Jason Engwer is a prolific Protestant anti-Catholic apologist and webmaster of the site, Triablogue. He used to interact with me from 2000 to 2010 or so and then promptly stopped. I continue to critique his material, if I think there is educational value in doing so. Maybe one day he’ll decide to start dialoguing again. In any event, I’ll continue to do what I’ve done these past [nearly] 33 years as a Catholic apologist, and if I see that he makes some dubious claim against a Catholic position, I’ll respond, provided it is substantive enough to be worth addressing.
This is a response to portions of Jason’s article, “A Challenge to Those Who Deny Eternal Security,” which was posted sometime before August 2004. His words will be in blue. I will be using RSV for Bible citations.
Why were the apostles sure that they would go to Heaven, even though they still had time to sin (2 Timothy 4:18, 1 Peter 5:1, 2 John 2-3)?
2 Timothy 4:18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil and save me for his heavenly kingdom. . . .
This is in the sense that God is perfectly capable and willing to do so, but it presupposes that we, too, are willing and don’t fall from grace. The Bible doesn’t teach irresistible grace. Many other passages (including four from the same book) also need to be considered in the overall mix. They show that there are conditions (i.e., it’s not a sure thing, set for all time), and that one can lose salvation and being in a state of grace with God if they don’t persevere to the end. The passages that Jason brings up all have to be interpreted in light of this other motif that is also plainly taught in the Bible, in the following seventeen passages, among others:
Romans 8:15-17 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father!”  it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God,  and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Matthew 10:22 . . . he who endures to the end will be saved. (cf. 24:13; Mk 13:13)
John 16:1 I have said all this to you to keep you from falling away.
Philippians 3:11-12 that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.  Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, . . .
1 Corinthians 9:27 but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
1 Corinthians 10:12 Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.
Galatians 5:4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.
Colossians 1:22-23 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him,  provided that you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which has been preached to every creature under heaven, . . .
1 Timothy 1:19-20 . . . By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith,  among them Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.
1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.
1 Timothy 5:15 For some have already strayed after Satan.
2 Timothy 2:17-18 . . . Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus,  who have swerved from the truth . . .
Hebrews 3:12-14 Take care, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day . . . that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we share in Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end.
Hebrews 6:4-6 For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God, and the powers of the age to come, if they then commit apostasy . . .
Hebrews 10:26-29, 36, 39 For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,  but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire which will consume the adversaries.  A man who has violated the law of Moses dies without mercy at the testimony of two or three witnesses.  How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by the man who has spurned the Son of God, and profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of grace? . . .  For you have need of endurance, so that you may do the will of God and receive what is promised. . . .  But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and keep their souls.
2 Peter 2:15, 20-21 Forsaking the right way they have gone astray; they have followed the way of Balaam, . . . For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.
Revelation 2:4-5 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.  Remember then from what you have fallen, repent and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.
Paul in his 2nd epistle to Timothy strongly implies that his salvation was conditional upon his perseverance and observance of God’s laws and a steadfast faith. This in turn is a different thing from the notion of achieving salvation and eternal security in one instant:
2 Timothy 4:7-8 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, . . .
Paul didn’t say, “I knew I was saved on such-and-such a date, because it is by faith alone and has nothing to do with works or sanctification.” No! He didn’t explain this as a typical evangelical Protestant like Jason would. He worked! He “fought” and “finished the race” and “kept [not just believed] the faith”. These all involve time and perseverance. And as a result, he states, “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness.”
For Paul, salvation is a “both/and” synergistic proposition, not “either/or” (God does all, man can and does do nothing to attain it). So he writes that “he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me” (2 Tim 1:12), but also writes “guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us” (2 Tim 1:14). God works, and so do we, enabled by His grace.
If indeed we have free will, we can choose to stop cooperating with God’s grace, too. Thus, in his first epistle to Timothy, Paul referred to “some” who “will depart from the faith” (1 Tim 4:1) and “some” who “have already strayed after Satan” (1 Tim 5:15), and he names two of these: “Hymenaeus and Alexander” (“the coppersmith”: 2 Tim 4:14) who “have made shipwreck of their faith” (1 Tim 1:19-20). And “Hymenaeus. . . swerved from the truth” (2 Tim 2:17-18). Two other statements of Paul in 2 Timothy imply good works as part of the conditional salvific process:
2 Timothy 2:5-6 An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.  It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.
2 Timothy 2:11-12 The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we shall also live with him;  if we endure, we shall also reign with him;
There is no such thing as “eternal security” in either of Paul’s letters to Timothy. Quite the opposite . . .
1 Peter 5:1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed.
He writes similarly in 1:3-5 and 5:4, 10. At the moment he was that, if he was free of mortal sin. This is the Catholic understanding of moral assurance of salvation. It doesn’t follow that this grace and salvation can’t be lost. St. Peter clearly taught the possibility of apostasy and forsaking the faith in 2 Peter 2:15, 20-21, already cited above. Just seven verses earlier in the same book, Peter wrote:
1 Peter 4:13-14 But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.  If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. (cf. 5:9-10)
This echoes very similar Pauline teaching (cited above) from Romans 8:15-17 and Philippians 1:29 (“you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake”) and 3:10 (“that I may know him . . . and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death”). Some amount of suffering appears to be required for ultimate salvation, and this simply isn’t “faith alone.” 1 Peter 4:13-14 and Romans 8:15-17 mention God’s “glory” or our receiving His “spirit of glory” or being “glorified with him”. Here’s another similar passage (note the conditional “if”):
Romans 6:3-5 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
1 Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you.
2 John 1:2-3 . . . the truth which abides in us and will be with us for ever:  Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, . . .
Why did the apostles want the believers to whom they wrote to be sure of their future in Heaven (Romans 5:9, 1 Corinthians 1:8, Philippians 3:20-21, 1 Peter 1:3-5, 5:4, 1 John 5:13, 2 John 2-3)?
Romans 5:9 Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
Romans 8:24-25 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Thayer’s Greek Lexicon defines hope (Gk., elpis, Strong’s Greek word #1680) as “expectation of good, hope; and in the Christian sense, joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation”. Granted, this is not far from “certain” or “absolute” (and Catholics believe in this, in the sense of a reflective, self-examining moral assurance) but it’s not quite there, so that there is still a chance of losing such salvation or the divine grace that brings it about. That salvation is a process for Paul, also, is indicated when he writes that “salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (Rom 13:11). If we already possess it in absolute certainty, then it would be absurd and nonsensical to refer to it being “nearer”: and nearer at a subsequent point of time after “we first believed.”
Moreover, in Romans 2:6-7, Paul teaches that God “will give eternal life” based on (“according to”) the “works” of “every man” and to those who earn it through “patience in well-doing.” What’s with all these works?! Is Paul a lousy Pelagian or something? No! He teaches grace alone for salvation, through faith, which includes within it (inseparably) good works.
1 Corinthians 1:8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Philippians 3:20-21 But our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,  who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body, . . .
Luke 7:50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Acts 19:2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” . . .
Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1) initial justification = monergistic with no works on our part;
2) maintenance of justification = synergistic and cooperative, and involves good works.
Even were it possible for us to perform works absolutely pure, yet one sin is sufficient to efface and extinguish all remembrance of former righteousness, as the prophet says (Ezek. 18:24). With this James agrees, . . . [cites Jas 2:10] (Institutes III, 14:10)
[cites Jas 2:10-11] Therefore, it should not seem absurd when we say that death is the just recompense of every sin, because each sin merits the just indignation and vengeance of God. (Institutes III, 18:10)
Ezekiel 18:5-13 If a man is righteous and does what is lawful and right —  if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman in her time of impurity,  does not oppress any one, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment,  does not lend at interest or take any increase, withholds his hand from iniquity, executes true justice between man and man,  walks in my statutes, and is careful to observe my ordinances — he is righteous, he shall surely live, says the Lord GOD.  If he begets a son who is a robber, a shedder of blood,  who does none of these duties, but eats upon the mountains, defiles his neighbor’s wife,  oppresses the poor and needy, commits robbery, does not restore the pledge, lifts up his eyes to the idols, commits abomination,  lends at interest, and takes increase; shall he then live? He shall not live. He has done all these abominable things; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon himself.
1 Corinthians 2:14 The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.*Matthew 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”
Photo Credit: St. Paul (1482), by Bartolomeo Montegna (1450-1523) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]
Summary: I tackle several rapid-fire supposed prooftexts for eternal security, presented by anti-Catholic evangelical apologist Jason Engwer, & show that apostasy is possible.