Four Views on Eternal Security. Edited by J. Matthew Pinson. Contributors: Michael S. Horton; Norman L. Geisler; Stephen M. Ashby; J. Steven Harper. Grand Rapids : Zondervan Publishing House, 2002. 302 pp. Paper. $14.99.
Eternal security is one of the dearest doctrines to me. Thus I was thrilled when I heard about this new book on the subject.
The contributor closest to the Free Grace view is Geisler. He makes many excellent points about assurance and eternal security. He shows that we are not regenerated after a life of continuous faith (pp. 85-87). We are regenerated the very moment we believe. He shows that classic Calvinism does not believe in assurance prior to death (pp. 67-70). He suggests that the Bible (moderate Calvinism) teaches we can be sure we are saved the very moment we believe and as long as we continue to believe (pp. 68-69).
He unfortunately suggests that all true believers persevere in faith (pp. 110-11). He also says that “true faith is not mere mental assent. It involves the mind, emotions, and will” (p. 106). “True repentance is involved in saving faith…and true repentance will lead to good works” (pp. 105-106). He advocates a typical faith-that-works view of Jas 2:14-26 (p. 89). And he sees tests of life in 1 John that are “other evidences of salvation” (p. 80).
While I wish that Geisler had not said some of these things, I still am very appreciative for his contribution.
The classic Calvinist position is defended by Horton. There is nothing new here. However, it is helpful to see how he responds to Geisler and the two Arminians.
Ashby advocates something called Reformed Arminianism. That was a new term to me. While I knew that Arminius was a Calvinist, still it is fascinating to see the title Reformed Arminian. He argues eternal life can be lost only by apostasy (p. 187). Of course, that is one reason too many!
The Wesleyan Arminian position is defended by Harper. Two types of sin result in loss of salvation according to Harper. First, deliberate sins become “mortal” and cause us to lose our salvation if we fail to repent of them (p. 240). Second, involuntary sins will cause us to lose our salvation only if when we discover them we do nothing about them (p. 240). There is much room for ambiguity here. What is “doing nothing about them”? And what if a believer commits a deliberate sin immediately before death, with no chance to repent? Or what if one commits a deliberate sin and yet subsequently forgets about it?
I recommend this book as a helpful comparison of four views on eternal security. I simply wish they had made this five views and included a chapter on the Free Grace view of eternal security.
Robert N. Wilkin
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Irving , TX