I would like this to be an interactive discussion, so *Christians and apologists, please speak up*!
The paths to salvation in the Christian religion are almost as numerous as the denominations. Fundamentalists like to talk about “once saved, always saved,” and the moment they assured their salvation by “accepting Jesus” as their “Lord and Savior.” Catholics talk about their “hope” for salvation and the necessity of living a Godly life.
What all semi-traditional Christians agree on, is that salvation, whatever the form, is
- necessary (It’s often framed in terms of “Original Sin” — the notion that humans have inherited a blemished, sinful soul from Adam and Eve’s rebellion in the Garden of Eden.); and,
- available only through Jesus.
Coupled with the dual nature Jesus supposedly possessed — completely human and completely divine — this raises the question of whether Jesus was affected by Original Sin.
Quotation marks are not meant, in this piece, to indicate derision but rather semi-direct quotes of traditional Christian formulations.
Catholics solve this problem with the dogma of the Immaculate Conception: the notion that Mary was born free of Original Sin, and therefore did not pass it on to Jesus’ human nature. Protestants, as far as I know, barely discuss it.
It highlights the one of the strangest aspects of Christian theology, namely the convoluted nature of God’s act of salvation. It’s a many-stepped process:
- Jesus had to live a perfect life and therefore not “deserve” the penalty of death.
- Jesus had to die in an excruciating manner.
- Believers have to know of Jesus’ sacrificial death.
- Believers have to do something about this knowledge (and at this point, Catholicism and Protestantism part ways significantly).
And all this for forgiveness?
It just seems an unnecessarily complicated method for an omnipotent God essentially to say, “That’s okay — I forgiveyou.” And not only that — it’s conditional. The condition is Jesus. Without Jesus, Christianity says, you’re unacceptable to God.
It seems an omnipotent God would just forgive — simple as that.
“Dad, I’m sorry — I screwed up.”
“That’s okay son.”
Part two of “Salvation, Mercy, and Logic” will appear on Saturday 11 December.
The older I get, the more liberal I get in my theological outlook. Once a staunch atheist, I now admit that there are a great many things that are not explainable in a purely material framework, and I’ve reached a point that I can honestly say, “Who knows — there might be a God.” But one thing is for sure — if there is a God, and he/she/it is one tenth of what theists of any and all stripes say about their God, he won’t be doing any damning. He would be too wise, too patient, and too loving for that.
In other words, if there is a God, then there’s a heaven, and if there’s a heaven, we’re all going there.