If you want to start a spirited discussion among a group of Christians, ask this question, step back, and watch. Unfortunately, there is no consensus view on the security of salvation. If you were to go on a proof-texting mission through the Scriptures, you would find a variety of verses that could help you lean in either direction. The question hinges on the nature of the grace given by God, and the relationship of grace to the atoning work of Christ. This is a much larger discussion in the realm of theology.
Personally, I do not believe genuine redemption can be lost. I do not believe God rescinds the gift of his grace, which I believe is effectual in accomplishing its purposes. For those who appear to exhibit genuine faith for a season, only to fall away (which I have seen quite often…), I would contend that while their outward show of faith may have seemed authentic, that it was rooted in the flesh (emotions and intellect without biblical repentance and faith) rather than in the life-giving grace of God. As John said, they were never in Christ. I find the doctrine of forever grace to be comforting in my darkest hours, in seasons of doubt or of pain.
If you go chasing this particular subject, do so gently in relationship to your brothers and sisters in Christ. Know the potential for division, and be willing to walk side-by-side with a Christian who sees this position through a different lens. Study the Scriptures, not just the words of men. And most of all, remember that the pursuit of the intellectual can become an obsession that fails to reach your heart… experience has taught me that this is more likely to produce arrogance than humility. Love must be the foundation of your pursuit.
Why do bad things happen to good people? How can God allow that?
This one was covered well at the event. We start with definitions. In terms of sin and brokenness, there are no good people – in terms of righteousness. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The consequence of sin is the curse brought by God upon his creation in Genesis 3. The outworking of the curse is going to feel devastating at times and in many ways. Because this question is often first a cry for justice, we must at least consider the fact that a cursed existence is still an opportunity in this life to pursue reconciliation with God. The wages of sin is death, which means a lifetime of opportunity is an act of mercy on God’s part, from which we will have no excuse. God is indeed just, as the current condition was foretold as Adam stood in the garden representing the human race.
One struggle of a cursed existence is to watch nice people, kind people, loved ones, go through trials – all the while enduring trials of our own. Romans 8 describes all of creation as groaning, waiting for the fullness of final redemption upon the return of Christ. This is the result of sin. We, too, groan and wait.
But Romans 5 also now describes Jesus as the new Adam, the new head of humanity – received by those who come to know him by grace through faith. All of humanity stands in one of two postures – in Adam or in Christ. Those who are in Adam bear the weight of the curse now, and await the final judgment as a result. Those who are in Christ have had their portion of the curse laid upon Jesus – when he died, the final judgment was reverse because Christ bore it in fullness on the tree. In the meantime, we live a life marked by suffering – not as a form of ultimate judgment, but rather as a life of identification with our Savior who suffered. The pains of this life are the last pains we will endure. There is hope in such a statement, there is peace and even joy amidst trial in such a reality!
Bad things will happen to all people in this life. Sin guarantees as much. Death will be the ultimate bad thing. But for the Christian, there is a hope that changes everything here and now.
How can I know for sure that God exists?
If you’re aiming for the extreme form of this question, in what way will God empirically and emphatically prove his existence to me so that I could not possibly hold any other belief than to worship his excellence? The answer is, he will not until the return of Christ. At that point, however, according to the Scriptures, eternity will be finalized. In this life, our response to God will always involve an element of faith, an element of stepping outside ourselves in order to trust something that is not in reach of our five senses (or even the rare sixth sense… ;)… )
If you dig into the study of apologetics, you can see the arguments for the existence of God. The ontological argument is the argument of being – the idea of God exists, which in and of itself is an argument for his existence. The teleological argument – the order of the universe suggests a source of order. The cosmological argument – every effect must have an adequate cause… the world is real, therefore the cause must be real. The moral argument suggests that objective morality requires a source… subjective morality leaves too many open doors. Obviously there are lengthy arguments into these ideas, and there are other ideas.
Ravi Zacharias describes how God meets us at the intersection of logical consistency, empirical adequacy, and experiential relevance… it’s a great clip if you’re looking for a brain exercise!
In moments of doubt, it’s easy to fall into questioning the existence of God. But the Scriptures are clear that nature reveals his divine power and attributes (Rom. 1). Vern Poythress has done some wonderful work in his book Redeeming Science to expound on this thought. However, as I’ve said already, there will necessarily be an element of trust that is born of the Spirit, not the senses – no matter how good the intellectual argument. Christianity is a matter of faith, not an academic framework – though the pursuit of the study of God is indeed fruitful at every turn!
If God hates wickedness, why do a lot of wicked people have really good things happen to them?
The psalmists asked this question so very often! Were you to spend time in the psalms, you would find a kindred heart asking this question again and again! Yet again and again, the psalmist is drawn to lift his eyes from the mirror to the glory of God, to focus on him rather than obsessing over temporary earthly circumstances.
As we discussed at the Cru event, though, you can also consider the definitions of the terms. We assume that what is happening to “the wicked” is good, because in our covetous idolatry, we want the earthly blessing without an eye to the eternal consequences. We associate health, wealth, and earthly prosperity with the greatest blessings because in our sinful hearts we long to be comfy. But the call of Christ is simple, take up your cross and follow me. The phrase is not exactly cozy. Jesus suffered perfectly and completely, and the call to discipleship is akin to a call to suffer. As I was reading this afternoon – we want the blessings of the garden of Eden (peace, provision, presence of God) without first walking through the garden of Gethsemane (where Jesus sweat blood and endured the anguish of his soul). While in this sin-stained world, we must persevere. The true blessings are not of this world. We are to give thanks in every circumstance, to consider it pure joy when we face trials. Most often, the Bible brings warnings when things are going “well,” because it is in wellness that we are most prone to forget God.
God has promised to provide daily for his children. You won’t often see daily bread on an episode of MTV Cribs, though, and our sinful hearts just aren’t satisfied with that!
Unrelated, but related…
I read a great quote from C.S. Lewis today, found in his essay titled God in the Dock:
“The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. He (man) is quite a kindly judge: if God should have a reasonable defense for being the god who permits war, poverty, and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that Man is on the bench and God in the dock.”
This is convicting, indeed!