Sep 8, 2012

Debate Review V

In this part of my debate review I will look at the passages introduced by my opponent to prove that those who are born of God can sin so as to be finally lost. 

"Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust."  (II Peter 1: 1-4)

My opponent argued that these verses prove that all who were addressed by the Apostle Peter were genuinely saved people and therefore the ones later described, in chapter two, who fell away must have fallen away from salvation.  My response to this was to affirm that Peter, like all the other new testament writers, addressed people based upon their profession.  I argued that Peter and the authors of the epistles were not naive to think that every member of the Christian churches were actually what they professed to be.  They knew that some of them were shallow and thorny ground hearers.  They knew that they were not all good ground hearers.  I cited verses from several of the epistles to prove this point.  I also showed from chapter one (vs. 8) how Peter said - "if these things be in you and abound."  He is assuming that those things were in them for the sake of argument but did not affirm that every single professing Christian was indeed what he professed to be.

"For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire."  (II Peter 2: 18-22)

My opponent, like all those who believe that born again people can lose salvation, affirmed that the ones who fell away in these verses were the same people addressed in the first chapter, and were therefore genuinely saved people.  He argued that they were genuinely saved based upon certain facts stated about them in the passage.  First, that they had received the knowledge of the truth or "known the way of righteousness."  Second, they had "escaped the pollutions of the world." and "escaped from them who live in error." Third, they had become untangled from the world.

My opponent argued that the Greek word for "knowledge" was epignosis and this showed that the knowledge that they had received was saving knowledge, or knowledge that only saved people possess.  My opponent never gave any proof that epignosis denoted saving knowledge.  He cited Vines and others who showed that epignosis denoted a full knowledge, and one in which the person experiences a deeper participation, but he cited no Greek authority to show that such a knowledge was proof of salvation, or a knowledge that only saved people could possess.  I showed from Scripture that epignosis did not denote that the possessor of it was saved. 

I also used my opponent's affirmation against him by asking him when he received epignosis.  Did he receive the knowledge of the truth before he was baptized or after?  He believes that he was not saved until he was baptized in water.  Such a view leads him to have to say that he did not receive the knowledge of the truth before he was baptized, or if he did, that he was saved before he was baptized.  He never responded to this.  As an aside, I also used the same type argument against him when he argued that the shallow ground hearer was saved because the text says that he "received the word with joy."  I asked him - "when did you receive the word with joy?"  If he received the word with joy before he was baptized, then he must say that he was saved before he was baptized.  On the other hand, if he was not saved till he was baptized, then he must say that he did not receive the word with joy until he was baptized.  But, more on the parable of the soils later.

I affirmed that the best English word to translate the Greek word epignosis was "acknowledge." Thus, "through the knowledge of the truth" simply meant "through the acknowledgement the truth."   I argued that false professors, like the shallow and thorny ground hearers, acknowledged the truth of the Gospel, but were nevertheless not saved. 

I also argued that the passage says that these apostates had escaped the "pollutions" of the world through epignosis, not the "corruption" as in the first chapter.  I argued that these were two different Greek words, the Greek word for "pollutions" denoting mere outward filth while the Greek word for "corruption" denoted inward filth.  The false professor had escaped mere external defilement but had not been saved from inner corruption.  They had been cleansed outwardly but not inwardly just as the Pharisees to whom Jesus said that they "make clean the outside of the cup and platter" but who were not clean internally.  He said to them - "Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also."  (Matt. 23: 25-26)  The apostates that Peter talks about were professing Christians who had experienced a mere outward cleansing but no internal cleansing.  They had temporarily escaped from certain grosser sins but who had not escaped from internal corruption.

My opponent argued that these apostate Christians had experienced both an inner and outward cleansing.  I argued that the fact that Peter refers to them as unclean animals (dogs and hogs) shows that he did not believe that they had experienced an inner cleansing which had made them into clean animals.  At the time they were externally washed, they were unclean on the inside.  "The sow that was washed."  The washing of the hog did not change the nature of the hog.  It was a mere external washing.

I argued that these apostates were not good ground hearers because all who receive the word with a good and honest heart bring forth fruit with perseverence.  Thus, they clearly were examples of either shallow or thorny ground hearers, who did not receive the word with a good and honest heart and were therefore not truly converted. 

I argued that these apostates had been "overcome" and could not therefore be genuine believers or born of God for John affirmed that genuine believers "overcome" and have a faith that cannot be overcome.  (I John 5: 4-5) 

Thus, their apostasy proves that they were not good ground hearers and that they were never truly born again.  I argued that God desires truth in the inward parts.  (Psa. 51: 6)  To have the truth merely in the intellect but not in the heart or core of being does not save.  Shallow ground Christians are but superficial in their faith and in their knowledge.  They are half hearted believers. 

I argued that the things said of the apostates did not prove that they were genuine believers.  Hypocritical Christians, and even unbelievers who hear and learn about the Gospel, receive a knowledge of the truth and yet are not saved by it.  The fact that they had received an external cleansing and a temporary reformation did not prove that they had experienced the real transformation of soul that occurs in being born of God.  I argued that Peter, if he had intended to teach that these apostates had lost salvation, would have said "it were better for them had they never been saved or born again."  I argued that my opponent should find such clear cut verses instead of such verses where he has to read into the verses evidence of genuine salvation.

The sow that was washed was washed only externally.  The washing did not make the sow into a clean animal.  An unclean animal was washed, was externally clean, but was still an unclean animal in nature.  This is a fitting image of those who are temporarily benefited by the Gospel and Christian religion but who do not experience a genuine inward cleansing and transformation.  The dog may have eaten the finest of food, but still had a nature that desired the unclean. 

It is clear that Peter wants us to see how external reformation and cleansing, after the manner of the Pharisees, did not avail towards a real salvation or internal cleansing.  Jesus told the Pharisees to first clean the inward but they thought to cleanse the outward first.  Religion may offer ways to help one temporarily escape from worldly vices but unless one receives inner cleansing first, it will not avail.

I argued that this passage was one of the weakest that could be offered to prove that genuinely born again souls lost salvation, and yet it is typically one of the first proofs offered. 

No comments: