Can I lose my salvation?

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Can I lose my salvation?

Apr 10, 2003 |J. Budziszewski
Question

I was talking with two girls when the subject of Christianity came up. I mentioned how it's cool that we can't lose our salvation. That set one of them off. She said that we can lose our salvation by using our free will to reject God and commit mortal sins.

I understand her, but I can't believe that a true Christian would ever reject God. I'm meeting the girls later to discuss the matter further, and would like to know what you think about it.

Answer

There are certain questions about which Christians have historically disagreed, and the question "Can one lose one's salvation?" is one of them. One of the answers must be wrong and one of them must be right, but real Christians are found on both sides. Some Protestants think you can't lose your salvation. Roman Catholics, as well as other Protestants, think you can. A frustrating aspect of the controversy is that Christians have historically disagreed not only about whether you can lose your salvation, but also about how important it is to settle the question in the first place.

The argument that a Christian can lose his salvation runs like this. Even Christians sometimes sin, and even Christians sometimes find it difficult to repent. Obstinate refusal to repent is a kind of rebellion against God, and it's hard to see how someone who is in rebellion against God when he dies can wind up with God in heaven. Why would he even want to be with Him? Those who think that a Christian cannot lose his salvation reply that if someone obstinately refuses to repent of his sin, persisting in refusal until death, he couldn't have been a real Christian in the first place.

You might say "Let's settle the question by consulting the Bible," and that's a good idea, but both sides of the controversy claim biblical support. They disagree about the meaning of certain important passages of Scripture. For example, those who think Christians can lose their salvation quote what Paul says in Romans 11:

Note then the kindness and the severity of God: Severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off.

But those who think Christians cannot lose their salvation quote what he says just three chapters earlier:

For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul isn't contradicting himself. The question is: Which group has interpreted his words correctly? Instead of merely throwing verses at each other, we need to put those verses in context and think hard about what Paul is really saying.

I could give you my own view of the matter, but I don't want you to decide which view is right just because I say so. I'll just say that among Protestants, the most well-known defender of the view that we cannot lose our salvation is John Calvin, and among the most well-known defenders of the view that we can lose our salvation is John Wesley. You may want to look up what Calvinists and Wesleyans say about the issue yourself. The best source for the Roman Catholic view is the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Grace and peace,
PROFESSOR THEOPHILUS

Copyright 2003 Professor Theophilus. All rights reserved.

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