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 Conclusions from the Christian Scriptures

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The Christian Scriptures teach a number of conflicting methods by which one can be saved:

bullet The synoptic Gospels teach that salvation is achieved by doing good works: helping the poor, visiting people in jail, supporting the ill, giving up ones possessions and following Jesus, etc.
bullet The synoptic gospels appear to make provision for a path by which Christians or non-Christians can be saved. They must follow a lifetime of service to humanity.
bullet The Gospel of John teaches that salvation comes as a result of one's faith in Jesus as Son of God
bullet St. Paul's writings teach that salvation may have been once attained by strictly following Jewish law. However, since Christ's ministry, it is dependent upon one's faith in the saving power of Jesus' death and resurrection.

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Implications of this diversity of teaching:

bullet The fate of the unsaved: There appears to be no allowance in the Gospel of John or in the writings of St. Paul for individuals who were born in the wrong place or the wrong time. These are people who lived in areas of the world which have not been exposed to the Christian message. Or perhaps they were born at a time when the Gospel had not reached their locale. Or perhaps they were exposed to the Gospel by an incompetent Christian who failed to communicate it fully. Many passages in the Bible imply that such individuals will be lumped together with those who had fully heard and subsequently ejected Christ's message. They would remain unsaved and will spend eternity in Hell, because salvation is only through faith in Christ.
bullet The need to settle on a single path to salvation: One method of extracting a single method of salvation from the diversity of paths in the Christian Scriptures is to select a small group of consistent biblical passages. These are then interpreted literally, emphasized, and continually repeated. Conflicting passages are ignored, de-emphasized and/or interpreted symbolically. This is the technique used by most faith groups. Unfortunately, they often select different key passages, and thus come to different conclusions about the path to salvation.
bullet Those Christian denominations which believe in salvation by faith only, and a literal Hell of eternal punishment are faced with a serious and growing conflict:
bullet It is difficult for them to continue with the traditional belief in that non-Christians will be sent to eternal punishment in Hell:
bullet A growing percentage of people believe that this is incompatible with the concept of a loving God and elementary justice. They ask how a person in India or Africa who has never heard of Christ or of Christianity be tortured for eternity, mainly because they were born into and lived in the wrong part of the world.
bullet Many people believe that a punishment of infinite duration is an unreasonable response to a single case of bad religious judgment.
bullet The world's secular and religious systems of morality condemn the torture of prisoners. Countries that routinely do this, notably China, are considered pariah nations. Yet, this is what the Bible teaches is the fate of those imprisoned in Hell.
bullet Modern systems of morality also condemn the imprisonment of persons because of thought crimes. But the Gospel of John and writings of Paul appear to do this. They teach that one is only saved after believing in Jesus.
bullet On the other hand, it is difficult to devise an alternative path from their main biblical texts whereby such non-Christians can be saved, without reducing the significance of Jesus' incarnation, death and resurrection.

Several alternatives have been suggested. However, there is little or no support for them in the Bible.

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Copyright 1997 to 2002 incl. by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2002-DEC-29
Author: B.A. Robinson

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