The controversial statements by Alan Chambers and the criticism by Robert Gagnon rehearse age-old issues that Christians have wrestled with since the beginning: What exactly is the place of works after one is saved? What difference do they make, if any? I've been asked to respond from a Wesleyan Arminian point of view.
It is one of the most basic tenants of Wesleyan Arminian theology that salvation is not complete at the new birth (or justification). The Wesleyan Arminian stresses that in fact there are three tenses to salvation for the believer—"I have been saved (the new birth), I am being saved (sanctification), and I shall be saved to the uttermost (glorification)." The Arminian does not believe that a person who has only experienced the new birth has completed the salvation process, or that the rest of the process is inevitable and foreordained. Nor does the Wesleyan Arminian believe that the behavior of Christians subsequent to conversion is irrelevant to whether or not they are being sanctified presently, or will be saved to the uttermost eventually.
Put in Pauline terms, it is perfectly possible for a person to experience the grace of God in the form of the new birth, and not end up in the Kingdom of God, or heaven for that matter. I like to put it this way: You are not eternally secure until you are securely in eternity, and this of course stands at odds with the fundamental Reformed position on this matter. In sum, Wesleyan Arminians believe that immoral behavior or apostasy subsequent to conversion can affect one's holiness, one's sanctification, and one's eventual glorification negatively. One cannot save one's self by certain patterns of behavior but one can certainly impede or even destroy one's relationship ...1
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