Phil’s and Greg’s Position on Apostasy

by Todd Deaver

In his post, “Talking Past Each Other,” Greg quotes Jay’s statement clarifying what he understands Greg’s words “in danger of divine judgment” (see “The Lord Will Judge His People“) to mean. Jay says, in part,

We take the phrase to mean that God is patient with his children. Error does not necessarily immediately damn, but for certain errors (not all errors), God will at some point lose patience and damn.

Greg was unwilling to accept this interpretation without making this important change:

One emendation, however, is in order. It is my conviction that no error fits into the category of perpetual indulgence. Error is to be opposed, not accepted. (emphasis added)

Since the context was the question of which errors lead to apostasy, I take Greg to mean here that no error can be perpetually believed without endangering the believer’s salvation. In other words, although God will patiently bear with one’s doctrinal error(s) for a time, he will–after the disciple has had sufficient time to grow and learn better–eventually withdraw his grace no matter what the error happens to be.

If I understand him correctly, this is also the position Phil takes in his latest post (“Proposition One Response from Phil“). For instance, he says,

Doctrinal error can lead to eternal damnation, and yes I believe this can be any doctrinal error. It is so because error is equated in God’s eyes with sin. Any sin can lead to eternal damnation. Doctrinal sin is not less evil than moral sin. Doctrinal error has led a multitude of souls astray from God.

Phil later adds two caveats: First, “Repentance is always a qualifier. Those who repent of moral sin can find forgiveness, and those who repent of doctrinal error can also find forgiveness. Time plays a part in this.”

Second, he discusses the qualifier of maturity: “I do believe in patience with people, giving them time to grow and learn. Peter notes that we should regard the patience of the Lord as salvation (2 Pet. 3:15).” But he adds, “Patience, however, is granted so that people will come to repentance and not perish (3:9).” Similarly, he says, “Grace teaches correction (Titus 2:11-14); one may not continue in moral or doctrinal error.” “There comes a point when God’s patience has an ending; and there comes a point when we must discipline the person caught up in error.” And given his earlier statements, this would have to include any error.

I’m confident that Phil and Greg have stated exactly what they believe, and it is this: any error in ethics or doctrine will, if persisted in and not corrected, lead ultimately to the loss of one’s salvation (barring the possibility that he dies before God’s patience with him reaches its end).

This answers the question Jay and I posed: What is the rationale or guiding principle behind Greg’s and Phil’s convictions concerning why certain doctrinal errors (or alleged errors) are salvation issues? For example, why do they regard instrumental music in worship as a salvation issue? Answer: Because they believe instrumental music in worship is an error (i.e., opposed to biblical teaching), and (here’s the guiding principle) every error is ultimately a salvation issue.

This answer is at the heart of our disagreement about grace.

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12 Comments on “Phil’s and Greg’s Position on Apostasy”


  1. […] GraceConversation.com GraceConversation.com « Phil’s and Greg’s Position on Apostasy […]

  2. thumper Says:

    “…every error is ultimately a salvation issue”

    Which is, of course, why it was necessary to divide over church kitchens, Sunday school classes, sponsoring a congregational softball team, whether to take the tops off the communion trays before or after the prayer, etc.

    After all, in every dispute, someone is in error.

  3. Alan Says:

    What a frightening thing to believe! Those who believe that must live in mortal fear of being wrong about even the most trivial point. No wonder they are defensive when challenged about one of their beliefs.

    What a terrifying picture that paints of God! Jesus, as the exact representation of God, painted a much different picture of our heavenly Father.

  4. Royce Says:

    I ask then, Greg and Phil, are you saying by what you teach that you are right on every doctrine, keep all the teachings of Jesus and the apostles perfectly, and you two are right about everything bible and everyone who disagrees with anything you believe is “in error”?

    If this is your position then say so. If not, what on earth do you believe and where do you find it in the Bible?

    Royce


  5. Todd, if you are correct (and I wait to see how Greg and Phil respond), this is nothing but doctrinal perfectionism since any doctrinal error (whether ignorantly believed or not) in which find ourselves condemns. In other words, our doctrine must be perfect or we are lost. I find it difficult to believe that Greg and Phil actually believe that but you have made a case that they do. I look forward to their response.

    John Mark

  6. Ed Boggess Says:

    I am receiving a different message here; different from those who have commented thus far. It seems to me all either Phil or Greg are saying is a disciple is one who has chosen God and in choosing he has also chosen truth. On the other hand at what point he chooses error, either presumptuously or by carelessly allowing himself to be deceived, he has forsaken his discipleship and followed the devil’s lies. Forsaking God requires repentance.
    On the other hand, what of this doctrinal perfection charge? A disciple is one who truly is trying to please God. That is where his heart is, though he will be mistaken in both understanding and action. He is careful in study because he loves the Lord. In Christ he is safe and saved and he stays in Christ in spite of his mistakes because the blood cleanses him. It is the desire of the heart that makes the difference.

  7. Wayne McDaniel Says:

    ED,
    Your last two sentences express the truth of scripture as I understand it. Isa.57:15 is a beautiful expression of the Lord’s heart toward us. A contrite heart confesses the sins it is aware of, but clearly cannot confess
    anything unknown.

    Early in the history of the RM, humble hearts understood that strife was generated when anyone tried to force their conclusions from scripture upon others. Paul dealt with this in Rom.14. Today it is the same. PRIDE leads men to assert that their conclusions are God’s will, and try to coerce others to comply, using FEAR of being cut off from God.

    Paul was clear, “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by law.”-Gal.5:4
    Those who would add other requirements to trusting in Jesus are, “false brethren” to Paul, Gal.2:4.

  8. Alan Says:

    In Christ he is safe and saved and he stays in Christ in spite of his mistakes because the blood cleanses him. It is the desire of the heart that makes the difference.

    If Phil and Greg would make that statement, I think this discussion would have reached its goal. We’d have to find something else to disagree about – or we’d be faced with the prospect of Christian unity. 😉

  9. Royce Says:

    In some sense you have to understand the basis of Christian unity before you can have it. Biblical unity is not based on IM, it is based on our common faith in HIM.

    Royce

  10. Larry Siegle Says:

    The present conditions within churches of Christ, is, unfortunately one of our own making. There has been so much preaching and teaching, “marking” and “barking” about various congregations, preachers, schools being “liberal” or “anti” or “digressive” or “legalistic” etc in the local congregation that most members do know what exactly who belongs to what group (without a “sound” brother providing a score card).

    There is such an “apostasy-consciousness” in the church that the end result has been deeper and deeper divisions over weaker and weaker “issues.” We know the Scriptures teach it is POSSIBLE to drift into error–but is it something we must worry about to the extent that it becomes the focus of our attention (all the time)?

    A paradigm shift in the direction of “righteousness-consciousness” and in the preaching of our spiritual identity “in Christ” and what it means to have experienced an encounter with God and his grace is a viable solution.

    This does imply that one ignores error, or false teachings (these are dealt with as they arise, by elders who lovingly restore the erring one, while believers surround such a person with their support, understand that time is already required to grow and mature). It is unnecessary for every matter to be elevated to the alert-level status of a “brotherhood” issue.

    Years of “preaching against” everything has caused many to reap the consequences of forgetting exactly what we “stand for” as Christians. Grace does not require brothers and sisters to agree on every point with each other, but rather to love and respect one another and to understand that various “issues” can and must be addressed in a calm fashion. It is easier to write one “up” and then write them “off” without ever having had an actual conversation with them as to why they believe what they believe about certain matters.

    Chuck Swindoll once observed: “Old Pharisees never die, we only wish they would.” Legalism and Liberalism are not unique to our time. Believers need to catch a vision of the “surpassing riches of His grace” (Eph. 2:7) and to stop “whittling on God’s end of the stick” at it pertains to sinless, doctrinal perfection.

    Christ is the “Head” of the church, allow HIM to be who He is. Christ is the only one authorized to “remove” the lampstand from a congregation and He is able to do so without ever once contacting the editorial board of “Contending for the Faith” prior to doing so. In the first century “apostasy” was associated more with “legalism” than ever with “liberalism.” The Jewish believers seeking to impost the Law were being “severed from grace” because of their own theological stance.

    “Apostasy” and “False Doctrine” as the focus of attention are those things which consume the time that would be better spent ministering to those who need a relationship with Jesus Christ. How many people get into the vehicles on Sunday morning wondering, “I wonder what we are going to preach against today?”

    Those who focus on “doing the will of God” have little time to worry about personal or congregational apostasy because there are “bigger fish to fry.” Being like Christ and growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord that looks beyond the physical distractions common to congregational politics is a realistic solution.

    Sorry for rambling. I appreciate the desire to discuss these things. Just having brethren communicate with each over is a new and novel concept!

  11. Wayne McDaniel Says:

    Larry,
    You have written with kindness and grace
    and the tenor of your words reflects Jesus’ love for us. I will be delighted to read whatever else you want to share
    on this blog.

    “Sweetly Lord, have we Thee calling, come follow me…”

  12. Glenn Dowling Says:

    It took years before I realized that at the heart of the Church of Christ “doctrine” is non belief in original sin. Seems they believe we are born neutral and in time decides on Christianity and later may decide against it. It is God who saves – not us, not our doing all the right things, worshipping correctly (no music),keeping the top on the communion tray before the prayer etc. whew!

    “For it is by grace you have been saved,through faith – and that is NOT from yourselves – it is a gift from God – not by works lest any man boasts.” Ephesians 2:8-10. GOD SAVES – AND GOD GETS THE GLORY. CoC are slicing and dicing scripture trying to distill those thing (doctrines) that we should do or not do to be saved. A faith that saves is a faith that studies, grows, worships, serves, prays and obeys. Yet all this does NOT save it is evidence that one is.


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