5/12/2008

My bash at a(n over)simplified Christian theology

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:38 am

The Seventh-day Adventist Christians I know spend so much time debating ‘faith and works’, and it annoys me because it seems to me that most often they are saying the same thing with a slightly different emphasis and pretending they are diametrically opposed. So as part of a discussion in a forum I tried to formulate the common ground as simply as I could. Thought I’d share that here – any comments are very welcome.

OK, here it is:

  1. We are all sinners – all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
  2. None of us has the power to save ourselves.
  3. None of our actions have any power to save us – even our good actions are marred by self-interest.
  4. We are saved wholly, solely and entirely because God ascribes Jesus’ salvation to us. This is a legal contract founded in grace and mercy.
  5. Jesus’ sacrifice is 100% effective to offer salvation to every person on earth who chooses to accept it. Nothing more is required for salvation. It is heresy to claim that more is required.
  6. We must accept Jesus’ sacrifice in order for his salvation to be ascribed to us.

OK, big pause, big breath, big think, prayer of praise – because a huge amount of the confusion on this topic arises through not taking an appropriate pause at this point. But the 6 points above are the heart of the gospel, and the parts on which all Christians agree.

  1. Once we receive salvation, we are new people with a new desire to live the abundant lives God has planned for us.
  2. Those abundant lives arise from the assurance of our salvation, which is absolute, and from obedience to the laws God has set in place for our benefit.
  3. The greatest commandment is to love God and love others – all else is derived from that.
  4. That great commandment has been ‘unpacked’ as the Ten Commandments and throughout the whole Bible in some detail.
  5. God does not require evidence for our salvation, beyond our acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice. That sacrifice completely fulfills the demands of the law and makes us free.
  6. God desires us to keep His laws because He understands that they are the recipe for the abundant life, and because He loves us and wants us to enjoy that life.
  7. Our works also constitute evidence of our salvation for those around us – the fruits of the spirit – and are the most eloquent testimony for bringing the joy of salvation to others.

In reading this set of 13 statements, I hope you will read the whole set and try to understand the logic, rather than try to pick it apart line by line: some of the statements, taken out of context, will be too extreme and incorrect. The full set of statements is needed to provide a balanced perspective.

3 Responses to “My bash at a(n over)simplified Christian theology”

  1. Paul says:

    The only point at which I had cause to pause was at No. 11. I think you are saying that the “evidence” that we provide for the fact that we have accepted salvation, provides nothing to the salvation transaction that takes place when the righteousness of Christ is credited to our account. That is, it is not a requirement of the completion of that transaction. In this way point 11 is reinforcing point 4 and 5. The second sentence seems to clarify that this is what you are saying. This I would agree with.

    However, if you are saying that Jesus requires no evidence that we have accepted that transaction, other than “belief”, then I would not agree with it. My wife certainly wants some evidence of the fact that I love her, over and above the fact that I have told her so. My actions speak louder than my words. This is true of our relationship with God also. Passages such as Luke 3:7-4, John 5:1-5 and James 2:2:19 are relevant. This does not support salvation by works…because that transaction has already taken place. It is the loving response to a God that you are enamoured with.

    I agree that often discussions about righteousness by faith become confrontational because of lazy definitions and poor articulation. That people are often closer to each other on these points than they realise. And that fact that they are willing to argue their positions with vitriol and anger at times suggests that they have not read the parable in Matthew 18 of the ungrateful, not recognising their condition and the love manifested in their own forgiveness.

  2. Mark says:

    Yeah, I think you have noticed an important problem in popular theology. We need to reject what we have seen as the pagan (or normal human) tendency to need to placate angry gods by giving them impressive sacrifices, or perhaps just to feel important before God. That is why the salvation by faith alone is so important, “lest any man boast”.

    But our salvation is from a new identity with God and His principles. Our works don’t contribute to our salvation, but we identify ourselves with God by the principles that actuate our lives. Remember the end of the sermon on the mount: How who hears my words and doesn’t do them is building his life on sand. I take that to mean, he won’t be saved. Jesus said “The son of man … shall reward every man according to his works”.

    I’ve often wondered about the exact point that will determine each individual’s salvation. I think it has something to do with whether your faith / love for God is deep enough to grow in your mind a motivation of selfless love for others.

  3. Aran Mulholland says:

    The points above are what most Christaians believe, and basically most Christaians are legalists. There is a basic fallacy that God demands blood as a penalty for sin. Only when he is satisfied with a sacrifice can he offer salvation, This is seen by most to be fundamental to Christian theology. I disagree. I would modify the above to be non legalistic at all.

    1. We are all sinners – a sinner is one who is out of harmony with God, not one who breaks the rules.
    2. None of us has the power to heal ourselves, and bring ourselves back into harmony.
    3. None of our actions have any power to save us – even our good actions are marred by self-interest, because we are in a state of rebellion.
    4. We are healed wholly, solely and entirely because God is a healer. This is not a legal contract, it is what God does best, healing.
    5. Jesus’ sacrifice was for the purpose of showing humans what God is like. This was neccesary to develop trust, trust is required to bring healing to every person on earth who chooses to come home to God. Nothing more is required for salvation. It is heresy to claim that more is required.
    6. When we understand what Jesus coming to earth says about God we see that God is worth hanging around and the healing occurs naturally.

    7. Once we begin to be healed, we are new people with a new desire to live the abundant lives God has planned for us.
    8. Those abundant lives arise from the ongoing healing, and we see that the laws God has set in place are for our benefit they are the only logical path to follow.
    9. The greatest commandment is to love God and love others, this is the natural result of the healing that has occurred – love cannot be commanded.
    10. That great commandment has been ‘unpacked’ as the Ten Commandments and throughout the whole Bible in some detail, the Bible is the revelation of Gods character.
    11. God does not require evidence for our salvation, all he requires is an open mind and a willingness to listen and be healed. This healing changes us internally so that we are willing listen and logically see that what he has laid out for us makes sense. The law shows us how much further there is to go on the journey, because it shows us areas where we need healing.
    12. God desires to teach us that his laws make sense, He wants us to understand that they are the recipe for the abundant life, and because He loves us and wants us to enjoy that life.
    13. Our works also constitute evidence of our salvation for those around us – the fruits of the spirit – and are the most eloquent testimony for bringing the joy of salvation to others.

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