By Spencer D Gear
This has been a controversial subject throughout Christian history, but especially since the time of the Reformation. We have the Calvinists who defend the position that salvation cannot be lost and those who no longer continue to believe were not saved in the first place. Arminians respond, as I have below, that salvation can be lost when people commit apostasy.
Matt Slick’s view as a Calvinist is that ‘a Christian cannot lose his salvation’. And the author of Arminian Perspectives states that ‘we see that life abides in the Son and only those who presently “have” the Son “have” the life that abides in Him’.
What is apostasy?
Commit what? We don’t hear the word much these days. What is apostasy? In the English language, the definition given by dictionary.com is, ‘a total desertion of or departure from one’s religion, principles, party, cause, etc’.
A Christian-based definition is that apostasy is ‘a deliberate repudiation and abandonment of the faith that one has professed (Heb. 3:12). Apostasy differs in degree from heresy…. Perhaps the most notorious NT example is Judas Iscariot. Others include Demas (II Tim. 4:10) and Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Tim. 1:20)’ (Whitlock, Jr. 1984:70).
Hebrews 6:4-6 (ESV) is clear enough for me:
4 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.
We also have 1 Timothy 1:18-20,
18 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme (ESV).
So by rejecting faith and a good conscience, some have shipwrecked their faith. Is that too difficult to understand?
Then we have John 3:36,
Whoever believes [continues believing] in the Son has [continues having] eternal life; whoever does not obey [continues not obeying] the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains [continues remaining] on him.
What I have inserted in square brackets [ ] indicates the meaning of the Greek present tense. There is only eternal life for those who continue believing in the Son, Jesus, and continuing to remain in him. There is no eternal life for those who continue not to obey the Son.
That’s Bible and I cannot arrive at the position you advocate while these verses are in Scripture.
My understanding is that if a person deliberately chooses to apostasize from the Christian faits, he/she loses salvation. See my articles:
- Is it possible or impossible to fall away from the Christian faith?
- Conversations with a Calvinist on apostasy,
- Once Saved, Always Saved or Once Saved, Lost Again?
- Controversies: Once saved, always saved,
- ‘Death of an apostate’ (Charles Templeton).
- Is it possible for a Christian to commit apostasy?
- Calvinism Critiqued by a Former Calvinist (Steve Jones),
- Eternally secure, provided that… (Matt O’Reilly),
- Holding Firmly, I Am Held (An Arminian Approach to Eternal Security) (Roy Ingle),
- Did Arminius refute eternal security?
I recommend the article by Roger E Olson, ‘What’s wrong with Calvinism?‘ (Patheos, March 22, 2013).
If you don’t agree that salvation can be lost, take a read of Charles Templeton’s, Farewell to God (1996. Toronto, Ontario: McClelland & Stewart).
Whitlock, Jr., L G 1984. Apostasy, in Elwell, W A (ed), Evangelical dictionary of theology, 70. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.
Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 19 November 2015.