Jesus Saves!

Jesus Saves!

A lot of posts about religion lately. The problem with writing about religion is that you almost always manage to offend somebody. Exclusivists do not like any viewpoint different from their own, atheist challenge any references to the sacred, and some pluralists readily engage in long and meaningless comparisons. But religion is as prominent as ever; A search for Jesus on Google returns about 777,000,000 results.

I did not have a conversation with the gentlemen in the photo above. But, from past experience, the Jesus Saves message goes something like this: "Have you ever lied, stolen, lusted, coveted, or been angry with someone unjustly? If so, then you have broken the Law of God. God has said 'You shall not steal; You shall not lie; You shall have no other gods before Me; You shall not murder, etc.' If you have broken any of God's commandments then you are under the inevitable judgment of God... God must punish the sinner. God cannot and will not ignore the person who has broken His righteous law... The 'only' way to be saved from the wrath of God, is to be saved from it by faith in Christ".

In yesterday's post, I wrote about the idea that each individual forms their own eclectic belief system based on their own personal experiences, hence, there are as many religious beliefs as there are people on earth. To exemplify this point, here are two equally valid bible passages: John 14:6 "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me", and, Romans 2:14-16 "When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all".

Throughout history, the Bible has been interpreted in different ways. This is most evident in the doctrine of Sola Fide, "by faith alone", that distinguishes most Protestant denominations from Catholicism and Eastern Christianity. Most Protestants believe that faith in Christ is sufficient for sinners to be accepted by God, whereas, Catholics and Eastern Orthodox believe that faith is necessary for salvation but not sufficient; God also requires obedience and acts of love and charity as a prerequisite for acceptance. Each side defends their position in scripture.

A monk with a Celtic heritage named Pelagius (ca. AD 354 - AD 420/440) rejected the teaching of original sin and argued that "over the years our sin gradually corrupts us, building an addiction and then holding us bound with what seems like the force of nature itself". He explained that if God commanded us to live moral lives, then it should be within our will power to carry out God's commands. His ideas were refuted by St. Augustine of Hippo: "We must realize that he (Pelagius) believes that neither our will nor our action is helped by divine aid. He believes that God does not help us to will, that he does not help us to act, that he helps us only to be able to will and to act". Although Augustine, referred to him as a "saintly man", Pelagius was declared a heretic by the Council of Carthage.

Our specific beliefs and how we read scripture, almost always, makes us a heretic in the eyes of somebody else. There is no way to avoid this. Most religious denominations believe that they alone possess the truth, and therefore, those who don't share their exact beliefs must be erring. By that measure, a vast majority of us are Hell-bound, irrespective of how good we might be, or how genuine our faith is. If Jesus was back, what would he say about all of this?

Song of the Day: Take You Back - Jeremy Camp (2005)
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