Suppose there is a man named Fred that falls in love with a woman named Deloris. They want to get married. Love is all that is needed to marry. They went to the church to get married, but the minister told them they need a blood test. They left the church, went over to the local health clinic, and got their blood tested. They went back to the church with blood test certificate and got married.
Now, it is said that the story illustrates how Reformed people get things mixed up. They claim that faith alone is sufficient for going to heaven. However, if someone does not have works, then they do not have faith. So faith and works is required to get to heaven. This is seen in this lovely little story about Fred and Deloris. All they need to get married is love. But if they don't have a blood test, they can't get married. Thus love and a blood test are both required to get married. So it is with faith and works in the Reformed way of perseverance. Slam dunk, isn't it. Tight logic -- right?
No. Here's why. In the Reformed doctrine of perseverance, the requirement to enter heaven is justification before God. The sequence of Reformed salvation is:
(1) God's calling results in regeneration of the person (also known as being born again).
(2) When a person is regenerated, God enables faith in the person. The instant the person is regenerated saving faith springs forth.
(3) The instant saving faith springs forth, God, according to the Bible, uses that faith as the cause of declaring once and for all that the person is justified.
(4) A characteristic result of saving faith is that a person will, over a long enough time, perform works pleasing to God. Not perfectly, but there will be some works. And that person will persevere to the end of their lives.
At the very instant a person is justified, that person will enter heaven upon death or Christ's return. If the person were to die moments after exercising saving faith, before there is a chance to do works, that person will enter heaven.
If we examine the love story of Fred and Deloris, we'll find a problem in our little analogy. The analogy is an allegory. Things in the story stand for something. Here are some:
(1) Fred and Deloris represent people.
(2) Love represents saving faith.
(3) The blood test represents works.
(4) Marriage represents heaven.
The problem is that in the story, Fred and Deloris, to fit the Reformed order of salvation, must be able to have the option of skipping the blood test, because all that is required is love. That's not possible in this little love story analogy. The analogy fails to model the Reformed view of salvation, thus the model is a failure.
The problem with those who use this story to try to illustrate Reformed salvation is that they get confused with concurrent effects and identify those as causes of other effects that do not case those effects. To illustrate this confusion, let me give an analogy in this little story.
We have a forest. A forest ranger named Jeff and his assistant, Joe, notices that when lightning strikes a tree, these things things happen:
(1) There is lightning.
(2) There is loud thunder.
(3) The tree splits into pieces.
Jeff says the lightning caused (a) the split tree, and (b) the thunder. However, the tree was split only by the lightning. Joe, on the other hand, says that lightning and the thunder caused the split tree. Jeff says that lightning always produces thunder, which is the sound caused by the lightning, but the thunder does not cause the tree to split. Joe, on the other hand, argues that lightning and thunder are always present when the tree splits, hence both are causes of the tree splitting.
You can see that Joe has gotten things a little mixed up. This is precisely the same kind of mix-up when people charge those who hold to perseverance have made faith plus works the requirement for justification. Simple analysis using this analogy shows this charge is false. Works and perseverance are caused by saving faith, just as thunder is caused by lightning. Further, saving faith causes justification, the requirement for entering heaven, just as lightning caused the tree to split. However, works and perseverance do not cause justification, just as thunder did not cause the tree to split. To say that works and perseverance cause justification shows the same kind of confusion that Joe had in saying that thunder was a cause in splitting the tree.
The thing about analogies is that the side that creates a particular analogy usually likes the analogy. Opponents of that side almost always do not like the analogy. Often it is because the analogy does not fit the particular circumstances under analysis. Sometimes it fits the circumstances, but because it doesn't fit their particular viewpoint, the analogy is not liked and rejected.
So, what is it for the lightning and tree analogy? Does it help? Does it hinder? Am I missing the point?