Monday, July 20, 2009

Preserve Us from our Sins, O Lord

(Photo by Pilgrimsarbour)

Today I read a new post over at my friend Tiber Jumper's blog. This is an exact (I'm pretty sure) reproduction of what I posted over there in the combox:

I would agree whole-heartedly that anyone who believes that he can persist in a lifestyle of sin after having embraced the Saviour is kidding himself about his standing before God.

Tiber Jumper said...
"I don't have to worry about the destination of my soul, (even if on a subconscious level), if I meddle with this favorite sin a bit. I am assured of my salvation so surely, my behavior can't effect that."

I have never, in all the years I have been Reformed (16 years), known any Reformed believer who thought that he could "sin the more that grace may abound." Instead I see a deep concern to behave like a child of the King and not bring dishonour to His Name. I have seen struggles with sin, successes and failures; no one who doesn't care about his sins struggles against them. And when we do meddle with sins, when we do fall, it wreaks havoc with our assurance. And this touches all communions. It is a human problem, not a Catholic- or Protestant-only one. All of us face no greater problem than the persistence of the old nature within us after the Saviour has begun His good work in our lives.

No, the idea behind "once saved always saved" in Reformed thought is that we are saved from something (sin and a sinful lifestyle) to something (righteousness in Christ). We are saved to holy living in Christ as His bride and as the adopted children of our Father. In the doctrine of the Preservation of the Saints the emphasis is on what God has done for the sinner and what that means to our assurance.

I declare passionately that this idea:

"...I certainly allowed myself to get fairly mired up with no thought that I was endangering my salvation"

reflects neither the theology of the Reformation nor of Catholicism. However, it may reflect some thinking on the part of those Protestants who are mired in American Evangelical Protestantism, that is, that which is not Reformed, and which I would consider to be a fair departure from Reformed thought. So I can understand, TJ, why that could have happened to you. And it probably happened to me. And it may be what is in the mind of many non-Reformed Protestants who, in my view, really don't properly understand these things. Many (decisionists) do think that they can walk the aisle, say a prayer, and then live the rest of their lives the way they choose. This is not the doctrine, but a perversion of it. It is a far cry from denouncing a doctrine based on the Scriptures to denouncing a bastardization of that doctrine. This works both ways in our discussions, no?

And now, if I may add a brief comment on Andrew's comment.

"To that, I ask the question, 'Then why should I bother sharing the faith?'"

Two quick answers.

1) Because we have been commanded to share our faith, and as children of the King raised for eternal life we should want to obey Him.

2) The preaching of the gospel is the prescribed method by which God gathers His elect. Who the elect are is a mystery known ultimately only by God. We cannot make judgements about who is "elect" and who is not, so we obediently engage in "broad-casting;" we scatter the gospel seed. We share our faith with everyone, trusting in the grace of our almighty Saviour, the Lord Christ, that the good seed will finally find its purchase.

The missionaries that our congregation and our denomination have sent out and who have spent many years in difficult conditions would be shocked to discover that they didn't care about the lost; especially because, well, "God will take care of it all anyway, so why bother?" Do you see how a misunderstanding of the doctrine brings with it all kinds of absurdities? There are a lot of "Calvinistic" missionaries wasting their lives, it seems. And those folks were missionaries for centuries before American Evangelicalism, a "new gospel" in my view, and in which both TJ and I partook in various forms, began to sweep the nation in the 19th and 20th centuries through today.

May we all, from both our respective communions, redouble our efforts to portray each other's beliefs accurately and fairly, especially when discussing such weighty, eternal matters.

10 comments:

Dave Armstrong said...

I agree with this post. This is how an informed Reformed Protestant views his faith. The radically faith alone position where one signs a dotted line and proceeds to do whatever he likes, is not the mainstream position, but a radical innovation of the last two centuries or so, and of post-Enlightenment fundamentalistic distortions of the original 16th century Calvinism and the best proponents of it to this day.

I agree that both Catholics and Calvinists have a reasonable assurance of one's own position and relationship with God. It works out pretty much the same in practice. I don't worry any more about my ultimate salvation as a Catholic, than I did as a Protestant. If anything, I feel more assurance, because I know that if I mess up (as long as it is not something extremely serious, or mortal sin) that there is purgatory to take care of that, which means I am saved.

Related papers of mine:

John Calvin Taught That Good Works Are Part of Every Christian's Life and the Inevitable Manifestation of a True Saving Faith and Justification

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2008/09/john-calvin-taught-that-good-works-are.html

Biblical Evidence Regarding a Vigilant, Pauline, Catholic Moral Assurance of Faith With Perseverance, in Hope

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2008/09/john-calvin-taught-that-good-works-are.html

When either a Catholic or a Calvinist is serious about being a disciple of Jesus, the practical, outward consequences will be the same: a showing forth of the love of Christ and fruits of the Holy Spirit, evident in piety, charity, and good works (and an absence of sins, at least major, ongoing ones).

I'd much rather fellowship and talk things over with a devout Calvinist than a lukewarm Catholic, any day of the week. I'd even say the former probably has a better shot at getting to heaven, all things considered.

Tiber Jumper said...

You trying to direct more hate mail to me or what? ;)

Pilgrimsarbour said...

You get hate mail? Gee, I'd love to get hate mail! I mean, you know, any kind of mail...

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Dave said...

"I'd much rather fellowship and talk things over with a devout Calvinist than a lukewarm Catholic, any day of the week. I'd even say the former probably has a better shot at getting to heaven, all things considered."

Well at least I have a shot! That's better odds than some folks give me! Thanks, Dave! And thanks for the post and the links.

Steve Martin said...

I have assurance in my salvation, but totally because of what Christ has done for me.

In my baptism He adopted me and made me His own.

I bring nothing to my salvation. If it depended on something that I did, or did not do, I would surely be damned, because "all of my righteous deeds are as filty rags."
(that's in the bible, somewhere)

And besides, if there were just one little thing left for me to do, then what was that cross all about?

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Steve Martin said...

"I have assurance in my salvation, but totally because of what Christ has done for me.

And besides, if there were just one little thing left for me to do, then what was that cross all about?"


Right you are, Steve. Although self-examination and introspection has fallen from grace in our day we may rejoice that Christ, the object of our faith and trust, grows us in grace and strength toward the consummate goal of finally being with Him forever when He comes in glory.

Dave Armstrong said...

I'd love to get hate mail!

No you wouldn't! LOLOL How about entire fake "hate blogs"? It gets old quick.

Jeff Pinyan (japhy) said...

Steve, yes, "We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment" is the oft-quoted first half of Isaiah 64:6. But the first half of the verse right before it says "Thou meetest him that joyfully works righteousness, those that remember thee in thy ways."

Isaiah 64:6 does not mean that every good thing we try to do (even/especially before baptism) is actually sinful. Of course, our good deeds done before baptism are not what merit us the grace received therein, but that does not mean they are "filthy rags".

Pilgrimsarbour said...

I'll leave Jeff's comment for Steve to address. I do have this question, though, for Jeff:

Jeff said...

"Of course, our good deeds done before baptism are not what merit us the grace received therein..."

By this are you saying that grace is "merited" in some other way? If so, in what way can it properly be called grace?

Jeff Pinyan (japhy) said...

Pilgrim: "By this are you saying that grace is 'merited' in some other way?"

Certainly not.