Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Long Faithfulness

Scott Mcnight, A Long Faithfulness. Patheos Books, 2013. 79 pages. ISBN 978-1-62921-469-6.

A popular saying describes the Christian life as a marathon instead of a 100 yard dash. The idea that the Christian life is a long journey. You see this idea in classical works like Pilgrim's Progress which is one of my favorite books.

A question we struggle with is why do some believers walk away from the faith. Two prominent responses are that they have the freedom to turn away or they were never believers in the first place. This latter answer seems quite weak since we have known people that have shown all the signs of being a believer and have abandoned the faith. For example, I have a cousin who was a faithful Christian till several years ago he walked away from the faith. It is hard to believe that he was never a believer since he showed all the fruits of being a believer.

Another concern addressed by A Long Faithfulness by Scott Mcnight is what is called meticulous sovereignty. The author describes meticulous sovereignty: "If God determines everything (as in the meticulous sovereignty approach), then God not only permits but must determine that some young girls and boys will be abused while others will be spared, that some adults will suffer more in this life while others less" (1-2). In other words, everything that happens is determined by God, even evil. Not long ago in a sunday school class I sought to make a distinction between God allowing and God causing events. My view was shouted down. Those who disagreed with me stated that everything that happens is caused by God. I have serious problems with this view.

Mcknight has written this book as a response to the meticulous sovereignty view. The author relates his own personal experience as a Calvinist and how he struggled with the warning passages from Hebrews which led him to see that believers do abandon the faith. He believes that God gives people free will and because of this they can abandon the faith. In a sense, he is not speaking against all Calvinists but only a certain kind. He actually thinks that Classical Calvinists and Classical Arminians both believe in the necessity of perseverance. He writes: "For the classical Calvinist and the Arminian--and I know this may sound like a bundle of hooey to many--there is precious little difference when it comes to the necessity of perseverance" (68).

Chapter one describes the author's journey with Calvinism. At Trinty Evangelical Divinity School he became Grant Osborne's Teaching assistant. One of his first tasks was to work through Osborne's "extensive notes on the Calvinist-Arminian debate" (16). This would be the first step in a long journey where he became convinced "that meticulous sovereignty was defeated by the Bible itself" (17).

In chapter two he discusses the warning passages of Hebrews. Instead of concentrating on just Hebrews 6, he discusses all the warning passages (2:1-4, 3:7-4:13, 5:11-6:12, 10:19-39, 12:1-29). He asks all the passages four questions: Who is the audience? What is the sin or danger? What are they to do? What are the consequences? I liked the idea of looking at all the passages together and asking them the same questions. The author does a good job at looking at these passages exegetically.

Personally, I still believe in eternal security or the perseverance of the saints, not necessarily once saved, always saved. I believe only those who persevere to the end will be saved. The Christian life is a journey, not a one-time decision.

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