Can truly born again Christians “lose their salvation”? Being brought up in the Wesleyan Holiness tradition, I believe so. I’m encountering many Christians who claim to be born again, yet refuse to give up ungodly practices such as Spiritual Formation/Contemplative Spirituality. They seem to feel safe in Christ, no matter what sins they refuse to give up. Can they continue in sinful rebellion and not build up the wrath of God? I doubt it. In the Bible, Paul makes various statements regarding this; he seems to have feared losing his salvation if he did not remain obedient to Christ.
Many people I know in Spiritual Formation, I thought were born again Christians. But looking back, it seems many never really knew the Lord in the first place.
Yet, I still think we all have free will. We have free will to accept Christ and become truly born again Christians. And truly born again Christians WILL NOT WANT to turn their backs on Christ and leave the faith. Yet, since born again Christians are still creatures of free will, God could allow them to leave the faith if they so choose.
I do think it is unreasonable to fear losing our salvation every time we slip up and tell a white lie, or run a red light on purpose, or whatever.
So here’s my view: I believe in “conditional eternal security.” I came across a very insightful article listing seven “streams” of conditional eternal security (John Wesley, H. Orton Wiley, etc.). I have reposted this article below; click here for the original site of this article. I have emphasized certain points by bolding in orange, and inserted comments [bracketed and bolded in orange].
The List of Conditional Eternal Security Views
In response to the list of eternal security views that I recently posted on my blog, I wanted to offer a short list of the views held by Arminians on eternal security. You may find it ironic that, like Calvinist, there is no agreement among Arminians over the nature of the security of the believer as this list will hopefully show. I will not give you my opinion on which I hold to and will leave you to your own conclusions on each.
I have tried to go from the most extreme view to the least while still being Arminian in theology and practice.
1. Daniel Corner – Corner is the author of the book The Believer’s Conditional Security. I have a copy of the book and have used it many times. Overall Corner does a good job of presenting logically arguments against eternal security. He also footnotes many quotes from various Calvinist teachers to show the lack of unity among Calvinist over their own teachings. Corner is extreme, however, in his view that only one sin can cause a lose of salvation. Many Arminians are not willing to embrace Corner’s views. Further, Corner’s arguments would be stronger in his book if he covered all of Calvinism and not just eternal security. As Calvinist Dr. James White argues, eternal security is based on the other four points of Calvinism as well.
2. John Wesley – The father of the modern Wesleyan movement, John Wesley taught that sin can cause a loss of salvation and he believed that holiness was indeed necessary for eternal life. Wesley strongly taught against Calvinism in his day despite his friendship with Calvinist George Whitefield. Wesley was not an extreme view of losing your salvation since he did believe that sin did in fact dwell in the believer but Wesley did teach that sin needed to be eradicated and could only be done so by the power of the Holy Spirit living within the believer. Wesley’s views remain in tact to this day and the majority of Arminians hold to most of what Wesley taught. Wesley was brilliant and one of the greatest scholars the Church has ever known.
3. Richard Watson – The 18th century Methodist theologian who took the teachings of John Wesley and first put them into systematic form. Watson’s systematic theology book would remain the standard Arminian source for biblical theology for nearly 175 years. Watson’s writings would later influence many Nazarene, Wesleyan, and Pentecostal theologians. Watson believed in line with Wesley that continued, unrepentive sin could result in a loss of personal salvation and that perseverance was necessary for eternal life.
4. John Miley – The 19th century Holiness theologian and writer deviated from John Wesley and Richard Watson in his teaching on the governmental theory of the atonement. Miley’s book Systematic Theology remains an important work from Arminians theologians. Despite the problems I have with his atonement theory, Miley taught that eternal security was not biblical and that it allowed for continued sin in the life of the saint and furthermore was an insult to the grace of God (Titus 2:11-12).
5. H. Orton Wiley – The prominent Nazarene theologian’s book Systematic Theology remains on the best Arminian theological books available today. Wiley taught that eternal security was not biblical and that a believer could fall from grace through continued sin. Wiley differed with John Wesley and Richard Watson somewhat by teaching the standard Nazarene view that the baptism with the Holy Ghost was necessary to eradicate the sinful nature still alive in the believer and thus help the believer reach a point of “sinless perfection” in the eyes of God. This Spirit Baptism was a second work of grace called entire sanctification and helped the believer overcome sin in this life as long as the believer continued with faith in Christ.
6. Robert Picirilli – A modern theologian with the Free Will Baptist Church, Picirilli’s book Grace, Faith, and Free Will has been called the book that launched the modern Reformed Arminian views. Picirilli is different from many Arminian theologians because he is not Wesleyan but is Baptist. He argues in his book that his theology is true Arminianism as taught by James Arminius. Picirilli argues that one can only lose their salvation through apostasy and not sin. He teaches that perseverance is necessary for eternal life but sin is not the issue as much as faith in Jesus is the issue. Sin, argues Picirilli, clearly reveals a lack of faith in God’s Word and in His Son. Sin, then, is open rebellion toward God and leads to apostasy which can not be undone according to Hebrews 6:4-9.
[I located the following link regarding Picirilli]
Book review of Picirilli’s book Grace, Faith, Free Will: Contrasting Views of Salvation: Calvinism and Arminianism
7. James Arminius – I have chosen to place Arminius last because Arminius was not clear on his views concerning the loss of salvation for the believer. In some places Arminius seemed to embrace modern Arminian thought that a believer can fall from grace but in other writings, Arminius seems to teach that a true Christian will persevere by the Spirit of God. As the father of the modern Arminian movement, Arminius helped shape the theology of millions of believers for generations to come while leaving the debate open over the issue of eternal security. Clearly, however, Arminius would oppose Calvinism and its allowance for continued sinning without repentance.
I would have added the Baptist writers Dale Moody, Church of Christ writer Robert Shank, and Baptist apologist Norman Geisler in this list as well if timed permitted. Each of the above mentioned have each made contributions toward modern Arminian theology. However, the greatest influence I believe made upon the modern evangelical church about the nature of salvation is not by any on this list or the Calvinist list but by the 19th century revivalist Charles G. Finney. Finney was neither Calvinist nor Arminian in his theology. While he seems to try to align himself more with Arminians then with Calvinist, Finney and Arminius (nor Wesley) would agree with one another. Finney was semi-Pelagian and most of the evangelical church including the seeker movement, the Purpose-Driven movement, and many denominations such as the Asssemblies of God, the Southern Baptist, and a host of others are more semi-Pelagian then Arminian.
Written by The Seeking Disciple
02/17/2007 at 4:32 PM
FOR FURTHER READING
Wikipedia article on conditional preservation of the saints (conditional eternal security)
Eternal Security: A Biblical Perspective (articles opposing critiquing eternal security)
pjmiller, “Conditional” Eternal Security
Scott Severance, Hebrews 6:4–6 and Losing One’s Salvation