I have often said that it is easier to tell when someone is a true Christian than to tell when they are not. In other words, some people wear their convictions on their sleeve. The power of the Holy Spirit could not be more clearly visible. With these people, their passion, understanding, grace, humility, and faith are clearly evident in everything they do. I know and can state with a great degree of confidence that they trust in Christ and are saved. They are in the race and they are running. For others, however, it is more difficult to tell. They may say they are saved, but I do not have the same degree of confidence. They may be convinced, but I am not. I am not asserting they are not saved. I just don’t know. Some people live in a perpetual state of doubt, failure, and terrible sin. They may be in the race, but they are not running. However, even when they are at their worst, I cannot confidently say that they are not saved any more than I can say that the previous individuals are saved.

Many people contact me, because they are overwhelmed with the fear that they are not saved. They seek assurance from me that God has saved them. My background, training, and tradition all push me to reassure them in the attempt to alleviate their doubts and fears to the end that they are secure in their salvation and can never lose this security. After all, I believe that without security, we have never really embraced the fullness of the Gospel message.

However, there is a flip side to this coin. And it is this other side that I wish to address.

I have someone who I can’t figure out. Conversations with him are always very frustrating. I just want to crack his head open and see what is inside. I want to gaze where only God can see. I want to know if he really knows Christ. My heart says, “I hope!” but my mind says, “I don’t know. I doubt it.”

If you were to look at the life of this friend, you would not suspect that he has ever approached the throne room of God. You would not suspect that he has ever bowed humbly at the cross, understood his own condition, or asked the Lord for mercy. I have never seen him read his Bible, and I have never heard him honor Christ with his words. His life appears to be a never-ending pursuit of what the world has to offer. Moreover, this attitude shows evidence of trying to maintain complete control over his emotional state. Comforting him with spiritual talk is a seemingly futile exercise, especially when I receive a ridiculing gaze and awkward silence when I attempt to discuss the issue with him.

Yet, when push comes to shove, this guy will give me his testimony. Every once in a while he will tell me why I don’t need to be worried about his spiritual condition. He will confidently tell me of the time when he was twelve years old and walked the aisle at Church to accept the Gospel. Once his tale is complete, he has exhausted his ability to have a spiritual conversation and an awkward silence ensues.

Is this guy saved? Can it be that he sincerely walked the aisle so long ago, yet has not flexed a spiritual muscle since? Why is he so secure in his salvation?

In his office, there is one spiritual relic. It is an old piece of paper that hangs prominently by his desk entitled “The Believer’s Security.” On it are listed all of the passages of Scripture that give assurance that a believer cannot lose their salvation. This unqualified doctrine was something that he was taught immediately after his saving experience. This is what he banks on every day.

I have changed quite a bit over the years with regards to the doctrine often called “eternal security” or “once saved, always saved.” Don’t start squirming, fellow Calvinists, there are not many things I believe in more strongly than the ultimate security of salvation. But I do believe there are some people who may need to squirm. I believe there are some people whose eternal destiny depends on their own insecurity.

I am going to tell the “Parable of the Race.” You may have heard it before, but I am going to modify it somewhat for our purposes.

“In a town of ultimate boredom called Mundane, there was a great announcement. It was the announcement of a race. A great race that all could enter. A race that would rescue them from boredom. Most people did not believe that such an event would be held in Mundane so they scoffed. Others immediately prepared with great enthusiasm and joy.

Both the scoffers and the enthusiasts arrived at the appointed place on the day of the race. The scoffers sat and watched while the others prepared to run by stretching and making sure their shoes were tied. They lined up, looking ahead with the intensity, fear, and excitement that accompanied such an event.

The gun sounded and off they went. Yet something very curious and unexplainable happened. They all stopped running after they had passed the starting line. Not only this, but they acted very peculiar. One person fell on his knees crying, thanking God that he crossed the starting line. Others gave each other high fives and hugs, as they shouted, “Hooray, we are now race runners, we are now race runners.” Some shook hands and congratulated each other. One group relaxed and complemented one another on how well they crossed the starting line. Five or six others all gathered together and formed a prayer circle. They prayed that others would cross the starting line as they had.

Many others wanted to experience this joy so they decided to start the race as well. They were immediately stopped by the well-wishers who had started before them. They decided to stay as well. After a few days, there were people handing out pamphlets along with a certificate to all those who crossed the starting line. The pamphlet told them that once they had started the race they were guaranteed to finish. The certificate was to recognize their achievement in finishing the race even before they finished. It became very high on the agenda of all the race runners to make sure that people who had started knew of their assurance of completion. So much so that there was a printing press built right at the starting gate which produced millions of the pamphlets.

After a few months, there were so many who had crossed the starting line that they decided to build a town right there. They called this town “Starting Line Village.”

The spectators were confused. “I thought a race had to be finished,” they said to one another. They interviewed the people of Starting Line Village. “Why did you start the race and not continue?” they would ask. This made the people of Starting Line Village very uncomfortable. They would immediately show their certificate saying that they were guaranteed to finish. When people would encourage them to run the rest of the race, they would be ridiculed for not trusting the pamphlet. They were called legalists and were accused of trusting too much in their own ability to finish the race rather than the words on the pamphlet.

Finally, many of the watchers in the crowd became fed up with those in Starting Line Village and decided to run the race themselves with the intent to finish. They refused the certificates and left the people of Starting Line Village to hand out the pamphlets alone.”

This parable illustrates a problem that we have in the church today. There are many people who are very comfortable in the profession of faith they made so long ago. So comfortable, in fact, that they never make any further moves in their walk with God. Like my friend, they rely upon the “once saved, always saved” doctrine that they were taught immediately upon conversion. They have crossed the starting line, but are definitely not running the race.

I don’t have a problem with teaching “once saved, always saved,” but I think we need to qualify it a great deal. I know, qualifying our own security seems very counterproductive. Let me be plain and clear. The doctrine of God’s grace is radical. It is absolutely radical. It is unbelievably radical. God gives us an unspeakable gift free of charge. We don’t owe God anything for it. It is not on layaway. In fact, it would be very offensive to God for us to even try to pay for it. It is priceless. Yet this gift, from a human point of view, is received by faith. Faith is the evidence of our salvation. It is the instrumental cause of our salvation. Faith is the evidence that we have entered the race. But what we fail to emphasize is often more destructive to the Christian faith than not telling the Gospel at all. We fail to tell people that there is a false kind of faith. There is a faith that crosses the starting line, but never completes the race. There is a faith that does not save.

Paul encourages the Corinthians:

“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you– unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Cor. 13:5)

The author of Hebrews says:

“Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.” (Heb. 4:1)

In Revelation, only those who overcome are promised eternal life:

“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” (Rev. 2:7; emphasis mine)

James speaks about a faith that does not save:

“What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?” (Jam. 2:14)

Remember in the parable of the soils in Matthew 13, there are three types of seeds that sprout (start the race), but only one truly takes root (finishes the race).

And time will fail us if we try to recount all the false prophets of false hope in the Old Testament. These are the ones who were continually telling the Israelites of their own security when destruction was right around the corner.

I believe that once a person is truly saved, he or she will never lose that salvation. Yet I think we need to warn people that not all faith is true faith.

If you have crossed the starting line, great! Bravo, hooray, and congrats. But from a human point of view, this does not guarantee that you will cross the finish line. I am sorry, but I do no service to you by trying to immediately tell you that your faith is true. I don’t know if it is. The doctrine is not really called “Once Saved, Always Saved,” but is more accurately described as “Perseverance of the Saints.” I think  we need to get away from calling it “once saved, always saved.” I don’t like it. From God’s point of view, your salvation is protected. You are his child, elect of God, and nothing can change that. But from our perspective, you are his child if you are trusting in him. Is your faith persevering? It is not about whether you can recount a time in the past when you trusted him once. It is about whether or not you are in his family and are trusting him now. We are called believers, not because we believed, but because we believe.

We all need to question whether or not our faith is the kind of faith that saves. We do a great disservice to the Gospel when we make it our top priority to immediately alleviate any anxiety or doubt of salvation in those who profess faith. We may be giving them a false sense of security that they will take to their grave. This may be what happens to my friend. I fear the worst. On the day of judgment, will he say “Lord, Lord, didn’t I cross the starting line? Wasn’t I a race runner?” only to hear Jesus respond, “Depart from me. I never knew you.”

There is a healthy tension concerning our salvation that should follow us our entire Christian walk.

If you are saved, part of the Gospel message is that you can be assured of your salvation (1 John 5:13). God wants you to know it. However, I don’t want anyone to be assured of something that is not true. Unfortunately, I believe there are a lot of people who are.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    154 replies to "This Calvinist’s Problem with “Once Saved, Always Saved”"

    • Sam

      Michael, most of my friends from the Calvinist/Reformed side of the aisle tell me that if one doesn’t finish the race, then that one never really started it anyway. But your illustration asserts that they DID start the race, but failed to complete it. So, in your understanding, if one doesn’t finish the race, exactly what does it mean to have started it?

    • Irene

      Michael, you said,

      “even when they are at their worst, I cannot say with the same degree of confidence that they are not saved than when I can say someone is saved.”

      This the same kind of stance the Catholic Church takes. She can authoritatively announce (not decide, but announce) that someone is surely in heaven. However, she does not have the authority to announce, or the means to know, whether or not someone is in hell.

      She has never announced anyone in particular as being surely in hell, even Judas Iscariot (although that remains the conventional wisdom).

    • JFDU

      May I be the ‘devil’s advocate’ here and make some naïve comments as an outsider to your theology (non-Calvinist) looking in?

      I guess what confuses me about this post Michael is that, as a Calvinist you know that if this person (or others like him) is NOT one of the elect, there is nothing he can do to change his fate. So feeling frustrated about his lack of taking his faith seriously and manifesting SOME signs of true faith, is incongruous and incompatible with your theology IMO.

      If he’s not elected/appointed to salvation, it doesn’t matter whether he ‘gets his act together’ or not. IF you see a positive change in him it MAY signal true faith, if not it MAY mean that he’s doomed for eternity perhaps from the Matt 13:22 or 1 John 2:19 ilk. Either way the outcome is predetermined and fait accompli and any attempt on your part to ‘steer him in the right direction’ will not change that predetermined outcome.

      I am being deliberately FATALISTIC in my argument as you can gather, but stay with me for a minute!

      On the flip side Scripture admonishes us to “to stir up one another to love and good works” (Heb 10:24), so in this sense you MAY be God’s appointed means to stir this person up as one who is elect but the evidence of true faith has not yet manifested. This is an equally acceptable option.

      Bottom line (coming back to the fatalistic view), if you are God’s means to stir him/her up, well and good, he/she is elect and that was decided long ago. If not, he/she is doomed for ever and that was ALSO decided long ago. So what I don’t understand (as a non-Calvinist) is HOW can you give them a “a false sense of security” since the outcome is fixed? If he/she IS elect, whether their sense of security is true or false, they ARE secure, period. If he/she is NOT elect, whether their sense of security is true or false, they are NOT secure, period!

      Am I missing something here? (John From Down Under)

    • C Michael Patton

      Sam, yes. But think of it more like the plant did begin to grow in the parable of the soils. Does that help?

    • C Michael Patton


      And without the anathema I agree with the Catholic Church.

    • Marc F

      That is about one of the most well thought out comments I have seen in a long time. Very well written.

    • Surely the doctrine or teaching of God’s Election, are bound up in the clear lines of God’s ‘calling and regeneration, adoption, conversion, faith, justification, renovation, sanctification, and perseverance.’ These terms are applied to the temporal order of causes and effects through which the salvation of the sinner is accomplished. In Reformed theology we call them the “ordo salutis” or order of salvation. Both the Reformed and the Lutherans have developed the idea of the order of salvation. Of course the actual arrangement is different somewhat between them, but in the end the emphasis upon the eternal decree and its execution in time is the issue! GOD will call and save His people, by faith through grace! And too the “elect” will persevere! But again by God’s grace, mercy and faith ‘In Christ’! There is never any perfection here in any believer and Christian.

    • Sam

      Actually, Michael, “the plants in the parable” is one of the things that my friends and I go round and round on. Reform Theology, as it is most often presented to me, says that anyone who fails to persevere (“is choked and dies”, “is withered by the heat and dies”) was never actually saved (“alive and beginning to grow”) in the first place. Not “really” alive anyway — but only giving the illusion of being alive. And that makes the parable senseless. Either they were alive or they weren’t. As my friends are constantly keen to point out to me, there isn’t any “kinda alive”.

      So, per my question and your response, if the plants began to grow, then they WERE alive. They didn’t just appear to be alive, or give the illusion of being alive — they really were alive and growing. And then they weren’t. And that knocks “preservation of the saints” into a cocked hat, unless we say that, as we know, parables can be stretched beyond sensible recognition, and that not every detail is meant to be analogized.

      But then you lose the impact of this essay.

      But, anyway, I don’t intend to argue the whole theology with you in this comment thread. I’m sure I’ll find other things you’ve written on these matters. I’ll look for them again.

      Thanks for the strong continuing work you do for the Kingdom. Next time I’m seeing my family in the Tulsa area (I’m in NC), or finding a way to get to a football game in Norman, I want to try to get to down to Edmond to meet you and see the Credo House in person.

    • JFDU

      I’d be inclined to say ‘thank you’ for your comment Marc F, but give it a few hours and someone as sure as the Lord’s decree is going to take pleasure in raining on my parade…with hailstones 😉

      BTW my intention is not to be cantankerous or antagonistic to CMP but I genuinely find myself confused about these issues once I insert Calvinist theology into the mix. I wish I could see it as clear as others and I’m hoping that one day I will!

    • Btw, note in the Lutheran Orthodoxy, this ‘Way of Salvation’ or “ordo salutis” in which the “gratia spiritus sancti applicatrix” is considered at the different subsequent stages of “fides, praedestinatio, justificato, vocation, illuminatio, regenerato, conversion, renovation, sanctification and unio mystica.” But indeed we can see the weakness of the doctrine of the ordo salutis! Myself, I like Charles Wesley’s hymns here, in his verses the aspects of experience, assurance, Witness of the Spirit, etc., are the ‘bloom, colour, or scent of a single flower’. And it is something more than poetic justice by which Charles Wesley is vindicated: it is the Gospel itself with its concept of the new birth, the author of which is the Spirit, the product of which is faith, and which the brothers in the hour of their conversion had learnt, with Luther’s help, to understand as one divine act, miraculous and complete. “At the same time we are justified, yea in that very moment, sanctification begins. In that instant we are born again, born from above, born of the Spirit.” (J. Wesley) Myself as a neo-Calvinist I can agree somewhat with this, but still nothing happens until God’s Call and Regeneration!

      It is good to see the Holy Scripture itself here, as in Jude 1: 1 ; 24-25.

    • C Michael Patton


      I would love to meet you. I do think you are right that if we were to take this parable in isolation, the idea that they were never saved may be more accommodating.

      However, using the word alive is interesting. I might say that they were alive, but the life that brought their faith was not electing. In other words, as Heb 6 illustrates, there is a faith that falls away, but, from the perspective of God, this would not be the faith that perseveres.

      And, maybe most importantly, I don’t this that this practically works out any different for Calvinists or Arminians. In the end, all we have to assure is is the current standing of our faith today. We are all required and responsible to keep our faith, it is just one side says that when we do it is, ultimately, our own power, the other side says that it is, ultimately, the power of God.

    • C Michael Patton


      Not ignoring. Just have not had a chance to read your 1st comment.

      However, to say that it is clear for people like me is never the case. Yes, Calvinist like to act like once you get it everything comes together, but they are either self deluded or lying. (Or just under peer pressure to act like it all fits.)

      For me, every system has holes, but we choose the system that has the least hole or the ones we can live with. So it is not black and white for any of us. The more one understands about the issues, the more one must become a Tentative Arminian or Calvinist. 🙂

    • I wish we could cover a little more Luther and the Lutherans here, we are sadly theologically ignorant here for the most part! Note Melanchthon and the Lutheran Confessions, with the “Formula Concordiae”!

      And in my own theology, there is not much “Tentative”! 😉 But, I love both Luther and Calvin! Actually perhaps my favorite term is “Reformational”! But even there first comes “catholic”, then “Reformed” and Reformational. 🙂

    • Jin

      What about the parable of the ten virgins??

      Anther obvious parable told by Jesus that salvation CAN be lost!!

      All ten virgins start out with oil and light. However, five do not have enough for the delayed bridegroom. This obviously is talking about the importance of sanctification and the necessity of being vigilant with our faith.

      All ten start out with same promise of salvation. But only those that persevere is saved!

      I humbly submit to you that “salvation” is the sole decision of our Lord. He may extend the invitation to all, but only some may be “worthy” of it. I say “worthy” not in terms of on e’s own works, but in terms of faith, love, and humility.

      LET’S ALL BE HUMBLE BEFORE OUR LORD AND LEAVE THE SALVATION TO HIM. Let us just concentrate on loving each other and loving The Lord.

    • C Michael Patton

      The hardest passage (and the only one that I don’t have a decently satisfying answer for) concerning perseverance is the Parable of the Unjust Steward. He was forgiven by the king and the the king too back the forgiveness after the steward did not forgive his fellow servant. That is scary. Unforgiveness of others, in my opinion, is the most significant way a person can demonstrate their lostness.

      I need to write a blog on this, but it will show my weakness. And among us Calvinists, you can never let others see you sweat. :/)

    • Indeed the Parable of the Ten Virgins is Jewish and Judeo-Christian. But it is a Parable of the Confession of Faith, but only half or five were regenerate!

      Indeed Michael to “forgive” is the very essence of the true Christian life! But we must not and cannot forgive “apostasy”, that is alone the Lord’s to deal with!

    • Selah

      Jesus says to be saved, all you have to do is “ENTER” and/FOLLOW”

      “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” (John 10:9 ESV)

      “…. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice.” (John 10:3, 4 NLT)

    • Irene

      Along with the Parable of the Unjust Steward goes the warning to forgive others or the Father will not forgive you.

      Since others continue to sin against us, there must be a continued potential to lose our salvation.

    • theoldadam

      If God would let us go. It would not be because we didn’t forgive someone. (we do that all the time)

      But because we walked away from Him. Didn’t need or want His forgiveness.

    • C Michael Patton


      Obviously I would disagree. But as I said, this is the only passage that I find very hard to fit in. The only thing I would say is that we can’t make a parable have more than one point. This is Blombergs conclusion in what is most certainly the best book on interpreting the parables. And the point is probably just about the seriousness of forgiveness.

      However, and more importantly, there, in my opinion are much clearer passages which teach salvation cannot be lost or, better, the elect will always persevere (a statement that Catholics are free to believe as it does not presume the status of the “believer” see Aquinas). And, when such is the case, we always interpret the obscure with the obvious

      As well, this may come as a surprise to Arminians, but this parable cant speak about the loss of salvation for them either. Arminians only believe that salvation can be lost through a loss of faith, no sin can separate one from God.

      But another important thing you could consider is that Catholics believe an act such as unforgiveness would not be the primary cause of ones loss of salvation. Catholics can, and often do, believe that such acts are expressions of unbelief. Therefore, when you look under the bed, it was actually the unbelief that is the casual sin while the individual mortal sins are merely expressions of unbelief. That would be a much more biblically defensible position in my opinion (even if I still believe it to be wrong ).

      • Dan

        True the unforgiving slave in Matthew 18 is a character in a parable, but the words, “For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”(Mat 6:14-15 NASB) are hardly from a parable. They are the after words to what is commonly called “The Lord’s Prayer”. Calvinist, Arminian, Reformed Anything, or Not Anything But A Follower of Jesus; it seems that the Lord expects His “elect” to exercise their “free will” and humbly seek the grace required to forgive others and then do it. To be clear I don’t think Jesus is talking about rescinding anyone’s salvation here.

    • David

      Wow, so many words .. So little understanding.

      Those are Christ’s who have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

      Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.

      Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself just as He is pure.

      Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow in His steps, who committed no sin..

      The bible is very clear about those who belong to Jesus.. Your decisions in temptation show who you belong to- do you have victory over impure thoughts- or do you give in to them? Are you content with the endless cycle of sinning and asking for forgiveness- or would you rather be someone that rules over sin? Hapoy is the man who fears the Lord.
      If you have a longing to be freed from sin, visit [edited by mod. Violation of rules] for more info.

    • Tio Papo

      The starting line is the finish one…There is no “unbelief” after it has been “belief”…you can’t get un-pregnant….can you? No! But what it may be true is that the belief someone profess in not what will get us to heaven, and since no one knows, even if you “open his head up”, this issue of salvation remains a mystery to us, even within us. We can say I believe and I am saved all we want, but it is not the same as saying I know how to ride a bicycle…We can suspect someone’s status as a believer, salvation is God’s territory not ours. We have to focus in how to make the Gospel understood in such a a manner as to bring it to the intellect of the “unbelievers” in a way they can clearly see the truth. As long as we are preaching this calvinistic stuff out there or “works theology” we are really not bringing the gospel to those outside in the best possible way. John 3:16 for me suffices, belief = salvation and John 6:29 “All the father wants of you, is that you believe in me”…And yet another verse (I can’t find it now) says- I love you even though you disobey me, for you have not rejected me- (from my recollection of NLT version)…We can be disobedient kids, yet because we are born to belief, we are still His children!

    • david

      @Tia Papo

      There seems to be some serious flaws in your Christian beliefs!

      The starting line is most definetely not the Finish line!

      Jesus says at the start of John 14: I am the WAY, the truth and the life.
      The Author of the letter to the Hebrews exhorts us to ‘Run with endurance the race that is set before us’
      1 John 2:6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk just as He walked.

      This is certainly not a passive life of standing on the starting line/finish line or whatever you want to call it!

      In regards to your views on belief – Actions display what you believe in and who you love. If you commit sin in your thoughts, obviously you love your lusts more than Jesus, because Jesus says in John 14:15 If you love Me, keep My commandments.

      Jesus says in Matthew 7: Whoever hears these sayings of Mine and DOES them..
      In Matthew 28 Jesus commands us: Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,..teaching them to OBSERVE all things that I have commanded you’

      Your views on disobedient people being God’s children are completely wrong. 1 John 3:6 Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. Verse 8: he who sins is of the devil..

      Clear cut, black and white, blatantly obvious!

      The condition for being a child of God is written in Romans 8:16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs- heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if(!!!!) indeed we suffer with Him that we may also be glorified together.

    • Wolf Paul

      @CMP, #12: Do Arminians REALLY claim that a Christian’s perseverance is due to his own strength? Somehow I don’t think so …

      And #12: Isn’t lying under peer pressure still lying? Even if we call it “acting like”?

      @Tio Papo, # 23: One CAN get unpregnant — it’s called miscarriage (involuntary) or abortion (voluntary). I suspect that picking three verses and saying “for me it suffices” is not really sufficient when we don’t deal with the multitude of other verses that seem to paint a differnt picture. That’s “cafeteria hermeneutics”.

      I am not saying that we MUST resolve this, but we do need to be aware of the tension and not pretend it doesn’t exist.

    • a.

      thank you :”

      Eph 4:15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. Col 12: 8 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.

      2 Tim 2 19a The Lord knows those who are His

      John 16:24b ask in My Name and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full. Rom 8:16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God…30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

      Rev 22: 17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.

    • Selah

      This is the most “off base” blogs I have ever read by Michael.

    • C Michael Patton


      Yes, if I word it right. Both believe God’s grace is a necessary factor. But Arminians believe that their faith and it being kept by them is the deciding factor. That is what I meant by “ultimate” factor. It is inevitable, though it does not sound as glorious as my salvation took me out of the equation. But the act of faith and its keeping are what Armimians believe. Once Fod has done his part, the ultimate factor is now the will of man. Therefore, like it or not, Calvinists can say salvation is all of God to a degree that Arminians cannot. I think it is important for them to admit this as, being the perceived inglorious black eye it may be, it’s “glory” does not make it true.

      It was interesting. This week I spent with Gary Habermas. He does not like Calvinism too much. We began to talk about how the mass majority of exegetes adopt Calvinistic interpretations while the mass majority of Philosophers and Apologists opt for Arminianism. We came to some
      Facinating conclusions, all of which I will not share. But he did say, “it is true, Calvinists have the exegesis behind them, but we have philosophy. And I think libertarianism trumps the exegesis and must determine it.” I said, “So, we have to bring our theology to the text?” “Yes, he responded. The ethical implications of Calvinism are too severe.”

      Gary is an awesome guy who dreams more knowledge than I have ever learned. That being said, I did find it an interesting admission.

    • C Michael Patton


      Please explain so that I might adjust where necessary.

    • C Michael Patton


      You have not missed anything. In fact, your comments are right in line with the diatribe of Romans 9. The imaginary objector (whom Paul was always fond of using) said the exact same thing in not so many words, “So why does he find fault? Who resists his will.” Paul’s response is as good as we get. It the guy had been misunderstanding Paul, Paul would have set the record straight. But he does not. He essentially says “I know it sounds hard. I have no answer. But we have to trust that God knows what he is going with his own. Like Job, place your hand over your mouth and quite indicting your creator. He will not give you the answer you seek. You just have to trust him.”

    • Cynthia

      Great post! The point should be well taken regardless of what one’s theological persuasion on the subject. It is hard to look at other people and judge their salvation…but we can ask ourselves ‘are we truly running the race or did we stop after the starting line?’ What a timely question for us all. As I ponder this for myself the questions I ask are ‘Am I trusting and believing in Jesus and feeling the peace he brings or am I doing the opposite’ and ‘how am I treating others? Am I forgiving, merciful, kind, etc..?’ We all need to be on and do the work it takes to be on theological sound ground or else we may fall victim of cultish beliefs, but staying in the race boils down to simple principles. These principles, however, are not easy for fallen humans to live by. It takes faith and effort on our part to exhibit the qualities that should define Chrisitnas. Sometimes we fail and sometimes we succeed in our efforts making it hard for others to judge us, but where is one’s heart?.. that is a question on the individual can answer for himself. Insipite of what assurance of salvation you may or may not have, I think it is the answer to this/these questions that will be the most telling.

    • I

      in #20 you said,

      “If God would let us go. It would not be because we didn’t forgive someone. (we do that all the time)”

      If we do that all the time, then Jesus’s warnings were aimed at us! We’d better NOT do that all the time! Your claim that God would not withhold forgiveness from us conflicts with the plain, repeated warnings of Jesus.

      Are we to think that Jesus needs a little theology lesson?

      And CMP, from #21,
      I don’t pretend to know Blomberg, but if he says that “the point is probably just about the seriousness of forgiveness,” then I would have to agree with him. Yes, look HOW serious!

      In Matt 6, immediately after teaching the “Lord’s Prayer”, which says “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who tresspass against us”, Jesus clarifies:

      “For if your forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

      AGAIN in Matt 18, at the end of the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant, Jesus explains:

      “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

      ANOTHER, separate occasion, Mark 11, after teaching about the fig tree, Jesus teaches:

      “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against any one; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

      Are these warnings unclear? Is it just one weird little verse? Could these possibly be categorized under sanctification?

      No. These verses are plain and repeated under differenct circumstances. They make our forgiveness of others a condition of salvation, not a step along sanctification.

      Now do we tell Jesus, “Well, if you were better versed in Calvinist theology, you could have done a better job of explaining that. Let me tell you what you really mean.” ?

    • Irene

      One more addition to my comment above,

      Since the forgiveness of others is a condition that may be met or not met, both now and in the future, we can see that our salvation is not assured, because it is possible we may fail to meet the condition sometime in the future.

    • Cynthia

      I should probably go back and read and study the parable of the guy who was forgiven his debts but turned around and was unforgiving to another in return….but, I would say that perhaps it exemplifies the state of this guys heart more than the fact that he actually sinned. He obviously did not truly internalize the magnitude of what the king did for him in forgiving his debts. If he had, he would not have been so unforgiving over such a small debt. I think we are all guilty of being unforgiving at times, consciously or unconsciously. I am not sure that we need to live in a state of confusion about our salvation over this. But I would say that if one never felt the need to repent when one becomes aware of such personal sins, then that person should question their salvation.

    • Clint Roberts

      This needs to be preached across the entire Bible belt and in all major pockets of evangelicalism where people like the unnamed friend in this article are legion. I was raised in a fervently evangelistic church where altar calls brought throngs to the modern day anxious seat. Most people had done it more than once, just to be sure.

      I came to see in the years that followed, watching the net results play out over time in the lives of the people, that the combination of (a) a quick, sudden conversion inspired by a fiery evangelistic sermon, and (b) a hammering home of the belief in ‘once saved always saved’ – almost to the exclusion of any other significant doctrine – creates lives in which scores of secular people (for all practical purposes) comfort themselves from time to time with the reminder that their fire insurance policy still holds no matter what. A few people go so far off the rails in their lives that they have brief spiritual crises and, fearing the possibility that they botched the process or maybe don’t actually have coverage, they return to church long enough to ‘renew the policy’ as it were. But that’s about it, until or unless years later their memory has faded again and they’ve sufficiently made further shipwreck of their lives to renew the policy yet again.

      In other words, this process inoculates people against Christianity as taught and understood from the New Testament onward. In its place is a flimsy self-reiterated pseudo-confidence that they’ve gamed the system so as to have an ironclad pass into heaven no matter what. The isle-walking decision, for them, is a sole sacrament dispensed by the priestly figure (in this case “the preacher”). It’s the only sacrament needed. It bestows all of the grace and merit you need to escape judgment and guarantee yourself paradise when you die. Once you have it, thanks to the binding clause “once saved always saved” you’re spiritually untouchable.

    • John B

      Isn’t the Calvinist’s problem that they say faith is a complete work of God, so when they have failures, they immediately tend to think that they are not saved? How could God “fail”. It is better to understand that man plays a role in the faith process. Not that man works with God to obtain salvation. Salvation is a total act of God, which we merely accept, we do not add to the work, instead we rest in His work. However, when we are saved we clearly must put forth effort to live out our faith to the fullest with the help of God of course, If the outworking of faith is purely God’s domain than we would all be “super” christians, but clearly the working out of our faith depends to some degree on our obediane to the faith Giver. If the Calvinist give God praise for the good days of faithful obedience, then who gets the blame for the days were faith is lacking?

    • Surely as has been mentioned we must always deal and hold the biblical tensions! But as TOA has mentioned the most profound mystery in many ways, is the nature of “Apostasy”, to finally walk away from the great mercy, grace and forgiveness of God! And Luther has spoken very well here. And even the Calvinist must allow this process! But in the end, for both Luther and Calvin, only the true “Elect” will persevere, but they too will enter into the eternal kingdom of God with some bumps and bruises (even some severe ones quite possibly), but God’s gift of “Faith” wins the day at the end! Even if it be but a “little faith”. And yet, there are verses like Matt. 7: 13-14…The Narrow Gate/Way (with 15 thru 20), but with too verses 21-23! And then, the end of chapter 7: 24-28, “The Two Foundations”! Indeed these are very sober verses! Surely the Word of God should always humble us! Rather than make us think we KNOW everything, which we certainly don’t!

      And btw, we are never going to solve these great biblical mysteries on the blog! Sure we should favor our theological positions, but always with some sense of the great Mystery of God! For God is always God to use one of Luther’s favorite thoughts!

      I must also say, that those that want to grapple with these great subjects, of GOD’s divine election, and eternal salvation, etc., simply must read Augustine! He is also not infallible, but to miss his great thoughts and wisdom would be a great loss! Sadly I feel the EO have turned their back on this great church father, at least for the most part. And again surely we must always have the Holy Scripture before our eyes! And here our great Apostle Paul has said it best… “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” (Rom. 11: 36, but noting too, verses 33-34-35).

    • John Sobieski


      I seem to see more and more of this – or perhaps I’m just more observant. This is why the church has historically said the best evidence for genuine conversion is a changed life. Some show their faith with just their words; I show my faith by how I live my life.

    • Selah!

      Seems like a rehash of the “old” Paul vs. James debate. So best solution is still: God ‘secures’ our salvation ‘before’ himself; we secure our salvation ‘before man’ by our works.”

    • But really this is NOT the issue! So much as the great “Doctrine” and faithfulness and purpose of God In Christ! HE alone is in complete control of His Creation and “Covenant” people! (Eph. 1: 4-12) The how of it is certainly important, but really secondary.

    • Tio Papo

      You know Gary Habermas has these three explanations on doubt: the intellectual (theological) doubt, the emotional doubt (what ifs) and the volitional doubt ( I won’t believe even if God himself manifests in front of me).
      As far as sin in your thoughts, each and everyone of you (holier than thou) have it, it is call the speed which your subconscious mind operates when you see a beautiful woman, you don’t even know it but you just undressed that woman in fractions of a second, and it goes from there according to your life’s experiences with the opposite sex. So it is hypocritical in the extreme to take this “I am saved because I don’t sin”position. The biggest sin may be that one! We just waste so much time in this; is unbelievable, why are we loosing 94% of our youth to secularism? Why is there 55% divorce rate amongst us? Because we have turn our walls into white sepulchers full of hypocrisy and Pharisees-isms!
      So, if the worse doubt is the volitional one, so the greatest evidence for salvation is the volitional belief! … We will see this in 25-50 years from now, we will get there and all of these conversations, reflections of ignorance and spiritual immaturity!

    • @John B: I was not going to say anything, but your # 37 was a terrible piece of logic, and of course too misses the Augustinian and Calvinist positions! The loss of both the liberty and the contingency of second causes, is quite real. And Calvinism certainly establishes both!

    • I am like John From Down Under (above) in that I am an outsider to the Calvinist tradition. So my comment may also seem naive.
      As I understand Calvinism and the way it frames the doctrine of eternal security, your friend is either of the elect or not, and this cannot be changed by your actions, EXCEPT that possibly you were appointed to be the one who shares with him the gospel message. In which case, when he hears it from you, he would be quickened to the re-generation to which he was predestined. At that point, he would fall under the provision of “once saved, always saved,” whether or not the fruit of his life met your standards of what a Christian should look like.
      Have I stated this fairly? All you Calvinists reading this blog, feel free to correct or enlighten me.
      Now, your restatement of the Parable of the Race was interesting. In the abstract, it might serve as a warning to those who are unsure of where they stand with Christ to “examine themselves, to see if they are of the faith.”
      However, in turning to it as a yardstick to measure your friend’s eternal state, you might be using it amiss. I get the impression from your comments that your friend would probably feel no conviction upon hearing it (and might even tell you how wring you are about him).
      Might Romans 14:4 be applicable here?

    • David

      @tia papo,

      “it is not hypocritical to say “im saved because i dont commit sin” it’s completely biblical and there is a multitude of verses to support this starting from

      Genesis: “..sin lies at the door. And it’s desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”

      Matthew: 5:48 you shall be perfect just as your father in heaven is perfect.

      Romans 6:12 therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.

      Galatians 5:16 i say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

      Can it get any clearer that we are to come to a life free from committing sin tia papo??

      1 peter 4:1 Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.

      The example you mention of a beautiful woman is a highly relevant one for most of us, but you are blurring the line between temptation and sin. To be tempted is not the same as sin! You havent sinned the moment it enters your consciousness- that is the precise moment where you are present with a choice!! To suffer in the flesh and take that first lustful thought captive results in victory, but to give in to that thought and let it into your heart results in defeat.
      James describes this scenario very clearly in chapter 1:14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

    • david

      I happened to click on the visions and beliefs link on this website, and came across this paragraph which grieved me.

      ”We reject that any works of righteousness contribute in any way to man’s salvation. We confess that when a person places their faith in Christ they are at that instant declared righteous through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness as a gift of God.”

      This appears to be the thief on the cross scenario, extended to the general public.
      As the thief hung, dying on the cross, he acknowledged his sin and was saved. He had no further opportunity to live a God fearing life but judging by his attitude, had he been given a second chance – he would have lived a righteous life from then on.

      I strongly disagree that this scenario is appropriate for say, a young person in the spring time of their life.
      It would be tragic to confine a young person to the belief that once saved, there is no need for righteousness.

      2 Timothy 2:22 Flee also youthful lusts, but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace etc..
      2 Peter 1:4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
      and verse 5: but also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, etc..

      Matthew 5:20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

      1 Corinthians 15:34 Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God, I speak this to your shame.

      1 John 2:29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practises righteousness is born of Him

      1 John 3:7 Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practises righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.

      The forgiveness of sins is a glorious gift and should be the start of a Christian life, not the end of it!!!

    • Chancellor Roberts

      The problem isn’t with the doctrine of Perseverance (Preservation) of the Saints, it’s with people who think that just going down the aisle at a church service and saying some formulaic “sinner’s prayer” is how a person comes to Christ. Where’s the repentance? Where’s the turning from sin and turning to God?

    • […] This Calvinist’s Problem with “Once Saved Always Saved” | Parchment and Pen. Is the problem really with the doctrine or is it with what people think is the process of becoming saved? I would suggest that just going down the aisle at a church service and saying some formulaic “sinner’s prayer” (or reading it from the back of a gospel tract or someone leading you in it on a street corner) doesn’t save anyone (if anyone should happen to have been saved after doing this, then that was only by the grace of God). Where’s the repentance? Where’s the genuine turning from sin and to God? Where are the fruits of repentance? […]

    • Pete again

      Thought-provoking article, to be sure.

      Interesting that CMP uses the following scripture to support “once saved always saved”:

      “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.”

      It’s pretty obvious that those who have been promised eternal life have an ACTIVE faith in Jesus Christ. “Believe” is an active tense of the word. In fact, the literal Greek translation is “is believing”.

      There are no promises of “once saved always saved” in the New Testament without the ACTIVE FAITH of the Christian. E.G., the sheep (actively) FOLLOW the Good Shepherd.

    • @david: You, are “grieved” it appears by what the Reformation and the Reformers (that’s Luther and Calvin, as others), believed that Paul taught, and that is Justification is by a “declared” righteousness, as we see in Romans 4: 2-8. It is not OUR righteousness, but the Righteousness of God In Christ! WE receive it by Faith “alone”, to quote Luther! And yet, once we come into regeneration and faith, sanctification has also begun.. but does not end until we see Christ, in death or resurrection. Indeed justification & sanctification are close, and often seen together, but the former always precedes the latter, strictly. And btw, Calvinists believe that God’s calling and regeneration come before our faith, in the order of salvation. Here of course we are speaking theologically, of cause and effect through which the salvation of the sinner is accomplished.

      So the believer shows forth some aspect of righteousness, but not a righteousness that is his strictly speaking, but a righteousness that follows faith and justification unto sanctification. This was the hard fought battle of the Reformation!

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