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.
Posted on April 10, 2010, in Apologetics, God, Sin, Theology and tagged Calvinism, Holy Spirit, Sin. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.
Just for the record, the version of eternal security I was addressing is the version that says one can live like the devil (i.e. be a “carnal Christian”), or even abandon the faith and still be guaranteed heaven, only with less rewards, etc. I wouldn’t necessarily say Sodini was ever saved. I wouldn’t necessarily say he had never had a moment of true faith either. He might have been truly saved at one point and was then quickly led astray by the false teaching of eternal security, to his own spiritual detriment (2 Peter 2:18-22; Jude 4).
Your points are based on the belief that once one gets saved, he will necessarily continue on in that faith. I don’t think that is Scriptural (Luke 8:13). I think that your use of 1 John 2:19 is inappropriate. I also think that the “never really saved to begin with” version of OSAS undercuts Biblical salvation assurance. I wrote a 13 part series on Perseverance of the Saints. You can find the series here:
Part 13 deals with salvation assurance and Part 12 addresses passages like 1 John 1:9. Part 1 is called “Definitions” and looks to distinguish between the various views on perseverance. Feel free to check the series out sometime. It might help you to better understand where I am coming from. Unfortunately, my access to the internet is soon to be extremely limited, so I do not know how much further I can interact with you on this. May God bless you as you continue to seek Him and His truth.
I’ll check that out when I get some time.
For the record, I believe that eternal security is a philosophical outgrowth of unconditional election, and less a Scriptural teaching. Of all the doctrines of grace, this one has to be the most problematic and the least supported. Until convinced otherwise, however, I will continue to defend it.
Of all the doctrines of grace, this one has to be the most problematic and the least supported.
Very problematic indeed, but I would personally say that the L in TULIP is the most problematic and least supported (though I would argue that all of TULIP, as Calvinists understand it, is completely unsupported by Scripture, but I do understand how some come to believe that certain texts support Calvinist doctrines).
Until convinced otherwise, however, I will continue to defend it.
Hopefully, my series will convince you otherwise.
Oddly, the L is confessed by virtually every Christian in one way or the other, unless you’re a Universalist.
Typically, the way I understand that Arminians confess this doctrine goes something like this: “Christ died for the sins of the whole world, but it is only effective for those who place their faith in him.” Sounds pretty limited to me.
Oddly, the L is confessed by virtually every Christian in one way or the other, unless you’re a Universalist.
That’s cute. Obviously I was speaking about the scope of the provision and not the scope of the application. That is what Calvinists limit in “Limited Atonement”. I figured that would go without saying since I figured I was talking to a Calvinist. So I am not sure why you decided to make these comments, unless, perhaps, you hoped to gain some rhetorical advantage with possible onlookers. Surely you didn’t think that I didn’t realize that the Arminian view limits the scope of application, did you? I have a series on provisional atonement at my site as well. Feel free to check that out too.
The fall-back position for OSAS is that the back-slidden person was never regenerate to begin with. This claim in clearly contradicted in Scripture–one example being 1 Tim 3:6:
“But an elder must not be a new believer, or he might be too proud of himself and be judged guilty just as the devil was.” According to this verse, It is possible for a new convert, someone who has been regenerated, to fall under the same condemnation as the devil.
Furthermore, are we led to believe that Judas was never a believer although he is named in scripture as one of the disciples and an apostle; he was given to Jesus by the Father. Judas is labeled as a traitor. If he was never a follower of Christ, the correct term to describe him would be impostor. A traitor by definition is someone who at one time was genuinely a part of a group or a cause and later defected. Judas was sent out with the other disciples to heal the sick, raise the dead and drive out demons (Mt 10:7-8). Would Jesus have sent out an impostor on such a mission? In John 17:12, Judas is described as being lost; the son of perdition. That is why we are admonished to make our calling and election sure; contrary to the false teaching of OSAS adherents.
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Here is my story: I grew up fundamentalist Baptist. I repented of all my sins and accepted Jesus Christ into my heart to be my Lord and Savior at age nine…and again in my early teens…just to be sure. In my early 20’s my family moved to another state where we attended a non-denominational, evangelical mega-church (which taught Baptist doctrine) for several years. In my mid to late 20’s I stopped going to church because I didn’t “feel” God inside me and he didn’t seem to listen when I prayed.
I remained unchurched until I was married in my forties. I started attending liberal churches. When we had children, I started looking again at more conservative/fundamentalist churches, something closer to what I had believed as a child and teenager. We joined a conservative, orthodox Lutheran church. I became very involved in the church. I was happy and content in my orthodox Christian belief system. I read the Bible and prayed regularly.
One day I was surfing the internet and came across an atheist’s website. He was a former fundamentalist Baptist/evangelical pastor! I was shocked! I started to engage him in conversation, and also tried to bring him back to the Faith, to belief in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.
However, this man pointed out to me some very big assumptions in my Christian belief system which I had never thought of, such as:
1. Just because there is evidence for a Creator does not mean that the Creator is the Christian God, Yahweh.
2. Our current Bibles contain thousands of scribe alterations, most of them inconsequential, but a couple of them are shocking. Why did God allow scribes copying the original Scriptures to change, delete, add, or alter his inerrant, Holy, Word?
3. How do we know that the books of the New Testament are the Word of God? Is there a verse that tells us? Did Jesus give us a list? Did Paul?
4. Do we really have any verifiable eyewitness testimony for the Resurrection or is it all hearsay and legend?
5. Modern archaeology proves that the Captivity in Egypt, the Exodus, the forty years in the Sinai, the Conquest of Canaan, and the great kingdoms of David and Solomon are only ancient Hebrew fables.
At first I fought him tooth and nail. I fought him for four months. At the very end I had to admit that there are no verifiable eyewitness accounts of the Resurrection of Jesus in the Bible or anywhere else. All we have are four anonymous first century texts full of discrepancies and contradictions. The only thing I had left to attach my faith to was the testimony of the Apostle Paul: why would a devout Jewish rabbi convert to a religion he so hated unless he really saw a resurrected dead man on the Damascus Road?
But after studying the five Bible passages that discuss Paul’s conversion, I had to admit that Paul never says he saw a resurrected body. All Paul says is that he saw a light…and that this event occurred in a “heavenly vision”. Visions are not reality…not in the 21st century nor in the 1st.
And as for the improbability that a Jewish rabbi would convert to a hated religion, there is a Muslim cleric in Israel today who not too many years ago was an ardent Zionist Jewish settler and rabbi, intent on ridding the Muslims from Jewish land.
Strange conversions occur. They do not prove that the new religion is true and inerrant.
I was broken-hearted, but I saw my Christian Faith was nothing more than an ancient superstition that had been modified in the first century by Jesus, a good man, but a dead man. There is zero evidence that this first century Jew is alive and the Ruler of the Universe.
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