Theological Correctness and Christian Salvation


#1

“Theological correctness” refers to the insistence of many religious conservatives upon the profession of certain theological beliefs as a necessary condition of Christian salvation and inclusion in the “family” of God. I include myself among those who subscribe to the view that theological correctness is necessary for salvation. At the same time, however, I do not believe that those who hold theologically incorrect beliefs are doomed to spend eternity in Hell (however benignly you may define the term). For many Christian conservatives, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is “good news,” it would seem, only for those who are fortunate enough to be exposed to this belief system and subscribe to it. It doesn’t matter how religious, moral, or otherwise deserving an individual might be, salvation and entrance into God’s heavenly kingdom is only available to those who subscribe to a very detailed system of theological beliefs about the work and person of Jesus Christ. In other words, in order to be saved, one must not only be spiritually, morally and ethically correct, but “theologically correct,” as well. Again, I remind the reader that I, myself, subscribe to this view, and make no apology for it, though it may seem “narrow-minded.”

Just how detailed is this system of necessary and required beliefs? Well, it is more detailed than you might think. For example, it is not enough to be a “follower” of Jesus Christ and seek to obey his religious and ethical teachings. There are certain specific teachings about his person and ministry that you must also subscribe to. You must believe that He is not only the “son” of God, but is “uniquely” the only “begotten” son of God (whatever that means) and very God of very God. In other words, you must believe in the “deity” of Christ. You also believe in the “atonement,” and not just any definition or theory of the atonement will do. You must believe in what is referred to as the “substitutionary” atonement, that Jesus took our place on the cross of Calvary, took upon himself the sins of all mankind, and paid the penalty for our sins. In order to be “saved” one must receive Christ as one’s personal Savior and Lord and ask forgiveness for one’s sins based on Jesus shed blood on the cross of Calvary. In other words, it is not enough just to believe that Jesus is the unique son of God, and is actually God himself, the third person of the “trinity,” and that He died for the sins of mankind, but you must also believe that he literally rose from the dead and is alive today, and you must enter into a personal relationship with him and ask him to forgive your sins based on his shed blood on Calvary. And you need to be sincere about it! Hypocrites and unbelievers will definitely not be admitted into heaven. Exactly how strong or perfect your belief or faith must be has never been made clear. Just to be sure, it would help to produce a sufficient amount of follow-through and “good works,” as evidence that your faith is genuine.

Naturally, the above level of “theological” correctness would pretty much rule out 99 percent of the people on earth as candidates for salvation. Most Roman Catholics wouldn’t make it, because they rely mostly on their good works for salvation and have little understanding of the principle of salvation by “grace apart from works,” whatever that really means. Mormons are excluded because, although they believe that Jesus is the Son of God, they don’t believe he is the “unique” son of God and is actually God Himself. And of course, Mormons don’t really believe in the Christian God, because they believe that God was once a man and that it is possible for men to actually become gods. Boy, talk about theological incorrectness! Jehovah’s witnesses are excluded because they don’t believe in the “trinity” or that Jesus was the unique son of God, and they rely mostly on their own good works for their salvation. Many, if not most, Christian “liberals” are excluded because they don’t believe in the deity of Christ, or the resurrection of Christ, or the substitutionary atonement. Even though many of those Christian “liberals” are deeply devoted to God and seek to follow the teachings of Christ, they are not technically “born again” or “saved.” Of course, if most “professing” Christians are not “theologically correct” enough to enter heaven, what chance is there for the Hindu, Moslem, Buddhist, Atheist, or the starving beggar on the streets of Calcutta, who doesn’t have even the slightest clue that God loves and cares about him.

Nevertheless, the insistence of Christian conservatives on “theological correctness” as a condition of salvation, is justified and is explicitly taught in the Bible, especially in the writings of the Apostle Paul. At the same time, however, I believe that these teachings were never meant by Christ or the Apostle Paul to be “exclusionary.” The Gospel of Jesus Christ is good news, not bad news, and it is good news for everyone. I consider myself to be a conservative, evangelical Christian. I believe all the required “theologically correct” doctrines about Christ. The difference between my beliefs, however, and those of most Christian conservatives today, is that I am able to believe a natural interpretation of some of the teachings of Jesus and the Apostle Paul which many evangelicals find it difficult to fully accept “at face value” without providing some sort of “work-around” to avoid a “universalistic” interpretation. I believe that when Jesus said He came not to judge the world but to redeem it, He meant it just the way He said it. I believe that the Bible should be taken “literally” when it says that Christ died for the sins of all mankind and the debt only had to be paid once. I believe that the Apostle Paul was speaking the truth very plainly when he said, in 1 Corinthians, that as in Adam ALL died, so in Christ shall ALL be made alive.

Christians who insist upon “theological correctness” as a necessary condition of salvation, are absolutely right, and this is clearly taught in the Bible. The only part they’ve got wrong is the timing. The Bible teaches that in the coming ages those who are now Christians will rule with Christ and eventually all will come to the truth, repent of their sins and be saved. One day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord, and death itself, both physical and spiritual, will finally be abolished by Christ. He will then hand his Kingdom over to the Father, and God will be ALL in All.

One more thought. I believe that becoming “saved” is a process that does not occur at any one instantaneous point in time. None of us are completely saved yet. The converse is also true, no one is completely lost. I believe that Christ has made provision on Calvary for the salvation of everyone, and everyone is in the process of becoming fully saved. God is at work in our lives before, during and after our profession of “theologically correct” beliefs about Jesus Christ. In my view, religiously devout individuals who are genuinely seeking to please God, though misinformed on many important theological points of doctrine, may be closer to God, and further along in the salvation process, than individuals who subscribe to all the correct doctrines but are not seeking to please God in many important aspects of their lives. I believe this most accurately reflects the spirit and intent of Jesus’ teachings.

I hope this makes as much sense to you as it does to me.

Richard Goyette


Redemption from the lake of fire?
#2

The only critique of this that I would offer, is that the whole idea of “theological correctness” as a requirement for salvation is essentially gnostic.
I don’t find any solid overarching evidence in scripture that precisely accurate theology is necessary. Even our kingdom status is judged based upon our actions and the source of their motivation, rather than our mental assent to any specific doctrines.


#3

Yeah. And all the apostles and the church of Acts would go to hell because the doctrine of the trinity hadn’t been established yet and penal substitution theory wouldn’t be developed for about 1200 years.


#4

Rain

you said: the penal substitution theory wouldn’t be developed for about 1200 years.

In the old testament… everytime a Jew would sin the law required death. So, the Jews would bring a lamb, bull, etc to the high priest to be a substitute sacrifice for their sin. In other words, the animals were the sin substitute to die in the place for the sinning Jew. This was a type and shadow of what Jesus Christ would do for the sins of the world. Jesus was our sin substitute or sacrifice to die in our place for our sin. He took the punishment that you deserved so you wouldn’t have to experience it. Now, all man has to do is receive this gift of salvation by faith and they become a born again child of God! What a deal! Thank you Jesus!

God bless,
Aaron


#5

Richard

you said: One more thought. I believe that becoming “saved” is a process that does not occur at any one instantaneous point in time. None of us are completely saved yet. The converse is also true, no one is completely lost. I believe that Christ has made provision on Calvary for the salvation of everyone, and everyone is in the process of becoming fully saved.

Aaron: Could you please explain what you mean by being “saved” is a process and does not occur at any point in time. Could you also explain how everyone is in the process of becoming fully saved. Of course, provide scripture support for your answers.

God bless,
Aaron


#6

Dear Melchizedek,while I believe that theological correctness is necessary for one to be “completely” saved, I also believe that everyone is in the process of “becoming” fully saved. The theological gaps in knowledge will be filled in, for many, in ages to come. Correct theology may be regarded as “resulting” from the salvation process, rather that as a “requirement” for salvation. For example, If a person does not currently believe in the resurrection and deity of Christ, that will change one day when that person encounters Christ face to face. In my essay on theological correctness, I was trying to point out that passages of the Bible (See Romans 10:9,10 and so on) which mention certain doctrines about Christ as necessary for salvation are not intended to be “exclusionary.” People who currently do not believe these doctrines may temporarily be prevented enjoying a personal relationship with Christ, but one day Christ will be revealed to everyone and everyone will acknowledge His deity and bow down to him. Because of Calvary, there are no obstacles to salvation, except one’s incorrect belief system and/or unwillingness to enter into relationship with Christ. Christ freely offers Himself to all who come to Him. Eventually He will succeed in drawing all to Himself.


#7

I find that to be a very dangerous thought. Certitude leads to violence. e.g. The Thirty Years War.

On the other hand, it’s good to be certain and then help the poor.

‘Theology’ is a plaything.


#8

Dear RanRan, what is theology, after all, but the study of God and trying to understand what God is like and how He acts and relates to us? Correct theology in my view, is one which emphasizes God’s love for all mankind and God’s intention to eventually redeem them all. Incorrect theology, on the other hand, can be very dangerous. If you believe that those who differ with you theologically are destined to spend eternity in Hell, then you might be inclined to impose your beliefs on others, by force, if necessary, in order to save them from Hell. Or, you might militantly oppose all who preach “false doctrines” because you believe people may be going to Hell because of them. And so on. Theology was very important to Jesus, but His teachings bore little resemblance to some of the exclusionary doctrines of many of today’s Christian fundamentalists. I think I understand what you mean when you refer to “theology” as a plaything. When we get all “hung up” on the details of theology, we can waste time endlessly arguing over fine points of doctrine, rather than going about the serious business of right living. On the other hand, it is important to note that our actions are in large part determined by our theology. Theological study, in my view, is a noble persuit, but only if it help us understand and love God and our fellow man.


#9

Richard

would you please answer my questions with scripture?

God bless,
Aaron


#10

Hello, Aaron. Thank you for your question. Here is your answer.

Is salvation instantaneous or a process that occurs over time.?

First, we must define the term, salvation.

If “salvation” means being saved from the penalty of sin, then all are already saved, both Christians and non-Christians. Jesus already paid the penalty on the cross of Calvary for the sins of all mankind, and the penalty only had to be paid once (Heb. 9:26-28; 1 Pet. 3:18). According to 1 Cor. 15:20-28, all will be made alive in Christ. Because of Calvary, God’s judgments are not retaliatory, or punitive in nature, but instead have the purpose of guidance and correction (Job 5:17-18; Isa 48:10; Lam. 3:31-33).

If “salvation” means having all your sins forgiven, then none of us is completely saved yet, because believers are admonished in 1 John 1:9 to confess their sins and seek God’s cleansing on a regular basis.

If “salvation” means being saved from the “power” that sin has over us, then none of us is completely saved yet, because we still struggle with sin in our lives (See Romans 6,7,8). If we say we have no sin, the truth is not in us (1 Jn 1:8).

If “salvation” means to have eternal life, meaning unending conscious existence, then all are saved, because both Christians and non-Christians will suffer physical death, but all will continue to consciously exist and then face judgment (Heb. 9:27).

If “salvation” means to have eternal life, meaning age-abiding (aionian) fellowship with Christ (spiritual life), then no one is completely saved, because our fellowship with Christ in this life is incomplete. He who has Christ has life (Jn 5:11-12; 5:24), but until Christ has all of you, you are not yet completey united with Christ and conformed to his image . Right now we see Christ only through the eyes of faith, as in a mirror darkly, but some day we will meet Him face to face and will know Him fully (1 Cor. 13:12).

If “salvation” means to experience the redemption and glorification of both our bodies and souls in Heaven, then you may consider yourself to be saved, but not fully saved, because there is still much that you have not yet experienced. According to Titus 3-7, God saved us (past tense) and we were justified by grace and became heirs of the promise. We now have the “hope” of eternal (aionian) life. According to Rom. 8:18-25, we have already received the “first-fruits” of our salvation, the Holy Spirit. We wait eagerly for our ultimate redemption. We don’t have it yet. We hope for it and wait for it patiently. Hebrews 9:28 states that Christ will come again to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

Hope this helps.


#11

Richard

Thank you for your scriptural response, but I have to respectfully disagree with your analysis. Heres why:

Salvation is where are inheritance exits through being born again by faith. For by grace has salvation ( our inheritance) been delivered unto you and it is appropriated and manifested in your life through faith. ( Eph 2:8; Col 1:12-14) Let me explain:

Most Christians are taught that being “born again” and “saved” mean the same thing. They are not the same thing. “Born Again” literally means a second birth…meaning you had a physical, natural birth, but you must have a spiritual rebirth. You must experience a second birth other than the physical, natural birth you have already experienced.

Saved or Sozo means deliverance from sin or the sin nature: the physical/emotional, financial, spiritual deliverance from the power of sin or sin nature.

Nicodemus approached Jesus ( Jn 3:2-3) and acknowledged him being from God because of the miracles he was performing. Notice, Nicodemus does not ask about the kingdom of God, but look how Jesus responds to him. Jesus tells Nicodemus “Except a man being born again, he cannot see or enter the kingdom of God”. In other words, Jesus was answering the question Nicodemus never got to ask…which was “How can man be with God the way he is with you”? ( performing the miracles, etc) Jesus tells Nicodemus in order for him to walk as Jesus walked he must be born into the kingdom of God.

Colossians 1:12-14 " 12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kngdom of his dear Son: 14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.

Now, paraphrasing: Verse 12 is talking about your salvation…Verse 13 and 14 are talking about being “born again”.

Verse 12 tells us that God has done something for us to qualify us to be a recepient and a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light; ( you can partake of it right now, Jesus has died for you to have it in this life)

Verse 13 begins to tell us how this happened. It tells us how you were qualified for the inheritance.

Verse 14 tells us how we were translated from the power of darkness into the kingdom of his dear Son, by the redemption of his Son’s blood ( you have been purchased away from the power of darkness and bought into the kingdom of his Son).

Your qualified to exercise the inheritance now while your alive on this planet because you have been translated into the kingdom of his dear Son where that inheritance exits, and the reason you were translated into the kingdom where the inheritance exits is because you got “Born Again” by your faith in Jesus’ sacrifice.

God has determined that you can have a new nature. He is also determined you can be translated into a new kingdom. He has also determined once this has happenned your qualified to operate out of the inheritance, and part of that inheritance is God’s power flowing through you to produce miracles.

A part of this inheritance or salvation includes waiting for the manifestation of our glorified bodies and experiencing heaven, but the rest of it… as far as our life on earth… what it takes to live on this earth… all that inheritance is ours , NOW!

God bless,
Aaron


#12

Richard

I would like to individually address some of your comments:

You said: If “salvation” means being saved from the penalty of sin, then all are already saved, both Christians and non-Christians. Jesus already paid the penalty on the cross of Calvary for the sins of all mankind, and the penalty only had to be paid once (Heb. 9:26-28; 1 Pet. 3:18).

Aaron: All are not already saved… Jesus’ death makes provision for the forgiveness of the penalty of sin, but until the unbeliever exercises faith in Christ…the unbeliever will not receive the pardon that is yet possible for them.They must exercise faith in Christ to be a partaker of this salvation. Remember the penalty of sin is death…not just physical, but spiritual death being separated from God. This is why we must be born again to receive this spiritual rebirth to enter heaven and have eternal life with God. ( Jn 3:3; Galatians 3:26; Romans 3:23)

You said: If “salvation” means having all your sins forgiven, then none of us is completely saved yet, because believers are admonished in 1 John 1:9 to confess their sins and seek God’s cleansing on a regular basis.

Aaron: Consider the following verses: Rev. 2:1-11, 2:12-17, 12:8-29, 3:1-6 & 3:14-22. In each of these cases, Jesus is telling Believers to repent (confess what you’ve done and turn away from it permanently). Since He clearly knows that the sacrifice of Himself was for all sins (past, present and future), why would He tell someone to repent (confess what they’ve done and turn away from it permanently?) Hasn’t He already forgiven and paid for the sin He is telling them to repent of? Was not His shed blood good enough for what they have done?

In short, the concept of confession/repentance for believers is to reinforce that the only sacrifice for sin is the blood of Jesus, that God is holy and we are to be holy as He is holy, that we do not have the liberty to sin just because we live in grace (Paul addressed this extensively), and to help keep us from searing our conscience to the need for holy living (as Paul warned about in 1 Timothy 4:1-2).

You said: If “salvation” means being saved from the “power” that sin has over us, then none of us is completely saved yet, because we still struggle with sin in our lives (See Romans 6,7,8). If we say we have no sin, the truth is not in us (1 Jn 1:8).

Aaron: Not so, we have been set free from the power of sin or the sin nature and given the very nature or life of God. Now, our spirits have been born again or renewed, not our souls and bodies. The reason why people struggle with sin is because they have not renewed their minds or souls enough to the word of God to avoid the lust of the flesh. ( Gal 5:16)
When you pray in tongues or with the understanding.,meditate/confess the word of God, private worship, and fast… you are being conformed to the image of Christ in you and the soul and flesh will have less power over your decision making. It is a process.

God bless,
Aaron


#13

Aaron, thank you for your comments. Whether you equate the “born again experience” with the “salvation experience” or not, is not relevant to the discussion about whether or not the process is instantaneous or gradual. It seems to me that the born again experience (or salvation experience) is something which many Christians seem to have gradually “grown into,” and many are unable to pinpoint any exact moment in time when they instantaneously experienced being “born again.” The Bible describes this experience in many different ways, in both past, present and future tenses, as something that has already happened to the believer, as a current growth process, and as a future event that the believer looks forward to. The only way I can reconcile these different descriptions is to view salvation as a process, rather than a once-in-a lifetime experience.

Here’s a question I have for you. If you believe that the born again experience happens instantaneously and is an “either-or” condition, at what point does one become born again? And exactly what is it that an individual must do to instantly “trigger” this event? :question:


#14

Richard

Huh? Forgive me, it seems you do not understand what I wrote regarding salvation? Colossians 1:12-14…Paul teaches us the process we go through to obtain the inheritance ( salvation) Jesus died for you to have. Verse 12 is talking about your salvation or inheritance. Verse 13 and 14 talk about being born again. Salvation is where our inheritance exits through being born again by faith. Being born again takes you into salvation. Please go back and re-read my post.

You said: If you believe that the born again experience happens instantaneously and is an “either-or” condition, at what point does one become born again? And exactly what is it that an individual must do to instantly “trigger” this event?

Aaron: One becomes "born again"or spiritually rebirthed when they exercise their faith in Jesus’ sacrifice… when they accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. You go from spiritual death to spiritual life in your spirit…instaneously by faith. ( Titus 3:5; Rom 3:22; 2Cor 5:17;21; 1 Peter 1:23)

Richard, in the Old Testament, the blood of animals dealt with the acts of sin. It provided temporary relief for the acts of sin, but it could not change the sin nature that produced that sin. The blood of Jesus deals with not only the acts of sin, his blood deals with the sin nature that provided the acts of sin. ( Hebrews 9:11-14; 10:4;10) The blood of Jesus cleanses your spirit from the sin nature and replaces it with the nature and life of God ( Rom 6:6;8:2; Col 1:14; Titus 3:5). Glory to God. Thank you Jesus!

Hope this helps.

God bless,
Aaron


#15

Richard

I have a question for you. How does one get to enter heaven?

God bless,
Aaron


#16

Aaron, I understand what you are saying. What you refer to as being “born again” I regard as only one step in the broader salvation experience, which began when God decided before the world began that He would save us and culminates when when our bodies and souls are finally and completely glorified in the likeness of Christ in the future.

The reason I am troubled by the notion of the “born again experience” as a single event that occurs at one instantaneous point in time, are the passages in the Bible which seem speak of belief or faith in Christ as a precondition. In some passages the words “belief” or “faith” are used. In other passages the word “repentance” is used. In still other passages, the idea of “receiving” or “acknowledging” Jesus as savior and lord is used. You know the verses I am referring to. When I was young, I always doubted that my “born again” experience was valid, because I had doubts and reservations about the truth of the Gospel. I believed it was “probably” true, but was not absolutely convinced. I repented of my sins and acknowledged Jesus as Lord of my life, but, because of the weakness of my faith, and many other reasons, I was unable to completely and fully turn from all sin in my life. I did not completely yield up every aspect of my life to Christ. The question arose in my mind, just what does it really mean to truly repent of one’s sins and receive Jesus as both savior and lord? It seems to me that belief or faith in Christ and repentance are not “all-or-nothing” attitudes. None of us has perfect faith and none of us repents of every single sinful attitude. All of us fall short at least to some degree. The whole idea of being “saved by grace” is that none of us measure up, and Christ accepts us anyway, because of what He did at Calvary. Our good works and attitudes don’t measure up, and neither does our level of belief, faith, and repentance. I tried to illustrate this in various ways on a page of my website devoted to the relationship between faith and works heavenandhellpage.com/faithworks.html The last article on that page is a “Test” which one can take to evaluate the validity of one’s born again experience. The conclusion of the matter for me is that no one is “saved” or “born again” at any one particular point in time, but this is something that we grow into. I would be interested to hear your thoughts after you read the articles on the webpage referenced above.

Blessings,

Richard


#17

Richard

I have a question for you. How does one get to enter heaven?

God bless,
Aaron


#18

Aaron, on the following webpage I summarize my views about what heaven and hell are like? heavenandhellpage.com/hell.html


#19

Richard

Your trying to rationalize the born again experience you accept by faith. Faith and Repentance are two sides of the same coin: you can’t have one without the other. God does not require you to recite every sin you committed when you repent( that would be impossible) he looks at your heart and true repentance of sin is turning from it and thinking differently about it. I did not feel anything when I accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior.( The heavens did not open…I did not hear any ruffling of angel wings) I recited a prayer from a Gospel tract from my heart and I was a born again child of God. Sooner than later, you should see the fruit of your born again spirit show up in your life. You should start having godly desires ( wanting to pray, read the bible,etc) and not do the same things you use to do.

When you start feeding you born again spirit with the Word of God, pray, worship, and fast… you will start conforming to the image of Christ in you. Your soul and flesh will have less influence on you when your consistent with these things. (Romans 12:1-2; Col 3:9-10)

Jesus said in John 6:29 “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he has sent” In other words, God will only accept one work…the work of your faith in Jesus, his Son.

Richard, where do you see scripture teaching “born again” being an on going experience? I believe one must continue in the faith grounded and settled, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel (Col 1:23), but where in the bible does it say that being born again is not received instantaneously by faith?

If being born again is an on going experience…how can Paul tell us in Galatians 6:15 "For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, BUT A NEW CREATURE!

God bless,
Aaron


#20

Richard

I’m not asking you how heaven is like… Please, briefly explain to me how I would be allowed to enter heaven.

God bless,
Aaron