Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Once saved, always saved? I'm gonna go with the Bible on this one...

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one. ~ John 10:28-30

I was raised in a church that very fervently believed you could lose your salvation if you "backslid", a term I have come to despise.  Basically, the concept was that, even if you had priorly asked Jesus for forgiveness and dedicated your life to him, if you sinned badly enough or for long enough, you could lose your salvation.  If you died within this time period, you would go to hell.

Now, for this church, "backslid" could mean everything from listening to secular music to hanging out with non-Christian kids.  (You were allowed to witness to them, but not to be friends with them.  Yeah, it doesn't make any more sense to me as an adult than it did to me then.)  Basically, if you weren't, as they often termed it, "100% on-fire sold-out for Jesus", you were worse than a sinner, you were a lukewarm Christian, and Jesus would spit you out of his mouth.

You could even sin through your emotions.  If you didn't wake up every morning filled with energy from the joy of the Holy Spirit, you must be in sin.  The same thing was true if you didn't witness to every single stranger you met in your day-to-day life.  You were expected to be on that "just-got-back-from-a-missions-trip" high, 24-7.  If you didn't feel it, the problem was you.  A popular saying was that, "If you feel far from God, it must be you; He didn't move."

So the pattern was, you go to a youth rally, you get pumped up, you leave, you have that emotional (I now no longer believe it was spiritual) high for a while, you lose it, you feel guilt over having "backslid", you go crying and crawling down to an altar call to rededicate your life, or you go on another (often expensive) trip or rally, get that high again, rinse, repeat.

In an insecure, obsessive-compulsive youth, this sort of thinking led me down paths of paranoia and depression.  I constantly confessed every little sin, every unhappy thought, the second it happened, terrified of falling dead and being condemned to hell.  This grew into a festering hate for myself, and hate for the hypocrites I was surrounded with in my youth group.

As an adult, I can now realize that the doctrine of "conditional salvation" has no biblical basis, and was a tool of manipulation wielded by a controlling church.  However, I still run into a lot of people who very strongly believe that a person can lose their salvation.  Here are some of the arguments I hear most frequently, and why I believe they are not scripturally sound.

"What if someone gets saved and then later goes out and murders someone?  Do they deserve to go to Heaven?"  There are a lot of possibilities here.  The first is the obvious that, maybe they didn't make a genuine life dedication to Christ, but were just repeating words in an attempt to get "fire insurance" (aka "ticket to Heaven").  In this case, though they may have said a "sinner's prayer", if they didn't mean it in their heart, they were never really saved in the first place.

Or, let's say they meant it, but then go out and commit the murder anyway.  Well...is there anyone who completely stops sinning once they get saved?  Nowhere in the New Testament do sins get placed on a sliding scale.  Sin is sin, and it separates us from God.  Jesus never mentioned different degrees of sin.  At what point do you say, "Okay, I've backslid too much.  Gotta get rededicated now,"?

Also, we don't know that person's heart.  We don't know what sort of guilt or conviction they feel from that sin.  If they are remorseless, then I am inclined to believe they never experienced a true salvation in the first place.

And let's not forget that none of us deserve to go to Heaven.  We are saved by grace, not works.  We may be able to tell ourselves, "Hey, at least it's not like I ever killed anybody", but we are delusional if we think that we are anything other than dirty, and base, and sinful compared to God.

Plus, the doctrine of conditional salvation leads to my ultimate pet peeve, legalism.  You see, we may feel like we're awesome when we're put side-by-side with that murderer, but, to a fundamentalist who's never been to the movies or ever had a drop of alcohol, we're just as bad as that murderer.  And that fundamentalist appears just as bad to an extremist, maybe someone who has never cut her hair or worn anything other than a floor-length skirt.  And we can one-up each other all day long, but we're never going to get close to good enough to earn our own salvation.  If we could earn our own salvation, then Jesus's death on the cross would be meaningless.

Finally, conditional salvation makes Jesus out to be a fickle savior.  The church is Christ's bride.  Who among us said in our wedding vows, "For better, or for until you screw up too bad, and then I'm out of here,"?  Jesus doesn't leave us during our trials and times of greatest spiritual need.  Jesus is God and God is perfect, and perfect love.  He wouldn't break a promise to us that way.

I love biblical scholarship, and I looove debate, so if you want to argue this with me in the comments section, go for it.  But I can assure you, nothing is going to change my belief that I am the child of a merciful and loving savior, and I know where I'm headed when I leave this earth.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. I'va always argued that salvation is the greatest gift, given by the greatest giver who will ever live. If we did nothing to earn our salvation then there is nothing we can do to lose it. Great post.

Anonymous said...

I've been struggling with this topic lately - not for myself, but for friends and family I know who seemed to have really had the Holy Spirit but have extinguished him - by free will. I found your blog in a round about way - looking for scripture on materialism/wealth for a group I'm in, but feel like God brought me here on purpose. I do believe every word of the Bible - literally, and believe that doing so is a big deal to Him - so when I read John 10:28-30, I read it that no one can TAKE me or SNATCH me (as it is written in this translation) from His hand, but what if I CHOOSE to jump out? What about free will? I think that brings me to the next thing I've been seeking Him about as well - the "elect" and who is "chosen" to be saved vs. we all get a fair chance, an equal shot at it, etc. Yes, it's a lot for me to wrap my tiny brain around most days, but it's where I go. I wonder if you have looked at it from that perspective? That of free will as a human being, that is. That I could actually make the choice to not believe in Him and abide in Him (things that are clearly a heart-change that aren't just from praying the sinner's prayer - as you pointed out that obviously, those people aren't really saved to begin with), but what if I did abide in Him, and then one day, something tragic happened and I started to believe that there couldn't be a God that would let something like that happen, and I stopped believing in Him? The Holy Spirit would surely not relent in making me aware of His continued presenece, for a time, but scripture does say that we have the ability to "quench the Holy Spirit." (1 Thes. 5:19) So if we put Him out, never have the desire to go back again to the Word, never pray again, what then?

Again, I don't have the answer, so please do not read that I am disagreeing with you, I am just searching. I do find scripture after scripture that suggest that being saved is not a guarantee. I would love to hear your thoughts.

BTW - I am a pregnant, stay-at-home mother of 5 in FL, totally in love with Jesus Christ and my husband and family. I am studying the book of 1 John, currently, and on a journey of learning to love God more, and love others with the love He gives me. God bless you and your family!

1st-Time Mommy said...

Again, the main problem I have with the theory of conditional salvation is that it's so hard to quantify sin, or separation from God.

For instance, in your scenario where something tragic happens and a person loses faith...How long is too long before the person loses their salvation? Would someone automatically be cut off from God if they stopped believing in him for a week after a tragic event? A month? A year?

Even Jesus on the cross asked, "Why have you forsaken me?" In the moment where God turned his face away, Jesus died separated from His father.

I suppose that if a person were to intentionally reject their salvation, a "The Devil and Daniel Webster" type scenario, it might be possible that they lose their salvation, since such an action would be blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

However, as I should have probably made clearer in my post, I'm not speaking of a deliberate turning away from God. I'm writing of the basic sins and mistakes humans make over and over on a daily basis...the sin which WOULD separate us from God were it not for our sin in Christ Jesus.

That's not to say that your theories are not valid, but that this is simply my interpretation.

Anonymous said...

Funny, as I said, I am currently studying 1 John - at the end of it and now in chapter 5, which is where the "sin that leads to death" actually appears - which we seem to both agree is the blasphemy of the holy spirit - which then leads me to conclude that death (in that example)=loss of salvation - therefore, it IS possible. I don't argue for a minute that there is any other sin that can revoke my salvation, but this is one of my choosing - to deny that the testimony of the spirit is true - that Jesus is NOT the Christ and therefore, I no longer have salvation, until a time that I come to my senses and believe again. I think then what I am challenging is the blanket statement that "no one can lose their salavation," which John is clearly saying is not true. You did say it in your comment, so now I see that we agree completely.

God bless, and thanks for taking the time to reply.


1st-Time Mommy said...

hahaha What first appeared to be a major difference in theological interpretation I believe is really just a different view of the definition of "lose". Glad we could see eye-to-eye.

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