Christian faith is driven by the underlying notion that doctrinal adherence will lead to salvation. However, just exactly how one effectively adheres and achieves that salvation is a matter very much up for dispute. In fact, this is the dispute at the center of this discussion, which considers what some consider to be among the most divisive matters in the Christian faith. The question of eternal security drives not only this discussion but also a great many scholarly debates among clergy and theologians in the Church. Specifically, a long-standing disagreement divides paths of adherence between those who believe in either conditional security or eternal (or, by counterpoint, unconditional) security. The account hereafter will offer some explanations for the distinctions is these two orientations of faith as well as a final position on the subject as drawn from relevant scripture and commentary.
The commentary by Kowalski (2013) serves as a useful starting point on the present discussion. Kowalski offers some introductory information, including a basic breakdown of the different denominations associated with the views discussed here. According to Kowalski, eternal security is a concept largely espoused in the Calvinist school of Christian thought. Kowalski indicates that its counterpoint, conditional security, is most typically espoused by the Arminian denomination of Christian faith. This background is useful as we proceed into a more general discussion on the distinctions between these viewpoints.
Beginning with eternal security, we consider the frequent conflation between his and the notion of 'unconditional security.' The text by Oodart (2012) immediately disputes the idea that these views are one and the same, instead indicating that even with eternal security, the condition of true faith must always be a presence. To the point, any mention made of the promise of salvation in the scriptures is pointedly addressed to those who have chosen faith and to the exclusion of those who have not. Oodart analyzes this message as it appears in Romans 8: 35-39, where the author asserts that "the promise and security presented in this passage of Scripture is only for believers ("us" in verse 35). None of these things are true of unbelievers and nothing in the passage suggests that faith cannot be abandoned or that love for God cannot grow cold (Matt. 24:12). This passage gives assurance to believers who are suffering persecution that such sufferings should not be interpreted as indicating that God no longer favors them or loves them. No amount of persecution or opposition can overwhelm the believer since the believer always has the victory in Christ." (Oodart, p. 1)
By distinguishing the 'believer' from all others, Oodart suggests that the qualification for security is not accessible at any point to those who don't truly believe. Therefore, the idea of conditionality diverges from the basic understanding that faith is the only conditionality. In other words, one who as actually achieved this level of belief cannot be dissuaded of it. Consistent with this view, the article by Slick (2010) offers one of the more potent endorsements for the concept of eternal security encountered in available literature. In Slick's perception, the Bible does preach the concept of Eternal Security. The promise at the heart of the scripture is that if one accepts that Jesus was God's only son, that he died for our sins and that he is the Lord and Savior, one will be granted an eternity in the kingdom of heaven. That this is a core assumption of the Christian faith itself for many and is yet rejected by many other adherents to the same faith is what drives the debate to such great intensity even in present day.
Slick employs the scriptures to support the view that eternal security is explicitly granted by God to those who possess and demonstrate faith. Their path to heaven is assured by the teachings of the Bible, Slick and other advocates for the doctrine of eternal security believe. Accordingly, Slick quotes John 6:37:40, which teaches us that "All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. 38 'For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.' 39 'And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.' 40 'For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day,' (John 6:37-40)." (Slick, p. 1)
This means that once one has been saved, one is granted eternal salvation in accordance with God's Word in the Bible. In fact, Slick goes on to argue that because of its having been stated in the Scripture, any assertions to the contrary are simply subject to incorrect interpretation. In Slick's perspective, God's promise not to cast out those who have accepted Jesus into their lives is an overriding doctrine that must influence are interpretation of all other questions relating to salvation.
Slick goes on to defend Eternal Security against the most notable objection (which will be discussed at greater length in the subsequent section of this discussion). The objection centers on the fear that a promise of unwavering salvation gives one the freedom to engage in sinful or otherwise ungodly behavior. To this concern, Slick responds directly, indicating that "eternal security is not a license to sin. The Christian is regenerated. He is changed from within, being made a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17). Those who were indwelt by the Holy Spirit will war with their sin and not seek to abide in it. Those who declare that they are eternally secure and then go out and sin on purpose in any manner they so choose are probably not saved to begin with since this is contradictory to what Scripture teaches. 1 John 2:4 says, 'The one who says, 'I have come to know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.'" (Slick, p. 1)
In other words, Slick rejects the notion that security can be conditional and instead suggests that he who defies those would-be conditions for salvation has never truly recognized or accepted Christ into his life. In Slick's view, there is little room for individual interpretation of how best to behave in a Christian manner. Instead, he expresses the argument on behalf of eternal security that the distinction can only be drawn between adherents and non-adherents. The dividing line is not just a subject of belief but, as Slick asserts, of behavior as well. He who truly believes in Christ will walk in his teachings, however imperfectly.
Slick considers this as an absolutely essential dimension of the teachings of the scripture, suggesting that any assumption to the contrary dismantles our very cause for having true faith in our own salvation. The resource in question asserts that we as Christians require this to be an indisputable promise from God so as to protect us from arbitrary exclusion from the promise of eternal life and salvation at His right hand. For Slick, there are myriad selections of the scriptures that have been distorted in scholarly interpretation so as to suggest the contrary, that one has been saved must constantly do the work of the Lord in order to protect this salvation. But as Slick shows, the Bible states God's intention to raise up on the last day of Earth all those who have been saved, a promise that is eternal and transcends even the nature of death. This encompassing promise also transcends sinful behavior for which one has sought forgiveness and from which one has repented in his or her way of living.
Accordingly, Slick observes, quoting further from John 6 that verses 39 and 40 "tell us that Jesus will raise them up on the last day. The one group of people who are raised on the last day are those who have been given by the Father to the Son (v. 37), who have believed on the Son (v. 40), who have eternal life (v. 40), and cannot be lost." (Slick, p. 4)
To Slick, this is a clear statement of intent on eternal security rather than the counterpoint it is often invoked to make. That is, the notion that one who has taken Jesus into his or her life cannot be cast out from the promise of eternity remains a guiding premise for the maintenance of faith or, in those who have failed the Lord, a return to faith. In fact, this is the Slick article's most compelling point. If we remove the promise of eternal security for those who have strayed, they will be given little cause to return to the fold.
In essence, those who find themselves either incapable of maintaining a…