By Dave, the WM
I've been thinking about something lately: Christian salvation.
Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians said,
"For by grace are ye saved and through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast."
The way this has been explained to me is that salvation is something that comes by grace, through faith, and not something anyone earns.
In Evangelical circles, this kind of grace is described as unmerited favor.
Unmerited: Not earned.
But I was also told that a person must believe certain things in order to acquire this unmerited favor. Without the correct beliefs, no favor is granted. In fact, unless a few mandatory beliefs are accepted and adopted, no favor can be extended. No matter how this was ever explained to me, if in order to be granted "favor" a person had to do something, even if it was only the acceptance of a few ideas, then it seemed to me that the favor was merited. It's simple quid pro quo. The "favor" is granted in exchange for embracing the correct beliefs. One is "favored" for possessing the right beliefs.
Without faith it is impossible to please God, says the writer of the book of Hebrews. So does that mean that with the aquisition of faith, it is possible to please God?
What is this thing called faith? And what is belief?
Can you touch faith? Can you taste it?
Can you see, smell or taste belief?
I believe my wife loves me. I have faith that my children will not abandon me when I grow old.
These are two statements of how I view the world. They are my conceptualization of certain things in my life. They are, in essence, my perspective — my thoughts — my ideas.
I believe I have an attractive family. I believe I have an ugly body. I believe I'll have another beer. I have faith that my car will start in sub-zero temperatures. I have faith that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow morning.
These statements reflect my views based on my experience, my personality, and my general self image. They are, in essence, ideas. These ideas may be correct, incorrect, or somewhere in between, but they are nothing more than ideas. They exist nowhere outside of my brain.
I have been assured on numerous occasions that one day I will find myself eternally roasting in the horrific torture chamber of a loving God because of one sin, and one sin only: the sin of unbelief.
Because I do not have certain ideas in my head, I will be tortured eternally. If I embrace certain ideas, I'll be rewarded with everlasting life in heaven.
It's not the things I have done, or the things I do that will get me into this place called heaven, says the Evangelical. It is the beliefs (the ideas) that I hold to be true that is my ticket into either heaven or hell. Nothing I do can change my status, except of course getting hold of the correct beliefs.
Does that really make sense?
First, salvation is described as unmerited, and then, in the very next breath, salvation is described as something that must be acquired through "right thinking."
I must think correctly about certain things in order to be granted the unmerited favor that will result in salvation.
This is why there is so much discussion about people who have never heard the Gospel message, and those who are below the age of accountability, and the retarded, etc. Salvation is acquired through understanding and accepting certain ideas into one's brain. Those devoid of the ability to grasp certain concepts, through ignorance or nature, are in some circles considered innocent and exempt from the requirements for meriting unmerited favor.
Now, there are those who will say that to believe means to trust. In other words, where it says "Believe on the Lord Jesus..." what is intended is "Trust in the Lord Jesus..." To my mind, it makes no difference. Something is still being required of me to merit this favor — trust. And trust is still just a concept, much like belief and faith. Trust is an idea or a feeling that only exists in the mind.
Or is belief and faith better described as magic?
What do you think?