I wrote this in June of this year, but I'm posting it here now because I want to applaud and affirm Peter Leithart's article posted today on the subject of time and apostasy.
Reformed Theology's View from Eternity
One of the main problems with [contemporary de facto] Reformed theology is that it attempts to look at everything from the point of view of eternity. The "eternal decrees" serve as the foundation on which the rest of the theology is built. Salvation, for example, is understood fundamentally in relation to election [to glory]. That is why actual apostasy is thought to be impossible; those who 'fall away' were faking it the whole time, and so do not actually fall away. Christ's action on the cross is interpreted through the lens of the "eternal decrees". Assurance is described in relation to election [to glory]. Even the efficacy of the sacraments is determined by the doctrine of the "eternal decrees", because "salvation" is already understood in terms of being elected [to glory]. The effect on the sacraments of this 'view from eternity' is to undermine their efficacy. It is this, in my opinion, that makes Reformed theology intrinsically non-sacramental. The sacraments are only accidentally or stipulatively related to grace and salvation.
The Catholic Church recognizes the truth of election to glory, but does not make this doctrine the paradigm through which everything else must be understood. We are in time, and we necessarily see through time; we cannot see from the point of view of eternity. We see the divine through the human; we see God most clearly through the incarnate Christ, through His human nature. In this way, the incarnation is the antidote to Reformed theology's attempt to peer down from the heavens. Jesus tells Peter, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matt 16:19) Notice the order of relation. What the Church binds here on earth, shall be bound in heaven. And whatever the Church looses here on earth, shall be loosed in heaven. Reformed theology turns this backwards, limiting the Church to the eternal decrees, making the efficacy of the sacraments dependent on the recipient's election [to glory] status. But we cannot *see* from the point of view of eternity; attempts to do so result in misconstruing it as fatalism. That is why we are not to attempt to peer down from eternity. Rather, Jesus has given to the Church the keys of the kingdom. Reformed theology functions as though the keys are still in heaven, as though the Church does not *really* have them. But the Magisterium of the Church has the authority to forgive sins: "If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained." (John 20:23). Jesus does not say, "If you forgive the sins of any, then if their election [to glory] status allows, their sins will be forgiven." If I want to know whether I am saved, I am not to try to peer into the divine decrees, but to look at my relation to the Church. If I want to know whether Christ's work on the cross applies to me, I am not to try to peer into the divine decrees, but seek to receive the sacraments. And if I want to know whether I am decretally elect, the Church tells me I must wait until the end to find out, which makes the status of my decretal election essentially irrelevant right now. Right now, what I am to be concerned about is my relation to the Church; when the Magisterium says to me, by the authorization of Christ, "Your sins are forgiven" I can know that my sins are forgiven.
"Let unity, the greatest good of all goods, be your preoccupation." - St. Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to St. Polycarp)