A Calvinist Wrestles With Hebrews 6:4-6

Derek Ouellette —  July 30, 2010 — 5 Comments

I came across this blog the other day and really appreciated what the author had to say about Hebrews 6:4-6. The author is a Calvinist and so here is an honest and admirably reflective post. I also thought the comments were rather entertaining and have posted them here as well. Enjoy.

Jason:

Well, I’ve made it to the always-treacherous Hebrews 6:4-8 in my morning series. I still struggle with this passage, which shouldn’t be a surprise given my belief in eternal security. My study through the passage this time has yielded some helpful insights, but questions remain.

One article I read proposed an interesting interpretation. It was “Hebrews 6:4-6 from an Oral Critical Perspective” by Casey W. Davis (JETS 51/4,  December 2008, 753–67). Essentially he argued that the author of Hebrews was suggesting that he himself could no longer assist them in restoring repentance due to their immaturity. Of course, the argument is much more detailed and if you’re interested in reading it, I’ll be glad to send you a copy (assuming there’d be no issues with sharing an article).

At the end of the day, I think the author means for the warnings to be taken seriously, otherwise they seem rather gratuitous. All the references back to the wilderness wanderings can’t be ignored. Yet, at the same time, I read the teachings of Christ, Paul, et al, to show that God will keep his people from committing full-blown apostasy. So how do I reconcile?

Tension!:-)

Comments:

Joel:

Jason, Hebrews is filled with warnings of apostasy, and not just in 6.4-8. 10 calls it a willful sin, hearkening back to the high handed sin in Numbers. The Psalms of Solomon (c. 63bce) speaks only of repentance for sins of ignorance, which no doubt includes sins of weakness. The way I read the entire book of Hebrews is that if we commit apostasy with our hand raised to heaven, they is no hope for us. Yet, in our sins of stupidity, weakness, and ignorance God keeps us.

P.S. Paul himself wrote that he didn’t want to become a reprobate, which is the same language used in Hebrews 6.

Jason:

Joel: So do you read this in terms of impossibility of being renewed to repentance=damnation? I tend toward being renewed to repentance means that there is a point that Christian can reach in living disobediently that warrants God’s punishment/discipline and from which there is little likelihood of repentance.

Joel:

I think there is more here than just being disobedient, but out right rejecting Christ. I do think there is a point, however, that being disobedient leads to a point where rejection is possible and probable.

Brian:

Davis’ article is available on the internet:

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3817/is_200812/ai_n31171934/

I know how you can reconcile the “tensions”: adopt the Arminian perspective. :-)

Jason:

Brian: What, and disregard the whole of Scripture? ;-)

Joel:

Jason, don’t you mean the ‘hole’ in Scripture, as seeing that Calvinism was left out completely. :)

Be Sociable, Share!

Derek Ouellette

Posts Twitter Facebook Google+

a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • http://eisdoxan.wordpress.com Jason

    Derek: Thanks for the blurb! I must say, however, that I generally don’t like to identify myself as a “Calvinist” because of the negative stereotypes associated with it. Though I am more Reformed in my theology than not, I steer away from labels if I can (except the label “Christian”–take that Anne Rice!).

  • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

    My apology Jason, I got the impress that you proudly embraced the label of Calvinism. :( Sorry.

  • JAMES FLETCHER

    I AM AFRAID WE ARE SEEING THIS HEBREWS WARNING BEING PLAYED OUT EVERY SINGLE DAY. THESE ARE PEOPLE WHO TRULY BELIEVED. THEIR SALVATION STATUS IS NOT THE MAIN ISSUE UNFORTUNATELY. THERE ARE MANY CHRISTIANS falling AWAY FROM THE CHRISTIAN FAITH INTO WORLD FAITHS,TO PUT IT NICELY. I SEE THEIR WEB POSTINGS WHEN A CHRISTIAN DEFECTS AND JOINS THEM. THE CULTS AND WORLD FAITHS,SO CALLED,MAKE SURE EVERYONE SEES THEY HAVE CONVERTED A CHRISTIAN TO THEIR WAY OF THINKING. PETER WARNED US THAT THE LOVE OF MANY SHALL WAX COLD. IN THIS CASE THEIR LOVE FOR CHRIST. THE THING THAT SENDS ANYONE TO HELL IS UNBELIEF. IF A CHRISTIAN NO LONGER BELIEVES THERE IS NOTHING THAT CAN CONVINCE HIM OTHERWISE.I BELIEVE THIS APPLIES TO THOSE WHO ARE ADVANCED ENOUGH TO KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING. WHAT BETTER PROMOTION FOR OTHER RELIGIONS AND WHAT A REOROACH ON CHRIST!

  • Colby

    It is important to look at the surrounding scriptures in this chapter, specifically the end of 6 through verse 8:

    “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. (7) For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. (8) Butif it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed,and its end is to be burned.”

    When looked at the context of the target audience we can see that this is a person is in a continual state of putting Christ back on the cross.

    Now could they really put him back on the cross?
    Of course not.

    Could they even believe that he is back on the cross?
    No.

    So we are talking about in their lifestyle they were putting him back on the cross. The analogy gives us a clear picture that this is in context to a continual state and not a momentary one. While in this state it is impossible to come to a place of repentance and therefore a place of fruitfulness or usefulness. If you follow the argument it leads us to conclude that if the field is burned, the person come to a place where they are nolonger crusifying Christ then he is able to come to a place of repentance and followed by fruitfulness.

    It becomes apparent when all the variables come into play that this result only applies to that vary specific heart condition.

    This passage only at first appears to speak on salvation because of the phrase to fall away, but when taken in context this is not the case. This section of the book is referring to your works as a result of your eternal disposition. Hebrews 6:9 we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation. So “better things-things that belong to salvation”, things of salvation can not be better than things of salvation. Therefore the previous section has to be regarding a different subject because A can not be both A and not A. This would be illogical and we do not serve an illogical God.

    In regards to, “the thing that sends anyone to hell is unbelief”. This would be fine except for the fact that if we were saved because of our belief than this is our own doing or our own power. Therefore we were saved because what we did (believe) and this means we are saved by works and we have reason to boast. John 10 tells…

  • Colby

    us,

    22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly. 25 Jesus answered them, I told you, and you do not believe.The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

    This is one of the many verses where we can see that belief is a product of being part of Christs flock and not the other way around.

     Matthew 7:21-23 21Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demon sin your name, and do many mighty works in your name? 23 And then will I declare to them, I never knew you; depart from me,you workers of lawlessness.  

    This starts with saying on the surface that only the one who does the will of God will enter heaven. Although before you can run with this and get confused he say that there  be people who by our perception, did the will of God. He will say to them begone for I never knew you! How does this work? It contradicts itself! Oh but wait, it doesn’t, because only a man who does the will of God will enter heaven although not all of them will enter heaven. This is because only those whom Christ “knew” (this implies a true relationship) will enter.  So in reality it starts with God forknowing(greek means having a relationship with) who was to be given salvation. Then you believe as a response to his choosing you to be of his flock. This is followed by your doing his will as a result of your eternal disposition. 

    In the end; it starts with God, continues with God, and ends with God.