This article by Jeff Patton is truly disturbing. It reminds me of a tape I listened to once of a young woman who called the Bible Answer Man show and said she was contemplating suicide. She had concerns about Scriptures like Hebrews 6 and 10. It seemed that those passages were the only things keeping her from following through with her plan to kill herself. She wanted to get thoughts on those passages stating plainly that if she knew she would go to heaven, she would commit suicide. To their credit, the radio hosts counseled her not to go through with it. However, when pressed, they admitted that they firmly believed that if she ever trusted Christ as Savior she would go straight to heaven after committing suicide. Who knows if that girl was talked out of her decision to commit suicide, and who knows how many others who were suicidal may have taken their lives after listening to that program.
I have personally seen this doctrine encourage sin in the young people that I counsel. I even knew someone who went on to commit a heinous murder who believed that it really didn’t matter how we live since we cannot be saved by “works”. Who knows if such a belief may have helped to embolden him to kill. One can only speculate, but I have seen again and again how this doctrine can lead to a license for sin, despite the fact that those who teach it often rail against sin. In the end, the logical implication of the doctrine is that sin cannot ultimately harm you with regards to your eternal destiny (even going so far as to teach that a believer can become an unbeliever and die in that state and still be guaranteed heaven).
I believe that God is truly grieved over this teaching (Jude 1:4) and one can only wonder how such teachings have harmed the church, harmed people, and ruined many Christian witnesses and testimonies.
A good book on the issue is Daniel LaLond’s The Lying Promise: Testing the Gospel According to Chuck Swindoll, Tony Evans, and Erwin W. Lutzer
Two good articles on the subject are The Meaning of Eternal Life and Who Possesses It and Is Perseverance in Faith Necessary to Obtain Final Salvation?, by Steve Witzki.