Stairway to Heaven (PublicDomainPictures.net)
By Spencer D Gear
Will there every be unity in the body of Christ on controversial topics on our stairway to heaven? What about,
- Iinfant vs believers’ baptism?
- Eternal punishment vs annihilation?
- Arminianism vs Calvinism on predestination, limited or unlimited atonement, eternal security, free will?
- Premillennialism, Amillennialism, and Postmillennialism?
On this journey, will there ever be complete agreement on controversial theological topics?
It is not unusual to get some heated discussion online with Christian forums on controversial topics relating to Calvinism and Arminianism, where there are differences of interpretation regarding election, predestination, and eternal security. I write as a convinced evangelical, Reformed Arminian.
What is a Reformed or Reformation Arminian? See the Roger E Olson article, ‘Reformed Arminian‘.
I made this submission to an online Christian forum:
It says the one who is continuing to believe, continues to have eternal life- that’s the meaning of the Greek present tense [John 3:36].
Didn’t you believe that I knew the parsing and meaning of the Greek present tense?
So, eternal security is based on the fact that a person continues to believe in Jesus. It is not a once saved, always saved view, but a perseverance of the saints view – the saints are those who continue to believe. They are not those who once believed and gave up believing? The only guarantee of eternal life is for those who are continuing to believe at the time of death (or at the time of Christ’s second coming if it arrives before the believer dies).
This was the reply:
No, according to scripture, 1 Jn. 2:19, if they depart, stop beliving (sic), they never believed in the first place. Unless you are calling the Apostle John a liar. Are you? And from Jesus’ own mouth, no man, not even yourself can take yourself out of God’s hand. That is, unless Jesus was lying?
To what does 1 John 2:19 refer? It states: ‘They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us’ (ESV).
What’s the context? First John 2:18 states, ‘Children, it is the last hour, as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour’ (ESV).
It is talking about antichrists in our midst.
That is not the discussion point that I’m addressing. I’m talking about people who formerly continued to believe in Jesus and were committed evangelical Christians for a considerable time and who gave up believing in Jesus. They committed apostasy. But you want that to mean that they never believed in the first place. I disagree profoundly! These people did continue to believe for a time and showed fruits of repentance. But then they quit believing (often related to circumstances in their life that left a big negative impact).
Warnings about the need to continue believing
The warning to the children of God in 1 John 2 (the chapter to which you refer) is:
And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him (1 John 2:28-29 ESV)
From these two verses, we know that:
‘abide’ = menete = Greek present tense verb, which means continuing action, i.e. ‘continues to abide’;
‘everyone who practices righteousness’, where ‘practices’ = poiwn (doing) = Greek present tense participle which indicates continuing action, the meaning of which is, ‘who continues doing/practising’.
Verse 29 is clear that the children of God (based on v. 28) are those who continue to do/practice righteousness. It is not dealing with those Christians who used to do righteousness.
I do not believe that sinning willingly means apostasy. So this person created a straw man logical fallacy against my views with his example of Peter and Paul. We cannot have a rational conversation when people respond in this manner in using such fallacies.
Responses to these posts
You might like to take a read of some of the responses to the information I provided above. These are samples:
‘This is a pretty desperate and contradictory reply, in my opinion’.
‘The problem is on your end, since you do not submit to the scriptures, but only wrest a few to annoy the saints’.
‘Again, the man-centered salvation so prevelant in synergism and Arminianism. That which you so proudly taunt’.
‘So it is impossible for one to backslide, and yet still believe in God? That is the point I take away from all your posts’.
‘according to scripture, 1 Jn. 2:19, if they depart, stop beliving, they never believed in the first place. Unless you are calling the Apostle John a liar. Are you?’
‘So using your standard, we must therefore conclude that since both Peter and Paul sinned willingly, not once, not twice, but at least three times, they lost their salvation, and thusly were not able to “renew them unto repentance”. But tell me, when Peter and Paul both sinned, did they cease to “abide” in Christ? Did they cease to “believe” continuously? Remember, you can “commit apostasy and perish by a willful act of their own.” Who said that? Was it me? Hum…’
‘But notice you say this, without even bothering to acknowledge what the scripture says. What kind of a person sits here telling us these things, but doesn’t bother to respond to points properly? Are you capable of challenging what I have shown is clearly in those verses? If so, then show me, but take on what we say and respond to them specifically. Don’t dance around them as you do, and then get all huffy puffy after making sweeping assertions about it. It seems that you use the word “infallible” not to refer to the scriptures, but to your own point of view, and thus you do not take well to challenges’.
With regard to this last post I made a complaint to the moderators about his emotionally abusive language with language such as:
‘What kind of a person sits here telling us these things, but doesn’t bother to respond to points properly?’ (I have spent a lot of time on detailed responses on this forum but I will not continue with interaction with you when you make this kind of false allegation.)
Petruchio’s response to me was: ‘You keep using this phrase to everything people say to you. I don’t think it means what you think it means. (I can’t post the photo of Inigo until I get a total of 50 posts! ).’
My response was:
Here you give another straw man logical fallacy. When you create a view which I did not state, you have created a straw man logical fallacy.
Here is a description of the straw man fallacy.
If you continue this approach in your responses to me, I will not reply. We cannot have a logical conversation when you use a logical fallacy.
It seems to me from interaction on this Christian forum that I have to be alert to the logical fallacies that others and I use. I will name them as I see and understand them in their posts and also my own. I am not immune to using logical fallacies and I want people to draw my attention to them.
See the Nizkor Project for a description of a reasonably comprehensive list of logical fallacies.
 DeaconDean#114, ibid.
 This is my response as OzSpen#117, ibid.
 Petruchio#43, ibid.
 DeaconDean#114, ibid.
 DeaconDean#116, ibid.
 Petruchio#121, ibid.
 OzSpen#122, ibid. I made a complaint about this post to the moderators. Maybe this could be removed from the forum.
 Petruchio#123, ibid.
 OzSpen#124, ibid.
Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 3 November 2015.