(Rom. 11:22) Does this passage threaten the idea of eternal security?

CLAIM: Paul says that believers will be “cut off,” unless they continue in God’s kindness. Some interpreters argue that this threatens the doctrine of eternal security. Catholic apologist Karl Keating writes, “Paul wrote this to people who were already ‘saved,’ in a state of grace—a grace they could lose, becoming ‘unsaved.’”[1] Likewise, Douglas Moo writes, “In issuing this warning, Paul echoes a consistent NT theme: ultimate salvation is dependent on continuing faith; therefore, the person who ceases to believe forfeits any hope of salvation.”[2] Is this the case?

RESPONSE: Commentators often cannot break free from Western individualistic interpretations. This passage doesn’t refer to “me,” but to “we.” Consequently Paul is not referring to individual salvation; he is referring to corporate use in God’s plan. The context demonstrates that the Gentiles could be removed from God’s plan of salvation at any time. Therefore, he is not challenging eternal security; he is challenging ethnic security.

[1] Keating, Karl. Catholicism and Fundamentalism. San Francisco: Ignatius, 1988. 174.

[2] Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996), 707.