Professor of Theology Dr. Everett Berry published a new book titled They Who Endure to the End: A Primer on Perseverance, a publication that explores the often-debated question of whether or not a true believer in Jesus Christ can apostatize or walk away from their faith.
Dr. Berry was motivated to write on apostasy after spending numerous years communicating with faith leaders and church members on the topic through presentations in conferences and in-depth, personal conversations.
“When I was doing doctoral work, pastoring for five of those years, I would meet … members of the church in that area or other pastors of other denominations, whether it be Methodist, Assemblies of God, Holiness, different traditions, it would be the one issue that would come up … whether a believer can lose their salvation,” Berry said.
During a 4-week presentation on the question, Dr. Berry led an expansive lesson on the issue of apostasy.
“I remember one year, we had a class kind of context on Sunday nights called Discipleship Training or Training Union. It was basically a class before the Sunday evening service. There was one time where I thought, ‘Okay, I’m going to do a four Sunday service on whether or not a believer can lose their salvation.’ I had a pretty good turnout for the first Sunday night … and all I did on the first Sunday night was just introduce the topic. The next week, I went over all the main New Testament passages that people appeal to: to say that believers cannot lose their salvation, typically called ‘eternal security’ or ‘once saved, always saved.’ I got a lot of amens and nodded heads. The third week, I went over the major New Testament text that people use to appeal to the idea that believers can lose their salvation. All I was doing was going over the text…just reading them. And I would consistently have people shaking their heads. There were a few times where all I did was read the text, and they were shaking their heads ‘no,’” Dr. Berry said.
“I’ve had other experiences as a professor where students have come to me and talked to me about assurance of salvation, and occasions where students were on the verge of abandoning their faith. Even a handful that already had and still wanted to talk about it even if they didn’t think they were Christians anymore. It is one of those issues that have constantly come up in my ministry and as a professor.”
Dr. Berry also acknowledges the sub-topics around apostasy that are controversial in the history of the church, like predestination and election.
“The reason why election always gets the most heat is because it is related to how you think God unfolds his plan. Your understanding about God is affected by what you say about election. But perseverance, the reason it gets so much attention, is because it affects how you think you can relate to God,” Berry said.
Dr. Berry also added that one must ask the question, “What was that person before they abandoned their faith?” Within the pages of They Who Endure to the End: A Primer on Perseverance, Dr. Berry discusses the difference between those who act as devout Christians but later decide to leave the faith, versus those who are devout Christians and stay in the faith, and tries to lead readers to a biblical conclusion and a personal challenge to be reflective on the matter of one’s own salvation.
“It is not just a matter of trying to figure out somebody else is a believer, it is trying to be assured that you are, and that’s why I wrote the book,” Dr. Berry said.
The book is available through Wipf and Stock Publishers at wipfandstock.com and amazon.com as a paperback and eBook.