Saturday, September 10, 2005

Questions

A reader, searching, asked me some questions here, so I'm going to devote this entry to answering some of them.
Hello Jeff. I've read the posts on this page. There was one part in your reply to naniecheng that you said your questioning of your faith turned you away from it. So what was it that you held on to, despite the many times you were turned away by your own questions, did you question yourself into coming back or something like that? or what happened?
There were aspects of the conventional teachings that troubled me. For example, the emphasis on the issue of salvation, to the point that some have the idea that if one doesn't believe in whatever the brochure says, one would go to hell. A natural result is the obnoxiousness of some believers, sometimes reaching ridiculous levels (e.g. Xiaxue's account.) Other times, a greater bad thing happens, and a concern of a lot of Christ's parables: hypocrisy.

So for a long while, I tried to understand this, and I 'turned away' in the sense that I decided that this interpretation isn't really the point. In fact, it could even well be wrong. Let's just say we use the model, everyone will go to hell unless the person believes. OK, if that's true, what happens to the 1 month old baby who dies? Would the baby go to hell? Well, what's the point? A baby is born, and then almost immediately after, gets tortured in hell? I asked many people this, and a common response was on the lines of...well, maybe the baby won't go to hell, or, God isn't that cruel, there might be some criteria that applies to cute babies, or, God works in mysterious ways, which I reckoned was an easy thing to say to 'explain it away'... So there was a period of time when I was very troubled by this.

Another thing that makes me suspicious is this idea of if you believe, you'll go to heaven. The contrary is also true. Now, this seems to me a very conditional thing; it's like emotional blackmail. The question I have is: believe in what? Maybe some believe in the factual account of the Resurrection, some believe in the intellectual arguments or emotional effects, and maybe some believe in the love of God and some believe to be good people, and so on. So there are a range of things that people can believe in, or proclaim.

When I read and try to understand the spirit of Christ's teachings, I realise that this 'model of salvation' seems questionable.
"Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?'

And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.' ~ Matthew 7:21
So, I figure, it's not believing (whatever), per se, it might have to do with other things. So the guys ask how come? We did all the mighty works in your name already, what? How come we're still 'evildoers'? Another is:
Jesus looking at him said, "How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

Those who heard it said, "Then who can be saved?"

But he said, "What is impossible with men is possible with God." ~ Luke 18:24
This passage is for all of us who have Internet connections. There's no arguing that we are rich. So what is Jesus saying? Seems to me that it's no longer an issue of whether we can choose or 'activate' our salvation, not even in 'believing'. It is impossible. It is up to God, and of Christ's sacrifice. (As I write this, I'm also looking at Wikipedia's Protestant entry, and it seems that what I'm expressing is similar to 'sola gracia', grace alone.) So, if this is true, the 'believe or you will go to hell' account can be shown to be considerably weakened. At this point in time, this is what I believe is what the Scriptures mean. Although 'evangelical Christians' are technically Protestants, a lot of 'evangelical' churches do not really preach this.

You know something? I think it is absolutely liberating. What this implies is no longer should we view people as either going to hell, or not, for it is quite irrelevant. It also relieves us of our stress that we need to do enough good things to justify our entry into heaven, because it simply can't be done. On the contrary, we try to do good things for its own sake. And we try to love others for who they are, for they are God's creations.

Obviously the above is not something you mingt find in Sunday School, so I would hope you readers will do your own research and test things out for yourselves. Searching, I'll answer the rest of your questions in due time. :)

9 Comments:

Blogger naniecheng said...

Hi jeff, I haven't thanked you for taking time to reply my previous question. Thanks.

Evangelism today has largely taken on the slant of "saving people from hell". I gather you disagree with this. What in your opinion then should evangelism be based upon?

I believe in the theology of Sola Gracia but I don't see how by choosing to believe in Christ, we are negating the principle of Sola Gracia. (Of course believing means believing that only Christ died for our sins and whoever calls on Him will be saved.)

Free will is obviously very important to God because He made Adam and Eve with free will even tho He knew it would eventually cost Him the cross; He still chose to imbue humans with free will. So yes while salvation is based solely on Christ's work on the cross, there still remains the need for an appropriate response to Him out of our own free will. A gift is not a gift until the recipient chooses to accept it.

Rom 10:9
"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 response to Him naturally means we have chosen the path of Christ and willingly submit ourselves to His teachings and transformation.

So i think it is still important to emphasize the role of "believing" on our part. Only with free will can there be true love and devotion and therefore true faith. There has to be a conscious choice to follow the Christ of the Bible.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005 9:29:00 AM  
Blogger lakeside girl said...

Update update! :(

Peace and love to you guys for creating this wonderful blog. <3

Tuesday, September 20, 2005 1:52:00 AM  
Blogger jeffyen said...

hehe I'm still formulating some answers to the interesting questions... In the meantime, watch Agagooga argue theology here. :)

Friday, September 23, 2005 4:58:00 PM  
Blogger war in the pocket said...

Quote:

"On the contrary, we try to do good things for its own sake. And we try to love others for who they are, for they are God's creations."

Isn't that what Christianity should be all about?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005 1:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, it's funny because I had the same question on the 'salvation model' and just a week ago, a christian classmate tried to coax me into joining his church. I asked him that question about 1 month old babies and good people who just have not had good christian experiences or were taught since kids that this was an incorrect religion. his answer was that those that have never heard the gospel will be judged by deeds. that poses the question... isn't spreading the gospel then dooming someone rather than saving him? how about attrition, where you believe, but only because you are afraid to go to hell rather than for the love of god. all in all, it still sounds a bit specious, but i'm still trying to find a good answer.

Saturday, October 01, 2005 8:36:00 PM  
Blogger jeffyen said...

Evangelism today has largely taken on the slant of "saving people from hell". I gather you disagree with this. What in your opinion then should evangelism be based upon? I believe in the theology of Sola Gracia but I don't see how by choosing to believe in Christ, we are negating the principle of Sola Gracia. (Of course believing means believing that only Christ died for our sins and whoever calls on Him will be saved.)

I think evangelism should be based on sharing with other what Christ has done for us. And just as important, and maybe more importantly, to live as Christ would have us live, because that's the best way to do the former. I don't really think we're 'saving people from hell'. I touched a little on this in the main entry, and I'll elaborate more below...

I agree that choosing to believe in Christ, per se, doesn't negate sola gracia. I did not say that it does. But, if this belief includes the idea that this belief by us *causes* or *brings* about salvation, and the converse, that if one doesn't 'believe', then the person is off to hell at the end of the person's life, then I think this might require a rethink. I don't think we can control our salvation to any reasonable degree, I think it's more of what God does for us. More below...

So yes while salvation is based solely on Christ's work on the cross, there still remains the need for an appropriate response to Him out of our own free will. A gift is not a gift until the recipient chooses to accept it.

Rom 10:9: "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."
So i think it is still important to emphasize the role of "believing" on our part. Only with free will can there be true love and devotion and therefore true faith. There has to be a conscious choice to follow the Christ of the Bible.


Again, I'd agree that it's important to believe. Also, we need to think of this 'belief' in a more appropriate context. Like what I mentioned in the main entry, what does it mean to believe? Is it a conscious choice, an intellectual acknowledgement, an emotion, hysteria, etc.? My feeling is that whatever or however we respond to this, or our 'conscious choice' to believe something, it falls short of the standard. I notice that Jesus stretches the idea of belief into actions, and then some. Let's look at the parable at Matthew 7:21 again.

Jesus talks about the folks who meets Him and gets a scolding. But take a closer look; these are not 'bad people' by any stretch of the imagination. These are people who 1) prophesy in His name, (if anyone can really do that in the 21st century, I think this person's church would be the most famous and richest on the land), 2) cast out demons in His name (not a mean feat by any measure), and 3) do many mighty works in His name. These are people who should be reasonably satisfied and happy for what they have done. These are good people (unless of course they're outright lying), or at least they have done more things in God's name than what we could possibly expect of ourselves. And yet, they get scolded, the good Lord never knew them, (or at least that's what He says). So like that, how? What's wrong with these people?

I don't really know. It's written that they haven't done 'the will of God.' Maybe they're arrogant. Maybe they haven't done the things they were suppposed to do, even if they have done great works in His name. So I think the first thing we can say is that belief, per se, is quite irrelevant. (These guys clearly believed, and yet they still didn't do the right thing.). Secondly, due to our inability to discern the will of God every single time, it's not possible for us to claim to do things (believe, do good works and so on) and expect to be saved as a result. It just means, at least for me, that whatever the standards that are expected of us, or the standards that we expect of ourselves, is irrelevant. No matter what do we do, or believe, is not enough. Instead, salvation is given to us, plain and simple.

Now I need to stress something. That, of course, in itself, does not imply that we shouldn't do good works. Doing good in fact is stressed much more explicitly than mere 'belief' (e.g., at Matthew 25:34, the command to feed the poor, clothe the naked, visit the sick...) A follower of Christ would naturally try to do good works. I think it's the ideal is when we do good goods for its own sake, and not to try to earn salvation as a result (because I think that's irrelevant.)

This point is again seen in the parable of the rich man and the camel at Luke 18:24. It's probably one of the funniest parables around. It's harder for a rich guy to enter heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. The folks who hear this correctly asks, if that's true, then it's impossible to be saved. Who, then, can be saved? And Jesus agrees that it's quite impossible, but 'what is impossible with men is possible with God." Again, we see the issue of salvation not in man's hands, but in God's.

So yes while salvation is based solely on Christ's work on the cross, there still remains the need for an appropriate response to Him out of our own free will. A gift is not a gift until the recipient chooses to accept it.

I would humbly posit that the best unconditional gift is one that is given even if the recipient doesn't want it/can't accept it on his own accord or ability. This, I think, is the tour de force of Christ's teachings and who He is. Love your enemy, love the unlovable, love those who won't love you back, no matter how hard it is. I concede that this is impossible for man, but what is impossible for man, is possible for God. Gazing at the wondrous cross and Christ's immense sacrifice for all, it's my strong conviction that this is indeed the case; the good Lord has done the impossible. :)

Thursday, October 06, 2005 1:09:00 AM  
Blogger jeffyen said...

war in pocket: Love your neighbour as youself is the second great commandment, so yes, I hope that's true. :)

anonymous: I'd encourage you to keep an open mind, and keep on searching. Also, it is a good idea to go to church, if only to learn more, and get more perspectives. Sometimes different churches say different things, but it's hard to know what will happen as things move along... The good Lord works in mysterious ways. :)

Thursday, October 06, 2005 1:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Jeffyen,
I will certainly think on it. I've been trying to sort out the confusion in my head for ages... haha

Monday, October 10, 2005 9:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think with regard to the baby issue, the RC Church states that if He/ She is baptised, He/ She wil go to Heaven.

That however, is really not the point. I've got questions too, sometimes I struggle so hard with them. But, that doesn't mean I'm going to stop believing. I guess no matter what, beyond all these questions that we face, we still cling to to our faith, makes it worthwhile to believe in it. Because fact is, Christ died for US to save us from sin. God is so great, yet He loves us so much.

Most importantly, our faith will be propelled by our love. Fundamentally, no matter how many doctrinal differences we might have, the bottomline is we all love God, we all believe in the same God. For He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.

-A

Tuesday, October 18, 2005 6:15:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home