Christian Doctrine of Being Saved

I read another chapter in Ken Davis’ book, Fully Alive, this one on friendship. I really identified with Ken’s description of having a life full of acquaintances and people of common interest but feeling terribly alone. And, like he experienced, I now have “friends…like-minded people who will join me in my quest; people who will help hold my feet to the fire; friends who will spur me on when I feel discouraged and who will celebrate my achievements with me.”

He shared the story of one man, a Muslim neighbor of his daughter’s, with whom he created a deep friendship. It is a beautiful story which included his walk with his friend as he had to face cancer and eventual death. Near the end of his life, Ken shared that his friend “surrendered to the love of Christ (which gave) the assurance of eternal life.” I have to add that Davis said that at no time had he had specific intentions to “convert” his friend. My sense is that there was a genuine love from Davis and his family that enabled his friend to be open to the touch of God though Jesus.

My life is a story of a love/hate relationship with God and religion. My journal entries are full of commentary and arguments over doctrine and practices of the communities with which I was associated. It started early. I remember a neighborhood friend Linda Stutz whose family was Seventh Day Adventist. I was Catholic and at that time the teaching was that all who were not baptized in the Church were destined to the fires of hell. One day Linda and I compared our bibles only to find they were basically the same. It baffled me to think that Linda and her family would go to hell after they died. The Church had a loophole known as the “baptism of desire”. This was for those people who were good but didn’t know or understand what God expected of them. These were baptized in God’s eyes somehow and would be saved. I felt comforted.

In my young adult years I was part of a fundamentalist community that took in deeply this idea of being select members of Jesus’ saved flock. Their mission was to get their friends and family into the fold before they died. While they were motivated by love, I can tell you from my own experience that proselytizing drives more people away than it attracts.

There were a lot of valleys and mountains, curves, backtracking and lane changing that could describe my spiritual journey. Many of the decisions I made began with my being troubled by Christian teachings. This was true even when told that these teachings were founded on biblical passages.

I do not adhere at all to the Christian teaching that a person has to believe in Jesus in order to go to heaven. The reasons lie in all that I have said above but the strongest influence has been my relationships with people of other religious faiths including Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist as well of people who don’t affiliate with any particular religion. Not only do I refuse to write them off but I refuse to believe in a god who would. If I am wrong, perhaps that is yet to be revealed. Meanwhile, my friends can be comforted by the fact that there is no hidden agenda in me as we love one another.

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2 Responses to Christian Doctrine of Being Saved

  1. Gaylene says:

    Hi Judy,

    I’m fairly new to your blog but have read Chris and Wendy’s blog for a few years now. I don’t comment much on any of the blogs I read but this one has prompted a question for you.

    In your last paragraph you stated you don’t believe that one doesn’t need to believe in Jesus in order to go to heaven. How do you reconcile this statement with John 14:6 Jesus said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

    So, if someone came up to you and asked how they could get into heaven what would you say?

    I have appreciated your blog these last couple of weeks and I even read through some archives.

    Blessings,
    Gaylene

    • Judy says:

      As I said in my blog, I am aware of the scriptures that would support salvation through Jesus only. I find passages that support one point of view, then other views are supported elsewhere. A researcher could read the work of scholars who delve into the history, culture, language and philosophy of the times of the bible and they could really pick apart this passage. That might help one understand it better or else it could confuse them even more.
      You asked about a particular passage and I can’t say I remember what scholars have said about it – the old brain is getting rusty. So I will answer simply from my own reflection. Please forgive me if I number my ideas. It keeps me from losing my own train of thought.
      1. The most profound experience I have had was an experience of Jesus. I felt saved. The years have passed and I still feel saved, but now I think I was saved before that event. I just didn’t believe it. I felt to unworthy.
      2. The passage doesn’t really say that one has to believe a certain doctrine or go through some sort of ritual in order to be saved. It only says that people come to the Father through Jesus. What does that mean? It could mean getting passage into heaven, but it could also mean passage into a relationship that can begin at a moment in time and continue through life on earth and beyond.
      3. Being saved through Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean one has to know and understand and believe the fact. Many times people have been saved because of the work of some mystery person, a passer-by or a doctor without a name. Most such “saviors” would have done what they did regardless of whether the person acknowledged them.
      3. One can argue the meaning of what it means to be saved. The conventional belief is that it means to be rescued from hell and brought to heaven after death. But I have seen so many experiences of people being saved in other ways in life, in the profoundest of ways. It is redefining for me what it means to be saved. I am talking about physical healings, addiction recovery, relationships mended, and people turning their lives around. Not all of these people claim to be Christian. They might not even use the phrase “being saved”, but if you consider the alternatives, it seems like being saved to me.
      4. As a result of letting go of my former theology of salvation, I find myself more the learner. I no longer approach people waiting for the right moment to set them aright. This puts me in a position where I can hear God speak to me throught them. It is humbling and I find myself in friendships that are deeply mutual.
      5. I love the “Our Father”. I especially like the part where it says “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.” This makes me think that heaven is closer than we think, even right here, now. I con’t understand, but it seems Jesus is teaching us that there is something we can do to bring heaven to earth…like the rest of the prayer says: “…as we forgive.” Wow! It makes me wonder what all the other ways are that we bring heaven to earth.
      If someone came up to me and asked me how they could get to heaven…gosh, I don’t know what I would say. Noone has ever asked me that. Maybe I would have to say I don’t know (which I don’t). Maybe I would ask them what they think and go from there. Maybe I’d hand them a flower and say, “Jesus loves you.” I don’t know.
      But I do know that, as I said in my blog, I cannot believe in a God who would base his love on what a person consciously professes. I think a lot of people feel the way I do, thus the love for the beautiful poem, “Footsteps in the Sand”. I may be wrong, but I know what love is and I can only worship a God that is love.
      Thank you so much for writing, Gaylene. I appreciate your very important questions. They really challenged me to articulate what I believe.

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