I’ve been exploring the topics I really struggle with: things that I know my explanations come up short in explaining. It’s tempting to down play these issues. Part of me wants to just ignore them, and pretend that I don’t see that there is something I’m missing. In general, I think it’s hard to admit that we don’t things. To be a person of faith, it’s even more difficult to say “Well, I haven’t worked that out yet.” Part of this might be because there are things I am sure of; things I know I have worked out. At some point maybe I’ll ponder why that is. Today, I think I’m going to go in a different direction.
There is one side which says the bible is really clear. If we accept Jesus as our Lord and savoir, we are assured of Heaven. These people rely heavily on formulas. Say this prayer and your eternity is settled. Try to convince other people to say the same prayer so that there eternity is settled. Look foreward to hanging out with them all in heaven. That’s the meaning of it all.
There are reasons that this perspective is convincing. One of the reasons is that there’s a good ammount of scripture backing it all up. In some ways this is an easy position to take, because there are a handful of pithy verses that are easy to quote.
Additionally, I love the idea that in Christ we are assured of our salvation. That it’s so simply done, that it’s something we can rest in, this is beautiful.
In what I say next, I do not want to discount that it’s all about faith. Faith is an act of courage. It’s a difficult act, to believe. I do my very best to put Jesus at the center of what I do. This is not about de-emphasizing him.
The reason I struggle with this is not only that it’s hard to see how this makes sense in terms of salvation… I’ve heard all the arguments about how none of us can earn our way into heaven. I can accept them, as far as they go. But is anybody really comfortable with the idea that a Christ-confessing torturer in the Spanish inquisition is going to spend eternity in heaven while a Budhist who dies in Burma fighting for others’ freedoms is going to spend eternity damned?
Furthermore, there aren’t as many pithy verses but there’s lots of stuff at the level of chapters in the gospels that express Jesus’ contempt for legalism. The whole “salvation as a 3 step process that fits on the back of a business card” mentality feels like modern-day phariseeism.
Jesus spoke so often about the way we treat others; he told his followers to feed his sheep; he told us whenever we deny those in need we are denying him… God speaks, too, in the old testament, about how we treat the widow, and the orphan.
I find some solace in the book of James. I haven’t got it all worked out yet, but I think that this tension gets resolved in whether or not our proclamation that Jesus is Lord really touches us… Works are never, ever, ever a substitute for faith. But a faith that doesn’t spur works is a contradiction in terms maybe.
Looking foreward to your responses,