My Thoughts on Calvinism: PART VI – Perseverance of the Saints

When I think of the Perseverance of the Saints, the first verse that comes to my mind is,

“But he who endures to the end will be saved.” – Matthew 24:13 RSV

Calvinists, Arminians and Catholics would unanimously agree that this verse describes our lives on earth as a marathon, in which the prize of eternal life is at the end of the race. But what Calvinism teaches is those who are truly saved will persevere in the faith no matter what. At first glance, this seems to imply that God’s elect are incapable of sinning, which is a false assumption. What it actually means is that they will not stray from the faith for as long as they live, provided that their faith in Christ has been genuine from the beginning.

While I believe that persevering faith is important in living a Christian life, there will always be seasons in life when we become weathered from hardship. Sometimes constantly being faced with difficult situations or loss of loved ones can force people to question their own belief, or even become resentful towards God.

Some verses that stand out to me regarding Perseverance of the Saints are,

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” – John 15:1-10 RSV

 “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’” – Matthew 7:21-23 RSV

“For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.” – Hebrews 10:26 RSV

“If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal.” – 1 John 5:16-17 RSV

These verses seem to imply the possibility of a relationship with God to be severed or cut off in spite of merely having faith. To me, this is where the Catholic doctrine of venial and mortal sin makes sense. Many Christians tend to view Catholic dogma as man-made traditions that impede on the true message of the Gospel. But in reality, Catholic doctrine is practical in a sense that it acknowledges the freedom of man to choose between God’s grace and self-destruction, as well as the possibility of consequences for abusing Jesus’ atoning sacrifice.

If a person is truly sorry for the damages caused by their actions, it ought to reflect in their attitude. God’s nature, as described in these verses, seems to imply a parallel with a married person who tells their cheating spouse,

“I don’t even know you anymore! Get out of my life!”

If marriage is a reflection of Christ’s relationship with the Church, then I would imagine that it’s easy to become complacent in a relationship to the point when a person refuses to deal with willful disrespect or unloving behavior. Can any married person be entitled to their spouse’s cooking without showing appreciation for their hard work? In some ways, I feel like we as Christians can develop a sense of entitlement to God’s grace, and we can abuse it to the point when God can put His foot down and say, ‘That’s enough!’

While I believe God is always willing to take us back like the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), an entitled attitude is not what I would consider a repentant one. I believe a relationship can be severed at the will of the individual, as mentioned in Hebrews 10:26.

Based on what I understand from Scripture, double-predestination leaves little allowance for genuine Christians to become embittered towards God, as well as the possibility of consequences from a damaged relationship with Him. It renders God to be more of a robotic entity with no feeling and less of a personable being.

This is why I reject the Calvinistic idea of Perseverance of the Saints.

NEXT: PART VII – In Summary

PREVIOUS: PART V – Irresistible Grace

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