Prodigal son and Calvinism

This is a question for those who study Calvinism or claim to follow those teachings. It is a genuine question with no judgement or condemnation but I am seeking truth to who God is and so here is the question:

I heard a Calvinist tell me “if you fall away from your faith, that is proof you were never saved to begin with. Those who are saved lived saved lives. Not perfect but they do not go back to their old ways.”

With that statement, can someone explain what the point or purpose of the Prodigal Son story is in scripture? How does that comment stand when compared to this teaching?

Thanks for your help on this.

@SharaCraig this is something I have thought over and wrestled with over the years. I have come to the conclusion that it is one of those both are true mysteries in scripture, similar to faith and works in the writings of Paul and Peter. :two_men_holding_hands:
I myself believe that “nothing can take us from the Lord’s hands” and there are multiple instances in scripture that tell us this such as John 10:28, Romans 11:29, however, there are also many places in scripture where it alludes to the fact that we may possibly lose our standing such as Hebrews 3:6, 3:12-15, 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 and Romans 11:22.
The prodigal son is, in my opinion, a story to teach us the truth that if we decide to walk away from the Lord, He is always waiting to take us back, just like Hosea taught Israel.
I hope my understanding helps you in your study. :pray:

Like mentioned above, there are seemingly contradictionary truths in the Bible. It is clear that God wants us to humble ourselves, acknowledge our sin, confess that Jesus is Lord, and believe in our heart that God raised so we can be saved. We wanted Adam and Eve to choose to obey Him in the Garden. Love requires a choice. However, in the womb, God loved Jacob and hated Esau. I find comfort in what I attribute to God’s character and power. He can equitiably hold two things in just balance that would be mutually exclusive for me.

The story is about a father of two sons. The first rejected his father, wasted his money, confess his sin, and was welcomed back to loving arms. The second (older) son stayed near His father though he doesn’t truly seem to understand his Father’s heart. The story ends as the second son is alone after rejecting His Father’s invitation to join the celebration feast.

There are so many rich things in this story and the related stories in Luke 15. For me, the take away is to understand that the Lord relentlessly pursues the last, lost, and least. He leaves what has been found to search for what is lost. There is a disportational amount of energy spent on the lost as opposed to the found. Not to say God isn’t fair, but rather, we see God’s heart for the lost.
Just like the Father of the prodigal son, God gave us everything first, so that we might return to him in humility.

If you haven’t already, I would recommend reading Prodigal God by Timothy Keller. It is relatively short but is a challenging and an encouraging book.

Thank you @SharaCraig for the fascinating question for thought and discussion! First, I might add that I am a Catholic and this is my first time posting here. I’m a seventeen year old who loves a good religious discussion aimed at growth in truth and ultimately a deeper fellowship with our Lord. The topic of salvation and all its intricate facets interests me very much and I very much enjoy a good discussion on the Biblical meaning of it in our lives. Well, as a first time poster here, I would like to know what the general belief is on this forum for discussion concerning the topic of grace and free will. I have had many discussions and debates with my Calvinist friends but have not had too many conversations with non-Calvinists about this issue. So, I guess I’d just like to know for starters what the general consensus is on the topic of grace and free will on this forum. Also, are there any good resources on your views that you could send me in order that I might grasp your belief on this topic in a better way? Thanks!

In the peace of Christ,



Hi! I will get you some today. Have to go through my piles haha. Talk soon.

Thanks for the book recommendation and the reply. I have wanted to read that book actually and haven’t yet. I have to go back through your reply some more to fully wrap my mind around it but thank you. I may have some questions later.


Thanks Brian for the reply. I am in agreement that once your saved your always saved and there are no “ifs ands or buts about it.” Meaning even if someone falls away for a bit, as in leading a sinful life, they are still saved by grace. I also wanted to mention some thought on the verses which seem to indicate we can lose our salvation such as God spitting us out and saying He never knew us… it is my understanding (still investigating) the people being spoken to by those letters were not actually saved to begin with. They were merely playing “church.” But again still looking into this. Thanks again!

@DominicSJMB Excited that you are joining us here on the forums :slight_smile: We are extremely blessed to have people on both sides of this topic on Connect and we appreciate both perspectives. You might enjoy joining our book study on John Lennox’s book Determined to Believe. I’ve also included some threads expressing some of my thoughts on this topic.

Regarding this doctrine, I would say it is an opinion or a conviction - certainly not an absolute that we must hold in order to worship together and honor one another in Christ.

Here are some verse that, at a minimum, offer a stern warning against those who would walk lightly back into a life of sin.

2 Peter 2:20-22- If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21 It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22 Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”

Hebrews 6:4-8 - It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodnessof the word of God and the powers of the coming age 6 and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. 7 Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8 But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.

Levels of Doctrine

Not all doctrine is equally important. Some beliefs are at the very center of our Christian faith and to deny them is to deny Christ. Other beliefs are important to how we practice our faith and are therefore the cause of disagreement between many denominations, but these beliefs do not place us outside of Christ. Still other doctrines, such as eschatology, are difficult even for very learned and godly people to understand clearly and are therefore a matter of opinion.

The below article offers a fuller explanation of levels of doctrine and gives a helpful summary list of 4 levels of doctrine.

  1. absolutes define the core beliefs of the Christian faith;
  2. convictions , while not core beliefs, may have significant impact on the health and effectiveness of the church;
  3. opinions are less-clear issues that generally are not worth dividing over; and
  4. questions are currently unsettled issues.

Where an issue falls within these categories should be determined by weighing the cumulative force of at least seven considerations:

  1. biblical clarity;
  2. relevance to the character of God;
  3. relevance to the essence of the gospel;
  4. biblical frequency and significance (how often in Scripture it is taught, and what weight Scripture places upon it);
  5. effect on other doctrines;
  6. consensus among Christians (past and present); and
  7. effect on personal and church life.
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Thank you very much for the thoughtful and researched reply, @SeanO! I will definitely have a look at those resources and links you posted.

God bless!

  • Dominic
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Just a quick thought about Calvinism and Scripture, I don’t think grace and free will are like oil and water. I really have come to see from both the Bible and also from the testimony of Augustine of Hippo, a Doctor of the Church whose writings I highly respect, that God’s grace and our free will are really two sides of the same coin. After all, as the saying goes, grace builds upon, perfects, and redeems nature. It’s not the more I do the less God does or vice versa but God working in me both to will and work as the Apostles Paul says. Just some of my thoughts.


@DominicSJMB I appreciate your contribution brother :slight_smile: I also do not think that it has to be either free will or sovereignty. I think that is a false choice. I see both at work together in Scripture.