Sunday, April 1, 2012

1 Corinthians 10:13 and Apostasy

1 Corinthians 10:13 states: No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

In my recent debate, I argued: Paul's statement on God's faithfulness is in light of what some Jews did, such as grumble in the dessert.  Not all the Israelites fell into sin, but many did, even though God always provides His people with an exit path. That God does not allow unbearable temptations is a reflection on His faithfulness.   The implication for Paul's audience and for you, dear Christian, is that every time you go through a temptation, God gives you the ability not to succumb.  Sadly we sometimes do give in to temptation, even though we are able to do otherwise.

Both Turretinfan and Steve Hays responded that the passage is only talking about ultimate apostasy and that true believers cannot fall away.  Since I addressed Turretinfan's comments in the debate, I will respond briefly to Steve's comments (link).

First, it's one thing to say the passage has idolatry in view, but another to say it only has idolatry in view. The passage does not say the temptation of idolatry but rather "no temptation".  Paul is applying a general principle to a specific situation, so even though idolatry is in view, that does not limit this wonderful promise that God, in His faithfulness, will not allow irresistible temptations. 

Second, the context speaks of lusting after evil things, idolatry, sexual immorality, tempting Christ, and complaining. This seems broader than just idolatrous apostasy.   Note the progression from lusting after evil things and idolatry in verses 6 & 7: "to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted.  And do not become idolaters as were some of them."   Lusting after evil things and idolatry are distinct, even if one is a slippery slope into the next.

Third, most, but not all Israelites fell into the temptation and Paul's concern is that the Corinthians don't do likewise.  But this means falling into the temptation discussed in the context is not impossible.  Yet Steve thinks the apostasy of true believers is impossible. 

Fourth, the commentaries Steve cites do not support his case.  He cites Fitzmyer, Garland, Ciampa/Rosner.  But Fitzmyer says "Christians may also rely on God for the ekbasis of lesser struggles throughout the course of life", so idolatry is in view, but the passage is not only about idolatry (see my points 1 & 2).  Likewise, Garland (and Ciampa/Rosner who follow Garland) says "He is not addressing the question of the security of the believer but calling attention to the pitfall of being careless because of overconfidence (Robertson and Plummer 1914:208). "  But Steve's case hinges on this passage only being about the security of the believer (see my point 3).  So Steve's own sources move against him. 

Fifth, generally commentaries agree that the temptations in view are broader than apostasy as Ben has documented here.  

So I don't see much hope for Steve (and Turretinfan's) response).  While the door is open for them to address criticisms of their views, meanwhile I will continue holding the normal view of the passage.

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