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

Thursday, June 05, 2008

TRSBU Is Classic Reformed Doctrine of Perseverance

The following quotation reads as though it came from The Race Set Before Us.

"Now the question with respect to this doctrine of perseverance is not whether those who have obtained a true saving faith could not, if left to themselves, lose it again by their own fault and sins: nor whether sometimes all the activity, boldness, and comfort of faith actually ceases, and faith itself goes into hiding under the cares of life and the delights of the world. The question is whether God upholds, continues, and completes the work of grace he has begun, or whether he sometimes permits it to be totally ruined by the power of sin. . . . [Perseverance] is a gift of God. He watches over it and sees to it that the work of grace is continued and completed. He does not, however, do this apart from believers but through them. In regeneration and faith, he grants a grace that as such bears an inadmissible character; he grants a life that is by nature eternal; he bestows the benefits of calling, justification, and glorification that are mutually and unbreakably interconnected. All of the above-mentioned admonitions and threats that Scripture addresses to believers, therefore, do not prove a thing against the doctrine of perseverance. They are rather the way in which God himself confirms his promise and gift through believers. They are the means by which perseverance in life is realized. After all, perseverance is also not coercive but, as a gift of God, impacts humans in a spiritual manner. It is precisely God's will, by admonition and warning, morally to lead believers to heavenly blessedness and by the grace of the Holy Spirit to prompt them willingly to persevere in faith and love. It is therefore completely mistaken to reason from the admonitions of Holy Scripture to the possibility of a total loss of grace. This conclusion is illegimate as when, in the case of Christ, people infer from his temptation that he was able to sin. The certainty of the outcome does not render the means superfluous but is inseparably connected with them in the decree of God. Paul knew with certainty that in the case of shipwreck no one would lose one's life, yet he declares, 'Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.' (Acts 27:22, 31)"

It is from Herman Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation, 267-68. This is one more piece of evidence, in addition to our agreement with Jonathan Edwards, William Cunningham, Charles Spurgeon, et al., Tom Schreiner and I rightly claim that our view is the Classic Reformed view on perseverance and assurance, particularly as it concerns warnings and admonitions.



Stephen Smith said...

Dr. Caneday,

I am a NT PhD student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and am doing a reading course on perseverance in the NT in preparation for my dissertation, which will be focused on the Book of Revelation. I'm looking forward to reading the book you co-wrote with Thomas Schreiner, and I have checked-out the following books which you mention on the subject: Gundry-Volf (1990), Oropeza (2000), Marshall (1969), Shank (1976), and Berkouwer (1958).

My question is whether you know of any other books, articles or essays specifically focused on perseverance which have perhaps been published in the seven years since your book was published. I'm especially interested in exegetical studies.

Thank you.

A. B. Caneday said...


I'm sorry that I failed to reply to your recent e-mail message. I've been heavily occupied with a home remodeling project that has taken me away from my computer for about three weeks.

Since you posted a question, I decided to respond here besides sending you a brief e-mail reply for the benefit of all readers.

I know of at least three books on the topic of perseverance that you will want to examine.

First is a book that, regrettably, does not include the fifth and proper view, of course ;), namely the explanation of the warnings that Tom and I offer in The Race Set Before Us. At least some of the contributors do engage our work on the warnings, however, but not sufficiently, in our shared opinion. See Four Views on the Warning Passages in Hebrews (ed. Herb Bateman).

Second is a book that refers frequently to The Race Set Before Us and shares our view of the matter with need of some tweaking here and there. Did Jesus Teach Salvation by Works: The Role of Works in Salvation in the Synoptic Gospels (Alan Stanley). Find my review of the book here. Watch for another review that I wrote in the next issue of JETS.

Third is a book that I have not yet read fully. The Way of Salvation: The Role of Christian Obedience in Justification (Paul Rainbow). Rainbow also refers to The Race Set Before Us and takes a view much like ours. However, since I have not yet read the book fully, I am not adequately prepared to offer any final assessment of agreement. What I have read leads me to think that Rainbow veers off somewhat from the view that Tom and I advocate. Our view is the Classic Reformed view of perseverance that also embraces the Classic Reformed view of justification soley on the basis of Christ's redeeming act. I may not be accurate, but it seems that Rainbow takes a view of justification in the Last Day that moves toward N. T. Wright's view that we will be justified "on the basis of our whole life." I have addressed this issue with Wright's view here and here.

Again, I'm sorry for my tardy reply.

Stephen Smith said...

Thank you very much for your response. I will be sure to look at the three books you mention.