I agree with a lot of what you said there, Brian. A few comments:
If this is termed the "final perseverence of the elect," it would find strong support in the Augustinian Catholic tradition. The potential confusion lies in the words "once you are saved." As noted above, for Catholics, salvation (with reference to the individual) entails the entirety of one's life in Christ. "Once" suggests a bit too much the mere point-in-time view of salvation Catholics don't espouse.
Agreed. But these are just the kinds of issues that become a distraction if you try to have them first. The Augustinian view and FPS have so much in common that FPS advocates don't realize. If you play your cards right, you can even get them to agree with you on the nature of salvation being something of a process (and they'll end up happily doing so, even if they "translate" it into their own terminology)
Perhaps yes. Perhaps no. That may depend whether the person holds to the "Eternal Security" position of the individual believer's subjective certainty of his/her final end. If his position is that he "knows with certainty" he is one of the "saved" who will be granted the grace of final perserverence, then his position stands in need of refutation. If his position is more "if I am one of the irrevocably saved (elect), then God will necessarily afford to me the grace to persevere; but I can have at best a moral certainty of my status," then perhaps there's essential agreement.
This is precisely why I said a conversation should be had regarding assurance. I am convinced that the FPS advocate cannot have certain knowledge of his salvation. Many of them claim they do, but they're just being irrational. The FPS advocate, to be internally consistent, must
adopt your second statement in the quoted paragraph.
Maybe this will be true with this person, but in my experience with Evangelicals, it's a dual-view world. Either the person is saved and will go to Heaven. Or if the person later proves to live a decidely un-christian life or abandons the faith, "he was never saved to begin with." I'm hard-pressed to think of an Evangelical I've known who subscribes to this "middle" position of being "saved" in a real, not just illusory, sense, but who then ends up "not saved." The problem usually lies in their narrow definition of "saved,' which sees salvation exclusively as a moment-in-time event with full eschatological import.
Well there are Evangelicals who believe you can lose your salvation--Arminians, they are called. Specifically, where they disagree with the final perseverance of the saints, they hold to what is called Conditional Security. So you really have three distinct
1. The Final Perseverance of the saints
2. Eternal Security
3. Conditional Security
FPS holds that the elect are guaranteed to be preserved in faith and good works until the end of their lives. The problem, of course, is that you can't know you are elect since you could always fall away later, proving you weren't really elect! So, at best, you can have moral assurance
Eternal Security holds truly OSAS. Once you are saved, your eternal destiny is secure no matter what you do or do not do
. As such, you can have absolute, logical certainty of assurance contingent only on two issues: 1 - the correctness of your theology (that is, that you are correct that ES is true, which you obviously believe if you hold it); and 2 - the reliability of Jesus' claim to save all who believe in Him. So the ES advocate says rightly that his certainly is absolute insofar as he is convinced his theology is correct and that Jesus really can do what He claims. It is, of course, logically possible that he is wrong and that Jesus can not do what He claims, but that--for obvious reasons--doesn't enter into the discussion.
Conditional Security holds that a person may be truly in a state of salvation (whatever that means for them) and then subsequently lose that state. If they die in a "saved" state, they will go to heaven. If they die in a fallen state, they go to Hell. How one falls from grace varies among CS advocates, but generally, it is due to either gross sin or the rejection of faith. As such, CS allows, at best, for moral certainty of assurance.
Now, my point is simple enough. FPS and CS have this in common - if you die an apostate, you go to Hell. Catholics, I gather, would tend to agree. As such, the FPS, CS, and Catholic have a very important piece of common ground to dialogue from. We ES people are just off in our own little world.
My experience with Evangelicals of that sort is that true logic rarely comes into play. "Assurance" is primarily subjectively ascertained and buttressed, as I noted earlier, by a healthy dose of selective verse sampling. The illustrations of persons, be it in Scripture or present life, who fall away are always relegated to the "never were saved to begin with" category. They cannot entertain that possibility as to themselves; they cannot hold as simultaneously applicable to themselves Scriptural verses that, one on the hand, speak of the joy of salvation and Jesus's great mercy, and on the other hand, admonish against apostasy, grave sin, and spiritual indolence. That both can be true is an assertion they find "illogical."
I've found that to be true as well, but I've found that some are willing to listen to good reasoning, too. The trick is just to demand that they prove that they know they are one of the elect. Consider the following syllogism:
1. All the elect will persevere until the end
2. I am elect
3. I will persevere until the end
On FPS, this is logically true. (1) is the theology itself. But how do I know (2) is true? I don't! The most I can say is if I am elect
I will persevere until the end. I can say I think I am. I hope I am. I am morally certain I am. I cannot say that I know
I've found the approach to be effective with more than a few. I suspect the OPer would have similar success. If not (s)he would at least be able to show strong consistency between the Church's beliefs and the OSAS advocate, which just removes one more barrier to conversion.
Let's table the discussion on why I think ES is true. I don't want to derail the thread. If you want my take on James 2:14ff, Heb 6:4-6; and Heb 10:26-31, see my blog
, which I haven't updated in forever, haha.