If You Could Lose Your Salvation, You Would?

John MacArthur once made a statement that has circulated around the internet Christian community. Every Time The issue of whether a Christian could lose their salvation comes up, you’re probably going to find someone in the internet thread posting this quote.

John MacArthur said “If you could lose your salvation, you would”. Adam4d even made a short comic based on this quote. Click here to look at it.

I have a problem with this quote. The reason is that it is a non-sequtor. It doesn't follow that because it's possible for someone to throw away their salvation, that therefore it will inevitably happen. That's like saying "If you could die in a plane crash, you would", or "If you could get mauled by a grizzly bear, you would." Is it possible that I could die in a plane crash? Yes. Does that mean it will happen at some point in my life simply because that possibility exists? No. Of course not. Could I get mauled by a grizzly? Yes. Does that mean it will inevitably happen at some point in my life? No. Or it'd be like saying "If you could commit adultery, you would." Now, because the possibility exists that I could freely choose to cheat on my significant other, does that mean that it will inevitably happen at some point in my life? You tell me.

People too often straw man the Arminian position on apostasy. Let me explain it: Salvation loss is a willful, deliberate act of apostasy. It is something that must be purposefully brought about. That’s what Arminians believe. It’s possible that after someone has chosen to accept Christ, that they can choose to reject Christ at a later date.

This is what’s it NOT: You do NOT lose your salvation from falling into sin, giving into temptation. A man hasn’t lost his salvation because he stubbed his toe and took the Lord’s name in vein or because he was seduced by a woman or whatever. Otherwise, we'd have to get saved like 50,0000,000,0000,000,000,000 times before we die, which is absurd.

The former is what Arminians believe. The latter is a straw man. And that straw man is probably what John McArthur was thinking when he made this statemen. No Arminian believes that. Otherwise they’d be constantly full of anxiety that they might do something to make God reject them. Since we’ve properly defined the belief of conditional security, I hope you can see how fallacious it is to say that because a Christian can turn away from Christ, that therefore they will. If conditional security meant you lose your salvation as soon as you sin, then I'd agree that if that's what resulted in salvation-loss then none of us could remain in a salvic state for very long.

Again, salvation loss is not that we stop being saved if we sin. It’s those who turn their backs on Christ. An example would be someone who’s a Christian but becomes an atheist or a wiccan.

Now, I’m not defending conditional security here, but what I’m saying is that if you’re going to criticize a position, you need to do it correctly. Straw men should be avoided. This is just as much of a straw man as when Arminians imply that "once saved, always saved" logically entails that you can live as evil and immorally as you want and still make it to Heaven, that “Once Saved Always Saved” logically entails that you have a license to sin. I know of no Calvinist who believes this. In fact, they would say (and I would as well) that if a Christian persistently lives an immoral life, he probably wasn't saved in the first place. The saved man will naturally desire to stay away from sin. The truly saved person will fight his or her sin with everything they’ve got. They will try to avoid committing a sin like they avoid the plague.

As 1 John 2:9 says “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.”

I’ve adopted a position on security which says that while apostasy is possible, but it’s a possibility that has never has and will never be actualized. It can happen, but it won’t happen. And this position stems from a Molinist understanding of God’s knowledge of our free choices. It’s sort of a hybrid between salvation-loss and eternal security that I think happily marries the two sets of scriptures that both sides of the debate use to defend their position.

This is the same position that William Lane Craig and Kenneth Keathley take on the issue of apostasy/security. This view says that Christians can lose their salvation, but they won’t lose their salvation. Christians have the ability to exercise their free will to turn their backs on their Lord, but God gives plenty of warning passages (Hebrews 3:12, Hebrews 6:4-6, 2 Peter 2, 2 Peter 3:17, etc.) because He knew before creating the universe that if He put plenty of warnings in scripture not to fall away, then those who are truly saved would freely persevere in their faith. It’s like a mother who warns her child not to touch the top of a stove because he would be burned if he touched the stove. As a result of the warning, the child is fearful of being burned and chooses not to touch the top of the stove, and hence, he never gets burned. I see these warning passages in scripture (Hebrews 3:12, Hebrews 6:4-6, 2 Peter 2, 2 Peter 3:17, etc.) in the exact same way. As a result, we can make sense of these passages telling believers to be careful not to turn their backs on Christ while at the same time, we can make sense of passages like 1 John 2:19, which essentially says that anybody who abandons the Christian faith never belonged to Christ in the first place. And also passages like Ephesians 6:24 which says that a Christian’s love for Christ is an “undying” love (meaning it will never end).

It’s indisputable in my mind that a Christian CAN turn their backs on Christ. The real question is whether God has actualized a possible world where people end up in circumstances where He knew, if they were to end up in those circumstances, they would freely reject Christ after being born again. I don’t think He has on the basis of some of the passages I’ve cited above.

When I said everything that I said above in a conversation about this with a Calvinist in a Facebook group I’m a member of, he said that I was forgetting the assumption of Total Depravity. The doctrine of Total Depravity (which all Calvinists, Arminians, and Molinists agree on) states that due to our sinful nature, we can only choose evil things. We also can’t repent on our own unless God sends grace to us. Jesus said this in John 6:44 and John 6:65. Based on this, we would choose to shun God at every chance we get, so went his argument.

I responded to him by saying ”It seems to me, you are forgetting the assumption of  prevenient grace into account.  If God's grace weren't present, people wouldn't choose any kind of good at all. But given God's grace, we're able to choose good and evil, right and wrong, salvation or damnation. It's concievable, as the person before me  said, that some would use their "free will" to choose not to leave or abandon their salvation. We're able to choose one or the other after salvation thanks to God's prevenient grace just as we could choose to receive or reject God prior to salvation. But I'd go one step further and say that God has actualized a world where those who are truly saved will never make that choice, given that God knows what we would do in any given circumstance he makes sure those saved in the actual world never find themselves in circumstances where God knows, if placed in those circumstances, they would  make the choice of apostasy. (see my article linked to above). So like my Arminian brothers, I believe apostasy is possible, but like my Calvinist brothers, I believe the elect will persevere to the very end. Anyone who doesn't wasn't really saved in the first place.”

In conclusion, Calvinists need to stop using this quote. John Macarthur is misguided when he says “If you could lose your salvation, you would”. There is no reason to think that the mere possibility of choosing to go back to your old ways of living means that you will unavoidably make that choice somewhere down the road.


  1. Sir... I can see your point of view... But dying on plane crash or mauled by a bear are not the same with rejecting christ...
    How often u are on the plane? How often u meet a bear?
    tempation to turn away from the truth is a lot stronger and more frequent to attemp us compare how many hours u spend on a plane, even if u are a pilot...

    I am not saying im agree or disagree with armenian or calvinis...
    I just think your example is not apple to apple...

    1. I don't think the frequency of being in a plane or encountering a bear vs. The frequency of being tempted to win is irrelevant. The point was just because something is possible doesn't entai l it's inevitability. Now, if what McArthur thinks constitutes losing salvation is simply committing a single sin after being saved, then I would agree. We're never going to be perfect in this life, and everyone sins occasionally after converting. So, if that's what losing salvation means, then yeah, it's only a matter of time. But that's not what Arminians mean when they say you can lose your salvation, as I explain in the article above. if that's what McArthur means, then he is attacking a straw man.

      To lose your salvation is to apostatize. To apostate is to completely and utterly forsake Christ. Now, whether tru my born again Christians actually can turn away from Christ is a different issue.


Post a Comment