Archive for July 2009

What the Bible actually says about apostasy: Hebrews 11

July 15, 2009

by Jay Guin

Now that we have a foundation in the thought of Hebrews, we can consider the Roll Call of the Faithful in Hebrews 11.

(Heb 11:1-2) Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.

The point of this definition of faith is that faith — to be truly faith — must lead to certainty in God’s promises.

(Heb 11:17-19) By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 19 Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.

The point isn’t that Abraham obeyed each and every one of God’s commands. He didn’t. The point is that Abraham’s faith was so strong that he believed God would keep his word even if it required a miracle. Abraham was “certain of what [he did] not see.” His faith was true faith. (more…)

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What the Bible actually says about apostasy: Hebrews, Penitence, and Rebellion

July 15, 2009

by Jay Guin

We’ve made some pretty audacious claims about the meaning of 1 John. A good way to test them is to see whether an independent source supports the same conclusions, and so we’ll briefly review the theology of Hebrews. Does that author agree with our conclusions regarding 1 John?

The saved and the lost

Just as John does in 1 John, the Hebrews writer places those who’ve been saved in two camps — those still saved and the fallen away. (more…)

What the Bible actually says about apostasy: 1 John and Walking in the Light, Chapters 3 – 5

July 15, 2009

by Jay Guin

Love and righteousness

Beginning with chapter 3, John makes the same points again, but often with greater explanation or emphasis.

(1 John 3:10-11) This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right [does righteousness/justice] is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. 11 This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.

“Do what is right” is really “do righteousness.” Thus, John here connects loving one another with doing righteousness. They aren’t really two different commands or two different tests. Rather, ”do righteousness” explains the content of Christian love.

(1 John 3:16-18) This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

John reinforces the point: love leads to righteousness because love requires action to help those in need. (more…)

What the Bible actually says about apostasy: 1 John and Walking in the Light, Chapters 1 – 2

July 15, 2009

by Jay Guin

The theme of 1 John is repeatedly stated in the book. John writes to tell his readers how to tell whether they are saved — and he writes with confidence that they are. Over and over, John draws a line — if you’re on this side of the line, you’re saved; if you’re on the other side, you’re not. It’s a simply written book filled with profundity.

Trying to discern the conservative position

Mac frequently refers to 1 John 1:7,

Can a man maintain faithfulness to God while imperfectly walking in the light? If he is in the light, he is in the light. I do not quibble over human weakness. We all have already admitted such. Can a man perfectly believe? Can he perfectly repent? Can he perfectly make the good confession? Can he perfectly or absolutely correctly be baptized? Can he perfectly or correctly walk in truth?

At times, we seem to be in agreement with Mac on this. Of course, all Christians are imperfect and sin. Of course, they can still be in the light despite their imperfection and sin. The hard question is: when does sin become so severe that the Christian leaves the light and passes into darkness? When does sin cause a Christian to fall from grace?

As we read over Greg’s, Phil’s, and Mac’s posts, we find ourselves unable to discern just what their position really is. They say that all sin and all error damn until repented of. And penitence requires that the Christian no longer engage in the sin. But if a Christian continues in a given sin, he has not repented of it — or else he would have stopped that sin, right? Which means the Christian must be perfect to be saved! (more…)

What the Bible actually says about apostasy: Introduction

July 15, 2009

by Jay Guin

If you think about it, it’s astonishing how far apart the conservative and progressive positions are given how much we agree on. We agree —

  • That Christians must be penitent and obedient.
  • That Christians who are insufficiently penitent or obedient can lose their salvation.

The question on which we disagree is just how penitent/obedient must a Christian be to stay saved? The conservative position remains — after months of blogging — inconsistently defined, but evidently a Christian is lost just as soon as he sins — morally or doctrinally — until he repents by admitting the sinfulness of that conduct and no longer being guilty of that conduct (subject to whatever degree of patience God extends to that Christian).

However, it also appears that a Christian remains saved, by grace, so long as he is walking in the light — which allows for some error due to moral or doctrinal weakness, which error hasn’t been defined for us.

Rather that battling back and forth over proof texts, we thought it would be more helpful to trace how this very question is answered by three different authors —John, the author of Hebrews, and Paul. You see, the question of apostasy is a major theme in the New Testament, and so we are able to cite entire epistles in support of our understanding. (more…)

The Incoherence of the Conservative Position, Part 2

July 13, 2009

by Jay Guin

It’s time to take a position

At the beginning of our dialogue, Greg and Phil agreed to begin by stating their position on apostasy and then defending it. Months later, we don’t have even a statement of a position — other than the one we wrote, that Greg and Phil agreed to (with one exception noted by Phil), and that Mac immediately contradicted in several ways. It’s unfair to ask us to accept a position that changes every few paragraphs.

We understand that our questions may have led Mac and Phil to rethink their views. If so, that’s fine. We just wish they’d let us know what their position is now.

  • As we agreed at the very beginning, please state your position on apostasy succinctly and in terms that you can consistently argue from. If Mac and Phil have different positions, please note the differences or, if necessary, provide separate statements.

Incoherence of the conservative position

Mac’s position dramatically shifts throughout his post. If the conservative view of apostasy were true, we’d think that after over a century of advocacy, it would be simple to state the position and defend it as stated. And yet, our conservative friends can’t do it.

As Todd demonstrated to great effect in his book Facing Our Failure, the conservative thought leaders have never stated a position that is consistent with their other teaching. That is, as quickly as a conservative states a doctrine of apostasy, he contradicts it — just as Mac has done here. And this fact amply shows the incoherence of the conservative points of view. (more…)

The Incoherence of the Conservative Position, Part 1

July 13, 2009

by Jay Guin and Todd Deaver

It appears to us that the position of our conservative friends is logically incoherent — so much so that it can’t even be plainly stated.

By referring to the conservative position as “incoherent,” we mean that it doesn’t cohere — it doesn’t hold together. Rather, the conservative advocates find themselves constantly changing their position on a purely ad hoc basis. Nor can they agree among themselves.

We began this conversation months ago asking the conservative side to succinctly state their position. After numerous posts, we were obliged to attempt to do that for them, which we did in the “Where We Stand” post. (more…)