The Fork in the Road: The Progressive Line, Part 1

Hank asked a series of questions regarding the difference between the conservative and progressive points of view. I’m going to try to answer them.

My point is that the answer IS NOT to just deny that there even is a line. The answer is not to argue that because it is too hard to “articulate” precisely where the line is…to then simply say there is no line. Otherwise (if there is no line, anywhere), then what would be the point in trying to know and adhere to the revealed will of God in various matters? Seriously? But if their is a line SOMEWHERE…then progressives are surely under the same amount of pressure to articulate where said line is as are conservatives? But for progressives to point out the “failure” and “inability” of conservatives to precisely reveal where “the line” is, without being able to do it themselves, is like the guy throwing rocks from inside his own glass house. I just get frustrated at how the progrssives are in the very same boat, but refuse to accept it. You see, they must either:

1. Say there is no line anywhere — which would be total chaos.
2. Say there is a line and then precisely articulate as to where it is with each individual and in regarding every topic.


3. Understand that while there is a line, they do not know exactly where it is for every person in every situation (even their own) — but then they would have no assurance of salvation right?


You assume that progressives can’t articulate where the line  — the principle that determines when a Christian falls away — is even though I’ve repeatedly stated precisely where I believe the line to be. Just yesterday, I posted a comment referencing extensive material defending from the scriptures where I believe that line is.

Here it is, as Todd Deaver and I wrote it at GraceConversation

What would cause a saved person to no longer be saved  – to fall away or become an apostate? There are three ways a saved person can fall away  –

  • A Christian falls away when he no longer has faith. “Faith” means faith in Jesus.
  • A Christian falls away when he is no longer penitent. Equivalently, a Christian falls away when he no longer submits to Jesus as Lord. Equivalently, a Christian falls away when he willfully continues to sin.
  • A Christian falls away when he seeks to be justified other than by faith in Jesus.

You say, “And the three generalized principles offered do not begin to address the topic.” In fact, they do. Of course, the scriptures offer us tremendous depth as to what these principles mean beyond what we’ve written. But these principles in fact tell us when a Christian falls away.

Notice a few simple points in favor of this view point —

First, we enter God’s salvation by faith and penitence. We like to teach “hear, believe, repent, confess, be baptized.” But what we hear is what we believe is what we confess: the gospel, that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. That’s all “faith.”

Therefore, it’s entirely fair to summarize the path into salvation as “faith and repentance.” Indeed, that’s exactly how Greg said it in his recent comment

I believe we are saved by the grace of God. This grace is conditional, the conditions arising from the nature of the atonement. These conditions are repentance and faith expressed in the Good Confession and in Baptism into Christ.

For 200 years, Restoration Movement churches have drawn the line between “not yet saved” and “saved” at faith and repentance. We’ve always considered a person who comes to Jesus with these two qualities as a suitable candidate for baptism. And upon baptism, we’ve considered such a person perfectly forgiven of his or her sins.

Why then do we suppose that the path out of salvation is different from the path in? If you cross one line to get in, why would there be a different line to cross to leave?

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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4 Responses to The Fork in the Road: The Progressive Line, Part 1

  1. Bob Harry says:


    Good question. This morning we sang "Amazing Grace" twice. The words by John Newton, a penitant slave trader who was convicted during a journey home with a ship laden with slaves. The words are daunting when you read each verse.

    I once was lost but now am found, Was blind but now I see

    How precious did that Grace appear, The hour I first believe.

    I personnaly believe we never lose our faith but can stray into a life of living Hell and after a season we eventually find our way back. When we are created in Christ somthing is there at our conversion that was not there before, the holy spirit began to transform us into his image. What happens to us is that we lose the peace of the good life in Christ. But in my poor opinion we never lose that spark that was not there before when we were lost. The process is not reversable.

    I do not believe there is a fork that we take that both the progresives and conservatives take that seperates us. We will eventually come together in time if we truly have the Agape love for each other as God does for us.

    If we will just reat each other with love and respect, eventually the differences will seem miniscule. If we could only play like we are in heaven then nothing will diverg us.

    Maybe we need a dose of persecution so we will find our way back to each others loving arms

    With great respect to all of you cherished brothers and sisters in Christ


  2. Randall says:

    This is not so much a comment on this post as it is just a general comment in response to so many comment I have read over the past few days. So many comments about just what we should believe and what should be the practice of of the local congregation with an implied position or line drawn around on some tertiary doctrine. For example, Royce recently made a comment worth considering and was almost immediately jumped on by a couple of folks and had his words and position twisted into something he had not said.

    What is the appropriate response? Do I just let it slide and think on the good things I know God is doing? Should I make some joke about how our fellowship puts the "fun" in dysfunctional? Do I point out that congregations exist that recognize we are known to be Christians by our love and that we should bear the fruit of the Spirit rather than being known for what or whom we reject. Some in my extended family as well as some in my wife's family appear to walk in step with this approach to doctrine. That has been apparent recently and I finds it disturbs me.

    Maybe is is just b/c of recent comments and conversations I've read or been involved in, but it strikes me that at least some congregations of the CofC come within an inch of being a cult.

    May God save us from ourselves. He is our only hope for now and the future.

  3. Larry Short says:

    First, all who are following this discussion need to read the dialog in "Replanting a Denomination…."
    Jay, Jesus ends many of his parables and teachings with "who did the will of God?" Revelation is full of action, ala James to demonstrate faith like "those who washed their garments" or "those who endured the tribulation" etc. I am not trying to reinvent works based salvation, but Jesus constantly reminds us "to do the will of the Father" or "show fruit". If expressions of faith are not in your list, is it Jesus' list? Abraham beleived and did. James calls this living faith. He took the knife, Isaac, and wood to the altar. I beleive he would have finished God's command, if God did not stop him. That's real, living, doing the will of the father, faith. If that's what you mean in your list Praise God. Unfortunately to the modern man your list reads like a mental exercise with no application to life. Murder is revealed as againist God's will, but in your list it is vague.
    Now, if it is living faith, there is the rub. Trying to be faithful, doing the will of God, opens all those practices that may be commanded, exampled, infered. As I suggested your list could be different than mine. I think the line is personal.
    Probably why the early church could not get the perfect creed is similar to this. Sin requires our knowledge of sin, coming from the revelation available to us, the Bible and the indewling Spirit. "a Christian falls away when he willfully continues to sin", as Paul said the weaker may see sin in certain foods, or keeeping certain days, and to them it is SIN, therefore a personal falling away to a rule I may skip. How can our lines be the same?
    Lastly, we are God's children. Your 8 year old understands some things as pro or con your will, but your teenager should understand more. Each of us understands God will differently based on our maturity, revelation, and where we have walked with Him. Each of us violating our understanding is rebellion to the Father, and individually sin, and fatal if per your list willfully continued.
    So, the fine line of what's essentials may be more "work out your own salvation" by being true to our own understanding of His will.

  4. Bob Harry says:


    Amen. Let's do somthing to help the lost. I guess
    I would rather be guilty of doing an expression of faith, maybe in the wrong way as seen by others, than doing nothing.
    Zero plus zero = zero


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