Resolving religious conflicts within a family
Impediment 3: Beliefs about salvation
Beliefs about salvation:
Conservative Protestants are frequently taught that:
||The default destination for those who are unsaved are the torture
chambers of Hell where its captives suffer
intense pain for all eternity from flogging, worms eating their flesh,
intolerable heat, darkness and thirst
without any hope of relief or mercy. This emphasis on punishment is fading
in many denominations. It is being replaced by a new concept of Hell as a
place that is simply isolated from God. However some faith groups still
stress the pain of Hell.
||God has extended the free gift of
salvation to all who repent of their sins and trust Jesus Christ as
their personal Lord and Savior.
||When a person is saved, their sins are
transferred from themselves onto a perfectly
sinless God-man, Jesus. God remembers the sins
of the saved no more.
||A person may be able to lose their salvation by committing the "unforgivable
||A person may or may not be able to lose their salvation by committing
other sins, such as abandoning Christianity for another religion.
There is no consensus within conservative Protestantism on whether a person, once saved, can
lose their salvation. Individual denominations have reached a conclusion, but
there is no consensus among denominations.
||Some Christian leaders teach that once a person is saved, they are
||Others teach that a person can lose their salvation through various
actions. One such behavior might be to abandon Christianity and become a Wiccan.
||To make matters worse, there is no consensus on what the "unforgivable
sin" is; we have found 31 interpretations of this sin,
all different. The Bible is clearly ambiguous on this matter.
Conservative Protestant parents are understandably very concerned that each of
their children become saved when they are sufficiently mature to understand the
concept. This stress continues
throughout the parent's life if they believe
that their saved children could lose their salvation at any time. To
them, a child who leaves the Church and adopts Wicca is not simply lost to
Christianity. The parent may believe that their child will face an eternity in Hell because of their decision.
One often hears that the worst experience a parent can have is the loss of a
child to death. But believing that your child faces an infinite sentence in Hell
-- where even one second's worth of pain would be intolerable -- could be
than losing a child to death.
Other views about salvation:
Many Christians have abandoned belief that one's eternal destiny in
Heaven or Hell is determined by one's salvation
status at the time of death.
||Some believe that a person is judged worthy of attaining Heaven on the
basis of good works that they have done while on earth. That is,
people can earn their way to Heaven. They often cite Matthew 25:31 and
following verses as support for their beliefs.
This passage describes the Son of Man judging humans solely on the basis of
their good works towards the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, and imprisoned.
This is the "sheep and goats" text in which the righteous sheep attain "the
kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world." The unrighteous
goats are who did not help suffering people in their time of need were sent
"into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." With this
belief system, a generous, considerate and sincere Agnostic, Atheist,
Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jew, Muslim, Wiccan, etc. who followed the
Golden Rule would have equal chance of attaining
||Some reject the theological belief that the responsibility and
punishment for sins can be transferred from an individual to Jesus. They
reject the entire concept of sin transference from
the guilty to the innocent as being profoundly immoral.
Some Christians have abandoned the concept of Hell entirely as a place of
eternal torment. They have come to believe that this is incompatible with the
concept of a loving God -- the Abba to whom Jesus prayed.
However, most conservative Christians have retained the literal teachings of
the Bible about Hell and its torture chambers. They harmonize Hell with a loving
God by noting that God's attributes include both perfect love and perfect
justice. The latter makes it impossible for him to allow the unsaved into
Heaven. They view the Bible as describing only two options for one's eventual
eternal destiny: Heaven and Hell. Apparently, in his wisdom, God has not created
a "Holiday Inn class" of eternal destiny for kind, generous, but unsaved people
... at least the Bible doesn't mention such a place.
There is probably no way in which to resolve this impediment without changing
the conservative Christian's entire view of the nature of God, the reality
of salvation, and the nature of Heaven, and Hell. That is one very tall order!
Copyright © 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2008-NOV-17
Latest update and review: 2008-NOV-20
Author: B.A. Robinson