Understanding the historical development of a Biblical doctrine always necessitates a familiarity with arguments that are formulated by substantial Christian thinkers which leave an indelible mark on how the church later deals with that doctrine. The purpose of this essay is to illustrate this truth by showing how Augustine of Hippo’s view of perseverance and apostasy continues to influence the ways in which various Evangelical traditions address these topics today.2 This will be accomplished by first arguing that some mainstay theological categories pertaining to the issue of the perseverance of the saints can be traced back to convictions that Augustine initially expressed during the famous Pelagian and Semi-Pelagian controversies.3 From there, it will be shown that subsequent views of perseverance often reach frequent impasses because they are based on selective parts of Augustine’s soteriology. Finally, we will conclude with a few remarks about some of the shortcomings in Augustine’s view of perseverance.
II. AUGUSTINE’S UNDERSTANDING OF SIN, SALVATION, AND ELECTION: PRELIMINARIES TO THE DOCTRINE OF PERSEVERANCE
Throughout the latter years of Augustine’s life he combated the perspectives of Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism which dealt with many questions related to sin, regeneration, justification, predestination, and ultimately perseverance. Like any good theologian, he carefully interpreted relevant Biblical passages, synthesized them, and then articulated his understanding of each subject in order to show how they all fit together theologically. His view of sin led to his view of grace, which in turn converged to help guide the way he viewed election, justification, and so forth.
Consequently, if we want to examine what Augustine thought about how believers could persevere in their faith, we must first survey what he thought about how one becomes a believer. The best way to accomplish this is to summarize what he believed about sin, election, justification, and perseverance.
A. Augustine’s View of Original Sin
Augustine claims that when God first made Adam and Eve, He placed them in a kind of probationary period to test whether they would obey his rule concerning the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Here, in their unfallen state, they had the volitional freedom to love God and obey him or choose to love something less. Obviously they chose the latter. Once they transgressed God’s restriction, they forfeited their naturally perfect environment, the potential for natural immorality, and brought divine curses upon themselves as well as the very earth over which they had been given dominion.4
Likewise, another feature they incurred was a deep-seeded corruption to their very nature, or spiritual disposition, which poisoned their will so they could no longer choose freely to love God. On their own, without any pre-emptive work of divine grace, now they will only choose to love things in accordance with their lustful desires which are enslaved to pride and idolatry.5
Moreover, all of these consequences are transferred to Adam’s prodigy. Otherwise known as original sin, this concept is a lynch pin for Augustine. He refers to this idea in his first anti-Pelagian work entitled On the Merits and Remission (or Forgiveness) of Sins (AD 412), where he refutes the belief that infants do not require baptism because they are not tainted with the sin of Adam.6 Augustine claims that the Pelagian notion that people only imitate Adam’s rebellion is shortsighted. Why? Because we mimic Adam’s actions by virtue of the fact that we are replicas of his fallen nature. We are “little Adams” at birth, not when we consciously choose to sin at some point in life.
So, Augustine’s interpretation of original sin entails two components. One is the act of sin that Adam initially committed, which incurred guilt upon himself as well as his descendants. Adam is essentially the prototype for all humanity. The other feature is that along with the fact that humanity is legally condemned with Adam, it has also become practically corrupt like Adam. This means that people are under the double burden of Adam’s sin (original sin) as well as their own individual sins (actual sin).7
B. Augustine’s View of Election
Hand in hand with Augustine’s view of fallen humanity, or as he labeled it, the mass of the damned (massa damnata), is his perspective on divine election.7 Because humanity is now only free to follow its moral inclinations, which are always driven by sinful motives, no one on their own will ever pursue God or seek after His mercy. This means that the Lord must sovereignly enact the power of His grace if anyone is to be delivered from their current plight. And when He does, His choice to provide salvation extends to the specific recipients who will experience it.8 This idea, which later becomes known as unconditional election, is at the heart of what caused such friction between Augustine and his opponents, especially the Semi-Pelagians.
Early on in his life, Augustine considered an alternative possibility—that God elected certain sinners unto salvation on the basis of foreknown faith. He deduced, for instance, that Jacob was chosen over Esau because the Lord knew he would eventually express faith in His promises.9 In time, though, Augustine deduced that this approach was problematic because it based God’s distribution of grace on human works, which openly contradicts Paul’s rhetorical questions in 1 Cor 4:7. Paul asks, “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as though you did not receive it?” The obvious answer to the first question is nothing and therefore the second question should lead to humble repentance. This persuaded Augustine to change his mind and conclude that even faith in Christ is from the Lord, not the will of man. Predestination, then, is God’s act of preparing to give grace as a gift while faith is the actual gift of grace itself.10
Inevitably, when objections arose regarding the basis upon which God determines who will be part of the elect and who will not, his response simply was that this kind of question hits against the bulwark of God’s sovereignty. If election is based solely upon God’s purposes to the exclusion of human activity, then such inquiries will always come to a dead end because the answers are not revealed to us.11 Furthermore, an unjust sinner cannot interrogate a just judge regarding his judgments. Theoretically, God could have chosen to show rebellious humanity no salvific mercy at all, but instead he graciously chose to grant it to some.12
C. Augustine’s View of Faith, Regeneration, and Justification
Moving to the topic of how sinners experience God’s grace, Augustine’s convictions about sin and predestination converge with a proto-sacramental view of regeneration and justification. Such a combination begins with his understanding of baptism because it is the means of addressing the immediate problem of original sin. Augustine sees it as the “laver of regeneration” that brings “remission for sin.” Baptism heals the wound of the inherited guilt that infants bring into this world when they are born.13 While this went against the grain of his Pelagian opponents, it coincided well with the majority opinion in the Christian empire that baptism provided the preliminary fulcrum for divine forgiveness.14
Augustine then connects baptismal regeneration to the next stage of justification. He does so by arguing that once grace commences in the new birth, a sinner “merits” eternal life apart from works and thus receives God’s righteousness. This is why baptized infants who die receive salvation, because it is merited by virtue of the forgiveness they receive. Their new identity in Christ eliminates their culpability in Adam.15 At the same time, however, regeneration enacts justification, which subsequently leads to a faith that expresses itself in love and works. Believers eventually come to walk in obedience to God’s law by the power of the Spirit so the event of justification can culminate in glorification.
So for Augustine, justification is in one sense punctiliar because it takes place alongside the moment of regeneration. But in another sense, it is progressive in nature because it continues to transform believers as they engage in consistent holiness.16
The wrinkle in this logic emerges when Augustine eventually postulates that regeneration and justification are not given to the elect only. This is because there are many saints who apostatize. Thus we now come to his views of spiritual endurance.
D. Augustine’s View on Perseverance
Though we can look at sporadic segments of Augustine’s anti-Pelagian writings to piece together some of his thoughts on perseverance, the best place to look is his treatise solely devoted to the subject, which was entitled On the Gift of Perseverance.This work is made up of some sixty-eight chapters wherein Augustine treats the basic parameters of what perseverance is, how it is to be experienced, and why it is essential to the life of the believer. He begins the introduction by defining perseverance as “a divine gift by which an individual perseveres in Christ to the end of this life.”17 He then works through his thesis by showing how it coincides with NT warnings against apostasy, the teachings of earlier Church Fathers (for example, Cyprian and Ambrose), the doctrine of predestination, and Biblical examples of prayers for endurance.18
From here, the looming question that remains is: Why do some believers persevere while others do not? Augustine asserts that the true elect, who are chosen by God to persevere, indeed do so while those who are not fall away. He also deduces that no one knows for certain whether they are among the elect and will therefore persevere. Consequently, people should not presume that perseverance is given to anyone until they reach the end of their lives.19 Thus, the apparent dilemma here is that because the human will still exists in a transitional state between the contexts of regenerating/justifying grace on the one hand and the flesh on the other, Augustine refrains from offering full assurance of perseverance because it would be presumptuous to do so.
Yet as a pastor Augustine does assure his readers that perseverance is a divine gift that cannot be lost. The catch is that God does not provide the gift simply so it can be enjoyed passively. It is given to enable us to pursue Christ with passion and devotion. One could say that one reaches the goal of perseverance by striving after it and that struggle is the means whereby the elect (not all saints) actually experience it. This is partly why Augustine stresses the importance of prayer for perseverance. It is only given to those who in faith ask for it and seek it.20
Additionally, because perseverance is a gift that is certain in God’s decree but uncertain for believers practically, it should be preached to all so that the listeners will be admonished to look to the Lord for strength and grace.21 And if one should ask why God would decree that some saints lapse without repenting and being restored, Augustine answers that such tragedies act as severe warnings to other believers against complacency in their own faith.22
So in summary, Augustine’s view of perseverance derives from a combination of early sacramentalism with strong determinism. It contains elements of the former because he believed that saving grace was initially received through the participation in the act of baptism. This act initiated the preliminary grace of regeneration in the heart of the participant which may (or may not) then lead to final justification and glorification depending on how the recipient later responds to the grace of the new birth throughout his lifetime.
Augustine’s beliefs on the subject also contain components of determinism because God does not just select who the saints will be. He also chooses which saints will ultimately persevere in their faith. Consequently, he sovereignly oversees those who commit apostasy as well as those who faithfully endure and are saved. As it pertains to perseverance then, Augustine clearly allows for the possibility that a saint can prove to be a stillborn, thereby not experiencing eternal life in the age to come. Thus for all practical purposes, Augustine allows for three categories of people: unbelievers who remain in unbelief; believers who later return to unbelief; and believers who persevere. One can say that he affirmed the perseverance of the elect, but not of all the saints.23
III. HIGHLIGHTING MAJOR VIEWS OF PERSEVERANCE
In light of how Augustine understood this subject, we are prepared to give attention to the influence that his view has had on traditions still to come in the Church’s history. One immediate observation to make is that the sacramental components of Augustine’s views of regeneration and justification, which supported his belief in a saint’s capacity to apostatize, set the parameters for the theology of Thomas Aquinas, the Council of Trent and the subsequent Roman Catholic tradition.24 Also, to a certain extent, his conflation of baptism with the new birth was adopted with nuanced qualifications by the Lutheran and Anglican traditions.25 But when it comes to the possibility of there being a distinction between saints who persevere and apostate ones who do not, Evangelicals affirm an assortment of proposals.
Ironically, the reason for this diversity is not because there is significant disagreement on whether apostasy can occur. Rather the dilemma is identifying the nature of apostasy and what apostates actually are before they apostatize. For Augustine, saints who eventually apostatize are those who genuinely experienced the grace of regeneration and justification but choose to renounce those gifts and so prove not to be part of the elect. Yet Evangelicals today couch their perspectives somewhat differently.
A. Reformed Proposals
Many Evangelicals follow the lead of John Calvin and Reformed traditions by agreeing with Augustine’s beliefs about original sin and unconditional election.26 Where they diverge significantly is when it comes to his views of baptismal regeneration and sacramental justification. They argue instead that all saints who exercise faith unto justification also persevere.27 The reason being is that saving faith is necessarily an enduring faith.28 Pertaining to the numerous NT warning passages concerning apostasy, though, the case is made that they are actually tests for determining whether a believer’s confession is legitimate. The assumption is that NT writers gave warnings to churches with the concern that some were believers while others possibly were not. The way that saving faith is identified as salvific is through the act of perseverance, which implies that those who do not abide by the warnings were never truly regenerate in the first place. Reformed Evangelicals therefore agree with Augustine that the elect do persevere. The point of departure is that they deny any categorical difference among the elect between those who persevere and those who do not.
Also, it warrants mentioning that there is a subset of Reformed thought that has received some attention in recent years as a nuanced modification of the traditional view. This nuanced view sees the NT warning passages against apostasy as a divine means whereby believers are empowered and/or motivated to persevere in their faith. Unlike the standard Reformed view that sees the warning passages as a means of separating the possessors from the imposters, this idea sees the warnings as being given to genuine believers. Because there is a Biblical tension between the initial part of salvation that is already attained, and the final vindication that is still to come at the final judgment, the warnings are interpreted as the vehicle God uses to ensure that the elect will never fall away.29
B. Arminian Views of Perseverance
In strong contrast to the Reformed perspective(s) of perseverance, the second tradition that stands as the most longstanding theological alternative for many Evangelicals is commonly known as the Arminian understanding of perseverance. Simply put, proponents contend that believers are admonished in the NT to persevere in their faith because if they fail to do so for some reason, they could lose their salvation. This is why the warning language against apostasy is so strong in the NT. One can be genuinely converted at one time but later lapse back into an unconverted state.
It should also be noted that the Arminian approach developed in two distinct strains. Traditional, or classical, Arminianism has its roots in the late 16th century Dutch theologian Jacobus (James) Arminius and his later supporters.30 Arminius emphasized that believers were to be circumspect in how they lived so that they would not potentially sear their conscience, abandon their faith, and ultimately fall short of final salvation in Christ.31
This trajectory was then taken in a new direction by later thinkers beginning with the 18th century revivalist preacher John Wesley. Wesley agreed with Arminian thought that the possibility of apostasy could occur.32 Nevertheless, his views of justification and atonement, which differed significantly from Arminius, were conflated with his unique concept of the “Second Blessing” and the doctrine of entire sanctification. These things modified the purpose of perseverance in ways that went beyond traditional Arminian beliefs.33
Despite these nuances, however, Arminian views mutually concede that apostasy is a potential reality for genuine converts. In this regard, they follow the Augustinian trail in making a distinction between persevering and non-persevering believers. Yet they reject Augustine’s views of original sin and predestination in exchange for an emphasis on free will and conditional election. So ironically, while they repudiate Augustine’s views of sin and Divine sovereignty, they agree that apostasy can still happen, just for a different reason. The reason is that since one is free to choose salvation, one is also free to later reject it.
C. Free-Grace View of Perseverance
Finally, a third set of proposals is advocated today by some Evangelicals who want to establish a position that avoids the perceived shortcomings of both the Reformed and Arminian traditions. The contention is that any view which requires believers to persevere in order to obtain eternal life in the age to come automatically nullifies the meaning of sola fide and eliminates any reliable basis for personal assurance of salvation.
The charge is that the Reformed view offers the promise of protection for those who persevere but it cannot assure anyone that they will actually do so. On the flip side of the coin, the Arminian reading of Scripture is problematic as well because even though it provides people with confidence that they are believers in the present, it cannot offer any real security because they could later apostatize.34 So you can either be in doubt as to whether you ever truly received salvation in the past (Reformed) or be in constant fear that you may lose it in the future (Arminian).
Advocates of what is often labeled the Free Grace position offer an alternative to these views.35 They argue that NT warning passages about perseverance are not about apostasy at all.36 Rather they are given to encourage believers to be faithful in their service to the Lord so that they will not forfeit eternal rewards in the final judgment. Some would prefer to speak of the Bema, or the Judgment Seat, of Christ.37 Therefore, while the initial experience of salvation is fixed and determined when someone is converted, a believer’s status in the coming earthly kingdom is contingent upon his/her loyal service in this life. Salvation from hell is certain for all who believe in Christ.38 Rewards, on the other hand, are another matter because they are determined by obedient behavior.
In the end then, both Augustine and advocates of this position believe in three categories of people. But instead of affirming that there are unbelievers, persevering believers, and non-persevering apostates, Free Grace proponents claim there are believers who will inherit rewards in the future earthly kingdom, believers who will enter the kingdom with little or no inheritance, and unbelievers who will not enter the kingdom at all.39
The point to see in this comparative study is that all of these views are working through the same Biblical questions that Augustine attempted to answer centuries ago. Likewise, the theological constructs that he bequeathed are formidable because often Evangelicals disagree with Augustine on the issue of perseverance partly because they differ on the viability of his views on soteriology. Furthermore, the issue again is not solely about whether believers can possibly apostatize. The deeper, more unsettling, concern is identifying what someone is before any potential lapse in faith. If someone professes Christ at a certain stage of life only to abandon their faith at a later time, the looming question is this: “What were these people before they showed their true spiritual colors?” Were they believers who simply deactivated the sacramental process of salvation (Augustinian), believers who denied their faith (Arminian), people who initially acted like they had faith but eventually showed they had none (Reformed), or are they AWOL believers who will miss out on their full inheritance in the coming earthly kingdom (Free Grace)?
As we have seen, determining an answer to this question is partly determined by which components of Augustine’s theology of perseverance are embraced. Or to speak in more Biblical terms, one’s view of sin, conversion, and election necessarily guide one’s thinking regarding the related issue of perseverance.
On a final note, Augustine’s convictions about perseverance do retain certain theological problems. One is the troubling distinction between persevering and non-persevering believers. The NT indeed warns believers to endure in their faith under threat of Divine judgment. However, the warnings are not written to foster an attitude of doubt regarding one’s faith or engender psychological paralysis because people can never be certain whether they will persevere or not. Instead, the warnings are pastoral, even perhaps therapeutic to a degree, in that they are given to encourage, edify, and rebuke. One could say they were given to build the confidence of believers who were enduring and deconstruct the unhealthy presumption of others whose commitment was waning.
This leads to a second concern, which entails the sacramental overtones that guided Augustine’s theology. The reason he can distinguish between two kinds of believers is because regeneration and justification are not inseparably linked to glorification and resurrection. One can be sovereignly chosen to experience no salvific grace at all, elected to some of the initial blessings of salvation via baptism, regeneration, and justification, or elected to all of its blessings including perseverance and resurrection. Essentially then, election appears to be somewhat convoluted because in Augustine’s model, God sovereignly determines to grant effectual saving grace to some that ultimately is ineffective. And it is here where Evangelicals in every camp can learn a valuable lesson about the practical nature of perseverance. It should always be treated as a theological link that is inseparably connected to every other theological component of the Christian experience.40
1 Editor’s note: This article is the result of a paper presented at the 2015 annual Evangelical Theological Society Conference. It is of interest to readers of the JOTGES because it shows that debates about assurance of salvation and the perseverance of the saints have a long history.
2 Augustine was a bishop in North Africa in the late fourth century and early fifth century whose writings have heavily influenced Western Christianity.
3 Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo (Berkeley, CA: University of California, 1969), 151; Pelagius, Pelagius’ Expositions of Thirteen Epistles of Paul, 9 vol., ed. Alexander Souter and J. Armitage Robinson, Contributions to Biblical and Patristic Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1922-1931; reprint, Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2004). Note that these controversies dealt primarily with the role of divine grace and man’s free will in salvation.
4 Augustine, The City of God, in The Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers (NPNF) vol. 2, ed., Philip Schaff, trans., Marcus Dods, (Christian Literature Publishing, 1887; Reprint, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1999), 14.16-19; William E. Mann, “Augustine on Evil and Original Sin,” in The Cambridge Companion to Augustine, eds., Eleonore Stump and Norman Kretzmann (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 47.
5 Augustine, On the Merits and Remission of Sins and On the Baptism of Infants, NPNF, vol. 5, trans., Peter Holmes and Robert E. Wallis, 1.10-11.
6 Ibid., 1.9; 20.3.
7 Bradley G. Green, “Augustine,” in Shapers of Christian Orthodoxy, ed., Bradley G. Green (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2010), 251.
8 Augustine, To Simplicianus, in The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century, vol. 1.12, eds., J. E. Rotelle and Boniface Ramsey, trans., Boniface Ramsey, (New York, NY: New City Press, 2008), 2.16.
9 Augustine, On the Predestination of the Saints, in NPNF, vol. 5, 3.7.
10 Mathis Lamberigts, “Predestination,” in Augustine Through the Ages, ed., Allan D. Fitzgerald, O. S. A. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999), 678.
11 Augustine, On the Gift of Perseverance, Chapters 35–40.
12 Green, “Augustine,” 258.
13 Augustine, On the Baptism of Infants, NPNF, 1.24-30; Augustine, Against Two Letters of the Pelagians, NPNF, vol. 5, 2.11.
14 Everett Ferguson, Baptism in the Early Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009), 803-16.
15 Gerald Hiestand, “Augustine and the Justification Debates: Appropriating Augustine’s Doctrine of Culpability,” Trinity Journal 28 (2007), 115-39.
16 The details of Augustine’s view of justification can be difficult to discern because it is one subject that he did not explicitly address in any particular treatise. David F. Wright, “Justification in Augustine,” in Justification in Perspective, ed., Bruce L. McCormack (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2006), 55-72; Alister E. McGrath, Iustitia Dei, 3rd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 44-54.
17 Augustine, On the Gift of Perseverance, NPNF, 1.7.
18 Ibid., chapters 4–7, 20, 48–49. Augustine alludes to Cyprian’s discussion about how the Lord’s Prayer includes several petitions for endurance and grace to persevere as well as Ambrose’s teaching that apostasy should be sobering to believers who are still in the faith.
19 Ibid., chapters 1, 33.
20 Ibid., chapters 10-11, 39.
21 Ibid., chapters 25, 34, 51, 57–60.
22 Ibid., chapter 19.
23 Editor’s note: This point may be of special interest to the readers of JOTGES. Augustine says that some believers experience the beginnings of salvation, but if they fall away they will not be in the Kingdom of God.
24 John Jefferson Davis, “The Perseverance of the Saints: A History of the Doctrine,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 34, no. 2 (1991), 214.
25 Ibid., 215-17; Martin Luther, “The Small Catechism (1529): The Sacrament of Holy Baptism,” in Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, ed., Timothy F. Lull (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2005), 325-326; and Book 27 “On Baptism,” in “The 39 Articles of the Church of England,” in The Creeds of Christendom, vol. 3, ed., Philip Schaff, rev. by David S. Schaff, reprint (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1998), 504-505.
26 See Calvin on these subjects in The Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed., John T. McNeill, trans., Ford L. Battles (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1960), Book 2, Chapters 1–3; Book 3, Chapters 3, 21–24. Then compare his summary with any subsequent Reformed confession or catechism to see how Augustine’s view of sin and determinism are further preserved. For starters, one can compare the related sections of the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, the 2nd Helvetic Confession, and the Westminster Confession.
27 What is somewhat ironic is that Luther and the later Lutheran tradition agree somewhat with Augustine that there were sacramental overtones in the rite of baptism which led to regeneration. The divergence came with Luther’s insistence that believers could have a higher level of personal assurance than Augustine and his Catholic successors thought. But again, Luther still conceded that there was no means of having complete certainty that all believers would indubitably remain in a state of grace. See references in Luther’s works as well as the treatment of his thought in Davis, “The Perseverance of the Saints: A History of the Doctrine,” 215-16.
28 Ibid., 214-17. The reason for this is rightly identified by Davis who asserts that Calvin grounded perseverance in election and a forensic view of justification. Thus, two sovereign acts (election and justification) lead to the third (perseverance). However, for Augustine perseverance is defined with sacramental overtones that can allow for some to experience portions of salvific grace without receiving all of it.
29 Two key works that defend this position are Thomas R. Schreiner and Ardel B. Caneday, The Race Set Before Us (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2001); and Thomas Schreiner, Run to Win the Prize (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010).
30 There is significant debate as to whether Arminius’ followers were defending the same understanding of perseverance and apostasy that Arminius proposed. The reason for this was because Arminius differed from his Reformed colleagues regarding predestination, election, and free will but he agreed with many of their views regarding sin and redemption. See J. Matthew Pinson, “Introduction,” in Four Views of Eternal Security, ed., Matthew Pinson (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 15; and Carl Bangs, “Arminius as a Reformed Theologian,” in The Heritage of John Calvin, ed., John H. Bratt (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1973), 216-17. It is still the case, though, that Arminius made comments which clearly supported the idea that a believer could possibly apostatize. One can reference some of his brief observations in James Arminius, “On the Perseverance of Saints, On the Assurance of Salvation,” in The Works of James Arminius, 3 vol., trans., James Nichols (Reprint, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1999), 2:725-26.
31 See Arminius, On the Perseverance of Saints, 725; and the treatment of Arminius’ work in Keith D. Stanglin and Thomas H. HcCall, Jacob Arminius: Theologian of Grace (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 172-81.
32 For example, see John Wesley’s comments in “A Call to Backsliders, and Serious Thoughts upon the Perseverance of the Saints,” in The Essential Works of John Wesley, ed., Alice Russie (Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour, 2011), 519-32, 1153-66.
33 Pinson, “Introduction,” 18.
34 This critique on Arminianism is articulated as such by Norman Geisler in “A Moderate Calvinist View,” in Four Views of Eternal Security, 63-70.
35 Many participants in this stream have formed somewhat of a coalition that has resulted in what is called the Grace Evangelical Society. It has its own magazine entitled Grace in Focus as well as a journal, the Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society. One can consult their home website at http://faithalone.org/ (accessed May 30, 2015).
36 Editor’s note: What Berry means by “apostasy” here is a falling away with the result that one loses his eternal salvation. Free Grace proponents do believe that a genuine believer can deny the faith. The difference, as Berry points out in this article, is that Free Grace proponents contend that such believers do not lose their salvation.
37 Two works that make this case in different ways include Joseph Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings, 3rd ed. (Hayesville, NC: Schoettle Publishing, 2002); and Michael Eaton, No Condemnation (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1997). It should also be noted that advocates of this position are almost always Dispensational premillennialists. The key point is that NT believers, or the church, will be raptured to heaven and subsequently individual believers will be judged in heaven by their works to determine their functional role in the future millennial kingdom after Christ returns to the earth. Only later at the Great White Throne Judgment, as described in Revelation 20, will unbelievers be judged by their works and condemned to eternal death in the lake of fire. The point is that judgment by works is never to determine whether someone is a believer but rather to measure the amount of reward or loss that believers will experience. To see this fleshed out in concise form, see Robert N. Wilkin, “Christians will be Judged According to their Works at the Rewards Judgment, but not at the Final Judgment,” in The Role of Works at the Final Judgment, ed., Alan P. Stanley, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013), 25-50.
38 Apart from the Free-Grace label, probably the closest thing one can use to demarcate this perspective is the phrase “eternal security.” This refers to the idea that once people become believers, their position in Christ is irreversible regardless of what they do after their conversion. What is a bit peculiar about this position is that various advocates may have Reformed or Arminian views of sin and election and yet still advocate eternal security. So while there can be Free Grace thinkers who affirm unconditional or conditional election, they all mutually affirm eternal security. In other words, Free Grace advocates may bicker on whether God chooses who believes but they all concede that believers choose whether they will inherit rewards in the millennial kingdom or not.
39 Some of these categories receive a helpful discussion in Ján Henžel, “When Conversion is Joy and Death Victory: Historical Foundations of the Doctrine of Perseverance,” Tyndale Bulletin 54, no. 2 (2003), 123-48.
40 Editor’s note: The point here is that how one sees God’s grace, the reception of eternal life, and what happens at the moment of faith/justification, will determine how one sees enduring in good works and assurance of salvation.