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The All-Important Matter of Salvation

The All-Important Matter of Salvation
by Dave E. Matson


The number one job of the Bible, as perceived by most Christians, is to teach the requirements of salvation. Moreover, God's own instructions will surely be detailed, exceedingly clear and gathered together into one, special place to avoid the slightest confusion as to their identity and completeness. They cannot be anything less than that; they cannot invite confusion or generate speculation.


Accordingly, we have a simple test as to whether the Bible is divinely written.


What we find, dear reader, is pathetic. The instructions for salvation are not only scattered about the New Testament in an informal, haphazard manner, but they appear to contradict one another! The right hand knows nothing of what the left hand is doing, and vice versa. The instructions are inevitably incomplete, judging by their lack of useful details, and it is not always clear as to whom they even apply. Conflicting instructions for salvation are found in the Old Testament as well, and there is no indication in the Old Testament that they are only temporary.


Christians usually claim that the New Testament supersedes the Old. The illusion arises because the two testaments are artificially joined in one book. The newer material would normally supersede the old since it would normally be written by the same author. However, the Bible is akin to an anthology as most of its books once circulated independently. In that situation, one author does not have the right to nullify the work of another. Each author can only speak for his own book or books. Short of assuming that God is the author of the whole Bible, which we may not do since the matter is under examination, we must proceed as though many authors were involved. I.e., we must begin with the historical facts. Without proof in hand that God is the author of the whole Bible, we cannot conclude that the New Testament replaces the Old--even if the New Testament says it does. Consequently, we must consider the salvation requirements listed in the Old Testament as well as those in the New Testament.


The final irony is that no one really knows, for sure, what the requirements of salvation are! Different Christian denominations have staked out different positions with the usual certainty that comes of religious folly. Each view is fiercely defended by theologians who quote the Bible. Which position, if any, is correct? Throw a dart and take your chances! There is no way to scientifically unravel such a mess.


The working brain is quick to grasp a simple truth. The Bible is a manmade product, not a divine guide to salvation.
Let's finish this topic by reviewing some of those salvation verses scattered about the Bible:


Predestination

Some verses, reflecting the Calvinist position, state that God knew from the beginning who would make the cut. If you are not on that list, tough luck! There is nothing you can do. By some strange coincidence, those who hold this doctrine know that they are on God's list of heaven-bound souls!


Dennis McKinsey lists more than 50 verses supporting predestination (Biblical Errancy #53, p.1-2; #54, p.1-2).

Even before the world was made, God had already chosen us to be his through our union with Christ, so that we would be holy and without fault before him. Because of his love God had already decided that through Jesus Christ he would make us his sons...
(Ephesians 1:4-5 TEV)
When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and praised the Lord's message; and those who had been chosen for eternal life became believers.
(Acts 13:48 TEV)
you saw me before I was born. The days allotted to me had all been recorded in your book, before any of them ever began.
(Psalm 139:16 TEV)

Lottery

A few verses suggest that salvation is mostly a matter of luck. The potter makes good and bad vessels according to his whims. If you are destined for a bad life, tough luck!

Happy are those whom you choose, whom you bring to live in your sanctuary.
(Psalm 65:4 TEV)
So then, everything depends, not on what man wants or does, but only on God's mercy. For the scripture says to the king of Egypt, "I made you king in order to use you to show my power and to spread my fame over the whole world." So then, God has mercy on anyone he wishes, and he makes stubborn anyone he wishes.
But one of you will say to me, "If this is so, how can God find fault with anyone? Who can resist God's will?" But who are you, my friend, to talk back to God? A clay pot does not ask the man who made it, "Why did you make me like this?" After all, the man who makes the pots has the right to use the clay as he wishes, and to make two pots from the same lump of clay, one for special occasions and the other for ordinary use.

(Romans 9:16-21 TEV)

Good Works

Many verses in the Bible suggest that the ticket to heaven consists of doing good works. Such verses do not mention any need to believe in a special doctrine, and they stand in conflict with those verses that support salvation by faith only. There are plenty of verses, in both the Old and New Testaments, that stress good deeds without mentioning faith.


The following verses are from a collection supporting good works: Dennis McKinsey (Biblical Errancy #3, p.2; #121, p.1-3).

Peter began to speak: "I now realize that it is true that God treats everyone on the same basis. Whoever fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him, no matter what race he belongs to.
(Acts 10:34-35 TEV)
Does anyone think he is religious? If he does not control his tongue, his religion is worthless and he deceives himself. What God the Father considers to be pure and genuine religion is this: to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world.
(James 1:26-27 TEV)
...What he requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God.
(Micah 6:8 TEV)
A teacher of the Law came up and tried to trap Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to receive eternal life?"
Jesus answered him, "What do the Scriptures say? How do you interpret them?"
The man answered, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind."; and 'Love your neighbor as you love yourself.'"
"You are right," Jesus replied; "do this and you will live."

(Luke 10:25-28 TEV)

Faith Only

Many verses in the Bible make faith the only ticket to heaven. These verses conflict with those that stress good works. Dennis McKinsey (Biblical Errancy #122, p.1-2) gives additional examples of "faith only" verses. These are the least questioned instructions for salvation, at least by conservative Christians, so I will only list two passages.

Then he led them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
They answered, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved--you and your family."

(Acts 16:30-31 TEV)
Whoever believes in the Son is not judged; but whoever does not believe has already been judged...
(John 3:18 TEV)

Faith and Baptism
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.
(Mark 16:16 TEV)

Faith is One Pathway

Many verses extoll the value of faith but do not specifically claim that there is no other door to salvation (Dennis McKinsey, Biblical Errancy #123, p.1-2).


"I am the bread of life," Jesus told them. "He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never be thirsty.
(John 6:35 TEV)
Jesus spoke to the Pharisees again. "I am the light of the world," he said. "Whoever follows me will have the light of life and will never walk in darkness."
(John 8:12 TEV)

Faith and Works
My brothers, what good is it for someone to say that he has faith if his actions do not prove it? Can that faith save him? Suppose there are brothers or sisters who need clothes and don't have enough to eat. What good is there in your saying to them, "God bless you! Keep warm and eat well!"--if you don't give them the necessities of life? So it is with faith: if it is alone and includes no actions, then it is dead.
(James 2:14-17 TEV)

Universalism: Will We All Make it to Heaven?

In the scramble to find the ticket to heaven, some interesting verses are usually overlooked, verses that strongly imply that everyone will make it to heaven sooner or later. Dennis McKinsey (Biblical Errancy #71, p.3) found 18 verses that lend "impressive, if not convincing, credence thereto."

For just as all people die because of their union with Adam, in the same way all will be raised to life because of their union with Christ.
(1 Corinthians 15:22 TEV)
For God has made all people prisoners of disobedience, so that he might show mercy to them all.
(Romans 11:32 TEV)
We struggle and work hard, because we have placed our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all and especially of those who believe.
(1 Timothy 4:10 TEV)

McKinsey, Dennis (editor) Biblical Errancy (#3, #53, #54, #71, #85, #94, #121, #122, #123, #129, #133, #149)
2500 Punderson Drive, Hilliard, OH 43026


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