Archive for category Once saved always saved
In my previous article on the historic anomaly of the doctrine of ‘Once Saved Always Saved‘ I suggested the popular doctrine, as it stands today, might have its origins in Gnosticism and not Scripture or early Christianity.
For many, any such claim is unthinkable and a plain denial of Scripture. But these types of beliefs are problematic, since there are between 60-80 verses in the New Testament which give distinct warnings to believers.
Scripture repeatedly tells believers to “abide” in Christ (John 15: 4, 6, 10, 1 John 2: 28) which makes little sense if it were impossible for believers to do otherwise.
Likewise, a person cannot abide somewhere they never were in the first place.
Can a person abide in Christ if he or she was never in Christ in the first place? Why then should should the believer be told to abide in Christ if they cannot do anything else?
The above verses and between 60-80 others including Romans 11: 22, Hebrews 10: 26, raise serious doubts concerning the authenticity of the doctrine.
Scripture is absolutely important and if a doctrine is not taught in Scripture, it does not belong in Christianity and no believer in any part of the world is obligated to believe it. But for all 5 point Calvinists and Calvinistic revisionists, the doctrine of ‘Once Saved Always Saved‘ is absolutely iron clad and Scripture itself. It is somewhat devilish, ignorant or evidence of a lack of faith for someone to deny or doubt it. Likewise, any attempt to cause people to re-think this, is pointless, because they have already made their minds up.
This is also the case for many evangelical’s who inconsistently embrace the doctrine, while affirming free will at the same time. See my article on this.
There are some, who upon reading this post would probably have an attitude that says something like this; ‘I was reading this guy the other day who was trying to say that I can lose my salvation and that ‘Once Saved Always Saved’ is a Gnostic teaching…‘. They would utterly reject what I am saying without even reviewing the evidence.
Attitudes like that are extreme and immediately unreasonable and people like that are not worth reasoning with in my opinion, but they are a continuous problem.
But the question I am seeking to answer in this post is this: did the Gnostic’s teach ‘Once Saved Always Saved’? If so, was it the same doctrine as Calvinism or did their doctrines contain similarities with the modern ‘wishy washy’ version of ‘Once Saved Always Saved’?
To answer this, I am going to use six references from early Church father Irenaeus and his book ‘Against heresies‘ as my historic source. I will be reviewing the ancient Gnostic beliefs from his perspective and leaving the reader to compare them to the modern versions of ‘Once Saved Always Saved’.
- According to Irenaeus, Gnostic’s claimed that Christians who did not follow their doctrines, believed in a salvation of works. Quote: “We of the Church, they say, are these persons. Wherefore also they maintain that good works are necessary to us, for that otherwise it is impossible we should be saved.” (Against Heresies. Book I Chapter 6. (Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume 1)
- According to Irenaeus, Gnostic’s taught that they would be entirely saved, not by works but because they were saved in the spirit. Quote: “But as to themselves, (Gnostic’s) they hold that they shall be entirely and undoubtedly saved, not by means of conduct, (works) but because they are spiritual by nature.” (Against Heresies. Book I Chapter 6. (Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume 1)
- According to Irenaeus, Gnostic’s claimed that they could not be corrupted or fall away from salvation, no matter what sins they did. Quote “so again it is impossible that spiritual substance (by which they mean themselves) should ever come under the power of corruption, whatever the sort of actions in which they indulged.” (Against Heresies. Book I Chapter 6. (Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume 1)
- According to Irenaeus, Gnostic’s addicted themselves to things forbidden in the Scriptures without any fear of judgement. Quote: “that the “most perfect” among them addict themselves without fear to all those kinds of forbidden deeds of which the Scriptures assure us that “they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.(Gal 5:21).” (Against Heresies. Book I Chapter 6. (Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume 1)
- According to Irenaeus, Gnostic’s had no issues eating foods sacrificed to idols. Quote: “For instance, they make no scruple about eating meats offered in sacrifice to idols.” (Against Heresies. Book I Chapter 6. (Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume 1)
- According to Irenaeus, Gnostic’s committed sexual immorality with no fear of judgement or with any remorse. Quote: “Others of them, too, openly and without a blush, having become passionately attached to certain women, seduce them away from their husbands, and contract marriages of their own with them.” (Against Heresies. Book I Chapter 6. (Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume 1)
I think there are some disturbing similarities between those Gnostic teachings and the modern versions of ‘Once Saved Always Saved’. I don’t see any distinct exactness between the Gnostic doctrine to proper Calvinism, but some could go to that extreme.
However, none of these references can be dismissed as Gnostic distortions of what was already taught in Scripture, because the warning passages in the New Testament, make little or no sense if ‘Once Saved Always Saved’ is true. It is an assumption to assume that because someone is saved, that they will always remain that way. A document can be saved, but that does not mean it cannot be deleted? A royal document can be sealed, but it does not mean it cannot be broken off by the King.
But questions remain; why didn’t the early Church fathers teach it? If the original Apostles taught the doctrine then why didn’t the early Church pick up on it since they followed the Apostles teaching very closely?
What is possible is that the early Gnostic’s did distort the New Testament texts used to affirm unconditional eternal security, and introduced the doctrine into Christianity by influence.
It is fact that the early primitive Church never taught ‘Once Saved Always Saved’. But that does not mean that there is no truth to it. I believe that when a believer is absolutely saved, that he or she can never be lost, but it is an assumption to assume that all believers are fully saved right now. We await the return of Christ in order for salvation to be made complete. Just because a person is saved, it is an assumption to assume that they are fully saved. I say this because there are many things in Scripture that people are saved from. However, I can clearly see why people believe the doctrine as it stands, but it is an assumption to assume that God gives persevering faith to all believers. It is also an assumption to assume that what Paul wrote in Philippians 1: 6, is true for all believers. I say this because he never said the same thing to the Galatians.
It is furthermore an assumption to assume that the word “perish” used by Jesus in John 10: 27-29 is a reference to the eternal and it is also an assumption to assume that the promise refers to all believers of all generations. The context of John 10: 27-29 clearly refers to His people who were present at the time when Jesus said that.
It is my opinion that too many Christians today are guilty of making far too many assumptions. We put ourselves before the Biblical texts and read ourselves into them. It has become a rare thing to enquire into the minds of the original Apostles and seek to discover what the Biblical authors were intending to communicate.
What is clear is that too many people and preachers are busy feeding particular views into the Scriptures, things which preachers have already suggested prior to their guiding the thoughts of their listeners before quoting passages from the Bible. This, I’m afraid could well be the power of suggestion, thought control, and rhetorical persuasion.
Christians, “keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 1: 21) “Abide in Him; that when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed of Him at His coming.” (1 John 2: 28)
Today, it is not uncommon to hear the doctrine of ‘Once Saved Always Saved‘ proclaimed in many sermons and books. It is through sermons and books that many ‘Christians’ today believe the doctrine. Most people that simply read the Bible, come to different conclusions.
This popular nickname ‘Once Saved Always Saved’ has its systematic reformed origins in the Calvinist doctrine of the ‘Perseverance of the Saints’. This doctrine was devoutly affirmed by 2nd generation reformers and is most associated with 1st generation reformer, John Calvin.
Calvin was an excellent Theologian and his reforms centralised around Geneva. His influence on the reformation was considerable but the main core reformed doctrine was Lutheran. Luther attempted to reform the Church by getting back to Scripture. His conviction was the ‘the Gospel cannot be denied for the word of man’.
Unfortunately, by today’s standards, it is very difficult for any Christian to merely believe what the Bible says. I say this because the Church of today has been corrupted by argumentation and interpretation. So it is, in these times that my personal attempts to proclaim truth and find truth of Scripture and believe it, is very difficult. So often those who merely believe what the Bible says are the ones labelled the total opposite.
However, we are not here to please men. Men may interpret the Bible, but they are not above it. So it is that I come to my point. The popular doctrine of ‘Once Saved Always Saved’ has a major historic anomaly attached to it. Thorough research reveals that the doctrine was not taught in mainstream Christianity until the time of John Calvin or later in the 17th century at the Synod of Dort (1618). Some claim that Augustine of Hippo taught it? others that the doctrine is Gnostic.
Difficult as it may seem to grasp, it appears that the doctrine of ‘Once Saved Always Saved’ has its early origins in Gnosticism and not Christianity. We know this because Irenaeus refuted an early form of it in Against Heresies. Book 1. Chapter 6. The connection to Calvin being that Augustine was influenced by Gnosticism because of his prior belief in Manichaeism and Calvin relied upon Augustine as an authority on Scripture and quoted him more than any other theologian. However, there is reasonable doubt whether or not Augustine ever taught ‘Once Saved Always Saved’?
But outside of these references, the doctrine is not to be found.
This presents a major problem; unconditional eternal security was not taught by the ancient Christian Church, and is, in fact alien to historic Christianity before the 16th century.
This presents a major problem for those who claim their beliefs are absolutely Scriptural. It asks an unanswered question; If ‘Once Saved Always Saved’ is absolutely Scriptural, as some preachers claim, how could a doctrine of such massive importance lay untaught within Christianity for almost 1500 years? If the doctrine was so clearly taught in Scripture, as many moderns claim, then why didn’t the early Church teach it?
Why did the doctrine only come to light in the 16th century?
Differences of opinion within Christianity have for many years been of great interest to me. For me, the interest has rarely been concerning the variances themselves, but how the variances are dealt with.
There are within Christianity what some might call ‘salvation issues’ and others which might not be ‘salvation issues’.
The doctrine of ‘once saved always saved’ is what I would claim is not a ‘salvation issue’. But it is a doctrine of much contention.
People who believe ‘once saved always saved’ have their reasons and Scriptural basis for their beliefs. People who don’t believe ‘once saved always saved’ have their reasons and Scriptural basis for not believing it.
Some people get so irate over the doctrine that they make a heretic or an unbeliever out of anyone who does not believe it. Some think ‘once saved always saved’ is the pure Gospel in a nutshell and anyone who does not believe it is guilty of not believing Scripture and believing a doctrine of works. While those who do not believe it often treat the doctrine with contempt and argue it a licence to sin. Others, like myself who claim to have a somewhat none bias view do not overlook the Scriptures that can affirm the doctrine while at the same time do not ignore the implications behind the warnings given in Scripture to ‘abide’.
In reality the Scriptures work both ways concerning the Scriptural aspect of the doctrine. Some texts affirm ‘once saved always saved’ while others appear speak as though a believer can fall away and become an ‘apostate’.
In a historical reformation context, the two contrasting views are known as ‘Calvinism’ and ‘Arminianism’. Both views have their majority origins in 16th century Geneva in a somewhat bitter debate that arose between Jacob Arminius and Theodore Beza. Today both views are still believed, however, the views have altered somewhat since the days of Arminius and Beza.
In the 16th century their was only one main view of doctrine known today as ‘once saved always saved’ while today, it seems there are multiple views of teaching. Both views were responses to the extreme dogma of the Roman Catholic Church. Rome taught a very uncertain view of salvation which held people captive to the authority and sacramental works of that Religion.
Today however, things have changed. The doctrine of ‘once saved always saved’ is not centralised around refuting Rome, but Arminianism. The doctrine of ‘once saved always saved’ has took on a new commercial and popular form.
Thus, before a person can affirm ‘once saved always saved’ that person must first clarify which version of ‘once saved always saved’ is being talking about.
Lets look at the Scriptures.
Here is a list of some Scriptures used to affirm the doctrine:
John 3: 15-16, John 5: 24, John 10: 28-29, Romans 8: 38-39, Ephesians 1: 13-14, Ephesians 4: 30, 1 Peter 1: 5, Hebrews 10: 14, Jude 24.
Here is a list of some Scriptures used to refute the doctrine:
Matthew 10: 22, 32, Matthew 7: 19, Luke 12: 41-46, John 15: 2, Romans 11: 18-22, Galatians 5: 1-5, 1 Corinthians 9: 27, 1 Corinthians 15: 1-2, Colossians 1: 21-23, 2 Timothy 4: 10, 2 Peter 2: 19-22, Hebrews 6: 4-6, Revelation 2: 8-10, Revelation 3: 1-6, Revelation 21: 6-8, Revelation 22: 19
A problem I find is that both parties appear to overlook the contrasting texts or reinterpret them according to their persuasion. ‘Calvinistic’ thinkers commonly claim that those who have fallen away were never truly saved in the first place. While some ‘Arminian’ thinkers hold on so tightly to their salvation that they appear unsure if they will get to heaven even though they abide.
But where are the proofs?
The Scriptures speak clearly on the matter if we let them speak. They affirm that a believer will abide if he looks to Christ, in other words a believer must abide in order to abide.
The Scriptures affirm that God will keep our salvation and that it is the duty of every believer to keep the faith. In other words, if a believer does not abide, how can he continue to have faith? A person cannot have faith and trust in Jesus if he has ceased to believe He was the Christ.
The problem is that many preachers would simply attempt to persuade their congregations that those who walk away from the faith were never really saved in the first place? I beg to differ them and claim that such a view is inconsistent with all Scripture. I would further claim that such a view was not taught by the majority Ante-Nicene-fathers. For example, Ante-Nicene-Father Irenaeus once wrote;
“We should fear ourselves, least perchance after [we have come to] the knowledge of Christ, if we do things displeasing to God, we obtain no further forgiveness of sins, but are shut out from His Kingdom. And for that reason, Paul said, ‘For if [God] spared not the natural branches, [take heed] lest He also not spare you” (Romans 11:21). (Against Heresies 4.27.2]
“Those who do not obey Him, but being disinherited by Him, have ceased to be His sons.” (Against Heresies 4.41.3)
This same position was also affirmed by Tertullian, Cyprian, Origen and also in the Reformation in the Augsburg Confession, Article XII: “Of Repentance”. (feel free to contact me if you desire all the quotes)
The fact remains that the popular wishy washy view of ‘once saved always saved’ as taught in many modern churches, is certainly not the Calvinistic understanding of ‘once saved always saved’ and certainly not the eternal security affirmed in Scripture.
But the major error that I find within the teachings of a majority of proponents of ‘osas’ is that they continue to affirm the doctrine of ‘free will’. But how can this be? How can a person have a salvation that cannot possibly be taken away, while at the same time have ‘free will’? Surely, if a person has ‘free will’ and is saved and always will be saved he or she cannot have the ‘free will’ they claim to have. Because if a person has ‘free will’ he or she must have the freedom to choose whatever they choose and thus, they must have the freedom to choose to abide in Christ or walk away from the faith. If a person has ‘free will’ that person must logically have the freedom to choose either way.
This is why I think the Calvinistic position of ‘once saved always saved’ is far more consistent than the popular wishy washy view taught within many denominations. Yet even in Calvinism, no true Calvinist can logically know for certain whether or not he or she is part of ‘once saved always saved’ because they cannot truly know if they are one of the elect, because the evidence of perseverance has not yet fully come to pass until the day of death.
It seems to me that both sides are playing a game of dodgeball.