The Assemblies of God on the Security of the Believer: Arminian, Calvinist or Something in Between?

The Assemblies of God position paper on The Security of the Believer stands against the unconditional eternal security position and affirms the possiblity of apostasy from saving faith in Christ.  Strangely, the paper claims that it takes a position between the two “extremes” of Calvinism and Arminianism,

In the matter of the security of the believer, The General Council of the Assemblies of God stands between the extreme positions of Calvinism and Arminianism.  It accepts the scriptural elements found in both teachings.

The Calvinist stresses, rightly, God’s sovereignty and divine prerogative, while the Arminian stresses, also rightly, man’s free will and responsibility. The two positions, however, must be considered together if they are to be properly understood. The General Council of the Assemblies of God believes in the sovereignty and divine prerogative of God untainted by arbitrariness or caprice. It also believes in the free will and responsibility of man.

However, as one reads this quote and the paper as a whole, it becomes clear that it is nothing less than an accurate description of the Classical five point Arminian position on apostasy.  It seems that the AG, along with so many others, did not fully understand the Arminian position on apostasy at the time the paper was written, perhaps confusing Arminianism with certain forms of Wesleyanism.

Thankfully, sites like SEA are going a long way towards clearing up misconceptions about Arminianism and helping many who thought they held some middle ground between Arminianism and Calvinism to realize that the middle ground they thought they held was actually fully Arminian.  If you are not sure about what Arminianism actually entails, you might want to start by taking this short little assessment at SEA:

Survey: Are You An Arminian And Don’t Even Know It?

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14 Responses

  1. It would seem that the AOG has bought the Calvinist falsehood that Arminianism somehow denigrates the sovereignty of God.

  2. The AOG like many denominations run from the term Arminian and it’s sad. I’m glad that many of us however are working to make sure people know that the word Arminian is nothing to be ashamed about.

  3. It takes a level of disingenuousness, and even dishonesty, to refuse to even admit that the Book of Hebrews seems to indicate the possibility of personal apostasy. That is what happens when you approach Scripture with a systematic theology already in place. And why is the fee will position called “extreme”?

    The problem with the middle ground is that there isn’t any middle ground.

  4. In addressing this issue of the “possibility of apostasy” one would have to understand that IF a person DOES fall away, he is eternally damned at that point. There is no “saved today” “lost tomorrow” and “ever saved again.” A close look at Hebrews 6:4-6 does make that statement a conditional statement. Paul begins this statement with “if they fall away”… here the premise statement deals with the question of falling away… the conditional part of that statement says there is no coming back. In my opinion, the conditional statement makes the premise unlikely if not impossible because there is NEVER anything that God cannot do, especially where salvation is concerned.

    With this in mind, Paul could in effect be saying that apostasy is impossible. This can be the foundation for his comments in verses 13-20 where he speaks of the impossibility of God lying where His promises are concerned our eternal hope is indeed secure. He did say in verse 1 that he intended to leave the “elementary principles of Christ” and go on to deeper things.

    Grateful to be in His Grip

    ><>

  5. TT,

    I will have to strongly disagree with you here. There is no “if” in the Greek. All of the clauses are aorist. The person has just as certainly fallen away as been enlightened, been a partaker of the Holy Spirit, etc. Anyway, conditional statements certainly do not imply impossible hypotheticals. There are of course things that God cannot do, as I am sure you well know (like lie for instance), however, it may be that it is impossible for the apostate to be restored because God “will not” restore that person. If God decides not to do things it doesn’t mean He cannot do those things. I hope you will take time to look at my series on perseverance.

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/category/perseverance-series/

    There are several posts on the warning passages of Hebrews (Parts 5-11) and they address your claims in a few places.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  6. OK.. “if” is not there and ought to be “and’ but the point is still the same. The text does not say that this has happened… it is still an assumptive statement… going back to verse 4… the opening comment could be translated… it would be impossible… for anyone who fell into this category to be renewed again to salvation. I will say that IF indeed this happens, then that person is forever damned and there is no salvation for him. I believe that in God’s grace, He will intervene before that can happen…. but I would say that this may be possible.

    i do not believe salvation can be had today, lost tomorrow and ever gained again.

    ><>

  7. TT,

    Again, I hope you will take the time to read through some of the posts I directed you to, especially the ones on Hebrews. The “if” ought not be there. It doesn’t belong. The use of the aorist actually suggests that this is speaking of those who have already fallen away. You can say and believe all sorts of things if you like, but I am more concerned with what Scripture is saying.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  8. I guess I hit a nerve which I did not intend to do. I dont know how much Greek you have had and it does not really matter. I have translated a number of New Testament Books… but that was many years ago and I do not even consider myself a Greek Scholar at all. That is why I did not actually look at the text before your original comment. BUT… if you are going to use the greek, let me encourage you to make sure you know what you are talking about. The tense of the verb “parapiptō” means to turn aside or fall away is an aorist participle… which does not indicate completed action as it would IF it were an aorist tensed verb. In fact, it can be future… and is adverbial to the action of the verb in the sentence… which would be anakainizō to renew them again, which by the way is present active and not aorist. So… the one falling away is not definate at all but would indicate one doing so prior to his being restored.

    Now.. that being said, my contention still stands… and I know yours does as well. I will look at your comments that you referenced, I just have not had time to do so yet.

    Are you saying that you believe a person can be saved last year, lost today and saved sometime tomorrow?

    I was not trying to be confrontational… I just throught I would drop you a comment.

    ><>

  9. Hi T.T.,

    I’m not sure what you mean by “aorist tensed verb”. Could you explain? On BlueLetterBible they list 3 categories for verbs: Tense, Voice, and Mood. And when they show an Aorist, it is listed in the Tense category. When they indicate a participle, they put it under Mood. So are you referring to active or passive “Voice”, when you refer to “Aorist tense verbs”? Looking at the way BLB categorizes things, it would seem that “Aorist tense” would be a redundant term. I’m aware that it is often said that “aorist” is not a tense, and has no real equivilent in English.

    Also, I gather (from people like Carl Conrad, moderator of B-Greek online) the the meaning of aorist is under dispute. Conrad himself thinks it means subject focused. My own view is that I suspect Conrad is right, though I would add that the context might suggest what the tense should be. There’s a case in one of the eschatological passages (I forget in which gospel) in which Jesus speaks of a series of coming disasters, and in the midst of this list of future tense verbs, the KJV slavishly translates one of an aorist verb as completed action, which jars the reading and makes no sense. For while I realize the O.T. sometimes put future prophecies into the past tense to underscore the certainty that the prophecy would be fulfilled, as though it were already history, it makes no sense to me in the gospel passage I have in mind, that Jesus would not put ALL the verbs in the perfect, if that is what he meant.

    I guess what I’m saying, is that I suspect the aorist behaves as a kind of italics in the text, with the surrounding verbs serving as clues to what the tense should be. I haven’t really tested this theory, but by default have come to this position.

    Thanks,

    p.s., would you and others here pray for me in the coming week, as I am engaging some online atheists? Thanks.

  10. TT,

    Not sure why you would assume that you struck a nerve. Is it simply because I disagreed with you, or for some other reason? You may not want to be confrontational, but I don’t think you should be surprised when your comments are met with disagreement. Hopefully, we are both open to correction.

    As I said before, all of the clauses are in the aorist, which does generally denote completed action. As surely as these were enlightened, made partakers of the Holy Spirit, have tasted the powers of the age to come, etc., they have likewise fallen away. There is certainly no reason to add an “if” into the clause and the “if” simply does not belong, which was the crux of your initial argument. I have never read a scholar who would suggest that any of these clauses should be understood as future. Perhaps you can produce one? The present of “renew” doesn’t change things any. It is simply saying that those who have fallen away cannot be renewed to repentance.

    Now it may be hypothetical in that the writer is not speaking of specific cases he and his writers would be familiar with (though I think it more likely that he is), but it seems to be stretching things beyond reasonable exegesis to suggest that it is a hypothetical that has no possibility of happening. That would turn the warning and the premise of the entire epistle on its head.

    The epistle is primarily concerned with encouraging its readers to remain faithful and to not throw away their faith and confidence in Christ. Even the sections dealing with Christ’s supremacy and His eternal priesthood serve the purpose of admonishing these readers to remain faithful in the face of persecution and likely temptation to return to Judaism. Of course, Hebrews 6 is not the only place where such a warning is located in Hebrews. Your interpretation, however, would have us to understand the writer to be warning his readers against an impossibility. In fact, the writer would be rather emphasizing the impossibility of falling away in Hebrews 6. Is that really how you see the text, or are you simply unwilling to allow the passage to say something you don’t want to be true?

    Trust me when I tell you that I would prefer to believe that true believers can never fall away from the faith and perish, but it doesn’t really matter what I would prefer to be true. If I had it my way I would prefer to not believe in eternal punishment for anybody, but again, Scripture will not allow me to hold to such things.

    I appreciate your willingness to read through some of the posts I have written on the subject. When you do get around to it, feel free to interact with them in the comments. Just understand that I reserve the right to challenge you, just as you challenged my view of apostasy in your first comments here. It doesn’t mean you have struck a nerve anymore than your disagreeing with the apostasy position in your opening comments necessarily meant the post struck a nerve with you. Hopefully we can both respectfully disagree without getting too excited 🙂

    Do I believe that one “can be saved last year, lost today and saved sometime tomorrow?” Yes I do. I believe one can be saved one minute and fall away into unbelief the next, just as the Scriptures testify, and just as I have argued in my series on perseverance. Why do you think this should be so objectionable?

    God Bless,
    Ben

  11. Ben,
    Earlier you wrote… I took a little bit of offense at “you can say and believe all sorts of things” as if to infer that “I am not concerned with what the Scripture is saying.”

    Given that statement, You said… “As I said before, all of the clauses are in the aorist, which does generally denote completed action.” I am supposing you gave little consideration to the position with respect to an aorist participle… as apposed to these being aorist tensed verbs. There is a BIG difference in the two. But… as you said to me earlier, “you can say and believe all sorts of things”. Check it out.

    “Do I believe that one “can be saved last year, lost today and saved sometime tomorrow?” Yes I do. I believe one can be saved one minute and fall away into unbelief the next, just as the Scriptures testify, and just as I have argued in my series on perseverance. Why do you think this should be so objectionable?”

    Here is my problem… verse 4 says… For it is impossible… to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.

    I simply say that IF apostasy IS possible… it is impossible for that once saved person who is now lost to EVER be saved again.

    Grateful to be in His Grip

    ><>

  12. TT,

    I have been away from the computer as I have been moving. I did not mean any offense in my comment. Your comments seemed to suggest that you had more of an emotional objection to being able to fall away. Your question to me seemed to suggest that. That is why I made the point, that I assumed you would agree with, that we need to submit to what Scriptures say regardless of what we want to believe. I wanted to make sure we were keeping the discussion in the proper place. I apologize if that seemed offensive.

    As far as the aorist, I don’t think there is much of a difference. The aorist generally denotes completed action, which is why it is normally translated in the past tense, even in this passage (I can’t think off hand of any exceptions in any major translations). The NIV and the KJV add “if” but that is generally recognized to be error by scholars and it is certainly not something to build an argument on since it doesn’t even appear in the text and there is no reason to think it implied either. I do know that an aorist can be timeless. Perhaps that is what you meant, but I don’t think that helps things much for your argument. If you want to make some sort of case about the difference between a participle and a main verb with reference to the aorist, you can document that difference here with reference to Greek Grammars and explain how you think it relevant to your argument.

    The main point is not that the aorist necessarily refers to an event in the past (though I think most scholars see that these clauses in Hebrews at least denote completed action as I have noted, and most, if not all, major translations seem to recognize these clauses as completed action), but that you have really no grammatical or contextual grounds for seeing this warning as hypothetical. You especially, as far as I can tell, have no grounds for saying it is a hypothetical that has no possibility of ever happening. That is to majorly read into the text in my opinion, and yet your initial argument made a rather strong assertion that we should see this as a hypothetical warning that cannot possibly happen based on a word (“if) that does not even appear in the text. Your comments seemed to imply that those who would see this as an actual warning were quite obviously missing this important detail a detail that you really have no contextual or grammatical basis for. Surely you see why I find that argument weak.

    As far as your question, I do see the apostasy described here as irremediable. However, I think there is another type of apostasy described in Scripture from which one may be recovered. I explained this in one of my posts that I referred you to. Hopefully, you will still get the time to check them out at some time and offer your feedback.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  13. TT,

    I just put up a new post that deals with the two types of apostasy as described in my previous comments. It also links to the post I spoke of before.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  14. That is funny, I pointed the AoG’s fallacy out on this position a while back to a good brother. Very glad others are seeing this as well!

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