Does once saved always saved apply even though he became an atheist?
I stand at the graveside of a young student. Fifteen years old. Dead in an instant. Skateboarding on a foggy night and a car that never even saw a faint shadow, until it was too late.
I don’t know what I’m supposed to feel. I’ve met this kid only one time and he attended youth group functions only a couple other times. So my brain and my heart try to meet in the awkward unknowing of my emotions.
It’s sunny today, not a cloud in sight. The temperature is rising every minute it seems. Pockets of people merge into a large crowd.
Now the first song begins. Amazing Grace finally comes into focus as the mass of people pick up on the song choice. This, in spite of the poor sound quality of the amplification system.
As the song ends a young pastor comes up to the front podium. My eyes begin to squint as the small bit of shade shifts with the pattern of the sun. Not only will the sermon deal with a difficult subject but I’m now physically uncomfortable. No chair, hot clothes, and a sun that chose to shine brighter than it has all winter long.
The pastor begins with warm words to the family about their young son. He recalls the accident that led to their son’s instant death. His demeanor reeks of sorrowful joy. A dichotomous perspective typical to many evangelical funerals.
Now the pastor begins down a rabbit trail that catches my attention. This is a moment I’ve waited for ever since I caught wind of a rumor that this fifteen year old boy had recently professed himself an atheist. How does a pastor handle the questions generated from this reality?
Some folks wonder if this student is in hell. Others wonder if there’s any chance that God let him into heaven. I think about how I’d appeal to the wideness of God’s grace and defer the judgment to God. We have no place guessing what the Divine will do… at least in definite “yes” or “no” statements.
“We know that this student accepted Christ at a VBS at a young age. This prayer saved him from hell and we can have absolute confidence that he is in heaven. His salvation is forever.”
My ears can’t believe what they just heard. Instead of appealing to mystery (which would have left room for holding the student’s atheism in tension with God’s perfect judgment), he outright appealed to a “once saved always saved theology!” How can he do this with biblical and pastoral integrity?
I know that he is probably a good guy and has good intentions, but what he just said will leave more questions than answers. I like when we live with questions when they come from a helpful premise, but this “absolute confidence” approach will create pastoral difficulties.
It is now three days after the funeral. I pull up to the student’s close friend’s house to pick up a group of boys. I offered to take them out to pizza to have some fun in the midst of all the pain.
Driving to the restaurant we engage in small talk about quirky teachers, funny movies, and Xbox 360 games. I don’t know when the right time will be to bring up the death of their close buddy, but I know questions are coming.
After ordering two pizzas we sit down at the table closest to the video games. We play until the simmering pies of goodness arrive at our table. Over slices, I bring up the issue looming in the back of our minds.
They express to me how weird it is that their buddy is dead. Awkwardness arises in their tone when asked about the funeral service. Explicitly, one of them says: “Kurt, he wasn’t a Christian anymore. He told me that he was an atheist just two weeks ago.” This same student goes on to describe how the preacher came across as a liar to everyone who knew their friend. He was not a Christian.
In the back of my mind I reflect on the pastoral dilemma that “once saved always saved” theology creates. How will I move the conversation in a healthy direction from here? Hell is bound to come up. Do I tell them that you can be a Christian even if you deny it? I certainly don’t believe that.
“Does once saved always saved apply even though he became an atheist?”
What do you think? Does this theology create interesting pastoral scenarios? How would you discuss this issue with the friends of the victim? Other thoughts? And yes, I experimented with writing in a narrative format… just to push myself
FOR MY VIEW ON THIS ISSUE SEE: Can You Lose Your Salvation? Mark Driscoll and Greg Boyd in Dialogue
CC Image • Andrew E. Larsen on Flickr
- Octavia CarterHello I'm New Here!!
- Octavia CarterHello I'm New Here!!
- Octavia Carter just moved in. Take time to say hey.
- Debbie Harris published the blogpost May Jesus Christ Be The Ultimate Treasure We Always Seek by Debbie Harris..
- Debbie Harris published the blogpost Father Who Can We Graciously And Humbly Walk Beside Today Just To Love by Debbie Harris.
- Bryce Johnson just moved in. Take time to say hey.
- Bill Reichart published the blogpost 13 Resources For Ministry Leaders Who Struggle with Porn.
- Mike Liebler published the blogpost Expert Reveals Biggest Concern About Youngsters And Social Media.
- Mike Liebler published the blogpost Half (54%) Of US Teens Think Life Would Be Better Without Social Media.
- Jeffrey Totey published the blogpost Roy Lichtenstein's Most Popular Painting is Displayed.
- Mike Liebler published the blogpost After Confronting Campus Bully, HS Football Player Gets Suspended.
- Mike Liebler published the blogpost Conservative Student Is Victim Of ‘Racist Rape Apologist’ Attack Fliers.
- Mike Liebler published the blogpost Yik Yak app Putting Teens Behind Bars, Police Warn.
- Mike Liebler published the blogpost Hearing That Things Can Change Helps Teens Dodge Depression.
- Andrew Shivers just moved in. Take time to say hey.
- Daniel DeHart published the blogpost GIVEAWAY: Win a Framed “The Fault in Our Stars” FULL SIZE Movie Poster [Winner Chosen].
- Jeffrey Totey published the blogpost ‘Boxtrolls:’ Incredible Animation, Charmless Story.
- Jeffrey Totey published the blogpost Video of the Day: Dad Lip-Syncs Daughter's Tantrum.
- Michael Ernest published the blogpost SOTW: ‘Chasing After The Wind’ by Alan Powell (Free Friday Download).
- Matt Perman published the blogpost The Drive Video: If You Want Engagement, Self-Direction is Better.
- LuAnn Braley published the blogpost BOOK REVIEW/INTERVIEW: The Unexpected Earl by Philippa Jane Keyworth.
- Shane Blackshear published the blogpost Seminary Dropout 55: Gary Black Jr. – Co-author of The Divine Conspiracy Continued.
- Lori Fogleman published the blogpost ‘Believe Me': Alum’s thought-provoking film now in theaters.
- Michael Ramsey published the blogpost Stress Kills!!! Here's 3 Ways To Do Something About It.
- Larry Carter published the blogpost How The New Fall TV Season Reminds Me Of The Gospel.
- Brad Hambrick published the blogpost Overcoming Depression-Anxiety: A Suffering Paradigm (Seminar Videos).
- Brad Hambrick published the blogpost Overcoming Depression-Anxiety: A Personal Responsibility Paradigm (Seminar Videos).
- Brad Hambrick published the blogpost 20 Approaches to Battling Depression-Anxiety as Suffering.
- Daniel DeHart published the blogpost Review: ‘Hellion’ is A Wild, Family-Driven Ride Worth Taking.
- Daniel DeHart published the blogpost Review: ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2′ is Cool, Uncommitted.
- Daniel DeHart published the blogpost “Kidnapped for Christ” Review: The Terror of Teens.
- Daniel DeHart published the blogpost Review: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Pieces Together a Winning Team.
- Ashley Howland published the blogpost Talking about cancer on WFAA’s ‘Two Chairs’ series.
- Daniel DeHart published the blogpost Get Excited: New ‘Believe Me’ Trailer Validates Everything We Thought.
- solomon david published the blogpost Micromax Canvas Nitro Launched for Rs 12,990 in India.
- solomon david published the blogpost 20 Mobile (iOS, Android) App & Web Prototyping Tools – Part2.