Martuneac, Bing, and Apostasy

Posted by Matt Postiff May 8, 2012 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Theology 

Last month, Lou Martuneac re-posted an article by Charlie Bing entitled The Christian and Apostasy (original available here). He then briefly pulled the post, wrote a clarifying post, and put the original back into place.

The clarification that he wrote was helpful, but it leaves something to be desired. Primarily, the lay reader has to wonder how Bing's view is any different than the crossless gospel that Martuneac has inveighed against for years (and rightly so). If there is substantially no difference, then why doesn't Martuneac call the spade a spade?

The paragraph that caused Martuneac the most consternation was Bing's conclusion:

As Christians we can depart from the faith, deny the faith, or stop believing in Christ as our Savior. But since the security of our salvation depends on God's faithfulness, not our own, we can never lose eternal life. A Christian may leave the faith, but God never leaves the Christian. Apostasy from the faith does not forfeit salvation, though it will forfeit future rewards.

Let me ask a question of Bing: Is that really what you mean? Is there really such a thing as a Christian person who denies the faith, who ceases believing, or, as you suggest of the widows in 1 Timothy 5:14-15, who follows Satan? How can a believer not believe? How can a person who follows Christ stop following and instead follow Satan? Are these short, temporary lapses, like Peter's denial, or are you suggesting that a believer can permanently cease believing?

In the absence of any other qualifying statements, it seems as if Bing really does believe what he wrote in that conclusion. Given that assumption, I have to conclude that Bing is in serious conflict with God's Word. Nowhere in Scripture are such boldface statements supporting apostasy ever made. Bing's theological system may indeed demand such conclusions, but the Scripture never clearly teaches that "true Christians can leave the faith." If anything, it rather clearly teaches that "true Christians never leave the faith" (Hebrews 3:14).

Bing's article goes wrong in its interpretation of the texts listed in the first section:

  • Peter denied the Lord. Luke 22:34, 54-62
  • God’s chosen nation, Israel, stopped believing. Rom. 3:1-3; 10:16-21.
  • The apostle Paul predicts apostasy in later times. 1 Tim. 4:1-3
  • The warning of First Timothy 4:16 implies a Christian can depart from the faith.
  • There were widows in the church who “turned aside to follow Satan.” 1 Tim. 5:14-15
  • The apostle Paul describes false teachers who strayed from the faith. 1 Tim. 6:20-21
  • Those who deserted the apostle Paul and opposed him (2 Tim. 1:15; 4:9-10, 14-16) are to be gently instructed so that they can escape the snares of Satan. 2 Tim. 2:24-26.
  • Hymenaeus and Philetus strayed from the truth. 2 Tim. 2:17-18 -Those in error can overthrow the faith of others. 2 Tim. 2:18
  • The book of Hebrews addresses those who were in danger of leaving the faith. Heb. 2:1-3; 3:12; 6:4-6; 10:26-39; 12:25

His interpretation of these texts is in the following sentence: "It is clear from the passages listed above that those who apostasize are true Christians..." He has missed the mark quite badly in so saying. Of all the examples he cites, Peter and Timothy are the only "clear" cases of Christians.

Unbelieving Israel to whom he refers did not consist of saved people. The end-times apostates are non-Christians. Widow-followers of Satan are not clearly "true Christians." False teachers are not clearly Christians. Those who turned away from apostolic teaching are not clearly Christians. Those with shipwrecked faith and those with heretical teaching such as Hymenaeus and Philetus are not "clearly" Christians. Those addressed in Hebrews were not all clearly Christians, particularly because there were those who departed in contrast to those of whom the author was convinced of better things, and things that accompany salvation (6:9).

After making this mistake, Bing's article goes off in an entirely wrong direction. Little further analysis is needed. But what should we do who wish to adhere closely to God's revealed doctrine of salvation in the Bible? We ought to remind ourselves that apostasy is not okay. It is deadly, and we must heed the warnings of Scripture very carefully. Straying from something does not necessarily mean one really embraced it; rather, it can very well mean that the embrace was not a genuine one at all.

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