Friday, May 31, 2013

Salvation: What does it take?

Last week, the Pope seemed to suggest that even atheists have been redeemed by the blood of Christ. The Vatican promptly clarified that the Pope's comments were being misunderstood. While "No person is excluded from salvation simply because of so-called original sin", "people who aware of the Catholic church “cannot be saved” if they “refuse to enter her or remain in her”."

One is tempted to clarify to the Holy See that atheists do not really care for an imaginary heaven or eternal damnation in an imaginary hell or judgement by an imaginary god!

Let's set that aside for a bit and take a look at the christian theology of salvation. It is quite interesting and by gawd, extremely convoluted.

If the Pope and the Vatican confused you, why don't we just look at what Jesus himself had to "say" about it in the book he "inspired"? I mean, Jesus came to the earth for our salvation, right? Wouldn't he have told us exactly what is needed to avoid eternal damnation? I mean, in addition to dying and rising, he'd have told everyone around him exactly what to do, right? Right?

So, what does it take? What do Jesus and his apostles say about it?

1. Belief and Baptism
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. -Mark 16:16 
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. -John 3:16

2. Righteousness
For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. -Matthew 16:27
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. -Matthew 5:10 
Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. -Matthew 7:19
The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. -Luke 3:9

3. Keeping the Commandments (law)
If you want to enter life, keep the commandments. -Matthew 19:17

4. Wealth
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” -Matthew 19:23-24

5. Mercy
he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, -Titus 3:5

6. Faith (Belief), not works of the law
know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. -Galatians 2:16
If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. -Romans 10:9


Not very clear, are they now? Well, I know what we can do? If we do all six of the above, then perhaps we have the right answer? Right?

Perhaps, a person who believes, does good works, is baptized, keeps the commandments and gives up all wealth should presumably expect to go to heaven! Right?

Actually, no. While it does look superficially straightforward, Jesus seems to have an uncanny knack for contradicting himself! Jesus flat out says that a wealthy man cannot go to heaven. He also says that baptized belivers shall be saved. What about wealthy person who believes and is baptized? Is the Pope going to be saved? How about say, Mel Gibson?

What about a Hindu who does good deeds and is poor? Jesus is very clear in Matthew 16:27, when he says such a person will be saved. He is also quite clear in Mark 16:16 that that person will be damned.

Then there is apostle Paul who in his epistles contradicts Jesus (from Matthew 19:17) and says that keeping the commandments do not count. Pseudo-Paul in Titus 3:5 says salvation is just a result of God's mercy and has nothing to do with good works.

Let's put all this together.

        Salvation       Damnation       What matters not?       
1 Belief + Baptism No Belief (contra 2)  - 
2 Righteousness (contra 1, 4) Bad fruits  - 
3 Keeping the commandments (law)  -   - 
4 Poverty? Wealth-
5 It's all God's Mercy (contra 1, 2, 3, 4, 6)    - Righteousness (contra 2)
6 Faith in Jesus  -Keeping the law (contra 3)

Wait, there is more from where that came from!

7. Luck
But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. -2 Thessalonians 2:13

8. Can the meek, step forward please?
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5

9. Spouse
For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. -1 Corinthians 7:14

10. Calling on the unmarried
But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, -Luke 20:35

11. Survivors
You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. -Matthew 10:22

12. Obey, fear and tremble
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, -Philippians 2:12

So saith the omniscient god's book!

No wonder the Pope and the Vatican sound confusing. Their big boss in heaven was not very clear about what exactly he wanted from us!

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