A friend of Sharon and me and of GES, Diane Boring, sent me an article from Christianheadlines.com entitled, “‘It Feels Really Good’: Former Desiring God Writer Renounces Christianity.” You can read the article here.
Diane asked me if I knew the writer in question, Dr. Paul Maxwell, and then she concluded with this insightful comment that led me to write this blog: “I know if he ever believed in Jesus Christ alone, he still has eternal life whether he believes that truth anymore or not.” Diane went on to say that the article does not give enough information about what Maxwell formerly believed to indicate whether he once believed the faith-alone message or not.
I do not know Dr. Paul Maxwell. Nor do I recall reading any of his books.
According to the article, he was formerly a philosophy professor at Moody Bible Institute.
At the end of the article, the author, Milton Quintanilla, mentioned several other high profile Christian leaders who have fallen away from the faith in the past few years: Jon Steingard, lead singer of a Christian rock band, announced in 2020 that he is now an atheist; and Joshua Harris, author of a bestselling Christian book about courtship instead of dating, and Marty Sampson, formerly a Christian singer and songwriter, renounced their faith in Christ in 2019.
Within Christianity today, most pastors, priests, and theologians would say that if someone commits apostasy, he will be eternally condemned. Those who believe that everlasting life can be lost (Catholics, Orthodox, most Protestants) would say that apostates lost their salvation. Calvinists say that the apostate proves he was never saved in the first place.
However, the Bible is clear: once a person is saved, he is saved forever. The Lord Jesus promised that whoever believes in Him will never perish (John 3:16), will never hunger or thirst (John 4:10-14; 6:35), will never die spiritually (John 11:26), and will never come into judgment concerning everlasting life (John 5:24). As Dr. Ryrie famously quipped, “If everlasting life could be lost, then it has the wrong name.”
Did Maxwell, Steingard, Harris, and Sampson ever believe in the free gift of everlasting life? I do not know. But if they did, they still have everlasting life.
Do not misunderstand. I’m not suggesting that everyone who ever professed to be a Christian is born again. Nor am I saying that everyone who believed that Jesus is God and that He died on the cross for our sins and rose again is eternally secure. Most who believe that also believe that in order to get into Christ’s kingdom they must persevere in good works until death. Many in Christianity do not believe Jesus’ promise of everlasting life to all who simply believe in Him for it. But, if a person ever believed in Jesus for everlasting life (1 Tim 1:16), he remains eternally secure.
Many people leave the Christian faith each year. Some of them formerly believed in Christ for the free gift of everlasting life. Those people remain eternally secure. Others never believed in Him for that gift. They believed that faith in Jesus is necessary to get into Christ’s kingdom, but not enough. Perseverance in good works is required, they believed.
It does not matter how long one believed the free gift of life. Whether hours, months, years, or decades, a person gained everlasting life and became eternally secure the very moment he came to faith in Christ for irrevocable salvation.
If your theology has no room for apostates in the kingdom, then you cannot be sure you have everlasting life. For you cannot be sure that you will not fall away. And guess what? I cannot be sure of that either. None of us can.
Paul calls us to hold fast to the gospel that he preached to us in order to remain spiritually healthy (1 Cor 15:2). While the eternal destiny of the believer is a settled matter, his well being now and his fullness of life in Jesus’ kingdom depends on our continuing in the faith.