Previously published on my Tumblr page, http://a-woman-apart.tumblr.com/
I’ve realized that my writing has kind of digressed a bit from the original purpose of my blog, and maybe that’s because I’m no longer totally fixated on just religious/spiritual issues anymore. Religion and spirituality is part of my life, but I think that I can safely say that it’s no longer the center of it.
There is something that’s been troubling me, though. It’s that no matter what Fundamental Christians believe about homosexuality, abortion, sin and forgiveness, and no matter how little or how much they go to church, perform religious rituals, or read the Bible, they all say one thing;
“As long as you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, you’re going to be all right.”
When did the Deity of Christ become such a make-or-break teaching in Fundamental Christianity? Why does it matter that no matter how little or much your life seems to reflect the lifestyle and teachings of Christ, as long as you believe that He is Divine- that He is the First Begotten Son of God- that “you’re all right”? That as long as you see Him as Alive and sitting literally at the Right Hand of God, interceding on your behalf, that you’ll “be all right” in the end?
I think I’m actually asking a question that I already know the answer to. There are several scriptures that I know quite well that pertain to the question.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.“ -John 3:16-21
For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” -Titus 3:4-7
“Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” -1 John 4:15-16
“He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” -1 John 5:10-12
Even as I re-read some of these verses that I was so familiar with in my childhood, I’m now starting to wonder if they’ve been taken totally out of context. Of course, these are just the verses that are used to relate our salvation to accepting Jesus as Divine- but even so the connection between faith in Jesus Christ and being just before God seems a little grasping. These verses seem to speak a lot more about doing good deeds, and forsaking “malice and wickedness” than they do with believing a particular doctrine or creed.
The apostle James, for example, kind of contradicts some of the statements from Paul and John- he admitted that while works alone couldn’t make you righteous, you cannot claim to have faith if your actions are not that of a righteous person. So all of this “doesn’t matter how you live- because you can’t make yourself just before God without Jesus’ blood anyway” and “the just live by faith” doesn’t seem to be in line with the spirit of the teaching.
Of course, if we’re looking for references on how we’re “cleansed by the blood of Jesus” there are plenty of those. But how do we become a part of the cleansed group? We’re told to “believe on the name of the Son of God” or “believe on Jesus” but what does that really mean? Can we merely “accept that Jesus is the Son of God” and then just “be all right?” Are people who admire Jesus, live in line with his principles of love and self-sacrifice, but don’t believe He is the Son of God any more or less than any other human being, totally outcast from the Heavenly Kingdom?
What if you believe all the right “facts” about Jesus- that is, the Virgin Birth, His Deity, His Resurrection and Ascension, and the Expectation of His Return, but you are a merciless and cold individual, can you then still be accepted into the Kingdom of God?
It should be noted, that Jesus said this to the Pharisees- who were the religious leaders of His time,
“Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.” -Matthew 21:31-32
He also said,
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. -Matthew 7:21-23
Apparently, repentance- and living “above iniquity”- is tied to belief, but maybe not in the way that we all expect. Maybe the belief is a belief in doing what you know and are taught is right, more than just believing a set of facts about Jesus, or another prophet (like John the Baptist, as recorded in the Matthew 7 account).
I know that according to Fundamental Christianity, I cannot call myself a Christian because I don’t believe all the “facts” about his Deity, Divine Sonship, Atonement, Resurrection, Ascension, and Second Coming- and really that’s just fine by me. I have my reasons for choosing not to believe- but even if I did believe, I don’t know if I could accept that entire groups of people could be damned- just for not believing “correctly.” I cannot accept that a Muslim or Jew who kept the commandment to “Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself”- the commandment that Jesus said was the Greatest Commandment- but did not believe that Jesus was their Messiah, would be doomed to hell. I cannot accept that someone from an Eastern Religion, who kept the command to “turn the other cheek” better than many of their Christian counterparts, would be doomed to hell. I cannot accept that a Pagan worshiper who followed the 10 Commandments- as taught by the ancient Egyptians- would be going to hell.
I could not accept that any person who was raised for years in the non-Christian faith of their ancestors- and maybe even raised to fear Christians- who rejected the Way, yet worked hard, honored their elders, and worshiped God(s) as best as they knew how, was doomed to hell, just because they didn’t “believe” in Jesus.
How can they be expected to believe, when they were taught for so many years to believe something else? Can God really fault them for their choice? Or, if you believe in Predestination- that some of us are destined to enter the kingdom of God and some not- how can you fault them? You are, after all, just a “vessel of mercy” (see Romans 9).
So even though I’ve been raised to believe “Just believe Jesus is the Son of God and you’re all right” I think I’m willing to take my chances. I also think that if all this turns out to be true after all- which I find to be highly unlikely- I believe that I serve a God who understands. If not, then I gladly accept whatever fate awaits me.