An important distinction among Christians (and Christians falsely so called) is what exactly they believe has to be done to be saved. People who believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, God manifest in the flesh, who died for our sins on the cross, was buried, and rose again the third day agree on those things, and their necessity for salvation, but they somehow don’t agree on what must be done for an individual person to be saved.
- Exactly what do you do to be saved?
- Exactly how much must you do to stay saved?
- Exactly what happens when things go wrong?
This is kind of a big deal, because if you don’t do what you should to be saved, then you’re going to hell. That’s a fairly problematic problem.
These flow charts show how a person’s “state of grace” (for lack of a better term) changes over time according to various views of salvation. In these pictures, a person’s state is either green (safe), yellow (unsafe), or red (lost): Green is good, red is bad.
Once saved, always saved (OSAS)
Once-saved-always-saved teaches that salvation is permanent by reason of faith being sufficient to save (i.e. no works are required), and that salvation is eternal. Here’s the picture:
Once you’re in the green, you’re on the good programme – but on the negative side, if the man never believes, it is possible to get to where the man cannot believe. Reprobates get to burn a bright path to hell, serving only as cautionary tales to the rest of the world.
Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. (Jude 1:7)
The saved receive grace by faith, and get to go to heaven based on that alone:
By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:2)
Calvinism, named after John Calvin, teaches that your ultimate fate is determined before you are born. If you’re chosen for glory, you lock it in with infant baptism (thanks Catholics), and then you’re on the programme: it’s all worked out in advance, and you’re just along for the ride. Here’s the flow chart:
Some people are not chosen (elect) and baptised anyway, but it has no effect, just as the Calvinist gospel has no effect on those that are not elect. There is no path from the red line to the green line. For the Calvinist, you’re on the one track or the other, and they that would pass from hence to you cannot.
Scripture says this view is wrong: there is no secret decision of God in a dark place of the earth whereby some will have to seek God in vain, because their names were not spoken:
I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain: I the LORD speak righteousness, I declare things that are right. (Isaiah 45:19)
This particular part of Arminianism is the five points of objection raised against Calvin’s theology, which boil down to men being saved by faith, but being on probation until physical death. Arminians teach different things about how to lose salvation, but seldom in any great detail. The specific matter may be great sin, or “walking away from faith”. This graph has a lot of yellow, because you can never be particularly sure. Even the green “SAVED” block should be yellow:
Arminians of this stripe cannot be really sure of being saved unless they happen to die on a less sinful happy day …. and if that is really where their faith is, they seem to have skipped the gospel entirely. In this scheme, it is really hard to trust in Christ and in his resurrection, because so much depends on the exercise of your own will. They know that their theology teaches that they are in the state “Jeopardy” (if they take sin seriously at all), but they tell people that they are “Saved”. It looks rather silly: all that jeopardy, and no certainty, despite the fact that Christ actually rose from the dead.
The words of Jesus Christ in scripture do not permit this flopping between saved and unsaved: not only do the works of false prophets count for nothing, but Jesus tells them that they did not once pass from death unto life: he never knew them:
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:22-23)
I didn’t even try to do the Roman Catholics, because they specialise in ambiguity: affirming both sides of direct contradictions. My mind is too small to fit the loops from their false purgatory to hell and heaven.
For “Lordship salvation”, just add “plus works” where ever you see “faith”, and a teleport from “saved” to “unsaved” when you realise that your works were never good enough.