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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Can a person lose his salvation? Part 2

When we try to describe who someone is, there are certain qualities that are transitory and some that are permanent. I could describe a person as a teller at a bank. That's a transitory quality because he may not always be a teller. Next week, he could be working at a department store.

It's not always easy to decide if a quality is transitory or permanent. Take apples, for example; there are some varieties that are green, like Granny Smith. In that case, being green is a permanent characteristic of the apple. However, we sometimes use the word “green” to describe fruit that isn't ripe. So the phrase, “That apple is green,” is ambiguous. It could mean the apple isn't yet ripe – a transitory quality that could change as the fruit ripens or it could mean the apple is a Granny Smith – a permanent quality that will not change.

If we say that someone is saved, we must determine if that is a transitory or permanent condition. We can do this by examining passages in the Bible that describe the nature of salvation. We'll start by considering 2 Cor 5:17:

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

In light of this verse, it's hard to imagine how salvation could be transitory or temporary. When we become saved, our old self ceases to exist. How then can we go back to being that person? This verse describes salvation as a fundamental change to who we are. It gives the strong impression that salvation is a permanent condition rather than temporary. Of course, we should never take a single verse as a proof text on matters of doctrine. Instead, we should always interpret any passage in the context of the entire Bible. Consider also the following verses:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24)

Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. (1 Peter 1:23)

Salvation is clearly being described as a change to our essential nature. We have passed from death to life. We are born again of incorruptible seed. These verses, and many others like them, see to affirm that the most obvious understanding of 2 Cor is indeed the correct one. Being saved means a fundamental change in our very nature. Jesus Himself described salvation as being “born again.” Read His conversation with Nicodemus regard the subject:

There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:1-6)

Nicodemus scoffed at the idea a person could be born a second time. He was right in a sense because a second physical birth is impossible but Jesus wasn't talking about a second physical birth but a new birth – a birth from the Spirit. What would it mean to be born a second time of the flesh? You're already born so it would mean nothing new or different. Furthermore, how could a person ever become “unborn” of the flesh or “lose” his birth of the flesh? It doesn't make sense. When Jesus compared our spiritual birth to our physical birth, I believe He intended many of these parallels. If we could lose our salvation, what does that say about our spiritual rebirth? Do we become “unborn again”? It doesn't make any sense.

Are we agreed that salvation is a description of who we are? Next we will consider some passages that describe the permanency of our salvation:

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. (John 10:27-28)

Think about that verse for a moment. Jesus gives us eternal life and says His sheep will never perish. If you received eternal life, then lost it and perished, you have made Jesus a liar. There are many more verses along these lines.

And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. (John 6:35)

As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. (Romans 11:28-29) You might want to look up the definition of “irrevocable.”

Take special note of the words the Bible uses: eternal life, you will never hunger, God's gift is irrevocable. How can have eternal life and then not have it? It's like saying I used to be immortal but now I'm going to die. The use of these kinds of words suggests permanency of our salvation.

I believe people who think we can lose our salvation have the understanding that salvation is like a status, a condition that can change. It's as though being saved is like being a bank teller – you're a teller until you quit or until the bank fires you. I think this is an incorrect view that is contrary to Scripture.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Can a person lose his salvation? Part 1

There are some theological issues I won't debate with other Christians because I believe they are of little consequence. An example is the question of predestination (aka, election). God clearly commands us to share the gospel so I will share the gospel. What's the use of debating whether a person has the free will to respond or if God gives him the ability to respond?

There are some issues, of course, where I take a definite position and this includes the question, can a person lose his salvation? In my opinion, what a person thinks about losing his salvation reveals how he thinks a person is saved. If someone thinks a person could lose his salvation by sinning, for example, it may be because he thinks salvation is earned by good works. What's more, if it is possible to lose my salvation, I want to be sure I know if mine is at risk.

Concerning losing salvation, one website offers this analogy:

Suppose a friend gave me a brand new car which he paid out of his own money, and simply gave me the title and keys and said, "It's yours, Tom. Enjoy it." All I can do is reach for the keys and title and say, "Thank you!" Let me ask you a question. Is the car a free gift to me or did I have to earn it? It's free, right! But let me ask another question. Is it going to cost me money to keep and maintain the car? Sure it is. I'm going to have to put gas, change the oil, give it tune-ups, wax the car, and so on. The car is costly to keep, but it was free when I received it. Salvation works the same way. I can't earn it. God freely gave me my salvation since Jesus paid for it through His sacrifice on the cross. But once I receive it, I must take care of it.

Really good analogies are scarce. I think this analogy fails on a single point: If the car represents salvation, at the end of the day, would he still have the car or not? If he didn't put gas in the car, he may not get the full benefits of it, but he still owns the car, doesn't he? Suppose the person who gave him the care said, “I'm going to give this to you but if you don't take care of it, I'm taking it away.” In that case, did he ever really own the car? It's more like the true owner is just letting him drive it for a while. Rather than demonstrating how a person keeps his salvation, I believe this analogy better illustrates the misunderstanding some people have over the issue.

I want to make a short series about the subject where I present my argument against the possibility of a Christian losing his salvation and then rebut some of the more common arguments in favor of it.

This subject came up once in my Sunday School class when we were studying Hebrews. The verse that prompted the discussion was Hebrews 6:4-6:

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

Many people cite this passage as Scriptural support for the idea one can lose his salvation. However, I believe the passage is vague. Read the passage again carefully and consider what it is saying. 1) It clearly says, “if they shall fall away,” it would put Christ's death on the cross to open shame. 2) It clearly says “if they shall fall away,” it is impossible for them to become saved again. What is not clear from the passage is whether or not it is actually possible to “fall away.” I can see how one might have the impression it's possible but it isn't overtly stated from a straight reading of the text.

I admit some passages in the Bible are a little difficult to understand and I think it's dangerous to build doctrine on passages that are difficult to understand. In order to understand a difficult passage, we need to seek out other passages that discuss the same subject and aren't difficult to understand. We can then use the clear reading of the other passages to help us better understand the more vague ones.

For the record, based on my understanding of the clear passages in the Bible, I interpret Hebrews to mean something like, “If a saved person could fall away from the faith, it would make a mockery of Christ's death and it would be impossible for them to become saved again since Christ only died once on the cross.” Over the next few posts, I intend to offer clear, Scriptural support for what some have called, “eternal security.” Please stay tuned!

Part 2

Friday, January 6, 2017

Not so simple beginnings

Richard Dawkins has said this:

If the alternative that's being offered to what physicists now talk about - a big bang, a spontaneous singularity which gave rise to the origin of the universe - if the alternative to that is a divine intelligence, a creator, which would have to have been complicated, statistically improbable, the very kind of thing which scientific theories such as Darwin's exists to explain, then immediately we see that however difficult and apparently inadequate the theory of the physicists is, the theory of the theologians - that the first course was a complicated intelligence - is even more difficult to accept.... Complicated things come into the universe late, as a consequence of slow, gradual, incremental steps. God, if he exists, would have to be a very, very, very complicated thing indeed. So to postulate a God as the beginning of the universe, as the answer to the riddle of the first cause, is to shoot yourself in the conceptual foot because you are immediately postulating something far far more complicated than that which you are trying to explain.

Dawkins tends to be a little wordy so let me simplify it: he is saying that the explanation for any phenomenon should be less complicated than the thing it tries to explain. Can I say that I find it humorous and somewhat ironic that he would use so many words to explain how things should have a simple explanation? Anyway... according to Dawkins, God would necessarily be far more complicated than the universe and so a Supreme Being as the First Cause is not a satisfactory explanation for the universe. It's a stretch, I know, but he makes this point frequently so he must think it's compelling.

Dawkins' argument suffers from a flawed premise. What objective, testable, scientific principle exists that requires a cause to be less complicated than its effect? He is trying to make a logical argument but it's more like philosophical “wishful thinking.” I utterly reject the notion that an explanation must necessarily be less complicated than what it explains. Such an idea runs contrary to everything we observe.

Consider a painting on a cave wall. How did the painting get there? It's not rocket-science: someone must have painted it on the wall. But isn't a human being more complicated than than the painting? So, according to Dawkins' reasoning, a human painting a picture on the wall isn't a satisfactory explanation.

Of course, Dawkins is not so easily stymied. He's heard this rebuttal before. He claims that the human who made the painting is, himself, the product of simpler beginnings. Through a billions of years long chain of events, the human has evolved from more primitive creatures, which evolved from a single celled creature, which rose naturally from non-living matter, which was fused together from simpler elements, which ultimately came from hydrogen atoms in the big bang. It's a sort of cosmic “butterfly effect” where an expanding cloud of hydrogen in space becomes a painting on a cave wall. How convenient.

The death knell of Dawkins argument lies in our understanding of cause and effect. We've learned that every phenomenon we've ever observed must have sufficient cause to explain it. In every case, the cause is not simpler than the effect but rather is always greater than the effect. In other words, a big bad wolf cannot huff and puff and blow a house down; it takes something like a hurricane or tornado to blow a house down. A ship cannot float unless the weight of the water it displaces weighs more than the ship itself. A bird cannot fly unless the shape of its wings creates more lift under its wings than the bird weighs.

Now, no system is perfectly efficient – there is always wasted energy. If a little input could create a greater output, then something like perpetual motion should be possible. It's not. The cause is always greater than the effect. Always! Therefore, the universe could not have come from nothing. Nothing can only produce nothing. It could never produce something – not even a single atom. The cause of all the matter and energy in the universe must necessarily be something greater than all the matter and energy in the universe.

Dawkins' rhetoric is really nothing more than clever semantics. There is no reason to expect the cause of the universe must be something less complicated than the universe. The exact opposite is true. God creating the universe is by far the most reasonable explanation.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

“Kinds” versus “species”

The term “species” is surprisingly difficult to define. When asked, most people offer a reproductive test; that is, creatures that can reproduce naturally together and have fertile offspring are the same species. Of course, this definition is not without a myriad of exceptions. Wolves and dogs, for example, can mate and have fertile offspring yet they are considered different species. So can bison and cows, polar and grizzly bears, and dozens of other mammals. Hybridization is ridiculously common in plants. All of these are examples of different species mating so the ability to reproduce is not a rigorous definition of a species. Neither can a reproductive test be used to identify species of asexual organisms like bacteria.

Species is an invented term, I understand that. And, in spite of the many problems of defining it, I usually don't have a problem with the word. However, in some cases, an exact meaning of the term is necessary. I came across just such an instance the other day. On FaceBook, someone posted an article titled, Scientists watch as a new species evolves before their eyes. From the article:

Speciation, the formation of new species through evolution, is not usually an event you can directly observe. Organisms typically take many generations to accumulate enough changes to diverge into new species; it's a slow process. In fact, the difficulty of directly observing speciation is a reason cited by skeptics of evolution for why they have doubts. But biologists working at the University of California, San Diego, and at Michigan State University, may have just put a rest to all of those naysayers. They report to having witnessed the evolution of a new species happen right before their eyes, in a simple laboratory flask

You can see from this paragraph, the author of the article is suggesting that the emergence of a new species (in the article, it's a new species of a virus) is somehow evidence of evolution.  If the rise of a new species is to be used as an example of evolution, then yes, I'm going to ask what criteria are the scientists using to define a species?  In this case, a reproductive test is not sufficient since viruses are also asexual and cannot “mate” with the parent population in any manner.

Did you notice, too, how the author seems characterize critics of evolution as people who deny speciation happens? He was very careful not to use the word, “creationists,” but we all know that's who he means. It's typical of evolutionists to make this straw man argument. The reality is that most creationists don't deny speciation. In fact, it's a critical part of young earth creationism. God created animals according to “kinds.” Noah took terrestrial animals on the ark in pairs of “kinds.” All modern species are descended from these narrow groups. The 30+ species of modern cats are all descended from the 2 felines on the ark, for example.

When told that creationists accept speciation, evolutionists respond in one of two ways. One way is to ridicule the creation model as a type of “hyper-evolution” because the amount of diversification that has occurred during the time since the Flood is much faster than the slow, gradual process theorized by evolutionists. In a previous post, I've discussed the claim that creationism is a belief in hyper-evolution. It's also somewhat hypocritical of them to criticize creationists for believing in rapid speciation when they post articles like the one above talking about speciation happening before their eyes – but never mind that now.

The other way they respond is to throw out a red herring and ask the creationist to define the term, “kind.” It's a red herring because, whether or not a creationist can define the word, “kind,” it doesn't excuse the evolution from having to define a species when it's being used in the example above.

When I was discussing the article above on FaceBook, one critic actually said he couldn't respond to any of my points until I gave a precise definition of “kind.” Really? I doubt that. I mean, there may not be an iron clad definition of the word species but I understand the term well enough to discuss it. I use the term frequently myself and only ask for a rigorous definition when evolutionists try to leverage “speciation” as evidence for their theory. Am I supposed to believe that evolutionists can't understand the concept of “kind” well enough to discuss it unless we give them an iron clad definition first? Like I said, it's a red herring.

I've discussed species and kinds on my blog before. I might not be able to give a rigorous definition of either but here are some practical definitions. A species is a population of organisms that have enough traits in common that they can be identified as belonging to the same group. I admit, my definition may have a few difficulties but at least it's rid of the need of a reproductive boundary. A kind is a group of organisms originally created by God that would reproduce organisms similar to themselves and includes all the varied species descended from the original group. Maybe I could come up with a better definition but, I daresay, this one is more precise than nearly any definition of species that I've heard from evolutionists.

Think about examples of species and kinds. Dogs, wolves, and coyotes can breed together and have fertile offspring yet they are considered different species. Because of their very different anatomies, Great Danes can no longer reproduce with chihuahuas yet they are still considered the same species. Evolutionists and creationists both agree that all canine have descended from a common ancestor yet if creationists call the members of the canine group a “kind,” evolutionists act like they can't understand the term at all. //RKBentley scratches his head//

Evolutionists play word games. They constantly conflate natural selection and evolution. I talked in my last post about how they casually use the word theory but harp on creationists for calling evolution a theory. They claim macroevolution is evolution above the species level but they can't even define what a species is. When pressed for a definition of species, they attempt to derail the conversation by asking creationists to define a kind instead. I agree you can't have a conversation with someone if there isn't a clear understand of the terms being discussed. In the evolution/creation debate, evolutionists aren't interested in discussion. I know they're not stupid – they're just playing dumb. Conflate, equivocate, obfuscate. That's the tactic of evolutionists.