The Saare-Turner Debate

Part Two

Proposition: “The New Testament Scriptures teach that unregenerated sinners are saved by grace through faith alone, before and without water baptism.” Keith Saare affirms; Allan Turner denies.

Turner’s Third Negative (posted 12/11/06): In order to negate the force of James 2:24, Keith arbitrarily defined “justified” as a mere “declaration of righteousness,” after the fact, of something that had already happened—namely, salvation by faith alone. To refute his arbitrary and universally enforced definition of justified (dikaioo), I argued that “justified by His blood” in Romans 5:9 had to be referring to forgiveness/salvation, and not just a “declaration of righteousness,” as he had claimed. Keith did everything he could to ignore this by talking about the use of the term “justified” in other passages, and all this while never making any effort to deal with Romans 5:9. Feeling the need to make some effort to deal with the actual passage, he argues that the grammatico-historical method makes it clear there is “an unspecified amount of time taking place between justification and salvation” in the passage and, therefore, this disproves my argument that being justified in Jesus’ blood in this verse is equivalent to being forgiven/saved by His blood. But Keith, who appears to have some knowledge of the Greek involved, while making a valid argument that the salvation from wrath and the justification by His blood in the text are separated by an unspecified amount of time, is playing a shameless game here, for I never argued that “justified in His blood” was the exact equivalent to “shall be saved from wrath through Him.” What I argued was that the expression “justified in His blood” was just another way of saying “saved/forgiven by His blood.”

Keith charges I made no effort to “interpret literally or to distinguish the different tenses of salvation (past, present & future),” but he’s quite wrong about this. Back in my Second Affirmative under the first proposition, I dealt rather extensively with salvation (past, present, and future) when addressing Keith’s point about the “present active indicative” found in John 5:24.

Furthermore, and this simply exudes irony, the immediate context of Romans 5:9 deals specifically with every facet of salvation, past, present, and future. That Keith ignored this is telling. The verse says, “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” The word “now,” on which Keith was silent, points to the present stage of our spiritual experience, as compared with the past stage (viz., while we were the “sinners” mentioned in verse 8), as well as the yet future stage of “eschatological salvation,” as Keith put it. Now, does Keith believe that those who have been justified by Jesus’ blood in this passage are not saved? I don’t think so. Why, then, does he make the argument that being justified by Jesus’ blood and being saved by it are really two entirely different things? I think the only reason he does so, even making arguments that contradict his own doctrine of “once saved, always saved,” is so he won’t have to deal with the force of James 2:24, which says, much to Keith’s chagrin, that a man is “justified by works, and not by faith only.”

Keith Saare, The Consummate (?) Exegete

For someone who incessantly “talks the talk” about the grammatico-historical method, it would certainly be helpful if Keith actually thought himself personally obligated to actually “walk the walk” this method requires. He is good at making unsubstantiated charges that I have violated one or another of the principles involved in this method, but he is quite poor when it comes to abiding by them himself. Therefore, I think it beneficial to spend a little time examining Keith’s handling (or mishandling) of Romans 5:9.

First, the very doctrine Keith espouses (viz., “once saved, always saved”) teaches that those described in Romans 5:9 are, in fact, saved/forgiven in the past, present, and future. But instead of admitting this, which would give credence to my argument, he wants to talk about “eschatological salvation,” which really has more to do with what I believe than what he teaches. For, unlike Keith, I believe a free moral agent, in order to be eventually saved in heaven, must continue in faith (viz., meeting the conditions of God’s grace) until death. In fact, the difference between his view and mine is the object of the next proposition to be discussed in this debate.

Second, Keith’s supposed exegesis of Romans 5:9 simply ignores the immediate context in which it is found—a context that teaches that if Jesus, through His death, was able to translate vile and ugly sinners into the kind of people who are at peace with God and, therefore, His friends, then what does this say about the eschatological salvation (viz., the “glory” that shall be ours in heaven) that the living Christ is able to effect for those who are “now” God’s friends (cf. v. 10)? In other words, if God has done so much for His enemies, then how “much more” will He do for us since we have become His friends? And what does this ultimately have to say about the assurance we have of that final state of glory? Commenting on this, Jack Cottrell said, and I think correctly:

The gap or chasm separating our former state (wrath) from our present state (grace) was like the Grand Canyon in its vastness; but the love of God and the cross of Christ were able to bridge that chasm, and we crossed the bridge through faith. Now, the gap separating our present state (grace) from the future one (glory) is like a small drainage ditch by comparison. Surely the same means that brought us across the first gap are more than sufficient to get us across the second one.

So, far from exegeting Romans 5:9, making an effort to deal with the passage and its immediate context, Keith simply tried his best to explain it away. How sad!

Surprisingly, Keith Concedes The Proposition

My challenge to Keith in my last response went like this:

If repentance really isn’t faith or belief, as Keith now seems to be claiming, and is, in fact, a “condition” that must be met in order to be saved, then are not he and his Calvinist cohorts really being disingenuous when they teach that one is saved by faith only? And am I to understand that Keith is now ready to repudiate the position he has agreed to defend in this debate, namely, “that unregenerated sinners are saved by grace through faith alone”? I don’t think so.
Boy, was I wrong! Although he failed to concede as plainly as I would have liked, Keith did, nevertheless, concede. Notice what he said in his confused and contradictory theological treatise:
My opponent, Mr. Turner, has stated: “It is quite clear that the Bible teaches that repentance (or turning from sin) is a condition that must be met before one is granted the remission of sins by God (cf. Acts 2:38; 3:19; 14:15; 26:18; 26:20).” To his observation I give my hearty approval.

Keith then went a step further when he introduced the idea that an unregenerated man (for this is the man who is the subject of this proposition) can actually be saved by “repentance alone.” Notice how he said it: “Secondly, any of these terms alone is sufficient for salvation. Faith or believing stand alone (Jn 3:16), at other times repentance is alone and sufficient (Act 17:30).”

It must now be clear that Keith is confused about what he actually believes on the subject being debated, for if salvation is conditioned on repentance, and it is (along with belief, confession, baptism, and a faithfulness unto death), then salvation cannot be by “faith alone.” I have never known anyone to argue that an unregenerated sinner can be saved by “repentance alone.” I find his statement on this bizarre and can only wonder what his religious cohorts and academic friends must be thinking about his defense of his position at this stage of the debate.

Repentance & Belief

In his closing remarks, Keith claims the Bible’s teaching about the order of repentance and faith contradicts “the popular creed of the Restoration Movement in which faith precedes repentance.” He says this proves that “Restoration Movement doctrine should be rejected.” I’m not a member of the Restoration Movement, so I don’t feel obligated to defend its “creed,” and if Keith would spend more time engaging me, rather than chasing some “Campbellite” boogeyman, I think we’d be having a much more profitable debate.

Yes, I am aware of passages, like Mark 1:15; Acts 20:21; and Hebrews 6:1, which mention repentance before belief. I am also aware that those who believe like Keith espouse a doctrine, based on these passages that says repentance always comes prior to any belief, which is, when you stop and think about it, an absolutely preposterous idea. Clearly, and depending upon who is being addressed and the circumstances in which that person is found, repentance toward God does precede belief of the gospel or faith in Jesus, and this is true whether one is a Jew or a Gentile. But ask yourself this question: How can one repent toward God if he doesn’t even believe there is a God? Such thinking is totally nonsensical, and the false doctrine that claims this supposed order is nothing but theological mumbo-jumbo. Let’s examine a few scriptural examples which are not exhaustive, by any means, but are sufficient to successfully refute Keith’s claim.

The Jews to whom the gospel was preached in Acts 2 already believed in God, but it was not until they heard the apostles’ preaching that they believed Jesus was, in fact, the promised Messiah. But when they believed Jesus was, in fact, the Messiah and that they had been culpable in His death, they asked what they needed to do (v. 37). They were told to “repent and be baptized.” Thus, this repentance was something commanded after they believed the gospel and by people who already believed in God. Furthermore, when Paul preached to the Athenians in Acts 17, he first introduced them to “THE UNKNOWN GOD,” who is the only true and living God, the Creator and Sustainer of everything. It was only after this belief groundwork was laid that Paul said anything about repentance or even broached the subject of Jesus, by whom God would judge the world one day.

So, yes, there are certainly situations where people need to be told to repent toward God and believe the gospel, but this cannot happen until one is first aware that there is a God. Anything else would be absurd!

Go to Turner’s First Affirmative of the Third Proposition.
Back To Saare’s Third Affirmative
Back To Turner’s Second Negative
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