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Tue, Jun. 20th, 2006, 01:02 pm

I'm pretty much a babe in the reformed theology camp and need a little help with the concept of apostasy. Up until 24 hours ago, I would have said anyone who rejected Christ after having called themselves a Christian, didn't really have faith in the first place. But after studying Heb 6 & 2 Tim 2, I realize that this is too simplistic a view.

Basically what I'm struggling with is how apostasy and the doctrines of grace can coexist. I don't understand how one can receive a true revelation of the Truth and reject it. That seems to go against the doctrine that grace is irresistible. I've been reading Calvin's Institutes, specifically "Regeneration by Faith" ‭[III, iii, 22-24] where he discusses this issue, and I am still confused. ‬Any light that can be shed (including links to articles, as well as personal understanding) on this would be greatly appreciated.

Tue, Jun. 20th, 2006 09:44 pm (UTC)

well, all I think I can contribute initially is to suggest that Hebrews 6 is misunderstood if we think it's talking about apostasy in the sense that you set it out.


Tue, Jun. 20th, 2006 10:00 pm (UTC)

Thanks, David. I'll give it a read.

Tue, Jun. 20th, 2006 09:48 pm (UTC)

To douse flames and come to an understanding of something...

Because the 'doctrine of grace' is faulty from the get go. The problem is that the New Testment teaches BOTH 'election' and 'free will' thus causing centuries of confusion, debate, theologies, and so on. One either believes that Jesus was the Messiah or he doesn't. It has nothing to do with being predestined to do so.

I mean, put all these theologies aside and just think about this for a moment ok? - how on earth can we possibly believe that G-d would elect some to 'be saved' while just sending others to hell? And then claim that WE deserve it when we never had a chance to begin with? And then to justify that, claim that G-d 'doesn't have to save anyone'? What kind of G-d is that? Since when did G-d get painted as this maniacal being that picks and chooses who he 'will save' and then simply reject the rest and send them all to hell for all eternity when they never had a choice to begin with? It's just seems ludicrous. Is that really what the New Testmant teaches? Or is that our own created theologies in trying to reconcile contradicting teachings in the New Testament? If it IS what the NT teaches, then you do have a big problem with a person who genuinely believed but realized he/she was wrong. You can't possibly think they never had faith or didn't believe. They did. They just realized they were wrong. Why do you think half of Christendom believes in free will while the other half believes in 'election'? Because the NT teaches both. Making it quite fallible.

Just answer these questions honestly and I think you'll have many answers.

Please, just think about this ok?

Tue, Jun. 20th, 2006 09:58 pm (UTC)

This is already being resolved through my study and it hasn't even been 36 hours. The truth is there. We just have to be open to receiving it.

I would like for you to respect me and leave me alone now. I have chosen not to condemn your choice to you and to allow you to go your own way. Please stop trying to undermine mine.

Tue, Jun. 20th, 2006 10:04 pm (UTC)

Very well.

Wed, Sep. 6th, 2006 04:20 am (UTC)

And then claim that WE deserve it when we never had a chance to begin with?

The orthodox Calvinist does not hold this; the moderate Calvinist, or Thomist, even less so.

Wed, Jun. 21st, 2006 03:46 pm (UTC)

I've never dealt heavily in the issue, but I'd suggest that you perhaps consider that maybe one interpretation could be a falling away from the Church? Checking Calvin's Commentaries on Heb. 6, he writes that this verse refers to the people as in the parable, the "seed that lands on hard land". Calvin speculates that while God only grants to the Elect to reach Heaven, He perhaps allows some of the reprobate to even be regenerated and then later fall away, as a gift of His grace. I would say this isn't an act of tyranny or playing with Salvation on God's part, but rather allowing the reprobate to damn themselves even more. For this we should glorify God for our faith persevering!

I'm not sure what verse you're referring to in 2 Timothy, if it's the one about "falling away from the Truth", I'd say that winding up preaching even the worst heresy is never a closed door for the Christian, so long as they may repent later. We don't know if Hymenaeus and Philetus ever repented of their heresy, but I wouldn't say it was beyond God's ability to work repentence.

Wed, Jun. 21st, 2006 03:58 pm (UTC)

He perhaps allows some of the reprobate to even be regenerated and then later fall away, as a gift of His grace.

This is really the crux of the issue for me. Can regeneration happen to those who aren't the elect? And if it can, what does this do to irrestible grace? I think it may be that I do not have a clear understanding of exactly what regeneration is.

The part in 2 Tim that I was looking at with interest is:
"The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful-- for he cannot deny himself." (2 Timothy 2:11-13, ESV)
It seems that there are three groups of people in this passage - those who remain firm, those who will deny (it is in the future tense so it is not a past action), and those who are faithless - and all are referred to by the pronoun "we." And as we all know, Paul does not misuse his pronouns. It seems that the 1st and 3rd group are secure in their future position, but the 2nd will be denyed by Christ. That is why the pronoun "we" is so interesting to me.

With regard to repentance, since Hebrews 6 talks about it being a group for whom it is impossible that they be restored to repentance, this seems to be a group that will never repent of their denial. So it isn't saying that they are beyond God's ability to work repentance, it seems more to be saying that they will become so hardened that they will never reach that point again. Do you think I'm reading that right?

Wed, Jul. 19th, 2006 02:05 am (UTC)

I think we have to establish what we do know, what is communicated clearly in scripture.

1. God does not lose his elect: (John 6:37,44; John 10, John 15:27, Romans 8:29-33).
2. There are those who, though they have some sort of faith, do not persevere to the end (Matt. 13).
3. We know, however, that the elect are sealed by the Spirit, as a garantee (Eph 1:13)

So, with these principles in mind, we can know that God does effectually call and effectively save.

So, what to do with Heb. 6. Well, context is a help. We know that the writer of Heb is trying to address an issue with "chaff" in the church, those who were falling away because of heresy. All of the words in this chapter used to refer to their experience are as an outsider looking in.

In the case of the words "having been enlightened" and "tasted the heavenly gift" seem to indicate that some measure of faith had been granted to them. I think the big question on this is why would God give the non-elect faith? Why would he allow them to "be partakers in the Holy Spirit". I think, in this case, we need to remember King Saul. Remember the story where King Saul walked into a pack of prophets who were filled with the Holy Spirit, and he began prophesying. Saul was definitely not the best person, and he was not even a prophet, but the presence of the Holy Spirit caused him to have that gift. In the same way, a person who is attracted to the culture and the people of the church might feel the presence the the Spirit and even do things that are outside of his/her nature, but that does not mean they are saved. What Heb is saying, I think, is that these people have a much greater judgment in store because they experienced the blessings of God and heard the truth, and they still rebelled and turned away. I think, in turning away, they reveal their true nature.

I definitely think this is a difficult passage to understand, but I think we have to interpret it in light of the greater body of scripture, and we should never allow it to be our interpretive guide. I hope this helps.

Wed, Jul. 19th, 2006 02:09 am (UTC)

Yes, what you wrote makes a great deal of sense. It is pretty much what I was coming to on my own, but your example of Saul certainly did add to it. Thank you very much for taking the time to respond. :)

Wed, Sep. 6th, 2006 04:17 am (UTC)

I read that passage from the Institutes (and the section prior to it, to get an understanding of the context); it is quite confusing. I am not totally clear that he's talking about apostates in the sense of someone who really and truly falls away, but given that he rejects the distinction of the Schoolmen between formed and unformed faith (the latter being natural, the former being spiritual), so that the belief that demons have, etc., or that some have merely intellectually, etc., is not really faith—given that, it is hard not to conclude that there is some tension in Calvin's thought here. Sure, he didn't systematize it into TULIP himself, but one would think a person of his obvious genius (the Institutes are a pretty rewarding read) would have caught the inconsistency. Maybe I should check out that Hebrews commentary if I can find it. If anyone sees it online, let me know. I don't agree with everything Calvin has to say (see here for some agreements and disagreements), but he can't be this myopic.