Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
SBJT 6:2 (Summer 2002) p. 80
The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance and Assurance. By Thomas R. Schreiner and Ardel B. Caneday. Downers Grove: Inter- Varsity Press, 2001, 344 pp., $19.99 paper.
Almost every believer has faced the troubling situation of thumbing through the photograph directory of his congregation, only to see the faces of once vibrant Christians who have now abandoned the faith. For far too long, the typical evangelical response to this tragedy has been to shrug our shoulders with the reassurance that “once saved” means “always saved.” And yet, our consciences remain troubled when we move from the church directory to the New Testament, only to find repeated warnings that those who do not endure to the end will not inherit eternal life. This volume seeks to address this perplexing issue by calling the church to reconsider the implications of the “warning passages” of Scripture.
Schreiner and Caneday approach the subject with an inductive study of the admonitions and conditional promises of the New Testament, regarding the salvation of those who persevere in the faith. In so doing, the authors interact with and critique various contemporary models of understanding perseverance and assurance. They reject as unbiblical the Arminian view that genuinely regenerate believers may forfeit their salvation. They likewise oppose the popular “non-lordship salvation view,” in which the warning passages refer only to a loss of rewards for “carnal Christians.” The authors do not, however, embrace the typical Reformed interpretation of the warning passages as applying simply to unregenerate, professing Christians within the community of the visible church. Instead, Schreiner and Caneday agree with Arminians that the warnings of Scripture, including the terrifying admonitions of the Book of Hebrews, are indeed addressed to genuine Christians. Nonetheless, they maintain that these warnings are a means that God uses to secure the perseverance of all authentic believers in Christ. The warnings, they argue, specify real conditions for entrance into the Kingdom of God— namely, a faith that endures to the end. But, they continue, those who have regenerate hearts always hear and always heed these warnings, due to the work of the Holy Spirit in preserving believers in the faith.
Schreiner and Caneday are not the first to propose this understanding of perseverance. Indeed, Baptist theologian E. Y. Mullins contended in his early twentieth-century treatment of systematic theology that the warning passages express “real dangers” to be taken seriously by believers. “Looked at from the standpoint of human weakness, they may occur,” Mullins wrote. “There is, however, another factor to be reckoned with, God’s grace” [The Christian Religi...
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