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.