Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Once Saved, Always Saved

Today, Candy takes on the question of whether or not one can lose their salvation. She puts forth her position as thus:

There have been many people who claim that they used to be Christians, but have left the faith. I posit the likelihood that most of those people were never truly saved - that they never tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost. I think most of them played church, or played holy person for a while, but then they gave it up when it didn't work. That is not salvation, and praise God for that.

Candy says that her position is unusual, but it is the most common that I have heard. I really haven't run across many people who feel that you are always saved, no matter what you do, even if you reject the faith. I hear "then they must have never really been saved" a lot, especially relating to people who have converted to Catholicism.

In Candy's normal, sensitive way, she says that people who have forsaken the sake must be idiots. She gives the impression that people who have lost their faith are shallow and only "played church." I'm not sure how people who were so convinced of their faith as to become ministers could only be playing at church, but that is her belief.

I can't help but feel sorrow for people who had a deep faith, but lost it because of a tragedy in their lives, or persecution, or temptation to despair. Consider those who lost their families in a natural disaster such as the tsunami a few years back. When your children are literally ripped from your hands, who could help but to have at least some doubts about God.

We also discussed in the comments section just a week or so ago, the Donatists who were dealing with Christians who had renounced the faith under the Roman persecution. While Candy would say that someone who renounced the faith rather than be martyred was likely never saved in the first place, the Donatists felt that these people had lost the grace of God. Truly, the problem of what it means when someone rejects the faith is one which has always been around.

Personally, while I hope and pray that in a time of sorrow or persecution I would cling to God instead of reject him, I feel nothing but sorrow for those who have not been able to keep the faith. I can't imagine how horrible it must be to have been a joyful member of a OSAS congregation, and then have all of your friends and former fellow Christians reject you and say that you must have only been playing at church instead of reaching out to you in your time of need.

As for the Catholic Church, we believe that salvation is an ongoing process. As Milehimama once put it:

We HAVE BEEN saved by grace:
Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began

We ARE BEING saved
1 Cor 1:18, above.
Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)- Ephesians 2:5

We WILL BE saved:
And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved - Matt 10:22

We HOPE to be saved:
For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? - Romans 8:24

One could write pages on the many verses which speak of this teaching, but I will share only a few which lead me to disagree with Candy on this subject.

Hope is one of the three theological virtues, faith, hope, and charity. We hope to be saved.

Rom 5:2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Rom 12:12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer

Gal 5:5 For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.

1 Thes 5:8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.

Furthermore, perseverance is important. If we are "once saved, always saved" then why would we need to persevere. Merely playing at faith is not truly having faith, so perseverance is not needed there, only true faith.

Heb 3:13-14 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end

1 Tim 19-20 Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.

Heb 10:36 For ye have need of endurance, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.

1 Cor 4:4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.

And one of my favorite verses in the Bible, 2 Tim 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished
the race, I have kept the faith.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Kelly said...

Subbing for comments.

Anonymous said...

Well put Kelly. I appreciate all the time and effort you and Elena put in here - I've learned a lot.

*J* said...

Great post, Kelly!

Elena said...

Good point kelly.

I just wanted to add that sometimes Candy's theology is very close to catholicism. Afterall, the catechism teaches:

1037 God predestines no one to go to hell;620 for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end.

Dr MikeyMike said...

This was a very nice post,even if apologetics are placed to the side :).

Moonshadow said...

I agree that tragedy may be overwhelming for faith, regardless of what 1 Cor. 10:13 says.

Back when I was still working, a Baptist co-worker (and dear friend, his willful ignorance notwithstanding) condemned JFK, Jr. for his lack of Christian faith. (This was prior to the pilot's untimely death; my friend would never have spoken ill of anyone posthumously).

But it didn't take much lecturing from me to generate some empathy in him for what JFK, Jr. had been through. However the boy remembered things, there was video!

Now the 2004 tsunami threw me but I've always had a weak faith anyway. And the present situation in Indonesia has eaten me up inside. But, by the grace of God, I happened to be studying Revelation a couple of years into my slump and it occurred to me that my heart was hard (Rev. 11:13) and my soul was in peril unless I repented and turned back to God.

So, Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2) but it is possible to refuse him. I just hope I never do ... for long.


Daughter of Wisdom said...

Hi Kelly,

Great post!

As for judging whether a backslidden Christian was saved initially or not, we need to understand that only God can judge the true state of a person's soul; however, persons who have apostatized from the faith are really showing their true colors. There is a difference between succumbing to temptation and outright rejection of Christ.


Daughter of Wisdom said...

The question must then be asked: Is it possible for a saved person to lose their salvation?

I think the answer to this question lies with answering the following questions. Do we still have freewill after we are saved? Or do we lose it? Is it possible for a saved person to CHOOSE to continue to follow Christ or not? Or is it impossible for such a person to reject Christ?

Anyone want to take a shot at those questions?

Erin said...


I agree that the only one who knows for sure is God, and I think that's why the assertion that "Well, if one rejects faith, then they must not have been a Christian in the first place," is so annoying. That statement presumes that the person who has rejected faith (and I have known several) was "never really saved", which is something you can never know. I should also note here that I'm also talking about an outright rejection of Christian belief, and not necessarily giving into temptation (although that's a whole 'nother can of worms, eh?).

But yes, I wouldn't presume to speculate on anyone's status with God. I don't have the pen to the Book of Life. However, it is important to think about the concept, as it applies to our lives and faith journeys.

You then asked:

"The question must then be asked: Is it possible for a saved person to lose their salvation?

I think the answer to this question lies with answering the following questions. Do we still have freewill after we are saved? Or do we lose it? Is it possible for a saved person to CHOOSE to continue to follow Christ or not? Or is it impossible for such a person to reject Christ?"

Great questions, BTW, and I agree that your secondary questions are the ones to ask. I think this came into stark relief for me when I considered a friend who was very much into reformed theology. He believed that an individual could never apostatize. I had to admit that while I don't agree with a reformed perspective, his position was at least consistent. If we are so depraved that the only way we could be saved is a matter of his choosing us, then it makes sense that God would not let the "saved" fall away. The level of involvement is the same.

If you don't subscribe to a reformed perspective, though, this means that God opens the door via prevenient grace, but we must choose to respond, and we are free to reject that grace. If we're free to reject it initially, then it doesn't quite make any sense that we'd lose the ability to reject it later. Just like a marriage where one party seeks a divorce, we *can* choose to leave. It's a conscious choice, certainly, and one that I don't think happens accidentally. But if we accept God's grace by our free will, then we can still reject it by our free will.

Where I saw the inconsistency was where we could accept God's grace by our free will, but that once we accepted it, that we didn't have the ability to reject it.

Daughter of Wisdom said...

Great observations Erin! While we still maintain free will as saved persons, God uses trials and tribulations to 'harden' our will and resolve to serve Him. Those trials help to mold our character so that our will is to follow His will at all costs! When we fall for temptation because of trials, we still have opportunity for repentance, and to pick ourselves up again and continue on in our faith journey. On the other hand, when we fall for temptation because of trials, and become discouraged and reject the faith because of the severity of trials, then we have apostatized.