Review: A Long Faithfulness

Scot McKnight is one of my favorite biblical scholars. He writes with clarity and precision. He writes as both the scholar and the pastor. I loved his books Blue Parakeet and The King Jesus Gospel and recommend them both. McKnight just published an essay entitled A Long Faithfulness: The Case for Christian Perseverance where McKnight examines the idea of eternal security or the perseverance of the saints, the idea that once a person genuinely converts to Jesus they are secure in that faith and will persevere into the eternal age.

In this book McKnight takes on the Calvinistic doctrine of perseverance. Calvinism is best summarized, but not limited to, the acronym TULIP: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints. These doctrines are rooted in what McKnight calls “meticulous sovereignty,” the doctrine that God rules over his creation so completely that every molecule of matter behaves the way it does because God wills it to do so. Humans behave the way they do because God so wills it. Whether or not a person comes to faith in Jesus is because God wills it. This idea is most vocally expressed by John Piper. He is supported by other voices like D A Carson, Mark Driscoll and institutions/organizations like Southern Seminary, Together For the Gospel (T4G) and The Gospel Coalition (TGC).

To do so McKnight deploys biography and a survey of the so-called Warning Passages of the book of Hebrews (Hebrews 2:1-4; 3:7-4:13; 5:11-6:12; 10:19-39; 12:1-29). McKnight first sketches out an autobiography to detail his own personal journey with the ideas of Calvinism. He is someone who has been a Calvinist so his summary of the ideas reflect an understanding that can only come from such knowing. He is very gracious to Calvinistic ideas and those theologians who hold them.

His survey of his own exegesis reduces the Hebrews texts that are known as the Warning Passages to four points that he will spell out in deeper detail:

  1. The Audience: the writer of Hebrews addresses a congregation of believers;
  2. The Sin: the writer of Hebrews is concerned that his audience will apostatize and walk away from the faith;
  3. The Exhortation: The writer exhorts his audience to persevere in the faith lest they apostatize;
  4. The Consequence: if they commit the sin of apostasy and fail to persevere the audience will suffer eternal damnation.

This little essay is a great read for a surface level investigation into this very complicated subject. This debate cannot be simply reduced to just Hebrews, but his discussion of Hebrews is very well conducted. His observations are powerful and I find him very convincing. It ends on the right beat, looking pastorally at the implications of God granting freedom to humans to chose or un-chose God in their salvation and discipleship.

However, only a couple of years ago I wouldn’t have. This debate is the kind of debate that once one has made up his or her mind, it’s very difficult to persuade that person to the other side. But McKnight acknowledges this in the book.

If you are someone who is interested in this debate and wants to see an Arminian take on the subject this is for them. For someone like myself, who would like to see an in-depth look at the subject, it’s a nice read that shows how the text works on a survey-like level. If you’re Calvinist and wants to read the other side in a well presented case, this is your book.

In short, for $3.99 on the Kindle, it’s well worth the read.


~ by hankimler on June 2, 2013.

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