For those whose theology, and thereby their perception of eternal assurance, is works based, the words of Elmer Fudd seem to fit nicely. Namely, “Be vewy, vewy afwaid…“. As in A Tale of Two Johns, this of course refers to Mr. Wesley et al and our friends in the Church of Rome, but also to many others within the Evangelical community.
Within the larger post-reformation community, most who accept biblical inerrancy can agree that men (that’s men generically speaking, by the way) start from birth in the world as a Kingdom of Darkness, possessed both literally and figuratively by the Prince of the Air. Scripture is clear about this in numerous passages. The theology derived from Pelageous in the second century or thereabouts, and later evolving into so called Arminianism, effectively stipulates that there is some small degree of personal sovereignty deposited in each individual. This of course implies that they dodged the bullet in the Fall at least partially, and that they were somehow granted a personal portion of God’s complete sovereignty, but that is another issue for later. The proposed outworking of this possession of personal control is that they are able, of their own volition and solely by their own will and purpose, to respond to the Gospel, or not. In this theater, the Gospel is still presented by the Grace of God, but it is the individual, in exercising what can only be called their personal sovereignty, that determines the outcome, irrespective of the intent or wish of God. This script yields even more loose ends concerning the sufficiency and sovereignty of the work of Christ, but that too is another discussion. If the path is followed, with the individual in the final analysis accepting or rejecting the Gospel offer without the intervention of God (aside from the provision of the opportunity), then that individual sovereignty bring with it a subsequent ongoing, persistent responsibility to retain salvation once accepted. In other words, since they decided, then their personal sovereign authority retains the ongoing responsibility to maintain salvation or not. Individual will then is the pivotal component of eternal salvation. Whether that responsibility is exercised through willfully action or negligent inaction is irrelevant. It is still individual. This is indeed a heavy, and we shall see, precarious burden.
To continue, this responsibility must include modes of living that might influence Sanctification, namely that behaviour in line with our Lord’s example and precepts and associated repentance when that does not occur become deterministic. Furthermore, if continued Salvation is determined by ongoing individual actions, then it would logically follow that as imperfect creatures with incomplete Sanctification while still living in the world, each individual would fluctuate between states of Salvation and of not being saved in direct proportion to times of sin, repentance and subsequent forgiveness. There would by definition be frequent times of slipping from Salvation for even the most pious and diligent individual.
Scripture states that life in the human states even after Salvation is one of continued sinfulness to one degree or another. As such, there would be numerous periods of loosing and (potentially) regaining salvation. And the less than diligent Saint would find themselves out of Grace frequently.
All this is to say, as Elmer Fudd so eloquently put it, that virtually every person is effectively only a part-time Saint at best, or worse. More important, even when in a state of Grace, they must be concerned about their precarious state of being at all times! What a state to be in (no pun intended)! It is a condition of constant jeopardy and eternal insecurity. Yikes! Thank goodness that Scripture does not support this, but it is a state that many live in.
The Calvinist, on the other hand, lives in the truth of eternal security. Scripture states that those who are saved are moved to that state through the Hand of God alone. In other words, it is all the sovereignty of God, and none of man. Further, and more to our discussion here, is that those saved by His hand can never be taken (in Scripture, plucked) from it. Note, that Scripture states this as NEVER, not sometimes, possibly, conditionally or maybe. We have the Lord sovereignly saving us, and then, since His sovereignty will can not be denied, retaining us in that state eternally.
Surely Elmer would have said that we then can be “vewy, vewy secure”…