Hebrews 6:4-12 is one of the difficult in the Bible because it deals with a very sensitive problem: If someone recants their faith and completely turns their back on God, can they still be “saved”? It does not take very long to find a website attributing the doctrine of Eternal Security (Perseverance of the Saints) to be a doctrine hatched in the pit of Hell, or another website declaring that Eternal Security is the central theme of God’s gospel of Grace.
Part of the emotionalism of this issue is that everybody knows someone who attended church, was involved in the ministry of the church, gave of their money and time, and may have even publicly claimed to be a believer. But now, for whatever reason, they have walked as far from God as they can get, denying that they were even saved. Some pastors have been caught in sin and now have left the ministry, perhaps even denying God What about them? Were they “saved”? Are they now “saved” even if they are in a state of denial?
Presuppositions about theology often drive interpretations about this passage. Once we start talking about heavy doctrines like election, predestination, and preservation of the saints people tend to get antsy. To make a very long theological story short, Arminians tend to believe that a person can lose their salvation if they do not “persevere until the end” while the Calvinists tend to believe that a person who is truly saved will always be saved, regardless of any post-conversion behavior. There is a lot behind those two historic positions, in fact, they are logical conclusions drawn from some presuppositions in their respective views of salvation.
A real problem for reading this text is that our personal experience clouds our thinking. We all know someone that seemed saved, but they now appear to have walked away from their faith. Alternatively, we all know at least one prodigal son who has returned to the father and repented of their time during which they appear to have rejected the faith. These stories are rather emotional since these are real people whom we love.
While both sides of this “once saved always saved” discussion must deal with this passage, that is not exactly what the author of Hebrews has in mind. He does not address church discipline or post-reformation theology. In fact, he is neither Calvinist nor Arminian, nor is he a holiness preacher or a post-Enlightenment liberal. To a large extent our post-Reformation questions might obscure what the writer of Hebrews was trying to communicate to his original readers.
The writer of Hebrews is a Jewish Christian addressing other Jewish Christians who are about to endure a time of terrible persecution. Does the writer of Hebrews consider it possible that his readers could deny their faith publicly, declare that they are faithful Jews, and still consider themselves Christians in secret?
Is it possible to check our Reformation Theology at the door before reading Hebrews? Or is that something we should even attempt?
36 thoughts on “Hebrews 6 and Eternal Security”
The Bible should be read and understood in its original context first and foremost. Today’s Christians read the Bible from a modern perspective, not a historical one, and I believe this is exactly why we have so many different denominations that leave people too overwhelmed by Christianity; and therefore, do not know which way is the “right” way. Christians should attempt to gain a historical understanding of the Bible because it truly changes your previous thoughts and theology, just like it has for me the more I have learned about the historical context different books were written in. Now about eternal salvation and whether you can lose it or not, first of all, I think that it is only God who even has the right to judge whether or not we are “truly” saved. Humans, who have no way of knowing the true heart of another human being, have no right to judge who is going to heaven or not. Jobes said,” but a biblical understanding of eternal security must be based on the principle of perseverance in holiness, not on a delusion that salvation is a ticket to heaven despite one’s ongoing attitudes and behaviors.” My question after reading this was that if a person’s attitudes and behaviors show to be against God and the individual just said the prayer of salvation to make sure they were not going to hell, then are they really a Christian? I do not think it is a magic prayer that saves you, it is the attitude of the heart, which leaves the determining of salvation up to God. 1 Samuel 16:7, “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
Oy vey iz mir!
Found you via Vincent. Good post. Love the Memes. Pretty sure the truth is somewhere in the middle, but the biggest issue is our limited understanding of an infinite God. Both sides are just us trying to bend God in a shape that we can “get.” I have become fairly comfortable with not always “getting it.”
Glad I found this place.
Welcome Wally, I appreciate your input!
As to your ending questions: Yes it’s possible (to an extent), and Yes we certainly should attempt it. However, it’s very difficult to get “behind” one’s own context: worldview features that are largely unconscious, for one. Then the theology we’ve been exposed to, even if not raised in a church community or long studied in our faith.
Even the order in which the NT (or OT) books are arranged affects our perceptions highly (cf. Borg’s book on the chronological NT, for example). They were arranged that way largely for theological reasons.
The potentially discouraging “news”: It takes a whole lot of study… I mean literally thousands of hours… for almost all of us to “unlearn” and then learn more accurately what the Bible is all about… how it was written, constructed, etc. It’s actual setting and context is still only gradually being reconstructed, 1900+ (NT) to 2500+ (OT) years later.
One key example, as I believe you’ve referenced in this Hebrews series, Phillip, is the key “pivot point” of 70 AD and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. Almost unbelievably, in personal “sampling” of people here and there, and what I pick up from surveys and just observing, most Xn’s know almost nothing of first-century Israeli-Roman history, don’t know the date of the fall of Jerusalem, have no sense of how profound and impacting it was, etc. Then, of course, there’s the issue of the dating, authorship, setting of individual books of the Bible, and how each can/should be interpreted…. Whew! Tired myself out just thinking and writing about it.
But to finalize my point, a bit of my own history: A virtual Bible major (with Greek) at Biola U. Then a 3-year (96 or so units) Master of Divinity at Talbot School of Theology. Worked 4 years with Dr. Walter Martin answering Bible and cult questions, reviewing books, writing articles, etc. Taught SS classes and a couple college-level classes on theological or Church history issues, etc. Written 3 books with religious/theological themes. Years after my M.Div., did 2 years full-time-equivalent of PhD work that involved theology as well as psychology, etc. With all that, I am convinced I’ve actually learned much more about the Bible and what to make and NOT make of it from my own additional, self-directed study…. And I STILL feel like a novice, tho I realize (humbly!) that I know more about it all than even most pastors, and 99% of lay people. Motto: Never stop learning (I do love it!)
Hi Phillip. I’m assuming that “Armenians” is a typo. I too love the memes. Your comment: “while the Calvinists tend to believe that a person who is truly saved will always be saved, regardless of any post-conversion behavior” is probably a bit of an overstatement in that the Calvinists that I’ve read and come in contact with also believe that preserving till the end (requiring commitment, good works, holiness etc) is a true sign of the saved and more accurately reflects biblical exhortation. There is a ‘modern/hyper grace’ movement going round at the moment that might adhere to this understanding, but not any self-respecting follower of Calvin that I’m aware of. Thanks for the posts.
Dang…no offense to any Armenians reading this post. I blame spell a non-theological spellchecker.
I might add that the only way to know someone was in fact “eternally secure” is that the person dies and goes to heaven, something which is beyond examination. The common characterization of Calvinism is that they can live anyway they want and still go to heaven. That is a strawman argument since as you rightly observe no “proper Calvinist” actually thinks that. In fact, some of the Calvinists in my part of the world are quite legalistic, oddly enough.
This very question has been something that I have personally wondered about since I decided to go into ministry. My fiance and I debated it for weeks until I decided that, despite having the scriptures right in front of me, I had to ask my pastor. I was told that that Bible says that Salvation to us is a gift given by our loving God and that it’d be out of God’s character to take back the gift He gave to us, but that if we ourselves return the gift, we no longer have it. I cannot believe that someone who once lived for God and now has no relationship with Him and sins despite knowing what they once knew to be their life’s rule, can still enter the gates of Heaven. While eternal security seems ideal and very appealing to many people, I believe it is false doctrine.
This very questions of eternal security was one that plagued me ever since I decided I wanted to go into ministry. I debated the subject with my fiance for weeks before I chose to ask my pastor about the subject, despite having the scriptures in front of me.
His answer was something along these line: Our salvation is a gift given to us by our loving God. It is out of God’s character to take away something He gave us to have for all eternity, however, if we choose to return the gift then the gift is no longer ours.
I cannot bring myself to believe that someone who once lived for God and is now currently and willingly living in sin (despite knowing what they know about sin and the Bible) will be welcomed into the gates of Heaven.
The idea of eternal security does sound ideal and I am sure that it is appealing to many who are just learning about the faith, however I do firmly believe that it is false doctrine. Forfeiting ownership of anything (in every instance including the salvation which God gave to us) means it legally isn’t yours anymore and therefore, you cannot use it nor claim it.
Nasario, what if “salvation” is not even what many Christians conceive it as… and it is not something that comes or goes? One of the big problems in the popular conception: Just what kind or duration of sinning is that which indicates one has “given back” the gift? Can anyone determine? Even for oneself?
I think that if we look at the scripture in the sense of the author talking to new converts that are about to experience great persecution then it is simple to see that we should not fear the opinion of other people, but rather continue to fear God, because the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. (Proverbs 9:10). I believe that the author of Hebrews would just be reminding the audience of the letter that their new faith is not something to be afraid of, but rather, to stand up against their persecutors and stay strong in their faith not only in the easy times of life, but in the struggling times as well. This brings to mind a verse in Philippians by Paul were he says, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (1:21) This aspiration by Paul is a fearlessness in life as to what may come of him in times of struggle, and this is the same type of idea being expressed in Hebrews through the verses about not renouncing your faith.
I have always believed in the possibility of loss of salvation but lately have realized the importance of reading things in context to truly understand what God is saying to us. I’m not sure if we will ever be able to actually understand but knowing the context is certainly helpful to me. I like that you mention that the doctrine we think of it as today may not even be what the author was trying to get through to us. It’s crazy to think that because for all we know the author could be looking down at us frustrated that we simply are too blinded by “reformation thinking” to catch on to something which could, for all we know, be really simple. Jobes does mention that the danger is of Jewish Christians possibly returning to their old Jewish customs and it seems like their motivation to do so would have been out of fear of persecution. One thing I believe is that we all have free will, and I don’t think that free will to choose or not choose Jesus is taken away by any event, in this case, declaring Jesus as your savior. I don’t think that event puts into what seems like a contract, one that says we no longer have the free will to choose.
As a believer I have always believed in once saved always saved or eternal security because nothing you do can make God love you any less. Although thinking about someone recanting their faith in God makes me wonder, but I have always been taught that even if you recant your faith you can’t lose your salvation because at one time you did accept Jesus Christ as savior. I don’t know if the author of Hebrews was suggesting that the believers could recant in public and declare their faith to being Jewish and still be Christian. Although I would state that God would know any believers true motive due to His omnipresence. I personally do not think that anyone can lose their salvation even if they choose to recant their faith. Nor do I believe that someone can’t gain back the love of Jesus Christ even after they have turned away. All people have strayed away from the path temporarily or permanently but people have also come back. Jesus wouldn’t regret any who have turned away from Him and chose to come back and I don’t believe that the author of Hebrews was suggesting anything about losing salvation but rather reminding believers to hold tight to their salvation.
Initial thoughts on the idea this is the fact that they were going to be persecuted. If they recant their faith they reject God if they don’t recant they could end up dying for their faith. I think of James though, who being another Jewish author tells his audience that, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1.12). Here there is talk of remaining in the God. James goes on at the end of his book to say, “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (5.19-20). So, along with the idea of remaining there is also talk of straying from the truth. However, this isn’t Hebrews but it is still in the Jewish frame of mind. It seems to me that at least at this time of Jewish writing this was the belief of salvation. It’s the idea of living faith and of perseverance under persecution.
Yes I think it is necessary to check your theology at the door when studying any biblical passage. The whole class of biblical interpretation was focused on that very thing. We shouldn’t play our original thoughts about a passage into the understanding we build when we are studying it. It is entirely possible to do this too; though maybe not to completely skip our presuppositions. We look at the Bible from the eyes of our parents, whether we like it or not. And if someone didn’t grow up a Christian, they are just making up the way they look at the Bible based on the way that the closest church to them when they are saved looks at it. Anyway, as much as we can, we should let the Bible do the teaching while we do the discovering for any passage, especially one that contains unfamiliar themes or concepts.
The subject of “Eternal Security” has always been controversially argued amongst Christians and how it directly applies to our lives. The author of Hebrews argues against this eternal security in Hebrews 6:4-12 when he essentially states that it is impossible for those who have tasted grace and further fallen away to be brought back to repentance. However, it’s important to understand the writer’s point of view. In retrospect, he was neither a biased Calvinistic or an Arminian. By understand this, it’s important that, yes, one is able to check their reformation theology at the door and be able to read this verse in light of the historical context. The author of Hebrews is writing to the Jews who are currently under persecution. The author may be stressing to the Jews the importance of maintaining one’s faith under persecution and (possible) martyrdom. The historical context is important to understand in regards to this verse because it shows the intensity that the author is writing in and the implications that may result. Therefore, it’s essential that we are able to read these verses and directly apply it to our lives as well with the same intensity that the author of Hebrews does. Although I do not believe that I can lose my salvation, I do desire to never reject my faith, not out of salvational fear, but out of fear and reverence for God. Karen Jobes comments on this saying “this does not mean that Christians today need to be unsure of their personal salvation…salvation rests on the past event of Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross” (Jobes 120).
I haven’t read Jobes’ book so I appreciate hearing that she apparently holds to “PSA” theory (Penal Substitutionary Atonement). I say “theory”, as that term is often used in theological circles. The reason is that the Bible can be read to see it there or to see other views of salvation and Jesus’ death. While Process people like me see salvation quite differently, we are far from the only Christians to NOT interpret Jesus’ death as a substitution for us or a penalty for collective sin.
Jobes is at Wheaton, and I think she has recently moved to Westminster, so I would expect the theology side of things to be fairly middle of the road evangelical with respect to salvation!
In today’s society and culture we like to take the Bible and apply it to what we are going through today. For instance Jeremiah 29:11 is one that we take out of context all of the time. If we truly want to understand and interpret the Word of God correctly and accurately, we need to truly understand what God is saying to who, why He is saying it, and the reasons behind His words. Due to conflicts of interest and differences of opinion on what the Word of God has truly stated, we have all of these different denominations within our church today. Within these different denominations, eternal security is a big issue that is discussed. Personally, I have had a hard time coming to grasp with that fact that God loves everyone the same amount and that nothing you do would make God love you less. I don’t understand how the person who wrote Hebrews could be stating that believers could declare that they are Jewish but still be a Christian. To me, that sounds like an oxymoron. In Hebrews, I believe that the point behind this text was stating that people need to hold on to their salvation and live it out as opposed to losing their salvation. When really trying to interpret this, we need to go to the Bible and not our own theology to discover what everything means.
PLong as you and Luke have both stated eternal security is a very touchy subject, after all we’re dealing with peoples’ final destinations. As others before me have stated it crucial that we keep in mind the context of a verse when discussing its application to us and its true meaning to the people it was written for. I also believe however, that it is very difficult to look at scripture and not try to apply it directly to our situation, and add the fact that some Christians sects have believed in either or for over 300 years, it’s a tough pill to swallow and nobody likes being wrong. It seems that everyone seems to have an opinion on the matter and I suppose my opinion is that I don’t have one. I feel that people try to over complicate things with all this fancy theology. For one the Bible clearly states in both Act 2:21 and Romans 10:13 that anyone who calls on the name of the Lord with be saved, but Matthew 7:22-23 also states that “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’.So there are those who will believe themselves to do things in the name of our God and instead that we be sent from Him. I feel like it may have do with the heart in which one calls on Christ, if we only do so for fear of spending eternity in hell, I would argue that salvation or acceptance of Christ is not sincere. Above all else there must a a repentance present and a realization that we are nothing without Christ. I think we also are able to look at the heart of someone and whether it appears that they do things for God’s glory or for the glory of themselves, what does their fruit look like. Plus God is so infinite and beyond our understanding I feel that it’s better for us to not try and answer every question we have about God and salvation and use those answers that we come up with as foundational truth, and maybe it’s too idealistic of me to say, but I feel that we should just trust God, do good works with faith, and pray for one another and everything will fall into place.In the end I feel all we can do is pray and love one another as Christ urges us to.
Plong I appreciate your viewpoints and your input on this very touchy but controversial topic as it has been something I have struggled to comprehend myself over the years and am still continuing to process the whole idea. As others have clearly pointed out and to my affirmation, it is important to look at the verse in its original context and the people that it was first written for. Due to the differencing of opinions and arguments found within the church it is clear to see why we have different denominations within the church sector, but just because of the differencing of opinions it does not mean that one is not saved because of what they believe unless they turn to be an outright atheist who rejects everything in the Bible. It would be out of God’s character to take back his gift which was given to us to restore the sins of the human race but at the same time it is also hard to explain to someone who keeps on sinning knowingly having accepted the gift free of sin from God what happens to people like them in the afterlife, for we will not know until it arrives. I do believe that people who are overall good people will learn about what it means to be a real Christian at one point in their life and repent of their sins if they feel the need, but a person can only be granted the gift of eternal security only once and it is a gift that can never be lost (see: Heb.6:4-6). You can go to church and repent of all the sins you want and still will have your salvation of faith but if you sin and choose to do nothing about it and never worry about the future or repent from the sins asking for forgiveness well then that is a discussion for another post I believe.
Preservation of the Saints or the possibility of losing salvation, both of which are ideas that have heavy implications, as your post mentioned. The Bible is written in a certain time for a certain people and while scripture is useful for teaching and rebuking for all time (2 Timothy 3:16) we must use the scripture accurately if we are to get the most benefit. To that end Christians must try to keep their theological perspectives at the door when reading scripture and allow God’s Word to speak to them without any theological lenses. Is this difficult, yes, but it is also worth it. To truly understand what God wants to communicate we need to listen to what he is saying and not try to interpret it to our standards of theology. I personally don’t believe that God can be put in a box of either Calvinism or Arminianism. Just like the memes portray that while there are two extremes of the argument, God will be the one to determine who has persevered and who has fallen away. It may be that those who have “fallen away” never fully accepted Jesus as the Lord and Savior that he is and as such never qualified as salvation. In the end the Bible has verses to support both eternal salvation (John 10:28, Romans 8:39, Ephesians 4:30) and the possibility of losing one’s salvation (Hebrews 6:4-6, Romans 11:20-22, Revelation 2:5) because both of these viewpoints are supported by the Bible it is going to be impossible to determine which one is the correct interpretation. However, that should not stop us from trying to save those who have fallen from the Church as we have all the responsibility to rebuke and teach and correct.
I have always struggled with this passage myself. In fact, one of my most vivid youth group memories was in sixth grade when we watched a video of Doug Fields talking about this topic and it scaring the Bejeezus out of me! I have always seen it, or had it explained to me, that if one recants their faith, were they ever truly believers? That faith in Christ and what he has done for us should bring us all the way to sight.
Our faith is a choice, it is given to us through Jesus Christ once we accept Him to be our saviour and our way to heaven. God has created us separate from angels, He created us because He wanted us to choose a relationship with Him.
When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden of Eden they were cast out and were spiritually dead. While we cannot be sure of what happened to Adam and Eve after, we cannot say whether or not for sure they went to heaven or hell. What we find in the scripture, is that God is graceful and will forgive if the sinner repents and turns back towards God.
We have a similar choice to that of Adam and Eve. We are able to accept the gift of Jesus Christ and become His children or we can reject it. Similar to that of Adam and Eve, we can also fail and be given a second chance.
It would follow reason to say that we can, like Adam and Eve, choose to follow Jesus Christ. We can also, eat the apple, reject Jesus Christ and lose our salvation. Rejecting Jesus is where it would be difficult to draw the line. What does it mean to reject Him? It would be obvious to say that simply denouncing Him would do it, but would turning your back on Him do it as well? That is where I cannot be sure. If you mentally turn away, not seeking Him or obeying His will as well as not repenting, I believe that you could be cut away.
John 15 talks about believers being part of a tree, if the branches are not producing fruit they are cut away. It is not that Jesus Christ’s sacrifice cannot suffice to pay the “sin bill,” but rather that we are rejecting His payment of it.
Specifically regarding the memes, I believe strongly that there is not enough evidence to support either view enough to discount the other. We have all had an experience where a believer walked away from the faith after some sort of habitual sin got ahold of them, or perhaps other reasoning. The issue is as follows: no one can say with certainty that someone is truly in their own heart “saved.” There is no way to test the hypothesis, and ultimately the question is poised in a way that it sounds easily similar to the mantra, “you say to-may-to, I say to-ma-to.” I have seen first hand the effects of legalism of the Armenian view. It is easily similar to a performance based Christianity we see and hear about so often. To answer the question, absolutely yes, we should try our best to deconstruct this when possible. The whole idea of the reformation was to “continue reforming.” I think this is an area of soteriology that could use a bit of work. We all have a lot of questions, and clearly neither view offers a “complete” answer.
You are on the right track; Calvinism and Arminianism were born out of theological dialogue (the “five points” being the main issues). The rest of the other 9000 theological points they agreed on. But I think you overstate the case that there is not enough “evidence” for one over the other. The issue is not evidence for/against Calvinism, but the overall structure of a school of theology. Both “sides” have an enormous about of thought and effort by godly people over five centuries trying to work out the details.
Phillip, I know you are well versed in paradigms – of theology, etc. For both you and readers who are not, these ideas: We all tend to start with the broadest set of concepts and then structure our beliefs gradually more specifically.
Calvinism vs. Arminianism, as you imply, is a relatively narrower “paradigm” contrast. I think even “Catholic” vs. “Protestant” (which many do not understand much) is not a very useful big picture contrast unless/until one looks still broader first. The two BIG, broad and dominating paradigms in most of the world now are:
1. Supernaturalism (as in orthodox forms of Christianity, Judaism, Islam)
2. Scientific naturalism (when proper [not anti-religious] scientific method is expanded into assumptions about the nature of reality beyond its scope)
After many, many years of study of the Bible, theology, science, history of ideas (philosophy, theology, and so on… see my comment above), etc., I’ve found only one additional well-thought-through and important “competing” paradigm:
3. Process thought (theology and philosophy). It (or something similar) is highly important because the other two BOTH fail significantly to make good sense of reality; to account well for the presence and message of the Bible, the nature of God and human experience. While Process isn’t perfect or complete, I find it does much better and sort of “mediates” or “qualifies” truths from the other two.
I used to like pointing people to the wikipedia article on Process Theology, as a good summary. It’s no longer as good, so I suggest, to anyone wondering what I refer to, to read mainly the short intro and then jump down to the “Themes” section; or get one of several good intro books to Process… to jump in just anywhere can be intimidating (and/or confusing), even on the Wikipedia article.
The Cal/Arm divide falls under Supernationalism (in your paradigm), although there are some Arminiams who have written books with strong affinities to Process Theology (John Sanders, for example, The God Who Risks), Clark Pinnock (The unmoved Mover), Greg Boyd (God at War). As you might know, Sanders was not welcomed in the evangelical community at all, the Reformed people made it their goal to drive him out of ETS.
I might as you since you are living in that world, has anyone who self-identifies as a “process theologian” write commentaries on books like Romans or Hebrews? I ask because (1) I do not really know of any, but that might just be out of ignorance, and (2) it seems to me careful attention to Romans, Galatians, or Hebrews (to stay on topic) seems to preclude some of what Process Theology claims about God and Salvation.
I know the names I mention above are lightweight evangelical versions of Process Theology, but when they approach the text it is for the service of their systematic theology and not a serious “What was Paul’s point in Romans” type of exegesis.
Phillip, this is responding to your comment beginning “The Cal/Arm divide falls under Supernaturalism…” No, I don’t know of such authors, but that doesn’t say much. Altho I “locate” myself within Process quite firmly, I don’t actually read (or listen) a lot among its works. But it does seem clear that few true OT or NT biblical scholars (specializing on texts, exegesis and such) are at least consciously, purposely “Process”.
I don’t even know Sanders, and Pinnock only via a few of his many books, but did read “Tracking the Maze” (if I remember the title), one of his later, more “Open Theology/Process” works. He also ran afoul of the ETS if I recall, tho ultimately remained in. Boyd I’m also only peripherally familiar with. Anyway, I don’t know a lot of the total body of Process work, especially works that are deeply into given biblical books (and there probably are few of the latter). However, that said, people like John Cobb and David Griffin (both of whom I have read some and heard speak numerous times) are well versed in the biblical texts. I’m not sure what they’d make of your comments about Romans, Galatians and Hebrews.
I will say this about your comment, and think it may represent what the real Process scholars would say: I don’t concern myself overly (anymore, though I sure did before becoming “Process”) with conflicts between biblical authors, or determining if there IS a conflict. Similarly, statements in tension or confusing within a single text (which Paul is certainly capable of, tho the “outlier” case of I Cor. 14 on women in church may well be a later editing addition, and I’m quite solid that the 1 and 2 Tim., Titus documents are by a later author[s]). These are the kind of issues that frankly interest me more than the abstractions of soteriology and such (tho they interest me also… especially helping people move beyond the “ticket to heaven” via some undefinable level or kind of faith.
Howard – My perception is Process Theology is a species of Systematic Theology and/or Philosophy of Religion rather than Biblical Theology. Obviously my interest is in biblical studies, and occasionally find ST and Philosophy a strange and unknown country.
You are right, Sanders and Pinnock ran afoul of the ETS, I was there when they debated all that open theism stuff. Sanders was influenced by Charles Hartshorne, Pinnock less so. Pinnock “recanted” a particular line or two from Most Moved Mover, but it was not enough for the more conservative people in the ETS, so many just quit the society.
Phillip, thanks for the elaboration… yes, Process theology is pretty highly philosophical; probably a key reason exegesis or biblical studies in depth is not central. Along with that, that the paradigm itself sees Scripture as more a human creation than divine… tho God is seen as definitely “in the background” with God’s loving persuasion and general direction-giving, without being “interventionist”… thus also, the high respect for science and the scientific process found in Process. (Whitehead was first mathematician/scientist and then philosopher/theologian.)
I agree that it is important to read the Bible in its historical context and then apply it to modern times. So now that we understand that this verse was written to Jewish Christians during persecution, what are we to do with that now? In America, we are incredibly guarded against persecution so the devil has to work in different ways to make us turn our backs on Christ. But he is the devil and can find ways to tempt us. 1 Peter 5:8 is a good example that reminds us that he is incredibly stealthy. If we are not to be persecuted for our faith, chances are we will be tempted by other things that test our faith. I connect this passage with the garden of Eden and how we were once without sin. I think that God was prepared for us to be filled with sin and found a way to make Jesus rectify that. Jobes says that God removed Adam and Eve from the garden out of redemption, not of punishment (p. 122).My own opinion thinks that God knows our hearts and knows when we have turned out backs on him. He is equally gracious as he is judgmental and we need to trust he knows what is true.
I would say that it is possible to set aside most of our presuppositions, however being human we all have those filters through which we interpret information, and there is no way to get rid of them all completely. But it is something that we should endeavor to do. There is an old adage that says something to the effect that if you keep doing something in the same way, you will always get the same result… this is also true of reading the Bible. If we keep reading the Bible through the same rose colored glasses every time we approach a passage we will never learn or glean anything new because we are looking for the same results.
With regards to the eternal security issues, I tend to be of the camp that says when someone is saved they are saved and there will be external evidence of that inward change. If someone leaves the faith I would question whether they were really saved in the first place. However, even with that said, it is impossible to actually see what is going on in the heart of a person, only God knows that.
The question must be asked: why is it impossible to restore them to repentance? First note that one must have been repentant in the first place in order to restore or renew such a one to repentance – in other words a regenerate believer. A non-believer cannot be renewed to repentance since he/she was not ever repentant to begin with. So why does this verse state that it is impossible to restore a believer to repentance since we know that God is able to forgive our sins?
The rest of Heb 6:6 provides the clue:
…since to their own heautou harm they are crucifying anastauroō the ho Son hyios of ho God theos again and kai exposing him to public shame paradeigmatizō
The Greek words for “crucifying” and “exposing” are present tense verbs denoting continuous action. Thus these believers are continuing to crucify and shame Christ. Since they are continuing in these sinful behaviors, it is impossible to restore them because their very actions demonstrate a refusal to repent and turn away from their sins. God will not restore unless they repent and cease shaming His Son.