'Kiss of Judas' by Giotto ca. 1304
Scot McKnight's The Warning Passages of Hebrews: A Formal Analysis and Theological Conclusion article in terms of Dogmas, Doctrines, Distinctives, and Details.*
Dogmas. McKnight himself asserts that “virtually all commentators and theologians can agree” that Hebrews promotes perseverance in light of eternal punishment (36). All Christians can affirm that “Perseverance is a necessity for those who are God's people” (32), since, whether or not one can lose their salvation, those who are truly saved persevere in faith. Those who don't persevere are either false believers (unregenerate) or in McKnight's view, “lose their faith” (58). Either way, the result is the same: Persevering faith is key to God's plan. Furthermore, McKnight affirms the orthodox Christian belief for the lack of perseverance, “that those who do not persevere until the end will suffer eternal punishment at the expense of the wrath of God” (36).
Doctrines. McKnight offers an excellent hermeneutics reminder when studying theology: “our theology ought to be challenged and reformulated as a result of our exegesis” and we ought to “admit when our theological constructions are at odds with a text's apparent reading and construct our synthesis in a way that incorporates exegetical conclusions that may be more plausible” (52).
The idea of whether one can lose their salvation, or “faith,” is a Distinctive as explained below. However, McKnight's assertion that salvation is entirely future by means of Eschatological Dualism, is a Doctrine level issue since his presentation of “past conversion” as part of a believer's inaugurated salvation seems to disrupt the doctrine of Justification (57). His explanation indirectly asserts the divorce of Christian conversion from Justification, instead seeing Justification, and thus the imputation of Christ's righteousness, occurring at Christ's second coming. McKnight's view completely reverses the understanding of Paul's Soteriology in order to accommodate his preferred view of the Hebrew's warning passages (he admits the alternative is viable, 49) in contrast to his hermeneutics reminder. McKnight's view amounts to Christians receiving a “free voucher” for propitiation which they must hold onto until the time when it is redeemable. He needs to take his own advice to synthesize his view when it is at odds not only with a single text (i.e. Hebrews), but also the whole text of Scripture.
McKnight builds his case on the false proposition that what is phenomenologically true must be spiritually true. However, it is impossible to determine whether a “believer” is truly saved, even phenomenologically (“a good tree bears good fruit”) since external manifestations are not perfect indicators of internal truths (44). Thus, one can't equate phenomenological conversion to Jesus Christ as “regeneration” (48). By extension, the author of Hebrews' use of terms for the Visible Church (43) offers no absolute indication, just as language used by preachers today, such as “believers,” or “we,” in reference to their congregations does not indicate the Invisible Church and exclude the unregenerate.
Distinctives. All four views on the warning passages (hypothetical, false believer, loss salvation, and covenant community) are Distinctive since even though they differ greatly on the orthodoxy presented by the text (23-25), the orthopraxy for all is the same: “to persevere in the faith,” and “to heed the Word of God in obedience” (32). However, differing views may make worship together uncomfortable. The traditional Arminian view, that believer's can lose their salvation, (vs. McKnight's view) falls here since Justification is rejected (as if intentionally (42) disrobing after being clothed with Jesus), not delayed. However, this view creates additional theological challenges since Hebrew's “impossible to repent” after apostatizing (34-35) raises the question if/how those who apostatize can be redeemed again.
McKnight makes a good observation over the pastoral implications of these warnings (42).
Details. While apostasy seems to be the clear explanation of the sin in Hebrews warning passages, other speculative conclusions have included: being drawn to Judaism, lethargy, historical sect (41), or Charismatic enthusiasm to the exclusion of God's word(42), but they're just that, speculation.
*Dogmas are theories directly impacting God's mission to reconcile all people to Himself (orthodoxy & orthopraxy required).
Doctrines indirectly impact God's mission (and are thus vitally important), but people can fail to interact with or understand them accurately (essential to orthodoxy, not orthopraxy).
Distinctives don't affect the orthopraxy of salvation, but will impact the orthopraxy of a church.
Details have little to no effect on orthodoxy or orthopraxy.
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