Monday, August 20, 2007

Security, Apostasy, and Knowing Christ

These are the things which drive Lutherans to distraction, and I have to admit that I am writing this post with a head full of steam, something I usually avoid. But when I see perfectly reasonable people whom I respect wrestling with questions like, "Are believers eternally secure or can they fall away?", it does light a fire under me. The Bible gives a resounding "yes" to both, with the difference lying in the focus of the question. I have seen debates rage over the 'net time and again over these two "contradictory" views. It may be we're due for another round. Dr. Platypus succinctly sums up the two views in this way:
  1. Christians possess the freedom to turn away from God, thus "losing" their salvation.
  2. Christians possess "eternal security" and need not worry about "losing" their salvation.
He does a good job of summing up the debate as it's currently framed. I also think the debate as it's currently framed is exactly what gives rise to confusion. I'd phrase these two statements slightly differently so that the apparent contradiction is no longer hiding in the cracks in the definitions and the phantom assumptions behind them.
  1. Christians have Christ and need not worry about losing Christ because Christ is faithful.
  2. Christians can turn away from Christ, thus forfeiting Christ, because humans are not always faithful.
The main changes are that "salvation" is recognized as Christ, "eternal security" is recognized as Christ, and it becomes clear that "salvation" isn't a thing that is gained or lost independently of Christ, but that having Christ is having salvation, and that not having Christ is not having salvation.

"Security and apostasy" is just another way of saying "God is faithful and humans are not." It's another way of saying "Trust in the LORD and not in yourself." It is another way of saying "Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith," and "take care lest you should fall." Again as it says "Nothing can snatch his sheep from his hand" but "all we like sheep have gone astray." Look up all the passages on security and see whether they do not all point out God's faithfulness. Look up all the passages on apostasy and see whether they do not all point out human waywardness. These are both true and both need to be preached and taught and known and believed. The idea that they contradict each other only comes in when someone tries to detach these things from Christ and tries to turn the question into, "Do I have salvation?" But there is that deadly and wrong-headed separation embedded right in the question, to take Christ out of the question of salvation, to imagine that it's possible to only imply him or assume him here instead of bringing him to the forefront as the entire point of the question and the entire answer as well. If the question "Do I have salvation" does not mention Christ, then where is the understanding that Christ *is* our salvation? Where is the understanding that the grace of God is not by works or by efforts or by our will but through Christ? When people find this question perplexing, it is often because Christ is not mentioned in the question and not remembered in the answer.

Steps back off soapbox ...


D. P. said...

Nice soapbox, WF! :-) Since I was reviewing Greg Boyd, I didn't inject much of my own views in that post, but I will tell you that I have long thought the answer to the conundrum (and many others in the Bible) is found in what, precisely, is the question being asked? Thanks for bringing out that aspect of the issue.

Weekend Fisher said...

And I have to admit I haven't read Boyd except in the review you've given. But this particular debate (security v. apostasy) really does get me going.

Jeffrey Pinyan said...

You do an excellent job of bringing Christ back into the question! I can't really put it any better than that. To be without Christ is to be without salvation; to be with him is to be with salvation.

Weekend Fisher said...

1 John 5:12. :)

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF