Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Assurance of Salvation

Relational Theology has a clear and definite assurance of salvation to the believer. Calvinism simply has a "presumption" (albeit, arrogant from their viewpoint of Unconditional Election) of assurance. Arminians on the other hand have a "hope" (not necessarily the "Hope" defined by Scripture), that their last act on earth was not a willful sin.

Let's tell it like it is!

The Calvinist Assurance has logic problems

The Calvinist assurance is based on "once saved, always saved". They claim this based mainly on the P of TULIP which stands for the Perseverance of the Saints. We pointed out however, in another blog, that the Calvinist, based on their theology, are never saved by faith. They are saved by guessing and hoping that they are part of the ELECT because of their doctrine of Unconditional Election where salvation is ENTIRELY a work of God and He arbitrarily elects some to salvation and some to destruction and no one can ever know the mind of God. (Read,Relational Theology's response to the Five Points of Calvinism).

Based on Calvinist teaching, it is quite presumptous to assume that one is elect for there is really no way to know that.  It is arrogance to claim to know that "others" are either elect or condemned, for again, who knows the mind of God when it comes to final judgment.

So in other words, the Calvinist cannot use faith for assurance since Biblical faith, pistis, needs a SOLID FACT as an anchor to work. Interestingly, pistis can also be translated as assurance.
It is nowhere near the concept of "blind faith" that the english language unfortunately considers as faith today. Hence, the Calvinist assurance is based on an unbiblical blind faith.

Let us humor the Calvinist a bit and presume that there is a way to know that one is elect and therefore, saved.  The most common Calvinist passage for once-saved-always-saved is 1 John 5:11-13.  The Calvinist claims that eternal life is a "possession" once he is saved because of the statement, "He who has the Son has the life".  The concept of possession, however, is not consistent with all the other accounts of security of salvation.  

Referring to John 15:6, one sees that eternal life is a product of the abiding life. Eternal life is, in fact, a shared life (and not a possession) and its only assurance comes from abiding in the vine.  So, verse 6 says, "if anyone does not abide in me, he is cast out as a branch...throw(n) into the fire, and they are burned".  I don't see how the Calvinist can hermeneutically wiggle his way out of that!

Now, let us proceed to 2 Peter 3:17 which is obviously addressed to Christians. Peter admonishes, "beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness (security)..."  Again, how can the Calvinist wiggle his way out of that?  This is such a ridiculous, senseless admonition if Christians never lose their salvation and ought to be stricken from Scripture (which only a Calvinist can propose).

Let us swing back to the Calvinist's beloved book of Romans, chapter 11. Paul used this chapter to talk about how the faithlessness of the Jews led to the opening of the gospel to the Gentiles.
Focus now on the utterly grim warning of verse 21, "for if God did not spare the natural branches, He may to spare you either" and further emphasized by the next verse, " also will be cut off."  Is Paul playing with words here, Mr. Calvinist? or is he in fact dead serious about his warnings?

The Arminian Assurance has Soteriology Issues

The Arminian (even the Wesleyan) is another poor soul who lives in fear that his last sin before death is not a willful one. He has an assurance that is as reliable as Russian Roulette! Of course, he is comforted by the fact that the Holy Spirit gives him assurance that committing a willful sin will never be timed just before his death. (I am not frivolous but this is logically what everything they teach on assurance of salvation strictly redounds to!). The Arminian seeks comfort therefore in living a holy, sanctified life in order to make the probability of committing some unforgivable sin before death completely remote.

Is this the abundant life? Does the abundant life include a fearful undercurrent that the believer may "lose it" one of these days? I thought we were supposed to enjoy God forever? And forever starts NOW!

Furthermore, the Arminian believes that although he can lose his salvation, the door is still open for him to gain it back. Now that poses both a logical and a biblical dilemma.

Logically, if one has lost salvation, then does that make the loser an infidel? Is the infidel someone who is back to his unregenerate state, and no longer indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Did Jesus Christ ever say to anyone, "You must be RE-born again"???? is there even such a concept in Scripture?
Can the infinite power of the Holy Spirit be easily reversed by man's frailty???

Well here are three outstanding passages which are carefully ignored or bypassed by these major theologies, and please read and analyze them clearly. If in doubt, I challenge anyone to research the context, the background, the writer, his motive, his audience, etc, etc. Here goes...

1 John 5:16,17

"16 If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. 17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death."

So, is St. John, John the Beloved, the apostle who was the last one to die, who actually saw visions of heaven and the end times; is John taking drugs here? Observe the words I placed in BOLD here. He is talking about a brother who is sinning (Hence, he is talking about a Christian in sin). John is saying that prayer is utterly useless for this brother! We are to give him up! The brother is hopeless!

Face it Christian! Once salvation is lost. It is forever lost! The unforgivable sin still exists (even if we don't know exactly what it is....well blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is such a vague sin, does one really do it...I've read so many commentaries, none of them really make practical sense)

John 15:6

"6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned."

OK, so are we talking about non-Christians here? Aren't ALL the branches in John 15 referring to genuine, bona fide, Holy Spirit regenerated, born-again believers????? Logically, when a branch is cast out and burned, is there a way to rebuild it from the ashes? Of course, God can do that but that is NOT OBVIOUSLY the point here!!! Hence, losing salvation, in this analogy is AGAIN - FINAL!

Hebrews 6:4-8 explains this aspect of UN-salvation quite clearly and almost as a doctrine!

"4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.
7 For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; 8 but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned."

Note the main clause which is highlighted in bold. Otherwise, it doesn't really stand out that obviously because of the length of the adverbial clauses. Note also what is highlighted in red. I have always said that if that doesn't describe a genuine Christian, NOTHING DOES!!! Calvinists give you the run-around here. So does the Arminian. Both extremes have NO GOOD interpretation of what is ACTUALLY OBVIOUS either in the English or the Greek!!! All it needs to understand is for the reader to throw away his treasured (but misleading) theology and he will understand simple English!

Throw away the blinders! Put on real reading glasses! Take off the sunglasses too so you can view the REAL colors! See it for what it really says! No Scripture twisting! Just get the plain sense of the passage!

So then, what is and how can a Christian both have and enjoy real assurance of salvation?

Relational Theology sees that the Bible is God's design for relationship, primarily the relationship between God and man. The Bible has gone to great lengths using declarations and analogies to show us how God relates to man and how man SHOULD RELATE to God.

God's primary relationship design is the family. In the garden of Eden, God created man in His image because He wanted an extended family. To confirm this, God not only created the first family. He designed the first family to have an intimate "family-like" relationship with Him.

This is why He declares in John 1:12, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."

Note from this verse that God's real objective is relationship. Salvation just happens to be a necessary step but this is NOT God's ultimate goal. Verse 13, contrary to how so many classicists interpret it, is simply God's way of declaring His divine adoption. Now, the classicists may come in and say that in the process of adoption, the baby does not make any decisions and that is correct.

However, the phrase "receive Him" clearly shows that the analogy is not a case of infant adoption but of consenting adult adoption. Adoption laws especially in the Graeco-Roman world as well as the Jewish culture, are not limited to infants. Adoption can be executed with adults as beneficiaries. If you have ever read or watched the movie, Ben-Hur, you can see Arius adopting Judah Ben-Hur by giving him his ring. Arius was Roman and Judah Ben-Hur was an adult Jew. That is the analogy used in this passage.

The second relationship that God instituted is the Theocracy where God choses a group of people and seeks to actively govern His chosen people. We can see clear evidences of this from Moses to Samuel.

The third relationship was not God-instituted but God not only allowed it but gave it conditional blessings - - - this is the Monarchy which started with King Saul but completed by King David (completed is used to mean that the King-subject relationship had it's defining moment with King David despite the fact that the Kings after him were mostly unfaithful).

The fourth relationship that God-instituted is the Church where Christ is the Head and believers collectively are the One Body.

The fifth relationship is yet to be - - - the restoration of the best of all relationships. When all believers get to heaven, they simultaneously experience the culmination of ALL the relationships of Father and child, a chosen people, King and citizens and the Universal Church in worship, adoration and praise!

Now, after that brief but concise background, what is the assurance of the believer from the perspective of Relational Theology? Where is security?

Salvation is as secure as the relationship of Father and child. For as long as the child does not do anything to disown or dishonor the Father, the child is rarely if ever, disowned by a father. With God as Heavenly Father, disowning will never be initiated by God. A son or daughter may make so many mistakes, violation of house rules, rebellion from specific precepts or even temporary rebellion against the father, but the father rarely if ever disowns his offspring for these "minor" infractions.

Nevertheless, we have to point out that although the relationship is secure, it can be broken once broken, it is broken forever. I have not yet heard of a son who has been formally disowned and then formally restored to the father during the father's lifetime. The prodigal son did not disown his father. He simply wanted to try doing things his way. Hence, he was never beyond redemption. There was nothing to restore, he only had to repent and find his way back to his father, but only to enjoy the benefits of sonship.

Note however, that the relationship involves the chastisement or disciplining of the child by the Father for constructive purposes and because there is love in that relationship. Hence, we know that when a child of God undergoes trials, he is assured that he is "God's workmanship" and is being molded daily into the image of the Son. When the child has been behaving, he takes the pain as training and personality building. When the child is misbehaving, he takes the pain as chastisement or a curse (yes, God curses too!) and lives under double pain because of his mental (as well as spiritual) state. Nevertheless, the trial still confirms that his relationship with the Father is intact and secure.

Security is as secure as the relationship between God and His chosen people. For as long as his people behave corporately AND individually, he blesses them. When his people misbehave corporately AND/OR individually he gives them a curse (really, the end of Deuteronomy shows curseS with a big plural). When individuals among his people dishonor Him or defy Him (basically disown Him like what Abiram and Dothan were guilty of), then God disowns them forever, i.e., punishes them (forever).

Security is as secure as the relationship between King and citizen. A subject or citizen may commit numerous violations of the law. He is penalized but not exiled or ostracized. There are some violations, that incur the death penalty but many times, the subject dies as a citizen and not as an outsider. A citizen, however, may chose to switch sides (especially during wartime), and such disloyalty cannot be restored. The former subject dies as a NON-citizen. I know some of you will talk about dual-citizenship but that is a modern invention which is close to the concept of "political correctness" which the Bible does not buy at all. So, context, context, context! Hermeneutics, hermeneutics, hermeneutics!

Finally, security is as secure as the Church. The Body in relation to the Head. The Head cannot exist without the Body and vice-versa. However, did you notice that even though it hurts the whole body, some body parts can be removed to cure a cancer or disease? During Bible times, the Romans and Jews already had some forms of surgery. However, unlike today where some body parts can be restored after decapitation, during the time the Bible was written that was not possible and that would be the CONTEXT for this analogy of relationship.

All relationships above demonstrate that salvation is basically secure. They also illustrate that security is dependent on behavior within the relationship. Of course, we are talking about our behavior because God's behavior is fairly consistent which we expect from a perfect but loving God. The implications of this is tremendous!

That means we can always know with a great degree of certainty (at least compared to the other theologies) how secure we are in Christ. Look at the Vine and the Branches analogy in John 15. For as long as we abide in Christ, we are secure! A branch is not cast out by a farmer or gardener just because it failed a few times to bear fruit. The gardener prunes a branch when it consistently does NOT bear fruit (and is therefore quite useless to the gardener), and it gets in the way of the other branches bearing fruit ("God wants spiritual fruit, not religious nuts"). Note though, that a good farmer or gardener will not jump to conclusions and will always give the benefit of the doubt to the branch before making the FINAL decision to lop it off.

Relational Theology has the correct Biblical perspective (and interpretation) on the security of salvation. It is not too fragile like the Arminian theology seems to portray, which makes the believer rejoice in his relationship with God. It is not dependent entirely on the arbitrary choices of God like the Calvinists seem to portray, which man can never come close to guessing if God indeed made arbitrary choices. But it has the right dose of caveats and warnings that losing salvation is a final event which continues to put the fear of (reverence for) God among His people.

Finally, for those among you who have healthy non-dysfunctional families, how secure are you in your relationship with your Parents? Pretty secure, right? " If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!" (Matthew 7:11).

Note that your parents can still actually disown you! However, based on your current behavior, are you fearful of that possibility? Now, whatever or however you feel about both your security and the possibility of being disowned SHOULD be the same thought and feel about your relationship with your Heavenly Father!

This is God's design for relationship with man. This is the heart of the Bible. There are no such things as anthropomorphisms (which are an indirect admission of lack of comprehension, otherwise one is saying that God lacks communication skills!). The Bible tells it like it is. The Bible declares, and the Bible give clear analogies!

May you enjoy your dynamic give-and-take relationship with your Loving Heavenly Father! And may you enjoy reading the Bible with REAL reading glasses!

Related Topics:

No comments:

Post a Comment