Eternal security, also called “perseverence of the saints” and better known as “once saved, always saved (OSAS)” has drawn the attention of Ben, who goes by kangaroodort on the blog Arminian Perspectives. Ben has noted an item from Jeff Paton on the August of 2009 George Sodini debacle. Ben and Paton both believe that the Sodini is the textbook problem with eternal security.
Sodini, prior to his killing spree, wrote the following on his blog (December 31, 2008):
“Be Ye Holy, even as I have been Ye holy! Thus saith the lord thy God!”, as pastor R— K—- [redacted by raincoaster] would proclaim. Holy shit, religion is a waste. But this guy teaches (and convinced me) you can commit mass murder then still go to heaven. Ask him. Call him at [redacted by raincoaster]. If no answer there, he should still live at [redacted by raincoaster]. In any case, guilt and fear kept me there 13 long years until Nov 2006. I think his crap did the most damage. (cited here)
Note that Sodini states “you can commit mass murder then still go to heaven.” The pastor convinced him of this. A quick scan of his church’s website (the doctrinal statement wasn’t available when I went there, but they did have a table of contents) appears to confirm that it teaches OSAS. So, it is very possible that Sodini believes that his ticket is punched and he will go to heaven regardless of his beliefs and practices leading up to his death.
Paton appears to be blaming the mass murder itself on Sodini’s complete misunderstanding of the OSAS doctrine. Witness:
If the doctrine of Eternal Security is true in the least, George would be consistent and correct in his conclusions and his actions! Perhaps we cannot any longer be critical of Islamic homicide bombers when we have here an equivalent with the endorsement of Christianity! Islam is a religion of hate and terrorism; only a brain-washed fool or utterly ignorant individual could deny it. But with George’s Eternal Security, what would make that brand of Christianity any different? Yes, we would not see Churches encourage murderous actions as Islam does, but what of the inevitable conclusion of the core doctrine that they teach? You see, George is correct in his application; if a Christian can get to heaven with a “little” sin because their penalty has already been paid, then nothing in this world or the next could possibly “unpay” the largest quantity sin, or even the worst quality of evil committed in the one who is Eternally Secure. Either Eternal Security is a free license to sin, or it is no Eternal Security at all! (source, emphasis in original)
If OSAS is true, it doesn’t follow that Sodini is “consistent and correct in his conclusions and his actions.” OSAS is primarily derived from philosophical conclusions about what the text of Scripture says about regenerate Christians:
- Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Cor 5:17)
- For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. (Gal 6:15)
What the apostle Paul is trying to emphasize in these verses is that once regeneration takes place, the Christian’s fundamental nature has been replaced (Ez 36:26). Once, we were sinners. Forgiven by God and regenerated with a saving faith, we are now new creations, no longer slaves to sin or our own fallen nature.
What proponents of conditional security have to answer is this:
If God takes out your heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh (Ez 36:26), thus changing your fundamental nature making you a “new creation” (2 Cor 5:17), if you then fall away from the faith, does that somehow change your heart back to stone and your fundamental nature back to total depravity?
Though Paton calls it a cop-out, I think that the biblical answer is that George Sodini was never a Christian in the first place. He may have claimed it, but he did not submit to Jesus as Lord, he did not allow indwelling by the Holy Spirit to change his fundamental nature to one of righteousness, and he did not act out his faith (Jms 2:14, 17, 26).
Why do I think that Sodini was never a Christian? The apostle John comments:
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. (1 Jn 2:19)
Perfect description. Mass murder certainly drifts away from what God has commanded of us (no divinely commanded genocide comments from the atheist/skeptic crowd, please!) and therefore is evidence that Sodini has gone out from us. And, according to the apostle, that means that he was not of us in the first place.
I can affirm OSAS without placing George Sodini in heaven, despite what Paton claims. It is truly a matter of understanding what OSAS actually teaches, and a further matter of understanding how that should make you feel when you are humbled before Almighty God.
Each sin should make you fee like utter crap, and should weigh on your conscience. Think about it. You are getting away with murder! Hopefully not literally. But each sin that forces you to repent and ask God for forgiveness is not leading you to hell; your place in heaven is secure. Even a rudimentary understanding of Christian theology should yield the fact that all are sinners (Rom 3:23), and thus all deserve the penalty for sin: death (Rom 6:14)!
That you deserve hell, but even a heinous sin won’t send you to it anymore should make you feel terrible even for a minor sin (remember that often what we consider a minor sin, God has ordered punished by death in the Mosaic Law). It should remind you that his grace is sufficient, but it should also inspire you to live up to the righteousness that God has already granted you.
Reading Sodini’s blog it becomes readily apparent that he didn’t believe in Christianity anyway. He seems to continually count Christians as big hypocrites. He was a ticking timebomb, and I much doubt that he had any sort of saving faith whatsoever. Also note that Sodini clearly states he left church in 2006, and it seems he was quite disillusioned with what it taught.
It never fails to amaze me what twisted justifications people come up with for sin. I know I’ve had some lame ones, even as recently as last week! The point is that we are all growing closer to Christ, and that by God’s power alone and not through human effort (works). Good works, however, should flow from our newfound righteousness rather than from an attempt to follow a specific set of rules (such as the Law). These good works evidence our faith. Those without them have no saving faith.