Good Shepherd, His sheep hear his voice and obey. Perhaps not immediately (sometimes shepherds have to break the legs of sheep), but ultimately they will follow their shepherd. Secondly, Erickson provides a helpful model to respond to those who continue to deny perseverance of the saints on emotional ground. "Yeah, but what if they turn away from the faith?" My response has often been to offer a loose interpretation of the Prodigal Son. If one is truly a believer, they will come back. Finally, I appreciate the emphasis on grace. The Arminian, non-Baptist position undermines the power and scope of God's grace and turns sanctification into a covenant of works. Erickson's model prevents this.


Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 1 
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 2 
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 3
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 4  
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 5  

Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 1
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 2 
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 3
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 4
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 5
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 6
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 7
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 8  
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 9
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 10

"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 1
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 3 
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 4
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 5 
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 6
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 7
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 8
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 10
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 11
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 12
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 13
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 14
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 15
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 16
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 17
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 18
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 19
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 20

"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 1
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 3
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 4
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 5 
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 6
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 7
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 8
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 9
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 10
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 11
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 12
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 13
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 14
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 15
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 16

"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Anthropology 1
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Anthropology 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Anthropology 3
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Anthropology 4
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Anthropology 5 
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Anthropology 6

"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 1
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 3
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 4
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 5
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 6
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 7
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 8
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 9

"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 1
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 3
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 4
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 5
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 6
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 7
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 8
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 9
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 10

"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Work of Christ 1
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Work of Christ 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Work of Christ 3
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Work of Christ 4
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Work of Christ 5
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Work of Christ 6
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Work of Christ 7

"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Pneumatology 1
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Pneumatology 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Pneumatology 3
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Pneumatology 4
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Pneumatology 5 

"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Soteriology 1
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Soteriology 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Soteriology 3
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Soteriology 4 
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Soteriology 5
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Soteriology 6
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Soteriology 7
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Soteriology 8"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Soteriology 9


For more:
The First Cause of Our Salvation: John Craig on God's Eternal Election
Does the Calvinistic Doctrine of God's Providence Make God Responsible For Sin?: Grudem's Answer
Spurgeon's Defense of Calvinism - Part 1
Spurgeon's Defense of Calvinism - Part 2
Spurgeon's Defense of Calvinism - Part 3
Spurgeon's Defense of Calvinism - Part 4
Spurgeon's Defense of Calvinism - Part 5
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