Thursday, March 18, 2010

Can we lose our salvation?

My friend and I were talking the other day about the sermon at his church on Sunday. The focus of the message was on the assurance of our salvation from John.

You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. --John 15:16
His pastor emphasized the fact that we're chosen by God, not of our own volition, and so we'll remain in Him. My friend was a bit confused by this, particularly when read in context. The previous verses present a metaphor of us being branches on the vine of Christ and if we don't abide in Him, we'll be gathered up and burned. So, we talked a bit about some of the differences between the Calvinist and Arminian positions regarding the perseverance of the saints and eternal security.

Then, during this morning's workout, I listened to one of my favorite radio preachers, Steve Brown. His message was about the fact that the church as a whole isn't going to disappear. One of the points he touched on involved eternal security of the individual as typically presented by five-point Calvinists.

In the context of these two events, the whole debate between the Calvinists and Arminians came back to the fore of my thinking. This is one of those topics that is somewhat interesting to me, but not enough to spend a lot of time really digging into it. I certainly make no claim to know the topic really well.

Having said that, I grew up in churches heavily influenced by Wesleyan thought with its roots in Arminian teaching and the belief in the possibility of losing our salvation. This has never fully set right with me. I've done some reading on Calvinism and am not really comfortable with their position, as I understand it, either. Both have apparent extremes, each supported in part by some Bible passages, that are hard to reconcile when you look at all of scripture. My intuition is that much of the debate is due to our lack of perspective and limited understanding.

As I was mulling over these issues, it occurred to me that perhaps at least part of the problem is the way it's framed. It is typically put in the context of "can we lose our salvation or not?" I think the problem with this may be the term "lose". This carries the connotation of accidental or inadvertent failure to retain possession. Sort of an "oops, I misplaced my salvation. Now where did it go?"

I wonder what would happen to the debate if we framed it more in terms of actively rejecting Jesus rather than passively losing our salvation. I think it might make more sense to ask
Can I go to hell by actively rejecting Jesus' offer of salvation, regardless of what I previously professed?
I don't have any conclusions, just thought that was an interesting shift of perspective.

References

Some Wikipedia articles with background on the topic: