. . . This is what I heard communicated today by a well-known pastor (by some) who has a radio Bible answer show (not the “Bible Answer Man”) that airs Monday through Friday. I just want to hit on this one more time, and briefly. I honestly don’t know what could be a more damaging belief than this for a healthy Christian spirituality. If I believe that salvation is dependent upon me believing in Jesus; then what does this presuppose?
- It presupposes that I have this quality or “stuff” called belief that I can continually manufacture or muster in order to hold onto Jesus.
- It presupposes that salvation is “stuff” that can be gotten or lost.
- It presupposes that I am at the center of salvation.
- As far as an “order of salvation,” it starts with me (figuring out if I have “belief”), and then reflexively is able to look at Jesus (but me first).
- It sees salvation dualistically, as if it is not fully embodied and encompassed by the person of Jesus Christ in Himself.
What effect does this have on a person’s spirituality? It should cause them to experience dark nights of the soul every waking moment of their life. This kind of person should live with angst and anxeity over the thought that they might not have had enough belief at any given moment of the day. They should be fearful about dying in a moment of anger at God for a particular situation they might be facing in life. They should be fearful about dying in the moment of unconfessed sin; since at that moment they have chosen to believe in their way and themselves (sin and idolatry) more than Jesus, and thus at that moment they are no longer saved (not until they repent again). This person should be absorbed with themselves, so that they can make sure that they will get to see Jesus someday. This should paint the picture enough. If all I have to do to make sure that I stay saved is keep believing in Jesus, then I better make sure I am still believing!
What frustrates me about this, is that this kind of soteriology is being communicated by a well respected, aged pastor whom multitudes (in certain circles) look up to. Many young Christians (in fact it was a young Christian who asked the question that led to this response from this pastor) hang on this guy’s every word (that’s just how it is, often, when you’re a baby Christian). It would be one thing if this pastor made this statement to a room full of seasoned pastors, and/or theologians who could critically reflect upon this (and have the resources to do so); it is another thing altogether when this kind of stuff is communicated over the radio air-waves to tens of thousands of people who are just barely scraping along as Christians — this isn’t the way to push them into Jesus (e.g. make them wonder if they have enough belief in Jesus etc.).
There is exegesis to be given, and theological articulation to be had over this issue; but I just wanted to register some things off the top for the post here (just a good way to vent). How do we know if we have a healthy view of salvation? If we must start with ourselves before we get to Christ, then we know that’s not good. If we can look at Christ and then ourselves, then we have a healthy footing upon which to stand!