This blog is devoted to discussing the pursuit of eternal life.
Discussion and participation by readers is desired,
but contributions should correlate to the book,
The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology
of Perseverance & Assurance

Thomas R. Schreiner
& Ardel B. Caneday

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Function of the Warning Passages in the Structure and Argument of Hebrews

Here is an interesting article on "The Function of the Warning Passages in the Structure and Argument of Hebrews" by Lee Gatiss. The essay does not address the theological question, which I call the "preemptive question" (Do the warnings imply the possible apostasy of genuine believers?). Instead, the essay addresses the literary question concerning the structure of Hebrews, particularly with an eye on the literary function of the warnings as a structural feature of the sermon.


Alex Kirk said...

I still have to process Dr. Caneday’s latest response in the comments section of the previous entry, but I did have a comment on this entry...

Does the author (Lee Gatiss) make a critical omission in a sentence concerning the so-called preemptive question? He asserts, “Whether this is a description of genuine Christians or not is a moot point, since it has huge implications for systematic theology.” Shouldn’t this read, “Whether this is a description of genuine Christians or not is NOT a moot point, since it has huge implications for systematic theology”? He continues: “It is not part of our purpose here, however, to decide this particular issue, although discerning the function of the warning passages generally may have an impact upon dogmatic reflection.”

I wish it WERE a part of the purpose of his article to address this question. At the least, he does seem to think that the preemptive question ought to be asked, even if it is a secondary question more concerned with systematic theology rather than the exegesis of the passage. This is where I probably put myself also-—the preemptive question must be answered, but only after the function of the warning is sufficiently understood.


David McKay said...

Thanks for the link, Ardel. The Theologian looks like a useful site.

Aussie Christian

abcaneday said...


I think you are correct that Lee Gatiss probably intended to say "not a moot point" but may have neglected writing it because of the "not" that precedes its proper place by two words. He may have thought that the second "not" would introduce a double negative.

Good eye!

Nick Nowalk said...

Dr. Caneday, three questions on my mind for whenever you are able to get to the question on the relationship between justification by faith alone and a final judgment according to works.

First, what do you think of H. Ridderbos' take in his famous "Paul: Outline of His Theology"? I don't have the page numbers, but there it is in the chapter on justification/righteousness, and there are few sections all worthy of reading, and one specifically (the last of the chapter, I think) on final judgment and how it "fits." I'd love to know your thoughts on this; in my view, I think Ridderbos is on target.

Second, it is proper in any sense to use extra-biblical categories like "ground" and "evidence" to describe the role of faith and works in salvation...such as, faith is the ground of our acceptance with God (now and forever), but our good works evidence that we have been justified by faith alone, that we have been united to the death and resurrection of Jesus? I know these categories are often brought out, and I find they make sense, but almost no one I am aware of ever discusses how they fit into the biblical text. And a followup would be: if ground/evidence is not legitimate, then how do we avoid saying that we are saved on the basis of works, and avoid contradicting so many texts?

Lastly, knowing that you hold to an already/not yet, present/future aspect of justification...we HAVE been justified and we WILL be justified (I am inclined to agree), how do these two relate? What is the criteria for each...same, different, etc.? And, is final judgment synonomous with future justification, or is there a difference? My struggle is that, if they are the same, then it seems initial justification becomes radically different from future justification...the first by faith, the second by works, and thus the continuity I feel Scripture presents on this is disturbed. But perhaps I just don't see the overall picture! Thanks so much Dr. Caneday. Blessings.

abcaneday said...


Thanks for your questions. These latest questions will provide some assitance as I respond to your earlier question concerning justification.

I'm working on a project for my wife, finishing the final room in our basement. I also have a couple of essays to write, so my response may be delayed. I will, however, respond as soon as reasonably possible.

Lee Gatiss said...

Greetings. Lee Gatiss here. I am very pleased that you are discussing my article on Hebrews here on this excellent blog. Not least because it exposed to me the fact that I had neglected to add the footnotes to the online version of my article! This has now been rectified and all 100+ footnotes are available, so you can see where I got my dodgy ideas from!

Most importantly, I must point out that when I said the doctrinal question of the persevrence of the saints was a "moot point" I did NOT mean that it is irrelevant or unimportant. It is, most emphatically, essential to discuss this doctrine. I have now made that abundantly clear at the start of the article, to clear up any doubts. As a Calvinist I'm thrilled to discuss this with anyone!

I believe this confusion arose because American readers of this blog are working with a different definition of the phrase "moot point". When I use it I am speaking of a debateable point, one that is up for discussion and argument. This is the original use of the term. Whereas the alternative reading is a later extension of that: many "moots" (meetings for debate) discussed endlessly boring and irrelevant subjects (in legal circles it is still a common practice!). Hence a moot point came to be understood as an irrelevant or unimportant one. The etymological issues are discussed here:

I hope that clears that up! Obviously the best place to go for a discussion of the wider issues of perseverence is to Caneday and Schreiner's superb book, "The Race Set Before Us", which I am delighted to have on my shelf here in London and to recommend to others!

Lee Gatiss said...

We Brits are separated from our rebellious American cousins by a common language (as well as the Atlantic)...!

abcaneday said...


Thanks for your comments, especially for clarifying your use of "moot." You are correct that the primary use of the word is "debatable" or "up for debate." It is regrettable that we Americans have tended to diminish the word to mean essentially "irrelevant."

Thanks for promoting The Race Set Before Us.