Sunday, March 14, 2010

Are there non-regenerate believers?

The reformed when debating a Lutheran view of apostasy argue that the "falling away" passages refer to those who only had the appearance of being regenerate. They were never true Christians in the first place. Examine the characteristics of these false Christians.

They can:

be enlightened (Hebrews 6:4)
taste the heavenly gift (Hebrews 6:4)
share the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 6:4)
taste the goodness of God's word (Hebrews 6:5)
receive eschatological blessings (Hebrews 6:5)
repent (Hebrews 6:6)
understand the truth (James 5:9)
receive grace (Galatians 5:4)
be in fellowship with Christ (Galatians 5:4)
receive the gospel (Matthew 13:20)
have joy in the truth (Matthew 13:20)
have been bought by the Lord (2 Peter 2:1)
escape the evils of the world (2 Peter 2:20)
know Jesus Christ (2 Peter 2:20)

Compare this with what is said in scripture about unbelievers:

they have darkened hearts (Romans 1:21)
their thinking is futile (Romans 1:21)
they have no understanding (Romans 3:11)
they do not seek God (Romans 3:11)
they do no good (Romans 3:12)
they are hostile to God (Romans 8:7)
they cannot submit to God's law (Romans 8:7)
they cannot please God (Romans 8:8)
their minds are defiled (Titus 1:16)
they are slaves to sin (Romans 6:6)
they hate the light (John 3:20)
they are alienated from Christ (Colossians 1:21)
they cannot understand the gospel (I Corinthians 2:14)
they are blinded from seeing Christ (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)
they cannot receive the Spirit (John 14:16)
they are unable to come to Christ (John 6:44)

Is it possible that these descriptions can all apply to the same group of people? Can these blessings of the first list be applied to those in the second? This would mean that men can receive the word with joy but be unable to understand the word, share in the Spirit but not be able to receive the Spirit, have no understanding and blinded minds but understand the truth, taste the goodness of God's word yet be unable to understand His word, be alienated from Christ yet be in fellowship with him, be enlightened but have no understanding, be in slavery to sin yet repent and escape the evils of the world, receive grace but not salvation, and know Christ but are unable to come to Him.
The conclusion is unavoidable; these verses cannot be referring to the same group of people. Those who fall away have truly been saved and have been severed from Christ.


X said...

Awesome. I'm going to combine this with my approach:

Scripture speaks of faith being made void, shipwrecking ones faith, some will fall away from the faith, some have denied the faith (through actions), wander away from the faith, go astray from the faith, some are rejected in regard to the faith. What blessings are given to us through faith, are lost through unbelief.

Jordan Cooper said...

I agree with your approach to falling away. If faith unites us with Christ, only unbelief can sever that tie.

Jeph said...

Agree. If we fall away from the faith, we'll lose our justification, and if that happens, the only way we could get ourselves back to our justified state is to crucify God's Son once more - which is absolutely impossible.

The passage is clear,

"4 What if some people fall away from the faith? It won't be possible to bring them back. It is true that they have seen the light. They have tasted the heavenly gift. They have shared in the Holy Spirit. 5 They have tasted the good things of God's word. They have tasted the powers of the age to come. 6 But they have fallen away from the faith. So it won't be possible to bring them back. They won't be able to turn away from their sins. They are losing everything. That's because they are nailing the Son of God to the cross all over again. They are bringing shame on him in front of everyone." (Heb. 6:4-6, NIRV)

DaveC said...

You could add to that list that these false Christians (according to Reformed teaching) also held to faith and a good conscience before throwing it away (1 Tim 1:19)

Jordan Cooper said...

I missed that one. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

So, if a person has fallen away (which I fear that I have), should he abandon all hope of ever being brought back to the faith that he once had?

Anonymous said...

So, what Jeph is saying is that a person who has fallen away should not even hope of coming back to salvation? I have often feared that I have fallen away and that this skepticism that keeps creeping into me will never be put out. Does Hebrews 6 and 10 mean that now there is no hope left?