Since this whole thing started out with him asking what I believe, I guess I should answer the question. What follows is hardly a Summa of my beliefs, but I intend for it to be a fair representation thereof.
Unless I've missed something, all of the commenters, including Boethius, would agree on the inspiration of the Bible and that our doctrines must not contradict the Word.
The difference is in epistemology. How do we know what we know? From the Church, from our hermeneutic, or from the Spirit leading us? In reality, I think it's some combination of the three - though I tend to think of "Church" as being somewhat synonymous with "historically orthodox beliefs." I'm always skeptical of anyone who shows up with novel doctrines that he believes he's just discovered after 2000 years of false Christianity. True divergence must always be suspect.
Admittedly, evangelical independence coupled with American individualism has led to some Protestants - leaders and otherwise - having some pretty wacky ideas. I won't attempt to defend Pat Robertson, Creflo Dollar, or Jim Jones. But in practice, it's not really happening that mainstream evangelicalism is coming up with novel theology all the time. In fact, our core beliefs are remarkably static.
That barely begins to address the question of "whose authority," but it's a start.
As for eternal security, I don't think this issue would be debated as hotly as it sometimes is if there were no ambiguity in the Scriptures. I don't believe that God is ambivalent on the subject, but His Word to us does not provide the indisputably clear answers that we would wish for.
I think you can make a case for salvation being "loseable," but I don't think that's the best answer. Here's why:
- John 10.28, 29. Jesus says he gives eternal life to his sheep, and no one can snatch them out of his hand. If a shepherd is going to protect the sheep from all foes, even to the point of endangering his own life, I can't imagine that he will let them wander off on their own, no matter how badly they want to go.
- 1 Cor. 11.27-32 talks about being judged by the Lord so as not to be condemned with the world. I suppose this passage could be taken to support or disprove eternal security, depending on the efficacy of God's judgment. But why would it be inefficacious?
- Eph. 2.13, 14 has a sense of permanence when it talks about how we've been brought to God through the blood of Christ.
- Heb. 10.14 says that Jesus, by his one ultimate sacrifice, has "made perfect forever" those who are being made holy. I don't see how I can be made perfect forever today, and lose that being made perfect forever tomorrow when I sin in a particular way. Rather, it sounds to me like the fact of salvation is settled, even as the outworking (aka sanctification) of that salvation is progressive.
- In several passages, the NT uses the picture of adoption to describe what happens to us as those who belong to Christ. To my knowledge, in the Greek and Jewish cultures of the NT time, adoption was a one-way street, as it is in our society today. Once you get adopted into the family, you can't get "de-adopted" - not by the initiative of the parents, nor by the initiative of the child. Adoption is never conditional upon the child's assent or compliance.
THE DOCTRINE OF THE SAINTS PERSEVERANCE, Explained and Confirmed.
OR, The certain Permanency of their 1. Acceptation with GOD, &
2. Sanctification from GOD. MANIFESTED & PROVED FROM The 1. ETERNALL PRINCIPLES 2. EFFECTUALL CAUSES 3. EXTERNALL MEANES Thereof. IN, 1. THE IMMUTABILITY of the 1. Nature 2. Decrees 3. Covenant and 4. Promises Of GOD. 2. The OBLATION and INTERCESSION Of JESUS CHRIST. 3. The 1. Promises 2. Exhortations 3. Threats Of The GOSPELL. Improved in its Genuine Tendency to Obedience and Consolation. AND VINDICATED In a Full Answer to the Discourse of Mr JOHN GOODWIN against it, in his Book Entituled Redemption Redeemed. With some DIGRESSIONS Concerning 1. The Immediate effects of the Death of Christ. 2. Personall Indwelling of the Spirit. 3. Union with Christ. 4. Nature of Gospell promises, &c. ALSO A PREFACE Manifesting the Judgement of the Antients concerning the Truth contended for: with a Discourse touching the Epistles of IGNATIUS; The EPISCOPACY in them Asserted; and some Animadversions on Dr H:H: his Dissertations on that Subject.
JOHN OWEN Servant of Jesus Christ in the Worke of the Gospell.