Debunking the False Faith View of the Hebrews Warning Passages

Below are some comments I made long ago in my perseverance series against the idea that the writer of Hebrews is addressing his warnings of falling away to those whose faith is not genuine, or describing those with non-genuine faith. My comments are followed by more recent comments by Scot McKnight against O’Brien’s false faith interpretation. The specific language of the warnings and the way the believers are described and addressed simply will not allow for the false faith interpretation. The writer of Hebrews is describing genuine believers who have fallen away from faith and salvation and admonishing those with genuine faith to endure less they too fall way and forfeit salvation.

From: Perseverance of the Saints Part 10: Examining Wilderness Typology

What sense would it make to say to unbelievers, “Take care…that there not be in any one of you an evil unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God?” Why shouldn’t unbelievers have an evil and unbelieving heart? Does it make sense to warn unbelievers against falling away from God? This is not a call to conversion but a warning to those who are already converted. We can plainly see this in the fact that the writer of Hebrews then calls on them to “encourage one another day after day…so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Are unbelievers to encourage each other? Are they to encourage each other in unbelief or in a faith that they do not yet possess?

From: Perseverance of the Saints Part 9: Hebrews 10:32-39 

Notice that the inspired writer is not admonishing them to gain confidence (i.e. believe the gospel and be converted), but to keep the confidence that they already have. They are being told to endure in their faith which plainly assumes that their present faith is genuine. In fact, their faith has been proven so by the way they had responded to prior trials. However, they cannot rest on what they had done in the past but must continue to press on in the face of present trials to gain the promised reward of final salvation. They “have need of endurance.” The inspired writer never questions whether or not his readers have genuine faith. He only questions whether or not that faith will last. This is the main concern of the entire epistle.

Scot Mcknight writes,

Second, if the exhortation is to continue or persevere, how can a person with non-genuine faith be exhorted to continue? In what, their non-genuine faith? The only answer here is that the non-genuine faith person should be urged to repent and to believe or to enter deeper from a spurious and inadequate non-saving faith into a real, genuine saving faith. When this topic arises at the end of Hebrews 5 and the beginning of Hebrews 6 there’s no evidence the author thinks of these people of having spurious faith, but instead of having faith that needs perseverance. In other words, it’s just how the author says it: immaturity (or the “elementary”; 6:1) needs to move onto maturity. The elementary is not “spurious” but an immature version of the real thing. Grade school math is not spurious but immature, especially if the aim is mathematical physics.

The exhortation to continue then can only apply for O’Brien to the genuine saving-faith person (in which case the whole conditionality issue becomes hypothetical or only rhetorical and not real — an issue that needs a different discussion). In O’Brien’s sketch the warning passages are working with their eyes on two different faiths: genuine-faith people and non-genuine-faith people. I contend this is impossible to prove apart from one’s already-at-work Calvinistic assumptions. I see no evidence for two groups until the final day; at the moment of writing they are believers. The writer of Hebrews never suggests anyone has spurious faith; he worries those with faith will not persevere.

From: Warning Passages Ahead: Brief Response

Related Posts:

Category: Warning Passages in Hebrews

Never Really Saved to Begin With?

Never Really Saved to Begin With? (Part 2)

Perseverance of the Saints Part 13: Salvation Assurance

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4 Responses

  1. Well said, but my view of this text is that the impossibility of repentance is found in the mindset of their view of Messiah, and not in their sinful condition. For Jesus died for all sin, and all means all, and any condition that we may fall into. It is impossible for anyone to be brought to repentance unless the Lord draws them.  It is their mindset (their view of Jesus) that makes it impossible. This is not an unpardonable sin condition that places them beyond the scope or reach of the cross, but it is an impossibility for them to turn from this sin condition, due to their view of who Jesus is. 

    In our western thinking, their mind (intellectual understanding) is effecting their heart (repentance-to be broken and turn). It is impossible for the drawing of God to be effective, if they will not at least understand that Jesus is their once and for all offering. Keep in mind the intellectual understanding of who Messiah is, Jesus once and for all offering, does not save you, but faith and repentance (heart issue) does.  

    The writer is battling an ideology of Jesus that is leading people away. 

    Dane

  2. Dane,

    This post wasn’t really addressing the impossibility of restoration, but the fact that the false faith, never saved to begin with, view is incompatible with the language of the warnings and the descriptions of those being warned. Were you responding to this post?

    God Bless,
    Ben

  3. “What sense would it make to say to unbelievers, “Take care…that there not be in any one of you an evil unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God?” Why shouldn’t unbelievers have an evil and unbelieving heart? Does it make sense to warn unbelievers against falling away from God?”

    Such a great point! And an obvious one too, if a person considers it without the biased lens of unconditonal eternal security. For a great many years I was rock solid on my position of unconditional eternal security, so much so that I wouldn’t even consider looking at the arguments for conditional eternal security. So, whenever I would read through Hebrews, or any other passage in Scripture dealing with the subject, I was constantly having to say, “that’s referring to those who are not saved, or have never been truly saved.” or “that’s a warning to those in their church who are not saved, but think they are.” etc.

    And that’s what every pro-unconditional security Christian has to do as they read the Word of God. They have to constantly make assumptions about who Paul is talking to or about, rather than simply allowing God’s Word to speak plainly, to take it at face value.

    But after deciding to give the other side of the fence a fair hearing, and approaching it with a totally unbiased point of view; and after much study, prayer, and meditation, I had to be honest about what the Bible was saying, and I was compelled to come to the conclusion that the Bible does indeed teach conditional eternal security.

    So now whenever I read Hebrews, and all the other passages that indicate the possibility of losing our salvation, I no longer have to make assumptions or try to dance around the obvious. The Word of God makes so much more sense when we allow it to mean what it’s saying.

    A wonderful benefit from this new-found understanding, is a new sense of peace about all those Scriptures that used to plague me. With this new understanding of eternal security, so many other things now fall into place and make so much more sense to me as I read God’s Word.

    I look forward to reading your whole series on this topic.

    Steve S.

  4. Steve S.,

    Thanks for sharing this. I think Arminianism that holds to conditional security is both more consistent and plainly more Biblical. I appreciate your comments about how much easier it is to read the Bible and take it at its word now that you are not trying to cling to unconditional eternal security. I agree completely and would extend that to all of Arminianism in general. Calvinism makes such a mess of Scripture, I would go crazy trying to always qualify everything I read in Scripture if I were trying to read it from a Calvinist perspective. And, of course, Arminianism comports better with both reality (i.e. our daily experience with reality) and practical ministry as well.

    God Bless,
    Ben

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