Thursday, August 02, 2007

Perseverance and leaving the fold

On a previous post about the "no ex-atheist"position mattghg wrote:

Surely, though, the "no ex-Christian atheists" view is mandated by the P of a Calvinist's TULIP?

I think this is an empirical problem for point 5 to be honest with you. Point 5 advocates use this passage to buttress their position, I John 2: 19

"They went out from us but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us; but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us."

But can that be generalized to all instances of "leaving the fold?" Doesn't this commit you to an a priori theory of people who leave, which isn't supported by the evidence?


Anonymous said...

I haven't read Geisler's book, but didn't he argue for a sort of middle ground where it's possible (but not likely) for someone to fall away after becoming a true Christian? I think so. the book title escapes me now.

Of course, having left the fold I think anyone who thinks I never had faith or a commitment to Christ (which I now reject) is deluded, but that's only one of the delusions she has.

Anonymous said...

I remember in A Grief Observed C.S. Lewis talked about what it means to actually believe something.

Some quotes:

"The case is too plain. If my house has collapsed at one blow that is because it was a house of cards. The faith which 'took these things into acount' was not faith but imagination. The taking them into account was not real sympathy. If I had really cared, as I thought I did, about the sorrows of the world, I should not have been so overwhelmed when my own sorrow came. It has been an imaginary faith playing with innocuous counters labelled 'Illness,' 'Pain,' 'Death,' and 'Loneliness.' I thought I trusted the rope until it mattered to me whether it would bear me. Now it matters, and I find it didn't.

Bridge-players tell me that there must be some money on the game 'or else people won't take it seriously.' Apparently it's like that. Your bid--for God or no God, for a good God or the Cosmic Sadist, for eternal life or nonentity--will not be serious if nothing much is staked on it. And you will never discover how serious it was until the stakes are raised horribly high, until you find that you are playing not for counters or for sixpences but for every penny you have in the world. Nothing less will shake a man--or at any rate a man like me--out of his merely verbal thinking and his merely notional beliefs. He has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses. Only torture will bring out the truth. Only under torture does he discover it himself."

"In which sense may [my faith] be a house of cards. Because the things I am believing are only a dream, or because I only dream that I believe them?"

 James A. Gibson said...

Why would the Calvinist be offering an a priori theory? Given that the Calvinist makes her appeals to a text which both parties consider to be authoritative, wouldn't this be an a posteriori theory? Also, the relation between theory and evidence is, as you probably realize, not one such that theories are always posterior to evidence. So why couldn't the Calvinist say something like this: sometimes, it is difficult to see whether the faith in a person is genuine (as opposed to, for instance, doing and saying all the right things, all of which is consistent with believing falsely that one is trusting in Christ); therefore, sometimes people will believe others are deluded for not recognizing the faith to be genuine. But, there is this background criteria that directs proper interpretations of empirical data, like when one claims to have faith and then leaves. And that leads us to say that the faith was merely in word and deed. Again, people will denounce this theory from their own convictions just like people typically consider themselves good enough to get into heaven. What's wrong with this?

Jason Pratt said...

I have theological grounds for thinking that a broadband perseverence-of-the-saints doctrine is untenable; which I may discuss later, should the topic ever progress to that point.

However, I also have grounds in the scriptural narrative itself, for denying that perseverence-of-the-saints is a doctrine that must universally apply (before the eschaton anyway). Peter is the first counterexample that comes to mind: he yo-yos back and forth between being faithful and unfaithful to Jesus at least twice that I can think of, before Pentacost. Clearly, it wasn't Peter who persevered; it was God. {s}

(The same point seems abundantly clear, though not directed at a particular person, in Heb 6 onward: when those who really have accepted the faith decide to trample it underfoot anyway, there's going to be a punishment--but the punishment occurs because God perseveres in trying to save even _those_ people.)


 James A. Gibson said...

Jason: I do not see why the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints entails that the elect may not wave back and forth in their faithfulness. What in the doctrine suggests to you this entailment?

steve said...

Edwardtbabinski said...

Vic, Thanks for incorporating the title of my book in your blog post heading! Leaving the Fold. *smile*

On perseverence and leaving the fold, differing perspectives (God's vs. human beings') and differeing exegesis (Calvinism vs. Open Theology), ensure nothing's settled. And then there's the view that even questions the value of biblical exegesis in answering such questions. How does one prove that the Bible along of all the world's books contains the "last word?" How does one prove the Bible can be harmonized? Different exegetes emphasize different passages. That reminds me, did Yahweh ever really "repent?" Change His mind?

Edwardtbabinski said...


I [the Lord] am weary of repenting.
- Jeremiah 15:6

The Lord repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.
- 1 Samuel 15:35 (But the Lord’s "dice," the "casting of lots" had chosen Saul to be king in the first place!)

And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.
- Genesis 6:6-7 (see also Deut. 32:36 & Ps. 135:14)

And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it: and as he was destroying, the Lord beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand.
- 1 Chronicles 21:15

Did he not fear the Lord, and besought the Lord, and the Lord repented him of the evil which he had pronounced against them?
- Jeremiah. 26:19

God told Moses He was going to let His people, the Israelites, die in the desert and make a new nation out of Moses’s children alone. But Moses talked Him out of that plan, “And the Lord repented of the evil the he thought to do unto his people.”
- Exodus 32:14

Compare the above scene with Genesis 18:23-33, where Abraham gets God to change his mind about the minimum number of righteous people in Sodom required to avoid destruction, bargaining God downwards from fifty to ten. (An omniscient God must have known that He was toying with Abraham's hopes for mercy--He destroyed the city anyway.)

And the Lord repented of the evil that he had said he would do unto them; and he did it not.
- Jonah 3:10

And of course my favorite, again...

I [the Lord] am weary of repenting.
- Jeremiah 15:6

Edwardtbabinski said...

My long-time friend Will Bagley (former Christian who grew to love eastern philosophy) sent me this recently that fits with questions about "leaving folds." To quote Will:

I think that stories about people leaving the fold are worthwhile and very human. It is interesting that if someone leaves a Chess Club that some members might be sad and miss his or her company, but I find that fundies make a big stink about someone leaving (aka burning hell or doomed to such a fate).

I remember an Italian who talked with a Buddhist Monk and master of meditation. The Italian asked apologetically if he could ask a question even though he was not a Buddhist. The monk replied, "Buddhist? What difference does that make? I am a human and you are a human, we suffer, let us find out a way to not suffer together. Let us explore together."

Wetering when he meditated in a Zen monastary for two years, finally decided to undergo ordination into Buddhism. He went to the teacher and shared his intention. The master described the ceremony very informally and then asked why he was doing the ceremony and if he thought it would help him solve his koan faster. He was struck by how much becoming a Buddhist is not a big thing in Zen. When he talked about the indifferent reaction to the initiation ceremony of the Zen teacher with the head monk, the head monk replied, "What self thinks it is going to become a Buddhist?". Apparently some realization was more important than becoming a Buddhist.

NormaJean said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason Pratt said...


My point was that the perseverence is to be attributed to God, not to the saints per se. Consequently, it should be no surprise if those whom God intends to save fall away occasionally, even to the extreme suggested by the Hebraist--an extreme so extreme that he is frequently interpreted as meaning the previously faithful are being hopelessly damned now (but which ignores or disconnects from the context of the Hebraist's further exposition through to the climax of the epistle at chapter 12.)

I'm reasonably sure that this doctrine of the perseverence of God is, in itself, quite entirely consistent with Calv theology over-againt Arm theology. It gells up with the I of the Tulip (Irresistable Grace), too. Surely the typical (though not altogether accepted) Calv doctrine of limited election, that God only ever intended to save a remnant of a remnant, synchs up with it!--albeit in a wholly negative fashion. (Here, incidentally, I think the Arms have the better argument: God intends to save everyone from sin. They just think He gives up eventually, not being persistent in His love. Calvs think He is persistent in His love when He bothers to give it, but doesn't bother to give it to everyone. Kaths think God _is_ love, therefore bothers to give it to everyone and is persistent in giving it. Go orthodoxy! {g})

The hope of the persistence, is that we can trust God not to be unfaithful to us, even if we are unfaithful to Him, because He loves us; therefore we can also trust Him not to give up on us, even if it happens that we give up on Him. I agree with the Calvs on this, that otherwise we would have to be saying that God is untrustworthy, and that we cannot trust Him to save us from our sins! Indeed, I think this is one of the strongest points (maybe _the_ strongest point, out of several) of the Calv theological position.