Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pure Speculation

I'll lead in with a disclaimer, just so we're all on the same page.

As the title of this entry implies, this is entirely theoretical. I got to thinking and kept thinking and finally my thinking gave way to one of those moments typically referred to as an epiphany, but I make no claims as to having discovered some sort of absolute truth. This is just an idea. One I think we ought to consider.

The exact "rules" and "details" concerning what Christians like to call Salvation are sketchy at best. Yes, we believe Jesus died for us, yes, it's only through him that we experience eternal life, blah blah blah heard it all before. But as far as what one has to do to qualify, we just can't seem to agree.
There is that verse which states that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. This is a paraphrase, and I don't know what the reference is. Look it up if you feel so inclined.

But we can't even seem to agree on what, exactly, that means. Some denominations believe that unless you're a part of their church and you follow their rules and are baptized their way, you're screwed. SOL. No heaven for you. Sorry.

Other denominations(and this seems to be the most widely accepted theory) believe that by default, upon birth, you're guilty, and unless you "get saved"(personally I can't stand this term. It's too condescending) before you die, that you're screwed. SOL. No heaven for you. Sorry.

And still other denominations believe the exact opposite. That upon birth, you're SAVED by default, and unless/until you CHOOSE not to believe in God, everything is fine and dandy. That you could live your life in blissful ignorance and end up in heaven, with or without ever joining a church or hearing the name "Jesus".

Personally, I don't know what to think. As far as who is going to heaven and who isn't, that's not my worry. I know where I'm going and I figure that's about all I have the right or responsibility to really be concerned with. That's not to say I don't care, but I can't even begin to be sure what the "rules" are. So why bother?

Once again, the nature of this article is purely hypothetical. Especially the following.

Let's roll with the latter theory for a minute. Assume that everybody is going to heaven automatically, and until they figuratively give God the finger, they have nothing to worry about.

What possible reason might anyone have for purposely choosing not to believe?

At first this is an easy question - science, evolution, logic, quantum physics, blah blah whatever else you want. Alright, fine. I'll take that.

But let's look at the last two thousand years of human history. Given consideration to the church and it's way of conducting itself, both past and present, do you think it might have been possible for the Church and, let's say science for instance, to have a better relationship? Couldn't we have gotten along a little better? Been a little less petty, a little less paranoid? Oh, and the Inquisition. That was a big one.

And if so, and if we had behaved better, then might - MIGHT - there be a lot less people in the world choosing NOT to believe?

Again, I'm not saying this is the way it works or that this is even what I believe. If I were to sit down and really try to figure out the 'mechanics' of salvation, I'd probably land somewhere in the middle. I don't know how that's even possible, which hopefully gives you an idea of where I currently stand - somewhere between No Idea and Got Other Things To Worry About.

Just an idea I thought I should share.

Anyway. This is not your 'official' update. That comes this weekend, courtesy of Ryan Olsen. That's right! An update written by somebody other than me. I think you'll enjoy it.

And as a side note, if you(yes, you) ever feel like contributing anything to We're Sorry, PLEASE let me know. You don't have to be an expert writer(I'm certainly not one). You don't even have to be a Christian. If you have something to say that you feel is conducive(is that the right word? I'm pretty sure it is) to what's being said here, then by all means, share it.


Ryan said...

Romans 10:8-10 (NKJ)

8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”[a](that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

I think the message puts it best...

"The word that saves is right here,
as near as the tongue in your mouth,
as close as the heart in your chest.
It's the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God—"Jesus is my Master"—embracing, body and soul, God's work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That's it. You're not "doing" anything; you're simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That's salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: "God has set everything right between him and me!"

Ryan said...

OMG! I'm laughing so hard right now. After I posted those verses, at the top of the screen it said, "Your comment has been saved." That's what it means to be saved, to be eternally remembered!

Murex Brandaris said...

I think it is within the nature of every human being to question their faith or at least the nature of that faith. Personally, if God had a Facebook profile, my relationship to him would be filed under "It's complicated." Which in practice would look very strange, and it makes me glad God has not figured out how to use the internet.

Kidding aside, though. I agree that a better relationship with science would burn out some of these "blind faith" sections of the population that thump the Bible til everyone bleeds from it. The people that scream "THIS IS THE LITERAL TRANSCRIPTION OF THE WORD OF GOD, NOT POSSIBLY SOME KIND OF METAPHOR, SYMBOLISM, OR GENERAL GUIDELINE FOR HOW BE A GOOD PERSON" and stick their fingers in their ears and go "can't hear you la la la" while dancing merrily with a heart full of prejudice and a mind full of ignorance. Granted I realize a good portion of the population aren't these genetically-altered zealots, but they are the ones that hold the reins. Just like the Muslim community, the middle ground never seems to look to both sides and say, "Hey. Stop it. You're wrong. That's not how we roll anymore." The Jews are a good example. Sure there are extremist Jews, but when was the last time you heard: "South Park creators under fire from Jewish groups for making fun of Kyle constantly"? How about "LittleBigPlanet delayed for using passages from the Torah, Jewish groups outraged, demand recall"? You don't. The Jews have updated their views and rolled with the punches of modern society after being one of the most persecuted groups of people on Earth. I realize this isn't the focal point of the post, though, and I'm sorry.

As to the meat of your post, I'm not sure I want to approach this point of the mechanics of salvation yet, if at all. Accepting Jesus is an intensely personal process/experience, and I don't think it's my place to argue its hows and whys and whats. He was a revolutionary man, I agree with many things he said, namely the message of brotherly love and general not-being-a-dickishness. At the risk of sounding like a nerdy hippie:

Make love, not Galactic Civil War.

Ben said...

I have been married now for over a year and it has been (apart from Christ) the best thing that has ever happened to me. My wife and I exchanged vows on our wedding day. It was an event, it was a celebration. We entered into what some may call a covenant.

A covenant is just a promise. And we made that promise public. I believe that baptism is the public expression of the inward change. I think just as the vows for marriage are not the same for every couple nor have they stayed the same throughout history, the central message has been clear. One man, One woman, One lifetime.

I think this is the picture God had drawn up to be a mirror of what He wants for you and me.

I don't think anyone can say who is saved and who is not, that is presuming to see the heart of man which the bible claims only God can do. What we can judge and see is a mans works and I believe Baptism is the first step of obedience in that Life.

The bible never gives any instructions on how to confess with your mouth and believe with your heart, because if you need a system for salvation you have missed the point all together and it has ceased to be personal.

A relationship with Christ is meant to be personal and like any love relationship it can not be broken down into steps. It can only be muddled and staggered through. It's our love, responding to His perfect love.

jsmith2585 said...

This is the reason Christians use the word saved.

In the beginning all human beings were supposed to go to heaven, because man wasn't supposed to know sin. When Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the tree they broke the one rule that God had for them. Thus, giving up their right to heaven upon birth and making them no better than the sinning devil himself.

Fast-forward several thousand years. After many many failed attempts at reconsiling himself to humankind (each time humans again spitting in his face), God took one final action that would fix the divide between man and God forever. When Jesus died without sin, he took the full punishment for sin that we deserve. When we accept the sacrifice Jesus made, he vouches for us when God sees our sin. He tells God its OK I know them they are cool. This action SAVES us from the what all human truly deserve for sin which is going to hell.

Anyone who says that God is not good doesn't fully comprehend the actions that God took to make things right between himself and humankind.

Ryan said...

after thinking about it a little more, we're making this salvation train a little more complicated than it is.

If we're in a sinking ship, don't we want someone to come "save" us? As humans, we are the sinking ship, Jesus is that someone, therefore we are saved. But we, the ship, need to accept that someone so we can be saved.

i didn't like the word "saved" either, until i got over the negative connotation that our society has put on it. u can use rescued. if you say you need jesus, that means u need to be saved, and are.

seannj427 said...

I hope these thoughts are helpful....

Believe it or not my wife have had this very discussion as her religious background was 180 degrees out of phase with mine. I staunchly proclaimed years ago that if people were not 'born again' they were going to hades. She had a problem with that, and it caused many disagreements and discussions until one day she said something that has stuck with me for a very long time. She said "Why did Jesus Christ sacrfice himself on the cross for us? Because WE NEEDED IT. We needed this. The human race needed someone to show them that they are SAVED and this was how He chose to do it." Once she pointed that out, the wheels started turning. I had just blindly accepted the fact that Jesus' death on the cross was my salvation without ever questioning why. My wife made me do that (and its a good thing). How to know, without a doubt, that you are written in the lamb's book of life? How to know, without a doubt, that your eternal future in heaven is 100% secure (no matter what happens?). In the words of our savior "Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23). It's following Jesus that's the real deal, not religion or practice. Though those things can be helpful they are not the end-all, be-all. I am not one who believes in multiple salvation paths (as in, everyone goes to heaven no matter if they are buddhist/muslim/christian/jewish/hindu, etc), but I am one who believes that Jesus has spoken to people who have never heard the name we call Jesus. Can Jesus speak to a Muslim? yes (and in fact I believe He has). Can He speak to a buddhist through buddhism? Sure he can. Will the person recognize Him? If they are seeking the truth they will. Why? Because Jesus is Lord, not us. He can choose ANY method he likes to speak to anyone, at any time. Who are we to question his methods? In fact there are documented incidents where missionaries have gone to places where Jesus has never been 'mentioned' by name, but the people they are going to meet already KNOW who Jesus is but as I've said they just didn't know his name. Would we know what they are talking about unless we took the time, to listen to them -- why no we would not. As to the question of their 'salvation' really that's not up to us. It's up to Jesus Christ. It's our job as ambassadors to present ourselves to the world as we are and let God do the rest. We're all broken. Romans 3:21-31

"21But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement,[i] through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
27Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. 28For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. 29Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law."

Our modern attitude as 'Christians' has caused us to wall ourselves away from the world. We say "we're Born Again". Well didn't the Jews of Jesus' time claim to be saved because of their sacrifices and because they observed the law? So at the present time of today, are we not behaving as they did? If Paul wrote Romans today, would he not remind us that God is everyone's God not just ours?
It's God's grace to give out, not ours. He can give it out to whomever he wishes at any time and yet He has made it abundantly clear that He will give it out to anyone who asks, no strings, no exceptions. It's not up to us to 'call' whether or not someone has walked with God or not, or where they stand. 'Conviction' is the Holy Spirit's job. Our faith in God is what literally sustains us, but even without faith, He still holds us in His hands, because He loves each of us. Isn't that amazing?
So, He is real and that's why, our walk is with Him and not our own religion, faith, denomination, etc. It's unique for each of us. God has a walk prepared for each of us, its up to the individual to take the step.

So to wrap up, do I believe:
(A) That everyone goes to Heaven?
(B) that no one goes to Heaven (unless they are saved/ Born Again)?
(C) that only baptized children / adults go to heaven?

I choose choice (D). (D) = It's up to God not us who He lets into His heaven. All we can do is rely on what He has told us through the scriptures and listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit.