The Christian Doctrine of Eternal Security

Christian Security

The Christian Doctrine of Eternal Security

Christian faith is driven by the underlying notion that doctrinal adherence will lead to salvation. However, just exactly how one effectively adheres and achieves that salvation is a matter very much up for dispute. In fact, this is the dispute at the center of this discussion, which considers what some consider to be among the most divisive matters in the Christian faith. The question of eternal security drives not only this discussion but also a great many scholarly debates among clergy and theologians in the Church. Specifically, a long-standing disagreement divides paths of adherence between those who believe in either conditional security or eternal (or, by counterpoint, unconditional) security. The account hereafter will offer some explanations for the distinctions is these two orientations of faith as well as a final position on the subject as drawn from relevant scripture and commentary.

Eternal Security:

The commentary by Kowalski (2013) serves as a useful starting point on the present discussion. Kowalski offers some introductory information, including a basic breakdown of the different denominations associated with the views discussed here. According to Kowalski, eternal security is a concept largely espoused in the Calvinist school of Christian thought. Kowalski indicates that its counterpoint, conditional security, is most typically espoused by the Arminian denomination of Christian faith. This background is useful as we proceed into a more general discussion on the distinctions between these viewpoints.

Beginning with eternal security, we consider the frequent conflation between his and the notion of ‘unconditional security.’ The text by Oodart (2012) immediately disputes the idea that these views are one and the same, instead indicating that even with eternal security, the condition of true faith must always be a presence. To the point, any mention made of the promise of salvation in the scriptures is pointedly addressed to those who have chosen faith and to the exclusion of those who have not. Oodart analyzes this message as it appears in Romans 8: 35-39, where the author asserts that “the promise and security presented in this passage of Scripture is only for believers (“us” in verse 35). None of these things are true of unbelievers and nothing in the passage suggests that faith cannot be abandoned or that love for God cannot grow cold (Matt. 24:12). This passage gives assurance to believers who are suffering persecution that such sufferings should not be interpreted as indicating that God no longer favors them or loves them. No amount of persecution or opposition can overwhelm the believer since the believer always has the victory in Christ.” (Oodart, p. 1)

By distinguishing the ‘believer’ from all others, Oodart suggests that the qualification for security is not accessible at any point to those who don’t truly believe. Therefore, the idea of conditionality diverges from the basic understanding that faith is the only conditionality. In other words, one who as actually achieved this level of belief cannot be dissuaded of it. Consistent with this view, the article by Slick (2010) offers one of the more potent endorsements for the concept of eternal security encountered in available literature. In Slick’s perception, the Bible does preach the concept of Eternal Security. The promise at the heart of the scripture is that if one accepts that Jesus was God’s only son, that he died for our sins and that he is the Lord and Savior, one will be granted an eternity in the kingdom of heaven. That this is a core assumption of the Christian faith itself for many and is yet rejected by many other adherents to the same faith is what drives the debate to such great intensity even in present day.

Slick employs the scriptures to support the view that eternal security is explicitly granted by God to those who possess and demonstrate faith. Their path to heaven is assured by the teachings of the Bible, Slick and other advocates for the doctrine of eternal security believe. Accordingly, Slick quotes John 6:37:40, which teaches us that “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. 38 ‘For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.’ 39 ‘And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.’ 40 ‘For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day,’ (John 6:37-40).” (Slick, p. 1)

This means that once one has been saved, one is granted eternal salvation in accordance with God’s Word in the Bible. In fact, Slick goes on to argue that because of its having been stated in the Scripture, any assertions to the contrary are simply subject to incorrect interpretation. In Slick’s perspective, God’s promise not to cast out those who have accepted Jesus into their lives is an overriding doctrine that must influence are interpretation of all other questions relating to salvation.

Slick goes on to defend Eternal Security against the most notable objection (which will be discussed at greater length in the subsequent section of this discussion). The objection centers on the fear that a promise of unwavering salvation gives one the freedom to engage in sinful or otherwise ungodly behavior. To this concern, Slick responds directly, indicating that “eternal security is not a license to sin. The Christian is regenerated. He is changed from within, being made a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17). Those who were indwelt by the Holy Spirit will war with their sin and not seek to abide in it. Those who declare that they are eternally secure and then go out and sin on purpose in any manner they so choose are probably not saved to begin with since this is contradictory to what Scripture teaches. 1 John 2:4 says, ‘The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.'” (Slick, p. 1)

In other words, Slick rejects the notion that security can be conditional and instead suggests that he who defies those would-be conditions for salvation has never truly recognized or accepted Christ into his life. In Slick’s view, there is little room for individual interpretation of how best to behave in a Christian manner. Instead, he expresses the argument on behalf of eternal security that the distinction can only be drawn between adherents and non-adherents. The dividing line is not just a subject of belief but, as Slick asserts, of behavior as well. He who truly believes in Christ will walk in his teachings, however imperfectly.

Slick considers this as an absolutely essential dimension of the teachings of the scripture, suggesting that any assumption to the contrary dismantles our very cause for having true faith in our own salvation. The resource in question asserts that we as Christians require this to be an indisputable promise from God so as to protect us from arbitrary exclusion from the promise of eternal life and salvation at His right hand. For Slick, there are myriad selections of the scriptures that have been distorted in scholarly interpretation so as to suggest the contrary, that one has been saved must constantly do the work of the Lord in order to protect this salvation. But as Slick shows, the Bible states God’s intention to raise up on the last day of Earth all those who have been saved, a promise that is eternal and transcends even the nature of death. This encompassing promise also transcends sinful behavior for which one has sought forgiveness and from which one has repented in his or her way of living.

Accordingly, Slick observes, quoting further from John 6 that verses 39 and 40 “tell us that Jesus will raise them up on the last day. The one group of people who are raised on the last day are those who have been given by the Father to the Son (v. 37), who have believed on the Son (v. 40), who have eternal life (v. 40), and cannot be lost.” (Slick, p. 4)

To Slick, this is a clear statement of intent on eternal security rather than the counterpoint it is often invoked to make. That is, the notion that one who has taken Jesus into his or her life cannot be cast out from the promise of eternity remains a guiding premise for the maintenance of faith or, in those who have failed the Lord, a return to faith. In fact, this is the Slick article’s most compelling point. If we remove the promise of eternal security for those who have strayed, they will be given little cause to return to the fold.

In essence, those who find themselves either incapable of maintaining a life lived according to the teachings of God are not in danger of being cast out of the Church. Instead, we can observe that they had only gained false entrance in the eyes of man from the start. God will know of their falsehood. This view is even echoed in the text by Kowalski, which otherwise supports the view of conditional security. According to Kowalski, “In spite of my advocating conditional security, I believe much of the bottom line for both views is essentially the same, as, through their doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, Calvinists do not believe that those who rebel against God will share eternity with Him regardless of any profession of faith they may have made or Christian activity in which they may have engaged. They believe such people were not truly saved to begin with.” (Kowalski, p. 1)

In other words, most doctrines differentiate between the notion that eternal security is tantamount to unconditional security. Kowalski follows this assertion by suggesting that even as an adherent to the idea of conditional security, he is able to accept the scholarly justification for the concept of eternal security as well. This implicates the common ground which is shared between these doctrines, which is the understanding that salvation is granted through one’s faith in Jesus.

Conditional Security:

The common ground noted above seems a perfect place to enter into a discussion of what is meant by conditional security. Particularly, many scholars reject outright the concept of Eternal Security. By making its root position the claim that those who accept Jesus Christ into their lives will inherently be granted eternal salvation, the philosophy seems to defy a dominant interpretation of the scriptures. Namely, tells the source Search the Scriptures (2000), the scriptures tells us that acceptance of Jesus alone will not grant one protection from their own sinful behavior. Such is to say that security is conditional upon living one’s life according to the teachings of Jesus as well. Recognition alone, this view says, will not grant one a certain pass into heaven.

According to Search the Scriptures, “the Bible speaks of a warfare (spirit against the flesh) that is going on within the believer (Gal 5:16-21 KJV) “this I say then, Walk in the Spirit, (a choice we have to make daily) and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. {17} For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. {18} But if (conditional) ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. {19} Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, {20} Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, {21} Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.'”(Search the Scriptures, p. 1)

This draws a rather clear line of differentiation between Christians who merely recognize Jesus as their lord and savior and those who truly adhere to his teachings. This source would even go so far as to argue, as many scholars have on this subject, that the promise of eternal security serves too conveniently as a license to engage in sinful behavior. The promise of being forgiven by Jesus is sufficient under the doctrine of eternal security to facilitate a wide range of behaviors that would otherwise be unthinkable. Such is to say that absent the powerful deterrent of conditional security — its advocates would argue — the strong ethical codes related to the Christian faith are vulnerable to abuse and even to a life led astray by temptation.

This view is offered with yet a greater ferocity in the text by Paton (2008), which argues unequivocally that the Calvinist ideology is designed to protect one’s right to sin and still be granted salvation. Whereas many scholars and critics, such as Kowalski and Slick here above, are amenable to a scholarly exchange on the two distinct interpretations of the Christian doctrine of security, Paton is uncompromising in his rejection of eternal security and its permissiveness. Paton asserts in somewhat inflammatory terms that “if one genuine Christian can fall, slip away, apostatize, or be severed from Christ, not only will eternal security, the head of their idol, come toppling down, but so will the rest of her defiled body! Is it any wonder that, despite the fact that the whole of Scripture is decisively against them, they must at all costs save their precious license for sin?” (Paton, p. 1)

To Paton and others who echo the staunchness of his perspective, eternal security is problematic in the Christian faith for allowing false Christians to be perceived as having earned this salvation. Moreover, those who believe in conditional security would take the position that the scriptures are quite clear in their endorsement of this position. The text offered by Freedom Quest Ministries (2010) elaborates on sections of the New Testament which appear to espouse the understanding that security is conditional. The Freedom Quest Ministries argue that there are those who will glimpse at salvation but will fail to meet the expectations of a good Christian life, and not for lack of desire but perhaps for lack of will or strength. According to the Freedom Quest Ministries, “The parable of the sower shows us a certain group of people that, for various reasons, hear the gospel and accept it as Truth but “fall away” (Mark 4:17 NIV). In this parable Jesus explains to the disciples that the seeds are people that have all heard and received the gospel and sprang to life… But only a portion of them endured to bear fruit.” (p. 1)

The Freedom Quest Ministries go on to argue that this view is not taken just in parables, which it concedes are subject to widely variant interpretation. But beyond that, Jesus makes mention on multiple occasions in the scripture that adherence to his teachings is not optional. Faith, adherence and genuine goodness are demanded until the end of one’s mortal days. Again, while perfection is neither sought nor expected, the Freedom Quest Ministries tell us that one “must endure to the end!” (Freedom Question Ministries, p. 1)

This means that one does not achieve a transcendent, instantaneous and irrevocable salvation when one finds Jesus. Instead, one achieves entrance into his light. One must keep within this light throughout one’s life though in order to realize the glory of his eternal presence.


The most pressing difference between the two philosophical viewpoints is that Calvinists or eternal security adherents argue that behavior is evidence of one’s faith or a lack thereof whereas Arminians or conditional security adherents believe that behavior is ultimately the determinant of one’s fate. In assessing the arguments put forth by both sides, we are inclined to take a middle position, which appeals to God’s grace in a mutual relationship. In other words, our path to salvation is assured when we are saved and when we accept Jesus into our lives. However, this never frees us from the responsibility to remain engaged with God, in service to his teachings and in adherence with the values befitting a good Christian life.

This relationship is not defined in a punitive way. One does not enter into a relationship with God strictly for the promise of eternal security or for protection from eternal damnation. Indeed, from our reading, we are inclined to believe that these ulterior motives for reaching out to Jesus will ultimately be transparent in they are not sincere. Instead, security and salvation are granted us for finding God by our own resources, of our own volition and with the purest of intent. This initiates a relationship with God that cannot be broken. And therefore, by His grace, security is granted eternally to those who are true in the acceptance and faith. Insofar as the ultimate behavioral manifestation of these views should look largely the same, there is little material difference between the ideas of eternal security and conditional security. In neither is the notion of unconditional security implied. Instead, each viewpoint offers its own way of perceiving the responsibility to behave in accordance with the teachings of Jesus. In essence, both endorse the same correlation between true faith, acceptance and an eternity in the Kingdom of Heaven.


Upon considering the arguments posed in opposition to one another, we must conclude that the debate at hand is largely rhetorical in nature. There appears to be a healthy overlap of expectations between both sides on the concept of behavioral propriety. What this behavior means may be another matter. But to the perspective of this reader, the ultimate expectation is the same. Adherents to both views believe that a good Christian life worthy of salvation is one lived in line with the teachings of God. We are none of us perfect in this pursuit, but those of us who will be granted eternal life will try in our hearts, souls and bodies to be true to Jesus in everything we do. The intent, effort and reality of one’s goodness will be self-apparent and, for God, completely indisputable.

Works Cited:

Freedom Quest Ministries (FQM). (2010). Is ‘Unconditional Eternal Security’ Taught in the Bible.

Brandenberg, K. (2013). The Bible Teaches Permanent Justification, Eternal Security, Unconditional Security and Once Saved, Always Saved. What is Truth.

Oodort, B. (2012). Does Paul Teach Unconditional Eternal Security in Romans 8:35-39.

Kowalski, D. (2013). Is Eternal Security Conditional or Unconditional. Apologetics Index.

Paton, J. (2008). The Eight Pillars of Eternal Security or The Toppling of An Idol.

Search the Scriptures. (2000). The Misrepresentation of Eternal Security.

Slick, M. (2010). Eternal Security. Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry.

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