Hell is a problem. It makes compassionate Christians uncomfortable. It makes hateful Christians gleeful. Some people say that hell is unfair. Others say a loving God could never create people to send them to hell. How can hell be reconciled with “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8)?
Let us be careful. Jesus, who revealed God’s love, discussed hell more than any prophet. (more…)
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?
Things start sometime, if they start at all. Tuesday of Holy Week is not generally considered the best time to start anything. The events of the Passion have already begun, and the joy of Easter is not yet here. And yet, this is where we always first find ourselves with God: things have started without us, and we have not yet reached the fullest joy. So this blog starts at the wrong time, on the wrong foot, just like everything in our lives.
Tuesday of Holy Week is also not the best time for a road trip. Holy Week “ought to be” a time of preparation for the severity of Good Friday and the joy of Easter. It is a time of reflection, of spiritual discipline, and of worship. But real life has its requirements, and I drove ten hours today. This is also how most of us worship God. A few people have the privilege of withdrawing from the world to devote their lives to worship alone. Most of us have to work in order to eat. We worship God in the moments around other activities, and we try to learn how to worship God in all the movements of our lives. It is not easy, and it does not come naturally. But Christ did not come to call the perfect, the devout, and the righteous; he came to call the sick and the sinners, like us. And he did not take us out of the world, but left us in the world to be his servants here. So real life happens, and we seek to worship Christ within real life.