4For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of he age to come, 6and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. (NASB)
There are basically four approaches to this passage. The first two should be quickly rejected. One argues that this passage isn't even addressing an authentic believer. This is wrong for several reasons, but I'll mention one: "To renew ... AGAIN to repentace (v.6) clearly shows they had repented previously. Another view argues that this passage is merely hypothetical. Huh? I just odn't buy that especially when you consider it the context of the entire book. The other two views of this passage have merit.
A Christian can fall away (be lost) yet can still return to Christ. Admittedly, I like this view on the surface and it is still the view I am inclined to accept. Jack Cottrell skillfully agrues for this view in his "Faith Once for All: Bible Doctrine for Today". Among other consideration, Cottrell suggests that The Lost Son" of Luke 15 should be considered . Billy Dyer and I discussed this passage last night and he holds this view. He pointed to James 5:19-20 for support. This camp would favor the alternate rendering of verse 6: if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because[a]to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.
(NIV alternate rendering - "Or repentance while" ). The idea is that it is impossible to restore someone while he or she continues in this fallen state.
If you fall it's final = no second chance. This appears to be correct when I initially read the passage. Tim Warner of Pristine Faith Restoration Society makes a strong case for this view. This is also Roy Ingle's positon. You can read a good discussion of this passage on his Arminian Today blog. Douglas Jacoby sees a distinction between wandering and falling and supports this view rather than the above interpretation.
I'm not going to wade into all the pros & cons right here & now, but I will continue to look closely at this passage. Any insights are appreciated.