Monday, June 15, 2009

Run to Win the Prize - Schreiner

Tom Schreiner has a new book coming out with IVP called Run to Win the Prize: Perserverance in the New Testament. This book is a kinda shorter and simplified version of the fine volume he co-wrote with Ardel Caneday The Race Set Before Us. Over at the American IVP webpage, there is an excellent excerpt from the book which gives a couple of good examples of people who fall away and backslide. It show that every pastor and Christian needs to have a doctrine of perseverance worked out (in some form), so that they can make sense of how people fall away and backslide. I include them below:

Let me begin with two stories to illustrate the concerns of this book. Years ago, a young woman and her husband came to a Bible study I was leading. Two days after the Bible study they visited our house for dinner, and she expressed a keen desire to become a Christian. I was hesitant because she knew so little about the Christian faith. Nevertheless, I concluded that I might be resisting the Holy Spirit, and one thing led to another and she confessed Jesus as her Saviour that night in our living room. I assured her after her confession of faith that she was securely saved forever: that nothing she did could remove her from the eternal life that was hers. Her husband shortly thereafter followed her in the same faith. They both grew rapidly in the faith during the next year, and we were regularly involved in Bible studies with them. But a year after her confession of faith, she changed dramatically. She decided to divorce her husband, quit attending church, and ceased going to Bible studies. I pleaded with her to at least go into counselling, but to no avail. All of this happened many years ago, and I have since lost all contact with her, though I know there was no change of mind or repentance in the next fifteen years.

The other story also relates to a friend who prayed with me to become a believer. I saw the radiance and joy in her life. She began to grow in remarkable ways. And yet, in a year or two the early bloom of her faith began to fade. She began to get drunk on a fairly regular basis. She ended up living with a person who was an adherent of Buddhism. On one occasion I said to her, ‘By this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments’ (1 John 2:3). A number of years passed. She broke off the relationship with the first man and ended up getting married to another. Still no desire for the things of God and Jesus Christ manifested itself. And yet, after a few years of marriage, a change began to take place. Her desire to follow the Lord resurfaced, and she began to read Scripture, pray and take seriously her church involvement. Once again she began to talk to me about spiritual matters. She gave every indication that she belonged to Jesus Christ and that she loved him. A significant period of time had intervened between her first confession of faith and the return to her first love. Was her first experience a sham, so that she was truly saved the second time? Or did she lose her salvation and regain it later? Or was she a believer the entire time, with a temporary lapse in her faith and obedience?

Sounds like a good read that can help Christians how to biblically interpret and pastorally respond to very sensitive (and often sad) situations.


Angie Van De Merwe said...

Personal experience is how some people understand and come to faith. But, these experiences of supernatural "encounter" are translated within certain paradigms, or ways of understanding faith (which I believe are humanity's "felt needs"). When an accumulation of contradictory experiences transpire, it becomes an absurdity for reason to continue to believe. This is the crisis of an experience-based faith.

Whereas experience-based faith bears weaknesses, so does a reason-based one. Those who have come to understand their tradition through reason, also have limitations. These rationales have been the "splits" of sectarianism in understanding "truth". Religions are the "rationales" of faith, as the "rationales" define the tradition. But, tradition that is not accomodating to "reality" becomes irrelavant to and in a changing world.

Truth in personal terms cannot be understood apart from freedom. Because freedom allows the individual an avenue of expression of faith that is necessary for the affirmation of the humane/personal. In this sense, religion is in opposition to humanity and the humane, as it represents an oppressive "ideal" that requires obedience, whereas humannism should be the first and foremost affirmation of anything that concerns "god".

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