This is the fifth of six posts regarding TULIP. Just one more to go. :-) If you are not familar with that acronym, Wikipedia has a number of articles on the subject. This one is probably the most succinct and provides links to the counter positions of Arminians.
5) Perseverance of the Saints
Perseverance of the Saints gets the least debate of all the points. Classical Arminians believed that any saint could apostasize, and be damned in the end, no matter how strongly they ran the course up until that point. Almost universally, Arminians and Calvinists now functionally agree with the simple formula, "Once saved, always saved," which moves the subject pretty much out of the arena. Calvinists twist once saved, always saved pretty aggresively, though, when they look at it very closely.
Calvinists hold that every believer must persevere in the faith in order to be finally saved. They believe that every truly converted believer will persevere and finally be saved, but they are not clear who is truly converted. Some might appear to have run well and then fallen away, but really they were never saved. They had simply deceived themselves and those around them. (This creates some serious room for doubt. A believer may find that same worry he might have spent wondering whether he will fall away in the end, he spends instead wondering whether he is deceiving himself.)
Arminians, hold to, "Once saved, always saved," with more conviction. In many cases, they now believe and teach that once a person has said the sinner's prayer with conviction, he is going to heaven no matter what he does from that day forward. It is an interesting, and rather extreme, change in position from early Arminianism, but so be it.
Codepoke believes that assurance is an important goal for every believer, but not one to be assumed lightly. Both Arminianism and Calvinism handle this well in theory, and a little worse in practice. I doubt any particular doctrine can do better, but let's try anyway.
Jesus decries blind assurance as a critical threat to the seeker after God. Blind assurance cripples the seeker by contenting him with a false achievement. He believes that he has achieved eternal security, when in reality, he has only dabbled in spiritual things.
And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some * * fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold *, some sixtyfold *, some thirtyfold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Of the four fates for the seeds Jesus sows, two result in the illusion of assurance. The seeds on the rocky soil spring up, but die later, and the seeds among thorns do well for a while too. If the seeker assumes that the growth in his heart is a sign of conversion, he faces a big, and possibly eternal fall. Jesus invites those who have ears to hear this parable, but He explains it in detail to His disciples.
Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold *, some sixty *, some thirty.
There is no life-long benefit to these seeds for those who have no root within themselves, nor for those deceived by riches.
I am of the number who believe that the Word of the Kingdom, the holy seed of scripture, can be sown into the hearts of those who are not, and never will be saved. I also believe that the seed can be sown into the hearts of those who will be saved, or are saved, and still be choked out. So, I don't believe that this passage says anything conclusive about whether a person can be truly born again and truly apostasize.
My point in quoting this passage is that salvation is a struggle.
We must reach out and take salvation. We must become skilled in seeing the invisible, and loving God and man. We must be prepared to suffer, and become good at it. We must expect tribulation, and then not be surprised when it comes (I know that's redundant, but it's pretty real.) We must throw off the cares of this world (yes, even the good ones,) and handle money knowing it is a deceiver.
Christianity that introduces God primarily as a Helper Who wants to ease our lot in life is selling a bald-faced, blaspheming lie. It's an easy lie to sell in the land of TiVo and mega-malls, but the deception is real and vicious. Ease is a lie of the enemy, and one that has crippled the church.
Given the state of the church, and the state of our doctrines, it is very easy to believe we are saved, and not know Christ. It is very easy to believe that, "God loves me," but not to know the fear that comes of seeing the perfectly holy God, and knowing that we must somehow be conformed to that holiness. We will never fully conform to His holiness, but it must be a passion for us.
God's bride knows this and does it. All her members grow in holiness and grace, some 30, some 60 and some 100-fold.
1 John 5:4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
1 John 5:11 - 13 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
1 John 10:27-30 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one.
Our faith will not falter, because the Son of God will not let us go. He will not allow us to fail. We might trust that in ease we would not fail Him, but He promises that He can keep us through every terror, too.
Rom 8:35-37 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written *, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
God has Ordained Victory for Himself through us.
We don't need to pretend that this life is made easy by being His children. We can acknowledge that this life is always heartbreaking, and know that He has promised to see us through it anyway. This is what He must do to earn the joy that was set before Him, and He will not be denied.