Show me that the New Testamentof covenantal apostasy are just hypothetical to put fear in the Saints, and I'll show you an immediate contradiction in thinking. If you know they can't happen, then you can't be fearful of them.
Thewould only work on people that don't yet know they can't actually happen, so the are temporary for people with bad theology. And you explaining it to me would be effectively causing me to stop being fearful of them. This is an unintelligible interpretation. God doesn't warn against things that can't happen.
A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BAPTISTS AND PRESBYTERIANS
If you know anything about Baptist beliefs, you must know that we submit that the only members of the New Covenant are saved individuals. One who professes to be a part of the New Covenant and is not really saved may profess to be in the covenant, but he is not.
Presbyterians on the other hand seek to advance the claim that there are saved members in the New Covenant, and there are unsaved members of the New Covenant. Thus, Les' statement about "covenantal apostasy" make sense. He believes that there can be members of the covenant who become apostate and are removed from the covenant.
The warning passages in Scripture seem to support this idea. After all, "how could a warning be hypothetical?" If it were hypothetical, an empty threat simply made to "put fear in the Saints" that would be "an immediate contradiction in thinking." I mean, "if you know they can't happen, then why be fearful of them." That's madness! Obviously, these warnings are real, and they can happen. Thus, we must confess that people can be tossed out of the covenant. But if we acknowledge that God will never lose any of his own, then we must confess that there are those in the covenant who are not "God's own," those who are not saved. Hence, the membership of the New Covenant must consist of both the saved and the unsaved. See? It's all very logical. Logical... and wrong.
At times there are Scriptures that directly contradict one another, if I may speak that way. For example, in Ephesians 2, Paul says that salvation comes "by faith, not works" while in James 2, James says, "
Thus, those who err on this matter do so only when they take one passage as "the way it is" and ignore the other passage. For example, those who over-focus on salvation by faith end up falling into the error of the ever-sin-loving "believer" who is saved no matter what his life looks like. While those who over-focus on Jame's salvation that is comprised of faith with works and ignore the passages about salvation by faith alone, end up teaching that salvation is by faith plus works. The key to interpreting Scripture however is to reconcile the two seemingly contrary passages. We can't afford to "explain away" the claims of a particular passage simply because it contradicts a passage that we value.
At this point, perhaps you're asking, "why is this important? And what does this have to do with Les Lanphere and the Presbyterian position. Well, it seems to me that Mr. Lanphere is erring by over-emphasizing one passage to the neglect of another. Instead of harmonizing the two passages as he ought, he emphasizes the warning passages while he ignores the passages that seem to contradict the verses that he values.
THE "CONTRADICTION" IN QUESTION
In Jeremiah 31, the prophet tells us that all those in the New Covenant are saved. Their iniquity is forgiven and their sins are "remembered no more." In fact, Jeremiah says that this is true of all the members of the New Covenant, "from the least to the greatest." Therefore, since we know that when God says, "their sins are remembered no more" that all members of the New Covenant are saved. There is no exiting the New Covenant to find ourselves in a place where God will remember our sins again. Once you're in the New Covenant, there is no leaving it. There is no way to be lost. But, didn't we see earlier in Mr. Lanphere's argument that people can commit "covenantal apostasy?" Didn't we already see that the warning passages have to be real because after all, "God doesn't warn against things that can't happen." Therefore, it must be possible to exit the covenant, and if it's possible to exit the covenant, then the covenant must be made of some saved and some unsaved.
So here we are. We have two passages that seem to contradict one another. On one hand, Jeremiah says that all who are in the covenant will "have their sins remembered no more" and all who are in the New Covenant must be permanently saved. But on the other hand, God doesn't warn against things that can't happen, therefore, exiting the covenant and being damned must be possible. What are we to make with these contradictory passages? Mr. Lanphere, and our other Presbyterian brothers decide that they will focus on the meaning of the warning passages and ignore the fact that Jeremiah 31 contradicts their interpretation. They of course will claim that Baptists focus on Jeremiah 31 and ignore the fact that the warning passages contradict our interpretation. And perhaps that may be true for some baptists. But I will now show the harmonization between the two passages which validates the Baptist interpretation. (Conversely, I posit that Mr. Lanphere and other Presbyterians cannot harmonize Jeremiah 31 with their interpretation. Let them attempt to do so if they wish).
THE BAPTIST INTERPRETATION
Baptist want to harmonize all of Scripture (as does anyone who loves God's word; and I count many Presbyterians in that group as well.) But my contention is that there is a difference between wanting to harmonize the Scripture and actually doing it. Mr. Lanphere is guilty here of wanting to harmonize the passages but failing to do so.
Here are the competing claims of Scripture
1. All members of the New Covenant, from the least to the greatest shall have their iniquity forgiven and their sins remembered no more.
2. God warns of those who exit the new covenant and are damned (because their sins were NOT forgiven.)
Baptists harmonize these two passages by affirming Jeremiah, that all members of the New Covenant will be saved and by affirming that the warning passages are real, yet "it can't happen," it never will happen. God warns of something that will never happen. Therefore, the passage in Jeremiah is free to stand as is, and the warning passages are free to stand as is as well. Of course, Les is arguing that it's illogical to say God would "warn against something that could never happen." But a lot of things in Scripture are illogical. For example, Jesus is 100% God and 100% man (that's 200% for those of you keeping score). God is immortal, yet he died on the cross. God ordains all men's actions, yet man is 100% responsible for his own actions. God is one, yet at the same time He is three. Logically, none of these things make sense. How can you be both one and three at the same time? But we believe them not because we can logically make sense of them, but because Scripture teaches them. And this is Len's error. He wants logic over Scripture. He wants to focus on the warning passages and ignore Jeremiah 31. This way the logic can stand. He is right after all, "it's an immediate contradiction" because "God doesn't warn against things that can't happen." Logically, he makes perfect sense. But what if I told you, that God does warn against things that can't happen?
Okay Mr. Lanphere, if you want me to show you that the New Testament warnings can be hypothetical to put fear in the Saints, then I will. I just ask that you listen with a willingness to hear the argument and consider that I may be onto something. Turn in your Bible to Acts 27. Here we find that Paul is sailing to Rome to stand before Caesar. As they make their way across the sea, a mighty storm happens upon them. The men become fearful for their lives and begin to panic. What they don't know is that Paul had already been visited by an angel who promises that all will survive. Let's read the text.