So we've been doing some theological debating on Carnal Christianity in regard to it's relationship to the Perseverance of the Saints or Eternal Security.
First, I'm going to agree with some of the others and say that in the parable of the sower only in the last scenario is the person truly saved. Initially, I thought differently from reading it on my own, but I've been reading some other thoughts on it and I changed my mind.
I wanted to publish some thoughts from a few books, but I can't find one of them. I'll try to summarize it the best I can.
First though, from the Westminster Confession (17.1):
"They, whom God hath accepted in His Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved."
From my Bible, the Reformation Study Bible, general editor, R.C. Sproul, 1995, p. 1781:
"Those who pursue holiness of heart and love of neighbor and so show themselves to have been regenerated by God are entitled to believe themselves secure in Christ. Belief in perseverance properly understood does not lead to careless living and arrogant presumption.
The regenerate may backslide and fall into sin. In so doing they oppose their own new nature, and the Holy Spirit convicts them of their sin (cf. John 16:8) and compels them to repent and be restored to righteousness. When regenerate believers manifest a humble, grateful desire to please the God who saved them, the knowledge that He has pledged to keep them safe forever increases that desire."
Other Bible citations supporting the Perseverance of the Saints: Phil. 1:6, cf. 1 Cor. 1:8-9, 1 Thess. 5:23-24, 2 Thess. 3:3, 2 Tim. 1:12, 4:18.
With all that said, you may think I'm going to change my mind and say Carnal Christianity is impossible, but I'm not :) I'm not going to get into the Biblical side of that. I think the article Amanda posted and Scott in his reply to Amanda's post from May 5 did a pretty good job of summing up that aspect.
The book that I wanted to use a quote from on here, that I know I own and am mad that I can't find, is from Messy Spirituality by Mike Yaconelli. Unfortunately, Mike died before I ever had the opportunity to hear him speak, but I would like to encourage everyone who works in any type of ministry to read his books!
This quote comes from the book Getting Fired for the Glory of God. It's a book of excerpts his kids put together after his death. It's either speeches or columns he wrote. This one comes from "Caring for Your Own Souls while Ministering to Others." I think this is a great testimony to this entire topic we're covering. (pp. 132 and 133).
"When I was 20, I knew everything about Jesus. I swaggered into high schools afraid of no one's arguments. The Bible was true, Jesus was God, and we all needed him. I still believe those things, but the swagger is more like a limp now. I know Jesus, but I don't know much about him. I love the Bible - it's even more true to me today than it was 40 years ago - but the truth I see now is much more complicated and mysterious. Jesus is very real to me, but he's also very elusive. Sometimes I wonder if I'm following him, or he's following me. Life has left it's scars on me. My soul is thick and leathery, faded and torn, knocked around a lot. I'm not as sure about things as I used to be.
Yet here's the amazing part, the one abosolute I cannot shake: Jesus.
As many times as I have disappointed him, as often as I have run from him, he hasn't given up on me. Every time I turn around, he's there. Every time I run from him, he's there.
I don't know as much about Jesus as I used to, but I do know one truth for sure: He's closer."
Some other thoughts:
I personally feel it does us no good to debate theology unless we're going to apply the truths that we uncover to our lives and our ministries. In my personal life, I've long been comforted by the assurance that Christ is continually working in my life. Sometimes I feel like it's more like a tug-of-war than anything else, but it's also reassuring to me to know that Christ is not yet finished me and that He'll bring me to completion! There are times in my life where I question my faith, and it is during those times, that I cling to this truth!
Recently, I've had two other thoughts running through my head:
Equipping Members from Ministry and
the Role of the Church in regard to Conviction.
I've spent a lot of time studying Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry and also PDYM, both by Doug Fields, the youth pastor at Saddleback in So. CA. The leadership at our church has also been studying Purpose Driven Church by Rick Warren. (Even if you're not a big Saddleback fan, I would find it hard to believe you could disagree with too much in these books. They have done an excellent job of concretely discribing and organizing how churches should work and wrote it in a very easy to understand format). One of things they emphasize in their books is that members of the church are called into ministry. Obviously, this doesn't mean paid full-time ministry, but your church should have a way for every member to engage in ministry.
Hold on, I'm going to get back to that . . . .
Yesterday, Richard and I were watching some videos produced by Jeanne Mayo's group Youth Leaders' Coach. The video's were suppliments to her book Dirty Little Secrets. Jeanne is hard core; she's not afraid to tackle tough issues. Anyway, she gave this quote by Dr. Dobson. I can't remember it exactly, but the point was this: Dr. Dobson estimates that more young men leave the church over guilt in the area of masturbation than for any reason. That blew my mind! Richard wasn't surprised.
I'm going to roll all of this together now.
Assumming God preserves those whom He calls AND Christians can live carnally, we can therefore assume there are young men (and women) out there who are living carnally most likely out of a false pretense that they will never be able to live up to God's standards! And consequently, are totally missing the bigger picture of God's calling for them into ministry, to bear fruit.
When we start judging people's salvation based on our perceptions* of carnality, we become the very people who are driving sinners out of the church! And I believe it was not your ordinary sinners but rather the morally righteous people at that time whom Jesus was talking about when he said, "Away from me you evil doers." They were the people who held righteousness up for the sake righteousness, rather than righteousness up out of a love filled, humble response to God's calling in their lives.
Okay . . . I'm done! And Amanda, I think we probably did agree from the very beginning :)
*I used the word perception because in order to judge carnality we have to as humans to be able to say, well, here is the line between just sinning and being carnal. I can attest to doing things in my life that I knew were sins, but I wasn't repenting for them and I certainly was justifying them. Did that make me carnal? And if you assume that one can't be carnal and a Christian, explain how I was?