A Progressive Position: Introduction

by Jay Guin

The question before us is what would cause a saved person to no longer be saved  — to fall away or become an apostate?

We need to make a couple of key distinctions before answering the question  —

  • First, this is not about how to become saved and thus not about baptism.
  • Second, this is not about church discipline  — who might be properly excluded from fellowship even though still saved to protect the flock or in an effort to protect the soul of the person disfellowshipped.

Obviously, these questions are closely related, and we may have to venture into one area or another as we consider apostasy, but they are not the same issue.

Next, we’d like to set out a few points here at the beginning to avoid having to repeat them throughout what we’ll be posting.

  • We reject the doctrine of once saved, always saved, known more formally as the perseverance of the saints. Christians can and do fall away.
  • We agree with our conservative conversationalists that God is patient with error, indeed, with sin of all kinds, but not infinitely patient. God allows time for repentance.
  • We do not believe that truth is relative. In fact, our view is quite the opposite. It’s just that we believe that one very important truth is the grace and mercy of God shown through Jesus. Our disagreements with our more conservative friends are disagreements about the meaning of the scriptures, not the authority of the scriptures.

The Spirit

In particular, we believe a proper understanding of the scriptures requires an understanding of the personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and so we’ll offer brief discussions of how the Spirit’s work affects the question of apostasy. The work of the Spirit is, of course, quite controversial in the Churches of Christ. We have congregations that have views ranging from denial that the Spirit personally indwells at all to a charismatic understanding.

In this discussion we are fortunate that Greg, Phil, and Mac all believe in the personal indwelling of the Spirit, and so we will not spend time demonstrating the personal nature of the indwelling. However, we will need to take some time considering how the work of the Spirit relates to the grace that all Christians enjoy.

Therefore, we need to make a couple of things clear  —

  • We are not Pentecostals. We don’t speak in tongues.
  • We do believe that God is not only alive but he is also active in this world, and one way in which he is active is through his Spirit.

There is a strain of thought in the Churches of Christ that somehow it’s wrong to teach that God has violated any of the laws of nature since the New Testament was completed. We find this position to border on Deism. The God of the Bible hears and answers prayers. When we pray for God’s help or healing or comfort or wisdom, he can and often does do precisely what’s asked of him, even today. There’s nothing wrong and much right in praying for relief from illness, and if God blesses our loved one with restored health, there’s nothing wrong and much right in thanking God for his answer to prayer.

Posts to come

The biggest problem we’ve had in assembling these materials is keeping them down to a sensible length. You see, we are addressing an issue that permeates the scriptures, and there’s just not a good stopping place. There’s more evidence than our readers likely have patience to read or we have energy to post!

So we apologize for being so lengthy. But our thinking is that, if we begin with a thorough explanation, we can spend less time explaining our views and spend our efforts more profitably delving into areas of actual disagreement.

We propose to present our position in two parts. We believe that apostasy (falling away) can come by three means. We’ll first post a series of articles, generally two per day, on the first two (loss of faith and loss of penitence), leave some time for comments and responses, and then come back later with a series of posts on the third (falling away by seeking to be justified by works).

The posts to come cover the following topics:

First Two Grounds of Apostasy

  • Statement of Position on Apostasy
  • Faith and Repentance
  • The Unity of Faith and Repentance
  • The True Nature of Repentance
  • Two Conservative Theories of Grace
  • The you-must-confess-repent-make restitution-and-ask-forgiveness theory
  • Romans and the Salvation of the Mature
  • Romans and Accepting Each Other
  • 1 John and Walking in the Light
  • Objections Considered
  • Critique of the Conservative Position

Third Ground of Apostasy (to come one week later)

  • Salvation Other Than by Faith
  • Exegesis of Galatians 5
  • Adding to Faith and Repentance
  • Why Adding to Faith Damns
Explore posts in the same categories: Apostasy

4 Comments on “A Progressive Position: Introduction”

  1. laymond Says:

    “In this discussion we are fortunate that Greg, Phil, and Mac all believe in the personal indwelling of the Spirit, and so we will not spend time demonstrating the personal nature of the indwelling.”

    Demonstrate ! we are not all convinced, unless you consider “the Four of you” as forming unity in the church.
    I believe it is said God does not live with sin, and the Holy Spirit is God, and he lives/indwells within a sinful human body. Is that about right?

  2. Alan Says:

    That is the difference between human reasoning and what the scriptures say. The scriptures say the Holy Spirit is given to dwell in all believers as a deposit. Period. We can choose to believe or we can try to rationalize away a Biblical promise.

    God bless

  3. Jr Says:

    “We reject the doctrine of once saved, always saved, known more formally as the perseverance of the saints. Christians can and do fall away.”

    And here lies your problem: man-centered theology. Man has the power. Man rules. Man controls salvation.

    Answer the question: Did Christ die for your sins past/present/future or didn’t He? And if He didn’t – then the Cross was a failure.

    If one “falls away” they were never born-again to begin with I don’t care how long they professed to be a believer with their lips or actions. God never gave them saving faith to begin with. If He did – they would be His forever.

    Jesus tells us that nobody can pluck His sheep from His hand. Yet we teach our fellowship that we, in fact, have the power to do just that. This is nonsense.

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