Q – I am again browsing the internet and trying to disprove different beliefs. I do not believe in Catholicism; however this article is very interesting. [NOTE: The article is no longer available online.]
How would you respond?
Jim – I did not find this article particularly compelling. It is typical Arminianism; full of logical holes and selective reasoning. However, it is worth examining because it is so typical and indicative of Catholic dogma. And, it does end up proving the validity of Calvinistic thinking, owing to the glaring lack of substance when defending its own position. So, let’s run through it together. I will post the entire article, albeit in chunks, and interact as we go.
The article is called, “How Once-Saved-Always-Saved Destroys the Assurance of Salvation”. The author is Gary Hoge.
Let me say right at the outset that I do not subscribe to OSAS (Once Saved, Always Saved) the way it is commonly promoted in most contemporary churches. The idea that you simply make a profession and you are suddenly “in” is as repugnant to Scripture as it is to me. However, we can certainly have an assurance of our salvation, and confidence that the grace of God and the indwelling of Holy Spirit will take us safely and securely to our appointed eternal destiny. It is a minor but necessary distinction. Contemporary concepts of “once saved always saved” are quite different from the historic doctrinal position. So, Mr. Hoge and I agree in our dislike for modern OSAS. But, whereas Mr. Hoge attempts to use OSAS as a means to undermine the eternal security of believers, I am firmly convinced that we are secure in Christ.
Okay, let’s turn to the article.
Mr. Hoge begins – There’s no doubt about it, the Calvinist doctrine of Once-Saved-Always-Saved, with its “assurance of salvation,” is a very attractive doctrine. As Presbyterian theologian D. James Kennedy wrote, those who believe this doctrine can say, “I know that I am on my way to heaven!” Who wouldn’t want that kind of certainty? Who wouldn’t want to have an unconditional assurance of salvation?
Jim – Catholicism simply cannot allow for any sort of assurance. It undermines their whole theological structure. If Rome were ever to allow that the saints of God are genuinely secure in the finished work of Christ, there would be no further reason for the Mass – the repetitive sacrifice required for atonement, redemption and the forgiveness of sin. They would be forced to abandon the confessional, penance, purgatory, offerings for the dead, indulgences, prayers to Mary, the whole system. So, it is essential to Rome that they deny our complete redemption in Christ in order to continue acting as an arbiter between men and God.
Mr. Hoge’s language implies that eternal security is just a man-made idea whipped up in order to attract people. If that’s true, then there should be a genuine dearth of any meaningful Bible passages that declare such security. But, that’s not the case, as we’ll see in a moment.
Mr. Hoge continues – Calvinists say they have just such an assurance. According to them, the “elect,” that is, all who receive the gift of eternal life, are guaranteed to remain in the faith and go to heaven. It is impossible, say Calvinists, for anyone to forfeit his salvation.
Jim – By repeatedly using the phrases “Calvinists say,” “According to them,” and “say Calvinists,” Mr. Hoge would like his readers to conclude that this notion is theological fantasy and is only found in the pages of Calvinistic books. He is loath to admit that those same books are chock-full of Biblical passages that not only support the idea, but also state it plainly. Let’s look at a few. We’ll start with his texts of choice.
Mr. Hoge offers – The problem with this theory is that it doesn’t fit the Bible very well. True, there are a few verses that seem to support it (e.g. John 6:37-40; John 10:27-29; and Romans 8:38-39) …
Jim – Seem to support it? Seem to? Mighty pejorative language there. You will notice that Mr. Hoge listed only three passages and implied that none of them actually advance the idea of eternal security. His first choice is:
“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:37-40)
Yep. I would say that passage definitely leans toward assurance of salvation. No doubt. All that the Father gives to Christ will definitely come to Christ. Those who come are in no danger of being cast out. Christ came from Heaven to do the Father’s will. The Father’s will is that Christ would save everyone the Father gave Him and He will lose none of them. Those same people that the Father gave and the Son saved will definitely be raised to eternal life at the last day resurrection. This is God’s will; everyone who believes on Christ will have everlasting life and be raised up. Yep. I would have to say that’s pretty secure.
Mr. Hoge’s next choice is: “Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.” (John 10:25-30)
There’s nothing vague here, either. Jesus contrasted the unbelievers and the believers. The reason some do not believe is that they simply are not His sheep. On the other hand, His sheep do hear His voice and do follow Him. And, because they are His sheep and they belong to the Shepherd, He will give them eternal life, they will never perish, and no one can pluck the sheep from the Shepherd’s hand. By the way, the word “man” in that sentence is added by the translators. Jesus said, “Neither shall any pluck them out of my hand.” That’s pretty secure.
But, then Jesus went further and declared that God is greater than everyone and everything and NO (“man” is added) – NO thing, NO man, NO devil, NO situation – can pluck the sheep from God’s hand. Jesus and God are one and they together are stronger than any force that may come against the sheep. That’s awfully secure.
But, more to the point, there’s really no other way to read those words. Jesus was not attempting to convey some distant possibility. He did not want it to merely seem like we were secure. He stated these things dogmatically, openly and unabashedly.
Mr. Hoge’s third selected verse is: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:38-39)
You can see Gary Hoge’s bias showing, can’t you? How can you conclude that these three passages merely “seem” to support the idea of our eternal security in Christ? They absolutely declare it!
But, the verses that pronounce our security do not stop at those three. The concept of eternal security is fundamental to all Pauline theology. For instance, here are just a few passages to which Mr. Hoge has turned a blind eye — and hopes you will, too.
“In whom [Christ] also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” (Eph 1:11-14 )
Paul argued that not only were we predestined according to God’s own sovereign purpose, but in keeping with that purpose we were “sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.” To be sealed indicates that we are “stamped” or “marked” as belonging to the King.
And, how long will we remain in this sealed condition? “… until the redemption of the purchased possession.” In other words, we sealed, marked and kept by the Spirit of God until we are fully redeemed, seeing as how we have been purchased by the determinate will of God and the redemptive work of Christ, unto the praise of His glory.
Then, just so we understand the importance of this concept, Paul returned to it later in the same letter.
“And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” (Eph 4:30)
A blood-bought, redeemed saint who sins does not lose his salvation. He may grieve the Spirit abiding in him, but the Spirit does not leave him. Why? Because the Spirit of God has “sealed” us until the day of our full and total redemption. The book of Hebrews argues “whom the Lord loves He chastens.” (Heb. 12:6) God corrects His children when they err. But, he does not abandon them.
The Hebrews’ author also wrote:
“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb 13:5-6)
Certainly, if we could believe on Christ and then be lost, it would take more than just us forsaking Him. He would have to equally give up on us. God would have to change His mind. God would have to alter His eternal decree. God would have to start scratching names out the Lamb’s Book of Life that He had written before the foundations of the world.
But, the Bible states repeatedly that such change in God is an absolute impossibility. So, Christ will never leave us and never forsake us. We are sealed with His Spirit. We are firmly in His hand. We are firmly in the Father’s hand. It is the Father’s will that Christ lose none of those He gave to Christ. And, all that the Father gave Him will certainly come to Him.
This is very consistent language that builds a very consistent case. But, perhaps the most compelling argument for eternal security is found in Romans 8; in Paul’s argument leading up to verses 38-39. Mr. Hoge conveniently avoided this:
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” (Rom 8:28-37)
What a brilliant, compelling revelation of the heart and action of God. Whom HE foreknew, HE predestinated. Those same people HE called. Those same people HE justified. And, those same people HE glorified (past tense!). So what shall we say? God is FOR us. Who can successfully come against us? Who shall lay anything to the charge of those people? Not God. It’s God that justified them. Not Christ. Christ died to save them, and is risen again and sitting at God’s right to intercede for them. What can separate us from that great, eternal love? Nothing, nothing, nothing. Even when we die, we are more than conquerors, because we end up in the very place God destined us to be. It’s just wonderful.
Anyway, I said all that to say that this doctrine is not merely implied in Scripture. These words of Scripture do not merely “seem” to advance the idea of eternal security. This is fundamental, essential Christian doctrine.
Mr. Hoge continues – “… but there are literally dozens of other places in the Scriptures where God warns us about the very thing that Calvinists say cannot happen. And it is those passages, or rather, the Calvinist (sic) interpretation of those passages, that undermines the assurance they think they have. How does it do that? Well, in order to explain these verses, Calvinists say that the verses are not referring to “true” Christians, but to superficial believers who never really had a “saving faith,” all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding.”
Jim – It is interesting that Gary has failed to list his “literally dozens of other places” where everything above is successfully repudiated. If Gary is right, then the Bible is very confusing, if not downright schizophrenic. Apparently, it goes to great lengths to assure believers and then turns around and pulls that rug out from under them. That’s not to say that Mr. Hoge offers no proof. He does offer a very odd and confusing cadre of out-of-context verses, they simply fail to prove his position.
Mr. Hoge first offers – “Unfortunately, though, these “superficial” Christians have all the attributes of real Christians. They are said to have believed (Luke 8:13)”
Jim – Let’s take the time to check each reference Mr. Hoge cites. It will be most enlightening. First, he steers us to Luke 8:13, which reads:
“They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.” (Luke 8:13)
This is Jesus’ explanation of His parable concerning the seed and the four kinds of ground it falls on. He has already defined the seed as His Word. On hearing the Word, only one type of ground actually produces good fruit. The other kinds of ground all fail to respond appropriately. In this case, Jesus told of people who would hear the word, accept it quickly and fall away when trials come. Jesus never said that these were genuine Christians. That’s Jesus’ whole argument. Only those who take deep root and produce good fruit prove to be genuine believers.
It is interesting to note that Mr. Hoge is now arguing contrary to Jesus’ own words. He insists that these people who had no depth, no root, in the Word and who give up rather than endure trials, are actually blood-bought and saved Christians! The fact that they quickly wither away rather than persevere is Jesus’ own proof that they are not good ground. But, Mr. Hoge would have us believe that this is an example of a Christian losing their faith. Mr. Hoge and Jesus are teaching two different things.
Mr Hoge follows with – “(they are said have) been chosen by Jesus (John 6:70)”
Jim – Here’s the text:
“Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” (John 6:70)
Mr. Hoge failed to mention verse 71. It identifies whom Jesus was talking about.
“He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.” (John 6:71)
Apparently, Gary Hoge would have us believe that Judas is an example of genuine Christianity. There’s a stretch. But, Jesus declared that Judas was an outsider from the beginning, brought into the circle for the expressed purpose of betraying Jesus. This is made obvious in His high-priestly prayer:
“While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.” (John 17:12)
Jesus did not assert that Judas was a lost believer. He said that Judas was a son of sin, who performed the very deed that prophetic Scripture said he would do. It is really rather incredible that Mr. Hoge’s position is so weak that he must appeal to Judas as a model of Christianity. That’s really grasping at straws. And, once again, he and Jesus are on opposite sides of this argument.
Plus, notice the contrast in John 17:12. Jesus said that none of the people who were given to Him by the Father were lost, except the son of perdition. In other words, Jesus declared yet again the security of those He came to save.
Mr. Hoge continues – “(they are said to have) been a branch attached to the vine (John 15:2)”
Jim – Here’s the text:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” (John 15:1-2)
This passage says nothing at all about believers losing their salvation. It is a declaration of God’s work. Unfruitful branches are taken away from the true vine, and fruitful branches are pruned in order to produce more fruit.
The argument to the contrary stems (no pun) from the words “Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit he taketh away.” The assumption is that these branches which are removed were once “in Christ” in a salvific way. But, these two verses are a small part of a larger treatise by Jesus on the importance of remaining with Him. As a strictly exegetical matter, Jesus was speaking of Israel in general and the Jews in particular, in this passage, seeing as how the Church did not yet exist. Just as “He came to His own and His own received Him not,” Jesus constantly warned of the necessity that Israel remain “in Him.”
In any case, this passage has to do with separating believers and unbelievers. Jesus did not go on to say, “Any good vine that used to produce fruit but doesn’t anymore will be cut off and cast away.” That’s simply not part of Jesus’ paradigm. What He did declare was that the fruitful branches would continue under the hand of the husbandman, the vinedresser, God Himself. So, how can they fail?
Mr. Hoge – “(they are said to have) received the gospel and stood firm in it (1 Cor. 15:1)”
Jim – “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;” (1 Cor 15:1)
I am convinced that this sort of author assumes that no one will ever look up his references. Remember that these are the verses that supposedly “undermine the assurance they think they have.” How, pray tell, does 1 Corinthians 15:1 do any such thing? This is intellectual suicide. Mr. Hoge is quoting verses that have nothing to do with his argument. He needs a follow-up verse that plainly declares that the people mentioned in this verse later abandoned the faith and were eternally condemned. Of course, he has no such verse.
Moving on quickly…
Mr. Hoge – “(they are said to have) been reconciled through Christ’s body (Col. 1:22)”
Jim – “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled, in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:” (Col 1:21-22)
Ummmm…..I don’t really feel like my position is being seriously hampered, here. Once again, the question is begged: What does this have to do with lost Christians? This verse is declaring Jesus’ work of reconciliation on the cross Where in this text is there the least hint that those who were reconciled and presented holy, unblameable and unreproveable in God’s sight were somehow cast off? It simply doesn’t exist.
Mr. Hoge – “(they are said to have) been enlightened; tasted of the heavenly gift; been made partakers of the Holy Spirit (Heb. 6:5); been sanctified by the blood of the covenant (Heb. 10:29)”
Jim – I will refer you to my commentary on the book of Hebrews, available on our website.
Hebrews Chapter 1
But, I think you’re getting a feel for this. Sound exegetes have answered these passages repeatedly, but Mr. Hoge somehow thinks that they (and all these other bizarre choices!) are making a dent in the position he opposes. In brief, Hebrews 6:5 appears in the midst of an argument declaring the impossibility of a Christian losing their salvation and being recovered because that would require a second sacrifice of Christ, seeing as how the first was insufficient to accomplish full redemption. And, Hebrews 10:29 argues that if the people who rejected Moses’ law were killed, how much sorer will be the punishment of those who reject covenant of Christ? There is nothing in the verse itself that remotely hints at Christians losing their salvation.
I can only conclude that Mr. Hoge assumes no one will read their Bible and hold him accountable for his citations.
Mr. Hoge – “(they are said to have) been bought by Jesus (2 Pet. 2:1)”
Jim – “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.” (2 Peter 2:1-2)
What should be instantly obvious is that Peter is writing about false prophets and false teachers, not Christians. Peter’s epistles were written to converted Jews. He is decrying the false teachers who had led people to follow their pernicious ways, including denying the Lord or Master, God himself, who redeemed Israel out of Egypt and delivered them into the land of Palestine.
But, let’s assume that this verse actually does bolster Mr. Hoge’s view. Then, we are forced to conclude that false prophets are equal with believing Christians. Those blood-bought, believing, saved Christians are guilty of bringing in “damnable heresies” and enticing people to follow their “pernicious ways,” despite the fact that Jesus paid the price to buy them.
That’s quite a confounded theology Mr. Hoge is propounding.
And, finally Mr. Hoge reached – “(they are said to have) and escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 2:20).”
Jim – “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.” (2 Peter 2:20-22)
This passage is in the same context as the above verse, 2 Peter 2:1. This is a continuation of Peter’s diatribe against false prophets and false teachers. Nowhere in this text does Peter call them saved, Christian, or anything of the like. In fact, he concludes by calling them dogs and pigs. These are not sheep that became dogs. These are not pigs that became sheep for a while and then returned to being pigs. These are dogs and swine. That’s why they act like they do. And, it’s true that they would be better off to have never heard the truth. But again, pigs are not Christians. Dogs are not Christians. Christians do not return to their vomit and mire. They follow their Shepherd.
But, in order to make his case, Mr. Hoge would have us believe that sheep become pigs and dogs. He is on the opposite side of this argument from the apostle Peter. But, that seems to be his modus operandi.
This short list of verses – presumably plucked from the “literally dozens of other places in the Scriptures where God warns us about the very thing that Calvinists say cannot happen” – not only fails to make a reasonable case, most of them fail to even address the issue at hand. This is the foundation of Mr. Hoge’s denial of the doctrine of eternal security. Yet, he lacks even one solid passage to substantiate his view or undermine the Calvinisitic view.
This is important. He has not presented one piece of evidence, yet he wants the jury to side with him. And, of the verses he offered, he did not include a shred of exegesis to explain how those verses bolster his position.
This is decidedly weak scholarship.
Mr. Hoge – “Yet these people did not persevere. Calvinists say that the people described in these verses were therefore obviously never true Christians.”
Jim – Which people? The pigs? The dogs? Or, is he referring to the people in Col. 1:22 and 1 Cor. 15:1? There is no indication that they failed to persevere. Then, just to top off his sketchy list of questionable verses, Mr. Hoge takes a stab at mischaracterizing the Calvinistic approach. It’s going to take much stronger argumentation than this tepid attempt to undermine the sure and certain passages listed above that declare our security in Christ.
Mr. Hoge – “For example, in the discussion of Hebrews 6:5-8 in the International Bible Commentary, Gerald Hawthorne writes, “[The author of Hebrews], in composing such a list as this, may have intended to describe one who has all the ear-marks of Christianity and who yet is not a real Christian. The one proof of genuineness is a continuing loyalty which keeps faith to the very end.” So according to this reasoning, the only way the individual Calvinist can tell whether he is a “genuine” Christian is if he perseveres until the end, which of course, he cannot know until, well, the end. If he eventually turns away from God, as the Bible many times warns can happen, his Calvinist friends will say, ‘I guess he never really had a saving faith.'”
Jim – I will again defer to my Hebrews commentary for a more comprehensive view of Hebrews 6. I am not familiar with Mr. Hawthorne and I do not agree with his statement. Biblically, the one proof of genuineness is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, producing persevering faith. In Mr. Hoge’s convoluted reasoning, he is trying to paint Calvinists as claiming a security they cannot actually have in this lifetime. But, his statement “If he eventually turns away from God, as the Bible many times warns can happen” remains wholly unproven. His list of texts above failed to produce even one shred of textual evidence for his position. So, he is building his straw man, knocking it over and claiming victory out of absurdity.
Mr. Hoge – “How can a Calvinist distinguish between a real Christian and a superficial one? Obviously, he can’t. The superficial believer has ‘all the ear-marks of Christianity.'”
Jim – That’s interesting. Mr. Hoge put that phrase in quotes in order to give it additional credibility. But, he has twisted Hawthorne’s words. Hawthorne did not say that superficial believers have all the earmarks of Christianity. That’s a definitive statement. Mr. Hawthorne said that the Hebrews author “MAY have intended to describe one who has all the ear-marks of Christianity.” In other words, Mr. Hoge’s quotation marks are purposefully misleading.
But, more importantly, this is a false dilemma. The Calvinist has no call to determine real and superficial Christians. Our job is to spread seed, just as Jesus instructed in His parable. What type of ground it falls on is up to God. And, if we see fruit, conversion, faith and the obvious marks of the Spirit, we can accept the genuineness of their Christianity. But, if they fall away, it is not because they lost their grip on God, or God lost His grip on them. It is because they were stony ground. That’s Jesus talking, not me.
Mr. Hoge – “Therefore, there is simply no way for the individual Calvinist to know for sure that his own conversion was genuine, and that he is a real Christian. Despite all his talk of “assurance,” he simply cannot be certain that he’s not merely a superficial believer who will eventually fall away.”
Jim – There is no way for a Calvinist to know for sure that his own conversion was genuine and that he is a real Christian?! What a terrible fear ought to grip us! Even as we follow Christ we can never know for sure that we are genuinely converted or truly Christian!
This is completely anti-biblical drivel.
Paul said that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption. If we have the Spirit drawing us toward the things of God, convicting us of our sinful state, producing faith in the Savior and bringing the Word of God alive in our hearts and minds, then we have every indication that we were foreknown, predestined, called, justified and glorified. Jesus, Paul and the New Testament writers declared these truths unflinchingly. The Church of Rome has been denying them ever since.
But, even more criminal, they have been locking people in the grip of fear, never knowing whether their Redeemer will truly accept them.
Mr. Hoge – “Ultimately, then, the Calvinist has no way of knowing for sure that he is really in the faith until the end of his life. On the other hand, those who reject the Once-Saved-Always-Saved doctrine can be confident that they are indeed in the faith, because their present status cannot be invalidated by their future performance.”
Jim – This reminds me of the scene in The Princess Bride when the Man in Black says to Vizzini, “Truly you have a dizzying intellect.”
So, according to Mr. Hoge, the Calvinist has no way of knowing he’s really in the faith. I guess the fruit of conversion and righteousness mean nothing. I guess the doctrine of God’s predeterminate counsel is meaningless. I guess the sufficiency of Christ’s atonement is futile. I guess the drawing activity of the Spirit is pointless. And, God’s omnipotence and ability to keep His own are over-hyped.
Apparently, the only way we can know we are genuinely saved is to wait until the end of our lives and then test ourselves to see if we persevered to the end. But, what if we lapse into a coma? What if we have old-age dementia and cannot think rationally. Are we lost eternally? Damned? Hell-bound?
Or, is the promise of security in God’s hand, God’s intention to save His people, Christ’s fully-sufficient and efficient atonement and the Spirit’s sealing capable of saving us under all conditions and circumstances?
Well, Paul said,
“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:38-39)
I’ll hang with Paul. I do not have to wait until I am at the end of my life, because my eternal security is not dependent on me, my mind, my actions, my will, my determination, or my Calvinism. It is fully dependent on Christ’s sovereign work of salvation. And, nothing, nothing, nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
But, on the contrary side of this wobbly coin, Mr. Hoge argues that those who reject the idea of eternal security can somehow inexplicably “be confident that they are indeed in the faith.” Wow. So, an outright denial of “the faith once delivered to the saints” results in the confidence that you are truly in the faith.
Genuinely dizzying. My head hurts.
And, what does Mr. Hoge offer as proof?
“…because their present status cannot be invalidated by their future performance.”
So, their present status of having no confidence in their eternal security cannot be invalidated (meaning, presumably, that they will not be suddenly convinced of security) by some future activity or performance. Not only do I have no idea what that means, I cannot imagine how that’s advantageous or preferable!
Mr. Hoge insists that denying eternal security is better than accepting it because you will never have that position invalidated by your future performance. Whereas, I suppose, if you adhere to the Biblical doctrine of eternal security, you run the risk of being undermined by your own future failure in the faith. That must be what he is driving at. It’s a bizarre argument, to say the least. But, since our security is not founded in our works, but in the finished work of Christ, I have no such fear of invalidation.
Mr. Hoge – “They [those who reject the OSAS doctrine] know that it is theoretically possible that they may one day harden their hearts, turn away from God, and forfeit what they have, but at least they can be sure that it’s theirs to lose. They also know that perseverance depends on God, and they have the assurance that He will give them the grace to persevere, if they will only receive it. Thus, they can have a moral certainty that they will in fact persevere.”
Jim – What a sad state such people must live in. They follow Christ, devoting their time and energy, all the while convinced that they may deny Him at any moment, turn away and lose their salvation. But, according to Mr. Hoge, the upside is that “at least they can be sure that it’s theirs to lose.”
Then, in a truly peculiar bit of theological shape-shifting, Mr. Hoge argues that perseverance depends on God. But, it is not God’s faithfulness that he posits as the grounds of perseverance. It is not God’s mighty hand of protection that accomplishes it. It is not God’s great eternal will and decree of salvation that accomplishes it. Rather, God merely gives people the “grace to persevere, if they will only receive it.” But, this grace is so powerless, so weak, of so little actual help that these people live in the constant awareness that they can harden their hearts and be lost.
Plus, God is left hanging, hoping that someone will accept His offer of the enabling grace that will accomplish their assurance. In other words, God is truly powerless to act on behalf of His people unless they “receive it.” The power of perseverance, leading to salvation, is firmly in the hands of the sinner. God would gladly give them whatever grace is necessary to accomplish that task, but He is bound by the will and decision making ability of the lost person.
Then, in a truly haphazard bit of summary, Mr. Hoge assures his readers – these people of little assurance – that given the fact that the grace of God will do something (though it’s not exactly clear what) to aid in their perseverance, they can have the elusive “moral certainty” that they will in fact continue.
But, what is “moral certainty”? And, when exactly did morality enter the discussion? This is not a matter of morality. It is a matter of faith. It is a matter of God’s faithfulness to His word of promise.
But, this is typical of Rome. They want all aspects of salvation to be dependent on works of the flesh – morality. There is nothing wrong with being moral and living a Godly life. I’m all for it. But, good works follow salvation; they are not the cause of it. Mr. Hoge wants to assure his Catholic readers that assurance of salvation and perseverance is nothing more than continuing to live morally and perform good deeds.
Let me be blunt. We do not need “moral certainty.” We need doctrinal certainty. We need Biblical certainty. We need spiritual certainty, which is attained by the infilling of the Spirit. We need to know that God is faithful to perform every aspect of the saving work He wrought in His Son before the worlds began. Our morality (or lack of it) is the very reason we needed a Savior who actually saves, not one who is waiting to see how we will do.
Mr. Hoge – “The only ‘assurance’ Calvinists really have is that the ‘elect’ will persevere.”
Jim – Nope.
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock I stand:
All other ground is sinking sand.
I draw no assurance from my ability. I draw my assurance from God’ faithfulness to His word and His son.
Mr. Hoge – “But whether the individual Calvinist is actually among the elect, he cannot know for sure. His status as a “real Christian” is contingent upon his having a “continuing loyalty which keeps faith to the very end,” and, obviously, he will not know whether he has such a faith until ‘the very end.'”
Jim – This argument was lame and pointless the first time we heard it. It did not improve with repetition.
Mr. Hoge concludes (and not a moment too soon) – “It’s easy to see, then, that this doctrine doesn’t really give its adherents much of an assurance, it merely shifts the basis of uncertainty from whether they will persevere in the faith, to whether they are even in the faith to begin with.”
Jim – Another fascinating example of bizarre logic. Mr. Hoge claims that the doctrine of eternal security does not really give its adherents much assurance. Really? How is that? In simple fact, the doctrine of security does indeed give me a tremendous sense of security. But, Mr. Hoge claims that the upshot of the doctrine of eternal security actually only “shifts the basis of uncertainty.” I admit that I do not know what that means, how it can be proven, or what it is meant to convey. It is either a brilliant form of logic that I am incapable of grasping, or it meaningless language intended to sound intelligent and prove nothing.
But, Mr. Hoge’s final words on the subject would have us agree that the doctrine of eternal security leads people to become uncertain as to whether they are even “in the faith to begin with.” In other words, if you believe Paul’s clear, cogent and didactic arguments concerning the subject, you are not even Christian.
Well, Mr. Hoge failed in his task. He failed to prove that the many verses that declare eternal security only “seem” to prove it. He failed to produce any verse that denies it. He failed to even edit his proof texts to those verses that actually apply to the topic. He failed to make anything resembling a cogent argument. He appealed to circular reasoning. And, he concluded that people who have no sense of security have an advantage over those who do, despite the fact that the grace of God is not sufficient to sustain them. He failed to actually interact with Calvinistic soteriology in any meaningful way. And, he failed to offer any meaningful exegesis of any text that he claimed as upholding his position.
This is a sorry little article designed to confuse and confound people. It is standard Arminian/Catholic thinking, based on tradition and assumption, ultimately undermining God’s word and giving no rest to weary saints.
Sorry you asked?
Yours in Him,