PDA

View Full Version : Justification by faith or works?


Web Rider
08-31-2007, 07:10 PM
Thread split from "Why do atheists become people of faith?" --Jae

Well said as a person of faith I actually agree with your statement here Web Rider. I wouldn’t believe a true atheist would every come to believe in faith for “praise of their good deeds,” the rest does make sense to me. Personally I believe doing good deeds merely for praise or recognition is selfish and self-centered.

FWIW, I’m way north of 15 with 2 college degrees and I still had to look up the meaning of proselytizing.


coming from a very religious community but not being religious myself, I'm all too familiar with the term.

In any case, I think alot of people who join religion(mainstream judeo-christian ones in this case), do so for selfish reasons. IE: they do good because they want to get into heaven, not because they think doing good is just the right thing to do. They need somebody to say: "oh you're such a good little *religious demonination* here's a cookie." I think that's why Buddhism has become so popular among "intellectuals" because it espouses doing good and being a good person just 'cause that's the right thing to do, with a bonus of nirvana if you're really good at it. While alot of mainstream judeo-christian religions espouse heaven as an ends to a mean, you do good, you get into heaven, regardless of you're motivations(which I don't think is what is means to do, but often how it seems to come off).

Achilles
08-31-2007, 07:54 PM
While alot of mainstream judeo-christian religions espouse heaven as an ends to a mean, you do good, you get into heaven, regardless of you're motivations. What is your take on christian sects which believe that you get into heaven merely for accepting jesus as your personal savior or repenting your sins before god? It seems to me that this puts even less emphasis on personal responsibility and therefore (to some degree) negates the need to do any good at all in order to get into heaven.

You could be a rotten ne'er do well right up until the end then repent on your deathbed and you'll be on your way. In the mean time, the buddhist that lived peacefully for all his/her years or the humanist that lived in accordance with common decency and empathy get to go to hell.

Web Rider
08-31-2007, 09:16 PM
What is your take on christian sects which believe that you get into heaven merely for accepting jesus as your personal savior or repenting your sins before god? It seems to me that this puts even less emphasis on personal responsibility and therefore (to some degree) negates the need to do any good at all in order to get into heaven.
it's even worse, it puts the focus on accepting some guy who you're told that he died for your supposed sins instead of actually doing good and NOT sinnging in the first place.

You could be a rotten ne'er do well right up until the end then repent on your deathbed and you'll be on your way. In the mean time, the buddhist that lived peacefully for all his/her years or the humanist that lived in accordance with common decency and empathy get to go to hell.

yeah, that's pretty screwed up, but I take a pretty liberal view in that the judeo-christian God, regardless of what texts say, will reward good people, end of story, Jesus acceptance or belief in that faith or not. Not OT God of course.

Jae Onasi
09-01-2007, 02:22 AM
What is your take on christian sects which believe that you get into heaven merely for accepting jesus as your personal savior or repenting your sins before god? It seems to me that this puts even less emphasis on personal responsibility and therefore (to some degree) negates the need to do any good at all in order to get into heaven.
it's even worse, it puts the focus on accepting some guy who you're told that he died for your supposed sins instead of actually doing good and NOT sinnging in the first place.
This is actually a bit of an incomplete understanding of this doctrine, so bear with me as I explain it. You've got one half of the equation but not the other half.
Assumption 1 in this explanation: The person has elected to accept Christianity. Without accepting this assumption, the rest of this is rendered moot.
Assumption 2: We've all sinned at some point in our life. If you've ever whacked a sibling or classmate over the head in anger, was mean to someone, or did a wrong action like shoplifting/stealing and so forth, you've committed a sin. You can be Mother Theresa and still have sinned at some point in life. Nevertheless, we have to deal with the problem of sin.
Assumption 3: The Bible is the definitive guide for Christians' relationship with God and humankind.

The question here is this: "If I do enough good works, will I go to heaven?"

For those of us who believe in salvation by faith, the answer is 'no'. Why? Two verses (well, many more, but these are sufficient to make the point):
John 3:16 "For God so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life."
and
Ephesians 2:8-9 "For by grace have you been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast."

It's actually God's grace that saves us and our faith in that, not anything _we_ do in good works. However, that does not mean we simply accept that gift as a "Get out of Hell free" card and go on our merry ways in life.

In James 2:17 he says "So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." We show our faith by doing good works, and are highly encouraged to do so. James goes on to say in v. 20 to say that faith without works is useless. I don't believe this means that salvation is taken away, but a Christian who is not doing 'good works' is useless as a servant of God and useless to the people and community around him or her. We've been given this gift of salvation, and we need to now put it into practice. Sometimes we Christians do that well, and sometimes we fail miserably at it.

James further notes in the following verses that Abraham and Rahab were justified in faith by their actions. Now, I don't know about anyone else's thoughts on this, but these two lived and died well before Christ lived, and well before the First Fundamentalist Praise-Jesus-Roll-in-the-Aisles-and-be-Saved-through-Membership-Only-Here for a nominal fee Church ever got started.

Abraham's and Rahab's justification was by faith in God and showing that faith by doing good works. Doing good works alone because you think that will force God to accept you is not sufficient--you have to have the faith part of the equation. Once you have faith, you need to add in the works part of the equation and put that faith into action, i.e. put your money where your mouth is.

It's also not a free pass to start or continue to sin. If we've chosen to accept this gift of salvation, we need to become more Christ-like. This means giving up things like stealing, cheating on a neighbor, and assorted other bad things that injure our family, community, and ourselves.


You could be a rotten ne'er do well right up until the end then repent on your deathbed and you'll be on your way. In the mean time, the buddhist that lived peacefully for all his/her years or the humanist that lived in accordance with common decency and empathy get to go to hell.

yeah, that's pretty screwed up, but I take a pretty liberal view in that the judeo-christian God, regardless of what texts say, will reward good people, end of story, Jesus acceptance or belief in that faith or not. Not OT God of course.
Still working with the provisos above:

Romans 1:20 says we can see God's work in creation and come to know Him that way without ever having heard the gospel--I think there will be plenty of people in heaven who've never heard of Christ but who had an intrinsic understanding of His presence and did good works not to earn something but simply because it was the right thing to do.

As for the deathbed confessions--this is easier for parents I think to understand, but you can substitute 'a very dear loved one' in place of child if that works for you in this example.

Let's say you have a child. You love this child dearly and have nurtured him, shown him the way to live life well, watched him grow, had a close relationship. Now say that child, for whatever reason turns to drugs, steals, gets involved in horrible relationships, abuses his family and his dog, is in and out of jail, and in general self-destructs. You try everything in your power to help him turn his life around and get back on track. He rejects your help and shuts you out of life completely, saying he can handle it on his own, despite overwhelming evidence that his life is going down the tubes and fast. Suddenly the drug abuse catches up with him, and he's now dying of liver failure from it. He takes stock of his life, realizes he's been wrong, and asks for nothing more from you but forgiveness for what he's done to you, no strings attached. He's totally sincere. Would you reject that child? Or would you take that child in your arms and love him and forgive him, even if it was only for the few moments before he died?

God loves us whether we love him or not, just as my love for my children is not dependent on whether or not they love me in return. I would still love them even if they did terrible things. I wouldn't be happy about those terrible things, and my kids might experience consequences for doing those things, but my love would not change. God takes us anywhere and any time we want to come. What the deathbed confessor has lost, however, is that relationship with God throughout life that could have both protected him from some of the physical consequences of his behavior and contributed to his spiritual well-being.

Achilles
09-01-2007, 02:39 AM
Jae,

You certainly put a lot of careful thought and time into your response. A few things though:

1) This does not appear to address or refute alternative interpretations.
2) This does not appears to address or refute the specific alternative interpretations that Web Rider and I were discussing.
3) If the bible is the definitive guide for christians' relationship with god and humankind, as you argue in assumption 3, why do the contents contradict themselves, thereby making them susceptible to interpretation? I don't see how something can be "definitive" and "subjective" at the same time. Do you?
4) Your comment that our posts are based on a incomplete understanding of the doctrine would appear to show that you are either unaware of alternative interpretations or consider your own interpretation to be undeniably superior to any other. Could you please help me understand why you presume that my understanding is incomplete? Additionally, if my assumption above is correct, could you please provide the basis for the superiority of your interpretation?

I think all the other contentions I had with your response are at least passably encapsulated in one of the points above.

Thanks in advance for your response.

Jae Onasi
09-01-2007, 03:50 AM
Jae,

You certainly put a lot of careful thought and time into your response. A few things though:

1) This does not appear to address or refute alternative interpretations.
That's because addressing or refuting alternative interpretations wasn't my intent. You and Web Rider were noting that those who believe in salvation by faith might somehow abdicate responsibility for doing good works because they have the 'get out of Hell free' card. I was simply stating that given the evangelical paradigm in which many of us who believe in salvation by faith function, that's an incomplete understanding.

I was not addressing those who believe in other salvation paradigms--they can do that if they like. Neither of you appear to be familiar with the evangelical/salvation by grace paradigm to the degree with which I'm familiar since I've been living within it for quite some time (and that's not a pejorative--we can't know everything about every religion). I was explaining how it works in at least one person's life.

2) This does not appears to address or refute the specific alternative interpretations that Web Rider and I were discussing.

As far as I could tell in those posts, you both were speaking about how a. those who believe in salvation by faith think they can now get away with not doing good works and b. good works earns you a spot in heaven. I was simply noting that those who do believe in salvation by faith don't view it as a 'get out of jail free' card, and the fact that in the Christian paradigm, particularly the evangelical paradigm, it's faith in God's love rather than works that determines salvation. I didn't see anything else there about alternative interpretations.

3) If the bible is the definitive guide for christians' relationship with god and humankind, as you argue in assumption 3, why do the contents contradict themselves, thereby making them susceptible to interpretation? I don't see how something can be "definitive" and "subjective" at the same time. Do you?That's a different topic entirely. It's also the reason why I stated the assumptions the way I did. In order to understand the point I was making, you have to accept (or in your case suspend the disbelief of) those assumptions. The assumptions themselves were not meant to be debated in this specific situation because I needed to move on to the main point itself rather than get bogged down in the debate about the Bible.

4) Your comment that our posts are based on a incomplete understanding of the doctrine would appear to show that you are either unaware of alternative interpretations or consider your own interpretation to be undeniably superior to any other. Could you please help me understand why you presume that my understanding is incomplete? Additionally, if my assumption above is correct, could you please provide the basis for the superiority of your interpretation?If you had a complete understanding of the justification by faith paradigm and specifically how works fit into that picture, you wouldn't have said what you said about Christians just viewing it as a get out of hell thing. That's how I knew that you were missing part of the equation within that paradigm, and I make that distinction very clear. I am aware of other interpretations; however, I was specifically addressing the 'salvation by faith and not works' paradigm and _only_ that paradigm since your original question asked specifically for that. I was not making judgments about other interpretations/salvation paradigms. No where did I say any other paradigm was incorrect or that this paradigm was superior, nor did I intend to imply that.

The only point in that section that I was trying to make was that even if you have salvation by faith, you are still enjoined to do good works to demonstrate that faith and make a positive difference in the world around you. It's not an 'either/or' thing, it's an 'both/and' thing.

Achilles
09-01-2007, 04:45 AM
That's because addressing or refuting alternative interpretations wasn't my intent. You and Web Rider were noting that those who believe in salvation by faith might somehow abdicate responsibility for doing good works because they have the 'get out of Hell free' card. I was simply stating that given the evangelical paradigm in which many of us who believe in salvation by faith function, that's an incomplete understanding. Ok, so within the narrow confines that you wish to arbitrarily apply to our discussion, we were incorrect. Noted.

Since the argument that you are making doesn't apply to the discussion that we were having, I think we can move on.

I was not addressing those who believe in other salvation paradigms--they can do that if they like. Neither of you appear to be familiar with the evangelical/salvation by grace paradigm to the degree with which I'm familiar since I've been living within it for quite some time (and that's not a pejorative--we can't know everything about every religion). I was explaining how it works in at least one person's life. Well, I appreciate your input on the discussion, but it would appear that you are presuming to speak for an entire demographic. Furthermore, based on the argument that you seem to be presenting, you're attempting to represent a demographic that was not being discussed. I asked Web Rider what his thoughts were about a specific "salvation paradigm". If that paradigm differs from yours then I suppose kudos are in order, but your argument does little to address the question asked. And your presumption that we don't know what we're talking about falls flat.

As far as I could tell in those posts, you both were speaking about how a. those who believe in salvation by faith think they can now get away with not doing good works and b. good works earns you a spot in heaven. I was simply noting that those who do believe in salvation by faith don't view it as a 'get out of jail free' card, Are you speaking for all christian sects that believe in salvation through faith? Are you speaking for all individual christians that have such a belief? Or are you speaking for yourself?

and the fact that in the Christian paradigm, particularly the evangelical paradigm, it's faith in God's love rather than works that determines salvation. Sorry, are you speaking for all christians or all evangelicals here? The qualifier makes it difficult for me to determine which counter-argument is appropriate for this point.

I didn't see anything else there about alternative interpretations. That's a different topic entirely. It's also the reason why I stated the assumptions the way I did. It seems quite necessary and appropriate after you told us that we didn't know what we were talking about and then superimposed a specific theology that was not being discussed. I'm not sure how it would be applicable unless you were seeking to invalidate other interpretations of the bible (which you operationally defined as "the definitive guide for christians' relationship with god and humankind"), hence why I raised the points that I did. You seemed to indicate that you intended to do something and then stopped before you started.

In order to understand the point I was making, you have to accept (or in your case suspend the disbelief of) those assumptions. The assumptions themselves were not meant to be debated in this specific situation because I needed to move on to the main point itself rather than get bogged down in the debate about the Bible. Those assumptions are key to the point, so I don't see how they could be immune to debate. In fact, the more rigorously one adopts assumption 3, the more unstable it becomes. Declaring it definitive only accentuates its subjectivity.

If you had a complete understanding of the justification by faith paradigm and specifically how works fit into that picture, you wouldn't have said what you said about Christians just viewing it as a get out of hell thing. I'm sure you meant to say "If you had a complete understanding of my interpretation of...". Since it appears that the interpretation we were discussing and the interpretation that you hold differ so much, we can agree that no further clarification from you is necessary?

That's how I knew that you were missing part of the equation within that paradigm, and I make that distinction very clear. Within your interpretation of your paradigm.

I am aware of other interpretations; however, I was specifically addressing the 'salvation by faith and not works' paradigm and _only_ that paradigm since your original question asked specifically for that. I was not making judgments about other interpretations/salvation paradigms. No where did I say any other paradigm was incorrect or that this paradigm was superior, nor did I intend to imply that. But by assuming that web rider and I were wrong, you did say/imply that. At the very least, you appear to be ignorant that such an interpretation is possible/exists.

The only point in that section that I was trying to make was that even if you have salvation by faith, you are still enjoined to do good works to demonstrate that faith and make a positive difference in the world around you. It's not an 'either/or' thing, it's an 'both/and' thing. I have no doubt that you could present a compelling argument via cherry-picked lines of scripture and mental gymnastics. To borrow your phrase, that's not a pejorative - that's just how religion works.

Totenkopf
09-01-2007, 08:00 AM
Since the argument that you are making doesn't apply to the discussion that we were having, I think we can move on.

Since your discussion doesn't apply to the OP, perhaps you can move on to another thread. :dev11: Might I reccomend you call it something like "Those crazy theists, WTF are they thinking?!?! (in the spirit of Lewis Black).

But since you did start it here, I would observe that I've also talked to "born agains" at least twice, one in the deep south and another up north and both brought up the point about faith and not good works as the path to salvation. My question to them was how do you define "faith"? If it's merely stating that you believe in Jesus, then that would still allow you do all kinds of bad stuff (as you argue, achilles) and still get a "get out of hell free card". But if said faith also means that you've amended your behavior to do good, then the bit about "good works" was a false distinction, as it was those good works that proved they truly had the faith they claimed.


What is your take on christian sects which believe that you get into heaven merely for accepting jesus as your personal savior or repenting your sins before god? It seems to me that this puts even less emphasis on personal responsibility and therefore (to some degree) negates the need to do any good at all in order to get into heaven.

Which sects in particular do you refer to here? Not sure how repenting your sins to God/god absolves you of the responsibility to still try to do the right thing. As repentence is often a step necessary to repair a damaged relationship, I'm not sure why you think that it shouldn't be necessary or that it somehow puts less emphasis on personal responsibility. In order to make parole, criminals often have to convince a board that they regret their past mistakes and have learned something constructive vis-a-vis their previous behavior and it's general inappropriateness before they can be released early. I'm less than convinced that if God is in fact omnipotent/all knowing/etc.. that people are just going to pull the wool over his eyes and skate into heaven on a technicality.

Perhaps "intellectuals" (as amoral a group as any other) are attracted to Budhism for reasons other than b/c it preaches "good for the sake of good". It's something of a conceit to think that all/most/many theists (in this case, Christians) are only good b/c their God/god commands it. What of the convert who's already developed his sense of morality along the lines of doing good w/o being commanded by deities? Are his behaviors now somehow suspect b/c they're no longer deemed secular enough?

In order to avoid contentious back and forthing, perhaps people should read carefully before replying so that they don't make a sweeping generalization that misrepresents/fails to address another's point. While I'm thinking specifically of someone's oversight (>1x) re the word "all", I'm not aiming this just at that one person, but ALL of us (and like the saying goes, if this doesn't apply to you b/c you've not done it......then don't worry about it ;) ).


You could be a rotten ne'er do well right up until the end then repent on your deathbed and you'll be on your way. In the mean time, the buddhist that lived peacefully for all his/her years or the humanist that lived in accordance with common decency and empathy get to go to hell.

Not sure why an atheist would be remotely bothered by this as he/she would at best view it as a quaint example of a misguided superstition. Since you'll believe they're nothing more than worm meat in the end, their motivations are little more than a chapter in a(n abnormal) psychology textbook. If one doesn't believe in hell, it doesn't really matter what someone else thinks about how you end up in a place that "doesn't exist".

NOTE:
Perhaps a mod/supmod/admin can split these posts off from the original thread due to "off-topicness". Maybe call the new thread: Theistic takes on the paths to heaven/nirvana/valhalla/olympus/you get the idea. thanks.

Rogue Nine
09-01-2007, 12:37 PM
You could be a rotten ne'er do well right up until the end then repent on your deathbed and you'll be on your way. In the mean time, the buddhist that lived peacefully for all his/her years or the humanist that lived in accordance with common decency and empathy get to go to hell.
Not sure why an atheist would be remotely bothered by this as he/she would at best view it as a quaint example of a misguided superstition. Since you'll believe they're nothing more than worm meat in the end, their motivations are little more than a chapter in a(n abnormal) psychology textbook. If one doesn't believe in hell, it doesn't really matter what someone else thinks about how you end up in a place that "doesn't exist".
I'm sure that Achilles isn't 'remotely bothered by this'; rather, he explained one of his many bones of contention with Christianity, specifically evangelism. Now, if you're looking for someone who is remotely bothered by it, look no further. The instances Achilles describes are just the kind of thing that has made me question my Christianity.

I grew up with a mother who was (and still is) fiercely religious. To her, God is everything. Now, I'm happy for her that she's found faith and something to believe in, but what I'm not happy about is the fact that she constantly tries to shove he beliefs down my throat. Among the many she tries to ingrain upon me is the central notion that if you don't accept Christ into your life as 'your personal Lord and Savior' (oh how trite that statement has become to me...), you won't make it into heaven, regardless of who you are. This is especially hard for me to take, because I have several friends and relatives who aren't Christian and have definitely not taken that commitment with Jesus.

She constantly prays for my aunt and uncle's family. My aunt married a Jewish guy and they have three wonderful children. My cousins were all raised in the Jewish faith and I've attended all their bar/bat mitzvahs and I love them all dearly. My uncle is a doctor and probably one of the finest human beings on the planet. The fact that my mother prays so earnestly for them to 'see the light and accept Jesus Christ' irks me so much. They are good, honest people who do so much good in the world (my cousins are all Boy/Girl Scouts, my uncle regularly donates to charity and my aunt gave up a very lucrative career in nursing to take a position in the education system as an event coordinator) that it seems almost inconceivable to damn them to hell for all eternity once their time on this mortal coil is finished. But that is exactly the view that my mother is espousing. She may think what she's doing (praying, 'going before God for them') is selfless, but I think it's the complete opposite. How can you look at such wonderful people and say that what they're doing isn't enough? My mother has never been able to give me a satisfactory answer.

Achilles
09-01-2007, 12:53 PM
She may think what she's doing (praying, 'going before God for them') is selfless, but I think it's the complete opposite. Heh.
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

PoiuyWired
09-01-2007, 07:48 PM
I always think that the whole praying in your room at closed door thing is actually the Advice on HOW TO CURRY FAVOR from the big man above. Well, it seems to be that this equates to:

1) prayer in closed doors
2) ???
3) profit

What I mean is that this verse sounds like you are praying FOR REWARD. And well, frankly, helping that old grandma on the bus numbers would probably be better in the overall sense.

IN simple terms it is a big neon sign of "Faith > Works" in the most hypocritical sense.

Jvstice
09-01-2007, 09:21 PM
Actually, from what I've heard from Protestant and Catholic clergy and people hevily involved with their churches on both sides sounds like both groups are moving closer together than they historically have been on this issue.

Protestant groups: Yes. Faith without works is dead, so the works have to be there, but its' the faith itself that saves you. If the works aren't there, then you haven't really trusted yourself to following Christ. No thing you ever do will ever merit salvation itself, but that doesn't endorse doing nothing.

Catholic Groups: Yes. You need faith and works to be saved. Maybe the Protestants are right and that no single work you ever do will ever measure up, but there's a matter of sincerity that if the works aren't there then it was never real to begin with.

As I say, they phrase their arguements in such a way that they don't completely back away from their arguements before, but the actual substance of their arguements have met in the middle. At least from what I saw.

Totenkopf
09-01-2007, 10:21 PM
I'm sure that Achilles isn't 'remotely bothered by this'; rather, he explained one of his many bones of contention with Christianity, specifically evangelism. Now, if you're looking for someone who is remotely bothered by it, look no further. The instances Achilles describes are just the kind of thing that has made me question my Christianity.

Generally, if one isn't "remotely bothered" by something, it doesn't become a bone of contention, so I'd have to disagree with your assessment.


I grew up with a mother who was (and still is) fiercely religious. To her, God is everything. Now, I'm happy for her that she's found faith and something to believe in, but what I'm not happy about is the fact that she constantly tries to shove he beliefs down my throat. Among the many she tries to ingrain upon me is the central notion that if you don't accept Christ into your life as 'your personal Lord and Savior' (oh how trite that statement has become to me...), you won't make it into heaven, regardless of who you are. This is especially hard for me to take, because I have several friends and relatives who aren't Christian and have definitely not taken that commitment with Jesus.

She constantly prays for my aunt and uncle's family. My aunt married a Jewish guy and they have three wonderful children. My cousins were all raised in the Jewish faith and I've attended all their bar/bat mitzvahs and I love them all dearly. My uncle is a doctor and probably one of the finest human beings on the planet. The fact that my mother prays so earnestly for them to 'see the light and accept Jesus Christ' irks me so much. They are good, honest people who do so much good in the world (my cousins are all Boy/Girl Scouts, my uncle regularly donates to charity and my aunt gave up a very lucrative career in nursing to take a position in the education system as an event coordinator) that it seems almost inconceivable to damn them to hell for all eternity once their time on this mortal coil is finished. But that is exactly the view that my mother is espousing. She may think what she's doing (praying, 'going before God for them') is selfless, but I think it's the complete opposite. How can you look at such wonderful people and say that what they're doing isn't enough? My mother has never been able to give me a satisfactory answer.

I guess I'm lucky that my parents aren't like that. Still, I understand where you're coming from b/c I would find that type of behavior overbearing. The only things I could think of would be to stress to her that if she continues down that path, you will no longer be able to talk to her. If she believes you are truly sincere, she may back off. Or...do an intervention (kinda hate that term) to wake her up to just how much aggravation she's causing others (giving you some kind of moral support in getting this point across). Remind her of the passage in the gospels where parents are councilled (sp?) to not nag their children, less they lose heart. Perhaps this (and/or achille's quote from above) might reach her. But, whatever you do, best of luck.

@jvstice--I've found your last statement to be true in my experience as well.

Achilles
09-02-2007, 12:06 AM
Actually, from what I've heard from Protestant and Catholic clergy and people hevily involved with their churches on both sides sounds like both groups are moving closer together than they historically have been on this issue. And the fact that this is being decided by committee? Shouldn't gods will be absolute?

Seems to be further evidence that religion is a human endeavor.

Web Rider
09-02-2007, 12:42 AM
This is actually a bit of an incomplete understanding of this doctrine, so bear with me as I explain it. You've got one half of the equation but not the other half.
Assumption 1 in this explanation: The person has elected to accept Christianity. Without accepting this assumption, the rest of this is rendered moot.
fair enough, Judaism and Islam work on a similar concept. It's largely irrelevent to me, but I know quotes the Christian religion are easier to produce.
Assumption 2: We've all sinned at some point in our life. If you've ever whacked a sibling or classmate over the head in anger, was mean to someone, or did a wrong action like shoplifting/stealing and so forth, you've committed a sin. You can be Mother Theresa and still have sinned at some point in life. Nevertheless, we have to deal with the problem of sin.
If we're assuming that we're part of a system that requires us to acknoweledge this fact. Ie: assumption 1 is required for assumption 2 to work.
Assumption 3: The Bible is the definitive guide for Christians' relationship with God and humankind.
Which I feel is wholly innaccurate since it's well known that the "bibile" has been edited, reedited, translated and retranslated over the last couple thousand years. There are books left out in order to make it short and simple, and parts left in as a way to achieve more power for the various people in charge.

The question here is this: "If I do enough good works, will I go to heaven?"

For those of us who believe in salvation by faith, the answer is 'no'. Why? Two verses (well, many more, but these are sufficient to make the point):
John 3:16 "For God so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life."
and
Ephesians 2:8-9 "For by grace have you been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast."
I am aware of that, hence why I qualify my statement as being a very liberal interpretation. And I'm greatly familiar with John 3:16, it's on a giant bilboard back home. I'll get to these in a moment.

It's actually God's grace that saves us and our faith in that, not anything _we_ do in good works. However, that does not mean we simply accept that gift as a "Get out of Hell free" card and go on our merry ways in life.
according to those statements in a void, yes.

In James 2:17 he says "So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." We show our faith by doing good works, and are highly encouraged to do so. James goes on to say in v. 20 to say that faith without works is useless. I don't believe this means that salvation is taken away, but a Christian who is not doing 'good works' is useless as a servant of God and useless to the people and community around him or her. We've been given this gift of salvation, and we need to now put it into practice. Sometimes we Christians do that well, and sometimes we fail miserably at it.

It's also not a free pass to start or continue to sin. If we've chosen to accept this gift of salvation, we need to become more Christ-like. This means giving up things like stealing, cheating on a neighbor, and assorted other bad things that injure our family, community, and ourselves.
Yes, unforunately some of the more indepth and wiser statements are left out in favor of sound bytes to quickly get people indoctrinated into the religion. I know that what it means to say is that salvation is given based on you being a truly good person at heart and repenting when you do bad stuff and accepting jesus/god into you're heart.

John 3:16 is a well used quote, however, it ties into a bumch of other wholly relevent stuff that's often wholly left out. Which leaves the message half baked and lacking in what it meant to say which was that being a good person is equally as important as believing in God.

God loves us whether we love him or not, just as my love for my children is not dependent on whether or not they love me in return. I would still love them even if they did terrible things. I wouldn't be happy about those terrible things, and my kids might experience consequences for doing those things, but my love would not change. God takes us anywhere and any time we want to come. What the deathbed confessor has lost, however, is that relationship with God throughout life that could have both protected him from some of the physical consequences of his behavior and contributed to his spiritual well-being.
If of course, we assume that when any given person "accepts God" they do wo whole heartedly and with all the facts. While the former is usually pretty likly, anyone with a little learning about religion should well known that having all the facts is simply a matter of perspective, and while generally agreed to be every available peice of data related to the given subject, religion, like government, perfers to keep you guessing so that they can maintain control.

You don't need the Chruch, as the ginormous orginization that it is, to have good faith, and that isn't very appealing to people with established positions of power within the orginization.

Jvstice
09-02-2007, 01:18 AM
And the fact that this is being decided by committee? Shouldn't gods will be absolute?

Seems to be further evidence that religion is a human endeavor.

The New Testament is pretty consistent in calling for both to be present in believers who claim to wish to follow Christ. What people historically have disagreed about, is which criteria God uses to judge.

And really, it's no different than the cognitive psychology vs behaviorism debates in the past century. Do people act the way they do because of how they think, or is their behavior what comes before the thought? There's some truth in both, but there's been no proof which point of view has more truth to it.

Jae Onasi
09-02-2007, 02:54 PM
Purely theological discussion, and no I'm not going to debate in this post whether or not Christianity is a worthy religion or not, or whether religion is worthy or not, since there are plenty other threads for that stuff.

I grew up with a mother who was (and still is) fiercely religious. To her, God is everything. Now, I'm happy for her that she's found faith and something to believe in, but what I'm not happy about is the fact that she constantly tries to shove he beliefs down my throat. Among the many she tries to ingrain upon me is the central notion that if you don't accept Christ into your life as 'your personal Lord and Savior' (oh how trite that statement has become to me...), you won't make it into heaven, regardless of who you are. This is especially hard for me to take, because I have several friends and relatives who aren't Christian and have definitely not taken that commitment with Jesus.

Not saying she's going about it the right way in your case, but the reason she's doing it is because she loves you and cares about your spiritual life as much as she cares about your physical life. She also cares for family and friends. Her actions are a reflection of her, not necessarily all of Christian philosophy. Christ was more about showing love to people than getting in their faces. My sisters prayed for me when I went through my religious apathy phase of life. I knew they were doing it, though they at least weren't too 'in my face' about it. If it made them feel better, that was fine.

She constantly prays for my aunt and uncle's family. ~snipped much goodness about family~ that it seems almost inconceivable to damn them to hell for all eternity once their time on this mortal coil is finished. But that is exactly the view that my mother is espousing. She may think what she's doing (praying, 'going before God for them') is selfless, but I think it's the complete opposite. How can you look at such wonderful people and say that what they're doing isn't enough? My mother has never been able to give me a satisfactory answer.

It's not up to her to determine God's judgment and where people go after they die. That's God's job. First of all, we can never truly know what's in someone else's heart. That's between that individual and God--we're not in their heads 24/7 for their entire lives. Second, if God can create an entire universe, I think He has more than enough capability to work out all our silly little squabbles about whether or not it's OK to have wine or grape juice during communion and some of the other things we can get hung up on. Rom. 1:20 notes that people can see God in creation itself, and as I noted above James 2:20-26 discusses Abraham's and Rahab's inward faith being demonstrated in an outward fashion by the good deeds they did, and they were born well before Christ. I've known plenty of people who've never said the 'magical evangelical words' "I've accepted a personal relationship with Christ" but who were amazing examples of Christ's love. I doubt Mother Theresa ever said the exact phrase "I accept Christ as my personal Savior", but she stated Christ gave her the strength and inspiration to do her work. I seriously doubt she's hanging out in hell with all the rest of the non-fundamentalist universe just because she didn't phrase something the same way as fundamentalits. If she was, she'd probably be trying to minister to everyone anyway to relieve any suffering. :)

There's nothing wrong with praying for someone's spiritual life and being concerned about their well-being--the prayers certainly aren't going to harm anyone. You could always talk to her and her pastor or church elder if it's really bugging you--I always think it's a good idea to explain how you're feeling about the preachiness, but I don't know that she'd consider you having enough spiritual authority, as her child, in the same way she'd view a pastor or elder/deacon.

Rogue Nine
09-04-2007, 11:51 AM
Her actions are a reflection of her, not necessarily all of Christian philosophy. Christ was more about showing love to people than getting in their faces.
See, that's the thing. What she says is based on what her church teaches her, so it's reflective of at least some part of some Christian doctrine. They're her actions, yes, but she's not getting the impetus for them from nowhere.

And yeah, Christ is characterized as being loving rather than in-your-face, so I guess my mom fails in that particular aspect of her quest to be more Christlike.

It's not up to her to determine God's judgment and where people go after they die. That's God's job.
See, from what I understand from being forced to go to her church, God's judgment has already been handed down. You either believe or you don't. You believe, you get to heaven and worship God for all eternity come. You don't believe, you go to hell and eternal damnation and suffering. God's way or the highway. This or that. You're not the first to say 'Oh, it's all up to God, he'll mete out His own judgment.' If it's really just arbitrarily up to God, then why preach a message that says you only have two options? My cousins don't believe in Jesus and his ressurection, so that means they're going to hell. That's that.

First of all, we can never truly know what's in someone else's heart. That's between that individual and God--we're not in their heads 24/7 for their entire lives.
Not sure I understand what point you're trying to get at.

Second, if God can create an entire universe, I think He has more than enough capability to work out all our silly little squabbles about whether or not it's OK to have wine or grape juice during communion and some of the other things we can get hung up on.
So why doesn't He? Wouldn't it be better to have one unified position on Christianity, to give people a better chance at reaching paradise, rather than having them pick and choose and hope they've got the right one?

And I'm not really talking about the Eucharist or anything like that. I'm talking about the fundamental Christian maxim that if you don't accept Christ as your Savior, you go to hell. This isn't some silly little squabble; this is the crux of the entire Christian existence.

Rom. 1:20 notes that people can see God in creation itself,
Romans 1:20 says we can see God's work in creation and come to know Him that way without ever having heard the gospel--I think there will be plenty of people in heaven who've never heard of Christ but who had an intrinsic understanding of His presence and did good works not to earn something but simply because it was the right thing to do.
This is what I would truly, truly, truly like to believe, but that's not what my mother and her church is preaching. According to them, if you haven't heard of Christ, then you're not going to heaven.

I'm curious, Jae. Is this positions something you've come up with yourself, or is it something that your church has taught you?

and as I noted above James 2:20-26 discusses Abraham's and Rahab's inward faith being demonstrated in an outward fashion by the good deeds they did, and they were born well before Christ.
They were also Jewish and lived well before Christ's time, so I'd like to think that God wasn't going to hold them to standards that hadn't been set yet.

I've known plenty of people who've never said the 'magical evangelical words' "I've accepted a personal relationship with Christ" but who were amazing examples of Christ's love.
That's nice, but does it change the fact that if they've not accepted Jesus into their lives, they're in hell?

There's nothing wrong with praying for someone's spiritual life and being concerned about their well-being--the prayers certainly aren't going to harm anyone.
Yes, and I'm happy to leave her be to do so, since I think her intentions are honest, but it is because of my questions with certain Christian tenets that I cannot do the same. I dislike the fact that she wants me join her, despite the fact that I do not share the same level of faith.

You could always talk to her and her pastor or church elder if it's really bugging you--I always think it's a good idea to explain how you're feeling about the preachiness, but I don't know that she'd consider you having enough spiritual authority, as her child, in the same way she'd view a pastor or elder/deacon.
That would do more harm than good, knowing her. I've contemplated it, but given how she is, I don't think it would work out at all. I don't really want to argue based on my 'spritual authority', as that can be characterized as very weak at best. I'd really rather just say it all based on my own common sense, but that has never worked with her in the past and I don't see why it would change now, especially with something she feels so strongly about.

Thanks for the suggestion, though.

Corinthian
09-04-2007, 01:42 PM
Yeah. Your mom sounds like a horrible woman. All that praying for people, she's so selfish. She should do something worthwhile with her time.

Of course it's God's Way or the Hell Way. He's God. He created everything. He's certainly given us enough chances. In the Garden, all Adam and Eve had to do was live life and be happy, and not touch that one tree. But naturally, they ate the apple. So then, a few thousand or so years down the road, he sends his son to die and take our sins upon himself. Besides, God created us with free will. Those who choose to reject God will get their desire and be without him for all eternity.

Rogue, I have never seen a faith where at least part of the requirement for entering Heaven is Faith in Christ. Personally, I believe that's all you need, the Thief on the Cross proves that to my satisfaction.

Rogue Nine
09-04-2007, 02:15 PM
Of course it's God's Way or the Hell Way. He's God. He created everything.
Well, I think it's safe to assume that you're in the 'Faith' camp.

Besides, God created us with free will. Those who choose to reject God will get their desire and be without him for all eternity.
How about those who have never heard about God? Where do they fall?

Rogue, I have never seen a faith where at least part of the requirement for entering Heaven is Faith in Christ.
Um, I'll point you to Christianity, since that's the only faith which has that requirement.

Personally, I believe that's all you need, the Thief on the Cross proves that to my satisfaction.
So all you need is faith, a la the thief on the Cross? You could live your life as godlessly as you want, yet you confess on your deathbed that Jesus is Lord and punch yourself a one-way ticket to eternal paradise?

SilentScope001
09-04-2007, 02:40 PM
So all you need is faith, a la the thief on the Cross? You could live your life as godlessly as you want, yet you confess on your deathbed that Jesus is Lord and punch yourself a one-way ticket to eternal paradise?

Can't speak for all faiths, but um, my faith states that God gets to utlimately decides. If you confess on your deathbed sincercly, well, God will take that into consideration. If God knows you are doing this as a way to "get out of Hell" card, he'll use that as clear and conclusive evidence to throw you into Hell.

Even then, if God accept your consideration, it really is not much. Because so what if you get yourself a ticket to Heaven? God will just decrease your standings in Heaven, make you a pauper (relatively speaking to the rest of the people in Heaven). You could get yourself a beating and lots of wounds when trying to cross the Bridge that That Takes You To Heaven, as punishment for your sins. Your dirty secrets could be aired in front of the entire human race and you could be very very embarssed. There are other ways of punishing people than throwing them in a fiery pit.
***
Faith versus Good Works? Good Works will eventually be forgotten. This world is dying in 5 billion years, if you help out the grandma down the street, so what? Good Works mean nothing...if God really wants to, he can make the world a perfect place, but he didn't, and for a good reason.

Faith is the only thing that really matters, and Faith can lead you to do Good Works.

(For those that never heard of God, however, God will evaulate people solely based on Good Works [thereby ruining my screed against Good Works], because God could evaulate for subconsusius biases that lead people to do Good Works due to a secret belief in God or Intelligent Designer that they themselves do not fully know of. But that's for people that never heard of God. Prehistoric people, for instance, or those who only know of one religion their whole life.)

Rogue Nine
09-04-2007, 03:10 PM
Can't speak for all faiths, but um, my faith states that God gets to utlimately decides. If you confess on your deathbed sincercly, well, God will take that into consideration. If God knows you are doing this as a way to "get out of Hell" card, he'll use that as clear and conclusive evidence to throw you into Hell.
Well, duh. I didn't think God would make it that easy. :rolleyes:

Even then, if God accept your consideration, it really is not much. Because so what if you get yourself a ticket to Heaven? God will just decrease your standings in Heaven, make you a pauper (relatively speaking to the rest of the people in Heaven). You could get yourself a beating and lots of wounds when trying to cross the Bridge that That Takes You To Heaven, as punishment for your sins. Your dirty secrets could be aired in front of the entire human race and you could be very very embarssed. There are other ways of punishing people than throwing them in a fiery pit.
Very interesting hypothesis. Where are you getting all this from, might I ask?

Good Works mean nothing...
Faith is the only thing that really matters
"You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone... As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead."
How do you reconcile these statements in the context of your faith?

(For those that never heard of God, however, God will evaulate people solely based on Good Works [thereby ruining my screed against Good Works], because God could evaulate for subconsusius biases that lead people to do Good Works due to a secret belief in God or Intelligent Designer that they themselves do not fully know of. But that's for people that never heard of God. Prehistoric people, for instance, or those who only know of one religion their whole life.)
Once again, a very interesting hypothesis. Could you please point me to a source?

SilentScope001
09-04-2007, 03:31 PM
Very interesting hypothesis. Where are you getting all this from, might I ask?

Once again, a very interesting hypothesis. Could you please point me to a source?

My priests. :) They mostly go and tell it to me orally, so I usually just repeat what they say. Sounds pretty logical to me. I'll look for some online sources from the preists as soon as I got time, though.

How do you reconcile these statements in the context of your faith?

Erm. I'm not a Chrisitan. Hence the reason why I state I only speak for my "faith", not for the fatih of other religions. And my statements are probraly not really that accepted, but the rest of my statements said by the preists are usually accepted.

Rogue Nine
09-04-2007, 03:43 PM
Interesting. Does your faith have a name? More pertinently, does it have a website where I might be able to read the general outlines set forth by the priests in this faith?

SilentScope001
09-04-2007, 05:24 PM
Interesting. Does your faith have a name? More pertinently, does it have a website where I might be able to read the general outlines set forth by the priests in this faith?

Can't keep things a secret, huh? :)

I'm a Muslim who is in the Sunni sect of Islam. The problem is that Sunnis have no offical religious doctrines of beliefs other than "We're not Shias!" The term Sunni in fact mean "moderate". So, basically, there is no offical website where you can go to find 'offical' Sunni information. One Sunni's view is likely to be different from another Sunni's view. There does seem to be one website (www.islamicity.com) that might be of interest that could sastify what you mean, but I'm not so certain they have the actual wording of what my priests have said to me. Still, anything to help, I guess.

I learnt all this stuff within the Sunday School that I attended, some random Haditah (sayings of the Prophets) books that I read, and tapes recorded by Sunni priests that I play back. If/When I find any stuff that backs my belief, I'll post the URL here, but all the information I got was just from the top of my memory.

Rogue Nine
09-05-2007, 10:09 AM
Ah, thanks for clearing that up, SilentScope. This topic has been predominantly about the Christian stance on justification, so it's very interesting to see the Sunni Muslim perspective on it. Allah seems to have more clear-cut guidelines on entrance into heaven/hell, which is quite the marked difference from Christianity.

Jae Onasi
09-05-2007, 03:44 PM
Her actions are a reflection of her, not necessarily all of Christian philosophy. Christ was more about showing love to people than getting in their faces.
See, that's the thing. What she says is based on what her church teaches her, so it's reflective of at least some part of some Christian doctrine. They're her actions, yes, but she's not getting the impetus for them from nowhere.

And yeah, Christ is characterized as being loving rather than in-your-face, so I guess my mom fails in that particular aspect of her quest to be more Christlike.

None of us are perfect. We're all going to have some flaws in our worship and lives as well as strengths--it's the nature of being human. I'm certainly not immune to doing stupid things. The challenge is learning how to handle that faith appropriately. Likely what she's doing is based on Christ's words in Matt. 28:19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations...." We're enjoined to share Christ's love with others. Now, how that's accomplished is another matter, and that comes down to the individual person/church based on the unique gifts of that person or church and the unique needs of the community.


It's not up to her to determine God's judgment and where people go after they die. That's God's job.
See, from what I understand from being forced to go to her church, God's judgment has already been handed down. You either believe or you don't. You believe, you get to heaven and worship God for all eternity come. You don't believe, you go to hell and eternal damnation and suffering. God's way or the highway. This or that. You're not the first to say 'Oh, it's all up to God, he'll mete out His own judgment.' If it's really just arbitrarily up to God, then why preach a message that says you only have two options? My cousins don't believe in Jesus and his ressurection, so that means they're going to hell. That's that.
And:

First of all, we can never truly know what's in someone else's heart. That's between that individual and God--we're not in their heads 24/7 for their entire lives.
Not sure I understand what point you're trying to get at.
Oh, what I was trying to say is that no one here on earth has any right to say that someone else is going to hell. None of us can know for sure what's in someone else's mind and heart for their entire life. If we had infinite knowledge of that person's entire life and thinking, then we might be able to say 'Yes, he's made a decision for God' or 'No, he's rejected God'. Since we don't have that kind of knowledge, at best all we can do is speculate, and even that may be subject to error since we don't have all the details of someone's life and thoughts.

There is a decision at some point for all of us that fundamentally does come down to two choices: we either determine that we individually are the sovereign authority in our own lives, or God is the sovereign authority in our own lives. We either accept God as God, or make ourselves our own god. C.S. Lewis says it far more eloquently than I can. We either have a relationship with God on some level, or we reject Him utterly. If we reject or accept God, He respects our decision--He's not going to force us to love Him, because you cannot command someone to love you. We also experience the consequences of that decision, for good or ill. God is just, but He's also loving. I cannot imagine that He has not made some kind of allowance for people who've never even heard of Christ, or for those who express their love for God by doing good works, not because they think it's a ticket to heaven, but because they know it's the right thing to do--the verses I quoted indicate that He's made some kind of arrangement for those who've never heard the Gospel or don't otherwise have access to Christianity.

How that relationship with God is expressed is what the different churches are all trying to answer. It grinds my gears to hear someone say "Oh, that person is religion X, so he's going to hell". That's the height of arrogance and it's attempting to pass judgment on something we have no right to do. Now, I don't think there's anything wrong with saying "This is why I'm a Christian, because of x, y, and z," but that's very different from saying "Because you don't believe in (my brand of) Christianity, you'll be burning in the fiery pits of hellfire and brimstone for all eternity, weeping, wailing, and gnashing your teeth."

So why doesn't He? Wouldn't it be better to have one unified position on Christianity, to give people a better chance at reaching paradise, rather than having them pick and choose and hope they've got the right one?
I don't know. Would one unified position meet all our individual needs, though? One unified position might work in one part of the world, but be inadequate to meet the needs of people in a different part of the world. I think it has be fluid enough to meet individual and global needs, so some of it is left for us to learn to apply in our own lives, based on our own talents, abilities, and needs.

I'm talking about the fundamental Christian maxim that if you don't accept Christ as your Savior, you go to hell. This isn't some silly little squabble; this is the crux of the entire Christian existence.From the perspective of the Creator of the Universe, a lot of what we think is terribly important He looks at as mere childishness. However, that's not to say that accepting Christ as our Savior isn't important--if we have that opportunity to accept that gift of atonement and His love for us, we should take it--we're the ones missing out on the relationship with God when we deny Him. The entire New Testament theme is not about damnation, but rather salvation. Certainly there are verses on what happens to those who commit evil or utterly deny God. God deals with people justly as well as lovingly, and I think we need to know that good ultimately wins over evil. However, the overriding theme is salvation and our relationship with Christ and God, not damnation and the experience of hell.

This is what I would truly, truly, truly like to believe, but that's not what my mother and her church is preaching. According to them, if you haven't heard of Christ, then you're not going to heaven.
Then they are ignoring the entire 11th chapter of Hebrews, where the author describes all the people who lived before Christ was ever born whose faith in God and their service to Him as an outward sign of that faith was their salvation. Most of them were Jewish, by the way, if that makes you feel any better. Those in your mom's church who espouse the idea that anyone who has not heard of Christ is going to hell are also ignoring the verses I noted above about how those who've never heard of Christ can see God even in the world around us. Christ is the authority over the church, not the other way around, and that authority is revealed through the Bible. The moment the church tries to usurp Christ's authority and turn it into something it is not, then there is likely to be something quite wrong.

I'm curious, Jae. Is this positions something you've come up with yourself, or is it something that your church has taught you?
It simply is what's in the Bible. I honestly don't remember if that's something I learned in church or the 2 college classes on the Bible I had, or if it's something I came to a conclusion on through my own study. I've been a part of a number of different congregations of different denominations--Congregational, Lutheran, both evangelical and fundamentalist Baptist (there is a difference), Presbyterian, Methodist and a smattering of Catholicism and Assembly of God thrown in at special services. I've had an all-too-brief study of Judaism and Islam for an Intro to Bible course and History of the Middle East. I'd call myself 'an independent Christian with conservative evangelical leanings who happens to currently attend an evangelical Baptist church'. If God said in the Bible that He made provision for those who've never heard of Him, then how can we say anything different?

They were also Jewish and lived well before Christ's time, so I'd like to think that God wasn't going to hold them to standards that hadn't been set yet....That's nice, but does it change the fact that if they've not accepted Jesus into their lives, they're in hell?I don't believe Rahab was Jewish at that time. She was, in fact, a prostitute. Your next question is a challenge, and I'm walking a fine theological edge, so bear with me. If God counts faith in Him as righteousness, and says the we can find Him without ever having heard of Christ, then He's saved these righteous people from hell. If we have heard of God's gift of Christ's atonement, and we utterly reject that gift and utterly reject God, then God's going to give us what we want in that case--no relationship with Him. Imagine a place after death with no God, no love, no hope, someplace filled with complete despair, hopelessness, and lack of love. If we reject God's love, that's what we'll end up with, but it will have been by our own individual choice.
Now, I don't believe that the "magical fundamentalist words 'I accept Christ as my personal Lord and Savior'" are what give us salvation. It's God's love and Christ's atonement that matter, not how we phrase the wording of our statement of belief in that love and atonement.

Yes, and I'm happy to leave her be to do so, since I think her intentions are honest, but it is because of my questions with certain Christian tenets that I cannot do the same. I dislike the fact that she wants me join her, despite the fact that I do not share the same level of faith.

Everyone's level of faith is different, and everyone's faith level fluctuates from time to time. I suspect she wants you to join her because she wants to be assured of your salvation, too, which is an appropriate concern for a mom, even if the execution is not the most effective. You certainly don't have to pray the same way she does. One of my uncles and their kids are Jewish, and I pray for their good health and blessing (and since they now live in the Bronx, their safety. ;P ) and since my mom and her sister are fighting, I've been praying for a peaceful resolution. I understand you not wanting to be a part of that church since their fundamentalist views likely put off a lot of people. I don't believe every single thing that my church believes, but I do agree with the most important doctrinal issues.

I don't really want to argue based on my 'spritual authority', as that can be characterized as very weak at best.Sorry--'spiritual maturity' might be a better term, and she'll view a deacon or the pastor's spiritual opinion to have more weight as a result, simply because they've had more time on earth theoretically to study the Bible. That's not to say you can't be spiritually mature, it's just that you're her child, and the parent/child dynamic is in play, as well as your relative youth. If you bring the issue to her, you might be surprised at the response. There's no downside to this, except that she might start praying for your salvation too, (and knowing the fundamentalist type, she probably already is. :) ). And if she doesn't change, at least you'll know that you tried to improve things for both you and her.

Samuel Dravis
09-06-2007, 12:07 PM
If God counts faith in Him as righteousness, and says the we can find Him without ever having heard of Christ, then He's saved these righteous people from hell. If we have heard of God's gift of Christ's atonement, and we utterly reject that gift and utterly reject God, then God's going to give us what we want in that case--no relationship with Him. Imagine a place after death with no God, no love, no hope, someplace filled with complete despair, hopelessness, and lack of love. If we reject God's love, that's what we'll end up with, but it will have been by our own individual choice.

Now, I don't believe that the "magical fundamentalist words 'I accept Christ as my personal Lord and Savior'" are what give us salvation. It's God's love and Christ's atonement that matter, not how we phrase the wording of our statement of belief in that love and atonement. How convenient! The very discussion we were having yesterday. :D

I think this mostly answers my question, too. Would you consider honest attempts at self-improvement as reasonable justification for salvation? Would you agree with this statement: "Neither faith nor works is explicitly required for salvation (God is not forced to place any restriction on the entry requirements of heaven), but they can be very helpful because they both demonstrate the willingness to improve yourself and can aid you in doing so, which is pleasing to God."?

edits:

Ah, I am not thinking of it as I should. God does not ever prevent people from being with him, because that's what he wants. Hell is supposedly the deprivation from God, not a place to be entered, and Heaven is the opposite.

So would people be stuck if they simply weren't able to believe it? If you didn't know the door was open - or even thought it didn't exist, the idea being too far removed from normal experience - does their not visiting God's house constitute rejection of the hospitality?