Saturday, February 18, 2012

"The Vow" and Eternal Security

I saw the movie "The Vow" last night with my wife, Allison. It was OKish. I don't recommend it, since it has stuff in it of which we were not aware; but the story is interesting. I didn't personally find it to be the "tear-jerker" that so many others did, but I'm also not as wrapped in what I consider to be romantic narcisism, where two people are so into each other that they make each other into the idols they pursue to fulfill and please the self. But I digress.

The movie is about a woman who loses the memory of her husband, actually the past five years of her life that stretches back before she met him. She never regained her memory. Now, this got me thinking. What if this happened to a person who professed faith, had all the signs of faith, but then forgot their entire Christian existence? Let's say he or she became a Christian three years ago, and lost the memory of the last five years of his or her life. Let's then say that he or she has no recollection of that, and now continues on in life as though he or she had never become a Christian. Let's say now he or she reverts back to his or her atheism. What do we do with this? Well, as a Calvinist, I believe that if the individual was truly a Christian, God has been and will woo them effectually so that they will place their faith in Him again. In other words, if God holds that person in His hand, and no one, not even memory loss, snatches that one out of His hand, then He will gift that person faith once again. But what do "Middlers" do with this?

I spoke the other day about the "Middle" ground position that seeks to say that man cooperates with prevenient grace of some sort in order to make a decision for Christ, but once he or she has made that decision, he or she will continue to believe and is saved. But if this is meant to preserve some sort of idea that the individual must have his own free will involved, which includes the right to reject the faith, the person must cooperate with God's grace to make that choice. With what good within him he is cooperating with that grace is not known, since the Middler supposedly believes in total depravity ("T"). Isn't it then possible that someone who was saved, can lose his salvation by virtue of not deciding to cooperate this time? In other words, what if the person rejects it this time around? Now you have a scenario that man's ability to reject the grace that God offers both saves him at one point and then damns him at another, which means that he had salvation but then lost it.

Both groups can say that the person was never saved at all, but why would the Middler necessarily say this? He seems to be presupposing that God is the only factor in one's salvation, not the choice that man makes to "not reject" God's offer. He seems to be assuming that there is no needed cooperation with God, that we are drawn by God effectually and will always believe no matter what, so if someone doesn't, they were never effectually drawn by God. But that's Calvinism, not the "Middle" position. If the Middler truly applies his theology it creates a complete and real contradiction (again, not a mystery or paradox, a real contradiction, which means that one or more of the propositions is not true).

So, since we know from Scripture that a person who is truly saved cannot lose his or her salvation, as they will always be gifted faith and wooed by God to remain in that faith, the Middler position that one must cooperate with prevenient grace in order to "not reject" what is offered must be false. There is no prevenient grace. There is only effectual grace given to the believer that causes him to come alive and commit his life to Christ. He will never reject because God is the all-powerful, all-knowing, effectual wooer of His people. He gives them the love for Him that they did not have before. He causes them to be born again to a living hope through the gospel message. He teaches them, and all who are taught of God come to the Son and He raises them up in glorification on the last day.

The biblical evidence that those who are saved remain saved, and those who go out were never saved to begin with, seems pretty clear. We, of course, cannot judge it by experience, since there are a couple factors that tell us that some people will believe for a time and bear fruit for a time who are not really believers, but the servants of the devil who were planted for some time to undermine the faith of others, and they are also granted blessings by God, even though their faith is not eternal, in the moment, because God honors His promise to do such to those who believe. But it can't be both ways. It can't be that a person who is truly saved then becomes unsaved. Hence, either the person was never saved, or the person will always be saved; but this rationale is only available to the Calvinist, not to the Middler, since he must reserve the possibility of man's free will cooperation with prevenient grace.

This all may seem hypothetical, but it actually has serious implications for how we deal with Christians who suffer illnesses that cause memory loss like Alzheimer's or are in accidents that diminish brain function in some way. I have hope to offer all who might fear it. God will woo you through it, and He will woo you after it, because He has wooed you before it. He who holds you in His hand is greater than all things, and no one takes you out of His hand. No one. But the Middler can't offer you the same comfort. He can't say that. You could potentially lose your salvation if you choose otherwise this time around.

The subject of Christians and mental illness, of course, is much more complicated than all of this, and I think there is more to say about it than this, but it does get one thinking: If a belief in some extrabiblical doctrine of prevenient grace and libertarian free will conflicts with the teachings of the Bible, and one's own system that is supposedly supported by that Bible, why hold onto it? What are you afraid of losing? Let go. The truth will only harm the worst parts of you, but it will save more than it takes away in the end.

I, for one, am comforted by God's completed work of salvation for His people. It is not left to the whims or circumstances of men. If it was, who at all would be saved? You see, the vow to hold His people in His hand and never let go was made by God, and He never breaks His promises, for He is not a liar like men are. Nor does He deceive Himself about His abilities to keep that vow, as men often do. If He holds you in His hand, there is NO potential for you to be lost. It is simply unbiblical and bordering on blasphemy to say so.

So if you are a Middler, you really need to think again about what you're advocating, since only in Calvinism, i.e., a biblical understanding of God's work in salvation, can it be said that the vow doesn't need to be remembered by the one who lost his memory, because it is remembered by the One who first made it.

For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined [to become] conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. 
What then shall we say to these things? If God [is] for us, who [is] against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, "For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered." But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:29-39)

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