My Friend: I am asking you the most important question of life.Your joy or your sorrow for all eternity, or for at least a few years, months, days, or hours, depends upon your answer. The question is: Are you saved? Are you sure you will go to Heaven when you die?
God says in the Bible that in order to go to Heaven, you must be born again (John 3:7).
You can be saved today. How? Pay close and careful attention, because if you make one little mistake along the way and end up deviating even slightly from the requisite straight and narrow path to salvation, you will burn in Hell forever. Fair enough? Before I continue citing Bible verses, it would be wise for me to consider whether you the reader, recognize that the Bible, which contains the verse above, is the Word of God......or that God even exists. Let us therefore begin at the beginning.
You will need to consider each question, concept, or issue listed below and identify or devise an explanation which is reasonable and which reaches the correct conclusion. (I'm sure you know what the correct conclusions are.)
1.1: The most fundamental notion of God is that "god" is simply the term we use to describe some force, process, effect (or possibly a being) which is in some way linked to or responsible for the existence and nature of the cosmos. Must such a god exist? Can such a god exist? (We might call this god a "metaphysical" god.)
1.2: Is the idea that "God created the universe" internally contradictory?
1.3: If we assume or know that a metaphysical god exists (or existed at one time so that the universe could be created), how are we then justified in extending this.
1.4: Why is there no evidence for the existence of souls?
1.5: Why is there no evidence for immortality?
1.6: How can an all-good God create or coexist with evil?
1.7: How can a just and merciful God create or allow pointless or random suffering?
1.8: Why can't God be perceived, measured, or detected?
1.9: Why doesn't God do anything which is clearly distinguishable from a delusion on the part of one or more believers? Why are God's objective characteristics identical to those of something that does not exist?
1.10: How can the reasonableness and prevalence of nonbelief coexist in the same universe with a just and loving God?
2.1: Does the existence of a personal God necessitate a church? Why can't an individual human being communicate directly with God to ascertain God's existence, nature, and will, thus preventing the encroachment of any deceptions perpetrated, willfully or otherwise, by other people or organizations who claim to represent God or carry God's message?
2.2: If someone does communicate one-on-one with God as just noted, why should the knowledge they obtain by such a process be regarded as less valid than some other collection of spiritual knowledge?
2.3: If a church is necessary, how do we know which one, if any, accords with God's will? How do we know that Christianity is such
a church? On what basis can we examine and reject all competing faiths, including but not limited to: Babi/Baha'i, Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Shinto, Sikhism, Taoism, and Zoroastrianism? Why would God allow the confusion of these competing faiths to occur?
2.4: If Christianity is the true church of God, how do we know that conservative Protestantism is the only true branch of the true church of God? How can we reject all competing churches which call themselves Christian, including but not limited to: Catholic; Orthodox, Eastern Christian; African indigenous sects (AICs); Reformed, Presbyterian, Congregational, United; Methodist; Anglican; Lutheran; Jehovah's Witnesses; Adventist; Latter Day Saints (Mormon); Apostolic, New Apostolic; Stone-Campbell ("Restoration Movement"); New Thought (Unity, Christian Science, etc.); Brethren (incl. Plymouth); Mennonite; Friends (Quakers), etc.?
Why would God allow the confusion of these competing faiths to occur?
2.5: How do we know that Fundamentalism is the only true subbranch of the true branch of the true church of God? How can we reject all "non-Fundamentalist" sects within our own branch of Christianity, including but not limited to: Born-Again, Evangelical, Pentecostal, and Charismatic? Moreover, how can we distinguish among these various groups and our own in order to properly define our own group and constantly monitor it for compliance with God's Truth? Why would God allow the confusion of these competing faiths to occur?
3: The Bible
3.1: There is nothing in the Old Testament which foretells or requires any of the substantial concepts of the New. (Not in the OT: personal salvation, a "heavenly hope", the need to replace the system of obedience to the Law.)
3.2: Morality: No objective moral system in the Bible.
3.3: Contradictions: Hundreds of minor (Babylon: Ezra 2:41 vs Neh 7:44), intermediate (Alcohol: Pr 20:1; Dn 1:8 vs. Jg 9:13; Ps 104:15; Pr 31:6-9; Centurion: Mt 8:5-9 vs. Lk 7:1-7), and major (Sin: 1Jn 1:8 vs. 1Jn 3:6-9; 5:18; Faith and Works: Eph 2:8-9 vs. Jn 5:29; 1Jn 2:4) ones .
3.4: Atrocities (Divinely mandated mass-murder and rape: Num 31:17-18; Children cursed by God and mauled or killed for teasing: 2 Ki 2:23-24). 3.5: Failed prophecies, both minor (Tyre: Ezek 26:14-21; 27:36 vs. Mk 7:24 and history) and major (End times were imminent: 1Pe 4:7; Mt 16:27-28; Mk 9:1; Mk 13:30; Lk 9:27; 1Cor 1:7-8; Phil 4:5; 1Th 4:17; Heb 1:2; Heb 10:37; James 5:8; 1Jn 2:18; Rev 1:1,3; 3:11, 22:7; 22;12).
3.6: Incoherent or inexplicable concepts (the Trinity, atonement, the need for and purpose of eternal damnation).
4: Doctrine, Methods, Practices, and General Concerns
4.1: Christians generally admit that the Bible contains "trivial" errors, such as copyists' errors. Why? Moreover, how do we know that there are not major errors as well?
4.2: Christians often ignore some of the Bible's clear and simpleteachings (Materialism: Mat 6:19, 25, 34).
4.3: Christians declare that verses do not mean what they plainly say, in spite of the fact that there is nothing in the text to justify it.
4.4: Some Christians indoctrinate their children, rather than teaching them how to think and how to seek and consider diverse ideas, so that they can decide about the truth for themselves.
4.5: Why should a thoughtful, conscientious, truth-seeking person be condemned to burn forever in hell for seeking to avoid the error of accepting what appears very clearly to be a fraudulent and delusional claim based on groundless ancient superstitions?
4.6: God allegedly "loves" those who are burning in hell. How would their situation be different if God hated them?
4.7: Even if the Bible is true, how does this make the "believe or burn" message acceptable? How can it be moral or just to obey
based upon threats, even if one is certain that the threat is real?
5: Getting Saved, Step-by-Step
If you have been able to resolve any difficulties arising from the preceding issues, you have accepted the ideas of fundamentalist Biblical Christianity, and are prepared for the final phase: actually getting saved. The following steps have been documented elsewhere, and are presented here with only some brief comments:
5.1: You must be born again (as already noted). This simply means that you must be saved, that you can and must know you are going to heaven.
5.2: You must realize that you are a sinner, and that you will still be a sinner after you are saved (contrary to what the Bible actually says; see "Sin", section 3.3).
5.3: You must understand Jesus' atoning sacrifice. Although we cannot understand how, God said my sins and your sins were laid upon Jesus (although we still possess them, since we remain sinners) and He died in our place. He became our substitute. It is true. God cannot lie (as long as you ignore 1Ki 22:33; 2Chr 18:22; Jer 20:7; Ezek 14:9; 2Th 2:11). Are you paying attention? We cannot understand Jesus' atoning sacrifice, but you must understand it.
5.4: You must repent.
5.5: You must believe that Jesus was resurrected, although there is no corroborating evidence for this claim, and the Biblical details concerning it are contradictory.
5.6: You must believe that your salvation occurs because of faith, and not by good works, although, as already noted ("Faith and Works", 3.3), some Bible verses contradict this, or describe additional or alternative requirements.
Once saved, you should lead the life of a good Christian, although this is not essential to salvation itself, since you cannot lose your salvation (unless you believe Heb 6:4-6 or 2Pe 2:20-21). After you are saved, you should be baptized, then unite with a Bible-believing church. Pray, read the Bible, and witness to others. Oh, and of course, pay your tithing. (God is often short on cash.)
Your Bible-believing church will no doubt require various behaviors. It's not prefectly clear just how much you can deviate from these requirements. Some deviations are probably not serious. If you smoke but believe it's wrong and are trying to quit, you are probably OK. Some deviations are of course egregious, and will result in your damnation. For instance, believing you are saved by works. (Your Bible-believing church would never let you join in such a case, since you could not be saved.) What if you believe it's acceptable to dance, drink in moderation, listen to rock, country, or jazz music, wear pants (this applies to women only), or wear long hair (men only)?
What if you believe in and have carried out all of the steps above, but you also believe, for example, that you must be baptized to be saved? Play it safe and reject all of these things. Why take a chance? If you are wrong, you will burn in hell. (Of course, if I am wrong, I will burn in hell, along with those I convinced, but don't think about that.)
This tract is patterned after the ubiquitous "God's Simple Plan of Salvation" tract often distributed by Christian fundamentalists. (An
internet search for this phrase using Google returns 1260 hits as of this writing.) The tract was written in 1933 by Gaylord Ford Porter, who died in 1976. If you are not a fundamentalist, you will find that only some of this material applies to you. As to the intent of this tract, I think that it should be clear from the content.
Please realize that the manner in which issues have been raised is intended to be neither rigorous not comprehensive. This is not a philosophical treatise. In closing, I encourage you to switch on your brain and think about this stuff. Thank you for your attention.
"Mystery is essential to the impostor. Above everything else, the charlatan must avoid straightforward reasoning and simplicity of expression: too clear and direct a light would quickly destroy the spell he exerts, through eloquent ambiguity, over his victims. In all ages, the voice of the humbug has exercised a peculiar fascination -- it is his chief weapon. But though he has to speak and write continuously, his announcements are best couched in indefinite phrases, opaque and susceptible of many interpretations, like the words of Subtle, the alchemist in Ben Jonson's play of that name." [Grete de Francesco (translated from the German by Miriam Beard -- Yale University Press, 1939)]