It's funny how "when it rains, it pours," isn't it?
A fellow blogger in Japan has a post entitled
Once Saved, Always Saved?
which I've commented on twice.
Today in his homily, our deacon contemptuously referred to the idea of "once saved, always saved." This phrase is certainly a Protestant logo, but there are probably as many ideas of what it means as there are believers in it.
Still, from an Orthodox viewpoint, is it true or false?
Our deacon, as well as our presbyter, are ex-Protestants, with possible Romophile (lovers of Rome) leanings (the deacon denies it). The average Orthodox believer (and I'm one of them), when we think at all (that is, thinking as the Western Christian thinks), knows that Rome means trouble, and that evangelical Christians are less of a danger, because they're trying to believe rightly rather than conquer others. That is also the Orthodox way, to strive to believe rightly, and so we can learn from each other, and since we know Who the Head of the Church is, we feel no compulsion to "conquer the brethren." Sounds familiar?
So, Fr Deacon ridicules the idea that you can't lose your salvation. "Of course, you can!" he says. But what I say is, "If you can lose it, it wasn't salvation in the first place!" Bringing the subject up at all is not Orthodox, it's divisive, but it's easier to talk about ideas all day instead of just living them, and so it goes. What I commented to my fellow blogger, I'd say to the deacon as well…
Here you're skirting those regions of the mind where the Western Christian has often strayed, saying and thinking things which the human mind cannot fully either comprehend or express rightly. As a result, drifting into these mental countries and settling there, building theological cities surrounded by philosophical walls, they gradually factionalize and soon come to fight over what is now so far removed from their true spiritual fatherland, they have lost sight of it altogether, preferring to strengthen their city walls against each other.
Does the Word of God explicitly say anywhere "once saved, always saved"? Yet the Word does declare that the Lord is faithful, even when we are unfaithful, and many such things that point to the certainty of our salvation once we turn to the Lord, accept Him in faith, and are born from above.
Personally, I believe that salvation is secure, once we have confessed with our lips that Jesus is Lord and believed in our hearts that He was raised from the dead (Romans 10:9), and that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13). But I live my life in Christ according to the living words that I find in the Bible, trusting in them and not in any derived jingle. You see, the meaning is the same. Eastern (Orthodox) Christians tend to practice theology rather than speak it. I try to practice what the Word of God teaches and in so doing, "once saved, always saved" becomes true for me. Not by anything I do, mind you, but by God's grace, by letting Him do for me what I could never do for myself.
The danger, of course, is that if one builds his spiritual life around a derived saying instead of the whole Gospel Truth (the whole Word of God lived and believed), he's building a house on sand. Not in human words, but in the Word of God, is salvation. Jesus says, he who listens to His words and acts on them is building his house on bedrock (Luke 6:47-48). This, my brother, is what you and I are doing. Let's try to steer clear of the tactics of the one who divides (Greek, διαβολος, "devil") and accuses (Greek, κατηγορος, from which we also get "categorize"), and avoiding pointless controversies (2 Timothy 2:23), let's slip through the pews and escape to walk together with Jesus, guarded by the unity of the mind of Christ (Romans 15:6), which brings all thoughts into obedience to the Word (2 Corinthians 10:5), and in which we share fully when we keep His commandment to love one another (John 13:34).
Historically, in the Church of the seven councils, there was too much fighting over mere words. The (mostly Greek) fathers indulged in their propensity for rhetoric and argument, nit picking each other to death, looking for the lice of heresy. To be sure, of Arius they had to make an example, the speculative writings of Origen they had to censure, else the Church would have moved from the bedrock of biblical truth and onto the sand spit of human philosophy. But of some of their other deliberations, we can only shudder and pray for mercy.
Why condemn Nestorius for calling Mary Χριστοτοκος (Christ-bearer) instead of Θεοτοκος (God-bearer), and thus alienating an entire branch of Syrian believers? Is the Gospel really diminished if we just call Mary what the bible calls her, "highly favored" (Luke 1:28) and leave it at that? Because of the foolishness of men at that council, the whole body of Protestant disciples (rightly fleeing the corruptions of Rome) is now kept separate by the Orthodox, when in the light of the Gospel we are one.
My fellow blogger wrote that "God purifies by fire," perhaps implying that we need to correct the false beliefs of others? I responded…
Yes, God does purify with fire, but it's the angels' job, not ours (and that, at harvest time), to sort the tares from the wheat, lest we uproot some of the wheat (before it's ripe) as well (Matthew 13:24-30). Practically speaking, what I mean is, within the disciple flock, let's edify and strengthen what is sure and good in each other, and let Christ in His mercy, interceding for us in our foolishness before the Throne (Hebrews 4:14-16), purify us with the fire, not of our words and thoughts, but of His, and inwardly, with the correction of a father for his sons.
Whether you believe that once saved you are always saved, or whether you don't, my point is this: There is nothing to be gained and much to lose in debating and defining such things which, in the end, are all useless, vain speculations. Instead, let's seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to us as well. (Matthew 6:33).