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Herbert Bateman: Four Views on the Warning Passages in Hebrews

Buist M. Fanning (representing the classical Reformed view) supports the teaching that ‘believers’ who do not persevere were never ‘genuine’ Christians in the first place. He goes to great lengths to maintain this contention even though he admits “this approach does require an adjustment to the straightforward reading of Hebrews 6:4-8 and 10:26-29.” At the same time, he alleges that every interpreter ‘adjusts’ these texts in some fashion, according to his or her theology.4 Thus in spite of what the introductory chapter claims, Fanning does not believe those about to fall away were true Christians.

Gareth Lee Cockerill (representing the Wesleyan Arminian view) does not believe one can repent after apostasy, but he does consent to backsliding that can be remedied by repentance.5 Otherwise, he follows the Wesleyan Arminian position. As I understand it, the Wesleyan position differs from the classical Arminian position by its emphasis on prevenient grace. However, the classical Arminian view does not deny the existence of prevenient grace.

Randall C. Gleason (representing the moderate Reformed view) does not believe the saints in question are in danger of eternal punishment, only temporary physical discipline in this life.6 He buttresses his argument with an extended examination of the children of Israel on their journey to the Promise Land as described in the Book of Numbers.7

In my opinion, Robert Shank’s view that persons cannot repent only as long as “they are crucifying [continuous tense] the Son of God all over again and subjecting [continuous tense] him to public disgrace” (Heb. 6:6) received too little consideration.8 His view seems to reconcile better with the rest of the New Testament teaching on the unwillingness of God for anyone to perish (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9; Rev. 2:21) and the potential return of the apostate or backslider as the case may be (e.g., the apostle Peter who denied the Lord; Rom. 11:23-24; Gal. 6:1).

While it may not fall exactly under the purview of these warning passages, these authors do not provide enough explanation concerning the difference, if any, between apostasy and backsliding. Scripture makes a serious threat in these passages without seeming to provide clear parameters as to when an individual has crossed the line. Furthermore, how does apostasy differ from backsliding? Why would one be redeemable and the other not? And is apostasy equivalent to the unpardonable sin?

This volume reveals that a plausible case can be made for each of the four views and that equally sincere scholars who hold the Scriptures in high regard adhere to each view. While each author ably defends his position with an irenic spirit, a number of readers may become lost in the many minor technicalities and lose sight of the major issues. Well-informed persons will find much to promote further reflection and toleration for other viewpoints. It is doubtful many will change their mind on these passages as a result of studying this book. Nevertheless, it should prove to be of immense value to seminary professors and their students.

Reviewed by Steve D. Eutsler

 

Notes

1For example, Zondervan’s Counterpoints series such as: Stan N. Gundry, series editor. Four Views on Eternal Security (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002).

2 Bateman, Herbert W., IV, gen. ed. Four Views on the Warning Passages in Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2007), p. 24.

3Ibid., p. 128.

4Ibid., p. 218.

5Ibid., p. 257.

6Ibid., pp. 337, 366.

7Ibid., pp. 340-60.

8Robert Shank, Life in the Son: A Study of the Doctrine of Perseverance (Springfield, MO: Westcott, 1961), pp. 309-29.

 

Excerpt from the publisher: http://store.kregel.com/client/excerpt/978-0-8254-2132-7.pdf [available as of July 7, 2014]

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Category: Biblical Studies, Winter 2010

About the Author: Steve D. Eutsler, D.Min. (Assemblies of God Theological Seminary), M.Div. (Assemblies of God Theological Seminary), M.A. Biblical Literature (Assemblies of God Theological Seminary), B.A. Bible (Central Bible College), is professor of Bible and Practical Theology at Global University in Springfield, Missouri. He has extensive experience as a pastor, evangelist, and educator and is the author of numerous articles and books. www.wix.com/SteveEutsler/reveut Email

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