Sunday, August 16, 2009

Once Saved Always Saved: Reductio Ad Absurdum Theology of Gym Killer George Sodini

Theology of Gym Killer George Sodini

Following is a quote from the blog of George Sodini, who killed four people (including himself) and wounded nine others in a Pittsburgh gym on August 4, 2009. The mind of the about-to-be killer mulled over the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone and pushed it to its logical absurdity (reductio ad absurdum[1]).
Maybe soon, I will see God and Jesus. At least that is what I was told. Eternal life does NOT depend on works. If it did, we will all be in hell. Christ paid for EVERY sin, so how can I or you be judged BY GOD for a sin when the penalty was ALREADY paid. People judge but that does not matter. I was reading the Bible and The Integrity of God beginning yesterday, because soon I will see them.

Some people think the blog is a forgery. There is some evidence to support that claim. For one thing, the web hosting site’s records for blog say that Sodoni’s blog was last updated December 2008, not on August 4, 2009, which is the date of the last entry supposedly entered by Sodoni. But this may be a simple clerical error. Or that web hosting record itself may be a hoax. I tried to check the original, but If you go to now, all you see is an empty page. (A cached version of the index.html page for the site is available at google.)

The quotes circulating from the real or bogus blog do mention accurately the name Tetelestai, the Protestant congregation that Sodoni frequented for years ( And one entry slams the Tetelestai leader, Alan R. Knapp, by name.

Tetelestai a Koine Greek word means “it is finished,” and is the last word/words of Christ on the Cross. The name refers to the congregation’s teachings that Christ’s death put an end to all penalties for all sin for all believers. One shorthand for that doctrine is “once-saved always-saved.” Another way of saying the same thing is “Eternal Salvation.” This is a common Protestant doctrine.

Even if the blog is false, a deacon at Tetelestai echoed the exact theology stated in the quote from Sodini’s blog. According to the following quote from the Pittsburg Valley News Dispatch, Deacon Jack Rickard believes unequivocally that George Sodini is in heaven. ‘Once saved, always saved’ — Deacon says killer rests in heaven

George Sodini rests in heaven now because he professed a faith in Jesus years before his shooting rampage, a Tetelestai Christian Church leader said.

Jack Rickard, a deacon … said the Bible makes it clear that “professing a faith in Jesus as savior means you will have complete eternal salvation.” Rickard, 80, of Indiana, Pa., said Tetelestai members “are firm believers in ‘once-saved, always-saved.’” …

Starting with Luther, Protestant theology rejected the Sacrament of Confession. There is no need for confession (or repentance even) according to their way of looking at sin.

There is a lot to be said on this topic. For one thing, it is far from convincing from my point of view that Luther said that God gave to him the doctrine of justification by faith alone when Luther was sitting on the privy!!

Corraborated by what I’ve been reading today when researching the Protestant position, many congregations teach that after a person professes belief in Christ any sins that person commits are covered by the Blood of Christ.

An image often quoted from Luther says that Christ’s sacrifice covered our sins like snow covers a dung hill. Many Lutherans say that there is no evidence for that image appearing in any of Luther’s writings. However, I found an actual quote from Luther’s writings in which Luther did refer to the stench of our sin being hidden by Christ’s sacrifice, even though the words snow and dunghill do not appear in the quote.

Here is yet another quote from a mainstream Lutheran site:

People are lost in hell because they reject Christ as Savior, not because they have committed the sin of abortion or some other sin. That is the truth of the gospel.

… When Jesus said, "It is finished" (John 19:30), [tetelestai again] he was saying that his task of paying for sins--including the sin of abortion--was complete.

That [the Cross] is where we find the certainty of our salvation, not because we have lived such a good life, but because Christ did so in our place. …

I have some first hand exposure to that theology. I left the Catholic Church in rebellion and intellectual pride when I was 18. At about 32 years of age, I started exploring Christian denominations. I began attending an Evangelical Free and other non-denominational fundamentalist congregations. In the enthusiasm of my conversion to being a “Bible-believing Christian,” I agreed with whatever they taught, including the doctrine of Eternal Salvation. At that time I looked back on when I had been a Catholic, and I decided that instead of having Eternal Salvation I had lived under the Damocles sword of Eternal Jeopardy.

But then after a while, I realized there was a lot of proof-texting going on to support the once-saved-always-saved position. Okay, there is “By faith are ye saved not by works, lest any man should boast.” But if the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, why didn’t they pay any attention to: “Faith without works is dead.” Or why didn’t they quote Peter, who said that many would fall away from the Faith? And that adulterers and fornicators (among other sinners would be damned? I don’t have space, but the Scriptures quoted on both sides of the argument are pretty well covered at this site

After long searching, I found a clarification of the once saved correlative belief that a believer can murder or commit adultery and still be saved; in a letter, Luther wrote that serious sin was not possible for a believer because the sin itself proved the lack of faith of the believer. This is quite different from the doctrine that the sins of the believer are not seen by God, and that after a profession of faith, the believer is assured of salvation. From other of his writings, Luther seems to have held both beliefs

As George Sodini’s case indicates, many denominations that have splintered off in the 500 years since the original rupture from the Catholic Church have built their whole belief systems on justification by faith alone (eternal salvation) and one other major catch phrase: Sola Scriptura. But the doctrine "by Scripture alone" is a whole other topic.

I want to end this rough essay with a bit of doggerel verse from the same website quoted above. The poem addresses the fatal flaw in the doctrine that George Sodini seems to have followed, the fallacy that led him to being convinced that he was guaranteed to be going straight to heaven after a murderous rampage.

A Poem by Dr. Michael Brown

God loves me and God loves you
Smile sinner, don't be sad,
God's not angry, he's not mad,
And even if you leave the path,
there's no hell and there's no wrath!
God sees your heart, and that's enough.
The judgment seat won't be that tough.
You can't sin away His grace,
Or take that smile from His face.
Trust me, sinner, to the end,
My name is Satan, I'm your friend".

[1] "Reductio ad absurdum (Latin: "reduction to the absurd") in formal logic is an argument to refute a proposition (or set of propositions), by showing that it leads to a logically absurd consequence."

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