Full Text for Dogmatics 2- Volume 88 - is it possible for the elect to fall away from faith? (Video)

ROUGHLY EDITED COPY CUENet AUDIO TRANSCRIPTION DOGMATICS 2 LESSON 88 Captioning Provided By: Caption First, Inc. 10 E. 22nd Street Suite 304 Lombard, IL 60148 800-825-5234 *** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. *** >> Okay. I understand that now. I can know that I am elect. But is it possible for the elect to fall away from faith? >> Yes, I can see how that would be a concern. Because election isn't going to do you a lot of good if you're going to fall away. I think that's what you're getting at. And here I think we have to apply the law-Gospel distinction to this question as we have to all the other questions, that there's really two answers. Because there are, in fact, scripture passages that say, for instance, that God who has done -- begun a good work in us will see it to completion on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. That God is going to finish his work in us and that he's not going to let anyone snatch us from his hand. That he will preserve us in the faith, too. At the same time there are scripture passages that refer to warnings against falling away. For instance, in Hebrews Chapter 3 we read, "See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God but encourage one another daily as long as it is called today so none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." So scriptures hold out the real possibility of somebody whose heart is hardened by sin's deceitfulness and who falls away. So it is possible for that to happen? Now, how do you negotiate these different scripture passages? How do they fit together? And here we have the two total responsibilities that apply. Just as they applied in the case of election, they apply in the case of perseverance, as well. When we persevere to the end and we receive the crown of life, it's because God has preserved us in the faith. It's not because we have managed to keep ourselves safe. On the other hand, if someone does fall away, which can happen, that is totally the responsibility of the person who fell away. They fell away because they were led astray by sin and they decided to follow that. And so the total human responsibility applies in that case. And just as in the case of election, this distinguishes Lutheran theology both from Calvinism and from synergism. Because in Calvinism, perseverance is the work of God. And there really is no possibility of falling away. Because if God elects you, he's also going to see you through and you'll without a doubt make it to heaven. Whereas in synergism, it's really human responsibility that you cooperate with God in order to persevere to the end. And it's human responsibility that leads some people actually to fall away. Whereas in Lutheran theology, God promises to preserve us. But when people fall away, it is their own doing. So it's really the same kind of paradoxical dynamic that we see in the doctrine of election, in the law-Gospel distinction itself, that also applies when it comes to perseverance. Now, that does not mean that God's promises to preserve us in the faith are not real? And I want to make this point. Because sometimes you hear it said by Lutherans that -- and they are referring to Jesus' statement. That in John 10, "I give them eternal life and they shall never perish. No one can snatch them out of my hand." Sometimes you'll hear it said that we're in God's hand and no one can snatch us out of his hand but we can jump out if we decide to. And I guess there's some truth to that. Because if someone does fall away, it is, in fact, their full responsibility. But that makes it sound like God doesn't actually promise to preserve us against our own sinful nature. He's only promising to preserve us against outside forces. That's not what these promises say. "I give them eternal life." "They shall never perish." "He who began a good work in you will carry it on into completion until the day of Christ Jesus." So God's promises are fully serious. And when you're speaking to someone who is worried about falling away and they are worried because they look at their own lives and their own hearts and they recognize their sin, those people need to hear that full blast promise of God that even their sin is not going do keep them away from God. That he's got them in his hand. Whereas the people that don't care about their sin, you don't tell them God is going to preserve them. You give them those passages that warn against falling away. Now, I totally understand that this doesn't fit together in terms of human reason. Well, like does God keep us or not? I mean, and as I said before, it's not a question of trying to make everything fit together rationally. It's a question of what -- which of the two words that we have, law or Gospel, do you give in which situation? And in that sense, I believe that the analogy I used at the beginning of the section of the course was Lutheran theology is more like a computer program than a system. And this is a really good example. That we actually do have a way of knowing which word to give which people. It's just if you want to try to make those words fit together, you really can't do it that well. And so that is part of the cross that Lutheran theologians bear is the inability to come up with this nice rationally pleasing doctrinal system. *** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. ***