Monday, June 13, 2011

And the comment of the year award goes to...

There's been a pretty nice discussion going on in the comments section of this post.  Informative, respectful...you know, pretty much exactly the opposite of how most internet discussions go.  All of this despite the fact that conversation has really boiled down to this:

Calvinists: Calvinists CAN be sure of their salvation.
Lutherans: No they can't.

So the Calvinist says that, for certainty of his election, he can simply look to the cross.  But the Lutheran says the Calvinist can't because the Calvinist can't be certain that Jesus died for him.  The Calvinist says he can, by virtue of the fact that he believes that Jesus died for him.  The Lutheran responds by asking the Calvinist how he knows that his faith is sincere, since Scripture makes clear that many who believe themselves to be among the elect actually won't be.

So how does the Calvinist respond?  Commenter Nathan provides an answer straight from the lips of Calvin himself.  Which just goes to show in all it's big, fat, hideous glory what happens when you do what the Calvinist does, when you twist and contort and smoosh and smash all sorts of Gospel comfort into soul-crushing law in your attempt to fit God into a perfect box of sovereignty.  Kudos to Nathan, who writes: 

 As a former Calvinist, I was thoroughly amused by your accurate representation of my high-school and college aged self! I believe you owe me some royalties for character theft. I could not think of a better summary of my college years than: "I am a Calvinst, I am sure of everything........except if Jesus died for me."

For those Calvinsts who doubt whether this is a fair representation, I would encourage you to read Calvin's Commentary on Hebrews 6. There, he attempts to fit apostasy into his system by postulating that God grants to some of the unelect just enough grace to believe themselves Christians. These individuals will receive the sacraments, believe the Christ died for them, and do good works...for a time. Then, when God has fulfilled his hidden purpose, he withdraws said grace and the person plunges into ruin with all the other reprobate. After reading this gloomy hypothesis and seeing how it inevitably results from Calvin's logical premises, I realized that it was impossible to find anything which could convince me that I was not among the reprobate. Everything could have been of part of the ruse by which God was tricking me into trusting myself to be saved when I actually had no hope at all. 

To make a long story short, I am now a Lutheran and I am liberated by the assurance of trusting Christ's words to me in my baptism.

So congrats, Nathan, on winning the Comment of the Year Award.  You don't get a prize or anything.  But if you're ever in my neck of the woods, I'll buy you a beer.

84 comments:

J Fraiser said...

Andrew, a bear may be worth the trip.

nllinke said...

I'm not sure if Andrew wants a bear, but as a good Lutheran I'm sure a beer would be just right! ;-)

This is a great post, by the way.

Pastor Fiene said...

For those who read this after the edit, I accidentally wrote that I would buy Nathan (whom I was calling Andrew for some reason) a bear. I suppose if he really wants one, I'll have to see what I can do.

Ken Pierce said...

Look, if we selectively quoted Luther (or even unselectively, as in his rants against the Jews) we could make him out to be a bad guy.

If you want to understand Calvinism, read the confessions. Calvin was not right on every point, I freely grant that.

The answer to the problem of assurance, according to our confessions is to trust that Jesus died for you. Period.

Ken Pierce said...

I just went and read Calvin on that passage, and he doesn't say at all what Nathan says he said. The context is far too long to quote, but Calvin, like any Christian, is trying to make sense of those who have some sort of "faith" and yet fall away. His answer is actually quite pastoral, if you read the whole thing.

Lutherans believe actual salvation can be lost, which to me is an equally distressing option, is it not?

Pastor Fiene said...

Does anyone have a link to the disputed Calvin passage? And on the note of losing salvation, Jesus obviously believed you could, as is evidenced by his countless warnings against falling away from the faith.

Pastor Fiene said...

Here's the quote, I believe:

But here arises a new question, how can it be that he who has once
made such a progress should afterwards fall away? For God, it may be said, calls none effectually but the elect, and Paul testifies that they are really his sons who are led by his Spirit, (Rom. 8: 14;) and he teaches us, that it is a sure pledge of adoption when Christ makes us partakers of his Spirit. The elect are also beyond the danger of finally falling away; for the Father who gave them to be preserved by Christ his Son is greater than all, and Christ promises to watch over them all so
that none may perish. To all this I answer, That God indeed favours none but the elect alone with the Spirit of regeneration, and that by this they are distinguished from the reprobate; for they are renewed after his image and receive the earnest of the Spirit in hope of the future
inheritance, and by the same Spirit the Gospel is sealed in their hearts.

But I cannot admit that all this is any reason why he should not grant the reprobate also some taste of his grace, why he should not irradiate their minds with some sparks of his light, why he should not give them some perception of his goodness, and in some sort engrave his word on
their hearts. Otherwise, where would be the temporal faith mentioned by Mark 4: 17? There is therefore some knowledge even in the reprobate,which afterwards vanishes away, either because it did not strike roots sufficiently deep, or because it withers, being choked up.
And by this bridle the Lord keeps us in fear and humility; and we certainly see how prone human nature is otherwise to security and foolish confidence. At the same time our solicitude ought to be such as not to disturb the peace of conscience. For the Lord strengthens faith in us,
while he subdues our flesh: and hence he would have faith to remain and rest tranquilly as in a safe haven; but he exercises the flesh with various conflicts, that it may not grow wanton through idleness.


So, in order to uphold perseverance of the elect in light of Scripture's warnings about falling away, Calvin essentially says that God will give some measure of un-enduring grace to people so that they think they believe, but really are reprobate. Then Calvin goes on to say that God does this to keep men humble. In other words, God wants us to struggle, at least a bit, with the notion that we might be among this group of deluded reprobate in order to keep us from living like immoral heathens.

So, it sounds to me like Nathan's summary is pretty spot on.
I think Nathan's analysis is pretty spot on.

Ken Pierce said...

Doesn't it boil down to this, then?

We know we are saved if we are looking to Jesus in faith? (which Calvin says earlier in the passage). Lutherans believe that a person with genuine faith can be lost, Calvinists argue that genuine faith never can be lost. There's the difference --it's an honest difference and I can live in that tension. I don't think you're a heretic for holding essentially the Arminian position.

I see broader agreement here than I guess you do. Like another said, Calvinists tend to be fonder of Lutherans than vice versa. That strikes me as tragic.

Again, if we selectively quoted Luther, we probably wouldn't like him much, either.

Ken Pierce said...

oops, there should not be a question mark at the end of the sentence "We know we are saved.."

Pastor Fiene said...

Ken,

I wouldn't at all agree that Lutherans have what is essentially an Arminian view of perseverance, considering we haven completely different views of man's sinful nature, his will and election itself. Rather, I would argue that our position on the matter comes simply from letting the Scriptures speak and not trying to explain away the tension. So, on the one hand, our Lord warns us not to fall away from the faith. And, on the other hand, He promises that no one can snatch us out of the Father's hand. And, in both instances, we look to the Means of Grace, where God both grants us an indestructible faith that will endure to the end and where He builds back up the faith of those who have dashed it to pieces through their sin and unbelief.

Roger said...

It would be easy to say that this discussion just takes Calvin out of context, except that this teaching was continued by later Calvinists. For example, William Perkins of England who charted double predestination by showing the "causes of salutation and damnation" in the graphic you can view here: http://www.reformed.org/calvinism/perkins_chart.gif

It seems that Perkins understood Calvin in the same way Pastor Fiene and Nathan do, and he shows quite clearly that the reprobate, according to his understanding, may receive call which is not effectual. This leads to "general illumination," "penitence," "temporary faith," etc.

So according to Perkins, the life and works of Christ only apply to the elect, but the human experience is the same. So how does a man know if he has FAITH or temporary faith? How does he know that he isn't merely receiving a taste and that he will not eventually relaps?

Granted, Perkins was a Puritan, and not all Calvinists are Puritans. I don't know enough to tell what difference that makes, but this is a teaching which has historically been held by Calvinists.

Robin said...

I am neither Lutheran or Calvinist but Lutheranism greatly interests me because when I was a part of a pietistic Calvinist group which focused on the subjective it was mind blowing to begin to hear about the Cross of Christ and what that did to save me. I really "heard" the gospel the first time through Lutheran pastors. The difference I see is that with Calvinism you never know what you are going to get. For instance, Horton is quite different than some of the evangelical Calvinists. Many of the evangelicals toying with Calvinism are very obsessed with the subjective and often don't talk about what that objective work of Christ is or did. Yes, they talk about Jesus but it is about you and how you feel or respond to Jesus. Also, Calvinist can't honestly tell you that Christ died for you. Lutherans can since they don't hold to the Limited Atonement. The L in TULIP terrified me because I never knew if Jesus really died for me.
Also, the Calvinists on the WHI with Rod Rosenbladt are very much about discussing and defending the objective work of Christ for the forgiveness of sins. That is why all four of them can "get along." That is why when you hear them, you aren't exactly hearing the same thing as other so called Calvinists. Perhaps it is unfair to lump all Calvinists together because they are such a mixed bag.

Tony said...

Robin - well said! I am one of those WHI-types, Reformed with Lutheran sympathies. Calvinists are like Gump's box o' chocolates - you never know what your gonna get. Many of the "young, restless, and reformed" are pietists, not confessional. WHI-types are the minority - those who focus on the objectivity of Christ crucified, Law & Gospel preaching, and the ministry of Word & Sacrament.

One thing I'd like to throw in the ring re: the "L." Many self-described "five point Calvinists" have never read the Canons of Dort, the original source of the so-called "five points." They tend to argue for the logical consistency of the five points ("If the Father elected only some, and the Spirit applies Christ's redemption only to the elect, it wouldn't make sense for Christ to die for everyone," blah, blah, blah). Dort acknowledges the universal sufficiency of the atonement, while also recognizing it's particular design. This is based not on reason, but on biblical exegesis. Christ is indeed the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1) - and Christ died for His bride, the Church (i.e., elect - Eph 5).

Further, Dort sounds pretty Lutheran in this statement: "And, whereas many who are called by the gospel do not repent nor believe in Christ, but perish in unbelief, this is not owing to any defect or insufficiency in the sacrifice offered by Christ upon the cross, but is wholly to be imputed to themselves." (II, Art. 6)

Who is saved in the end, according to both confessional Lutherans and Reformed? Not the world, but the elect. Who is to be praised for the salvation of the elect? God in Christ alone. Who is to be blamed for the condemnation of the non-elect? Unbelieving man alone.

Tony said...

Oh, and another thing. I remember reading something Luther said about predestination / assurance. When he was struggling in the monastery with that question, "How do I know if God has predestined me?", Staupitz offered him this pastoral counsel: "Look upon the wounds of the crucified Christ, and there your predestination will shine forth."

Believe it or not, Calvin said something similar (though in his typical wordy way): "...let us not seek (like so many) to penetrate as far as heaven and to inquire what God, from eternity, has decided to do with us - and this with a view to confirming the certainty of our salvation. Such a quest can serve only to stir up miserable anguish and upset in us. Rather, let us be content with the testimony by which he has sufficiently and amply assured us of this certainty. It is in Christ that all those who have been preordained to life have been elected, and this took place even before the foundations of the world had been laid. Similarly, it is in Christ that the pledge of our election is presented to us, if we receive and embrace him by faith.

"For what it that we are looking for in election, if it is not that we might be partakers of eternal life? And we have this life in Christ, he who was Life from the beginning, and who is set before us as Life, so that all who believe in him should not perish but enjoy eternal life (John 3:16).

"In possessing Christ by faith, we also possess eternal life in him. This being so, *we have no reason to inquire any further concerning the eternal counsel of God. For Christ is not only a mirror by which the will of God is presented to us, but he is a pledge by which it is sealed to us and endorsed.*" [Truth for All Time, 46-48]

This is a Christ-centered view of election and assurance - again, more amenable to the Lutheran understanding than later scholastic Calvinism which puts God's eternal decree at the center rather than Christ and Him crucified for us sinners.

Love,
Philip Melancthon, dear friend of John Calvin ;-)

Rev. Pirschel said...

Oh dear Lutherans, how I love the caricature.

Let's hear how Calvin actually deals with the question at hand. Once you read it, please continue with the false stereotype as it gives you comfort and power (theology of the cross be damned).

Instruction in Christian Doctrine for Young Children, written in Strasbourg in 1538-39 by Calvin.

Teacher: My child, are you a Christian in fact as well as in name?
Child: Yes, my father.
Teacher: How is this known to you?
Child: Because I am baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Yes, yes that sounds like "look to faith" or "look to election". Oh wait...no it sounds like what you said. Crazy Calvinist!

Rev said...

Roger writes,
"So according to Perkins, the life and works of Christ only apply to the elect, but the human experience is the same. So how does a man know if he has FAITH or temporary faith? How does he know that he isn't merely receiving a taste and that he will not eventually relaps?"

Pastor Fiene responds,
"So, on the one hand, our Lord warns us not to fall away from the faith. And, on the other hand, He promises that no one can snatch us out of the Father's hand. And, in both instances, we look to the Means of Grace, where God both grants us an indestructible faith that will endure to the end and where He builds back up the faith of those who have dashed it to pieces through their sin and unbelief."

Oh, yeah you were asking the Calvinists about temporary faith not the Lutherans. Pray tell Roger, what is the difference that you are seeing in the two positions again?

Rev. Pirschel said...

Robin writes,
"Perhaps it is unfair to lump all Calvinists together because they are such a mixed bag."

Very true. Thankfully Lutheran arent. I mean the LCMS is one big happy family...right?

Do you all think "The Shack" is theologically sound or just some of you?

Cheers! I'll need a beer for this one...maybe a bear too.

Tony said...

Rev. Pirschel,
Granted, Lutherans are a mixed bag, too - because inconsistency & silliness are part & parcel of our sinful corruption. But I would say that there is more consistency among those who would self-identify as "confessional Lutherans," v. those who would self-identify as "confessional Reformed." Among the latter, you may have theonomists, FVers, culture-warriors, Puritan-pietists, southern traditionalists, etc, etc - and those more along the WHI Christ-centered / Law & Gospel / means of grace / Lutheran-friendly line.

Andrew said...

I have found that I get really annoyed with the constant drum beat of "letting tension stand" in the scripture. It seems to become a tendency to be simplistic in an attempt to be simple. There is NO tension in scripture when it comes to election and the preservation of the elect. Those who believe temporarily were not true believers. "They went out from us because they were not of us." You go on about letting scripture speak (as well you should) and then you wont let it explain apostasy to you on it's own terms. You are reading the scripture through your confessions instead of the other way around.
Jesus said that all those given to Him by the Father would come to Him and that He would raise them up on the last day. He did not say that a portion would come and maybe be raised up on the last day. But if you are going to take the position that true salvation can be lost then you turn Jesus into either a liar or just an unreliable savior.
I fail to see how turning Christ into a savior who tries and fails brings more assurance than the scriptural presentation of a savior that "is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them."
Christ's saving is directly related to His intercession for those who draw near to Him. In fact, they happen concurrently. In order for your position to be true, Christ would have to be a liar, the scripture unreliable, and the promise of salvation and preservation found in John 6 and elsewhere without meaning.

Pastor Fiene said...

Andrew,

I understand that the "living with the tension" line can be tiresome. Where I encounter it the most is with theological liberals who don't want to wrestle with seeming contradictions in historical events within the Scriptures, such as the resurrection accounts. And I would agree that, in such an instance, you have someone cloaking his own exegetical laziness in a shroud of false piety when he busts out those words.

But this ain't history that we're talking about. It's dogma. And as much as I understand the desire to have an airtight systematic on this issue, you won't get it by pretending as though the countless examples of true believers falling away from the faith and the countless warnings against falling from the faith either don't exist or that they don't have some role in this discussion.

So I suppose I would ask you the following questions:

1. Why does Jesus warn us against falling away from the faith if we can't?

2. Was David still a believer when he committed adultery and murder? Was Solomon still a believer when he was building temples to false gods? Was Peter still a believer when he denied Christ?

3. Why is church disciple commanded if true believers can never commit apostasy? If true believers can never turn away from the faith, why must we "hand [people] over to Satan" (1 Tim 1:20) when they refuse to repent, but must then welcome them back in when they do come to repentance? (2 Cor. 2) Who are we to hand people over to Satan if they are still believers?

John Stebbe said...

I was LCMS until age 25, when I became Presbyterian. I am now 51. I know that Lutherans historically have believed in 'single predestination' but not 'double predestination.' Would a Lutheran on this board please tell me what the difference is?

Andrew said...

1. Why does Jesus warn us against falling away from the faith if we can't?

The same reason He only saves through the gospel believed through the word illumined by the Spirit. God uses means to achieve His ends. He will preserve His elect as Jesus said. The warnings in scripture are there to keep the elect and to waken false believers to their precarious state.

2. Was David still a believer when he committed adultery and murder? Was Solomon still a believer when he was building temples to false gods? Was Peter still a believer when he denied Christ?

The promise that the elect will not fall away is not a promise that they will never sin or even sin seriously. It is simply a promise that all whom the Father gives to the Son will come and all of those will be raised up on the last day. Of course a believer can fall for a time. But God will not leave him there. If he falls permanently then he was not truly one who The Father gave to The Son. How do I know? Because they will all be raised on the last day.

3.Why is church disciple commanded if true believers can never commit apostasy? If true believers can never turn away from the faith, why must we "hand [people] over to Satan" (1 Tim 1:20) when they refuse to repent, but must then welcome them back in when they do come to repentance? (2 Cor. 2) Who are we to hand people over to Satan if they are still believers?

See my first answer. Now let me ask you something.

What does Jesus mean in John 6?
please don't go somewhere else. Just tell me what that passage means. How does your theology hold up under that passage and where am I wrong in my understanding of it? Jesus did make some guarantees there. So how should I understand them? I am really very interested in an answer. I am trying to become Lutheran. I just cannot seem to accept the idea that true faith can be lost. If it could it would be the work of man. Right? Okay, so I guess that was two questions. Thanks in advance for your reply.

Anonymous said...

@John Stebbe

Single Predestination (as presented in Lutheranism) is the belief that God has predestined (i.e. chosen) believers from eternity. He does not choose who is to be damned. The damned are damned because of their own sin. The elect are saved purely through the grace of God. Believers cannot choose to believe in Jesus. Unbelievers have chosen to reject Jesus. God gets 100% credit for salvation, and 0% blame for damnation. (cf. Luther's Explanation of the Third Article in the Catechisms, and the Formula of Concord on the articles concerning Free Will and Election)

Double predestination is the belief that God chooses who will be saved, and He chooses who will be damned. Man has no free will either to be saved or damned. God will not change his mind.

The other option is decision theology, that is, the belief that one can choose whether or not to invite Jesus into their heart. They are in essence responsible for their salvation or damnation.

John Stebbe said...

Thanks, Anonymous. I am wondering why Lutherans don't refer to their position as "double" predestination. As you said, God has predestined believers from eternity. If this is true, then certainly God is not unaware of those He has not predestined for salvation. He must be aware that, by not choosing those people, he has decided that they will be punished for their sin (and of course this would be a just decision on God's part). God must know that He could change the eternal destination of those who are to be damned, by electing them to salvation. So in some sense, God really does decide to save some and damn others.

You might respond, "We can't say that God predestines some people for hell, because that would be going beyond Scripture." How about this: We know that in the Old Testament, the children of Israel were God's chosen people. The Bible tells us this explicitly. If that's true, then we can rightly assume that the Philistines were not God's chosen people. Is this going beyond Scripture? Scripture does not explicitly say, "The Philistines were not God's chosen people." But does the Bible need to tell us that, for us to believe that?

Steve Martin said...

Double Predestination is that God wishes some to go to hell and wishes some to go to heaven.

God desires that ALL would come to faith.

So, Lutherans rightly believe in Predestination (single)as the Bible teaches us.

Christ loves and died for and forgave "the whole world".

But that forgiveness is rejected by many, as Anonymous right explained.

John Stebbe said...

Steve, thank you for laying out the Lutheran position on single vs. double predestination.

Steve, if God knows whom He has elected to salvation, as you believe, then He must surely know about those whom He has not elected to salvation. God could elect them if He desired, but for His own reasons, he allows them to receive the just punishment for their sin.

So God does elect some to salvation, and passes over others. God's decision to elect some to salvation necessarily means that He has decided not to elect the rest of humanity to salvation.

So all of us, the elect and non-elect, are in some sense ultimately in God's hands, when it comes to our eternal destination.

If all this is true, then why do Lutherans not call their position 'double predestination?'

Anonymous said...

@ John Stebbe

The Formula of Concord discusses this doctrine in Article XI. The first point it makes is the distinction that must be made regarding God's foreknowledge and God's eternal election. God knows about sin before it happens, but He is not at fault for such sin. Sin is man's own fault. God's foreknowledge extends over everyone, but His election extends only over those who are in His Church (i.e. those who are saved). That is why Lutherans call it single predestination, or more appropriately, the Election of Grace.

This Christ calls to Himself all sinners and promises them rest, and He is in earnest [seriously wills] that all men should come to Him and suffer themselves to be helped, to whom He offers Himself in His Word, and wishes them to hear it and not to stop their ears or [neglect and] despise the Word. Moreover, He promises the power and working of the Holy Ghost, and divine assistance for perseverance and eternal salvation [that we may remain steadfast in the faith and attain eternal salvation]. [FC Ep XI,7]

The question of election is often "Why some and not others?" Lutherans essentially take this question apart and ask, "Why are some saved?" Scripture reveals that some are saved because of God's mercy toward sinners. To the question "Why not others?", Lutherans have to say that sinners are condemned on account of their own sin. God caused none of it.

11. However, that many are called and few chosen, Matt. 22:14, does not mean that God is not willing to save everybody; but the reason is that they either do not at all hear God's Word, but wilfully despise it, stop their ears and harden their hearts, and in this manner foreclose the ordinary way to the Holy Ghost, so that He cannot perform His work in them, or, when they have heard it, make light of it again and do not heed it, for which [that they perish] not God or His election, but their wickedness, is responsible. [2 Pet. 2:1ff ; Luke 11:49. 52; Heb. 12:25f.] [FC Ep XI,12]

Therefore the teaching that God wills some to be condemned is condemned.

~Anonymous (6-16-2011 @12:01 PM)

John Stebbe said...

Thanks for your reply, Anonymous. My point in this thread is that Lutherans and Calvinists are not as far apart as some might think. The way you phrase God's response to the non-elect could have easily come from the pen of many a Reformed writer. We Calvinists do agree with you on the point that sinners are condemned for their own sin.

But let's look at the passive voice: "are condemned." Who is it that does the condemning? The damning? It is God, of course. And God knew from eternity past that He would condemn some and not others. On this point, I think, Calvinists and Lutherans would agree. Lutherans call this singe, and Calvinists double, but the concept behind the labels appears to be the same.

John Stebbe said...

"Singe" should be "single," sorry. As in, "single predestination."

Andrew said...

I am sorry Pastor Fiene; I should be more specific. Jesus said in John 6
"35...I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

And then a few verses later...
"44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day."

So you have human inability without the Father's drawing and giving, definite coming when the Father does draw and give, and definite raising up by the Son when the people's coming resulting from the Father's giving happens.
So what do these verses mean? Do they promise a sure salvation to all who come? Is there a guarantee in these verses that those who come will be preserved? If so what happens to your interpretation of verses like 1Timothy 1:19 in light of the fact that there is a scriptural category for the false believer who falls away because he didn't really believe ala 1John 2:19?

boaz said...

Limited atonement isn't about who receives faith, it's about the object of faith, which is, Christ's death on the cross.

Lutherans and Calvinists agree that faith is a gift of God, unearned by any human work or decision. But that's not atonement. Atonement is about Christ's work on the cross. That is the object of faith.

If the object of faith is a conditional event, for example, I believe I won the lottery, there can be no assurance until one confirms by checking the ticket. We can't check our ticket until we are in heaven, as that's where the book of life is. If there is any assurance, and there is, atonement must be universal. God said everbody won the lottery, God doesn't lie, Woohoo, I''m a winner!

That's why Calvinism is so dangerous. While Rome and Arminius say you have to do something to receive God's grace, Calvin says God might not have any grace for you at all. Christ, the ultimate gift, was only for some. So faith isn't just trust in Christ, because Christ might not be for you. Faith necessarily requires a belief in being elect. But there's no way to know!!

God knows some folks will reject him, but he has atoned for their sin anyway; he didn't fail to do anything. Atonement was there for their faith to grab onto. God loved everybody, and doesn't require anybody to do anything to receive his gifts. Lutherans are the only ones who get that.

That's why election for Lutherans is a comfort, not a doctrine of despair. God atoned for everybody, he's done everything. And here I am, in a position in time and space in which I receive the good news, (by baptism, communion, preaching, or Scripture); I have full assurance; I am elect!

Of course, since election is single, I know the only way I can lose election is by throwing it away myself, not that God might not have made me elect. Therefore, I work out my salvation in the fear of becoming numb to the Gospel; not by fearfully pondering the incrutable will of God.

Anonymous said...

@ John Stebbe

Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought double predestination meant that God has predestined some to heaven and some to hell. I understood this to mean that it is God's desire to save some and condemn others. Man is not responsible for either result. God is.

Single predestination, on the other hand, says that God has elected those whom He would save from eternity. Scripture says that God desires that no one should perish, but to have eternal life (Ezekiel, I Timothy, John). God the Holy Spirit creates and sustains saving faith, without our cooperation. I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength come to Jesus Christ or believe in Him, but the Holy Ghost has called me to the Gospel, enlightens me with His gifts, and keeps me in this faith. (Luther's explanation to the Third Article - paraphrase) Those who have rejected the Gospel take responsibility for that rejection. God does not desire that this should happen, and He does not take any responsibility for a person's condemnation. God certainly knows if a person will be condemned, just as He knows everything else, but He is not the cause of evil.

The difference, as I see it, is that either God desires some to be condemned (Calvinism) or He doesn't (Lutheranism). God knowing something, and God desiring something are two different things.

~Anonymous (6-16-2011 @12:01 PM)

boaz said...

And by becoming numb to the Gospel, I mean only what Jesus meant by the seed sown among the thorns. We seek to hear and understand the Word, and hold fast to the Word, so that we do not let the cares of the world destroy our faith.

BTW, I think a video with a Calvinist Jesus explaining the parable of the sower would make an entertaining video.

Andrew said...

boaz, that was a philosophical rather than a biblical argument.

John Stebbe said...

Boaz, you wrote:
Limited atonement isn't about who receives faith, it's about the object of faith, which is, Christ's death on the cross.

John here: Certainly Christ and His work are the objects of our faith. Limited Atonement is about the extent of Jesus’ work. Did He atone for the sins of everyone? If so, why are not all saved? Is unbelief the reason? Is unbelief a sin for which Christ has atoned?

Boaz wrote: Lutherans and Calvinists agree that faith is a gift of God, unearned by any human work or decision.

John: Sounds right to me.

Boaz wrote: But that's not atonement. Atonement is about Christ's work on the cross. That is the object of faith.

John: Sounds right to me.

Boaz wrote:
If the object of faith is a conditional event, for example, I believe I won the lottery, there can be no assurance until one confirms by checking the ticket. We can't check our ticket until we are in heaven, as that's where the book of life is.

John here: All Christians, be they Calvinist, Lutheran, or whatever, can have assurance of faith. We would not believe the Gospel if God had not given us the gift of faith. As well, we believe the truth of Romans 8:16, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”

Boaz wrote: If there is any assurance, and there is, atonement must be universal.

John here: This does not follow. And if atonement is universal, all will be saved. Otherwise Christ has suffered for sins for which the reprobate in hell are also suffering.

Boaz wrote: God said everbody won the lottery, God doesn't lie, Woohoo, I''m a winner!

John here: Are you saying that Lutherans say this, or Calvinists say this? And what is it that is being said? Maybe I’m just thick, but I don’t get the lottery analogy.

Boaz wrote: That's why Calvinism is so dangerous. While Rome and Arminius say you have to do something to receive God's grace, Calvin says God might not have any grace for you at all.

John here: If a person is truly concerned about seeking God’s grace, God will have grace for that person. The unregenerate person will not be seeking God’s grace in the first place, as we know from Romans 3:11-12: “there is no one who seeks God.
All have turned away.” The idea that a person will pray to God for salvation, and God replies, “Sorry, you’re not elect,” is not a Biblical scenario. No unregenerate person will be asking for salvation in the first place.

Boaz wrote: Christ, the ultimate gift, was only for some.

John here: Even in your own belief system, Boaz, only some receive the gift of salvation in Christ.

Boaz wrote: So faith isn't just trust in Christ,

John here: The unregenerate person will not attempt to trust in Christ.
Romans 8:7 (NIV) the sinful mind is hostile to God.

Boaz wrote: because Christ might not be for you.

John here: Christ’s atonement is for the elect.
Matthew 1:21 “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
Christ came *to save His people,* and that’s what He did.
John 10:15 “and I lay down my life for the sheep.”
Notice, he did not add, “and for the goats as well.” Also, the sheep analogy is useful here, because it is the shepherd who chooses the sheep, not vice versa. And if a sheep should happen to stray, the shepherd does not say, “That sheep is exercising his free will, and I will respect his decision.” No, he will leave the other ninety-nine and go and bring that sheep back into his flock.

Boaz wrote: Faith necessarily requires a belief in being elect. But there's no way to know!!

John here: Discussed above. Another post to follow, continuing to interact with Boaz’ post. (Must stay within the 4096 character limit!)

John Stebbe said...

Boaz wrote: God knows some folks will reject him, but he has atoned for their sin anyway; he didn't fail to do anything. Atonement was there for their faith to grab onto. God loved everybody, and doesn't require anybody to do anything to receive his gifts. Lutherans are the only ones who get that. That's why election for Lutherans is a comfort, not a doctrine of despair. God atoned for everybody, he's done everything. And here I am, in a position in time and space in which I receive the good news, (by baptism, communion, preaching, or Scripture); I have full assurance; I am elect! Of course, since election is single, I know the only way I can lose election is by throwing it away myself, not that God might not have made me elect.

John here: Boaz, you believe you can throw away your election? I am not convinced you understand the doctrine of election from either the Lutheran or Calvinist point of view. If God has elected you to salvation, you will be saved, in both the Lutheran and the Reformed faith. As Luther rightly said, "I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” Amen, Brother Martin. The Lord truly does keep me in the true faith, just as the Shepherd keeps the sheep in His flock.

Boaz wrote: Therefore, I work out my salvation in the fear of becoming numb to the Gospel; not by fearfully pondering the inscrutable will of God.

John here: Reformed Christians do believe that we should not pry into matters where God has not revealed any information. Here is a quote from the Synod of Dort, Article 12:

“The elect in due time, though in various degrees and in different measures, attain the assurance of this their eternal and unchangeable election, *not by inquisitively prying into the secret and deep things of God,* but by observing in themselves, with a spiritual joy and holy pleasure, the infallible fruits of election pointed out in the Word of God such as a true faith in Christ, filial fear, a godly sorrow for sin, a hungering and thirsting after righteousness, etc.”

Boaz wrote: And by becoming numb to the Gospel, I mean only what Jesus meant by the seed sown among the thorns. We seek to hear and understand the Word, and hold fast to the Word, so that we do not let the cares of the world destroy our faith. BTW, I think a video with a Calvinist Jesus explaining the parable of the sower would make an entertaining video.

John here: Boaz, what is it about the parable of the sower that you think causes difficulty for a Reformed believer?

Boaz, thank you for the interaction. I appreciate the time you have taken to respond to me.

boaz said...

My point is simply that if atonement is limited, then God didn't take care of everything necessary for me to be saved. It wasn't finished, there may not any grace for me. So how can there be assurance?

You can't throw away election, I meant grace. God gives grace to whoever wants it, with assurance that there is grace for everybody. What it boils down to, is that everybody who wants to go to heaven is welcome, by trusting God and not themselves. From Gods point of view, these are elect that he has worked faith in theirheart.

BUT there's no reason for a Christians to try to look at gods unrevealed will! We know god loved the whole world, so we have assurance. Examining Gods unrevealed will is unbelief. Election is comforting because it points to God as the source of faith, not works or decisions. We don't use gods hidden election for any other kind of assurance, as its hidden. We have assurance in christs universal atonement on the cross.

And that atonement is not received by all because of unbelief. And unbelief is blasphemy against the spirit, as the spirit is the one who bears witness about Christ and gives faith. But of course, if one repents and has faith, one is not committing the sin of unbelief. Of course, that requires believing that there is such a thing as a lost sheep.

Rev. Scott Yakimow said...

I noticed a quote earlier from Calvin's 1538 Catechism re: baptism as giving assurance of salvation. I then checked his 1541, 1545 and the 1560 revisions and couldn't find it. Unless I'm missing something, the logic in 1538 was not retained but rather edited out by Calvin himself.

Though Calvin sounding almost Lutheran is not a bad thing...

John Stebbe said...

Rev. Yakimow, I think you'll find, if you have not already, that confessional Lutherans and Reformed believers are not as far apart as some might think.

As I recall, Calvin even signed the Augsburg Confession (albeit Melanchthon's Variata).

That said, I am not sure I would agree with the idea that baptism gives assurance of salvation. Baptism certainly reminds us of the finished work of Christ on our behalf (Romans 6:4 and many other Scriptures), but we cannot rely on our baptism in and of itself as evidence or assurance of our salvation. One need not look too far to find individuals who were baptized, either as infants or as adults, who, later in life, never displayed any evidence whatsoever of regeneration. Lutherans would say such people have lost their salvation, and Calvinists would say they never had it, but either way you look at it, baptism itself is no guarantee of eternal life. Only a living and active faith in Christ and His work, which God grants to His people (Acts 11:18), will give us true assurance.

Andrew said...

Pastor Fiene, I understand if you are too busy to answer my question(s). Where can I go to find a good Lutheran treatment of the John 6 passage? Especially contra reformed theology?

Pastor Fiene said...

Hey Andrew,

Sorry I've been super busy. Just wanted to let you know I'm not ignoring you. I'll try to get back to you tomorrow.

John Stebbe said...

Boaz wrote: My point is simply that if atonement is limited, then God didn't take care of everything necessary for me to be saved.

John here: Yes, He did. If you are one of God’s elect, then God certainly did take care of everything necessary for your salvation.

Boaz wrote: It wasn't finished, there may not any grace for me.

John here: If you are concerned enough about your sin to ask for God’s grace, that is evidence of your regeneration, which would not have happened unless God had given you a new heart.

Boaz wrote: So how can there be assurance? 



John here: God’s people are assured of their salvation because it is God who begins and finishes it, as Paul wrote in Philippians 1:6: “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Boaz wrote: You can't throw away election, I meant grace.

John here: OK, fine.

Boaz wrote: God gives grace to whoever wants it, with assurance that there is grace for everybody.

John here: There is truth there. Reformed folks often put it like this: God’s grace was sufficient for all, but efficient only for the elect.

Boaz wrote: What it boils down to, is that everybody who wants to go to heaven is welcome, by trusting God and not themselves. From God’s point of view, these are elect that he has worked faith in their heart. 



John here: Sounds good to me. Everyone who wants to go to heaven is welcome. But who are they who will want to go to heaven? It is the elect. As John put it, these people were born again, not because “of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12) It is God’s will, not man’s, which is the deciding factor.

I suppose I should clarify: "Everyone who wants to go to heaven is welcome" would better be rendered, "Everyone who wants to trust Christ for salvation is welcome." There could well be people who want to go to heaven, but are trusting in their works for their salvation.

Boaz wrote: BUT there's no reason for a Christian to try to look at God’s unrevealed will!

John here: Agreed. Calvin thought so, too, as he wrote in his commentary on Romans 9:14: "Let this then be our sacred rule, to seek to know nothing concerning it (predestination), except what Scripture teaches us: when the Lord closes his holy mouth, let us also stop the way, that we may not go farther."

Boaz wrote: We know God loved the whole world, so we have assurance.

John here: God does love the whole world, if we are speaking in terms of common grace. God makes the rain fall on the just and the unjust. (Matt 5:45) But in terms of His electing grace, he has a special sort of love, which accomplishes the salvation of His people. I love my neighbor with one sort of love, and I love my wife with a very different kind of love. So it is with God.

(Continued)

John Stebbe said...

Boaz wrote: Examining God’s unrevealed will is unbelief. Election is comforting because it points to God as the source of faith, not works or decisions.

John here: Yes, election is a comfort. Ephesians 1 is a good example of election being discussed in this way.

Boaz wrote: We don't use God’s hidden election for any other kind of assurance, as it’s hidden. We have assurance in Christ’s universal atonement on the cross. 



John here: Assurance of faith does not come from the correct understanding of universal atonement vs. limited atonement, whichever side of that fence you’re on. Assurance of faith comes from trusting Christ for salvation, complemented by the witness of the Spirit within us (Romans 8:16).

Boaz wrote: And that atonement is not received by all because of unbelief. And unbelief is blasphemy against the spirit, as the spirit is the one who bears witness about Christ and gives faith.

John here: The exact nature of the unforgivable sin, the ‘blasphemy against the Holy Spirit,’ is much debated. Many scholars say this sin is attributing the miracles of Jesus to the power of Satan.


Boaz wrote: But of course, if one repents and has faith, one is not committing the sin of unbelief. Of course, that requires believing that there is such a thing as a lost sheep.

John here: Sure, there are lost sheep, and in Jesus’ parable, the shepherd actively pursues that lost sheep until the sheep is back with the flock.

Boaz, thank you for the interaction. I have found that many people do not wish to believe the idea of limited atonement because it means that God has created people whom He knows will spend eternity apart from Him. This is certainly an issue which Christians should face. But to say, “I’m not a Calvinist, so I don’t have to wrestle with that one,” is to ignore a theological question common to all Christians, not just Calvinists. Even if you believe the atonement was universal, you must admit that God chose to create people whom He knew would be damned. Why could God simply have not created those people? Is there a purpose in God executing judgment against evil people? Those are questions which all Christians can and should consider, not just Calvinists. There are solid Biblical answers for these questions as well. We don’t get answers to every question we might have, but the Bible does give us quite a lot of information about His justice and His purposes. We ought not pry into God’s hidden will, we agree. But on the issues which Scripture speaks, we ought not ignore what God has said.

Andrew said...

Thank you! I know my question was kinda complex.

Rev. Scott Yakimow said...

Hi John,

Yeah, actually I have looked a bit into the relationship between Reformed and Lutheran -- to cite a single example, I recently gave a lecture in a 4 part series on the Lord's Supper where the other 3 lecturers were Roman Catholic (represented by Prof. Kevin Hart of the University of Virginia), Presbyterian (a fellow Ph.D. candidate with me at UVA) and Baptist (a Ph.D. from a Southern Baptist seminary). Interesting stuff, but what I found is that we're actually much closer to Roman Catholics on many issues than to other churches of the Reformation like Calvinism.

In any case, faith needs to grasp ahold of something external to itself. While this certainly can be the preaching of the Word, the best, most "objective" (loaded word, hence the scare quotes) example is the promise that was applied to an individual in his/her baptism. In that moment, the person has been crucified w/ Christ (Rom 6), clothed with him (Gal 3) and saved as the ark that saved Noah (precisely not as a mere washing of water -- 1 Pet 3). All these things (and more) have been applied to the person in baptism.

It is this objective character of what occurred in the act of baptism that gives faith something to grasp.

Is it effective for an individual without faith? Of course not. Rather, it creates, enables and preserves faith. And such elicited faith, such a grasping of the proffered promises is indeed part and parcel of what it means to trust a promise -- the one made in Christ.

Can it be rejected? I suppose (unfaith and sin are technically surds), but it will always bug the one who did -- or at least we can hope so.

But in any case, I brought up the quite Lutheran response of Calvin in his 1538 catechism to make the simple point that he later elided that view in his 1541, 1545 and in the revision of 1560. And as you, too, have some discomfort with it, I think that shows how later Calvinism does greatly differ from Lutheranism on this very important issue.

John Stebbe said...

Scott (may I call you Scott?):

There are many points to which I would like to respond, from your recent post. But the one which jumps out at me is your affinity to the Roman Catholic Church.

Yes, sacramentally speaking, their ideas are quite similar to those of Lutherans. But their soteriology is so deficient that I cannot affirm the RCC as a Christian denomination.

In their catechism, salvation via faith-plus-works is clearly articulated. Surely this is an intolerable deviation from an essential of the faith, that is, salvation by grace alone.

What if the RCC denied the bodily resurrection in its documents? I would hope that confessional Lutherans would be the first to point out to our Catholic friends the grave error of such a denial. The bodily resurrection is an essential of the faith, and so to deny it is to deny the Gospel.

So it is with Sola Gratia. The Apostle Paul correctly identifies the Judaizers as 'false brothers' because they wanted to add a work (circumcision) to the requirements of salvation. Why is the situation with Rome any different?

I have noticed on the LCMS web site, in the FAQ section, that the RCC is regarded as a Christian church because they believe in the Trinity. It seems that, for the LCMS today, nothing else is truly a non-negotiable element of true Christian faith. I would think that Martin Luther would differ with that position.

So Scott, what's your view of Rome, and how far off the mark do you think Rome's soteriology is?

boaz said...

Here's another good Lutheran analysis of limited atonement, especially including the comments:

http://jackkilcrease.blogspot.com/2010/07/genus-maiestaticum-and-reformation.html#comments

John Stebbe said...

Boaz, thanks for the link. That's a very interesting post. The author says many things I agree with. Please tell me what you think his strongest arguments were against various aspects of the Reformed faith.

Rev. Scott Yakimow said...

John,

Of course you can call me "Scott." I generally only use first names in my online interactions, so please feel free to do the same.

First, I believe I did say "closer" to RCC than other churches of the Reformation, but this shouldn't be taken as indicating that the differences between Lutheranism and Catholicism are not deep. They are, particularly when it comes to soteriology. As I was speaking more specifically about sacramentology above, we do both agree that RCC sacramentology is much closer to Lutheran teaching than is even Calvinist sacramentology (though we still disagree w/ how grace is conceived in Catholic sacramentology).

Second, differences in sacramentology are indicative of differences in soteriology. And here from my Lutheran viewpoint I think we do have a serious problem on both fronts, the Catholic and the Calvinist. On the Catholic side, there is an acceptance of the role of free will in justification yielding to a semi-Pelagian (or full out Pelagian) position. On the Reformed side and for those who hold to some form of double predestination, the problem is a total discounting of faith entirely. You can do more or less to convince yourself that you are saved, but in the end you'll never really know, and it's all up to God's decision taken in His hiddenness, anyway. I know that folks may disagree with this characterization, but neither do I see how the idea of double predestination (and hence of limited atonement) can be made to fit w/ a preaching of grace and faith.

Arminianism reallly doesn't alleviate the soteriological problems, either, b/c it again throws one back upon the idea of free will which is similar in some ways to RCC thought. Seems to me that Decision Theology fits in well here, too.

Which is all to say that we don't only have serious problems w/ RCC soteriology but also w/ most forms of Reformed soteriology.

Yet there's a wonderful dogmatic category that I think really nails it -- the idea of a "felicitous inconsistency." That is, even though theological expressions of Christ might be problematic and militate against the Gospel (e.g., double predestination and free will in matters of salvation), from a Lutheran perspective it is still quite possible to hear the Gospel preach and respond in faith in both Reformed and RC churches.

So we gladly consider them both Reformed and RC to be Christian churches. Both can confess the Nicene Creed (along with the vast majority of Christians everywhere and over the millenia), for example, and a proclamation normed by the creed will at least give the possibility of hearing the Gospel.

John Stebbe said...

Scott wrote: John,

Of course you can call me "Scott." I generally only use first names in my online interactions, so please feel free to do the same.



John here: Thanks, Scott.

Scott wrote: First, I believe I did say "closer" to RCC than other churches of the Reformation, but this shouldn't be taken as indicating that the differences between Lutheranism and Catholicism are not deep.

John here: All agree that the differences are deep. The question is, are they deep enough that we would call RC doctrine “another gospel?”

Scott wrote: They are, particularly when it comes to soteriology. As I was speaking more specifically about sacramentology above, we do both agree that RCC sacramentology is much closer to Lutheran teaching than is even Calvinist sacramentology (though we still disagree w/ how grace is conceived in Catholic sacramentology).

Second, differences in sacramentology are indicative of differences in soteriology. And here from my Lutheran viewpoint I think we do have a serious problem on both fronts, the Catholic and the Calvinist. On the Catholic side, there is an acceptance of the role of free will in justification yielding to a semi-Pelagian (or full out Pelagian) position.

John here: The problem is not just the role of free will. It’s the idea of salvation by faith-plus-works, as their Catechism teaches. Paul calls those who teach this ‘false brothers.’ Why do we hesitate to do the same?

Scott wrote: On the Reformed side and for those who hold to some form of double predestination, the problem is a total discounting of faith entirely.

John here: You will likely not be surprised that I will challenge this point. Please cite a historic Reformed confession in which faith is totally discounted.

Scott wrote: You can do more or less to convince yourself that you are saved, but in the end you'll never really know, and it's all up to God's decision taken in His hiddenness, anyway.

John here: Assurance of salvation comes from believing the Gospel, and from the testimony of the Spirit (Romans 8:16). But if belief in predestination were to cause a Christian to wonder if he is elect, would that not affect Lutherans as much as Calvinists, since Lutherans hold to single predestination?

Scott wrote: I know that folks may disagree with this characterization, but neither do I see how the idea of double predestination (and hence of limited atonement) can be made to fit w/ a preaching of grace and faith.



John here: I don’t see the disconnect between double predestination and the preaching of grace and faith. If you have the time and inclination, I ask you to elaborate.

(Continued)

John Stebbe said...

Scott wrote: Arminianism reallly doesn't alleviate the soteriological problems, either, b/c it again throws one back upon the idea of free will which is similar in some ways to RCC thought. Seems to me that Decision Theology fits in well here, too.

Which is all to say that we don't only have serious problems w/ RCC soteriology but also w/ most forms of Reformed soteriology.

Yet there's a wonderful dogmatic category that I think really nails it -- the idea of a "felicitous inconsistency." That is, even though theological expressions of Christ might be problematic and militate against the Gospel (e.g., double predestination and free will in matters of salvation), from a Lutheran perspective it is still quite possible to hear the Gospel preach and respond in faith in both Reformed and RC churches.

So we gladly consider them both Reformed and RC to be Christian churches. Both can confess the Nicene Creed (along with the vast majority of Christians everywhere and over the millenia), for example, and a proclamation normed by the creed will at least give the possibility of hearing the Gospel.

John here: Scott, if you would, please respond to this hypothetical situation. What if Rome were to begin officially denying the bodily resurrection? We agree, I think, that to deny the bodily resurrection is to deny the Gospel (1 Cor 15). Would not the proper response be to let our Catholic friends know that such a denial amounts to a denial of the Christian faith?

boaz said...

Denying Christ's universal atonement is about the same as denying the bodily resurrection. Either position denies the believer assurance that Christ's work on the cross was completed for the believer.

Tim J said...

I admit to not being well educated on Lutheran theology, but fairly well educated in reformed theology. my confusion comes down to not understanding what in the Lutheran's mind universal atonement achieves? I am use to thinking that Jesus death on the cross paid the penalty for a person's sins and creates a restored and full relationship with God. If that is true then Christ's death can only apply to people who are saved. It is limited to them.

If the atonement is universal though what does that mean? If all people's sins were paid for, then are there people in hell who are forgiven all of their sins? did Jesus suffer unnecessarily for some people's sins? Or is everyone saved regardless of what they believe? I doubt either of these is what Lutherans mean. Perhaps they mean something more like Christ's death created a blank check for paying the debt of sin and everyone who believes will have their sins added to the total. I don't really like the blank check on the grounds that it means that Christ's work is ongoing, not completed "once for all" allowing Christ to sit down at the right hand of the Father.

I am eager to be informed about the Lutheran position. Perhaps my reformed training has created a straw man.

Andrew said...

How long must I endure the suspense Pastor Fiene? What say you?

Pastor Fiene said...

OK, Andrew, I got all geared up to respond to your question about John 6, but I just wanted to make sure these were the verses you were talking about:

John 6:35-39 35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.

Is that right?

Andrew said...

I think any treatment of the passage is incomplete if it doesn't include verses 40&44. Before you answer let me make sure I am clear about what I am asking. In this passage Jesus speaks of four actions.
1.The Father's drawing of certain people.
2.His giving of those people to the Son.(These first two actions seem to be two sides of the same coin in this passage)
3.The certain, infallible coming of those who are drawn and given.
4.Jesus' raising of those who come based on their being drawn and given on the last day.
So my question has at least two parts:

1. If all who are drawn and given will come and are raised up by Christ on the last day then how can you hold to the possibility of salvation being lost? It sounds like your theology inadvertently creates a Jesus who can't do what he says he will.
2. If salvation can be lost and yet all who are drawn and come will be raised up then there must be some who come to faith without being drawn and given by the Father. If they had been drawn and given then they would not have fallen away. How can this be since Jesus says that no one can come unless the Father draws him?

Let's just leave it at that for now.
I thank you for taking the time to deal with these issues with me.

Andrew said...

Oh...and this from before:

So you have human inability without the Father's drawing and giving, definite coming when the Father does draw and give, and definite raising up by the Son when the people's coming resulting from the Father's giving happens.
So what do these verses mean? Do they promise a sure salvation to all who come? Is there a guarantee in these verses that those who come will be preserved? If so what happens to your interpretation of verses like 1Timothy 1:19 in light of the fact that there is a scriptural category for the false believer who falls away because he didn't really believe ala 1John 2:19?

Anonymous said...

Hey Pastor Fiene, I have the same question(s) as Andrew, and I look forward to seeing your reply. Thanks!

Daniel Petranek said...

Hi Hans, I am currious how you would (as a Lutheran) answer Andrews questions. Would you say that John 6 is only speaking of the elect, and not of someone else who can come to true saving faith and then later fall away from the faith? Btw You commented on one of my FB posts last week (one which you did not like at all)which said, "Evangelical Christians to often believe that God's top priority is the salvation of men. This man-centered view point, a kind of baptized humanism for Christians, makes them think they are the center of God's concern. They are not. God is the center of God's concern." - Dr. Garry North. I did take the time to read the articles (and the comments) that you recommended, and I would genuinelly like to know (apart from the Calvinist picketing that you may be use to :) how Lutherans would respond to that passage of Scripture (along with 1 John 2:19)

Thanks!
Daniel

Andrew said...

Pastor Fiene,
I answered the questions which you asked me. I would appreciate it if you would answer the questions I asked you. I understand that pastors are very, very busy people so if you don't plan on answering me then please let me know. Thank you.

Pastor Fiene said...

Andrew, I do plan on answering you. I'm sorry it's taken me so long. I'll try to get to it later today.

Andrew said...

Since you are indeed planning on answering you should take your time. I was just making sure. Thanks again.

Andrew said...

Been a month and a half. Just sayin'.

Pastor Fiene said...

What the heck? I wrote a response! I wrote it over a month ago! And now I see I somehow never posted it. Dang it. Let me see if I can find it on my office computer. I'm sorry!

Pastor Fiene said...

Well, good news. I found it on my computer. Though I'm still really confused as to why I never actually posted this. Nonetheless, here is what I wrote awhile ago:

Ok, again, I'm sorry it took me so long to get back to you. But here are some of my thoughts. I'd certainly welcome my brother Lutheran pastors, esp. Karl Hess, to chime in. Also, I apologize if this post sounds condescending as I'm fleshing out the text a bit. I'm not at all assuming that you don't know the context of what's going on. I'm just doing this to show my thought process.

As the verses leading up to these tell us, Jesus tells these people following him that they're following him after the Feeding of the 5000 for the wrong reasons and that they should follow him because they believe in who he really is, as the one who gives eternal life. In response, they crowd essentially says, "Fine. Give us some huge kind of sign (as though the feeding weren't enough) and we'll believe in you that way."

And so, in the verses at hand, Jesus basically tells them that one doesn't come to faith by judging the miraculous character of signs and wonders. One comes to faith because God has called him to believe that Jesus is the Bread of Life.

And at this, many of those following Jesus get offended. Hence their comment, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, 'I have come down from heaven'?" In other words, they're essentially saying, "We could take you as a bread king. But you actually being the bread of life from heaven? You're just some dude. Nobody is going to believe in you if that's what they're supposed to believe."

So, in response to this, Jesus says, " No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day." And with those words, Jesus is ultimately saying, "actually, a whole mess of people are going to believe I am the bread of life. In fact, every single person my Father draws me to will believe that. And I will give all of them eternal life."

So, as I see it, Jesus is certainly drawing a distinction between true faith and false faith here. But I really don't think His point is that true faith is simply the faith which endures to the end and that false faith is that which fades away. Rather, I think his point is that true faith is a bloody faith given by God and false faith is a bloodless faith that does not want a Jesus of the Cross (and thus, a faith which obviously does not have its origin in God)...

Pastor Fiene said...

...On account of this, I don't really think Jesus is tackling the issue of perseverance here. Certainly he touches on the issue, but only as a response to the accusation of the crowds that EVERYONE is going to fall away from him. And because I don't see this text as directly addressing the issue of perseverance, I'm not super inclined to develop my theology of it based on these words. Rather, I'd look at a text like the Sower and the Seed, which, in my mind, makes a pretty compelling case that some people come to faith (since the seed does indeed sprout up and doesn't merely appear to sprout up) and then fall away.

All that being said, it's also probably worth reaffirming that we Lutherans do, in fact, believe in predestination-at least that of the single variety. So when Jesus says, "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out," we don't have a problem believing that those words mean exactly what they say. All those whom the Father elected will come to Christ and will never be cast out. That's our doctrine of election to a T-the promise that nothing can snatch the elect out of the Father's hand, a doctrine meant entirely for the comfort of our souls.

But what is not in this text is either any suggestion of the reprobate or the assertion that people who confess Jesus as Lord, then fall away from that confession, never really meant it. I know that that's the logical conclusion one is prone to draw from this text. But, again, when we Lutherans don't hear God draw that conclusion for us, we're not willing to make it for Him. And, again, we're especially unwilling to make that conclusion when there are a whole mess of verses that talk about people falling away from the faith. In fact, to my eyes, the Scriptures always give us the indication that those who said they were believers actually were. For example, Paul's handing of Hymenaeus and Alexander over to Satan certainly seems to indicate they didn't actually belong to him at one point. And off the top of my head, I can't think of a verse that would teach us that those who fall away from the faith never really believed in the first place.

So, I know I took a different angle here than just answering your questions directly. If this hasn't helped, let me know and I'll try a more direct approach.

John Stebbe said...

Pastor Fiene, thanks for your thoughts. I would like to respond more fully later tonight when I have more time, but for now, you said, "And off the top of my head, I can't think of a verse that would teach us that those who fall away from the faith never really believed in the first place."

I think a verse which should be considered is 1 John 2:19. "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us."

Also, regarding those who were saved for a time, and then fell away, in the Lutheran view: How do you deal with Romans 8:30, which says "those He justified, He also glorified"? If those who fell away were truly in the faith, then they were justified. And Paul says that those who are justified are also glorified. But you say (it seems) that a person can be justified but not ultimately glorified.

Thanks,

John

Andrew said...

Thanks for your response. I'll mull it over for a while and then maybe respond if I have more questions or am uncertain about something. No problem about the mix-up regarding your attempted posting. It happens.

John Stebbe said...

Pastore Fiene said: And with those words, Jesus is ultimately saying, "actually, a whole mess of people are going to believe I am the bread of life. In fact, every single person my Father draws me to will believe that. And I will give all of them eternal life."

John here: Yes, I agree, that’s what Jesus is ultimately saying. And it sounds pretty Reformed. And if some of these folks have faith for a time, and then abandon it, then they really did not possess ‘eternal’ life.

Pastore Fiene said: So, as I see it, Jesus is certainly drawing a distinction between true faith and false faith here. But I really don't think His point is that true faith is simply the faith which endures to the end and that false faith is that which fades away.

John here: Perseverance may not be His only point, but the point certainly is made by Christ in these words, “And I will raise him up on the last day.” Sounds like Jesus has a future condition of salvation in mind for all whom the Father draws.

Pastore Fiene said: Rather, I think his point is that true faith is a bloody faith given by God and false faith is a bloodless faith that does not want a Jesus of the Cross (and thus, a faith which obviously does not have its origin in God)...

John here: Possibly. But even so, Jesus’ words do also point to a future condition of salvation for all whom the Father draws.

Pastore Fiene said: Certainly he touches on the issue, but only as a response to the accusation of the crowds that EVERYONE is going to fall away from him. And because I don't see this text as directly addressing the issue of perseverance, I'm not super inclined to develop my theology of it based on these words. Rather, I'd look at a text like the Sower and the Seed, which, in my mind, makes a pretty compelling case that some people come to faith (since the seed does indeed sprout up and doesn't merely appear to sprout up) and then fall away.

John here: The Parable of the Sower is problematic for those who say that the sprouts from the rocky or thorny ground represent true faith. The reason is that only the last kind of faith, the faith that perseveres, is possessed by those people with a ‘noble and good heart.’ Luke 8:15 “But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”

Still John: Those people with a ‘noble and good heart’ were not born with such a heart. As Jeremiah tells us, “The heart is desperately wicked and beyond cure.” And Ezekiel tells us that it is God who removes the heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh. Desperately wicked people do not desire to have their stony hearts replaced. God has to decide to accomplish this for His people. So in the parable, only the last group has noble and good hearts, which are gifts of God to His elect. (Jer 17:9, Ez 36:26)

Pastore Fiene said: All that being said, it's also probably worth reaffirming that we Lutherans do, in fact, believe in predestination-at least that of the single variety. So when Jesus says, "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out," we don't have a problem believing that those words mean exactly what they say. All those whom the Father elected will come to Christ and will never be cast out. That's our doctrine of election to a T-the promise that nothing can snatch the elect out of the Father's hand, a doctrine meant entirely for the comfort of our souls.

Pastore Fiene said: But what is not in this text is either any suggestion of the reprobate or the assertion that people who confess Jesus as Lord, then fall away from that confession, never really meant it. I know that that's the logical conclusion one is prone to draw from this text.

John here. Let’s not turn up our nose too quickly at ‘logical conclusions.’ If we can’t use logic to arrive at doctrine, then we cannot affirm the Trinity. Without logic, words have no meaning.

(Continued)

John Stebbe said...

(Continued from previous post)

Pastore Fiene said: But, again, when we Lutherans don't hear God draw that conclusion for us, we're not willing to make it for Him.

John here: An interesting turn of phrase, “we Lutherans don’t hear God draw that conclusion for us.” The question is not what Lutherans hear, or what Calvinists hear, but what does the text indicate?

Pastore Fiene said: And, again, we're especially unwilling to make that conclusion when there are a whole mess of verses that talk about people falling away from the faith.

John here: Yes, there are warnings not to depart from the faith. The warnings are a means by which God keeps His elect. The elect will heed the warnings, and the non-elect will not.

Pastore Fiene said: In fact, to my eyes, the Scriptures always give us the indication that those who said they were believers actually were. For example, Paul's handing of Hymenaeus and Alexander over to Satan certainly seems to indicate they didn't actually belong to him at one point.

John here: Pastor, I think you meant to say “DID actually belong to him.” In the case of Hymenaeus and Alexander, we must ask if their former faith was a true faith or only a professed faith. To answer this, we can consult other Scriptures which speak to the issue of whether or not a person who has true faith in Christ can lose his salvation. There are many Scriptures which are relevant here, but a good one is John 10:28. Jesus says, “I give them (my sheep) eternal life, and they will never perish.” As well, Romans 8:30 says that those God justifies, He will ultimately glorify. No exceptions are mentioned.

Pastore Fiene said: And off the top of my head, I can't think of a verse that would teach us that those who fall away from the faith never really believed in the first place.

John here: 1 John 2:19. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.

Andrew said...

Pastor Fiene, I do wonder why you let a parable inform your understanding of more distinctly didactic sections of scripture. Something tells me you wouldn't be willing to let a Baptist get away with that while arguing about the real presence, or the nature of baptism. Shouldn't your interpretation flow in the opposite direction? Also, why the reluctance to follow the words of the text to their logical conclusion? Again, it seems if the shoe were on the other foot you would not allow say a JW to disallow the use of logic in order to interpret the passages relevant to the trinity.

John Stebbe said...

Andrew, your thoughts about logic are spot-on, I think. And regarding logical conclusions from John 6, it is not as if we need to construct vast logical chains of reasoning to get from John 6 to the idea of perseverance. The teaching of perseverance appears fully-formed from Christ himself, when He declares,

"37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day."

To this, let me quote Pastor Fiene's earlier response: "All that being said, it's also probably worth reaffirming that we Lutherans do, in fact, believe in predestination-at least that of the single variety. So when Jesus says, 'All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out,' we don't have a problem believing that those words mean exactly what they say. All those whom the Father elected will come to Christ and will never be cast out. That's our doctrine of election to a T-the promise that nothing can snatch the elect out of the Father's hand, a doctrine meant entirely for the comfort of our souls."

Pastor, you agree then that the elect will surely persevere in faith forever. We can rejoice together in this wonderful truth from the Lord.

But regarding the non-elect, you are saying that they can have a true 'temporary' faith. So they have a true faith, but they are not those of whom Christ said, "All that the Father has given me . . ."?

You can have a true (though temporary) faith, and not be given from the Father to the Son?

In my view, a 'true temporary' faith is an oxymoron, Biblically speaking. Jesus told us that His sheep will never perish.

Daniel Petranek said...

John, while we are waiting for Pastor Fiene to reply; you may find this blog to be helpful on weather or not someone can truely fall away from saving faith.

http://justandsinner.blogspot.com/search/label/Preservation%20of%20the%20Saints

John Stebbe said...

Daniel, thanks for the link. Jordan Cooper appears to be a bright young man who presents his thoughts clearly, without malice, ridicule, or condescension. May his tribe increase!

Before I interact with Jordan's article, let me ask you, Daniel, how would you respond to the arguments I have presented in the last few days, regarding the perseverance of the saints?

In Jordan's article, he says, "How do you know if you are elect? Look to God's electing act now. God is creating new life in you through the word and sacraments. He claimed you at your baptism. He continues to claim you through the Eucharist."

So if you are baptized and take communion regularly, then you are among the elect? Plenty of people down through the years have made use of the sacraments, and then have left the faith. Surely one's use of the sacraments is no guarantee that a person is among the elect.

Unless you define 'elect' in a novel way, I suppose. But I would think that confessional Lutherans, with their doctrine of single predestination, would define 'elect' in a similar way to the Reformed. Correct me if I am wrong here.

I am struck by the sense of pity which Mr. Cooper seems to have for Reformed believers, whom he thinks can have no assurance of salvation. Speaking for myself, I know that I am saved (and therefore among the elect) because I believe that Christ died for my sins. If I was not among the elect, I would not believe this, because saving faith is a gift of God, as Lutherans and Reformed believers affirm together.

Daniel, your thoughts, please.

Andrew said...

Pastor Fiene, I think that even though Jesus isn't specifically addressing the issue of perseverance, he does end up speaking to it very clearly. My main concern and (mark this well) the thing that is keeping me from becoming Lutheran is that your teaching on faith/perseverance/and apostasy introduces a category that I don't see in scripture. There is, given your theology, either a group of people who aren't elect, but still believe somehow for a while. If they were elect then they would continue believing. The BoC says as much. I agree there. But Jesus says that those not drawn by the Father cannot come. The cannot. Jesus Said it in those exact words. "No one CAN come to me unless the Father who sent Me draws him". Or there are people drawn and given who fall away. Jesus also says that this will not happen. This is said in John 6, John 10, and Romans 8; just to name a few. So which is it? Do some not drawn believe? Or do some drawn and given fall away? It has to be one; but scripture allows for neither. What am I missing here?

Daniel said...

John, In regards to the sacraments. I would agree with Jordan's post which says, "How do you know if you are elect? Look to God's electing act now. God is creating new life in you through the word and sacraments. He claimed you at your baptism. He continues to claim you through the Eucharist." Now, you are right; that many have partaken of the Sacraments and have fallen away. Faith is also needed to grab ahold of the promises which God has attached to the Means of Grace. As has been discused Lutherans believe in single-predestination, and that ALL of those whom God predestined will be saved in the end. This does not mean however that someone can not come to faith and later fall away. I am also not entirely sure if I agree with Jordan Cooper (and a good deal many other Lutherans); that a Calvinist can have no assurance. I understand where they are comming from, since the Reformed believe in Limited Atonement. With LA how can one know if Jesus died for them? They can't look to the cross, because Jesus may not have died for them. They have to look inward to see if their faith is good enough, if they are bearing enough fruit as evidence of true and saving faith, and how do they know if they are not decieving themselves? At least this is the arguement that is persented (What I struggled with as a former Calvinist myself). Again, I am not 100% sure if I am in full agreement with this position (That no Calvinist can have assurance). The reason too why Jordan is sympathetic to the Calvinistic position is because he is a former Calvinist himself. Back to the topic of preseverence. Their are Scriptures which speak of the preseverence of the saints, but their are also many Scriptures which speak about people falling away from the faith, which are also quite clear. The question is; "What do we do with these passages?" Or another question that should be addressed, which is really the underlining premise of how we handle this; "What is the proper us of our reason?" Do we use our reason in a magisterial way over Scripture, or should our reason be ministerial to Scripture? This is really one of the big differences between Calvinists ans Lutherans. May I recommend one more resource. It is a 13min youtube video on the use of reason. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTUUfaLtKss

Andrew said...

Daniel, while we wait for Pr. Fiene, I would appreciate your thoughts on my latest comment.

John Stebbe said...

Daniel wrote: John, In regards to the sacraments. I would agree with Jordan's post which says, "How do you know if you are elect? Look to God's electing act now. God is creating new life in you through the word and sacraments. He claimed you at your baptism. He continues to claim you through the Eucharist." Now, you are right; that many have partaken of the Sacraments and have fallen away. Faith is also needed to grab ahold of the promises which God has attached to the Means of Grace.

John here: So faith is needed, we would agree. But for you, there are two kinds of faith: one which the elect possess, which will eternally persevere, and another which the non-elect might possess for a time, but will not persevere. How do Lutherans know which kind of faith they have? For me, things are not so complex, because in the Reformed faith, there is no such thing as a true faith which does not persevere.

Daniel wrote: As has been discussed, Lutherans believe in single-predestination, and that ALL of those whom God predestined will be saved in the end. This does not mean however that someone can not come to faith and later fall away.

John here: So the question still lingers, how do Lutherans know which kind of faith they possess? The eternal kind or the temporary kind?

Daniel wrote: I am also not entirely sure if I agree with Jordan Cooper (and a good deal many other Lutherans); that a Calvinist can have no assurance. I understand where they are coming from, since the Reformed believe in Limited Atonement. With LA how can one know if Jesus died for them? They can't look to the cross, because Jesus may not have died for them. They have to look inward to see if their faith is good enough, if they are bearing enough fruit as evidence of true and saving faith, and how do they know if they are not deceiving themselves? At least this is the argument that is presented (What I struggled with as a former Calvinist myself).

John here: Daniel, in your view, the idea of limited atonement could make a Calvinist unsure of his salvation. But by the same token, since you believe in single predestination, how do you know you are predestined for salvation? Maybe your faith is the temporary kind.

(Continued on next post)

John Stebbe said...

(Continued from previous post)

Daniel wrote: Again, I am not 100% sure if I am in full agreement with this position (That no Calvinist can have assurance). The reason too why Jordan is sympathetic to the Calvinistic position is because he is a former Calvinist himself. Back to the topic of perseverance. There are Scriptures which speak of the perseverance of the saints, but their are also many Scriptures which speak about people falling away from the faith, which are also quite clear. The question is; "What do we do with these passages?"

John here: Warnings against falling away are heeded by the elect, but not by the non-elect. And in your own view, the elect will surely persevere. For that group of people, what do you do with these warning passages? Why do the elect need them? And for those who have a temporary true faith (in your view), why give them the warning passages? They will certainly fall away, right?

Daniel wrote: Or another question that should be addressed, which is really the underlining premise of how we handle this; "What is the proper us of our reason?" Do we use our reason in a magisterial way over Scripture, or should our reason be ministerial to Scripture? This is really one of the big differences between Calvinists and Lutherans.

John here: This magisterial vs. ministerial objection is commonly raised by Lutherans against Calvinists. Yet I don’t know of a Calvinist who would disagree in principle. Reason is subservient to revelation. For example, it is impossible to understand how Christ could feed five thousand people with a few loaves and fish. But we don’t say, “Because we can’t understand how God did this, it must not have happened.” Can you give me an example of how Calvinists have used reason in a magisterial way?

Daniel wrote: May I recommend one more resource. It is a 13min youtube video on the use of reason. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTUUfaLtKss

John here: When I get some time, I will take a look. Thanks for the link.

Blessings,

John

John Stebbe said...

Daniel, I watched the video. He makes a lot of rapid-fire points. I can't respond to the whole thing. Are there one or two points from the video to which you would like me to respond?

John Stebbe said...

Daniel or Pastor Fiene, if you have a moment, please respond to my most recent posts. Thanks.

Pastor Fiene said...

Hey all,

Sorry it's taken me awhile to respond.

I'm not sure how much much I have to contribute, but these are a few thoughts thunk by my brain:

1. John, thanks for pointing out 1 John 2:19. It's probably worth noting, though, that I'm not arguing that all confessions of faith by the lips are necessarily confessions of faith by the heart as well. Rather, I'd argue that the Scripture speaks about people departing the community of faith in two ways: 1. People who never really believed (1 John 2:19) and 2. People who did believe but eventually fell back into unbelief (Hymenaeus and Alexander.)

2. Andrew, I certainly respect the hermeneutical principle of letting more distinctly didactic sections of Scripture play a greater role in developing your theology than texts that are less didactic. But I just don't think that's what's happening here. Again, as I argued, I don't think Jesus is directly addressing the issue of why some people believe for a time and fall away in John 6. I do think he's doing that quite directly in the parable of the sower, which he himself interprets for us.

I'm sorry my response isn't terribly in depth. I've been and continue to be rather busy. But I appreciate everyone's comments and the respectful tone of all involved. Also, for the record, I've watched the Fisk video referenced above and he summarizes my views on all of this quite well.

Andrew said...

Don't worry Pastor Fiene, my wife and I have gone ahead and become Lutherans after all. Thanks for interacting with me.

John Stebbe said...

Andrew, I am happy to hear that you have found a Lutheran church to call home. I myself was an LCMS Lutheran for the first 25 years of my life, and I was blessed by God to have been part of it. I had so many godly teachers and pastors over the years.

Still, given your recent posts, I am surprised that you have joined a Lutheran church, with all of the questions you seemed to have. Perhaps you have found answers to them. If so, I am curious as to what those answers are.

Pastor Fienes, thanks for taking the time to post on this board. If you did post more often, I might think you're neglecting your flock! So I don't mind waiting a while between your posts.

Allow me to interact with the points you have just made. You wrote,

(Pastor wrote:) 1. John, thanks for pointing out 1 John 2:19. It's probably worth noting, though, that I'm not arguing that all confessions of faith by the lips are necessarily confessions of faith by the heart as well. Rather, I'd argue that the Scripture speaks about people departing the community of faith in two ways: 1. People who never really believed (1 John 2:19) and 2. People who did believe but eventually fell back into unbelief (Hymenaeus and Alexander.)

John here: Pastor, I don't think you are dealing adequately with the point John is making. John tells us that the reason 'they' left is because 'they' were never a part of us. He does not allow us to consider the possibility that their faith was true at one time, and so 'they' really were are part of 'us.' John's point is that if some leave the faith, that is evidence that their faith never was genuine.

You mentioned Hymenaeus and Alexander. We are not told if their 'faith' was true or merely a profession. But in light of other very clear Scriptures on perseverance, such as Hebrews 3:14, we can make the reasonable assumption that the faith of H. and A. was not a true faith, but merely a profession only. Hebrews 3:14 says, “We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.” So if we did not hold that original conviction, we had not truly come to share in Christ. A similar point is made in Romans 8:29, “ . . . those He justified, He also glorifed.” No extra category is provided here, for those who may have once been justified, but did not hold onto their faith long enough to be glorified.

(Pastor wrote): 2. Andrew, I certainly respect the hermeneutical principle of letting more distinctly didactic sections of Scripture play a greater role in developing your theology than texts that are less didactic. But I just don't think that's what's happening here. Again, as I argued, I don't think Jesus is directly addressing the issue of why some people believe for a time and fall away in John 6. I do think he's doing that quite directly in the parable of the sower, which he himself interprets for us.

John here: Yes, Pastor, Jesus does interpret the parable for us. He tells us that only the last group has noble and good hearts. Such hearts are the gift of God, since Jeremiah tells us that in its natural state, ‘the heart is desperately wicked and beyond cure.’ No other group in this parable has such hearts.