17 December 2010

The Perseverance of the Saints

by Phil Johnson

I am absolutely confident no true believer in Jesus Christ will ever lose his or her salvation. Authentic believers can never do anything to forfeit the eternal life that is ours in Christ. Otherwise, by definition, it could not be said that we have everlasting life and will not come into judgment, but have passed from death to life (John 5:24).



"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Peter 1:3-5).

'm not fond of the expression "eternal security" because of the way the doctrine is abused by antinomians and people who think it's possible to own Jesus as Savior without bowing to Him as Lord. I prefer to speak of the perseverance of the saints, because that expression better captures the gist of what the doctrine entails.

The idea is not that if we once "accept Christ" we are guaranteed heaven regardless of whether we continue in the faith or not, but that those who are truly regenerate will not depart from Christ. The supposed Christian who does depart demonstrates that he was never a true Christian in the first place: "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us" (1 John 2:19).

On the other hand, I'm convinced that the saints will persevere not because I have any confidence in the saints' own strength or their own faithfulness. My own security not does not rest in my devotion to Christ, but in His devotion to me. I am "kept by the power of God." His power is what energizes my faith and keeps me in the process of salvation, ready to be revealed at the last time.

That's an echo of the truth of 2 Thessalonians 3:3: "The Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one." And 2 Timothy 2:13: "If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself." Also, Jude 24: God "is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy."

So on the authority of Scripture I believe absolutely in the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. But it's not because I have any confidence in the saints themselves. It is God who secures their perseverance.

Phil's signature

61 comments:

Bill Crawford said...

"but that those who are truly regenerate will not depart from Christ"

By "depart" would you include grievous sin? Would a believer who committed adultery and repented, but who never denied Christ and still clings to him be consdiered to have departed?

Or do you mean someone who professed faith and either did nothing in the future or later denied Christ?

James Manuel said...

I'm interested to see how you might read Rom.11 in light of Perseverance of the Saints, specifically 11:21. Assuming Paul's analogy holds, and assuming the Calvinist position (at least as you have argued it here), are we to say that those who were or are threatened with being "cut off" were never really "grafted in" to begin with?
As an Arminian, I've wondered this for a long time and have just never gotten around to asking a Calvinist... until now :) Not looking for a debate, just honestly curious.

Johnny Dialectic said...

It's a nice thought, but you run right into the Book of Hebrews. The whole book is a rebuke to this notion (which is required by the system, the tail wagging the dog) and the strains to get around it are not good hermeneutics. And I'm not even talking about chapter 6. Just read 1-3 and 10 without assumptions, and you can't believe in P.

That said, I'll tell you what I'm not a fan of. The phrase "lose your salvation." As if it's a pair of reading glasses. No, it takes a heart once enlightened but hardened by sin's deceitfulness (Heb. 3:13) leading to actual rebellion (3:15). You don't lose your salvation between the cushions of a sofa. It's a pretty far drop, but the warnings are there and we must heed them. Otherwise, Hebrews is 75% meaningless.

DJP said...

Phil, oh my gosh!! ONOES!!! They've seen HEBREWS!!!

What will we do!!! With it, the rest of the Bible is just "a nice thought"!!!

Run away!!!


< /!!! >

Matt Aznoe said...

Johnny, I like the way you put that. Of course, the problems are not confined to the book of Hebrews. We are repeatedly warned to endure, remain steadfast, and against falling away from the faith throughout the New Testament, but I am sure that you know that as well.

The way I look at it, there are those who are abiding in Christ, there are those who are completely alienated from Christ, and then there is that danger ground in which lie the lukewarm or back-slidden or those who have never born much (or any) fruit yet claim confession of faith. This is a ground which, if we should find ourselves upon, we should be filled with fear and trembling and seek the Lord with all of our heart.

It is on this ground where we find most of the "church" in America. Sadly, I fear that the doctrine of the "perseverance of the saints" is often used to comfort these souls rather than convict them to pursue Christ.

Paul does not exemplify someone who is comfortable. Throughout his letters, he says things like "not that I have already attained" or "I press on", "I beat my body into submission", etc. This is a man desperately fighting and clinging to salvation like a drowning man, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, God strengthens, encourages and establishes him so that in the end, looking into the maws of death, he can finally say "I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race."

We need to exhort each other to good works and complete surrender to the cross not just on the day of our conversion but every day as we press on toward the goal looking to Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith.

DJP said...

All of which is anticipated and sounded sufficiently in the post.

Terrific post, Phil — highlighting God's faithfulness as the sole and necessary ground of the believer's security, while still (in your post! without being made to do it!) sounding the need to submit to Christ as Lord as an outworking of God's eternal salvation.

Edifying, encouraging, challenging, God-honoring. Well done, and thanks.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Sadly, I fear that the doctrine of the "perseverance of the saints" is often used to comfort these souls rather than convict them to pursue Christ.

Matt, that's exactly right. Preaching under the P is a disservice to the church. Not just because it isn't biblical, which is enough reason to stop it, but because it retards resisting sin and moving on to holiness. (Heb. 12:14)

Drat! I had to quote Hebrews again!

DJP said...

Right! And once again completely unnecessarily, under a post which already laments "people who think it's possible to own Jesus as Savior without bowing to Him as Lord."

joel said...

Wow, 75% of Hebrews is a rebuke to the saints, instructing them to work hard and diligently cling to their hard won salvation? I would have said that at least 95% of Hebrews was about Christ, the express image of Yahweh. But then I have a tendency as seeing all of the bible as being about Christ and very little of it as being about men and there tryings.

Eric said...

I actually prefer "preservation" to "perseverance" because it seems to speak more to God's causality.

Johnny & Matt,

My minister is "preaching under the P" right now (through the entire Canons of Dort, actually), and the congregation is being not only comforted, but also convicted. Convicted of our unworthiness and need for a changed life and comforted by God's grace and faithfulness. Believe it or not, it is possible to preach both in the same sermon - in fact, I recommend it! While it does not retard my sanctification as Johnny says, it does wonders for helping me understand who actually is the causing agent of my salvation, from beginning to end. Praise be to God for His wisdom and faithfulness.

Eric said...

Matt,

Your response to every blog post seems to be essentially the same. Do you actually ever care to engage the content of the post?

DJP said...

Welcome to our world.

Tom Chantry said...

Hey Eric,

I appreciate what you are saying. For years I always said "preservation of the saints" rather than "perseverance of the saints" - and for exactly the reason you say.

Of late, though, I'm wondering if there wasn't extraordinarily good reason why the original "P" was adopted. It seems to me to relate very closely to this post, in that Phil is at pains to point out that the doctrine is not one of guaranteed "fire insurance" based on one moment of "faith." Rather, the doctrine is that saints - by their (redeemed) nature - always persevere. They press on, because that is what they are recreated to do.

Were we to use "preservation" - and I agree with you that we have some good reason to do so - then "preservation of the redeemed" or "preservation of the elect" would work. But the language "perseverance of the saints" reminds us that the redeemed persevere as saints - that is, as the holy ones of God.

Which really gets us into the heart of the doctrine. Saints must persevere - because of the opposition from within and without. The world, the flesh, and the devil all urge them to give in, but those who are saints by the grace of God must persevere.

This is why the accusation of antinomian libertinism really doesn't fit robust Calvinism. The accusation which our friends are throwing around today sticks better to those who deny the transforming power of the gospel, teaching "eternal security" because - as they imagine it - once you say you believe God has little choice but to let you into heaven.

That is not and has never been the teaching of "the P." Perseverance says that there will be a struggle, but you must and can and will persevere through it. Without this doctrine, we would be left to fight sin from the standpoint of fear - terror that we might lose the salvation Christ purchased so dearly. With it, we fight with confidence, knowing that He who is in us is stronger than he who is in the world.

And of course you are right, it is all a matter of "God's causality." His preservation underpins our perseverance.

donsands said...

"..the warnings are there and we must heed them." Johnny

Who here doesn't do that?

Excellent post.

What a truth of God's love. I like how you said: "My own security not does not rest in my devotion to Christ, but in His devotion to me."

JC Ryle's book: Holiness, has a chapter on Assurance that is very encouraging as well on this truth.

Have a blessed weekend in our Savior's hand, and the Father's hand, and a worshipful Lords Day.

zostay said...

I'm glad someone brought up Hebrews. You must especially appreciate Hebrews 10:19-25. I hope you aren't saying that the author of Hebrews doesn't mean "full assurance" when he says that?

I have full assurance that my Savior saves. I cling to Him and the ransom he paid for my sin not because I am faithful but because He is.

This is one of the best Pyro posts ever. Thank you, Phil.

Seth said...

Great post Phil! Again, I'm reminded that God holds my hand, I don't hold his hand. Had I been holding his hand, I would have let go a long time ago.

Eric said...

Tom,

Very good thoughts. Thanks for the feedback. I think sometimes the tendency for myself is to think I need to use words that don't give even a hint that I may be able to persevere (or do anything right) of my own power. I think that tendency is an over-reaction, and you have nicely explained why the words that were chosen are actually better. Again, thank you for your explanation.

Stefan said...

I never really began to "understand" sanctification and perseverance, until I was going through a crisis this spring, and God's words through Isaiah jumped out at me:

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you." (Is. 43:1a-2).

Although His words were to a nation redeemed under the Mosaic covenant, God here is addressing His remnant people here, with reference to the future.

God preserves His redeemed through covenant love. He does this in many ways, including chastising us and purifying us, disciplining us and refining us. He remains faithful to us, according to the everlasting covenant He has made with His redeemed people, by the blood of Jesus Christ.

To let simply allow His redeemed believers to fall away eternally would be a violation of His own covenant, and His own faithfulness. But it remains for us to "work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling," for there is no such promise for those who are not truly His redeemed.

Dwain and Amanda said...

Great post and great thoughts.

Perseverance of the Saints is a much better way to express this thought, oh and funny enough it is the old way too.

Thank you for posting

Mike Riccardi said...

Is it really that hard to understand that the warnings are given to a group of professed Christians, some of whom are undoubtedly saved, while others are simply tares among the wheat? And that if there were some who "went out from us" it was because "they were not really of us"?

Next.

Robert Warren said...

Johnny, Matt:

So instead of "And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you...'", it's really "I knew you once, but you had to go and mess it all up"?

NoLongerBlind said...

Yeah, Robert, or, how about, instead of "And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ", what it really says is "I certainly hope that you can try really hard and make it 'til the end".

Johnny Dialectic said...

Robert, telling false prophets that they are not saved seems a rather obvious point, but irrelevant to this discussion.

NLB, just like God would bring all Israel to the Promised Land....except those who rebelled, of course.

mike said...

As Phil points out, it's a power thing. No power exists that can overcome God's power to keep the sheep given to the Son by the Father (John 10: 28,29).

j.s.kern said...

...remember guys, the Scriptures are written for the Elect in every imaginable stage of enlightenment. So, what is a warning for some is an encouragement to others. All the rest (the "off the path, on rocky, thin, or weedy soil"-types), see nothing but an on-again, off-again jumble of old aphorisms...

...a bit like your post(s), eh, Phil?

Peter said...

Johnny, you can't cite Hebrews 1-3 as an argument against perseverance, it's precisely an argument for perseverance of the saints.

3v6: "but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope."



We are his if and only if we hold fast to the end. Meaning those who "fall away" were never saved.

And again in 3v14: "For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end."

We only share in Christ if we persevere. Hence perseverance is a clear Biblical teaching straight from Hebrews.

The warnings that accompany those verses are quite clearly warnings to those who think they are saved but really aren't, as described in the original post.

Robert Warren said...

but irrelevant to this discussion

Johnny:

I suppose that you won't agree with me that Jesus knowing us is tantamount to our preservation. I think it is perfectly relevant to the post.

Gov98 said...

Perseverance of the Saints, is among those which to me, is just true. The problem as Phil pointed out so ably, is that the real question is who is a genuine Saint.

A profession of faith does not save, instead genuine saving faith does, the former much more common than the latter.

I've made a point in the past about not being a "Calvinist," perseverance of the saints is an abused doctrine by the world, to make religious people believe they are saved "I did that once;" however, in context, especially I John 2:19, perseverance of the saints is True. It's just a matter of genuine saving faith revealing itself (or not) under trial and temptation.

donsands said...

"..they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us"

God sometimes does reveal the hidden things. And that's a blessing all around, because there will be those who are false disciples who don't go out, and they will be revealed on that Day.
That is scary.

So how can we have assurance? It's such a graciousness of our Lord to grant us assurance; blessed assurance, and a foretaste of glory divine.

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

I truly do not understand how anyone cannot believe in the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. When God promises something, such as to preserve His saints, we are sealed unto the day of redemption.

Who could trust a God who would go back on His promises? To me this is nothing but rank unbelief.

Maybe this is too simplistic for some, but to me it is so clear-cut. God is always faithful to His Word. Isn’t a big part of faith a matter of trusting God to keep His promises?

InTheImageOfDNA said...

Teacher: All Scotsmen enjoy haggis.

Student: My uncle is a Scotsman, and he doesn't like haggis!

Teacher: Well, all true Scotsmen like haggis.

*************

Fundamentalist: A Christian is always and forever a Christian.

Reality: Dan Barker, John Loftus, etc are prominent examples of former Christians who are now atheists.

Fundamentalist: Well, they weren't true Christians.

Johnny Dialectic said...

The warnings that accompany those verses are quite clearly warnings to those who think they are saved but really aren't

Peter, that doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Just plucking an example at random:

Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus (3:1)

To whom is this addressed, the saved or the not-really-saved? That's right, the saved. And so, a few verses on:

See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. (3:12)

To whom does "brothers" refer?

And then later:

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. (10:26-27)

To whom does "we" refer?

See: You can't get out of this conundrum by claiming this letter is to those who "really aren't" saved. Nor does it yo-yo back and forth from those who "share in the heavenly calling" to those who only think they do. Nothing in the text supports that. We have to let the Bible speak, even if it interferes with our "system." Especially when it does.

donsands said...

"Nor does it yo-yo back and forth from those who "share in the heavenly calling" to those who only think they do." JD

It surely is addressed to the elect, someone like Peter, or Andrew. And also Judas Iscariot, wouldn't it?

Robert Warren said...

Reality: Dan Barker, John Loftus, etc are prominent examples of former Christians who are now atheists.

If Dan Barker was ever a Christian, I'm a Whirling Dervish. Have you ever heard this man discuss his understanding of Christianity in a debate or speech?

Declaring you are something doesn't make it so. (Which is another implication of Phil's post.)

Gov98 said...

Uh Showing that he doesn't understand the "No True Scotsman" fallacy:

Teacher: All Scotsmen enjoy haggis.

Student: My uncle is a Scotsman, and he doesn't like haggis!

Teacher: Well, all true Scotsmen like haggis.

*************

Fundamentalist: A Christian is always and forever a Christian.

Reality: Dan Barker, John Loftus, etc are prominent examples of former Christians who are now atheists.

Fundamentalist: Well, they weren't true Christians.


Teacher: All Scotsmen are either born in Scotland or of Scottish descent.

Student: Well, I'm Scottish even though I was born in Queens and my family is all German.

Teacher: Then you're just plain wrong.

*********

Hopefully that clears it up for you. By definition Genuine Saving Faith Endures...it is one of the surest tests of genuine saving faith. It's not a logical fallacy along the lines of "No True Scotsmen," it's part of the definitional requirement.

Strong Tower said...

It surely is addressed to the elect, someone like Peter, or Andrew. And also Judas Iscariot, wouldn't it?

Yes, it is addressed to both elect and non-elect alike. It could not be any other way. Jesus said: "Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil." Jesus addressed all the same, both elect, and non, both those chosen from before the foundations of the world for eternal life, and those like Judas about who it was written that he could not be anyone other than the betrayer.

We cannot but note that the apostles then taught that false believers would rise up from within the ranks of believers. It doesn't mean they are sheep, though they look like sheep, enjoy the benefits of the working the Holy Spirit among his people, eating at the Table, but condemning themselves as the do. And reflecting on the wheat and tears, that is just the way that it is. Just as it was from the beginning.

Those who would like to see those saved out of Egypt as a type of believers who can then fall away naturally must negate the fact that those who were lost were those destined for destruction who didn't have faith so that it might be written down for our instruction. Just as it was written down that one would betray Christ, it could not have been any other way. What they who think God doesn't know how to save men perfectly don't get is what the gift of faith is. More, they don't get what faith is. It is not the ability to not believe. How foolish would that be to give the gift of faith if it were equally unbelief? We surely wouldn't call it faith. Maybe head-cheese, but not faith. Do they really think that God has given his children serpent fill bread? When these deniers of the gift of God in Christ look at the babe, they can only be thinking, "Eh, he's just another choice to make, what's new?" They surely cannot think that he is the One born in Bethlehem, sent to save his people. What kind of Christmas it must be holding a gift and not openning it out of fear that God might have given them death and not life. Do they say to themselves, "My master is a harsh task master, reaping where he has not sown?" How different than the faithful who praise God because they are the planting of the Lord. What God has not sown, he gathers to be burned. Yet, these deniers would say that God, and not the enemy, has crept in unawares and sown the tares. Such blasphemy falls easily from their minds, almost in the same way that Judas could eat the Passover and not worry about choking on it.

InTheImageOfDNA said...

Gov98,

This type of reasoning about "true Christian" or "true faith" is always applied retroactively and allows you to always accommodate disconfirming information.

Dan Barker would have been considered a Christian when he was in the pulpit by you and anyone else and himself. But now that he's an atheist (or doesn't like Haggis to parallel the example) you modify that judgment to preserve this goofy ideal of the "true Christian".

DJP said...

So how does the Bible define a Christian, IOD? Please be thorough, and please do your own work, rather than copy and paste what someone else has said.

Tim Brown said...

Dan or Phil:

In John 10, Jesus said (my paraphrase) "...they shall never perish, neither shall anyone pluck them out of My hand."

If memory serves, "Perish" is middle voice. And if this be so, wouldn't be correctly rendered "destroy themselves"?

Double "security" if you will. The true believer will not be taken from the Lord's hand but also will not lead themselves to ultimate destruction....?

Just a question. Let me know!

Gov98 said...

This type of reasoning about "true Christian" or "true faith" is always applied retroactively and allows you to always accommodate disconfirming information.

Dan Barker would have been considered a Christian when he was in the pulpit by you and anyone else and himself. But now that he's an atheist (or doesn't like Haggis to parallel the example) you modify that judgment to preserve this goofy ideal of the "true Christian".


Right, because if you told me you were scottish because you were born in Scotland I would believe you because I don't really have any reason to disbelieve you. On the other hand, if you told me you were Scottish because you were born in Scotland and your mom said you were born in Queens and I pulled the public document attesting to your birth in the State of New York I'd think you were delusional or worse.

The principle of which you speak is basic common decency, if someone claims to be a Christian, I don't examine them, because...they are to examine themselves to see if they be in the faith. If they engage in public sin, they are to be disciplined by the church, but I don't have some magic genuine saving faith decoder ring, (other than reading the book of James and I John), for such things like genuine love of the church, a love for God and his Word, and patient endurance in faith. Then if those things are not present, yes I get skeptical especially if someone disclaims their presence.

Genuine Saving Faith is revealed by one's actions, like claiming to be an atheist and leaving the church would be pretty strong indications they were never genuinely saved to begin with. I John 2:19.

Douglas Kofi Adu-Boahen said...

Johnny Dialectic:

Just so we're clearly defining terms, what does the term "perseverance of the saints" mean in your thinking?

As someone who spent the majority of my early years as a believer holding to a similar position to yourself, I'd really like to get into it with you but I believe it is helpful for us to define our terms.

Douglas Kofi Adu-Boahen said...

Oh and great post, sir! :-)

InTheImageOfDNA said...

Gov98,

Your analogy doesn't fit.

It is more akin to Barker being granted official Scottish citizenship when he became a Christian and now that he has renounced his citizenship you are going back and trying to whitewash history by saying that he was never really a citizen when there is verifiable evidence to the contrary.

joel said...

Once again IOD offers only contradiction and now argument. What specific evidence was there that Barker was ever a true believer? Give and example please.

InTheImageOfDNA said...

Joel,

Using that standard of evidence (that ignores years of first, second, and third hand accounts of behavior and belief) then it cannot be claimed by anyone, ever, at any time that anyone is a "true Christian." That is, until you get into Heaven and are high-fiving around the celestial water-cooler. Now if you want to use this standard of evidence that is perfectly fine with me; however it renders any talk or speculation on earth about what constitutes a "true Christian" incoherent drivel.

So which is it? Either the ridiculously high standard of evidence or the talk about "true Christians" has to go.

Gov98 said...

It is more akin to Barker being granted official Scottish citizenship when he became a Christian and now that he has renounced his citizenship you are going back and trying to whitewash history by saying that he was never really a citizen when there is verifiable evidence to the contrary.

Um okay you find me the passage in the Bible that says once someone makes any claim to be a Christian they are a True Christian, then you are right.

On the other hand if you actually see in Scripture that many will say "Lord, Lord did we not prophesy, cast out demons, do wondrous miracles," and Christ will respond "Depart from me ye evildoers for I never knew you," then maybe you should consider (possibly) that I am right.

I do not think any local church can grant any person genuine saving faith, it does not happen, instead God grants genuine saving faith. There is no doubt in Heaven as to who is genuinely saved and who is not, there is only uncertainty here on Earth.

A person who departs from the faith was never genuinely saved to begin with, it was something else. If I buy a tree from home depot and it says "Apple" I am going to believe it's an Apple Tree for a long time, but if the tree bears Figs, I'm going to realize that I (and Home Depot) were wrong. (Home Depot being for this example the local church). I'm not going to tell the tree "You had an apple tag on you once" and expect that to change a thing. Why? Because I'm not idiot.

Gov98 said...

Would it help, if you saw that Christ himself said that endurance is a fundamental test of genuine faith?

“You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved."

Matthew 10:22

DJP said...

Image of DNA — your next published comment that will not be deleted will be the answer to my question. Here it is a second time:

So how does the Bible define a Christian, IOD? Please be thorough, and please do your own work, rather than copy and paste what someone else has said.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Douglas, there is no such phrase as "perseverance of the saints" in the Bible. "Perseverance" is there, of course, and we find, e.g.

Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Tim. 4:16)

YOU need to persevere... (Heb. 10:36)

IOW, it's something we are commanded to do.

I don't see any basis for bootstrapping in the eternal security doctrine into those basic commands. (I.e., God will make sure the elect persevere, etc.)

Johnny Dialectic said...

Donsands, no, I don't think the Book of Hebrews is addressed to Judas Iscariot or the "non-elect." It is very clearly addressed to believers only.

donsands said...

JD

So, when Jesus addressed His disciples, which included Judas, He wasn't really speaking to Judas?

InTheImageOfDNA said...

DJP,

The reason I hadn’t responded to you before is demonstrated by that juvenile ultimatum you just gave.

But anyway, to answer: What is a Christian?

John 3:16 “whoever believeth” is a good place to start. Acceptance of “Christ’s gift” such as referred to in Titus 3:5 is another. John 3:3-8, Ephesians 2:5-8, etc ad nauseum. I would say that sincere acceptance of those things -- “personal relationship with Jesus” --and all that jazz together with behavior consistent with the beliefs makes for a “Christian”. During the time these conditions are met, one is indeed a "Christian".

But that is only one way that it is defined-- usually by conservative Protestants. Christians define who is and what constitutes a Christian. That’s the thing DJP, the “Bible” can be used to give the above definition of Christian as much as it can for most others—it all depends on your hermeneutical framework. Of course, you’ve collapsed your own hermeneutics into what constitutes “biblical” for you so as to think there is some sort of objectivity to it, but that’s my point.

There was quite the interesting study recently that showed that “god” has opinions that mirror that of the individual believer—and god even changed his mind when the subjects changed their minds! It is not a large step to see that the same goes for defining “Christian”. Source: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2009/12/01/0908374106.abstract

Given this, why should I care about you, or anyone else committing the No True Scotsman fallacy in this arena? It is to point out the utter inconsistency, ad hoc nature, and self-serving aspects of the entire enterprise of defining "true believers".

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Strong Tower said...

So, someone who claims to be a believer, yet denies the atonement, vis a vis, the perfection of the blood of Christ, Hebrews 10, can just kiss Hebrews off, because it wasn't addressed to them? Does it make much sense that Hebrews 7 tells us that Christ makes our salvation perfect through his intercession and not our own if as some say we can do something to lose it? What good is the blood of his intercession if it requires a sacrifice by us?

I guess if anyone wants to so narrowly define the audience, then any portion of the Scripture can be used to negate the general application evident in it. In that case, since all the OT/NT is primarily addressed to believers, that is they are given for rebuke, reproof, training in righteousness, our admonition, and not to outsiders, we should say there is no benefit to them? Then too, if we are too exclude audiences other than the primary one, then when Paul addresses Timothy, we are to say that the Scripture is only able to make him wise for salvation, but no one else? And, if that is not generally applicable to believers, it surely is not applicable to non-believers. Or, is it the case that the Word is binding on all believers and non-believers alike, as Jesus said about his words being the Judge in the last day?

Such that it is, Hebrews instructs both to repent and believe. I still am amazed that so called Christians would believe that the blood of Christ is a common thing that cannot save perfectly and still claim a right to it. And I have to ask along with the writer to the Hebrews, with what will they be sanctified seeing that they have rejected so great a salvation?

Douglas Kofi Adu-Boahen said...

Johnny Dialectic:

So in other words, just so I do not misunderstand you, it's all on us to persevere? I'm just trying to get a handle on your position...

Gov98 said...

But that is only one way that it is defined-- usually by conservative Protestants. Christians define who is and what constitutes a Christian. That’s the thing DJP, the “Bible” can be used to give the above definition of Christian as much as it can for most others—it all depends on your hermeneutical framework. Of course, you’ve collapsed your own hermeneutics into what constitutes “biblical” for you so as to think there is some sort of objectivity to it, but that’s my point.

I get that postmodern and its anything can fit with any hermeneutical framework sounds cool and all, but we know, WE Know...that it just sounds cool, but its Not true. The problem is, that speaking of logical fallacies like No True Scotsman necessarily accepts as true, a genuine meaning of words and language, if we didn't you could NOT accuse anyone of committing any logical fallacy because there would be no basis of which to accuse, you don't know if the words that I use just happen to mean exactly what I say they mean.

BUT the Bible already addresses this point, in 2 Corinthians 4 "the truth commends itself to every person's conscience." When you say "Christians define what Christians are." You state something that is an impossibility, because only something greater can define the lesser, a group of people who claim to be Christians do not make them so, nor do they make anyone else so because the Universalist Church (or any other Catholic etc.) proclaims it so. Either the Bible defines it or it doesn't. IF Christ claims that believers are those that endure, then it should be clear that true believes are those who endure. But if I call myself the President of the United States, I don't make it happen unless the People make it happen (or more accurately the Electoral College), nor does it matter if a group of people calling themselves the Presidents of the United States proclaiming them as such it would make no difference, the greater defines the lesser. Christ is the one who calls people true or not, and he has told us some definitional requirements. Now maybe you would deny that Christ is greater, I understand that you would, but that is to disagree about presuppositions, not to commit a logical fallacy.

"Remember then what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent." Rev. 3:3a.

InTheImageOfDNA said...

Gov 98,

How do you go from my statement that hermeneutics are a wildly divergent and subjective arena (as is evidenced by the myriad of Christian denominations and sects) to saying I endorse full blown epistemic relativism?

Gov98 said...

How do you go from my statement that hermeneutics are a wildly divergent and subjective arena (as is evidenced by the myriad of Christian denominations and sects) to saying I endorse full blown epistemic relativism?

Well, because I've given you at least 3 different passages and statements made by the apostles or Christ himself, that state that a Christian is "one who remains to the end," OR "they went out from us because they were not of us, for if they were of us they would not have gone out."

The response that I hear is that well it all just depends on your hermeneutic, I don't know that you're given to full blown epistemic relativism, but at least as it relates to the Bible you seem far enough along that if the Bible says "A Christian is someone who endures to the end." You tell me "These aren't the words you're looking for." I go ... Okay.

joel said...

'Using that standard of evidence (that ignores years of first, second, and third hand accounts of behavior and belief) then it cannot be claimed by anyone, ever, at any time that anyone is a "true Christian." '

I am not sure what accounts of Barkers genuineness you have seen me sluff off. But with regard to Barker's own profession of faith, I have heard it, and I would counsel anyone with a similar profession to take pains to examine why they had come to Jesus, because the reasons he gave are wholly insufficient and not representative of a genuine heart felt conversion.

'So which is it? Either the ridiculously high standard of evidence or the talk about "true Christians" has to go.'

If you want to get down to the brass tax of standards by which we should examine ourselves then I don't think they need be ridiculously high at all.

IOD, would you consider yourself to be a former Christian, if so, why did you come to Jesus in the first place? If your conversion experience was anything like mine then I can tell you exactly why your were set up to leave the faith.

Halcyon said...

Why are we still baiting the atheist troll who doesn't know how the
"No True Scotsman" fallacy works nor how epistemological relativism works?

Give it up, people. The man is unteachable quicksand. Get out while you still can.

Phil said...

What would you make of this statement?;

"We persevere in faith and its fruits because we have new hearts that are in union with Christ and preserved by God for us. But we are eternally secure on the basis we were justified - which is not on the basis of a new heart, works,fruits, or foresight of them - including faith. God justifies the *un*godly with a righteousness wholly outside of them, brought to them upon faith."