Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Impossible to Restore to Repentance?

Hebrews 6:1-8 (ESV)
Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, [2] and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. [3] And this we will do if God permits. [4] For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, [5] and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, [6] if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. [7] For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. [8] But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.

“Impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit… if they then fall away.” This has to be the hardest verse in the Bible for those who teach once saved always saved. I don’t know, but people give Lutheran’s a hard time for supposedly ignoring the book of James. It is funny to me, it seems James has become the sum total of the canon for the majority of American Christendom. I think I might just start doing the same thing they do with James, back to them with Hebrews.
That said, I don’t know that I much enjoy this verse. I suppose if there was any reason to suspect the canonicity of Hebrews, it would be this, that it is impossible to restore again to repentance. I say that because I believe all things are possible for God, and I believe that based on books that are certain and have never been questioned for authenticity. I think I may have even seen a few who had fallen away come back to the faith and repentance. To be certain though, it is impossible to look into anyone’s heart. But what reason have I to doubt their confession?
There is though maybe a bit of truth to this. Perhaps this is nothing more than an explanation of the sin against the Holy Spirit. It seems that once people have fallen away from the faith, it is very difficult to bring them back. This is maybe even more true and visited upon the third and fourth generations in those religions, such as Islam, and Mormonism, that have sprouted as thorns and thistles from Christian soil. Wow, is the work hard there. Not impossible, but… well the demons require much prayer before they are exorcised.


Jonathan said...

"Not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God."

If the writer has this type of 'repentence' in mind, then I think the follow-on sentence about being impossible to revive it after one falls away makes perfect sense. I suppose it's the kind of danger that an enthusiast faces, who used to feel he's reached the HS, but has since lost that lovin' feelin'.

However, "Apart from me you can do nothing." And, "All things are possible with God." I wonder if the real 'maturity' of doctrine being spoken of here is that repentence is not our work but that of the HS.

Anonymous said...

Part 1 of 2

I’ve always wrestled with that verse. Especially in the past as a Calvinist. Technically as a Calvinist you have to interpret the verse as meaning, not really ever having been saved/reborn/elect and not really having true saving faith or something like that. The effect of which sets you to searching out “do I have real and true saving faith, what are my evidences that I am elect/saved/reborn etc…and even if I find them today will the ball drop tomorrow when I commit or get locked into X sin”. This really is nothing more than the Roman mortal/venial sin system. The only difference is “fall away” is reinterpreted to mean really “never was”. So those under the Pope are never assured and always searching and guarding against a mortal sin that causes a falling away, as are arminians of the protestant realm, and Calvinist are doing the same trying to keep the assurance works juggling act up so that they may never discover, “I’ve been fooling myself all along”.

Perhaps we can invent a new term to capture this: The “mortal sin” of Rome is exchanged, under Calvinism, for a kind of “mortal evidence”, as opposed to Rome’s “venial sin” and it’s Calvinistic parallel “venial evidence”. Then we could do as Luther DID in his HD turning Rome’s mortal/venial sin on its ear by turning Calvinism’s mortal/venial evidentiary system on its ear. A mortal evidence under Calvinism would be that evidence that is such that it proves you are not elect (the deadliness of it) and under Calvinism a venial evidence is of course that evidence that does not disprove you are elect. Because that’s how the Calvinistic doctrine functions in the life of believer, that’s how they measure for assurance (I did). If we Lutherize it, that is to say pulverize it to non-existence with sound law/gospel and sacraments like he did in his HD for the Roman system but using their own terms we would then say that a TRUE mortal evidence, one that likely proves you really don’t trust Christ nakedly, is that evidence which you think is venial (because that’s what you are ultimately trusting in for assurance, not Christ, Christ does not really give you rest the evidence does). Similarly a TRUE venial evidence would be all those evidences that you see as being truly mortal. That is to say you should fear all your works/evidences as damning.

I think that would be Luther’s fire at Calvinism which is really just repackaged Romanism, which is really just fallen religion with Christian accoutrements.

The true fall away does seem to be the same as the true sin against the Holy Spirit. Meaning if you just simply throw away that which saves, it’s not so much the magnitude of that sin as it is the obviousness of it…what’s left if you do this? It’s basically saying, “Christ is not nearly enough”. It is pietism and the way many interpret James, quite often due to either a Roman or Calvinistic lens to determine assurance that is in the greatest danger of committing the actual unforgivable sin, not some gross sinner committing some outward gross sin. The doer, the old Adam, simply wishes to kill off the naked receiver, the new man and his Christ.

Anonymous said...

Part 2 of 3

I’ve always wrestled with what does it mean to recrucify Christ? I think it is this if we go back to the intent of man via Rome and Israel teaming up to crucify him in the first place. They ultimately saw themselves as in and of themselves as righteous and His coming to die for our sins was a threat to that. So much a threat that they said, “this is not God, our God who is righteous”, and so crucified Him. God’s purpose was of course for that very thing, to save us who are actually unrighteous. So to recrucify the Lord of glory would be to attempt to put Him to death, deny He is God and this is what God is doing for us. The rejection of free grace is the most deadly temptation there is because righteousness can arise under the guise of a “type of grace” (like Rome’s infused grace or Calvin’s ‘power to believe’).

If one does that, so rejects Christ and that utterly naked free grace, what else is there. It IS impossible to restore such a one. And such a one is not the figment of faith the Calvinist propose (didn’t really have saving faith), but did and threw it off. It’s a hardness that becomes crystallized so deluded in being able to “do the Law” or “do something” that helps save.

I often find there are two types that leave the church, and by “church” I mean those false heterodoxy churches. There are those that leave the church, a heterodoxy, in which all they really heard was all the law, believers baptism, etc…and they find they at length can never find the peace of the Gospel. The hidden works righteousness in Rome, Arminian and Calvinistic thought is NOT innocuous. And these people much like I’ve found in ex-JWs or ex-Mormons reject this “religion”, become functioning agnostics or even functioning atheist. But what did they really reject? There’s the question. We cannot read hearts but some I suspect are just rejecting a down right demonic religion anyway. Be it Mormonism or the Southern Baptist believer’s baptism and all the false doctrine that goes along with it. To me these, the rejecters of heterodoxy even though they don’t formally know it as such, have not recalcitrantly fallen away, they have NOT rejected the real faith. How could they?

To fall away or reject presupposes having actually been there to do so. Were they really “those who have once been enlightened” under believers baptism which utterly denies the Gospel? Have they really “tasted the heavenly gift” under baptistic memorial meal doctrines or Calvin’s demonic symbolism only? No they have not, and thus it would be difficult for them to fall away from that which they never had. If Law and Gospel is confused all over the place how much of the true Holy Spirit have they received in the Word?

These seem not to be the one’s who have fallen away and unable to return due to impossibility because they have heard, been enlightened and tasted the Gospel of Christ and Him crucified FOR THEM. Now those that actually have, if THEY reject it, they are rejecting that which saves and it is again not a sin of magnitude so much as it’s obvious nature – open rejection in the face of the facts.

Anonymous said...

Part 3 of 3
Those burnt on religion are indeed hard to approach because the devil has done his job well. They’ve heard a thousand times “the way to salvation” and a thousand times been given their hidden works righteousness assignments only to be burned out. They’ve probably even heard the old bait and switch of evangelicalism that offers a “free grace” up front then in fine print says, “pay at the door”, then been burned out on it. So they are probably very skeptical even of someone saying, even a Lutheran, “No really, I MEAN free grace…no price tag added…EVER”. That’s where a fresh assault of the Cross must come, not a new word or new Gospel but the Gospel speaks so as to assault the ‘bait and switch’ solidly. Something like, “EVEN if I don’t get better, you mean I still get to go to heaven (for Christ’s sake)”, “Yes!”. “EVEN if I don’t produce fruits”, “Yes!” Oh and my favorite Capon version of this, we have to keep in mind how sinful man artfully learns the art of the right answer even of Scripture, “So you mean I have a license to sin”, well in a way yes. That’s not against Paul in Romans but in the same light, but it has to ferret out how false religion has used Paul in Romans to put an “at last” kibosh on the Gospel.

When THAT offense from the Cross comes roaring through, they might actually for the first time, having been calloused on the “bait and switch” for so long HEAR the Gospel for the first time.

We never help ourselves by teaming up with the heterodox, their doctrines are not part of the solution…they are the CORE problem. They deceive more than outright cults do.

You know me, I'm always long winded for better or worse:-)


Brigitte said...

Luther called it "ein harter Knochen", a tough bone to chew, this verse.

Bror Erickson said...

Yes Larry,
What was the point again?:)
But I liked what you wrote.
It is true from a Lutheran perspective, not much different between Geneva and Rome, which is why I think Protestants often not really seeing what is wrong with their position, but smelling something, go to Rome, it is familiar territory, arguing about works. Teaching of the law without understanding.

Jonathan said...

I think in my first post I wrote the Cliff's Notes version of what Larry said in three posts.

Nancy said...

"However, "Apart from me you can do nothing." And, "All things are possible with God." I wonder if the real 'maturity' of doctrine being spoken of here is that repentence is not our work but that of the HS."

Jonathan...I believe you got it!