Thursday, July 18, 2013

How Much Doctrine Do we Need to Believe in order to be Saved?

How much doctrine or theological correctness do we need to be saved? One Facebooker wrote:

  • The use of verses [like the belief in the virgin birth] to justify the exclusion of individuals [from salvation] predicated upon somewhat differing theological propositions seems contrived.
“Is salvation a matter of attaining to a certain level of doctrinal purity or correctness? Must we be able to name at least five of the Ten Commandments or six of the twelve Apostles in order to be saved? Can we be saved if we can only name two of the four Gospels?”

If this is the substance of faith and salvation, I can understand why this Facebooker believes that such an understanding of salvation is contrived. Nevertheless, there are so many verses that do seem to equate salvation with theological correctness. For instance, Jesus warned the Pharisees:

  • I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins." (John 8:24) 
However, Scripture does not give us a minimum list of verses to believe to guarantee salvation. Instead, the emphasis seems to be upon whether or not we are willing to receive the testimony of Jesus, His Apostles and Scripture:

  • We accept man's testimony, but God's testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:9-13)
The key question is still: “Are we willing to accept the testimony of Scripture?” We are certainly willing to accept human testimony. How much more then should we be willing to accept God’s testimony!

“Well, why should be believe the testimony of Scripture? How do we know that it’s the testimony of God?” John suggests that when we believe this testimony, we are acknowledging a compelling voice that wells up within us from the center of our being (1 John 5:10). However, John doesn’t stop there. We are not limited to an internal and intuitive testimony. It also is a matter of eyewitness testimony to confirmatory miracles (1 John 5:13):

  • That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched--this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:1-3) 
“What is faith? Is it mental precision regarding the teachings of Jesus or the Bible or is it receiving His testimony which will eventually grow into greater theological precision?” If theological precision saved us, this would leave out children and many who are presently unable to achieve such intellectual attainments. Instead, it is simple. It is a matter of receiving Jesus and His Spirit. However, Jesus promised that this simple step would become a fountain of wisdom:

  • "Everyone who drinks this [well] water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:13-14)
Growing in understanding and wisdom is a process initiated by that initial drink from the testimony of God:

  • To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31-32) 
“Must we believe in the Trinity or the virgin birth in order to be saved?” It is not that these beliefs cause salvation. Instead, they indicate that we have received the testimony of God, the Gospel of salvation.

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