Saturday, July 31, 2010

Fun and Contingency with Eternal Security and Perseverance of the Saints

2 Thessalonians 2.1-12:

1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and [by] our gathering together unto him, 2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. 3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for [that day shall not come], except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth [will let], until he be taken out of the way. 8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: 9 [Even him], whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
There are a number of futurate propositions in the passage above, including the true statement that Christ will come. Now, question number one: Is it plausible that coming of Christ will not occur? No, it is not plausible that the coming of Christ will not occur, for whatever the Scriptures say is true and they have stated that Christ will come. Now, question number two: What would happen if God were to have no intention of sending Christ or if Christ were to have no intention of a second coming? Answer: There would be no coming of Christ as predicted or prophesied in the likes of 2 Thessalonians 2.8--no one goes anywhere unless they first get up and go or unless something forces them there.

What follows from all this? Remember that we said that it was not plausible that the coming of Christ would not occur: there’s no question that Christ will come as it is certain that he will come. However, we also just saw that this certain event, which is the coming of Christ, is something which is contingent. Therefore, it is possible for an event to be both certain and contingent.

Likewise, it is certain that an apostasy (!) will have occured, for the apostle Paul has told us in the passage above that there would be such an apostasy. However, this certain event, which is apostasy, is also contingent upon something; specifically, one cannot fall away from anything unless he is first near it.

Again, an event’s being both certain and conditional are not mutually exclusive: they are compatible in some instances. Therefore, if Arminian and sub-Arminian apologists should produce evidence of Scriptures which present remission of sins, or justification, or sanctification, or glorification, or salvation, etc. as being contingent upon something, then so what? This does not categorically rule out the possibility that either eternal security or the Perseverance of the Saints are real. In fact, this jibes with the conclusions that we eariler reached by way of a different inquiry or line of reasoning in the previous post on this subject. It was there that we were reminded that God is a god of means (e.g., Isa. 10.5-19) and that the God who keeps and preserves his people is not on record as having said that he would not use various means of establishing character, perseverance, maturity, good works within and through those whom are shielded by faith.


Suppose you lived back in the early 1600s and knew RenĂ© Descartes when he was young. Then suppose that during the formative years of the philosophy of Descartes, Aristotle was resurrected and brought to Descartes’ town so the two could sit and chat about all the enduring questions in the field of philosophy. The two would sit and converse, and part of their conversation might go as follows:

Descartes: “Aristotle, how can I know that I exist?”

Aristotle: “If you just asked a question, then you exist. For non-existent things cannot ask questions or do anything: they don’t exist. If you now breathe, then you exist. For non-existing things do not and cannot breathe.”

Is existence contingent upon the asking of questions? No, it is not contingent upon the asking of questions, for we know that things such as rocks, boulders, and infants exist without their having ever asked any questions. What follows from this? Notice that sentences carrying if-then phrases are used in perfectly grammatical/conventional ways by Aristotle above, yet existence is not contingent upon questions and existence is not contingent upon breathing. Therefore, what follows is that not all supposed biblical warnings of apostasy and damnation can automatically rightly be interpreted as warnings, in the case of biblical proof texts which contain if-then phrases and which are cited by Arminian and sub-Arminian apologists.

Some of these apologists naively assume that such phrases always and only carry a conditional function, yet there is ample evidence to the contrary. Such phrases are sometimes used, to the contrary, with a descriptive function where the only conditionality expressed is one of epistemic or heuristic inquiry and not conditionality of cause/effect relationships. Example: above we saw that existence was not a consequence of the antecedent which is the act of asking a question.

So, how about a biblical example of this overlooked principle of vernacular speech? Compare this with a close look into Colossians 1.21-23:

21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in [your] mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled 22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: 23 If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and [be] not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, [and] which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;
Does anyone really want to argue the case that some past action of Christ’s--namely, his having already reconciled believers in the body of his flesh through death--is a consequence of whether or not believers later on and down the road continue in the faith? Presumably, no one will go this far in his zeal to uphold the idea that all if-then phrases express a relation of cause and effect. What follows, therefore, is that we have just now seen one verse of the Bible which proves not to be a warning of apostasy though some might initially suppose otherwise.


So there just is no question that certainty and contingency are compatible just as there is no question that if-then phrases are not expressive of cause/effect relationships in every instance. If people are going to argue that Christians can in every sense become unbelievers or can in every sense cease to be forgiven by God or something along these lines, then different means must be used to argue this case: because the arguments from contingency don’t work. Of course, different means are certainly used, and if God wills then we will have more to say about these means in the near future.

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