Monday, June 12, 2006

Can a good Jew or Hindu be saved?

Duck asked in a comment on my posting Models of the Atonement:
But what does it say about your theology that a good Jew or Hindu will be damned to eternal suffering but a bad Christian will be saved?
Well, I have not quite said this. First, I have not mentioned "eternal suffering", and there is an ongoing debate among Christians over whether those who are not saved suffer for ever or are simply annihilated. I don't intend to get into that debate now. But more importantly, by God's standards there is no such thing as a good Jew (except for Jesus), or a good Hindu, or for that matter a good Christian. All people have done wrong things and fall short of God's standards. As a result none deserve to be saved or receive anything good from God. It is God's free gift, his "grace", to offer salvation although it is not deserved. And this is his offer to everyone, including Jews and Hindus. But God doesn't force anyone to accept this gift, and many people don't. They are not saved because they reject the offer of salvation. That is not God's problem but theirs - and yours, Duck.

I accept that there is an issue here about those of other religions, or none, who have never heard the Christian message. Just as Abraham was saved for responding in faith to what he had heard of God's message, so also I believe that many who do not profess Christianity now will be saved because they have responded to the light about God which they have received, through God's general revelation and to some extent through other religions. They are not saved by their other religions, but only through the death of Jesus Christ. But I believe they can be saved without explicitly calling on Jesus Christ, and certainly without changing their outward religious identity to become Christians. However, this is no excuse for those who do clearly hear the good news about Jesus and reject it.

This is a very brief summary of a very difficult issue!

6 Comments:

At Wednesday, June 14, 2006 10:27:00 pm, Blogger Duck said...

However, this is no excuse for those who do clearly hear the good news about Jesus and reject it.

Define "clearly". It is not clear to me that any good news about Jesus has been communicated to me from God. I've heard plenty of "good news" from people claiming to speak for God, but that isn't a reason for believing that what they say is true. Do you believe everything you hear or read? Of course not.

Do you ever wonder that the good news from God is being communicated by the Church of Latter Day Saints? If you find out in the next life that your salvation is being withheld because you did not accept the doctrines of the Mormon church, would you be satisfied with the explanation that you have rejected the good news that has been clearly communicated to you? After all, with a Master of theology you can't be ignorant of this news.

 
At Wednesday, June 14, 2006 11:13:00 pm, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Duck, you make a good point. I cannot define "clearly". And there are certainly a lot of varied and confusing versions of good news out there in the real world and on the Internet, indeed you don't have to look further than Adrian's blog to find it! There is no easy way to tell what is true and what is false. That is why I accept that what I wrote in this posting is only an introduction to a very difficult issue. I don't think we will ever know the answers this side of heaven. It reminds me of Jesus' answer to those who asked him about the people who died in a serious accident at the Tower of Siloam: "do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish" (Luke 13:4-5, TNIV). In other words, don't worry about what happens to others, think about yourself!

But I still think you are approaching this too much from the preconception that Christians consider that their salvation depends on what they know, or what doctrines they have accepted. This was the idea of the Gnostics, of whom you will have heard if you have been following the Da Vinci Code and Gospel of Judas controversies, but not the teaching of orthodox Christians. Nevertheless there is too much of this same presupposition inside the church as well, for example that salvation or at least Christian maturity depends on knowing the details of a certain theory of the Atonement. I don't say that it is wrong to study the Atonement, just that salvation does not depend on knowing all the facts about the Atonement or even about God himself. For to me, and to most Christians throughout the ages, what is important is not knowledge but relationship, not knowing about God and the Atonement, but knowing God personally and as a result personally receiving the benefits of the Atonement.

I know that I have experienced God and have a personal relationship with him, through his Holy Spirit who lives in me and works through me, and that is my assurance of salvation through Jesus Christ. I hope that my theology is consistent with that relationship, although I realise that it is not perfect and may need many adjustments. "Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known" (1 Corinthians 13:12, TNIV). Duck, I long for you and for others, including those who consider that they have the correct Christian theology but only as doctrinal knowledge, to come to know God and have a personal relationship with him. This is eternal life now and our assurance of everlasting salvation.

 
At Wednesday, June 14, 2006 11:17:00 pm, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

On Adrian Warnock's blog, "4given" quoted the last main paragraph of this posting and commented simply:

... yikes.

I have asked "4given" to explain this further here. Does anyone else reading this have a similar reaction which they would like to explain?

 
At Thursday, June 15, 2006 2:39:00 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,

it's James here. I don't see anything you've said that warrants a 'yikes'. I agree wholeheartedly with almost everything you have written. It is sadly true that many get snared into a trap of knowing doctrine but never really have the experience of coming to know Yah on a personal level.
It is also true what you say about there being no such thing as a 'good' whatever because we all need Yah's free gift of forgiveness if we are to attain to salvation. It really is no use trying to explain to somebody what it means to have Yah's spirit reside within you and to have a personal friendship with him. Either you have had that experience and you understand it or haven't and you don't. The only way they will ever understand it is for them to have that experience themselves. I get the hint that you probably don't want to get into the whole 'torture vs' simple death' thing but it seems plain to me from many accounts in scripture that death is what awaits those who cannot be saved. Also the friendship and understanding I have with Yah would never permit me to believe him capable of such a thing as torturing somebody just because they didn't want to be saved.
It is, however, difficult to make any generalisations about who will be saved and who won't. There is one rather pertinent scripture that springs to mind from 1Peter 3 though

17 For it is the appointed time for the judgment to start with the house of God. Now if it starts first with us, what will the end be of those who are not obedient to the good news of God? 18 “And if the righteous [man] is being saved with difficulty, where will the ungodly [man] and the sinner make a showing?”

What do you make of this? Quite sobering isn't it. I sometimes like to think that Yah in his mercy will save everyone but scriptures such as these seem to shatter my illusions.

 
At Thursday, June 15, 2006 10:52:00 am, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Thank you, James. Yes, although we might not like it, we have to accept that the Bible clearly teaches that not everyone will be saved. Or do we in fact not like it? Would we want really wicked people, like Hitler, Stalin, Bin Laden, or child molesters, to be saved? Now the Christian gospel declares that even people like this will be saved if they are truly repentant, although I know some of us would find that difficult, especially if we or our loved ones have been their victims. The more difficult issue is of course with people, not Christians, who seem to live normal moral lives and try to do what is right, but like us all fail to live up perfectly to God's standards. God declares that these people will not be saved, unless they too repent and accept salvation in Christ. This is especially hard for those who have not had the chance to hear the message of the gospel.

There is another aspect to this, of course, which is that these people, indeed according to the Bible anyone who is not a Christian, are in bondage to Satan and his evil forces. He has blinded their minds so that they cannot see the light of the gospel and be saved (2 Corinthians 4:4). But on the cross Jesus defeated Satan and set these people free from bondage to him; this is the essence of the "Christus Victor" model of the atonement which I mentioned recently. Their freedom has been decreed, but of course Satan doesn't want them to go free. Well, I don't have time to go into this in more depth now, but I would like to another time.

 
At Saturday, June 24, 2006 5:38:00 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi,

it's James again. I've been thinking about the old 'who will be saved?' thing for a while since reading your initial comments on this blog and then it occured to me that there is a scripture to the effect that all sins can be forgiven even sins against Christ himself but that the only inforgivable sin is a sin against the spirit.

Wouldn't this seem to imply that in order to qualify for eternal destruction a person would have to have committed a sin against the spirit as all other sins are reconcilable?

 

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