I posted a bit about perseverance a couple of years back, when I was running a course on the doctrine of salvation. One of the papers I read at the time as part of my preparation was a masters thesis by Andrew Wilson, who argued for a “loss of reward” interpretation of the warning passages in Hebrews, a position I find unconvincing (although I firmly agree with the first of his concluding points – that the warnings address Christians).
So I was interested to notice that he has a new paper out in the Tyndale bulletin, which focuses in on the interpretation of Hebrews 3:6b and 3:14, and seems to reflect a shift in his understanding of Hebrews. The verses in question are important because of their “if X then Y” grammatical structure:
And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory. Heb 3:6b (NIV 2011)
We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. Heb 3:14 (NIV 2011)
Whilst the paper contains some fairly complex technical discussion, the basic issue boils down to whether these are “cause-to-effect” or “evidence-to-inference” conditionals. In other words, does holding firmly to the end cause us to be sharers in Christ (an Arminian approach), or is it evidence that we are already sharers in Christ (a Calvinist approach)?
Both options quickly run into problems – the first seems to make a present reality dependent on future event, while the second seems to undermine the warning passages later in the book.
I won’t attempt to summarise the whole argument, but the conclusion is that the evidence-to-inference interpretation is preferable, and that the objections to it can be answered by the possibility that the warnings are in fact a means to our perseverance. At this point he is in agreement with Schreiner, whose book I found very helpful. Anyway, it’s well worth a read if you get the chance, and you can join the discussion on the what you think matters blog.