The Mortal Sin Problem, Part 2

Posted August 13, 2009 by Jay Guin
Categories: Apostasy

Argument 3: No, it’s not better to be ignorant of God’s will

The natural and obvious rejoinder at this point is to argue that, if ignorance of God’s will “excuses” sin, it would be better to leave a new convert in ignorance. But that’s legalistic thinking.

Years ago, my girlfriend (and future wife) invited me to a banquet hosted by her social club. I was flattered and gladly accepted. But I didn’t know that I was supposed to buy her a corsage for this event. And she didn’t tell me, because she didn’t want me to buy the corsage out of a sense of obligation.

A friend of mine pulled me aside a couple of days before the event and told me I’d better buy the corsage, because all the girls would have one. I had no idea. None. And although my ignorance would have been an excuse, I was thrilled and relieved to have been told — because excused or not, I didn’t want my girlfriend to be embarrassed. You see, it wasn’t about me. It was about the girl I love — and her embarrassment would have hurt me far, far more than my own. (In fact, I had a perfectly good excuse and wouldn’t have felt embarrassed at all.) Read the rest of this post »

The Mortal Sin Problem, Part 1

Posted August 13, 2009 by Jay Guin
Categories: Apostasy

by Jay Guin

Before we delve into falling away as described in Gal 5:4, we need to address a lingering question, which I call the “mortal sin problem.” You see, for a quarter century or more, every time I’ve taught grace as I understand it, someone raises the question, “But if we are saved by grace as you describe, then God will save even those guilty of [insert horrific sin]!”

At first it was always murder. In our dialogue with Mac Deaver, it’s been fornication and instrumental music. Others have asked about all sorts of other deeply sinful sin. And although we’ve addressed the question several times, I think it’s important enough that we look a little closer at the question. It’s a fair and important one.

Argument 1: Remember, only the penitent are in grace

For some reason, people have trouble remembering that it’s only the penitent who are in grace. If someone willfully continues in sin, if they rebel against the Lordship of Jesus, they aren’t saved. Therefore, if someone worships in error, knowing he is in error, his salvation is in serious jeopardy. Read the rest of this post »

Epicycles and the Conservative Churches of Christ

Posted August 11, 2009 by Jay Guin
Categories: Apostasy

[Even though Mac and Phil have left the field of play, we’ll continue to post here, at least until we’ve fully set forth our case. And we may toss in a few additional posts now and again, in hopes that we can keep the conversation going in the comments.]

Centuries ago, the best scientists believed that the earth was at the center of the universe. It was believed by all that the planets and the sun traveled around the earth in perfect circles.

However, even the ancients observed that there are times when certain of the planets appear to slow down and go backwards (retrograde motion). To explain this, the astronomer Ptolemy added “epicycles” to the model, that is, a second circle centered on the edge of the first circle.

Thus, one could imagine a clockwork model of the solar system, with the earth in the middle, Mars traveling along a circular path around the earth, but simultaneously following a secondary circle around its primary orbit.

But later observations, by Tycho Brahe, showed that a single epicycle was insufficient to describe the actual movement of the planets. And so some astronomers added additional epicycles, developing quite a complex model. Read the rest of this post »

Table of Contents

Posted August 9, 2009 by Jay Guin
Categories: Uncategorized

To help readers new to GraceConversation, we’ve listed the substantive posts below in logical order.

Read the rest of this post »

In Response to Mac’s Final Post

Posted August 7, 2009 by Jay Guin
Categories: Apostasy

by Jay Guin

We should begin by saying how much we appreciate Greg, Phil, and Mac for participating in this conversation to this point. We believe that the effort has greatly clarified the positions of those on both sides.

And we greatly appreciate the readers for sticking with us. GraceConversation has been rated the fourth most popular Church of Christ blog — which is remarkable for a blog so recently begun. We’ve had over 100 comments on some posts. (And we aren’t taking the blog down anytime soon.)

We know that many readers will be disappointed to learn that conservative proponents have declined to continue. Some will be disappointed that one side has failed to persuade the other side. But the point of the conversation was always to bring a better understanding of the two positions, and we believe that’s been accomplished — although it could have been accomplished much more thoroughly had the conversation continued.

In particular, we have not yet had the opportunity to express our views on what we believe to be the third and final ground for falling away: teaching a different gospel by seeking to be justified other than by faith, contrary to Gal 5:4. We will therefore post something in the near future explaining our position, for the sake of answering that lingering question — and because we believe that very question is of great importance to this debate. We cannot in good conscience leave this discussion without having at least explained what we mean.

As we’ve not yet presented our views on this important passage, we’ll respond to Mac’s comments without reference to it to avoid confusion. Read the rest of this post »

In re Dialogue, by Mac Deaver

Posted August 5, 2009 by Jay Guin
Categories: Apostasy

[I received this email from Mac. I asked for and received permission to post it here. I’ve also been notified by Phil that he is withdrawing from the conversation due to lack of time. — Jay Guin]

Dear Todd and Jay,

It is pointless to continue the back and forth correspondence. I am glad that I had the opportunity to briefly engage you in this forum. However, it is now clear that we are not making much progress with each other this way.  As long as the Bible constitutes a pattern, you and I will all have to wrestle with certain questions and face certain difficulties. There are things to be said in response to your latest posts, but I have chosen only to say a few final words.

I will briefly list the following points: In your effort to exaggerate grace to the point of sanctioning corrupt worship, you have –

1. Attacked the knowability of moral law (thereby attacking the nature of man and the nature of moral law itself)[You simply do not comprehend what you are here doing];

2. Attacked the concept of the New Testament as a pattern though you have tried to argue for a general but not too specific pattern;

3. Advocated the view that a person can walk in the light and be a practicing fornicator at one and the same time, thus turning the grace of God into lasciviousness (cf. Jude 4)[This alone, indicates the impoverishment of your cause!];

4. Admitted that the belief of some doctrines damn the soul but then argued that a sincere saint cannot be lost by the acceptance of any false doctrine;

5. Denied believing in “once saved-always saved” but then argued that a sincere saint cannot, while remaining sincere, be lost by doctrine or action;

6. Argued that “sincerity” is the equivalent to “faithfulness” on the part of a saint though the Bible teaches differently;

7. Attacked the biblical concept of knowledge. Since you think that Phil and I are inconsistent on fellowship and because we do not know the eternal destiny of every saint, we cannot know what to teach as divine obligation or duty;

8. Undermined the very concept of obligation by suggesting that our inability to know the eternal destiny of a man implies that we cannot know what our actual duty is;

9. Tried to make a way for grace for the weak but not for the rebellious, when the fact is that weakness itself can lead to or be associated with rebellion (You treated king Saul’s case of disobedience as rebellion rather than weakness, when his “fear” of the people led him to rebellion. Was that “fear” a form of weakness?).

    10.  Redefined “repentance” so that it does not necessitate the cessation of fornication or corrupt worship practice!

    11.  Attacked the very idea of knowing the truth by so blurring the distinction between truth and error as to make walking in truth the same as practicing fornication, at least in one suggested case! You have become epistemological agnostics as far as your concept of the gospel is concerned.

    12.  You have so explicated some complex individual cases as to deny the application of plain truth to the easier cases.

    13.  Argued for the extension of divine grace to those who constantly practice sin while the Bible teaches that it comes to saints who walk in the light[Just here you have turned grace into license to do wrong].

    14.  Unintentionally you have attacked the moral and doctrinal difference between the church and the world, claiming that as long as a saint or an alleged saint has a “heart for God,” he cannot be doing wrong [thereby abandoning biblical concept and language for an invented vague expression that somehow allows immorality to sincerely continue].

    15.  Argued so as to deny the ethical significance between a one time act and a continuing practice.

    Let me say this finally. I want all men to be saved just as God does (11 Pet.3:9; 1 Tim.2:4). However, God has told us that few men will be saved (Matt.7:13, 14) in spite of the availability of the matchless love and grace of God. Grace is always connected to truth, either to the acquiring of it or to the walking in it. Jay and Todd do not serve either sinners or saints well in their effort to disassociate the grace of God from attaining the truth and actually walking in it. The “solution” that they offer to the problems and difficulties that we face constitutes no solution at all! Their effort simply becomes another doctrinal error that becomes a part of the brotherhood landscape.

    The grace that Jay and Todd offer is not the grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a different grace because they advocate a different gospel (cf. Gal.1:6-10). Evidently they have been too much affected by the religious corruption in the world and by the constant division within the church. It is my view that they have wrongly reacted to the mess we have to face. The world will always be corrupt (1 Jno.5:19) and the church will always have to face its own divisiveness (1 Cor.11:19). We neither help the world nor the church by disvaluing truth in an attempt to get grace to the world. It seems to me that one of the fundamental differences between Jay and Todd on the one hand and Phil and me on the other is that (1) Phil and I still see the necessity of teaching one’s duty in spite of the fact that we do not know what God will do with certain individuals at judgment whereas (2) Todd and Jay, on the other hand, since we cannot determine in all cases what the eternal destiny of some folks is [we do not sit in the seat of God], actually wind up undermining what the clear duty is. The duty becomes a fog or it disappears altogether. And they think this is a solution to the alleged problems that we have in the matter of fellowship!

    I hereby propose that we have a four night oral public debate in 2010 in Tennessee. If Todd and Jay can formulate a proposition with which we disagree and which states the actual issue between us, then I will come to Tennessee and debate Jay or Todd in the spring or the fall (but not the summer) of next year. They do not need to accept or reject this proposal on the internet, however. They simply can send their response by e-mail or snail mail.

    With regard to things we cannot know, there are many. With regard to the destiny of many Christians, I would have to say that I do not know. But I know that neither Jay nor Todd nor Phil nor I have the right to engage in corrupt worship and practice immorality and claim that God’s grace will cover it. I sincerely hope that Jay and Todd will come back to the truth of the gospel. I will continue to pray for them.

    In sincere Christian love,

    Mac Deaver

    Reminder of Standing Policy on Comments

    Posted July 19, 2009 by Jay Guin
    Categories: Apostasy

    Dear readers,

    Please take a fresh look at the post New Policy on Comments from several weeks ago.

    I must commend the readers for the tone of the comments. Since that post, the tone of the conversation has dramatically improved, and it’s greatly appreciated.

    However, many comments remain off subject. It’s partly my fault, because I’ve not enforced the rule as strictly as I should have.

    It’s important that the discussions remain on point regarding the New Testament’s doctrine of apostasy. One reason is that our four conversationalists are busy. If you expect any of us to read anyone’s comments, we shouldn’t have to sort through the off-subject comments to get to the on-subject comments. And if the site is filled with enough off-subject material, I’m afraid that the on-subject material that is in the comments will not be read and appreciated for the value they bring to the dialogue.

    This is not the place to discuss Calvinism, for or against. This is not the place to re-argue the Nicene Creed. Those who persist in post off subject will be subjected to moderation, which means their posts will go into electronic limbo until I have time to read them and approve them — which may take a day or two, depending on my schedule.

    The policy is not due to any disrespect for those positions or those who hold them. In fact, those who wish to argue for and against Calvinism or the Nicene Creed are welcome to do so over at the Searching for a Third Way posts at OneInJesus. But not here.


    And so, in conclusion… (with a new footnote)

    Posted July 17, 2009 by Jay Guin
    Categories: Apostasy

    by Jay Guin

    Todd and I have said what we planned to say, but this is a difficult stopping point, because there are so many more Biblical teachings that we’d love to share with Phil, Mac, and the readers. We’ve not covered falling away as described in Galatians 5. We’ve not touched on Romans 8 or 14. Neither have we covered Peter’s teaching in 2 Peter 1 on how to make one’s calling and election sure. And the Bible’s teachings on church discipline need to be dealt with. We’ve only covered the very basics.

    We know we’ve not answered many of even the most obvious questions, but we’ve said enough for now. It’s time to hear from Mac and Phil —it’s particularly time to see if they can state a position and then answer our questions from before consistently with that position.

    We don’t think it’s possible. Let me explain. Read the rest of this post »

    Faith, Works, and Obedience

    Posted July 17, 2009 by Todd Deaver
    Categories: Apostasy

    by Todd Deaver

    • How can salvation be by faith and not works, and yet works be the necessary consequence of salvation?

    It’s clear from many of Dad’s remarks that Jay and I have failed to communicate to him our understanding about the relationship among faith, works, and obedience. So here we want to try to clarify our view, and in doing so we’ll be addressing some of Dad’s points in his response to our answers to his True/False questions.

    We believe that faith is the means by which salvation is received. Saving faith is always a submissive/obedient faith, which is to say it is a penitent faith. In other words, it is the acceptance of Jesus as both Savior and Lord (Rom. 10:9). Consequently, saving faith will always manifest itself in good works (Jas. 2:14-26; Heb. 11).

    Faith, penitence, and baptism are excluded from the category of works (Titus 3:5; 2 Tim. 1:9; Rom. 4:1-5; Eph. 2:8-10; etc.). Therefore, we are not saved initially by our own works, but by faith. However, man’s faith-response to the gospel is obedience to the gospel (2 Thes. 1:8; 1 Pet. 4:17), so – and this is very important – not all obedience is in the category of works. Works are those acts of obedience other than believing, repenting, and being baptized. Read the rest of this post »

    Imperfect Obedience and Disobedience

    Posted July 17, 2009 by Todd Deaver
    Categories: Apostasy

    by Todd Deaver

    One of Dad’s True/False questions to us was, “Obedience to Christ is essential to salvation.” We answered,

    True, if obedience is properly understood. Perfect obedience is not essential to salvation.

    Dad objects to this answer in his response:

    Regarding obedience to Christ being essential to salvation, Todd and Jay say that such is true but that “perfect obedience” is not essential. Of course, they need to wrestle with what they are claiming. I would at this juncture raise the question: Exactly how is imperfect obedience distinguishable from disobedience. If a man imperfectly repents, does he repent or not? Can a man maintain faithfulness to God while imperfectly walking in the light? If he is in the light, he is in the light. I do not quibble over human weakness. We all have already admitted such.

    Do we really disagree?

    This reply is confusing. On the one hand, Dad seems to insinuate that there is no difference between imperfect obedience and disobedience – which is why he says, a few sentences later, that we are on the verge of “explicitly denying the essentiality of obedience altogether.” He believes that our answer creates huge problems for us.

    And yet, in the same paragraph, he admits that perfect obedience is not essential to salvation! “I do not quibble over human weakness,” he says. “We all have already admitted such.” In other words, Dad knows that because of human weakness we all sin (per 1 John 1:8) and thus do not perfectly obey. So, what is the objection? Dad himself teaches that perfect obedience is not essential to salvation, but he castigates us for saying that God will save those who imperfectly obey. Where is the consistency here? Read the rest of this post »