Sunday, June 12, 2011

Contra the Joint FV Profession: Apostasy and Assurance of Salvation


We affirm that apostasy is a terrifying reality for many baptized Christians. All who are baptized into the triune Name are united with Christ in His covenantal life, and so those who fall from that position of grace are indeed falling from grace. The branches that are cut away from Christ are genuinely cut away from someone, cut out of a living covenant body. The connection that an apostate had to Christ was not merely external.

We deny that any person who is chosen by God for final salvation before the foundation of the world can fall away and be finally lost. The decretally elect cannot apostatize.

One major irritant of the FV is their continual redefinition and equivocation of terms. As they have redefined "trust," so now the redefinition of terms from their normal theological usage continues. In this case, the term is "decretal."

In normal theological discourse, whatever God has decreed that He works out in his relation to the world and the elect. However, in FV parlance, whatever God has decreed is not worked out in relation to the world and the elect but rather worked out for the world and the elect in a secret manner to be somehow manifested at the end of time, as we have seen in the FV relation of decree and covenant. What is happening in the world and in the church bears little if any relation whatsoever to God's decrees, which are probably so mysterious it's a marvel the FVists knew they even exist in the first place.

It is in light of this dialectic that the paragraph on apostasy can make sense, for otherwise we end up with self-contradictory nonsense. For FVists, apostasy is apostasy from the "covenant" but not apostasy from "decretal election." So believers supposedly can be said to be able to truly apostatize and yet to not be able to apostatize. Seeing that those who are decretally elect are those who will persevere, the whole statement is reduced to a meaningless tautology. In Reformed theology, decree and covenant are correlated, so therefore those who are not "decretally elect" are already fixed in the world (just not known by us) and will most certainly not persevere. In FV theology, those who are not "decretally elect" are not fixed except in God's mind and their perseverance is certain only inasmuch as God has decreed them elect.

The implication of this for assurance of salvation is clear. Under the FV, there is absolutely no sure way of knowing that one is eternally saved. One can only continue in being faithful and hope that one dies faithful. There is no comfort at all available from God because it is impossible to know God's decrees before the final judgment. In Reformed theology however, comfort from God is possible because God's Spirit testifies with our spirits that we are the children of God (Rom. 8:16), as God's decree is worked out in relation to the world and the elect. Such is of course subjective, but being subjective does not make it false, the FV aversion to anything subjective notwithstanding.

The FV understanding of apostasy gives cold comfort to believers. Believers do not start off from knowing they are saved, but merely knowing that they are saved now and will continue being saved as long as they do not apostatize, which is indeed a "terrifying reality" to them. Much warmer indeed is the Reformed understanding of apostasy that states that those who apostatize were never true believers in the first place. While delusion is always possible, we can know that the Spirit's witness is testimony to our salvation, and that those who apostatize never had the Spirit's witness in the first place. We do good works because we are saved, not that we are faithful in order to continue being saved.

The FV's doctrine of apostasy is dialectical in nature. In light of their other doctrines, assurance of salvation in FV circles is conditional. Sure, the condition may be quite doable since the FV do not demand perfect obedience, but conditional it still is. The error is not lessened at all because of the psychological outlooks of church members who face a less demanding condition for salvation and assurance of salvation.

[to be continued]

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