Can one cut themselves off from a relationship with God?

Every great once in awhile there is a story in the newspapers, or on television news of a person going to court, after he or she becomes of age,  to legally sever the relationship with their adopted parents. 

Is something like this possible for us to do with God, our adoptive Father?

Or are we held captive in his family so that it is impossible to ever be seperated from Him?

Jesus said that He had not lost any that the Father had given Him. How does that play into the discussion of  “once saved, always saved“?

Can we just up and walk away from God…never to return…or be brought back?

45 Responses

  1. He that overcomes shall inherit all things;and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. Rev 21:7 Faithfulness would seem to be a requirement for sanctification. Thanks be to God faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit.

  2. James,

    Great passage from the Book of Revelation.

    Faith certainly is a gift of the Holy Spirit.

    But does that mean it is set in concrete and can never be lost?

  3. The short answer to that question is yes they can. People do it all the time.
    It doesn’t mean that God stops loving them. Or stops considering them to be his children. The parable of the prodigal son is apropos to all that. We can’t choose Christ, but we can choose to reject him.
    We don’t choose to live, but we can choose to die.

  4. Bror,

    If what you say is true, and I believe that it is, then how does the bulk of Evangelicalism deny this truth?

    What is it that makes them believe in “once saved, always saved”?

  5. That’s a tough one and we’d want to avoid what Luther would call resolving the paradox of the elect versus those who will not believe. Leaving it in the tension of faith comes from God and unbelief from man. Otherwise you end up in one heretical ditch or the other.

    Having said that and if we can be careful, the so titled “Prodigal Son” parable seems to be most helpful here. We see that parable end in that very tension where the wayward younger son receive freely the grace of his father and that it is precisely that same thing, the freeness of his grace, that incenses him to desire to be separated from the feast. And still yet the father says, “all that I have is yours”.

    This to me, is the essence of both what breaks a heart to believe and hardens a heart to unbelief (belief meaning naked passive trust), the utterly free grace to the nth degree. I can’t solve nor would try to solve why one and not the other, BUT, it even seems to be this in the famous Romans 9 passage. What hardened Pharaoh, who is typologically like the devil, is the very same free grace. This is EXACTLY what the Pharisees hated, what piestist throughout time down to today hate and so forth…you can always PUSH the Gospel to 200 proof and find out what a man or woman REALLY believes. There’s a limit to most confessing “justification by faith alone” protestants “gospel”. You can eventually find it and thus find what gospel they really adhere to. I even fill this inherent monster in me a lot, so to a great degree we all carry it with us.

    To me THAT is the ESSENCE of the monster we call the old Adam and flesh, always wanting to do and thereby merit God’s favor and thus reversing the “love” of God (as Luther would say) whereby God should love that which is lovable, us so repaired and cleaned up. THAT to me is the essence of the so called “fall” of man (really a pious rise UP, to BE like God, more pious than God = true Satanic religion). Then we “become” god. It’s not first and foremost the “negative sins”, theft, murder, etc…but the pious good works, that are most damning to man, especially a man who has struck a religious chord in his life. Man didn’t nor does fall first and foremost by “falling” into debauchery, but being more pious and moral. In this ascension above the Most High, so we think, we then fall. It’s a paradox of “rising up” to really “fall”. The negative sins result, as it where, later from this. Paul makes this very point crystal clear in the opening of Romans 1:18-ff. The BEST picture of the old Adam is not the Biker with tattoos, but the well suited clean cut guy as moral as the white snow. The later will eventually show his “fallen” nature if pushed religiously enough and lash out like the viper he is just like Cain did. Thus, the “negative” sins, result secondarily as an effect of the over all fallen man…they are the “inventions” of evil as Paul calls them. Man’s piety is his fallen nature and through that pious nature he becomes an inventor of other sins, the more negative list. It’s a part of that fallen creatures nature. The devil caused a “Frankenstein” and slowly over time we act by nature, more and more revealing that “Frankensteinian” nature. So we dream up and invent more sin. Our primary sin was piety, flipping the loves, and trying to be as God ourselves. The “genesis”, per se, of the fallen creature, the “religious doer” rather than God Created “naked passive truster”, the new Creature in Christ. So the satanic “creature” if you will, begins manifesting this new fallen nature which was really a usurping upward nature.

    That’s why the Gospel is a killing Word, literally and incarnated in Christ, to the “doer” for it says forever and stands “nothing left TO DO”, not yesterday, today or tomorrow. The old Adam literally is crucified on the cross. Forde goes to well show, as Luther and Paul did that the death spoken of is exactly in the “faith ALONE”. This is the very death of the doer that “NOTHING required” now or ever, nothing left to do as Christ has done it all. This is the death the old Adam hates and attempts to come in the back door of so called sanctification and post conversion schemes. Such is always the ‘death rattle’ of the old Adam (a hold out doer) who cannot stand to hear “NOTHING EVER”, this particularly strikes the religiously moral more than the openly immoral, like Christ said the tax collectors and prostitutes would see the Kingdom of heaven before the Pharisees would, the very moral and pious workers for God (so they think). It’s why in Thesis 1 of the HD Luther points out that the Law of God not only can’t help, IT HINDERS. Such a faith is frightening, and rightly so, to the old Adam because it is his death, his crucifixion with Christ. All moral and legal schemes whether under the guise of “post conversion grace”, “sanctification”, “mortifying the flesh”, “cheap grace” (MacArthur), and so forth are nothing more than the old Adam spitting blood out as he dies, all these the Cross relentlessly and incessantly attacks. These schemes are the ways the old Adam attempts to – in the here and now – “get off of the cross”, “I’m already saved” is “getting off of the cross”, the Gospel assumed is “getting off of the cross” and not taking up one’s cross. They are the first thief that says to Jesus, “If you are the son of God, get us off of these crosses”, that is give us sanctification power, getting better, grace to over come our negative sins, and expensive grace. The other thief dies on the cross with Christ, “Lord remember me when you get to Your Kingdom.”, he remains there, he takes up his unself appointed cross. Faith ALONE.

    Taking that back to your original question, it is that very utterly, free, unconditional, unrestricted, unreserved; and yes extremely fanatical uncompromising radical alien objective utterly outside of us Grace that causes faith and yet paradoxically is the source for the hardening of the heart of the unbeliever.

    Free and “doer” are mortal enemies forever.


    Larry KY

  6. Larry,

    Excellent comments. You hit the nail on the head with respect to the upitiness that is our real problem.

    So it is the “doer” in us that can reject the free grace and insert our own divinity, and therefore reject God and what He has done.

    Could this be why Jesus says, “depart from me you workers of iniquity.”?

    With the help of sin, the flesh and the devil, one who previously had faith can be ripped away…and turn the whole thing upside down?

    Is this how it happens? The Evangelical would then say that there was no faith there to begin with, right?

  7. I would like to answer more but it will have to wait. I am going to St. George now. i think there is a dragon down there needs slaying. ….

  8. Bror,

    Have a good birthday trip to St. George.

    Bag a couple of dragons for me!

  9. Yes one can lose one’s faith. Doubt is part of the human condition. Trust is one of the hard things we do. That’s why faith is a gift of the Spirit. We can’t save ourselves nor can we sustain our faith without the grace of God. Left to ourselves we would return to our former unregenerate selves. In other words, we must go to church regularly to remind ourselves of our baptism(confession and absolution) and receive the Lord’s Supper to sustain us.

  10. James,

    “Left to ourselves we would return to our former unregenerate selves. In other words, we must go to church regularly to remind ourselves of our baptism(confession and absolution) and receive the Lord’s Supper to sustain us.”

    Right on, James. We need to be kept in faith.

  11. “Left to ourselves we would return to our former unregenerate selves. In other words, we must go to church regularly to remind ourselves of our baptism(confession and absolution) and receive the Lord’s Supper to sustain us”.

    Interesting to think about, especially in the light of a passage like Hebrews 10 – the men of faith.
    I’d agree that God grants these sacraments for our benefit, but what happens when church itself becomes a hinderance, where the gospel is eclipsed by other matters? It’s something that some of us have had to deal with for a very long time, and in countless places!
    Sometimes, there is God’s grace, there are the scriptures, and there are places, like this, where you can talk with others, and that’s pretty much it. Many of us know well the song of the sons of Korah in the wilderness.

  12. James,

    Another thought occured to me about what you said.

    You said we need to return to church to remind ourselves of our baptism (confession and absolution).

    We do that at our church near the front of the service. But then it happens again in the preaching of God’s law and gospel (the sermon) and it is actually God that IS DOING the law and the gospel…TO US.

    And then again, as you said, we recieve Him once again in the sacrament of the altar.

    I’d say that lone ranger Christians are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to “keeping the faith”.

    Thanks James!

  13. Howard,

    That is a great point, and one that struck me at about the same time as you (I think).

    It is a terrible thing that so many churches have forgotten about or never knew the true gospel of the forgiveness of sins for Jesus’ sake. Just a terrible thing.

    Maybe it was one of the reasons that God allowed this internet thing to get going. Maybe He knew that some people were going to be hard pressed to hear the gospel message, in it’s purity, any other way.

    Thanks Howard!

  14. I tend to see the concept of Assurance a bit different from the Calvinists. The Calvinist sees it as since God is sovereign he is in control of those that go to heaven so he will see you through until you get there.

    I take it from the perspective if Christ. In Christ I am assured of going to heaven and outside of Christ I am not. period.

    Who would ever give that up?

  15. “In Christ I am assured of going to heaven and outside of Christ I am not. period.

    Who would ever give that up?”

    That is a good way to think about it, Jon!


  16. To be really honest I think we have a lot of neurotic Christians that continually 2nd guess their salvation because they are not good enough or doing enough. Even if someone says they are assured scripture they feel unassure.

    Its like they can talk about the honey but can not taste the honey.

    Thats how it is when you feel like the sacrifice of Christs’ death on the cross is not enough… you CAN”T taste the honey…. you can see it, you can describe its color….. but the taste and smell of the honey are not experienced!!!

  17. Jon,

    It certainly is true that many Christians do not trust in Christ’s work on the cross for them. They also do not trust in what God promised to them in their baptisms.

    And then there are the Christians that believe that it (salvation) is like a business contract. “I made my decision for Christ so now God must save me.”
    Well, that pretty much does away with the relational aspect of God to His children.

    This ‘free will’ decision theology also can lead people to take God for granted, and to deny God the freedom that rightfully belongs to Him.

    We do have a sure hope in Christ Jesus, but we would never say that He owes us anything. He saves us out of his good and gracious will and in the end it will be His decision as He judges each of us individually. The great news is that the One who died for us will be the One who judges us.

    Thanks Jon!

  18. Ah, the old once saved always saved discussion. I would mention

    Ephesians 1:13-14 “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”

    John 10:29 “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.”

    Romans 8:30 “Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”

    Note that “glorified” is in the past tense because this final step is so certain that in God’s eyes it is as good as done. In addition, Upon salvation the Holy Spirit enters the believer. According to the belief that one can lose their salvation means that if someone is saved, turns away and then comes back they are rejustified and the Holy Spirit leaves and reenters. This is not logical at all.

  19. Craig,

    Thanks for your comments. Good points.

    Then there is the whole spiritual warfare argument. I’m sure you’ve heard before, that satan attacks believers even more vigorously than non-believers. Why all the spiritual warfare language and admonitions to guard against the attacks? Why the parable of the seed which sprouts roots but are shallow and are blown away or dried by the sun? Why the picture in Revelation about the church in Revelation whose candlestand is removed?
    God will not lose us…but can we not choose to reject Him and walk away from Him?

    I used to believe in once saved always saved but now I believe that believers can reject their Father and choose to be cut off from Him,
    This might be a pretty tough thing to do, The scriptures say that the only unforgivable sin is the sin against the Holy Spirit. I don’t know exactly what that might be, but since the Spirit is the one being offended we can assume that He does know.

    I think there is scriptural evidence for this view and I think it also helps keep us from taking our salvation for granted (which I believe many do) and I believe it preserves God’s freedom to save whom He’ll save according to His will…not ours.

    Like Bror mentioned earlier, God never stops loving us and does not remove His love from us. But rather we can stop loving Him. We can reject Him.

    The Lutheran view of this would be that when we are saved God gets all the credit, but when we are lost, we get all the blame.

    It make not make sense or be logical, but there are many things about the Christian faith that are also illogical.

    Thanks Craig!

  20. A lot of the “once saved always saved” comes about by several confusions. Once cannot fully see this within the baptistic paradigm because its categories are based on false categories right out of the gate.

    As Luther says correctly, “loose the revealed God and you loose the hidden God along with Him…” (paraphrased – lh)

    1. The ENTIRE idea of faith is usually, at least in SB thought and most Baptist in general is false faith. That is an active exerted faith, earth to heaven where some Gnostic infusion of this kind of power comes about to exert back up to heaven. Faith does not come “packaged” as it where in the Word and Sacraments, but somewhere else. Believers baptism is definitive of this in which the conversion is else wise but inside of you, not extra nos. Rather than passive suffering faith that simply comes into being based upon the Cross alone and God FOR YOU coming TO YOU when baptism is God’s work, heaven to earth. So right out of the gate “once saved always saved” and “not falling away” is generally meant one doesn’t loose that kind of faith, which is false faith, the exerted kind, the “I’m showing to the mob boss my loyalty kind of faith”. “I’m shaking it boss, I’m shaking it boss” kind of “cool hand Luke” faith. Loves reversed as Luther might put it. It’s transactional, if/then-ish, surreptitiously meritorious (God saves only believers in this sense BECAUSE they believe).

    2. The battle for unbelief then is that, the battle to prove ones self believing. Rather than a godly fear of “I too am a great Pharisee who can all too easily deny free grace. In fact that is my greatest enemy, not my ‘negative sins’”. Men use the Law of God and opinionated laws of men to ACTIVELY withhold themselves from the grace of God.

    3. It doesn’t realize that the VERY tension of the ‘now not yet’ salvation in this age and before death IS the very essence of faith that suffers to hang EVERYTHING on the Word IN SPITE of all it experiences, sees, feels and metrics in its life (theology of glory). It is forever attempting to ‘get down off of that painful cross’ that is a suffering passion faith – it allows for no metrics to “know it is saved” but rather suffers to be possessed itself by the Word in Word, water, bread and wine.

    4. Faith is really to be captured, arrested, taken over by, apprehended by the Cross and not an exertion upward. In this way faith is passive yet works and operates. The exerted faith, false faith (precisely what James is addressing) is active, yet all it operates is sin, outwardly good or bad in activity.

    5. The grasp of Christ that we cannot be lost is on GOD’s part, His will and disposition toward us. THAT makes it the firm and assured ground.

    6. “once saved always saved” entails that Christ didn’t really die for all the world but only for ‘the elect’ or ‘those who profess faith’. So it sees a type of salvation outside of Christ though it mingles and marries it to Christ. The similar connection between Calvinistic and Arminian thought is that there is a group X out there for which there was no atonement. Either by their choice (Arminian/Wesley) they can DO or double predestination (Calvin); and the ‘saved group’ is the other group. But Christ’s death is not ubiquitous.

    The parable of the seed is most helpful because its stunning.

    1. The Gospel is promiscuously cast about on all ground.
    2. At no time is the soil itself being productive. The fruit, primarily faith, is STILL yet arising out of the Word.
    3. It never states that the seed cannot go into hard ground but that Satan actively takes it away, that is the primary issue.
    4. It never states that in the other two grounds when it dies off that it was some kind of other category of false faith or not “true saving faith” (the idea of ‘true saving faith’ is of course to make faith a work and hiddenly meritorious). In fact to call what the seed did do ever so shortly as it did, is to call the Gospel (the seed/word) a lie. I.e. it produces false faith which is impossible. The Gospel cannot produce false faith, for false faith is ultimately that exerted faith or works faith that moves earth to heaven directively, “if/then” faith. The killing Word of the Cross in the Gospel precludes this possibility because it says “NOTHING LEFT TO DO”, therefore it MUST by necessity crucify “if/then” exerted earth to heaven faith. The Gospel, the seed, does not produce the devil’s faith! Thus, those two soils had real faith.
    5. Thus, again, what is denied ultimately is Christ ALONE.
    6. It is an active and not passive rejection. An open, “I will take care of my own sins thank you very much Jesus.” It is a “I will no longer suffer to suffer on a Word of promise any longer”.
    7. “once saved always saved” attempts to move the eschatological reality ahead of schedule in order to get past the Word and the promise and onto the reality (so it thinks).
    8. “once saved always saved” moves the “in crowd” to that category and thus they think they no longer need to hear the Gospel. And if they hear you giving it to them for you part as a gift to encourage them, they will often think you don’t think they are saved and are evangelizing them to “get saved”. Here they are offended at you.
    9. “once saved always saved” ‘gets down off of its cross’ and does not bear it. In reality it disdains the Cross and the Gospel, though it would be shocked to hear so.
    10. “once saved always saved” is really a way of confessing “I am not now a sinner, or that is to say really and truly a sinner (but a pretend sinner”. One’s ‘sinnership’ is less and pretendish and mostly in the past, “I once was XYZ bad, but the Lord took that away from me…” testimonies. Again, its getting off of the cross it must bear.


  21. Getting off the track here…. but a lot of people enter their church-going years wanting to get something FROM God. For example, we started going to Church after we got married and when we started having kids. We wanted the Church to help grow our kids. We wanted something FROM God. Its not necessarily a bad thing but few people enter in wanting to be filled with a relationship with God and not having any other [false] gods before God himself (1st Commandment).

    We have the idols of family, morality, marriage, al not bad in and of themselves unless these good things become ultimate things before God himself. These things become idols in our lives when we pursue them selfishly.

    We need to remember that when we make a good thing an ultimate thing it can and does become idolatrous behaviour when we put them ahead of God, Jesus, and the Cross.

    Too far off track 🙂

  22. Larry,

    You have put forth an excellent explanation of why many believe the ‘OSAS’ doctrine.
    It’s all an extension of the self. It is a denial of the sacraments and an idolatrous leap of worshipping faith instead of God.

    I have been guilty in believing in this false doctrine, by the way…mostly because it seemed to make so much sense. I wanted it to be true as well. I wasn’t looking to free God but to ensure my own well being at the expense of God’s freedom.

    Thanks Larry!

  23. Jon,

    You have, I beleive, spotted the problem rightly, as have others here…idolatry.

    Idolatry is what we do.

    No one can get past the 1st Commandment. No one.

    That’s where Jesus took the rich young man when He told him to sell everything he had and to follw Him.

    We all have things that grab hold of us and take preeminence over God from time to time in our lives.

    It is evidence of our condition. That we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.

    I don’t think you were off track at all, Jon. 😀

    Thank you!

  24. Hey, just wanted to let you know that we’re back with some recent posts on the Augsburg.

  25. Cat 95,

    It’s about time!

    I’ll get back over there and excoriate you some more for your absence.

    (glad you guys are back!) 😀

  26. Right Steve,

    in our world of ‘do’ as you might say, we are behavior modficationizers ( 😎 ). We try to mainttain control by behavior modification of ourselves and others and we USE God while doing this. But God changes from the top/down, inside-out, Man changes botom up, outside-in.

    We repent of our sin but we dont repent of the sin behind the sin or the idoloatry of our sin.

  27. That is why a sacramental view of the Christian faith is so important.

    If we don’t trust in something coming to us (extra nos) …something tangible like water, bread and wine…then we will latch onto (by nature) something else. That something else will turn into idolatry. Putting faith in faith. Putting faith in our “doing”.

    That is why I believe that Jesus instituted the sacraments…to keep the old Adam out of the self justification game.

  28. Your explanations make more sense to me than anything I have read in a long time. Praise God!

  29. Mrsbucket,

    Thanks for dropping by the old Adam!

    The good folks that contribute here are much smarter and wiser (not that those things are always important with this stuff) than I.

    I’m sure you also have some good insight into matters of faith.

    Feel free to comment anytime, on anything.

    God bless you and keep you, Mrsbucket!

    – Steve

  30. Wow – sorry I missed this discussion –

    Someone may have already said this, but just in case….

    I don’t believe any truly born again person could ever walk away from God…..I just don’t believe that one could walk away from knowing what it cost God to save that person.

    It cost Him everything…the very least a born-again person could/would/should do is live for Him. The thought of that sacrifice should drive and motivate a believer all the days of his life.

    But that’s just how I look at the cross.

  31. Wayne,

    Welcome aboard, to a touchy subject with many Christians.

    There definitely is a difference of opinion between Southern Baptist (non-denominational) theology, and Reformed, and Lutheran theologies.

    As a Lutheran, I believe that God’s chosen people can turn their backs on their Father just as some of the Jews in the Old Testament did.

    It might take a lot of doing for that point to occur, but I think it does preserve God’s freedom to not have Him locked into a business contract, when what we are looking at is a realtionship.

    I know that my kids could reject me, no matter how much I love them and want them.

  32. I heard an interesting tidbit about the parable of the lost sheep that may apply to this discussion. It is the first parable in Luke 15 if you want to find it. A professor of mine mentioned that it is interesting that the story shows the shepherd carrying the sheep on his shoulders after he finds it. Typically, the only reason he would do that is if the sheep had fled and wouldn’t come to the sound of his voice for some reason. Since the sheep proved to be stubborn, the shepherd would break its leg so it couldn’t get any further away and then would carry it and nurture it back to health. It seems to me, from this story, but also from reading across the whole of Scripture, that if we belong to God, He will pursue us to the ends of the earth if He has to to show us His love. If we belong to him, He will never let us go.

  33. Hey Steve,

    Me too brother OSAS, I wanted to believe it so much but in the end tormented my soul because you begin looking at yourself ultimately (sin). Either immediately or through some metric you are trying to measure up. With eyes of off Christ for you, that’s what happens.

    It’s taken years and still some to understand Luther because having been SB and later Reformed you read Luther through that paradigm, that grid, and he doesn’t make sense for the most part and at best sounds dangerous and radical at worse. But grace always does sound scary to the “doer” who has his foot on the sifting sand he thinks is solid ground.

    I recall the first time I heard of Luther about falling away, a real believer falling away. I had begun to endear the Gospel so much I heard him give especially in baptism and absolution (the LS was still pending for me at that time, Calvin then seemed similar). When I heard that, “can fall away”. I panicked. My wife panicked. My best SB pastor friend who had begun reading Luther panicked. That’s our natural reaction to that. It is really the same natural reaction a rank unbeliever has when he/she first hears whatever it was they believed before as being false and NOT sure. When our sifting sand is revealed for what it really is, whatever it is, inside or outside of the church, when we find that the heretofore solid ground we were on is in fact shifting sands – it scares the hell out of us and we repulse at the real grace (which seems very scary).

    It goes something like this coming from that paradigm, “Oh my God, if I can fall away then how do I know, God must not be strong enough. No assurance in that. If God doesn’t keep me I’m doomed.” Coming from a baptistic and/or reformed paradigm that’s a very very natural reaction. However, the VERY heart of it – and I hope this HELPS anyone dealing with this rather than not – lay in one’s thoughts about the disposition of God toward you and for you. It really matters little if God is sovereign and all powerful if His will toward you is not salvific! And therein lay the panic upon coming from the baptistic/reformed “cannot fall away” however it’s expressed as doctrine – into Luther who says you can. Without fully understanding the ToG versus ToC its hard to grasp if not impossible. Thus, if God’s will is not disposed toward you, then you must be busy doing something to keep it pleasing – but one is still stuck in the Baptist/reformed anti-sacramental paradigm. But that misses Luther entirely.

    In baptistic and reformed thought there is a bit of Jesus love’s you but a kind of doctrinal unspoken ‘not so much’, if you slip in faith (meaning really faithfulness) God’s disposition may change toward you or worse “never was nor will be for you”. Which really is rank heresy. The ENTIRE point of God never changing, never being lost out of Christ’s hand or the Father’s hand (which is His authority, His permission, right hand of God, which is GREATLY comforting – as opposed to just rank sovereign strength – Baptist/Calvin), election and so forth is to communicate ESPECIALLY during anfechtungen (trial/temptation/weakness) that “YOU CANNOT EVER GET OUT OF GOD’S LOVE/WILL AND DISPOSITION SAVINGLY FOR YOU BECAUSE HIS LOVE CREATES ITS OBJECT AND IS NEVER BASED UPON IT”. That’s why Luther says time and time again that the doctrine of election is FOR THE CHRISTIAN in time of trial, temptation, suffering, persecution (exactly how Paul uses it) and not a doctrine for the unbeliever. Again Luther’s point about the fall reversing the loves is very relevant here. And Luther is correct AGAIN, LOOSE the revealed God and you LOOSE the hidden God with Him. As Jesus said clearly, “…if you have seen ME, you HAVE SEEN the FATHER.”

    Now that God’s will toward you in Christ is salvific and good, one can more easily see that the power of Christ’s hand and God’s right hand and election lay not in some rank exertion of sovereign power but in His good will and disposition toward you for you in Christ and for Christ’s sake. Luther unlike Calvin and Baptist didn’t seem to divorce God’s strength from His will but saw them mutually the same. Thus, the “can fall away” simply lay in the exertion of the old Adam to NOT want free grace but merit. The “doer” simply cannot nor will not survive, live or enter into heaven because that, doing, is not there.

    It’s CRITICAL to understand the difference in Luther and Calvinistic thought on the eternal nature of the Law, I think. Ultimately Calvin, especially later day Puritans, and all Baptist see the Law as eternal in and of its self. So that the Gospel is merely this intermediate temporary thing that ultimately serves the Law, in between the end points of eternity before creation and eternity after the second advent. In this way it must be seen that the Law is NEVER fulfilled and this is simply a denial of the finished work of Christ. It’s not overtly obvious at first but if one realizes that the Gospel is simply to establish after conversion and unto eternity the workings of the Law, then it is obvious the Law was not fulfilled in Christ (third use ultimately comes from this). Not so with Luther. Luther held forth that the Law’s office is to serve the Gospel period and the end. The question arises, “But is the Law then not eternal”. Far from it. As Luther shows it is eternal and forever in that for the damned it will eternally demand and for the blessed, in Christ, it is eternally fulfilled by Christ. It, the Law, stands forever unfulfilled and demanding (of the damned) or forever fulfilled by Christ (the blessed). So again here we see that the falling away is simply the unforgivable sin – that is it is so because it turns away from the very free grace via naked faith purposefully. It is unforgivable by its nature and not its severity or frequency or magnitude.

    So when the panic comes, “I might fall away”, that’s a good thing because then you flee to Christ by which you cannot fall away from His hand nor the Fathers where assurance is sure and certain. The reason the “cannot fall away” crowd, which I was too, panic at first is that it ultimately reveals the hidden antigospel squirreled away deep within that theology. Whereby “grace” is really some mysterious movement, force or power working secretly in a corner within the person, rather than grace (true grace) BEING the very proclamation itself, “For Christ’s sake you are forgiven, For Christ’s sake there is NOTHING left to do”. This proclamation at the “to you” “for you” level in the sacraments is utterly openly missing in Baptist theology and doctrine and surreptitiously missing from Reformed theology/doctrine (takes a bit more to ferret it to the surface).

    The irresistibleness of Grace in Luther’s thought, if we can speak that way, in a semi-calvinistic speech lay in its sureness of God saying “I love and forgive you…it is finished… no matter what you do, even if you don’t get better, even if you don’t believe it”. As Forde points out faith paradoxically reveals unbelief in us – “I don’t believe THAT…THAT is TOO easy”. That’s irresistible to faith but it is utterly repulsive to the old Adam. It is the odor of life to faith but the stench of death to unbelief (merit mongering in all forms obvious and subtle), and vice versa: what is the odor of life to the old Adam, all forms of merit, is dog vomit to faith, and that which the old Adam perceives as stinking decaying dying death, Christ alone, is the sweet aroma of eternal life that surpasses all understanding.

    Paradoxically the Gospel is both: For free grace is IN FACT the sweet essence of eternal life to faith and is IN FACT an odor of death to unbelief (the “doer” rightly smells death in “freely given”, and the believer, naked truster, rightly smells life in ‘freely given’.) The true Kingdom of heaven thus is invading the fallen world via the Word and Sacraments, and in the age to come will be all there is.



  34. OSAS is an abuse of a good piece of theology: The perseverance of the saints.

    OSAS makes it sound like once I’m saved I can do as I please, but that factors out regeration, which changes the heart.

    A person cannot be un-born again. Eternal life cannot mean I have eternal life today and not next year. It is by definition eternal.

    Also, a good question is this: Who holds us? Who keeps us saved? Is it me or God? Craig made some good points Scripturally.

    If I did nothing to save myself, then it’s kind of hard to believe I could do anything to un-save myself.

    So I don’t subscribe to OSAS, per se. I believe that all who are truly regenerate will persevere to the end, but I also hold that those same people will be fundamentally changed because they’re genuinely regenerated.

  35. Steve,

    Excellent comments!

    Although my son will always be my son and I will love him no matter what he does or where he goes…forever…can He choose to leave me and abandon me?

    Does God force us to live with Him if we do not want to?

    How did a loving God let some of his chosen people go, in the Old Testament?

    That parable of the seed taking root (faith?) and then drying up in the sun comes to mind also.

    Thanks Steve!

  36. I wonder about this myself. Of those who say they are former Chrisitans now Atheists. Jesus said that no one can snatch us out of the father’s hand, including ourselves (commit a sin so great that we lose our salvation). But can we not jump?

    I’m reminded of Charles Templeton, a co-founder of Youth for Christ who worked with Billy Graham. His struggle with doubts led him to renounce Christianity and embrace atheism. Much later, when talking to Lee Strobel, he said,” the thing I miss the most Jesus.” But he still died on his deathbed believing there was no God.

    Some would say he was never saved to begin with, but I’m not so sure it’s that cut and dry.

  37. “Does God force us to live with Him if we do not want to?”

    I think that’s the wrong question. If we are regenerated, we have a new nature that wants to ‘live with God’.

    Certainly, regenerated people struggle, and sometimes even want a “divorce”! But like the Prodigal Son, they come back to their senses because the Spirit of God lives inside them.

    As for the Israelites, I would say that is comparing apples to oranges theologically… the role of the Holy Spirit has changed in the New Covenant.

    I like Philippians 1:6: “Being confiden of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”.

    That’s a promise to all genuine believers – God will finish what He began.

  38. JC, Steve L.,

    Thought provoking comments!

    Thanks for sharing them.

    I too, don’t know if it’s so cut and dried.

    I think to preserve our freedom and the freedom of God we might not want to take anything for granted.

    Trust in God, our sure hope, indeed, but in a way that doesn’t leave the whole thing a business contract but a relationship wherin both sides are free.

    Maybe I’m wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time …today!

    Thanks very much for your input!

  39. Larry,

    Great stuff! Lots to take in. I especially like your insight as you were a SB , then Calvinist, now Lutheran.

    It is very helpful for me to get the perspective from someone who knows all the arguments in a personal way.

    “As Forde points out faith paradoxically reveals unbelief in us – “I don’t believe THAT…THAT is TOO easy”. That’s irresistible to faith but it is utterly repulsive to the old Adam. It is the odor of life to faith but the stench of death to unbelief (merit mongering in all forms obvious and subtle), and vice versa: what is the odor of life to the old Adam, all forms of merit, is dog vomit to faith, and that which the old Adam perceives as stinking decaying dying death, Christ alone, is the sweet aroma of eternal life that surpasses all understanding.”


    Thanks Larry!

  40. This is a good point to ponder: We must be very very very careful with the naked word “god” because both the theology of glory and theology of the Cross use that term, but if you loose the revealed God, Christ the Son, the incarnate God-man, then you WILL loose the hidden God though you confess the bible to your death. Oh there is a way to confess the bible as the true word of God and God and be DENYING God, the revealed God. “You search the scriptures and think that by them you have life, but it are these that (continually) bear witness of Me (Jesus as JESUS FOR YOU).” That’s not a low view of Scripture but the highest and only view of Scripture.

    “I’m reminded of Charles Templeton, a co-founder of Youth for Christ who worked with Billy Graham. His struggle with doubts led him to renounce Christianity and embrace atheism. Much later, when talking to Lee Strobel, he said,” the thing I miss the most Jesus.” But he still died on his deathbed believing there was no God…” –End Quote.

    The same could be said of many like former Baptist preacher turned comic Sam Kinison who had no problem with Jesus just religion.

    I’m familiar with Templeton myself and the whole Lee Strobel interview. A couple of quick comments are in line here. I less find it true that Templeton is denying Christ than Rick Warren or the Pope. I know how that sounds and I mean for it to sound that way.

    What did he, Templeton, in fact deny? There are limits to this but I wonder. That’s the real question. Because James goes on to say, “you believe God is one (sovereign, powerful, pick your typical view of God), GREAT, that’s a demon’s faith”, congratulations. What drove Templeton’s struggle was with the view of evil in the world and an all knowing all powerful God as “god” is understood under that purely antichristic Finneyist doctrine. Standard theology of glory or fallen religion pure and simple. He simply could not bring the two together so he called himself an “atheist”. For he was never told of suffering under theology of Cross but under a theology of Glory, so what “god” did he really deny. It is revealing that he missed Jesus – THE REVEALED GOD. So what was he being an “atheist” from? Finney’s “god”? If that is true then I can say I’m an atheist too to Charles Finney’s idol just as much as I’m an atheist toward Allah, Buddha, Zeus and a number of other theologies of glory including and up to that which parades itself around as Christian today in the protestant churches.

    So I’m not so quick about thinking that men like Templeton or Kinison die atheist. In fact I quiet trust that he (and Kinison) is in heaven with Christ because he did not deny Jesus, but rather longed for him as he openly confessed. That is to say his real confession was that he missed the revealed God, that is to say the incarnate Word that had been deeply buried under demonic doctrine parading itself around as “bible”, “jesus”, “gospel” and so forth. It is quite possible that his confession that “there is no god” was an antithetical confession of the true faith in this way to show it more obvious: “I confess that there is no Allah (god)”. What he denied was nothing more than a theology of glories concept of god which is no god at all even if it distills its superstitious ideas from the Scriptures themselves. Coming from the anti-christic background he was formerly preaching from it is quite possible that he is denying a false god under the idea of “God” and thus called himself atheist. It is quite possible that in denying that god he knew Jesus who is THE God revealed (“if you have seen Me you have seen the Father). I find it utterly astounding that what he says he missed most is Jesus. I could and WOULD confess that very thing in those anfechtung times under SB religion BECAUSE Jesus IS missing there.

    Templton’s cry could EASILY be seen as a cry and confession of Christ and that is to say THE GOD that IS.



  41. “That is to say his real confession was that he missed the revealed God, that is to say the incarnate Word that had been deeply buried under demonic doctrine parading itself around as “bible”, “Jesus”, “gospel” and so forth”.

    That raises a very interesting point, because when I spend time talking with non-Christians, they get all riled up about all sorts of things they perceive to be the crux of what ‘Christianity’ is about (often including long lists of prohibitive rules), but things really settle down when you get to talk to them about Jesus Christ from the Gospels – they often become as astonished, I think, as those who first heard Him teach those words. I have an impression that this is what is so inherently wrong with so much churchianity – it majors in minors and misses ‘placarding’ Jesus Christ before us and others – hence, 99% of the time, the propensity to peddle religion rather than the liberty of the new life in Christ.

  42. Another part of this OSAS fallacy and all it’s similar ideas is a misunderstanding of “born again”. It too like grace is seen as this mysterious power that operates behind the scenes. But again, true grace, is the spoken declaration of God. THIS is creates the faith that receives it and simultaneously reveals the unbelief, “I can’t believe it…that’s TOO easy…”.

    THAT Gospel Word that comes to us and too us specifically delivered in baptism is the rebirth. When Paul speaks of death and rising in baptism, the Word in the water, that grace speech “not guilty/innocent for Christ’s sake” (the Divine proclamation that CREATES like “let there be”) – Paul is speaking of the true rebirth/regeneration.

    Here we see that like true grace that is not this hidden behind the scenes operation but a divine proclamation that can only be trusted (believed), so is true rebirth/regeneration. That is to say rebirth is not this mysterious behind the scenes operation but an outcome of that open spoken Word of Gospel, particularly in baptism (now we begin to see why baptism is regenerational) which creates the faith that trusts/believes it. The doctrine of rebirth and regeneration in baptist and reformed circles is not like this but this ‘secret behind the scenes operation’. It’s why the sacraments are not really sacraments in those doctrines and is in Lutheran. Christ died FOR all truly in general and that specifically is delivered TO THE MAN in the sacraments (pro me).

    Taking this back it is very EASY to see how we can fall away from the faith, that is NOT TRUST, if we reject the free grace declaration (the unforgivable sin), and seek to save ourselves. This is the essence of the parable of the four seeds, real faith can die and fall away. But one has to keep in tension what is meant by faith, grace, rebirth and so forth and not allow the errors that have been introduced making them not “extra nos” but these “behind the scene secret operations”.

    In a nutshell what Jesus was saying to Nicodemas was that rebirth consist in rebirth in water and of the Spirit (baptism = water + word of grace that comes to you, pro me). In other words to paraphrase “you cannot save yourselves by your doings, but must hear a declared imputed Word of forgiveness from God for Christ’s sake – forgiven + nothing left to do, IT IS FINISHED, In Fine.

    The fall away is no more or less difficult than trying to figure out why we fell in the first place at creation. People ask that all the time, “Why couldn’t God have created us in some fashion so that we couldn’t fall away in the first place”.

    Ferreting through this takes really looking at the definitions we typically hold today from various denominations and even Rome versus what Scripture says that Luther found afresh. One way to do this is to make a list and define them per one’s denominational moorings, then list them say per Luther. THEN draw the picture that both draw, assemble the car parts per the “paradigm”.

    E.g. Grace in some views is this mysterious operating power behind the scenes (Rome, Baptist, even Calvin to a lesser degree) vs. a sheer spoken word imputed, a declaration (Scripture). Then move on to faith, then to rebirth, then to the next one. Then you can begin to see the difference at least. It is ultimately why the Gospel is rich in Luther in Word and Sacrament and not to more or lesser degrees in other confessions. That’s a good way to go about it because often we will read Luther with our preconceived other denominational definitions. I know I STILL do and it takes time to grasp what he was saying. MANY times I’ve read Luther and said either, “That’s crazy, what in the world does he mean”. Then two weeks, a few months or three or four years later I read someone peeling that apart better for me and I say, “AHHA, so that’s what he meant, MAN, that’s Good News.”

    So I would encourage anyone to do something like that and be patient and pray that God help you/us understand, which He entreats us to do in many places – seek His grace boldly, seek it like a grace/gospel addict, seek it like a begging super ultra needy worthless leeching bum of the world!


  43. Howard,

    I’ve run into the exact same thing. In fact it doesn’t take a PhD theologian to figure out that if “god” is concerned with the “blue laws” or some similar moral non-sense, then that “god” is not even in the realm of reality and quite trivial.

    Everybody wonders why “sin” is so mildly considered or taken today by secular society. It should be PAINFULLY obvious why this is. Over time these moralistic fixer upper jobs themselves lowered the bar of the definition. Depending on one’s area and denominational moorings sin is reduced to a ridiculous handful of “local yokal house rules” that some theological idiot dreamed up decades ago. E.g. beer, wine and alcohol, others.

    One grows up in that and discovers and assesses, “what is sinful in and of itself about those”. “If that’s sin, then this “god” being preached is worrying about lesser things than Zeus did in the Greek world”. And so it becomes quite silly.

    Those who merely ratchet it up to the real but only or primarily negative sins don’t serve the Word much better. No it’s not until the killing Word comes and attacks first and foremost our best works, especially them, that is what the Cross attacks.

    THAT then is an utterly unexpected and alien message. It’s one thing to huff and puff say against the thief or homosexual and say, “sin” – its altogether ALIEN message to say, “your saving that guys life, missionary work and church yard busy bodiness is sin…because of what you invest in them and how you use it to withhold sheer grace from yourself and pretend to not be ‘so much a sinner’.


  44. Larry,
    I listened to someone on a BBC phone in today talking about how broadcasting had a “duty’ not to air material which used bad language or dealt with certain material in a ‘dubious’ fashion, as this was all adding to the ‘moral decline in our society’ and needed to be stemmed.
    Noe this is truly a case of closing the barn door after the horse has bolted!
    The caller was clearly ‘religious’, and was making the form of point, no doubt, which is delivered from numerous pulpits every Sunday – don’t do these things, but do these instead. How can we ever expect to reach the lost with that?
    The beauty of the gospel is Christ meets us in our woeful distress, and there He brings mercy and forgiveness, not after we have ‘made’ ourselves as ‘holy’ (moral) as we can be.

  45. Larry,
    I listened to someone on a BBC phone in today talking about how broadcasting had a “duty’ not to air material which used bad language or dealt with certain material in a ‘dubious’ fashion, as this was all adding to the ‘moral decline in our society’ and needed to be stemmed.
    Now this is truly a case of closing the barn door after the horse has bolted!
    The caller was clearly ‘religious’, and was making the form of point, no doubt, which is delivered from numerous pulpits every Sunday – don’t do these things, but do these instead. How can we ever expect to reach the lost with that?
    The beauty of the gospel is Christ meets us in our woeful distress, and there He brings mercy and forgiveness, not after we have ‘made’ ourselves as ‘holy’ (moral) as we can be.

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