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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Double Crucifixion. Part XVI - Who Is This Hypothetical Fellow?
If you haven't done so already, you may want to read the posts which preceded this one (for some context):
     I, II,III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, and XV.

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. - Hebrews 6:4-6 [ESV]

What we have determined so far is that when the author describes an hypothetical person who has been enlightened, has tasted the heavenly gift, and has shared in the Holy Spirit and tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come - it doesn't necessarily cause us to conclude that this hypothetical person is a believer.

What is certain (up to this point at least), is that the hypothetical person has intimate knowledge about God, Christianity, and what it means to be a Christian. As yet, we can't say with certainty whether the hypothetical person represents a believer or an apostate/false convert.

Here now our theology can cause us to jump the shark, as it were, so let's be on our guard against that. I have been guilty in the past of reading my theology into this text, so I want to make sure I don't do that, and you should too.

If we believe already that a person can lose their salvation, we will be inclined to regard this person as a believer because we see the word "fall away" and we want to make this text prove what we already have decided.

Likewise, if we believe that a believer doesn't pop in and out of salvation, we will also be inclined to write this off as a false convert or an apostate - since that satisfies our theology.

But the text does not stop there, and neither should we. Let's hold off on our conclusions for just a moment longer.

For the sake of clarity, let us remove the shopping list and look at the structure of the sentence that encompasses it:
For it is impossible ...to restore them again to repentance.

Really, we could have done this at the beginning, but I wanted examine the list and show that it isn't wrong to say that the list, by itself is inconclusive. But I think that when we set the list aside, and look at what is being said of this person, the answer to our original query will become unmistakable, and unavoidable.

The first question that we must ask is whether the word "again" is actually in the Greek, and the answer is that the word -is- in the original language. Why do we ask? How is that significant? We ask, and it is significant because the word "again" here tells us that we are examining not a true vs. a false state, but a previous vs. present state.

What the author is saying is that it is impossible to once again restore someone to a previous state - and in this case that previous state is a state of repentance.

Now, because it makes no sense whatsoever to be restored to a previous state of false repentance (since that could hardly be described as "impossible"), we must conclude that in this passage the author is talking about falling away from a genuine repentance - ergo - falling away from a genuine faith.

Thus even though the shopping list was ambiguous by itself, yet in the light of this little word again, we must conclude that this passage is describing a genuine believer, and the impossibility of his restoration to faith.

What we have left to decide however, is what this means... and I tip my hand a bit by reminding you that we began this exercise by examining one type of biblical argument: reductio ad absurdum.

In the next, concluding post, we will draw our final conclusion about what the author means, and add some verses from the text itself to show the consistency of our interpretation. Till then.


posted by Daniel @ 9:13 AM  
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