One day, a friend said in a conversation with me, that he sometimes wondered if Christians could “lose their salvation.” He also affirmed that at this point, he thinks the answer is “No.” His answer didn’t surprise me; I know his basic theological orientation. Nonetheless, our conversation led me to again engage my thinking on the topic.
At this point in my understanding, it seems that both answers, “No” and “Yes”, to the question “Can Christians lose their salvation?” require us to accept the legitimacy of the question. But, is the question really a valid one?
It is not enough to call a collection of words a valid question just because it has a subject and a verb, has a particular word order, carries a question mark when in written form or finishes by speaking up when voiced. The question as posed, “Can I lose my salvation?” is a shortened version of a false dilemma since both answers “No” and “Yes” accept that there are only two possible answers. In such a scenario, to favorably win the debate all one needs to do is either validate one of the positions or invalidate the opposite.
It appears to me that the question is not valid because the Christian message of salvation is multifaceted. The Scriptures use a host of analogies to describe both the plight of humanity as well as God’s response to that plight. At the same time, many Christians limit themselves to the word “sin” as THE descriptor for the plight of humans and to the word “saved” as THE descriptor for God’s response.
But, those are just two of the many descriptors that are employed in the Bible. To fail to give due value to the many other descriptors leads us to reduce the question to a “toggle-switch” view of salvation, rather than seeing the “degree” issue of salvation. Yes, there is a sense in which salvation has a beginning point in a person’s life. That is implicit in the “born again” descriptor / analogy. But, let’s note that the “born again” descriptor is only one of the many descriptors we find in Scripture.
Allow me, however, to stick to the “life” descriptor for a moment. Life (living) is more than an issue of being either dead or alive. There is also the need to think in terms of “living well” versus “living poorly”. Thinking in those terms brings into the discussion the descriptors of being sick, wounded, blind, deaf, foolish, lost, enslaved, etc., and the descriptors of being healed, having your eyesight restored, regaining your hearing, being found, being freed, etc.. The Bible is simply abundant with analogies and descriptors as it describes the problem (what non-regenerated humans are suffering) and the solution (what regenerated humans are now enabled to be).
Once seeing this scenario, we have moved away from merely the toggle switch approach of either “having” or “losing” salvation. If such is the case, that challenges the validity of the original question which asks for only one of two answers. It is a truism that an answer that satisfies a false dilemma question has not conveyed relevant information.