Eternal Security Vs. Conditional Perseverance

by Ray Moore and Mike Stine

The subject of eternal security (or lack thereof) is a topic that has been of debate in the church since it began.  Letters from Barnabas dating back to 70- 130 AD strongly elude to a lack of salvation.  The first strongly noted opposition came from Origen (circa 225 AD).  Even Origen seems to flip back and forth in his beliefs, although it is difficult for us to truly discern what he means as many of his writings are rather ambiguous.

Today, the debate appears to be broken up usually into two camps, Calvinism and Arminianism.  Calvinists tend to cling to the sovereignty of God, while Arminianists hold to the free will of man.

Calvinists hold to five points in their doctrine, one of which pertains directly to eternal security.  “The precise ones God has elected and drawn to Himself through the Holy Spirit will persevere in faith.  None whom God has elected will be lost; they are eternally secure.”  (Moody 480)

Arminianists also hold to five points in their doctrine.  In the 1610 Remonstance five articles were written by Arminius’s followers.  Article five pertains to conditional perseverance.

“That those who are incorporated into Christ by a true faith, and have thereby become partakers of his life-giving Spirit, have thereby full power to strive against Satan, sin, the world, and their flesh, and to win the victory; it being well understood that it is ever through the assisting grace of the Holy Ghost; and that Jesus Christ assists them through his Spirit in all temptations, extends to them his hand, and if only they are ready for conflict, and desire his help, and are not inactive, keeps them from falling, so that they, by no craft or power of Satan, can be misled nor plucked out of Christ’s hands, according to the words of Christ, John x:28:”Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”  But whether they are capable, through negligence, of forsaking again the first beginnings of their life in Christ, of again returning to this present evil world, of turning away from the holy scripture which was delivered them, of losing a good conscience, of becoming devoid of grace, that must be more particularly determined out of the Holy Scripture, before we ourselves can teach it with full persuasion of our minds.”

In order to attempt to come to a conclusion on this matter (although we realize that we really can’t because theologians have been arguing this matter for centuries) we have determined three prime factors surrounding this discussion.  They are: a person’s views on election, grace, and perseverance.

While election and grace are not directly related to eternal security, we feel that they must be brought into discussion  because they bring about a basis for many beliefs surrounding eternal security.

We should also note that we take a more philosophical approach to this issue.  While we do use biblical arguments, any theologian, as they’ve been doing for years, can say that we have a wrong interpretation of any passage we may use.  Therefore an appeal to reason is taken.

The next three points will be in a debate format with a presentation of an argument and then a rebuttal.

Next Section – Election

Hell is Eternal Torment

A part of The Fate of the Unbeliever

No, nobody wants to hear it because it’s a bad image, but hell is real.  It isn’t politically correct to say it, but people are going to go there.  It is not a place where of a red devil with horns and a pitchfork rules and torments people.

Every description we have of hell is of a horrific place.  It is a place of shame, of darkness, of torment.  It is of burning sulphur.  There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth because of the pain.  Hell was originally prepared for the devil and his angels.  It ends up as the destination of many for broad is the road that leads to destruction.

Jesus made numerous references to hell.  He calls it a fiery furnace.  He speaks of it as a real place.  There are many allusions to hell in his parables.  Those who are cut off and kept away from (the king, the master, and other such figures in the parables) are left in the darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Numerous places speak of eternal torment and the fires of hell being forever.  Those whose names are not found in the book of life are cast into the lake of burning sulphur.  There is no room for exception in this statement.  It does not exclude those who never heard the gospel.  It does not allow for good, devout people involved in the wrong religion.  Anyone whose name is not there, is cast away. 

This depiction of hell troubles many who cannot align the concept of a loving and forgiving God with that of hell.  However, these people forget that Christianity is solely based on the life and death of Christ.  It was because of God’s love and forgiveness that Christ came to earth at all.  “There is no one righteous.”  “The wages of sin is death.”  If not for love and forgiveness, we would all be bound for eternal torment.  Man chooses to reject God and his plan of redemption and leaves God no choice but to banish unrighteousness from His holy presence.

Everyone Goes to Heaven

A part of The Fate of the Unbeliever

This unfortunate teaching has really gained support in recent years and nothing could be more distant from the truth.  This teaching is known as universalism.  These people see eternal punishment or hell of any kind to be incompatible with God’s love.

Universalists find it impossible to believe that Christianity is the only way to heaven.  They cannot fathom a God who would send devout Muslims who do not hold Christ as their savior to hell.

Likewise, most will say that everyone worships the same God; they simply have different names for him and worship him in different ways.  Some will quote Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”

Univeralists will also quote I Timothy 2:3-4, “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  There are numerous clergy who, even if they do not hold to other universalists’ teachings, believe that all will be saved.

Unfortunately, this is simply not true, as nice of a thought as it may be.  Honestly, who really wants to think that their neighbor, best friend, parent, or sibling will not go to heaven.  Even worse is the thought that if they don’t go to heaven, their only other option is hell.  Because of this, many have simply ignored the consequences of sin.

Truthfully, I could stop right here and declare this view absolute garbage.  What good is Christianity if everyone goes to heaven anyway?  Is it simply the best set of guidelines to live life by?  Why missionaries?  Why church, aside for fellowship?  Why worship?  Why would we care about anything at all religious if everyone went to heaven?  I could go on with this for quite a while as to how this makes no sense, but allow me to continue forming my case.

Romans chapter 3 declares, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.  All have turned away, they have together becomes worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”  “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather through the law we become conscious of sin.”

What becomes of all of those who aren’t righteous?  Christians are declared righteous through faith in Christ but what about those who are not righteous, those who are obvious sinners.  Does God turn His back and let them slip into heaven?  Does God say, well, you tried to live a good life, but you were following the wrong religion all the time?  But hey, I’m a loving God, so I’ll let it slip.  Or what about- Hey Hitler, I’m sorry you didn’t get the memo that the Jews are my people.  Since I’m a forgiving God, I’ll forget about it this time, just don’t let it happen again.

Seriously, I have a very hard time believing that anyone who thinks everyone goes to heaven expects to bump into Adolph Hitler while they’re there.

Sin separates us from God and we have no right to expect anything but judgment for our sins.  If sin did not prevent us from reaching heaven, Jesus Christ had absolutely no reason to come to earth and die on the cross.  There would have been no point in his resurrection, because there was no penalty of sin to overcome.  I really don’t know how anyone who believes in universalism can actually be called a Christian.

For those who teach that all religions reach to heaven, here are some verses:

John 14:6 “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.  NO ONE comes the Father except THROUGH me.”  (Emphasis added)

Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

I can’t put it more plainly here.  There are two paths that can be taken.  What’s more is that Jesus clearly states more people are going to hell than heaven.  This is totally contrary to the Universalists’ teachings but there is no getting around God’s Word.  This is clearly what the passage says.

Of course, God is love and it is difficult for many to believe that God would punish people instead of forgiving them.  It is especially difficult to fathom a God who would punish someone who has a deep religious belief but simply believes the wrong thing.  The Bible contains many, MANY instances of just this thing however.

In Genesis alone, God judges Adam and Eve and throws them out of the Garden of Eden.  He does not later forgive and forget and let them back in.  God judges sin in Noah’s flood, and Sodom and Gomorrah.  How many people are killed in just those two instances?  Does God then welcome these people with open arms into heaven?  Is everyone else partying in heaven while Noah is stuck in a boat with a bunch of stinking animals?

Egypt is a very religious nation.  There are numerous gods in Egypt at the time of Moses.  But for some reason, God strikes down the first born of all other misled but still highly religious people.  As Joshua leads the people into the Promised Land, he is ordered to destroy many towns along the way.  These towns of devout people are massacred on many accounts.  Is this under the instruction of a loving God who accepts all faiths into heaven as long as they are devout?

Centuries later, God personally sends the angel of the Lord to strike 185,000 Assyrians in 2 Kings 20:35.  Was it God’s love, or his forgiveness, that wanted these 185,000 men with him in heaven sooner?

Of course these are all Old Testament references, and God was a vengeful God then.  Once Jesus came however, God is nothing but love and forgiveness, right?  Of course, God doesn’t change, so this isn’t it.  As Malachi 3:6 states, “I the Lord do not change.  So you, O Israel descendents of Jacob are not destroyed.”

God was loving and forgiving in the Old Testament, and he is likewise vengeful in the New Testament.  Ananias and Saphira are struck dead for lying.  The book of Revelation is full of judgment.  In the first three chapters, containing the seven letters to the churches, there is even condemnation.

God is loving, and God is forgiving.  Make no mistake about this.  He desires all to be saved.  It is for these very reasons that he sent his son into the world.  It is only through belief that Jesus died and rose to take the penalty for our sins that we might go to heaven.  This is the love and the forgiveness of God.  Any church that does not teach this is off the mark.  Anyone who teaches that there is no hell or no judgment for the wicked or worse – that everyone who has a devout but possibly misled belief – is in serious danger.

Next Section – Hell is Eternal Torment