"Once Saved, Always Saved"

I know that dispensationalism and rapture theology is a fairly recent phenomenon (100-150 years old). Does anyone know if OSAS as understood by many Evangelicals today has a similarly short history? I assume it is a product of the reformation, and Calvinism specifically. Is there any record of anyone in the early centuries teaching this idea?

Dispensationalism is a theology of the last 150 to 200 years. It in itself is a complicated idea of the end times that has Christ returning and giving Jews the land of Israel for a period of 1000 years. Usually there are wars and tribulation afterward and before final judgement. Some believe certain Christians will be save from these wars and so on.

As for the Reformation, it is not a part of the Reformation itself. It’s certainly not a teaching of Luther, which is mainly that salvation is a gift from God. Maybe it could be viewed as having roots in Calvinism/Reformed churches, which often hold that those who will be saved are predetermined. Dispensationalism mainly relies seeing the Book of Revelation as talking about the future instead of the past as has been held by most churches for most of the time of Christianity.

None whatsoever. This article has relevant information to your question and it references the work of a renowned protestant scholar.


Dear PDX seeker,

First, what does PDX stand for?

I entered the Church in 1999 primarily b/c of Biblical disagreement with the OSAS theology. OSAS is a new idea. Older than Dispensationalism and Rapture theology but certainly not Ancient Authoritative Apostolic teaching.

My husband wrote a 2 vol book called Once Saved Always Saved: If you don’t fall a way. He self published and we sell the book on Amazon.He is still not Catholic but he only goes to church with me and participates at the parish. His books were written for Protestants and goes into a lot of scriptural detail. But, here is my conversion story. -->How Can I Stop My Heart From Singing

If you have any scriptural questions regarding OSAS I would be happy to have a conversation with you.

The idea does indeed have Reformed roots. The article JerryZ linked to is wrong in saying that it didn’t exist before Calvin–Calvin did not invent the Reformed tradition and the idea shows up in Zwingli and Oecolampadius and other early Reformed theologians. These theologians were drawing on Augustine’s doctrine of predestination. But as the article cited above correctly notes, Augustine did not think that being regenerate (born again) guaranteed final salvation. A person who was not among the elect and did not have the gift of perseverance could believe, be baptized, and experience God’s grace. In terms of the present moment, there would be no necessary spiritual difference between an elect person and a reprobate person. Only at death would one’s election be certain.

The Reformed, on the other hand, taught that only the elect ever experienced regenerating grace. (This necessarily went along with a denial that all the baptized are regenerate, of course.) Only the elect ever had true faith, so if you had true faith, you could be confident that you were elect.

That, by the way, is the “Calvinist difference” on predestination. Not that they believed in it (Luther did, and so did most Catholic theologians), but that they turned it into a doctrine that brought comfort and assurance to believers.

Then, in the 19th century, most Baptists backed away from the “harsh” Calvinist doctrine of predestination. But for the most part they continued to believe in “eternal security.” So you now had a novelty–a doctrine that people could freely choose to believe or not to, and freely choose how to act after they came to faith, while their salvation was assured on the basis of one moment of “decision.”

To be fair, many Baptists maintain something like the Calvinist view of inevitable sanctification–that if you are a true believer you won’t want to sin, etc. But this doesn’t hold together as well without predestination, in my opinion (a highly biased opinion–this is the doctrine on which I cut my theological teeth as a Wesleyan Holiness eight-year-old attending AWANA).


Thanks Pam,

I’ll definitely check out your story. PDX is shorthand (airport code) for Portland, OR. I used to live in that area, but I am now in St. Louis.

I came from a tradition where we firmly believed in the rapture/dispensationalism but I don’t think we believed in OSAS in a strict sense. I’m pretty familiar with the theologies themselves and the scriptural arguments for and against (and I’m Catholic now so hopefully that tells you where I stand). I was just curious about the history. I’m always up for a conversation though :slight_smile:

You might point out that since being written in the book of life = being saved that Christ Himself refutes OSAS when in Revelation 3:5 he says, "He who conquers shall be clad thus in white garments, and I will not blot his name out of the book of life; I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. "
In order to be blotted out of the book of life, ones name would have had to be in it to begin with.

John Martignoni also has some good sources on this on Bible Christian Society

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