Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #136

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

A couple of things to mention – Brand new talk and upcoming speaking engagement:

1) Big Announcement! (Well, at least for me.)

My first new talk in 2 years, or maybe it’s 3 years, is now available. It’s entitled: “Living the Word of God to Bring Justice and Peace (The Good Samaritan).”

This talk is more of what I would call a “spiritual” talk rather than an apologetics talk – although it does contain some golden oldie apologetics moments. It’s a “Peace and Justice” talk with a bit of a twist. The talk looks at two levels of meaning for the Parable of the Good Samaritan – the first level that is obvious and that we are all familiar with, and the second level that is not so obvious to us, but which was very obvious to many of the Early Church Fathers – it blew me away when I read it. Check it out at this link: http://www.biblechristiansociety.com/products/audio. By the way, it is not yet available as a download, but should be in the not-too-distant future.

2) I will be speaking in Raleigh, North Carolina, this coming Friday and Saturday (March 19/20), at the “Ignited By Truth” Conference. For more information check out this website: www.ignitedbytruth.com. If you’re in the area, I hope you can make it.


In this issue I’m going to look at an email that was sent to one of our subscribers by a Baptist minister. This particular subscriber has been engaged in a dialogue with this Baptist minister – his wife’s pastor – and seems to be getting under his skin (which is a good thing).

In this particular email, the pastor, who is a devotee of the once saved always saved dogma, is responding to a question our reader sent him about the Parable of the Prodigal Son. As I always teach folks to do, our reader used the words of the Prodigal Son’s father from Luke 15:24 (“for this my son was dead but is alive again,” to show that once saved always saved is false, and the pastor was responding to that.

I’ll put the pastor’s comments in italics, then I’ll give my response in bold. Read the parable (Luke 15:11-32), paying close attention to verse 24, and then read the newsletter.


 Pastor:  First of all, I find it incredibly amusing that you resort to the parable of the Prodigal Son to support losing one’s salvation.  I must admit that, in all of my reading on the subject of “falling from grace” and on the interpretation of this parable, I have never seen it so wrongly handled.

My Response:   By what authority do you declare this interpretation of the Parable of the Prodigal Son to be wrong?  Are you infallible in your interpretation of Scripture?  Are you an authentic interpreter of Scripture?  If so, how so?  If not, then could you be wrong when you judge this particular interpretation to be wrong?  After all, you’ve admitted to changing your views on other issues in the past, so you must have realized you were wrong in what you believed, and so you changed those beliefs.  So, is there at least the possibility you could be wrong on this?  Also, do you or do you not believe that everyone has the right to pick up the Bible and decide for themselves, as they feel guided by the Holy Spirit, as to what the words of Scripture are saying?  Or, do you believe that only those who agree with your interpretation of Scripture have the right to read and interpret Scripture for themselves? 

Strategy: The key word here is "interpretation."  Remember the "But That’s My Interpretation," strategy.  How can this man say anyone’s interpretation of the Prodigal Son, or any other passage of Scripture is wrong when, by one of the main pillars of his belief system, he believes everyone has the right to pick up the Bible and read it for themselves to decide for themselves what each and every verse means, without answering to any outside authority?  He can say he "disagrees" with the interpretation, but he cannot say it is "wrong," without betraying himself as a hypocrite.  He believes you can, and should, read the Bible for yourself to decide for yourself what it says, but when someone does that and comes up with an interpretation that is contrary to his, that other person is declared to be wrong, and apparently infallibly so!  Well, how can they be wrong if they have the authority to read the Bible and decide for themselves?!  Hypocrite!

Pastor: Really, I could make just one point and it would suffice.  You build your whole case around the fact that he was “dead.”  Indeed, that’s the graphic language used by the father.  But where does it say that he was ever not his son?  In fact, when the son tried to say that he was “no longer worthy to be called” his father’s son, the father brushed him aside and awarded him the symbols of complete sonship.  Even the son knew he was still his son.  He just thought he was no longer worthy to be “called” his son.  Nice try.

My Response: 

What, pray tell, do you think the "graphic language" used by the father to describe his son as being "dead," meant?  Is it completely irrelevant to the point of the parable?  Was the son still, biologically-speaking, his father’s son?  Of course he was.  So what?  Do you not know what a Jew meant by declaring a family member "dead" to them, even though that family member was still living?  I think you probably do, but you seem to choose to ignore that in your argument here.  For a Jew to declare a family member as being "dead," even though they were still alive, meant that they were cut off from the father’s household.  They were cut off from the father.  Cut off from the family.  Cut off from any and all rights regarding the family, regarding their birthright, regarding their inheritance.  They were, for all practical purposes, dead to the father…dead to the family.  Was the prodigal son still the biological son?  Yes.  But, was he cut off from the father and all that the father had?  Yes.  So, while you are correct, he was still his father’s biological son, you seem to completely ignore the fact that he was cut off from the father’s house. 

So, I ask you, what does it mean when the father in the parable says that his son was "dead."  You seem to think it is completely irrelevant to the story.  If God the Father – whom I believe you will agree is represented by the father in the parable – said that you, Pastor, were "dead" to Him, what would that mean?  Would being cut off from the household of God be no big deal to you?  Would being persona non grata to God mean that you’re still saved?  That is what your argument is asserting, that for someone to be "dead" to God the Father, to be cut off from God the Father, means that they are still saved.  To you, "dead" equals "saved."  If you want an interpretation that is amusing, I think that one qualifies.

Strategy:  Ask questions.  Take whatever someone puts in front of you and go over it with a fine-toothed, common sense comb.  Don’t just accept what they say as the Gospel truth.  At the surface, what he says might seem to make sense.  But, as I’ve shown here, what he really did was completely ignore the fact that the father described the son as being dead.  He makes mention that it was "graphic" language.  So, he seems to recognize the seriousness of the father using such language to describe the prodigal son, but then he goes on to completely ignore the fact that the language the father used meant something, and that it is indeed relevant to the point being made.  And, the conclusion he comes to, which he doesn’t explicitly mention because it is a pretty ridiculous conclusion, is that the son was "saved," even though he was described as being dead.  Being dead, in terms of salvation, means being unsaved…being lost.

Pastor:  Additionally, this parable was not a theological treatise on the uncertainty of one’s salvation.  To read that into it is unjustifiable.  The parable was a rebuke of the self-righteous attitudes of the Pharisees which was depicted by the older brother.  Jesus rebuked the scribes and Pharisees and confronted them with their very ungodly attitudes toward the "sinners" of society. The ending of the parable shows that it was directed to the scribes and Pharisees.  The self-righteous, judgmental attitude of the elder brother is in stark contrast to the greatness of God’s unconditional love for the outcast of society.  Nobody could have been more of an outcast than an apostate, immoral, swine-feeding Jew.  He challenged them to cease their loveless ways and be merciful toward those so greatly in need of the mercy of God.  He was not telling them about the intricacies of gaining and losing one’s salvation.

My Response: 

So, the Parable of the Prodigal Son was obviously misnamed, eh?  It should have been the Parable of the Jealous Older Brother, right?  I mean, if the whole point of the parable was focused on the reaction of the older brother, then all of that stuff about the prodigal son leaving his father’s house, dissipating his inheritance on sinful living, repenting of his ways and turning back to the father, the father saying he was dead and then alive "again,"…well, all of that was basically irrelevant to the story.  It was all about the older brother! 

Sorry, Pastor, but the main focus of this parable is salvation, not about how the scribes and Pharisees should be nice to everyone!  Yes, the reaction of the older brother is an important part of the parable, but it is not the main focus.  Yes, the scribes and the Pharisees were who the parable was addressed to, but the point Jesus was making to them is that He came for sinners and that God rejoices over every sinner who turns from their sinful ways.  We see that as the main point of the accompanying parables in Luke 15, do we not? 

In other words, the point of the parable is salvation.  Was the main point about salvation that you could lose it even after you’ve been saved?  No.  The main point was that salvation is open to anyone who repents and turns to the Father, and that God will rejoice over every repentant sinner.  But, the Jews did not believe in once saved always saved, and neither did anyone who called themselves a Christian until the 1500’s, so of course it’s not going to be the main point of the parable.  However, whether it’s the main point or not, it is still something that is part of the parable, as it is part of the accompanying parables.  The son was alive, he was a member of his father’s household.  He rejects the father – which is what asking for his inheritance while his father was still living means…that his father was dead to him – then he goes off and sins and becomes "dead" to his father, no longer a part of the family, of the household.  Then, he repents and returns to his father and is alive "again."  Alive, dead, alive again.  Saved, unsaved, saved again.

Look at the accompanying parables in Luke 15.  The lost sheep; the woman who loses a coin.  They are about finding the lost.  They are about salvation.  Which brings me to an interesting question for you: In the parable of the man who has 100 sheep, and one gets lost, would you say that the lost sheep was "saved," even though it is described as being "lost"?  Does "lost" mean "saved" in your lexicon, just like "dead" means "saved" in your lexicon?  I mean, if I use the same logic you used in your interpretation of the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the lost sheep must have been saved, right?  After all, even though the sheep was lost – like the prodigal son was lost – it was still that man’s sheep – just like the prodigal son was still the father’s son, right?  The lost sheep still belonged to that same man, didn’t it?  So, it must have been saved, even though it was lost, right?  Again, if you want an amusing interpretation, your interpretation that results in "lost" meaning "saved," and in "dead" meaning "saved," would certainly qualify.  Have you ever once interpreted the Parable of the Lost Sheep to mean that the sheep was "saved," even though it was lost?

I would close by simply asking you, again, what did it mean when the father described the son as being "dead."  In salvation terms, does dead mean "saved?"  What does it mean when the father describes the son as having been "lost?"  In salvation terms, does lost mean "saved?"  And, exactly what did it mean when the father said the son was alive "again?"  In salvation terms, what does it mean to be alive "again?"  One cannot be alive "again," unless one is first alive, then dead, then alive once more.  If alive means saved, and if dead means still saved, as your argument claims, then what does alive again mean?  Why didn’t the father say, "…for this my son was still my son and is still alive?"  Why did he use the words "dead" and "alive again?" 

Lastly, when the elder son, who you interpret as meaning the scribes and Pharisees, when he refused to come into their father’s house at the end of the parable, was he still saved?  Were the scribes and Pharisees still saved even though they rejected Jesus Christ?  After all, they were in covenant with God…sons of God…by virtue of their circumcision, so they were still his sons even after they rejected Christ, right?  So, by your logic, they should still be saved, right?  Once a son, always a son, right?  Once saved always saved, eh?


In Conclusion

Since I’ll be out of town next Friday, I probably will not be getting a newsletter out next week, but will endeavor to persevere to get one out the following week.

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Apologetics for the Masses