There have been half a dozen roaring internet debates over the idea of “once saved, always saved,” as in, can someone lose their salvation? I’d link to them, but about all to be gleaned there is that this is emotional issue and practically everyone has now been called a heretic at least once.
First off, it really is an emotional issue, as in, what is more scary than that? Who wants to even think they can lose their salvation? I know people who have been baptized a few times because they were worried the first few shots at it didn’t take.
Second, it’s a concept that can be seeped in confusion, doubt, fear, all things that create chaos, that mess with our minds, that attempt to deceive and mislead us. God does not mess with our minds like that, ever, so where there is chaos, deception, confusion, that is not God’s voice you are hearing. God is a God of truth and clarity that does not play games with us.
There are some great theological discussions, there can be physics involved, there are issues around free will and pre-determinism, or the essence and nature of defining time. To add to the complexity of this issue, there are quite a few evangelizing non believers who claim to be deconvertees, as if they were once saved, but now they aren’t anymore. They also enjoy stirring the pot.
However, I always like to simplify things, to speak the language of romance and love and families. “Once saved, always saved” is a concept I simply call “Divorcing Christ.” I do believe in once saved always saved, because I have tried to divorce Christ a few times myself as you can see in this post. Or perhaps in this post about throwing in the proverbial towel.
I really have been at that breaking point more than once, frustrated, hysterical, trapped somewhere between offense and fury, completely unwilling to accept “thy will be done” for another moment. I have given God Himself a piece of my mind. Oh yes, God and I have had some major power struggles. (If anyone doubts the outcome, He really did win the argument.)
That is how I know that God is good, I am not currently a pillar of salt, and he has shown up each time to take me on, with grace. Unbelievable, mysterious grace. The Hound of Heaven indeed, in hot pursuit. “I fled Him down the nights and down the days, I fled him down the arches if the years, I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways, Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears I hid from Him…”
I believe in “once saved, always saved” because salvation is not ours to grant…or to withdraw. We are not saved by our own decisions and choices, thank God, we are saved because of His choices and I am absolutely certain that once claimed, He leaves no man behind.
This idea sometimes creates an additional dilemma, what about the bad people, what about all the backsliders, and alleged deconvertees? I tend to believe it is a bit like falling in love, if you actually fell in love then there is no turning back the clock. Either you were once in love or you were never in love at all. The modern earthly world may believe we can fall in and out of love on a whim, and change marriages like we change our socks, but it isn’t like that with Jesus Christ at all. Once you truly give yourself over to Him, you are His.
A pastor I know used to joke, “remember you are saved, just try to remember that some people do go to heaven as a cobblestone…” Ah yes, eternal life as a bit of pavement in heaven for everyone to wipe their feet on! On the bright side, you might get to be made of gold? He was always quipping, “they may be saved, but I sure can’t promise what their status will be when they get there….”
His words, his gallows humor, actually sent me down some fruitful rabbit holes, contemplating the nature of pride, the perceived injustice in the fact that some people I don’t believe are worthy may well be saved. The thief on the cross may well be saved, while someone I consider far more worthy than a thief may not…. Ah, that’s a tough lesson, very abrasive to the pride, but profitable, fruitful. We are not the final judge, we cannot see into people’s hearts, we do not have the whole picture. There may well be some murderer in the world whose sins are less than mine..
I also had to come to terms with the fact that I believed the Blood of the Lamb was powerful enough to wash away the sins of the world, past, present and future…..just not powerful enough for that guy’s sins, because he is an appalling species indeed? That does not work.
So, as to the deconvertees, I picture it a bit like a paternity test. If He was once your Father, than He is still your Father today and you have just spent half your life denying Him or, He was never your Father to begin with. Once saved, always saved. What about the people who claim they are saved and yet spend their entire lives doing evil things? I don’t know, I simply trust that God will get it right, that He knows what He is doing.
There are really only two places I believe equality actually exists. One is in the grave and the other is at the foot of the cross. It can be a tough lesson to learn, but I believe it to be true.