Saturday, September 13, 2008



[The following is a refutation of, "The Believer's Conditional Security: Eternal Security Refuted," by Daniel D. Corner (]

Chapter 3 of Corner's book is called "Calvin's Dark Side." It documents Geneva's execution of Michael Servetus for doctrinal reasons (in 1553). As Servetus cried out for mercy, he was burned slowly with half-green wood. Corner reveals from John Calvin's own writings that Calvin (1509-1564) was involved in this decision, and never repented of it publicly. Calvin wrote:

"Servetus suffered the penalty due to his heresies, but was it my will? Certainly his arrogance destroyed him not less than his impiety. And what crime was it of mine if our council, AT MY EXHORTATION, INDEED, but in conformity with the opinion of several Churches, took vengeance on his execrable blasphemies?...posterity owes me a debt of gratitude for having purged the Church of so pernicious a monster." [Cited from Schaff, "History of the Christian Church," Vol. VIII, pp. 690, 691.]

Calvin had privately threatened to execute him seven years before his arrest at Geneva. He wrote in 1546:

"Servetus lately wrote to me, and coupled with his letter a long volume of his delirious fancies, with the Thrasonic boast, that I should see something astonishing and unheard of. He takes it upon him to come hither, if it be agreeable to me. But I am unwilling to pledge my word for his safety; for if he shall come, I shall never permit him to depart alive, provided my authority be of any avail." [Cited from Henry C. Sheldon, "History of the Christian Church," Vol. 3, p.159.]

Corner answers the common excuses used to justify Calvin's actions. He could have added that a child was beheaded in Calvin's Geneva for striking a parent; and in 1547 a man named Gruet was executed (after being tortured for three years) for simply placing a disrespectful placard on Calvin's pulpit.

But why does Corner remind us of this history? Corner's argument is that the doctrine of "once-saved-always-saved" is related to Calvinism's "perseverance of the saints." And since Calvin was a murderer who never repented, Corner argues that this must prove that his whole theological system is erroneous and spiritually darkened:

"Like it or not, the Scriptures lead to the conclusion that John Calvin's heart was not spiritually enlightened, but rather darkened as a result of his murderous hate for Servetus. Calvin was, therefore, spiritually incapable of rightly dividing the word of truth." (Corner, p. 44)

Calvinism's doctrine of "final perseverance" is not exactly "eternal security," since one would have to live one's whole life to absolutely know that one was indeed elect, and therefore "secure." Therefore, exposing Calvin is not the same as refuting the doctrine of eternal security.

But aside from this point, it is amazing that Corner does not realize that his argument, once again, cuts down his own tree! We simply have to notice that the worst murders for "heresy" in all of history were carried about by Roman Catholics; and Roman Catholics have always considered eternal security to be a damnable doctrine! We therefore can conclude that since Roman Catholics are "spiritually incapable of rightly dividing the word of truth," their doctrine of conditional security must be wrong! Would Corner like to compare the number of murders and tortures committed by Protestant Calvinists with those committed by Catholics? He will find that those who have embraced conditional security have murdered millions more than Protestant Calvinists ever murdered. And I think he would look hard to even find one murderer - especially one who murdered for heresy - among the advocates of eternal security (as contrasted to the Protestant advocates of "the perseverance of the saints"). Yet, as we have seen, even if we claimed Calvin as our own, Corner's conditional security would still come up with the short end of the stick, since it has the Catholic Inquisition on its side!

Corner takes some time in this chapter to argue that Calvin's perseverance of the saints is a license for immorality. He quotes the Westminster Confession to prove that Calvinists believe a saved person remains saved even if he falls into grievous sins and continues therein "for a time." Throughout his book, Corner often stresses this point with quotes from John Macarthur and others. The time period for continuing in grievous sins, yet remaining "sure" of election, is undefined by most Calvinists (David went almost a year before repenting of murder and adultery). Yet, advocates of Calvin's "perseverance" doctrine (in all its brands) believe that the "eternally elect" can fall into such sins as adultery, murder, drunkenness, fornication, etc., for "a time," as long as they do not continue therein for "too long." New Versions have even incorporated this teaching into text (in Hebrews and 1 John, etc.). The problem (noted by Corner throughout his book) is that, according to this doctrine, a true believer may technically live in adultery for at least nine months without repenting (like David), and yet die and "go to glory," and later come back with Christ in resurrection glory. Many of the most ardent "anti-carnal Christian" teachers hold this "nine month" (or however long they define it) loop-hole.

I must admit that Corner is correct in some of his assertions concerning this doctrine of the perseverance of the saints as it is commonly presented by Calvinists and Lordship Salvationists. As much as they decry the reality of a "carnal Christian," they must make room for such things as David's sin, and the denial of Christ by the disciples, etc. Therefore, they end up teaching that the most wicked sins can be committed by believers without any fear of hell or death at the Second Coming - as long as it is not continued in for "too long" (which, according to them, would cast doubt on their election). But since the time period for continuing in such sins is undefined, and left to the whim of every preacher, this often becomes a license for sin.

The remedy for this license is not Arminianism; it is the true doctrine of Millennial exclusion and temporary punishment at the Judgment Seat of Christ. This doctrine maintains that believers cannot commit grievous sins for any period and be free from the threat of death in this life and at the Judgment Seat of Christ. It closes the gap. It teaches that lesser sins will lower our position in the Millennial Kingdom (Matthew 5:19), and greater ones will exclude us altogether (Matthew 5:20, 18:3,6, 9, 34-35, etc.). It does not give the license provided for by the "for a time continue therein" clause. On the other hand, it guards justification by faith alone by keeping the resurrection on the last day (after the Millennium) secure, regardless of the Christian's conduct. Corner, in a debate, would likely also call this doctrine a license for sin; yet, he will have trouble proving that the danger of a thousand years in hell for any grievous sin in the believer (not repented of in time), even if committed for a short period of time, provides a license for sin! God is able to encapsulate the severest consequences within the Millennial age.

It might be helpful for the readers to see these three views summarized:

1. Reformed Calvinism: The elect may commit adultery (etc.) "for a time" (at least nine months?), and yet experience happiness and glory at death, and at the Judgment Seat of Christ. If the Lord slays the elect in his sins (during this time period), he goes straight to happiness in glory. If he commits suicide, he goes straight to happiness and glory. The only thing that can cause him to doubt his eternal election is "continuing" in grievous sins for "too long" without repentance. This system of theology often sees sin as being sometimes "left" in the elect by God to work humility, etc.

2. Arminianism: The professing Christian will lose salvation and be eternally lost again for grievous sins. However, there are different views on what sins will bring about this loss of salvation. Some teach that only complete apostasy or blasphemy of Christ will bring eternal ruin. Others teach that committing the "not inherit" sins of Galatians 5, Ephesians 5, etc. will bring a loss of salvation. But there is not a clear line on the degree of such sins, or the length they may be committed. Many modern Arminians would be considered eternally damned by Arminians from former generations for their carnal movie-watching, immodest dress, etc. Also, there are differences of opinion concerning many times a Christian can backslide and later repent. Corner appears to believer that this cycle of repentance can go on continuously until death.

3. Millennial Exclusion: The believer will lose rank in the Millennial Kingdom for lesser sins. He will lose entrance into the Kingdom, altogether, for exclusion sins. His eternal salvation is secure on the Last Day, "yet so as by fire." There is no time period wherein a believer may feel free from exclusion if he is committing such sins as those mentioned in Ephesians 5, Galatians 5, etc. He does not have a "nine month pass" before he has to worry about exclusion. His salvation in eternity is by grace through faith alone. His salvation into the Millennial kingdom is by grace through faith and works.

Based on years of dealing with professing believers on the street, I have heard both Reformed Calvinists (and such like), as well as Arminians, exclaim or imply that if Millennial exclusion is true, they would have to change some things about their lives! Why is this so?

In future articles I will document that the majority of churches and large ministries in the U.S. teach that men are eternally saved through faith, confession, repenting, and bringing forth fruits. Most ministries have a four or five-step salvation plan. The majority of ministries in the U.S. also teach that no true believer will ever continue in sin for "a long time." The strange idea that modern "Christendom" is filled with those who embrace "easy believism," and teach that true believers can "continue in sin for a long time" and still be assured of eternal salvation, is a fascinating delusion. The opposite is actually the true reality. Therefore, with the majority of churches and ministries in America teaching that "true believers" will never continue in sin for a long time, why is it that there is such rampant immorality, coldness, profanity, lack of commitment, pride, double-tonguedness, etc., among so many believers? Certainly, one problem is that the view of sin has been altered. In the Bible, even making provision for sin is sin! But it is not seen to be so in this day and age.

Corner puts his finger on other reasons. In his book, he does a good job documenting that many who loudly and publicly decry the reality of a "carnal Christian" are only presenting a smokescreen. They still allow for continuance in weighty sins, without hell, as long as they are not indulged in for too long. Yet, Corner's Arminianism also has problems. And while he is able to expose some of the holes in the modern teaching of eternal security, and/or the perseverance of the saints, he is not able to refill them without perverting the Gospel and ending up with a Roman Catholic system of salvation by grace and works.

(Joey Faust)

No comments: