I Wonder…How Many of these ACNA Exvangelicals Still Believe in Eternal Security?

There’s no doubt that the “exvangelicals” that have populated places like C4SO have made a splash in the Anglican Church in North America. What kind of spash…that’s another story. When the ACNA started, some of us thought an influx of same would breathe some new life into North American Anglicanism. Now I think we’re having second thoughts. There are two problems: a) exvangelicals have migrated into Anglicanism to get away from the relentless push to be evangelists, and b) in spite of their idea to get away, evangelicals tend to be very “deep into their own stuff,” their culture, the way they were brought up, the things that were drilled into them from the nursery upwards.

Some people think that this is an ACNA novelty. It isn’t. Our society has changed greatly, but “exvangelicals” have been migrating upward (in a socio-economic sense) for many years. It could be argued that efforts like this (in this case from 1952) were early attempts by the Episcopal Church to “show the ropes” to the newbies. But for me this is personal: my mother came out of a Baptist background, and only formally converted in her 40’s, the year before I was confirmed. My mother was a very complicated person, but her Baptistic roots cam through in many ways.

One of those was an aversion to infant baptism. As noted here, I wasn’t baptised until I was 10, and that at my own initiative. She always told me that my health when I was born wasn’t very good, so she put it off. Ten years is a long time. Today I don’t believe that story.

But that’s a good introduction to another Evangelical belief she never shook off: eternal security. Some explanation of this is necessary.

The high view of predestination that Reformed people have has as its logical corollary the unconditional perseverance of the saints. In a truly Reformed frame of reference, that makes sense as it is coupled with the unconditional election of…well, the elect. The Baptists have not been univocal on the issue of predestination and election. The Southern Baptists (and their Missionary and Independent counterparts) have, as Bill Leonard pointed out many years ago, effectively combined an Arminian view of election (it’s a choice) with a Reformed view of perseverance. Hence the Baptistic view of “once saved/always saved.”

Doing this results in some interesting effects. One of those is the total lack of penitential life in Baptist churches. That throws people from Anglican and Catholic traditions, but thanks to their theology it’s a feature, not a bug. It even seeps into churches (such as those in the Wesleyan tradition like the Methodist, Holiness and Pentecostal churches) which do not share unconditional perseverance. Another thing is that it puts ethics in a new light, and I discuss this in my post The Baptists, Their Doctrine and Their Nasty Politics.

In the Anglican world, for those who believe that there is a difference in possible eternal destinations, this has never been the case. (Where do you think the Wesleyan churches got it from?) I discuss this from a liturgical standpoint in my post What I Learned About Approaching God From the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.

But serious question: how many of these “exvangelicals,” fleeing the Baptistic (and Baptistic adjacent) world, still believe that, once you’ve made a profession of faith, you’re in for good? Given the rapid influx of these people, that’s not a stupid question. And, as we see, that can have some profound effects on people, up to and including changing their mind on serious issues and thinking they can get away with it based on a salvation experience long ago, in a youth camp far away…

In the later years of our time on earth together, I was shocked to discover that my mother had not only tenaciously held on to eternal security, but that she expected that, in spite of liturgical proclamations to the contrary, I would come around to it. I didn’t even come around it in my 2 1/2 years in the Baptist church: far from it, it made me want to flee it even more!

That’s just one of many strange things that exvangelicals bring to “the table” in the ACNA. The survivors of the war with the Episcopal Church need to wake up to things like this.

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