mercy

David’s Unanswered Prayer at the Disjuncture of Faith and Feeling

The Bible does not often report unanswered prayer; when it does, we should pay close attention.  One such instance occurs in an unlikely place: the fallout of the story of David’s adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband Uriah.  In this story (2 Samuel 12), David is no hero, but a villain, and when he was rebuked by Nathan, the prophet tricked him into condemning his own actions.  Only then did he repent, and even so the Lord condemned the child to be born, for Bathsheba had become pregnant with David’s son, to death.  David then lay in sackcloth for seven days, fasting and praying for the child to be spared, and yet at the end of the week the baby died.  To the bewilderment of his servants, David then got up, cleaned himself off, stopped fasting, and worshiped the Lord.  Even though this awful situation was the result of David’s own sin, the divergence between David’s actions and his servants’ expectations, a disjuncture occasioned by unanswered prayer, spotlights the difference between faith and feeling in Christianity.

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Once Saved, Always Calvinist?

One doctrinal formula which Calvinists bandy about and non-Calvinists like to mock is “once saved, always saved.”  Like almost all doctrinal formulas, this one is shorthand for a longer assertion.  It’s easy to expand it to “once a person has been saved, that person cannot lose his or her salvation.”  But that formulation still presumes that we know what we’re talking about when we say someone “is saved.”  Although this language is often used, especially among American evangelicals since the 19th C, I don’t think “saved” can meaningfully be used as an adjective as it always is, or even as an absolute verb (i.e. a verb without additional specification of the predicate).  Now, some folks who know their Bibles really well will immediately point out that the apostles used the word “saved” in various contexts without adding additional specification (Eph 2:5 and 8 come to mind).  But we must always ask, in every context, “What is the subject of the sentence saved from?”

Since the notion of “once saved, always saved” has come up recently in a few places, I thought I would re-post here an (edited) email I wrote back in 2010 in answer to a question from a friend.  First, his question:

What does it mean to be “saved”? Is it a once-and-for-all thing, or a lifelong process, or what? A fellow who grows up a believer and manifests all the signs of a Christian and then in, say, his late teens turns away from the faith: is he saved?

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