Friday, August 15, 2008

When Doctrine Matters

I propose the query, is it possible for a person to be a Christian if they do not believe a man is saved by grace alone?  In other words, if they believe that something more than grace is required, whatever it be, however small it be, can they be said to have faith in God?  Is it possible that their faith is in both God and himself?

Faith is essential for salvation.  (Ephesians 2:8-9)  Faith is from Christ.  (Hebrews 12:1-2)  If that faith is corrupted, polluted with an addition by man, does that faith save?

The answer is easy when the ratio of faith in God to faith in man is small.  For example, if I believe that Faith in God is required, but not enough – indeed I am required to join the church, be baptized, take communion, receive confirmation, publicly testify, and live a life of at least 51% good deeds.. the omission of any of these sufficient to deprive me of salvation, then my faith is really in man, plus a small amount of faith in God.  But even that faith in God is a faith that God is going to help me..  fill in the blanks.. give me that final push over the wall.  I’m still saving myself, God is my co-pilot, he’s my best friend, he’s my buddy, he’s my salvation genie.

The question becomes more difficult, however, when the ratio of Faith in God and faith in man is higher.  Suppose for example that I believe that God saves, but that I need to do something small in addition – sort of like sealing the deal.  If I believe Salvation is a combination of effort between God and man, a cooperative venture.. wherein does my faith lie?  True enough, my contribution is small.. negligible.. laughable..  but it is required nonetheless.  In fact, in these belief circles it is a Sine Qua Non to salvation.  It is that which salvation cannot occur without.

In some beliefs, this contribution is baptism.  In others, it is public confession.  In others it is church membership.  In many it is formulaic prayer.  In most it is a decision and commitment.

When I ask people, as I often do, how they came to call themselves a Christian, overwhelmingly the most common response I get begins with the singular word “I”  Can a person be said to have faith in God, and believe that Salvation is by grace alone – not of the will of man, not of commitments, not of memberships, baptisms, confessions, but of faith alone.. if that person begins with “I”

There are those who may read this and be astute enough to argue thusly:  I could begin with “I” but be giving entire credit to God by beginning with my sin, e.g. “I was dead in trespasses, an enemy of God, continually rebelling against His will and His holiness when God, who chose me from my mother’s womb, in His good timing decided to reveal His Son in me…”   To that person, I concede.  But this is not my experience.  When people begin with “I” in my experience, it has always been to point out what they DID.  And their faith relies upon that ACTION of theirs.

Is that faith saving faith?  Is a person born again if they believe they became a Christian through a combination of effort by God and man?  Can a person be said to have faith if that faith resides in a great work of God and a small work of man? has commented on the Granger Community Church findings and the poster concluded that because 47% of the people at Granger believe that salvation isn’t by Grace, they are not Christians.  They are, in that poster’s opinion, false converts.

I used to take comfort in the idea that God saves and what we believe is not important.  A man might be an Arminianist, or a man might believe in the sovereignty of God.  But if a man has faith, what he believes is not important.  However, faith is what we believe.  If we believe Buddha saves, we can hardly be called a born again child of God.  But what if we believe Kevin saves… with a whole lot of help from God?  Is not that what I am saying if I believe I am born again because of a decision I made?

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